The Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, the oldest working theatre in France, and Teatru Manoel, one of the oldest working theatres in Europe, are joining forces for the production of the ballet Spirall whose music has been written by Maltese composer Ruben Zahra. Encore talks to choreographer GLEB LYAMENKOFF about the process behind this original work

Chancel/Spirall will play at Teatru Manoel,
Valletta on January 9 at 8 p.m.
Tickets at €10/€12 can be booked via e-mail
at booking@teatrumanoel.com.mt or from the box office on 2124 6389.

Gleb Lyamenkoff is a dancer and choreographer with the Ballet de l’Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole. In June 2014, Lyamenkoff travelled to Malta on a mission to identify potential collaborations for the corps de ballet (the company dancers). He was looking for a new challenge and the person to push him in the right direction was Malta’s own Diaghilev: Kenneth Zammit Tabona. Zammit Tabona is an artist in his own right but his disposition for artistic excellence often places upon him the task of orchestrating the necessary connections between local and international artists.

 

In the same month that year, composer Ruben Zahra was rehearsing one of his flagship projects, Pan the Goat-God: an interdisciplinary work for solo actor and chamber ensemble with projections by visual artist Austin Camilleri. “When I heard Zahra’s music
I immediately realised that if I was searching for a challenge, then this was it!”

recalls Lyamenkoff.

 

Most of the repertoire of the Ballet de l’Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole is classical. The current season includes Romeo and Juliet, Carmina Burana, The House of Bernarda Alba, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Zorba the Greek and Chancel/Spirall, the latter the same collaborative project between the French and Maltese theatres.

 

Lyamenkoff explains that Zahra’s music is challenging on many levels. The music is scored for flute and percussion. The dances had to step outside their comfort zone of dancing to the colourful orchestral textures and tune in to a more contained palette of sounds. “The music for Spirall has a very complex rhythmic structure and the dancers cannot simply rely on the emotion of the music. They need to count the beats just as when they are dancing to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring,” explains Lyamenkoff.

 

Zahra composed Spirall in 1998 in Rome while studying at the National Music Academy of Santa Cecilia. The cycle is set in five movements and portrays a contemporary rendering of Mediterranean ritual. The five movements are entitled Initiation, Ritual, Trance, Elements and Lament. The work was conceived by the composer as a cycle for contemporary dance. Movements from Spirall have often been presented as chamber music repertoire in the past but never as a proper ballet. Eighteen years after its composition, the music will finally be brought to life by the Ballet de l’Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole.

 

Lyamenkoff gives Spirall an innovative interpretation with the use of video as one of the aesthetic attributes in the choreography. Visual artists, Seddouk Rachid and Baptiste Leydecker, portray an abstract configuration of smoke morphing into the nude bodies of the dancers. “I wanted to juxtapose the illusion of the projection with the reality of the dancers on the stage,” remarks Lyamenkoff. He also explains that everything starts with the music: the choreography needs to capture and develop the themes that are concealed in the music itself, even if the choreography pushes the interpretation to a completely different expression. The main themes portrayed in the work are the tension between male and female as well as the sense of ritual that transpires throughout the whole piece.

 

Lyamenkoff admits the dancers are very excited about the premiere of Spirall in December 2015 at the Musée de la Cour d'Or - Metz Métropole with the full support from the administrative director, Daniel Lucas. The Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole intends to tour with Spirall and the first tour date is  January 9, 2016 at Teatru Manoel within the Modern Music Days concert series, part of the Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme in the run up to the European Capital of Culture year. The performance at Teatru Manoel includes another original choreography by Lyamenkoff entitled Chancel, featuring the music of German-born British composer Max Richter.

 

ILLUSION AND REALITY
January 9th - 2016

 

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