Palucca Soirée & Matinée in Dresden

Festival Theatre, Hellerau, Dresden
June 18, 2017

Maggie Foyer

Hellerau has a history of artistic innovation that continues to this day and the Festival Theatre was an ideal venue for the 150 pupils and students from Palucca University of Dance to celebrate their year-end in performance.

The little dance school, started by Gret Palucca in 1925, has grown into Germany’s first independent University of Dance. It is a vibrant centre of creative learning and, led by Jason Beechey since 2006, it has become a much sought after training venue on students’ wish lists. True to Palucca’s ethos, improvisation is the third strand, linking ballet and contemporary dance and this balance was evident in the summer show which features not only the university students but also the youngsters from both the Orientation Classes and Young Talents Programme. There was an overwhelming sense of joy in creativity and movement, especially in the performances by the youngsters who seemed to be so potently living in the moment.

It was 1st and 2nd-year students who opened the programme with Hula from William Forsythe’s The Second Detail. Hellerau is home to Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company and Forsythe has a strong presence in the repertoire of Semperoper Ballet, enabling the students to benefit from a close collaboration with professionals adept in the style. This showed in their confidence in tackling this demanding work and in their clean, neo-classical shapes and off-centre pointes.

Paula Tarragüel and Thomas Badrock in Willam Forsythe's New SuitePhoto Ida Zenna
Paula Tarragüel and Thomas Badrock in Willam Forsythe’s New Suite
Photo Ida Zenna

Paula Tarragüel and Thomas Badrock danced a pas de deux from Forsythe’s New Suite, ably coached and produced by Prof. Tim Couchman. This is not dance for the faint-hearted and it was a credit to the training that the pair gave a very professional showing. The partnering is particularly tricky and the broad smiles, as they took their bows, showed both triumph and genuine relief.

Ohad Naharin was featured first in an excerpt from Kamuyot which showed the proficiency of the students in his distinctive movement style. In the second half they performed part of Sadeh21 and Zachacha. This section, with the line marching back and forth across the stage, featured dancers who remove themselves from the ensemble to tell their stories aided by the voice over. Moments in young lives – comedy, sadness, insecurity all featured and the dancers had a chance to show their talents extended to acting. These works came as a culmination of six-months of intensive workshops in Gaga, his unique and very popular movement vocabulary, a good compliment to their contemporary training.

More conventional ballet was featured in the Vision Pas de Deux from Aaron Watkin’s Sleeping Beauty. Yubin Hwang and Jacob Groot showed beautifully schooled technique, competent partnering and considerable charm. The juniors had their own ballet duo in A Chance Encounter. It was off beat, with a neat comedy edge and Jasmin Arndt and Carl Becker, despite their youth, pulled it off with panache.

Dancers from the Young Talents programme in Tactus by Rita AozanePhoto Ida Zenna
Dancers from the Young Talents programme in Tactus by Rita Aozane
Photo Ida Zenna

Cameron McMillan, Form Disquiet, a well-structured work with a strong dramatic line was picked out in sharp lighting accompanied by Valgeir Sigurdsson’s score. Dressed in dark suits, the dancers looked mature and confident beyond their years and scored in a series of interesting duets. Ihsan Rustem also gave the student excellent opportunities in a less confrontational, more fluid, but equally intriguing work for a dozen dancers in Cupid’s Gun.

There were several fun pieces for the younger pupils. Meeting Point choreographed by José Cruz to music by George Gershwin was a show-off piece for up and coming talent. ZAHLreich from Angelika Forner featured a wide range of dance styles and skills in an explosion of creativity. It was a brilliantly structured work that came across as impetuous and improvised; to be enjoyed by both audience and performers. The programme closed on Tactus, choreographed by Rita Aozane Bilibio, featuring yet more talented juniors. It was packed with clever ideas and smart pairings, and sparkling with organised fun.

The relationship of school into the company is proving symbiotic. Many of those on the Bachelor’s Programme are already performing with the Dresden Semperoper Company and this close partnership makes a smooth transition for the young dancers and ensures a flow of fresh talent into company ranks.