Streamed live from Schauspielhaus, Stuttgart
October 30, 2020
Stuttgart Ballet’s latest Response II programme gave five dancer-choreographers from within the company the chance to create short pieces. Although they had absolute freedom in terms of content and music, reflections on experiences of the past few months, and themes of despair, isolation, loneliness and seclusion, are common. A sense of hope sometimes felt very far away indeed.
Most of the choreographers had only created one or two pieces, and a few of the pieces felt more like sketches that may be developed in the future, but the evening showed that Stuttgart continues that tradition of developing new choreographers that was started by John Cranko all those years ago.
The absorbing Aedis by Alessandro Giaquinto is dedicated to his Italian homeland. It opens on a gloomy room, marked out by light. To the sound of troubled breathing, nightmares cause Anouk van der Weijde to toss and turn. When she wakes, she gets up but her struggle to make sense of her lonely world is clear. A second room features Timoor Afshar. Often touching his head, he too cannot come to terms with how things are. The blackness between prohibits communication but there is a sense of connection, especially when surprise moments of similar or identical movement occur.
In a third room, Miriam Kacerova and Roman Novitzky try to find some sort of normality in an innovative duet around a table. I’m not sure if they can’t or deep down don’t want to, but there is more tension. And it’s still there, even in the aesthetically pleasing end as all four move in unison to Vincenzo Capezzuto singing an arrangement of ‘Cum Dederit’ from Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus with Soqquadro Italiano. Maybe a sign that despite everything, we can come together.
In Aliunde levi by Aurora de Mori, Hyo-Jung Kang first appears in silhouette against a blue background. The Latin title translates as ‘different light’, which sums the work up perfectly as we later see her fully lit, then finally in a pool of light surrounded by blackness. The first section, to drums, speaks of despair and desperation. Danced to the sounds of South American pipes, the final section sees her find calm and comfort. It’s almost spiritual. Kang is strong and vulnerable in equal measure, her danced full of gorgeous momentary pauses and sleek lines.
Chrysalis is Vittoria Girelli’s first public excursion into choreography. In flowing harem pants, Elisa Ghisalberti, Fabio Adorisio, Matteo Miccini and Flemming Puthenpurayilas are at first self-focused, moving independently, before finding support and togetherness agreeably as a mini corps de ballet. The butterfly connection is a little vague but the dance is pleasing on the eye.
Agnes Su’s Resonanz opens with an enjoyable response to Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. Under a single light bulb hanging centre stage, the section may be pedestrian in the sense that there’s a lot of walking, but it’s full of interesting geometric patterns. I loved Su’s use of upstage flats that appear as pillars to hide and reveal the at first silhouetted Rocio Aleman, Daiana Ruiz, Clemens Fröhlich and Christian Pforr. The second section, to Hymns for 12 Cellos by Julius Klengel brings a change of mood, the dance now much more yearning. Indeed, it ends with the quartet laying on the floor, reaching up towards that light; the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps, and a sign of hope.
The longest and most complete-feeling work of the evening comes from Shaked Heller. His 19-minute Mehlberg drops us into a dank concrete bunker of a building. Helped by the loose, drab grey dresses and one-piece costumes, and strip lighting, the sense is very much of a hallway in an asylum or isolation hospital of the worst sort, its seven dark corridors leading off, and through which dancers appear and retreat, going to who knows where.
In this space we find Elisa Badenes, Angelina Zuccarini and Louis Stiens. They move agitatedly to music by Rameau and Vivaldi (coincidentally, ‘Cum Diderit’ again) that has a very contrasting feel. They may share the space but it seems they are isolated in pretty much every other way. Each is in their own world. The dance is angular, contorted, difficult; and yet those very qualities also combine to give it a strange, compelling beauty. One solo by Badenes stands out in particular. The threesome do try to break out, but every time they are pulled back. One senses that the body, the mind, is as much as a prison as the physical walls that surround them.
Stuttgart Ballet is now shutdown temporarily as part of what German politicians are describing as ‘lockdown light’. But as artistic director Tamas Detrich said in barely disguised criticism of them and in a voice filled with emotion, “There is nothing light about an artist not being able to perform.” These are dark times, but as he went on to promise, “We will be back.”