Put your heart under your feet…and walk to Elu is an intense meditation on loss, grief and absence, following the death of Cohen’s partner and artistic collaborator, the choreographer Elu.
The work first came into being as a performance piece, which debuted at the Montpellier Danse festival in June 2017. The work was later shown as an exhibition at Stevenson Johannesburg before being performed at the last edition of Dance Umbrella. This is Cohen’s first performance at the National Arts Festival since his 2012 performance of Cradle of Humankind.
The performance comprises of Cohen interacting with projected footage and an installation of sculptural objects. A myriad pointe shoes – among them Elu’s, literally invoking his absence – are collaged together with found objects.
The objects are embedded with histories, ideologies, beliefs – a flagpole finial, vintage photographs of atrocities, sex toys, medical instruments, porcelain ornaments, feathers and hair; many of them, like the arms of chandeliers, taxidermied animal parts and model trees, recurrent images in Cohen’s artistic lexicon.
The performance work put your heart under your feet … and walk! was made in three countries: South Africa, where Elu and I both come from; France, where Elu led us to, and where I am now because of him; and Japan, where Elu wished for but never got to and where I was performing at the moment he died.
From being buried alive to bathed in blood, from ingesting cremains to radiating light, from sacrifice to survival and from worship to blasphemy, from Eros to Thanatos and back again – there is nothing I will not attempt in paying homage to the art that Elu and I made in the past and which I am now making for the future, nothing too strong and nothing too strange.
Its unifying features are where ballet (the leitmotif of Elu’s life) meets art – and the way in which soulmates choreograph the annihilation of being forced apart in the interim between life and afterlife.