Damien Jalet’s Skid, on the V/ertigo with Hessisches Staatsballett. Photo © Andreas Etter


Damien Jalet/Imre & Marne van Opstal/Hessiches Staatsballet

Presented in Darmstadt outside of the Spring Forward 2024 framework, V/ertigo consisted of two parts. Each brought to mind a unique dramatic gravity in which humans are entangled as corporeal/spiritual beings.

The bravura choreography for Skid is by Damien Jalet. Here 17 remarkably skilled dancers from Hessisches Staatsballett were partnered by a stage-filling piece of architecture. Bodies struggle against a huge, sloping white ramp, at first sliding down so slowly that it disturbs our perception of space and time. Mesmerising. Later they climb hard and fast, proving their strength and endurance. These actions are counterpointed by a finale in which we are led to contemplate the fragility of a naked soloist poised for a moment high on the ramp’s edge.

By way of contrast, the six dancers in Imre and Marne van Opstals’ I’m afraid to forget your smile find themselves in a situation of purgatorial suspension – belonging to the material world but also leaning towards transfiguration. It’s as if their deeper desire is to participate in the spiritual realm, a feeling reinforced by the use of live choral singing to create an atmosphere of religious solemnity. As in Skid, the audience’s delight arose from stunning images conjured in this case by a splendid marriage of music and movement.

Zuzanna Berendt

A big finale.

First, Damien Jalet’s Skid. 1. 17 buffered bodies drip, slide, melt, spill, twirl, tumble singly, in pairs or as chains down a steep, monumental white wall. To surrender or resist gravity? Some briefly, defiantly stand. Others block or grab in descent. Music swells in support of the constant stream. 2. Climbers, leap froggers on a mission, bobbing or undulating in rows and waves to a throb/thrum soundtrack. 3. A single, naked human emerges larva-like from a nylon sling, rises and tips over the edge. Profound? Well, impressive.

Then, Imre and Marne van Opstal’s I’m afraid to forget your smile. Stage as church. Six wholly admirable dancers in flesh-toned leotards/knickers partially framed by 16 sedentary singers. Initially skin and bone slap the floor. What ensues is a fiercely articulate series of paroxysms. Limbs thrust. Leaping animal rhythms undergo frequent directional changes. A family photo-style tableau morphs into simulated religious paintings. Is this stretchy, strenuous physical drama a manifestation of life’s struggles and strifes? Contrastingly, the vocals are contemporary sacred. Again, impressive. But I was unmoved.

Donald Hutera