German Companies

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.
Anderson is highly respected in Stuttgart and the character traits Arnold attributed to him in her introductory speech were no trivial birthday compliments. Indeed, Anderson is assiduous, very hard working, well organized and an exemplary multitasker. “Doing three things at the same time is no problem,” he confirmed. Moreover, he is generous, has humor but talk straight as well. Mediocrity does not become him and if the company’s progress should decline, he swiftly takes corrective measures. Anderson’s instinct for spotting talent has been proven over decades, and he has also been patient to see it bud and grow. His role has been one of a facilitator, and he is known for giving opportunities early.

2. T.Schleider and R.Anderson, matinée talk © Stuttgart BalletAnderson expects commitment, but, as Valerie Wilder, his associate director back then in Toronto, is cited in the book, “when something happened that was his fault; he took the blame.” For Anderson, failures are lessons, which, once learned, can be forgotten. Compared to many other directors who are reluctant to allow their dancers a short leave, his dancers guest a lot. In an anecdote in the book Robert Tewsley recalls how Anderson even pressed an agent’s telephone number into his hand, saying: “You must dance all over the world, you really have the potential to make an international career. […] Your career is short-lived, you have to earn well.” But he did expect you to come home. The ones who don’t, the renegades, as Reinhardt once termed them, risk losing the permission to dance Cranko’s pieces in the future.

Genuinely modest, Anderson was surprised by the book project at first. “I’m not Marcia [Haydée] or Richard [Cragun]. Maybe I was a dance personality, but I didn’t dance in the front line.” Yet mulling the idea over he got more and more interested in walking down memory lane. Many carefully researched details found their way onto the pages. They help to understand Anderson’s personal development, which is inseparable from that of Stuttgart Ballet. “After reading the book one knows why things are like they are,” he said. But for describing “how it really was”, Anderson thinks he might have to take up the pen himself some day.

On Broadway, Anderson would be dubbed a triple threat, because he can dance, play-act and sing. That is why he almost would have launched into a career as an actor at the age of sixteen if “this insect Classical Ballet” had not already bitten him. Instead of performing on Broadway, Anderson opted to enroll at the Royal Ballet School in London, prompting a huge argument with his father. “He said that I wouldn’t make any money and would end up living in a basement flat with no hot water in the middle of nowhere and that no one would respect me.” But in the end, both parents supported their son as they’ve always had.

3. R.Anderson doing the Cha-Cha-Cha © R.AndersonThat Anderson is a child of the stage – regardless of which one – was discovered by accident when he was four years old. His parents, big fans of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly, had decided that Reid’s younger sister should take dance classes, but “[…] poor Susan was so shy back then she just stood around. She wouldn’t hop. She wouldn’t clap. She wouldn’t do anything. She just grabbed onto my shorts and held on.” […] Before too long Reid’s dad asked him to get up and hold his sister’s hand. Little Reid didn’t find the exercises all too difficult, joined in, and that was the beginning.

Two years later, he took up ballet training and later participated in several summer intensives at the Banff School of Fine Arts. His sister carried on with dance too, and the siblings became firmly established performers at local shows. Their mother designed and sewed the costumes, while their father coached and rehearsed them. “Other kids had loud-mouth stage mothers egging them on. We had a father who helped us in a quiet, but demanding way.” Warren Anderson trusted his son, instilled self-trust in him, and taught him discipline: “If you begin something, do it wholeheartedly and, whatever happens, complete it.”

Anderson has been praised as a fantastic stage partner. “You just felt like gold in his hands,” ballerina Yseult Lendvai raved. Yet his body wasn’t made for dance, and he needed to work against it all the time. Today, he has two hip replacements.

Anderson describes himself as having been a well-behaved boy, shy and mute like a fish in interviews while his sister blithely chattered. Today, this is totally different. He knows how to flip his inner switch to Showtime!, onstage as well as in everyday life. Being an entertainer comes naturally to him. Regardless how he feels in the morning, the moment he opens the door to the opera house, it is showtime. Anderson himself doesn’t matter anymore; the people matter, and it is time for business.

Asked by Schleider why he always puts the others in the spotlight and hardly ever himself, Anderson explained: “In my position one cannot think of oneself. I think of the others, because they are the ones I have to work with. You mentioned Robert Tewsley … all right: one sees Robert Tewsley. He looks like a young god; he is seventeen years old and has something, which is unique. Of course I think about how to support him. Because if he proceeds, if he becomes the best version of himself, he will advance the progress of the company. Pushing dancers and young choreographers to the top is an investment into our future.” Under Anderson, Stuttgart Ballet has invested enormously in this future; many dancers and choreographers have made their mark because of him. He has this ominous it-factor that, as Cranko said, you either have or you don’t, andthat you can’t get. It is more than the sum of skills. It is the gift one is given from heaven, and luckily, Anderson made it thrive in himself and in others.

4. R.Anderson and F.Vogel at a rehearsal of M.Béjart`s “Bolero” © Stuttgart BalletOn first sight, Anderson’s career path seems like a staircase he smoothly climbed up, step by step. Already a successful performer at young age, he complemented his training in London, got a contract in Stuttgart, rose through the ranks, became director in Canada and, experienced and apparently bursting of energy, he finally returned to Stuttgart where he led the troupe back to world-class level. Upon closer look, things weren’t free of trouble though.

In London, Anderson had worked hard for months to get an engagement with the Royal Ballet. But Frederick Ashton, director of the company back then, turned him down: “We can’t take that Canadian boy. He sticks out a mile. He’s too tall. You can see him all the time.” Anderson was devastated and thought this would be the end of everything.

Purely by chance, he learned that Cranko was searching for male dancers in Stuttgart. His parents wired him the money for the flight to Stuttgart. On January 3rd, 1969, he arrived there in the depths of winter, auditioned, returned to London, and prepared himself mentally to be refused. Two weeks later a telegram arrived from Dieter Graefe, the secretary of the ballet (and since Cranko’s death the owner of the performing rights for all Cranko ballets): “You got the job – stop – need you asap – stop – for the tour to New York – stop – can you get out of your contract – stop.” Anderson not only had a job; with Graefe, he had found the love of his life. Both have been a couple for forty-eight years since then.

In early 1986 Anderson and Graefe moved to Vancouver. Did a lucrative job offer lure Anderson back to his homeland? No. In fact, he and Graefe had hit rock bottom. After a “blazing row” with Haydée, then artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet, Greafe left the company. For Anderson, it was clear that he had to go with his partner.
At Christmas 1985 both men sat at home in Stuttgart, jobless and clueless about the future. They decided to go to Canada, but still they had no precise plans and hoped for serendipity to take over. Exactly that happened. Anderson was asked to choreograph a piece for Ballet British Columbia, when the post of artistic director there suddenly became available. He was appointed. Compared to the Stuttgart top troupe, Ballet British Columbia  was in its early stages of development. “I did what I always do: I do everything myself. I gave class, conducted rehearsals and wrote applications. […] I knew how to build up a company, because I had experienced it myself with John. Regardless how big it is, whether it has twelve or twenty-five or 5. R.Anderson and M.Haydée at the Stuttgart Ballet 50th Anniversary celebrations © Stuttgart Balleteighty dancers, a company is a company is a company.” Anderson activated his old contacts, called Billy Forsythe, Jiří Kylián and others to ask for pieces. Using the network – the same strategy all of Anderson’s dancers apply today when leaving the company to establish themselves in leading positions elsewhere.

Ballet British Columbia was growing and thriving by the time the National Ballet of Canada searched for a new director. Anderson, interested in working with a big company, gave it a try, applied and got the job. In the following seven years he restructured the troupe’s repertoire. His programming skills are compared to those of a genius. For the ones curious about Anderson’s tried and tested formula for compiling program: check the book!

The National Ballet of Canada was flourishing, but Anderson returned to Stuttgart. Why? Ongoing funding cuts were the root of the problem. Just at that time, Stuttgart Ballet was searching for a new director to succeed Haydée. Anderson picked up the phone… “It was zero hour. They already had names in the hat. I flew over. […] I walked into a room and there were 25 people. I was being introduced to the important politicians, the mayor, the movers and shakers of the state. I hadn’t spoken German for ten years. They asked questions. […] The biggest question asked was: Do you think you would be able to clean up the company?” […] The next morning, Reid learned from a telephone call that he was accepted. “I remember I stood frozen to the spot.”

6. R.Anderson with his Intendant-colleagues A.Petras (Theater), M.-O.Hendriks (State Theater Stuttgart) and J.Wieler (Opera) in 2015 © M.SigmundCleaning up was a tough mission. In the following years, Anderson had to solve the problem of an aging ensemble. Twenty-five dancers were released from their contracts, and the gaps were filled by twenty-one new dancers he brought along. The local newspapers railed. Anderson was spat at in the streets; an angry ballet fan poured a drink into his face, furious that his favorite dancer had been fired; Anderson even got death threats. “But I got through. I had experience.” Experience is the key element. Anderson has gained so much of it that nothing frightens him. “People want change, but the moment one takes it on, they are not pleased.” This proved true just recently, although change dawned only faintly on the horizon. Tamas Detrich, Anderson’s successor in 2018, had talked with resident choreographer Marco Goecke about possible artistic directions for the company in the future. This caused an outcry in the media, which speculated that Goecke’s contract might not be extended.
Maybe it is worth to call to mind what Smith writes about Anderson’s time at the National Ballet of Canada: [Reid Anderson] saw the good in what had been and was sorry to let it go, but he knew excitement and renewal would only come with a new look at old things. Sticking with the tried and true was a route to disaster.

Regarding his time after handing over the baton, Anderson already has an idea up in his sleeve: “I’m very tidy; I already was as a child. I’m fantastic in doing the housework. So after next season, if you need a cleaner … I will make everything spic and span. I’m also good in dealing with craftsmen. If one has eighty racehorses in the stable, handling some craftsmen is peanuts…” Anderson would not only spruce up your home, you would also get a good show. What a deal!
7. T.Schleider and R.Anderson, matinée talk © Stuttgart Ballet

Links: Website of Stuttgart Ballet
Photos:  1. “Reid Anderson – Having It”, book cover © Henschel Publishing House
 2. Tim Schleider and Reid Anderson, matinée talk © Stuttgart Ballet
 3. Reid Anderson doing the Cha-Cha-Cha © Reid Anderson
 4. Reid Anderson and Friedemann Vogel at a rehearsal of Maurice Béjart`s “Bolero” © Stuttgart Ballet
 5. Reid Anderson and Marcia Haydée at the Stuttgart Ballet 50th Anniversary celebrations © Stuttgart Ballet
 6. Reid Anderson with his Intendant-colleagues Armin Petras (Theater), Marc-Oliver Hendriks (State Theater Stuttgart) and Jossi Wieler (Opera) in 2015 © Martin Sigmund
 7. Tim Schleider and Reid Anderson, matinée talk © Stuttgart Ballet
Editing: Tiffany Lau

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…)

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…)

Spartacus versus Crassus

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
January 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Gouneo and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” has four leading characters: Spartacus, the heroic fighter for freedom, his antipode, the Roman consul Crassus, and the two men’s lovers, Phrygia and Aegina. The dynamics between the four characters varies depending on the dancers. Having already seen the ballet before Christmas, I was curious as to how the dynamics would be re-balanced by another cast. This time Cuban-born Osiel Gouneo danced Spartacus alongside Ivy Amista as Phrygia. Erik Murzagaliyev replaced the injured Matêj Urban in the role of Crassus. Prisca Zeisel was Crassus’s concubine Aegina.

Gouneo’s Spartacus melded feline suppleness with focused power. He is a fine jumper and turns with elegant ease. With confidence and natural pride, his chest cut through the air like a stately ship’s figurehead. His Spartacus was driven by inner visions, by an intense desire which the flash of his eyes also strongly expressed. Gouneo’s acting, be it when protecting Phrygia, uniting his fighters or struggling as a captive, was credible throughout. He made Spartacus a charismatic, likeable leader. (more…)

Munich’s Heroes

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Shklyarov and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Since last Thursday, shortly before Christmas Eve, heroic fighters have commanded the stage of Munich’s National Theater. Hordes of men together with a few women all of them representing characters of either Thracian or Roman lineage, dance “Spartacus”, the epic about a Thracian man who, after having been enslaved by the Roman consul Crassus, engineers a revolt. What will happen, happens: Spartacus dies a hero’s death.

Big doses of fierce fighting and repeated displays of valor need a strong portion of the erotic in order to make them palatable to the audience. That is supplied by two women – Phrygia, Spartacus’s faithful mistress, and Aegina, Crassus’s conniving courtesan. The ballet’s action is based on the novella “Spartaco”, penned in 1874 by Raffaello Giovagnoli, who likely took liberties with historical material from before the Christian era.

There are plenty of “Spartacus” ballets in existence. Budapest, Vienna, Hong Kong and Cape Town have their own productions. Russia has seen four versions: the most recent is Georgy Kovtun’s for the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Aram Khachaturian had composed the music in 1954, and the first staging, by Igor Moiseyev for the Bolshoi in 1956 was short-lived. It was given only two performances, perhaps because it contained much pantomime but too little dancing. (more…)

The Bavarian State Ballet Prepares for the Slave Uprising

“Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
December 16, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Urban and P.Zeisel, “Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus”, chor.: Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © N.Rodboon 2016Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” premieres the day before Christmas Eve in Munich. Since September the Bolshoi’s Oksana Tsvetnitskaya and Ruslan Pronin have been rehearsing the troupe. Grigorovich also arrived from Moscow to supervise the production. He didn’t attend Friday evening’s open rehearsal, but Tsvetnitskaya and Pronin were present.

Compared to the last “Ballet Extra,” the queue in front of the company’s rehearsal premises in Munich’s city center was shorter, certainly not because of a lack of interest or Christmas shopping, but due to the limited space in the Bosl-Studio where the event took place. (more…)

More of the Same

“The Song of the Earth”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Bouchet and A.Trusch, “The Song of the Earth” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © S.Ballone 2016While the Nutcracker-season is in full swing elsewhere, some ballet stages in German-speaking countries bring up serious and even fierce topics during Christmas time. Just recently, Christian Spuck premiered “Messa da Requiem”, his new creation for Zurich Ballet; the Bavarian State Ballet is in its final rehearsals for “Spartacus” awaiting Yuri Grigorovich’s finishing touch. In Hamburg, John Neumeier added another ballet, his fifteenth, to his encyclopedic collection of choreographies to music by Gustav Mahler. (more…)

Welcome Innovations

“Oracle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Gibson, “Oracle” by J.Hernandez, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016With the new year quickly approaching, the art of prophecy is in great demand in Dresden. One clairvoyant resides in a cozy, tiny hut on a beautiful, rustic Christmas market in the old stable yard next to the Dresden Castle. An expert in palm reading, cartomancy and runes magic, the white-haired lady offers glances into what next year will bring.

Not far from her stall, in the former opera restaurant just recently altered into the studio stage “Semper Two,” another soothsayer, a quite prominent lady, is at work. Or, to be precise, is fed up with work. Alas, there is currently no chance to receive advice from her. Joseph Hernandez, coryphée of Semperoper Ballet and a fledgling choreographer, attended to the matter in the dance theater “Oracle”, his first piece for Semperoper Ballet. Accompanied by a musical mix consisting of vintage jazz as well as cello and violin sounds of various atmospheres, it unveils the Oracle of Delphi’s problem. Exhausted from putting herself into a trance to answer the never-ending questions, the woman priest, simply called Oracle (Aidan Gibson) by Hernandez, wants to get off the hot seat. But how? (more…)

Straightforward Towards Mediocrity

“Don Quixote”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 13, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Gileva, I.Simon and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by A.S.Watkin, Semperoper Ballet © S.Ballone 2016One wishes for better program coordination given the fact that three German companies, Stuttgart Ballet, the Aalto Ballet Essen and Semperoper Ballet are offering “Don Quixote” almost at the same time. Premieres in Essen and Dresden were even scheduled for the same day, November 5th. The versions in Stuttgart and Essen are traditional adaptions; in Dresden, artistic director Aaron S.Watkin came up with his own creation. The idea sprang from set and costume designer Patrick Kinmonth to strip the adventurous story of Alonso Quixano alias Don Quixote down to a mere framework on which a new, “more real and convincing story” was hung. (more…)

Séverine Ferrolier – Queen of the Night, Ballerina and Osteopath-to-be

Bavarian State Ballet
Munich, Germany
October, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Ferrolier rehearsing “Giselle”, chor.: P.Wright after M.Petipa, J.Coralli and J.Perrot, Bavarian State Ballet 2016 © S.Ballone“I was a little catastrophe”, said Séverine Ferrolier, soloist of the Bavarian State Ballet. “I had so much energy as a child, I was always joking, horsing around and teasing my older brother. Like a little actress. I wasn’t shy.” Her self-description surprised me. The women, I was sitting opposite to in the rehearsal premises of the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, was mindfully serene, warm-hearted and centered in herself. We met in mid-October to talk about her career and her plans for the future. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – Do Incorrect Procedures Mar Waltz and Öhman’s Appointment?

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 28, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © Landesarchiv Berlin 2016Reportedly, Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin were ratified a few days ago. The procedure as taken by Berlin’s Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs puzzles one though. Personal decisions of this caliber require the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera. The Stiftungsrat is the board of the Berlin Opera Foundation, a corporate body under public law, integrating Berlin’s three opera houses, the ballet company and the Stage Services Company as individual organizations under one roof. Seven members constitute this board, among them Micheal Müller, the cultural senator and governing mayor of Berlin. The Stiftungsrat requires a quorum of at least half of all the members. (more…)

Creating an Image

Ballet Companies in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland
Semperoper Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein,
Dutch National Ballet, Zurich Ballet
October 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

What kind of image distinguishes Stuttgart Ballet from Dutch National Ballet? Or the Bavarian State Ballet from the State Ballet Berlin? What is it the dancers – and their audience – identify with as their company? How do companies present themselves to the public? Such were my thoughts when seeing the Semperoper Ballet’s new image campaign, #WHYWEDANCE. I asked several major companies to send me images of their choice representing their respective company’s image.

1. R.Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20162. J.Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Semperoper Ballet chose four of the sixty-one dancer portraits of #WHYWEDANCE. The new ensemble brochure presents each in full-page size. In addition they are spread via social media and on billboards and advertising pillars in Dresden. Aaron S.Watkin, in his eleventh year as artistic director, put the spotlight on his company this season whose face has changed since his beginning in 2006. Next to the dancers, Ian Whalen, the troupe’s photographer and multimedia expert, also shot Watkin and staff members. Names, places of birth, ranks within the company and the year when joining the ensemble come along with each portrait. In addition, every dancer sums up their motivation for the profession, the why and wherefore of choosing a career with dance in a single word. (more…)

Almost Holy

“The World of John Neumeier”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
October 08, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Riggins and ensemble, “Bernstein Dances” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © K.West 2016Calling two big stages home is a luxury few can call their own. Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier enjoyed it for the seventieth time this autumn when touring the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden for one week. Usually they bring along two pieces and one workshop moderated by Neumeier himself. This year the two ballets were “Romeo and Juliet”, scheduled three times with different leading couples, and “The World of John Neumeier”, a collection of excerpts from autobiographically significant pieces. It premiered in Tokyo earlier this year and was shown on two consecutive evenings in Baden-Baden. I saw the first performance. (more…)