At the Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House, the German Ballet Company of the Mannheim Theater wowed Cairo ballet lovers with Goldberg Variations, the first great ballet of the new year.
Set to music composed by J. S. Bach to comfort an insomniac, the show begins with two small circles of light illuminating the stage wall, creating the figure of the sun or rising of the moon.
A reluctant woman slowly, hesitantly, inches her way towards the center of the stage. She is joined initially by another woman before a couple of dancers suddenly storm the stage, followed by an explosion of other dancers.
The first half is straightforward but masterfully executed with a sharp focus in the movement.
In fact, it is wonderfully simple. The dancers are all dressed in muted pastels of blues and greens, with women covered in asymmetrically-cut dresses. The stage floor is unadorned save for the piano elevated slightly on a platform. The piano’s prominence on stage makes it seem as though the pianist is evoking the dancers with her music, as though they are all figments of her imagination which she has complete control over.
The lighting is meant to be subtle in the first section but then the wall turns into a myriad of various colors.
The second half begins with a bang as several dancers literally leap out on stage, the women clad in vibrant shades of red, successfully shocking the audience.
The stage itself transforms into a series of ramps on which the dancers run up and down and leap off of. They no longer seem bound by the pianist, who is now joined by a second piano on stage.
There is a lot of experimentation with variations of light and dark, with the strongest being a scene in which the dancers appear to be in an orgy in a corner of the stage and the focus is on their shadows, a thousand times more interesting at this point than the real dancers.
Goldberg Variations has a playful quality reminiscent at times of an elegant playground which imbues the piece with a needed lightness. The dancers move as though weightless, as though their bodies are made of feathers. Everything has been impeccably planned down to the last detail, from the choreography to the colors of the outfits, to the extent that each individual dancer’s hair color seems to compliment and handsomely contrast with their outfit.
For most of the show, dancers are falling and leapfrogging and rolling on the ground and pushing and slowly moving across the stage, sometimes flat-out running, at one point with all the dancers running in circles.
The stage throughout the performance was packed with plenty of movements and action simultaneously taking place, making it difficult to decide where to focus your attention and eventually deciding the only fair thing to do is divide it, moving from dancer to dancer to ensure you re not missing out.
Two hours later, perhaps worn out from all the action, a female dancer concludes the piece by dropping to the floor and curling up into a ball, asleep at last.
Catch Goldberg Variations tonight at the Cairo Opera House. For more information, check the culture agenda on p. 10.