Sasha Waltz, choreographer of an impressive list of twenty-seven works to date, has experimented across a broad spectrum of movement. Her earlier works, satirical or surrealist in nature, have awed European audiences and won her numerous awards. Continu, a UK premiere, denotes a shift in style from her previous works, presenting a greater lyricism and relating to the continuity of the perpetual forces of nature. Inspired by two of Waltz’s previous projects, David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum Berlin and Saha Hadid’s MAXXI in Rome, Continu consolidates key elements present in her previous works, creating a work with choreographic, musical, and visual components that threaten to overwhelm the audience.
Acting with the grandiose nature of a 24-person company, Waltz has created a work that can drive and affect an audience by way of numbers. The first half of the work comprised of two parts, musically contrasting and choreographically epic. The first half, rhythmic and powerful, was led by the dynamic live percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky. Repetition was used to build warmth within the piece, almost tribal in sensation as dancers whirled around the stage, drawn into the same vortex. By contrast, the second movement, fuelled by Edgard Varèse’s Arcana (a central inspiration of the work), created the illusion of fragmentation, the movement suggestive of large scale images: sheets of ice shifting and breaking across the landscape, conveyed through groups of dancers shuffling, pausing and moving again. There was a strength created by groups, solos and duets forming only to disperse again, disintegrating back into the whole.
This work reached its peak with the third movement, the stage now laid with white. Being able to stand back and allow the movement to crash upon its audience has a certain compulsion, but a greater sense of intimacy with the dancers is something that can’t be overrated. There was a sense of this achieved through the lyricism of the second half, portraying a greater sense of the individual, highlighting dichotomies (positive and negative, light and dark) which are inherent within divisions of the greater structural forces focused on in the first half. Reminiscent of an afterlife or rebirth, partially naked men moved with a disjointed fluidity. Joined by a group dressed in muted shades, this half allowed for smaller group to be created, duets where women, draped horizontally on their partners would walk across the wall, or would paint in varied shapes across the stage with their feet.
Although difficult to understand at times, Waltz’s work contains several elements that are unique and complex, providing a rich viewing experience, both choreographically and musically compelling. Best witnessed as a sum of its parts, this work of large proportions is ambitious, but ultimately very fulfilling.