Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
January 21, 2023
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf
Last weekend, the Cologne-based troupe Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference toured the Forum Ludwigsburg. The American-born Siegal founded the company in 2016 in Munich. He also serves as its artistic director and has choreographed nearly all of their repertoire. The triple bill in Ludwigsburg combined twenty-or-so minute-long pieces created between 2014 – 2021.
In a recent interview, Siegal revealed that “All For One” is a “reaction to the modes of digital spectatorship that emerged during the beginning of the pandemic.” The piece premiered online in fall 2021 with a set (an organ made from tall tubes of light arranged in a cylindrical semicircle) designed, perhaps, to appeal to an online audience. In Ludwigsburg, the murky illumination often hid the eleven dancers in twilight that obscured their pants, skirts, and bustiers (decorated with bulky silver folds that resembled supersized shreds of paper).
Some men sported black, silver-rimmed briefs and erotic leather bondage gear. By my count, Markus Popp provided five pieces of techno music. The first flooded the stage with a deafening torrent of squeaks and hisses; the second’s repetitive percussion hammered my ear drums; number three reminded me of a slot machine going into hyperdrive. The rattling noise of the fourth made me wonder about the impact that dissonant decibels might have on the nervous system. It must be devastating – and, fittingly, the final composition sounded like a hangover.
The dancers, in an attempt at looking snappy, sexy, and cool, kick their legs and jump and strut between the light tubes. Ultimately, though, they faded against the cacophony of light and music, and I failed to discern any connection between the rhythms and the dance.
The single bang that started off “Metric Dozen” (2014) came like a shock. Suddenly, the auditorium was pitch-black. Sharp spotlights opened on the dancers as they posed or stepped about.
The piece employs a metric dozen dancers – ten! – decked out by Alexandra Bertaut in white socks, black briefs, and black long-sleeved tops embellished with glitzy two-toned sequins. Accompanied by a nervous electronic pulsing (music by Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch) that later crescendoed into car-crash-like clangor (I hoped for a subsequent moment of silence – to no avail), the dancers step backwards and forwards as if bound to an invisible rectangular grid. They thrust their hips suggestively, sway their bottoms, and athletically kick their legs. Arms swing through the air until locked in edgy angles. Some of the dancers wait in the half-dark watching an erotic pas de deux before marching across the stage. Whether treading in place, scuttling to and fro, or undulating their torsos like snakes, their movements appear mechanical and meaningless. As the atmosphere turns to a sullen red-light milieu, a woman forces sex from a man on the sidelines.
Lighting designer Gilles Gentner finally pulls the plug, switching the light abruptly off.
Just like the previous pieces, “My Generation” starts with sudden music and eye-catching lighting – this time a catwalk made of light. The music is by Uwe Schmidt (AtomTM) assembled from electronically distorted pop songs and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…”. The twelve dancers living out this dream wore colorful sporting tricots (including the tricot of Kazakhstan’s Astana club). Costume designer Bernhard Wilhelm also sewed shorts from the tricots – though his design was so baggy that the dancers looked to be wearing diapers. That did nothing to stem their athletic bragging, though.
Once again we’re presented with a succession of acrobatic leg kicks, brawny leaps, and stilted poses. Pelvises thrust like rubbery battering rams; arms punch the air, and ecstasy lights a fire under their mechanical routines. The lighting is garishly green and yellow, and later fluorescent blue – cheap entertainment, but who cares? Let’s run free! Let’s have fun!
The sole highlight was a karaoke solo by Nicolás Martínez, who whizzed across the stage in a musical (and sexual) frenzy. Siegal would have done best to end “My Generation” here, but it dragged on with an uninspired group routine accompanied by the monotonous singsong “Ich bin meine Maschine” (“I am my machine”). That idea, it seems, is a good summary of his understanding of the art form.
|Links:||Website of Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference|
|Photos:||Some photos show a different cast from an earlier performance.|
|1.||Evan Supple and Mason Manning, “All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|2.||Evan Supple, “All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|3.||Mason Manning, Long Zou, Clara Sorzano; “All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|4.||Long Zou, Evan Supple, and ensemble; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|5.||Nicolás Martinéz and Jemima Rose Dean, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|6.||Nicolás Martinéz and ensemble, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|7.||Mason Manning, Nicolás Martinéz, Martina Chavez, Madison Vomastek, and Evan Supple; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|8.||Livia Gil, Nicolas Martinez, and Clara Sorzano; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|9.||Ian Sanford, Evan Supple, Sean Lammer, Nicolás Martinéz, and Madison Vomastek; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|10.||Mason Manning, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|11.||Clara Sorzano and Evan Supple, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023|
|12.||Clara Sorzano, Ian Sanford, and Mason Manning; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
|all photos © Thomas Schermer|