A grand evening: Grandes Dames from Gauthier Dance

Theaterhaus, Stuttgart
July 13, 2018

Maggie Foyer

I wish I didn’t have to say how special and unique Gauthier Dance is. The future of dance would be so much more secure if every city had its version of such an inclusive company. Artistic Director, Eric Gauthier, has found a positive way of opening dance to a much wider demographic: old, young, those who know a great deal about dance and those who just go to enjoy. Theaterhaus feels like a workshop. It is not just a place to display art but a place that nurtures art; the perfect home for Gauthier Dance.

Grandes Dames, as the title suggests is about promoting women choreographers and included two new works by women plus two by men to celebrate great women and all in choreography that is about as varied as you get.

Beating is a first European creation for Canadian choreographer Virginie Brunelle. It is all heart in a language so real it is difficult to believe it was devised in a studio. The opening, to music by Franz Liszt captures the ecstasy of love in phrases that fall and melt, and in bodies caught in mid-flight and thrust on high.

But love is not easy and as the music becomes more modern and complex as do the relationships. Theophilus Veselý plays a reticent soul who needs considerable enticement just to cross the stage to join Jonathan dos Santos, but it is with Barbara Melo Freire that he ultimately finds fulfilment in a blissfully wild duet. Brunelle skilfully finds the right movement, sometimes no more than a fresh twist on a well-worn lift or hold to bring exciting newness to a profound work delivered with a very light touch.

Gauthier Dance in We Love Horses by Helena WaldmannPhoto Regina Brocke
Gauthier Dance in We Love Horses by Helena Waldmann
Photo Regina Brocke

We love Horses raises the awkward questions we expect from a work by Helena Waldmann. Acknowledging the human propensity to be tamed and domesticated she makes a fervent plea for more bad behaviour. The ‘taming’ is conducted by magnificent dominatrix, Anneleen Dedroog, aided by a fearsome whip which she cracks with relish. Her height is increased by wildly exaggerated platform boots giving an almost equine look to her legs and, of course, the regulatory corseted body. But in the manner of the brazen sexuality of ancient Greek satiric drama there is enjoyment in the ‘pleasure, with pain for leaven’ to quote Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, an aficionado of such sports, as a row of plumped up pink buttocks jiggle in anticipation.

Conformity in modern society more often reveals a grey, inhibited and chilling aspect but delivered as a rambunctious antisocial romp it made an intriguing theatre spectacle. This was rebellious conformity to the cracking of the whip, a delight in subjugation acknowledged in the tremulous plumes emanating from the bald caps in Judith Adam’s inventive costumes.

Rosario Guerra in Infant Spirit by Marco GoeckePhoto Regina Brocke
Rosario Guerra in Infant Spirit by Marco Goecke
Photo Regina Brocke

Marco Goecke’s contribution, Infant Spirit was his homage to Pina Bausch, who established her iconic company in his home town of Wuppertal, and for Rosario Guerra it was a tour de force. Goecke’s language, if translated to the written page would be a complex script crammed with diacritics, accents and punctuation marks and Guerra’s fluid body tussles with the nuances of meaning in body, hands and feet that are rarely still. What makes Goecke’s choreography so different is the intelligence that underlies the rapid, insistent movements, each seems to have meaning, never explicit but always indicating a purpose.

Electric Light pretty well summed up the spirit of the closing work. In an opening duet from Eric Gauthier and an ensemble climax from Adonis Foniadakis, the choreographer paid tribute to Louise Lecavalier, the Canadian bombshell who inspired Gauthier to choose a life in dance. Lecavalier definitively subverted the fragile ballerina stereotype with her fierce Amazon beauty and gravity defying barrel rolls. Gauthier’s clever pastiche of the Lecavalier/ Bowie duo was given a fearless performance by the diminutive Garazi Perez Oloriz and Maurus Gauthier.

Gauthier Dance in Electric Life by Eric GauthierPhoto Regina Brocke
Garazi Perez Oloriz and Maurus Gauthier
in Electric Life by Eric Gauthier and Andonis Foniadakis
Photo Regina Brocke

The stamina and energy of the eleven dancers was phenomenal particularly from Anna Süheyla Harms who is impossible to overlook. The LED bars played their part. At times they became the dance partner or shifted by the dancers they shaped and defined the choreography to ring the changes. In Fondiakis’s inimitable pulsing waves of dance the evening closed near to combustion point to tumultuous applause.