Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ein William Forsythe Ballettabend

by Angela Incampo & Ralf Lippold

The Premiere, and so just one performance, of 'Ein William Forsythe Ballettabend' at Semperoper was not enough. A new attendance as a follow-up performance was needed to understand and appreciate the choreografies created by the great choreogrepher Forsythe, and brought on stage by an always incredible ballet company, such as the Semperoper Ballet truly is. Everybody probably knows that Aaron S. Watkin is a former Forsythe dancer, and therefore more than every other ballet director can understand the difficulties, the efforts, and the great concentration these pieces require.

In a completely full theater (so full has been the Premiere as well) the music starts and the curtain rises. On stage the whole company starts with "Artifact Suite" a piece already performed to Semperoper's audience last spring in 2011 within a variation rich, and not thematic programme. Last spring the ballet company was asked to dance a classical piece (George Balanchine - 'Emeralds'), and two modern pieces (Mats Ek - 'She was black', and William Forsythe - 'Artifact Suite'). In this occation, the Ballett Company proved again their ability to switch from a classical piece to a modern piece and the dancing maturity they are capable to put on stage (for more information, here the relevant links to the articles). Not many companies are able to perfectly combine the movements typical of classical dance with those required by modern dance.

Photographer: Costin Radu
"Artifact Suite" on music by Eva Crossman-Hecht and Johann Sebastian Bach, is an extremely beautiful piece. The green-coloured costumes of all the dancers are interrupted by the white-coloured suit of one single dancer, Vanja Vitman. She is the guide, she controls all movements of the Corps de Ballet and sometimes also the two dancing couples performing the pas-de-deux (Elena Vostrotina with Oleg Klymyuk, and Yumiko Takeshima with Raphäel Coumes-Marquet). She is the master who "leads the puppets", helped by a big lightspot. She decides when they have to move, and when they have to stand moveless. Homogeneity and heterogenity are both performed. The whole ballet company is involved in this huge choreography. The lack of coordination among the dances in some scenes and the strong coordination in other scenes are wildly interrupted by the curtain falling continuosly down. Is what we see performed on stage, the lack of co-ordination we experience in our daily life as personal individuals, and as members of the society? Is it a clear sign of the difficulties we always meet? A smooth life, with the different seasons coming quietly one after the other finds no room in today's human life. Also the movements, sometimes so slow and sometime so fast, mirror the current times.

Photographer: Costin Radu
William Forsythe has created and new arranged, expressly for the Semperoper Ballet, the second piece "New Suite". On music by Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Luciano Berio, Gavin  Bryars, Thom Willems are brought on stage, one after the other, seven couples (Chantelle Kerr* with Claudio Cangilosi*, Elena Vostrotina with Oleg Klymyuk, Julia Weiss and István Simon, Anna Merkulova and Jiří Bubeníček, Duosi Zhu and Pavel Moskito, Yumiko Takeshima with Raphaël Coumes-Marquet, Anna Merkulova and Jón Vallejo). The costumes, for this second piece are plain and perfectly co-ordinated between the dancing couples. No curtain falls down to interrupt the scene. The stage is completely free. They can perform in an open-space, in movements of pure harmony and disharmony, shaping the relationship between the sexes, expecially on Berio's music.

The third and last piece is "Enemy in the figure". The whole choreography is illuminated by a big spotlight free to be moved around on stage (a main figure on stage, as it gives more or less emphasis to the scene). The spotlight is continuously moved around by the dancers according to their internal needs. A rope cuts the stage in two and so does also a wavelike wooden wall, that "hides" the sight on what's happening behind it. Depending on the position in the audience, one gets a totally different picture of the scene, and what is visible from one side, appears invisible from another position. Very much in flow with reality, that can differ vastly from your own position, and perspective - seeing reality is not what one sees on the surface.

Photographer: Costin Radu
The dancers (Chantelle Kerr*, Raquel Martinez, Anna Merkulova*,  Ana Presta, Elena Vostrotina, Julia Weiss, Jiří Bubeníček*, Claudio Cangialosi, Raphaël Coumes-Marquet, Maximilian Genov*, Fabien Voranger) wear totally white, totally black or white and black (pierrot-like) costumes. Looking at the dancers moving on stage and hearing the rough music, the viewer can physically feel the dichotomy on stage. The dancers movements are strong. They cut through the air like sharp knives, they seem forced to move by some unseen force, acting like under fever. They restlessly try to free themselves from a force that is hosted inside themselves, deep in their bodies, and in their souls. Their fast movements show the need to re-create the lost balance, the harmony between all parts. The elements on stage (rope and wooden wall) are a clear further sign of the dichotomy the dancers are living in. All metallic and rough sounds, the dissonances are created ad hoc - very strongly in need!

Also in this piece the difficulty to live a quiet life can be seen; the forces that move our souls and our bodies, and that keep us away from acting in free-will. The desperate search for peace in all different moments of life, private and public, is strongly threatened by the difficulty to find the right balance between being our true selves, and play our roles according to the "outer world". The dancers are merely a mirror of our own experiences, so strong that sometimes people in the audience are overwhelmed, like the couple sitting beside us, leaving the house after 'Artifact Suite'.

Yet the creative process overwhelms the conformity every time. People like conformity in the sense of stability, which makes life easier, and yet everyone of us has experienced the moment when we move out to the edges, performing different due to our own thinking, and will to express thoughts.

A great power can be seen in the modern dance and especially in William Forsythe's choreographies. In opposite to classical dance and choreographers, a major pillar in dance history and dance movements, modern dance empowers each single viewer to discover in the pieces a meaning, an idea that in classical ballet is not possible to see (being the audience guided step by step through the execution of the piece).
In modern ballet, the audience is free to give pace to the own ideas, reflections and comparison with personal and social situation. Modern pieces are not fairy tales made to let people dream, they are a door opened into the inner soul and into the society soul.

A performance that really deserve to be seen!

* - Dancers on the picture beside; more pictures to be seen on Semperoper.
To explain the role of art and artist we recommend the following article by Edgar Schein.
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