LORD OF THE RING
by Donald Hutera
Imagine being whispered to, cradled, stroked by someone you’ve only just met. Could you reach a degree of trust that allows you to listen to a stranger’s heartbeat? Ring, a ritual of respectful intimacy, makes just these proposals. Devised by Compagnie Felix Ruckert, the performance is probably unlike anything you’ve experienced in dance before. Twenty to forty audience members sit in a circle of chairs. Each has a performing counterpart drawn from the city or community in which the show is being staged. This latter group has spent 25 hours learning a half-hour interactive dance which they enact three, maybe four, even up to six times in a row. The ticket-buying public chooses whether to sit in and experience Ring first-hand, or merely watch each thirty-minute loop from the outside. Either way, it’s a fascinating experiment in performer/audience boundary-breaking.
Ring grew out of solos performed before solo audience members which Ruckert, formerly a member of Pina Bausch’s troupe, had made during the past decade. “There came a lot of material which I thought would be even more interesting to see being done by a group for a whole audience,” he says, “so that you met not just one but several dancers.” Rather like life, no? “Ja ja, but in a very concentrated form and done in a very direct way. Usually two-thirds of the audience wants to do the Ring. Some go in, some stay out. Some are coping with their desire: ‘Should I go, or not go?’ People who do it are very often surprised by themselves.”
Ruckert believes the piece underlines the connection between physical relationships and emotion. “Conversation and voice are limited very much to class. The cutting out of verbal interaction means people can communicate in a much wider way.” It’s all set to a live score which Ruckert calls “composed, but flexible.” The music passes through stages
· first playful, then dynamic, and mellow for the fourth loop, if there is one. The next loop is done in silence, and any others are improvised.
On the performance side, appearances can be deceptive. “A lot of people can do it. It doesn’t demand high technical skill. But the better the dancers are with technique, the better they are in The Ring. That’s not a contradiction. It’s about cleanness. It’s touching and personal, but very clean on design and space. If a person is grounded right, you make each member of the audience feel weight, space and time - all the things which dance deals with.”
Ruckert decribes those who audition to be in Ring as “80% dancers, 20% characters. But I need people with dance experience to hold things together. It makes the group a bit more safe and secure. I did it with a young ballet company. They were young, beautiful and all the same height. And they had a very professional attitude. But I like imperfection. I like different people, older, younger. You should be a dancer, but not too clean.”
Ruckert, who comes from a musical family, is approaching his mid-forties. He was educated in Essen, where the training was well-rounded but certainly included the German expressionist style. His stint with Bausch was instructive. “It’s a big opportunity working with her. The people around her have twenty years’ experience. You’re learning from them too. But it was a bit like going back to school again. The atmosphere became much too heavy for me, and I wanted to do my own stuff. I don’t like this German tristesse, but she’s like this.”
WHO: COMPAGNIE FELIX RUCKERT
WHEN: WED 25 ? FRI 27 SEP
WHERE: THE PLACE: ROBIN HOWARD DANCE THEATRE
ON SALE: FROM 17 JUN £5 - £15
TICKETS: 020 7387 0031
This interview was posted by Stuart Sweeney on behalf of Donald Hutera and first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.
Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.
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