Six new works: Gauthier Dance and Meet the Talents at the Colours International Dance Festival

Theaterhaus, Stuttgart
July 11, 2019

David Mead

It’s such a simple idea. A popular Colours regular, Meet the Talents sees Gauthier Dance director Eric Gauthier invite up and coming choreographers to make short pieces for the company. Rehearsals take place in the first week of the festival, with many open to the public. Performances then follow in the second-week (this year presented in-the-round), each piece complimented with a short interview with its dance-maker. This year’s line up boasted choreographers from Italy, Israel, Cuba and Taiwan.

Not all the pieces were created in Stuttgart on the dancers who performed them, however. Making work, even that’s just ten minutes or so long, requires advance planning, in terms of music and structure at least, but watching rehearsals, it was evident that a couple of choreographers had also already worked out every step and tiny detail and were simply teaching it to their dancers. I can’t help thinking that’s unfortunate, and others very clearly involved them much more in the process.

Gloria by Eyal Dadon(pictured l-r: Sidney Elisabeth Turtschi, Reginald Lefebvre. Jonathan dos Santos)Photo Simon Wachter
Gloria by Eyal Dadon
(l-r: Sidney Elisabeth Turtschi, Reginald Lefebvre. Jonathan dos Santos)
Photo Simon Wachter

As befits the backgrounds of the choreographers, the works varied widely in style. The Space Between Us by Norge Cedeño, former dancer with the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba  and now director of Compañía Otro lado, stood head and shoulders above the others, though. The powerful duet for Thais Suárez Fernández (Cedeño’s assistant, who on the evening I saw it was standing in for the injured Louiza Avraam) and Nicholas Losada plays out moments from a relationship. It opens and closes with Fernandez holding Losada’s jacket, him walking into the scene and leaving, the inference being that what we are witnessing is a memory; or more accurately, several memories. The close quarters dance was sometimes full of fire, sometimes more tender; always full of looks. It spoke volumes about their relationship and its ups and downs. The music, a compilation of Olafur Arnaulds, Fabiana Cozza and Claude Debussy (brilliantly stitched together) helped things along.

The closing Gloria by Eyal Dadon of Israel’s Sol Dance Company, for five dancers, brought mixed feelings. The choreography plays with the rhythms and structure of Polytecnico by Cuban bandleader Pérez Prado, a decidedly catchy mambo that gets right inside your head and stays there..

Gloria being rehearsed outdoors in Stuttgart's Dorotheen Quartier, in one of the festivals regular ventures away from the TheaterhausPhoto David Mead
Gloria being rehearsed outdoors in Stuttgart’s Dorotheen Quartier, in one of the festivals regular ventures away from the Theaterhaus
Photo David Mead

Dadon’s quirky dance builds in the same way as the music. In the opening week, I caught an outdoor rehearsal in the Dorotheen Quartier in Stuttgart city centre. It was hot, around 35C. The setting and the fact the dancers were in shirts, T-shirts and trainers gave it a sense of the street. It felt fresh. had freedom, and although set, it felt semi-improvised. It was fun. But setting can be so important. Indoors, in the formal setting of a Meet the Talents, it felt much more formal, and quite frankly, less amusing. Was it the switch to dark suits, the only colour coming in their socks? Was it that I was now seeing it for the second time? Was it the fact that the in-the-round setting meant you didn’t see a lot of the facial expression that was so important? Interestingly, back outdoors a few days later at the Colours im Gruhnen day, it has rediscovered everything, even though still in those suits.

Even more energetic was the shortest of the three pieces, playboy by Israeli independent artist, Nadav Zelner. In their not quite matching brown leather jumpsuits, Anneleen Dedroog and Theophilus Veselý zipped around the stage in close quarters. With its fast footwork, occasional hints at ballroom, and even a spot of tumbling, it was fast, furious and fun. It too left a smile on the face.

playboy by Nadav Zelner(dancers: Theophilus Veselý, Anneleen Dedroog)Photo Simon Wachter
playboy by Nadav Zelner
(dancers: Theophilus Veselý, Anneleen Dedroog)
Photo Simon Wachter

Greek myths popped up twice. Labarinto by Arianna Benedetti (the only female choreographer among the six) was inspired by the Greek myth of the confusing structure built by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos to hold the Minotaur. Although initially seemingly featuring Douglas de Almeida as the creature, and Bruna Andrede and Maurus Gauthier as humans lost in the maze, it becomes more symbolic as roles get blurred. It also got a little confusing but I took it to be some sort of statement that we are all animal, all in a maze to some extent.

There were no doubts about meaning in NARCISSUS by Taiwanese choreographer Tsai Po-cheng, however, who chose to illustrate the myth of the hunter in love with his own image. Rather cleverly, Tsai chose to show his reflection in two ways. First, by having two dancers, naked about from vaguely skin-coloured tight shorts, who sometimes mirror each other closely with small shuffling steps and a few balletic moments; but who sometimes come together, the reflection in effect loving the real person and vice-versa.

Robert Stephen and Alessio Marchini in Narcissus by Tsai Po-chengPhoto Simon Wachter
Robert Stephen and Alessio Marchini
in Narcissus by Tsai Po-cheng
Photo Simon Wachter

A second reflection comes via a large mirrored gym ball, that Robert Stephen and Alessio Marchini at first move around but that later becomes integral to the dance. The idea generally works well, even though the ball is clearly not easiest object to control. It did sometimes have a bit of a mind of its own, rolling away from where it should be. Unusual music came from two takes on the same score, Justin Ryan’s The Swan followed by the more familiar Saint-Saens.

Back to the beginning, and the programme opened with Maat by Valerio Longo, who took up the idea of the spirits of two women inside two idols. There was a hint of competition, as if Garazi Perez Oloriz and Barbara Melo Freire were two sides of the same being as they mirrored each other. But it felt long.

Not as long as Tero Saarinen’s Breath, which I caught later the same evening, however. A duet with the outstanding Finnish electric accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen, it examines ideas of solitude, losing contact and the desire for human connection.

The post-apocalyptic world setting in which Pohjonen and Saarinen remain isolation from one another for most of the piece is dramatic. The movement is not without interest too. For all its non-pleasing aesthetics, Saarinen does have presence. But there’s a lot of heavy breathing (picked up by microphones) that reverberates into the space, and talking in gibberish, presumably some sort of attempt at contact. There are attempts at absurd humour, but Samuel Beckett it is not. Pohjonen’s playing is masterful. He draws all sorts of odd sounds from his instrument, but as a whole, the work struggled to maintain my attention.

Matters were not helped by Mikki Kunttu’s lighting, his tool kit seemingly comprising strobe, more strobe, relative of strobe, and not much else.