German Companies

Trashy

“Triple”
Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
January 21, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. E.Supple and M.Manning, “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer Last weekend, the Cologne-based troupe Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference toured the Forum Ludwigsburg. The American-born Siegal founded the company in 2016 in Munich. He also serves as its artistic director and has choreographed nearly all of their repertoire. The triple bill in Ludwigsburg combined twenty-or-so minute-long pieces created between 2014 – 2021.

In a recent interview, Siegal revealed that “All For One” is a “reaction to the modes of digital spectatorship that emerged during the beginning of the pandemic.” The piece premiered online in fall 2021 with a set (an organ made from tall tubes of light arranged in a cylindrical semicircle) designed, perhaps, to appeal to an online audience. In Ludwigsburg, the murky illumination often hid the eleven dancers in twilight that obscured their pants, skirts, and bustiers (decorated with bulky silver folds that resembled supersized shreds of paper).
3. M.Manning, L.Zou, and C.Sorzano; “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer2. E.Supple, “All For One” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerSome men sported black, silver-rimmed briefs and erotic leather bondage gear. By my count, Markus Popp provided five pieces of techno music. The first flooded the stage with a deafening torrent of squeaks and hisses; the second’s repetitive percussion hammered my ear drums; number three reminded me of a slot machine going into hyperdrive. The rattling noise of the fourth made me wonder about the impact that dissonant decibels might have on the nervous system. It must be devastating – and, fittingly, the final composition sounded like a hangover.
The dancers, in an attempt at looking snappy, sexy, and cool, kick their legs and jump and strut between the light tubes. Ultimately, though, they faded against the cacophony of light and music, and I failed to discern any connection between the rhythms and the dance.

4. L.Zou, E.Supple, and ensemble; “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer5. N.Martinéz and J.R.Dean, “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerThe single bang that started off “Metric Dozen” (2014) came like a shock. Suddenly, the auditorium was pitch-black. Sharp spotlights opened on the dancers as they posed or stepped about.
The piece employs a metric dozen dancers – ten! – decked out by Alexandra Bertaut in white socks, black briefs, and black long-sleeved tops embellished with glitzy two-toned sequins. Accompanied by a nervous electronic pulsing (music by Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch) that later crescendoed into car-crash-like clangor (I hoped for a subsequent moment of silence – to no avail), the dancers step backwards and forwards as if bound to an invisible rectangular grid. They thrust their hips suggestively, 7. M.Manning, N.Martinéz, M.Chavez, M.Vomastek, and E.Supple; “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer 6. N.Martinéz and ensemble, “Metric Dozen” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermersway their bottoms, and athletically kick their legs. Arms swing through the air until locked in edgy angles. Some of the dancers wait in the half-dark watching an erotic pas de deux before marching across the stage. Whether treading in place, scuttling to and fro, or undulating their torsos like snakes, their movements appear mechanical and meaningless. As the atmosphere turns to a sullen red-light milieu, a woman forces sex from a man on the sidelines.
Lighting designer Gilles Gentner finally pulls the plug, switching the light abruptly off.

8. L.Gil, N.Martinez, and C.Sorzano; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer9. I.Sanford, E.Supple, S.Lammer, N.Martinéz, and M.Vomastek; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerJust like the previous pieces, “My Generation” starts with sudden music and eye-catching lighting – this time a catwalk made of light. The music is by Uwe Schmidt (AtomTM) assembled from electronically distorted pop songs and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…”. The twelve dancers living out this dream wore colorful sporting tricots (including the tricot of Kazakhstan’s Astana club). Costume designer Bernhard Wilhelm also sewed shorts from the tricots – though his design was so baggy that the dancers looked to be wearing diapers. That did nothing to stem their athletic bragging, though.
11. C.Sorzano and Evan Supple, “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer 10. M.Manning, “My Generation” by R,Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.SchermerOnce again we’re presented with a succession of acrobatic leg kicks, brawny leaps, and stilted poses. Pelvises thrust like rubbery battering rams; arms punch the air, and ecstasy lights a fire under their mechanical routines. The lighting is garishly green and yellow, and later fluorescent blue – cheap entertainment, but who cares? Let’s run free! Let’s have fun!
The sole highlight was a karaoke solo by Nicolás Martínez, who whizzed across the stage in a musical (and sexual) frenzy. Siegal would have done best to end “My Generation” here, but it dragged on with an uninspired group routine accompanied by the monotonous singsong “Ich bin meine Maschine” (“I am my machine”). That idea, it seems, is a good summary of his understanding of the art form.
12. C.Sorzano, I.Sanford, and M.Manning; “My Generation” by R.Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023 © T.Schermer

Links: Website of Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference
“Triple” (Teaser)
Photos: Some photos show a different cast from an earlier performance.
1. Evan Supple and Mason Manning, “All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
2. Evan Supple, All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
3. Mason Manning, Long Zou, Clara Sorzano; All For One” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
4. Long Zou, Evan Supple, and ensemble; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
5. Nicolás Martinéz and Jemima Rose Dean, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
6. Nicolás Martinéz and ensemble, “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
7. Mason Manning, Nicolás Martinéz, Martina Chavez, Madison Vomastek, and Evan Supple; “Metric Dozen” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
8. Livia Gil, Nicolas Martinez, and Clara Sorzano; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
9. Ian Sanford, Evan Supple, Sean Lammer, Nicolás Martinéz, and Madison Vomastek; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
10. Mason Manning, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
11. Clara Sorzano and Evan Supple, “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
12. Clara Sorzano, Ian Sanford, and Mason Manning; “My Generation” by Richard Siegal, Richard Siegal – Ballet of Difference 2023
all photos © Thomas Schermer
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Neumeier’s Call for Peace

“Dona Nobis Pacem”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
January 05, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. A.Martínez (He) and L.Giesenberg (Photographer), “Dona Nobis Pacem” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet 2023 © K.West John Neumeier’s latest choreography for the Hamburg Ballet, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”), is meant to be the crown jewel of his fiftieth season as artistic director of the company. The eighty-three-year-old Neumeier had originally intended to resign in July 2023, but chose to extend his contract for another year in order to ensure the smooth transition of his named successor Demis Volpi, currently the artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein. There are one and a half long years until then – and perhaps Neumeier will renounce his statement that “Dona Nobis Pacem” is to be his last new creation. (more…)

Jittery

“A Wilde Story”
State Ballet Hanover
Opera House Hanover
Hanover, Germany
November 20, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Chelucci (The Art of Writing), “A Wilde Story” by M.Goecke, State Ballet Hanover 2022 © B.Stöß2. C.Francis-Martin (Oscar Wilde), “A Wilde Story” by M.Goecke, State Ballet Hanover 2022 © B.StößMarco Goecke recently added the German magazine tanz’s “Choreographer of 2021” award and the 2022 German Dance Prize to his collection. Last month, he presented a new ballet at the State Ballet Hanover, which he has helmed as artistic director since 2019. “A Wilde Story” plays with the life and work of Oscar Wilde. I was curious to see whether or not the story was, in fact, wild.

The evening opens not with Wilde, but with a bare-chested Michelangelo Chelucci, who jerks open and closes off his muscular torso, arms plowing through the air. His feet scurry zealously this way and that as he elegantly lifts his black, floor-length skirt. A glance at the program book reveals that Chelucci personifies the art of writing. Behind him, black-clad dancers hustle from one side of the stage to the other, comic figures in fast-forward, shaking their fists. Their steps stir up dust that gradually blurs our view of the grainy facade of a stately gray mansion (set and costumes by Marvin Ott). Though the pulsing rock of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight Tonight” suggests otherwise, we’re in Victorian England. “Believe in me,” they sing – but at whom does this line aim? (more…)

Happy Eightieth!

“Egon Madsen 80”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakEgon Madsen has been a foundational figure in Stuttgart’s ballet and theater world for close to his entire career. He gave his stage debut at the young age of ten in a children’s ballet in his home country of Denmark. Nine years later (in 1961) he joined the Stuttgart Ballet under the newly appointed John Cranko. Key roles in Cranko’s signature pieces were choreographed on Madsen during a period dubbed the “Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”. After Cranko’s death, Madsen stayed with the Stuttgart Ballet until 1981. In the years that followed, he helmed several companies (the Frankfurt Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Ballet of the Teatro Communale/Florence) before becoming Marcia Haydée’s assistant director at Stuttgart and serving as ballet master in Stuttgart and Leipzig. In 1999 – at age fifty-seven – he returned to the stage with Nederlands Dans Theater’s NDT III. He also served as the troupe’s teacher and rehearsal director until it disbanded in 2006. One year later, Madsen returned to Stuttgart as a driving force behind Eric Gauthier’s newly established Gauthier Dance Company at the Theaterhaus. In addition to dancing in numerous Theaterhaus productions (most recently “Greyhounds” in 2015), Madsen also coached and trained the dancers. Since 2014, he has forayed into play-acting; his solo evening “King Lear”, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, can be seen at the Theaterhaus for a final time this November. (more…)

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. (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…)

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…)

Overdone

“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 10, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Maria” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools), the first premiere of the season for the State Theater Nuremberg, is a double bill choreographed by the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. It is comprised of two ensemble pieces: “Maria”, a ballad about the bible’s Maria Magdalena co-produced with the Diana Vishneva Foundation, St. Petersburg (Vishneva danced the leading role at the premiere in December; the photos below show her), and “Narrenschiff”, which gave the program its title. I saw the – for now – final performance. (more…)

Impromptu

Einmalig”
(“Bliss” / “Falling Angels” / “Solo” / Excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Schöpfung”, and “Mayerling” )
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Bliss” by J.Inger, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletAlthough the Stuttgart Ballet’s new all-Johan Inger triple bill was thwarted by a number of COVID-19 infections in the company, artistic director Tamas Detrich did not give in. Rather than canceling the scheduled March 4th performance, he assembled a substitute program literally overnight. From the original schedule, only Inger’s “Bliss” (2016) remained (2002’s “Out of Breath” and the recently premiered “Aurora’s Nap” were eliminated). A courageous dive into the company’s vast repertoire – short pieces by Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, and three excerpts from evening-length pieces – filled out the bill. (more…)

Giving Back

“Creare Crescere”
Stuttgart Ballet / Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey
Stuttgart, Germany / Monterrey, Mexico
September 25, 2021

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey 2021 © Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de MonterreyRocío Alemán, principal dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet, started her dance education in 2003 at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. In 2008, she moved to Stuttgart, where she finished her studies at the John Cranko School. After carving out a successful career for herself, she thought it time to thank her school in Monterrey for what it has given her. Her plan was to invite ten graduate students from Monterrey to visit the Stuttgart Ballet and work with dancers-cum-choreographers (of which the Stuttgart company, thanks to their annual choreographic workshops, has many) – but the plan was thwarted by COVID-19. Still, Alemán didn’t give up, adjusting her project to the new circumstances. If students and choreographers couldn’t meet in person, (more…)

Blabla Or Food For Thought?

“Blitirí”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
July 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasBlitirí is a term used in medieval time for something that has no meaning,” explains Goyo Montero, choreographer and artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet ensemble. He compares the word to jovial “blabla”. Indeed, his new choreography for “Blitirí” revolves around joy – at least, almost entirely.
Though originally planned as a solely digital project, the 25-minute piece premiered on July 10th to a live audience at Nuremberg’s State Theater as part of the triple bill “Goecke / Godani / Montero”. A few weeks later, Stefan Kleeberger and Montero realized the initial plan by releasing a filmed version that is available on the company’s YouTube channel. (more…)