Missing the Fizz

“All Ages Dance”
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
February 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Kylián in 2010 © S.Ligtenberg 2015One of Jiří Kylián’s merits as artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) – a post he held from 1975 to 1999 – was that in 1991 he initiated NDT III. The main company is NDT I, the juniors form NDT II. NDT III gave the seniors a platform to continue presenting their art. In 2006 the project was allowed to die for financial reasons. Kylián remained connected to NDT as a choreographer until 2009. During this time he created 74 works for NTD – nearly three-quarters of his entire body of work. With “KYLWORKS”, subtitled “All Ages Dance” he took up the idea of NDT III again. Kylián carefully selected six dancers, aged between thirty-five and sixty-five, all descending from various large companies, to present morsels of his work. The group does not form a company, Kylián declared in the small program, but rather represents the idea that everyone has absorbed the talent to dance from one’s infancy. Touring Germany, “KYLWORKS” also visited Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, a sort of homeland for Kylián as his first contract as a dancer in the late 1970s, offered by John Cranko, was with Stuttgart Ballet. Moreover with Stuttgart’s Noverre Society, he took his first steps as choreographer. Also, Kylián’s muse, Sabine Kupferberg, often the main protagonist of many of his works, has strong bonds to Stuttgart. Trained in the John Cranko School she became a member of the company under Cranko’s directorship before joining NDT seven years later. Kylián and Kupferberg shared ways not only artistically but subsequently also privately.

Unfortunately injury prevented Kupferberg from taking an active part during the current tour. Hence part of the dance program had been dropped, substituted by the movie “Car-Men”, a black and white film shot by Kylián in 2006. Maybe owing to a shortage of time or limited resources the choice proved to be not the best. Beside “Car-Men”, video installations and film was prominently featured in two of the three remaining pieces, marginalizing dance. Moreover the style and humor of “Car-Men” all too much resembled that in the video sequences of “Birth-Day” – an unbalanced programming, which divided the audience’s opinions. What a pity that something else was not chosen from Kylián’s vast oeuvre!

2. S.Kupferberg and C.Bos-Kroese, “Anonymous” by J.Kylián © J.Kylián 2015Only eight minutes long, the first piece, “Anonymous” depicted two women (Cora Bos-Kroese, Aurélie Cayla) sitting enthroned at center stage. Their overall golden gowns’ ample skirts nearly covered the entire stage. Reminiscent of sea anemones they moved only their torsos and arms like tentacles mostly in unison. Their robes’ apparent opulence was, however, contrasted by the fabric’s foil-like rustling that accompanied many movements. Did the women sit in fact amidst a sea of brightly colored plastic trash? At first, the sounds of a harp and electronic music evoked smoothly oscillating movements which became more expressive when a female voice (Montserrat Figueras) started to sing. After some minutes the harmony was again and again brutally interrupted by video sequences on a screen at the back wall. The videos looked as if one had mixed processing software’s various functions to generate a most weird effect: distorted, swirling faces scurrying over the screen, cyber noise squeaking, screaming and cracking that made one feel uncomfortable. What happened to Bos-Kroese and Cayla after the last video sequence? Were they sucked into the virtual world?
There was no time to muse about this as Celia Amade and Lukáš Timulak appeared out of the darkness to begin the duet 3. A.Cayla and F.H.Magadan, 14'20'' by J.Kylián © J.J.Bos 201514’20’”. The title 14’20” stands for the piece’s duration, 14 minutes and 20 seconds. It is an excerpt from the pas de deux 27’52”. Exactly measurable time is one focus of Kylián’s art. Again the music – a new composition by Dirk Haubrich based on two themes by Gustav Mahler – involved text spoken in different languages. What a strange accumulation of sounds! Amade’s and Timulak’s dance – either solo or together – was accompanied by their shadows projected behind them. At one point Amade, held high in the air, whipped off her top. Dancing bare-chested is also a recurring motif in Kylián’s pieces. The movements of both were very physical, including running, pushing and pulling. At the end Timulak tried to envelop Amade into what looked like the narrow edge of a carpet (a stripe of a dance floor?). Running back and forth she escaped him but finally both ended buried (or hidden?) under each side of the carpet.
“Car-Men”, a coproduction with the Dutch film maker Boris Paval Conen, is Kylián’s interpretation of Prosper Mérimée’s novella “Carmen”. The latter served as the foundation for the libretto of George Bizet`s famous opera. Consequently Kylián used an arrangement of Bizet’s music, a screwy one fitting his surreal, even grotesque parody, thick with black humor. All sequences were either slowed-down or speeded-up, similar to the slapstick comedies of the good old days of silent movies. As the beautiful Carmen, Kupferberg pulled the strings. Impulsive, irrational and blessed with a morbid sense of humor she seduced everyone around her: David Krüger as the macho Escamillo, Don José (Karel Hruška) who was driven by humanity and even Micaëla (Gioconda Barbuto) who created disaster although intending to be the Good Samaritan. The shooting location was an abandoned coal mine in the Czech Republic resembling a stone desert. Revealing the fit of jealousy between Don José and Escamillo, the four sped up and down the desertic hills like ants, fooled around with scrap metal or competed in absurd car races. Kupferberg simulated being a torero, using an antique car as her bull. Though being run over several times by various cars she departed at the end, conceited, proud and still alluring. I only wondered why “Car-Men” is called a dance movie. Albeit alluding to ballet scenes – Kupferberg, for example, clad in a white dress (that, despite the dirt and dust on all sides, curiously never got smudged) and teasingly waving her white scarf recalling a Wili or, at another occasion, Giselle picking petals – it is void of what I deem is dance in the widest definition.
Presumably many in the audience knew “Birth-Day” as Stuttgart Ballet’s ex-dancers Egon Madsen and also Kupferberg had been in the original cast. Some came to Ludwigsburg’s Forum especially for this piece. It could (and should?) have been the evening’s key work. Though there was some laughter here and there, real excitement never arose. Instead a sense of disappointment spread.
4. S.Kupferberg and G.Lemaitre, “Birth-Day” (video scene) by J.Kylián © J.J.Bos 2015In “Birth-Day” five whimsical figures – two female, three male, one of the men en travesti – clad in Baroque robes and appropriately bewigged formed a company at table to celebrate a birthday. Whose wasn’t clear. From time to time one or two of them slipped away from the party and disappeared. What they pursued away from the festivity was shown on a film on a screen behind. Madsen bravely swung his sword when fighting with the reflection of a woman in a mirror – a funny sideswipe to the mirror pas de deux in “Onegin”? Kupferberg, lying on the floor, writhed around in down feathers. In another sequence she sat like one of Degas’ danseuses. A couple jumped trampoline-style on a comfy old bed and returned to the stage accordingly exhausted and unkempt. The funniest excursion led two of the revelers (Kupferberg, Gérard Lemaitre) into a kitchen to stir pastry batter– maybe for the birthday cake? Their Charlie Chaplin-like false beards indicated very limited talent for baking. As expected their endeavors ended in a mess. All that, Kylián masterly choreographed using music by Mozart.
Reportedly the original cast of the film and on stage – the piece premiered in 2001 – had scored with enthralling sex appeal, vibes that this evening’s birthday party (Cora Bos-Kroese, Aurélie Cayla, David Krügel, Michael Schumacher, Lukáš Timulak) lacked. I wasn’t present back then and thus cannot judge about this. Of course the more than one decade between the making of the film and the current revival was apparent. Faces age, the dancers on stage partly changed. Yet that wasn’t the main point. To me the humorous effect of “Birth-Day” was blunted because “Car-Men” preceded it. The formula was the same, only less bitingly sarcastic. If either “Birth-Day” or Car-Men” had been programmed together with more real dance the audience in all probability would have been pleased to see Kylián’s old familiar pieces again.
5. S.Kupferberg, G.Barbuto, D.Krügel, G.Lemaitre, E.Madsen, “Birth-Day” (video scene) by J.Kylián © J.J.Bos 2015

Links: Homepage Forum Ludwigsburg
Photos: (The photos show a partially different cast from an earlier performance.)
1. Jiří Kylián © Serge Ligtenberg 2015
2. Sabine Kupferberg and Cora Bos-Kroese, “Anonymous” by Jiří Kylián © Jiří Kylián 2015
3. Aurélie Cayla and Fernando Hernando Magadan, 14’20” by Jiří Kylián © Joris Jan Bos 2015
4. Sabine Kupferberg and Gérard Lemaitre, “Birth-Day” (video scene) by Jiří Kylián © Joris Jan Bos 2015
5. Sabine Kupferberg, Gioconda Barbuto, David Krügel, Gérard Lemaitre, Egon Madsen, “Birth-Day” (video scene) by Jiří Kylián © Joris Jan Bos 2015
Editing: Laurence Smelser