Review: Ballett Zürich, Playhouse, Edinburgh (Daily Telegraph)

Ballett Zürich, Playhouse, Edinburgh (Daily Telegraph)

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Photo credit: Judith Schlosser
Photo credit: Judith Schlosser

Drawing on last year’s acclaimed triple bill Notations, Switzerland’s leading ballet company Ballett Zürich comes to Edinburgh with a startlingly contrasting pair of new works. The geometric urgency of Kairos, the first piece for the company by prominent British contemporary choreographer Wayne McGregor, is counterbalanced by the comic, erotic originality of Sonett, an extraordinary meditation on Shakespeare by Ballett Zürich’s German artistic director Christian Spuck.

The title of McGregor’s work comes from the Greek, meaning a moment of opportunity that must be seized. As it opens with dancers performing behind a screen, partially obscured by thick, projected lines and illuminated by flashing strobes, one fears that the Stockport-born artist would squander his opportunity in cliché.

Thankfully, however, the piece improves considerably on its initial histrionics. Danced to Max Richter’s evocative, echoing recompositions of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons against the gently curving wall of Idris Khan’s set, it is a choreography of architectural precision.

If Zaha Hadid was a choreographer, one suspects she would make ballet like this. Deceptively simple yet sensual and inviting, it is exemplified by a superb, early pas de deux in which the gorgeous, supple angularity of the female dancer revolves around the subtly rotating support of the male.

McGregor’s piece, although cheered to the rafters on its opening night in Edinburgh, will not have surprised its audience. Spuck’s Sonett, by comparison, is boldly eye opening.

In front of a backcloth emblazoned with a massive Renaissance portrait of an enigmatic, handsome young man, we see a small Shakespeare (played by the extraordinary Mireille Mossé) in period costume. The beautiful and mysterious Dark Lady (Eva Dewaele) towers over the Bard.

What follows is a truly startling play with the sexual ambiguity of Shakespeare’s sonnets. As the company of dancers swirl around the central figures to the dramatic strains of Philip Glass’s Symphony No 8, Mossé, as “The Poet’s Shadow”, speaks (in French) of the possibility of loving two people at once: one, the unattainable woman in front of him; the other, the lovely boy in the painting. There is organised chaos in this witty and emotive work, as well as the tense interplay of structure and passion that is present in the sonnets themselves.

Transfixing from beginning to end, Spuck’s piece is evidence of an impressive artistic imagination.

Until August 29. For more information, visit

This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on August 28, 2015

© Mark Brown


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