Monthly Archive: December 2016

Munich’s Heroes

Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Shklyarov and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Since last Thursday, shortly before Christmas Eve, heroic fighters have commanded the stage of Munich’s National Theater. Hordes of men together with a few women all of them representing characters of either Thracian or Roman lineage, dance “Spartacus”, the epic about a Thracian man who, after having been enslaved by the Roman consul Crassus, engineers a revolt. What will happen, happens: Spartacus dies a hero’s death.

Big doses of fierce fighting and repeated displays of valor need a strong portion of the erotic in order to make them palatable to the audience. That is supplied by two women – Phrygia, Spartacus’s faithful mistress, and Aegina, Crassus’s conniving courtesan. The ballet’s action is based on the novella “Spartaco”, penned in 1874 by Raffaello Giovagnoli, who likely took liberties with historical material from before the Christian era.

There are plenty of “Spartacus” ballets in existence. Budapest, Vienna, Hong Kong and Cape Town have their own productions. Russia has seen four versions: the most recent is Georgy Kovtun’s for the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Aram Khachaturian had composed the music in 1954, and the first staging, by Igor Moiseyev for the Bolshoi in 1956 was short-lived. It was given only two performances, perhaps because it contained much pantomime but too little dancing. (more…)

Fighting for Syria’s Dance Culture

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
December, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Joudeh, National Ballet Academy / Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater“Every day when I wake up I look around myself, wondering where I am” Ahmad Joudeh tells me. The Syrian dancer grew up and lived in Damascus until in October of this year he had the chance to come to Amsterdam. “The first month I couldn’t accept the situation. Electricity for 24 hours, and water, hot water, every time; there is heat and the house … it’s a very nice house.”

How did things come about? Prompted by a press release from Dutch National Ballet about Joudeh, I skyped with him a few days ago to learn more about his background. (more…)

The Bavarian State Ballet Prepares for the Slave Uprising

“Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
December 16, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Urban and P.Zeisel, “Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus”, chor.: Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © N.Rodboon 2016Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” premieres the day before Christmas Eve in Munich. Since September the Bolshoi’s Oksana Tsvetnitskaya and Ruslan Pronin have been rehearsing the troupe. Grigorovich also arrived from Moscow to supervise the production. He didn’t attend Friday evening’s open rehearsal, but Tsvetnitskaya and Pronin were present.

Compared to the last “Ballet Extra,” the queue in front of the company’s rehearsal premises in Munich’s city center was shorter, certainly not because of a lack of interest or Christmas shopping, but due to the limited space in the Bosl-Studio where the event took place. (more…)

More of the Same

“The Song of the Earth”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Bouchet and A.Trusch, “The Song of the Earth” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © S.Ballone 2016While the Nutcracker-season is in full swing elsewhere, some ballet stages in German-speaking countries bring up serious and even fierce topics during Christmas time. Just recently, Christian Spuck premiered “Messa da Requiem”, his new creation for Zurich Ballet; the Bavarian State Ballet is in its final rehearsals for “Spartacus” awaiting Yuri Grigorovich’s finishing touch. In Hamburg, John Neumeier added another ballet, his fifteenth, to his encyclopedic collection of choreographies to music by Gustav Mahler. (more…)

Happy Birthday State Ballet School Berlin

State Ballet School Berlin
Schiller Theater
Berlin, Germany
December 03, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

Birthdays are best celebrated with friends. To make its 65th jubilee a real big party, the State Ballet School Berlin invited national and international guests to share the stage in a birthday gala. Those were: Stuttgart’s John Cranko School, the School of the Hamburg Ballet, the Ballet Academy of the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich; and from abroad the Ballet Academy of the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Danish Ballet School, St. Petersburg’s Vaganova Ballet Academy and, what I was most pleased with, the Cuban National Ballet School, hardly ever seen on these shores. Contacts with Havana are about to be intensified, Marek Rózycki, acting artistic director of the State Ballet School Berlin later told me in a telephone call. He also revealed that the guest list was intended to be even longer. The Schools from ABT, the Bolshoi, Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet London and the Dance Academy Mannheim would have loved to participate but were wrapped up in their own performances. Trouble with visas had been an issue as well. (more…)