The Show Must Go On

By Jérôme Bel
2014, 2017
Candoco Dance Company presents Jérôme Bel’s award winning The Show Must Go On, bringing together a UK-wide cast of 20 performers, 19 pop songs and one DJ.

The Show Must Go On was created in 2001 and is one of the iconic works in the career of French choreographer Jérôme Bel. The show examines the relationship between art and life, constantly surprising and challenging the viewer’s expectations. Controlled by a DJ and audio feed, the performers follow lyrics of the songs, ranging from musicals to well-loved pop songs.

Artistic Co-Directors Pedro Machado and Stine Nelson on The Show Must Go On:

Our vision is to create bold, exciting and entertaining work and Jérôme Bel’s The Show Must Go On perfectly encapsulates all this. When we started the journey towards this show over three years ago, it was with a desire to work with one of the most influential choreographers in contemporary dance, and to bring this experience to as many people as possible.

The Show Must Go On is a remarkable piece, reminding us why live work is so special and impactful. It evokes a strong sense of community due to the shared experience of its soundtrack of well-known songs and because the piece is about the audience and its role in bringing a show alive.

The audience should recognise themselves on stage.

With this vision he makes us relate the personal to the universal, encourages us to feel actively connected to the performers on stage and to question who is in charge. And so, with this show, Candoco Dance Company continues to expand traditionally narrow parameters of who is on stage and their reflection in the audience. This fascinating and brilliant piece of work triggers one to think further about how we perceive others and ourselves. 

This diversity forces a genuine exploration of the essence of the work, encouraging artists and audiences to think beyond the surface.

The Show Must Go On’s largest cast is comprised of a variety of performers. Some have never performed professionally before and some have never performed at all. Others have lived an artistic life so varied and fascinating that they show how eclectic and vibrant arts in Britain are. All will debut at Sadler’s Wells. The cast was selected from over 300 applicants, from all over the UK. They include actors, dancers, singers, a curator, a retired school-teacher and even an auctioneer, all from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups.

The audience should recognise themselves on stage.

Bel is famous for his minimalist productions that strip the stage bare and create a more honest connection between the audience and the performers. Described by the Guardian as ‘a mischievously entertaining conceptualist who is less interested in movement than in messing with your head’, Jérôme Bel is famous for challenging expectations and enjoying a reputation as ‘one of the most charismatic and galvanizing choreographers working today’ (New York Times).

Besides reflecting the genius of Jérôme Bel himself, the success of this Show is also a very clear testament to the incredible artistic value that is inherent in inclusive practice. Executed to the highest standard, such work itself becomes the strongest confirmation of the fact that working inclusively makes for more exciting, more excellent work for audiences to enjoy.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the production, from audiences and critics alike, was reinforced by two further honours. Candoco was privileged to win the UK Theatre Award’s ‘Achievement in Dance award for The Show Must Go On as well as a nomination for the National Dance Award’s prestigious Outstanding Company accolade (alongside Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, English National Ballet and Northern Ballet).

★★★★★ – The chemistry of the cast and the unerring wit and humanity of the direction are irresistible
The Guardian
★★★★ – It’s a vision of the world as it is and as such is both unifying and great fun
The Times
Jérôme Bel considers the audience. It is reasonably rare that conceptual choreographers are really interested in doing this, but Jérôme’s work reaches out and invites you in as an audience member. As a choreographer he is playful, witty and engaging, which is always welcome.
Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director and CEO of Dance Umbrella



Jérôme Bel Biography

Jérôme Bel lives in Paris and works worldwide. nom donné par l’auteur (1994) is a choreography of objects. Jérôme Bel (1995) is based on the total nudity of the performers. Shirtology (1997) presents an actor wearing many T-shirts. The last performance (1998) quotes a solo by the choreographer Susanne Linke, as well as Hamlet and André Agassi. Xavier Le Roy (2000) was claimed by Jérôme Bel as his own, but was actually choreographed by Xavier Le Roy. The show must go on (2001) brings together twenty performers, nineteen pop songs and one DJ. Véronique Doisneau (2004) is a solo on the work of the dancer Véronique Doisneau, from the Paris Opera. Isabel Torres (2005), for the ballet of the Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, is its Brazilian version. Pichet Klunchun and myself (2005) was created in Bangkok with the Thai traditional dancer Pichet Klunchun. Follows Cédric Andrieux (2009), dancer of Merce Cunningham. 3Abschied (2010) is a collaboration between Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Jérôme Bel based on The Song of the Earth by Gustav Malher. Disabled Theater (2012) is a piece with a Zurich-based company, Theater Hora, consisting of professional actors with learning disabilities. Cour d’honneur (2013) stages fourteen spectators of the Cour d’honneur of the Palais des Papes in Avignon.

Assistant Dina ed Dik Biography

Dina ed Dik studied dance and drama at the Fontys Dansacademie in Tilburg, the Netherlands. After finishing her studies, she worked with choreographers in Germany, the Netherlands and France, including Jérôme Bel, Hans Tuerlings (RAZ), Michael Laub, Lukas Matthaei, Erika Winkler. Dina ed Dik has been a cast member for Jérôme Bel’s The Show Must Go On since 1999. She has worked with Jérôme Bel for six years teaching The Show Must Go On to other international casts.

Assistant Henrique Neves Biography

Henrique Neves has taught The Show Must Go On for the last 4 years in various contexts and to diverse groups of people. He was an original member of the cast, when the piece was first performed in Paris.He has worked extensively within the performing arts (dance and theatre).

Currently most of his practice is within the visual arts and he has created site-specific pieces for public institutions and spaces in Lisbon and Paris. His work engages with specific cultural and social entities, and with the people who work in them. He does not work within a specific media, though textiles are a material of election in many of his pieces. 

In teaching The Show Must Go On he sees himself as a facilitator or translator of the work by Jerome Bel. He enjoys seeing the work developing and adapting to diverse casts within various cultural and geographical contexts. As an assistant inThe Show Must Go On, he equally tries to create a nurturing environment where people find a space to say something about themselves.

Production details

Concepts & DIrection

Jérôme Bel

Restaging Assistants

Dina ed Dik & Henrique Neves

Original Creation

Paris, January 4, 2001, City Theatre


Andrej Gubanov


Leonard Bernstein, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, J. Horner, W.Jennings, Mark Knopfler, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Louiguy, Galt MacDermott, Erick “More” Morillo and M. Quashie, Edith Piaf, The Police and Hugh Padgham, Queen, Lionel Richie, A.Romero Monge and R. Ruiz, Paul Simon


Vanessa Abreu, Jo Bannon, Allan Binns, Suze Birchwood Jia-Yu Chang, Gary Clarke, Karim Dime, Robert Eldridge, Tanja Erhart, Linda Fearon, Katy Francis, Adam Gain, Andrew Graham, Mirjam Gurtner, Tom Morgan, Mathew Morris, Laura Patay, Susan Sentler, Betty Skelton, Mickel Smithen, Toke Broni Standby

Original Creation

January 4, 2001, Theatre de la Ville, Paris

Co-commissioned in 2014 by

Sadler's Wells, Tramway and Dance 4 with additional support from Greenwich Dance and Siobhan Davies Dance

Thanks (2014)

John Blake, Karen Brown, Henry and Sandra Dawson, Elizabeth Haines, Kate and Richard Haines, Elsa-Marthe and Lennart Ripa, and Paul Smith at Online Lighting for their generous support for The Show Must Go On.

Co-produced in 2017 by

Festival d’Automne à Paris, Théâtre de la Ville à Paris, L’apostrophe – Scène nationale Cergy-Pontoise & Val d’Oise, MC93 Maison de la Culture de Seine-Saint-Denis à Bobigny, Théâtre de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines


2014, 2017

Running Time

90 minutes, no interval

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Find more info here.