Boîte-en-valise: a celebration of Goyo Montero’s 15 years in Nuremberg

Staatstheater Nürnberg Ballet; Staatstheater, Nuremberg
July 17, 2023

In the late 1930s, radical Franco-American artist Marcel Duchamp created Boîte-en-valise, a suitcase containing 68 small-scale reproductions of his works; in essence, a portable museum. Consisting of items made from cardboard, textile, glass, wood, imitation leather and ceramics, it was smuggled out of France following the 1940 occupation, eventually being carried to New York City, where Duchamp joined other Surrealists in exile

Lucas Axel and Paloma Lassere
in Boîte-en-valise by Goyo Montero
Photo Jesus Vallinas

To mark the 15th anniversary of his appointment as ballet director at the Staatstheater in Nuremberg, Goyo Montero similarly assembled his own box of miniatures. All from the back catalogue of creations staged since 2008, on show were snippets of signature works by other noted choreographers that have helped define the company. Seeded through the evening as a sort of ‘work within works’ that cleverly linked the other highlights was Montero’s own, new, Boîte-en-valise.

Together, covering a wide spectrum of styles from quirky dance theatre to neoclassical ballet, the pieces showed just what a diverse repertory the versatile ensemble can call upon, and what a very talented group of dancers the company has.

Montero’s own six ‘chapters’ are all to short etudes by Frederic Chopin. There’s a sort of sense of autobiography through time, also reflected in the titles. Then is a solo of perpetual motion in which Victor Ketelslegers whole body seemed to be creating the piano sounds. Th following Lost/Found is a beautifully balanced trio for Oscar Alonso, Andy Fernández and Edward Nunes.

Although the choreography is never literal, real life never seems too far away in dance that always convinces. That two-sided titling continues with Work/Life and Un/Balanced, the latter featuring Alisa Uzunova and Oscar Alonso is a dance of sometimes quivering hands. Full of feeling, there was the suggestion that all is not as it might be. Think/Not featured Fernández, Kade Cummings and Karen Mesquita in a dance that appears to be a disagreement before the trio come together. Montero is best known away from his company for big ensemble pieces full of lines, just like the closing Now.

Staatstheater Nürnberg Ballett in Rain Dogs by Johan Inger
Photo Jesus Vallinas

Elsewhere, Johan Inger’s quirky Rain Dogs has dancers break out from a vertical line dancing little moments in which the movements often mimic the words in Tom Waits’ music. The unison moments were incredibly synchronous.

Pointework put in an appearance in William Forsythe’s Approximate Sonata danced by Jay Ariës and the eye-catching Renata Peraso. In a typical updating of the ballet vocabulary, sharp edginess merges seamlessly with yearning extensions.

Jay Ariës and Renata Peraso
in Approximate Sonata by William Forsythe
Photo Jesus Vallinas

Alexander Ekman’s inventive Tuplet is essentially an exploration of rhythm but with a fair dash of humour. Fernández was outstanding as the voice of the soundtrack and movement came together as one.

Back in neo-classical vein, Christian Spuck’s das siebte blau was one of the highlights of the evening. Inspired by Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, and here set for a cast of thirteen, it’s a finely tuned ensemble work; one in the best classical ballet tradition yet simultaneously very modern. A lot of the excerpt shown comes with a smile on its face too. Dancers break out of an upstage line and are called back with whistles. Five men rush on, only to all fall as they attempt to stop. A woman runs on at the wrong moment causing confused looks all round. It was a great way to go to the interval.

The second half opened with Ohad Naharin’s much-loved Minus 16, the one with the half-circle of chairs that slowly builds and in which the last in line falls to the floor at the end of each ‘round.’ The timing was perfect.

Nacho Duato’s Duende saw Mikhael Kinley, Jaime Segura and Juliano Toscano meet sculpturally to the sound of Debussy’s Dances for Harp and String Orchestra.

In different mood, the eighteen-dancer excerpt from Mauro Bigonzetti’s Cantata is a celebration; a picture of a joyous southern European festival. It’s often chaotic but great fun, and with some super tightly choreographed moments for individual couples and when the whole cast comes together. It felt like a party.

Staatstheater Nürnberg Ballett in Cantata by Mauro Bigonzetti
Photo Jesus Vallinas

Finally, Mats Ek’s second duet from A sort of… manages to be charming, funny and downright weird all in the space of a few minutes. With a tolling bell heard in the music, Victor Ketelslegers danced around Karen Mesquita, the latter in yellow woollen skirt and heavy ankle boots. Their dance is as clumsy as they are trying not to be. Nuzzling her like a dog, it looks like he’s trying to say sorry. It seems he wins her over though, as, later, a water pistol puts in a playful appearance before both retreat into a stage-side box

Boîte-en-valise. A box of delights, of tasty nibbles, all most enjoyable and colourful in every sense of the word. An evening of darkness and light, of reflection and fun! And of very fine dancing indeed.