Dance Review: Zurich Ballet

Spoerli’s vocabulary is rather conservative and tends to repeat its motives extensively, and maintains similar formal formats for all three suites.

November 20, 2011 22:01
1 minute read.
Zurich Ballet

The Zurich Ballet 311. (photo credit: courtesy/Ballet Zurich Joseph Aznar)


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It was a great pleasure to see The Zurich Ballet’s artistic director Heinz Spoerli set his choreography to three cello suites by J.S. Bach, played live by Claudius Herrmann. The work is neo-classical and basically abstract, in the sense that it doesn’t follow a narrative and instead focuses on purely intrinsic dance issues such as lines and volumes, spatial relationships that are being manifested in the compositions. The search for abstract neo-classical ballet, in contrast to the story-based classical ballets of the 19th century, had been researched extensively by Balanchine decades ago. Of course, as long as the main instrument in any form of performing arts is the human body, no abstract ballet is truly abstract.

Spoerli’s vocabulary is rather conservative and tends to repeat its motives extensively, and maintains similar formal formats for all three suites.
Although the company arrived with over 30 dancers, most of the fragments were based on smaller ensembles which gave fitting intimacy to the piece. The structure and phrasing followed to the letter the inner structure of the music, leaving little room for surprise. Indeed the duets and smaller ensembles worked better than the larger formations; except perhaps for the first large group of female dancers on point, flapping their arms ever so charmingly, like a bunch of glorious dragonflies.

Obviously the dancers were very good, particularly the girls, but the company must have been overworked since the famous Swiss precision was missing in various male scenes. Costume design worked for the most part, except when the men were dressed in ethnic skirts, which was out of touch with the piece, as were several choices of the lighting design.

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