Livestream from Opera House, Stuttgart
June 15, 2021
Stuttgart Ballet are made their return to the stage in grand style with an impressive programme of new works by four eminent choreographers, each with a highly personalised style. In ballets by Christian Spuck, Marco Goecke, Edward Clug and William Forsythe, the dancers prove their versatility, seamlessly adapting to each.
In Cassiopeia’s Garden, Spuck’s theme is the ability of the distant past to influence the future. The constellation Cassiopeia, the supernova remnant that shines brilliantly in the night sky, continues to transmit radio waves. The concept becomes a launch pad for dance of hyper fluidity where each movement prompts another and has further consequences.
Movement ripples in canon along a line; dancers find focus in various directions opening the space on all sides to create a kaleidoscope of shifting shapes. Bodies, strong and malleable, extend and wrap in imaginative and novel ways. Three tables bring another layer of complexity. In composite trios of one female dancer with two men, touch is the trigger, like the radio wave from a long-forgotten star, to initiate perfectly timed coordination. Spuck uses a wide range of music and the changes in dynamics are dramatic. Mood swings are echoed in the lighting and in Rufus Didwiszus’s backdrop that changes in the moment from benign to deeply disturbing.
A brief curtain drop separates the epilogue, a final duet from Agnes Su and Clemens Fröhlich, that closes the work with quiet resolution. The signature position which opens the piece; the dancer lying supine, on the floor with one arm raised in a pure classical curve, is repeated as Su stretches out on the floor and Clemens leaves as the lights fade.
Goecke’s language is like no other, impossible to ignore and well suited to troubled times. The work, suitably titled Nachtmerrie (Nightmare), opens on a dark stage smudged with smoke where Henrik Erikson’s tortured movements contrast with the warm harmony of Keith Jarrett’s Budapest Concert. He is joined by Mackenzie Brown in a fractious relationship, their communication bristling with tension, eyes rarely meeting, and feelings driven inward ready to implode at a touch.
Dressed in murky clothes, the only decoration a waist trim of glinting metallic shards, the dancers give highly charged performances offering meaning to the rapid fire movements. The clarity in the detail is dazzling and the anguished shapes are painful, a knife in the soft underbelly of our emotions.
A gut-wrenching depth is reached when Lady Gaga’s husky voice sings, ‘I want your love.’ Erikson strikes a match, the glow catching Brown’s bowed head, but the fire is quickly extinguished in his trembling hand. The poignancy of two humans in extremis is a draining but exquisitely beautiful moment.
Edward Clug has a keen eye for shape and in Source, his choreography, witty and slightly eccentric, finds congruence with Leo Kulaš’ costumes. The white leotards, with black arms and legs, are both odd and endearing as bodies wiggle and limbs sculpt the air with precision. The opening visuals are striking. The dancers, caged within a circle of ribbons are viewed as through a curtain of heavy rain. The ribbons descend to form brightly lit puddles of light on the stage before rising to decorate the flies, opening the stage for action.
Milko Lazar’s score, commissioned for the work, provides a rhythmic base with modern overtones for the geometrically structured choreography. The dancers, self-assured and confident, bring well-rehearsed clarity to a semaphore of movement spiced with a hefty dose of irony in a deliciously entertaining work.
William Forsythe’s Blake Works 1, created in 2016, made its German premiere to enthusiastic applause. The master of the cutting edge seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself making very complicated, very clever ballets crafted from upbeat classical vocabulary and the result is five-star enjoyment.
There is a hint of Balanchine in the crisp co-ordinations and cohort of corps de ballet in neat blue tunics but equally there is no question that this is ballet of the new millennium. With eyewatering clarity, classical positions repeat in canon, overlap and synchronise while there is constant change in arms, legs and epaulement. A frisky trio introduces a touch of comedy, later picked up by soloists who alternate a nonchalant side step then toss in a slick entrechat six or whizzing pirouette for good measure. The gravelly quality of James Blake’s voice and the low-key delivery of his songs hits the target, setting the clean-cut movement in high relief.
This is an evening of top quality performances and choreography across an exciting range of styles, a feast after the famine!