May 11, 2016
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf
Since the era of John Cranko, Noverre Evenings have been firmly established in Stuttgart. They offer fledgling choreographers a chance to present their works to the audience. This year Rainer Woihsyk, head of the Noverre Society, had chosen thirteen pieces. “The evening is a bit too long”, he told me, “but I never know if one or the other backs out shortly before the premiere. That’s why I usually accept a few more applicants.” This time all succeeded and, as Woihsyk does not withdraw a promise once given, the program amounted to three hours including a break. Yet the pieces had been cleverly arranged, their variety kept one’s attention.
Variety was exactly what characterized this Noverre Evening. A few contributions bravely deviated from the overall style the Stuttgart audience is familiar with. That’s how it should be.
Works by two experienced Noverre choreographers framed the program. Faithful to its title David Moore’s “Sugar Rush” was the perfect opener to kick the audience into a cheerful mood. It is a dashing, pert piece for three male/female couples made of saucy hip swings and peppy moves, providing ample opportunities for showmanship. Some fluttering arm moves were reminiscent of the style of Marco Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer. He seemed to have inspired other choreographers of this evening too. Ten of the thirteen dance with Stuttgart Ballet, one, Rolando D’Alesio, is ballet master of the company. Goecke’s influence is a constant of their work. Casting off imprints to strike out on one’s own path needs time.
One of those about to find his own voice is Roman Novitzky. His “Cello contra bass” closed the evening. Funnily enough, the cast of four fiddled with abandon on imaginary violins rather than on string basses. Novitzky combined the right ingredients – wit, humor, romance and surprise effects – to a popular mix. The idea of turning the dancers into musicians was reminiscent of Nacho Duato’s “Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness”. The chairs on which the dancers sat with legs apart called Ohad Naharin to mind. “Minus 16” in small-scale? But no clothes were thrown around, instead all four put on their tailcoats which they had properly hung at the back of the chairs and finished their performance with sweeping bow strokes.
For Özkan Ayik’s “Hands, be still” the curtain was raised only about a meter. Both dancers – Jisoo Park and Fabio Adorisio – then jumped from behind the curtain onto the stage like apes from a tree. Later the curtain went completely up, revealing an empty stage lighted by a single light bulb. Music by Nils Frahm added to the gloomy atmosphere. Ayik focused on the physicality of dance calling Itzik Galili’s choreography to mind.
In “HELLO my name is XANDER”, Alexander McGowan delivered clean, technical choreography to electronic sounds. The dancers moved like animated figures. Break dance sequences were interrupted by the dancers suddenly falling to the ground. The result was hip but soulless.
More emotional was Aurora de Mori’s pas de deux “Klimt’s persuasion”. She is an apprentice at Stuttgart Ballet and was one of the evening’s three female choreographers. “Klimt’s persuasion” depicted the idealized romance of a young couple (Jisoo Park, Adhonay Soares da Silva) in front of a backdrop showing Klimt’s “The Kiss”. De Mori created harmonious and pleasing moves. The lovers’ kiss at the end verged on kitsch but found favor with the audience. “Klimt’s persuasion” was a remarkable debut. To tap her talent de Mori only needs to pluck up the courage for a more distinctive language.
Ruiqi Yang’s pas de deux “If only”, danced by Agnes Su and Fabio Adorisio, was, by contrast, pale. Her choreography seemed unrelated to the music (electronic sounds complemented by squeaks and percussion) and lacked memorable moments. Cédric Rupp’s “4 for 2” as built on visual effects rather than choreographic inventions. His two dancers, Anouk van der Weijde and Kirill Kornilov, danced at sedate speed, mainly moving their arms and upper bodies. Dressed in black their silhouettes contrasted strongly with the brightly orange backdrop. The accompanying ukulele music was composed, played and recorded by Rupp himself.
Emrecan Tanis of the Finish National Opera Ballet already has experience as a choreographer. “I spy my little eye”, a piece for two male and one female dancer, was set to Damian Rice’s “My Favourite Faded Fantasy”. Sequences of spoken text about an artist’s personal experience during a creative process interrupted the music. The stage was shrouded by fog. A single spotlight served as a street lamp. First the dancers stepped forward into its light to perform solos. Their style again hinted at Marco Goecke. Later the three dancers ran back and forth, frolicking around in red and green spotlights. What won me over was that Tanis was visibly moved at the curtain call. Again and again he touched his heart and once, full of joy, threw his arm in the air.
British choreographer Richard Chappell contributed “Haven”, choreography for three dancers (Agnes Su, Robert Robinson and Louis Stiens). The safe haven was a light cone, the piece’s starting and terminal point. Chappell began with fluent group formations which subsequently turned into individualized solos or duets. The one not involved in a respective sequence paced along the sidelines, closely observing the others dance, as if sizing up competitors. Movements were vigorous and energetic but imbued with inner softness. The music, commissioned by Albert E. Dean, was aggressive and noisy.
The music of the following piece, Robert Robinson’s “Out” forebode similar acoustic strain: “The rest is noise” by Jamie xx. Robinson created a powerful, masculine solo for Sara Ezzell, his Stuttgart colleague. Ezzell slid down on the floor with lightning speed and coiled her arms and the upper body as softly as a snake. Lighting made her look like a deformed human being in that moment.
Ezzell’s own choreography, “Cunt”, was less convincing. She made Erin O’Reilly sit in meditative posture next to a candle, while Myriam Simon crossed the stage in the background carrying her little son. Both were barefooted. What followed seemed like an attempt to overcome traumatic experiences somehow connected to female sexuality in a ritual. But this ritual had no energy at all. At the end O’Reilly knelt behind a zinc tub with water, dipped her long hair into it and, when throwing her head back created a splash of water. The scene is from Pina Bausch. Trying to copy her is never becoming.
Rolando D’Alesio presented “Absence”, a pas de deux set to an excerpt of Gavin Bryars’s “The Sinking of the Titanic”. His two dancers, Rocio Aleman and Louis Stiens, at first looking like tensed up creatures, which crawled about like earthlings, later danced a poignant pas de deux. All the time each one’s heads was covered by a gauze bandage. Hardly able to watch each other, they relied on the bodies’ intuitive connection. It is a connection resting on basic thrust and neglecting physical attractiveness. A strong piece!
The most unusual contribution, “sin titulo”, was by Alessandro Navarro Barbeito, débutant of Stuttgart Ballet. It was a solo for two, a dancer plus a singer. Sparse moves with a religious connotation, performed by Navarro Barbeito himself, dominated the first half. The music’s resonance caused the body’s movements. One posture – Navarro Barbeito stood on one leg, knee bent, the other leg was crossed in front of the thigh, the right hand hand was raised to a Christ-like vow – reminded me instantly of choreography by John Neumeier. Navarro Barbeito graduated from the School of the Hamburg Ballet, hence the influence.
Later in “sin titulo” religious demeanor was mostly gone. Instead freakish jumping about prevailed. The singer Alina Godunov accompanied Navarro Barbeito with Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”. She afterwards joined his dance doing some basic steps. What I found courageous was that Navarro Barbeito had the guts to sing a song in Hebrew himself. Kudos!
Kudos also to Rainer Woihsyk who, after the death of Fritz Höver, his life partner and the founder of the Noverre Society, still has the power to keep up the tradition of Noverre Evenings.
|Links:||Stuttgart Ballet’s Homepage|
|Photos:||1.||Matteo Miccini and Baris Enes Comak, “Cello contra bass” by Roman Novitzky; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|2.||Fernanda de Souza Lopez and Baris Enes Comak, “Cello contra bass” by Roman Novitzky; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|3.||Baris Enes Comak, Fernanda de Souza Lopez, Adhonay Soares de Silva and Matteo Miccini, “Cello contra bass” by Roman Novitzky; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|4.||Fabio Adorisio and Jisoo Park, “Hands, be still” by Özkan Ayik; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|5.||Fabio Adorisio and Jisoo Park, “Hands, be still” by Özkan Ayik; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|6.||Robert Robinson, Adam Russell-Jones and Angelina Zuccarini, “HELLO my name is XANDER” by Alexander McGowan; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|7.||Robert Robinson and Adam Russell-Jones, “HELLO my name is XANDER” by Alexander McGowan; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|8.||Adhonay Soares da Silva, “Klimt’s persuasion” by Aurora de Mori; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|9.||Jisoo Park and Adhonay Soares da Silva, “Klimt’s persuasion” by Aurora de Mori; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|10.||Agnes Su and Fabio Adorisio, “If only” by Ruiqi Yang; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|11.||Özkan Ayik, Adam Russell-Jones and Angelina Zuccarini, “I spy my little eye” by Emrecan Tanis; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|12.||Agnes Su, Robert Robinson and Louis Stiens, “Haven” by Richard Chappell; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|13.||Agnes Su, Robert Robinson and Louis Stiens, “Haven” by Richard Chappell; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|14.||Sara Ezzell, “Out” by Robert Robinson; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|15.||Myriam Simon and her son, “Cunt” by Sara Ezzell; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|16.||Louis Stiens and Rocio Aleman, “Absence” by Rolando D’Alesio; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|17.||Rocio Aleman and Louis Stiens, “Absence” by Rolando D’Alesio; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers 2016|
|all photos © Carlos Quezada 2016