Saturday, 25 April 2015

Scottish Ballet, 24/04/2015

Exalt (Marc Brew, choreography; Nils Frahm, music)
5 Tangos (Hans van Manen, choreography; Astor Piazzolla, music)

Artists of Scottish Ballet
Indepen-dance 4
(pre-recorded soundtracks)

Indepen-dance is a physically integrated dance project for variously abled dancers of all types, while Indepen-dance 4 is their "touring" arm, so to speak, four of the project members specifically chosen for their performance abilities.  The first item on tonight's double-bill saw this quartet joining with the company of Scottish Ballet as a unified group to perform a new work by Australian choreographer Marc Brew.

The title, Exalt, perhaps suggests something a little more emphatic than what we got, but  Brew's vision of an integrated company, with the Indepen-dance members barely distinguishable from their colleagues, was a persuasive one.  A study in collaboration, a lesson in trust, a gentle, almost lyrical, but persistent pushing of boundaries, all of these could be applied to what was seen on stage tonight.  Set to a largely electronic score by German composer Nils Frahm, the company appeared together, with soloists stepping out from the collective, and in varying smaller groups and partnerings, exploiting the stage space to the full,  as well as some of the vertical possibilities of four tall ladders reaching up to the flies, with one pattern making way seamlessly for the next.  This was a serene experience, always interesting, and a strong message about possibilities.

The second half was devoted to one of the gems of modern ballet, Hans van Manen's sleek and sexy 5 Tangos.  Originally created in 1977 for the Dutch National Ballet, of which he was director at the time, van Manen had picked up on the rise in popularity in Europe of the Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla.  Although Piazzolla had been writing since the 50s, it was in the 70s that he returned to Europe on tour, and finally attracted the attention of a wider public, while at the same time his writing, or at least his scoring, became as avant-garde as it was ever to get.  The highly distinctive sound of Piazzolla's music, its almost acidic orchestration contrasting with the sweet melancholy of his melodic lines, provided van Manen with a superb platform for his evocation of the world of the Argentine tango, the crisp precision of pure classical technique and geometric patterning subtly subverted by the sharp modernism of both the steps and the look of the ballet.  It is a sublimation of the tango, rather than an emulation of it, and an undoubted masterpiece.

The piece demands meticulous exactitude from its seven couples, and for the most part, we got that.  Luciana Ravizzi radiated a kind of elegant, mild indulgence for the second tango, where the principal female dancer is the queen bee, surrounded by six adoring swains, when I've seen it performed with cool hauteur, but she doesn't have the look for that, and wisely chose a different approach.  Her partner, Victor Zarallo, burst on stage like a firecracker for "Vayamos al Diablo", though I'd have liked to see a touch more sheer machismo in his presentation.  However, the two couples for the marvellous, Bach-inspired 4th tango, "Resurreccíon del Angel", were excellent, the men intensely and darkly focused on each other until their girls showed up to diffuse the tensions somewhat, and the final ensemble rounded off the evening on a suitably smouldering note.

[Next : 25th April]

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