Bern Ballet

January 2, 2013

Concerto for Bandoneon
Photo by Ed Rieber

Reviewed by Burkhart Kiel

The Bern Ballet, under the new direction of Félix Duméril, opened its season with two premieres: Concerto for Bandoneon, choreographed by Duméril, and Verklœrte Nacht, choreographed by Stijn Celis. Program One also included one modern almost-classic, The Envelope, choreographed by David Parsons.

Concerto for Bandoneon,
set to music by Astor Piazzola and accompanied live by the young accordionist Michael Zisman, is a dynamic, full-company piece, showcasing the energetic talent of the new ensemble in Bern. The dancers are seen entering while the house lights are still up, gathering portrait-style at the proscenium, gazing down at the orchestra. The curtain goes up, and they push up a scrim that blocks their passage onto the stage-the ensuing dance is dynamic and vigorous, chaotic group sequences gradually melting into unified, shoulder-swinging, structure. A lone graying actor wanders the stage, oblivious to the whirlwind of dance around him. What comment his appearance makes is not clear, but Dumérils’s deconstructed ballet movement is entertaining and compelling to watch.

Duméril’s first choreography as director for the company shows his promise as an emerging choreographic talent in Switzerland.

Verklœrte Nacht
, from Belgian choreographer Stijn Celis, is danced to the music of Arnold Schönberg’s Opus 4. It is an abstract, dramatic piece inspired from a poem by Richard Dehmel (who was an important influence in the work of Schönberg). The poem deals with adultery and pregnancy-and the ability to accept one’s fate. Celis’s dance interpretation is violent, acrobatic, then suprisingly lyrical. The piece starts with the lovely Emma Murray throwing herself wildly into deep backbends, only to recover and repeat the movement in a self-induced, endless cycle of torture. The company joins her, and she is drawn into group movements that soar, roll, twist, and fall in a highly developed dance vocabulary created by Celis. One sees his Belgian roots in the prolific use of floorwork, reminiscent of Belgium’s queen of contemporary dance, Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker. Chantal Claret whipped through Celis’s challenging phrases with astonishing, lighting-quick agility, as did Gildas Diquero, who was brilliant in his execution and musicality. Although sometimes verging on the over-dramatic, Verklœrte Nacht is a piece that becomes increasingly interesting as it progresses, seeming to find its poetry on the way.

The evening closed with David Parsons’s modern work, The Envelope, staged by Jaimé Martinez. Performed with live orchestra, the dancers executed Parson’s insectlike moves with finesse, although sometimes lacking the precise, picture-sharp clarity that is one of the Parsons Company’s trademarks. Making up for it with their well-timed humor, they kept the audience in stitches with Parsons’s clever gags.

All in all, the new, young direction in Bern is a breath of fresh air in the capitol. Félix Duméril is off to a good start.