The pas de deux has always been an intrinsic and integral part of classical ballet. The most famous and popular pas de deux by the likes of Petipa, Ashton and MacMillan tend to be in the great ballets like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia et al. One thinks of the great pairing of dancers like Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn and even Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in the film White Nights. So, bearing that in mind, it is surprising there has been no real emphasis or effort made to find specific new talent in this important aspect of dance. Until now, that is.
This week marked the first Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition (RIDCC) which took place at the Schouwburg Theatre over three days – two days of heats and the final on Saturday. The original 320 entries from around the world had been whittled down to a short list of fifteen of whom seven made it to the grand final in the main auditorium. And, apart from the prestige, there was a lot at stake, with a first prize of €100,000 in production costs to mount a new piece – the largest prize of its type in the world. There were lots of other prizes from the eight partners in RIDCC like Scapino Ballet, Conny Janssen Danst and Codarts offering similar rewards.
But down to business and the event itself. I have to say that I did not wait to hear the results of the judging, fearing it might influence what I wrote about the performances. I will include those results separately, at the end. It must also be said that I am reviewing this from a layman’s point of view, more on performance and presentation than on the finer points of choreography.
First up was Mourning, Morning by the French/Iranian duo Youri Peters and Marie Khatib-Shahidi. This was a beautifully presented but rather sombre affair about loss and the emotional trauma of letting go of someone you love to a somewhat Jewish sounding, clarinet based music track. Ms Khatib-Shahadi spent much of the piece being thrown around like a rag doll in a dance of death.
Don’t, kiss by Italian Codarts graduate Fabio Liberti was wonderful. The first of the evening’s three similar male relationship pieces, the two protagonists in this were joined at the lips in a never-ending kiss. It took us through the passionate early stages of the relationship where trousers and tee-shirts were eagerly removed, not an easy task when your tongue is permanently down someone’s throat, through conflict and back to a time when it all turned a bit more tender. Great stuff.
John Wannehag’s Our Last Song, a very slow-motion affair, was followed by another portrayal of the relationship between two men with Peeping Eye by Louis Thuriot and Borna Babić. Their fluid, intricate moves were executed like a well-oiled machine. There was a lot of humour here too and this piece became an early leader on my score card.
Courtney Mazeika and Marlie Couto did not impress me. For their piece Eventually they appeared on stage wearing jeans and ill-fitting tops which I thought showed lack of imagination and a disrespect for the paying audience. This was a competition, so they had set themselves up to be judged – nul points from me.
The penultimate performance probably scored highest on the audience clapometer and was pure, unashamed comedy. Oda Gada by Jinhwan Seok charted the perils and pitfalls of dating, male dating in this instance. The two dancers felt their way through the early stages of their tenuous relationship while receiving tips and tricks from the voice-over sound track. I loved the opening to ident music from MGM films and old Pathé newsreels. There were some excellent dance moves, but most of them executed for laughs. Very entertaining.
Last up was the shortest and most dramatic piece of the evening. Dressed all in black and lit by a single spotlight directly above them, the Greek couple Danae Dimitriadi and Dionysios Alamanos presented their Uncia. This was a fairly static affair with the couple kneeling one behind the other, the only movement being in their arms and hands. Nevertheless, this was very powerful stuff and immediately put me in mind of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis – particularly Steven Berkoff’s version of it. Uncia seemed to me to be a fairly close second on the audience clapometer but to me was a probable winner.
All in all, this was an excellent event, one that will hopefully continue and I look forward to seeing the new ballet by the winners of this competition sometime in the future. Michael Hasted 24th June 2018
Danae Dimitriadi and Dionysios Alamanos from Greece won the main prize of RIDCC with their piece Uncia and get the opportunity to make a new production at Theater Rotterdam in association with Scapino Ballet with a production budget of €100,000.
“The jury was fascinated by the original and brave choice to stick to a very simple starting point, and work that out until it becomes an overwhelming experience to watch. The piece felt complete and was a composition.”
The eight companies that are partners of RIDCC give the following choreographers the chance to make their own production during the 2018/19 theater season.
- Alanda by Mario Bermudez Gil was chosen by Scapino Ballet Rotterdam
- Uncia by Danae Dimitriadi & Dionysios Alamanos was chosen by Conny Janssen Danst and Club Guy & Roni
- I am a poem, there is no way out by Hanna van der Meer & Anna Jacobs was chosen by Club Guy en Roni
- Mourning, Morning by Youri Peters & Marie Khatib-Shahidi was chosen by Maas Theater and Codarts
- Memoire d’un Oubli by Robin Lamothe was chosen by Dansateliers
- Louis Thuriot & Borna Babić were chosen by Kunsthumanoria (BE)
- Don’t Kiss by Fabio Liberti was chosen by Norrdans (SE)
Prices to support entrepreneurship
The following choreographers received a contribution to their career in the form of a cash prize to spend on a trip, training or to support their own entrepreneurship. ·
- Fabio Liberti received a prize of € 3,500 for Do not Kiss
- Courtney Mazeika & Marlie Couto received a prize of € 2,500 for Eventually
- Jinhwan Seok received a prize of € 1,500 for his choreography Oda Gada
The jury for the first RIDCC was:- Samuel Wuersten (Holland Dance Festival), Guy Weizman, Roni Haver (Club Guy and Roni), Ed Wubbe (Scapino Ballet Rotterdam), Mira Helenius Martinsson (Norrdans), Dave Schwab (Theater Rotterdam), Peggy Olislaeger (Rambert) and chairman Jan Zoet (directeur Academie voor Theater en Dans, HKA).
Presentation photo by Marco De Swart