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ecotopia dance productions: press clippings Richard Siegal / Ballet of Difference am Schauspiel Köln - New Ocean (the natch'l blues)



The result is elegant, delivered in a myriad nuances of grey, black and white; lights, designed by Matthias Singer, together with light wafts of smoke drifting down from above, continually produce a change in perception. The dancers are excellent, trained to display a lovely formal technique in a natural, organic, non-sentimental and post- classical manner.
His idea is perfectly realised: during the first half of the show a cordon on the floor
forms a ring; entrances and exits take place in almost total silence, apart from a few strains of blues and some dull electronic noises. During the second half the ring is partially opened with only half of it delimiting the space of action.
the music of Alava Noto, Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Ensemble Modern conjures up a mood of cold chaos until the backdrop descends, leaving an empty scene flooded by the image of a gigantic wave that thrills the public
Elisa Guzzo Vaccarino, Ballett2000 January 2020

"New Ocean" unfolds an emotional impact despite such rational concepts. With tremendous precision, powerful gestures, yet fragile and with rare mastery, the dancers present a movement material visibly influenced by Cunningham and Forsythe, but outgrown by them, groundbreaking movement material of fascinating aesthetics and with distinct individual charisma. The tension already built up in the first part is intensified in the second act, only to be released in a final discharge that is not to be misunderstood. A dance-musical-visual treat with a clear ecological-political statement. And, according to Richard Siegal in the introductory discussion, the disappearance of the ice and thus of the data about the ice will also lead to the disappearance of this choreography. What a sad and poetic appeal to humanity.
Rando Hannemann, Online Merker 7.12.2019

That a one and a half hour long, completely abstract dance piece is afterwards celebrated with long and enthusiastic applause, is rather exceptional. But tonight, choreographer Richard Siegal and the dancers of the Ballet of Difference brilliantly accomplished exactly that at Depot 1, the dance venue at Schauspiel Köln. The success of the premiere of "New Ocean", Siegal's new dance piece at the new venue, is a good start for his artistic work in [...]
Klaus Keil, 27.9.2019

Light shines into the audience, the stage remains dark. Music resounds as from a jukebox. The light on the audience slowly fades and the stage reveals a large circle lying on the floor. It looks as if a thin layer of snow was covering the stage, framed by three white walls. As three dancers enter the stage and start dancing, it is quiet. The costumes display their bodies and dissolve gender identities. The dancers are completely focused on themselves and dance individual movement sequences. They perform in a targeted manner and carry out their dances like tasks, each working on a different task, each in their own world. Like sculptures, they suddenly pause, seem, in the truest sense of the word, to freeze amid their icy, white surroundings.
Siegal’s Ballet of Difference uses elements of classical ballet alternating with movement forms from modern dance. Sequences are looped or repeated elsewhere. Time and again some of the eight dancers lay down on the floor, while the others continue their sequences. One of the men dances on points throughout: Here classical dance appears to be quoted - dancing on points as an originally "female domain" becomes a male dancer’s choreographic pattern (fantastic: Long Zou).

The light marks the course of time and we see the dancers like shadow figures, like dancing silhouettes. The dancing takes place on a changing video-projected ice surface: ice crystals that shift and form patterns. Electronic sounds and minimalistic tone sequences suddenly break the silence. One thinks of melting, crunching and crackling ice.
White smoke passes through descending tubes onto the stage and envelops dancers and spectators. It dissolves the line between the performers and the spectators. As if in this icy environment they were interconnected. The silence in the room is so present that the breath of the dancers becomes audible. At the end, the stage is empty except for the smoke that has built up during the performance. With a loud bang, the rear stage wall opposite the audience collapses onto the stage and pushes the smoke into the spectator's faces. Thus, we as spectators are reflected upon ourselves. We destroy our own world. It is our exhaust fumes that blow into our faces. We ourselves are responsible for the melting of the polar ice.
In "New Ocean" Siegal (together with light artist Matthias Singer) has designed a mathematical system that translates climate change data sets into choreographic actions using a specially developed algorithm. The choreography is thus based on a graphic representation of the extent to which ice covers the seas in the polar regions. As technical as this method sounds, it nevertheless allows for the uniqueness of each individual performance. Siegal's "outer" material for his choreography are the 13 polar seas, their change and finally the reduction of the ice covering them over a period of 25 years, beginning in 1994 (the year of the premiere of Cunningham's "Ocean") and ending today.
The "inner" material is movement patterns developed by the choreographer, which the dancers in turn process and transform. In the course of the next four months, the choreographic translation of the graphic representation of 13 different polar seas will be shown. This means that each performance is based on a different graphic system and therefore unique.

The premiere on 27.09.2019 was based on the Baffin polar sea. It is a choreography that depends on ice data. This means that when there is no more polar ice, in a possible probable future, this dance can no longer be performed. Richard Siegal says about his piece: "This dance will disappear."
On the evening of the performance the dance was still very present. What remains is a mood that unites uneasiness and enthusiasm: climate change as a large, omnipresent theme, translated into aesthetically perfect movements. Standing ovations and cheering applause for the dancers, the choreographer and the team concluded this special evening.
Verena Blatz, Die Deutsche Bühne 28.9.2019

As head of the company, Siegal must be brilliant in chiselling out the best technique and charisma from his dancers. His new evening "New Ocean" proves this first of all, actually containing all the ingredients for failure: a sophisticated choreography, an unwieldy production, and a muddled concept. And yet it is fascinating.
We hardly understand what happens on stage, where everything is headed. Until the end, when Richard Siegal takes the audience's breath away with a spectacular surprise. That's how it is with the death of the planet and dance art alike. We don’t really take notice. Until the storm sweeps over us.
Nicole Strecker, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger 30.9.2019

Richard Siegal's "New Ocean" surges against the first rows of seats in Cologne's Depot with almost mathematical precision. The dramaturgy of the two-part evening is determined by a random generator and controlled by an algorithm that operates with key data on climate change – since 1994.

Back then, Merce Cunningham, pioneer of contingency choreography, staged his opus "Ocean". Siegal takes up the concept without looting it. After all, both dance worlds – one postmodernist, the other post-classicist – are far apart.

Siegal choreographs the sequence of ebb and flow as it were a picture book. Before the intermission, he unfolds his movement material in meditative reverence and plants it in a minimal acoustic backdrop. After that, not only Alva Noto's electronic score unfolds. Rather, the dancers whirl over a sea of waves that spreads under their feet as a black-and-white projection: noticeably excessive and vulnerable because caught in the trap of civilisation and crushed by natural forces.

Siegal communicates these ideas with body-semiotic sophistication, translating them into twisted positions that allow neither a forward nor backward, or high-flying legs, in short: an ecstatic waste of energy. Until the last dancer disappears offstage in the fog and a new, deafening big bang closes the cycle of becoming and passing.

The Ballet of Difference lives up to its name on this evening: the long-maned Long Zou dances on points like a Russian prima ballerina, and Mason Manning's superblond appearance zips by as mysteriously as Rutger Hauer in the science fiction film "Blade Runner". The design at least has long been capable of international satisfaction. More please!
Dorion Weickmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung 1.10.2019

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