The Staatsballet Berlin’s evening of ballet, 2 Chapters Love presented two world premieres at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden on December 9, 2023: Stars Like Moths by choreographer Sol León and Sharon Eyal’s eponymous work 2 Chapters Love.
Stars Like Moths
As the last members of the audience shuffle through the narrow rows to their seats, Polina Semionova slowly enters the front stage. It takes a while before the audience’s chatter dies down and the focus shifts to the dancer. To Don’t Cry Baby by Etta James, she begins to gesticulate dynamically, sometimes with her mouth wide open. It doesn’t seem as if she is attempting to deliver a message, but rather that she is repeating a sequence of everyday movements. Matthew Knight emerges from the orchestra pit with a slice of watermelon. He shoves a piece of the fruit into Semionova’s open mouth and devours the rest in quick, chaotic bites. Then he disappears as swiftly as he arrived.
Two further duets follow to classical baroque music. They also begin as a solo which is later joined by a second person fitting in like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Characteristic ballet movements are modified with playful gestures, facial expressions and occasional words. During the third duet, a growing tree is projected onto the stage curtain. Videos flash in its foliage: snippets of daily life, childhood and the studio. The projection gives an interesting gestural form of expression but its lens is too narrow for me, rendering the moment as kitsch. As the screen disappears, a skewed ballet hall (scenography Sol León, Paul Lightfoot) finally becomes visible on the main stage. Numerous dancers can be seen in their own worlds. By chance, crossovers and encounters occur as brief duets that then dissolve back into soli. The choreographed overlaps lead the audience’s gaze to wander between the dancers.
Stars Like Moths is like a choreographic deconstruction of banal everyday life from the perspective of ballet dancers. This works as a collage of danced moments and encounters. As an overall 45-minute production, however, the scenes seem to me to be strung together one after the other and, through the different musics, appear chopped up in parts.
2 Chapters Love
At the beginning of the 25-minute piece, only a white body (Danielle Muir) is dimly visible, slowly twisting and bending. The forms that the body takes on are reminiscent of wall paintings from ancient Greece. Dancers gradually glide onto the stage with small, tapping steps on half point, following the soloist’s movements. A mass suddenly appears, moving in a circle across the stage and literally sucks in the remaining dancers. They are all dressed in the same beige, skin-tight leotards. They also wear golden tiaras on their heads and carry a small bag with arrows reminiscent of Eros, the god of love. The allusions to ancient mythology contrast with the increasingly strong techno beats of Ori Lichtik’s composition.
I recognise many of the movements and motifs from Eyal’s previous pieces. The breaking out of individuals and being sucked back into the group is also a familiar trademark of her choreographies. As the 26 dancers crowd very closely together, the group morphs into a beige, twitching giant body that suddenly breaks open to form a single pair of lovers. But the lovers will be swallowed up again by the throng.
English translation by Isabel Robson
2 Chapters Love