Author Archive: Ilona Landgraf

It’s Done

“Nureyev”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovAfter the Bolshoi Ballet’s July premiere of “Nureyev” was canceled at the last minute, officials doubled down on security efforts for the rescheduled performance on December 9th. Although guards lined the theater’s entrances and the curtain rose behind schedule, the performance was a smooth ride from start to finish.
And yet only those who attended the dress rehearsal this summer can truly asses whether or not the initial version was tweaked to comply with requests from the authorities. One might have noticed, for instance, that Richard Avedon’s photo of the naked Nureyev was not used as a backdrop, but rather was only projected on a screen for a quick second. But given the fact that the work was finally seen by the public – do these minor changes matter?

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov, stage director and set designer Kirill Serebrennikov, and composer Ilya Demutsky are the artistic core team behind “Nureyev”. Interviews with the trio, who had previously collaborated on the Bolshoi’s ballet “A Hero of Our Time”, were printed in the program booklet, which also contains Serebrennikov’s libretto.

The cross-genre two-acter is largely based in ballet, but draws from drama and opera as well. The work presented major events in Nureyev’s life as flashbacks, but didn’t attempt to follow a chronology or re-narrate his biography. The Christie’s auctions of Nureyev’s estate, organized in 1995 (two years after his death), ran like a golden thread through the piece. Among the visitors to the auction were two veteran ladies, extras of the company, who were greeted with applause. As the auctioneer, the actor Igor Vernik announced the items up for sale, switching fluidly and fluently between English and French. 2. V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.YusuphovMany of the objects were shown on video projections by Sergei Rylko, some serving as launching points for flashback scenes. For example, a record of the marks Nureyev got in the Vaganova Ballet School in 1956 prompted a scene featuring the graduation performance by the students, the unruly but talented Nureyev (Vladislav Lantratov) among them. His rude behavior made his ballerina (the quicksilver Anastasia Stashkevich) cry, but he was backed up and fostered by his teacher (Viktor Barykin).

Avedon’s famous nude photo of Nureyev, shot in 1968, led to a scene that re-enacted the photo session in which Avedon (played by Vernik) encouraged Nureyev to pose naturally. Another flashback presented the encounter, romance, and eventual parting of Nureyev and Erik Bruhn (Denis Savin). The flashback was accompanied by the auctioneer’s sale of both 3. A.Stashkevich, V.Lantratov and ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / P.Rychkova collection of black-and-white photos of the lovers and a letter Nureyev wrote (but never sent) to Bruhn shortly before the Bruhn died in Toronto in 1986. Savin’s Bruhn was reserved and elegant, sensual beneath the surface, and constantly smoking. Bruhn seemed to dominate the relationship.
While costumes from famous roles were auctioned, Nureyev, aided by a dresser, quickly slipped from one embroidered top into another, rushing from one performance to the next as his ballerinas changed again and again. In between these performances, Nureyev supervised the young dancers who had taken over his old roles. He was busy and he loved it.

The advertisement of paintings of naked men (which raised considerable interest among the all-male visitors to the auction) introduced a surreal procession of Nureyev as an eccentric Sun King adored by his entourage. The crowd consisted of a choir in lavish costumes dripping with golds and reds and wearing red-feathered headdresses (costumes were by Elena Zaitseva), the King’s singer, and several young pages, who later undressed and danced with bare chests as if the auction’s paintings had come alive.

4. D.Savin and V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.YusuphovNureyev also acquired the archipelago formerly owned by Léonide Massine – the Gallos islands off the Amalfi coast of Italy – and spent several weeks there before his death in 1993. When the auction arrived at the sale of this archipelago, Nureyev had become the tragic Pierrot of Glen Tetley’s “Pierrot Lunaire” – although the metal tower he clung to was of a different kind. Moreover, it was rotated by dancers and stagehands. When the Pierrot broke down and lay exhausted on the floor, the young men, now wearing tight black pants and sailor hats (an outfit evoking a luscious gay club), passed him without notice.

5. V.Lantratov, D.Savin and I.Vernik, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovThe final scene was haunting. Nureyev, weak, worn, supported by one man and dressed and massaged by two others, took the baton that the auctioneer had just offered for sale, which was “used by [Nureyev] at his debut as the conductor of the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra on 26 June, 1991.” Slowly and stiffly, Nureyev walked to the front of the stage and climbed down the ladder into the orchestra pit, his face tense with pain. It was deadly silent. At the conductor’s podium, he turned towards the audience, motionlessly acknowledged the applause and started conducting the Shadows Act from “La Bayadère”. The Shadows, among them also men, had previously entered, but interrupted their performance until Nureyev raised his baton. Although the music ended, they continued dancing and even though the curtain had closed Nureyev was still conducting.

Intense, too, were the scenes, in which Vernik read aloud letters from pupils and colleagues to Nureyev. Vyacheslav Lopatin danced a contemporary solo to two letters by men, both French protegées of Nureyev, presumably exemplifying the many dancers influenced by Nureyev. The letters were by Charles Jude – former artistic director of the ballet of the Opéra de Bordeux, and Laurent Hilaire, who holds the reins of the ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre in Moscow. Lopatin’s solo began slowly, as if sprouting from thoughts or emotions, but gained speed and ended with a rapid pirouette.

6. V.Lopatin and I.Vernik, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.YusuphovSvetlana Zakharova danced in the second act to letters written by Alla Osipenko and Natalia Makarova, both former partners of Nureyev. Zakharova wore Makarova’s unmistakable head scarf along with a beige top and plain pants. Both solos recalled movements connected to the respective letter writers without imitating them. In fact, the steps were secondary. What mattered was the energy infused into the solos – like the one behind Makarova’s recollection of her first “Romeo and Juliet” with Nureyev: “I was so nervous [that] I got all my entrances wrong – nothing but confusion all way through. But deep in my heart I knew that everything will fall in place at the premiere. And so it did…”
What if these letters were read by the writers themselves at a future performance? Would the impact be even stronger?

Roslyn Sulcas wrote in her review of “Nureyev” in the New York Times that “Mr Possokhov … doesn’t find a convincing physical language for Nureyev to suggest something of his character and inner life. The choreography is balletic and skillful but unmemorable…” She is right. But is it even possible to portray the “God of Dance” in a ballet and get across his magic, sensuality, charisma, and unparalleled talent? Among today’s dancers there is no Nureyev. Possokhov and Serebrennikov’s piece is varied, cleverly constructed, rich in detail, and even critical. It does not whitewash Nureyev’s unpleasant traits – his egomania and abusive tantrums. It’s an homage to one of Russia’s greatest dancers and it was clearly a passion project for everyone involved. More couldn’t have been done. One cannot calculate magic. It simply occurs or it doesn’t.

7. S.Zakharova, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusuphov8. S.Zakharova, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovBut it did, for example, in the pas de deux of Nureyev and Bruhn. Here, real love was in the air. Most astonishing was the entrance of Margot Fonteyn (Maria Alexandrova) – which wasn’t even an entrance at all. Fonteyn simply appeared center stage together with Nureyev at the moment that the set elements of the auction were removed from the stage. But what a sudden whoosh of energy accompanied her from above! Everything about Alexandrova’s Fonteyn was modest – her simple white dress, her make-up, her conduct. She didn’t play the diva. Flanked by glass cabinets filled with Nureyev’s costumes and situated beneath four rows of noble chandeliers, their pas de deux consumed the huge stage. One might have noticed steps from “Giselle”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Marguerite and Armand”, and others. Regardless, the dance was grand – grand in its aura and grand in its emotions. If this was the “supercharged excitement and …roiling emotion of [Fonteyn and Nureyev’s] dancing” that Larry Kaplan describes in the program booklet, you can understand why their stage partnership was praised as “epochal.”
9. V.Lantratov and M.Alexandrova, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / P.RychkovLantratov is a fine dancer, but can’t impress as Nureyev could. No one can. But Lantratov threw all his talent and prowess into the role and allowed not one bit of ego to show itself. Hans van Manen once said that you get to know an artist’s real character at curtain call. Lantratov was moved by the applause and humbly bowed to his colleagues.

What about the allegedly indecent scenes that provoked rumors during the summer? The men in drag, who Nureyev met in a red-lit night-club at the Bois de Boulogne after his leap to freedom, were stylishly erotic, earning applause. The sexy solo delivered by the naked Nureyev at a dinner party was revealing, although a chair’s seating surface (and skin-colored shorts) covered Nureyev’s private parts at first. Later, he hid them with a floor-length fur coat, which he only fully opened when facing away from the audience.
10. Ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovOne telling detail was hidden in the set for the Vaganova studio. At its back wall hung a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II next to one of Vaganova. The tsar’s portrait was later replaced by one of Lenin – a small one, crooked at first – and then Lenin’s was exchanged for Stalin’s and decorated with flowers. And yet you could see the bright part of the wall where the tsar’s picture had previously hung. Vaganova’s portrait was unmoved. The studio was suffused with light and its back window curved into the shape of a rainbow.

“You hated the system, but you loved your Russia,” Jude wrote in his letter to Nureyev. The denunciating report on Nureyev’s defection, Vernik read out, was testimony of this system. Unlike Makarova, Osipenko didn’t defect to the west. She wrote: “We lost the best dancers. We lost Natashka. You. Mishka Baryshnikov…What is it, for God’s sake? It could have been our triumph, the glory of Russia. But it was not… A country that does not value its heroes is such a shame.” “Nureyev” does its 11. V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.Logvinovhero proud, and the artistic team, wearing T-shirts printed with “Free the Director” at the curtain call, stood up for Serebrennikov, who was not onstage. I strongly believe that he was permitted to put the final polish on the piece during the last days before the premiere and that he was backstage on that very evening, witnessing the extended applause.

On the following day, Artem Ovcharenko danced Nureyev, Vladislav Kozlov played Bruhn, and Kristina Kretova portrayed Fonteyn. Ekaterina Shipulina and Denis Savin danced the solos to the letters. Dates of further performances of “Nureyev” have yet to be announced.

Demutsky’s music is a rich tapestry of moods and surprises. He cleverly wove together beats from the staples of ballet scores that Nureyev famously danced in. One noticed “Swan Lake”, but ten seconds later – wasn’t that “Sleeping Beauty”? And then “Swan Lake” again? A full band – piano, saxophone, contrabass, and percussion – accompanied the dance of the men in drag onstage. Olga Sokolova tried out a harpsichord – one item to be sold – during the auction, and Alexander Boldachyov accompanied the solos onstage on the harp. The Bolshoi Choir and three solo singers – mezzo-soprano Svetlana Shilova, tenor Marat Gali, and countertenor Vadim Volkov – appeared several times. From the pit, Anton Grishanin and the Bolshoi Orchestra contributed romantic swells of sound, rattling brass, waltzes, and, when Nureyev leaped to freedom in Paris, such crashing sounds that one could only think of a dangerously close thunderstorm rippling through the sky.

“Nureyev” would be a perfect calling card for the Bolshoi’s guest appearances abroad, but given the vast number of artists involved (even the huge Historic Stage was crowded at the curtain call), touring the piece might strain the budget.
12. V.Lantratov and ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / P.Rychkov

Links: Website of the Bolshoi Theatre
Photos: 1. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Mikhail Logvinov
 2. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Damir Yusuphov
 3. Anastasia Stashkevich (Ballerina), Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev) and ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Pavel Rychkov
 4. Denis Savin (Erik) and Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Damir Yusuphov
 5. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev), Denis Savin (Erik) and Igor Vernik (Auctioneer), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Mikhail Logvinov
 6. Vyacheslav Lopatin (The Pupil) and Igor Vernik (Auctioneer), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Damir Yusuphov
 7. Svetlana Zakharova (The Diva), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Damir Yusuphov
 8. Svetlana Zakharova (The Diva), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Mikhail Logvinov
 9. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev) and Maria Alexandrova (Margot), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Pavel Rychkov
10. Ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Mikhail Logvinov
11. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev), “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Mikhail Logvinov
12. Vladislav Lantratov (Nureyev) and ensemble, “Nureyev”, chor.: Yuri Possokhov, dir.: Kirill Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / Pavel Rychkov
 Editing: Jake Stepansky

Weird Matters

“Woke up Blind”, “The Statement”, “The missing door”, “Safe as Houses”
Nederlands Dans Theater / NDT 1
Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Berlin, Germany
December 01, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Woke up Blind” by M.Goecke, Nederlands Dans Theater 2017 © R.RezvaniThe last programs I saw of Nederlands Dans Theater’s main company (NDT I) were rather drab. However, the program they presented during their guest appearance in Berlin turned out to be varied and meaty. Its four pieces were by the Argentinian choreographer Gabriela Carrizo, the company’s associate choreographers, Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke (each of them contributing one piece), and by the inseparable team of Sol León and artistic director Paul Lightfoot.

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Universal Love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
November 25, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lopatin and A.Stashkevich, "Romeo and Juliet" by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova Last week the Bolshoi Ballet added a second version of “Romeo and Juliet” to its repertoire. By Alexei Ratmansky, it premiered at the National Ballet of Canada in 2011 and is being performed on the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. As during recent years, Yuri Grigorovich’s adaption will be shown on the Bolshoi’s Historic Stage.
Ratmansky cast three leading couples: Ekaterina Krysanova & Vladislav Lantratov; Anastasia Stashkevich & Vyacheslav Lopatin; and Evgenia Obraztsova & Artemy Belyakov; however the pairings switched in the course of the first run. I saw the fourth performance after the premiere; Stashkevich was Juliet alongside Lopatin’s Romeo. (more…)

Opinions Divide

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
November 19, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

Reading the recent reviews on the Royal Ballet’s triple bill of works by Twyla Tharp, Arthur Pita and Hofesh Shechter makes one smile and wonder at the same time. Smile, because of the totally different opinions of the writers. While Graham Watts, for example, judged Shechter’s “Untouchable” positively on backtrack.com and Mark Monahan declared it the program’s “undisputable highlight” in The Telegraph, Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, found it “the most preposterously dance-thin ballet I have ever seen.” Jann Parry deemed it a “dated commission that never merited its place in the repertoire” on DanceTabs.

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On the Plight of Art and Artists in Russia

Focus on: Kirill Serebrennikov – A Panel Discussion
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
October 22, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Serebrennikov, Stuttgart State Opera 2017 © A.T. SchaeferThis October, the Stuttgart Opera House premiered an unfinished work: “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck. Initially, the opera house chose to have Kirill Serebrennikov stage the piece. However, Serebrennikov was detained on August 22nd, and has remained under house arrest in Moscow since then. Many have speculated that the accusations brought against the artist might be pure invention.

Since early October the Stuttgart State Opera has been running a retrospective on Serebrennikov that encompasses his works for opera, theater, ballet and cinema, presented in an exhibition, a series of lectures, and two rounds of talks. (more…)

Looking Back

“Ballet Talk” (with Jürgen Rose, Marcia Haydée and Reid Anderson)
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
October 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Rose, Stuttgart Ballet © R.NovitzkyThe jubilees pile up for Stuttgart Ballet this season. John Cranko, the company’s founder, would have been ninety years this August. His “Onegin” – its second, revised version to be precise – received its first performance half a century ago on October 27, 1967. Its stage and set designer – the internationally renowned and much admired Jürgen Rose – just celebrated his 80th birthday this August. His career is closely connected with Cranko and Stuttgart Ballet. Moreover, this season is artistic director Reid Anderson’s twenty-second and last one. In short, one special events follows the other. (more…)

A Conversation with Krzysztof Pastor

Polish National Ballet / Ballet Company of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
Teatr Wielki – Opera Narodowa
Warsaw, Poland
October 07, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Pastor, Polish National Ballet © E.KrasuckaKrzysztof Pastor attended the International Ballet Conference in Amsterdam in February. Back then he was still a resident choreographer of Dutch National Ballet, while simultaneously directing the biggest ballet companies in Poland and Lithuania. We hadn’t talked during the conference but on our way home we exchanged a few words at Schiphol Airport. Time was short though, so I decided to ask him for an interview at a later date. It finally happened this October. Pastor mainly talked about his company in Warsaw and the cultural scene of Poland.
His answers are in italics. (more…)

Something New?

“Nussknacker und Mausekönig” (“Nutcracker and Mouse King”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
October 20, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Knight and Y.Han, “Nutcracker and Mouse King” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich 2017 © G.BatardonThis season the Opera House Zurich launched a new website, new large black and white portraits of dancers of the company decorate the opera’s corridors and side rooms and it also has a new “Nutcracker”. More precisely, its “Nutcracker and Mouse King”, as choreographer and artistic director Christian Spuck based the story on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original fairy tale of the same title rather than on the sweetened and simplified adaption of Hoffmann’s text Alexandre Dumas père wrote in 1844. The latter served as a libretto for Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s famous ballet to music by Tchaikovsky. Having already created ballets on “The Sandman” and “Mademoiselle de Scuderi”, “Nutcracker and Mouse King” is Spuck’s third ballet on a text by E.T.A. Hoffmann. (more…)

Fighting Back

“Darkness”
Polish National Ballet
Teatr Wielki – Opera Narodowa
Warsaw, Poland
October 07, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nowak, M.Esposito, G.Melfi, L.Alberti, D.Ozeri and V.Kezik, “Darkness” by I.Weiss, Polish National Ballet 2017 © Polish National Ballet / E.KrasuckaDance critic Graham Watts called Izadora Weiss “a tempest on the Baltic shore.” Weiss has been creating a stir in the Polish dance scene from her home base of Gdansk ever since Jiří Kylián spotted her choreographic talent in 1989 during his tenure as artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater. She became his protégé, and would later use Kylián’s company as a model on which to base the Baltic Dance Theatr (BDT), a troupe she founded in 2010 in Gdansk that she continues to direct today. Formerly affiliated with the Baltic Opera, the BDT became an independent company in 2006 and was renamed Biały Teatr Tańca (White Dance Theatr) – BTT for short. Weiss still leads the company, serving as its main choreographer. Pieces by Kylián complement BTT’s repertoire. (more…)

Timeless

“Pure Cranko” (“L’Estro Armonico” / “Brouillards” / “Jeu de Cartes”)
Stuttgart Ballet

Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
October 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Moore, M.F.Paixà and ensemble, “L'Estro Armonico” by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet 2017 © Stuttgart BalletThis season is an especially special one for Stuttgart Ballet. John Cranko, who took over the ballet company of the Wuerttemberg State Theater in 1961 and turned it into the “Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”, would have celebrated his 90th birthday this August. In October, the premiere of his “Onegin” will have its 50th anniversary. Moreover, it’s Reid Anderson’s twenty-second – and last – season as artistic director. He’ll pass the torch to Tamas Detrich next summer.

As a result, there are quite a number of events slated for the season – but, with everything being interconnected in Stuttgart, the first program already brought the company full circle. (more…)

A Patchy Beginning

“The Taming of the Shrew”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
September 30, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Amo and E.Kruteleva, “The Taming of the Shrew” by J.Cranko, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl This August John Cranko would have celebrated his 90th birthday. Stuttgart Ballet honors its founder with several programs, beginning with the triple bill “Cranko Pur” that premiers on October 3rd. The Bavarian State Ballet, which Cranko directed in addition to his Stuttgart company from 1968 – 1972, revives his three big narratives. “The Taming of the Shrew” opened the season. “Onegin” and “Romeo and Juliet” are scheduled for February and April 2018. During the Ballet Festival Weeks next April all three ballets will be danced on three consecutive evenings.
I saw the second performance of “Shrew” led by Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, both guest dancers of the Munich company.

Cranko’s characterization of the figures follows Shakespeare’s comedy closely. We are in Padua in the 17th century. Poor Baptista is kept in suspense by his two daughters. No less than three suitors buzz around the pretty Bianca like bees around the honey pot, but her older sister, the strident Katherina, fights getting married tooth and nail. Bianca is not allowed to marry until Katherina is wed, declares Baptista unceremoniously. But how to marry her off? By accident, Bianca’s suitors – Lucentio, Hortensio and Gremio – run into the young Petruchio and recruit him to court Katherina. (more…)

A Small Retrospective Exhibit of Jiří Kylián’s Work

“Celebrating Kylián!
Nederlands Dans Theater
Zuiderstrandtheater
The Hague, The Netherlands
September 22, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Celebrating Kylián!” © A.CorbijnJiří Kylian turned 70 years this March. “Celebrating
Kylián!”, a festival initiated by Kylián Productions, Holland Dance, Nederlands Dans Theater, Zuiderstrandtheater and Korzo Theater has been honoring him throughout the year. Part of the events and programs is a multimedia exhibition at the Zuiderstrandtheater, the home of Nederlands Dans Theater, the company considerably shaped by Kylián. The exhibition opened on September 22nd.

For twenty-four years, beginning in 1975, Kylián headed NDT as artistic director and, after handing the reins over to Marian Sarstädt in 1999, remained the company’s house choreographer for an additional decade. Of the two affiliated troupes he founded – NDT 2, the junior company in 1978 and, for older dancers, NDT 3 in 1991 – the latter was dissolved in 2006 due to financial reasons.

Kylián is best known as choreographer, but has also photographed and made films such as “Zugvögel” and “Car-Men.” The list of choreographies on his website ends with the number 99. The main part, 75 ballets to be exact, were created for NDT. Video excerpts of some of those works – both performances and rehearsals – are now shown on several screens in the foyer and on the first floor. The large video hologram of “Gods and Dogs” attracted the most spectators. Diagonally opposite a black and white picture wall with various portraits of Kylián hangs next to the bar. A few costumes, among them the well known red skirts from “Bella Figura,” greet the visitors opposite the cloakroom.
The exhibition is only open when performances take place. To watch the four documentaries shown in a side room one should arrive early. “The Road to Stamping Ground,” for example, which traces the creation of “Stamping Ground,” a 1983 piece that was inspired by Aboriginal culture and dance, lasts for almost one hour. But it is also on YouTube.
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Three New Pieces for NDT

“Side A: Split into One” (“Proof” / “Soon” / “Sisters”)
Nederlands Dans Theater
Zuiderstrandtheater
The Hague, The Netherlands
September 22, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Anderson and Y.Takaura, “Proof” by E.Clug, Nederlands Dans Theater 2017 © R.RezvaniOn the right side of the Zuiderstrandtheater berths a huge yellow ship, the way on the left side leads directly to the beach. The theater, a plain concrete building with much glass, opened in 2014 in The Hague’s port area. Its neighborhood and the parking lot in front of the house don’t please the eye, but the view out of the huge windows on the first floor does. Between the dunes one can see the sea gleaming in the setting sun.
Inside, the smell of deep-fried fish permeated the foyer. The reception celebrating Nederlands Dans Theater’s first performance this season – a triple bill with entirely new works – was in full swing. The program consisted of pieces by Edward Clug, Medhi Walerski and the inseparable duo Sol León & Paul Lightfoot. Since 2002 León and Lightfoot have been the company’s house choreographers. In 2011 Lightfoot also took over as artistic director succeeding Jim Vincent. (more…)

Celebrating Hans van Manen

“Ode to the Master” (“On the Move” / “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” / “Sarcasm” / “5 Tango’s”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Hans van Manen at the curtain call, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © M.Graste“Were you asked to choreograph about cheese?” the late Stuttgart dance critic Horst Koegler jokingly asked Hans van Manen in a 1982 interview when discussing Van Manen’s first-ever choreography. This first piece premiered at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam in 1957, was “nationally tinged,” but by no means about cheese, and has been performed more than 350 times. It was a thorough success. Sixty years later Hans van Manen is still choreographing and still successful. His works have won the acclaim of audiences all over the world. (more…)

State of Affairs in Munich and News from Berlin

Bavarian State Ballet / State Ballet Berlin
Munich / Berlin, Germany
September 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Zelensky © W.HöslAt the end of last season, the first under director Igor Zelensky, a second wave of dancers left the Bavarian State Ballet. Exact numbers and names weren’t announced by the press office, but according to information from within the company 22 out of a total of 69 dancers packed their bags. My report prompted an email by the press office that corrected the number to 21 and denied that the principals Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklyarov would quit the company. What did finally come of it?

First, over the summer break the number of those leaving increased to 23, because demi-soloist Wentao Li had meanwhile returned to China, his home country, for family reasons and guest ballerina Svetlana Zakharova had withdrawn her commitment. Yet in the course of the last season Zakharova had performed only once in Munich. Secondly, Shirinkina and Shklyarov indeed did bid farewell to the core company and returned to the Maryinsky Ballet. They will appear in Munich as guest dancers.

So the gaps were considerable. How did Igor Zelensky fill them?
The company starts the new season with 66 dancers, four of them guest dancers (Shirinkina & Shklyarov and again, as last year, Natalia Osipova & Sergei Polunin). Five dancers of English National Ballet have joined: (more…)