Stockholm 59 Degrees North is as cool as the climate from which they hail. Their hygienic attack, immaculate technique and unemotive persona is serving them well this week at Jacob’s Pillow.
Stockholm 59 Degrees North
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.
WHEN: 8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $58; $53 seniors, students and children
MORE INFO: (413) 243-0745 or jacobspillow.org
That’s where the ensemble of soloists from the Royal Swedish Ballet is spending the weekend. And while the choreography is a mixed bag, the dancers impress with their dedicated artistry.
The evening that the soloists are presenting features a world premiere by Cristina Caprioli, “Cicada.” The dance for five is a tortuous experience for the audience as the music, “Cicada” by Kevin Volans, repeats the same sequence of 10 notes over and over. With little variation, the plunking grows irritating. It sounds nothing like the soothing swish and rattle of the cicada.
The dancing, on the other hand, especially by Nadja Sellrup, is sharp. It ricochets from casual, with the dancers just walking around, to intense, speedy spins and high-kicking ronde de jambs. But despite the dancers’ best efforts, “Cicada” is too repetitive. Monotony sets in and the only option is to pray for a swift conclusion. It does not come soon enough.
By contrast is Nacho Duato’s riveting “Castrati.” This cogent and mighty dance starts strong to the authoritative strings of Karl Jenkins “Palladio.” Eight men, dressed in tight, black bodices and long, full skirts, run and skitter. The castrati, castrated opera singers of the Italian baroque period, kick up their skirts and flex their muscles either in precise unison or like a line of falling dominoes.
The force of the music and their dance emits a sense of dark ritual and slavish devotion to a cause or belief. They scatter and the light rises onto a nearly naked Jens Rosen, who stumbles and quivers on the floor. He holds his genitalia, protecting them. To no avail, however, as the disciples move in to induct the slight figure into their exclusive society of altos.
Throughout this transformation, the choral and instrumental music by Vivaldi presses the action forward. In the end, Rosen is held by his ankles as he claws through the legs and up the back of a castrato. The scene sears into the mind’s eye for its fear on the part of the novice and the coldness of the devotees. Though based on the practice of the castrati, the dance spotlights the insanity of any rigid practice. Duato, one of the few living choreographic geniuses, once again creates a timeless and memorable work of art.
The evening also features two works by the whimsical Mats Ek. His “Apartment,” making its U.S. premiere, is a sweet duet for Jeannette Diaz-Barboza and Nikolaus Fotiadis. Appearing as adolescents, the two revel in innocently exploring each other’s body parts. It’s cute, but ends on a strange note, with the music shifting to dark and crashing. Perhaps a parent comes home.
The Swedes also dance Ek’s “Pas de Danse,” another romp with a Russian folk flavor. Jan-Erik Wikstrom plays a sad sack with a hanky who is bullied by the feisty Anna Valev. She runs off with a happy-go-lucky guy. But Wikstrom, he’d rather blow his nose and hang his head while the audience lets out one more chuckle.