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2nd Colours International Dance Festival, Theaterhaus Stuttgart

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Ballet in the Park with Stuttgart Ballet on Saturday evening and with the John Cranko School on Sunday morning. Colours International Dance Festival at the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart on Friday evening and Sunday evening. In recovery mode now until the coming weekend.

I wasn’t around to witness the 1st Colours Festival in 2015 and am thus even happier to be able to attend some of the performances at the 2nd Festival this year. The term “Colours” stands for the broad range of dance forms that exist and their performances over the course of 2 ½ weeks. A number of dance workshops and other events across the city supplement the performances. The programme is presented by Eric Gauthier; full programme here http://www.coloursdancefestival.com/en.html.

The performance that I saw on Friday night was Conceal Reveal by Russell Maliphant Company. This was announced as a “version for Stuttgart”, and the content was slightly different to that at Sadlers Wells a couple of years ago – Both, And/ One Part II/ Two X Three/ Piece No 43. I found the movements peaceful, calming, even hypnotising, and the effects through light and shadow were intriguing and inspiring. Both, And, where one dancer seemed to multiply herself into two then three then four dancers and later increased in height as she approached the front of the stage; One Part II, a poetic solo with Russell Maliphant himself; Two X Three, where the light effects made the arm movements of the dancers look as if they were carrying the lights in their hands; Piece No. 43 with dancers in squares of lights and their increasingly rapid sequence of movements towards the end of the piece. I hadn’t seen the company previously and was very happy to get the chance to see them perform here.

Sunday night brought a new programme by Gauthier Dance Company called “Mega Israel”, a mixed programme with choreographies by Hofesh Shechter, Sharon Eyal-Gai Behar and Ohad Naharin. Shechter’s all-male piece Uprising kicked off the evening. Repeatedly, human interaction that started as cordial and casual led to fights, and it ended with a revolutionary red flag held up high. I enjoyed the intensity of the piece and made good use of the earplugs that had been provided. Sharon Eyal-Gai Behar’s all-female work Killer Pig showed 6 dancers in flesh-coloured unitards. The programme booklet described the dancers as Amazones, and Eric Gauthier used the term “insects” to describe the dancer’s movements. Most of the work is on demi pointe, and they bourree, do jetes, entrechats and various other hops and jumps as well as pirouettes, yet with arms flexed at the shoulders/ elbows/ wrists in various combinations, fingers stretched out wide, and legs often slightly bent at the knees and hips. They move in unison in a close circle and from time to time, one of the dancers break out temporarily. Captivating, hugely enjoyable and very different to what I’ve seen previously. Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 closed off the evening and involved the whole company. In contrast to a video that I’d seen of the piece by another company, this started with a 15/20-minute long solo by Luke Prunty who danced along to cha-cha music during the interval – very creatively and with great variety (showing the desperate dance of a lone soul; movements that reminded me of that of a swan; a short sequence from Bejart’s Bolero; and pursuing along the front of the stage some audience members who returned to the auditorium towards the end of the interval). The other dancers joined on stage, and thus ensued the sequence with the dancers rising from their chairs in waves, one dancer tumbling down to the floor, and the others singing and hopping while sitting on the chairs. Followed by a PDD to Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater and various hip-hop like movements by the whole group, to then end with the dancers inviting an equal number of female audience members to dance with them on stage – and some of those invited really went for it, to great acclaim by the audience. The audience didn’t want to let go, with numerous curtain calls and extensive foot stamping.  This programme is also scheduled for autumn 2017.

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Back at the Theaterhaus last night for Christian Spuck’s Romeo & Juliet by Ballet Zuerich. It was gut wrenching, visceral and heart breaking of the highest order.

A few black chairs and tables and some clothes racks populate an otherwise bare stage. A metal bridge will serve as balcony later on. The sparse design allows for fluid and rapid storytelling, making the tragic ending ever more emotionally intense. There is hardly any pause between scenes (and there is only one interval) as tables and chairs are moved as dancers from the previous scene exit the stage and those in the next scene enter the stage and start to dance, all at the same time. The tempi of the music seem to be on the fast side, too (or it is maybe the effect of the above that makes the music sound rather quick).

A number of dancers wear dark Elizabethan costumes, others are in black suits or trousers/ shirts/ vests. Romeo (William Moore), Mercutio and Benvolio look like “lads about town”, featuring dark knee-length trousers, casual shirts and black jackets throughout.

Juliet (Giulia Tonelli, standing in for Katja Wuensche) dances with her friends and emerges from the group as her parents arrive. Paris (Tars Vandebeek) – whom I’ve sometimes seen at the ROH as likeable if shy young man, unsure why Julia does not like him - comes across as aloof, devoid of emotions, even devoid of human interactions beyond formal introductions. There is a marvellous contrast between Juliet’s initially puzzled, then stifled and dutiful dancing with Paris at the ball and the free and natural movements in her interaction with Romeo. She falls backwards into his outstretched arms a number of times and is literally and metaphorically carried away and swept away by her Romeo. Those movements of carrying/ sweeping away also reappear during the balcony PDD.

Duels at the end of Act 2 are limited to Mercutio/ Tybalt and Tybalt/ Romeo. Mercutio’s death is predominantly pure and prolonged agony, and there is only a brief moment of respite during which he pretends that all is well.

In Act 3, it is Paris who discovers that Juliet is lifeless. In contrast to MacMillan’s version, Paris leaves with her family and is not killed by Romeo. Romeo arrives, discovers Juliet on her deathbed and emits an animalistic outcry. He takes the poison and dies in prolonged agony. What has broken my heart into a zillion pieces and still leaves me reeling the best part of a day following yesterday’s performance is that, in Spuck’s version of R&J, Juliet wakes up while Romeo is still writhing in utter pain and I think he, despite his agony, still notices her. So she sees him succumbing to an excruciatingly painful death. She checks on him a couple more times and then she kills herself, too.

There was second after second of complete silence in the auditorium before the applause erupted, complete with foot stamping and leading to a standing ovation.

See this version of Romeo & Juliet if you can. If you do, ensure to take tissues with you.


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