A Little Summit

Stuttgart Ballet’s Festival Weeks: “John Cranko School Gala”
John Cranko School
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
July 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Spring” by K.Kozielska © Stuttgart Ballet 2016Last Saturday’s gala of the John Cranko School was only expected to be the overture for the company’s big final gala on the following day. Yet it proved to be a treat in itself.
How often is new choreography made on students? On the occasion of the Ballet Festival Weeks celebrating Reid Anderson’s twentieth jubilee as artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet, four former graduates choreographed to the music of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, each one responsible for one season. Marco Goecke’s “A Spell on You”, also created for the Cranko School and premiered earlier this year, was shown again. Guest students from schools in Paris, London, Toronto and Hamburg allowed one to compare training, but first and foremost the event highlighted a feeling of togetherness. The gala was streamed live to the outdoor audience of “Ballet in the Park” in front of the opera house.

Katarzyna Kozielska’s choreography for the spring part of “The Four Seasons”, danced by students of all grades and the Academy Classes, bubbled with joie de vivre. Many swift, petite jumps, pointe work and effortless lifts conveyed subdued, yet potentially eruptive vitality. Thomas Lempertz’s costumes surprised us. Like blossoms popping open, the students ripped open their turquoise cloaks revealing multicolored little blooms of fabric that seemed to burst out of naked skin.

2. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Summer” by L.Stiens © Stuttgart Ballet 2016In the second part, Louis Stiens’s “Summer” choreography, five dancers with blue-gray capes and hunched torsos beat their arms and minced their steps like a swarm of moths. Later, two men in black pants, maybe insect eaters, made them flee in panic. Stiens mingles dance steps, switching from fluent, wave-like movements to angular ones. His depiction of summer was energetic and powerful.

For Fabio Adorisio’s “Autumn” the students wore black pants and leotards, whose purple and turquoise shimmer made them look like beetle shells. Did the stiff transparent yellow raincoats which were put on and off allude to pupae? Adorisio’s use of taller and shorter students was visually effective. One ballerina was adoringly lifted by a swarm of men not unlike an insect mating ritual. Shortly afterwards all clustered together with their arms stretched upwards.
3. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Autumn” by F.Adorisio © Stuttgart Ballet 20164. E.-S.Kim and N.Korneev, “The Four Seasons”: “Winter” by D.Volpi, John Cranko School © Stuttgart Ballet 2016“Winter”, choreography by Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer Demis Volpi, was a pas de deux for Eun-Sil Kim and Nikita Korneev. Shivering legs, a few jerky moves and a restricted use of the space hinted at dormant spirits underneath frosty temperatures. A lyric adagio and gorgeous lifts also recalled the beauty of winter time. But at the end, spring burst onto stage, causing Kim to sink to the floor like a melting ice crystal.

Goecke’s “A Spell on You” had already impressed me in the school performance this May. Now eleven students – nine of the Academy Classes plus Riccardo Ferlito and Paolo Terranova, both from the 5th class – had even more drive. Seeing the 5. Students of the John Cranko School, “A Spell on You” by M.Goecke © Stuttgart Ballet 2016piece a second time triggered new associations. At one point I thought of the humpbacked Quasimodo scurrying past, on another occasion of chickens futilely beating their featherless wings. Did the African bush drum music accompany a cryptic ritual?
The students’ precision was astounding, their energy was awesome, their thorough commitment obvious. Their hissing breaths should have made the darkness on stage vanish. Kudos!

6. C.Drouy and A.Sarri, Pas de deux of “Sleeping Beauty” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa, School of the Paris Opera Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2016“A Spell on You” was followed by the performance of Célia Drouy and Andrea Sarri from the School of the Paris Opera Ballet. Charging them with the taxing third-act pas de deux of Rudolf Nureyev’s “Sleeping Beauty” was not a good idea. The two struggled with the fast tempo and the technical demands. Both looked tense. Classics and tradition or not, “Sleeping Beauty” was not a fair chance to excel. By comparison, the Royal Ballet’s couple, Sae Maeda and Nicholas Landon, gave a poised performance in the pas de deux of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Concerto”. Landon’s partnering was assured, with both partner’s dance suffused with interior meaning. That is how it should be.

7. D.Zolty and S.November, “I Loves You Porgy” by D.Volpi, Canada's National Ballet School © Stuttgart Ballet 2016Daina Zolty and Siphe November from Canada’s National Ballet School presented “I Loves You Porgy”, an excerpt of choreography Demis Volpi had created for Canada’s School in 2014. The cute love story was superbly conveyed. It had the right dash of nonchalance and, sometimes, adventurous partnering. November has the velvety gait of a big cat. It would have been interesting to see more from him. A promising talent!

John Neumeier created ”Yondering” twenty years ago for the students of Canada’s National Ballet School. The songs and lyrics of the 19th century American songwriter Stephen Foster, sung by Thomas Hampson, created the piece’s naive, folksy atmosphere. Back in 1996 Stuttgart Ballet’s Jason Reilly was then one of the Toronto students working with Neumeier in the studio. This time six Hamburg students 8. Students of the School of the Hamburg Ballet, “Yondering” by J.Neumeier, School of the Hamburg Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2016performed three excerpts. The humorous middle part “Molly! Do You Love Me?” was especially well received. Olivia Betteridge and Borja Bermudez de Castro depicted two teenagers’ first mutual advances. Bermudez de Castro, acting awkwardly, earned a slap in the face from Betteridge. But she, initially indecisive, at last responded to his infatuation.

The final excerpts of “Etudes”, choreography by the school director Tadeusz Matacz and his wife Barbara, brought all Stuttgart students back on stage. Cheered by the audience they dashed through the diagonals setting the stage on fire. I thought about of the corps’ famous diagonals in “Onegin”. Their future is clearly ensured.
According to surveys at the Youth American Grand Prix the John Cranko School is the second most one favored by students after London’s Royal Ballet. We know why. Congratulations to Tadeusz Matacz!
9. Students of the John Cranko School, “Etudes” by T. and B.Matacz © Stuttgart Ballet 2016

Links:  Homepage of the John Cranko School
 Homepage of the School of Hamburg Ballet
 Homepage of the Royal Ballet School
 Homepage of the School of the Paris Opera Ballet
 Homepage of Canada’s National Ballet School
Photos:  1. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Spring” by Katarzyna Kozielska
 2. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Summer” by Louis Stiens
 3. Students of the John Cranko School, “The Four Seasons”: “Autumn” by Fabio Adorisio
 4. Eun-Sil Kim and Nikita Korneev, “The Four Seasons”: “Winter” by Demis Volpi, John Cranko School
 5. Students of the John Cranko School, “A Spell on You” by Marco Goecke
 6. Célia Drouy and Andrea Sarri, Pas de deux of “Sleeping Beauty” by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa, School of the Paris Opera Ballet
 7. Daina Zolty and Siphe November, “I Loves You Porgy” by Demis Volpi, Canada’s National Ballet School
 8. Students of the School of the Hamburg Ballet, “Yondering” by John Neumeier
 9. Students of the John Cranko School, “Etudes” by Tadeusz and Barbara Matacz
all photos © Stuttgart Ballet 2016
Editing: Laurence Smelser
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