European Companies

Real Life and Ideals – Nureyev’s “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
May 14, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa and L.Ivanov, Vienna State Ballet © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor “French and Russian style differ, so everything is a bit new at the moment,” Semyon Chudin told me in an interview a few weeks before his premiere in Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” in Vienna. He and Olga Smirnova, both figureheads of the Bolshoi, guested in the leading roles with Manuel Legris’s company. I saw the first of two performances. How did they do?

Nureyev’s version differs in style, choreography and the weight given to several characters in comparison to other traditional interpretations of “Swan Lake”. The role of Benno, Prince Siegfried’s friend, is gone and, unlike in Russian productions, there is no fool either. Instead the focus shifts towards Siegfried, whom Nureyev danced more than fifty times himself; his last performance was in 1988 a few days after his 50th birthday. Nureyev’s Siegfried has more to dance – a formal Pas de cinq at his birthday party followed by a melancholy solo, for example – and allows deeper insight into his psyche. At the end he falls victim to Von Rothbart’s revenge and drowns in the floods of the lake, whereas Odette, still alive, stands at the lakeside like the idealized female. However desperately Siegfried stretches his arms towards her she is unattainable. He is doomed to die. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – The Die is Cast

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
May 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © A.RivalAround six months ago, questions were raised about the legitimacy of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin. Their appointments needed the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera, but because of the upcoming elections, the board hadn’t (and still hasn’t) the required quorum of members for making valid decisions. Having firmly protested against the appointment of the new directors for months, the dancers intensified their opposition at that time.

Apparently hoping that the furor would die down in the meantime, Waltz and Öhman, together with Berlin’s new cultural senator Dr. Klaus Lederer (DIE LINKE), talked with the dancers as part of a staff meeting at the end of April. Their aim was to provide insight into their artistic program, and to start “an open and constructive dialogue”*. On the following mid-morning, Waltz and Öhman gave a press conference in which they tried to imply that the waves had calmed and that all were eager to establish a “trustful and creative atmosphere”*.

The facts are as follows: (more…)

An Ordeal

“Don Quixote”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Sasaki, R.Scott and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2017 © J.Vallinas“Don Quixote” is best associated with the showy dancing of snappy youth, lighthearted joie de vivre and air sizzling with eroticism. The Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg’s new “Don Quixote” offers the opposite. Goyo Montero, artistic director of the company of around twenty dancers, boiled down the traditional three acts to a single one lasting 90 minutes. According to the program booklet, the production begins in a mental institution, a prison or a refugee camp. Given the huge gunny sacks serving as seats, buffers or protective wall (set design by Eva Adler and Montero), the scruffy gray and brown costumes and the simple bag-like headdresses credited to Angelo Alberto and Montero, I thought of mill hands kept in arrest. But regardless of the place one imagines the figures inhabiting it are insane. (more…)

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin on “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Moscow / Vienna
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by Y.Grigorovich after M.Petipa, L.Ivanov and A.Gorsky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovIn mid-May Vienna State Ballet revives Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake,” the version he choreographed for the company in 1964. The new set and costumes are by Luisa Spinatelli. Four guest dancers will take the leading roles in the course of the run. The Bolshoi’s Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin dance twice, on May 14th and 17th; on June 4th Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov of The Royal Ballet guest in Vienna. The last performance on Monday, June 12th, will be streamed live on the internet.

While “Swan Lake” is Smirnova’s debut in Vienna, Chudin returns for the third time to the Austrian capital. Two weeks before opening night I asked both about their roles and about Nureyev’s production in particular. Smirnova, who at that time was in Moscow, answered in written form. Katerina Novikova, head of the Bolshoi’s press office, kindly translated Smirnova’s answers into English. Chudin, already rehearsing with the company in Vienna, talked with me via Skype. (more…)

Noverre Evening 2017

“Young Choreographers”
Noverre Society
Schauspielhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
April 20, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.McGowan and E.Comak, “Fraternal | Stories” by A.McGowan and E.Comak, Noverre Society Stuttgart – Young Choreographers 2017 © R.NovitzkyTwelve young choreographers presented their works to the public as part of this season’s two Noverre Evenings – Stuttgart’s platform for aspiring choreographers of dance. Two of the choreographers are female. Two of the ten pieces are collaborative works. Seven originated from within the ranks of the Stuttgart Ballet, and three were created by individual dancers from Lyon, Munich and Mannheim. Notably, none included point work. The quality of the works varied, but each was warmly applauded and some raised enthusiastic cheers. (more…)

Stuttgart Ballet’s “Walking, Talking Historical Person”

“Reid Anderson – Having it”
240 pages, b/w illustrations
Henschel Publishing House, April 2017
ISBN 978-3894877903
April 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Reid Anderson – Having It”, book cover © Henschel Publishing HouseReid Anderson celebrated his 68 years anniversary on April 1st a few weeks ago. His birthday present was a book: Reid Anderson – Having It, From Dancer to Director, initiated and edited by Vivien Arnold, Stuttgart Ballet’s Director of Press, Dramaturgy and Communications. Its authors, Angela Reinhardt and Gary Smith, are both very familiar with Anderson’s career. Smith covered Anderson’s childhood and teenage years in Canada, his training at the Royal Ballet School in London and his time as director, first of the Ballet British Columbia, then of the National Ballet of Canada. Stuttgart-based Reinhardt contributed the Stuttgart chapters of Anderson’s life, one as a dancer of John Cranko’s company, and the second, ten years later, as director of the company, a post he still holds.

The book, available in German and English, was introduced to the public by Anderson and Tim Schleider, Head of the Culture Department of the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, in a matinée talk in Stuttgart’s opera house on April 1st. (more…)

Munich Opens Wonderland

“Alice in Wonderland”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
April 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Alice in Wonderland” by C.Wheeldon, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl The first day of Munich’s Ballet Festival Week heralded the start of an extended cricket season at the city’s National Theater. Captains of noble descent lead the competing teams. Which of the players – half a zoo plus numerous playing cards – fight for the Queen of Hearts and which fight for the Duchess isn’t always clear. Games aren’t played by the rules in Wonderland. (more…)

Two Farewells at the Semperoper Ballet

“Theme and Variations” (Triple bill: “Theme and Variations”, New Suite”, “She Was Black”)
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
March 30, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Voranger, Semperoper Ballet © I.WhalenSemperoper Ballet bid a double farewell on April 1st. True to his announcement last year, Mats Ek withdrew his works from the stage forever as he heads into retirement. “She Was Black”, originally choreographed in 1995, is among those that will retire with him. It has been part of the repertoire of the Dresden company for six years. When I learned about the 2nd goodbye, I thought it might be a premature April Fools’ joke – but it wasn’t. Fabien Voranger, the 36-year old principal of the company, ended his active dancing career with a final pas de deux in “She Was Black” in the middle of the season.

Born in Aix-en-Provence in Southern France, Voranger was trained at the Opéra National de Paris and the Studio Ballet Colette Armand in Marseille. A Prix de Lausanne scholarship led him to The Royal Ballet School before signing his first contract with Roland Petit’s troupe in Marseille. Engagements at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Vienna State Ballet soon followed. As Voranger stated in an interview in 2015, he tended to move on to another company whenever he felt stuck in his artistic growth: There will be always someone who can do more pirouettes than you, who is technically superior. So the most important thing in a career is to find someone who makes something of you.” (more…)

Toer van Schayk – One Pillar of Dutch National Ballet

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.van Schayk working on the statue of Romeo and Juliet, Dutch National Ballet © R.HolleboomDutch National Ballet has been shaped by a troika of “van”: Rudi van Dantzig, Hans van Manen and Toer van Schayk, three fellow countrymen of roughly the same generation. Van Dantzig (1933 – 2012) became the company’s resident choreographer shortly after it emerged out of the Amsterdam Ballet and Nederlands Ballet fusion in 1961. He later co-directed the troupe for two decades before holding the director’s post. Since then, Hans van Manen, the Dutch doyen of choreographers, has created work for the company for more than forty years. Eighty-four-years old and still choreographing, he is internationally renowned. (more…)

First International Ballet Conference at Dutch National Ballet

“Positioning Ballet”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 11-12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

To discuss fundamental topics concerning the art form of ballet, the Dutch National Ballet assembled a keenly interested, much involved, very international group of guests for a two-day conference last weekend in Amsterdam. At the Saturday session, panel discussions addressed three topics: Heritage, Diversity and Identity. Of the two Sunday morning talks, one focused on networking among companies, and the other advocated inventive entrepreneurship. There was a performance both days, each a mixed bill with works which had been made for the Dutch company (see my reviews of “Made in Amsterdam 1” and “Made in Amsterdam 2”). (more…)

Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Pastor and a New Dawson

“Made in Amsterdam 2”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Yanowsky, R.Wörtmeyer and ensemble, “Concerto Concordia” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenThe program “Made in Amsterdam 2” consisted of ballets by four established choreographers. It was the Dutch National Ballet’s second mixed bill of works specifically intended for this company. One piece – a solo by David Dawson – was brand new whereas the other three – Christopher Wheeldon’s “Concerto Concordia”, “Souvenir d’un lieu cher” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Moving Rooms” by Krzysztof Pastor – dated from between 2008 and 2015. (more…)

Well Done Dutch National Ballet!

“Made in Amsterdam 1”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 11, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.DePrince and J.Stout, “Homo Ludens” by J.Arqués, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenLast weekend was a busy one for Dutch National Ballet. The company premiered two mixed bills of four pieces each, one on Saturday evening, the second in a matinee on Sunday. In addition it held a two-day conference titled “Positioning Ballet” to discuss central topics concerning the art form with international guests on the panels. Clearly a huge effort had gone into its organization. It totally paid off. The weekend was a success and the conference will hopefully lead to regular meetings in the future. (more…)

Rural Idyll

“La Fille mal gardée”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
January 24, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Alberton and ensemble, “La Fille mal gardée” by F.Ashton, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Given the uncomfortable winter cold in Munich and the even more uncomfortable general political climate, being carried off by “La Fille mal gardée”, a rural late-summer idyll, in the National Theater was a welcome time-out. Frederick Ashton’s work, revived by the Bavarian State Ballet this week, brought us a harvest of good feelings.
The ballet, which premiered with the Royal Ballet London in 1960, is set in a time in which crops were harvested manually and women turned their spinning wheels at home. The tranquil, peaceful farming life “La Fille” depicts and its well-functioning village society with a sweet romance blossoming in secret, remind one of a time gone by. (more…)

A Gala without Glamor

“Gala With Stars of the Bavarian State Ballet”
Bavarian State Ballet
Prinzregententheater / Prince Regent Theatre
Munich, Germany
January 15, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Shirinkina and V.Shklyarov, “Parting“ by Y.Smekalov, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Half a year after Igor Zelensky assembled his new company in Munich, a gala seemed like the ideal opportunity to showcase his dancers’ individual talents. The gala was scheduled for three evenings in the city’s Prince Regent Theatre; the third evening, the one I saw, was even streamed live on the internet. Sadly, the Bavarian State Ballet didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. That wasn’t due to the dancers but mainly because of organizational failures. From the outside, it appeared the gala was a necessary ingredient to promote the repertory for this season, but when the time came, resources were inadequate to make the event special. (more…)

Can Dance Add to Verdi’s “Requiem”?

“Messa da Requiem”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
January 08, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. W.Moore and ensemble, “Messa da Requiem” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich © G.Batardon 2017In mounting Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem”, the Zurich Opera House is bold but has set its sights quite high. Bold, because Christian Spuck, the ballet company’s artistic director, in charge of choreography and staging, involved the whole house, the entire ballet company, singers and the orchestra. Yet that the project would have weak points was predictable. Spuck himself declared in the program book, that this music needed no visualization. “Merging dance with singing is always prone to failure”, he moreover stated. So why did he try? (more…)