Cluster, A Lavish Volume of Photographs, Looks Back on 15 Years of Sasha Waltz & Guests
The book is called Cluster: Sasha Waltz and contains hardly any text, just three brief essays by Judith Butler, Dorita Hannah and Carolin Emcke. Apart from which, it tells the story of the last 15 years in 200 pages of lavish photography. In the first picture, we see Sasha Waltz in Twenty to Eight with a Twenties-style bob haircut and a youthful, seductive face reminiscent of Berg’s Lulu. It was her first evening-length piece, a marvellously charming, surreally poetic work that made her international reputation overnight. In the last photograph, Waltz’s dancers stand crowded together on chairs, staring in horror at a single figure who tries to steal his way out of the picture on all fours.
Chains of associations
“Cluster” can mean a “bunch” or a “crowd”, but it also refers to a technique used in creative writing, in which you start from a central word and open up ever new chains of associations leading off in different directions. Which is exactly how this book is structured: At the beginning, we see Sasha Waltz as the central figure in Twenty to Eight and the two subsequent parts of the Travelogue trilogy, All Ways Six Steps and Tears Break Fast. These are the only pieces in which she actually appears as a dancer before disappearing from view as her work takes centre stage. The reader notices her choreography growing increasingly substantial from year to year and becoming markedly more abstract and serious, even if certain poetic preoccupations run through the photographs like leitmotifs.
The book is organised chronologically, with sections on the various periods in Waltz’s career. This means it follows the cycles evident in her work and, by doing so, reminds the reader that this is a choreographer who does not just devote herself to completely new ideas every few years but, whenever she does so, succeeds in accomplishing each transition in sensational style. This was true as early as Twenty to Eight – the first and also the strongest work in the Travelogue trilogy. It was just as true of Allee der Kosmonauten, which followed on from the completion of the trilogy. With this piece of choreography, Sasha Waltz celebrated the opening of a new venue – the Sophiensäle, which she cofounded – as well as focussing on completely new, social themes. It was this work for which she received her first invitation to the Theatertreffen in 1996. A second Theatertreffen invitation then came in 2000, when the choreographer once again marked the start of something quite new in Körper (Body): at this time, she joined forces with the director Thomas Ostermeier, the dramaturg Jens Hillje and her husband, Jochen Sandig, to take charge of the legendary Schaubühne, a theatre that had been decisively shaped by Peter Stein but had not been able to liberate itself from the legacy of his tenure. With Körper, the theatre succeeded in making an overdue new beginning, an achievement that, at least initially, was entirely due to the efforts of Sasha Waltz.
Working with space
Sasha Waltz stayed at the Schaubühne for five years. S, noBody, insideout, Impromptus and Gezeiten (Tides) were all created during this period. As was her own, independent staging of Dido & Aeneas, Waltz’s first venture into the world of opera, which was produced in cooperation with the Berlin Academy of Ancient Music and premiered at the Grand Théatre de Luxembourg. In the mean time, she has followed up her version of Purcell’s baroque masterpiece with a second opera of a quite different nature, Medea.
|'Dido & Aeneas'|
It now remains to be seen what Sasha Waltz will do next. She recently moved again, to an old industrial building located directly next to the River Spree and magnificently enhanced with a new glass extension. This venue, which is called Radialsystem, ultimately owes its existence to Waltz’s Dido & Aeneas. The two producers (Jochen Sandig from Sasha Waltz & Guests and Folkert Uhde from the Academy of Ancient Music) felt that if they could stage an opera independently, there was no reason why they could not establish their own venue as well. Radialsystem was conceived programmatically as a place where old and new art, music and dance would meet and interact. In the summer of 2006, Sasha Waltz launched the venue with a powerful opening production that only received a few performances. Cluster ends with photographs of Gezeiten, but the figure escaping from the book’s final image appears to be seeking a way forward into the future of dance, a path along which Waltz’s audience will surely follow her as well. The latest stage in the creative development of German dance theatre’s most significant choreographer since Pina Bausch is well underway.
|In August 2007, Sasha Waltz was chosen as the "choreographer of the year" by the critics poll in the trade journal ballett/tanz.|
|Sasha Waltz: Cluster; Henschel Verlag, 2007; German/English/French; ISBN-13: 978-3894875725|
is dance critic at the Berliner Zeitung
Translation: Martin Pearce
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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