Yearly Archive: 2024

Dancer Nominees for the Prix Benois 2024

Prix Benois de la Danse
Bolshoi Theatre (Historic Stage)
Moscow, Russia
June 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Bolshoi Theatre © D.Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre 2. Statuette of the Prix Benois de la Danse, design by Igor Ustinov © Benois Center Thirteen dancers from eight companies are nominated for this year’s Prix Benois. Of the seven women and six men, two dance in China, Hungary, and Italy; one dances in Japan, and six in Russia. Next week, the laureates will be announced in an award ceremony at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.

Here’s a short overview of the nominees in alphabetical order by company names:

4. D.Vishneva (Margarita) and ABelyakov (Woland), “Master and Margarita” by E.Clug, Bolshoi Theatre 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre/E.Fetisova 3. A.Belyakov (Woland), “Master and Margarita” by E.Clug, Bolshoi Theatre 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre/ E.FetisovaArtemy Belyakov
, a Bolshoi Ballet dancer since 2010 and appointed principal dancer since 2019, was nominated for his performance of Ivan IV in Yuri Grigorovich’s Ivan the Terrible.
Belyakov’s colleague Vladislav Lantratov, also a principal of the Bolshoi Ballet, was previously awarded the Prix Benois in 2018. This season, he was nominated for his interpretation of the leading male role, Herman, in The Queen of Spades, Yuri Possokhov’s latest choreography for the Bolshoi.
Both Belyakov and Lantratov are coached by Alexander Vetrov, People’s Artist of The Russian Federation and a teacher-repetiteur at the Bolshoi since 2011. Vetrov describes them as follows: “Artemy is a high-flying artist, comprehensively gifted, very multi-talented, with magnificent stage appearance and innate nobility. He is equally good both in the role of princes (positive characters) and in sharper character roles, such as Crassus and Ivan the Terrible. I am very glad that he was nominated for the Benois competition; I hope the jury will judge him fairly and at his true worth. I wish him all the best in his endeavors, since he is also a young choreographer. I am very glad that I have such a talented student!
5. E.Krysanova (Juliet) and V.Lantratov (Romeo), “Romeo and Juliet” by L.Lavrovsky, Bolshoi Theatre 2024 © Bolshoi Theatre/P.Rychkov 6. V.Lantratov (Romeo), “Romeo and Juliet” by L.Lavrovsky, Bolshoi Theatre 2024 © Bolshoi Theatre/P.RychkovI can say the same about Vlad. I have been working with him full-time since the demise of Valery Stepanovich Lagunov. That’s not for not such a long time, but we worked together for the main parts in Grigorovich’s ballets, such as Ivan the Terrible, Tybalt, and Spartacus. We did The Legend of Love – we prepared it with him directly from beginning to end. I can say that he is a very talented and thoughtful artist who perfectly knows his characteristics, his merits, and he knows how to turn them into a huge advantage on stage. With good technique too. May God also give him health and all the best. Hope for victory!
I’m glad my guys are climbing to the top.”

Notre Dame de Paris, Patrick de Bana’s tailor-made ballet for the Liaoning Grande Theatre, China, propelled two of its dancers onto the list of potential laureates. Soloist, Sun Huixin, was nominated for her performance of the heroine, Esmeralda, and Zhang Haidong, a principal of the company and regular guest dancer abroad, won his ticket to the Bolshoi because of his performance of Quasimodo.

8. T.Melnyik (Kitri) and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by A.Gorsky, M.Petipa, K.Goleizovsky, and M.Messerer, Hungarian National Ballet © V.Berecz 7. T.Melnyik (Flavia) and G.Leblanc (Spartacus), “Spartacus” by L.Seregi, Hungarian National Ballet © A.NagyTwo of the other nominees are principals of the Hungarian National Ballet. Tatyjana Melnyik was trained in Perm and danced with the Russian State Ballet and the Stanislavsky Ballet before joining the Hungarian National Ballet in 2015. This season, she was named the company’s étoile for the second time. Melnyik was nominated for her performance as Flavia in László Seregi’s Spartacus.
Last season’s étoile, Gergő Ármin Balázsi, joined the candidates for the Prix Benois because of his performance as the ballroom star, Leon, in Boris Eifman’s The Pygmalion Effect. When asked for a statement about the nominees, the company’s artistic director, Tamás Solymosi, explained, 9. G.Á.Balázsi (Leon) and ensemble, “The Pygmalion Effect” by B.Eifman, Hungarian National Ballet © A.Nagy 10. L.Felméry (Mary Vetsera) and G.Á.Balázsi (Crown Prince Rudolf), “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Hungarian National Ballet © E.Ligeti “Both dancers have been blessed with incredible talent they can build upon and add to. Combining their gift and their efforts results in a wonder we can witness on stage.
I first saw Tatyjana Melnyik as Kitri in Don Quixote in Moscow. Since she has joined the Hungarian National Ballet, I have never seen her not working. She always gives 110 percent no matter if she is in rehearsal or on stage.
Gergő Ármin Balázsi is a charming personality with fantastic technique and stage presence. He can represent characters well that are entirely different, such as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew or Leon in The Pygmalion Effect. He is capable of adding a certain plus to the roles that enchants the audience and colleagues alike.
They both have such incredible, unfailing energy inside them and a hunger how to be better in their next roles. It is worth following their careers; they are true stars of the genre.”

Olesya Novikova, a graduate of the Vaganova Academy and a principal dancer of the Mariinsky Ballet since 2021, was nominated for her performance as Aspiccia in La Fille du Pharaon (Marius Petipa’s version as reconstructed by Toni Candeloro).

12. N.Tchetverikov, “St. Petersburg – Amsterdam” by N.Tchetverikov, Mikhailovsky Ballet © S.Levshin 11. P.Zeisel (Giselle), “Giselle, ou les Wilis” by N.Dolgushin after J.Coralli, J.Perault, and M.Petipa; Mikhailovsky Ballet © S.TarlovaPrisca Zeisel danced with the Bavarian State Ballet before becoming a prima ballerina of the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg in 2023. Zeisel was nominated for her performance as Giselle in Giselle, ou les Wilis, with choreography by Nikita Dolgushin after Coralli, Perault, and Petipa’s original.
Perm-trained Nikita Tchetverikov joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet in 2019 and was promoted to principal dancer just recently. His performance of the title role in Spartacus (Georgy Kovtun’s version) led to his nomination for the Prix Benois.

13. K.Ryzhkova (Gerda) and I.Uldashev (Kai), “The Snow Queen” by M.Sevagin, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre © A.Filkin14. K.Ryzhkova (Giselle) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.Hilaire after J.Coralli, J.Perrot, and M.Petipa; Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre © A.Filkin The nominee of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre is Ksenia Ryzhkova, a principal of the company who previously danced with the Bavarian State Ballet and Ballet Zurich. In Moscow, Ryzhkova has been coached by Margarita Drozdova, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation and ballet master since 1987. Drozdova describes her thusly: “I would say that Ksenia has a unique ability to live on stage what is very important. She does not play the role of Giselle or Odette or Odile, she lives these parts. So, we believe her as an actress. Ksenia has a real sense of style as well. It’s amazing to watch the ballets with Ksenia because you live the story with her, no matter which role she performs.”
Ryzhkova was nominated for her performance as Gerda, the heroine in The Snow Queen by artistic director, Maxim Sevagin.

16. N.Del Freo, “Le Papillon” by P.Lacotte after M.Taglioni, Teatro alla Scala © Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala 15. N.Manni (Medora) and ensemble, “Le Corsaire” by M.Legris, Teatro alla Scala © Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla ScalaThe Teatro alla Scala has two nominees in the running: principal dancer and étoile, Nicoletta Manni, and principal, Nicola Del Freo. Manni was nominated for her performance as Medora in Le Corsaire by artistic director, Manuel Legris. Del Freo’s nomination is due to his performance as Prince Djalma in the Grand Pas de Deux from Le Papillon, Marie Taglioni’s only ballet, which was revived by Pierre Lacotte.

17. A.Akiyama (Kaguyahime) and ensemble, “KAGUYAHIME” by J.Kanamori, The Tokyo Ballet © S.Matsuhashi 18. A.Akiyama (Giselle), “Giselle” by L.Lavrovsky after J.Coralli, J.Perrot, and M.Petipa; The Tokyo Ballet © K.Yoshikawa Akira Akiyama, a principal dancer from the Tokyo Ballet, was nominated for her performance of the title role in KAGUYAHIME, a three-act ballet by Jo Kanamori, which is nominated for the Prix Benois in the choreography category. The company’s ballet mistress, Shiori Sano, has known her for many years. “Akira Akiyama was ten or eleven years old when I started to teach her at The Tokyo Ballet School. Akira has always been an earnest, sincere dancer who wishes to learn more and more. She is intelligent, observant, and comprehensive. Most of all, she is a true dance lover who can leave ego behind. Her excellence in technique, artistry, and musicality is the natural result of all these, and I believe she continues to grow as a dancer.”

(Some comments have been edited for clarity.)
19. Bolshoi Theatre © D.Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre

Links: Website of the Prix Benois de la Danse
Website of the Bolshoi Theatre
Website of the Liaoning Grande Theatre
Website of the Hungarian National Ballet
Website of the Mariinsky Ballet
Website of the Mikhailovsky Theatre
Website of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Website of the Teatro alla Scala
Website of the Tokyo Ballet
Photos: 1. Bolshoi Theatre © Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre
2. Statuette of the Prix Benois de la Danse, design by Igor Ustinov © Benois Center
3. Artemy Belyakov (Woland), “Master and Margarita” by Edward Clug, Bolshoi Theatre 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre/Elena Fetisova
4. Diana Vishneva (Margarita) and Artemy Belyakov (Woland), “Master and Margarita” by Edward Clug, Bolshoi Theatre 2023 © Bolshoi Theatre/Elena Fetisova
5. Ekaterina Krysanova (Juliet) and Vladislav Lantratov (Romeo), “Romeo and Juliet” by Leonid Lavrovsky, Bolshoi Theatre 2024 © Bolshoi Theatre/Pavel Rychkov
6. Vladislav Lantratov (Romeo), “Romeo and Juliet” by Leonid Lavrovsky, Bolshoi Theatre 2024 © Bolshoi Theatre/Pavel Rychkov
7. Tatyjana Melnyik (Flavia) and Gergely Leblanc (Spartacus), “Spartacus” by László Seregi, Hungarian National Ballet © Attila Nagy
8. Tatyjana Melnyik (Kitri) and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by Alexander Gorsky, Marius Petipa, Kasyan Goleizovsky, and Michael Messerer, Hungarian National Ballet © Valter Berecz
9. Gergő Ármin Balázsi (Leon) and ensemble, “The Pygmalion Effect” by Boris Eifman, Hungarian National Ballet © Attila Nagy
10. Lili Felméry (Mary Vetsera) and Gergő Ármin Balázsi (Crown Prince Rudolf), “Mayerling” by Kenneth MacMillan, Hungarian National Ballet © Edina Ligeti
11. Prisca Zeisel (Giselle), “Giselle, ou les Wilis” by Nikita Dolgushin after Jean Coralli, Jules Perault, and Marius Petipa; Mikhailovsky Ballet © Svetlana Tarlova
12. Nikita Tchetverikov, “St. Petersburg – Amsterdam” by Nikita Tchetverikov, Mikhailovsky Ballet © Stas Levshin
13. Ksenia Ryzhkova (Gerda) and Innokenty Uldashev (Kai), “The Snow Queen” by Maxim Sevagin, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre © Alexander Filkin
14. Ksenia Ryzhkova (Giselle) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Laurent Hilaire after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa; Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre © Alexander Filkin
15. Nicoletta Manni (Medora) and ensemble, “Le Corsaire” by Manuel Legris, Teatro alla Scala © Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala
16. Nicola Del Freo, “Le Papillon” by Pierre Lacotte after Marie Taglioni, Teatro alla Scala © Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala
17. Akira Akiyama (Kaguyahime) and ensemble, “KAGUYAHIME” by Jo Kanamori, The Tokyo Ballet © Shoko Matsuhashi
18. Akira Akiyama (Giselle), “Giselle” by Leonid Lavrovsky after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa; The Tokyo Ballet © Koujiro Yoshikawa
19. Bolshoi Theatre © Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre
Editing: Kayla Kauffman

 

Choreographer Nominees for the Prix Benois 2024

Prix Benois de la Danse
Martin Chaix, Marco Goecke, Jo Kanamori, Yuri Possokhov, and Maxim Sevagin
Bolshoi Theatre (Historic Stage)
Moscow, Russia
June 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Bolshoi Theatre © Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre2. Statuette of the Prix Benois de la Danse, design by Igor Ustinov © Benois Center On June 25th, the Bolshoi Theatre will host the annual Prix Benois charity gala and awards ceremony. It will be followed by a gala concert on June 26th during which laureates of previous years will perform. Prizes will be awarded to the best choreographer and the best female and male dancers. Below is an overview of the five nominated choreographers in alphabetical order. A report on the nominated dancers will follow. (more…)

At a Gallop

“The Pygmalion Effect”
Hungarian National Ballet
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
June 01, 2024 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Szegő (Holmes) and ensemble, “The Pygmalion Effect” by B.Eifman, Hungarian National Ballet 2024 © V.Berecz/Hungarian State Opera Boris Eifman’s The Pygmalion Effect took my breath away. The dancers of the Hungarian National Ballet whizzed through two, at times terrifically fast, acts and then appeared at the curtain call as if they had merely finished warming up. Hats off! Budapest’s audience has loved the ballet, which was created for Eifman’s home company in St. Petersburg in 2019 and has been in the Hungarian National Ballet’s repertory since June 2023. At Saturday’s matinee, the house was packed to the roof.

Greek mythology has two Pygmalions; one was the son of King Belus of Tyros, and the other is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and was a sculptor who fell in love with his creation. This creation—a statue of a woman who was later called Galatea—subsequently came to life. Eifman took inspiration from Ovid’s Pygmalion and the so-called Pygmalion Effect, a psychological phenomenon that was observed in classrooms showing that a teacher’s anticipated judgments about students will cause them to become true. (more…)

Exemplary

“Little Corsaire”
Hungarian National Ballet Institute and Hungarian National Ballet
Eiffel Art Studios
Budapest, Hungary
May 31, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Berki, Z.E.Albert, and J.É.Pollák (Odalisques), “Little Corsaire” by O.Chernakova et al., Hungarian National Ballet Institute & Hungarian National Ballet 2024 © A.Nagy/Hungarian State Opera The best way to nurture young talent and groom a new generation of dance enthusiasts is a concern for many ballet companies. The Hungarian National Ballet and its affiliated Ballet Institute have pursued an impressive strategy to address this issue. Last weekend, they premiered the third children’s production in a row, Little Corsaire, at Eiffel Art Studios. The first series of four performances gave students of various ages ample opportunities to present their skills to the public, which at this premiere consisted of family, friends, and many young children with their parents. The scenes that I observed in the atrium during the break proved that the project has yielded the desired results. Toddlers copied dance steps, and girls—already wearing tutus upon arrival—bounced about excitedly. In a corner behind the old steam locomotive (reminiscent of the venue’s historic role as Northern Railway Maintenance and Engineering Works), the young artists posed for photos with even younger admirers. Some children’s eyes were shining, and hopefully, some of those youngsters will be drawn to the ballet barre too. (more…)

Plainly, Art

“La Strada”
Prague Chamber Ballet
Vinohrady Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
May 26, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. B.Müllerová (Gelsomina), O.Neumannová and L.Muzajeva (Sisters), and M.Dorková (Mother); “La Strada” by J.Bubeníček, Prague Chamber Ballet 2024 © S.Gherciu 2. E.Zappalà (Zampano), “La Strada” by J.Bubeníček, Prague Chamber Ballet 2024 © S.GherciuIt was only a matter of time until Otto and Jiří Bubeníček were drawn back to their family legacy—the circus. Perhaps because they are identical twins, they both chose to tackle Federico Fellini’s film La Strada which, by the way, premiered seventy years ago. Yet, they didn’t work together. While Otto designed sets and costumes for Natália Horečná’s ballet La Strada (starring Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, and Mick Zeni) at Sadler’s Wells, Jiří choreographed La Strada for the Prague Chamber Ballet. I wasn’t able to watch Horečná’s version in London (I also missed Marco Goecke’s La Strada for Munich’s Gärtnerplatz Theatre in 2018) but had the chance to see Jiří’s work in Prague. He collaborated with, among others, his wife, Nadina Cojocaru, on the libretto and dramaturgy. Cojocaru was also in charge of set and costume design. (more…)

Soul Food

“Coppélia”
Czech National Ballet
The State Opera
Prague, Czech Republic
May 26, 2024 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Svobodník (Dr. Coppélius) and ensemble, “Coppélia” by R.Hydn after A.Saint-Léon and M.Petipa, Czech National Ballet 2024 © M.Divíšek Arthur Saint-Léon’s comic ballet Coppélia premiered on May 25, 1870, at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra in Paris. Two months later, on July 19th, Napoleon III declared war on Prussia. The opening night featured a military dance portraying twelve Ottoman Janissaries fencing against twelve Austrian Hussars. It concluded with a ballerina holding an olive branch heralding peace. Times were anything but auspicious during the descent of the Second French Empire, but that wasn’t reflected in the ballet. To the contrary, Léo Delibes’s vibrant score infused the comedy with a buoyant joie de vivre. Might it be a stroke of fate that now of all times, as the political landscape darkens with mind-boggling speed and social cohesion is worn down (at least in my home country, Germany), the Czech National Ballet premiered Coppélia? The Prague audience’s warm reception proved that the ballet still conveys what people are yearning for in times of crisis: togetherness, good humor, generosity, and a romance with a happy ending. (more…)

TV Talent Scouts

“Ազգային պարեր” (National Dances), Shant TV, Armenia
“Большой Балет” (Bolshoi Ballet), Rossiya-Kultura TV, Russia
May 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Matevosyan (host), A.Haxverdyan, L.Hakobyan, M.Mkhitaryan, G.Karapetyan (jury), A.Julhakyan (jury), A.Davtyan (Shant TV), H.Ghukasyan (director and producer), S.Mikayelyan (jury), T.Mnoyan (jury), A.Khangeldyan, S.Margaryan, M.Babayan, S.Barseghyan (host); “Ազգային պարեր” (National Dances), Shant TV, Armenia © Shant TVWhile German TV programs rarely promote the art of dance, dance is part and parcel of media abroad. The sequels of two dance competitions—Ազգային պարեր (Azgayin Parer/National Dances) on Shant TV, Armenia, and Большой Балет (Bolshoi Ballet) on Rossiya-Kultura TV, Russia—were broadcast recently. Both competitions are textbook examples of how to foster talent while simultaneously nourishing and cherishing dance culture.

Folk dance is a pillar of Armenia’s culture, and the Armenian State Barekamutyun Dance Ensemble has presented it professionally since 1987. Its founder and artistic adviser, Norayr Mehrabyan, is the father of Arsen Mehrabyan, who made his career on Western ballet stages. Shant TV’s first run of a folk dance competition reinforces the status of national dance. (more…)

Fifty-Fifty

“Maillot/León & Lightfoot”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
May 04, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jean-Christophe Maillot © Felix Dol Maillot 2. Sol León © Tommy Pascal 3. Paul Lightfoot © Elena Lekhova The Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg’s new double bill combines Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Les Noces (2022 version) with Stop-Motion (2014) by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot. Both pieces have now entered the repertory of a German company for the first time. (more…)

Intense

“Romeo and Juliet”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre (Historic Stage)
Moscow, Russia
April 04, 2024 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Efremov (Montague's Servant), I.Alexeyev (Benvolio), M.Lobukhin (Tybalt), and ensemble; “Romeo and Juliet” by L.Lavrovsky, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.YusupovIn early April, the Bolshoi Ballet revived Leonid Lavrovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, which senior balletomanes may remember from the company’s famous tours of London and the Met in the 1950s and ‘60s. Galina Ulanova, Raisa Strutchkova, Vladimir Vasiliev, Maris Liepa, and many others wrote ballet history dancing the leading roles. I couldn’t attend the premiere in Moscow but was finally able to watch a video of the opening night. It made me wonder why the production had been dropped from the schedule. (more…)

Laureates of the XVIII Russian Open Ballet Competition Arabesque 2024

“Gala Concert”
Perm State Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre
Perm, Russia
April 27, 2024 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Awardees, Gala Concert of the Ballet Competition Arabesque 2024 © A.Chuntomov Last weekend, Perm’s ten-day Ballet Competition Arabesque closed with two gala concerts performed by laureates and diploma winners. Many were Russians, but young dancers from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Armenia, Brazil, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Great Britain also won awards. Thanks to many live streams, dance enthusiasts could easily follow the tournament. Saturday’s gala was the last broadcast and again presented by Aleksandra Domracheva. The first half was reserved for the award ceremony; during the second half, twenty-two of the thirty-nine prize winners performed a mixed program of solos and pas de deux. Treasures from the video archive from previous laureates and a well-made backstage video filmed during this year’s contemporary performance were shown during the break. Sunday’s gala had a different program, which included further awardees. (more…)

Retrospects

“To the Point(e)” (“Within the Golden Hour”/“Autodance”/”Vers Un Pays Sage”)
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum
Monte-Carlo, Monaco
April 27, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Vers un Pays Sage” by J.-C.Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo 2024 © A.Blangero The new triple bill of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo spans thirty or so years of ballet history. Its earliest ballet—Vers Un Pays Sage (1995)—is by the company’s artistic director, Jean-Christophe Maillot. Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour premiered in 2008 at the San Francisco Ballet. The most recent piece, Sharon Eyal’s and Gai Behar’s Autodance was created for the GöteborgsOperan in 2018.

Vers Un Pays Sage (“To a Wise Country”) is a tribute to Maillot’s father, Jean, a professor of the fine arts, painter, and set and costume designer who died prematurely. Pays Sage was the title of his last exhibition. He has been described as a workaholic with an excessive zest for life, and I conclude from the ballet that he must have had an upbeat, bright nature, brimming full of spirit. Six men and six women successfully conveyed the energy of this fireball of an artist on stage, driven by the pulse of John Adam’s Fearful Symmetries. (more…)

XVIII Russian Open Ballet Competition Arabesque – 2024 named after Ekaterina Maximova

“Gala Concert”
Perm State Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre
Perm, Russia
April 17, 2024 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, Gala Concert of the Ballet Competition Arabesque 2024 © A.Chuntomov “Perm is remarkable in that it’s Ballet Lovers’ Society initiated the first Russian ballet competition,” stated Russia’s dance icon, Vladimir Vasiliev. Though it was mainly an event for young Russian dancers at its inauguration in 1988, four years later, the biannual Arabesque Competition welcomed participants from the U.S.A. and Japan. In 1996, the same Ballet Lovers’ Society coaxed Vasiliev and his wife, Ekaterina Maximova (1939-2009)—Russia’s most prestigious ballet couple—to lead the jury. (Notably, Arabesque has a two-tier jury consisting of renowned dancers and ballet and theater critics.) In addition, Vasiliev became its artistic director. This year’s run is dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the birth of Maximova.

At the opening gala concert, director, Elena Zavershinskaya, recalled how Arabesque has grown: “Over the years, the spectrum of prizes increased thanks to generous donations and so did the amount of countries that participated. We used to have dancers from 8-9 countries and were quite happy with that. Seventy applicants were a big figure; eighty were many. Once we had one-hundred applicants and were so excited! Now, however, young talents from nineteen countries participate, among them dancers from twenty-three regions of Russia. This year we received a record-high of 266 applications!” (more…)

Incomprehensible

“The Lady of the Camellias”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
March 24, 2024, (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “The Lady of the Camellias” by J.Neumeier, Vienna State Ballet 2024 © Vienna State Ballet/A.TaylorShouts of “Bravi!” mingled with enthusiastic applause after the curtain closed on John Neumeier’s The Lady of the Camellias last Sunday at the Vienna State Opera. I, who was following the performance on screen, was less happy. Being familiar with this piece as it was performed by other companies, I felt that this premiere left a lot to be desired.

To begin with, the choreography—almost forty-five years after its creation—suffers from the same mannerisms present in large parts of Neumeier’s oeuvre. The tools that he uses to express his protagonists’ inner life are repetitive. For example, books, confectionery, and bunches of flowers slipped from the dancers’ grip to signal astonishment or absent-mindedness. The number of people who stumbled, fell, barged into one another, and ran around precipitously was remarkable. As in other Neumeier-ballets, the buffoon (in this case, Count N., whom Géraud Wielick turned into an especially silly specimen of jealous lover) wore glasses. That Neumeier intertwined Marguerite and Armand’s fate with that of Manon Lescaut—a connection that is inherent in Alexandre Dumas’s novel—would be ingenious if the relevant scenes were less mawkish and didactic. (more…)

Half-Baked

“Faust”
Maribor Slovene National Theatre
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 16, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Martino (Mephisto) and D.Buffone (Faust), “Faust” by E.Clug, Maribor Slovene National Theatre 2024 © Maribor Slovene National Theatre/T.MartaGoethe’s Faust: The Tragedy’s First Part wasn’t on Edward Clug’s agenda when choreographing a new piece for the Zurich Ballet in 2018. He wanted to tackle Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, but upon finding out that Zurich’s audience wasn’t familiar with the so-called “Soviet Faust,” he turned to his German representative. After its Zurich premiere, Clug’s Faust entered the repertory of other ballet companies, among them Clug’s home company in Maribor, Slovenia. Last weekend, this company performed the piece on their tour to Ludwigsburg.

Fate decided that Clug would indeed later adapt Master and Margarita for the ballet stage, but it was the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow where it premiered in 2021. Faust is a journeyman’s piece whereas Master and Margarita by comparison counts as a masterpiece. Faust assembles plenty of dance theater with group sequences, some of which are trenchant, while others are less convincing. At times, its acrid wit is close to horror. Although the ingredients are fine overall, they didn’t merge as a whole. (more…)

In Commemoration of Ekaterina Maximova

“Fragments of One Biography”
Bolshoi Ballet and Guests
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 01, 2024 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Fragments of One Biography” staged by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaOn February 1st, the Bolshoi Ballet’s prima ballerina, Ekaterina Maximova (1939-2009), would have celebrated her 85th birthday. A phenomenally successful (and multi-decorated) artist, Maximova’s fame reached far beyond Russia’s borders. After retiring from the stage of the Bolshoi in 1988, she continued to dance with other Russian and international companies—and sometimes even returned home to the Bolshoi. From 1990 on, Maximova worked as a coach, teacher, and member of several arts councils and committees. Every five years, Maximova’s husband, Vladimir Vasiliev, stages a gala at the Bolshoi in honor of his late wife. I was able to watch this year’s event on video. (more…)