While I’m not necessarily a (modern) ballet fan, one ballet that impressed me was the performance of Groosland that I saw on TV in 1989. It was odd and it introduced me to Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, which I still love very much.
Today I happened to think about that ballet performance and went to see if it existed on the web. After some searching I found one fragment on YouKu.com (a painfully slow website that appears to be a Chinese YouTube). I’ve mirrored it to YouTube (and Facebook):
“Groosland,” commissioned by the Dutch National Ballet, is for 18 fat people. Actually, 18 dancers in fat suits. In the 1980’s Ms. Marin seemed to enjoy working with bodily distortions, as in her fat-doll version of “Cinderella.” In “Groosland” the dancers enter piled on carts and are propped up like rag dolls. The music is Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos Nos. 2 and 3, of all things.
When the dancers begin moving, they look like characters from Marcel Pagnol’s “Fanny” film trilogy: comfortably bulging working-class stereotypes from the south of France, with dark-blue overalls and frumpy blue frocks and too-small blue porkpie hats. Later they strip down to “nudity,” still wearing, of course, their flesh-colored fat suits.
Such carryings-on are wildly incorrect, politically speaking, and there is indeed a disturbing undercurrent. But Ms. Marin’s ability to blend queasiness with joy is pretty remarkable.
From Ballet Magazine:
Maguy Marin seems to enjoy dancers at one remove via masks or costumes. Groosland, one such piece, was originally created for the Het National Ballet utilizing Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos 2 and 3. She has stuffed dancers into uniform garments of denim blue with kerchiefs, hats, short skirts and suspenders holding shortened trousers, body shapes several inches broader than the performers’ nimble bodies.
The dancers execute the formal patterns of European social ensemble dancers, adding an accent with an occasional tossed lower leg, grotesque size rendered amiable by whimsy and some innate nuances in the port de bras no amount of stuffing can obscure.
The dancers commence, women on one side, men on the other, images of the coy and the bashful, gradually warming, turning frisky. With that music it would be impossible otherwise. Think Breugel paintings of peasant gatherings, earthy, earnest, filled with intense enjoyment of the moment. A touching pas de deux ensues where the man and the woman gradually disrobe her; a shoe, then a sock flying off, down comes a shiny, forest green brassiere; the skirt is dismissed and maiden stands in panties studded with red hearts. This removed, the obese contours are fully revealed. Maiden suddenly turns coy, picks up the discarded garments and departs. The man stands, then shrugs.
The entire ensemble appears in their stuffed and painted nudity for the final movement; to the relentless bowing of Concerto 3, they simply fly with bonhomie, leaving the audience in the same mood.
Update 20100606: Another bit has appeared on YouTube:
Update 20101108: Another great clip…