Monthly Archive: December 2021

Now More Than Ever!

“The Nutcracker And The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 24, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Lord (Jansje), K.Hirst (Young Clara), F.Eimers (Louise), and L.Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” series was abruptly brought to an end due to – what else – “COVID-19 related restrictions.” A lockdown was once again imposed on the entire country – this time until mid-January. Nevertheless, the company decided to dance their Christmas Eve performance, which they’d intended to livestream. As artistic director Ted Brandsen welcomed the online audience from the empty auditorium, it was clear that the situation was a difficult one – emotionally and beyond.

2. N.Tonoli and S.Yamada (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenAlthough the original cast was re-shuffled on short notice (Riho Sakamoto stepped in for Anna Tsygankova as Clara Staalboom; Martin ten Kortenaar replaced James Stout in the role of the Nutcracker), the Staalboom’s St. Nicholas party flowed perfectly. Jozef Varga’s Drosselmeyer radiated an aura of omniscience. Though bent over with age and a stiff lower back, he fought the Mouse King (Giorgi Potskhisvili) as confidently as a puppet master pulling puppet strings. Potskhisvili, who joined the Junior Company of Dutch National Ballet in 2020 and has danced as élève in the main company since 2021, was so dominant and physically strong a Mouse King that his army of mice lay submissively on their backs. Ten Kortenaar swiftly switched between the edgy gyrations of a Nutcracker-robot to the litheness of a cavalier. 3. C.Vowles (Chinese Dance), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen4. S.Leverashvili and ensemble (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenSince his face is hidden behind a mask, his transformation into the Prince (Constantine Allen) comes as a surprise. Allen, a handsome Prince, brought charm to his fine jumps and neat timing. Sakamoto’s Clara credibly matured from an infatuated girl to a lovestruck woman. In the moment that she realized that her Grand Pas de Deux with Allen was going smoothly, she went all out, her eyes beaming. There couldn’t have been a more sweeping and energetic couple!

6. N.Tonoli and ensemble (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen 5. C.Allen (Prince), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenIf I overheard Brandsen’s final words to the company correctly, he was happy with the performance. Me too. It’s hard to dance without an audience, especially when facing another compulsory break. But the members of this cast didn’t merely perform – they went full throttle.

7. R.Sakamoto, rehearsal of “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © A.KaftiraCompared with the Staalboom’s merry Christmas, times are decidedly different (and tougher) today. I asked Jozef Varga what magic trick he would perform if he were a modern-day Drosselmeyer. His answer was pragmatic: “Make the coronavirus disappear!” Maia Makhateli, who danced the role of Clara on December 18th, seemed similarly disillusioned; when I asked her what dream she would invent for Clara if she could rewrite the story, she simply replied: “No COVID.”

Addendum: Since watching this performance, I’ve learned that Sakamoto was promoted to principal dancer after the performance. Congratulations!

The performance is available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022. On January 2nd, the performance from December 18th can be watched for free at 3:00 PM (CET) on NPO. 8. N.Brhane (Faun), F.Eimers (Louise), M.Kumar (Don Juan), and E.Wijnen (Poet), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet
Trailer “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Photos: 1. Jane Lord (Jansje), Katja Hirst (Young Clara), Floor Eimers (Louise), and Luc Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
2. Nina Tonoli and Sho Yamada (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
3. Connie Vowles (Chinese Dance), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
4. Salome Leverashvili and ensemble (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
5. Constantine Allen (Prince), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
6. Nina Tonoli and ensemble (Waltz of the Flowers), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
7. Riho Sakamoto, rehearsal of “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Altin Kaftira
8. Nathan Brhane (Faun), Floor Eimers (Louise), Manu Kumar (Don Juan), and Edo Wijnen (Poet), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © Hans Gerritsen
Editing: Jake Stepansky

 

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Heart-Warming

“The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 18, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Potvin (Young Clara) and J.Stout (Mouse King), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen As yet another round of COVID-19-related restrictions began to choke social life in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet reacted swiftly by adding two livestreams of their Nutcracker production to their pre-Christmas schedule. I viewed the first one on December 18th; the second will take place on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM. Both performances will subsequently be available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022.

Every rendition of the Nutcracker has its own personal flair, and Amsterdam’s – co-choreographed by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling in 1996 – is decisively Dutch. (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)