Bavarian State Ballet
Prinzregententheater / Prince Regent Theatre
July 02, 2017
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf
After a break of more than a decade the Bavarian State Ballet revived its “Young Choreographers” evenings last weekend. Of the four up-and-coming choreographers who presented their works on three consecutive nights at Munich’s Prince Regent Theatre, German-born Dustin Klein was the only one from within the ranks of the company. He was joined by the Swiss Benoît Favre, a dancer from Ballet Zurich. and two Russian colleagues: Anton Pimonov from the Maryinsky Ballet and Andrey Kaydanovskiy from the Vienna State Ballet.
All four gained choreographic experience to various degrees with earlier works, some of them prize-winning. Notably, Pimonov’s “Violin Concerto No. 2” received Russia’s prestigious theater prize “The Golden Mask” earlier this year. For the Bavarian State Ballet each one choreographed a group piece, involving between six to twelve dancers.
The pas de deux, Klein had contributed to Stuttgart’s “Noverre Evening” this April had been stunningly amusing and a hit with the audience. But “Mama, ich kann fliegen” (“Mama, I can fly”), his work for Munich, was not very creative, nor much of a soaring flight. The combination of electronic sounds (or rather noise), at first monotonous then hammering, credited to Georg Vorsamer, and movement largely unrelated to the music has become an overused practice among choreographers.
Movements often appeared to be assembled in a modular principle. First casually walking, a dancer suddenly propelled himself through a tour en l’air, for example, then froze in a pose again. Slow-motion moves were frequent and followed by pausing, stepping forward and freezing in a pose again. Rectangular arm postures suggested a touch of Indian dance. Repeatedly, the group stood motionless in the background, leaving the center of the stage to an unmemorable solo or pas de deux. At one point two dancers repeatedly knelt down on the floor and moved their upper bodies as if engaged in some kind of a ritual. Later they sat on the floor and arranged their limbs as if they were paralyzed. Routines performed by the group (upper body dangling down – vigorous leg kicks – arms open – arms closed – step left – step right; or, alternatively, a combination of thrusting hips and rhythmic shaking) were reminiscent of a pop concert’s background dance group. One sequence was interesting though: lit in fluorescent green the dancers moved like a multi-armed, multi-legged and, according to the droning sounds of the music, an age-old monster.
Overall murky lighting intensified the effect of hip pink or green spotlights and steles with colored LED arranged in a semi circle onstage. Were those navigation lights similar to airport runways? Was that the connection to the title’s “I can fly”?
Costumes by Louise Flanagan were sporty. She combined knee-high socks in green, mauve and pink to off-white tricots rimmed in the same colors.
Favre’s “Out of Place”, set to a mix of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concert in D minor” and electronic sounds (presumably arrangements of Vivaldi’s concert), was performed without prominent color or lighting effects. Shlomi Miara designed simple, gray costumes; backdrop and side drapes were gray or black. A light bar run shortly above the floor along the backdrop. At the beginning a semi transparent curtain separated a strip of the back stage from the front. Of the dancers standing in a line behind it we saw only blurred silhouettes. Then they crawled through under the curtain to the fore. Several exits and entrances were later made either by lifting the curtain or by wriggling beneath it. From time to time a black and white close-up of a woman’s face was shown on a huge video screen. She stared at the audience before casting her eyes down. One couldn’t escape her piercing gaze.
Favre arranged a vivid variety of solos and group dances. Watching the wave-like upper body moves, which often began at the head, and the pas de trois of two men partnering one woman, I was reminded of the new choreographies by Filipe Portugal and Douglas Lee which Favre’s home company in Zurich performed recently. Maybe he took inspiration from them? Yet his style has more harmony, is more fluent and of an unforced aesthetic. The dancers moved as if an energy from below grounded them. From this safe and flexible base their upper bodies and arms reached out towards the space. Several times the choreography highlighted the musical structure, lifts were slowed down, for example, or movements stopped.
Compared to many contemporary pieces, which often show a group of individuals in slightly aggressive interaction, Favre established a feeling of togetherness between the dancers. An indiscernible positive force connected them.
Some sequences of the largely abstract dance had the glimmer of a story. Séverine Ferrolier, for example, knelt in the middle of the front stage, immersed in geometrical arm moves, when Alexa Tuzil approached her from behind. Tuzil mirrored Ferrolier’s movements, then touched her head. Ferrolier turned round, stared at Tuzil and hurried out. Later, Tuzil was shaken by some inner struggle in her solo. The gentle strobe light, used to intensify this moment, was dispensable.
The pas de deux of Ferrolier and Matêj Urban had a story too, but which? They seemed to be a couple on their way towards an unknown destination or goal. But Ferrolier backed out, trying to elude what seemed inevitable but scarcely desirable. Urban held her back, turned her round and both seemed to progress anew. But Ferrolier dodged again. Finally, Urban, standing behind her, held her head between his hands, directed her look towards the targeted direction and let her fall to the ground. Who was “Out of Place”? She or he?
A marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with mallets. Russian-born composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky used it in his 1976 composition “Récit de voyage”. Pimonov set his ballet to this music and titled it “Marimba Dances”. The music is playful, at times propulsive, then ticks like a stopwatch. At one point the violins seem on a roller coaster ride. The weird catchy tunes of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Alice in Wonderland” came to my mind.
Pimonov’s choreography is inventive, witty, bubbly and watching it was great fun. Classical dance is its foundation and displaying its beauty a main feature of “Marimba Dances”. Line some dancers in front of a yellow lit backdrop, turn them into black silhouettes and have them stand with feet and arms in fifth position – didn’t that look gorgeous?
The spice of the piece lay in the ruptures, though, in brushing the vocabulary the wrong way. Cheeky parody spread amidst classical elegance. The, let’s say, deviations Pimonov gaily interspersed included little hops, dallying mincing steps, leg shakes, an unexpected push, running out hand in hand, legs wide apart combined with arms nicely in fifth, arms swiveling like windmills and bodies jogging in a circle.
In the pas de trois, the second man seemed a mere adjunct to get partnering going. The moment a sequence became too classical, someone pulled another one’s leg held in arabesque, for example, and made him hop backwards or two men performed a pas de deux, one taking over the woman’s part.
Of the seven dancers, Ksenia Ryzhkova and Alexey Popov danced the main couple. Popov expertly navigated Ryzhkova’s obstinacy, her attempts to break out and the insistence she imbued her splits with.
Pimonov took charge of set and costumes himself. He kept it simple. Costumes were unadorned and uniformly red, the backdrop was black or lit yellow or pink. More wasn’t necessary; the choreography worked by itself.
“Discovery” by Kaydanovskiy, the program’s closing piece, set one on the wrong track. Seeing Jonah Cook lying naked in what looked like a pond created by a spotlight, with the sounds of lively twittering of birds and quacking of ducks accompanying his slumber, one felt amused. Cook woke up, stood up and got dressed with what a clothes rack onstage provided: a white shirt, black pants and a striped tie (set and costumes by Karoline Hogl). Then, with hunched shoulders, he reported to his boss Nicholas Losada in a shiny gray suit and tie, who, in the meantime, had worked himself up in a crazy solo to an aria of Johann Strauss’s opera “Die Fledermaus”. The other music was by Amon Tobin, Murcof, Antony & The Johnsons and Benjamin Luxon.
Losada’s terrible creaking office chair, which triggered a freaky solo from Cook, made everyone in the audience laugh. The sweetie in mini skirt and fishnet stockings (Manoela Gonçalves) who would have loved to have had it off with Cook on top of the copying machine added to the overall cheerfulness. She stepped to the microphone, started a speech and – Bang! There was Kaydanovskiy’s well placed punch in the audience’s gut. While trying hard to repeat her message, “I’m tired of finding an adorable way to express my opinion,” Losada, clearly the creep, pushed and flung around Gonçalves until she helplessly slipped to the ground.
Cook, meanwhile also knocked out, lay on the floor, again surrounded by the sound of twittering birds. But the buzz of bluebottle flies getting louder made one fear that his body was already decomposing. His office colleagues who surrounded him like a bunch of voyeurs, first mimicked the whirring flies, then a cackling flock of chickens until finally roaring fiercely together with the revitalized Cook. The moment Losada appeared on the scene they bleated like innocent sheep.
Thereupon Gonçalves and Cook had a romantic encounter, while Losada continued to parade around like a vile macho. But at the end his powers faded. Surrounded by his employees he broke down. “The Alpha-male is still holding its power, but its time has passed,” said the recorded voice on the loudspeakers.
One left with a queasy feeling. Kaydanovskiy had scored a bold strike.
|Links:||Website of the Bavarian State Ballet|
|Photos:||“Mama, ich kann fliegen” (Dustin Klein)|
|1.||Ensemble, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by Dustin Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|2.||Nicha Rodboon, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by Dustin Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|3.||Nicholas Losada and Jonah Cook, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by Dustin Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|4.||Ensemble, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by Dustin Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|5.||Nicholas Losada and ensemble, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by Dustin Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|“Out of Place” (Benoît Favre)|
|6.||Stefano Maggiolo, Alexander Bennett, Matêj Urban and ensemble, “Out of Place” by Benoît Favre, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|7.||Ensemble, “Out of Place” by Benoît Favre, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|8.||Séverine Ferrolier, “Out of Place” by Benoît Favre, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|9.||Séverine Ferrolier and Matêj Urban, “Out of Place” by Benoît Favre, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|10.||Séverine Ferrolier and Matêj Urban, “Out of Place” by Benoît Favre, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|“Marimba Dances” (Anton Pimonov)|
|11.||Ensemble, “Marimba Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|12.||Dmitry Vyskubenko, Prisca Zeisel, Kristina Lind, Alexey Popov and ensemble, “Marimba Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|13.||Ksenia Ryzhkova, Alexey Popov and ensemble, “Marimba Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|14.||Ensemble, “Marimba Dances” by Anton Pimonov, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|“Discovery” (Andrey Kaydanovskiy)|
|15.||Manoela Gonçalves, “Discovery” by Andrey Kaydanovskiy, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|16||Nicholas Losada and Manoela Gonçalves, “Discovery” by Andrey Kaydanovskiy, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|17||Manoela Gonçalves and Nicholas Losada, “Discovery” by Andrey Kaydanovskiy, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|18||Jonah Cook, Manoela Gonçalves and ensemble, “Discovery” by Andrey Kaydanovskiy, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|19.||Nicholas Losada and ensemble, “Discovery” by Andrey Kaydanovskiy, Bavarian State Ballet 2017|
|all photos © Wilfried Hösl|