Scapino Ballet Rotterdam's Firebird.
(photo credit: HANS GERRITSE)
Seventy years ago, when Johanna Rosina Snoek, better known as Hans, gathered together a group of out-of-shape dancers, she did it in order to provide some needed escape for Dutch children. It was 1945, and Europe had been in the throes of war for several years.
“It was time for Dutch children to laugh again,” Snoek said of her idea to put on a performance. The ensemble, though unpolished and badly in need of some oil in the joints, indeed elicited chuckles, giggles and wonderment from crowds throughout Holland.
Honoring the beauty of escapism, the company took a well-known figure from commedia dell’arte whose name is derived from the word “escape” as their mascot and namesake. Seven decades later, having conquered the globe and established the troupe’s place as one of the leading contemporary dance bodies in the world, Scapino Ballet Rotterdam has returned to the start, to the great escape.
This month, Scapino will return to Israel after more than a decade with a mixed program, featuring The Great Bean by artistic director Ed Wubbe.
“The inspiration came from the fact that I was interested in Harry Houdini. The title came from one of his shackles called The Bean Giants that they said he couldn’t escape from and he did. Houdini started his life in small clubs with magicians and singers. I was interested in the glamour and glitter of this atmosphere, which also refers to the roaring ‘20s of The Great Gatsby, but there was also a darker side of this aspect of illusion and magic,” explains Wubbe via Skype.
Wubbe has been at the helm of Scapino for 23 years, a time in which the company’s reputation has soared. The quality of his own choreographies, combined with the pieces he commissions by house and guest artists, has given Scapino a clear and reliable esthetic that audiences have come to trust, admire and yearn to see.
Although Wubbe is well versed at making dance, the process for The Great Bean unnerved him.
“The first day in the studio was a bit scary,” he laughs. “I never worked like that before. I started with a guy that I brought in to teach the dancers some illusionist tricks such as making fire disappear in your hand and floating a stick in the air. I brought two jugglers from Rotterdam that work with clubs. The dancers were very surprised,” he recounts.
Wubbe pauses to remember those first shaky moments.
“I was very insecure at the beginning. I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off, and the days in the studio were looking a bit funny. At the same time, it was very exciting,” he continues.
As they progressed, Wubbe and his dancers began to meld the circus and dance elements in the studio. The outcome, which is performed to the music of Peer Gynt and Billie Holiday, exposes a new language born of this experimentation.
Also on the program for Scapino’s visit are Felix Landerer’s Exquisit and Marco Goecke’s The Firebird.
“Felix is a house choreographer at Scapino. He is German, young and very talented. Exquisit is a very nice piece that has a lot of beautiful floor work. Marco Goecke is another house choreographer. He’s been the house choreographer for seven years, and this was the last piece he created for us,” says Wubbe.
Together, these three pieces are certain to highlight the technical and performative prowess of the Scapino dancers.
“The program shows the company in many aspects. We have very good dancers who are versatile. These three works and very accessible and direct. It’s nice to bring this palette. For the audience, it’s an appealing menu to be served,” he says.Scapino Ballet Rotterdam will perform at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on January 26, 27, 28 and 29 (www.hoh-herzliya.co.il) and at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center on January 30 (www.mishkan7.co.il).