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From “Ballet Falsity” to Long-Runner

“The Bright Stream”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 10 and 11, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Front Curtain, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov“The Bright Stream” was Shostakovich’s third score for ballet. After his previous ballets, “The Golden Age” (1930) and “Bolt” (1931), were banned from the stage, Shostakovich attempted to create a new composition that would please everyone. Fyodor Lopukhov (1886 – 1973) was in charge of the choreography, the libretto was by Adrian Pyotrovsky and Lopukhov, and indeed, “The Bright Stream” was enthusiastically received at its premiere in Leningrad – today’s St. Petersburg – in 1935.

Is it a propaganda piece or – given the irony Shostakovich so loved – does it mock propaganda? In any case, “The Bright Stream” is a romantic farce that unfolds on the North Caucasian collective farm called “The Bright Stream”. Here, Stalin’s agricultural policy blossoms. The harvest, proudly paraded through the streets, is superlative – and the subsequent harvest feast well deserved. Soon, though, the dancers and musicians that arrive from abroad to join the celebrations unveil that, among the farm folk, both crops and infidelity grow rampant.

2. N.Kaptsova, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovPyotr, an agricultural student, is keen to flirt with the ballerina right from the artists’ arrival. Zina, his young wife, vacillates between fits of hurt and anger. When it is revealed that the ballerina is an old friend and classmate of Zina’s, they decide to teach Pyotr a lesson. The harvest feast becomes the stage for a confusing masquerade that incidentally brings others’ hidden passions to light. The doddery dacha-dweller, for example, arranges a rendezvous with a sylph, unaware that the sylph is in fact a male dancer in drag. At the same time, the dweller’s eccentric spouse falls for the ballerina, believing her to be an attractive lad. The accordion player tries to run off with Galya, a local school-girl, but she is saved by a tractor driver dressed as a shaggy, scary dog. That the dog also bicycles causes further confusion. In the end, all is well again. Even the nascent fight between Caucasian and Cossack workers smoothens over, leaving only happy, peaceful togetherness.

Following its success in Leningrad, “The Bright Stream” transferred onto Moscow’s Bolshoi stage in the same year – but it didn’t remain there long. After a damning review titled “Ballet Falsity” appeared in the Pravda in 1936, the piece disappeared completely from the ballet repertoire. Pravda declared the ballet to be formalistic, criticizing its lack of realism and folk elements and repeatedly claiming that the characters had been turned into dolls. Although it’s highly unlikely that these were the real reasons for the bashing, Lopukhov’s career never recovered from the blow.

It was not until 2003, when Alexei Ratmansky was commissioned to create his first piece for the Bolshoi Ballet, that “The Bright Stream” returned to the stage. Ratmansky retained the libretto, but referenced the ballet’s history by adding a front curtain on which were printed the titles of the bad reviews the piece had received after the Pravda editorial. Eschewing musical repetition, he shortened the original three acts to two. Since notation from Lopukhov does not exist, the choreography is entirely Ratmansky’s.
3. E.Shipulina and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovBoris Messerer’s set looks as if he has poured the cornucopia of a rich harvest onstage. Bundles of golden sheaves of wheat are heaped onto the side wings, while tractors drive through harvested fields and a brigade of propeller planes flies across the backdrop. The made-up masquerade takes place in a clearing overlooked by two monumental female statues, one on each side. Statues mounted on pillars line the backside of the improvised stage in a meadow, where the harvest feast finally occurs. It is lit by a sun made of light diodes that sends beams of light towards the revelers. For the costumes, Messerer used all the colorful patterns that a farmhand might wear. The artists wear fashion of the 1930s (especially daring: the male dancer’s red-striped socks to knickerbockers), while the farm folk have less chic, everyday clothes.

Ratmansky’s choreography drew from a broad spectrum of styles to characterize the figures. The ballerina performs elegantly and gracefully; she knows how to toy with men and how to be theatrical when advantageous. The dacha-dweller’s wife wants to look young and attractive. Her bottom is as prominent as her bust, to which she presses her husband’s head as they dance. She stalks about in red pointe shoes, triumphantly waving her fan as she attempts to seduce like a tango-diva. Galya is an overexcited young woman, who pulls her skirt down time and again as if she feels that it is too short. The milkmaid admires the ballerina’s and Zina’s dancing skills, but knows that she is a capable country lass with a sunny disposition and not a woman of the world.

4. M.Lobukhin, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / E.FetisovaSome men soar and jump boastfully, others, more used to sitting on a tractor than taking to the floor, hop clumsily around. The accordion player plays macho; the tractor diver feels more comfortable when disguised as dog than when attempting to dance; the dacha dweller struggles to get his stiff bones moving, even though he tries hard, and Gavrilych, the chubby quality inspector who later appears as the Grim Reaper, wields the scythe threateningly during a macabre fake duel. But all the men have one thing in common: they are eager to show how terrific and compelling they are.

Folk dance elements abound, blending with classical movements; acting is key, mime conveys important information, and precision remains vital in all things. Short, turbulent scenes alternate with long ones and everyone has their chance to present themselves. Although some scenes last longer, their wittiness never fades.

5. D.Savin and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovSince its premiere in 2003, “The Bright Stream” has received more than one-hundred performances. I saw two consecutive shows – numbers 117 and 118 – with different casts, in which each dancer colored their character differently.
On the first night, Anastasia Stashkevich’s Zina was extrovert, feisty and kind-hearted. Semyon Chudin portrayed her Pyotr. As she witnessed his unashamed flirtations with the ballerina (Ekaterina Shipulina), she was hurt and, even more so, upset. Displaying her formidable ballet skills, Zina became so light and soft, so adept at balancing capriciousness with voluptuousness, that one could only marvel. Stashkevich performed exceptionally. Chudin, blessed with a natural elegance, portrayed Pyotr as a helter-skelter lovestruck poser. Pyotr seemed more a handsome student from university with a girl-friend – Zina – from an internship than a married man made for a future in agriculture. He puffed himself up like a peacock and had no clue what to make of the recurring opposition of the ballerina (who in fact was Zina in disguise). Pyotr’s learning curve was steep, but his youthful charm made you forgive his every foolishness.

7. A.Vinokur, A.Loparevich and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov6. A.Vinokur, A.Loparevich and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovShipulina’s ballerina was an ethereal being with pale skin that could have emerged from a Parisian stage. Yet, dressed as a young man, she was thoroughly dashing. As the male dancer, Vladislav Kozlov had his funniest scenes when wearing the white sylph-tutu and the floral wreathlet. He has great talent for crossing his arms gently in front of his chest and looking towards the horizon. The scene in which his sylph reminded herself to maintain her graceful femininity while at once taking a generous swig from the dacha-dweller’s hip-flask was priceless.
The accordion player (Vyacheslav Lopatin) was an Italian macho man, a womanizer of the likable sort. If you looked at his breeches, his flat cap, and his supple and powerful movements, you might have called him a horseman – but if so, his horse could only have been a thoroughbred. Anastasia Vinokur was a hilarious anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is dacha-dweller. She attacked her lanky, narrow-chested husband (Alexey Loparevich) like a bull when she realized that he was cheating on her. You could only feel sorry for the bespectacled dodderer, whose vision was suddenly brightened at the sight of the sylph.

8. A.Vinokur, A.Loparevich and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov9. A.Vinokur, A.Loparevich and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovMaria Mishina was the chipper Galya; Egor Simachyov as Gavrilych held a pipe firmly in his mouth, and Tatiana Lazareva was the buxom milkmaid, whose pride about her achievements shone from all over her face. Andrey Bolotin portrayed the tractor driver in dog fur.

On the following evening, Nina Kaptsova danced Zina. Zina’s prospects for a ballet career must have been excellent given the skillfulness with which she revived them. She seemed to be less angry about Pyotr than she was determined to teach him a lesson. Mikhail Lobukhin’s Pyotr had a fine figure, suitable for farm work. He was not overly sophisticated, but sure of himself. The ballerina (Maria Alexandrova) was dauntless and world-wise, refined but grounded. In a man’s clothing, she acted – and looked – snappy. However, Vladislav Lantratov took the cake as 10. Ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupovthe male sylph. No matter what he was doing – be it dashing through the diagonals, blowing kisses, looking plaintively into the air, or demanding to be married by the dacha-dweller – he was side-splitting funny. Lantratov is amazingly talented on pointe, and if he tucks in the ribbons of his pointe shoes he could apply for “La Sylphide”, which will be in the repertoire in March.

Denis Savin’s accordion player was odd; slightly hunched and long-legged, he seemed incalculable and not at all trustworthy. Case in point: Yulia Skvortsova’s Galya didn’t trust him, and neither did the tractor driver in dog’s costume (Vasily Zhidkov), barking to spur the accordion player to flee.
The dancers in other roles were: Nikita Elikarov (the old dacha-dweller), Anna Balukova (the dacha-dweller’s wife), Sergey Minakov (Gavrilych), and Ekaterina Zavadina (milkmaid). On both evenings the group of highlanders was led by Alexander Vodopetov; Anton Savichev was the head of the fieldworkers from the Caucasus.
The corps danced with oomph, making their pleasure with the production palpable.

Shostakovich’s score was played triumphantly in a rousing rendition by the Bolshoi Orchestra conducted by Pavel Klinichev (Feb. 10th) and Pavel Sorokin (Feb. 11th).
11. E.Shipulina and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov

Links: Website of the Bolshoi Theatre
Photos:  1. Front Curtain, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 2. Nina Kaptsova (Zina), “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 3. Ekaterina Shipulina (Ballerina) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 4. Mikhail Lobukhin (Pyotr), “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Elena Fetisova
 5. Denis Savin (Accordion Player) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 6. Anastasia Vinokur (Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is-dacha-dweller), Alexey Loparevich (Old Dacha-dweller) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 7. Anastasia Vinokur (Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is-dacha-dweller), Alexey Loparevich (Old Dacha-dweller) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 8. Anastasia Vinokur (Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is-dacha-dweller), Alexey Loparevich (Old Dacha-dweller) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 9. Anastasia Vinokur (Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is-dacha-dweller), Alexey Loparevich (Old Dacha-dweller) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 10. Ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
 11. Ekaterina Shipulina (Ballerina) and ensemble, “The Bright Stream” by Alexei Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / Damir Yusupov
Editing: Jake Stepansky

 

A Revealing Autobiography

Marina Grut:
“My Dancing Life: Spanish and Ballet Across Three Continents”
317 pages, colored and b/w photos
The Book Guild Publishing, August 2017
ISBN: 978-1912083541
February 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

Marina Grut – a South Africa-born dancer, dance mistress, Cover “My Dancing Life: Spanish and Ballet Across Three Continents” by M.Grut © The Book Guild Ltdand choreographer – has already written three historical books: one on the history of ballet in South Africa, one on the history of the Bolero, and a third on the history of the Royal Swedish Ballet. Her fourth book deals with another important history: her own.

Grut (née Keet) was born in 1934 and received her first ballet training in Cape Town. At the young age of sixteen, she took over a local dance studio in Stellenbosch, her family’s hometown, commuting daily to Cape Town to continue her studies at the University Ballet School under Dulcie Howes. In 1956, Grut quit ballet to instead focus on teaching Spanish dance. Three years later, she married a doctor of forestry from Denmark, traveling with him from Sweden to South Africa, Rome, Washington D.C., and London. Wherever she went, Grut indefatigably promoted Spanish dance. She taught, lectured, excavated regional dances, and organized performances. One of her main achievements was the development of the Spanish Dance Syllabus for the Spanish Dance Society in 1965. It became the standard for the training and evaluation of students of Spanish dance. (more…)

Let Heads Roll

“The Last Supper”
DEKKADANCERS
The New Stage
Prague, Czech Republic
January 28, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Š.Pechar, M.Deneux and M.Lanoue, “The Last Supper” by Š.Pechar, O.Vinklát and M.Svobodník, DEKKADANCERS © M.Hančovský  Two French chefs (Morgane Lanoue and Mathias Deneux) were already preparing “The Last Supper” onstage when the audience took its seats. Wearing pristine white chef’s hats and red and blue shoes respectively, they were on the hunt for a bluebottle that hummed obtrusively around the blocky table and marred the cozy bar music played by a little band in the back. But using a kitchen trowel as swatter wasn’t productive. While the guests arrived and gathered around the huge table center stage, the fly buzzed towards a safe place. The table, made of several smaller blocks, was plastered with pages of the international press, which later, when the parts were separated, revealed huge red blood stains splashed across the newspaper. This was certainly not a Christian meal… (more…)

A Fairy Tale Told Too Simply

“The Snow Queen”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
January 27, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Nanu and ensemble, “The Snow Queen” by M.Corder, Czech National Ballet © D.WhartonWhile beautifully costumed brass and percussion bands paraded across Prague’s Charles Bridge, vociferously driving out wintertime, icy winter’s cold descended on the National Theatre’s stage as the Snow Queen tried to extend her power over innocent village youth. She fails, securing a happy ending. Over the years a number of choreographers have adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s popular story for the ballet stage. In spring 2016 the Czech National Ballet took Michael Corder’s version into their repertoire, which was created for English National Ballet in 2007. (more…)

Hot Air

“Emergence” (“Speak for Yourself” / “Emergence”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
January 20, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Mulligan, “Speak for Yourself” by S.León and P.Lightfoot, Ballet Zurich © G.Batardon The program booklet for “Emergence”, Ballet Zurich’s new double bill, raised high expectations. The evening’s title was taken from Crystal Pite’s piece. According to the praise lavished on her, she must be phenomenal and talented beyond belief. “Speak for Yourself”, choreography by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, was dubbed an “alchemistic experiment” in which fire, water, and dance magically merge. Getting in contact with the element water was called a decisive metaphysical moment. Some photos of “Speak for Yourself” were printed with wise sayings quoted from the “Tao Te Ching” by Laozi. Both pieces were danced to recorded music.
Did the program deliver what it promised? (more…)

An Appreciation

Frank-Manuel Peter:
“The Painter Ernst Oppler – The Berlin Secession & The Russian Ballet”
176 pages, 220 colored and 7 b/w photos
Published by Wienand, September 2017
ISBN: 978-3-86832-391-7
January 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Book cover, “The Painter Ernst Oppler – The Berlin Secession & The Russian Ballet” by F.-M.Peter, Wienand Publishing House © Wienand Pubslishing HouseThe Ballets Russes caused an earthquake upon arriving in Paris in 1909. It’s much less well known, however, that Russian dancers – primarily Anna Pavlova – created a stir in Germany (then a ballet diaspora) just days before. Although the first tour of the Imperial Russian Ballet to Berlin in 1908 had been cut short due to limited public interest, Pavlova and her colleagues were enthusiastically celebrated by critics and audience alike one year later. Tickets for their first performance at Berlin’s Royal Opera (today’s Oper unter den Linden) were reserved for those in the cultural elite: authors, critics, actors, and members of the Berlin Secession, a group of artists that opposed the academic art politics of the Wilhelmine era. For painter Ernst Oppler, the performance on May 5th, 1909 was a turning point in his career – a career that would become the focus of “The Painter Ernst Oppler – The Berlin Secession & The Russian Ballet” by Frank-Manuel Peter, head of the German Dance Archive Cologne. (more…)

Progress

“Don Quixote”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
January 13, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Trusch, M.Sugai and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa, Hamburg Ballet 2018 © K.WestIn an interview in the program booklet for “Don Quixote” Neumeier said that his vision has been to broaden the horizons of his dancers and of the audience. Noble motives that over the years have left much to be desired. Two years ago, Hamburg Ballet’s season involved only one piece by another choreographer in addition to Neumeier, while last season was all his. This season’s schedule was enriched by two foreign choreographers: Rudolf Nureyev and Jerome Robbins. Already in September a double bill by Robbins (“Dances at a Gathering” and “The Concert”) was revived. In December, Nureyev’s version of “Don Quixote” premiered. Manuel Legris had come over from Vienna to lead the rehearsals. But the question is, being primarily limited to Neumeier’s style and short of input from others, how did the company respond to the challenges Nureyev’s piece presents? (more…)

Dance and Music

“b.33” (“Stravinsky Violin Concerto” / “Roses of Shadow” / “Polish Pieces”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
January 07, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Liashenko and E.White, “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Ballett am Rhein 2018 © G.WeigeltJust a few days ago, Ballett am Rhein announced that the contract of its artistic director, Martin Schläpfer, has been extended until the fall of 2024. Schläpfer has helmed the company and its associated ballet school since 2009, but in 2016 handed over his administrative responsibilities to Remus Şucheană so that he might regain some freedom to pursue his artistic work. Şucheană’s contract was similarly extended.

Schläpfer names his ballet programs numerically – and with his latest, which premiered in mid-December, he reached “b.33”. It was a triple bill – a recurring and well-established format in Düsseldorf – with a tried and tested combination of choreographers: Balanchine, Schläpfer, and Hans van Manen. Specifically, Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” and van Manen’s “Polish Pieces” were added to the already considerable repertoire the company dances from both choreographers. The middle piece, “Roses of Shadow”, was a new creation by Schläpfer. (more…)

The Post-Diaghilev Generation

Michael Meylac:
“Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes – Stories from a Silver Age”
288 pages, 150 b/w photos
I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., October 2017
ISBN: 9781780768595
January 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes” by M.Meylac, book cover © I.B.Tauris & CoLast year in early spring I met Michael Meylac at a performance of Cranko’s “Onegin” at the Bolshoi Theatre. Passionate about dance, Meylac quizzed me about the German companies and told me about the book on the Ballets Russes he was about to finish. He pondered which title to choose. We had no opportunity to continue our conversation, so I didn’t get to know more about the project.

Meanwhile, the book has been published.
Actually, I had expected a monograph on the Ballets Russes similar to Sjeng Scheijen’s biography of Diaghilev. I was wrong. “Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes” is a collection of interviews – thirty-two in total conducted between 1989 and 2007. Only one interviewee was not a dancer, the secretary of the Marquis de Cuevas; all others performed with the Ballet Russes companies.
Meylac, born in Leningrad, today’s St. Petersburg, is a distinguished Russian literature professor and philologist. Yet, the Soviet authorities disapproved of his work on foreign-published dissident writers and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment and five years in exile. In 1987, after four years in the Gulag, he was released and later settled in France. There he worked as a Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Strasbourg, sharing time between Europe and Russia. (more…)

A Disappointing “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
December 25, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain and F.Vogel, “Swan Lake” by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet 2017 © Stuttgart BalletAfter a five-year absence from the stage Stuttgart Ballet revived John Cranko’s “Swan Lake” this December. It premiered in Stuttgart in 1963 as Cranko’s second evening-length piece after “Romeo and Juliet” in 1962. Cranko generally followed Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s traditional version, but shifted the focus towards the prince. While the third act’s festivities celebrating the prince’s coming of age (the introduction of the potential brides, the national dances, the Black Swan Pas de Deux and Rothbart’s deceptive maneuver) remained largely untouched, Cranko replaced the waltz and the Pas de Trois at Siegfried’s pre-birthday party in Act I with a Pas de Six. Of the various endings, Cranko chose to the one in which Siegfried drowns when the sea bursts its banks during a heavy thunderstorm, whereas Odette stays under Rothbart’s curse. (more…)

The Prince Awakens His Beauty

“The Sleeping Beauty”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Makhateli and D.Camargo, “The Sleeping Beauty” by P.Wright after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © A.KaftiraThis Christmas Season Dutch National Ballet revived Peter Wright’s version of Marius Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty”, presenting no less than seven different leading couples in seventeen performances. Actually, one should see each cast. Alas – I could only travel once to Amsterdam and saw the matinée on December 17th led by Maia Makhateli as Princess Aurora alongside Daniel Camargo’s Prince Florimund.

Many young children attended the performance, all of them in festive clothing, and it was a pleasure to watch them hop around and imitate the dance steps during the breaks. One little girl in a golden skirt even turned cartwheels in the foyer. (more…)

It’s Done

“Nureyev”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovAfter the Bolshoi Ballet’s July premiere of “Nureyev” was canceled at the last minute, officials doubled down on security efforts for the rescheduled performance on December 9th. Although guards lined the theater’s entrances and the curtain rose behind schedule, the performance was a smooth ride from start to finish.
And yet only those who attended the dress rehearsal this summer can truly asses whether or not the initial version was tweaked to comply with requests from the authorities. One might have noticed, for instance, that Richard Avedon’s photo of the naked Nureyev was not used as a backdrop, but rather was only projected on a screen for a quick second. But given the fact that the work was finally seen by the public – do these minor changes matter?

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov, stage director and set designer Kirill Serebrennikov, and composer Ilya Demutsky are the artistic core team behind “Nureyev”. Interviews with the trio, who had previously collaborated on the Bolshoi’s ballet “A Hero of Our Time”, were printed in the program booklet, which also contains Serebrennikov’s libretto.

(more…)

Weird Matters

“Woke up Blind”, “The Statement”, “The missing door”, “Safe as Houses”
Nederlands Dans Theater / NDT 1
Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Berlin, Germany
December 01, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Woke up Blind” by M.Goecke, Nederlands Dans Theater 2017 © R.RezvaniThe last programs I saw of Nederlands Dans Theater’s main company (NDT I) were rather drab. However, the program they presented during their guest appearance in Berlin turned out to be varied and meaty. Its four pieces were by the Argentinian choreographer Gabriela Carrizo, the company’s associate choreographers, Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke (each of them contributing one piece), and by the inseparable team of Sol León and artistic director Paul Lightfoot.

(more…)

Universal Love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
November 25, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lopatin and A.Stashkevich, "Romeo and Juliet" by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova Last week the Bolshoi Ballet added a second version of “Romeo and Juliet” to its repertoire. By Alexei Ratmansky, it premiered at the National Ballet of Canada in 2011 and is being performed on the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. As during recent years, Yuri Grigorovich’s adaption will be shown on the Bolshoi’s Historic Stage.
Ratmansky cast three leading couples: Ekaterina Krysanova & Vladislav Lantratov; Anastasia Stashkevich & Vyacheslav Lopatin; and Evgenia Obraztsova & Artemy Belyakov; however the pairings switched in the course of the first run. I saw the fourth performance after the premiere; Stashkevich was Juliet alongside Lopatin’s Romeo. (more…)

Opinions Divide

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
November 19, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

Reading the recent reviews on the Royal Ballet’s triple bill of works by Twyla Tharp, Arthur Pita and Hofesh Shechter makes one smile and wonder at the same time. Smile, because of the totally different opinions of the writers. While Graham Watts, for example, judged Shechter’s “Untouchable” positively on backtrack.com and Mark Monahan declared it the program’s “undisputable highlight” in The Telegraph, Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, found it “the most preposterously dance-thin ballet I have ever seen.” Jann Parry deemed it a “dated commission that never merited its place in the repertoire” on DanceTabs.

(more…)