Schrittmacher Festival in Aachen:
Guest performance by the Spellbound Contemporary Ballet
choreography by Mauro Astolfi
translated by Karoline Strys
Actually, there should not happen anything on stage yet at all. After the musicians have tuned their instruments for a very last time, the spectators cleaned up there throats enough and applauded the conductor – who flew in dynamically then disappeared in the orchestra pit – silence. Further: the overture. A violin whooping or a hollow, quiet sound – whatever the opera pleases to tell us in the next few hours. But simply: in front of a closed curtain or an empty stage. In Mauro Astolfi’s choreography the fat is in the fire instead. His “Rossini Ouvertures“ celebrate the pleasure of beginning. One overture follows the next and the moods are already boiling, the “Rossinians“ bustle about on stage, restless like windup dolls. Rossini himself is represented here as an athletic young man, pale with a dark curly ponytail, actually always on the run but society keeps on grabbing afterthe artist in greedy enthusiasm.
The “Rossini-Frenzy“, by now a term of its own in regard of the reception of the Italian superstar whose accommodation had been the pilgrims’ goal of his torchbearing fans in the first half of the 19th century – copied by other jealous composers. This frenzy becomes the choreographic principle here. The dancers jump and shake as if they had swallowed a swarm of mosquitos. Their bodies scroll, screw and wind tipsily. And when they find each other in duets and trios their limbs get tangled up so passionately, so fast and complex that the Kamasutra is unimaginative against it.
In 1994 Mauro Astolfi founded the Spellbound Contemporary Ballet in Rome. Hence the company already exists for the quarter of a century and where the dancers are cast – it seems – by erotic attractiveness which rather stands for culinary entertainment than for artistic innovation. One could say: A good “bouncer“ for the Schrittmacher-Festival that is coming to an end this weekend. Yet, for Astolfi’s “Rossini Ouvertures“ applies also: a beautiful opportunity – wasted, for the conceptual ideas of this piece are charming indeed. Rossini as the acclaimed artist, divine genius and sensual bon vivant, who is haunted by his opera characters, devotees and fears. Choreographer Astolfi and stage designer Marco Policastro let the setting take place in front of a noble mahogany-colored shelf unit that has doors and drawers at its disposal which open and snap shut unpredictably and reveal mysterious events – Rossini in wonderland.
In such a manner a figure in a black body suit wriggles out in wormlike deceit towards the end and sticks to Rossini like a shadow. The premonition of his imminent death but also a companion in solitude.
All in all acceptable, amusing ideas if Astolfi did not have the ambition to be the Italian ‘Marco Goecke’. Only, unfortunately: without Goecke’s razor-sharp precision and meaningful expressiveness in the gestures. Where Goecke’s hyperactively torn bodies terrify in a bizarre way, Astolfi’s enforced, continuous frenzy comes along as rather tiresome. Missing the last punch line of the humorous moments ever too often although the shooting, heated bodies, the scurrying nine welltrained dancers with clenched thighs – as if the privates exploded otherwise-, and the slapstick collisions at hyper speed are very impressive as a performance of strength and condition. That Rossini makes you horny – this already knew his contemporaries.