“Malakhov & Friends – The Finale”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper Berlin
January 24, 2014
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf
The gala evening “Malakhov & Friends” has its fifth anniversary this season since Vladimir Malakhov became artistic director of State Ballet Berlin, and it’s the final one. After ten years being at the helm the Ukrainian takes his leave. From the next season on he’ll be artistic adviser of the Tokyo Ballet. As an appreciation of his great service for dance in Berlin, Malakhov was awarded the honorary title “Kammertänzer of Berlin” by Berlin’s state culture secretary Andrè Schmitz after the premiere on Tuesday – an act to be understood as keeping face, as Malakhov doesn’t part by mutual consent but was urged to resign. He’ll be succeeded by the Mikhailovsky Ballet’s current artistic director Nacho Duato.
For his farewell gala Malakhov put together a package of eighteen pieces (see program below), in four of which he appeared himself. Ten in-house dancers (almost entirely Principals) plus nine guests presented the evening’s morsels: Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky (American Ballet Theatre), Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino (Bavarian State Ballet, Munich), Irina Perren and Marat Shemiunov (Mikhailovsky Theatre, St. Petersburg), Matthew Golding (Royal Ballet, London) and Malakhov’s future artistic home, Tokyo Ballet, sent Mizuka Ueno and Mika Yoshioka. Some of Berlin’s corps de ballet women took part in the initial excerpt of Fokine’s “Les Sylphides” – as a decorative frame – but from then on the corps was no longer seen.
In Fokine’s “Les Sylphides” Malakhov danced the poet – an aged version respectively, with Yoshioka as leading sylph, who lacked the ultimate bit of softness and tenderness that evokes a feather-light Romantic sense. His second role was the swan in the duet “Leda and the Swan” from Roland Petit’s “Ma Pavlova”. But Nadja Saidakova, being at his feet as the ensnaring Leda, seemed more a millstone around his neck than the object of manly desire. Both pieces were unwise choices, since Malakhov doesn’t cut a fine figure any more, especially as a bare chested swan. Though his arms move eloquently and lyrically they cannot conceal his physical strain.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s new creation for Malakhov, the solo “Icarus” to piano music by Szymon Brzoka in the program’s second half was more suited to him, but had little sparkle. Clad entirely in black he portrayed the mythological Icarus` fate. Flaying higher and higher the Greek finally came so close to the sun that the wax, which held his wings’ feathers together, melted and he fell to his death. Was this Malakhov’s self-reflexive résumé? Or a self-dramatization of the kind of “Look, I’m the battle-weary brave, who gave everything for the good, beautiful and true”? At least the playbill’s cover photo comes across like this.
Malakhov was by far his best in the final “The old man and me”, Hans van Manen’s humorous and melancholic miniature from 1996 about a couple, which, stricken by life, tries to get together again. Both fail at the end though sunny Beatrice Knop deployed all her arts of seduction. Sparkling of esprit she kept her chin up even when Malakhov, being completely in the doldrums, at first made no pretense of not being absolutely bothered. But in contrast to being the poet, the swan or – like in former times – the prince, this was a piece, in which Malakhov kept his dignity and the only one after which he seemed to unwind at the curtain calls and smiled for the first time.
While Lacarra and Dino in “Light Rain” – a choreography by Gerald Arpino that radiates precisely calculated eroticism – made a feature of Lacarra’s flexibility and overexpansions, their black pas de deux from John Neumeier’s “Lady of the Camellias” was the first half’s program highlight. A svelte and expressive ballerina, Lacarra yet overdid the coughing and acting. Less would be more! However both touchingly conveyed their emotional turmoil and even in this short excerpt managed to evoke a dramatic atmosphere. This unfortunately burst like a bubble when the curtain went up for the subsequent “Don Quixote” pas de deux. After just embarking on a touching story, it felt as if a bucket of cold water had been poured over one’s head. Stringing together snippets of different ballets might work well for showy numbers, which were amply represented in the gala, but it doesn’t justice to works with meaning and depth. So “Don Quixote” was a big bang. Iana Salenko as Kitri and Dinu Tamazlacaru as her Basilio self-assuredly paraded their faultless technique, including lengthy rock-sold balances. In terms of acrobatic circus feats they were only outstripped by Perren and Shemiunov’s “Spartacus” pas de deux, in which the indispensable one-handed lift is not to be missed. As less boastful showpieces, neither Perren’s and Shemiunov’s other contribution, Assaf Messerer’s choreography “Spring Waters”, nor the pas de deux of José Martinez’s “Delibes Suite”, danced by Ueno and Golding, had much chance to impress any further and on the whole were repetitive.
Golding also appeared with Ueno in Petipa’s Swan Lake adagio from the second act, which was fine except that their emotional connection didn’t clearly come through. Although a secure partner, Golding isn’t the subtlest actor.
In addition to “Leda and the Swan”, Roland Petit was represented with a second work, the male duet ‘Morel & St. Loup’ of “Les intermittences du cœur”. Rainer Krenstetter and Marian Walter as Morel and St. Loup showed off their physical beauty and spiced their interactions with homosexual eroticism but failed to create a powerful presence. Mauro Bigonzetti’s “Duetto Inoffensivo” was the female duet counterpart in the second half, in which Elisa Carrillo Cabrera and Saidakova played mannish women. Consisting mainly of slow motion movements, synchronicity and repetitions, but lacking meaning, “Duetto Inoffensivo” was tedious and dragged on. What a waste of two extraordinary ballerinas’ talent! However, it was a pleasure to see Carrillo Cabrera together with Mikhail Kaniskin in David Dawsons’s “A Sweet Spell of Oblivion,” an expressive and physically powerful, yet harmonious duet, in which the energy’s flow was clearly visible. Both had something to say to each other. Persuasive also were Kent and Radetsky in Twyla Tharp’s ballroom homage ”Sinatra Suite”, whose slapstick-like allusions to a couple playing little power games was a perfect mood elevator after the fallen “Icarus”. But unfortunately their softly undertoned pas de deux from Anthony Tudor’s “The Leaves are Fading” was drowned in the crush of all the other attention craving pas de deux.
Eric Gauitier’s funny choreography “Ballet 101”, a tongue-in-cheek demonstration of the – allegedly – 101 different positions, steps and jumps in ballet was presented sportily by Vladislav Marinov. A lecture, whose entertaining quality raised the house atmosphere to a soccer stadium level after Assaf Messerer’s pale and vacuous “Melody”. Except for Wieslaw Dudek, carrying around Yoshioka and her wafting veil, nothing remains imprinted in my memory of this interlude. And I thought yet again, how important, basically essential, it is to introduce and comment on the parts of a gala program as is regularly done at Hamburg Ballet’s galas. By providing a bit of additional information the audience not only becomes attuned to what’s to follow but their perspective about the pieces enlarges as well. However in Berlin the playbill offers few illuminating details. It’s a slender brochure consisting first of all of photos, showing Malakhov in various roles in former galas. So, above all, it is a commemorative picture book of his heydays.
|Program (January 24, 2014)
Choreography in the tradition of Mikhail Fokine, music: Frédéric Chopin
Choreography: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Choreography: Assaf Messerer
Choreography: Twyla Tharp
|Swan Lake, adagio from the 2nd act
Choreography after Marius Petipa
Choreography: Assaf Messerer
|A Sweet Spell of Oblivion
Choreography: David Dawson
Choreography: Eric Gauthier
|Leda and the Swan, duet from “Ma Pavlova”
Choreography: Roland Petit
|Delibes Suite, pas de deux
Choreography: José Martinez
|Morel & St. Loup, duet from “Les intermittences du cœur”
Choreography: Roland Petit
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
|The Leaves are Fading, pas de deux
Choreography: Anthony Tudor
|Spartacus, pas de deux
Choreography: Georgy Kovtun
|Lady of the Camellias, pas de deux
Choreography: John Neumeier
Choreography: Gerald Arpino
|Don Quixote, pas de deux
Choreography after Marius Petipa
|The old man and me
Choreography: Hans van Manen
|State Ballet Berlin’s Homepage
|Vladimir Malakhov, Mika Yoshioka and ensemble, “Les Sylphides” in the tradition of Mikhail Fokine, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Vladimir Malakhov, “Icarus” by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Irina Perren and Marat Shemiunov, “Spring Waters” by Assaf Messerer, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Mikhail Kaniskin and Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, “A Sweet Spell of Oblivion” by David Dawson, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Rainer Krenstetter and Marian Walter, ‘Morel & St. Loup’ of “Les intermittences du cœur” by Roland Petit, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Dinu Tamazlacaru and Iana Salenko, “”Don Quixote” by Marius Petipa, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Sascha Radetsky and Julie Kent, “Sinatra Suite” by Twyla Tharp, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Irina Perren and Marat Shemiunov, “Spartacus” by Georgy Kovtun, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Nadja Saidakova and Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, “Duetto Inoffensivo” by Mauro Bigonzetti, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, “Light Rain” by Gerald Arpino, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|Vladimir Malakhov and Beatrice Knop, “The old man and me” by Hans van Manen, Malakhov & Friends -The Final, State Ballet Berlin 2014
|all photos © Bettina Stöß 2014