Sasha Waltz’s Gezeiten at BAM
I thought maybe it was me. I mean, I had only heard reverent, adoring things about Sasha Waltz’s work and her influence on other choreographers. But I asked around and discussed it with lots of people and consensus says that GEZEITEN was, at best, disappointing.
Gezeiten (Tides), is an evening-length work for 16 dancers with live cello accompaniment. The piece explores themes of destruction and renewal, investigating life’s transformation following catastrophe.
I had high hopes – especially during the first section which featured some beautiful images and imaginative choreography with great partnering. The dancers moved into and out of groups and pairs, lifted each other, carrying each other off and onstage. At one point each of the dancers held another aloft as they spun in increasingly accelerating circles which worked to great effect. The dancers moved precisely and athletically and the cello accompaniment added some emotional resonance.
However, the first section went on a little too long, only to give way to the second section which was an overly literal dramatic enactment of being besieged. A stranger appears in the group’s midst and they shun him as possibly disease-ridden, certainly dangerous. We see the effects of paranoia and xenophobia, we see the small group of people devolve into power struggles and dissension. This section goes on far too long and even when the stage catches fire it feels gimmicky and non-threatening. Finally the third section comes around, which is s surreal landscape of destruction and desolation. There are a few interesting, macabre images but overall it was tedious and undramatic. Structurally I suppose it was meant to move from order to chaos and explore issues of social decay, but it was taxing to watch. Finally the destruction concludes and there are three people – who had been dragged in as if in body bags – who are left standing, undulating on the stage like huge human larvae. An interesting image but it was too little too late.
One thought that came up in many of my discussions of the piece afterwards was “What if this hadn’t been at BAM?” I think if I had seen the piece performed by some random company in NYC I would have been more immediately dismissive of it as overwrought and poorly executed. But because of the frame and context it seemed to have a weight that I’m not sure it deserved. That being said, I could see glimmers of artistry and imagination, but nothing like what I’d been led to expect from people’s descriptions of Waltz’s Körper, which was apparently a work of unmitigated genius.
I guess I’ll have to wait for the next one from Ms. Waltz and hope for the best.
Featuring Sasha Waltz & Guests
Directed and Choreographed by Sasha Waltz
Music by Jonathan Bepler and Johann Sebastian Bach
Stage design by Thomas Schenk and Sasha Waltz
Costume design by Beate Borrmann
Lighting design by Martin Hauk
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave)
Nov 3, 5 & 6 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $20, 30, 45, 55