Ballett am Rhein

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…)

There is Nothing Like Being Naughty

“b.28” (“Esplanade”, “Tenebre”, “Different Dialogues”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
July 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. W.S.Chan, A.Simões, D.Becker, V.Hoffman, C.Andriot and B.Narnhammer, “Esplanade” by P.Taylor, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 2016Last Sunday the Ballett am Rhein began summer break after a final performance of “b.28”. This time the triple bill lacks choreography by the company’s artistic director Martin Schläpfer. Instead it combines three ensemble pieces by others: Paul Taylor”s “Esplanade”, Hubert Essakow’s “Tenebre”, and “Different Dialogues” by Nils Christe.

Works by Paul Taylor are very rare on German dance stages. It was a welcome chance to see a key work of the “naughty boy of Modern Dance”, as Taylor jokingly called himself in a 2013 video. “It was not acceptable what I was doing…” recalls Taylor about his beginning in the mid 1950s in New York. (more…)

Substantial

“b.27” (“Duo Concertant”, “Variations and Partitas”, “The Green Table”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
March 18, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.-K.Adam and M.Menha, “Duo Concertant” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Ballett am Rhein © G.WeigeltMuch credit is due to Martin Schläpfer for his repertory policy. Since he has taken over the Ballet am Rhein as director and chief choreographer in 2009, he has fostered variety, even though his own creations dominate the schedule. Unlike Hamburg Ballet, for example, with its excessively one-sided Neumeier-diet, Schläpfer keeps ballet’s historical legacy alive – this season with ballets by Bournonville, Tudor and Ashton – while also offering up-to-date choreographers a platform. Schläpfer has Swiss roots and a close relationship to nature. A recent documentary about him (“Feuer bewahren”) shows him on vacation at his solitary mountain lodge in Tessin. He is likable, unpretentious and down-to earth.

Though Ballet am Rhein’s ensemble might not be as versatile as Stuttgart Ballet’s in adopting different styles – Schläpfer, training them himself, has imprinted his own style on them – it benefits and grows with each challenge. “b.27”, which received its premiere last weekend, is such a case. The triple bill has “Variations and Partitas”, new choreography by Schläpfer at its center, framed by George Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” and “The Green Table” by Kurt Jooss. (more…)

Missing Diversity

“b.22” (“verwundert seyn – zu sehn”, “Moves”, “ein Wald, ein See”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
June 06, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Menha and C.Nzerem, “verwundert seyn – zu sehn” by M.Schläpfer, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt 2015Martin Schläpfer, artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein, makes no effort racking his brain to find appealing titles for ballet evenings. He simply numbers them, this season arriving at “b.24”. I saw an earlier work, “b.22”, a triple bill made up of Jerome Robbins’s “Moves” as the centerpiece, framed by two works by Schläpfer himself: “verwundert seyn – zu sehn” and “a forest, a lake” (“ein Wald, ein See”).

“Verwundert seyn – zu sehn” premiered in January this year at the Theater Duisburg, the company’s second home stage. Its title is a citation picked out of “Parerga and Paralipomena” (“Appendices and Omissions”), a collection of reflections by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The two volumes gather, among others, Schopenhauer’s thoughts on philosophy, science, nature, color theory, suicide or metaphysic. “Verwundert seyn – zu sehn” is taken from a chapter dealing with the vanity of life. A serious, rather gloomy subject. To get the right perspective, one has to know that Schläpfer dedicated the piece to Bogdan Nicula, a long-time dancer in his ensemble. Being in his mid- thirties, the Rumanian developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis last year. Within short time he was bound to the wheelchair and depended on artificial respiration. (more…)

Imprints

“b.21” (“Serenade”, “Alltag”, “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No.2”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
October 25, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, "Serenade" by G.Balanchine, (c) The George Balanchine Trust, photo G.Weigelt Behind the abstract title “b.21” in the program of the Ballett am Rhein is a ballet evening by Martin Schläpfer, the twenty-first one, since Schläpfer took over as artistic director and resident choreographer at the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The triple bill encompasses George Balanchine’s “Serenade”, followed by “Alltag” (meaning “Daily Life”), a new piece by Hans van Manen, and closes with Schläpfer’s “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No. 2”. (more…)