DANCE : Pretty boys and cavemen

Bjart, Ballet Lausanne Sadler's Wells, London

In 1960, Maurice Bjart brought his production of The Rite of Spring to Sadler's Wells. This week, on a return visit to the venue, the choreographer briefly refers to that performance as he wanders among the young dancers of his Bjart Ballet Lausanne in a more recent work, Journal: 1st Chapter. The link between Rite and the first, busy instalment of Journal is Stravinsky, a composer with whom Bjart has continually claimed some special affinity.

Journal may be dedicated to Stravinsky, but it's really about Bjart. He is clearly in awe of the composer, he sees no contradiction in adding the excruciatingly chummy subtitle "Igor and I" to the work, and reading from his own notes against the soundtrack, a collage of music, orchestration, wise words and droll humour from Stravinsky. Meanwhile, Bjart's troupe fills the stage with a deranged kaleidoscope of empty postures, gestures and mannerisms. Balanchinean neo-classicism is suggested in the practice clothes, crossed legs and stabbing pointes of some of the women; the Russian Imperial school is momentarily alluded to in a quote from the Bluebird variation. But this is a choreographic mind in which anything goes, but goes nowhere in particular. What saves Journal is the touch of self- criticism that Bjart allows to filter through: "I danced Bluebird in London. I was 21. I'm sure I was awful."

Of course, there are those who will regard Bjart's choreography, rather than his performances, as the greater crime. And you don't have to be a dance purist to feel overcome by morbid fascination as you witness Bjart's spell work its ludicrous magic on the audience. All those lithe, perfect bodies encased in sheer white body stockings. All the floor-show erotica of men and women slithering in and out of an endless assortment of amazingly indecorous positions. Bjart's world is one of gymnastics and semi-nudity, hairy-chested cavemen and winsomely pretty boys, ballerinas with hyper- extended backs and legs, melodrama one moment and disinterested physical drill the next - a world in which all the clichs of a dancer's daily routine are treated as supreme art.

In his Art of the Pas de Deux programme - some 15 duets embellished by various corps de ballet groupings and set to a "musical discourse" which includes pieces by Offenbach, Duke Ellington, Vivaldi and Wagner - Bjart even slots in an item based on one of his own texts, The Barre, The Mirror, The Floor, delivered as though it were the dancer's Holy Trinity. In Episodes, his homage to Pasolini created in 1992 for Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire, Bjart both wastes and indulges the talents of his star couple. Against a musical montage featuring everything from Tristan und Isolde to Ennio Morricone, they fight, embrace, smooch, go their separate ways and finally reunite. Guillem spends much of the time changing her clothes, adjusting her auburn tresses and either being petulant or falling worshipfully at Hilaire's feet. In trying to tell us something about the futility of human relationships, Bjart succeeds only in showing a man and woman struggling to get a grasp on non-existent choreography.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy