Schauspiel Köln and livestream
November 20, 2020
Lockdown has diverted so much of our dance viewing to the small screen and while Richard Siegal offers no escape, he certainly offers difference. All for One and One for the Money is performed in real time on stage by the Ballet of Difference am Schauspiel Köln in Cologne and streamed to an international audience, thus circumventing current restrictions on audience size.
Siegal is no stranger to virtual space and here he goes for broke, immersing us totally in a digital world where dance is just one of the choices on multiple screens. I suspect the digital expert and gaming junkie would have had far more competence than me in shuffling screens and juggling chat and dance but, on the whole, the techie side was user-friendly and constantly engaging.
Like other choreographers, Siegal has had to adapt to constraints imposed by Covid. The social distancing of the onstage dancers contrasts with the infinite freedom offered by the camera as he maximises the potential of each medium. He revels in this playground of new toys as solitary dancers find company in mirrored images and the created clone ensemble move in perfect harmony. His dancers are hand-picked and he uses their talents well in choreography that is dynamic, often virtuosic and never cliched. There is skilful use of close-up to capture subtle shifts of emotion and adroit finger patterns to frame the shots.
It’s a restless work, fitted to our world of limitless choice and unattainable satisfaction. Of the three screens, two are chat boxes hosted by Alexander Angeletta and Yuri Englert. The text is topical, declaring there is no big Other in a post-truth world without a metalanguage to provide a guarantee to our meanings. Flipping back and forth to collide with theories and loaded phrases, reality moves to another place so when the actor assumes a cat face, it all seems quite normal.
It is a relief to get back to dance, the art that predates text and seems to embody truth and honesty. The lighting and video design by Matthias Singer is innovative and of the moment. Bar codes ripple across the dance mats and bursts of colour bounce off screens while Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch’s score adds pulse and pace. Siegal’s mission is to bring ballet into the twenty-first century and in this work, forced by circumstances onto untrodden paths, he has reached a new level. Dance takes the lead in an unaccustomed setting alive with possibilities. It’s a brave and exciting venture.