With its rhythmic vitality and shifting tempi, Stravinsky’s
music seems naturally geared towards dance. It was possibly for
these reasons that Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián
chose two of the composer’s works for ballet treatment.
Although not strictly a ballet, the ‘dance cantata’ Les
was composed with stage performance in mind, and was
originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. In this version
- The Wedding), Kylián shies
away from a literal narrative concerning the preparations for
a traditional wedding. Instead, he focuses on the young couple’s
feelings of uncertainty prior to the ceremony, and the interventions
of their friends and relations. Set against a barn-like backdrop
with vaguely Balkan-looking costumes, the production retains
something of the Russian spirit that lies at the heart of the
music. But although the dancing is energetic and emotionally
charged, it does not always match the narrative and sentiments
of the sung text, making it feel oddly detached. The fact that
the dancers perform to a separately recorded soundtrack rather
than a live accompaniment adds to this sense of artificiality,
and this is reinforced by the apparent absence of an audience.
The same issue of separated dancing and recorded music occurs
in the other two works on this DVD - Stravinsky’s Symphony
and Takemitsu’s Textures
. Unlike Les
, the Symphony of Psalms
is definitely not a
dance-inspired work. The message of the choreography - with pairs
of dancers alternating with ensembles - is not clear, although
the scenery of high-backed wooden chairs and carpet wall hangings
is suggestive of a church. Despite undeniably high levels of
technical skill from the Nederlands Dans Theater, their movements
are divorced from the liturgical meaning of the music and texts.
The final work, Torso
(set to Takemitsu’s Textures
is even more baffling. The disc notes speak of a pas de deux
a couple torn from their roots and not yet planted in a new land.
But again the narrative is vague, and the music, while hardly
riveting, does not seem to mirror the stage action.
Visually, the performances show their age. Recorded in the early
1980s, the film is slightly fuzzy, particularly in the long shots,
and the colours appear rather dull - not helped by greyish lighting.
Overall, it is unclear who this DVD is likely to appeal to. Music-lovers
will simply purchase the discs from which the soundtrack is taken.
Ballet enthusiasts will be disappointed by the lack of a live