Ed West

Hugo Chavez - the ballet

Hugo Chavez - the ballet
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Here’s something to watch next time you’re visiting Venezuela, if you can avoid getting murdered while you’re there – a ballet based on the life of the glorious late president Hugo Chavez:

'The piece, From Spider-Seller to Liberator, is roughly based on a series of personal reminiscences culled from the late president’s speeches and his weekly TV show Aló Presidente. A team of Cuban journalists combed through thousands of hours, selecting the folksy childhood anecdotes which he would drop in among state decrees and political announcements.

The work begins with a recording of Chávez’s voice saying: "I was like a seed which fell on hard ground," before a female character representing the mother country takes to the stage; she later dances a pas de deux with the male dancer portraying Chávez.

Throughout the work, Chávez’s voice can be heard overhead while footage of key moments from Venezuelan history and the president’s life are projected behind the dancer.

"People won’t go to see a ballet performance. They want to see their leader’s life set on stage,” said the critic Marcy Alejandra Rangel, who reviewed the piece’s debut performance.

A previous staging of the state-sponsored piece earlier this year saw more than 40 artists on stage, combining live music with video art and circus-like antics.'

Sounds ghastly, and it’s arguable that making Fred West Side Story for real would be in better taste. But I’m probably not the target audience.

One of the things I’m hoping neuroscience will show in the next few years (apart from confirming all my prejudices, generally) is how secular politics fills those parts of the brain that used to deal with religion and religious morality. In authoritarian socialist states like Venezuela religious idolization is directed instead towards secular leaders and in more atheistic ones such as the Soviet Union or Mao’s China this turns into open worship of the state and its leaders. But even in post-Christian liberal secular Europe we see that, where religion is absent, people don’t become rational, but instead politics takes on religious-like moralising, with hysterical campaigns targeted at heretics and bad-thinkers.

Our need to idolise people explains why, the worse a political leader is, the more everyone’s life a misery, the more likely people are to wear T-shirts with his face on, or sing songs about him. How many people have posters of Hayek or Burke on their walls?

Neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have already began to explain why the creative industries in general are more Left-leaning - people with that political persuasion having a better imagination - so we shall see.

Speaking of which, the Guardian and Royal Court are teaming up to present a series of microplays next month. I don’t know what they're about, but here's a guess:

1. Thatcher and the miners.

2. Palestinian kids and the Israeli occupatinon.

3. Tony Bliar and the illegal Iraq War.

4. Racial injustice in the old American south.

5. Thatcher and the miners.