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Nuremberg State Ballet, Stravinsky double bill

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A delayed write up of a matinee performance that I attended towards the end of January.

A double bill with two new works to music by Stravinsky – Douglas Lee’s version of Petrushka plus Goyo Montero’s take on Le Sacre du Printemps. I had been wondering whether their choreographic styles might be slightly too contemporary for me and thought, if worst came to worst, at least it’d be great music performed live. Actually, I needn’t have worried a bit.

Petrushka by Douglas Lee. A magician and his three puppets. And yet, in Lee’s version, who of those on stage are puppets and who are people? The corps, all in purple, depict the human beings who are observing the activities of the puppets. They are human but at times move in a puppet-like fashion, with the upper body twisted as if they were automats and their arms in a port de bras like that of a wooden marionette … i.e., as if they are actually non-human entities. Petrushka’s ghost appears at the end, making the magician take flight, so is Petrushka really a marionette or rather a human being?

Sacre by Goyo Montero. A group of people in reddish somewhat shabby clothing – they’ve been together for some time and it, seems, with no way out. A huge ring of steel with 40 light bulbs hangs above the stage, representing an unnamed centre of power, and it is this ring of lights that they need to go through as way out. A strong male individual is chosen by the group as sacrifice but he is trembling and does not succeed in getting the ring of lights descend sufficiently so that going through the ring as way out is possible – he is just not strong enough. As a result, he is shouted at and punched, he is evicted from the group. There is a woman, however, who empathises and thus stays with him and looks after him when everyone else has left. Slowly, other members of the group return. The ring descends further and puts the focus on the woman who stayed with the man – the ring has thus chosen her as the sacrifice. She absolutely and fully rises to the challenge and, through tremendous physical effort, manages to pair up individuals from the group so they can go through the ring together. As a result, she is left behind on her own, she is the sacrifice that is made so that everyone else can move on in a new environment. I’ve seen MacMillan’s and Bausch’s versions and a video of that by Bejart but Sacre is the first one that made me really feel deeply with the person who gets sacrificed, and I think this is because Montero develops a whole storyline and lets the audience get to know the victim in more detail. Just the thought that she accepts the challenge set by the unnamed centre of power, knowing that in order to allow everyone else move on elsewhere, she will need to put herself forward as sacrifice, wow. Truly superb performance with regards to both artistry and stamina by Sophie Vervaecke as the victim, I was spellbound, caught up, breathless.

The audience reacted with foot stamping, shouts of bravo, whistling and very long and loud applause for the dancers, the conductor and the musicians alike. A great afternoon & I am much hoping I’ll be able to see this programme again at some stage in the future.

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