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Damien Jalet and Kohei Nawa: Vessel - Sadler's Wells

Damien Jalet and Kohei Nawa: Vessel

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

OLIVIER Award-winning choreographer Damien Jalet and Japanese experimental sculptor Kohei Nawa are presenting the UK premiere of Vessel at Sadler’s Wells. A striking collaboration that blurs the lines between the human form and its environment, it runs from Tuesday, April 16 to Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Damien Jalet’s work for the Sadler’s Wells stage includes his collaboration with Hussein Chalayan on Gravity FatigueTarantiseismic as Guest Artistic Director of the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) in 2017.

Vessel is inspired by the body’s composition predominately being made up of water; the near-naked dancers inhabit a flooded stage, both reflected and hidden by its mirror-like surface. Jalet and Nawa create a dynamic merger between the stage and the bodies of the dancers as they constantly transform their figures, lit by Yukiko Yoshimoto.

To an electronic score by Marihiko Hara and Ryuichi Sakamoto, seven beings perform strange rituals, exploring the organic structure that floats atop the water, in a visually arresting cycle of life and death. The distinctive “headless” poses hide the head, conferring anonymity by concealing gender and identity and hinting at the existence of some non-human entity.

Jalet and Nawa met during a residency at Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto in 2015. Vessel came from a shared desire to create a symbiotic work between sculpture and choreography, where it becomes impossible to separate one from the other. Taking as a starting point the contradictions of the body, between regeneration and decay, solid and liquid, anatomy and mythology, they created a captivating and visually stunning work which floods the stage with water.

As a dancer and a choreographer, Damien Jalet has previously collaborated with sculptors, musicians, choreographers, film directors, and designers, and has provided choreography for opera and music videos. He is the closest and most regular collaborator of Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, with whom he choreographed Babel (words), which won two Olivier awards in 2011.

In 2013, he collaborated with Cherkaoui and Marina Abramović to restage Boléro, premiering at the Paris Opera. Recent works include THRUGH, (2015, in collaboration with Jim Hodges) and BABEL 7.16 (2016, at the Festival d’Avignon). Jalet was appointed Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French government.

Born in Osaka in 1975, Kohei Nawa is based in Kyoto, and is professor of Art and Design Studies in the Kyoto University of Art & Design Graduate School. Nawa graduated from Kyoto City University of Arts in 1998 with a BFA in Sculpture, followed by an MFA in sculpture in 2000, and a PhD in Fine Art/Sculpture in 2003. In 2011, he presented the solo exhibition, KŌHEI NAWA-SYNTHESIS at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

Working with beads, prisms, polyurethane foam, silicone oil, and other contemporary materials, Nawa constantly explores new frontiers and new potential for visual art. He is the director of SANDWICH, a creative platform that he established in Kyoto in 2009 for multidisciplinary creative work involving architects, photographers, designers, and other creators as well as artists.

Tickets: £20. To book, call the ticket office on 020 7863 8000 or visit

Time: 7.30pm.

Free post-show talk: Tuesday, April 16.

Touch tour: Wednesday, April 17 at 5.30pm.