Others / Germany

Meager Substance

“Dance Gala Baden-Wuerttemberg”
Theater and Orchestra Heidelberg
Heidelberg, Germany
June 06, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Pérez, artistic director of the Dance Biennial Heidelberg and the Dance Theater Heidelberg © S.Reichardt“Everybody Can Dance” was the motto of this year’s Dance Biennial Heidelberg, the fourth since the event’s inception. Pandemic-related restrictions pared down the three-day festival’s schedule to a few online events, crowned by a dance gala on Sunday, June 6th. Nine of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s dance companies were represented there, together contributing thirteen short pieces – nine digital and four danced live.

The Unterwegstheater Heidelberg, a small touring company whose work spans multiple genres opened the program with the video “Die nackte Wahrheit” (“The Naked Truth”). The film follows three performers (Sada Mamedova, Amancio Gonzales, and Luches Huddleston) through a sparsely furnished flat in an old 2. L.Huddleston and S.Mamedova, “The Naked Truth” by J.Gonzales, Unterwegstheater Heidelberg 2021 © B.Fauserbuilding in Heidelberg. Choreographer Jai Gonzales has the trio move their legs as if warming up, perform floor acrobatics, and walk in zig-zagging lines down the corridor. They’re accompanied by music from Bach and Schubert. Mamedova opens one door over and over again without ever entering the room, hides behind another door, and wriggles and twists her body near the wall beneath an enormous modern painting. Gonzales rehearses hip gyrations in front of the mirror and shows off his fancy white sneakers. Each twist and contortion is well conceived and subject to self-observation. The video would have benefited greatly from courageous cuts.

3. L.Angelini and A.Terribile, “Colors of Beauty” by S.Thoss, National Theater Mannheim 2021 © S.ReichardtThe National Theater Mannheim contributed two pieces: the duet “Green” of “Colors of Beauty” and “Crescendo”, both danced live. In “Green”, two men (Lorenzo Angelini and Alberto Terribile) in white underwear, black socks, a green shirt (Angelini), and black jacket (Terribile) dance in front of a black-and-white projection of a forest glade that gradually fills with color (choreography, video, and costumes by Stephan Thoss). As they crawl and scamper across the floor, and pull the green shirt over each others heads, repetitive rhythms replace the twittering of birds. The motivation for their duet is unclear – perhaps simply the joy of moving.

In “Crescendo”, also choreographed by Thoss, six dancers (three men + three women in gray full-body leotards) stretch as if in a yoga class – arms twirling, bodies twisting, completing a series of unspecific movements for an unspecific reason. According to the short description in the program, the four rectangular green carpets on which they dance, symbolize “blown up nature”. In the final scene, one woman covers herself with a carpet as if it was a bedspread and falls asleep as the others leave. The music is by Arvo Pärt.

4. S.Covi and H.Bae, “45” by D.Gmür, Ballet Theater Pforzheim 2021 © S.Haymann“45” by the Ballet Theater Pforzheim reflects on how bonds and connections between people are possible given that each one’s feel-good-distance is 45 centimeters. The choreographer Damian Gmür places two groups of four dancers each onto a square space. The groups alternate, performing vigorous nondescript movements (sometimes in sync, sometimes solo) to monotonous electronica by Fabian Schulz. Dim lighting alternates with bursts of strobe light. At first, each dancer occupies one quarter of the square; later, the quarters merge. To the sound of torrential rain, one male/female couple starts to crawl across the floor, her caressing him. The connection to the concept of 45 centimeters wasn’t obvious.

5. M.Markl and J.Simon, “Little Sorrows” by C.Liakopoyloy, Nostos Dance Theater 2021 © C.LiakopoyloyThe Heidelberg-based Nostos Dance Theater presented “Little Sorrows”, a piece for two dancers (Miriam Markl and Joseph Simon) that addresses the correlation between the human body and war. Accompanied by meditative music (by Ada Deane) and the sound of flowing water (by Julia Fonseca), Markl, barefooted and decked out in red Adidas sweatpants and a green shirt, writhes on the floor, stumbles sideways as if drunk, and falls on all fours (choreography by Christina Liakopoyloy). Her face is covered by unkempt curls that she pulls tight and straight again and again. A thread from a red ball of wool tied to one of her legs uncoils as she moves. Simon, wearing 6. J.Simon, “Little Sorrows” by C.Liakopoyloy, Nostos Dance Theater 2021 © C.Liakopoyloyfull-body camouflage overalls, scuttles along, his feet crossed-over, his head tilted, holding his arms close to his body, his hands stretching sideways. He suffers from tremor that intensifies into uncontrollable convulsions when he sinks, exhausted, into a crooked plastic chair. Later, he desperately crawls and rolls across the floor, holding his head as if wounded and entangling himself in the red thread. Markl crouches on the margin, disinterested facing away from him and contemplating her hands and her curls. The piece wasn’t particularly pleasant to watch, but had substance.

7. C.Steitz, “The Present Now Will Later Be The Past” by B.Breiner, Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe 2021 © Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe Likewise substantial were the two pieces choreographed by Bridget Breiner, artistic director and chief choreographer of the Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe: “The Present Now Will Later Be The Past” (a solo) and “Cut The World” (a duet).
In “The Present Now Will Later Be The Past”, Carolin Steitz interprets Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changin” in a visually rich solo danced around a giant white ribbon tied off in a recumbent figure eight on the floor. This ribbon is raised above the heads of Alba Nadal and Baris Comak in “Cut 8. B.Comak and A.Nadal, “Cut the World” by B.Breiner, Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe 2021 © Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe The World”, titled after the accompanying song by Anthony and the Johnsons. Nadal and Comak dance meters apart, never touching, although their movements are somewhat connected at times. Their feet leave tracks in the white powder that is spread across the floor. After a series of fierce jumps by Comak and frantic turns by Nadal, both stop wearily. If their dance is to depict the state of their relationship, it must be in crisis.

9. F.Vogel, “Metrof” by S.Heller, Stuttgart Ballet 2021 © B.WeisStuttgart Ballet was represented by the solo “Metrof”, choreographed by Shaked Heller to music by Chopin (played live by Paul Lewis) and danced by Friedemann Vogel in front of the marble columns of the Stuttgart Opera House’s foyer. Vogel, flexing his feet and feeling out invisible borders, moves elegantly back and forth across the black dance floor as if searching for something. The lighting was – maybe deliberately – glaring.

The second Stuttgart company, Gauthier Dance from the Theaterhaus Stuttgart, selected three videos from its recent “Dying Swans Project” – a project comprised of sixteen short pieces (each created for one member of the company by another choreographer).

11. S.Yamamoto, “Fallen Wings” by D.Dumais, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © J.Bak10. A.Cummings, “Covid Cage” by E.Gauthier, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © J.Bak“Fallen Wings” by Dominique Dumais places dancer Shori Yamamoto in a concrete arena in the autumnal countryside. He screams silently, covering his head with his coat as he jumps. He grabs a handful of earth and lets it trickle down, almost like the flowing grace of tai chi. In the final scene, he walks up a hill towards the sinking sun.

In Kinsun Chan’s “Silent Swan”, Bruna Andrade walks and climbs on the seats of a long row of white chairs in a bright, white hall-like room. Her wide black pants and skimpy bra contrast effectively with the backdrop. She repositions the chairs and lies down on them, finally resting prone on 12. B.Andrade, “Silent Swan” by K.Chan, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © J.Bakthe floor as if dead.

“Covid Cage” by Eric Gauthier sends Andrew Cummings to an old shingled house to play a grimacing, grinning madman. Only when an older woman (presumably his mother) rings the doorbell does he behave normally. The camera briefly zooms in on a plaster on her upper arm, indicating that she has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Cummings, however, remains confined to his own four walls.

In Reiner Feistel’s “The silence of the men / Klaus discovering the outside” (“Das Schweigen der Männer / Klaus geht raus”), 14. N.Paneva (Alexa), Y.Ebihara (Klaus) and artist of the Theater Ulm, “The silence of the men / Klaus discovering the outside” by R.Feistel, Theater Ulm 2021 © M.Kaufhold13. Artist of the Theater Ulm, “The silence of the men / Klaus discovering the outside” by R.Feistel, Theater Ulm 2021 © M.Kaufholdproduced by the dance theater of the Theater Ulm, we watch as Klaus (Yoh Ebihara), a soda-loving couch potato in sweatpants, watches TV in his untidy bachelor pad. Klaus orders pizza from Amazon’s verbose voice assistant Alexa (Nora Paneva in sexy leather pants) and quarrels with her over the TV remote. Television fuels his dreams with attractive women and spunky men, but he never opens the door of his flat to go out.

15. A.Brys und A.Mueals Blanco, “Oscillation” by I.Pérez, Dance Theater Heidelberg 2021 © S.Reichardt16. A.Muelas Blanco and artist of the Dance Theater Heidelberg, “Oscillation” by I.Pérez, Dance Theater Heidelberg 2021 © A.Poiana “Oscillation”, created for the Dance Theater Heidelberg by its artistic director Iván Pérez (who is also the artistic director of the Dance Biennial Heidelberg), is the third in a trilogy about millennials. This final piece was danced live by three women and three men on a gray box-like stage to music by Ferran Cruixent. The dancers stand motionless, then begin to walk and run, always keeping spacious distance between themselves and the others. Their movements shift from slow to fast – first freezing, then moving in slow motion, then bursting fiercely into motion. Solos, danced in groups of three, seem to be free-style inventions, as the dancers frequently ran on and off of the stage. The video projection depicted on one photo wasn’t part of the performance. “Oscillation” was uneventful and lengthy.

The host of the evening – Hendrik Richter – was the unfortunate victim of imperfect audio-visual synchronization and a cameraperson who pointed the lens at his crotch.

Links: Website of the Dance Theater Heidelberg
Photos: 1. Iván Pérez, artistic director of the Dance Biennial Heidelberg and the Dance Theater Heidelberg © Susanne Reichardt
2. Luches Huddleston and Sada Mamedova, “The Naked Truth” by Jai Gonzales, Unterwegstheater Heidelberg 2021 © Bernhard Fauser
3. Lorenzo Angelini and Alberto Terribile, “Colors of Beauty” by Stephan Thoss, National Theater Mannheim 2021 © Susanne Reichardt
4. Stella Covi and Hyeun-Woo Bae, “45” by Damian Gmür, Ballet Theater Pforzheim 2021 © Sabine Haymann
5. Miriam Markl and Joseph Simon, “Little Sorrows” by Christina Liakopoyloy, Nostos Dance Theater 2021 © Christina Liakopoyloy
6. Joseph Simon, “Little Sorrows” by Christina Liakopoyloy, Nostos Dance Theater 2021 © Christina Liakopoyloy
7. Carolin Steitz, “The Present Now Will Later Be The Past” by Bridget Breiner, Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe 2021 © Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe
8. Baris Comak and Alba Nadal, “Cut the World” by Bridget Breiner, Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe 2021 © Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe
9. Friedemann Vogel, “Metrof” by Shaked Heller, Stuttgart Ballet 2021 © Bernhard Weis
10. Andrew Cummings, “Covid Cage” by Eric Gauthier, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © Jeanette Bak
11. Shori Yamamoto, “Fallen Wings” by Dominique Dumais, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © Jeanette Bak
12. Bruna Andrade, “Silent Swan” by Kinsun Chan, Gauthier Dance Company 2021 © Jeanette Bak
13. Artist of the Theater Ulm, The silence of the men / Klaus discovering the outside” by Reiner Feistel, Theater Ulm 2021 © Martin Kaufhold
14. Nora Paneva (Alexa), Yoh Ebihara (Klaus) and artist of the Theater Ulm, The silence of the men / Klaus discovering the outside” by Reiner Feistel, Theater Ulm 2021 © Martin Kaufhold
15. Arno Brys und Andrea Mueals Blanco, “Oscillation” by Iván Pérez, Dance Theater Heidelberg 2021 © Susanne Reichardt
16. Andrea Muelas Blanco and artist of the Dance Theater Heidelberg, “Oscillation” by Iván Pérez, Dance Theater Heidelberg 2021 © Alwin Poiana
Editing: Jake Stepansky


Gauthier Dance
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
June 22, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Guerra and L.Prunty, “Nijinski” by M.Goecke, Gauthier Dance © R.Brocke 2016Stuttgart’s Gauthier Dance is known for entertaining programs. Commissioning Marco Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer, with a ballet about Vaslav Nijinsky heralds a change of course towards the serious.
Nijinsky is a legend. He was the star dancer of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (1909 – 1921) and as a choreographer ahead of his time. But tragically mental illness struck him in the middle of his life. How did Goecke approach him?

One thing was clear from the beginning. Goecke and Nijinsky have things in common. Nijinsky’s choreographies, especially “L’Après-midi d’un faune” (1912) and “Le Sacre du printemps” (1913), sent shock waves through the cultural world. (more…)

Riding the Wild Surf

“Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night”
Ballet of the Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra Thuringia
Theater Gera
Gera, Germany
June 17, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Kuzina and P.Jovicic, “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” by J.Bubeníček, Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra Thuringia © S.Ballone 2016Two months ago Jiří and Otto Bubeníček mounted the ballet “Doctor Zhivago” in Ljubljana. Last week the Czech Republic, their home country, honored them with the Gratias Agit for promoting the nation’s reputation abroad. Just this Friday the brothers gave their country a further reason for being proud of them: the premiere of “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” in Gera, Thuringia. This ballet traces the life and character of the scandalous German dancer, actress and self-promoter, a phenomenon of the “golden 1920s”. Choreography for the production is Jiří’s. Otto designed the set and costumes. Both brothers are responsible for the staging. This one acter, “Anita Berber”, again showed the Bubeniceks’ gift for storytelling. (more…)

An Indomitable Woman

“Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter”
Ballett im Revier
Musiktheater im Revier
Gelsenkirchen, Germany
November 20, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Alexi, “Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter” by B.Breiner, photo C.RaduIt is just Bridget Breiner’s third season at the helm of the Ballett im Revier in Gelsenkirchen. But for the second time she has already been awarded the German theater prize “Faust” for best choreography. Breiner, who started her career as a dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet, later joined the Semperoper Ballet Dresden before dancing several years as principal with Stuttgart Ballet. In 2012 she took over as artistic director of the Ballett im Revier following Bernd Schindowski who had held the post for more than thirty years.

Getting the “Faust” twice is quite an achievement as Breiner’s company is small: around fifteen dancers including guests. “Ruß”, Breiner’s version of the Cinderella story, was the first work awarded in 2013. Just recently her latest work, “Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter”, received its laurels as well. (more…)

Give it Another Shot

Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
November 04, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Krämer, M.Kruuse, E.Madsen and T.Lempertz, “Greyhounds” by E.Madsen, photo: R.BrockeThe four dancers of Egon Madsen’s “Greyhounds” compare their careers to long-distance journeys with various stopovers. Although this is not quite correct. Only two protagonists are indeed gray-haired veterans of the dance floor, Marianne Kruuse and Madsen himself. Both are in their seventies. The quartet’s other two, Julia Krämer and Thomas Lempertz, bid their farewell to Stuttgart Ballet’s stage only around ten years ago: Krämer was principal, Lempertz first soloist. The current get-together of the four at the Theaterhaus Stuttgart was initiated by Madsen, a formative dancer of Stuttgart Ballet under Cranko’s reign.

From 1981 on, he was director of Frankfurt Ballet followed by directorships in Stockholm, Florence, and at the Nederlands Dans Theater III (NDT III). Madsen’s affinity to dance never stopped. He is closely connected with Stuttgart’s Gauthier Dance Company and a respected figure in the city’s dance scene. (more…)


“Drei Streifen:Tanz”, Choreographies by Benjamin Millepied, Demis Volpi and Jiří Bubeníček
Ballet Dortmund
Opernhaus Dortmund
Dortmund, Germany
March 07, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Mehrabyan and E.Nguyen, “The Piano” by J.Bubeníček, Ballet Dortmund © B.Stöß 2015“Drei Streifen: Tanz”, Ballet Dortmund’s new triple bill, allows insight into the work of three different choreographers. The pas de deux “Closer” offers a glance into Benjamin Millepied’s artistic work. Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer Demis Volpi presents himself with three short duos. The evening’s second half was reserved for Jiří Bubeníček’s new creation “The Piano”.

“The Piano” is based on the movie of the same name by the New Zealand film director Jane Campion and has been awarded with – amongst others – the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1993 and an Oscar in 1994. Set in mid-19th century it is about a Scotswoman Ada McGrath, who, for whatever reason, has been mute since her sixth year of age. She expresses her inner life mainly through playing the piano. When Ada and her daughter Flora are forced into a marriage with the Britishman Alistair Stewart, a plantation owner living in New Zealand, the piano is the most important part of the luggage. The to-be-wed couple, however, has never met before. Alistair, at first disenchanted by his future wife’s appearance, doesn’t understand the piano’s importance. Seeming to be an unpractical object, it is left at the beach where Ada and Flora had come ashore.


A Colorless Mix

“Gala 2014”
Dance Foundation Birgit Keil
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 07, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Andrade, Kt. F.Salamanka and ensemble, “Presente” by R.Oliveira, State Ballet Karlsruhe © J.Klenk 2014Birgit Keil, ex-prima ballerina of Stuttgart Ballet, regularly tours nearby Ludwigsburg to present her work to her former home audience. Since 1997 Keil is director and professor of Mannheim’s Academy of Dance, six years later she also took over the helm of the Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe.

The gala presented both troupes, the Karlsruhe company as well as talented dancers of the Academy. A huge part of the program was reserved for the usual array of guest artists. (more…)

Light in the Province

“Ballet Gala 2014”
Mainfranken Theater
Wuerzburg, Germany
July 07, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Bubenicek, J.Bubenicek, J.Vallejo, Souffle de l'Esprit by J.Bubenicek, National Theater Prague Halfway between Frankfurt and Nuremberg lies Wuerzburg, a medium-scale town in Lower Franconia. It happens to be my seat of residence but it’s not a Mecca for dance. That’s why I usually head elsewhere to see performances. This year’s Ballet Gala at the Mainfranken Theater, however, offered some highlights I didn’t want to miss.
The Mainfranken Theater’s own ensemble presented only one piece. The rest of the program was left to guest artists from smaller companies all over Germany and to a duo from the Czech National Ballet in Prague. Anna Vita, artistic director of Wuerzburg’s ballet company, and her dramaturge, Christoph Blitt, moderated the evening – basically a good idea if it had set the right tone. But to start by naming all the sponsors and relate what is in the program notes was a mood killer and rendered the playbill’s description of the pieces unnecessary. We are capable of reading! (more…)

What’s gone is gone

“Café Müller”, “The Rite of Spring”
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Opera House
Wuppertal, Germany
May 02, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Tanztheater Wuppertal, pina40, copyright Maarten Vanden Abeele WEBThis season marks the 40th anniversary of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. To celebrate this jubilee the company has already toured extensively. Bordeaux, London, Hong Kong were only some of the stops. In the upcoming months, it will head to Toronto and Paris. More performances are being given in the Ruhr region too, and they include an additional program. I saw two of Bausch’s signature pieces, “Café Müller” and “The Rite of Spring” at the company’s traditional home base of Wuppertal.

“Café Müller”, a 1978 production, depicts the encounters of six people in a somewhat shabby cafe, which is – like its guests – past its best years. The decor as well as the costumes are by Rolf Borzik. He lined several mirrors up along the side walls. A revolving door at the rear is the cafe’s main entrance. Wooden tables and chairs stand around in disorder and during the following three-quarters of an hour the café becomes even more messy. (more…)