Yearly Archive: 2022

Happy Eightieth!

“Egon Madsen 80”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakEgon Madsen has been a foundational figure in Stuttgart’s ballet and theater world for close to his entire career. He gave his stage debut at the young age of ten in a children’s ballet in his home country of Denmark. Nine years later (in 1961) he joined the Stuttgart Ballet under the newly appointed John Cranko. Key roles in Cranko’s signature pieces were choreographed on Madsen during a period dubbed the “Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”. After Cranko’s death, Madsen stayed with the Stuttgart Ballet until 1981. In the years that followed, he helmed several companies (the Frankfurt Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Ballet of the Teatro Communale/Florence) before becoming Marcia Haydée’s assistant director at Stuttgart and serving as ballet master in Stuttgart and Leipzig. In 1999 – at age fifty-seven – he returned to the stage with Nederlands Dans Theater’s NDT III. He also served as the troupe’s teacher and rehearsal director until it disbanded in 2006. One year later, Madsen returned to Stuttgart as a driving force behind Eric Gauthier’s newly established Gauthier Dance Company at the Theaterhaus. In addition to dancing in numerous Theaterhaus productions (most recently “Greyhounds” in 2015), Madsen also coached and trained the dancers. Since 2014, he has forayed into play-acting; his solo evening “King Lear”, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, can be seen at the Theaterhaus for a final time this November.

3. F.Vogel, T.Detrich, B.Keil, E.Madsen, M.Bigonzetti, I.Cavallari, and E.Gauthier, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.Bak2. F.Vogel, T.Detrich, B.Keil, E.Madsen, M.Bigonzetti, I.Cavallari, and E.Gauthier, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakMadsen’s eightieth birthday and seventieth stage anniversary was cause for a huge celebration – and the gala that the Stuttgart Theaterhaus organized was extensive indeed. It was presented by Eric Gauthier who – humorous as ever – ensured that the almost four-hour-long program (including a participatory performance with the audience) entertained throughout.

4. E.Madsen and ensemble, “Cantata” by M.Bigonzetti, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakMadsen’s love of wit and humor was clear from his wry comments on the collection of black-and-white photos showing his early professional steps. Also hilarious, though without intending to be, was the commentary in a compilation from a vintage film by SDR Abendschau recalling Madsen’s time under Cranko’s directorship. We learned that male dancers “woo and fight for love and then die,” and that the young Madsen preferred table football over more sophisticated pastimes. The company’s tours to New York (1969) and Moscow (1972) were mentioned as well. A second video dealt with Madsen’s work in the Theaterhaus.

Of Madsen’s many friends and companions, five – Birgit Keil, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, Tamas Detrich, and Friedemann Vogel – shared their memories in a series of talks. Keil emphasized Madsen’s authenticity, Cavallari his modesty, Bigonzetti his generosity and humanity. In reference to a performance of “Romeo and Juliet”, Detrich joked:No one could die like Egon.”

5. E.Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakOf the many Cranko roles for which Madsen is known, we saw three performed by members of the Stuttgart Ballet. Adhonay Soares da Silva danced the Lenski solo from the second act of “Onegin”; Alessandro Giaquinto was the hapless Gremio, warbling a failed serenade to Bianca (Veronika Verterich) in “Taming of the Shrew”. Friedemann Vogel danced the lovey-dovey youth from “Brouillards” whose infatuation suffers an abrupt deflation.
Alice McArthur and Mitchell Millhollin, both students at the John Cranko School, gave a spotless rendition of Uwe Scholz’s “The Creation” – a nod to Madsen’s time in Leipzig. Arnau Redorta Ortiz and Maria Sayrach Baró, juniors at Gauthier Dance, contributed “Rassemblement”, an edgy pas de deux with a tragic ending by Nacho Duato. A highlight was Gauthier’s peppy “ABC” of dance, set into motion by the effervescent Shori Yamamoto.

I was most impressed by the two performances by Madsen himself: Hans van Manen’s “The Old Man and Me” (alongside Milena Twiehaus, a former student of Madsen’s wife Lucia Isenring) and “Cantata” – a wildly passionate group number by Bigonzetti performed to Southern Italian songs sung fervently and played live by the Gruppo Musicale Assurd, Enza Pagliara, and Enza Alessandra Prestia. There is no doubt that Madsen – lifted high above the group of dancers, a timbrel hanging gloriously above his head – can still dominate the stage.
6. E.Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.Bak

Links: Website of the Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Eric Gauthier commenting on Egon Madsen’s birthday (audio)
SWR documentary on Egon Madsen (video)
Photos: 1. Egon Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
2. Friedemann Vogel, Tamas Detrich, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, and Eric Gauthier, Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
3. Friedemann Vogel, Tamas Detrich, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, and Eric Gauthier, Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
4. Egon Madsen and ensemble, “Cantata” by Mauro Bigonzetti, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
5. Egon Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
6. Egon Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
all photos © Jeanette Bak
Editing: Jake Stepansky

 

After All

“Giselle”
State Ballet Berlin
Staatsoper unter den Linden
Berlin, Germany
September 18, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Giselle), D.Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Bart after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © M.KulchytskaDavid Motta Soares honed his artistic skills under the watchful eyes of the teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet. This spring, he joined the State Ballet Berlin as a principal dancer, and in June he gave his debut as Prince Désiré in Marcia Haydée’s “The Sleeping Beauty” alongside Ksenia Ovsyanick’s Princess Aurora. Last Sunday, the two again shared the stage as the leading couple in Patrice Bart’s rendition of “Giselle”. How did they fare?
Albrecht and Giselle’s romance, unfolding under the warm autumn sun shining on mother Berthe’s quaint cottage yard (set and costumes by Peter Farmer), was not as sweet as expected. In Moscow, Motta Soares had danced Albrecht in Yuri Grigorovich’s “Giselle”. Bart’s version was new for him and his Albrecht here – cocksure and confident – flitted between gentle wooing and impatient attempts at taking. In certain moments he stood with his arms crossed, signaling reserve. After two botched tours en l’air, Motta Soares seemed slightly unsettled. Though he made a decent showing by the end of his second solo (Pas de vendanges), its piecemeal choreography – involving a great deal of jumping back and forth, as if drunk on infatuation and indecisive about which direction to move – offered little chance to shine. (more…)

Kylián Samples

“Bridges of Time”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Cuadrado, L.Balogová, and A.Petit, ”Bella Figura” by J.Kylián, Czech National Ballet 2022 © S.Gherciu Theaters in the crisis-ridden EU face difficult times as soaring maintenance costs join the ever-present fear of declining ticket sales. Last Saturday, though, matters seemed to be in order at Prague’s National Theatre. Despite the approximately 70.000 protesters who hit the streets of Prague in the afternoon to demonstrate against skyrocketing energy prices and inflation, the evening performance of the all-Jiří Kylián bill “Bridges of Time” was well-attended – and well-received.

Typically, most theaters pick the same, better known titles from Kylián’s massive (over one-hundred-piece-strong) oeuvre. The Czech National Ballet’s artistic director Filip Barankiewicz did the same in 2018 when assembling a tribute program to the Czech-born Kylián on the centenary of the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence. (more…)

Stirring the Imagination

“Paper Story”
Laterna magika
The New Stage
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Petrák (Boy), “Paper Story” by R.Vizváry and M.Ramba, Laterna magika 2022 © P.BoreckýLaterna magika’s 2021 “Paper Story” is a winner with young audiences. One young nipper, curious about the stage set – a halfway-unrolled reel of white paper – escaped the watchful eyes of his mother and triumphantly ran across the stage before the performance. The bored boy (Matěj Petrák) was pelted with laughter and sneering when it became clear that he had discovered that the paper reel had a life of its own. The reel escaped his headlong dives, pulling him here and there, flying magically, ambushing him, mocking him constantly, and even folding around his head into a Napoleon-esque hat. The wad of paper that Petrák throws into the distance doesn’t end the magic, but instead opens the doors to a fantasy world made entirely from white paper. (more…)

Ill-chosen

“Notre-Dame de Paris”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Terme di Caracalla
Rome, Italy
August 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Notre-Dame de Paris” by R.Petit, Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2022 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di RomaThe Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is in the enviable position of being able to relocate their performances to impressive antique open-air venues during the warm months. While the 2021 summer performances took place at the Circus Maximus, this year the company returned to its traditional stage at the Baths of Caracalla. I watched the final performance of Roland Petit’s “Notre-Dame de Paris”, based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

The ballet tells the tale of the disabled Quasimodo (bell-ringer of Notre Dame in late medieval Paris), his master Claude Frollo (Notre Dame’s archdeacon), Esmeralda (a beautiful Romani woman), and Captain Phoebus (Esmeralda’s lover). In a departure from Tikhomirov & Burmeister’s take on the story for the Stanislavsky Ballet (their “La Esmeralda”), Petit stripped down the original plot to its nuts and bolts. (more…)

Unwilling (but actually eager)

“The Taming of the Shrew”
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
July 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tognoloni (Katherine) and F.Mariottini (Petruchio), “The Taming of the Shrew” by J.-C.Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroThe gender dynamics depicted by Shakespeare in “The Taming of the Shrew” render it one of his most controversial plays. Staging it risks setting off a litany of accusations. Some deem the comedy to be misogynistic, chauvinistic, and sexist. Nevertheless, Jean-Christophe Maillot found the guts to choreograph a new adaption for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2014 that has become hugely popular. In 2017, he modified it for his own company – Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Last weekend, the troupe performed the piece on tour in Ludwigsburg.

Following the lead of earlier choreographers of the work, Maillot omitted Shakespeare’s frame story (the drunken tinker Christopher Sly is fooled into experiencing a make-believe world). The frame story allows the central story (about Baptista’s struggle to marry his two daughters – the much-courted Bianca and the wayward Katherine) (more…)

Soft Wrapping – Crisp Core

“Soirée 3 Choréographes” (“Claude Pascal” / “Casi Casa” / “Back on Track 61”)
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum
Monte Carlo, Monaco
July 16, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Beyne (Marie-Claire), A.Reist (Pierre-Marie), A.Maksakov (Jean-Pascale), and G.Riou (Marie-Claude), “Claude Pascal” by J.Kylián, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroLes Ballet de Monte Carlo’s recent triple bill combines a new piece by the company’s artistic director Jean-Christophe Maillot (“Back on Track 61”) with Jiří Kylián’s “Claude Pascal” (2002) and Mats Ek’s “Casi Casa” (2009).

“Claude Pascal” is a misleading title, as no one in Kylián’s black-and-white-hued piece is so named. There’s Marie-Claire (Lou Beyne), a grand dame with a Russian accent and a fan collection; the childish Marie-Claude (Gaëlle Riou), who plays rock n’ roll on her tennis racket; Jean-Pascale (Artjom Maksakov), wielding a walking cane and talking about hair loss and grief-stuffed pants (…); and the athletically-inclined Pierre-Marie (Adam Reist), who recites an excerpt from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” on the life expectancies of turtles, elephants, parrots, frogs, and fakirs. All four are time travelers from 1890(ish) – (more…)

Plays within Plays

“Made For Us III” (“The Last Coincidence” / “Nighttime Showtime”)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
Play House
Nuremberg, Germany
July 01, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Cummings (Soldier), S.Vervaecke (Bride), O.Alonso (Magician), P.Lassere (Pierrot), and A.Fernández (Gentleman), “The Last Coincidence” by B.Arias, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © B.StößThe ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg recently premiered “Made For Us III” and, in so doing, resumed their project of commissioning ballets from external choreographers (a project originated in 2014). This year, pieces by Bryan Arias and Joseph Hernandez shared the stage.

In Arias’s “The Last Coincidence”, two women and three men engage in a lively multi-language debate (or monologue?) on a bare, box-like stage. Huge papier-mâché masks enlarge their heads and make them into distinct characters: a braided, epauleted soldier (Mikhael Kinley), a magician wearing striped knickerbockers (Carlos Blanco), a female Pierrot (Stella Tozzi), and a bride (Kate Gee) in love with a disheveled and portly gentleman (Edward Nunes). When the spotlights are suddenly switched on and the group lines up for a revue dance routine, it becomes clear that we are watching a backstage rehearsal. (more…)

Inadequate

“The Sleeping Beauty”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 24, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Princess Aurora) and ensemble, “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Haydée after M.Petipa, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © Y.RevazovThis May, the State Ballet Berlin premiered Marcia Haydée’s version of “The Sleeping Beauty” after twice postponing the 2020 production – first due to a lack of preparation, and later due to the pandemic. At the time of the piece’s creation in 1987, Haydée had just taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet as its artistic director. “The Sleeping Beauty” was her choreographic debut and – aided by Jürgen Rose’s (aesthetically and financially) overwhelming set and costumes – was a grandiose success.

Since then, several other companies have tackled Haydée’s interpretation (currently: the Czech National Ballet and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens Montréal), but usually opt to use a more reasonably priced designer. So did the State Ballet Berlin when commissioning set and costumes from Jordi Roig. (more…)

“The Cherry on a Sundae”

“Harlequinade”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
June 24, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Bemet (Columbine), B.Chynoweth (Harlequin), and ensemble, “Harlequinade” by M.Petipa, additional choreography by A.Ratmansky; The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.Busby“The cherry on a sundae” – that’s what the Australian Ballet’s artistic director David Hallberg called “Harlequinade”, the latest (and this season’s last) addition to the company’s repertoire. “Harlequinade” – a popular Petipa-ballet in imperial Russia – premiered in 1900 in St. Petersburg, and was last performed in its original form at the end of the 1920s. Working from the notations and numerous other documents archived in the Nikolai Sergeyev collection at Harvard University, Alexei Ratmansky and his wife Tatiana reconstructed the choreography just as he has done with previous Petipa classics. American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and the Australian Ballet collaborated on the revival. Four years after its premiere at Costa Mesa, California, the two-act commedia dell’arte romp finally hit Melbourne’s stage. I saw the livestream presented on June 24th by Catherine Murphy and Hallberg. (more…)

Life Support

“common ground[s]” / “Le Sacre du printemps”
École des Sables / Pina Bausch Foundation / Sadler’s Wells
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
June 17, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Acogny and M.Airaudo, “common ground[s]” by M.Airaudo and G.Acogny, 2022, photo M.Vanden Abeele © Pina Bausch FoundationSince Pina Bausch’s death thirteen years ago, the Pina Bausch Foundation – chaired by Bausch’s son Salomon – has worked hard to keep her oeuvre alive. Some attempts were successful (I’m thinking of the Bavarian State Ballet’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, for example), while others failed. In a recent project, the Foundation joined forces with the École des Sables, a dance training center in Senegal, and Sadler’s Wells. The result was a double bill comprised of the new pas de deux “common ground[s]” and Bausch’s 1975 work “Le Sacre du printemps” that premiered in Senegal before setting off for a tour through Europe. I saw the first of three total performances at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival. (more…)

An Asset

“Kunstkamer”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
June 10, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Kunstkamer” by S,León, P,Lightfoot, C,Pite, and M.Goecke; The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.BusbyAustralian audiences aren’t particularly familiar with the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg scored a coup by adding to their repertory “Kunstkamer” – a dance theater piece created in 2019 on the occasion of NDT’s 60th anniversary and as yet never danced by another company. (The Australian Ballet celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.) And Hallberg was not only able to import a collaboration between four of NDT’s defining choreographers (Paul Lightfoot and Sol León – until 2020 the company’s figureheads – as well as associate choreographers Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke), but also used this as a chance to interrupt his retirement from the stage and participate in the piece himself. Putting aside the director’s scepter to take on a role that was weird rather than flattering required courage – which Hallberg mustered. To me, it seems there was no better way to deepen his connection to the dancers. (more…)

Co-Evolution

“LAB-WORKS 2022” (“Children of the Night” / “Oh Captain” / “This Too Shall Pass” / “Die Nacht”)
State Ballet Berlin
Komische Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 09, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Children of the Night” by A.Abdukarimov, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © O.KollmannspergerFor many young dancers, it can be incredibly difficult to join a company right after ballet school. There have been many efforts to smooth this transition (for example, years ago the Dutch National Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, and Hamburg Ballet established junior troupes) – including last fall’s launch by the State Ballet Berlin of the ten-month ENHANCE Mentorship Program for graduates of the State Ballet School Berlin. The program provides individualized mentoring by dancers from different ranks of the ensemble (Soraya Bruno, Anneli Chasemore, Arshak Ghalumyan, Mehmet Yumak, Aurora Dickie, and others) and culminates in a final performance called “LAB_WORKS”. This series was introduced in 2019 to showcase choreographies created during the lockdown. This June, the company presented “LAB_WORKS 2022” – comprised of four new ballets by aspiring choreographers from within the company. Eleven program fellows and various members of the main company danced the four works. (more…)

Astonishing

“CREATIONS VII-IX” (“Self-deceit” / “Reflection/s” / “Ifima”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Play House of the State Theater Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 29, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Erikson, “Reflection/s” by R.Novitzky, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet’s recent premiere – “CREATIONS VII-IX” – continues the CREATION series launched in 2019. I was waylaid by several highway traffic jams on my way to the theater and arrived five minutes late, missing the triple bill’s first piece: Vittoria Girelli’s “Self-deceit”. As such, I can only comment on Roman Novitzky’s “Reflection/s” and “Ifima” by the choreographer duo Louis Stiens and Shaked Heller.

“Reflection/s” marks Novitzky’s retirement from an almost two-decade-long career as a dancer. Born in Slovakia, he danced with their National Ballet before joining the Stuttgart Ballet in 2009. Six years later, he was promoted to principal and made his first steps as a choreographer. On top of dancing and choreographing, Novitzky also became one of Stuttgart Ballet’s photographers. He was always busy and – if I interpreted his program-note interview correctly – rarely relaxed. (more…)

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. (more…)