Passion, as performed by the GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, transformed the Eisenhower Theatre at The Kennedy Center as part of Nordic Cool 2013. An amazing performance well worth your while features impressive choreography exquisitely performed by some of the world’s most talented dancers under the artistic direction of Adolphe Binder. Impressively, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani consists of 38 dancers from 16 different countries, 13 of which are participating in Nordic Cool 2013.
We open with a solitary grand piano, softly lit stage left. The pianist Joakim Kallhed begins to play charismatically, and the dancers begin slowly walking forward from the darkness. Stepping into the light, they appear strong and romantic, wearing silky shades of blue and golden fabric (costumes by Nina Sandström) reminiscent of the Renaissance. The highly seasoned, emotionally available company includes Satoko Takahashi, Hildur Óttarsdóttir, Micol Mantini, Janine Koertge, David Wilde, Toby Kassell, Fan Luo, and Fernando Melo performing the intimately intricate choreography of Örjan Andersson. Joakim Kallhed plays brilliantly, fluttering the keys to 32 Variations in C Minor. As the music crescendos, the dancers reach with precise hands and contracting bodies playing opposites at all times, contorting into such intriguingly unusual shapes. Solo performances end in Grecian godlike positions, sweeping catapulting movements caress the air as the dancers soar. Fury meets precision as their internal struggles explode outward amongst multiple electric solos, intertwined within the silence where all that can be heard is breath and movement along the floor.Joakim Kallhed fluidly drives the pace and tenderly places the keys of the melancholy tune of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor (Pathétique) 2nd Movement which to me is one of the most touching classical constructions. All the while, the lighting changing from very low to bright and warm, beautifully portraying scene changes and story development, with design by Udo Haberland, as they dance in pairs and small groups, and multiple sequences thrive simultaneously.
After a brief pause, the stage is illuminated for the next movement OreolB by cold, eery light with an amazing scenic element stage left (scenography and lighting by Jens Sethzman). The element rotates and transforms during the performance, at times alighting with sporadic white vertical and horizontal flashes. It’s visually stunning, creating excitement and suspense throughout the intensely choreographed movement by Kenneth Kvarnström. The beginning features Lotem Regev, alone on the stage wearing a black leotard and black tulle collar that cascades around his shoulders, chest and back (striking design by Helena Hörstedt). This is no puff piece. Regev is driven by the eclectic electronic soundtrack by Jukka Rintamäki, based on Boléro by Maurice Ravel, as the bursts of music swoop through the theatre and fade out mysteriously. He continues in silence for a bit and then awaits the next burst of energy, heavily synthesized high pitches that call out like birds. Janine Koertge and Dan Langeborg dance a fiercely passionate pas de deux to the tribal beat that is both enthralling and titillating. With the classically inspired lifts in choreography their bodies are nearly always touching, supporting each other and swirling in an everchanging spiral of competitive romance. Like Regev before them, they are driven by the electricity of the music and the scenic element.
Continuing on in this fantastical journey through an alternate universe, Fernando Melo and Micol Mantini heighten the anticipation with complicated lifts and entagled bodies as the music grows louder as the power struggle escalates. The company moves as a unit, lifting and supporting one another with strength and agility. By the end, the music is booming with bass and blasting throughout the theatre, working together with the twisting, swirling, complex choreography to produce the most thrilling dénouement. The spirit calms as Mantini dances amid silver rain that pours down to create an allure of satisfaction that only dance can intrigue.
The final movement features the U.S. premiere of Your Passion is Pure Joy to Me with stellar choreography by Stijin Celis. Using a clever combination of silence and music by Nick Cave, Pierre Boulez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Krzysztof Penderecki and the vibrantly colorful, casual clothing classified by t-shirts and jeans by Costume Designer Catherine Voeffray, an emotionally relatable performance ensues. The stage is completely exposed, and I was surprised by the depth and height of the bare space. Soft lighting designed by Erik Berglund provides an intimate environment and changes with the mood of the piece. The company of dancers, Micol Mantini, Satoko Takahashi, Chiaki Horita, David Wilde, Fan Luo, Moritz Ostruschnjak, and Matthew Foley experience the choreography as it relates to the lyrics and storytelling of the contemporary jazzy, folk-rock style music. Themes that resonate throughout the fabric woven by this performance and dramaturg Armin Kerber inspire thoughts of identity – what is it now and what happens when we step out of our comfort zones and vigorously attempt to connect with other people? Can we maintain our true self-image and still relate on a deeper level?
Some of the most poignant points of choreography in this piece were when the dancers partnered each other and put their hands over each other’s mouths, or over their own faces, as if to hush or silence their words and thoughts. Lyrics like, “Rain kisses down on me” brought friendly images to mind as the dancers run to find partners as they maintain intense focus during this contemporary feeling piece. Further, impressive partnering by Moritz Ostruschnjak and Matthew Foley was so fluid and included so many changes in direction that it was reminiscent of stage combat in a friendly, close-knit manner.
David Wilde has amazing solos with numerous leaps and changes in direction, twisting and reaching and thriving about the stage. For someone so petite, Satoko Takahashi blew me away with the way she infuses the entire space with more energy than imaginable, maintaining and building throughout a wildly accelerated pace in the tribal music and fantastically fast footwork and arms with attitude.
Bringing her internal strife to the surface, Chiaki Horita projects energy, most of it very positive, full force out of all her limbs, bringing her life into our presence. Micol Mantini and Fan Luo brought me to tears with their beautiful portrayal of an independently dependent relationship with peaks and valleys. The most powerful moment was when he repeatedly spun her, holding her dearly as her legs wrapped around his waist. When they finally stopped and looked at each other, I was breathless. The raw human emotions onstage reverberated throughout the theatre during this entire movement, and the audience was quite vocal throughout the array of humor, angst, and love.
Running time: Two hours, including one intermission.
Passion plays through March 16, 2013 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater- 2700 F Street, Northwest, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online, or call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or (800) 444-1324.