Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Black and White

A scene from Jiří Kylián DVD 'Black and White'

I thought I was onto something with the idea that the music of Mozart embodied the 'spirit of the dance', but a quick rummage through the old DVD library reveals that choreographers have long ago hit upon the same idea that the music of Mozart is eminently danceable. Never underestimate the power of cryptoamnesia!

While the music of J.S.Bach may be satisfyingly geometric and full of deep emotion upon the dignity of man and his relationship with God, it is in Mozart's music, a man who himself enjoyed dancing that 'the spirit of the dance' comes alive best. I wish I still possessed a videotape copy of Maurice Bejart's Tangomozart in which the music of Mozart alternates with Argentinian Tango's, but I do still have, albeit a bit blurry, a recording of Bejart's choreographing the music of Mahler and Ravel with great effect.

Far more rewarding however is the choreography of the Czech Jiří Kylián, ballet-master of the Netherlands Dance Theater. Using music from a set of German dances K571 by Mozart and for Petit Mort, slow movements from two of his piano concerto's namely number 21 in C major K467 and number 23 in A major K488, Jiří demonstrates the potential of Mozart's music in terms of choreographic expression. The German dances in particular are hilarious as Kylián picks up on Mozart's own dramatic sensibility in his music to illustrate the differences and misunderstandings between the sexes; here's what the sleeve notes state-

The piece of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Six German Dances, K 571, (14:00) like all the others , is new and witty. Many of the eight dancers' actions are coarse and speedy, full of threats, unrest and absurdity. the men wear powdered periwigs above their naked torsi; the ladies are clothed in drastic skirts. And in the illumination of the spotlights, scintillating soap bubbles fall from the rigging loft in cascades down upon the dancers. The equally witty and bizarre scene is a winking paen to the Baroque and Rococo ages and their decades of infatuation with splendour and pomp, ending in clouds of wig powder and soap bubbles. Images full of humour and comedy prove once more what an imaginative, charismatic power Jiří Kylián possesses. The delicious humour of the piece moved numerous viewers and reviewers to remark that the Salzburg composer would have enjoyed it. Even if Six Dances appears to be no more than a sparkling witty assembly of nonsense carried out in costumes designed by the choreographer himself, who calls them "Mozartian underwear", there is still a dark, ominous undertone.

The sleeve-notes of the 1996 DVD say it so much better than I ever could-

For the piece Petit Mort, (18:00) Jiří Kylián chose the slowest movements from two of Mozart's most beautiful and best-loved piano concerto's. Although suffused with some humour, the ballet is driven forward with a kind of aesthetic brutality. Aggression, sexual tension, energy, but equally stillness and vulnerability plat the determining roles here. along with the six male dancers and six female dancers, six rapiers are also equal "partners" in the game, as are already the familiar Rococo costumes, which are moved across the stage on tailor's dummies. ..In this "little death" , the six men provide an astonishing performance of sword-play, but not like in the usual kind of cloak-and-dagger film. the blows and parries proceed almost as if in a kind of military discipline. Only after the ladies join them do the couples celebrate Mozart's sensual music. (Above photo)

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