The Bauhaus and Weimar Republic revisited in Stuttgart Ballet’s Break-through

Opera House, Stuttgart
July 9, 2019

David Mead

Stuttgart Ballet’s Break-through evening features three new ballets inspired by the 100th anniversaries of the creation of the Bauhaus and the events surrounding the adoption of the Weimar Constitution. As one would expect from three very different choreographers, it’s a diverse evening, but also one full of links to the time.

At the heart of the programme is Slovenian National Ballet director Edward Clug’s Patterns in ¾, inspired by Bauhaus paintings. It’s also a perfect illustration in movement of Steve Reich’s Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint.

From the rhythms of the music, Clug constructs a fascinating choreographic arrangement for seven dancers that’s dominated by swinging arms and quarter turns in different directions. Leo Kulaš’ costumes of simple black trousers and white tops with a red stripe down the spine allow everything to be revealed.

The choreography has a precise, mathematical quality. There are lots of straight lines and angles, and such a complex simplicity that it demands watching. As the dance breaks and develops into flowing duets and trios, moments of humour pop up unexpectedly, including when a dancer wheels on a small red toy of the time, designed for toddlers, and that moves as it is pushed along.

Tall L-shaped moveable structures that reflect the architecture of the time trundle across the stage, dividing the space in unusual ways and making for opportunities to hide and reveal bodies. They provide for some fun too, with a couple of apparently body-less heads that slide along a horizontal edge.

It was remarkable to learn afterwards that Clug made the ballet in just three weeks.

Mizuki Amemiya, Moacir de Oliveira in IT.Floppy.Rabbit by Katarzyna KozielskaPhoto Stuttgart Ballet
Moacir de Oliveira and Mizuki Amemiya
in IT.Floppy.Rabbit by Katarzyna Kozielska
Photo Stuttgart Ballet

The evening opened with Katarzyna Kozielska’s IT.Floppy.Rabbit, the title presumably being a reference to computer storage an algorithms. Along with designer Catherine Schlipf, she has great fun with designs of the time, most obviously in the form of Mizuki Amemiya’s human lamp that’s based on a design by Wilhelm Wagenfeld. In her black metallic unitard and semi-translucent shade, and whether bouréeing through proceedings or just being there, she is a constant and vivid reminder of the time.

The dance itself is equally quirky with some unusual partnering. I also thought I saw hints about mechanisation. But IT.Floppy.Rabbit always seems to come back to the designs. A set of three slatted boxes or various sizes and that shift around allows for some unusual entrances and exits, and the occasional disembodied limb, and the feeling hands that precede a duet for Alicia Garcia Torronteras and Matteo Crockard-Villa. Their costumes are extraordinary too: vivid, squared-off, stiff, rectangular-print bodices and one of the longest trains of cloth you’ll ever see on stage. Other costumes are inspired by the time too: very high waited shorts that are figure hugging at the top and wide at the leg.

Towards the end, a video shows a sketch being made of a figure from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet (the costumes for which can be seen across the street in the Staatsgalerie) being drawn.

Angelina Zuccarini and Ensemblein Revolt by Nanine LinningPhoto Stuttgart Ballet
Angelina Zuccarini and Ensemble
in Revolt by Nanine Linning
Photo Stuttgart Ballet

For Revolt, Nanine Linning, until recently director of dance at Theater Heidelberg, took inspiration from furore surrounding the adoption of the Weimar Constitution. The associations are somewhat less obvious than earlier, but there are references to the fact men and women should be seen as the same, that there should be perfect equality with no class. There are also nods to the right to free speech, how some individuals elicit people to follow them while others look the other way.

The barefoot choreography is combative and confrontational with some unusual partnering. Particularly impressive is the way on sculptural group of three men forms, breaks and reforms. The dance has an inherent tension, shapes sometimes held for a second, becoming taut before snapping into life. It always drives on, just like the accompaniment, largely Weather by Michael Gordon, the only music of the evening played live. Rather pertinently, the score frequently suggests a brewing, then breaking storm.

Blue is the colour, the dancers shifting from Russian fashion designer Irina Shaposhnikova’s skin-tight body suits to rather gorgeous, graphic print long skirts; for the men too. Everyone dons kendo-style masks towards the end.