BAM's Next Wave Festival presents a stogie-sucking "Carmen" and an eye-opening side piece, "Solo For Two."
By DAVID BOGOSLAW
Early in this century, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset pondered
the difference between the Mediterranean and Nordic temperaments. His
conclusion: it had to do with the influence of the sun and the quality of light in the south.
The abundance of light, he ventured, predisposed those in the south to
sensual pleasures, while the lack of sun pushed the Nordic peoples to
darker intellectual and psychological probing.
This essential difference between Europe, northern and southern, is
magnificently embodied in the strikingly original choreography of Mats Ek,
in two dance pieces being presented by the Lyon Opera Ballet company as
part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival.
Ek is not one to pull emotional punches and together, "Carmen" and "Solo
for Two" put forth a bold view of sexual intimacy and passion.
|CARMEN / SOLO FOR TWO|
|Choreography by: Mats Ek.|
Directed by: Yorgos Loukos.
Dancers: Maite Cebrian Abad, Yoke Martin, Yuval Pick Marketa Plzakova.
Music by: Bizet, Rodion Shchedrin, Arvo Part.
In "Carmen," Ek vigorously pushes the male-female role reversal between the
sexually free gypsy girl and the marriage-minded soldier Don Jose beyond
safe boundaries, substituting a cigar for the familiar rose between
Carmen's teeth, turning her into one of the boys.
Borrowing a cinematic flashback structure, Carmen begins with Don Jose
facing a firing squad and recalling in the last moments before death his
tempestuous liaison with the gypsy girl who refused to be tamed.
Conspiring in the overall effect are Rodion Shchedrin's freshly-imagined
arrangement of the Carmen suite, which subverts the lush score by
replacing full melodic lines with spare percussive accents, and the
chiaroscuro lighting of Goran Westrup. Maite Cebrian Abad's Carmen (she
shares the role on alternate nights with Yoke Martin) is a veritable
force, robustly feminine even as she usurps the masculine identity of her
lovers. What she can do to men's hearts and libidos with the simple pull
of a red handkerchief is testament to Ek's ability to marry emotional
insight and devilish wit.
As directed by Yorgos Loukos, "Carmen" succeeds in being a Baroque feast for
the senses, pulsing with color and vibrance, even as it strikes dark
noirish poses, suggesting the inner geography of the soul. Yet it is the
enigmatic and austere "Solo for Two" that continues to haunt long after the
evening has ended. "Carmen" has become so familiar through its many ballet
and operatic, cinematic and theatrical incarnations, that it is easy to
forget that at bottom it is about a man and a woman, or a woman and her
men. The emotional drama between man and woman is reduced to its bare
bones in the shorter, and far more Spartan, "Solo for Two," and it is its
very spiritual nakedness that makes us brace in our seats.
Ek's inventive choreography lets us appreciate anew the wonders of what
the human body can be and can do. His dancers suggest plastic toy action
figures, whose limbs may be removed and rearranged in different positions.
"Solo for Two," set to three haunting piano pieces by Estonian composer Arvo
Part, is a moving chamber piece that depicts the profound communication
between man and woman in all its psychological and emotional complexity.
In its relentless probing of the subtleties of the soul, Ek's choreography
reminds one of Ingmar Bergman's disturbing forays into the depths of
Ek comes by his Bergmanian influences honestly. His father, Anders Ek,
was one of the film director's oft-used actors in his theatrical
productions and the younger Ek himself served as Bergman's assistant at
Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theater in the early 1970s. But make no mistake:
Ek's sensibility is his own and it is a witty and droll one to be sure.
The variations on the theme of human beings' quest for spiritual
connection enacted in "Solo for Two" are punctuated by light humorous
touches, delightfully Chaplin-esque in their throwaway matter-of-factness.
The affecting symbiosis that dancers Yuval Pick and Marketa Plzakova
capture owes as much to Ek's irrepressible comic flourishes as it does to
his grand statements of sweeping limbs and torsos across the floor.
One of "Solo's" most eloquent moments comes when the partners disrobe, face
each other nakedly for a moment and then don one another's costumes, the
man slipping into the woman's gray gown, the woman into his blue pajamas.
Their genders switched, the man's formerly angular, masculine movements
give way to more fluid (yes, feminine!) gestures. The rich psychological
shading in the exchange between dancers of garments and colors touches
something deep down, asking us to consider the complex sharing of
and female aspects within one soul, the search for one's emotional
complement becoming that much more urgent.
The set design by Peder Freiij and lighting design of Erik Berglund
complete the portrait and etch the images of "Solo for Two" in the mind.
Mats Ek proves himself a choreographer to watch in years to come.
|OCTOBER 25, 1999|
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