This dance trilogy is all ballet, or so I am reliably informed. I must, therefore, being someone more used to witnessing plays and musicals, revise (or at least widen) my own definition of what constitutes ballet. At no point is the audience treated to what I call pointy feet, or spinning so fast and for so long Conservative Central Office is given a run for its money. The costumes in this production, too, surprisingly do leave what’s down below to the imagination. I was, apparently, thinking of something called classical ballet. This is something called contemporary ballet, and the Royal Ballet School does these days, or so I’m told, teach this to budding Billy Elliots enrolled there.
In hindsight, I can imagine ballet purists would have thought the evening’s proceedings quite revolting.
My initial thoughts on the first part (I use the term ‘part’ as the production is sub-headed ‘An evening in three parts’), L’Apres-midi d’un faune, was that it was rather pedestrian. I hadn’t realised, until my interval enlightenment, courtesy of some very committed supporters of dance, that perhaps this was deliberately so, and I’m now hoping that it was – or otherwise I have hopelessly misinterpreted it twice over! What I can solidly say is that this is very much an ensemble piece. I could not identify a central character. At one point, movements towards the rear of the stage seemed to be more dynamic than the ones at the front. It is, I think, all part of being subversive and challenging established norms.
It was over all too soon, as was the second part, Scene d’Amour from Romeo et Juliette, which doesn’t need translating even for me. This two-hander would, in places, even have BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing judging panels up in arms, not for its poor performance, but for breaking so well with tradition and convention. Even to the very end, it is Juliette (I shall keep faith with this spelling, in context) who appears to be in control. It is all very playful though, and very pleasant, leaving me feeling warm and blissful.
The accompanying music for all three parts, though played rather than performed, is simply beautiful. I am not well-versed on concert hall pieces such as these: suffice to say, the dancing, in its entirety, was always in keeping with the tempo and the rhythm of the compositions.
After the interval, there is military precision in Sacre (or, for the uninitiated like yours truly, ‘Rite’, as in ‘ritual’), as a very large cast – 28 in all – begin to get rather aggressive with one another (in character). I was slightly peeved the lovely and peaceful atmosphere conjured up so well in the first half was replaced so quickly with something quite different, but in the end I suppose a production like this can’t win. I may have otherwise accused it of being too light-hearted, fluffy and repetitive if we had more of the same.
It was quite a spectacle seeing so many dancers move in perfect harmony. A pause in the music is, hilariously, an excuse to throw caution to the wind and – there isn’t a polite way of saying this – participate in a mass orgy. The music strikes up again soon enough, and the ballet continues to plough on to a rather brutal and distinct, but mesmerising, finale.
A provocative piece, Sasha Waltz & Guests: Sacre provides a mixed bag of very different, but very professional, modern ballets. It is, maybe, a little too unsubtle in places – ‘in-yer-face’ even – but still highly enjoyable. And I do love it when an evening of dance leaves me refreshed rather than exhausted.
Review by Chris Omaweng
As part of the centenary celebrations of Stravinsky’s masterpiece, The Rite of Spring, Sasha Waltz premiered her own tribute to the ballet that caused such scandal in 1913 Paris.
Waltz’s reimagining draws on the same savage forces that inspired the Russian composer 100 years ago. In Waltz’s tension-charged Sacre, dancers throw themselves into the complex, angular rhythms of the frenetic musical composition with intense, grounded movement. Dissonant chords jar, and irregular accents provoke agitated jerking motions to create a vivid and harrowing dance piece.
Performed by 28 dancers, this triple bill is completed by Waltz’s interpretation of Scène d’Amour (from Roméo et Juliette) with music by Berlioz, and Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune.
Based in Berlin, Sasha Waltz & Guests have collaborated with more than 300 artists from 25 countries on a diverse range of creative projects, including the 20 productions currently within the company’s repertoire.
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
11th – 13th November 2015