April 29, 2019
The term ‘Weimar’ conjures up an ‘if only’ moment. If only the architects of the Treaty of Versailles had allowed the democratic promise with the Weimer Republic to override retribution for the sins of an autocratic Kaiser, how different the future might have been. Break-Through, a co-production of the German National Theatre Weimar, commemorates the centenary of the Weimar Republic and the explosion of modern art that accompanied it. The innovation of the Bauhaus movement reshaped our world view of design and is, even a century on, utterly breath-taking.
Stuttgart Ballet’s triple bill captures three different aspects of this cultural revolution. Edward Clug’s, Patterns in ¾, finds inspiration in the geometric lines and shapes of the iconic Bauhaus architecture. In, IT.FLOPPY.RABBIT, Katarzyna Kozielska is attracted by quirky props and costumes reminiscent of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet while Nanine Linning’s Revolt, taps into the energy and passion that swept aside the stuffy Prussian past.
Clug’s work is the centre piece. He has developed a definitive choreographic signature in shapes, structures and moves and to this exceptional work, he brings an added level of confidence and quiet irony. Patterns in ¾ captures the spirit and form of the period with a level of skill that Walter Gropius, with his appreciation of fine craftmanship, would have admired.
Using two intricate scores, from Steve Reich and Milko Lazar, Clug marries movement to music matching the complexities of each. The seven dancers dressed in unisex black trousers and white tops interpret the work with elegance and clarity. The architectural inspiration is revealed in the opening patterns and gestures, and finds concrete form in the geometric slabs of the set that add a comic edge enabling dislocated head and limb to become part of the choreography. In an excellent cast Ami Morita caught the moment with her insouciant charm.
Kozielska revels in the fun elements of Bauhaus form embodied in Mizuki Amemiya as human lampstand. Clothed in sleek metallic unitard and transluscent domed headgear, she is a constant feature whether switched on and making hand patterns on the luminous shade, just sitting in a corner, as lamp stands do, or bourréeing across the stage.
A back drop of slatted bands enabled effective entrances and exits, and also surreal disembodied hands that emerged to embrace Alicia Garcia Torronteras as a prelude to her sensual duet with Matteo Crockard-Villa. Their costumes in extraordinary prints, with bodices of rigid geometric plates, sported a train of cloth long enough to encircle a whole posse of dancers.
Kozielska has also drawn on the Bauhaus breakdown of hierarchy to democratise the stage space and relax standard pairings. She used the dancers’ facility well to create a modern balletic language of strong images and rich variety particularly in the talents of Diana Ionescu, a young dancer of magnetic presence.
Nanine Linning, in her first work for Stuttgart Ballet, chose the revolutionary aspects and there was little respite from the conflict. Revolt, as alive as an electric current, offers the dancers plenty of challenges.
Michael Gordon’s score, Weather could more rightly be titled storm in its relentless thrust that the drives the dancers in inexorable waves of movement. Its rhythmic rawness is translated by Linning in choreography that also crosses boundaries between ballet and street dance, leaving dancers and audience breathless.
The setting of intense violet/ blue light with dancers all clothed in the same hue, whether body tights or skirts, unifies the stage picture building the power of common purpose. The partnering, particularly in the trios, is gripping both in its athleticism and innovation. Confrontation is the name of the game, but battle lines are blurred and it is only in the final moments that Angelina Zuccarini the last unmasked dancer dons her headgear and joins the ranks.
Break-through proved a stimulating evening and a worthy tribute to a great period in Germany’s artistic life.