DRESDEN SEMPEROPER BALLETT
November 3, 2017
The lovely and youthful dancers of the Dresden Semperoper Ballett brought a breath of fresh air to a cool fall evening at the Joyce. Although the repertory was uneven, it showcased the company’s command of both classical and contemporary ballet, and it was a pleasure to watch them dance.
The program opened with “5,” a work for three women and two men choreographed by David Dawson, to music by Adolphe Adam, the famed composer of the 19th century ballet Giselle. The dancers came bounding onto the stage, dancing classical ballet steps – jumping, turning – but often with a contemporary twist embedded in the transitions, or added to the steps themselves, reminiscent of William Forsythe’s now classic Vertiginious Thrill of Exactitude.
Wearing white tutus with a halter back and bare legs, the women attacked the quick, difficult sequences – including a series of double fouettes – with a playful ease, while the men (in tights and casual black t-shirt) showed off their command of the mixed classical/contemporary technique. Almost like watching ballet dancers play around after class, everything but the kitchen sink built up into a frenzied climax, starting the evening on a high note.
In “Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht / The Night Falls Quietly,” a world premiere by Joseph Hernandez – who also designed the lighting and costumes – two men and two women in casual street wear walked upstage, alone, eventually engaging in fraught, conventionally gendered partnering – men lifting, and sometimes pushing the women by the neck – signaling an underlying angst-ridden narrative thread that never quite cohered. The contemporary movement itself, often with the women in unison, and marked by swift, swinging arm movements, spoke of friendship and fear, but the electronic music with by Bohren & Der Club of Gore, a 1990s band that described their own music as an “unholy ambient mixture of slow jazz ballads, Black Sabbath doom,” made us feel just that.
David Dawson’s second work on the program, “On the Nature of Daylight,” a pas de deux to Max Richter’s music, gave us another opportunity to watch the fierce Alice Mariani, a lithe and confident dancer with the ravishing combination of a strong technique and fearless abandon. Partnered by a more reserved Christian Bauch, they strived to express a longing for “pure love… and a soul mate,” according to the program.
“Vertigo Maze,” the final work of the evening by Stijn Celis to the well-known Bach Chaconne for Solo Violin and Four Voices, made the influence of Jiri Kylian loom large (even the program had a picture of a moment in Kylian’s “Petit Mort”). Lots of reaching, contracting, and lunging in bare feet and corsets, this “mysterious labyrinth of the human soul” seemed to be an homage to that master, but lacked his exquisite musicality and breathtaking partnering. Nonetheless, the dancers made something of it, and an angelic, mournful quality shone through.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson