Twe miss you sorely. And less out of selfishness and boredom or the feeling that the kinesthetic sense will soon have fallen asleep more deeply than Sleeping Beauty’s castle behind the hundred-year-old hedge, but rather out of empathy. All singers, musicians, actors, dancers miss performing in front of us, and we while watching miss sharing a space of common aesthetic experiences with them. But maybe it is the hardest for the dancers, especially the young dancers.
Because staying in shape, physically and mentally, is particularly challenging for young dancers in lockdown – just on the ballet bars in the living room, on the banisters and on the floors of their two-room apartments. How are they supposed to grow into roles if there are no performances, no rehearsals, no company trainings with forty sweaty people, in which they also learn by observing others? Where should they practice jumps? In the winter. In a parking lot? How do you keep your stamina when you otherwise train, rehearse, perform and do strength training eight hours a day, not including gyrotonics, physiotherapy and massages?
They are high-performance athletes on their own without competition. Not only do they miss us as spectators, but also their teammates. How can you stay a corps de ballet when you can work with ten colleagues in a “bubble” at best? It is the hardest for dancers also because a full year is so much in their necessarily short athletic careers! They are mostly no more than fifteen years, not thirty or fifty like singers or actors.
Dances by Russell Maliphant, Sharon Eyal and Liam Scarlett
But in Munich there was now – virtually, but what the heck! – finally dance again. This week the Bavarian State Ballet presented the company’s first online premiere. It went largely well in terms of broadcasting and, viewed as an aesthetically programmatic future prospect, left the viewer absolutely euphoric: such good pieces, such excellent dancers in such excellent condition. When this lockdown is over, you should first go to Munich and see this new “Triple Bill” in the National Theater.
Euphoric means as euphoric as you can get alone on your sofa in front of a monitor. Live was also not live as expected, as things are almost inevitably always going differently than expected. If you look back two weeks, you can hardly remember what was allowed and possible and where this huge sign “pandemic” was in front of it and getting ahead was impossible. For the Bavarian State Ballet this meant that it could only record its three-part ballet evening entitled “Paradigm” with fabulous dances by Russell Maliphant, Sharon Eyal and Liam Scarlett on December 18th and only now start the program staatsoper.tv could stream. Shortly before Christmas, the lockdown prevented the live transmission of a performance without an audience, then opera productions were due.
Gasoline and champagne in the blood
It is not for nothing that television still keeps its distance from dance as an art form. It is not easy to film dance in such a way that not everything appears distant and lengthy. Nevertheless – compared to other arts, dance is underrepresented on television to an incomprehensible extent. The Bavarian State Ballet did two things right in this regard. Firstly, thanks to a calm cinematic dramaturgy, the images switch back and forth between close-ups and long shots in an unexcited rhythm. The proximity of the camera is never intrusive, and the change to the long shot always refers to the focus on the formations of the dancers in the room. Second, the three pieces are ideally suited to overcome the virtual distance to the audience.
Russell Maliphant, England’s most prominent contemporary choreographer with a great classical past, created “Broken Fall” in 2003 for Michael Nunn, William Trevitt and superstar Sylvie Guillem. It is a wonderfully flowing meditation in motion, a kind of mixture between contemplative martial arts movements and the most exciting contemporary variations of classic lifts. Someone is constantly leaning on, shifting their weight in order to trigger new impulses in the other, one body grabs, lifts, and throws the other. This looks like Zen magic, but requires stamina like a boxing match and trust like under the big top.
It is an exciting piece, the resumption of which triggers incredible joy and is a good preparation for Sharon Eyal’s “Bedroom Folk”, created in 2015 for the Nederlands Dans Theater, in which eight dance machines dressed in elegant black leotards behave extravagantly to electronic beats by Ori Lichtik . The Israeli Eyal is a very strong voice in contemporary dance: distinctive, but speaks volumes about relationships and intimacy for her generation. “Bedroom folk” is, as the new Munich ballet dramaturge Serge Honegger writes, “dance party, flock of birds, thugs, horse training, madhouse, burnout society, shadow fighting, soldiers’ corps, relaxation exercises, triple march, sandpipers, man-eaters, lovers, strangling angels, mirror fencing , Swan Lake, dancing machines … “Wonderful: Afterwards you have sore muscles, as if you had danced the night away yourself in the club or at the winner’s party after a Formula 1 race, gasoline and champagne in your blood.
Liam Scarlett’s Rachmaninoff dreams, created in 2014 and newly added to the Munich repertoire like “Bedroom Folk”, are of elegiac beauty, but too clever to indulge in reminiscences alone.