Saturday, 18 October 2008

'aphasiadisiac' - ted stoffer, les ballets C de la B

les ballets C de la B

Les Ballets C. de la B. return to Sadler’s Wells with Aphasiadisiac – the final instalment in a trilogy of work by guest choreographer Ted Stoffer. Based in Ghent, Belgium, Les Ballets C. de la B. is a collective of choreographers renowned for presenting powerful, theatrical performances of startling, anarchic beauty.

American-born Ted Stoffer, a former Rambert dancer and founder of Aphasia Dance Company, derived the title Aphasiadisiac from ‘aphasia’ (the inability to express or understand thought in spoken or written words) and ‘aphrodisiac’ (arousing the mood of sexual excitement). Focusing on issues of communication and human relationships and featuring a cast of five performers who each represent a member of his own family, Aphasiadisiac sees Ted Stoffer exploring the private languages and politics of love.

"Stoffer is a brave performer who bares both his body and his soul… a deeply
personal experience that reconnects you with your own humanity" THE STAGE

Set to a soundtrack of pop, classical and traditional Czech music, plus live drumming, and set within a full-size onstage brick house (complete with furnishings), this promises to be a truly remarkable experience from one of Flander’s most important contemporary dance companies Les Ballets C. de la B.

A Sadler's Wells co-production

Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadlers Wells

Four people on stage building hollow four-sided towers with wooden bricks - some with words on them and of course I try and put these into meaningful clusters until I remember we are in the strange messed up dimension of aphasia and let the attempt go.
A fifth performer Pietrejan Vervondel arrives in business shirt and tie - there are two towers now each encasing a performer who have to climb their structure to get head & hands above it to catch the new bricks they are being thrown by ‘the businessman’ - the feels wonderfully dangerous and the audience are vocally excited as each new brick is thrown high and mostly caught with varying degrees of threat to the catcher and their tower remaining upright. How special and rare to have this real and live danger in a theatre.
We then see a hand from each performer reach out and across - but not connect - from their tower - and then she finds she can pass bricks from her tower to him to add to his.
Then we get a glorious aphasiac real estate presentation jumbled to be right at the edge of coherency - and how satisfying to be able to pull sense from this delightfully and wittily scrambled volley of words.

He breaks through the back wall.

He climbs the wall to a suspended drum kit, harnesses himself into the seat which he then releases forward - another moment of thrilling peril - and we get raucous surging music with accordion playing girl (Kristyna Lhotakova) in stocking feet and man and woman lying prone and stretched over brick stacks playing trumpet and horn. This makes the background sound for Stoffer's sinewy dislocated head lead movement that seems the physical mirror of the scrambled words - somehow finding a sense and coherency from inverted and inhumanised movements
We also get a number of contact improvisation duets that are fluidly satisfying to watch. And we get achingly intimate and recognisable words with movements from Mieke de Groot who we later see in a very funny duet mime with Yvan Auzely After they have been stripped of their instruments and left alone together by the double-banging drummers Vervondel & Lhotakova.
She then gives us the clearest monologue telling us how much she loves 'him' while he undulates, unfolds and curls under and through the chair and table, before the remaining tower is noisily toppled and cleared and the two of them show us their relationship via a set of tight and variously competing / cooperating dances.
The final sequence is a fast flowing sexy contact duet with Stoffer and Lhotakova joined throughout at the eye & cheek.
This show is packed with ideas and imagery and associations and virtuoso displays interspersed with sudden clear moments of absolute truth and recognition. It is far too clever to leave me more than momentarily absorbed inside it, but the richness of ideas - intellectual and performative - more than justifies this.

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