(photo credit: GERT WEIGETT)
Hosted by the German embassy, celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations with Israel, The Dusseldorf Ballet performed A German Requiem, by Martin Schlapfer.
The work, based on Johannes Brahms’ creation, enjoyed a large cast of about 40 well-trained dancers, conveying Schlapfer’s sensitivities.
The tightly constructed requiem supplied a great structural guideline which allowed the dance to smoothly move between various inner landscapes, based on the 19th century composer’s intentions and the contemporary choreographer’s personal interpretations.
In a way, the work relied on the music and the accompanying text to carry most of the rich and complex thematic and emotional content, while the dancing kept some distance from overtly dramatic expressions, trying to portray more abstract objectivity. The large formations of dancers offered more regimented approach, yet often allowed space for slight personal variation and expression, mainly in the more intimate scenes and few solos.
The piece had several elements going for it, besides the touching and rather solid, optimistic music – it is a requiem, after all, which deals in mourning and lamentation in the context of Christian culture. The dance was framed by a somber, elegantly proportioned stage design, with clever and tasteful lighting design. Both managed to enrich the ambiance and often clarify it.
Just the fact that there were often three dozen or more dancers on stage strengthened the effect of any large choreographic composition, particularly the more simplistic dramatic highlights, such as standing still and raising hands to the sky, or forming a long serpentine line.
But large crowds couldn’t do all the work. The dance, though finely detailed, carried a strong mid-20th century conservative air of early modernity, while the lexicon remained on the safer side of the art form. The result was respectfully decent, but lacked sparks of arousing, original ingenuity.
In the final scene the dancers were sitting, while cables with end loops came down and, before we could guess their purpose, one dancer got noosed and was pulled upward to the horror of the dancers and audience.
While she was saved, the curtain went down, on the single most dramatic moment of the evening.