Thursday, April 17th was the first night of performances. It was a wonderful night full of energy and expectations.
The curtains opened to Elephant in a Black Box from Spain danced Nacho Duato’s Remanso. The dancers included Isaac Monllor, Lucio Vidal, and Jean-Phillipe Dury. Jean-Phillipe founded the company in 2013. I have to say that I really love the name Elephant in a Black Box; I don’t know if there is anything behind the name but it’s great! I’ve seen Remanso before and I thought it was cute but not much more. The EBB dancers added an element of energy and edge that made the choreography stand out in a completely new way. They actually managed to take the choreography from cute and move it to whimsical and interesting. Much love to EBB.
The lights come up just enough to give the audience a chance to look at their programs. This is really helpful because with such an expansive line up, it’s just impossible to keep a mental scorecard of what’s next. So we can see that dancers Ida Praetorius (loving her name!) and Andreas Kaas of the Royal Danish Ballet are dancing next. I’m really excited to see that it’s an August Bournonville piece because I just have not seen enough Bournonville in person and I’m always thrilled to get to see the real classical Danish Bournonville school in action. The work is a pdd of Kermessen i Brugge and it is just the most adorable bit of classical ballet you have ever seen. The jumps are gorgeous, the feet crisp – Andreas has arches that make you drool and then die – and the pdd is actually a whole little romantic vignette captured in one little pas de deux. This is the only piece of classical ballet in the whole program and I’m a grateful for it. Not that I don’t love the variety but ballet is my deep and abiding love in dance and I always want to see it represented true and well. Indeed, Royal Danish did just that.
It’s interesting that when Manuel Legris dances, he is still listed as being from Paris Opera Ballet even though he retired in 2009. He has danced with the company that he now leads, Vienna State Ballet, but I guess being an Etoile of POB, even retired, is how he is identified or how he identifies himself? Manuel and Laetitia Pujol danced the final pdd from John Neumeier’s Sylvia. I know there are mixed feelings about this contemporary version of Sylvia but I really like it. I think it is quite clever and there are bits of choreographic genius in all Neumeier’s work. I do wonder about the pdd as a stand alone piece though because if you haven’t seen the whole thing or don’t know the story, I’m not sure that it makes perfect sense but it is a pdd that Manuel dances often at galas, including his own. And each time I’ve seen it, I am mesmerized by the beauty and heartbreak of a chance at love forever lost. If Manuel Legris threw himself to the floor at my feet, you can be sure, I would not be walking away!
BeijingDance/LDTX may have the coolest name of any dance company anywhere! LDTX stands for Lei Dong Tian Xia which literally translates to Thunder Rumbles Under Heaven. This is a small but formative company of 12 dancers under the artistic direction of Willy Tsao who is China’s biggest wheel in modern dance. The piece is called Treading on Grass and it is luscious in big movement; the entire stage is alight with dancers, there seem to be more than 12! There is so much going on that it borders almost too much; it sits at that delicious place where your brain is almost overwhelmed with amazement, like a double rainbow or a purple sunset, a whole lot for your eyes and brain to take in but you are happy for it.
A big, big act takes us in to intermission – Contemporary KungFu Dance Company. Kungfu and dancing is so much YES! I just can’t even… the company was created in 2006 by non other than Jackie Chan. It would be a mistake to think that KungFu Dance is all flash and show; it is beautiful martial arts technique danced full-out to cinematically, expansive music. It is a show piece but it’s also culture, wonder, and passion.
The Wortham Center has a large lobby area upstairs from the orchestra section. There is a small bar that has a limited selection of alcohol, soda, water, and nibbles. It’s a really nice space to talk about the performance with friends, even new ones. The Dance Salad is the kind of event where your neighbors are very friendly and even for a person with limited socializing skills like myself, I met lots of wonderful people who parted the evening with “see you at next year’s salad!”
Act II opens up with Beijing Dance/LDTX again, they are dancing a piece choreographed by Li Hanzhong and Ma Bo. It’s almost impossible to describe this dance such is the depth of sorrow and incredible beauty. The dance is an ode to the agony that is part of human existence. The dancers fight against the pain and suffering of death but of course, the fragility of humanity wins. It’s a gorgeous and heartbreaking performance. I am love with this company and with this choreography.
When the lights come up, the curtain open to a gathering of doctors coats on hangers that rise up above the dancers of Staatstheater Wiesbaden Ballet. A piece called Loops and Lines choreographed by Stephan Thoss is offered. Sometimes I make notes when I watch performances, mostly a few words or phrases to be reminders when I want to write about it later. My notes for this dance are as follows: crotch, crotch, a lot of crotch. Not my favorite bit and I have to say that sometimes I get tired of too much crotch being thrust at my face. Maybe it’s just me.
Or maybe it’s because Lines and Loops is standing in between me and the second performance of the night by Manuel Legris. This time it is the kissing pdd from Angelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc. I enjoy Le Parc a great deal and I think this pdd is one of the most romantic and sexy pdds I have ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. If you’ve never seen this ballet there is a DVD by POB that I recommend. It isn’t Manuel Legris but you can imagine it’s him, that’s what I do. This is the first time I’ve seen Laetitia Pujol dance this role. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Aurelie Dupont a few times and always loved it. Amazingly I think I liked Laetitia even more. This pdd is the development of romantic and sexual love – from encounter, resistance, conquest, to consummation. Laetitia gave more, her submission to love was complete, and her rapture consuming. I loved her. It was breathtaking.
The finale for the night and every night to follow was a tango piece choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who doesn’t normally choreograph tango and doesn’t speak Spanish so that must have been an interesting process! This was the only piece that had live music – four incredibly talented musicians. The accumulation of tango dancers were made up of world champion dancers with crazy accomplishments in tango. They were very, very good. Tango isn’t my thing at all. The reality is that it just doesn’t do anything for me emotionally nor intellectually. And 30 plus minutes of tango is a lot if you aren’t crazy about it. But I will say that I was fairly well entertained the first night and I would still recommend this performance to anyone because I think it’s good for dancers and dance fans to see things outside of our regular range of taste.
What a wonderful and fantastic way to start a dance festival! I’ve had a great evening, I love it when a dance performance leaves you both exhausted and filled with happy energy! And there are two more performances to go 🙂
**All photographs belong to The Dance Salad http://www.dancesalad.org/gallery.html