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Poetry in Motion

The Scotsman's Dance Critic Kelly Apter talks to Christian Spuck and Wayne McGregor about collaborating and using both Max Richter’s striking contemporary version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Shakespeare’s sonnets as inspiration.

Mutual admiration is an important part of any working relationship, but talking to the creative team at Ballett Zürich, it’s clear they have more than most.

Appointed artistic director of the Swiss company in 2012, Christian Spuck was barely in the door before inviting friend and choreographer Wayne McGregor to create a new piece. McGregor, says Spuck, is ‘a fabulous choreographer and a very nice person’, and having a work by him in the Ballett Zürich repertoire ‘is a big honour’.

Happily, McGregor’s opinion of Spuck is equally favourable. ‘I knew Christian when he was at Stuttgart Ballet, so I had a personal connection with him,’ he says. ‘And when I heard him talk about his passion and vision for Ballett Zürich, I wanted to be a part of it.’

McGregor arrived at the company with a handful of ideas, but no actual steps, ready to enlist the dancers in the creative process.

‘I like dancers to be open and curious,’ he says. ‘And for them to be active participants in the creation, and help solve problems with me. Christian has created an amazing energy in the company, so I had a really lovely time in Zurich.’

The end result is Kairos, an exciting blend of classical ballet with a contemporary aesthetic. The score, Max Richter’s striking Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, is the result of another close friendship.

‘Max and I have a great collaborative relationship’, explains McGregor. ‘He sent me Recomposed before it was published, and I knew it would make an amazing dance - but I had to find the right context for it. And he very kindly waited until I did.’

Other dance companies had asked Richter if they could use the score, but were all told that McGregor had first dibs. Something Spuck was equally happy about, calling Richter’s re-working of Vivaldi, ‘absolute genius’.

Meanwhile, Spuck’s own half of the Ballett Zürich double bill, Sonett was born out of his long-held love for Shakespeare’s sonnets, which are read out during the piece.

‘Shakespeare’s language is incredibly beautiful, so I wanted his sonnets not just to be the inspiration for the ballet – but to actually be part of it,’ says Spuck. ‘The piece isn’t about the sonnets themselves though, it’s more about how mysterious they are. Everything is unclear, and that’s what I find fascinating. They’re also the most beautiful love poetry I’ve ever read in my life.’

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