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Aterballetto's Soirée Stravinsky

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 8 January 2003 - Serge de Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky are buried in the cemetery on the tiny island of San Michele in Venice. Tall evergreens protect the modest stone monument where Diaghilev lies, and a small heap of soft pink leather ballet shoes, some almost new, pay silent tribute to him. Though separated in life by forty years, Stravinsky's marble tomb-stone, littered with freshly cut flowers, is only a couple of meters away. Their influence on dance in their lifetime was enormous; the inspiration they give today is even greater.

"I've carried Serge de Diaghilev, Stravinsky, and the whole extraordinary adventure of the Ballets Russes in my heart since birth", Mauro Bigonzetti, the dynamic artistic director/choreographer of Aterballetto, Italy's foremost contemporary dance troupe, told me after his recent Soirée Stravinsky at the Théatre de St-Quentin en Yvelines near Paris. "Stravinsky 's music is phenomenal; he's every young choreographer's papa, 'he added. "I grew up with the music fromFirebird, the work which marked the beginning of Stravinsky's collaboration with the Ballets Russes, and was the first ballet score I ever heard, and then I dreamed of staging works inspired by Noces "and "Petrouchka. He created both pieces of music for Les Ballets Russes, and it was because they are so diametrically different in their ways of dealing with violence and love that I wanted to put them on the same programme."

les Noces
Aterballetto in Les Noces
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
© Photos: Iguana Press/Raffaella Cavalieri

Les Noces, which has inspired countless choreographers since Nijinska's staging in 1923, is about submission, order and discipline. It is basically very static, in black and white, and deals with the relationship of a bride and bridegroom who are merely objects at the mercy of society. Duty and habit replace feeling and love.

The work opens with seven women in black velvet tops and full-length, diagonally cut black pleated cotton skirts on one side of a long high table. The eighth woman, the bride, is in white. The men face them, also clad in black apart from the groom who wears a white waistcoat. All rock rhythmically, frenetically on strange metal stools, then fling the structures in every direction with strong, acrobatic movements, jumping on and off the central platform in groups of twos and threes. More theatrical and obsessive than passionate, it is nerve-wracking. The tension rises.

The hands and feet of the nuptial pair gesticulate in the air recalling the limbs of the physically handicapped as they express their frustration, and then, using softer but similar movements, a second couple emerges in a fascinating pas de deux.

les Noces
Aterballetto in Les Noces
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
© Photos: Iguana Press/Raffaella Cavalieri


In contrast, Petrouchka, personifies disorder and revolt, and the attempted suppression of the free-thinker.


The Russian Harlequin of Fokine's version becomes a young marginal clad in camouflage army pants and black Tee shirt. He is in love with the ballerina, a short-skirted, hard-hearted Barbie doll in knee-high white leather boots, who prefers the Moor. A strange foursome, caricatures of fascist policemen (one is a woman), shadow Petrouchka, and beat him up from time to time, even stamping on his fingertips as he sidles along the ground in an effort to avoid them. This is terror more than order. They drag him unresistingly across the floor in front of an impassive crowd.


Set in a clothes shop, the decor, an integral part of the work, is an explosion of colour. Garments in every shade of red, crimson, scarlet, and orange hang on moveable metal supports which are shunted around as the action unfolds. Rails are crammed with clothes in blue, in violet and sapphire which jostle with those in green, jade and emerald. The yellows dance behind.

Petrouchka
Aterballetto in Petrouchka
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
© Photos: Iguana Press/Raffaella Cavalieri

The choreography for Petrushka, brilliantly interpreted by Thibaut Cherradi is innovative and highly expressive, particularly towards the end where, in a series of remarkable leaps, he loses his pony-tailed Barbie to the Moor. The faces of the corps de ballet, indifferent to his fate, peer grotesquely through the racks of clothes which form a semi-circle round the stage.

What is interesting with this young company, founded barely twenty years ago, and where the average age cannot be more than twenty-five, is the homogeneity achieved despite the varying backgrounds and training. Moreover, Bigonzetti has succeeded in giving them an identity of their own, combining their strong classical base with a contemporary language where Italian warmth and sensuality prevails.


Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.

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