Friday, 8 May 2020

Ballet in Lockdown

Standard YouTube Licence

Dutch National Ballet Ballet connects dancers in lockdown 21 April 2020 YouTube
This is the first new ballet that I have reviewed since lockdown.  It is on screen rather than a stage but it is fresh, relevant and eloquent.  It expresses the anxiety, frustration, isolation and tedium that each of us suffers whether artist or audience member during these miserable times.

Ballet in Lockdown is a very short work to the music of a Rotterdam band called Di-rect. The track is "Hold on" which Di-rect recorded about ten years ago.  It is certainly appropriate now.   As it is on YouTube I shall let my readers discover it for themselves.   All I will say is that the film begins with solitary dancers in their homes wearing expressions that are the epitome of gloom.  One by one they begin to bourée, to stretch, to turn, to lean or press against their walls as though in adjoining rooms.  Icons of the individual dancers are assembled in gallery view.  The very last frame of the dancers erect, facing the camera, their arms outstretched, their hands held high expresses hope and promise. An assurance that this plague will one day end,  If we only hold on,   I was moved by this piece.  I have played it several times.  Each time I have noticed something new.  It is a gem that deserves preservation.  I would love to see its transposition to a stage if that can be done.

This work was created by Milena Siderova who has an impressive portfolio of work. I had previously seen and admired Full Moon which she had created for Bert Engelen when he was in the Junior Company and Withdrawn for the company's New Moves in 2017, Full Moon was about those nights when it is hard to sleep where the bedclothes seem to have minds of their own, In that piece,  Engelen struggled with his pillow to the music of Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights.  Withdrawn was more reflective.  In my review I wrote:
"The finale was Milena Siderova's Withdrawn. Siderova had created Full Moon for Bart Engelen who is now with the Norwegian Ballet........... I expected much from her next work and I think that we got it. Withdrawn was a work for 10 dancers to the music of Emilie Satt's Butterfly. It appears to have been inspired by a passage from Carol Becker's essay Thinking in Place, Art, Action and Cultural Protection of a dystopian future in which human social interaction is replaced by the interaction of electronic devices. Each of the dancers carried a torch which I guess was reminiscent of the screen of a mobile phone. They seemed to wander in a sort of limber rather like the lost souls in surgical gowns in Tran-Phat's In Limbo that launched the show."
A work from her repertoire that I have never seen but would very much like to is The Spider which she crested in 2011.  Her observation of the animal's movements and behaviour is knife-sharp. Their translation into dance is the best I have seen  Petipa's Puss in Boots and White Cat duet in the last act of The Sleeping Beauty.

I wish more companies could attempt something like this.  Video streams of past performances are all very well but they lack something.  In another article, I compared it recently to encountering a stuffed animal in a museum.  Better than nothing I suppose but there is no life to it.

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