For the last Time

“Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
June 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Sukhorukova, N.Losada, Z.Zahradniková, J.Cook, Andrade, L.Engel, N.Strada, G.Romano, S.Ferrolier, M.Dilaghi, A.Tuzil, R.Strona, S.Throop, M.Navarrete Villalba and M.Urban, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Bavarian State Ballet 2016Last Wednesday Ivan Liška’s era at the helm of the Bavarian State Ballet ended after a final performance of Pina Bausch’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” (“For the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”). Together with him a large part of the company is leaving. There could have been no better piece than Bausch’s for this event. “For the Children…” tells of what makes life alive: being foolish, crazy, full of joy, desperate, sad and over the top, showing off, trying togetherness, falling in love, quarreling and playing mean games. Many situations are absurd, all are touching. Love is a core topic, emotions in general are.
2. Z.Zahradniková and J.Cook, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016I asked the dancers to comment on the piece. The thoughts of three of them are included.

In each of the three performances I saw during the last weeks a few members of the audience left after the break shaking their heads. This time as well. Whether one deems “For the Children…” infantile nonsense or a kaleidoscope of what makes up life depends on personality. On each one’s framework of conventions lies the courage to break out of it or not. The majority of the Munich audience has loved the piece, usually with standing ovations.

The three-hour long performance has always been fascinating yet this time the dancers surpassed themselves. They gave not one-hundred, but one-hundred and fifty percent. Group scenes fizzed with joy and vitality. Skipping rope caused excited screams. When hopping on their bottoms across the floor the dancers, visibly happy, sang along.

The many solos were of unparalleled intensity. Some, like Jonah Cook’s, set the stage on fire. He and Robin Strona, both feeling their oats, later swirled the petite Joana de Andrade wildly through the air. Maybe the kiss Cook had snatched from Zuzana Zahradníková had lent him wings. Zahradníková covered up her little manipulative tactics with a sweet young woman’s charm. De Andrade for the last time declared what belongs to whom on stage: “This is my space! My floor! My window! My wall! My Nico!” But poor Nicola Strada. He had to share her with Shawn Throop and Nicholas Losada, the two other competitors.
The smell of lamb with rice and kümmel that surrounded Daria Sukhorukova sent Losada into raptures. Sukhorukova, shy and dreamy, declared she could also make mashed potatoes (real potatoes) and chop wood.

“At first I couldn’t believe that my name was on the cast list. The whole project has been absolutely great!

We have a waltz on the floor where we are allowed to sing along. It’s very funny. I very much like my solo in which I dance center stage and all others run in a circle around me. Feeling their energy is very touching.
The best scene is the finale. It has beautiful music. We flock on stage, one after the other, and everyone dances as if in trance. That always gives me goose bumps.

Getting standing ovation at the end is stunning!”
(Nicola Strada)

3. Ensemble, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Alexa Tuzil and Léonard Engel fought out their love affair’s difficulties hitting each other’s hands with the heels of their shoes. But no need to worry. Though Tuzil stroke fiercely, neither really scored. Tuzil, with strawberry blonde curled hair, had the aura of a sensual lioness. Séverine Ferrolier relished the idea of many hugs and kisses. Later she became the magnetic, man-eating femme fatal only Matej Urban was up to dealing with. Not because of mutual love but because of his status as husband. “… Love is the saddest thing when it goes away” a voice sang out of the loudspeakers.

Urban had two major solos. In the first his innermost being was pushed and pulled by Tom Waits’s husky voice. In the second he seemed to imbibe rather gloomy emotions transforming their energy into movements of various intensity. Both times Urban was exceptional.

“For the Chldren…” has been a challenge for me. It’s a pleasure to have been involved in this piece. The speaking parts, of which I have quite some, scared me most at first. But then speaking on stage felt amazing. During the first Act I pretty much talk non stop. For me the highlight is my conversation with Matteo. He asks “Do you love me?” and, after some slanting glances, I answer “I think I don’t”. I’m always curious about the reaction of the audience.

In the second Act I’ve another long speaking scene with Matteo. I’m passionate about jazz and at the beginning of this scene I’m singing. I love that! Then Matteo and I start to quarrel. One second I’m screaming, the next I’m making him shut up. I’m very angry and suddenly start to laugh -it’s an emotional rollercoaster! A battle of words that turns into a sour comedy. Doesn’t that feel familiar?”
(Marta Navarrete Villalba)

4. M.Navarrete Villalba, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Marta Navarrete Villalba dallied over the idea of making an impression on people when doing a hula-hula while holding a big cigar. But she had fun burning holes into her red jersey with only a cigarette. With the cigar she would have made a Swiss cheese out of it. Matteo Dilaghi bore Navarrete Villalba’s whims and bad temper patiently. He only had a few seconds to abandon an emotionally charged quarrel and concentrate on his solo, a mesmerizing dance confined to his arms and hands.

At the barber’s shop Dilaghi chattered in full swing while cheerfully wielding his scissors. Gianmarco Romano, his customer, seemed worried about ending up with a messy hairdo. Nicholas Losada died of laughter at Dilaghi’s anecdotes.
5. L.Engel, A.Tuzil and ensemble, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Shortly before, Losada, a real teaser, again and again had cheated Throop competing in the game of ‘who can bear a lighter’s flame under the forefinger longer’? Out of sheer excitement Throop always cooled his burned finger in his mouth instead of putting it into the glass of water he carried in his other hand.

As the final succession of solos signaled the end, melancholy tinged the festive mood. At the curtain call, enthusiastically applauded by the audience, many dancers were close to tears. Ivan Liška acknowledged each of the cast who then bid their farewell: Daria Sukhorukova, Zuzana Zahradníková, Joana de Andrade, Léonard Engel, Shawn Throop and also Katherina Markowskaja and Maxim Chashchegorov both of whom hadn’t been on stage this evening. Fellow dancers lowered banners from the side balconies with the names of all dancers leaving, twenty-nine in total.

“I am not looking forward to the last show tomorrow evening. Not because it is the end of the journey of “For the Children…” but because it feels like a thorough good bye: a farewell to the company as we know it, to the dancers who brought their personalities to this stage and to the repertory that inspired ourselves. I couldn’t imagine a better production to sum up the journey that has been the last eight years of my career. Actually it has been a quite emotional progress.”
(Matej Urban)


6. I.Liška, Dr. L.Spaenle, R.Strona, A.Tuzil, M.Urban, M.Chashchegorov and K.Markowskaja, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Vogl 2016Ludwig Spaenle, Bavarian’s minister of cultural affairs, honored Liška’s merits as director of the Bavarian State Ballet in a short speech and presented him a china figurine of the Bavarian Lion. Spaenle earned lukewarm applause and boos. Having chosen Igor Zelensky as Liška’s successor, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs is responsible for the radical changes within the company.

Zelensky, having stayed silent during the last months, meanwhile gave two interviews within two days. Reportedly he intends to “double the success of the company”, to “establish a good school” and “to ensure that the director succeeding me will have it easier”. He dreams of three premieres per season and a company of 100 to 110 dancers. The existing state of affairs seems to be insufficient for him; he finds the necessity to plan for years in advance and to cooperate with the opera division inconvenient. Zelensky prefers to do things by himself rather than being a team player. He has a five-year contract as artistic director. I’m wondering whether he will persevere.
7. M.Navarrete Villalba, M.Urban, A.Tuzil, M.Dilaghi, R.Strona, S.Ferrolier, L.Engel, S.Throop, Z.Zahradníková, Andrade, N.Losada, D.Sukhorukova, N.Strada, G.Romano and J.Cook, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016

 Links:  Bavarian State Ballet’s Homepage
 Earlier report on “For the Children…“
 Photos:  1.  Daria Sukhorukova, Nicholas Losada, Zuzana Zahradniková, Jonah Cook, Joana de Andrade, Léonard Engel, Nicola Strada, Gianmarco Romano, Séverine Ferrolier, Matteo Dilaghi, Alexa Tuzil, Robin Strona, Shawn Throop, Marta Navarrete Villalba and Matej Urban, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Bavarian State Ballet 2016
 2. Zuzana Zahradniková and Jonah Cook, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Wilfried Hösl 2016
 3. Ensemble, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Wilfried Hösl 2016
 4. Marta Navarrete Villalba, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Wilfried Hösl 2016
 5. Léonard Engel, Alexa Tuzil and ensemble, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Wilfried Hösl 2016
 6. Ivan Liška, Dr. Ludwig Spaenle, Robin Strona, Alexa Tuzil, Matej Urban, Maxim Chashchegorov and Katherina Markowskaja, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Severin Vogl 2016
 7. Marta Navarrete Villalba, Matej Urban, Alexa Tuzil, Matteo Dilaghi, Robin Strona, Séverine Ferrolier, Léonard Engel, Shawn Throop, Zuzana Zahradníková, Joana de Andrade, Nichols Losada, Daria Sukhorukova, Nicola Strada, Gianmarco Romano and Jonah Cook, “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” by Pina Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Wilfried Hösl 2016
Editing: Laurence Smelser
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