Opera House, Hamburg, Germany; July 12, 2014

Maggie Foyer

Alexandre Riabko in Vaslaw.  Photo © Holger Badekow

Alexandre Riabko in ‘Vaslaw’.
Photo © Holger Badekow

The final programme of the Hamburg Dance Days was a gentle interlude between the dramatic works of the previous nights and the climax of the Nijinsky Gala. The grand piano on stage set the intimate tone for the quartet of works with two exceptional pianists providing the accompaniment: Cristian Peix playing Gustav Mahler’s “At Midnight” while Christopher Park had the contrast of Schumann, Stravinsky and Bach.

The simplicity of Robert Schumann’s “Scenes of Childhood” finds an echo in the eponymous dance work. Park initially doodles on the piano playing just a few hesitant notes at a time before launching into the melody. The dancers likewise stroll on casually; Hélène Bouchet stands by the piano and does a few tendus while the others gradually drift on, the women in white tunics, the men in grey tights and white shirts. The energy level ratchets up a notch as Lennart Radtke weaves the earlier motifs into a vibrant solo setting the pace. Contrast comes in a brief fractious duet between Carolina Agüero and Thiago Bordin but, as more couples join in, harmony returns. Like a glass of cool water on a hot day, it made a perfect programme opener.

Neumeier’s “Petruschka Variations” is a fascinating study in rhythm. Constructed on themes from Stravinsky’s ballet it makes fearsome demands as the dancers calculate the musical timing to a nanosecond. However the comic undertones and racy competitive spirit also make it hugely enjoyable. It fitted Leslie Heylmann’s bubbly personality as closely as her orange tights. She was bliss, as was tiny Futaba Ishizaki whose expansive movement belied her diminutive size. Each of the six dancers is an individual but their movements are orchestrated into the piece as cleverly as Stravinsky weaves his rhythms. I would imagine it was at least as tricky for Park at the piano.

“Vaslaw” offers impressions of the great dancer in his later dance life and choreographic career. The music, by Bach, is some of that chosen by Nijinsky for his never realised ballet. For Alexandre Riabko it is an intense role; often taking the part of the outsider. This makes the trio, where he is joined by Bouchet and Thiago Bordin, even more compelling. Riabko’s solo, a final outburst of spirited creativity makes a powerful statement after which he quietly retires to sit in contemplation.

Edvin Revazov, Anna Laudere and Silvia Azzoni in 'At Midnight'. Photo © Holger Badekow

Edvin Revazov, Anna Laudere and Silvia Azzoni in ‘At Midnight’.
Photo © Holger Badekow

“At Midnight”, the closing work to a piano rendition of Mahler’s “Rückert-Lieder”, delivered in Daniel Ochoa’s rich baritone voice, is breathtakingly dark and beautiful. The cast led by Edvin Revazov, Anna Laudere and Silvia Azzoni match the intense mood and introspective nature of the songs. Neumeier’s choreography finds aesthetic forms commensurate with the beauty of the music in a wholly satisfying piece. The quiet finish on an achingly tender solo for Laudere rounded off the evening beautifully.