Posted on September 23, 2010
A lonely dancer stands spot-lit on a stage. A voice-over explains that the link between rhythm and dance in classical ballet is the positions. At a breakneck tempo the voice then lists them. Not by their French names but by the numbers one to 100, whilst the dancer demonstrates them. After a short break the voice calls out the numbers again, but this time in random order and the dancer connects them together in a thrilling dance, which, however, renders him in pieces, torso, arms and legs apart.
With this humorous piece, Ballet 101 by the Canadian-born choreographer Eric Gauthier, Gauthier Dance commenced its three-day guest appearances in Munich in late December 2009. The company was founded by Gauthier in 2007, and in 2008 it became the resident dance company of the Theaterhaus Stuttgart, a next-door neighbour to Stuttgart Ballet with which Gauthier had previously danced as a soloist. Gauthier introduced the programme with an on-stage speech in which he compared the evening to a six-course dinner, thus making the dance almost palpable. This was a feeling enhanced by Gauthier’s second piece, The Blind Leading the Blind, where couples lead each other into movement. The dance was interrupted by a blind man – indicated by sunglasses and a white stick – who sits at the front of the stage and talks about the things he could not do, such as jogging, dancing, or seeing a rock band or snow. Each theme was visualised on stage by dancers performing to a medley of different music. The effect was that the dance became a way of seeing the world, which served as a prelude to the next piece, three tender duets that illustrated songs by the singer Björk. The second song was about the ocean and a couple imitated the undulating movements of water plants in a gentle current.
These duets showed the immense potential Gauthier has as a choreographer, but I hope he will develop this potential without getting too distracted by his second passion and career: as singer-song writer and guitarist in his band Royaltease. In the last piece on the programme by Gauthier, Air Guitar, the choreographer danced with four imaginary guitars. At first he pretends to be a musician playing classical guitar until suddenly the guitar takes on a life of its own and he has to chase it. With the second he transforms himself into a rock musician. In the third he is a flamenco guitar player and dancer. Gauthier brings a refreshing playfulness to dance, giving one the feeling that dance is fun. It was almost like watching the boy-next-door playing with his friends, and making you feel like joining in.
The last two items on the programme were Itzik Galili’s The Sofa, danced to music by Tom Waits, which was a slap-stick comedy involving a straight couple, a gay couple, and a sofa; and Paul Lightfoot and Sol León’s serious reflection on time, Susto, to music by Beethoven.
Gauthier has two goals for his company. He wants to create content-oriented dance, which has a meaning recognisable even to audiences not familiar with dance. He also wants to make contemporary dance accessible and attractive to a new as well as a younger audience. Judging from the enthusiastic response Gauthier and his company received in Munich, he is definitely on the right track. Gauthier has also created an extensive educational and community outreach programme, the first of its kind in Germany, called the Gauthier Dance Mobile. Conceived for small performing spaces and with the use of limited technical equipment, he takes dance out of the theatre to people who have not had the chance to see a performance. In Munich, Gauthier Mobile Dance gave three extra performances out of the theatre: in an orphanage, a hospital for children with mental health problems, and a home for senior citizens. The company returns to Munich in March with the programme M.M. & More, which includes two pieces by Gauthier. Visit theaterhaus.com for more information.