Young Choreographers at the Badisches Staatsballett: Choreografen stellen sich vor

Staatstheater, Karlsruhe
July 15, 2018

David Mead

Ballet director Birgit Keil has always been keen to develop new choreographers and this year’s young choreographers programme, Chroeografen stellen sich vor, proved there is plenty of promise in the company ranks. It was a programme full of interest choreographically, with some out and out classical works among the usual more contemporary offerings, not a surprise here as Keil insists dancers should be able to work across genres. Unusually, all were also fully costumed and staged. It was just a unfortunate that the programme didn’t contain any explanation of the thinking behind each work, leaving the audience to indulge sometimes in a little guesswork.

The best constructed and most musical work came last: Rachmaninoff 2.3 by the programme’s one guest choreographer, Jonathan dos Santos of Stuttgart’s Gauthier Dance. It was a total delight and a perfect way to round things off. The three men in simple black set the seven women in white tutus off a treat. Among the highlights are two separate pas de quatres for the men plus one ballerina. Dos Santos taps throughout into the infectious music that just makes you want to dance. One female quartet got slightly out of synch, but on the whole the togetherness and technique, and Rachmaninoff 2.3 leaves no place to hide, was excellent. No wonder Keil put it straight into this season’s gala.

Given the very mixed nature of the programme, immediately before this ballet, I have found myself musing how the Staatsballett might handle Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake, which is part of next season. Well, I think they might just be fine.

I also enjoyed greatly Erinnerung An… (Remembering) by Sabrina Velloso. To a Mozart adagio and prelude, Velloso presents the dreams of a poet and his encounter with two women in his imagination. On a stage with a red curtain back left and under a chandelier, João Miranda sits at his antique desk penning a letter. It’s not long before Carolin Steitz, who presumably he is writing about, appears. It’s hard not to see a sort of reverse Onegin, although the couple being joined by Momoka Kikuchi is a surprise. After a pleasing pas de trois that features some beautifully held arabesque turns and in which both women are happy with the other’s presence, they fade away. Intelligent choreography, intelligently presented.

Also classical was Pablo Octávio’s Solo Concert that sees Lisa Pavlov and violinist Dimitri Pavlov come together in a pleasing synthesis. It’s very simply a response to the music, although she does occasionally reach out to and look at him, just hinting at a relationship.

Zhi Le Xu and Blythe Newman in Argiro by Bledi BejleriPhoto Jochen Klenk
Zhi Le Xu and Blythe Newman in Argiro by Bledi Bejleri
Photo Jochen Klenk

There was more contemporary classicism in Bledi Bejleri’s Argiro, a pas de deux for Blythe Newman and Zhi Le Xu to the adagio of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. It had the most impressive set of the show, a series of boulders, from the biggest of which the couple rise like a pair of lizards that have been sunning themselves on the hot stone. The dance is loving and sensitive; a couple in perfect harmony. I just wish they hadn’t felt the need to go to the floor so much; getting up again is always so much more difficult.

Of the more contemporary works, I was particularly taken by When Your Voice Shakes by Amelia Drummond, a dance that sees Moeka Katsuki, Su-Jung Lim and Carolina Martins in different moments of difference and harmony. A very personal work, Drummond found inspiration in the world that sometimes feels like it’s working against us. Fear, insecurity and doubt fill the choreography. In some ways I wanted the dancers to come together more but having the more often than not apart, seemingly isolated in the huge space, magnifies the mood enormously. Drummond’s dance appeals greatly in terms of its complexity but more than anything it’s the tension-filled mood. The movement is always strong and the underlying anxiety transmits well. The stripped back staging reveals the somehow appropriately stark concrete back wall of the stage, with a huge door in the back wall neatly brought into play. The audience absolutely loved it, and rightly too.

Elsewhere, Kapitel 3 by Arman Aslizadyan gives a message about the destruction of the environment and man’s destruction of the earth, highlighted in some dramatic footage of an oil or gas installation at the end.

When Your Voice Shakes by Amelia Drummond(dancers Carolina Martins, Moeka Katsuki and Su-Jung Lim)Photo Jochen Klenk
When Your Voice Shakes by Amelia Drummond
(dancers Carolina Martins, Moeka Katsuki and Su-Jung Lim)
Photo Jochen Klenk

The Mist in Our Eyes by Harriet Mills is a duet performed in front of rather striking close up projections of the two dancers. A study of an emotional relationship, albeit one without too much physicality, Pablo Octávio was very much the dominant partner over Balkiya Zhanburchinova.

Octávio turned creator for Our Path, a solo featuring Carolina Martins in a red dress (probably significant), full of feeling in movement and expression in face. Staged around a doorway-size box, I sensed she was dancing out memories, moods changing frequently as snatches of the past came to mind. It was almost as if she was having a conversation with someone not there. At one point she almost seemed to be in an imaginary hug.

Baris Comak’s Another You! felt like two separate pieces. The first had vague hints at a relationship, the second was dominated by clever and colourful projections, but ones that didn’t really connect.

Balkiya Zhanburchinova and Pablo Octávio in The Mist in Our Eyes by Harriet MillsPhoto Jochen Klenk
Balkiya Zhanburchinova and Pablo Octávio in The Mist in Our Eyes by Harriet Mills
Photo Jochen Klenk

Love is… by Balkiya Zhanburchinova takes a look at its subject through the eyes of two couples and a stunning if capricious lady (Harriet Mills). It’s a colourful kaleidoscope, although I didn’t care for the kitsch comedy couple of Sabrina Vellosol and Olgert Collaku, he in schoolboy shorts and braces, her in a gauzy pink short dress with a huge bow at the back. The romantic couple of Rafaelle Queiroz, Admill Kuyler are more appealing. There’s a lot of men looking at the other women and their partners despairing and sorting them out. The audience loved it, it should be noted.

Guilherme Carola’s high-octane duet, Der Sünder (The Sinnerman) to Nina Simone relies a lot on the sheer energy performance of Carolina Martins and João Miranda. Both deliver in spades and the first half especially is frighteningly non-stop apart from a more sultry middle section. It was pin-point accurate too.