Yearly Archive: 2023

Trashy

“Triple”
Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
January 21, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. E.Supple and M.Manning, “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer Last weekend, the Cologne-based troupe Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference toured the Forum Ludwigsburg. The American-born Siegal founded the company in 2016 in Munich. He also serves as its artistic director and has choreographed nearly all of their repertoire. The triple bill in Ludwigsburg combined twenty-or-so minute-long pieces created between 2014 – 2021.

In a recent interview, Siegal revealed that “All For One” is a “reaction to the modes of digital spectatorship that emerged during the beginning of the pandemic.” The piece premiered online in fall 2021 with a set (an organ made from tall tubes of light arranged in a cylindrical semicircle) designed, perhaps, to appeal to an online audience. In Ludwigsburg, the murky illumination often hid the eleven dancers in twilight that obscured their pants, skirts, and bustiers (decorated with bulky silver folds that resembled supersized shreds of paper).
3. M.Manning, L.Zou, and C.Sorzano; “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer2. E.Supple, “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerSome men sported black, silver-rimmed briefs and erotic leather bondage gear. By my count, Markus Popp provided five pieces of techno music. The first flooded the stage with a deafening torrent of squeaks and hisses; the second’s repetitive percussion hammered my ear drums; number three reminded me of a slot machine going into hyperdrive. The rattling noise of the fourth made me wonder about the impact that dissonant decibels might have on the nervous system. It must be devastating – and, fittingly, the final composition sounded like a hangover.
The dancers, in an attempt at looking snappy, sexy, and cool, kick their legs and jump and strut between the light tubes. Ultimately, though, they faded against the cacophony of light and music, and I failed to discern any connection between the rhythms and the dance.

4. L.Zou, E.Supple, and ensemble; “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer5. N.Martinéz and J.R.Dean, “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerThe single bang that started off “Metric Dozen” (2014) came like a shock. Suddenly, the auditorium was pitch-black. Sharp spotlights opened on the dancers as they posed or stepped about.
The piece employs a metric dozen dancers – ten! – decked out by Alexandra Bertaut in white socks, black briefs, and black long-sleeved tops embellished with glitzy two-toned sequins. Accompanied by a nervous electronic pulsing (music by Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch) that later crescendoed into car-crash-like clangor (I hoped for a subsequent moment of silence – to no avail), the dancers step backwards and forwards as if bound to an invisible rectangular grid. They thrust their hips suggestively, 7. M.Manning, N.Martinéz, M.Chavez, M.Vomastek, and E.Supple; “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer 6. N.Martinéz and ensemble, “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermersway their bottoms, and athletically kick their legs. Arms swing through the air until locked in edgy angles. Some of the dancers wait in the half-dark watching an erotic pas de deux before marching across the stage. Whether treading in place, scuttling to and fro, or undulating their torsos like snakes, their movements appear mechanical and meaningless. As the atmosphere turns to a sullen red-light milieu, a woman forces sex from a man on the sidelines.
Lighting designer Gilles Gentner finally pulls the plug, switching the light abruptly off.

8. L.Gil, N.Martinez, and C.Sorzano; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer9. I.Sanford, E.Supple, S.Lammer, N.Martinéz, and M.Vomastek; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerJust like the previous pieces, “My Generation” starts with sudden music and eye-catching lighting – this time a catwalk made of light. The music is by Uwe Schmidt (AtomTM) assembled from electronically distorted pop songs and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…”. The twelve dancers living out this dream wore colorful sporting tricots (including the tricot of Kazakhstan’s Astana club). Costume designer Bernhard Wilhelm also sewed shorts from the tricots – though his design was so baggy that the dancers looked to be wearing diapers. That did nothing to stem their athletic bragging, though.
11. C.Sorzano and Evan Supple, “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer 10. M.Manning, “My Generation” by R,Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerOnce again we’re presented with a succession of acrobatic leg kicks, brawny leaps, and stilted poses. Pelvises thrust like rubbery battering rams; arms punch the air, and ecstasy lights a fire under their mechanical routines. The lighting is garishly green and yellow, and later fluorescent blue – cheap entertainment, but who cares? Let’s run free! Let’s have fun!
The sole highlight was a karaoke solo by Nicolás Martínez, who whizzed across the stage in a musical (and sexual) frenzy. Siegal would have done best to end “My Generation” here, but it dragged on with an uninspired group routine accompanied by the monotonous singsong “Ich bin meine Maschine” (“I am my machine”). That idea, it seems, is a good summary of his understanding of the art form.
12. C.Sorzano, I.Sanford, and M.Manning; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer

Links: Website of Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
“Triple” (Teaser)
Photos: Some photos show a different cast from an earlier performance.
1. Evan Supple and Mason Manning, “All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
2. Evan Supple, All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
3. Mason Manning, Long Zou, Clara Sorzano; All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
4. Long Zou, Evan Supple, and ensemble; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
5. Nicolás Martinéz and Jemima Rose Dean, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
6. Nicolás Martinéz and ensemble, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
7. Mason Manning, Nicolás Martinéz, Martina Chavez, Madison Vomastek, and Evan Supple; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
8. Livia Gil, Nicolas Martinez, and Clara Sorzano; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
9. Ian Sanford, Evan Supple, Sean Lammer, Nicolás Martinéz, and Madison Vomastek; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
10. Mason Manning, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
11. Clara Sorzano and Evan Supple, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
12. Clara Sorzano, Ian Sanford, and Mason Manning; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
all photos © Thomas Schermer
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Neumeier’s Call for Peace

“Dona Nobis Pacem”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
January 05, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. A.Martínez (He) and L.Giesenberg (Photographer), “Dona Nobis Pacem” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet 2023 © K.West John Neumeier’s latest choreography for the Hamburg Ballet, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”), is meant to be the crown jewel of his fiftieth season as artistic director of the company. The eighty-three-year-old Neumeier had originally intended to resign in July 2023, but chose to extend his contract for another year in order to ensure the smooth transition of his named successor Demis Volpi, currently the artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein. There are one and a half long years until then – and perhaps Neumeier will renounce his statement that “Dona Nobis Pacem” is to be his last new creation. (more…)

Frothy

The Nutcracker”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia

December 30, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by Y.Possokhov, Stanislavsky Ballet 2022 © K.Zhitkova This winter, the Stanislavsky Ballet replaced Vasily Vainonen’s 1995 “Nutcracker” with Yuri Possokhov’s – not a brand-new rendering, but an adaption of the “Nutcracker” that Possokhov created for the Atlanta Ballet in 2018 (new designs included). Since its premiere in Moscow at the end of November, tickets have been in high demand. Given Possokhov’s good work on the Bolshoi Ballet’s “Nureyev” and an “Anna Karenina” for the Joffrey Ballet & the Australian Ballet, I was curious what approach he’d take to this iconic ballet – and it was clear within seconds that he had given this Nutcracker a strong update.

Sergey Rylko’s dazzling videos hurl us through flurrying snow to a spinning astrological sign. From there, a golden ram gallops off towards and through a faceless white town, flying in low over rooftops, an ice-rink, and a carousel. We land at the workshop of Drosselmeyer (danced by Jonah Cook, a former principal of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Zurich Ballet), who is heaping presents onto a sleigh together with his nephew (Andrey Kirichenko). Drosselmeyer’s wall-sized astrological clocks, their faces rotating mysteriously, are presumably tools that control the ticking of the universe. (more…)

A Teaser

“Diaghilev. The Dress Rehearsal”
New Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russia
December 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Larionov (1881-1964), Sergei Diaghilev, 1920 – 1930; paper, black ink, pen, 27 x 20 © Tretyakov Gallery 2. Unknown artist, poster for a performance of the Ballets Russes 1927 © Tretyakov Gallery Sergei Diaghilev’s name is nearly synonymous with the art of ballet. Well-versed in both arts and business, he succeeded not only as a writer and curator, but indelibly as the founder and cunning impresario of the Ballets Russes.
From 1906 onwards, foreseeing political and cultural paralysis at home in Russia, Diaghilev shifted his activities from St. Petersburg to Paris (and later to other European metropolises). Though his first venture (an exhibition of Russian paintings at Paris’s new Salon d’Automne) earned him laurels, he soon turned away from museums towards the ballet stage. The Ballets Russes became the core focus of his life – and it’s because of them that the western art of ballet was reinvigorated. As Stravinsky stated, “it is to [Diaghilev], that we owe the recent development of choreographic art in the entire world.” (more…)

Transcendent

“The Nutcracker”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 29, 2022 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Bessonova (Colombine), “The Nutcracker” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2022 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovAfter meeting him at a guest performance with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo six years ago, the Bolshoi’s Semyon Chudin suggested that I see their “Nutcracker” in Moscow. Year after year, one thing or another has prevented me from getting to the Bolshoi at Christmastime. Finally, this year, it happened: on the edge of New Year’s Eve, I watched a matinee and an evening performance.

The Bolshoi’s “Nutcracker” dates back to 1966 – qualifying it neither as trendy nor hip by today’s standards. Perhaps Makhar Vaziev, the company’s artistic director, has kept it in the repertoire for a number of reasons: out of respect for tradition; out of respect for the ballet’s choreographer – Yuri Grigorovich – one of the company’s formative figures; and out of respect for the crowd-pleasing nature of the piece that leads to sold out performances now as ever. (more…)