CriticalDance Forum

Bern Ballett
Page 1 of 1

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu May 26, 2011 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Bern Ballett

Bern Ballett performs two works at Covent Garden's Linbury Studio Theatre: artistic director Cathy Marston's "Clara" and Andrea Millar's "Howl," May 25-28, 2011.

Neil Norman in The Stage.

The Stage

Judith Mackrell in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Sarah Frater in The Evening Standard.

The Evening Standard

Author:  David [ Sun May 29, 2011 4:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bern Ballett

Bern Ballett
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London; May 26, 2011

David Mead

Emotions run deep through Cathy Marston’s “CLARA”. The problem for composer and noted pianist Clara Wieck-Schumann was that she always seemed to be being pulled different directions. She had a difficult relationship with her domineering father, renowned piano teacher Friedrich Wieck, who was determined she should devote herself wholly to becoming a virtuoso.

Clara escaped when she fell passionately in love with Robert Schumann, who she subsequently married, although only after going through the courts, her father persistently refusing permission. Weick was later to suffer from depression and was committed to an asylum after attempting suicide. By then, a young Johannes Brahms had arrived on the scene. He idolised Schumann, but also fell in love with Clara. Whether their relationship ever went beyond friendship is ambiguous, although Marston’s ballet suggests it did. Add in the wonderful piano music of all three and you have all the ingredients for a striking narrative ballet.

As in “Wuthering Heights” and “Juliet and Romeo”, though, Marston avoids a straightforward narrative preferring to look for different angles as she explores the relationships and emotions of the principal characters. As in those earlier works her focus is very much in the woman in the story.

Tsai Hui-chen gave an expressive interpretation of a strong yet vulnerable Clara. The work starts with her standing alongside the piano, the one place, perhaps, where she felt safe and where she could escape what the fates had in store for her. Very quickly, though, her love and suffering are uncovered for all to see. The best dance comes when Marston gets all intimate and closes in on a couple. There are some forceful duets for Clara and her father, and Clara and Schumann, in which the dance swings from surprising and quick to languid and full of tender caresses. With Schumann, danced by the powerful Erick Guillard, there was the sense that sex was never far away.

The rest of the company amplify the emotions of the main characters and that inherent in the music. Several motifs recur and make reference to the piano. The dancers’ arms frequently curve as if playing the instrument, while the ensemble often forms up as a barrier between the couples or dances in a way suggestive of piano keys.

It was all most absorbing even if, especially for those more used to traditional ballet narrative, Marston’s approach sometimes results in a lack of clarity. It is true that, Clara apart, it is not always clear who is who, or the meaning behind individual scenes, but then straightforward storytelling was never the aim.

The music, a selection of ten piano works by Clara, Schumann and Brahms was played excellently by Sonja Lohmiller, accompanied by baritone Benoît Capt.

“Howl” by guest choreographer and director of New York City-based Gallim Dance Andrea Miller could not have been more different. Inspired by an installation in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Chinese artist Cai Guo-qiang that shows a pack of wolves running together before crashing into a wall, Miller considers ideas of group pressure, inevitability and the loss of individual identity. It’s a good job the programme said that, because I’m far from convinced anyone would have guessed.

Dressed in white costumes that looked like straightjackets and white skull caps the dancers looked like escapees from some old-style mental institution. There was bedlam in other ways too, the choreography including much rushing round the stage in a group before collapsing into a pile of bodies. Whatever they did, whatever happened there is always a grin. They had indeed lost individual control. It might have been packed with energy, even with the odd innovative or occasional disturbing moment, but it quickly all became deeply tiresome. In her four years in Switzerland Marston has transformed Bern Ballett into an excellent company; unfortunate then that "Howl" does not even come close to showing the dancers at their best.

Author:  David [ Sun May 26, 2013 8:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bern Ballett

Witch-hunt (Hexenhatz)
Ballett Bern
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London; May 22, 2013

David Mead

Clemmie Sveass and Franklyn Lee in Hexenhatz. photo Philipp Zinniker.jpg
Clemmie Sveass and Franklyn Lee in Hexenhatz. photo Philipp Zinniker.jpg [ 25.43 KiB | Viewed 4507 times ]

Six years have passed since Marston’s “Firebird”, her debut work as ballet director in Bern. Differences over artistic direction with the new Konzert Theater director, Stephan Märki, have led to a parting of the ways, and she will be leaving the company at the end of this season. “Witch-hunt”, or “Hexenhatz” to give it its rather more evocative German title, is some going away piece, though. It is not often that a work hits you so hard that you are still about it and the issues it raises days afterwards, but that is what happened here.

As she tells the story of Anna Göldi, the last person in Europe executed for witchcraft, Marston raises some important questions. More and more, we read of people today apologising for the actions of people past, sometimes people in the distant past. There are calls for people convicted of crimes, sometimes of things that were crimes at the time but that are no longer so, to be pardoned. We judge yesterday’s events only in today’s context. But as the adult Annamiggeli Tschudi, portrayed here by actress Mona Kloos, tells us as she sits in a bleak asylum, “You can’t undo what has been done. The dead are done.”

Annamiggeli died in 1810 in the Polish Ukraine, but 79 years earlier, aged just eight, she was allegedly bewitched by Anna, the family maid. The family had previously discovered needles in their daughter’s milk, and believing that Anna was responsible, dismissed her. Soon afterwards, the youngster began vomiting needles and became lame. The maid was hunted down and told to cure the girl. She achieved a certain amount of success. It was to be her death sentence.

Five years ago, Anna was officially exonerated. Now there are books, a film, and a museum about her, and a human rights prize carries her name. But if she was innocent, what does that make the other players in the story? Does that make Annamiggeli guilty, at the very least of false testimony? And if so, why did she do it? And what of the rest of her family and the people of Glarus where they lived?

In Marston’s dance drama, the grown-up and straightjacketed Annamiggeli is haunted by her past and tries to reconcile what happened. Often seen with incriminating glass of milk in hand, her thoughts and events are illustrated by the dancers. Far from getting in the way of the dance, Edward Kemp’s monologue adds layers of meaning and is employed effectively. The confusion and pain in Annamiggeli’s mind is clear for all to see, and given added force when exclamations are repeated in English, and then most powerfully in German.

Marston takes us through her memories three times, presenting events from her mother’s, her father’s and Anna’s viewpoints, each time cleverly making connections through repeated selections from the choreography. With each telling, Marston digs deeper and slowly edges towards, as she sees it, the family’s hidden secret that lies at the heart of events: the relationship between Dr. Johann Tschudi, Annamiggeli’s father, and Anna.

Clemmie Sveaas was forceful as Anna, the only innocent in the story. She is bright and loose-limbed, in contrast to the rest of the family, especially the cold, neurotic, unlovable and unloving mother, danced by Martina Langmann. Paula Alonso was convincing as the lonely child seeking affection. During her dance she frequently freezes in a foetal position. A duet with Sveaas is happy and moving.

Scenes slowly gain in intensity. The final relating of events includes a powerful duet between Anna and the Annamiggeli’s father that illustrates well their erotic relationship. The dance here is breathless, energetic and free. When the youngster finds out about the affair, it is easy to understand how she could see it wrecking the family, and why she should set out to destroy the maid. “She was not one of us”, the adult Annamiggeli says in justification.

The ensemble take on the roles of asylum staff, the rest of the family and the people of the community as Annamiggeli seeks the truth, or at least her truth, of what happened. In contrast to the lead characters, their choreography is always formal, and occasionally even militaristic.

Scenes are illuminated beautifully. The dance space is defined by Jann Messerli’s simple yet ingenious metal framework set that is moved by the dancers to represent asylum, home or town. Equally potent are noted Swiss dance designer Catherine Voeffray’s white costumes that add to the timeless air. They sometimes give events an appropriately ghostly feel, while at others they make the ensemble look like asylum staff. Combined with Bernhard Bieri’s atmospheric lighting, the opening is especially hypnotic; the designs really do help transport you into Annamiggeli’s memories. The music is of the period, primarily Vivaldi, but with contributions also from Tartini, Albicastro and Albinoni.

Cleverly, Marston leaves just enough unsaid to keep us doubting right to the end. Her approach makes the audience work a little, but the effort is worthwhile. Story-telling through contemporary dance is unusual. It would be nice to think that Marston would be attracted to return to the UK, although I fear her style may not be entirely to British tastes. Still, dance-makers of her class are few and far between, and surely she will be in demand soon, if not already.

Author:  David [ Sun May 26, 2013 8:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bern Ballett

Anyone interested to read more about Anna Göldi’s story might care to look at (German only)

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 7 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group