Scapino Ballet: Pearl

“And now for something completely different…” could be the tag line for the Scapino Ballet.

Pearl, a ballet, about the excesses, loves, passions, death, and intrigues at a Baroque court premiéred here in Rotterdam on February 9. Complete with swordfights and copulation.

The Combattimento Consort Amsterdam provided live musical accompaniment on strings, wind instruments, harpsichord and lute with contralto Helena Rasker performing three arias on stage. The music, chosen by choreographer Ed Wubbe, was lesser known work by Vivaldi and a lute solo by Robert de Visée, a musician at the court of Louis XIV.

In an interview published in Spitz 21, the Scapino ballet newsletter, Maya Roest, a dancer with the ballet since 2009, comments on recorded music versus live music:

When we dance to recorded music, we search out new excitement and challenges every evening. With live music, it happens on its own through the tempo, the timbre and the eye contact with the musicians. Musicians and dancers depend on each other. Sometimes it can go wrong. The musicians can come in too early, or too late, and then the dancers have to improvise, or we come in too early and then the musicians miss their cue.

The costumes also marked a departure from the usual simple cuts in gray and black tones. The costume designer, Pamela Homoet, has invoked the sumptuous baroque clothing with yards and yards of embroidered silk, petticoats, and a nod to the crinoline in the form of lightweight bustles mounted on the hips of the dancers. The dancers and the singer were also fitted out with similar costumes, which emphasized the symbiosis that Maya Roest mentions.

It was all very beautiful, tasteful and elegant, which are not the adjectives that come to mind when I hear the term ‘baroque.’ When I visited the Vatican, I was not impressed by Bernini; I am not now, and have never been keen on Rubens, and as for all that French frippery at Versailles… Yet, it is apparently possible to take one of the ugliest (IMHO) periods in the history of art, and to turn it into something thoroughly modern that speaks to us today. I wish I knew how they do that.

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