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Dancers’ Choice

Spring Special”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
April 05, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Tonoli, S.Yamada, J.Spunda, and S.Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFor most artists, the flow of opportunities for performance on home stages or abroad has either thinned to a trickle or dried up altogether since the onset of the pandemic. The Dutch National Ballet filled some of those gaps with a “Spring Special” -gala that featured a selection of ten short pieces in total – eight excerpts from the company’s existing repertory, one new acquisition, and one world premiere. Each dancer was able to choose which piece to perform in (with appropriate attention to pandemic-related restrictions of group size). All of the principals, several soloists, and one member of the corps de ballet participated. The gala was streamed live on April 5th. A second broadcast is scheduled for April 10, 2021

2. S.Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Q.Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe opening piece – the peasants’ Pas de Quatre from the 2009 adaption of “Giselle” by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante – sparkled buoyantly. The peasant couples – Salome Leverashvili & Jan Spunda and Nina Tonoli & Sho Yamada – were well matched. Spunda and Yamada, both attentive partners, delivered confident solos. Tonoli cheerfully stitched together her steps as if creating a fine piece of crochet work; Leverashvili, after adroitly finishing her solo, seemed to sigh with happy relief.

3. S.Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Q.Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenLater in the program, Qian Liu and Semyon Velichko danced another excerpt from “Giselle” – the Pas de Deux of the second act. Without the frame story and most of the scenery, it’s hard to evoke an appropriate atmosphere – but it was astonishing to see the depths to which Liu plumbed Giselle’s tragic love. Her Giselle was as light and ethereal as a spider’s web. If the camera had zoomed in on her face, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see tears flowing. Velichko’s Albrecht, understandably, was made ashen by grief.

“Duet”, a Pas de Deux created by Wayne Eagling for the company in 1995, was similarly packed with emotion. Isolde’s love-death from “Tristan and Isolde” served as his source of inspiration; accordingly, the music is Richard Wagner’s. Eagling 5. A.Ol and A.Shesterikov, “Duet” by W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen4. A.Ol and A.Shesterikov, “Duet” by W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsendepicts an earthly relationship between lovers in an attempt to explore love as a cosmic principle. His choreography is as velvety as the dark blue night that surrounds the couple (Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov). Ol melts in Shesterikov’s arms, huddled up like a child, or lets loose, stretching her limbs wide as if flying. Each step is built from mutual trust. A beautiful piece of work!

6. R.Wörtmeyer, “Classical Symphony” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe same is true of the gavotte from “Classical Symphony”, with choreography by Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director Ted Brandsen to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”- music. The gavotte is less than one and a half minutes long – but that’s sufficient for Remi Wörtmeyer to dazzle us with an eye-popping performance. Wörtmeyer teases and swaggers nonchalantly, radiating Mercution-like charm. It was particularly amazing to watch his legs vacillate between being incredibly long, rubber-like, or sharp-edged.

Brandsen’s second contribution to the program was “Replay”, a Pas de Deux originally created for Igone de Jongh and Vito Mazzeo in 2014 to piano music by Philip Glass. At the time, Mazzeo was a younger man performing with an older woman. This time around, his partner, Yuanyuan Zhang, was the younger one. Mazzeo depicted an initially protective man, who soon had to accept his partner’s pursuit of independence. Arms stretched in embrace suddenly moved apart. Hands held just together snapped asunder like the 8. V.Mazzeo and Y.Zhang, “Replay” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen7. V.Mazzeo and Y.Zhang, “Replay” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenopening of a latch. Surprisingly, Mazzeo (quite tall) seemed more vulnerable than Zhang (quite small). The pair never separated from one another, only moving seamlessly between tight closeness and less tight closeness.
Glass’s music was played live by Ryoko Kondo.

9. J.Xuan (Princess Aurora) and J.Feyferlik (Prince Florimund), “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Petipa, production and additional choreography by Sir P.Wright, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenJessica Xuan’s first principal role with Dutch National Ballet was Princess Aurora in 2017; Jakob Feyferlik’s last role before the first lockdown was Prince Florimund. It’s no surprise, then, that the pair chose the Grand Pas de Deux of the Sleeping Beauty (a version by Peter Wright) to take up the thread again. The piece’s regality which included boldly swift fish dives was an interesting contrast to the other pas de deux’s deep emotion.

Wubkje Kuindersma created “Two and Only” in 2017 for Marijn Rademaker and Timothy van Poucke. After Rademaker left the company, Jozef Varga inherited the role. The piece is accompanied by guitar & piano music and a song by Michael Benjamin (who played live), but according to Kuindersma, 10. T.van Poucke and J.Varga, “Two and Only” by W.Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenthe song’s lyrics (about painful yearning, true love, and the desire to forget) aren’t to be taken literally. To me, it seemed as if an older men (Varga) wanted to re-invigorate his romantic relationship with a younger one (van Poucke). For a moment, he’s successful; they roll on top of one other, thrust their arms upwards (as if pushing a murky memory towards heaven), and mirror each other’s movements. Eventually, though, confrontational face-offs ensue until van Poucke, held by Varga in a trusting embrace, slips away, leaving Varga in a lonely void.

The sunny vibe returned with “Delibes Suite”, a Pas de Deux by José Carlos Martínez to music composed by Delibes for 11. A.Tsygankova and C.Allen, “Delibes Suite” by J.C.Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen12. C.Allen and A.Tsygankova, “Delibes Suite” by J.C.Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen“Coppélia” and “La Source”. The piece was a wonderful vehicle for Anna Tsygankova to show off her assured technique. She playfully – even mischievously – vacillated between gentle tenderness (think of butterflies fluttering on a sunny spring day) and verve. The long-limbed Constantine Allen has an elegant line and spacious jumps, but he underpowered the jeté en manege. With his physique he could dash through like an arrow.

13. A.Ol and J.Stout, “Alignment” by J.Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe new piece, “Alignment”, was second to last in the program. The piece was choreographed over Zoom by Brazilian choreographer Juliano Nunes for Anna Ol and James Stout and was accompanied by edgy, strident string music by Ezio Bosso. Restlessness, desultoriness, and subtle anxiety permeate the atmosphere within its six-ish minutes. Lifts, leg splits, and embraces return again and again in Nunes’s choreography. Sometimes Ol’s legs quiver with fear. Stout bent her leg and arm upwards into a bud-like shape, carried her like a bundle behind his neck, or circled her like a carousel horse. Intermittently, the pair danced apart from one another; 14. J.Stout and A.Ol, “Alignment” by J.Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenonce, they fell to the ground as if exhausted. The costumes – full-body leotards by Oliver Haller with a yellow-red color gradient – lend the movements an intriguing visual aesthetic. Nunes didn’t focus on depicting the emotional fabric of the relationship, leaving us in the dark about what keeps this couple together.

The gala concluded with a dashing rendition of a piece new to the repertory: Pyotr Gusev’s 15. M.Makhateli (Niriti) and Y.Gyu Choi (Noureddin), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by P.Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenTalisman Pas de Deux. As Niriti, daughter of the Queen of Heavens, Maia Makhateli flirts with feminine reticence, hemming creamy, soft movements with crisp edges. Her arms and wrists are especially expressive. I was completely surprised by Young Gyu Choi’s performance as Maharaja Noureddin – never before have I seen Gyu Choi give such a fiery performance, jumping forcefully and beaming with joy. Bravo!

Each piece except the first one was preceded by a short video made from snippets from the rehearsals and the dancers’ comments on their choices. Applause came from the very few lucky ones who were allowed to attend the performance – among them staff, colleagues, and Hans van Manen.
16. Y.Gyu Choi (Noureddin) and M.Makhateli (Niriti), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by P.Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen 

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet
Photos: 1. Nina Tonoli, Sho Yamada, Jan Spunda, and Salome Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
2. Semyon Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Qian Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
3. Semyon Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Qian Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
4. Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov, “Duet” by Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021
5. Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov, “Duet” by Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021
6. Remi Wörtmeyer, “Classical Symphony” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
7. Vito Mazzeo and Yuanyuan Zhang, “Replay” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
8. Vito Mazzeo and Yuanyuan Zhang, “Replay” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
9. Jessica Xuan (Princess Aurora) and Jakob Feyferlik (Prince Florimund), “The Sleeping Beauty” by Marius Petipa, production and additional choreography by Sir Peter Wright, Dutch National Ballet 2021
10. Timothy van Poucke and Jozef Varga, “Two and Only” by Wubkje Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021
11. Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, “Delibes Suite” by José Carlos Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021
12. Constantine Allen and Anna Tsygankova, “Delibes Suite” by José Carlos Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021
13. Anna Ol and James Stout, “Alignment” by Juliano Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021
14. James Stout and Anna Ol, “Alignment” by Juliano Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021
15. Maia Makhateli (Niriti) and Young Gyu Choi (Noureddin), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by Pyotr Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021
16. Young Gyu Choi (Noureddin) and Maia Makhateli (Niriti), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by Pyotr Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021
all photos © Hans Gerritsen
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Saucy

In and Out”
Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
March / April 2021 (online video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Mardegan (center) and members of the Junior Company, “In and Out” by H.van Manen, Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenAlthough the Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company hoped to tour Hans van Manen’s “In and Out” in spring 2020, their plan was shattered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, though, the current members of the Junior Company revived the short ballet on the Dutch National Ballet & Opera’s main-stage. The performance was recorded and can be viewed for free until April 25, 2021 on the company’s website.

(more…)

Necessity Yields Virtue

“Puppet” / “ Dos Soles Solos”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
March 18 and 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1) F.Scarpato, “Puppet” by D.Lee, Czech National Ballet 2021 © M.Divíšek The Czechs’ are clearly adept at making films – no matter the genre. Last December, the Czech National Ballet danced a heartwarming “The Nutcracker – A Christmas Carol”, which was broadcast live on national television and on YouTube. This March, they premiered recordings of two short new pieces on their YouTube channel. The works – “Puppet” by Douglas Lee and “Dos Soles Solos” by Alejandro Cerrudo – are well worth watching. They are part of a triple bill (the third, yet-to-be released piece is by Cayetano Soto) that will be performed for an in-person audience whenever Czech theaters are allowed to re-open for the public. Martin Kubala, the filmmaker who oversaw the recording, expertly captured the production from interesting angles and distances. (more…)

Leader(s) and Followers

“Five Years and Three Days With Makhar Vaziev”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 26, 2021 (documentary)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Tsvirko and M.Vaziev after a performance of “Ivan the Terrible”, “Ivan the Terrible” by Y. Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / G.Uféras This year marks the fifth season with Makhar Vaziev as head of the Bolshoi Ballet. Upon this occasion, the Bolshoi Theatre released the TV documentary “Five Years and Three Days with Makhar Vaziev”, which is also available on YouTube (and includes English subtitles). For three days at the end of January, a film crew followed Vaziev from meeting to rehearsal to performance and back again, conducting several interviews along the way. Despite COVID-19, everyday work has continued at the Bolshoi. We witness the company’s preparations for two revivals: a performance of “Nureyev”, supervised by its stage director and set designer Kirill Serebrennikov, and a re-run of Sergei Vikharev’s version of “Coppélia(more…)

Weighty

“The Winter’s Tale”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
April 06, 2019 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Svolkin, L. Timoshenko, O. Smirnova, and D. Savin, “The Winter's Tale” by C. Wheeldon, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / D. YusupovThe Bolshoi Ballet recently added Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Winter’s Tale” to their repertoire – and what a fortunate choice that was! It is a co-production of the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and premiered in London in 2014. It’s strange that such a strong piece of work is only now being performed by a third company.

The ballet is based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name – one of his intricately-plotted later works, which is classified as a comedy despite its (more…)

In the Running

“Ekman / Goecke / Naharin”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 23, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Mikirticheva and ensemble, “Tyll” by A. Ekman, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2019 © S. Avvakum No fewer than three pieces of the Stanislavsky Ballet’s repertoire were nominated for this year’s Golden Mask award: “Tyll” by Alexander Ekman, “Lonesome George” by Marco Goecke, and “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin. On top of that, the company’s senior principal, Oksana Kardash, is nominated twice for her performances in “Tyll” and “Lonesome George”.
The Golden Mask Festival is in full swing in Moscow, presenting the most significant productions of all genres of theater from all over Russia. The winners will be announced on April 16 at an awards ceremony in the Bolshoi Theatre. (more…)

Growing With the Legacy

Coppélia”
Bolshoi Ballet

Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 23, 2019 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A. Loparevich, “Coppélia” by M. Petipa and E. Cecchetti, revival and new choreographic version by S. Vikharev, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / E. FetisovaWhat would Sergei Vikharev have thought of his “Coppélia” if he had watched the matinee on March 23? For one thing, he wouldn’t appreciate my calling the work “his”, as it is Petipa’s and his assistant Cecchetti’s 1884 choreography that Vikharev, together with ballet scholar Pavel Gershenzon, meticulously revived from Nicholas Sergeiev’s notation. Vikharev’s reconstruction premiered in 2009 with the Bolshoi Ballet with an updated revival planned for 2018/19. However, fate struck in the summer of 2017 when Vikharev, only fifty-five years old, died from an adverse reaction to anesthetic during a dental treatment. As a result, the company re-staged the 2009 version. (more…)

Pipe Dreams

“La Fille du Pharaon”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 08, 2019 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Obraztsova, “La Fille du Pharaon” by P. Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / D. Yusupov Aspicia, the heroine in Petipa’s “La Fille du Pharaon”, was a highly coveted role among ballerinas. Carolina Rosati, an Italian ballerina whose insistence propelled the ballet to creation, danced Aspicia at the world premiere in St. Petersburg in 1862. Mathilde Kschessinska, the unofficial queen of St. Petersburg’s Imperial Theatres, claimed the role as hers at the 1898 revival – meaning that it was like a revolution when the role was given to Anna Pavlova in 1906. “La Fille du Pharaon” was Petipa’s first significant choreographic success. Pierre Lacotte’s take on the ballet for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2000 was a tribute to Petipa and to the famous ballerinas who had shared their knowledge about Aspicia with Lacotte: Lyubov Egorova, Mathilde Kschessinska, and Olga Spesivtseva.

The ballet’s rambling narrative is loosely based on Théophile Gautier’s 1857 novel “The Romance of a Mummy”. Fueled by opium, an English explorer imagines a slew of adventures with Aspicia, the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh. Aspicia, a mummy, resurrected from her sarcophagus, goes hunting and is saved from a lion’s wrath by the heroic Egyptian Taor (the Englishman), with whom she naturally falls in love. The duo, contending with Aspicia’s forced marriage to the King of Nubia, elopes to an idyllic fishing village. There, they are met by further hazards: suicide attempts, a detour to the underwater realm of the God of the river Nile, and more. Finally, Aspicia and Taor are reunited and happily married – until at the height of the rejoicing, the Englishman awakes from his dream. (more…)

Topical

“La Esmeralda”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 07, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. Kardash, “La Esmeralda” by V. Burmeister, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2019 © A. Klyushkina Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” – which features Notre-Dame’s deformed bellringer Quasimodo and the compassionate, kind Esmeralda – has long been popular material for stage and film adaptions. The first ballet adaption premiered in London in 1844, with choreography by Jules Perrot and music by Cesare Pugni. In 1950, Vasiliy Tikhomirov and Vladimir Burmeister produced a new libretto for their version with the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre. As in the novel, their production is set in the 15th century and has a frame narrative that explores Esmeralda’s childhood background. For this iteration of the tale, Tikhomirov and Burmeister brought back Esmeralda’s tragic death while eschewing several secondary characters. In addition, Pugni’s score was newly orchestrated and supplemented with music by Reinhold Glière and Sergei Vasilenko. The three-acter is still in the company’s repertory and – more than 500 years later it is (regrettably) still highly topical. “La Esmeralda” exposes the Catholic church’s sickening hypocrisy and rotten ethics, which have made and continue to make international headlines to this day.

At the heart of the story is Esmeralda, who was picked up and raised by the Romani after they (wrongly) deemed her mother Gudule to be dead. (more…)

Second International Ballet Conference at Dutch National Ballet

“Positioning Ballet 2019”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

February 16/17, 2019
by Ilona Landgraf

Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

This February, the Dutch National Ballet welcomed international dance professionals for a two-day working meeting at the second “Positioning Ballet” conference. In 2017, at the first iteration of the event, the key topics were heritage, diversity, and identity. The 2019 meeting dealt with the relevance of ballet in the 21st century, the work culture ballet aims to embody, and the types of leadership required from artistic directors. Unlike in 2017, this year’s conference was closed for the press on the first day. As such, I missed the two keynote speeches – one by Jennifer Homans, the author of “Apollo’s Angels”, and the other by Theresa Ruth Howard, the founder and curator of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) – and the discussions that followed. Homans spoke about internal and external threats to the arts and ballet in particular, while Howard’s speech was titled “The Deconstruction of the Anatomy of Culture and Leadership in Ballet”. (more…)

The Doyen

“Ode to the Master” (“On the Move” / “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” / “Sarcasmen” / “5 Tango’s”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 17, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.van Manen and D.Camargo, rehearsal of “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftira“If it was up to me, all I’d be doing was cooking for friends and watching snooker on TV”

These are the words, taken from a 2018 interview, of a choreographer heralded by the Dutch National Ballet as a master. The company dedicated an ode in the form of a ballet program in September 2017, to celebrate the 85th birthday of this nonpareil: Hans van Manen.

This February, the company revived “Ode to the Master”, and it happened that a matinee performance was shown at the closing of the international “Positioning Ballet”-conference held at the Dutch National Opera (a report on the conference will follow). It was a good chance to see the all-van Manen bill again. (more…)

Superficies

“Requiem” (“Citizen Nowhere” / “Requiem”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 16, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Wijnen, “Citizen Nowhere” by D.Dawson, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © H.GerritsenDavid Dawson’s “Requiem” premiered in early February as the second half of an all-Dawson bill from the Dutch National Ballet. The first half was “Citizen Nowhere”, a twenty-or-so minute solo, also created for the Dutch company and first performed in the “Made in Amsterdam 2”-program in 2017.

That “Citizen Nowhere” was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella “The Little Prince” only becomes clear when a selection of signaling words and quotations are projected onto the gray backdrop: “Fox: anything essential is invisible to the eyes; one can only see clearly with the heart”; and “SNAKE: The Tears” (Tears is subsequently replaced with EYE and HEART). Instead, Dawson’s reading of the novella is a political one that tackles nationalism, displacement, and – highly topical – the building of walls. (more…)

Galloping Fate

“Carmen”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma

Rome, Italy
February 09, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Salvi and A.Ramasar, “Carmen” by J.Bubeníček, Ballet of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma 2019 © Y.Kageyama It is said that Czechs are good storytellers. Such generalizations are prone to rebuttal but that’s not the case for Jiří Bubeníček. He has delivered an array of fine pieces over the last years: “Faun”, “The Piano”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” – to name just a few. His new narrative ballet, “Carmen”, which premiered at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in early February, is convincing too. It’s intense, coherent, and fresh.

When we talk about “Carmen”, it’s easy to think immediately of Bizet’s opera, which failed at its premiere in 1875 and still won international acclaim after the composer’s premature death. Dance aficionados might also know Roland Petit’s 1949 ”Carmen”-ballet and Alberto Alonos’s 1967 “Carmen- Suite”, which both condense the source plot to around forty minutes. The pieces’ literature source – a novella penned in 1847 by Prosper Mérimée (1803 – 1870) is less popular. This is where Bubeníček dug deep. (more…)

Scratch the Varnish

“Bella Figura” (“Bella Figura” / “Stepping Stones” / “Sweet Dreams” / “Sechs Tänze”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
February 02, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Han and K.Wünsche, “Bella Figura” by J.Kylán, Ballet Zurich 2019 © G.BartadonIn September 2017, the Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián was awarded the “Positano Premia La Danza Léonide Massine” for life achievement. Last year, The Hague (his chosen home) celebrated his seventieth birthday by bestowing him with honorary citizenship at a festival in his honor. This March, Kylían will become a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts and will preside over the newly established choreography section of the Académie Française.
In mid-January, a Kylán-homage premiered at Ballet Zurich, created from four pieces that had been developed between 1986-1995. In an interview in the program booklet, Kylían described the pieces as having very different choreographic handwriting and therefore as unrelated. (more…)

Simply Wonderful

Wonderful Circus”
Laterna magika

The New Stage
Prague, Czech Republic
January 26, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. P.Knolle and A.Volný, “Wonderful Circus” by K.Vrtiška, J.Hrabal, V.Jílek, J.Koníček and F.Pokorný, Laterna magika 2019 © P.NašicThirty-six years after its construction, Prague’s New Stage is no longer a spring chicken. Many of the auditorium’s dark-green leather seats are patched up, and the seating in the foyer is dated. But maybe that’s precisely the reason this theater is so cozy and welcoming. It’s the home stage of Laterna magika, the cross-genre theater founded in 1958 to represent Czechoslovakia at the Brussels EXPO. “Wonderful Circus”, the troupe’s signature piece, has been around for over forty years too. Its old-school theater magic might not appeal to today’s young audiences, but I found it simply wonderful. It’s creators, an all-Czech artistic team, worked from their fabulous instincts to captivate and entertain the audience. What’s more: they built the piece with love.

The circus-theme is by film director Evald Schorm. He directed the piece together with Jiří Srnec and Jan Švankmajer; the sets are by Josef Svoboda and Zdenek Seydl designed the costumes. Emil Sirotek, a cameraman, filmed the videos; script, choreography and music were generated by a team of five. (more…)