Completed at the end of World War I, Ravel’s La Valse rises from nothing but a vague rhythmic pulse, proceeding through several distinct waltz sequences, each culminating in an increasingly powerful crescendo and ending in apocalypse. Along the way come disturbing accelerations and ritards, dynamic extremes, and eerie glissandi, creating an atmosphere of violence, decadence and decay. Ravel spoke of the piece as an “apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, which is entangled in my mind with the idea of the whirl of destiny”, “a dancing, whirling, nearly hallucinating ecstasy, a whirlwind that increasingly whips on and exhausts the dancers who allow themselves to be overwhelmed and swept away by the waltz.” Beneath the glistening surface, the orchestra is being pulled away by dangerous currents. The end is as spectacular as it is frightening. The machine has jammed, time is disintegrating and we struggle to find the legendary triple beat again. Amid a terrifying din and complete upset, the music falls in on itself. Nothing is left. Time, the orchestra, dance and beyond it the world, man, life, everything has been engulfed… One of the most powerful works to come out of the First World War, La Valse can be interpreted as an evocation of grandeur and decadence, and then of the destruction of western civilisation itself.
In the final part of their show Accords, Thomas Hauert and the dancers of ZOO graft movement onto this “fantastic, fatal whirlwind”. They use their bodies like instruments, adding themselves to the ones performing the music. The harmonies, the melodies, the counterpoints are translated, amplified or physically deflected by the dancers. The rhythms travel from body to body to form captivating polyphonies of movement. Starting with Maurice Ravel’s choreographic poem for orchestra, Thomas Hauert has produced an abstract composition which relates physically to the music while also reflecting its scripted meaning.
Concept and direction Thomas Hauert
Dance created and presented by Thomas Hauert, Albert Quesada, Martin Kilvady, Sara Ludi, Liz Kinoshita, Zoë Poluch, Mat Voorter and Samantha van Wissen
Light- & set-design Jan Van Gijsel
Music Maurice Ravel, La Valse
Production ZOO/Thomas Hauert
Co-production Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels / Kaaitheater, Brussels / PACT Zollverein, Essen / Festival Alkantara, Lisbon / Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona / NXTSTP, with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union