On October 8th I attended a performance of Heinz Spoerli's "Goldberg Variations" by the Zürich Ballet at the Maison de la Danse in Lyon.
The Maison de la Danse is the only French theater scheduling only dance performances, but unfortunately ballet performances only are a small part of it- so an opportunity to see a ballet company in a ballet work was not to be missed... I didn't know what to expect, having never seen that company before, nor any choreography of Spoerli (he is not well known in France- the POB used to perform its version of "La fille mal gardée" in the early 1980s, but as far as I know it hasn't been performed for more than 20 years), and it turned out to be a very pleasant evening. It was an abstract ballet for about 32 dancers in leotards, performed on a bare stage (the only changes were the colors of the leotard and of the backdrop, and the lights) and the music was played by the pianist Luigi Largo in the orchestra pit.
I regret not having had another opportunity to see that work to understand it better, but on the whole I found it very interesting (and not at all monotonous)... Spoerli uses a clearly classical vocabulary, with a few modern dance movements, but it is hard for me to compare his style to that of another choreographer (perhaps Kylian, but more balletic, or Neumeier, but more musical). The structure of the ballet reminded me of "Dances at a gathering", with a succession of solos, pas de deux, pas de trois, etc. (and only a few sequences with a larger corps de ballet). I especially enjoyed some of the female solos, musical and witty. It is difficult to single out any of the dancers, as I don't know who danced what and also there were no "major" roles, but from what I saw the company seemed to have a good level, with a clean technique, nice ballet bodies and also a real commitment to the choreography. The audience was very enthusiastic at the end of the performance (and the pianist got his share of applauses too).
Actually I find it a bit surprising (and sad) that Spoerli isn't better known in France (his works seem to be performed mostly in German-speaking countries), as he has had a long creative career, choreographing since the early 1970s, both story and abstract ballets. (Well, unfortunately, the POB's direction seems more interested nowadays to invite fashionable modern dance choreographers rather than paying any attention to ballet choreographers working only a few hundred kilometers away...) Anyway, I hope that the Maison de la Dance will invite the Zürich Ballet again in the next seasons...
By the way, perhaps it'd deserve a thread of its own, but I wonder what Robbins' version of "The Goldberg Variations" looks like (and also whether some other choreographies of this piece exist).
Zürich Ballet in Lyon, Oct 8, 2005
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