Posted on April 19, 2011
Eightwatchers is the title of a programme that the choreographer Eric Gauthier and his company, Gauthier Dance, presented at the Schauburg Theatre in Munich at the end of March. Seven of the eight pieces presented could all be characterised as short, entertaining and funny works with a strong storyline. It is a description that applies to the majority of the ballets he has created since he left Stuttgart Ballet in 2007 to embark on a career as a choreographer.
On the programme was Orchestra of Wolves, one of the pieces for which Gauthier was awarded the German Dance Prize in the category Choreography, Future in February (see Dancing Times, May 2011). A conductor enters the stage with a beak-like mask and a yellow duck-tail protruding from the slit in his tailcoat. His musicians, three on either side, wear wolf-masks. They start playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, at first in compliance with the conductor’s direction but then with increasing disobedience. The wolves run from one side of the stage to the other or sit three on one in swivel chairs. Their aggression against the conductor escalates as one wolf loses in a game of musical chairs, which they have inexplicably started to play, and the work ends in a carnivorous feast amidst a cloud of yellow feathers. A blackout prevents the wolves from launching an attack on the audience.
Dear John is Gauthier’s homage to John Cranko, the former choreographer and artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet from 1961–1973. Cranko’s pianist, Francis Rainey, plays the piano and Egon Madsen, for whom Cranko created many roles, dances with Gauthier. The two pop up behind the piano, smiling at each other like playful boys, then set out in a funny duet, in which Gauthier gently pushes Madsen, who, at the age of 68, still has a lot of stamina and strong stage presence. A chair placed downstage changes the scene to a rehearsal-like situation. At first standing alone in a spotlight, Madsen then sits and watches Gauthier dance a solo. Still a formidable dancer, Gauthier jumps high and kicks with clear lines. Madsen corrects Gauthier, whom he calls “Egon” (as if Gauthier might be his younger self) and Madsen now plays in Cranko’s position as creator and mentor. The dance ends with the two men embracing, and then looking at the empty chair. They proceed to form a diagonal line with Rainey, each with a hand on the other’s shoulder, with Gauthier in the middle. It is as if the two elderly men are passing on their memories of Cranko to the younger man, who was not even born when Cranko died.
Quilt was the only serious piece on the programme. It was inspired by an exhibition of quilts in 1993 created by Bosnian women in a refugee home. With a quilt as the backdrop, a man in military attire enters the stage. A burst of machine-gun fire is heard and he falls down. Then a woman enters and they start dancing to Goran Bregovic’s evocative war-time music. They wind in and out of each others arms before they part to stand half concealed on either side of the quilt. Two lives divided by or united by a quilt.
Also on the programme was Bang, a jam-session between Rainhardt Albrecht-Herz on drums and the dancers William Moragas and Garazi Perez Oloriz, Showtime, a slapstick version of an excerpt from Bizet’s Carmen, and Björk Duets, Air Guitar and Ballet 101.
Gauthier’s goal is to win a young audience for modern dance. Judging from the reaction of the audience at the Schauburg Theatre he is extremely successful. They roared with laughter, and each piece received prolonged applause. If he wants to win a more discriminating audience, however, Gauthier needs to show us that he can do more. That is unless he wants to excel in the dance-cabaret genre that Tanznetz, a German online magazine, claims him to be the inventor of.