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Creating an Image

Ballet Companies in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland
Semperoper Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein,
Dutch National Ballet, Zurich Ballet
October 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

What kind of image distinguishes Stuttgart Ballet from Dutch National Ballet? Or the Bavarian State Ballet from the State Ballet Berlin? What is it the dancers – and their audience – identify with as their company? How do companies present themselves to the public? Such were my thoughts when seeing the Semperoper Ballet’s new image campaign, #WHYWEDANCE. I asked several major companies to send me images of their choice representing their respective company’s image.

1. R.Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20162. J.Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Semperoper Ballet chose four of the sixty-one dancer portraits of #WHYWEDANCE. The new ensemble brochure presents each in full-page size. In addition they are spread via social media and on billboards and advertising pillars in Dresden. Aaron S.Watkin, in his eleventh year as artistic director, put the spotlight on his company this season whose face has changed since his beginning in 2006. Next to the dancers, Ian Whalen, the troupe’s photographer and multimedia expert, also shot Watkin and staff members. Names, places of birth, ranks within the company and the year when joining the ensemble come along with each portrait. In addition, every dancer sums up their motivation for the profession, the why and wherefore of choosing a career with dance in a single word.
For the Spaniard Raquél Martínez it is “VIDA” (“Life”), “ART” for the Englishman Joseph Gray. Seoul-born Sangeun Lee decided for “영감” (“Inspiration”) and Fabien Voranger from Aix-en-Provence/France “HONNÊTETÈ” (“Honesty”). The catchy phrases rather arouse more curiosity than deliver information but presumably that is intended. Complimentary video clips with danced solos meant to illuminate the mottoes will be filmed over time. Some are already posted on the company’s website.

4. F.Voranger, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20163. S.Lee, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Formerly black and white, the new portraits are colored surrounded by various pastel backgrounds. Coloring and exposure of light gives some faces an almost translucent appearance reminding me of Meissen porcelain figures. Taken together the portraits depict a colorful, yet cohesive group. Individual traits strike the eye, when focusing on single photos. Whalen’s close-ups seem especially close. They reveal the person behind the artist, pure and unvarnished, an individual that one could easily imagine meeting at such mundane places like the counter of the supermarket. But what a glow! Such sweetly candy-color backgrounds! That is certainly not a group of Everymen.

#WHYWEDANCE eliminates the distance between the artist on stage and the human being behind. Will that bring the art form closer to the audience? Or are dancers seen best from a proper distance to keep the ideal of unattainable beauty and perfection? Which age group feels attracted by what?
But in Dresden a completely different, non-balletic factor has to be considered. Pegida, the right-wing populist organization, demonstrates every Monday in Dresden. Often they cant their anti-immigrant slogans just in front of the Semperoper house. The new campaign sets an example against this xenophobia. Semperoper Ballet is internationally recognized and, together with the State Ballet Berlin, is the flagship of dance in eastern Germany. That is due to its artists. Artists from all over the world.

5. D.Camargo, Dutch National Ballet © Puy 20166. Jongh, Dutch National Ballet © Puy 20167. M.DePrince, Dutch National Ballet © Puy 2016 In Amsterdam, cultural diversity has determined the city’s atmosphere for decades. Equally international is Amsterdam-based Dutch National Ballet. Ted Brandsen, its artistic director, emphasized the range of nationalities within his troupe recently in an interview at the World Ballet Day. A welcoming openness pervades the Dutch National Opera house, 9. A.Tsygankova, Dutch National Ballet © Puy 20168. M.Rademaker, Dutch National Ballet © Puy 2016home of the company. Openness, warmth and professionalism also radiate from the company’s website and its excellent video clips that usually accompany new productions. Its ensemble site gives an overview on the portraits of all dancers, making it easy for visitors to match the names with the faces they saw onstage.

Photographer Robin de Puy shot plain head-on portraits surrounded by a gray background. Clarity, directness and unpretentious perfection characterizes them. Colors are of minor importance, personalities are central. Of the latter, the company has strong ones. The faces are open, but not exposed. One remains curious about the person depicted but at the same time is kept from intrusion. Compared to Semperoper Ballet, their Dutch colleagues are portrayed as artists in everyday wear.

10. K.Ryzhkova, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Kletzsch 201611. O.Gouneo, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Kletzsch 201612. P.Zeisel, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Kletzsch 2016With the start of Igor Zelensky’s directorship, the company of the Bavarian State Ballet has changed fundamentally this season. Taking new dancer portraits was inevitable. The former ones by Sascha Kletzsch had been black and white, his 14. J.Cook, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Kletzsch 201613. S.Ferrolier, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Kletzsch 2016recent ones are colored. Almost every dancer wears a black top, all backgrounds are blue, some photos are overexposed. No picture has depth but rather resembles a simple passport photo. The portraits are on the company website and presented in the new ensemble brochure which is included with the performance programs. Showing one photo next to another in rows of three between golden cardboard-covers, this brochure is a prime example of boring uniformity dressed in ostentatious shine. I doubt whether the dancers identify with this new look. It doesn’t represent who they are.

Usually, with new directors taking office, the companies take on a different character. This also happened to the State Ballet Berlin when Nacho Duato took over the reins in 2014. Back then a poster campaign with dancer portraits was launched in 15. I.Balova, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © F.Marcos 201616. A.Abdukarimov, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © F.Marcos 2016Berlin. Its close-ups caught a moment in class or during a rehearsal. The dancers, wearing rehearsal clothes, focus on something happening outside the image detail instead of posing for the camera. Dedicated working spirit prevails. “Here we go!” is in the air. Everyone looks ready to take responsibility. Those are men and women of action. “Ich bin das Staatsballett Berlin” (“I’m the State Ballet Berlin”) says the overprint. Could there be a more explicit statement of commitment and identification?
That this company sticks together has been proved by its successful initiative for better salaries last year and, recently, in their opposition against the appointment 18. A.Ghalumyan, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © F.Marcos 201617. E.Carrillo Cabrera, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © F.Marcos 2016of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman as Duato’s successors in 2019, which is still up in the air. The photos taken for the poster campaign have been used for the ensemble site of the company’s website too. Therefore logos, overprints and the black shading in the corners were removed. Though being blank they are less expressive.

Stuttgart Ballet is John Cranko, Marcia Haydée, Richard Cragun, Egon Madsen and Birgit Keil. But it is also Reid Anderson, Tamas Detrich, petite Georgette Tsinguirides and the current flagship-dancers: Friedemann Vogel, Alicia Amatriain, Jason Reilly and many others. So things get difficult when asking for a few photos to represent the image of the Stuttgart company. Maybe that is why the press office sent me images of two different campaigns. One shows black and white whole body photos of principal dancers, taken by Sébastien Galtier in the 2011/12 season. Dancers promoted to principal rank in subsequent years were photographed in a similar style by Roman Novitzky.
19. J.Reilly, Stuttgart Ballet © S.Galtier 201620. F.Vogel, Stuttgart Ballet © S.Galtier 201621. A.Amatriain, Stuttgart Ballet © S.Galtier 2016Galtier made the dancers pose in the opera’s paint shop. Of the three examples I received, Reilly and Vogel could easily be laid-back guys working as models. They are athletic but without the opera surroundings nothing would hint at their being dancers. But those two men don’t need a special introduction. Everyone in the dance world knows them anyway. Amatriain, by contrast, is clearly the ballerina. She keeps more distance from the viewer though, like the two men, she is looking directly into the camera. Some of those black and white photos are on the company website in the picture galleries of the respective dancers. As postcards, all are for sale in the Stuttgart Ballet shop.

22. Captain Fantastic / J.Reilly, Stuttgart Ballet © B.Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by Discodoener23. Mercury / F.Vogel, Stuttgart Ballet © B.Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by Discodoener24. Elastorina / A.Amatriain, Stuttgart Ballet © B.Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by DiscodoenerThe second, completely different campaign, was launched in 2015. It showcases the principals as “Superheroes” in science fiction costumes under fictional names directly or indirectly relating to individual skills. Little labels give the heroes’ real names and home countries. The idea for the campaign originates from the two little sons of Vivian Arnold, director of communications and dramaturgy. Ex-soloist Thomas Lempertz was in charge of the costumes; Bernd Weißbrod took the photos. The campaign is fun, especially for children. They love heroes. But how do grown-ups bridge the disparity of a comic hero image and the seriousness of a role in one of Stuttgart Ballet hallmark pieces? Captain Fantastic becomes Onegin? Elastorina becomes Juliette? Well, how that works seems part of the long-standing Stuttgart Ballet Miracle.

25. Poster for “Romeo and Juliet”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 201626. Poster for “Notations”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016When talking with Chea Nila, the press aid of Ballet Zurich, on the phone about what images characterize the company, we agreed that they aren’t the dancer portraits. They are merely meant to inform one about who is who. “We are what we are doing”, she said. This the company presents in a unique way indeed. When passing by the opera house’s production posters, of which Chea Nila sent examples, everyone in the city of Zurich knows that they are the signature of either Ballet Zurich or Zurich Opera. The same clearly structured images build the front side of the website and are on the covers of the program books. Some of the symbols, chosen by the layout designers, go without explanation: the 28. Poster for “Leonce and Lena”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 201627. Poster for “Swan Lake”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016heart for “Romeo and Juliet”, the feather for “Swan Lake” (Ratmansky’s reconstruction) and the crown for “Leonce and Lena”, for example. But I remember having pondered over the connection between the three pieces of “Notations” and the phosphorescing ant. In any case, those graphics’ distinctive designs catch the eye. In Zurich the artists on stage take a back seat in favor of the art.

This August Alexandra Albrecht wrote about the small numbers of black dancers in ballet companies in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, saying that Martin Schläpfer’s company, the Ballett am Rhein, is exemplary in demonstrating the variety within a ballet troupe. Plurality of nationalities 29. W.S.Chan, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 201630. C.Nzerem, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 201631. C.Andriot, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 201632. M.Menha, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 2016doesn’t matter for the feeling of togetherness, Albrecht declared. The company photo proves her right. Ballett am Rhein is a mixed group, likeable, good-humored and with team spirit. But individuality counts in the same way. Take a look at the single portraits Gert Weigelt took. He didn’t paint all with the same brush but revealed facets of the personalities lying behind. One gets curious to know more about those dancers.
Isn’t that an ideal starting point to establish a strong connection between a company and its audience?
33. Ensemble, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 2016

Links: Homepage of Ballett am Rhein
Homepage Ballet Zurich
Homepage of the Bavarian State Ballet
Homepage of Dutch National Ballet
Homepage of Semperoper Ballet
Homepage of the State Ballet Berlin
Homepage of Stuttgart Ballet
Photos: Semperoper Ballet
 1. Raquél Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © Ian Whalen 2016
 2. Joseph Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © Ian Whalen 2016
 3. Sangeun Lee, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © Ian Whalen 2016
 4. Fabien Voranger, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © Ian Whalen 2016
Dutch National Ballet
5. Daniel Camargo, Dutch National Ballet © Robin de Puy 2016
6. Igone de Jongh, Dutch National Ballet © Robin de Puy 2016
7. Michaela DePrince, Dutch National Ballet © Robin de Puy 2016
8. Marijn Rademaker, Dutch National Ballet © Robin de Puy 2016
9. Anna Tsygankova, Dutch National Ballet © Robin de Puy 2016
Bavarian State Ballet
10. Ksenia Ryzhkova, Bavarian State Ballet © Sascha Kletzsch 2016
11. Osiel Gouneo, Bavarian State Ballet © Sascha Kletzsch 2016
12. Prisca Zeisel, Bavarian State Ballet © Sascha Kletzsch 2016
13. Séverine Ferrolier, Bavarian State Ballet © Sascha Kletzsch 2016
14. Jonah Cook, Bavarian State Ballet © Sascha Kletzsch 2016
State Ballet Berlin
15. Iana Balova, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © Fernando Marcos 2016
16. Alexander Abdukarimov, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © Fernando Marcos 2016
17. Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © Fernando Marcos 2016
18. Arshak Ghalumyan, poster campaign, State Ballet Berlin © Fernando Marcos 2016
Stuttgart Ballet
19. Jason Reilly, Stuttgart Ballet © Sébastien Galtier 2016
20. Friedemann Vogel, Stuttgart Ballet © Sébastien Galtier 2016
21. Alicia Amatriain, Stuttgart Ballet © Sébastien Galtier 2016
22. Captain Fantastic / Jason Reilly, Stuttgart Ballet © Bernd Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by Discodoener
23. Mercury / Friedemann Vogel, Stuttgart Ballet © Bernd Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by Discodoener
24. Elastorina / Alicia Amatriain, Stuttgart Ballet © Bernd Weisbrod 2016, Grafic by Discodoener
Ballet Zurich
25. Poster for “Romeo and Juliet”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016
26. Poster for “Notations”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016
27. Poster for “Swan Lake”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016
28. Poster for “Leonce and Lena”, Ballet Zurich © Ballet Zurich 2016
Ballett am Rhein
29. Wun Sze Chan, Ballett am Rhein © Gert Weigelt 2016
30. Chidozie Nzerem, Ballett am Rhein © Gert Weigelt 2016
31. Camille Andriot, Ballett am Rhein © Gert Weigelt 2016
32. Marcos Menha, Ballett am Rhein © Gert Weigelt 2016
33. Ensemble, Ballett am Rhein © Gert Weigelt 2016
Editing: Laurence Smelser

Pirate’s Luck

“Le Corsaire”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
October 14, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Manolova and R.Szabó, “Le Corsaire” by M.Legris after M.Petipa et al. © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Spared for a very long time, Vienna’s State Opera was finally conquered by pirates earlier this year. Solely Manuel Legris, artistic director of the ballet company, is to be held to account for this invasion. Yet I assume he bears responsibility with pleasure as his “Corsaire” is well received.

According to the program book, around 70% of the choreography is Legris’s, the rest is based on Marius Petipa’s tradition. I missed the “Corsaire”, which Doug Fullington reconstructed from the Stepanov-notation of Petipa’s 1899 version for the Bavarian State Ballet in 2007, so I cannot compare the Viennese choreography with what is thought to come closest to the original. Lord Byron’s 1814 poem “The Corsair” is the initial source of inspiration for opera and ballet adaptions alike. But already in the first “Corsaire” ballet, Joseph Mazilier’s 1856 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, little of the original was left. Subsequent choreographies weren’t more faithful to the text source either. Apart from a few changes in the libretto Legris’s three-act piece has the ingredients familiar from other versions: a great portion of classical variations, character dance, heroism, romance and a hefty dose of kitsch. (more…)

Almost Holy

“The World of John Neumeier”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
October 08, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Riggins and ensemble, “Bernstein Dances” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © K.West 2016Calling two big stages home is a luxury few can call their own. Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier enjoyed it for the seventieth time this autumn when touring the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden for one week. Usually they bring along two pieces and one workshop moderated by Neumeier himself. This year the two ballets were “Romeo and Juliet”, scheduled three times with different leading couples, and “The World of John Neumeier”, a collection of excerpts from autobiographically significant pieces. It premiered in Tokyo earlier this year and was shown on two consecutive evenings in Baden-Baden. I saw the first performance. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin : An Update

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Duato, D.Vieira and K.Ovsyanick, rehearsal of N.Duato's “Nutcracker”, State Ballet Berlin © Y.Revazov 2016 While the State Ballet Berlin is about to kick off its “Nutcracker” season with the newly acquired version by artistic director Nacho Duato, a suspicious silence has spread over the controversial issue of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s assignment as Duato’s successors in 2019.

Getting background information about the candidate search process for the director’s post was laborious, as the Senate Chancellery’s spokesman for cultural affairs, Lars Bahners, was ungenerous in providing substantial information. Hollow words are his metier. (more…)

The First Run of “Giselle” in Munich

Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
October 02, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Wright after M.Petipa, J.Coralli and J.Perrot, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016The Bavarian State Ballet opened its first season under Igor Zelensky with the revival of Peter Wright’s “Giselle”. Each of the six performances was led by a different couple. Of the guest dancers Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin created major excitement on opening night. Further guests included the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and Vadim Muntagirov from the Royal Ballet London. Both were paired with Munich principals. Of the four ballerinas cast as Giselle, Osipova and Maria Shirinkina danced twice, Zakharova and Ksenia Ryzkhova once. Albrechts coming from within the ranks of the Bavarian State Ballet were Osiel Gouneo and Vladimir Shklyarov. (more…)

Closing a Chapter

“Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”
53. International Television Festival Golden Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
September 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. and J.Bubeníček, “Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”, International Television Festival Golden Prague © Czech Television 2016September 28th marked the opening of the annual International Television Festival Golden Prague. The city truly lived up to the festival’s title. Warm autumn sun bathed the beautiful historic facades in golden light, inviting the crowds of tourists to stroll in T-shirts and summer dresses. The five-day television festival took place on the New Stage of the National Theatre, located just behind the old theater house.

Loved by their countrymen, Otto and Jiří Bubeníček have regularly appeared on Czech TV. A new, one-hour documentary, produced by Jaroslav Bouček and directed by Martin Kubala, provides insight into the twins’ artistic and private lives during the last two and a half years. (more…)

Van Dantzig, Van Schayk, Van Manen

“Dutch Masters”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Gyo Choi and Q.Liu, “Episodes van Fragmenten” by T.van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016Dutch National Ballet’s latest mixed bill was all-Dutch. It assembled four pieces by three pivotal choreographers of the Netherlands: “Vier letzte Lieder” (“Four Last Songs”) by Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), the company’s artistic director for twenty years; “Adagio Hammerklavier” by Hans van Manen (born: 1932) ; plus “Episodes van Fragmenten” and “Requiem”, both by Toer van Schayk (born: 1936). This wasn’t lightweight entertainment but a program upon which to ponder. I attended the last performance, the Sunday, September 25th matinée. (more…)

Quarrels at the State Ballet Berlin Continue

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
September 22, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble of the State Ballet Berlin © State Ballet Berlin 2016The announcement that Sasha Waltz and the Royal Swedish Ballet’s artistic director Johannes Öhman will succeed Nacho Duato at the helm of the State Ballet Berlin in the 2019/20 season is still creating massive waves. Michael Müller, Berlin’s governing mayor and cultural senator since 2014, and Tim Renner (both SPD), state secretary for cultural affairs, announced the news on September 7th, just before the elections in Berlin. Since then, the two men have been facing trouble. Recently, another decision of theirs, the appointment of the Belgian Chris Dercon, director of the Tate Modern in London, who will follow Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne, caused harsh criticism as well. Müller and Renner are accused of making these decisions alone, behind closed doors, resistant to the advice of others. (more…)

A Conversation with Tadeusz Matacz

John Cranko School
Stuttgart, Germany
September, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Tadeusz Matacz © T.Matacz The Cranko School is one of the most renowned ballet schools of the world, a talent pool known for excellence and, according to surveys at the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), the second most favored school among students after London’s Royal Ballet School. When I arrived in Stuttgart in mid-September to find out about the school’s formula of success, I was surprised. Located in the Urbanstrasse, around 0,6 miles distance from the State Opera, the five-story building is unremarkable in the row of houses. Only a metal plate next to the entrance reveals that this is the school John Cranko founded in December 1971, ten years after he had taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Bavarian State Ballet

“Ballet Extra: A Day of Rehearsals”
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
September 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryzhkova and O.Gouneo rehearsing “Giselle”, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Ballone 2016Igor Zelensky’s directorship at the Bavarian State Ballet kicked off for the public last Saturday with a “Ballet Extra”. The doors of the rehearsal studios in Munich’s City Center were open from 9:45 AM well into the afternoon. The company – or more precisely its principals, soloists and demi-soloists – rehearsed “Giselle”, the season’s first production, and “Spartacus”. Corps dancers weren’t involved.

People queued up in front of the entrance that morning and it seemed a sizeable crowd although, according to new press spokesperson Annette Baumann, it was slightly smaller than last year’s. Given that it was a lovely late summer day, people may have preferred to spend their free time outdoors rather than in stuffy studios full of hard working dancers. (more…)

A Bright Opening

Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Grand Défilé, Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater 2016Amsterdam’s National Opera House always radiates a light and welcoming atmosphere. This was especially so at this season’s opening gala on September 7th, which saw large crowds, women in evening gowns, flocking into the buzzing foyer amid flurries of camera flashes around the red carpet.

From the start the Grand Défilé, which opened the gala, gained warm-hearted applause. The program of the following three-and-a-half hours had been kept as a surprise. It included three highlights. (more…)

Palucca’s Legacy

Palucca University of Dance Dresden
Dresden, Germany
August, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Palucca University Dresden, main building © K.Hirsch“I could identify with the Palucca School and its values” says Brooke Squire, who is in her last year of the Bachelor program of the Palucca University in Dresden. The nineteen-year-old had started her dance training at Stuttgart’s John Cranko School, but four years ago decided to move, because “unlike in Stuttgart, where the focus is on classical ballet, in Dresden it is half on ballet, half on contemporary. We are more involved in the creative process and the teachers are open to communication.” (more…)

“I feel like Lensky”

Semyon Chudin, Bolshoi Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
August, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin © Bolshoi TheatreI first saw Semyon Chudin dance in Stuttgart Ballet’s end-of-the season gala this July. He had danced the Wedding Pas de Deux from “Sleeping Beauty” next to Anna Osadcenko and immediately caught my attention. Chudin has an aura, which only a great personality is able to radiate.

As it happens the Bolshoi toured London for three weeks during this summer. One and a half weeks after the Stuttgart gala I sat in the Royal Opera House, watching the company in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “The Taming of the Shrew”. The following day I met Chudin in the Opera House’s cafeteria to talk about his career and his life offstage. We spoke twice, first in the afternoon, and, after rehearsals and with translation support by Sonia Serduk, a longstanding friend of Chudin from St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre, again in the evening. Chudin’s English is good but he feels more at ease when speaking Russian. I guess our group of three attracted attention as we had much fun.

Chudin is natural, kind and easy-going. He does not make the slightest attempt to cultivate a glossy image of himself or to feign a conformist mindset. Telling people what they want to hear isn’t his. The timbre of his voice simply reveals his true opinions. Centered in himself Chudin radiates calmness but at the same time is very self-critical. After the Stuttgart gala he asked Filip Baranciwicz and Mikhail Kaniskin to give him corrections. How many principals act in the same way? “One could always improve something. When you’re satisfied with yourself you should stop,” he later stated. (more…)

Grand Glamor

“Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
August 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Swan Lake” after L.Ivanov, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo © S.VaughanFor almost a week the venerable “Trocks” have been doing themselves the honor of guesting at Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus as part of an extended tour through Germany. A packed house duly welcomed them and was generously rewarded with a mixed bill of iconic classics. I saw the program on opening night which, “in accordance with the greatest tradition of Russian Ballet”, slightly differed from what had been announced in advance. Instead of the “Pas de deux Mystérieux” we were presented with the threesome of the “Le Corsaire Pas de Deux”, “Go for Barocco” and the “Dying Swan” which were framed by Act II of “Swan Lake” and the Grand Pas Classique of “Paquita”. (more…)

Maillot’s Idea of How to Tame

Taming of the Shrew”
Bolshoi Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
August 03, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Krysanova and V.Lantratov, “The Taming of the Shrew” by J.-C.Maillot, Bolshoi Ballet © M.Logvinov/Bolshoi TheatreThe Bolshoi Ballet’s three-week tour to London draws crowds of ballet aficionados to the Royal Opera House. Every evening each of the five productions is sold out. Those include the much-loved classics, “Swan Lake”, “Don Quixote” and “Le Corsaire”, as well as “The Flames of Paris” by Alexei Ratmansky and Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “The Taming of the Shrew” which premiered two years ago at the Bolshoi. “Shrew” was scheduled only twice. I saw the first performance.

Similar to Kurt-Heinz Stolze’s Scarlatti-pastiche for John Cranko’s “Shrew”, Maillot also cobbled together the score. He assembled less well known film music and excerpts of symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich which go along with the events on stage like lubricating oil. Whether swooshing or romantic, the Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre under Igor Dronov’s baton played with verve.

The story sets off at the estate of Baptista, a wealthy lord in Padua. But the two broad, curved outdoor stairs arching over the house’s entrance, designed by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, don’t relate to any specific town. Baptista is beset with two daughters, the prickly Katharina and her younger sister, the much-adored Bianca. But the latter will not be allowed to marry until Katharina first wears her wedding ring. (more…)