Graham Watts, International Phaedra / Eurydice in Hell White Dance Theatre, Polish National Opera House, Warsaw – November 4, 2018

A WORK TITLED Eurydice in Hell was never likely to promise a rose garden. The premiere of this work by Izadora Weiss ends a sequence that saw her tackling sombre subjects, including Darkness for Polish National Ballet, as well as Eros Thanatos for her own company. For a decade, Weiss was artistic director at the Baltic Opera House in Gdańsk, producing a homespun repertoire of compelling contemporary dance theatre, until a change of leadership reinstated classical ballet and, despite widespread critical acclaim – both in Poland and internationally – she was forced out. Weiss is now in Warsaw with a new company, deliberately renamed to retain the same acronym as the Baltic ensemble. It now resides at the Comedy Theatre, but Weiss’ burgeoning reputation enabled her new production to premiere at the National Opera House, which is no less than it deserved. She tackles subjects in cycles. Having completed her Shakespeare set (Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest) she has now completed a trio of works inspired by Greek legends, the first of which was Phaedra, which opened this programme. The curtain rises on a tableau vivant arranged on a carpet of blood-red petals. Such spectacular imagery – representing a painting that is then brought to life – is one of many golden threads running throughout her work. Photograph: MARCIN ŁABUZ. Racine’s narrative is a #MeToo tale of its time, where an overwhelming passion is attached to the abusive authority of power; the twist being that the predator is the Queen and Hippolytus, the object of Phaedra’s lust, is her stepson. In turn, Hippolytus shields his illicit love for Aricia (the sole survivor of the royal line supplanted by King Theseus). It doesn’t end well. Weiss has evolved a unique movement language and imbues every action with an expressive purpose, carrying the story with clarity and visual splendour. Nadja Simchen articulates both the passionate and calculating sides of Phaedra, and Beniamin Citkowski (the only remaining member of the Gdańsk company) is equally convincing as the idealistic, honourable Hippolytus. Guest performer Adam Kozal provides an imperious Theseus, Lena Paetsch brings a dutiful innocence to the role of Aricia, and as Phaedra’s confidante, Oenone (who acts as a prominent narrative device), Ieva Ievina gave a subtle performance. Another legend provides the source for Weiss’ new work, that of Orpheus descending into Hell to find Eurydice, his deceased wife. Another familiar trait of Weiss is to wrap ancient narratives within a modern context (her coruscating Rite of Spring was set in a gym and Romeo and Juliet during the second Gulf War); here, the “Hell” confronting Orpheus is a modern-day cult, into which Eurydice has been absorbed. The psychology of the sect is effectively orchestrated through Weiss’ trademark organic group movement – bodies moving both separately and harmoniously but as a single multi-faceted entity. Another Weiss technique put to good effect in this production is to split the stage with simultaneous narrative themes occupying both foreground and background. Ievina and Citkowski return in the lead roles, performing arresting duets of considerable physicality and innovative lifts. Their pulsating, flowing, conjoined movements give passionate conviction to Orpheus’ journey into Hell to be reunited with his wife. It is heady, electric choreography and the pair dance it with strong, expressive purpose. Mateusz Sobczak is an enigmatic Hades, here a cult leader, and Marta Barossi holds nothing back in the Above: A scene from White Dance Company’s Eurydice in Hell. challenging rawness of her role as a sacrificial victim of the cult’s malevolence. Expression and musicality are central to Weiss’ choreography, and her choice of music is critical. Phaedra is performed to Mahler’s Tenth Symphony and Eurydice in Hell opens and closes with a Calabrian folk song that envelopes two powerful string quartets – the first by Karol Szymanowski, followed by Shostakovich’s Seventh String Quartet. There is a synergy between the two works, as if they were meant to co-exist, but the centrepiece is Eugène Ysaÿe’s insanely complex and emotional third sonata (the Georges Enescu), a violin solo with virtuoso demands performed live on stage by Weronika Weiss, who, at just 16, appears destined to become an outstanding concert violinist. Rumour has it that Izadora Weiss will return to a new literary source in her next work, continuing to expand an already significant repertoire in her own inimitable style. I hope her outstanding work will get to travel more widely.


Graham Watts, Tristan & Izolde,, 7. July 2016:

Tristan & Izolde is therefore Weiss’s last new work to premiere at the Baltic Opera House and it was both stylistically reminiscent of her recent output but, paradoxically, a significant departure into new territory. Her choreography is firmly rooted in narrative and music and both influences are again paramount. (...) Weiss has courageously opted for making her own soundtrack from the prodigious output of Krzysztof Penderecki, augmented by the contemporary variations thereon, created by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood in association with Penderecki in their 2012 collaboration entitled 48 Responses to Polymorphia.

Penderecki – now 83, and unquestionably Poland’s most eminent living composer – was present for this performance and, afterwards, told me that it often seemed as if he was listening to his music for the first time! And, in many ways, Weiss has created a fascinating “new” score, pulled together from extracts of the rich diversity of Penderecki’s compositions, to present a musically challenging soundtrack to yet another tragic tale of obsessive love. The music is extraordinary, veering from luscious, hummable romantic themes to get lost in, to the dissonant complexity of polymorphic sound and the unmistakeable Radiohead influences in two particular scenes.(...)

Misunderstandings that lead to tragedy; issues of social alienation; the dynamics of master-servant relationships, often defined by gender; and the course of true love running anything but smoothly are the dominant recurrent themes in the expressionist and musical work of Izadora Weiss. I haven’t encountered the work of any living choreographer that tackles the narrative exploration of such issues better.(...) Let us hope some enterprising producer gets them here to the UK. It’s long overdue.

Graham Watts, Baltic Dance Theatre - Phaedra, The Tempest - Gdansk,, 22 November 2015:

"That Weiss is successful in laying out this story as boldly as the red carpet on which it plays, is all down to her choreographic, story-telling talent, which I am increasingly coming to regard as one of a kind in the world of contemporary dance today. Weiss does romance, she does anger, jealous rage, empathy and so much more. She demonstrates emotion palpably and honestly in movement and expression such that her audience is in no doubt of her narrative intentions".

Kelly Apter,  Five reasons to catch Baltic Dance Theatre's UK premiere,, 19 November 2015:

"Since starting Baltic Dance Theatre in 2010, Weiss has become known for her love of narrative works, tackling The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Death and the Maiden, amongst others.
This latest production sees Weiss take Racine’s story and turn it into a passionate piece of dance theatre, sticking to the original narrative but adding her own special touches".

Laura Cappelle, Dynamic new force in European dance, "Financial Times", 11 November 2015:

"Once in a while, a choreographer comes along and puts the city of the dance map. Izadora Weiss is making the case for Gdansk: her Baltic Dance Theatre, born five years ago from the ashes of the Baltic Opera's ballet ensemble, has become a world-class troupe shaped by her ambitious, fast-growing repertoire".

Graham Watts, Baltic Dance Theatre - Fun, Death and the Maiden, Body Master - Warsaw,, 29 October 2015:

"The odd thing about Weiss’s interpretation of Death and the Maiden is that death is a maiden, thus breaking with a centuries-old convention that the grim reaper is always a man. The idea of the danse macabre (or the death dance) dates back at least to the medieval age although Weiss transports the concept into some unspecified modern era.
(...) It [Body Master] is – in my experience – the closest that Weiss has yet come to the depth of intention in Kylián choreography. I believe that the title may have two meanings: one directly relevant to the work, the other referencing the personal influence of Kylián over his most promising protégée.
(...) the whole group performs with close control of harmony built from a sound collective platform of consistently solid technique and musicality. Weiss invariably creates memorable finishes to her work and this is again true in Body Master (...) The energy, momentum and fascination transferred seamlessly from work to work, ending – as Weiss’ programmes always seem to do – on a considerable high".

Jeffery Taylor, Dance review: Triple Bill by the Baltic Dance Theatre, "Sunday Express", 24 October 2015:

„Weiss stumbled across her own dance language, a dream often turning into an incomprehensible nightmare for many dance lovers searching for new talent (…)
I saw a woman who has the audience’s interest at heart. Not only does Weiss intend others to understand her language, she actually wants us to enjoy it. Clearly this young woman has plenty to say through dance and makes sure people like you and me hear it”.

Graham Watts, Baltic Dance Theatre in The Tempest,, 22 July 2015:

"She employs challenging music and creates impressive openings that draw the audience in, with memorable endings that stay deeply rooted in the consciousness.
(...) Outstanding full-length dance theatre is alive and kicking in Gdansk, and this skilfully constructed adaptation of The Tempest deserves to be seen beyond the Baltic shores".

Jann Parry, Baltic/Dance Theatre - The Tempest - Gdansk/,, 4 June 2015:

"Though the conclusion relies on Mahler’s adagio to deliver the emotional resolution of the work, it is an effective epilogue. Weiss has conveyed her own understanding of Shakespeare’s last play, in which he may have identified himself with Prospero, asking for redemption. She has given her company a range of well-developed roles, creating a distinctive movement style for her main characters and, especially, the female ensemble of nymphs who carry the first part of the production. Tura Gomez Coll is outstanding as Ariel, a fascinating combination of feminine and boyish attributes in her assertive way of dancing. She is entirely persuasive as a mischievous sprite and as a Leonardo angel in touch with another world. (...) Weiss is taking Baltic Dance Theatre on a journey that needs to be seen outside as well as inside Poland".

Barbara Kanold, Prospero's Bitter Voyage, "Gazeta Wyborcza", 26 May 2015:

"The Tempest based on Shakespeare and Mahler is, in my opinion, the most mature choreography by Izadora Weiss. The new production is presented by very talented and international company of BDT which has recently brought in some truly outstanding new blood. (...) The production devoid of any flashiness and cheap tricks has good rhythm, the dancers perform with great fluency. I particularly liked the women. It is played without an unnecessary intermission hence the tension is kept. (...) Watching this production is a pure pleasure enriched by moments of reflection and reverie. After Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream both the choreographer and the company seems to have grown up and become ready for this rather difficult task of performing The Tempest".

Graham Watts, Baltic Dance Theatre – Netherlands 1 bill: Clash, Fun, Light – Gdansk,, April 2014:

"The latter two works give further supporting evidence to the case for Izadora Weiss being considered as one of the most imaginative and exciting modern choreographers of the new generation. On returning from Poland, I discovered that she had been given a special award by the City of Gdańsk for her “artistic achievements” and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was voted as the best theatrical performance seen in Gdańsk in 2013. These hometown plaudits are worthily achieved but it is high time that her extraordinary work is seen farther afield. Her choreography and this excellent company deserve to go global".

Graham Watts, "Dance Europe", January 2014:

"The driving force is Izadora Weiss (...) Weiss confronts challenging material at either end of the comedy/tragedy spectrum and delivers arresting choreography, articulating her narrative intentions with strength and clarity. With quality of output, Baltic Dance Theatre is rapidly emerging as a fascinating new force in European contemporary dance".

Bruce Marriott, Baltic Dance Theatre – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Rite of Spring – Warsaw,, 30 November 2013:

"(...) for me Izadora Weiss is the star attraction and her almost Matthew-Bourne-like ability to couple dance and drama in ways we all understand".

Laura Cappelle, /Polish dance strides ahead/, "Financial Times", 14 November 2013:

"As the Polish National Ballet’s Warsaw Dance Days showed, however, some local companies are on the rise, and one of them has made huge strides in its five years of existence: Gdansk’s Baltic Dance Theatre, which showed impressive versatility in a double bill of works by its director and choreographer, Izadora Weiss.
Weiss is a rare, and fresh, choreographic talent; the company will be one to follow as it matures".

Critics' Choice, "Dance Europe", October 2013:

Graham Watts - London (; "Dancing Times",; "Shinshokan Dance Magazine" Japan' "The Ballet Bag").
Best World Premiere: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Sen nocy letniej) ch: Izadora Weiss, Baltic Dance Theatre, May 2013.

Jarosław Zalesiński, "Dziennik Bałtycki", 29 May 2013:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream choreographed by Izadora Weiss is a comedy, but it does not lack dramatic twists and turns, heart-breaking betrayals and confusion (...)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a mature and beautiful production. It is a success of the choreographer as well as of her dance company”.

Graham Watts, A Midsummer Night's Dream in Gdansk,, 24 June 2013:

"Weiss leaves no stone unturned in Shakespeare’s text by accommodating the widest sweep of the plot in her 70-minute single-act work, bringing in the front-end story of Theseus and Hippolyta and also the comic epilogue of the artisans’ Pyramus and Thisbe at the triple wedding that concludes the play.
(...) Eroticism, romance and comedy were all well to the fore under Weiss’ fast-paced direction and the scenes with the four mismatched lovers were subtly nuanced to convey the humour and pathos of their unrequited romances in casual glances and tag duets".

Bruce Marriott, Baltic Dance Theatre - A Midsummer Night's Dream - Gdańsk,, 30 June 2013:

"As narrative telling I think Weiss has done a most fine job (...)
Ultimately this was a very human take on the Dream – full of emotional punch, fun and bold movement in a clever modern staging. It’s a production that you could take anywhere in the world and it would connect with people – and travel I hope it does. There is a hunger and freshness at BDT which I’m glad to have seen first hand and look forward to tracking – we all like following winners".

Out / Cool Fire - selected reviews

Windows / No More Play / Six Dances - selected reviews

The Rite of Spring - selected reviews

Romeo and Juliet - selected reviews

Out - selected reviews