The Fifth Annual RIDCC at Theater Rotterdam

Megastructure by Sarah Baltzinger and Isaiah Wilson

In the five years since it was conceived and created, the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition, despite its mouthful of a name and the cruel interruption by Covid-19, has become an important event on the international dance calendar. And judging by the nationalities of the well over four hundred entries it could be said that Scapino Ballet dancers Maya Roest and Mischa van Leeuwen have established a dance event of world significance. We were at the final to see the seven acts that had made it through the demanding initial selection and two evenings of spectacular semi-finals.

By way of a warm up we were entertained in the Studio theatre for twenty-minutes before curtain up on the main event by the group Lunatics and Poets. This was part of the RIDCC Brings Back initiative whereby choreographers from previous years are invited to create a special piece. Lunatics and Poets won the Roni and Guy Partner Award in 2018 and, now as a six-piece group, presented their beautiful The People Look Like Flowers at Last.

Genial former dancer and actor Jan Kooijman, as in previous years, guided us through proceedings with a light hand. I should say now that we deliberately did not hang around to hear the results at the after-party in the foyer. I wanted to write an unbiased review which was not influenced by what everyone else thought. Nor am I going to be a judge myself – too risky. Official results will be at the end.

This review will inevitably be a glorified list but I can’t really avoid that as everyone deserves a mention – I liked all the performances.

First up was Boj, choreographed and danced by Urvil Shah & Chetan Solanki from India whose excellent contribution involved a very long piece of rope. This was followed by the most dramatic piece of the evening, almost like a little play. Clay, was also danced by its two choreographers, Mats van Rossum & Rebecca Laufer, the only Dutch performers of the evening. Set in a room with a chair and a table on which sat a lamp, it started off almost like a horror story with a ghost-like woman and the man sitting with his back to the audience smoking profusely – I mean as if on fire, not smoking a cigarette. The piece developed into a violent domestic fight for possession of the chair. Powerful stuff.

Yang Kang, Huang Sijun and Zhu Xinyun are, as you might have guessed, from China, and Up was almost an exercise in circus skills as much as dance. Involving the use of a white wooden step-ladder, Yang Kang and Huang Sijun displayed extraordinary skill and imagination in their simple but effective contribution. Next up was Loca by Spaniard Albert Hernandez and danced by Irene Tena and Andrea Antó. This piece was essentially about madness involving, not surprisingly, strong flamenco influences. The opening sequence, lit by a single spotlight above the dancers which created a misty cone of light, was spectacular.

Amae was a classic pas de deux, danced and created by Brussels-based Eliana Stragapede and Borna Babić, involving some very clever and technically difficult lifts. The lighting was particularly effective with beams of horizontal light creating crosses in which they danced.

Until now all the pieces were performed on a black stage with designed lighting. For Megastructure by Sarah Baltzinger and Isaiah Wilson all the black curtains disappeared and we were left on the theatre’s vast, empty stage with everything showing. This was back to basics, lit by a simple, unforgiving work light and with no music/soundscape. There were strong elements of comedy in this piece which involved a lot of wobbly leg contortions.

The quality of the programme was such that after the first act one said to oneself, that must be the winner. And then after the second, one thought the same, all the way to then end.

Last up was Breath with Me a Moment by Or Marin from Israel and danced by Uri Dicker and Tomer Giat. Performed on a narrow white strip, the two bearded men, wearing only black knickers, appeared to be kissing each other, their lips locked in a passionate embrace. Accompanied by the sounds of a simple mouth-organ they became more animated, their mouths never separating. It soon became clear that, in fact, they weren’t kissing at all and that the music was coming from the mouth-organ they shared. Now, it must be said their harmonica playing was not very accomplished but they did manage to dance and play it mouth-to-mouth without missing a beat. I had the impression this final act received the greatest applause. But we shall see.    Michael Hasted  25th June 2023


And the results came in just as I finished writing my review . . .

Winner of the fifth anniversary edition RIDCC
Isaiah Wilson (LU) and Sarah Baltzinger (FR) won RIDCC’s coveted main prize with the piece MEGASTRUCTURE. The XL Production Award with a value of € 100,000 gives Sarah and Isaiah the opportunity to create a complete professional production in collaboration with Scapino Ballet Rotterdam and RIDCC, made possible by Stichting Droom en Daad.

The jury on the winning duet
“MEGASTRUCTURE is a powerful and bold performance. The excellent use of space and clear humor create an engaging and immersive experience. With MEGASTRUCTURE the choreographers create an intriguing composition, and the choice of not using music is fearless and captivating. What surprises and sparks curiosity is the theatricality of the piece. The confidence and authenticity made it a truly remarkable and brave performance.”

The winners of the Partner Awards:

Or Marin (IL) – MiR Dance Company Gelsenkirchen
Isaiah Wilson (LU) & Sarah Baltzinger (FR) – Scania Dance Theatre
Mats (NL) & Rebecca Laufer (US/ IL) – Club Guy & Roni/Poetic Disasters Club
Isaiah Wilson (LU) & Sarah Baltzinger (FR)  – NDT
Charlie Skuy (CA) – Conny Janssen Dances
Borna Babić (HR) & Eliana Stragapede (IT) – Codarts Rotterdam
Isaiah Wilson (LU) & Sarah Baltzinger (FR) – SALLY Dance Company Maastricht
Borna Babić (HR) & Eliana Stragapede (IT) – Dansateliers
Isaiah Wilson (LU) & Sarah Baltzinger (FR) – MAAS Theater and Dance

Honorable Audience Award
Choreographer Albert Hernández (ES) returns home with the Audience Award, consisting of the total sum of money raised by the audience. More importantly, the Audience Award can be seen as a prize of honour; for choreographers, the opinion of the audience is incredibly valuable, as they are the spectators and recipients of their creativity.

The internationally renowned jury of RIDCC’s fifth edition consisted of Samuel Wuersten – artistic director Holland Dance Festival (chairman), Hofesh Shechter – choreographer, composer & artistic director Hofesh Shechter Company, Katrín Hall – artistic director GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, Tony Adigun – creative director Avant Garde Dance, and Eve Hopkins, artistic director Theater Bellevue.