S pain’s Compania Nacional de Danza returns for a second visit to Taipei next week with its otherworldly meditation on angels and the human condition, Alas.
The company’s visit is part of the 2009 Taiwan International Festival, whose focus this year is on multimedia performances. Alas, with its mix of theatrical stage constructions, digital projections and spoken text, aptly fits the bill.
Compania’s artistic director and choreographer Nacho Duato collaborated on this 2006 ballet with Slovene theater director Tomaz Pandur, taking as their inspiration parts of the script for German filmmaker Wim Wender’s acclaimed 1987 film Wings of Desire. The 52-year old Duato has been quoted as saying that he had had no intention of returning to the stage as a dancer but was inspired to do so for Alas by Pandur. The reviews of his performances have been uniformly glowing.
Like the film, Alas focuses on the angel Daniel, danced by Duato, who longs to leave his metaphysical world and job as a watcher of humanity to join the ranks of humans, with all their fragilities and ills, in order to be with the woman he loves.
In the film, angels watch humans from the rooftops of Berlin. For the stage, Duato and Pandur created a tower of scaffolding and cloth, strong enough to support the dancers clambering around and up it, yet capable of appearing ethereal and ephemeral through a combination of lighting changes and video projections.
Duato, born Juan Ignacio Duato Barcia, has headed Spain’s national ballet company since 1990, after a distinguished career as a principal dancer and choreographer with the Nederlands Dans Theater. Under Duato’s leadership, the 30-year-old Compania has added more contemporary works to its repertoire and developed its own unique style.
WHAT: Compania Nacional de Danza’s Alas
WHEN: March 6 and March 7 at 7:30pm; March 8 at 2:30pm
WHERE: The National Theater, Taipei City
TICKETS: NT$700, NT$900, NT$1,200, NT$1,600, NT$2,000, NT$2,500; available through NTCH
ticketing or www.artsticket.com.tw
Duato’s famed suppleness as a dancer and choreographer is both a product of his natural talent and his unusual combination of training. He began his professional training at 18 at the famed Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London, before moving on to French choreographer Maurice Bejart’s Mudra School in Brussels and finally the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York. His first professional job was with Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet, but he was hired away just a year later by Jiri Kylian to dance for the Nederlands Dans Theater. Just seven years later his growing strength as a choreographer led the company to name him one of its resident choreographers, alongside Kylian. Ballet companies worldwide have been eager to add his works to their repertoire, including the Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Stuttgart Ballet.
Watching video clips of Duarte’s ballets, you can see both Bejart’s theatrical influence and the abstract sparseness that has been a hallmark of Kylian’s work. There is a fluidity in the dancers’ bodies that also brings to mind Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) technique, especially his Cursive trilogy, which will be at the National Theater this September. The water scene at the end of Alas also brings back memories of Lin’s Moon Water.
Compania’s performances are the first of four dance-centric entries in the Taiwan International Festival calendar. Next up will be Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon’s tribute to Canadian film guru Norman McLaren, Norman, featuring dancer/choreographer Peter Trosztmer, which starts on March 12. Russia’s Marinsky Theater will be back at the National Theater for a long run of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake starting on March 27, while across the plaza at the National Concert Hall on March 28 will be Klaus Obermaier’s feast for the ears and eyes, Le Sacre du Printemps.