Sacreis the last in a three-piece programme brought to London by the Berlin-based group Sasha Waltz and Guests; and is undoubtedly the focal point of the evening.
Created in 2013 as part of the centenary celebrations, Sacre is German choreographer Sasha Waltz’s tribute to Stravinsky’s masterpiece, Le Sacre du Printemps, the composer’s evocation of the arrival of Spring in his native Russia.
This is not, however, the gentle Spring of Romantic imagination, but rather a savage eruption of new life marked by violent ritual, brutal sex and finally human sacrifice.
Faced with Stravinsky’s dissonant music, the stridency of its brass and bass, its thumping rhythms and Vaslav Nikinsky’s never-before seen choreography, the audience at the Paris première of the ballet rioted. One century later, well-heeled north London audiences simply don’t riot, even when faced with a work that embodies all the violence of Stravinsky’s score – and then some.
The curtain goes up on a bare stage, where shafts of light are made murky by floating mist. In the middle a mound of earth. Slowly writhing on the ground a couple. A single woman circles the stage ever more frantically, fearful eyes raised to heaven, hands flapping. And then the rest of the company, 26 dancers in total all dressed in earthy colours, gradually join them.
Their interaction is by turns of mutual curiosity, coming together, moving apart; of challenge, with separate groups of men and women facing off; of graphic physical violence, men on women, women on men; thumping, grappling, frenzied. They’re searching for some kind of release; they get it momentarily in a scene of group sex. That is not enough, though, and inexorably they are drawn to the horrifying climax – the ritual sacrífice of the chosen maiden, naked, vulnerable and finally broken.
The first night audience at Sadler’s erupted, not in protest but in rapturous applause and well-deserved cheering.
The first part of the evening couldn’t have presented a greater contrast. Scène D’Amour is a 17-minute pas-de-deux for Romeo and Juliet, choreographed on Berlioz’s romantic score for the tale of the ill-star'd lovers. It portrays the enchantment of first love, and in its delightful choreography there’s something almost animal in the simplicity and innocence of the besotted lovers.
The evening begins with Waltz’s reimagining of Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune, shifting the action from the original forest where a bored faun is entertained by a group of nymphs, to what could be a 1920s beach, where a group of dancers in period swimming costumes play against a cubist-inspired multi-coloured backdrop. It’s not a pleasant afternoon at the beach, though: every seemingly plain movement suggests something undefinably perverse.
Together the three pieces give a very good illustration of the range of Sasha Waltz’s imagination and choreographic language. Her remarkable work, and that of the company she founded in 1993, have earned international recognition and a raft of awards.
Waltz’s visits to London are rare and this programme is one of the highlights of Sadler’s Autumn. It should not be missed.
Contains nudity. No under 5s.
|What||Sasha Waltz & Guests: Sacre, Sadler's Wells|
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
11 Nov 15 – 13 Nov 15, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||click here to book through Sadler's Wells website|