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Jiří Kylián & The Netherlands Dance Theatre
Joke Zijlstra, Gerald Tibbs (dancers)
Jirí Kylain (choreographer)
John MacFarlane (set and costume design)
Music: Igor Stravinsky - Les Noces
Dorothy Dorow (soprano); Lucia Meeuwsen (mezzo); Justin Lavender (tenor); Lieuwe Visse (baritone); Anno Appelo, Arthur Cune, Jacob Goud, Peter Lahey, Peter de Vries, Marc Zoutendijk (percussion); Barbara Grajewska, Eric van Griensven, Martijn van den Hoek, Fred Oldenburg (piano)/David Porcelijn; Kühn Mixed Chorus/Pavel Kühn
rec. 1984
Symphony of Psalms
Netherlands Dance Theatre
Jirí Kylain (choreographer)
Music: Igor Stravinsky - Symphony of Psalms (excerpts)
London Symphony Orchestra
English Bach Festival Chorus/Leonard Bernstein
rec. 1983
Sabine Kupferberg, Leigh Warren (dancers)
Jirí Kylain, choreographer
Walter Nobbe, set and costume design
Music: Toru Takemitsu - Textures
rec. 1983
Picture format: NTSC 4:3; sound format: PCM Stereo; region code 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK 102115 [68:00]
Experience Classicsonline

With its rhythmic vitality and shifting tempi, Stravinsky’s music seems naturally geared towards dance. It was possibly for these reasons that Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián chose two of the composer’s works for ballet treatment.

Although not strictly a ballet, the ‘dance cantata’ Les Noces was composed with stage performance in mind, and was originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. In this version (entitled Svadebka - The Wedding), Kylián shies away from a literal narrative concerning the preparations for a traditional wedding. Instead, he focuses on the young couple’s feelings of uncertainty prior to the ceremony, and the interventions of their friends and relations. Set against a barn-like backdrop with vaguely Balkan-looking costumes, the production retains something of the Russian spirit that lies at the heart of the music. But although the dancing is energetic and emotionally charged, it does not always match the narrative and sentiments of the sung text, making it feel oddly detached. The fact that the dancers perform to a separately recorded soundtrack rather than a live accompaniment adds to this sense of artificiality, and this is reinforced by the apparent absence of an audience.

The same issue of separated dancing and recorded music occurs in the other two works on this DVD - Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Takemitsu’s Textures. Unlike Les Noces, the Symphony of Psalms is definitely not a dance-inspired work. The message of the choreography - with pairs of dancers alternating with ensembles - is not clear, although the scenery of high-backed wooden chairs and carpet wall hangings is suggestive of a church. Despite undeniably high levels of technical skill from the Nederlands Dans Theater, their movements are divorced from the liturgical meaning of the music and texts.

The final work, Torso (set to Takemitsu’s Textures), is even more baffling. The disc notes speak of a pas de deux between a couple torn from their roots and not yet planted in a new land. But again the narrative is vague, and the music, while hardly riveting, does not seem to mirror the stage action.

Visually, the performances show their age. Recorded in the early 1980s, the film is slightly fuzzy, particularly in the long shots, and the colours appear rather dull - not helped by greyish lighting. Overall, it is unclear who this DVD is likely to appeal to. Music-lovers will simply purchase the discs from which the soundtrack is taken. Ballet enthusiasts will be disappointed by the lack of a live aura.

John-Pierre Joyce 


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