Livestream from Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
March 29, 2021
Now in its thirteenth year the choreographic workshop, set up by Krzysztof Pastor, director of Polish National Ballet, is now part of the dance calendar in Warsaw. The six short pieces showed extreme difference in style, some were of exceptional promise and all made interesting and worthwhile watching. It was a treat to see the company dancers in fine condition and working with such enthusiasm and positive energy.
Anna Hopp in her solo, Mi, looked east for inspiration, traversing the stage with tiny bourrées, wrapped in a kimono-like cloak. Having caught our attention, she discarded the cloak and her demure bearing to let rip in a black ninja outfit of sparkles and leather. The dance took off, with rapid fire gestures as she cut left and right, wielding what looked like a nunchaku, the lively martial arts weapon but was in reality a dead fish. Performed with panache to staccato drumming, it’s a startlingly fresh idea and good fun.
Joanna Drabik offered Kant set to the instantly recognisable music by John Kander, from the musical Cabaret. It’s a complex work with a hard edge of irony and very well filmed. Like the musical, it captures the tension of the end days of Weimar, waiting for the apocalypse. Glimpses into the audience revealed posed, well dressed dummies staring at the stage and at the compère, her face bearing an equally plastic smile. The dancers, hair combed over their faces were unrecognisable. At times they moved like automatons but the dance, when it came, was forceful featuring frenetic footwork and powerful movement. It made disturbing but compelling viewing.
A Memory by Łukasz Tużnik was grounded in real life, the characters in dress of the not too distant past. The evocative music of prominent Polish film composer, Michał Lorenc injected an ambience of folk, family and relationships as affections blossomed, switched and were transferred to be stored in nostalgic memories. Tużnik’s used neoclassical technique and skilful structure to bring clarity to the complex liaisons between the three women and two men.
The other larger work, Antonio Lanzo’s Concerto for Piano and Seven Notes featured, naturally, seven dancers, Mozart’s witty music and a welcome touch of humour. Comedy is a difficult art but Lanzo showed an aptitude in developing both characters and situations with comic possibilities. Most of these paid off making a highly enjoyable ballet. Chaos ensues while Paulina Nosek continues to play, unperturbed, at the grand piano placed centre stage. The virtuosic male duet was breathtaking in its daring and skill and the women also bagged their share of the fun. It maintained a furious pace, living in the moment and coming to a breathless finish.
There were two duets. You and Me by Michał Chróścielewski danced by Daria Majewska and Nikodem Bialik ends harmoniously as the pair walk off together. It was the most classical work of the evening, lyrical, elegant and soulful. Exploring emotions through more traditional routes, it was less innovative, but the dance was splendid.
Gianni Melfi’s 2701, took a deeper, darker path. Linking Italy to Poland, Milan to Auschwitz-Birkenau, it investigates memory as a spur to remaining alert to injustice. There was little overt narrative, allowing the tragedy to be told through the honesty of body language. Yuka Ebihari and Carlos Martin Pérez, two of the company’s top dancers, gave a performance of searing integrity.
If lockdown has given more time for hardworking dancers to engage in choreography that is a huge plus in such difficult times. This was an evening of quality dance and quality choreography, an evening to awake the senses and the promise of a bright future for PNB.