BECKET — This week’s performances of Gauthier Dance/ /Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart at Jacob’s Pillow mark the company’s official US debut, and Thursday night’s show felt like a giddy blind date. For me, it’s love at first sight.
Nine wonderful dancers perform seven eclectic, entertaining dances with technical precision, theatrical charisma, and absolute commitment. The evening flies by in a kind of dream-sharp focus; details etch in the brain and brand the heart.
Artistic director Eric Gauthier’s 2006 “Ballet 101” is a goofy faux primer of the basic ballet positions, of which the piped-in narrator claims there are 101. For the dancer who demonstrates, Maurus Gauthier, it’s a small tour de force; I won’t give away the “101st position” — it’s a sight gag that deserves to keep its secret.
Comedy and virtuosity are a common thread in this program, and in Alejandro Cerrudo’s thrilling lark, the 2011 “PACOPEPEPLUTO,” the former is sly and the latter is prodigious. Luke Prunty, Florian Lochner, and Juliano Pereira perform their wildly challenging, keenly musical solos with such precision and intensity that the piece’s outrageous absurdity — they’re dancing in the smallest of flesh-colored briefs, to songs sung by Dean Martin and Martin impersonator Joe Scalissi — is kept in check.
The humor in Po-Cheng Tsai’s “Floating Flowers” and Marco Goecke’s “I Found a Fox,” both from 2014, is likewise arch. At the beginning of “Flowers,” Garazi Perez Oloriz undulates her torso and arms sinuously, now a flamenco dancer, now a swan, while her lower body remains crouched. She’s clad in a beige sports bra and a voluminous pouf of a crinoline, and when she rises, we see that she’s sitting atop the shoulders of a man (Gauthier). He’s also wearing a crinoline, and as his head and upper body are obscured, together they look like an Alice-in-Wonderland experiment gone wrong. They traverse the stage, the balance of both vital: She arches back extravagantly while he lifts a leg out to the side; they even leap. Later, they separate and stutter and sweep across the stage like preening chickens.
This physical strangeness, like the recognizably human kind that Rosario Guerra articulates in “Fox,” is endearing. Dancing to a hyper-plaintive song by Kate Bush, he stiffly projects a leg out or wrestles his arms into flat, constricted shapes; is Guerra trapped within or is he trying desperately to contain himself?
In the most overtly funny piece, Alexander Ekman’s “Two Become Three” Guerra faces, with Anneleen Dedroog, the dilemma/delight of a burgeoning romance. We hear Guerra’s inner thoughts as he tries to figure it all out. The hilariously deadpan text, also by Ekman, acts as a score, along with a bit of Chopin. “Are we compatible?” the narrator asks, as onstage, Guerra leans over and forms a circle with his arm; Dedroog runs, slides a bit, and lands with her head and shoulders enclosed in the circle. Their ridiculous stage-sex has comical results, but it all ends rather sweetly.
Although Ekman’s dance was created in 2011, it feels like a parodic follow-up to Johan Inger’s poignant 2015 “Now and Now,” which also depicts the seesaw of relationships. Lochner and Anna Süheyla Harms are playful at times — she hopscotches, he chug-walks in a wide second position plié, like an ape, but clouds do darken their doorstep. The last image, with Lochner, slow dancing on his knees, his arms embracing only the air, is beautifully melancholic.
The enormous volume of full-throttled dancing throughout the evening is extraordinary. Indeed, in the abstract, over-the-top romp of a closer, Cayetano Soto’s 2014 “Malasangre,” set to recordings of the late Cuban singer nicknamed “La Lupe,” the cast of eight charge and lunge like starved toreadors, gleefully chewing the scenery while eating up the stage. And in this program otherwise composed of solos, duos, and trios, they break occasionally away from such smaller groupings to show off their topnotch ensemble work. What can’t they do? When can we see them again?
GAUTHIER DANCE//DANCE COMPANY THEATERHAUS STUTTGART
At: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, through Sunday. Tickets: $25-$45.
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