Carmen - privat

Dance Europe 1 Feb 2003English

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Carmen is dancing for her father. On a platform that projects onto the stage of the Staatstheater in Saarbrücken from the right, she wiggles her hips and thrusts her arms into flamenco poses, while her father, who is seated before her, watches approvingly. Don José also has a hard time letting go. At the start of the second part he winds himself around his mother’s body, then reluctantly separates himself from it to run across the width of the stage – only to meet at its opposite end the girl Micaela, who has been chosen for him by his mother. Carmen – privat is the first full-length narrative ballet choreographed by the director of Saarbrücken Ballet, Marguerite Donlon. Together with her highly motivated company, who have been welcomed enthusiastically by the Saarbrücken audience, she dares to look behind the façades of characters who have become part of the myth of “eroticism” a long time ago.

Donlon consequently shows little interest in producing yet another Carmen ballet. She re-interprets the story and finds women and men trapped in outdated roles and expectations. Hence they ultimately act out a tragedy that is not their, but to which they have no alternative.

Besides music from Bizet’s opera Carmen and its reworking by Rodion Shchedrin, the Saarländische Staatsorchester under the direction of Constantin Trinks also plays music by Sam Auinger and Claas Willeke composed especially for this choreography. Their electronic sounds, which mark the thin ice on which the characters perform with whip-lashes and painful tearing noises, act as a backbone for Donlon’s look behind the mirrors. In contrast to that, she counters Bizet’s only too well-known music with ironic counterpoints, for instance when the bull-fighter makes his entrance dressed only in black briefs draped across the back of bull.

The tall Leo Mujic invests each of his far-reaching movements with an erotic threat. Yet he, too, like Tilman O’Donnell as Don José and Anna Hagermark as Carmen, could have done with a few additional steps beyond poses in order to explore more dimensions of their parts.

If the first part of the evening spends too much time re-telling the story, Donlon’s concept gains speed in the second half. After Carmen and Don José’s night of love – which, like Carmen and Escamillo’s – is presented via video as a fantasy – the uncertainties increase. Don José tries in vain to hide his insecurity when faced with Carmen’s looks behind macho poses, while Carmen cannot give up her own seduction game. Both of them act as if under compulsion, for wherever they look, they only ever encounter images of themselves: in a row of mirrors as much as in a game show where they encounter their doppelgangers. Yet Carmen ultimately wants Don José to become like her. He, who had previously tended to slip into his masculinity as if it were his trousers, now wears Carmen’s dress, made up of numerous men’s ties. Like a threatened animal he ducks and winds himself and even escapes onto the climbing wall that closes off the back of the stage, before Carmen eventually runs into his knife almost by chance. Even borrowed tragedies can thus find deadly ends.