HOMO LUDENS

Dutch National Opera & Ballet

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‘Juanjo Arqués opened the proceedings with a breakthrough, Homo Ludens. In this creation, he plays abstract games with an urgent flute concerto by French composer Marc-André Dalbavie. In the lead role, the virtuosic Young Gyu Choi directed the flautist (Sarah Ouakrat) and five couples like a puppet master — before turning into a puppet himself.’
— Laura Lacapelle for Financial Times
‘In Homo Ludens vertrekt Arqués vanuit de academische dans, soms illustreert hij, soms zijn het losse associaties. Hij beheerst het vocabulaire en weet het op te rekken met nieuwe lijnen en bogen. De duetten tonen prachtige bewegingssculpturen.’
— Marcelle Schots for Theaterkrant
‘Juanjo Arqués’ Homo Ludens, (Playing Man), to Marc-André Dalbavie’s flute concerto, is a short thrilling work of light, colour and movement. The flute playing of Sarah Ouakrat, who is tantalisingly placed between stage and pit, sets the pace. It is picked up by Young Gyu Choi, an artist whose brilliance and accuracy is tempered by a stress-free style that makes his dancing so immensely pleasurable to watch.
His opening salvo replicates the versatility and speed of the flautist’s notes as he sets the game in motion. Five couples complete the ensemble, the men arriving on swings that arc across the stage creating another element in Arqués uncluttered stage design of screens to reflect the vibrant changing colours of Bert Dalhuysen’s lighting design.
The game is played out by competing dancers orchestrated by Choi who brings the work to a close with a commanding gesture to Ouakrat. But before we get there, Arqués creates a number of pas de deux. Suzanna Kaic, always a powerful player, is partnered by Vito Mazzeo, while Michaela DePrince and James Stout scored with an equally exciting duo. The choreography is innovative, tough, contemporary ballet, keenly structuring the elements of dance, design and music. The winners and losers in this game of chance may be ambiguous, but the work is definitely a winner.’
— Maggy foyer for Seeingdance
Humo Ludens (playing man) is Juanjo Arques’ new creation. The dance, music, costumes and stage design are all tightly integrated into a coherent piece of work in which ‘play’ and the ‘game of love’ play a central role. The piece stays clear of the – too often used – overtly sensual elements, to focus more on the playful element as five couples in slithering brown are directed by Cupid. The latter (Young Gyu Choi) storms the stage in a series of classically inspired virtuoso jumps to the flute music of Marc-André Dalbavie (Concert for Flute) played by a fiery Sarah Ouakrat. Choi’s opening solo is of the kind you would usually find in the final act of a full length ballet. Ouakrat is put on top of the orchestra pit ‘talking’ directly to Choi connecting the audience to the stage. Choi controls, directs and manipulates the five couples getting them to play when finally the table is turned on him. The use of swings is a nice surprise and the acrobatics of the dancers are thoroughly enjoyable.
— Lambrecht Wessels for Bachtrack
Saturday’s bill opened with a new piece, “Homo Ludens” (“Playing Man”) by Juanjo Arqués. Arqués hails from Murcia, Spain and formerly danced with Dutch National Ballet. But for a few years now he has solely concentrated on choreographing. This January he was appointed Young Creative Associate of the Dutch company.
The player of “Playing Man”, the one initiating and propelling the game, was neither a dancer nor a man, but rather the flautist Sarah Ouakrat. Her melody, Marc-André Dalbavie’s “Flute Concerto”, put dancer Young Gyu Choi into motion. Or is he, a supple, smiling teaser, the one flirting with the flute? In any case he is pulling the strings onstage and in Arqués’s intention symbolizes the rolling dice of the game. Upon Choi’s decision, upon his gesture, the other dancers start to move, individually or together, in sync or varied so that the movement of one triggered another like falling dominos. In a surprise moment five swings on long ropes swung in from the right wing. They flew in new dancers onto stage as if new playing cards or playing pieces were being brought into the game. Later, having been pushed vigorously, the dancers swung off stage again. Quite an inventive way to quickly clear the stage! Choi often watched the game from the sidelines or sometimes from one swing he perched on. But he also had jittery moments, moments of confusion. Games can get out of control and that was the case when the music turned febrile. Suddenly the female dancers were held high by the men, their limbs stiffly protruding like animals caught in a wide-meshed fishnet. At the end neither the projection of an attractive woman on the wall nor the invitingly dangling swings tempted Choi. Resolutely he turned back to the flautist.
Arqués himself had created the set, a simple rectangular dark room, which Bert Dalhuysen’s lighting turned into a fictive space dominated by deep shadows on the right and prismatic colors blending into each other on the left. Costumes by Oliver Haller were of brown, skin-tight latex with a broad vertical transparent stripe on either side of the body.
— Ilona Landgraf for Landgraf on Dance
Juanjo Arqués, bis 2012 Tänzer und neuerdings «Young Creative Associate» der Kompanie, demonstrierte in knapp 20 Minuten, was es mit «Homo ludens» auf sich hat – dem Menschen, der spielerisch die Welt erobert und ebenso spielerisch Kultur erfindet, bis sich seine Innovationen im Lauf der Zeit zu Routine verfestigen. Ist schon der Gegenstand einigermaßen ambitioniert, hatte sich der Spanier ein Flötenkonzert von Marc-André Dalbavie, Vertreter der Spektralmusik, als musikalische Matrix ausgesucht. Was der Choreograf mit fünf Paaren und einem ingeniösen Spielmacher daraus machte, sprühte indes vor Einfällen und Esprit. Ein leichtfüßiges, zwischen klassischer Allüre und modernen Extremregistern hin und her schaukelndes Experiment, von Bert Dalhuysen in einen geradezu psychodelischen Farblichtrausch getaucht.
— Dorion Weickmann for Tanz Magazine