European Companies

After All

“Giselle”
State Ballet Berlin
Staatsoper unter den Linden
Berlin, Germany
September 18, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Giselle), D.Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Bart after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © M.KulchytskaDavid Motta Soares honed his artistic skills under the watchful eyes of the teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet. This spring, he joined the State Ballet Berlin as a principal dancer, and in June he gave his debut as Prince Désiré in Marcia Haydée’s “The Sleeping Beauty” alongside Ksenia Ovsyanick’s Princess Aurora. Last Sunday, the two again shared the stage as the leading couple in Patrice Bart’s rendition of “Giselle”. How did they fare?
Albrecht and Giselle’s romance, unfolding under the warm autumn sun shining on mother Berthe’s quaint cottage yard (set and costumes by Peter Farmer), was not as sweet as expected. In Moscow, Motta Soares had danced Albrecht in Yuri Grigorovich’s “Giselle”. Bart’s version was new for him and his Albrecht here – cocksure and confident – flitted between gentle wooing and impatient attempts at taking. In certain moments he stood with his arms crossed, signaling reserve. After two botched tours en l’air, Motta Soares seemed slightly unsettled. Though he made a decent showing by the end of his second solo (Pas de vendanges), its piecemeal choreography – involving a great deal of jumping back and forth, as if drunk on infatuation and indecisive about which direction to move – offered little chance to shine.
Ovsyanick’s Giselle was cheerful and lighthearted, even if lacking charisma. In the crucial scene in which she discovers Albrecht’s deceit, she proved a competent actress in expressing a shock that would turn fatal – though the drama remained strangely unemotional, as if unfolding behind a glass wall. What I missed most was a harmony between the two lovers, an invisible bond that might have melted their movements into a union.

2. K.Ovsyanick (Giselle) and D.Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), “Giselle” by P.Bart after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © M.KulchytskaLuckily, some sort of magic happened over the break and, as if a switch had been flicked, both Ovsyanick and Motta Soares returned in fine form in Act II. Suddenly, Giselle and Albrecht’s tragic love affair was rife with feeling, their deep connection felt in every perfectly-performed step. Ovsyanick, calm and centered, added an ethereal tenderness to her fleet footwork (performing quicksilver pas de couru!). Struck by Myrtha’s spell, she pinwheeled like a wound-up doll – but eventually her love for Albrecht triumphed against evil. Motta Soares, though stuck with a rudimentary series of entrechats and exaggerated backbends that marred the flow of his final solo, wielded his training and delivered a clean performance – spot-on tours en l’air included.

Vera Segowa made her debut as well by dancing in the role of Queen Myrtha. I found her to be too athletic for a weightless ghost – at present, she is building her regality on a stiff upper body rather than generating it from inside. As Monya, Alizée Sicre flew fleet-footedly through her solo; Luciana Voltolini was an immaculate Zulma. The corps of wilis, though initially not precisely in sync, improved over time and grew into a powerful man-hunting force.

3. K.Ovsyanick (Giselle), D.Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Bart after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © M.KulchytskaAlbrecht’s rival Hilarion was danced by Alexei Orlenco. Martina Böckmann portrayed Giselle’s mother, Berthe. Julia Golitsina made Albrecht’s fiancée Bathilde utterly smug. She was accompanied by Yevgeniy Khissamutdinov as her father, the Prince of Courland. Yuria Isaka and Dominic Whitbrook’s peasant pas de deux was the highlight of the village fair. I especially remember Isaka’s bouncy, fluffy solo. Though the dancing village youth lacked synchronicity, their cheerfulness and elan couldn’t help but waft out from the stage to the audience.
From the first tune on, Paul Connelly and the Staatskapelle Berlin made clear, that their rendition of Adolphe Adam’s score would be a fine one.

Link: Website of the State Ballet Berlin
Photos: 1. Ksenia Ovsyanick (Giselle), David Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Patrice Bart after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022
2. Ksenia Ovsyanick (Giselle) and David Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), “Giselle” by Patrice Bart after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022
3. Ksenia Ovsyanick (Giselle), David Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Patrice Bart after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022
all photos © Mariia Kulchytska
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Kylián Samples

“Bridges of Time”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Cuadrado, L.Balogová, and A.Petit, ”Bella Figura” by J.Kylián, Czech National Ballet 2022 © S.Gherciu Theaters in the crisis-ridden EU face difficult times as soaring maintenance costs join the ever-present fear of declining ticket sales. Last Saturday, though, matters seemed to be in order at Prague’s National Theatre. Despite the approximately 70.000 protesters who hit the streets of Prague in the afternoon to demonstrate against skyrocketing energy prices and inflation, the evening performance of the all-Jiří Kylián bill “Bridges of Time” was well-attended – and well-received.

Typically, most theaters pick the same, better known titles from Kylián’s massive (over one-hundred-piece-strong) oeuvre. The Czech National Ballet’s artistic director Filip Barankiewicz did the same in 2018 when assembling a tribute program to the Czech-born Kylián on the centenary of the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence. (more…)

Stirring the Imagination

“Paper Story”
Laterna magika
The New Stage
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Petrák (Boy), “Paper Story” by R.Vizváry and M.Ramba, Laterna magika 2022 © P.BoreckýLaterna magika’s 2021 “Paper Story” is a winner with young audiences. One young nipper, curious about the stage set – a halfway-unrolled reel of white paper – escaped the watchful eyes of his mother and triumphantly ran across the stage before the performance. The bored boy (Matěj Petrák) was pelted with laughter and sneering when it became clear that he had discovered that the paper reel had a life of its own. The reel escaped his headlong dives, pulling him here and there, flying magically, ambushing him, mocking him constantly, and even folding around his head into a Napoleon-esque hat. The wad of paper that Petrák throws into the distance doesn’t end the magic, but instead opens the doors to a fantasy world made entirely from white paper. (more…)

Ill-chosen

“Notre-Dame de Paris”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Terme di Caracalla
Rome, Italy
August 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Notre-Dame de Paris” by R.Petit, Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2022 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di RomaThe Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is in the enviable position of being able to relocate their performances to impressive antique open-air venues during the warm months. While the 2021 summer performances took place at the Circus Maximus, this year the company returned to its traditional stage at the Baths of Caracalla. I watched the final performance of Roland Petit’s “Notre-Dame de Paris”, based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

The ballet tells the tale of the disabled Quasimodo (bell-ringer of Notre Dame in late medieval Paris), his master Claude Frollo (Notre Dame’s archdeacon), Esmeralda (a beautiful Romani woman), and Captain Phoebus (Esmeralda’s lover). In a departure from Tikhomirov & Burmeister’s take on the story for the Stanislavsky Ballet (their “La Esmeralda”), Petit stripped down the original plot to its nuts and bolts. (more…)

Unwilling (but actually eager)

“The Taming of the Shrew”
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
July 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tognoloni (Katherine) and F.Mariottini (Petruchio), “The Taming of the Shrew” by J.-C.Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroThe gender dynamics depicted by Shakespeare in “The Taming of the Shrew” render it one of his most controversial plays. Staging it risks setting off a litany of accusations. Some deem the comedy to be misogynistic, chauvinistic, and sexist. Nevertheless, Jean-Christophe Maillot found the guts to choreograph a new adaption for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2014 that has become hugely popular. In 2017, he modified it for his own company – Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Last weekend, the troupe performed the piece on tour in Ludwigsburg.

Following the lead of earlier choreographers of the work, Maillot omitted Shakespeare’s frame story (the drunken tinker Christopher Sly is fooled into experiencing a make-believe world). The frame story allows the central story (about Baptista’s struggle to marry his two daughters – the much-courted Bianca and the wayward Katherine) (more…)

Soft Wrapping – Crisp Core

“Soirée 3 Choréographes” (“Claude Pascal” / “Casi Casa” / “Back on Track 61”)
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum
Monte Carlo, Monaco
July 16, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Beyne (Marie-Claire), A.Reist (Pierre-Marie), A.Maksakov (Jean-Pascale), and G.Riou (Marie-Claude), “Claude Pascal” by J.Kylián, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroLes Ballet de Monte Carlo’s recent triple bill combines a new piece by the company’s artistic director Jean-Christophe Maillot (“Back on Track 61”) with Jiří Kylián’s “Claude Pascal” (2002) and Mats Ek’s “Casi Casa” (2009).

“Claude Pascal” is a misleading title, as no one in Kylián’s black-and-white-hued piece is so named. There’s Marie-Claire (Lou Beyne), a grand dame with a Russian accent and a fan collection; the childish Marie-Claude (Gaëlle Riou), who plays rock n’ roll on her tennis racket; Jean-Pascale (Artjom Maksakov), wielding a walking cane and talking about hair loss and grief-stuffed pants (…); and the athletically-inclined Pierre-Marie (Adam Reist), who recites an excerpt from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” on the life expectancies of turtles, elephants, parrots, frogs, and fakirs. All four are time travelers from 1890(ish) – (more…)

Plays within Plays

“Made For Us III” (“The Last Coincidence” / “Nighttime Showtime”)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
Play House
Nuremberg, Germany
July 01, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Cummings (Soldier), S.Vervaecke (Bride), O.Alonso (Magician), P.Lassere (Pierrot), and A.Fernández (Gentleman), “The Last Coincidence” by B.Arias, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © B.StößThe ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg recently premiered “Made For Us III” and, in so doing, resumed their project of commissioning ballets from external choreographers (a project originated in 2014). This year, pieces by Bryan Arias and Joseph Hernandez shared the stage.

In Arias’s “The Last Coincidence”, two women and three men engage in a lively multi-language debate (or monologue?) on a bare, box-like stage. Huge papier-mâché masks enlarge their heads and make them into distinct characters: a braided, epauleted soldier (Mikhael Kinley), a magician wearing striped knickerbockers (Carlos Blanco), a female Pierrot (Stella Tozzi), and a bride (Kate Gee) in love with a disheveled and portly gentleman (Edward Nunes). When the spotlights are suddenly switched on and the group lines up for a revue dance routine, it becomes clear that we are watching a backstage rehearsal. (more…)

Inadequate

“The Sleeping Beauty”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 24, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Princess Aurora) and ensemble, “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Haydée after M.Petipa, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © Y.RevazovThis May, the State Ballet Berlin premiered Marcia Haydée’s version of “The Sleeping Beauty” after twice postponing the 2020 production – first due to a lack of preparation, and later due to the pandemic. At the time of the piece’s creation in 1987, Haydée had just taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet as its artistic director. “The Sleeping Beauty” was her choreographic debut and – aided by Jürgen Rose’s (aesthetically and financially) overwhelming set and costumes – was a grandiose success.

Since then, several other companies have tackled Haydée’s interpretation (currently: the Czech National Ballet and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens Montréal), but usually opt to use a more reasonably priced designer. So did the State Ballet Berlin when commissioning set and costumes from Jordi Roig. (more…)

Life Support

“common ground[s]” / “Le Sacre du printemps”
École des Sables / Pina Bausch Foundation / Sadler’s Wells
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
June 17, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Acogny and M.Airaudo, “common ground[s]” by M.Airaudo and G.Acogny, 2022, photo M.Vanden Abeele © Pina Bausch FoundationSince Pina Bausch’s death thirteen years ago, the Pina Bausch Foundation – chaired by Bausch’s son Salomon – has worked hard to keep her oeuvre alive. Some attempts were successful (I’m thinking of the Bavarian State Ballet’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, for example), while others failed. In a recent project, the Foundation joined forces with the École des Sables, a dance training center in Senegal, and Sadler’s Wells. The result was a double bill comprised of the new pas de deux “common ground[s]” and Bausch’s 1975 work “Le Sacre du printemps” that premiered in Senegal before setting off for a tour through Europe. I saw the first of three total performances at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival. (more…)

Co-Evolution

“LAB-WORKS 2022” (“Children of the Night” / “Oh Captain” / “This Too Shall Pass” / “Die Nacht”)
State Ballet Berlin
Komische Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 09, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Children of the Night” by A.Abdukarimov, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © O.KollmannspergerFor many young dancers, it can be incredibly difficult to join a company right after ballet school. There have been many efforts to smooth this transition (for example, years ago the Dutch National Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, and Hamburg Ballet established junior troupes) – including last fall’s launch by the State Ballet Berlin of the ten-month ENHANCE Mentorship Program for graduates of the State Ballet School Berlin. The program provides individualized mentoring by dancers from different ranks of the ensemble (Soraya Bruno, Anneli Chasemore, Arshak Ghalumyan, Mehmet Yumak, Aurora Dickie, and others) and culminates in a final performance called “LAB_WORKS”. This series was introduced in 2019 to showcase choreographies created during the lockdown. This June, the company presented “LAB_WORKS 2022” – comprised of four new ballets by aspiring choreographers from within the company. Eleven program fellows and various members of the main company danced the four works. (more…)

Astonishing

“CREATIONS VII-IX” (“Self-deceit” / “Reflection/s” / “Ifima”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Play House of the State Theater Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 29, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Erikson, “Reflection/s” by R.Novitzky, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet’s recent premiere – “CREATIONS VII-IX” – continues the CREATION series launched in 2019. I was waylaid by several highway traffic jams on my way to the theater and arrived five minutes late, missing the triple bill’s first piece: Vittoria Girelli’s “Self-deceit”. As such, I can only comment on Roman Novitzky’s “Reflection/s” and “Ifima” by the choreographer duo Louis Stiens and Shaked Heller.

“Reflection/s” marks Novitzky’s retirement from an almost two-decade-long career as a dancer. Born in Slovakia, he danced with their National Ballet before joining the Stuttgart Ballet in 2009. Six years later, he was promoted to principal and made his first steps as a choreographer. On top of dancing and choreographing, Novitzky also became one of Stuttgart Ballet’s photographers. He was always busy and – if I interpreted his program-note interview correctly – rarely relaxed. (more…)

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. (more…)

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…)