TWO TALES by Scapino Ballet and RIDCC at Theater Rotterdam

Since its inception in 2018 the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition – the RIDCC – has grown in stature and, despite having effectively lost two years because of Covid, it has become a major fixture on the international dance calendar. Created by two Scapino Ballet principal dancers Maya Roest and Mischa van Leeuven, RIDCC owes much of its success to its links to that company. Scapino provides not only support but also access to a large, prestigious stage by giving RIDCC winners the opportunity to create pieces for the company. Their current production, Two Tales, which premiered last night at Theater Rotterdam, is just that.

Now, I don’t know if it was coincidence or a direction from the powers that be, but both works had a lot in common – two side of the same coin almost. Both were about death and both were all black affairs.

The first piece, Free at Last by Danae Dimitriadi and Dionysios Alamanos, winners of the first RIDDC five years ago, was a very graceful but nonetheless sombre piece. Inspired by an event in 1803 when, rather than face a fate worse than death at the hands of the invading Ottoman army, sixty women of Zalongo, a village in northern Greece, committed mass suicide by jumping off a cliff, taking their children with them. This is a well-known story and has been interpreted in dance before but the five female dancers in this version by Danae and Dionysios bring to it a simplicity and elegance despite the impending and inevitable tragedy.

Equally black and equally focused on death, The Mourning had farcical elements to alleviate the gloom. In a strange way it put me in mind of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi in as much as the piece was centred around a recently dead corpse. Perhaps not surprisingly then, The Mourning is the creation of Erika Silgoner, a young lady of Sicilian origin. She was winner of the 2021 RIDCC XL Prize, of which the opportunity to produce this pieces is the result.

The corpse in question was still warm when it was laid out, having danced solo in the opening sequence. A little unusually for dance there was a proper set consisting of a bed for the body, three chairs and wall with nice patterned wallpaper and a door, oh, and a hat-stand. After the corpse had taken up his position he was suitably attended by four mourners and a priest who wandered to and fro, reading from a book, the Bible I suppose. Suddenly there is a loud knock on the door and a smoking, menacing stranger joins the proceedings as the death knell tolls.

The Mourning was a very special piece, combining drama, humour and some outstanding dancing. It demonstrates the value of RIDCC in discovering and giving the opportunity for new talent to develop and be seen on a larger stage. Congratulations to all involved and a reminder the next RIDCC takes place in the same theatre in June.   Michael Hasted    7th April 2023

Photo Bas Czerwinski.j