Raimund Hogue and Lorenzo de Brabandere in ?Sacre - The Rite of Spring?.
Carriageworks, January 5 -8
When you are accustomed to hearing Stravinsky's Sacre as a partner of dance that is intense, savage and crowded, it's odd to hear the familiar music swirling around a virtually empty stage – only two performers – with very little movement, none of it dramatic and all of it so basic you have to wonder why you are there.
Raimund Hoghe, the pivotal creator and performer of the piece, was dramaturg for Pina Bausch's company from 1980 to 1990, so his starting point might have been an extreme reaction to her powerful, earth-floored version of the ballet.
In Nijinsky's original staging 100 years ago, it caused a riot in the theatre and has been a popular theme for reinvention ever since.
Hoghe's program note reveals his aversion to dance's "present developments, which are leading humans towards the status of design objects".
As a result, he offers himself as a performer – as distinct from the writer, which is the other side of his career – with a body that, as he says, "does not correspond with conventional ideas of beauty".
Indeed it doesn't. He is a hunchbacked dwarf of an age considerably older than one usually sees in a dance performance. Full marks to him for getting out in public to illustrate the point he wants to make but – for me at least – it is painful to watch him walk, let alone trying to propel himself across the stage on his back.
More than that, his movement is limited. And since much of the action is mirrored steps and gestures between him and his much younger, able-bodied fellow dancer, Lorenzo de Brabandere, this cuts down any possible choreographic interest from either of them.
De Brabandere has a solo run around the perimeter of the performing area, crosses it in somersaults and a kind of caterpillar propulsion of standing, falling and pushing up his torso. Apart from that, they mostly walk, kneel, lie down, and do expressionless high-fives from which they lean forward and back.
Everything tends to be repeated more than once, which may explain what appeared to be confusion about the number of repeats at one stage.
The promotion for this Sacre suggests all sorts of things the audience is meant to feel – and I hope other people did. I kept recalling the extraordinary athleticism and theatricality of the legless David Toole, dancing with DV8, and the profound effect of stillness that some performers can create. I didn't find them here.
At least I had the pleasure of hearing Stravinsky's Sacre in his arrangement for two pianos, played by Alain Franco and Guy Vandromme.