Ballettissimo, Contrasts in Choreography
The Czech National Ballet’s Artistic Director Petr Zuska opened the Mar 6 premiere on a classical note.
He presented selected movements from his Symphony No. 1 in D Major by Gustav Mahler.
The dancers flowed from the wings in a constant stream of pairs and groups.
The ladies curved in soft C-shapes to the melodic oboe, and light-hearted lads full of personality leapt, turned, and shrugged to each other.
The choreography maintained a constant focus towards stage right (the audience’s left) while simple lighting in shades of blue and violet softened the scenery-free background.
Dance with Italian StyleAfter a short intermission, Italian-born choreographer Jacopo Godani’s Reflections on the Fate of Human Forms changed the mood entirely.
Eight dancers, dressed androgynously in black briefs and nude tops, writhed with movement normally reserved for snake-charming scenes.
A backdrop of black curtains kept the focus on their bodies as they slid through contractions and inverted extensions with widely splayed fingers.
German composers 48nord provided an electronic soundtrack of strings and drums, giving the number a feeling of an after-hours ballet class held in a European nightclub.
Even the curtain call broke the traditional mold, with each dancer bowing individually, and two of the male dancers racing forward to toss their flower bouquets into the audience.
Back to Beethoven
Neo-classicism regained control of the stage in Act III with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major created by the late German choreographer Uwe Scholz. Part I was light and lifted, with the dancers racing to cram every arabesque and split into the fast-paced tempo. Part II exemplified control, with one foot sliding slowly up the leg to passé and every extended arm seemingly fighting to return to center.
Part III searched for balance, the dramatic crescendos marked by the stillness, not movement, of the dancers holding hands in a semi-circle in the center of the stage. Part IV reached a celebratory blend of joy and precision, marked by an ambitious sequence of assisted fouette turns repeated by a talented pair of soloists and a packed stage of dancers.
Balletissimo demonstrates how the art of ballet remains relevant, by maintaining a strong hold on tradition while cautiously welcoming modern influences – a philosophy that may sound quite familiar both to dancers and to Czech audiences.
The next performances of The Czech National Ballet’s Ballettissimo are Mar 18, Apr 11, and May 9 at The State Opera.
– Auburn Scallon, Opus Osm writer
Photo Credits: Czech National Ballet, Hana Smejkalová