Staatsballett Berlin in Balanchine, Forsythe and Siegal

Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin
May 4, 2019

Veronica Posth

In their latest programme, the Staatsballett Berlin presented a ‘historical showcase’ with ballets classical to modern from George Balanchine, William Forsythe and Richard Siegal.

Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is a harmonic assemble of speed, precision, grace and delicacy. Led by Maria Kochetkova and guest Daniil Simkin, it was danced just as the choreographer would have wanted. The excellent cast were precise and clear executing fast movements under the huge candelabra hug above. They move lightly and with an effortless dynamism. The vocabulary of detailed and airy forms in motion was quite compelling.

Staatsballett Berlin in George Balanchine's Theme and VariationsPhoto Yan Revazov
Staatsballett Berlin in George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations
Photo Yan Revazov

The Second Detail is one of William Forsythe’s central works, to music by Thom Willems. Like many clocks, the dancers move relentlessly, each with their own rhythm, generating an overall perfect mechanism. Fast and accurate steps are beautifully executed and there is a vortex of constant energy moving on.

Complex yet neat, The Second Detail is full of Forsythe’s innovative dance language; of the structures and compositions typical of him, including a strong element of dissonance that comes out towards the end. The aseptic set seems inhabited by busy beings that appear not to pay attention to the others. Everyone keeps moving forwards determinedly as if striving to reach some unknown destination. Images of busy cities come to mind where everyone is focused on his own life-performance not caring of the surroundings.

All of a sudden, a wild being enters the stage. She doesn’t conform to the others. She is passionate, fierce. She is beautiful, a goddess perhaps, or maybe more liely, an Amazon in a sensuous, white dress. She dances through the group as if bringing perturbing news. Her body shouts out loud the arrival of a threat as she launches herself with large and ecstatic movements and puts herself at the centre of things. Her long limbs are delicate but pervaded by a captivating force. Twisting and turning, lifting legs and knees towards her chest she disseminates a general alarmism before she abandons herself on the floor. It is quite remarkable, and ensures the ballet closes with its best moments.

Staatsballett Berlin in Oval by Richard SiegalPhoto Yan Revazov
Staatsballett Berlin in Oval by Richard Siegal
Photo Yan Revazov

Oval, by Richard Siegal to gripping if loud (sometimes too loud) and pungent music by Alva Noto, is quite futuristic. It seems to be set in a clubby, extra-terrestrial dimension, or at least somewhere in orbit. On a dark stage, illuminated by an oval LED installation by Matthias Singer, the super-flexible dancers appear like beings from another realm as they articulate their bodies in eclectic compositions. Solos, duets, groups come and go in a never-ending succession of plastic, changing shapes. Bodies generate a composition of intersecting lines. It is most persuasive and makes you wonder what is the hidden storyline.

It was an evening that sent the wide-ranging audience home very happy. They gave every piece loud and prolonged applause. It proved that ballet old and new can still magnetise.