Lamentate, Without Words, Dream Play, Skew Whiff
Opera House, Oslo, Norway; May 9, 2015
Dream Play from Norwegian National Ballet falls squarely into the category of ‘mixed bill’. The four very individual works did not create an evening of artistic unity but their particular merits shone through.
The one premiere, Jo Strømgren’s Lamentate to Arvo Pärt’s eponymous score is set in an other worldly place: the sort Strømgren inhabits so comfortably. It is a liminal space of constantly shifting boundaries simultaneously real and unreal. The setting, the chairs, the clothes all seem ordinary enough, except they are coloured a bright electric blue. The stage surface, smooth and shiny as a lake, reflects the colour and adds uncertainty through its slippery surface.
Into this world come Camilla Spidsøe and Yoshifumi Inao, she wearing beige pleated skirt and cardigan and he in a drab fawn suit. Strømgren has created choreography of substance notably for these two in a relationship that is always ambiguous and uneasy. She appears to be constantly searching for something
unexplained while he seems unconcerned.
However there are signposts that suggest a narrative thread. The music shifts dramatically between the fragile and the brutal, the dancers are sometimes costumed in dresses or suits and sometimes stripped down to underwear (apart from Spidsøe looking strangely ordinary in bare legs and cardigan) and the space bounded, at times by a washing line of blue sheets. Enigmatic and engaging it closes in an unassuming postmodern manner as quietly as it began.
Nacho Duarto’s Without Words to a selection of Schubert’s chamber music, is a work of breathtaking beauty. This was the Norwegian premiere of the work written for American Ballet Theatre in 1998. It has a classical feel and references to Jiří Kylián but newly shaped by Duato’s structure. The simple elegant costumes, the set featuring monochrome fragments of video and the understated passion in the music, all sing from the same song sheet and in perfect harmony. The company are well attuned to this fluid, sensual style and each of the eight dancers gave full value to the movement and the emotion. In the pit, the music was sensitively interpreted by Jan Koop on cello and Yoko Toda on piano.
Dream Play is one of Johan Inger’s earlier works, written for NDT 2 in 2000. A summer mosquito bites and like Cupid’s arrow, it sets the central character, Daniel Proietto into a romantic spin, gazing saucer eyed, as he watches Spidsøe walk by on high heels. Having recently seen Inger’s, Rite of Spring (Vårofferet) with the Royal Swedish Ballet (click here for a review), a deeper, darker version that has a strong affinity with Stravinsky’s music, this shorter version, using just the first section of the music, was rather lightweight although in this context, it was definitely the better choice.
Choreographically, Dream Play delivers powerful, dynamic material for the men and a memorable pas de deux for Proietto and Spidsøe. Melissa Hough gave a convincing performance as the other woman but seemed less comfortable with the choreographic style. Inger’s play with walls and trapdoor are skilfully woven into the narrative and his characters are wonderfully human. Although it does not match the power of Stravinsky’s score it uses the rhythms very effectively.
Skew Whiff by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, was last seen on this stage in 2008 and what joy to have it back in the repertoire with three of the original cast. Philip Currell unfortunately injured was replaced by Douwe Dekkers who proved, yet again, his prodigious talent in this high speed moment of madness to Rossini’s vividly theatrical Overture to The Thieving Magpie.
Gakuro Matsui and Arne Kristian Ruutu were on brilliant form in a work that demands both virtuosic and comic acumen and Maiko Nishino, the company’s Japanese National Treasure has got to be one of the most perfect interpreters of the female role. Her opening highpitched, ‘hello’, set the tone for a gold star performance. Comedy is a serious business and the inventive, rapid fire delivery leaves you breathless with laughter and delight. If you believe it won’t work to close a programme successfully on an eight minute piece for four dancers – think again.