By Alexandra TomalonisSpecial to The Washington Post
October 14, 2002 Anjelin Preljocaj has a well-deserved reputation for being bold and provocative. The two works his Ballet Preljocaj brought to the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater Friday night teased the brain as well as the senses, and his dancers are as gorgeous and invincible as any around. In “Helikopter,” Preljocaj responds to the difficult, grating score--Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1994 work, “Helikopter Quartet,” composed for four violins and four helicopters--as an abstract painter might. He takes and breaks images of rotation and flight, at times using the six dancers to construct shapes like living Tinker Toys, at times sending them through the air like flying rotor blades--or swastikas.
Preljocaj is known for remaking 20th century ballets, especially those of the Ballets Russes. Judged by his “Le Sacre du printemps,” he doesn’t merely steal a designer label, but actually rethinks them, adapting them to contemporary issues and tastes. Stravinsky’s score celebrates the violent rebirth of nature, as spring erupts through the frozen Siberian earth, tearing the world asunder to create new life. In Prejlocaj’s version, the eruption is that of human hormones. Six women tease six men in a park. Eventually, tempted beyond endurance, the men respond aggressively. At times the women resist, at times they lead. The score’s beat is an infamous trap, but Preljocaj uses the quieter moments for some beautiful, sensuous dancing. When the raw pounding in the music insists, Prejlocaj matches it, the dancers slouching like Neanderthals or moving ferociously with graphic, pelvic thrusts. Preljocaj’s point -- that no matter how civilized we become, there are primitive urges beneath those mini-skirts that won’t be denied--is powerfully made. At the end, the dancers become a mob and tear the clothes from one woman chosen at random (Isabelle Arnaud). Trapped on a grassy knoll, she tries to escape, but is relentlessly repelled by the mob that goads her to dance the way a crowd goads a suicide to jump. She begins to revel in her dance, delight in her power and in her nakedness, and dances until completely spent, then curls up on the grass, cuddles to the sod, and sleeps.