Latest Posts

Blabla Or Food For Thought?

“Blitirí”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
July 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasBlitirí is a term used in medieval time for something that has no meaning,” explains Goyo Montero, choreographer and artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet ensemble. He compares the word to jovial “blabla”. Indeed, his new choreography for “Blitirí” revolves around joy – at least, almost entirely.
Though originally planned as a solely digital project, the 25-minute piece premiered on July 10th to a live audience at Nuremberg’s State Theater as part of the triple bill “Goecke / Godani / Montero”. A few weeks later, Stefan Kleeberger and Montero realized the initial plan by releasing a filmed version that is available on the company’s YouTube channel.

3. V.Ketelslegers, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.Vallinas2. E.Nunes and A.Fernández, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasAt the start of the film, three women and six men move together across a dim stage accompanied by a light-as-air soundscape of hissing and rattling (created by Owen Belton). They fall, fidget, crawl across the floor and drag one another with clasped hands. Flashes of yellow spotlight illuminate their shiny latex-like outfits – pants, dresses, tops with and without straps – colored in bright orange, lemon yellow, strawberry red, green, blue, and pink. Suddenly, the light is switched on and the dancers line up with their backs turned towards the auditorium. From the first bar of Mozart’s humorous piano variation “unser dummer pöbel meint”, the fun begins. Each note of Mozart’s simple melody is matched by a single slapstick movement – port de bras, plié or relevé – as if the line of dancers represents a musical scale. Soon, the group moves in unison, weaving together fast-paced solos and break-dance airflares with swift, witty group sequences. They scuttle across the stage, falling like dominoes, pretending foolishness and perplexity. Various duets unfold under a sky of small light dots that is reminiscent of far-away stars. A close-up reveals each one’s colorful eye makeup as they crouch on the floor as if meditating.

4. J.Toscano, V.Ketelslegers, C.Blanco, and A.Fernández (background), “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.Vallinas 5. Ensemble, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.Vallinas6. C.Blanco and O.Alonso, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasThe group comes together, huddled and falling asleep – but, only moments later, buzzing sounds (mosquitoes?) wake up Andy Fernández, who totters center stage. As he begins to scuttle once again, he is quickly joined by the others. The group runs in a circle, swinging their arms and cheering, until they reach the curtain call and receive thunderous applause. Since the auditorium is empty, the dancers glance around, confused.

As the stage darkens once more, they stand motionless, listening expectantly to a noise that seems to come from far away spheres. Pricks of light from a UFO-like object gleam yellow-green-ish above their heads. Bobby McFerrin’s soft voice interpreting “Blackbird” by The Beatles turns the air calm. To each beat, the dancers hop, turn, roll their shoulders, move their head in wave-like motion, or merely stretch up their arms – unspectacular movements when taken by themselves, but hilarious when combined with McFerrin’s crooning!

8. O.Alonso, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.Vallinas7. V.Ketelslegers, S.Tozzi, and C.Blanco, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasThe mood darkens when the lighting turns purple-blue and dark balloons rain down from above, carpeting the floor. The bursting of the first balloon launches PJ Harvey’s punk rock love-hate ballad “Rid of Me”. Though initially calm, the song’s volume soon reaches an aggressive level. As the singing turns into shouting, the balloon playground becomes a battle-ground. Over and over, Ana Tavares and Edward Nunes run towards one another, but buffer-like balloons prevent their embrace. Oscar Alonso pummels a bundle of balloons like a punching bag; Fernández is swallowed by a threatening wave of wagging balloons. Juliano Toscano and Nunes, dancing in a close embrace, caress one another and the balloon squeezed between their faces. Their caresses turn to wrestling for the balloon – until Nunes pops it deliberately. Stella Tozzi whacks Nunes with a balloon and Carlos Blanco is blown away by a storm of balloons. Victor Ketelslegers, covered in balloons, flails wildly while the others prick one balloon after another, creating a final volley of sound.

In describing “Blitirí”, Montero moreover said this: “I also wanted to show what is happening behind the smile.” Though gaily colorful on the surface, this amusing dalliance might in fact hide ugly depths.
9. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.Vallinas

Links: Website of the State Theater Nuremberg
“Blitirí” (video)
Meet the Artist: Goyo Montero (video)
Photos: 1. Edward Nunes, Oscar Alonso, Sofie Vervaecke, Carlos Blanco, Victor Ketelslegers, Andy Fernández, Ana Tavares, Juliano Toscano, and Stella Tozzi, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
2. Edward Nunes and Andy Fernández, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
3. Victor Ketelslegers, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
4. Juliano Toscano, Victor Ketelslegers, Carlos Blanco, and Andy Fernández (background), “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
5. Ensemble, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
6. Carlos Blanco and Oscar Alonso, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
7. Victor Ketelslegers, Stella Tozzi, and Carlos Blanco, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
8. Oscar Alonso, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
9. Edward Nunes, Oscar Alonso, Sofie Vervaecke, Carlos Blanco, Victor Ketelslegers, Andy Fernández, Ana Tavares, Juliano Toscano, and Stella Tozzi, “Blitirí” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021
all photos © Jesús Vallinas
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Amsterdam’s Dance Students

“Dancers of Tomorrow”
Dutch National Ballet Academy
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
July 10/11, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the Dutch National Ballet Academy, “10 Years Tailor-Made” by I.Lešić, Dutch National Ballet Academy 2021 © S.Derine End-of-year performances are a highlight for the students of any ballet school. Last weekend, the Dutch National Ballet Academy performed “Dancers of Tomorrow” on the main stage of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet for an empty auditorium due, sadly, to ongoing COVID-19-restrictions. The silver lining: a video of the performance, augmented by footage from backstage, was streamed online for two days, allowing a much larger audience to see the work. I wonder: could we include online streams and video broadcasts as a standard addendum to live performances in the future?

“Dancers of Tomorrow” was assembled from ten pieces geared to the students’ age groups and adapted or created especially for the occasion. All students participated. (more…)

A Journey Through Time

“Beauty Mixed Programme”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
July 09, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Hayward and C.Coralles, “Morgen” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Ninety years ago, Ninette de Valois founded the Vic-Wells Ballet, which would later birth today’s Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Royal Ballet celebrated the anniversary with a mixed bill that linked the past and the present, showcasing works by two pillars of the repertory – the late Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan – and works by resident choreographer Wayne McGregor, artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon, principal dancer-cum-choreographer Valentino Zucchetti, and Arthur Pita. The crown jewel of the program (more…)

“And I Have So Much to Say, But…”

“Sleeping Woman”
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Opera House
Wuppertal, Germany
July 02, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.-C.Yu and ensemble, “Sleeping Woman” by R.Behr, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch 2021 © E.RodoulisPina Bausch was the heart of Tanztheater Wuppertal – and since her premature death in 2009, the company has struggled to find new leadership to shape its artistic future. The termination of Adolphe Binder’s contract as intendant and artistic director in 2018 – after only one year in office – was followed by a two-year lawsuit between her and the theater. Although Binder won the suit (and the matter was settled out of court), Binder waived her claim to the post, making way for Bettina Wagner-Bergelt. (more…)

Exploring a Romantic Dream

“Les Sylphides” (“Chopiniana”)
São Paulo Dance Company
Teatro Sérgio Cardoso
São Paulo, Brazil
June 25, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Prata, V.Vieira, and L.Yuk, “Les Sylphides” by A.Botafogo after M.Fokin, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrThe COVID-19 pandemic compelled the São Paulo Dance Company to postpone this June’s run of “Giselle” to September. In its place, the company has offered another gem from the romantic repertory: Mikhail Fokin’s “Les Sylphides”, newly revised by Ana Botafogo, a Brazilian actress and former principal of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. The performance on June 18th – attended by a live audience and broadcast online on June 25th – was presented as part of the company’s educational program and followed by a 30-minute lecture about the piece and its production. (more…)

Two Dutch Premieres

“Four Seasons” (“The Two Of Us” / “The Four Seasons”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 15, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tsygankova and C.Allen, “The Two Of Us” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenJust one week after the premiere of “Prometheus”, the Dutch National Ballet premiered a second program as part of the annual Holland Festival: “Four Seasons” – a double bill comprised of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Two Of Us” and David Dawson’s “The Four Seasons”. Two dance films created by members of the company during last year’s lockdown – “Oblivion” and “The Garden” – were shown during the break. The performance was attended by a live audience and, in addition, broadcast online.

“The Two Of Us” premiered at New York City Center’s 2020 Fall for Dance festival and paired New York City Ballet’s principal Sara Means and David Hallberg, close friends who’d never before had the chance to dance together. In Amsterdam, the duet was performed by Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, depicting two tender souls unsure whether to stay together or to part.

As the curtain opens, Tsygankova is seated on the floor, her elbow resting pensively upon her knee. Allen kneels behind her, his hand touching her shoulder. He begins to walk away from her, and at that exact moment we hear the first sounds of a melancholic guitar strummed by Joni Mitchell. “I don’t know where I stand,” Mitchell sings, verbalizing Tsykankova’s state of being. (more…)

Joint Venture

“Come In” / “Inquieto”
Ballett am Rhein / São Paulo Dance Company
Düsseldorf, Germany / São Paulo, Brazil
June 11, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Carvalho, “Come In” by A.Barton, Ballett am Rhein 2021 © B.StößDemis Volpi, artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein, and Inês Bogéa, the same at the São Paulo Dance Company, have known each other for years. This June, their professional relationship yielded a joint video release that featured one ensemble piece by each company. The video was available on the Ballett am Rhein’s YouTube channel from June 11-13 and can be re-watched there from June 18-20.

The Ballet am Rhein contributed a modified-for-2021 version of “Come In”, a piece for twelve men choreographed in 2006 by Aszure Barton for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell’s Kitchen Dance. (more…)

A Strong Comeback

“Beethoven” (“Prometheus” / “Grosse Fuge”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 08, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Yamada, D.Silva, and ensemble, “Prometheus” by W.Kuindersma, E.Meisner, and R.Wörtmeyer, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday was, in fact, supposed to premiere a year ago. “We’re a little bit late,” admitted Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director, for reasons dictated by COVID-19. The originally scheduled program would have included Toer van Schayk’s “7th Symphony”. The anniversary program that was ultimately shown on June 8th was an adaption of this program comprised of two pieces: “Prometheus” (a new creation by the choreographer-trio Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner, and Remi Wörtmeyer) and Hans van Manen’s “Grosse Fuge”. The break was used for an excursion away from Beethoven to Milena Sidorova’s recently released dance film “Rose”. (more…)

Meager Substance

“Dance Gala Baden-Wuerttemberg”
Theater and Orchestra Heidelberg
Heidelberg, Germany
June 06, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Pérez, artistic director of the Dance Biennial Heidelberg and the Dance Theater Heidelberg © S.Reichardt“Everybody Can Dance” was the motto of this year’s Dance Biennial Heidelberg, the fourth since the event’s inception. Pandemic-related restrictions pared down the three-day festival’s schedule to a few online events, crowned by a dance gala on Sunday, June 6th. Nine of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s dance companies were represented there, together contributing thirteen short pieces – nine digital and four danced live.

The Unterwegstheater Heidelberg, a small touring company whose work spans multiple genres opened the program with the video “Die nackte Wahrheit” (“The Naked Truth”). (more…)

Incongruent

“Lyssa”
The Royal Ballet & Nadine Shah
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
June 04, 2021 (dance film)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Shah and artists of the the Royal Ballet in “Lyssa” by L.Page, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Verzhbinsky In late 2019, the British choreographer Lynne Page created “Death in Venice” for the Royal Opera. “Lyssa”, a twenty-or-so-minute film, features her first-ever choreography for the Royal Ballet. After a year of pandemic-induced artistic drought (and a severe lack of live music), she felt that the time was ripe for arts institutions to tackle new genres in order to reach new audiences. This project, a merger between song and dance, brings together the English singer / songwriter Nadine Shah and seventeen female dancers from the Royal Ballet. Shah sings “Trad” from her 2020 album “Kitchen Sink”, a less-than-four-minute song with very few lyrics, which has been extended to fifteen minutes in a new version featuring the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. (more…)

The Royal Ballet Re-Opens

“21st-Century Choreographers”
(“Within the Golden Hour” / Optional Family: A Divertissement” / “The Statement” / “Solo Echo”)

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 28, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Artists of the Royal Ballet, “Within the Golden Hour” by C.Wheeldon, The Royal Ballet 2021 © B.Cooper Over half a year ago, pandemic-related restrictions forced the Royal Opera House to close its doors. On May 18th, a limited audience was finally welcomed back to see the company live on stage. The program – “21st-Century Choreographers” – consisted of four pieces: “Within the Golden Hour” by Christopher Wheeldon; “Optional Family: A Divertissement” – a new piece by Kyle Abraham; and two pieces by Crystal Pite: “The Statement” and “Solo Echo”. (more…)

Made For Film

“Young Creatives” (“Memento” / “Rose” / “I Feel It Too”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Stoop, D.Bai, S.Quintyn, L.Rosillo, W.Wijkstra, and M.Kumar, “Memento” by W.Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFollowing the online premiere of “Metamorphosis”, the new ballet by Dutch National Ballet’s associate artist David Dawson, the company released three additional videos at the end of May. Each features a ballet film by a young creative associate: “Memento” (concept and choreography by Wubkje Kuindersma), “Rose” (direction, concept, and choreography by Milena Sidorova), and “I Feel It Too” (creative direction and choreography by Sedrig Verwoert). All three films can be viewed for free on the company’s YouTube channel until October 2021. (more…)

The Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographers

“Spring Draft Works”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 14, April 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Junker, I.Lubach, F.Serrano, I.Gasparini, K.McNally, and T.Dubreuil, “The Morning Routine” by J.Junker, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.UspenskiIt’s hard to imagine that the pandemic has had any positive impact on the performing arts – but, as Kevin O’Hare, the Royal Ballet’s ever-optimistic artistic director points out in his introductory comments on this season’s “Spring Draft Works” (an annual project that assembles choreographies created by the company’s dancers) – there’s a silver lining: more free time to unlock hidden choreographic potential and rehearse, and the chance to include live music. Even the renowned lighting designer Natasha Chivers had time to create clever lighting tailored to each piece. (more…)

What Became of …?

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Ballet School
Teatro Nazionale
Rome, Italy
May 2021

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Starace (Oberon), C.Onesti (Titania), and ensemble, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” by A.Delle Monache, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Ballet School 2014 © Y.KageyamaEarlier this May, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma unearthed an archival recording of a 2014 performance by the opera’s ballet school: Shakespeare’s romantic comedy (or, rather, satire on romantic comedy) “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, choreographed and directed by Alessandra Delle Monache. Her genre-spanning production is grounded by the explanations of a narrator (Giulia Tomaselli, a student of the Accademia Nazionale D’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico, Rome) who helps us sort out the tangle of romances blossoming in the forests outside Athens. It’s an understandable move, since – unlike in other productions – two of the four couples (Hermia & Lysander, Helena & Demetrius) are dressed so similarly that mixing them up is inevitable. (more…)

What a Mess

“The Order of the King”
Ural Opera Ballet
Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Ekaterinburg, Russia
May 02, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Klekovkin (The King) and ensemble, “The Order of the King” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2021 © O.Kerelyuk / Ural Opera Ballet “The Order of the King” – choreographed in 2018 for the Ural Opera Ballet by its artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov – won two Golden Mask awards last year. Samodurov was awarded the prize for Best Choreographer and set designer Aleksei Kondratiev the prize for Best Designer in Musical Theatre. The ambitious two-act production marked the bicentennial of Marius Petipa’s birth and was staged according to his templates, augmented by additional historic analysis and scientific research. (more…)