Zurich Ballet

October 11, 2007

Zurich Ballet’s Winds in the Void

Esplanade Theatre, Singapore

October 11–12, 2007

Reviewed by Malcolm Tay

Fourteen women sweep across the stage in an undulating column of fanning arms, flicking legs, and stabbing pointe steps, wafting from side to side like tall grass rippling in the breeze. This image was among the more expressive moments in Heinz Spoerli’s full-evening Winds in the Void, which had its Singapore debut at the Esplanade’s da:ns festival. Set to Bach’s second, third, and sixth suites for solo cello, it was made for and performed by the 37-strong Zurich Ballet.

    This 2003 work can be seen as a follow-up to an earlier piece that the Basel-born Spoerli, who has led the Swiss company for 11 years now, had choreographed to Bach’s first, fourth, and fifth solo cello suites. While the elemental force of air may have inspired its birth, the 75-minute ballet doesn’t kick up a tempest but instead catches the elegantly shifting currents of the immortal music, gorgeously played by cellist Claudius Herrmann from the Zurich Opera Orchestra.

    A different color marks each of the plotless work’s three parts, hued in shades of ruby, emerald, and sapphire that are reflected in Spoerli’s silver-trimmed leotards for the cast. Swiss architect Sergio Cavero’s giant ring adorns an otherwise bare stage, gleaming or glowing softly in the background and at times exuding wisps of smoke. Ultimately, it’s the dancers who carry the full dramatic weight of the action: 18 dances, each flowing into the next in a modulating tide of movement.

    The choreography, at its most engaging, pulls and bends its tautly defined lines into unexpected shapes, putting an eccentric spin on largely formal dancing. In one instance, a chorus of red-clad women, acting as a backdrop for two soloists, echoes the score’s restless rhythms in a flurry of angling arms and flashing hands, stirring the space around them.

    The performers are all sharply honed. As if pushed by gusts of wind, they slide on their own momentum; they give the many duets an acrobatic pliancy. Among the lead dancers, sprightly Yen Han and the solidly built Arman Grigoryan stand out. They make every move count. See www.opernhaus.ch/e/ballett.