Sasha Waltz and Guests at Sadler’s Wells – L’Après-midi d’un faune, Scène d’Amour, and Sacre

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L’Après-midi d’un faune
Dancers of Sasha Waltz and Guests
Sasha Waltz – Choreography
Claude Debussy – Music [Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune]
GIOM / Guillaume Bruère – Stage & Costume
Martin Hauk – Lighting

Scène d’Amour
Dancers – Lorena Justribó Manion, Ygal Tsur
Sasha Waltz – Choreography
Hector Berlioz – Music []
Bernd Skodzig – Costume

Sacre
Dancers of Sasha Waltz and Guests
Sasha Waltz – Choreography
Igor Stravinsky – Music [The Rite of Spring]
Bernd Skodzig – Costumes
Thilo Reuther – Lighting


Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 11 November, 2015
Venue: Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

Sasha Waltz's SacrePhotograph: www.sadlerswells.comSasha Waltz holds iconic status in German and European contemporary dance: an engaging artist, she has forged her reputation on choreography to some of the great compositions, often operatic. Here she tackles the behemoth of the dance, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps. I saw her version in Berlin some time ago which, it must be emphasised, was given added lustre by the presence of the Berlin Staatskapelle in the pit of the Schiller Theater and Daniel Barenboim on the podium. The greatest negative with the performance at the Sadler’s Wells is that it uses recorded music, thereby denying the audience the visceral thrill of a top-flight orchestra letting rip in this most brutal of scores. We are left with the choreography which is actually rather good.

Waltz does a good line in choreographic brutalism, hurling the bodies of her willing dancers around the stage and proving herself mistress of her stage space, moving phalanxes around to great effect, sometimes divided men/women, sometimes in mixed groupings. She proves sensitive to the music to a certain pint, sometimes missing, on can assume deliberately – changes in the sound picture in favour of continuing with a set of moves she has established. But she does respect the score, that much is clear, and she has wisely opted to follow broadly the concept of the original work, dealing with the earth and the sacrifice of a chosen individual. That scenario is so strong, so basic, that it has successfully informed countless versions of Rite and continues to do so.

Sasha Waltz's SacrePhotograph: www.sadlerswells.comWaltz uses a pile of earth, or chippings, which becomes progressively spread around and introduces a descending spike which finally touches earth at the mortal collapse of the by now naked chosen victim at the final moment of the work. It, enhanced by dramatic lighting, makes for an entirely satisfying stage picture. Movements are broad, emphatic, many evoking the inter-war expressionist dance of Mary Wigman in her use of semaphore arms and almost angular positioning of both limbs and torso. Waltz is successful in establishing the feeling of primeval social existence – there is violence, there is most certainly sex and a tense, febrile quality which indicates that anything could happen at any moment. The massed dancers portray anguish, pain and, at time, unbridled fear, their sweat-soaked bodies adding to the animalistic side. It is also moist clearly a society grouping with relationships within it, the entire population of which finish by silently watching the chosen maiden dance herself to death.

Sasha Waltz's L’Après-midi d’un faunePhotograph: www.sadlerswells.comWould that I could be as enthusiastic about the other two pieces which preceded it. It is hard to fathom how they are supposed to act as valid pendants to Sacre. An insipid piece to Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune started proceedings, the most successful part of which is the striking collage of lurid colour which forms the walls of the performing space. As to the movement itself, it could very easily have been made to silence, or, indeed, another work, so blatantly does Waltz ignore the structure of the music and its changes and shifts. This makes it unsatisfying, pedestrian movements allied seemingly arbitrarily with a sublime composition.

Matters brightened with an over-long pas de deux to an excerpt from Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette. This was Waltz in lyrical mode and the heavy-limbed legato achieved by the dancers was most pleasing, Ygal Tsur’s partnering exemplary and ensuring a real flow to the choreography. But Waltz’s lyricism seems to have limits and extraneous elements intrude into the prevailing are of lyrical intensity, so little jumps or flicks seem out of place.

A strange mix of works, therefore, which has been put together to make for a seriously unbalanced programme, the heavy intensity of Sacre far form counter-balanced by the two shorter works that preceded it.

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