Charged and taut: Stuttgart Ballet in Louis Stiens’ Messenger

Stuttgart Ballet@Home online
June 25, 2020

Maggie Foyer

Louis Stiens’ Messenger was filmed at the 22 February premiere in Stuttgart and just in time as Europe then plunged into locked down in fear of Covid-19. The one-act work is part of Creations IV-VI, an innovative piece of programming that offers a welcome showcase for choreographers, mainly from Stuttgart Ballet, to show new works. Stiens finds a receptive collaboration with Ondřej Adámek’s Follow me, a high-tension violin concerto charged with drama, as he explores the interface between follower and leader; conformity and change.

Shaked Heller opens the work, a solitary figure on a dimly lit stage. His senses are alert, his movements exploratory. He is part seeking, part hunted, a character both naïve and intuitive. In a sensitively crafted solo, sensuous depth is combined with filigree detail, matching the edgy turmoil in the whooping and sliding of the solo violin.

Shaked Heller and Jason Reilly in Messenger by Louis SteinsPhoto Stuttgart Ballet
Shaked Heller and Jason Reilly in Messenger by Louis Stiens
Photo Stuttgart Ballet

Heller returns at intervals, dancing alone or briefly gathered into the group where his difference become both challenged and challenging. In the final duet, he is a spiritual, unearthly figure, the yin to Jason Reilly’s powerful yang, a relationship that ends, somewhat predictably, with Heller crumpled on the floor as Reilly triumphs.

The other duets, Elisa Badenes with Reilly and Angelina Zuccarini with Fabio Adorisio, are eloquent and innovative, finding emotional expression in movements that push the barriers in fluid floorwork combined with balletic precision. It is in these human moments that Stiens proves his mastery of a new contemporary dance language.

As the solo violin weaves in and out of the orchestra, the ensemble of dancers also engage with the balance of power. Flashes of individuality are soon overwhelmed by the greater pressure and pleasure in being at one with the group; conforming in patterns and shapes corresponding to their uniform unitards, designed by Stiens, decorated with anatomical tracery.

Adámek’s music remains a powerful force throughout, despite brief moments of release. It’s an engaging work, the tautness, in both music and choreography, underlines the piece like a live electric current that only switches off in the final blackout.

Messenger can be watched at until 9pm (UK), June 28, 2020.