Hedwig Dances, Bauhaus combine for ‘Triadic Ballet’ sequel

To get a sense of the “Triadic Ballet,” it is essential to understand the revolutionary, forward-looking spirit of the Bauhaus, a celebrated German art school that operated from 1919 through 1933.

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Dancers rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS — A Triadic Fiction”, a co-production between Hedwig Dances and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, choreographed by Hedwig Dances founder and artistic director Jan Bartoszek, at the The Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Dancers rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS — A Triadic Fiction”, a co-production between Hedwig Dances and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, choreographed by Hedwig Dances founder and artistic director Jan Bartoszek, at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Although Oskar Schlemmer’s “Triadic Ballet” might be little remembered by the broader public today, dance cognoscenti and cultural historians hold up the 1922 German work as an icon of the 20th-century avant-garde and an important outgrowth of the Bauhaus modernist movement.

Area audiences will have a chance to learn about this historic creation and see its continuing influence up close when Chicago-based Hedwig Dances presents the American premiere of what is billed as a sequel, “META/MOR/PHOS — A Triadic Fiction.”

Untitled

Hedwig Dances — ‘META/MOR/PHOS – A Triadic Fiction’

When: 7:30 p.m. April 14-15 and 21; 3 and 7:30 p.m. April 22

Where: Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn

Tickets: $30

Info: hedwigdances.com

The nearly 45-minute work, which debuted last year at the Bauhaus Museum Dessau to mark the 100th anniversary of the “Triadic Ballet,” joins Mike Tyus’ “SYZYGY” on a program that runs for five performances beginning April 14 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

“It’s beautiful to see, and you can have a very good, entertaining experience, but at the same time, it makes you think and inspires a way of seeing the world in a different way,” said Torsten Blume, a researcher at the Bauhaus Foundation Dessau who collaborated on the work.

To get a sense of the “Triadic Ballet,” it is essential to understand the revolutionary, forward-looking spirit of the Bauhaus, a celebrated German art school that operated from 1919 through 1933, when it closed under pressure from the Nazi regime.

Dancers rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS – A Triadic Fiction,” a co-production between Hedwig Dances and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, choreographed by Hedwig Dances founder and artistic director Jan Bartoszek.

Dancers rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS – A Triadic Fiction,” a co-production between Hedwig Dances and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, choreographed by Hedwig Dances founder and artistic director Jan Bartoszek.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bauhaus sought to marry art and industrial design and prioritize function over ornament, and its groundbreaking precepts exerted a huge effect on multiple fields, including art, architecture and design. Among the myriad cultural giants associated with the school was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who later immigrated to Chicago and transformed its architectural scene.

Schlemmer, an artist, designer and choreographer, taught at the Bauhaus in 1921-1929. The “Triadic Ballet” debuted in Stuttgart and was also presented on at least two other occasions, including Bauhaus Week at the National Theater in Weimar.

Everything in the ballet is based on threes — three dancers, three sections, 12 dances and 18 costumes — hence the title. The “Triadic Ballet” emerged during the Machine Age, and Schlemmer sought to show the connectedness between humans and machines and envision a new way of living.

Unlike a traditional dance work that typically begins with music and movement, Schlemmer first designed the futuristic, deliberately bulky costumes, which necessitated the kind of marionette- or robot-like look he sought.

He then created a geometric choreography for the “Triadic Ballet” and became one of the first visual artists to participate in dance as one of the three original performers. The resulting work diverged from both classical ballet and the expressionistic modern dance of the time, presaging what later became known as performance art.

“It’s like sculptures in motion,” Blume said. “It’s something strange and in between, which provided inspiration in many directions.”

Jan Bartoszek, the founder and artistic director of Hedwig Dances, made the connection with the Bauhaus in a very roundabout way. In 2013, she created a work titled “ASCENDance,” which incorporated large, folded-paper structures.

Hedwig Dances rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS – A Triadic Fiction.”

Hedwig Dances rehearse “META | MOR | PHOS – A Triadic Fiction.”

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Because folded-paper classes were taught at the Bauhaus, some attendees saw aesthetic echoes between the work and the German school — a link that Bartoszek explored during a study tour to Weimar, Dessau and Berlin in 2017.

During that trip, Blume happened to overhear a conversation on a train between the dance leader and her German guide, and he introduced himself. The two exchanged business cards and began discussions that led to “Futura,” a 2018 collaborative work that incorporated ideas from Schlemmer and the Bauhaus.

Bartoszek and Blume then began discussing how they could mark the 100th anniversary of the “Triadic Ballet,” quickly agreeing that they had do something more than simply try and re-create the masterwork. “It’s 100 years later and a different world,” Bartoszek said. “Our world is about climate and how we are going to survive into the future.”

They devised a sequel exploring the connections between humans and nature, with Blume conceiving the idea of basing the dance work around insect metamorphosis, with the three main sections titled “Larvae,” “Pupae” and “Imagos.”

The co-production with the Bauhaus Foundation Dessau features eight dancers — five Hedwig Dances members and three apprentices from the Ruth Page Civic Ballet Training Company. It incorporates 11 costume designs, including re-creations of “Triadic Ballet” originals provided by the Bauhaus Foundation and new ones designed primarily by Jacky Kelsey in conjunction with the Chicago Puppet Studio.

As the piece begins, the dancers are in the “Triadic Ballet” costumes, and they shift to the new insect-like costumes as a kind of philosophical and metaphorical metamorphosis takes place.

“It’s not literal,” Bartoszek said. “It is a change from what was to sort of a futuristic projection.”

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