Into the Storm

The Nation - Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Conjurers of dance, Marcia Haydee and Ismael Ivo have mastered the winds in Shakespeare's 'Tempest'.
What audiences will see is controlled fury. Shakespeare's "The Tempest", from its title to its powerful denouement, carries tremendous ferocity, but prima ballerina Marcia Haydee and dance master Ismael Ivo have brought to it added turbulence with their unique modern-dance choreography.

In recent rehearsals for this week's dual performances, the locals who are dancing Miranda and Ariel were whirlwinds in bare feet and swinging arms as five female accompanists in white ballet slippers drummed the stage with their pointed toes.

Elsewhere, a crowd of dancers in black bodysuits moved playfully in baroque style. It was a difficult performance to label: contemporary or modern, dance theatre or traditional ballet?

Haydee and Ivo, the Brazilian veterans at the core of the production, shrug off any attempt at categorisation. The style is no longer relevant, they say.

"The barriers between the [dance] languages and styles is very narrow today," says Ivo. "Classical ballet or neo-classical doesn't matter anymore. What's important is the movement for the theme you're working on."

The Stuttgart Ballet School, where Haydee trained, has produced quite a few dancers who've become leading choreographers, most notably William Forsythe.

"They are very much for the new staging ideas and explore the different sequences to use body movements to express emotions," says Haydee.

Her and Ivo's belief in the new dance vocabulary has resulted in a perfect partnership, despite their very different backgrounds.

Trained in classical ballet, Haydee is one of the most prominent dancers of her generation. She was a prima ballerina at the Wuetembergisches Staatstheatre and director of the Stuttgart Ballet from 1992 to 1995.

Ivo was trained in modern dance and received numerous awards as a soloist. From 1996 to 2000, he was director of dance at the Deutsches Nationaltheatre Weimar.

"Dancers have to always be prepared to dance," Haydee says. "Today ballet is not about showing technique, but showing emotion and expression. What matters is how to explore the potential of the movements."

The modern-classical mix is evident throughout "The Tempest", as previewed last week at Chulalongkorn University. The performers were tuned in to the music, Japanese koto chiming in the background, their steps, gestures and expressions dramatic in their theatricality.

"The Tempest" is the latest Haydee-Ivo collaboration. Ivo describes the four-year-old partnership as spiritual.

"We've known each other for many lifetimes. We complement each other as humans, mentally," he says. "Immediately I can feel a connection that I can't explain."

Haydee is more down-to-earth. "It means a lot of respect for each other," she says. "The first thing about working together is mutual respect."

Haydee has mingled classical precision with the exotic expressiveness which Ivo draws from his African-Brazilian background. The blend drew raves in "Tristan und Isolde" in 2000 and "Oedipus" a year later.

"I see dance as an open vocabulary," Ivo says. "We don't have barriers anymore to prevent us from exploring new visions and new ideas."

In "The Tempest", Haydee and Ivo will perform with Vararom Pachimsawat and 30 other Thai dancers from the Company of Performing Artists. Ivo explains the collaboration.

"First, we had a meeting to see the dancers' potentialities. Then I went to see what poses the dancers would look best in. It's not only the idea that I have but the dancers' movements and how to process the transformation of each dancer to get their maximum potentiality."

Interestingly, Ivo and Haydee find something to relate to in traditional Thai dance.

"It has a number of symbolic movements, like the monkey dance," says Ivo. "That's why I think Khun Pichet [Klunchuen], who is trained in traditional Thai dance, is quite suitable for the Ariel role."

Shakespeare's drama will not have a thorough rendering. Ivo says he's not retelling the original story, but concentrating on the relationships of the main characters, Prospero, Caliban, Ariel and Miranda. "It's about how love overcomes the struggle for power," he says.

"The Tempest", he adds, reflects something of his own background. It was written just as news was spreading of the discovery of the Americas, including Brazil.

"Perhaps Shakespeare was thinking about the tropical forest, the long-lost paradise, when he wrote the piece!"

Set designer Marcel Kaskeline has pursued that vision with a spiritual sheen for a green island with a water wall.

"For me, the stage is an art," Ivo says when asked about political underpinnings in a tale of power and intrigue. "But if the public can relate to the characters - like Prospero, who is the structure of the machinery of power - if the audience can have a deja vu that comes with the character, I welcome it."

"The Tempest" is presented at 2.30pm today and 7.30pm tomorrow at the Thailand Cultural Centre. It's part of the "Culture in Motion" programme supported by Daimler-Chrysler and the Goethe Institut.

Jeerawat Na Thalang

The Nation