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Gauthier Dance, Nijinski, Theaterhaus Stuttgart

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Male dancers in black pants and with a naked torso, flickering fingers and angular movements, whistling - sort of what I remember from short abstract pieces by Marco Goecke that I’d seen previously (and then there is the marvellous “Ballet 101”). How would this translate into choreography for a narrative piece, in particular about a dancer with a very different movement vocabulary and from a different time?

Marco Goecke created his full-length piece “Nijinski” based on the life of Vaslav Nijinsky for Gauthier Dance, a company of about 20 dancers that is based at the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart and led by Eric Gauthier, a former dancer with Stuttgart Ballet. Premiered in June, I saw Friday’s performance.

The story is told in a number of scenes that transition seamlessly into each other. Goecke uses flickering fingers, angular movements of the arms, legs moving incredibly fast, and dresses dancers in black pants. So far, what I kind of anticipated. What makes it unique and enthralling is the combination of this base layer that appears throughout the piece with elements that are specific to each scene - through the use of costumes and movements that depict aspects of the story and of the ballets that feature within.

The piece starts with a prologue in which art is created as something new and awakened by Terpsichore (black pants, a nude shirt showing a harp), and Diaghilev (black pants, a fur-collared coat) appears. The ensuing scenes relate to Nijinsky’s life, from childhood to death – being encouraged in his endeavours by his mum, his training at the ballet academy (black pants and white shirts; movements and positions from classical ballet e.g., ports de bras, grand plies in the centre, entrechats, ciseaux), the discovery of sexuality with a friend in a marvellous duet (black pants and no shirt), Nijinsky at the height of his fame and performing The Faune (positions of hands and legs such as those in well-known pictures of the ballet; the music for the ballet from Debussy), Petrushka (black pants, a white collar), and The Spectre of the Rose (rose pedals fall from the ceiling, dancers in red pants), his split with Diaghilev, his increasing fits of anger (running across the stage, shouting), Nijinsky seeking help from the medical profession (mirroring the movements of the Consultant), drawing numerous circles on the floor, his death. No whistling, however shouting, a sound such as that created by breathing in through one’s teeth, and from time to time a dancer speaking into a microphone at the back of the stage, providing information about Nijiinsky’s biography (in English) and other comments (in German).

90 minutes non-stop, the time flew by. I was fascinated. A wonderful performance by the whole company. While the dancers in the roles of Diaghilev and Nijinsky stood out as, in their leading roles, they spent a lot more time on stage than others, this was really a tremendous team effort and team performance. Long and loud applause, repeated shouts of “bravo”, foot stamping and rhythmic clapping. The audience loved it.

The company has published a trailer of the piece and a brief extract from rehearsals (sorry, I tried to just show the links and however am getting directly the videos) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDhwN-vKgHA  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6E6tA43FcY.

There will be further performances at the end of October. If you are interested in going, I’d recommend getting your tickets as early as possible. I bought my ticket for Friday’s performance a little more than a month ago as this was when I spotted it, and availability was rather limited already.


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(and then there is the marvellous “Ballet 101”).


Many thanks, toursenlair, for mentioning this morning that "Ballet 101" is by Eric Gauthier rather than by Marco Goecke :)   I should have known :o   

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Thank you, Angela. I saw Aeffi and Fancy Goods when the company was at Sadler's Wells a few years ago, and I found Goecke's style interesting and completely different to anything I had seen previously. Nijinski has been enlightening and transformative as the movement vocabulary was matching the story so brilliantly. Looking at next season, it has moved Goecke's Kafka with Stuttgart Ballet into my list of must-see performances. :)

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