Skirball Center for the Performing Arts hosted the New York City premiere of Jérôme Bel’s “Gala” this past weekend —a show that features a cast of 20 dancers of varying ages and levels of experience. In “Gala,” French choreographer Jérôme Bel attempts to redefine our perception of dance, bodies and structure.
“Gala” is divided into different segments representing varying intersections of dance: ballet, waltz, improvisation, bows, the choreography of Michael Jackson and large company numbers led by individual dancers.
In most segments, each performer would come on stage for a few seconds, demonstrate a step and go away. The result was highly individualistic and endearing.
While some performers had significant experience in dancing, it was interesting to see those who are normally excluded from the field showcase their interpretation of various dance forms. In doing so, the stage became a safe space for all. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes, express themselves and start all over — from a woman in a wheelchair to a four-year-old girl. The final product proved that everyone is eligible to dance on stage.
“Gala” is a celebration, but it is also a critique of how more traditional dance performances are not as inclusive and diverse. Bel reinforces the notion that dance is made simply for everyone to have a good time.
During the show’s “Company Company” segment, individual dancers led empowering group numbers. The dancers moved together like one big eccentric family on stage with gender neutral costume design and stadium anthems like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”
It eventually becomes clear to the audience why Jérôme Bel began “Gala” with a slideshow of images depicting various stages from around the world. The stage is an open and inclusive space that can, in fact, belong to anyone. It comes as no surprise that this message and show received a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the audience.
“Gala” features dancers with whom, for once, any audience member can identify. It is full of laughter and holds the power of unity through showcasing diversity.
“Gala” made audience members want to get up and join the charismatic company onstage, and perhaps, that was Bel’s intention all along.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 5 print edition. Email Devanshi Khepartal at [email protected].