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A Farewell and a Fresh Start

“Pavilion of Armids” / “Hungarian Dances” / “Sextus Propertius”
Ural Opera Ballet
Yekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Yekaterinburg, Russia
April 14, 2023 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletPerseverance pays off. A few weeks after the premiere of the Ural Opera Ballet’s new triple bill in mid-April I finally got access to its recording. Three Russian choreographers contributed to the program: the Maryinsky Ballet’s dancer-choreographer Maxim Petrov, the artistic director of the Perm Opera Ballet Anton Pimonov, and the Yekaterinburg company’s own artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov.

Petrov chose to reinterpret Michel Fokine’s “Le Pavillon d’Armide” – one of the ballets that manifested the Ballet Russes’ legendary tour to Paris in May 1909. Its libretto by Alexandre Benois (which is based on Théophile Gauthier’s novel “Omphale”) tells of the sorceress Armida who descends at night from a magic tapestry in a marquis’s garden pavilion to bewitch an aristocrat. Petrov relocated the action to a modern-day museum and swapped the tapestry for a wall-sized modern field painting, evoking the work of Mark Rothko (set design by Aliona Pikalova). Instead of an aristocrat, Armida (Anna Domke) beguiles (or rather befools) a young, bored museum attendant (Alexandr Merkushev). Petrov didn’t stint on satire when portraying Armida’s maneuvers, reinstating the humor Benois had deleted when adapting Gautier’s “Omphale”.

3. A.Merkushev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet2. Ensemble, “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet The museum is filled with disinterested tourists, annoying requests, and misbehaving philistines – given such visitors, it’s no wonder that Merkushev’s museum attendant is short of zeal. He’s a lonely and bespectacled dreamer – and perhaps that’s why he suddenly feels the need to embellish the painting with some childish chalk scribblings. Armida’s entourage intervenes, first confronting then including him into their midst. Armida herself, carried by her attendants, sails on stage like a boat’s figurehead. A hybrid of Christopher Wheeldon’s Queen of Hearts (from “Alice in Wonderland”) and over-the-edge Raymonda, she applies carrot and stick to convert the young man into an obedient companion.
4. A.Domke (Armida) and A.Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet5. Ensemble, “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletThoroughly intimidated at first, Merkushev’s confidence and dance prowess grow exponentially, but the moment the sound of a trumpet (score by Alexander Tcherepnin) heralds the end of the dream, Armida pushes him away, leaving him bewildered. When other museum staff find him and his scribbling, they can’t stop laughing down at him.

In 2021 Pimonov created “Brahms Party”, a witty all-male piece to Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes”, for the Ural Opera Ballet. His new ballet “Hungarian Dances” takes its title from the music, which is by Brahms again, albeit its twenty-one parts are played in a different order.
7. A.Sultanova and G.Sageev, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet6. Ensemble, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletAs in “Brahms Party”, Pimonov’s dancers (five women and four men) swiftly shift gears between different styles. Two men bounce in gentle sync, their vigor simmering as if held in a steamer, before suddenly exploding in jumps and turns. Others play macho, pumping their muscles, but the moment the music gallops off they merely pose, scuttle, and complete some basic port de bras. Often the women wear the pants (in fact, they wear knee-length velvet dresses in black, gray, bottle-green, and wine-red designed by Elena Trubetskova), pulling obliging or adoring dance partners in front of the gray, rectangular backdrop that shimmers like creased metal.
8. A.Domke and F.Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet9. H.Yasumura, T.Terada, G.Sageev, and F.Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletPimonov contrasts a yearningly tender – or rather melodramatic – pas de trois with the showy entrance of two couples, their brisk steps (and solid egos) claiming the space. I don’t know whether the folksy sequences are particularly Hungarian in style or inspiration – regardless, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that “Hungarian Dances” is a crisp, tongue-in-cheek divertissement that makes the company look terrific.

11. A.Seliverstov and M.Nisiguti, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet10. G.Sageev and F.Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletA pitch-black stage opens Samodurov’s “Sextus Propertius”. Odd sounds reminiscent of scratching strings combined with single bell (or clock) strokes create an eerie atmosphere. They are part of a composition commissioned from Alexey Sysoev who was tasked with interpreting the elegies of the Latin poet Sextus Propertius (*50-45BC, † around 15BC).
As flashes of grayish light suddenly break through the darkness, we catch glimpses of motionless standing or sitting dancers. Their beige shorts and tops look functional rather than fashionable (costumes again by Elena Trubetskova). Gradually, one of the men frees himself from the rigor, trying to conquer an ominous black catwalk. Rhythmic clatter, as relentless as a hasty second hand, gives his incongruent movements a sense of urgency. Fluid in one second and mechanically edgy in the other it’s obvious that he can’t be human. Other dancers appear out of the darkness, driven by the same frenzied energy, their legs kicking wildly, their arms flailing about like the sails of a windmill.
12. A.Veshkurtsev and M.Volkov, “Sextus Propertius” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet13. A.Lazarev and E.Kuznetsova, “Sextus Propertius” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletThe acoustic clatter stops briefly as if time stands still, before hissing voices chime in, their words incomprehensible. Chaos breaks loose as a rotating strip of blue moonlight on the floor suddenly vanquishes like a ground that breaks away. From then on the dancers look like exhausted gladiators fighting an invisible enemy. Rhythmic noise hits them like fatal raindrops, wearing out their machine-like steeliness. Yet they rebound and continue their abrupt movements inside a shrinking pyramid of blue light.
15. A.Lazarev, “Sextus Propertius” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet14. E.Vorobeva, “Sextus Propertius” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet“Sextus Propertius” is my third encounter with Samodurov’s works. Neither “Ondine” (2017) nor “The Order of the King” (2021) convinced me. This time Samodurov leaves me puzzled. Propertius’s elegies chronicle a relationship with a woman called Cynthia and review the mythological origins of Rome. None of this is reflected in the choreography and – as we learn from the piece description – wasn’t intended to do so. It declares that neither does the music illustrate the verses, nor the stage comment on the music. Instead, the ballet results from a complex reaction between the stage and the music. I studied chemistry, but this reaction is too inscrutable to be comprehensible.
“Sextus Propertius” is Samodurov’s farewell creation as artistic director of the company. He’ll be succeeded by Maxim Petrov at the end of this season.

The Ural Opera Ballet, playing under the baton of Maksim Kozlov, accompanied all three ballets.
16. Ensemble, “Sextus Propertius” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet

Links: Website of the Ural Opera Ballet
Photos: (The photos show casts of different performances.)
1. Arsenty Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by Maxim Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
2. Ensemble, “Pavilion of Armids” by Maxim Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
3. Alexandr Merkushev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by Maxim Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
4. Anna Domke (Armida) and Arsenty Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by Maxim Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
5. Ensemble, “Pavilion of Armids” by Maxim Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
6. Ensemble, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
7. Assiya Sultanova and Gleb Sageev, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
8. Anna Domke and Fidan Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
9. Hideki Yasumura, Tomokha Terada, Gleb Sageev, and Fidan Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
10. Gleb Sageev and Fidan Daminev, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
11. Aleksey Seliverstov and Miki Nisiguti, “Hungarian Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
12. Andrey Veshkurtsev and Mihail Volkov, “Sextus Propertius” by Vyacheslav Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
13. Arsenty Lazarev and Ekaterina Kuznetsova, “Sextus Propertius” by Vyacheslav Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
14. Elena Vorobeva, “Sextus Propertius” by Vyacheslav Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
15. Arsenty Lazarev, “Sextus Propertius” by Vyacheslav Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
16. Ensemble, “Sextus Propertius” by Vyacheslav Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023
all photos © Ivan Mohnatkin / Ural Opera Ballet
Editing: Samuel Snodgrass


An Insidious Cultural Erosion

“La fille mal gardée”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Teatro Costanzi
Rome, Italy
May 06, 2023 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Simkin (Colas) and R.Bianchi (Lise), “La fille mal gardée” by F.Ashton, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2023 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Two performances of Frederick Ashton’s hilarious “La fille mal gardée” in sunny Rome – doesn’t that sound irresistible? Laughter is inevitable when Lise, the wayward peasant’s daughter, mischievously arranges tête-à-têtes with her lover Colas. That’s how I’ve experienced “La fille mal gardée” previously.
This time, though, the laughter stuck in my throat. Too much did the overexcited quirks of Lise’s mother Simone – a role traditionally danced in drag – remind me of reality. A reality that – at least in some of the western countries – has been shaped by the LGBTQ+ community’s persistent effort to be celebrated within mainstream culture. Bearing in mind some of their avid advocates (the transgender model Dylan Mulvaney, for example, or the drag queen Joshua Kelley who recently was appointed the US Navy’s first digital ambassador), I don’t find Simone funny anymore. And worse, the moment a sense of reality sneaks into Ashton’s village folk, the characterization of Alain (Simone’s favorite son-in-law) as the village idiot becomes unbearable too. Though of marriageable age, he clings to his wealthy father’s coat-tails like an infant. Lise disdains him; the village youth laughs down at him – and so do we. But isn’t he actually the victim of nasty bullying? (more…)

A Gain

“Goldberg-Variationen” (“Tabula Rasa” / “Goldberg-Variationen”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 27, 2023 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Vandervelde, D.Dato, G.Fourés, and ensemble; “Goldberg-Variationen” by H.Spoerli, Vienna State Ballet 2023 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor Since Martin Schläpfer took over the reins of the Vienna State Ballet in 2020, his pre-existing and new choreographies entered the company’s repertoire. Most of them I wouldn’t call assets. However, the most recent double bill is a gain. It combines Ohad Naharin’s “Tabula Rasa” (1986) and Heinz Spoerli’s “Goldberg-Variationen” (1993). Sadly, the livestream of the premiere began only after the break, omitting “Tabula Rasa”. Hence, I can only comment on “Goldberg-Variationen”.

I should have known better, but I was not prepared to read the name of Horst Koegler (1927 – 2012) in the piece description on the Vienna State Ballet’s website. It quotes Koegler who labeled “the Goldberg-Variationen as one of the works from Spoerli’s Bach ballet cathedral which describes people and life in a series of poetic, choreographed images and scenes (…)”. Koegler, one of Germany’s renowned ballet critics and the author of a book about Spoerli, was very well versed with the latter’s oeuvre. He loved “Goldberg-Variationen” – both Bach’s music and its interpretation through dance. Would he have liked Vienna’s one? (more…)


“Dances of the World”
Igor Moiseyev Ballet
Hall of Church Councils
Moscow, Russia
April 7, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Russian dance “Summer”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.MasalkovI’ve had the Moiseyev Ballet on my wish list for quite some time. During my latest visit to Moscow, I lucked out: one of their rare performances was announced for the Hall of Church Councils. Though it was a challenge to find the venue and its entrance (not a single poster to be found), I arrived in time. The spacious 1300-seat hall happens to be located right between the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (the largest of the Russian-Orthodox churches) and the Moskva river. The buzz of excited children (and audience members of all ages!) filled the foyer.

“Dances of the World” was comprised of eleven folk dances from, as the title suggests, all over the world – each choreographed by the company’s founder Igor Moiseyev (1906 – 2007). His vast choreographic legacy has been kept alive by the 88 dancers and small symphonic orchestra of 35 musicians based in Moscow. (more…)

Well kept

Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
April 6, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Rodkin (Jean de Brienne) and A.Kovalyova (Raymonda), “Raymonda” by Y.Grigorovich after M.Petipa and A.Gorsky, Bolshoi Ballet 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre / M.Logvinov “Raymonda” is a foundation of Russian ballet repertoire, but is rarely performed in Europe. After his flight to the west, Nureyev staged several versions of the work for western companies, staying faithful to Petipa’s 1898 original. The few European choreographers who’ve tackled the piece – among them Pontus Lidberg for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 2014 and Rachel Beaujean for the Dutch National Ballet in 2022 – adjusted Lydia Pashkova’s libretto to match western tastes. The only Petipa/Pashkova-based Russian production I saw was Konstantin Sergeyev’s from 1948, presented by the Maryinsky Ballet on their 2014 tour to Baden-Baden. That production felt alien in Baden-Baden’s modern Festspielhaus, reinforcing the reputation of “Raymonda” as dusty and outdated. In last year’s review of Tamara Rojo’s “Raymonda” for the English National Ballet, London critic Jenny Gilbert went so far as to call Raymonda an “ineffectual heroine” (implying that the numerous renowned ballerinas who’ve taken on that leading role in the last 125 years were foolish in doing so) and the plot “offensively silly.” She also claimed that Russian “ballet culture has a higher tolerance of such [silly] things.” After watching the Bolshoi Ballet’s “Raymonda”, I’m inclined to think that the western perspective misses what “Raymonda” is actually about. (more…)


“Don Quixote”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
April 5, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Putintsev (Basilio), E.Kokoreva (Kitri), and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by A.Fadeechev after M.Petipa, Bolshoi Ballet 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov “The Bolshoi Ballet” is synonymous with excellence – and if anyone can pull off “Don Quixote”, it’s them. This past Wednesday, though, the company left me flabbergasted. Pavel Klinichev wasted no time at the conductor’s podium, unleashing Ludwig Minkus’s score the instant he turned to face the orchestra. The effervescent pacing of the first few bars made clear that this “Don Quixote” would be a spicy one.
From the first moment that the goateed Don Quixote (Alexey Loparevich) and his loyal, oft-gluttonous squire Sancho Panza (Georgy Gusev) set off on their chivalrous journey, Valeriy Levental’s set transported us to the sizzling cauldron of the jam-packed port of Barcelona. Everything is perfect: the turquoise Mediterranean Sea glints under the bright summer sun; fresh fruit is piled sky-high; and the local youth remain in the merriest of moods. The happiest of all, Kitri (Elizaveta Kokoreva) and Basilio (Alexey Putintsev), quickly bring the scene to a boil. Kokoreva’s Kitri sweeps onstage like a torpedo, her fleet-footed legs and teasing fan leaving a trail of sparks. Klinichev’s brisk conducting seemed to spur rather than challenge her. I especially admired Kokoreva’s rock-solid balances – from which she descended only to hurl herself into a battery of snappy pirouettes. (more…)


“Don Quixote”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Centre Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
March 24, 2023 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Guo (Basilio), A.Kondo (Kitri), and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa, The Australian Ballet 2023 © R.LantryGood news from the Australian Ballet: livestreams of performances will be resumed! The first of these – Nureyev’s version of Petipa’s “Don Quixote” – was broadcast this weekend. The company celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this season, and perhaps that is why artistic director David Hallberg chose a special opener – special because this “Don Quixote” harks back to the one that Nureyev, together with Robert Helpmann (then artistic director of the Australian Ballet) adapted for the screen in 1973. It stars the Australian Ballet, with Helpmann in the title role and Nureyev as Basilio. Needless to say, the film became a hit. Hallberg decided to re-adapt the hit film for the theater stage with piercing exactitude, replicating its aesthetic as closely as possible. That’s why Richard Roberts’s set design (including Don Quixote’s knightly home, the port of Barcelona, some windmills in Castilla-La Mancha, Dulcinea’s garden, and a smoke-filled tavern) was based on Barry Kay’s original film set and why Kay’s gorgeous costumes were painstakingly reconstructed. I especially admired the traditional Spanish garb of the corps at the tavern. (more…)

Brazilian Vibes

“Primavera” / “Breu”
Grupo Corpo
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 18, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Rosario and J.Castro, “Primavera” by R.Pederneiras, Grupo Corpo 2023 © J.Braganca If there’s one thing to be associated with Brazilian dancers, it’s that dance and rhythm course through their blood. Grupo Corpo, one of the oldest contemporary Brazilian troupes, is currently touring Europe – and they offered a sample of their country’s dance spirit last weekend in Ludwigsburg. The double bill presented at the Ludwigsburg Forum was comprised of two works by Rodrigo Pederneiras, the chief choreographer of the company and brother of its founder Paulo.

“Primavera” – which translates to “spring” in Portuguese – was Pederneira’s 2021 antidote to the pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Joie de vivre and the proverbial bright side – that’s what he hoped to re-invigorate in his audiences, and that’s what radiates from his twenty dancers – eleven women and nine men. They hop, bounce, and twirl through a seamless succession of solos, duets, and group dances, swerving from cool and casual to fiery and dynamic. (more…)

A Silver Lining

John Cranko School
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 04, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the John Cranko School, “Jeu de Cartes” by J.Cranko, John Cranko School 2023 © John Cranko School It is no secret that Germany has been heading towards multiple calamities for some time. This has inevitably left its mark on theaters in many ways – and I’ve come to expect less-than-excellence when watching German performances of ballet. The performance by Stuttgart’s John Cranko School as guests in nearby Ludwigsburg, however, made me sigh with relief. Within minutes, it became clear that Tadeusz Matacz, the school’s longtime director, has kept the standard high. He chose to present a tasteful, primarily classical program devoid of the insipid vulgarity that I’ve encountered elsewhere. By sidelining the trends of today, Matacz takes an approach that some might discount as reactionary and outdated – but the results speak otherwise. His students seemed fabulously comfortable onstage – focused, technically strong, and convincing as actors. The sold-out auditorium cheered them on enthusiastically. (more…)

Dismissed → Celebrated: Béla Bartók

“The Wooden Prince” / “Bluebeard’s Castle”
Hungarian National Ballet / Hungarian National Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
February 11, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

“Young Béla, you have no business composing music.”

1. J.Carulla Leon (Fairy Witch) and ensemble, “The Wooden Prince” by L.Velekei, Hungarian National Ballet 2023 © A.Nagy / Hungarian State Opera Such was the spirit and style of the reviews that had been pre-fabricated by the Budapest press prior to the premiere of Béla Bartók’s pantomime ballet “The Wooden Prince” in May 1917. Instead, the piece was an enormous success – prompting a busy night of rewrites for the journalists. It marked Bartók’s Hungarian breakthrough – a shift in the attitude of his home audience towards his work. As a result, the opera house finally agreed to stage Bartók’s Symbolist opera “Bluebeard’s Castle” in 1918 after seven years’ waiting for a premiere. Over the last century, versions of both works have remained in constant rotation in the repertoire of the Hungarian National Opera. I saw the premiere of a new work – Velekei’s “Wooden Prince” – presented in a double bill alongside a 2018 staging of “Bluebeard’s Castle”. (more…)

Smart & From the Heart

“Little Swan Lake”
Hungarian National Ballet Institute / Hungarian National Ballet
Eiffel Art Studios
Budapest, Hungary
February 11, 2023 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. F.Y.Bonecz, L.Márton Kiss, and L.Berki, “Little Swan Lake” by D.Radina et al., Hungarian National Ballet Institute & Hungarian National Ballet 2023 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State Opera Excitement buzzed through Budapest’s Eiffel Art Studios as the curtain rose on “Little Swan Lake” – an adaption of one of the most classic of classical ballets. This past Saturday at noon, little ones – accompanied by parents and relatives – flocked into the Miklós Bánffy auditorium in great numbers to see Swan Lake for tots.
The Hungarian National Ballet puts a great deal of effort into reaching out to young audiences. “Little Swan Lake” is in its third season and tickets are still in high demand. The production not only nurtures a future generation of theater-lovers, but also has the potential to encourage hesitant children to take the leap into dance lessons themselves. Most of the dancers were as old as their audience, and it’s easy to find one’s passion for the art form stoked after watching them perform. This is all the more so true because “Little Swan Lake” traces the steady growth of a little swan to a mature one (the latter role was – as with the other leading roles – danced by a member of the main company). (more…)

A Fake Cosmos

Adrien M & Claire B
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
February 04, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. A.Kajihara, “Hakanaï” by C.Bardainne and A.Mondot, Adrien M & Claire B 2023 © Manolo Press / M.BodeThe survival of theaters and opera houses depends upon the survival of the audience. In an effort to lure the younger generation into their houses, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden launched the Takeover Festival last year. Its three days of programming include concerts, dance, and workshops, as well as fun after-parties and a relaxed private lounge. Last weekend, the festival launched into its second round. I watched “Hakanaï” (Japanese for impermanent, fragile, evanescent, transitory, fleeting), a dance performance by the French-based troupe Adrien M & Claire B (short for Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne) that fuses movement with digital arts. The artistic team behind “Hakanaï” includes – among others – a computer designer, two sound designers, a light designer, two set designers, digital interpreters, sound interpreters – and one dancer: Akiko Kajihara. (more…)


Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
January 21, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. E.Supple and M.Manning, “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer Last weekend, the Cologne-based troupe Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference toured the Forum Ludwigsburg. The American-born Siegal founded the company in 2016 in Munich. He also serves as its artistic director and has choreographed nearly all of their repertoire. The triple bill in Ludwigsburg combined twenty-or-so minute-long pieces created between 2014 – 2021.

In a recent interview, Siegal revealed that “All For One” is a “reaction to the modes of digital spectatorship that emerged during the beginning of the pandemic.” The piece premiered online in fall 2021 with a set (an organ made from tall tubes of light arranged in a cylindrical semicircle) designed, perhaps, to appeal to an online audience. In Ludwigsburg, the murky illumination often hid the eleven dancers in twilight that obscured their pants, skirts, and bustiers (decorated with bulky silver folds that resembled supersized shreds of paper). (more…)

Neumeier’s Call for Peace

“Dona Nobis Pacem”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
January 05, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. A.Martínez (He) and L.Giesenberg (Photographer), “Dona Nobis Pacem” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet 2023 © K.West John Neumeier’s latest choreography for the Hamburg Ballet, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”), is meant to be the crown jewel of his fiftieth season as artistic director of the company. The eighty-three-year-old Neumeier had originally intended to resign in July 2023, but chose to extend his contract for another year in order to ensure the smooth transition of his named successor Demis Volpi, currently the artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein. There are one and a half long years until then – and perhaps Neumeier will renounce his statement that “Dona Nobis Pacem” is to be his last new creation. (more…)


The Nutcracker”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia

December 30, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by Y.Possokhov, Stanislavsky Ballet 2022 © K.Zhitkova This winter, the Stanislavsky Ballet replaced Vasily Vainonen’s 1995 “Nutcracker” with Yuri Possokhov’s – not a brand-new rendering, but an adaption of the “Nutcracker” that Possokhov created for the Atlanta Ballet in 2018 (new designs included). Since its premiere in Moscow at the end of November, tickets have been in high demand. Given Possokhov’s good work on the Bolshoi Ballet’s “Nureyev” and an “Anna Karenina” for the Joffrey Ballet & the Australian Ballet, I was curious what approach he’d take to this iconic ballet – and it was clear within seconds that he had given this Nutcracker a strong update.

Sergey Rylko’s dazzling videos hurl us through flurrying snow to a spinning astrological sign. From there, a golden ram gallops off towards and through a faceless white town, flying in low over rooftops, an ice-rink, and a carousel. We land at the workshop of Drosselmeyer (danced by Jonah Cook, a former principal of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Zurich Ballet), who is heaping presents onto a sleigh together with his nephew (Andrey Kirichenko). Drosselmeyer’s wall-sized astrological clocks, their faces rotating mysteriously, are presumably tools that control the ticking of the universe. (more…)