3xBoléro: Walking Mad / OleroB / Episode 17
Choreography: Johan Inger, Kenneth Kvarnström, Alexander Ekman
Maison de la Danse, Lyon
January 21, 2010
Given its rise to global fame, it is easy to forget that Ravel’s Boléro was born as a dance score. Commissioned by Ballets Russes dancer Ida Rubinstein, it has been choreographed again and again since 1928, with mixed results. Its structure is daunting – repetitive and supposedly unsubtle, yet building up the tension to an explosive, almost diabolical finale. The Göteborg Ballet, the latest company to experiment with the 18-minute score, brought in no fewer than three Scandinavian choreographers to help. 3xBoléro or not, however, the programme they performed in Lyon provided precious little insight into Ravel’s enduring creation.
There was no need at least to fear a Boléro overkill, for only one of the three works, Johan Inger’s Walking Mad, used the score in its entirety. Created for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 2001, it is mostly derivative of the Dutch company’s style, with a smooth classical base and modern dance-inspired weight placement. A foldable wooden wall provides doors, fences and metaphorical barriers to nine restless characters, and from playful chase to angst-ridden pas de deux, Walking Mad covers impressive emotional ground with acute timing. It fails, however, to go beyond the surface rhythm of Boléro, and the addition of Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina to the score is unfortunate; currently the default soundtrack for sentimental pas de deux across the world, it is as spare as Boléro is bombastic and cheapens Inger’s overall concept. (…)