Body shock: Suspiria’s Damien Jalet unleashes his headless dancers

The horror-film choreographer’s new show, Vessel, weaves spells with writhing limbs, menacing ritual figures and a cauldron of gloop. He explains its origins

‘A sculpture contains an energy,” says Damien Jalet. “But as a choreographer, I unleash something in the body of the dancer.” For years Jalet has combined his passions for these contrasting artforms. In his 2010 show Babel, the company danced inside five giant steel-framed cubes, designed by Antony Gormley, that were rattled, spun and stacked on stage. Three years later, in Les Médusés, Jalet’s trio of dancers cut loose in the Louvre among classical statues. “It’s the art that is closest to eternity,” he says of sculpture, drawing a comparison with the ephemeral nature of dance. “We were doing a performance that would only live in the moment.”

For his new production, Vessel, the Belgian choreographer has collaborated with visual artist Kohei Nawa. At the centre of a stage flooded with water is what looks like a lunar crater or an ice cap, emitting a chilly glow. Seven nearly nude dancers move first around and then on top of it, scraping fistfuls of a gunky white substance from the surface and dripping the goo over themselves. The landscapes of body and set slowly merge.

Vessel is at Sadler’s Wells, London, 16-17 April.

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