GAUTHIER DANCE//DANCE COMPANY THEATERHAUS STUTTGART
MITREIßEND, BERÜHREND UND GANZ SPEZIELL
In der Schauburg zuvor hatten sich sogar die kleinsten Zuschauer "die Hände wundgeklatscht". Christian Spuck, einer der wenigen jungen Neoklassiker, die sich an Erzählballette wagen, hat 2007 Cervantes' "Don Quijote" mit wunderbar beflügelter Phantasie in ein Revue-Duett für Stuttgarts Altstar Egon Madsen und den Stuttgarter Superbeweger Eric Gauthier verwandelt. Und wie Egon & Eric im zugerümpelten Theaterfundus das Kind im Manne rauslassen, mit Spielzeug-Windmühlen fechten, sich die unerfüllte Sehnsucht nach Dulcinea rockend aus dem Herzen tanzen, ist mit das schönste Tanztheater, das wir letzthin gesehen haben: komisch, tragisch und zugleich tröstlich. Denn hier spiegelt sich ja Egon in Eric. Und umgekehrt. Und Alter mit seiner Erfahrung und Jugend mit ihrer Spannkraft fließen in eins.
Malve Gradinger, tanznetz.de 27.10.2008
ROSINANTE IS A ROCKING HORSE
With perfect timing, Don Q. and Sancho P. dance and prance, rollicking to high heaven, afflicted to death on the scale of emotions, supported by music from every direction. Spuck’s musical concept couples Franz Schubert’s Winterreise with the mambo beat of Perez Prado, moves from Ludwig Minkus’s Don Quixote ballet music straight into the James Brown soul number “I Feel Good”, and adds Alfred Schnittke and György Kurtág into the mix. Even that works because the two figures in their enclosure are so comical, so moving and so thoroughly musical.
Ditta Rudle, Die Presse, 11. September 2007
DANCE LEGEND EGON MADSEN BACK ON STAGE
Age and youth determine the subject matter of the light-hearted evening, filled with slapstick as well as quietly moving moments. Christian Spuck cleverly utilizes the familiar ballet classic Don Quixote, even bringing the old Ludwig Minkus dance score into his daring musical sequence along with Schubert lieder, disco songs and Schnittke waltz motifs.
The two expressive personalities repeatedly dance in unison. Spuck has devised for these scenes a flexible language with comic moments, sometimes deliberately clumsy in effect. But the intensity is discharged in the reflective scenes, when it becomes obvious that Don Q. has come back out his confused state. But how encouraging still being able to daydream his wishes, even when the reality is one of Beckettesque bleakness.
Andrea Amort, Der Kurier, Wien, 8.9.2007
DAREDEVIL CROSSOVER BETWEEN GENRES
Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier in Christian Spuck’s Don Q at the Theaterhaus
Don who? Quixote, of course. El ingenioso Hidalgo de la Mancha, Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, who since 1600 has drifted like a ghost through the world in a variety of metamorphoses – as the hero of a novel, on stage in an opera, ballet, musical and play, on film, and in painting and drawing. And now as “a not always danced revue about the loss of reality” on the stage of the Stuttgart Theaterhaus, a co-production with the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg in cooperation with the Stuttgart Ballet to mark the 80th birthday of John Cranko. Acclaimed by the audience with thunderous applause – as a sort of curtain-raiser to the Cranko anniversary celebrations.
This production mixes dance, pantomime, playacting and revue, and mixes musical genres ranging from Minkus, Schubert and Schnittke to pop, a (very) distant salute to Cervantes via Anouilh and Max Frisch (the programme booklet even refers to Beckett). But, more than anything else, it’s also a salute to the generations of seniors and youngsters. Into the mix are added the levels of reality and dreams, of everyday banality and utopian idealism – of heroically posing machismo and heart-warming tenderness. And then gender boundaries break down when Dulcinea appears as a transvestite. And, not least, whenever Egon Madsen, one of the founding fathers of the Stuttgart Ballet from the Cranko era, appears chummily alongside Eric Gauthier.
Who’s longing for whom here – the senior for the leaps of a modern Luftikus, or the disco fan for the wisdom and experience of his father? It’s the daring mix that gives this production its appeal. In a sense, what we have here is a meeting of a delegate from the first company of the Nederlands Dans Theater with an envoy from the no longer existent Nederlands Dans Theater III. Spuck as coordinating director and choreographer delves deep into the theatrical box of tricks and proves how adept he is with its resources – including a remote-controlled model of a windmill.
oe © tanznetz.de 1996-2004
NOT A DANCED BATTLE AGAINST WINDMILLS
Outstanding production of Don Q. with Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier
Together with the two dancers, Spuck has created scenes that exude an air of uniqueness, giving the impression that only these two, in this constellation, could convey this level enthralment, this degree of stage presence. An unprecedented evening.
Armin Bauer, Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung, 8.9.2007
ON A ROCKING HORSE AND A BICYCLE
Stuttgart – They go together like pepper and salt, the 30-year-old ballet soloist Eric Gauthier and the 65-year-old white-maned ex-dancer Egon Madsen. Choreographer Christian Spuck has tailor-made for these two a “not always danced revue about the loss of reality”, as he subtitles his work Don Q. The premiere audience in the Theaterhaus gave a rapturous reception to its performance, one in which every single ingredient was perfectly judged, from the set to the music and the dramaturgy.
“Dulcineaaa”, cries Egon Madsen, alias Don Q., lying on the ground and twitching with his bare legs. The real world of Egon and Eric, alias Sancho Panza, is nostalgic and confined, which makes them all the happier to wander off in thought, out of this junk room into distant fantasies. Instead of a nag and a donkey, as in the novel by Cervantes, this odd couple rides a rocking horse and a bicycle through an imaginary La Mancha of discarded objects, an idyll as it might have been painted by Carl Spitzweg, furnished with a piano, books, ladies’ shoes, a film projector and countless boxes.
Some of them are simply lying there, mute witnesses to their own story; others, like a table and chairs, are turned into surrogate partners for emotional outbursts and declarations of love. The wardrobe doors open as if by magic and Dulcinea (Gauthier) appears as a blonde in a flamingo-coloured evening dress. Briefly and unattainably, a fata morgana wonderfully sent up by the original text: “Her beauty is unearthly, her hair is gold, her forehead a garden in paradise…”
The music ranging from Schubert, Schnittke and cleverly integrated fragments of Minkus’s Don Quixote ballet music all the way to disco and James Brown is used for Gauthier’s virtuosic room-filling, neo-classical variants of leaps, plunges and rolls. As they move in tandem across the space – evoking Keaton and Chaplin – the pair sometimes pull faces. Cryptically, the choreographer refers to the music as our projection screen in the flight from reality. A masterpiece in chamber format, which Cranko, whose 80th birthday it commemorates, would surely have enormously enjoyed.
Leonore Welzin, Heilbronner Stimme, 8.9.2007
BALLET / CHRISTIAN SPUCK’S CHOREOGRAPHY DON Q. - MAMBO IN THE JUNK ROOM
A danced double act with Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier in the Stuttgart Theaterhaus
Take two movement artists of differing ages, an inventive choreographer and a dash of fun. The result is Don Q. in the Theaterhaus.
When Egon Madsen hit the Stuttgart Ballet in 1961, Eric Gauthier wasn’t even born yet. Two dancer generations that aren’t really that different: both always tended in the Cranko company and later to take the part of Mercutio rather than to become the danseur noble, both tended to represent happy soul of dance, although not without breaches and glimpses into the abyss.
Unlike the Danish Madsen, who after years as ballet director in Frankfurt, Stockholm and Florence is now, as he approaches retirement age, obliged to witness the despicable dismantling of his last great achievement (the fabulous company of seniors of the Nederlands Dans Theater), the Canadian Gauthier is only just sallying forth towards new horizons. Following his period as a Stuttgart soloist, he is now establishing a new dance department at the Theaterhaus.
As a sort of overture to that venture, we now have the two-hander Don Q.: two profound jokesters, worthy opponents in the duel of generations; and this in turn takes a theme which transcends generations, that of disillusion in the wake of illusion. Assuming centre stage is the hero of the novel Don Quixote, that Ernst Blochian “role model of frontier-crossing”, externalizing the internal clash between the delusional world and reality. Christian Spuck’s pithy choreography reduces the Cervantes original to its barest essentials: to “Don Q.”, an aging dream-dancer trapped within his increasingly heavy body. Buzzing around him to Romantic lieder and pop-song rhythms, however, is a fleet-footed alter ego, at times in the form of a Dulcinea projection, at others as a juvenile Sancho Panza or, mostly, as a Beckettesque tramp-cum-spiritual brother.
At the beginning, both pairs of trousers are dropped at once; and along the way there is a duel of grimacing that must set some sort of record, an interjected mambo, and an energy-conserving dance with nimble fingertips. The enormous tension built up on the junk-room stage (with a rocking-horse Rosinante and a twee little windmill) is achieved through opposition: Madsen is the expressive minimalist with a language of economic gestures, while Gauthier is more like a whirlwind, a Franck Ribéry of the dance floor.
But in between the pair recurrently come together in stretches of plastic synchronization, especially in the intelligent game they want to play with the poor Knight of the Doleful Countenance. They succeed: the audience goes wild.
Wilhelm Triebold, Bietigheimer Zeitung, 8.9.2007
BE MY DULCINEA
Never a dull moment: The dance piece Don Q with Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier is premiered in Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus
Stuttgart – Is it Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza who are comforting each other, or is it Vladimir and Estragon? Don Q, the new and “not always danced revue about the loss of reality”, draws a direct line in the Theaterhaus from Cervantes to Beckett. Two sad clowns conjure up illusions for themselves and fall into despair over whether they’re waiting for Godot or for Dulcinea, or for something else, probably death.
Don Q is, in the ballet world, the affectionate abbreviation for the old Petipa warhorse Don Quixote. It is to this sunny, buoyant ballet classic that the Stuttgart Theaterhaus’s first dance production after a long hiatus – and the first with its new dance director Eric Gauthier – alludes. He is the young counterpart to the white-maned Egon Madsen, like Gauthier a former darling of the Stuttgart Ballet public but nearly twice his age. The subtle acting of these two dancers carries this 70-minute two-hander, which, although it deals with whiling away time, is never dull for a moment.
In a neat row on the edge of a precisely demarcated space (sets and costumes by Emma Ryott) which the two captives never leave: a broken-down piano, a bicycle, clothes, boxes and suitcases. Rosinante is a rocking horse; a little windmill lies over the corner of the wardrobe. We witness one day in the life, from getting up to going to bed, filled with well-practised rituals of blithe repression. It begins with pulled faces, turns into a tea-bag tossing competition and then into a shower of confetti. In their best moments, the two forget themselves altogether and romp with blissful foolishness across the stage. But again and again the illusion is shattered, leaving behind even greater depression, against which they have to struggle ever more strenuously.
Mumbling and grumbling, but with infinite love (just like Sancho Panza), the younger of the two men takes pains to make the old dreamer happy – he shows him which windmills are worth tilting at, he brings out the funny Carnival hats, he even conjures him up a vision of his longed-for Dulcinea, making himself so frightfully ridiculous as a blonde drag queen that he brings tears to our eyes. When he gets slap-happy and starts feeling too comfortable, the old man torments him; but the young man puts up with even that, stoically and sadly. He does everything, in fact, to dispel the dreadful lost feeling that shows in Egon Madsen’s eyes when Don Quixote wakens to reality. It seems almost uncanny how strongly these two dancing actors resemble each other – in their ability to reduce the hall to howls and roars with a disparaging glance, in their energy and childlike enthusiasm, in their painful intensity.
Interrupted by original interludes ranging from shuffle to disco, the dancing at first still looks like typical Spuck, but later the movements of the consoling duos and resigned solos become more and more expressive, more and more real. Spuck, in masterly fashion, shows the thin line upon which the relationship has saved itself, the constantly tipping balance between laughter and tears. Aptly he calls his Don Q a revue: that is certainly the right name for this collage of Schubert lieder, Schnittke, pure feel-good pop and snippets of Ludwig Minkus’s ballet music. The dramaturgy, however, is stringently maintained; the way to the abyss becomes ever steeper. For the saddest of all Don Quixotes and the most faithful of all Sancho Panzas there remains only farce as a final refuge from the void. And yet, Don Q isn’t pure existentialism. The piece dares to hope more than does its model Beckett because, in spite of all the despair, it believes in consolation and love.
Angela Reinhardt, Eßlinger Zeitung, 8.9.2007
“DON Q” PREMIERE - ROOKIE MEETS VETERAN
Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier, former Stuttgart Ballet soloists, on stage together at the Theaterhaus
Stuttgart – A greenhorn and a stubborn old mule are trapped in a gigantic box. There’s no escape – only a rocking horse, a rusty bicycle, windmills and a mysterious wardrobe. Not only was the bizarre set striking in Don Q, the dance revue which had its premiere on Thursday in Stuttgart. The protagonists’ roles were danced by two former stars of the Stuttgart Ballet: Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier. Both used to be soloists in the company, though in different generations. Madsen is 65; his former pupil Gauthier is 35 years younger.
The age difference lends the piece its special charm: youthful cockiness meets the obstinacy of advanced years – and just as in real life, they complement and grate against each other. But, above all, the box serves to enclose one another’s exclusive company. And so the young Gauthier solicitously brings his dance partner a cup of tea – and then keeps on bringing him more tea-bags, as the annoyed older man tosses them away in time to the music.
Although the story is confined to a single room, there are big emotions at stake here: longings and bitter disappointment, dreams and reality, and flight from stultifying everyday existence. Suddenly Dulcinea, a diva in a candy-coloured tulle dress, appears in the wardrobe and enchants the old man – until he realizes with a shock that he can never reach this dream figure.
The choreographer Christian Spuck – who has been the Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer for six years – was inspired in this piece by Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote. In the world that Spuck creates on stage, euphoria and dejection come in rapid alternation. The varied music, ranging from Schubert to James Brown, is alternately melancholy and lively, lamenting and light-hearted. The dancers tilt at windmills, outdo each other in pulling faces and groove across the stage in lockstep – only to cower crestfallen in the corner a moment later.
“What’s special about the piece is the connection between Eric and myself. The vibes between us are right. Don Q was written specifically for us,” says Madsen. The Danish dancer knows Gauthier from the Stuttgart Ballet, where following his solo career in the 1990s he was appointed ballet master and vice-director. Madsen now lives in Italy. When he’s not on stage, he’s home tending his olives.
After eleven years Gauthier found his ballet work in Stuttgart too monotonous. Last year he left to devote himself to his many other projects. The 30-year-old Canadian is not only a dancer: he also plays the guitar, sings and writes texts for his rock band Royaltease. Starting in October he will direct his own dance ensemble at Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus.
Heike Sonnberger, dpa, 7.09.2007
LOST IN DREAMS – AND LOST IN LIFE
Humour and melancholy, acting and dancing, slapstick and ennui are so skilfully amalgamated here that one’s laughter is mixed with tears and silliness is imbued with depth. But how could it miss with two stage animals like the multi-talents Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier? And it didn’t miss. The idea for this piece became the determining factor for the founding of an ensemble at the Theaterhaus, with Eric Gauthier as its director.
Don Q. has nothing to do with the new company Gauthier Dance that takes up work in October – and yet, with this production in his new workplace, the former audience favourite of the Stuttgart Ballet is clearly seeking to live up to the trust that has been placed in him.
And he does so wonderfully in this collaboration with choreographer Christian Spuck and his dance-colleague Egon Madsen. Everything is in place in this miniature edition that manages to conjure up the cosmos of Cervantes’s masterpiece with two dancers. Spuck’s tried-and-tested designer Emma Ryott has recreated the Knight’s world out of junk. Rosinante is a rocking horse; and there’s an old bicycle, a blond-wigged Dulcinea in the wardrobe, a sword, and a windmill that eventually takes on a remote-controlled life of its own.
In front of this backdrop two men awaken from their dreams – or are they merely making their dreams visible? The young man is the older one’s shadow as they move, one behind the other, across the stage, the old man a reflection of the younger as they sit at the table and let their arms, hands and upper bodies do the dancing. The movements are economical and precise. The highly musical flow, edgy rebellion and arms that seem to speak volumes: for Spuck devotees Don Q. is also a conundrum – what do we know like it from earlier ballets? Certainly not the comical tilting at windmills.
Spuck demands a lot from Madsen the senior; and Gauthier, when he breaks away from the slipstream of the older man, artfully loses his footing. In 22 scenes, about as long as one of Schubert’s anguished lieder or a driving song by Iggy Pop, these two develop a great wealth of attributes in their relationship. Who are these two, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? An old man recalling the unfulfilled dreams of his youth? A young man who still believes in the windmills that the older man wants to hack to bits? Vladimir and Estragon, whose life passes by because they wait and wait? Two lovers who don’t make it through the clash with reality unscathed? Out of dreams, into life – this may be the message that Spuck, a specialist in danced loss of reality, is leaving us to take away after his reading of Don Quixote. One thing is certain: there is a scene in Don Q. that we’re sure to encounter more often. The way the rhythm of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” creeps into the bones of the duo, the way the old man “pulls the strings” of the young man and then of the music – that could become a brilliant showstopper.
Andrea Kachelriess, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 8.9.2007
TWO MEN STILL ABLE TO ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER
Don Q.: at the Stuttgart Theaterhaus dancers Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier are looking for a blonde Dulcinea
What a liaison! What a perfect couple – the old man and the young man; one
white-haired and the other dark-haired; one physically compact, the other
agile and well-toned – there is no doubt from the start of the new Stuttgart
dance production Don Q. that Egon Madsen in his mid-60s and the
thirtysomething Eric Gauthier were made for one another.
These 70 minutes that choreographer Christian Spuck has created for two such different bodies on the Theaterhaus stage are unquestionably among the most beautiful, witty and moving that our local dance scene has had to offer in a very long time.
Madsen and Gauthier are a dream team simply because their dancing and prancing offers the audience an ideal target onto which to project all that one could possibly see in them. Because, who are these two gentlemen on stage, really? Are they indeed two successors of Don Quijote and Sancho Pansa in some late stage of human evolution, as the title of the piece would have it? Or aren’t they rather two brothers of Vladimir and Estragon from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot? Are they possibly lovers who can already look back on a few years of togetherness? Or rather a teacher and his student? Father and son? Or do they embody two souls of one and the same creature, after all?
Half hidden behind boxes
At any rate, at the outset the old man needs quite some time before he is brought to life, and before the youth helps him with donning his trousers and dance shoes. On the face of it, the ensuing scenario unfolding on the large, black stage – reminiscent of an attic room with its droll, mismatched furniture – comes across like a revue of little, whimsical numbers, sometimes screamingly funny, sometimes extremely sad. But at second and third glance it tells a complete and highly touching story. With Don Q. choreographer Christian Spuck manages to have a crack at weaving a fine philosophy of life, failure and hope. Ever so quietly. As if in passing. A great success not least because of this.
By means of a grimacing competition Madsen and Gauthier warm up together. By means of a subtle dance with chairs they pick up momentum. By flinging around teabags they find the right rhythm. Accompanied by music by Alfred Schnittke, Ludwig Minkus, Franz Schubert, James Brown or Iggy Pop they marvellously skid through the highs and lows of human moods from then on, ever propelled by the blonde Dulcinea, whose regular, vision-like appearance in a wardrobe gets at least the old man going. Again, Christian Spuck, the resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet, successfully and virtuosically interleaves elements and figures of contemporary dance with everyday gestures and routine acts, using his terse movement language. This is what makes this performance unpretentious on the one hand, and subtly ironic on the other. But at no point does it betray his characters or expose them to mockery. On the contrary: all the oddities we see are as dignified as they are genuine. At the end of the day, we always see a little of ourselves. Anyway: the two blokes don’t get out of their room for the whole evening (set design: Emma Ryott). All that we know about Don Quijote – longing for the great love, battling with the windmills, riding a horse or mule – here all this becomes a pure jamboree, staged for one another. The spectator quickly gages that also the pair know that they constantly lead each other up the garden path. Is it a game? A ritual? What urges them on?
No wonder, then, that at some stage we are shudderingly looking into an abyss. The boundaries between hoaxing and horror are fluid. What a great five minutes of theatre when, to James Brown’s fundamentally hackneyed “I feel good”, Spuck, Madsen and Gauthier counteract all that an audience is used to seeing to this music. On stage, surely no-one feels good at some point, and for a moment the spectator believes this Don Q. will meet a very bitter end. Besides, this very uncertainty effectively differentiates this piece from the light-hearted comedy acts often on show at the Theaterhaus.
Impetus for resident company
The evening pleases the audience also because in collaboration with the Stuttgart Ballet it generates supportive momentum for a resident company that is due to deliver more dance productions in Stuttgart independently from the Stuttgart Ballet. As of 1st October, Eric Gauthier is directing his own troupe of six dancers based at the Theaterhaus. Don Q. proves that for such a company there can be a form and a visual language that promote the art form of dance in this town, in a place exactly between the large operations of the State Theatre and the aesthetic experiments of the independent scene, thereby giving new impulses and possibly creating new audiences.
What remains at the end of Don Q.? Both dancers return to the beginning. Again, the old man lies on the floor, half hidden behind the boxes, and the youth holds up the dance shoes. Is it starting all over again? Do we live in an endless loop of unfulfilled dreams and deceptive hopes? It is possible to read it as such a bitter end. But there is another way: simple happiness about the dance seemingly finding no end. Egon Madsen and Eric Gauthier – the dream continues.
Tim Schleider, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 8. September 2007