The Weekend Australian - Review - - Collaborations -

di­men­sional. You can be very multi-lay­ered with lan­guage, too; I don’t want to make it too sim­plis­tic. But com­mu­ni­ca­tion with body lan­guage is be­yond ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.’’

Oster­meier loomed large in the next phase of Waltz’s life. In 1999, Waltz and her part­ner, Jochen Sandig, Oster­meier and Jens Hillje took over the sto­ried Schaubuhne The­atre in Ber­lin, home to hero di­rec­tors such as Peter Stein and Klaus Michael Gru­ber. The new di­rec­tor­ship was a col­lab­o­ra­tion and the in­com­ing quar­tet shared a view of the pur­pose of the­atre. At the end of the five-year con­tract, how­ever, Waltz was ready to leave af­ter find­ing bar­ri­ers to her grow­ing in­ter­est in ex­pand­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tion into opera.

This re­sis­tance came about, Waltz says, be­cause Ber­lin al­ready had three im­por­tant opera houses and it seemed like overkill. But none of them, from her point of view, was spe­cial­is­ing in the Schaubuhne’s par­tic­u­lar type of cross-dis­ci­plinary ad­ven­ture.

She re­vived her old com­pany, Sasha Waltz and Guests. Its very first pro­duc­tion was Dido & Ae­neas, which has since had dozens of out­ings across the world. Oster­meier is now flirt­ing with baroque opera at the Schaubuhne too, Waltz adds wryly: ‘‘ Maybe they needed a few more years to get to it.’’

Her time at the Schaubuhne changed the scale of her work. ‘‘ But it also had some­thing to do with my own bi­og­ra­phy,’’ she says. ‘‘ I had come to an end of small nar­ra­tive and so­cial re­al­ism. I had tried dif­fer­ent an­gles and I was a lit­tle bit tired of it. I wanted a change.’’

Her per­sonal and pro­fes­sional bi­ogra­phies seem in­sep­a­ra­ble. Her busi­ness part­ner, Sandig, is also her life part­ner. Af­ter years of fa­cil­i­tat­ing her work, he is segu­ing fur­ther into the cre­ative side of the per­form­ing arts, she says. They also have two chil­dren, a boy, 16, and a girl, 10. Their son danced the child’s role in the orig­i­nal Dido & Ae­neas and con­tin­ued un­til he out­grew the role. Now their daugh­ter is tak­ing over.

Waltz’s idea for the opera was to make the dancers so in­te­gral to the work that view­ers would be un­sure who were the singers and the dancers. The orches­tra com­ing to Aus­tralia is early mu­sic en­sem­ble the Akademie fur Alte Musik, which has worked on the pro­duc­tion from the start.

The orig­i­nal con­duc­tor was At­tilio Cre­monesi, who edited the score to fit Waltz’s con­cept. When the present con­duc­tor, early mu­sic spe­cial­ist Christo­pher Moulds, came along about five years ago, he was happy mostly to take it over as he found it, he says, with a few al­ter­ations to the tempo here and there.

Mem­bers of the choir we will see here were also in­volved from the be­gin­ning. ‘‘ They didn’t have a phys­i­cal back­ground and it was very touch­ing for me, a very en­rich­ing and re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, to see how they de­vel­oped, to see how they cre­ated that con­scious­ness in their bod­ies,’’ Waltz says.

Her orig­i­nal re­hearsal times would send cold shiv­ers down an opera com­pany ac­coun­tant’s spine. Three months with the dancers, six weeks with the choir. It was an ex­per­i­ment and its out­come un­clear, but Waltz says the deep­en­ing re­spect for each other’s work among the par­tic­i­pants was some­thing to be­hold.

In all that time, none of the prin­ci­pal soloists and only one dancer has been re­placed — and that only be­cause she was to give birth.

Dido & Ae­neas, Jan­uary 16 to 21, as part of the Syd­ney Fes­ti­val.

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