In the relaxed temporal limbo between Christmas and the New Year celebrations, when you have lost track of the days of the week and end up in the theatre on a Monday thinking it is Saturday the Berlin State Ballet Company is performing, brilliantly providing a tight schedule of three different programmes. Under the directorship of Nacho Duato for the second season, the company shows, in the Duato | Kylián programmes samples of this new artistic direction. Duato is a vastly experienced dancer (among others for Kylián at NDT) and choreographer, and he has been Artistic Director of the Compañía Nacional de Danza and the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

<i>Static Time</i> © Fernando Marcos
Static Time
© Fernando Marcos

The evening opener, Static Time, which premiered earlier this year, is Duato’s newest creation and his first piece for the Staatsballett. Danced by eight performers on music by WA Mozart, Sergej Rachmaninow, Franz Schubert, Pedro Alcalde and Sergio Caballero it deals with the experience of time. The main figure, a lonely man in white trousers, has a love and hate relationship with his alter ego (in dark blue trousers and a violet t-shirt). Their actions are commented by a chorus made up of two trios of dancers also in dark blue and violet costumes. At the back towers a black rotating sculpture made of three rectangular panels that move separately. At first it composes a black wall that then slowly opens cutting the scene at shoulder height. Despite the close work with the company, the dance is weak: the theme is only clear because of the title, there is no obvious relation with the music or great lighting to empathize scenes or movements. It gave me the impression of a nervous person wanting to say too much in too little time and ends up stumbling upon words without a meaning, this beside the fact that none of the floor work – most of the dance – could be seen.

<i>Click-Pause-Silence</i> © Fernando Marcos
Click-Pause-Silence
© Fernando Marcos
A minimal interpretation on the theme of time (and space) is also Click-Pause-Silence (2000) by Jiří Kylián, which enters the company's repertoire. Four dancers, three men and one woman, in bright colours – blue, green, red and violet – dance on music by Dirk Haubrich and JS Bach. At first they move alone, one by one, in their own portion of the stage then interact with each other. The dance presents Kylián’s typical fluid choreographic concatenations with plenty of attention on how the partner is touched and on the dynamics of the movements. Characteristic are the sections in which the sound increases until it peaks clicking and the dancers freeze into a posture for long time. The woman is of course the favourite partner and is lifted and dragged around the stage by all three men. In the background are a white screen and a lit television set of which we cannot see the image. Slowly the screen is lifted disclosing a mirror upon which are reflected sections of the rehearsal shown on the television screen. As the mirror and the television start rotating in different directions we are allowed an interesting perspective, almost as if from the wings, on the performers.

The evening ended with Duato’s White Darkness. First presented in 2001 by the Compañía Nacional de Danza, it is danced by a main couple and a group of four minor ones on music by Karl Jenkins. The main couple's virtuoso parts depict a tormented relationship trapped in time as the sand flowing from the ceiling and in their hands suggest.

<i>White Darkness</i> © Fernando Marcos
White Darkness
© Fernando Marcos
This also stands for the woman's drug abuse that costs her her life: in the end she stands slowly submersed by a shower of sand. The group dances greatly complicated canon sections in front of an interesting background formed by a pleated black curtain that opens and closes resembling hanging bats. The movements are more fluid than in the first piece with a close relation to the music. There are also many parallels with Kylián in the movement material, approach to music and lighting design. At a certain moment the corps de ballet men each have a short solo in a rectangle of white light that closely resembles the stage design of Kylián’s Falling Angels (1989). Still, it lacks Kylián’s ‘pause’ as no sooner a poetic image is developed that it is destroyed by the dancers of the next section impending in the scene.

In general, it was an enjoyable evening of great dancing ; the Staatsballett has some very fine dancers who had to master a new repertory. I was also very impressed by the background objects in the Duato’s pieces; with the shower of sand ending White Darkness makes for a beautiful image. I am less convinced that the dances really occasioned a reflection on time in the audience as announced in the programme. Despite all, the transition to the new artistic director can be considered completed and successful.

***11