Lyon Opera Ballet’s Trois Grandes Fugues “spectacular, exceptional, riveting”

Lyon Opera Ballet's Trois Grandes Fugues. Photo Bernard Stofleth

Three spectacular choreographies set to the same Beethoven’s music, Grande Fugue op. 133, created by three acclaimed female dance makers.

All works are exceptional in delivering a riveting experience where each interpretation is peculiar and serves as expression of the choreographer’s movement vocabulary and style.

Grasping the essential complexity of the score, Childs, De Keersmaeker and Marin, offer the audience a hard-hitting variation of pure dance pieces celebrating the outstanding versatility of the dancers of Lyon Opera Ballet.

The performance starts with Lucinda Childs’ extremely detailed and precise work. An adorned silver cage stands out projecting its shadow to the backdrop while twelve dancers, wearing grey body tights, execute graceful dance sequences marked by wide arms and stretched legs, small jumps and supported lifts, in a composition that draws from a classical style.

Their bodies are perfectly aligned and move in synchronicity with exquisite control – a triumph of arabesques unfolds and recurs throughout the performance. Duets intersect in diagonals, leaning and pushing away from each other, shifting in rigorous patterns and gliding with sublime elegance.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s response is completely different. The explosive relentless energy emerging from this work is simply stunning. The idea of bringing to the stage six men and two women, all wearing dark suits and white shirts, comes from De Keermaeker’s intention to write a masculine vocabulary, in a sort of exploration of gender identity.

Her signature movement style echoes in the use of structured phrases and repetitive fluid patterns, with linear movements, high jumps and straight cutting arms, recurring over and over. It is a fast-paced choreography of lifting and sinking, filled with cheerful tension. Complex footwork alternates with slower floor sequences of rolling and crawling; one particular section sees the dancers lying on the floor aligned at the front of the stage dragging their arms and hands in canon.

Maguy Marin’s Grosse Fugue is a tremendously potent image of four women fighting against an imminent nervous breakdown, managing to hold on together till the end. Their running around the stage in a confused state of mind is magnified by the bright red colour of their clothes and a series of tense jittery gestures with dramatic expressions.

The movement is irrational and raw, sometimes ugly and graceless, a stunning vortex of dance with curved spines, loose heads and stretched limbs. This dramatic and hard-hitting showcase of human emotions resonates well with the irrationality of the score, which rhythmically induces a sense of desperate battle.

Even if listening to the same piece of music for three times in a row might be a bit repetitive, the overall show is a brilliant variation of different dance styles and personalities, that goes from a very technical and rigorous execution to an exhilarating expression of feelings.

Photos by Bernard Stofleth

Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells on 19 October by Francesca Marotto.