Next week we will have a rare opportunity to witness the work of one of the
leading choreographers and dance companies in Europe. The director in question
is Heinz Spoerli and the ensemble is the Zurich Ballet who are coming here to
put on four performances of Spoerli’s latest creation, Winds in the Void, at the
Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv (November 13-16). Winds in the Void is based
on three cello works by Bach – Suites Nos. 2, 3 and 6.
During his 15-year
tenure with the company Spoerli has devised a number of shows based on music by
Bach and, in the past, the choreographer has talked about the timelessness and
universality of Bach’s music.
“For me, Bach is the composer who fits into
any era,” said Spoerli at the time. “He’s the sort of umbilical cord who always
brings things full circle. Everyone can identify with Bach. It’s so
exciting. For me, it’s a very relaxing experience, almost like
Meanwhile, Zurich Ballet company member Yen Han connects
with a different attribute of the composer’s oeuvre.
“There is something
so pure, clean and precise about Bach’s music. I think Mr. Spoerli makes the
dance very pure and very musical, and also expressive and full of the
musicality, and that’s how I see Bach as well. Bach’s compositions are so simple
but, at the same time, they are so rich and full.”
creation for the company, Und mied den Wind, was also based on three Bach cello
sonatas, but fed off the highly tangible elements of water, fire and earth. The
new show is based on air, so presumably that offers the dancers the artistic
challenge of make the ephemeral elemental theme more palpable.
approach to this work is more minimalist,” explains Han. “Everything has
to be perfect and clean, but at the same time it has to bring out a spark and
the energy of the music. There is nothing fancy on stage, it is just about the
dance and the music.”
Although the company is based in Switzerland it is
very much an international ensemble.
“We come from all over the world –
America, Korea, Spain, Italy, Turkey, China and of course there are some Swiss
dancers,” says Han, who was born in Los Angeles and has Chinese roots. “I
am not sure if we all bring something different, from our cultures, to the
dance, but there is something about people from different parts of the world
working together. I think that adds to our work.”
Han has been with
Zurich Ballet for 17 years, which is an incredibly long time to spend with any
employer, especially in the arts.
“Yes, artists often want to move on and
to try different things, but I respect and appreciate the things Heinz has done
with the Zurich Ballet over the last 15 years,” she says. “He has brought the
company up to a very high level of performance and I have a very deep
understanding of his work after so many years together. I have danced many roles
for him so it’s a collaboration. When you are appreciated so much and you
work with someone so well it makes it difficult to leave.”
For his part
Spoerli is delighted to have had Han with him all this time. “Yen Han is
like a sponge,” he says.
“It’s wonderful to create for her because she
can put so much into the process.” Han is now 38, which is something of a
grand old age in her line of work.
“Yes, I am quite old for a dancer and
I have to keep fit, but all dancers are disciplined about that.”
Han had additional “obstacles” to maintaining peak fitness.
“I have two
children and I had to work hard to get back to a high level after I had the
babies. I had to retrain after that, and start from the beginning again. You
have to work at it every day and stay focused.”
Then again, there are
“When you are older you are more mature and more experienced so
you don’t get so nervous. You have a better idea of what you have to do and you
don’t waste your energy in the wrong way. You tend to understand that there’s
more of the artistic side, which is very important, rather than just the
technical side. That only comes with experience.”
Han also subscribes to
the “you’re only as old as you feel” approach.
“You can be 25 and feel
50, and one can be 50 and feel 25. Your age is just a number, your body will
tell you how old you are.”
Han is also aware that she has to stay on her
toes – literally – if she wants to keep up with her colleagues at Zurich
“This is a very good company, and the people around me definitely
inspire me to produce good work and to keep that quality. If the company wasn’t
so good I wouldn’t be so encouraged to push myself.”
The choreography of
Winds in the Void
calls for the dancers to work in different units and Han feels this
enriches the end product. “I think using different sizes of groups helps
to vary the work,” she observes. “The dancers are the instruments of the music,
and they express the power of the piece. The dance gives a different feel to the
music so, when there are more dancers perhaps it expresses the music in a
stronger way, or when there is just one [or a] couple of dancers it may be
something more lyrical.”
Han feels that the division of labor also helps
to hold the audience.
“It’s not like you have lots of dancers on the
stage at the same time, with most of them just standing around. With our works
everyone is important from beginning to end.”
Spoerli places great store
by the roots of the discipline, and Winds in the Void manifests this.
is very classically based,” says Han. “One must have a very classical training
and background but, of course, you need freedom to express the text. There are a
lot of feelings in this work, as there are in the music. You have to feel a
specific moment of the music, you have perfect the expression of Bach’s
That’s the important thing.”Zurich Ballet will perform
Winds in the Void at the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv from November 13 to
16 at 9 p.m. For tickets: (03) 692-7777