Berlin-based choreographer Sasha Waltz has often worked on the borders between dance and opera, so it’s no surprise to find a highly staged, sometimes highly stylised musical sensibility pervading this triple bill of dance works. In L’Après-midi d’un faune, the shapely designs and flat colours of the dancers’ stylish swimwear echo both the painterly backdrop and the arch eroticism of the choreography, in which you can almost visualise the languorous limbs and quickening pulses held within Debussy’s score. There are chases and flights, couplings and triangulations, arched spines and crossed calves. One man peels plasters from another’s back as if stripping skin; a woman outlines her mouth with lipstick, and a man runs a finger over her legs as if tracing a drawing. It’s a very measured, self-contained work, carefully composed yet strangely seductive – more an image than an expression of sensuality.
Scène d’Amour – an excerpt from Waltz’s full-length Roméo et Juliette – is more conventional, a love duet to romantic music by Berlioz. It’s also more naturalistic and more intimate. Lorena Justribó Manion and Ygal Tsur coil and encircle each other, with tenderness and without melodrama: their lifts are low, their arms softened. It’s beautifully phrased and there are lovely moments – Manion idly twining her ankle about Tsur’s wrist – but it leans heavily on the music for effect: the woodwind’s fluttering breath, the pull and swell of strings.
Waltz is terrific at simultaneously marshalling and unleashing the wild energies of her dancers
Sacre is Waltz’s forceful version of The Rite of Spring. The stage is smoke-filled, and a cone of rocks and ash lies centre stage like the remains of a fire. Couples invade the stage, and clump into ragged groups that rupture and re-form: fracturing along gender lines, or splintering into disparate parts. Though she ends up overloading the piece with too many sub-scenes – too many rites, really – Waltz is terrific at simultaneously marshalling and unleashing the wild energies of her dancers, skewering the stage with images of birth, sex and death, of savage conformity and naked revolt.