Two programmes of French choreography form a striking contrast. Catherine Diverrès’ solo Stances II is reminiscent of German modern dance from the 1920s – unadorned, abstract, with large, sculptural movements evoking generic emotions. Barefoot in her flowing dark dress, Rita Quaglia stoops over or arches up, she spirals, leans and lunges. That’s pretty much it. Quaglia makes an arresting figure and moves with deep deliberation, but the piece itself is unfocused, hollow – and very long.
San (Beyond) is dedicated to bauhaus theatre artist Oskar Schlemmer, and dominated by its set: a translucent scrim, a suspended grey sphere, a staircase. Quaglia, in scarlet, puts in a couple of enigmatic appearances, but mostly it’s three grey men striking angular poses, or running and chasing in mechanical formations. Some scenes build startling effects – the men pistoning their limbs like machinery, or releasing sprays of polystyrene granules as they scythe their arms like rotary blades. But again there’s a feeling that it means a lot more to Diverrès than her audience.
In contrast, Maguy Marin’s hour-long Umwelt is simple, bold and disturbing. Singly, or in groups, nine performers repeatedly emerge from and retreat behind rows of mirrored slats. Each cycle shows a snapshot of human behaviour: bite an apple; don a hat; kiss a lover; wash the floor. These fragments repeat and accumulate until everything becomes equally banal, pointing a gun or dandling a baby neither more nor less significant than counting money or dropping a book.
an unflinching, dispassionate glimpse into the void at the heart of our existence. No dance performance has left me more profoundly unsettled.
Throughout, a bleak wind buffets the stage like time racing past (the score makes it sound like a howling gale), and a line of rope unspools with inexorable slowness, like seconds passing. When the rope runs out, the action simply stops, leaving a stage littered with meaningless debris: rubble, bones, discarded cloth. Umwelt is like an unflinching, dispassionate glimpse into the void at the heart of our existence. No dance performance has left me more profoundly unsettled.