Livestream from Schauspielhaus, Stuttgart
April 18, 2021
“Nothing can stop our creativity.” That’s what one of Stuttgart Ballet’s choreographer-dancers told Noverre: Young Choreographers project manager Sonia Santiago. Fortunately, the pandemic hasn’t stopped this important annual programme either. Established in 1961, it gives young choreographers from around the world an early opportunity to present work on stage, with past presenters including Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier and William Forsythe among many well-known names. For this year’s special edition, it was restricted to Stuttgart Ballet choreographers, however.
Noverre evenings are unpredictable. It’s a free space. There are no rules or guidelines about style or content. You can get anything; and frequently do. This year is no different. It was no surprise that all seven pieces are beautifully danced and staged, however. The impressive lighting never fails to add atmosphere. As always, some works communicate their ideas, rather better than others, however, with intent sometimes remaining obscure, despite brief filmed introductions to their creations by the choreographers.
Things get off to a most classical start with Peace Apart by Jessica Fyfe. An extended pas de deux for herself and Moacir de Oliveira, it provides something of an escape from the chaos and uncertainty of today’s world. The choreography is accomplished, the dancing fine. Initially, good use is made of a long piece of fabric to connect the pair. Having both dressed in white adds to the sense of calm and peace. The final section is more virtuosic with plenty of leaps and turns, suggesting perhaps a freedom finally found.
Of the remaining six pieces, most powerful is another duet, The storm before the calm by Adrian Oldenburger. About the darkness and the storms that occur in life, it could hardly be more different in mood.
The powerful narrative really reaches out across the digital space. Veronika Verterich is a woman quite literally haunted by a shadow in the form of Clemens Fröhlich, first seen dancing in silhouette behind a screen. Her face is etched with emotion. As he looms over her, he is all-consuming and causes a chill in the air.
The suggestion is that Fröhlich is a memory, someone from a former relationship. Verterich’s mind does occasionally break free for a few moments but it’s soon hauled back as he and memories of the pain he caused return. Thoughts and memories become reality when Fröhlich appears in person and they dance a pas de deux that lays all bare. Eventually, he pushes her to the floor and walks off. He may be gone physically, in one sense leaving the calm after the storm, but memories are harder, and the damage done remains.
I also very much took to Deltangi by Timoor Afshar. His inspiration comes from walking, and how our ancestors were always migrating and on the move. But that’s only the start. The title is a Persian word meaning ‘tightness of the heart’, and which comes with associations with nostalgia, longing and homesickness, all of which are writ large in the choreography.
Right from the beginning, Deltangi has a very Eastern feel. The music, ‘Calling’ by Los Angeles-based group whose music springs from the Persian classical sounds of Iran, sets the tone with its underlying drone, desolate sounding kamancheh and gentle female vocals. As Alessandro Giaquinto and Martí Fernández Paixà walk slowly, a you can almost feel the heat rising from the sun-baked ground.
A subsequent duet for Paixà and Daiana Ruiz is deeply moving, feeling like a lament for people left behind, danced out as Giaquinto continues ever slowly walking in the distance. Then, out of nowhere comes a burst of energy as the rhythms pick up, the sounds of a hand drum pushing the dance into a frenzy. Deltangi does lose some of its potency when ‘The Workers of Art’ by The Cinematic Orchestra kicks in and the lights come up, but it remains a quite striking, often quite beautiful and deeply felt work.
For Bridges, choreographer David Moore wanted to explore the restrictions in time and space that have so much become part of our lives. There are hints of that in the distanced choreography, and in the way one dancer occasionally slips under a briefly raised curtain at the back, but it feels more abstract than his introduction suggested it should.
Ajna by Aurora De Mori opens with a slightly offbeat dance with top hats (which they never actually put on) for the dark-suited Christopher Kunzelmann, Martino Semenzato and Vincent Travnicek. Kineograph by Vittoria Girelli includes moving sculptures with its five dancers.
The streaming rounds off Agoloy by Shaked Heller. In his introduction, he explains how he wanted to focus on the dancers not so much as humans but more generally as living creatures. The sometimes ungainly movement, with joints seeming angling in unexpected ways, does just that. Quirky for sure, but in its own way, I found it also increasingly appealing, especially a duet for Elisa Badenes and Louis Stiens, which despite the awkward movement vocabulary, suggests physical attraction and even a dash of romance. Just not quite human romance.
Noverre: Young Choreographers is available free on www.stuttgart-ballet.de and YouTube until April 22, 2021.