Reviews Performance Published 4 October 2012

Continu

Sadler's Wells ⋄ 28th - 30th September 2012

Body, architecture, re-enactment.

Diana Damian Martin

Unlike the fractured geometry of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker or the lyricism of Pina Bausch, Sasha Waltz’s choreographic language navigates different landscapes. Some are internal, hinging on breaking the momentous expectation of a gesture, and others are more public, flirting with overt representation.

Rhythmically and aesthetically, Continu is concerned with ruptured narratives and continuous, transgressive movement that plays with the natural and the artificial. As a dance piece, it teases re-enactment; Continu is composed of pieces which Waltz choreographed for the opening of two architectural landmarks: the Neues Museum Berlin by David Chipperfield, and MAXXI in Rome by Zaha Hadid.

The soundtrack, an eclectic mix of 20th century music, features Iannis Xenakis, Claude Vivier, Mozart and Varese. It travels over romanticism, fractured compositions and monolithic drumbeats that give the movement on-stage a mythological air, recalling different historical and personal timelines yet displacing any particularity of place.

Despite its engagement with identity politics – represented by a dynamic exploration of solo and group work – Continu engages with notions of space and movement. By deliberately translating geometrical space into a monolithic black panelled box dominating the entirety of the stage, the dancers oscillate between characterful representation and minimalist abstraction. Sound comes and goes, at times invading the rhythms of the choreography, yet the dancers keep moving; silence penetrates the stage, amplifying footsteps that become drumbeats.  The dancers dominate the stage with visual austerity, dressed in beige, navy, black and white costumes, colouring and distorting the space with a range of movement, from extreme vitality through to understated violence.

The piece is warped by the history of its two creative instigators; the MAXXI used to be a former military prison, and the Neues Museum Berlin, built in the 19th century, was heavily damaged by the bombing of Berlin during the Second World War. Although Waltz’s work responds less to the embedded history of the sites, and more to the nature of the newly constructed spaces, these historical juxtapositions are present in Continu, which emerges as a transformation rather than amalgamation of the pieces. Functionality and uniformity form the piece’s general choreographic language, which is then softened by the interventions of the dancers; we observe individuals singled out from the group, which are some of the piece’s most engaging moments. Dancers bring their own character into the embodied choreography presented by Waltz, and what emerges is a distinct range of portraits that act as narrative triggers, but never settle for particularity. Here the body is a mythical and architectural figure.

This diversity of movement, and the choreographic precision which allows Waltz to bring so much of the movement quality of the dancer into her tableaux vivants, is reflected in the make of the company itself. Dancers come from all around the world: China, Italy, Romania, Brasil, Sudan, Japan and Costa Rica, to name a few. This deliberate and careful diversity means the group work is always an entity without cultural precision, and the organised clash of movement qualities and rituals on-stage make Waltz’s work a fascinating piece.

With a stylistic cohesion and thematic disparity, Continu shifts elegantly from an exploration of group politics, to sexuality, to a cynical re-enactment of German history. Given its fragmentation, it takes some time to inhabit, and even so, the thematic disparity at the onset, and the allowance of the music to dictate the tone and rhythm of the movement, make the first half somewhat vague and internal. It’s the final piece that really shines through with momentous and understated choreography, as well as an interesting engagement with the nature of the space itself, which becomes both document and exhibition.

If Continu works best when it navigates precise, embodied abstraction, then it is also an irregular sediment in Waltz’s personal chronology. Despite its gripping dynamism, it inhabits its own parameters tentatively, almost to the point where the initial repetitions exhaust the piece itself. That being said, Continu displays Waltz’ unique choreographic and visual language, and within its constructed juxtapositions, spatial or sonic, it delivers a set of tableaux that are engaging, mythical and political.

 Read Bojana Jankovic’s interview with Sasha Waltz here. 

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Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Continu Show Info


Choreography by Sasha Waltz

Link http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/Sasha-Waltz-and-Guests-Continu

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