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Sasha Waltz & Guests in Impromptus (Photo credit: Sebastian Bolesch)

Sacha Waltz: Impromptus

above: Sasha Waltz & Guests in Impromptus (Photo credit: Sebastian Bolesch)

Review by Jo Tomalin

Sasha Waltz & Guests in Impromptus (Photo credit: Sebastian Bolesch)

Cal Performances presented Impromptus by the Berlin based company, Sacha Waltz & Guests at Zellerbach Hall October 24 and 25, 2014

Very well known in Europe as an innovative and avant-garde choreographer, Sacha Waltz’s Impromptus is a seventy five minute lyrical feast of abstract movement storytelling, beautifully expressed by seven dancers in their only US appearance this season.

The choreography for Impromptus by Waltz and her dancers (premiered in 2004), explores movement and emotion through Franz Schubert’s music, beautifully played live onstage by pianist Cristina Marton and mezzo-soprano Ruth Sandhof. Dancers: Xuan Shi, Niannian Zhou, Juan Cruz, Yael Schnell, Michal Mualem, Zaratiana Randrianantenaina, and Luc Dunberry.

These seven dancers perform in ever changing combinations to each of the five short melodic piano pieces, and four also accompanied by Sandhof, singing Schubert Lieders. While this may be seen as an abstract piece, fragments of a storyline expressing life, relationships, society and discord seem apparent.

Dancing, jumping and balancing on two large dramatically tilted platforms with a huge moving gold four sided wooden backdrop – a stunning design concept by Thomas Schenk and Sasha Waltz – pose challenges but result in an amazing achievement by the dancers. Staged with an exquisite lighting design by Martin Hauk, ethereal costumes in white, beige, cream, brown, black and gray, dancers enter and exit, cross, pair up and separate, energetically moving from one level to another.

Sasha Waltz & Guests in Impromptus (Photo credit: Sebastian Bolesch)

The intricate, muscular, unpredictable and often playful quality of the choreography is well expressed by Waltz’s visceral dancers’ precision of footwork and effortless line. They perform fascinating theatrical dance movement comprising pensive, Butoh slow moves and regards, exquisite partner lifts by both male and female dancers, dynamic and spritely moments, always somehow sinking into the music. Occasionally the dancers continue through silent moments without piano or song, which are very effective and add to the drama of those moments and relationships.

A highlight of this piece is the surprise metaphor when all seven dancers slow motion crawl across the stage, daubing themselves in red paint, and the ensuing scenes of resilience and moving final moments.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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