Yesterday, Staatsballett Berlin began its new season with presenting the modern piece "Plateau Effect" by Jefta van Dinther. They performed at "Komische Oper" Berlin, an opera house which used to be home for a so-called "Tantztheater" for many years, long time ago, supported by the founder and first intendant/General manager Walter Felsenstein. So presenting the piece here, which was rather theatre than dancing imo, was somehow a nod to this legacy, but I am not sure if it was intended. If it was, then certainly a nod with a twist. When I left, I was upset, a bit angry, and clueless, so I didn't stay for the premiere party although the audience was invited.
This piece is mostly about fighting between 10 dancers and a huge piece of textile and ropes.
In the beginning, the textile/curtain hangs behind the dancers, one of them singing (who? The cast sheet didn't say that. Or was it coming from the off, and he was just moving his mouth?). I think it was in English, but I am not sure. Maybe because he sang with an accent, or because my English is bad. The dancers then began to pull/move into/partially disappear in the textile more and more, until they all had been swallowed by it and the "curtain" is going up and now the chaotic fight begins.
The textile was for me a symbol for life. It can absorb you, swallow you, spit you out,
but also inspire you to build a home and get along with other people/society. A symbol for the need to work together, and for failure when we don't pull on the same/correct rope. When we don't work together, the tent/home cannot be finished. It falls apart. The textile also seemed to be a living being for me, at one point, it was breathing and crawling slowly across the stage (moved by an invisible dancer of course).
The people (dancers) desperately tried to tame it, but failed because they didn't communicate or work together. They ran wildly across the stage and created rather chaos than logical purpose. They finally managed to wrestle/pull it down, and wrapped it tightly with the ropes, then it was pulled towards the ceiling and looked again like a (dead) being, e.g. the long neck and small head of a dinosaur. Or an umbilical cord, or a giant snake. Yes I had some weird associations, watching this. 😨 So actually, it was an interesting concept, because the best art always makes you think, contemplate, reflect. What put me off though were a) the stroboscopic effects (I had to close my eyes several times) and b) the "waste" of dancer material for about 45 minutes of the 1 hour piece. Sorry but I think it doesn't take dancers to run across the stage like mad, fummeling wildly with the props (pulling ropes and textile like bloody beginner cadets on a ship who have no idea what they are supposed to do).
So, if art has the duty to make you think, I am okay with that. However, it shouldn't take 45 minutes to point that out without actual dance onstage, when dancers are onstage. Less stressful running and pulling, and more dance I say. I am all for dance theatre, as long as the dancers dance. Hats off to the dancers who gave everything they had. I felt they were misused.
Last season, Staatsballett danced "Half life" by Sharon Eyal. It was also a contemporary piece, with many monotone movements over a long time, so not easy to "swallow" but it really sucked me in EMOTIONALLY. Compared to "Plateau effect" I would say Half Life touched me deeply, whereas Plateau Effect left me empty. Heart vs Brain?