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Bern: Ballett

'Carte Blanche'

by Renee E. D'Aoust

March 3, 2011 7:30pm -- VIDMARhallen, Liebfeld, Switzerland

Swiss Dance Days
Bern, Switzerland
March 3-6, 2011

An international looking company, befitting the capital city of Switzerland, Bern:Ballett has a
pleasing diversity of shapes and colors. There is also cohesive unity that comes, I suspect, from
the Company’s overall direction by Cathy Marston. The partnering work within this company,
especially by men partnering men, is complete with risk and tenderness, a combination not often
seen. For an evening titled “Carte Blanche,” as part of the bi-annual Swiss Dance Days, three
guest choreographers and Marston contributed works.

Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis knows how to fill space by using nuanced movement
that never loses its propulsion. Foniadakis’s “Entering” is less about joining a group and more
about how those groups change. We move effortlessly from a trio to a sextet to a quartet. Three
men move a woman up in the air and down to the floor, crossing the entire stage. Fondiadakis
uses the outstretched fourth position readily, but occasionally the dancers struggle with hitting
the floor in a somewhat flat-footed slap. “Entering” did not return to its starting trio as those who
entered also faded away. All set to music by David Lang, the entering—and leaving—felt like a
natural progression of this physical dance.

Foniadakis’s propulsive skills appear all the more pleasing when set against the oddest work on
the program, “Medea,” by Mark Bruce, a British choreographer. In Bruce’s modern take, Medea
is less the seething, rage-filled woman and more the unwitting accomplice to murder. Bruce’s
Greek chorus is realized as the entire court, but it’s very clear that only a few of these dancers
have been trained in mask work and the effect looks like parody born of sloppy intention rather
than humor born of pathos.

A member of the Bern:Ballett, Erick Guillard’s shivering “Liquidation” did not entirely coalesce,

though the start is there in the contrapuntal twist of one dancer trying to walk in heels. But then
the heels are disbanded and a man breaks the fourth wall by stepping into the audience and
pointing. Nevertheless, the partnering among the male dancers is superlative, and I wonder if
Guillard might, in future, take his focus there where he clearly has stunning sensitivity, rather
than favoring twitching gestures performed against an electronic score, here composed by
Krzysztof Penderecki.

Along with Foniadakis, Cathy Marston’s “wipeDouBt” had the most overt full-bodied dancing.
Marston knows her dancers, and it is wonderful to see the members of Bern:Ballett move
and partner with such tactile grace. Set to a collage of music with shifting dancing sections,
subsequent female solos take the lead, including one thrilling falling section where one woman
leans out and falls. She is caught, but only just in time. The twelve member ensemble eventually
disbands, leaving two dancers standing, far upstage, staring straight at us in a beautiful and
haunting ending.

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