The Triadic Ballet – Two Giraffes Dance Tango / Bremen Steps
Last tuesday was the opening night of euro-scene Leipzig, a festival for contemporary theater and dance in Leipzig. The first dance piece of this week full of plays was „The Triadic Ballet“ and took place at Schauspiel Leipzig. The atmosphere while entering the old and majestic building was full of energy and curiosity, the audience was filled with people of all ages. „The Triadic Ballet“ is well known for puristic dancing and extraordinary costumes, staged first from Oskar Schlemmer in Stuttgart 1922. The dancers you could see in this performance were all very young members of the “Bayerisches Juniorballet München” just starting their professional careers. Schlemmer was a „Bauhaus“ designer, a movement and school for artists, architects and designers who characterized the avant-garde and classical modernity. At this time there were two sides of dance in Europe – the classical ballet on one side and the freedom seeking “New German Dance” on the other side. Schlemmer wanted to do something else, he wanted to innovate dance in another way although he was no dancer himself. Instead of breaking the rules of ballet he invented new rules, new restrictions to see how a dancer could deal with it. His idea was to create a ballet which focused on the „human figure“ and on its influence on space. He builds costumes that need space, they look like abstract art, you could almost think a painting of Picasso came to life.
These costumes might look incredible but offer many difficulties for the dancers. Their form and weight make movement almost impossible, the choreography has to be very simple and is focused on geometrics. The audience can see how the use of light and well-planned choreography merge into something you could almost call special-effects. You sometimes get the feeling that the dancers become a part of the scenery or the props, individuality gets lost, and the light effects create the illusion of an unreal world. There are three acts in this ballet, the first one is yellow – a funny and burlesque act full of cheerfulness, the second one is pink and reminds of ceremony and rite and the last one is black giving us with it’s abstractness the feeling of another, surreal dimension.
The next day I got the opportunity to try out how it feels to dance the „Triadic Ballet“, Ivan Liska, the director of this reconstruction and it’s company, offered a workshop on his very own birthday. I got the chance to learn some steps of this ballet and to see costumes from close. We learned the choreography of the “Spiral” a female dancer with a beautiful twisted skirt dancing very melancholically and sad. He taught very patiently and motivated not minding if his students were professional dancers of amateurs. You could feel his passion for the topic, probably because he danced this ballet at its first reconstruction 1977 by Gerhart Bohner. Although the original choreography got lost, this version reflects on Schlemmer’s understanding of movement and art. He thinks it’s a gift for young dancers to get the chance to experience this pure and clear form of dancing and he wants to share his love for this piece with them.
A few days later another dance piece based on a production of Gerhard Bohner was shown. It’s called “Two Giraffes Dace Tango / Bremen Steps” but it’s not so funny as the title may propose. Although some scenes have comedian impacts, like wearing flippers as shoes or a two-man morphsuit that connects two dancers though a zipper but the central topics are mourning and death. Typical stereotypes are broken, the absurd looking actors change their costumes and their identities all the time. The choreographer for this production was Helge Letonja and he took the decision not to reconstruct but to rework the original version and translate it into the present time. The motives stay the same but they don’t feel excavated instead they seem to be innovated and contemporary. It’s a collage of past and present dance technique and creation and a genius way to hold a great choreographer in honor.
Picture and Text by Verena