Part of a generation of choreographers who rose to prominence in the mid-1990s, the French choreographer Jérôme Bel explores the relationship between choreography and popular culture, dancer and spectator, as well as our understanding of art and contemporary dance.

What was your first experience with the performing arts?

As far as I can remember, I started putting on small performances for my family. I was about 7-8 years old and I used to adapt little funny stories I found in books. I made up a theatre by stretching a thread on which I hung a cloth that represented a stage curtain. I chose the costumes and props and cast the actors (my sister and some friends). It was a lot of work but the show itself lasted no more than 5 minutes. That was my first step as a … director.

As a performer, I  remember an incredible experience. In school at the age of 10, I had to go to the blackboard to recite a poem, and it was so intense that my legs started shaking dramatically. I had never felt a sensation like that before. It wasn’t pleasant or unpleasant, I just know it was of unparalleled intensity. I think I’m like that when I go on stage: I don’t particularly like it, but it’s always special.

What did you want to become as a child?

At 11 years old, I decided to become an artist. I told myself that painting must be very difficult because it takes a lot of practice to draw well. Music also seemed very complicated because of the solfège. Dance, as far as I know, seemed impossible because I knew that it required a lot of effort, but I told myself that an actor does what anyone can do: talk, eat, drive a car, and that it was much easier than the other arts. So I decided to become an actor.

Which performance kept you awake at night recently?

Familie by Milo Rau. The performance evokes global warming at one point. I think it was the first time this issue was brought up for me on a theater stage. It was devastating because at the time I was going through a depression caused by what psychologists now call eco-anxiety. I burst into tears: it was a catharsis. And since we all wore masks in the theater, it was very uncomfortable to cry with the mask on. So I had a second catharsis, this time related to the pandemic situation. It was overwhelming. I was crying while feeling the relief of the purging that catharsis produces. I understood that at that moment I was witnessing the first tragedy of our present time, that of the climate crisis.

Then in the days that followed, I was still thinking about the piece, talking about it to all my friends who have seen the performance… And I realized because the performance ends with the suicide of the characters, that I had forgotten the idea of the possibility of suicide. Philosophically, I have always been very fond of the idea of suicide, but since I became a father it had become unthinkable, because of the responsibility for my child. But now that the child is grown up, this possibility – which entails for me a potential liberation from suffering – suddenly glimpsed again. Paradoxically that helps me to live. Familie is an example of what Art is capable of by symbolizing situations that I cannot cope with alone.

And which performance is unforgettable?

Piezas distinguidas                                                La Ribot

Mas distinguishes

Still distinguished

Another Distinguée



Hamlet                                                                        Peter Zadek

Savannah bay                                                           Marguerite Duras

Semiotics of the Kitchen                                       Martha Rosler

Le récit de la servante Zerline                             Klaus Michael Gruber



Meinwarts                                                                 Raimund Hoghe

Chambre séparée

Dialogue with Charlotte

Another dream

Sacre – The Rite of Spring

An Evening with Judy


La Conférence des oiseaux                                    Peter Brook

L’homme qui…

Impressions de Pelleas


Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes        György Ligeti


Fish story                                                                   The Wooster group

To you the birdie !(Phèdre)

The Hairy Ape



Vieux Carré

The Town Hall Affair


Lenz                                                                         Caterina Sagna

Teatro Amazonas                                                 Sharon Lockhart

Forever young                                                       Roy Faudree

Einstein on the beach                                          Bob Wilson


The CIVIL warS


Madame Butterfly

Pelleas et Melissande

Les nègres

Lecture on nothing


Not About Everything,                                          Daniel Linehan

Rosas danst rosas                                                 Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Quatuor n°4

En atendant

A Love Supreme                                                  Salva Sanchis / Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker


Les filles du chef                                                  Grand Magasin (Pascale Murtin & François Hifler)

La vie de Paolo Uccelo

le tour du monde des chants d’amour

Les aventures de Harry Dickson

L’encyclopédie des joies du coeur

Nos oeuvres complètes I

Nos oeuvres complètes II

Le meilleur moment

5ième forum international du cinéma d’entreprise

Les rois du suspense

D’orfèvre et de cochon

grammaire étrangère 1, 2, 3 ,4


Le cantique  des cantiques                                            Claude  Régy

La Terrible voix de Satan


Jeanne d’arc au bucher

Variation sur la mort

Ode maritime

Brume de dieu

Rêve et folie

Ursonate                                                                     Kurt Schwitters

May B.                                                                          Maguy Marin





Ligne de crête

La colonie pénitentiaire                                          Mathias Langhoff

Admiring La Argentina                                           Kazuo Ohno

Satisfying lover                                                         Steve Paxton




Quizoola!                                                                   Forced Entertainment

12 am: Awake & Looking Down

First night

Instruction for forgetting

And on the thousandth night

The coming storm

The notebook

Real Magic

Complete works: Table Top Shakespeare

Conte d’amour                                                          Markus Orhn

The three sisters                                                     Youri Progrechnikov

Katona Josef Teater

Matthias Langhoff

Timofeï Kouliabine

The three sisters (android version)                    Oriza Hirata


Park                                                                            Claudia Triozzi

Dolled up

Pour une thèse vivante

Boomerang ou le retour à soi

Avanti Tutta,30 ans dans un an, tant pis pour ceux qui sont fatigués


The Rite of Spring                                                     Pina Bausch

Renate Emigrates

Café Müller



1980 – A Piece by Pina Bausch




On the Mountain a Cry was heard

Two Cigarettes in the Dark



Palermo Palermo

Le sacre du printemps                                        Vaslav Nijinsky

L’après midi d’un faune


Queer                                                                     Stuart Sherman

Mùa                                                                        Emmanuelle Huynh

Self unfinished                                                     Xavier Le Roy

Product of circumstances

Product of other circumstances

Mouvements fur Lachenmann

Le sacre du printemps


Low Pieces


Temporary Title

Giselle                                                                         Jean Coralli & Jules Perrot

Giselle                                                                         Mats Ek

Les noces de Figaro                                                 Peter Sellars

Don Giovanni

Les Perses

Le marchand de Venise


Schwarz auf Weiss (Black on White)                    Heiner Goebbels

La edad de oro                                                           Israel Galvan

Quad                                                                            Samuel Beckett

Datamatics                                                                 Ryoji Ikeda


No Dice                                                                       Nature Theater of Oklahoma

Rambo Solo

Life and times


From popping to pop or vice-versa                      Bruno Beltrao

Too legit to quit



La mélancolie des dragons                                    Philippe Quesne

L’ effet de Serge

Jardinería humana                                                   Rodrigo Garcia

Arrojad mis cinizas sobre Mickey

Accidens (matar para comer)



A Mary Wigman dance evening                             Fabian Barba

Hexentanz                                                                  Mary Wigman


Im Bade wannen                                                      Susanne Linke

Set and reset                                                             Trisha Brown

If you couldn’t see me


Roof piece

Accumulation with talking

Primary accumulation

Group Primary accumulation

Glacial decoy


Line up

Opal loop/cloud installation

Man Walking Down the Side of a Building

Walking on the wall

Spanish dance



Foray Foret



Solos Olos

Leaning duets

Floor of the forest

Present tense


L’Amour au théâtre

Astral converted


Death is certain                                                     Eva Meyer Keller

I am a demon                                                        Pichet Klunchun

Walking in an exaggerated                                  Bruce Nauman

Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square.

Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk)

Bouncing balls


ooglyboogly                                                              Tom Morris & Guy Dartnell

The Serpentine Dance                                           Loïe Fuller

Sleeper guts                                                             William Forsythe

In the middle somewhat elevated




The loss of a small detail

The second detail


Artifact suite

Study 3

Impressing the Czar


O Samba do Crioulo Doido                                   Luiz de Abreu

Herses                                                                       Boris Charmatz

Con forts fleuves

programme court avec essorage

Levée des conflits


Danse de nuit


Etrangler le temps                                                Odile Duboc / Boris Charmatz

Waw                                                                         Myriam Gourfink

Uber ungeleit

Too generate


Une lente malédiction





Suite for five                                                    Merce Cunningham





Rain forest

Changing steps


Beach bird


Nearly ninety

Walkaround Time



Moeder and kind                                                Alain Platel / Arne Sierens


Allemaal indiaan


Stop Quartett                                                      Jonathan Burrows


Both sitting duet                                                J.Burrows/Matteo Fargion

The quiet dance

The speaking dance

weak dance, strong questions                          J.Burrows/J.Ritsema


This situation                                                      Tino Sehgal

Hate Radio                                                          Milo Rau


Five easy pieces


Daemons                                                              Frank Castorf

Humiliés et offensés

La dame aux Camélias

La cousine Bette

Les frères Karamazov

Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen – Das Leben des Herrn de Molière


La casa de la fuerza                                            Angelica Liddell

Vacances vacance                                               Ondine Cloez

Katema                                                                 Lucinda Childs

Calico Mingling

Reclining Rondo

Dance  Lucinda Childs/Sol LeWitt

La nuit des rois                                                   Christof Marthaler


Die zehn Gebote (Les Dix Commandements)


Katja Kobanova

Meine faire dame (Un laboratoire de langues)

+ ou – 0

Das Weisse vom Ei (Une île flottante)

King Size

Bekannte Gefühle, gemischte Gesichter


Les antigones                                                                         tg STAN

Pièces courtes (1-9)                                                              Maxime Kurvers

Naissance de la tragédie

Perhaps she could dance first and think afterward Vera Mantero

Continuous Project-Altered Daily                                     Yvonne Rainer

Hand Movie

Trio A

Let the Artists Die                                                                Tadeusz Kantor

The Dead Class

Today is my Birthday

Or press escape                                                                      Edit Kaldor

Heidi Ho                                                                                 René Pollesch

Splatter boulevard



Parades & changes                                                               Anna Halprin

Voyage au bout de la nuit                                                  Romeo Castellucci


Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio

The Four Seasons Restaurant

Go down, Moses

Uso umano di essere umani

Democracy in America

Moses und Aron

La Flute enchantée


(M)imosa                                                                Trajal Harrell, Marlene Freitas Monteiro, François Chaignaud, Cecile Bengoléa

Antigone Senior                                                     Trajal Harrell

In the mood for Frankie

Jiuta                                                                         Tamasaburo Bando

Savušun                                                                   Sorour Darabi

Huddle                                                                     Simone Forti





Slant Board


Accompaniment for La Monte’s “2 Sound


Time’s Journey Through a Room                         Toshiki Okada

Five days in March

Pratthana – A Portrait of Possession

81 avenue Victor Hugo                                       Olivier Coulon-Jablonka

La Jet Set                                                              Gintersdorfer/Klassen

Fever Room                                                          Apichatpong Weerasathekul

Hosotan                                                                 Tatsumi Hijikata

Yellow towel                                                         Dana Michel

prélude                                                                  Isadora Duncan

water study

moment musical





Apollon                                                              Florentina Holzinger

Liberté                                                               Albert Serra

Re-Paradise                                                      Gwenael Morin/ Living Theater

Inori                                                                  Karlheinz Stockhausen

Prometeo                                                          Luigi Nono

Cock cock cock who’s there?                       Samira Elagoz

About Kazuo Ono                                          Takao Kawaguchi

Black Box Music                                             Simon Steen-Andersen

Run Time Error

Continuum                                                       Félicie D’Estienne D’Orves/Eliane Radigue

Put your heart under your feet … and walk! / to Elu        Steven Cohen

BLINK                                                             Michelle Moura

Good Boy                                                        Alain Buffard

Dying swan                                                     Anna Pavlova / Michel Fokine

Petrushka                                                       Michel Fokine

What is your favorite place to be?

The place where I learn.

“We are responsible for what is happening to us today. So, if we continue to live like this, there will be no theatre at all, that’s for sure!”

Where would you like to show your work once?

in my neighborhood.

Who taught you the most in your life?

Roland Barthes , Kazuo Ohno, Barbara Stiegler, Michel Foucault, Raymond Roussel, Valérie Dréville, Frantz Fanon, Marcel Proust, Trisha Brown, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Martha Rosler, Jean-Luc Godard, Pierre Huyghe, Pierre Bourdieu, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Donna J. Haraway, Guy Debord, Marie Collin, Hermann Melville, Pascale Murtin et François Hifler, Helmuth Lachenmann, Françoise Dolto,Umberto Eco, Carl André, Marquis de Sade, Anna Halprin, Chantal Ackerman, Sol Lewitt, Suzanne Lafont, Georges Perec, Roberto Rosselini, Theater Hora, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bruce Nauman, Andreas Malm, Anton Tchekov, Isadora Duncan, Paul B. Preciado, Aristotle, Le Corbusier, Sigmund Freud, Bob Wilson, Jorge Luis Borges, Xavier Le Roy, Pier-Paolo Pasolini, Marcel Duchamp, Pichet Klunchun, Marguerite Duras, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gilles Deleuze, Jeanne Balibar, Jacques Rancière, Daniel Buren, John Cage, Jan Ritsema, Tsaï Ming Liang, Dada, Vaslav Nijinsky ,Claude Régy, Yvonne Rainer, Samuel Beckett, Toni Morrison, Kabuki Theater, Robert Bresson, Maria Ribot AKA La Ribot, the Bauhaus, Christophe Wavelet, Abbas Kiarostami, Pina Bausch, David Hammons, R. W. Fassbinder, Karl Marx, Simone Forti, On Kawara, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Spinoza and Judith Butler.

What does your workplace or atelier look like?

My first workplace is my brain, then it is my computer, then the brains and the bodies of the performers. I don’t use a studio so much because I don’t like to rehearse. And anyway, for two years now, I have been rehearsing mainly in a video conference from my kitchen.

Do you have a ritual before you go on stage?

None, I have no superstition, I find it absurd. If someone says to me ‘break your leg’, ‘to toi toi’ or ‘merde’, I tell them that I don’t believe in God or in another higher entity. I tell them that the success of the performance depends only on the work I have done! I am an author, I am the only one responsible, I am not just before the premiere going to beg for a supernatural force’s help.

What is the best thing about your job?

My freedom.

Do your parents like your work?

When I started doing my work, which was quite challenging and not very successful, I remember thinking about them and deciding that I didn’t care what they thought. It was important for me to get away from what my parents would think.

Does theatre have an impact?

On me absolutely, even the worst pieces interest me. The theatre has shaped me as an artist, of course, but also as an individual. The theatre has acted as a mirror, but it has also shown me the way to a multitude of life possibilities. I was able to have a richer life. I am eternally grateful to the Theatre and Art in general.

With whom would you like to collaborate once? Are there certain artists you feel related to?

I don’t like to collaborate. I like my practice because it allows me to immerse myself in my own subjectivity and for this I need to be alone, immensely and endlessly alone, in order to free my imagination and my desire, to free them from the social and artistic bonds that I believe collaboration imposes.

I feel close to many artists. Most of my friends and lovers are artists and I love the whimsical and sometimes extravagant life we share. In fact, as I have a very ‘artistic’ social life, the core of my artistic process requires the most extreme solitude.

Who would you like to see collaborate on a piece?

I have no idea.

Did you ever have a special encounter with an audience member?

Once after a performance of the piece Jérôme Bel in Marseille, I was at the theater bar having a glass of wine when an audience member came up to me, asked me if I was Jérôme Bel, I said yes, and he punched me in the face.

What is the most recent note you made?

I don’t remember but it must have been yesterday, at the Centre Pompidou, with the Chinese dancer and choreographer Xiao Ke. We are working on a new production in which I am present on the theatre stage while the image of Xiao Ke is projected on a screen thanks to video conferencing from her flat in Shanghai. This new theatrical prototype raises many questions and I give a lot of notes.

Is art your life?

Absolutely! But since I had a child, fatherhood has become a big part of my life. Watching a child grow up is one of the most fascinating performances I have ever seen!

If you had the chance to start again and choose a new career, what would you do?

Being a choreographer.

Recently I was so disgusted by the hypocrisy and lack of courage in the field of performing arts in the face of global warming that I thought I should stop working in this rotten field and become an activist. But in fact, I realized that my position as a ‘famous’ choreographer gives me the opportunity to publicly sound the alarm about the climate crisis. In addition, because of the pandemic and the closed borders, several curators around the world came to me to ask me to make performances in their theaters and festivals because they knew that I had been working for some time without traveling. In the last year I have never worked so much.

Do you think the theatre will survive in the future?

In fact, we have just seen exactly what to expect with the current pandemic. Theaters are closed almost everywhere in the world. I think this is just a premise. There will be other pandemics or other disasters. And this is a consequence of our lifestyles. This virus has spread because the deforestation – that we produce by eating meat and chocolate, using palm oil, and drinking coffee – destroys the ecosystems, which allows the virus that once lived deep in the forests to be more easily transmitted to humans. We are responsible for what is happening to us today. So, if we continue to live like this, there will be no theatre at all, that’s for sure! At least not in the form we knew until recently. This is why we – producers, directors, performers, technicians, choreographers, spectators, costumes, light, and set designers, writers … – must change our theatre practices at all levels, technically and economically of course, but also symbolically, starting today.

This article was originally posted in Etcetera on February 18, 2021, and has been reposted with permission. To read the original article, click here.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Etcetera .

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.