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Colours International Dance Festival 2019, Theaterhaus Stuttgart

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Colours International Dance Festival is back in town. After a number of outdoor and interactive events, performances at the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart kicked off last Thursday. Full programme until 14 July here https://www.coloursdancefestival.com/en.html

I saw Gauthier Dance in a quadruple bill “Classy Classics” on Saturday, consisting of the following works.

Cayetano Soto: Malasangre. Jazzy, funky movements for 5 male and 2 female dancers in varying combinations (all male dancers, all female dancers, pairs, some, all) to Latin Soul music by Cuban singer La Lupe. The men dressed in knee-length skirts and knee-length black socks, the women in flesh-coloured tops and pants and also knee-length black socks. Rhythmic steps, arms stretched out wide, hip shaking. This was fast, energetic, electrifying.

William Forsythe: Herman Schmerman Duet. This was the 2nd time that I saw this work, and I got a lot more out of it in terms of deconstruction than the 1st time, with the first part of the piece being closer to classical technique, and moving away a lot further once the dancers wear skirts.

Marco Goecke: Aeffi. I love this piece more and more each time I see it. There is so much to discover, and I finally realised that the movements follow the tone and focus of each of the three songs by Jonny Cash. Stunning performance by Theophilus Vesely, and very happy to have seen this piece again.

Eric Gauthier: Orchestra of Wolves. This was fun. A conductor’s (a chicken in a black suit) failed attempt to control an orchestra (a number of wolves in black suits). The players sit on desk chairs and initially follow the conductor. As the music progresses, they move closer around him and discuss how they can overpower him, and one of the wolves rubs his (own) tummy as indication that he’s looking forward to a delicious meal. The conductor still just about manages to keep things in order but increasingly, the players do what they want. The conductor flees, returns and briefly gets back in control; he chases off one of the players who then attacks and overpowers the conductor. The piece ends with the wolves plucking the chicken.

Ohad Naharin: Decadance. I’d only seen Minus16 by Naharin before so couldn’t tell which of his works the extracts shown had been taken from. A presenter walked on stage and welcomed the audience, asked that mobile phones be switched off, etc. He later came back on stage and asked the audience to stand up. With each question that he read aloud, those who were able to answer the question in the affirmative were invited to sit down. After a few questions, all those who remained standing were invited to sit down, and those whose birthday it was on the day were asked to stand up. This person was invited to come on stage for a short interaction with two dancers (and the woman whose birthday it was did this admiringly well). Later on, a couple in red harem pants went through a mating ritual. Dancers walked to the front of the stage and performed specific movements e.g., falling down and getting up again, certain jumps, etc.- initially replicating the movement of the previous dancer whereas later on, each performed their own movements. Bearing in mind the presenter at the start and in the middle of this piece, this work was like a mini show of its own within the quadruple programme. It was bizarre and it was good to have seen it.

The tags for Maguy Marin, Ballet BC and Akram Khan reflect the other companies that I am hoping to see during the festival. Fingers crossed things will work out as expected as two years ago, I had a ticket for Shechter’s Grand Finale, wasn’t able to attend and haven’t been able to see it since.


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Yes, lots of interactive events e.g., dance workshops in the city centre, dance with kids in the zoo, ...


The festival takes place every 2 years but the local presence of both Gauthier Dance and Stuttgart Ballet makes a visit worthwhile any time 🙂

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Back at the Theaterhaus last night for Maguy Marin’s May B. This was unlike anything that I’d ever seen before, magnificent, deeply moving and unique. I was devouring reviews of previous performances on the way back home and came across a review by Judith Mackrell of a performance in Enniskillen in 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/jul/28/maguy-marin-may-b-review-beckett. Her article describes far better than I’d ever be able to do the events/ atmosphere on stage and the precise links to specific works by Samuel Beckett.

A community in isolation, searching and waiting for something that is unknown and that will not come, carrying the few belongings that they have left in small old suitcases or bags. The stained worn old outer clothes that they put on towards to the end makes it clear that they have been in this situation for a considerable period of time. The individuals are at times isolated within and, at other times, consoling each other & making the best out of the situation. The change in music was telling to depict these changes. An extract from Schubert’s Winterreise at the start (Leiermann/ Hurdy-Gurdy Man - everyone shuffling along), the community finding a brief relief within their apocalyptic environment every time marching music starts to play, another extract from Schubert’s Winterreise at the very end (about the love of someone who has left or disappeared  - a sole and lonely man on stage), and in particular Gavin Bryar’s song Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet which was played in a loop for the best of 20 minutes towards the end (shuffling along, carrying their few belongings, wearing their stained worn outer clothes, and after every time the group exits the stage, a diminishing number of them returns … until just said sole and lonely man is the last remaining person).

Kudos to the stamina of the performers, staying in character throughout (and there is precious little time for them off stage) and including the curtain calls e.g. a women who had one of her shoulders pulled up to her ear from start to finish, another one who was standing, shuffling, etc. with her upper body bent forward throughout the performance.

It may be because it’s only been a few days since I saw Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern, but I see both groups in a similar situation – isolated and with no way out, the individuals at times consoling each other but without much effect, bound together as a group, moving along with nowhere to go. As the sole and lonely man stated at the end: Fini, c’est fini, ca va finir, ca va peut-etre finir.

Magnificent, deeply moving and unique. Very different but definitely very high up in my list of highs this season.


In relation to other performances

@ Ian Macmillan – thank you so much for the link yesterday to the review on Seeing Dance of Stephen Shropshire’s We Are Nowhere Else But Here – I had this piece on my shortlist and ultimately went for Stuttgart Ballet’s triple bill Breath-taking that evening.

 @ Sabine0308, coming back to your earlier post – I had a look through the programme schedule, not everything is sold out at the moment so you may be lucky if you are able to travel to Stuttgart at short notice. If you are specifically looking at Gauthier Dance, there’ll be further performances of Classy Classics in October (cf. the Theaterhaus web site rather than that of the current festival).


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Ballet BC at the Theaterhaus last night for a triple bill with works by Sharon Eyal, Emily Molnar and Crystal Pite.

Sharon Eyal: Bedroom Folk. No bed in sight for the bedroom folk but the back of the stage (in a warm orange glow) and the costumes (black leotards with flesh-coloured shoulder areas that made them look strapless for the women & black men’s high-waist tights with shoulder straps) made me think of a stylish bedroom-like environment. The music by Ori Lichtik electronic with thumping sounds, keyboards, fast, continuous, relentless. The dancing follows suit, fast, continuous, relentless. I found two aspects of the choreography fascinating - how the movements followed the speed/ drive of the music and how tiny variations in the size and direction of dancer’s steps created ever-changing patterns on stage. An equal number of female and male dancers standing close together, performing fast tiny steps almost on the spot, just a little bit on demi pointe, knees slightly bent, their upper body and arms performing a variety movements in unison. Small variations in these steps and their directions, and suddenly the dancers are in a single line next to each other. Some more tiny variations, and men and women face each other in that line, their movements mirroring each other. Even more tiny variations, and the single line changes into three lines of dancers or into a semi-circle. Back into a group, everyone in a deep grand plie this time, and some more variations … and all this while continuously performing said tiny steps and various movements with their upper bodies and arms. Individuals emerge with short solos and they get back into the group. Halfway through the piece, a black curtain at the back closes, lighting changes to a wide circular shaft of light within which the dancers move. One dancer is isolated in the centre and integrated back into the group. Back to orange glow for the stage and movements similar those at the start. The piece ends with an endless series of small degages to either side, dancers again standing very close to each other. I loved the choreography, fitting the music so well and admired the dancer’s coordination throughout the piece, making the changes in pattern look completely effortless. The audience reacted with lots of whistling and exuberant cheers, foot stamping in the row I was in and rhythmic clapping.

Emily Molnar: To This Day. Dancers in a variety of block colours, everyone dressed differently. The music (Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. Jones Jr.) influences the movements – lots of sliding across the stage, some rolling on the floor, lots of body twisting. In complete contrast to the first piece, the majority of dancing is done in solos. More often than not, even if a number of dancers are on stage at the same time, each dancer has their own choreography. There was a funny part towards the end of the piece – a male dancer moves rather frantically and drops to the floor in happy surprise when he realises that a female dancer has been watching him. He gets back up quickly and continues his moves. In doing so, he gets closer but does not have the courage to start interacting with her and withdraws in sadness. She then takes the initiative and makes contact. This work was less my cup of tea than the first piece in terms of choreography and music but as the curtain calls went on, an increasing number of audience members showed their appreciation through a standing ovation. The aspect that I have taken away though (my own reading, I don't know whether this was intended by Molnar or not) is the singularity of every individual – they are all dressed differently, they move differently and at different times – everyone is special and unique in this world.

Crystal Pite: Solo Echo. Change in atmosphere again. Poetic, melancholic, calm. Set to 2 Cello Sonatas by Brahms and inspired by the poem Lines for Winter by Mark Strand. Dancers in black clothes. Snow is falling on stage throughout the piece (there were actual small white particles falling from the top onto the stage). The first half of this work with several PDD, quiet passion, longing, yearning, togetherness, loving. The second half then turns to a different kind of longing – that following loss through (again, my reading) death. A male dancer drops to the floor, he is lifted high as in a funeral procession and laid down on the floor. A female dancer is lifted up and lowered down to him, she reaching out with both hands towards him and yet not reaching him. This motif of a women lifted and lowered down to a man lying on the floor is repeated later on. The group falls apart, there is some aggression emerging, they get back together again, more yearning (beautiful wave-live ripples through a single line of dancers here). All male dancers lie on the floor, a female dancer looks after each of them, and they start to move again. Yearning turning to acceptance as towards the end of Strand’s poem? I found this piece and Strand's poem utterly moving and thought-provoking through its melancholic atmosphere. Full standing ovation as far as I could see.

Now looking forward to Akram Khan’s Outwitting the Devil at the weekend.


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World premiere of Akram Khan’s new work Outwitting the Devil on Saturday night. I had bought a ticket for Sunday, was then approached by a friend with a spare ticket for Saturday, and so had the privilege of seeing this extraordinary work twice.

Outwitting the Devil took its inspiration from a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh and comes with a cast of six dancers. Gilgamesh is performed by two dancers – young Gilgamesh who domesticates and enters into a friendship with Enkidu, their killing of Humbaba, guardian of the Cedar Forest and the destruction of said forest, and old Gilgamesh who is haunted by the memories of his actions when he was younger. One dancer represents the Cedar Forest/ the creatures therein, another one a goddess-like person who turns her anger towards Gilgamesh over what he did.

Choreography and sound design depict the domestication of Enkidu beautifully – a recorded voice reads aloud the names of a number of animals that live in the forest (tiger, panther, falcon, elephant, frog, spider, owl, etc.), and Enkidu, still the creature of the forest, performs shapes that represent these animals. Young Gilgamesh gets closer, Enkidu evades but is finally caught (assertion of power over someone throughout the piece through holding someone tight by gripping their ankle or pushing their head down). The voiceover then turns to saying the word “man” a number of times and with increasing speed. He is laid away by young Gilgamesh … he has become domesticated. They travel to the Cedar Forest and encounter Humbaba who is guardian of the forest. His attempts to protect the forest ultimately fail and he is killed (the neck takes prominence). Events turn against young Gilgamesh - the goddess is angry, some more voiceover of names of animals, and Enkidu is killed, too (the neck takes prominence again).

Old Gilgamesh is on stage at the same time as all these events are shown – he is reliving his memories, and he is haunted by them. Haunting is shown through a variety of means. At the start, he is cradling a flab of stone or baked clay in the shape of a tree/ person. He stands/ moves in the midst of the other dancers or watches from the side. He is scared, frightened, his hands protecting his head, cowering on the floor, retreating to the side of the stage, he moves tentatively, his upper body bent forward, his facial expression matching his body language. A flab of stone/ baked clay is put on his shoulders at the very end, which I’ve taken as him carrying the burden of his past activities also going forward.

In a very strong cast that was well matched to the roles (e.g., young Gilgamesh tall and strong, old Gilgamesh smaller and older, the goddess tall and imposing, the forest slender and hugely expressive), I found Dominique Petit in the role of old Gilgamesh phenomenal – his acting, his body language, his facial expressions those of a frail elderly man who is continuously haunted by his memories.

Audio, set and lighting were well suited, too. The music gloomy & threatening, the sound of an axe, recordings of extracts of the tablet that was the basis for this work (right at the start: old Gilgamesh having the same dream night after night, showing him with an axe, unaware of what he would turn into in old age; towards the end: his confession, him remembering their cries, their open mouths when he destroyed the forest), the set in grey throughout with flabs of stone or baked clay on all three sides of the stage, the lighting in line with that gloomy atmosphere while ensuring that there was sufficient light to see what was happening on stage.

The 80 minutes that the work takes flew by, it didn’t feel half as long, such was the power of the story that was told (dramaturg: Ruth Little), the performance by the dancers, the music as well as the visual and lighting design. I think the piece is special to me because it all came together as one.

I guess it’s the kind of work that takes time to take it all in, and so the applause started relatively slowly but then turned into immense cheers, standing ovation, foot stamping, rhythmic clapping; the audience didn’t want to let go.

Fabulous post-show talk on Sunday with Akram Khan, too. He came across as incredibly humble, thoughtful and open.

Very happy to have had the chance to be there for both nights.

Trailer on the public Facebook site of the Festival https://www.facebook.com/coloursdancefestival/?fref=mentions&__tn__=K-R

List of dancers on Akram Khan’s company public Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/p/Bzxp5-lDhGi/



Edited by Duck
added "it" in "take it all in"
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