Yearly Archive: 2022

To Be Trimmed

“Naharin / Clug / Montero”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
May 14, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Submerge” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasThe new triple bill from the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet company combines three established names: Edward Clug, Ohad Naharin, and the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. Each contributed a piece from their collection.

Montero re-worked his “Submerge” for Nuremberg – enlarging it from its original eleven dancers (from Zurich’s 2018 Junior Ballet) to a 19-strong ensemble. Barely discernable in the foggy gloom, they wait motionless at the rear of the stage, their eyes fixed on something in the distance. Together they walk forward, staring into the bright glow of the pit, at once an attraction and terror. Simultaneously, they step into the light, as if crossing into a moment of courage. For those in the audience who haven’t consulted the program booklet in advance, the next scene (in which the dancers undulate their limbs like gently floating seaweed) reveals the subject of this piece: deep-sea diving. A scuba diving course in 2018 served as Montero’s source of inspiration.

4. E.Nunes, S.Vervaecke, L.Axel, and ensemble, “Submerge” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas3. Ensemble, “Submerge” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas2. E.Nunes, “Submerge” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasTo Owen Belton’s sound collage – made from marine burble and creaks, drifting electronic sound, menacingly hammering, and rattling reminiscent of clicking joints – we watch groups of dancers explore imaginary underwater depths, moving in sync or with a lag. Lines intertwine or swell in waves; bodies reverberate along with the thumping percussion or copy the robot-like movements of a leading dancer. Anxiously hunched shoulders, crouched torsos, and trembling hands alternate with moments of resolution and dynamicness. Beams of light carve out space for pas de deux and pas de trois, but Martin Gebhardt’s sophisticated lighting (especially the light shafts) must be treated with caution. They might signal a possible rescue, but they are also places of peril. After a sudden (post-catastrophe?) mood swing, the movement dies down. One after another, the dancers strip off their gray blue neoprene diving suits, lying on their backs as if drowned. One woman, though, is slowly lifted and carried backwards by a man, ultimately hanging in the air like Jesus on the cross. A single man rises from the ground to follow her.

5. L.Axel, N.Alcazár, and S.Vervaecke, “Handman” by E.Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas6. E.Nunes and S.-L.Chapman, “Handman” by E.Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasScattered across the stage, Clug’s nine dancers also stand motionless in the first seconds of “Handman” (2016). Unlocked by the smash and roll of a drum (music by Milko Lazar and Justin Hurwitz & Tim Simonec), the dancers dance the funky chicken, turn in place, stride forward, and shift their weight slowly from left to right. Their arms bend and twist, transform into crippled swan wings and beaks. Their hands clasp behind their necks and frame their heads on either side. The work points satirically again and again at “Swan Lake”, but the supposed swan prince scurries away quickly, intimidated. Due in part (but not exclusively) to the choice in costuming – night-blue pants and skin-colored, red-rimmed tops – the first part of “Handman” is mostly reminiscent of a (only moderately successful) persiflage of Marco Goecke’s handwriting.
8. L.Axel, C.Ide, J.Toscano, and N.Alcazár, “Handman” by E.Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas7. S.Vervaecke, “Handman” by E.Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasClug plays with tempo and gravity, and the way he emphasizes aspects of a movement amuse and surprise. He has created beautiful moments of calm – for example, a circle of dancers lying prone, their arms and legs stretched upwards like petals. Other sequences would benefit from pruning.

Most of all, though, I struggled with Clug’s choice to depict relationships that are aggressive and grossly manipulative. I found these portrayals disgusting to watch – largely because they are presented without context or critique (choreographically or otherwise). I simply cannot applaud the presentation of such unpleasant scenes. For example, in one pas de deux, the woman is forcefully pushed into obedience by a man; she lays broken on the floor, unheeded by the offender who walks nonchalantly away. A gruff all-male duet finishes, by comparison, humorously when one man – the title’s hand man – snaps at his partner’s wagging hand is if it were prey. Despite wriggling and remonstrating, his catch is carried off into the wings.

9. Ensemble, “Secus” by O.Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas10. K.Gee and V.Ketelslegers, “Secus” by O.Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasAs the curtain rises on Naharin’s “Secus” (2005), its seventeen dancers stand scattered across the stage, motionless yet again, unaffected by the blaring noise engineered by sound designer Ohad Fishof. Only when the turntable appears to become stuck do they casually set off for busy solos and group dances. The hodgepodge of movements that unfolds all over the stage includes vigorous hopping, jumping, splits, frozen yoga poses, pitter-pattering feet, hyper-flexible 11. A.Tavares and ensemble, “Secus” by O.Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinasacrobatics, deep lunges, and somersaults. In moments I can only describe as stunningly abrupt, some of the protagonists stop their bustling and walk casually offstage (perhaps wondering – like myself – why they would continue to toil). Rattling electronic noise turns into slow tinkling, corny pop songs, and soothing silence. While the dancers hunker down in a seated position, two men explore their romance in a tango that soon slips into athletic horseplay. One after another, the dancers lift their t-shirts and tank tops to expose their naked rib-cages to the audience. Standing at the front of the stage, the dancers present their palms, beat their bellies, slap their foreheads, and collapse to the ground. Momentum returns in a final succession of brisk solos (three at once) that seemed to comprise the best each dancer has to offer.
12. V.Ketelslegers and ensemble, “Secus” by O.Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas

Links: Website of the State Theater Nuremberg
Photos: 1. Ensemble, “Submerge” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
2. Edward Nunes, “Submerge” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
3. Ensemble, “Submerge” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
4. Edward Nunes, Sofia Vervaecke, Lucas Axel, and ensemble, “Submerge” by Goyo Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
5. Lucas Axel, Nicolás Alcazár, and Sofie Vervaecke, “Handman” by Edward Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
6. Edward Nunes and Sarah-Lee Chapman, “Handman” by Edward Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
7. Sofia Vervaecke, “Handman” by Edward Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
8. Lucas Axel, Chisato Ide, Juliano Toscano, and Nicolás Alcazár, “Handman” by Edward Clug, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
9. Ensemble, “Secus” by Ohad Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
10. Kate Gee and Victor Ketelslegers, “Secus” by Ohad Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
11. Ana Tavares and ensemble, “Secus” by Ohad Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
12. Victor Ketelslegers and ensemble, “Secus” by Ohad Naharin, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022
all photos © Jesús Vallinas
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Wrongdoings

“The Seven Sins”
Gauthier Dance
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 08, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Corrupt” by S.L.Cherkaoui, Gauthier Dance 2022 © J.BakThose who aren’t well-versed in the dos and don’ts of Christianity might find a visit to the Theaterhaus Stuttgart to be worthwhile. Their recent premiere – “The Seven Sins” – translates each of the capital vices into a short piece of dance by a different choreographer.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s “Corrupt” deals with the first capital sin: greed. Accompanied by an extensive pre-recorded lecture on the nature of greed, nine dancers squirm and writhe, sabotage and manipulate. We hear about the Buddhist way of freeing ourselves from greed; about greed’s connection to hate and ignorance; about the upsides and downsides of wanting something; and about the impact of money. At times, their arms stretch outwards, as if attempting to escape the self-made prison. Cash is their sacred cow; bundles of crumpled notes bulge from the pockets of their dark suits, decorating their arms like bracelets and being exchanged by the handful. (more…)

Magnificent!

“Raymonda”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 06, 2022 (stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.van Poucke, S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne), M.ten Kortenaar, and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman A mid-January newsletter from the Dutch National Ballet did little to hide the company’s disappointment at having to postpone their premiere of “Raymonda” from mid-February to early April. At the time, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions made uncertain the possibility of re-opening the house at full-capacity, but artistic director Ted Brandsen wanted the production – the biggest of the season – to be seen by as many people as possible. So he chose to wait.

Brandsen’s patience paid off. I watched the online stream on May 6th (filmed on April 19th) and from the moment the new front curtain rose (itself a gorgeous art nouveau design), it was instantly clear that this “Raymonda” would be a marvel. (more…)

Haydn Makes it Possible

“Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 30, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, H.-J.Kang, and M.Menha, “Die Jahreszeiten” by M.Schläpfer, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe third premiere of the Vienna State Ballet in this season – “Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”) – is entirely by Schläpfer. Past experience with his oeuvre made me skeptical of this new work, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The piece is set to Joseph Haydn’s 1801 oratorio “The Seasons” (which coincidentally also premiered in Vienna), for which Gottfried van Swieten penned lyrics based on extracts from a poem by James Thomson. Thomson’s verses describe the ordinary daily and seasonal life on the countryside: spring thaw and early field work, the lush countryside, harvest time, and a sudden thunderstorm, which cools down the sweltering summer heat. An autumnal hunt is followed by cheers for the new wine. Amidst winter gloom and the coziness of a warm cottage a fleeting romance blossoms. (more…)

Homage to Iván Nagy

“6th Iván Nagy International Ballet Gala”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Solymosi and O.Chernakova, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © A.Nagy / Hungarian State Opera Iván Nagy (1943 – 2014), a ballet dancer born and trained in Hungary, rose to stardom as a principal for the American Ballet Theatre in the 1970s. He later embarked on a second career as an artistic director – first at the Ballet de Santiago, and subsequently at the Cincinnati/New Orleans Ballet and the English National Ballet. In his final years, he returned to his homeland to support the ballet of the Hungarian State Opera as an artistic advisor. Since 2015, the company has paid tribute to him at a yearly international gala, which was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. (more…)

A Whole Lot

“Without Limits”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Eiffel Arts Center
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students from the Hungarian National Ballet Institute, “Paquita Suite” by T.Solymosi, A.Mirzoyan, and I.Prokofieva after M.Petipa; Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State Opera The new triple bill from the Hungarian State Opera’s ballet company, aptly titled “Without Limits”, certainly offers a whopping amount of dance. Harald Lander’s “Études” (1948), a one-act homage to the formal classical technique, contrasts with William Forsythe’s sprightly “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (1996). A new version of another purely classical ballet Marius Petipa’s Paquita Grand Pas (“Paquita Suite”) – opened the program. “Without Limits” was shown at the Eiffel Arts Center, a former railway maintenance and engineering complex transformed in 2020 into the Hungarian Opera’s second stage in Budapest. The capacious, light-filled venue houses a modern 500-seat stage, rehearsal and storage space, production workshops, and an exhibition area. The toot-toot of the historic locomotive located in the foyer calls the audience back after breaks. (more…)

Great Moments

“Giselle”
Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón
Teatro Colón
Buenos Aires, Argentina
April 17, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Osipova (Giselle), D.Camargo (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by G.Mollajoli after J.Coralli, J.Perrot, and M.Petipa, Teatro Colón 2022 © Prensa Teatro Colón / M.Parpagnoli Last weekend, the Teatro Colón scored a ballet coup par excellence with two performances of “Giselle” that starred two extraordinary guest dancers: the Royal Ballet’s Natalia Osipova, and Daniel Camargo, a former principal of Stuttgart Ballet and Dutch National Ballet who played Franz in the recently released dance film “Coppelia”. The second “Giselle” was streamed live – and it felt as if Christmas and Easter had been rolled into one.

Unfazed by technical challenges, Osipova plumbed the depths of her role with stunning intensity and freshness. (more…)

Overdone

“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 10, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Maria” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools), the first premiere of the season for the State Theater Nuremberg, is a double bill choreographed by the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. It is comprised of two ensemble pieces: “Maria”, a ballad about the bible’s Maria Magdalena co-produced with the Diana Vishneva Foundation, St. Petersburg (Vishneva danced the leading role at the premiere in December; the photos below show her), and “Narrenschiff”, which gave the program its title. I saw the – for now – final performance. (more…)

Pleasureless

Nederlands Dans Theater
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 26, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Toss of a Dice” by J.Kylián, NDT I 2022 © J.J.BosLast weekend, the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT I) toured Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, performing a triple bill they’d recently premiered at the Holland Dance Festival: “Toss of a Dice” by Jiři Kylián (2005); a new piece by Spain’s Marina Mascarell (“How to cope with a sunset when the horizon has been dismantled”); and “I love you, ghosts” – newly created by the company’s associate choreographer Marco Goecke.

The poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (“A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance” penned by Stéphane Mallarmé in 1897) was the springboard for “Toss of a Dice”. (more…)

A Hushed-Up Scandal

“Mayerling”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
March 19, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State OperaEighteen years after its Hungarian premiere, Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling” returned to the stage of Budapest’s newly renovated State Opera this March. According to a local dance critic, audience members cried while watching the 2004 performance, as the tragic 1889 death of Crown Prince Rudolf (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) is a chapter of Hungarian history that stirs up many emotions. Though he led a life of debauchery and primarily performed insignificant tasks in his role, the liberal-leaning Crown Prince was popular among the people. They pinned great hope on him, (more…)

Brilliant!

“Anna Karenina”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
March 08, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Hendricks (Anna Karenina) and C.Linnane (Count Alexei Vronsky), “Anna Karenina” by Y.Possokhov, The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.BusbyWhile western cancel culture appears to be targeting all things Russian, the Australian Ballet points the way towards cooperation. This February, a ballet about an icon of Russian culture – Tolstoy’s epic novel “Anna Karenina” – premiered in Melbourne. Co-produced with the Joffrey Ballet and decorated with the 2021 Prix Benois for best choreography, it was a prime example of the uniting power of the arts. Its US-based choreographer Yuri Possokhov was born in Luhansk / Ukraine; the composer Ilya Demutsky, a frequent collaborator of Possokhov, is Russian. Valeriy Pecheykin, an Uzbeg working at Moscow’s Gogol Center, wrote the libretto. Set and costumes are by the British designer Tom Pye. Finn Ross, also a Brit, oversaw the video projections, and US-born David Finn created the lighting. (more…)

Impromptu

Einmalig”
(“Bliss” / “Falling Angels” / “Solo” / Excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Schöpfung”, and “Mayerling” )
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Bliss” by J.Inger, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletAlthough the Stuttgart Ballet’s new all-Johan Inger triple bill was thwarted by a number of COVID-19 infections in the company, artistic director Tamas Detrich did not give in. Rather than canceling the scheduled March 4th performance, he assembled a substitute program literally overnight. From the original schedule, only Inger’s “Bliss” (2016) remained (2002’s “Out of Breath” and the recently premiered “Aurora’s Nap” were eliminated). A courageous dive into the company’s vast repertoire – short pieces by Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, and three excerpts from evening-length pieces – filled out the bill. (more…)

Absurd

“Liebeslieder” (“Other Dances” / “Concerto” / “Liebeslieder Walzer”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
January 14, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor2. H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet’s new triple bill is an all-American one, combining works from staple choreographers (Robbins and Balanchine) with a short piece by Lucinda Childs, whose name is less familiar in Europe.

Robbins’s “Other Dances”, a pas de deux set to one waltz and four mazurkas by Chopin, was tailor-made for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976. In Vienna, Hyo-Jung Kang and Davide Dato brought folksy playfulness to their roles as the carefree, happy-go-lucky couple. Their encounter is as lighthearted and upbeat as the light blue backdrop and the sheer blue fabric of Kang’s dress suggest (costumes by Santo Loquasto). After swaggering about with macho energy in a solo, Dato attends to Kang’s every step with buttery care. (more…)