Ballett Zürich’s sharp, sensual double bill is a masterclass in collaboration
This article is from 2015.
There are other dancers filling the space in Wayne McGregor’s Kairos, before the human ones appear. On the gauze frontcloth of Idris Khan’s design, notes of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons appear superimposed on one another, black and white, in frozen jaunts between the staves: fixed but somehow dynamic. Gradually flashes of Lucy Carter’s lighting seize snapshots of the real dancers behind the cloth in razor-sharp shapes. They appear and they vanish, alternating with the gauze score. When the giant sheet music lifts, it’s as if the dancers have leapt straight from their source.
McGregor’s response to Max Richter’s Recomposed – Vivaldi: The Four Seasons is fluid yet angular, abstract but with a wild insectile quality that imbues it with life. In the bodies of the cast, each line and curl of dance is immaculately clean and precise.
There’s a churn of energy that drives the piece, and sometimes makes the stage feel dizzyingly busy. But McGregor’s duets (especially in juxtaposition to the music) are exquisite. In Winter’s slow movement, Carter’s butter-soft light pours onto the knots and drags of the dancers, defrosting the season into something sensual and warm.
There is a lot to take in, too, in Christian Spuck’s Sonett. Actress Mireille Mossé tightrope walks and tears about the stage, speaking lines from Shakespeare’s famous sonnet sequence to the ‘fair youth’ and ‘dark lady’, as if conjuring up the action in her lovesick mind. The focus here is on the turn in the tale; the souring of the poet’s carnal love for the lady. The male idealised love is realised in a giant portrait of the young man, while the flesh and blood woman is live on stage, played by Eva Dewaele. With Mossé speaking the words in French, translations come in high subtitles on a backcloth, stealing your eyes away from Dewaele’s intricate puzzle of arm movements – based around the rhyme pattern of sonnets. It’s a pity, because she’s a mesmerising enigma to watch, queenly and sharp, as twisty as the tree of knowledge, ensconced in Emma Ryott’s dress that amplifies her rear, billows like a parachute at the train and hangs off her shoulders in a froth of ruff.
When the rest of the cast surprises us via the backcloth, the dance erupts into a calculated chaos of duets, trios, spinning near-tangos and flitting ensembles, all playing off Philip Glass’s daring, urgent Symphony No. 8.
So fascinating is Sonett in its magnitude of beauty and detail that, like the sonnets, it’s a piece you immediately want to return to again. That, in many ways, is no bad thing, except on an evening when you only get to see it once.
Ballett Zürich, Edinburgh Playhouse, 473 2000, until 29 Aug, 7.30pm, £10--£32 (£5--£16).