Monthly Archive: May 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…)