Roswell alien, Elvis and Ella Fitzgerald influencing new choreographers

Junge Choreografen
Ballett Zurich
Studiobuhne des Opernhauses, Zurich

While Ballet Zurich has a programme of traditional works such as The Nutcracker, Petruschka and Swan Lake it has a parallel programme of more contemporary works by major choreographers such as Crystal Pite and Jiri Kylian whose work is often performed in New Zealand by the Royal New Zealand Ballet and touring companies.

Feeding into this stream of contemporary works, Ballett Zurich hosts a biannual Young Choreographers season that presents the talents of both young choreographers as well as emerging talented dancers.

The latest offering showcases eight works ranging from solo performances to works using six dancers. The mix of dances included works that were highly original through to others that responded to or repeated the various tropes of contemporary dance. Most of the dances included aspects of both, with ideas and methods of presentation combining a neo-classical approach along with music and narratives from popular culture.

What was apparent was the obvious abilities of the dancers who all displayed high levels of technical skill as well as an understanding of their role.

The clearest and most succinct work was the solo Maybe choreographed by the Spaniard Adria Velar Alguero, danced by Emma Antrobus. The piece, which was a celebration of art and Antrobus, captured the notion of fleeting ideas and concepts and the random nature of the creative process with eloquent gestures.

Maybe opened with the dancer being spotlit in several different poses and this use of light was to occur in other works on the programme, notably Come gli occhi sotto le ciglia” (Like the eyes under the eyelashes) a trio created by Luca Afflitto. The work opened with a spotlight beamed through fog creating a silhouette of the solo figure, the beams of light flickering over the stage and audience like an Anthony McColl light sculpture. The trio proceeded to interact with the various sources of light – confronting strong beams of light coming from the wings, being repelled by others and taking refuge in a spiritual light raining down on them.

In The Breathing Room” created by Manuel Renard and Alba Carbonell and danced by Renard and Jan Casier, the two figures are initially entwined in either a wrestling hold or lovers' embrace. The connection is broken when a piece of A4 paper flutters down onto the stage. The message having been read, the two dancers perform almost ritualistic moves, separated from each other, going through a series of movements while pieces of paper continue to fall. The dancers repeated or replicated each other’s movements before coming together in a final embrace. Throughout the dance there was an intensity of movement, some of it lyrical, some of it aggressive.

The most intriguing part of the work was when one piece of paper, which had floated down, hovered suspended a few centimetres above the stage for some time – only to vanish as a blast of air swept away the other pieces of paper.

Conspiracy by The Slovakian Dominik Savkovsky was the one work with a strong narrative and political/social message. Referencing the aliens associated with Roswell, thought control, the dominance of American television the dance combined themes of American popular culture, Elvis Presley, Stepford Wives and hillbilly barn dancing. It was a witty, cleverly constructed work with few pretensions.

Trees Die Standing by Lucas Valente also had a pollical approach, with dancers trying to find appropriate gestures and movements that dealt with notions of climate change.

Mocambo by British choreographer Mathew Knight also referenced popular culture, with a setting in a cabaret/dancehall and various music tracks including Ella Fitzgerald. The work combined classical dance with bebop jazz, along with some echoes of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Klastos by Giulia Tonelli and Melissa Ligurgo was another trio that could have been about the parallel existence of man and the gods as the bodies of the three dancers intersected in couplings, fights and manipulations. The elaborate movement and writhing, which verged on gymnastics, explored imagined structures, their bodies often seeming to respond to some inner forces as though suffering from a variety of Tourette syndrome.

The simplest work was Paint Erase Redo by Michelle Pinelis, which had six dancers cavorting on a huge paint-splattered sheet of canvas. They rolled in paint and covered themselves with it, recalling the gestural body painting of Yves Klein. The dancing was a mixture of the exotic and the erotic and combined careful gestural work with madcap movement.

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