Stockholm 59 (degrees) North is a stunning Swedish company whose dancers are also members of the Royal Swedish Ballet. So, this more modest ensemble is linked to history but draws its inspiration from new works by Swedish choreographers and musicians, or at least focuses on the Swedishness in dance. Whatever fuels the artistic heart of the company translates into a programme richly textured, boasting a technique that compares with any classical repertoire.
Of the four pieces presented last week, only the first – Cicada, a world premiere presentation choreographed by Cristina Caprioli – left me unmoved. But that isn’t to say that I was uninterested. The score, by Kevin Volans, was its own challenge and the percussive, almost relentless, rhythms pushed me away from, rather than pulled me into the dancers’ extended variations.
Apartment (a U.S. premiere choreographed by Mats Ek) and Pas de Danse (also by Ek) followed and both were emotionally engaging and technically dazzling without either choreographer or dancers showing any of he effort required to tell a story while exploring the fullest physical ranges possible. Ek’s theatrical skill with characterization and story that defies any narrative imposition is exceptional. The dancers’ passion and humour delighted an audience that was somewhat perplexed after the opening dance.
Castrati, choreographed by Nacho Duato, was a stirring final piece. Danced by eleven male dancers to four pieces of music by Vivaldi, the ballet combined religious passion and overwhelming power. The ensemble’s remarkable control of classical technique combined with an unaffected embrace of contemporary movement was never less than riveting, and it was always deeply involving.
Stockholm 59 (degrees) North marks my last visit to Jacob’s Pillow for this season, but I have to add that the Pillow’s programming continues to expand boundaries and audiences are clearly and obviously entranced.