German Companies

A Conversation with Tadeusz Matacz

John Cranko School
Stuttgart, Germany
September, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Tadeusz Matacz © T.Matacz The Cranko School is one of the most renowned ballet schools of the world, a talent pool known for excellence and, according to surveys at the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), the second most favored school among students after London’s Royal Ballet School. When I arrived in Stuttgart in mid-September to find out about the school’s formula of success, I was surprised. Located in the Urbanstrasse, around 0,6 miles distance from the State Opera, the five-story building is unremarkable in the row of houses. Only a metal plate next to the entrance reveals that this is the school John Cranko founded in December 1971, ten years after he had taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Bavarian State Ballet

“Ballet Extra: A Day of Rehearsals”
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
September 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryzhkova and O.Gouneo rehearsing “Giselle”, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Ballone 2016Igor Zelensky’s directorship at the Bavarian State Ballet kicked off for the public last Saturday with a “Ballet Extra”. The doors of the rehearsal studios in Munich’s City Center were open from 9:45 AM well into the afternoon. The company – or more precisely its principals, soloists and demi-soloists – rehearsed “Giselle”, the season’s first production, and “Spartacus”. Corps dancers weren’t involved.

People queued up in front of the entrance that morning and it seemed a sizeable crowd although, according to new press spokesperson Annette Baumann, it was slightly smaller than last year’s. Given that it was a lovely late summer day, people may have preferred to spend their free time outdoors rather than in stuffy studios full of hard working dancers. (more…)

Done For Reid

Stuttgart Ballet’s Festival Weeks: “Gala”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
July 24, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Anderson, guests and ensemble,”Stuttgart Ballet Gala” © Stuttgart Ballet 2016Not even a quarter of the way into Reid Anderson’s twentieth jubilee gala, this leader of the Stuttgart Ballet confided to the audience that “We’re both done for and, by the way, I’m a bit gaga.” By “we” he meant himself and Tamas Detrich, his Associate Artistic Director. Detrich, though, will take charge after the 2017/18 season. What was going on ? (more…)

The Talent Scout

Stuttgart Ballet’s Festival Weeks: “Sketches”
Stuttgart Ballet
Kammertheater Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
July 17, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Osadcenko and J.Reilly, “Delta Inserts” by K.O'Day, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 20162. A.Osadcenko and J.Reilly, “Delta Inserts” by K.O'Day, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2016In Stuttgart the ballet season reached its climax this July. Reid Anderson’s twentieth jubilee as artistic director is being celebrated with a vast program of extras for three weeks. On July 3rd he had allowed insight into his life and career in the talk “Everything you Always wanted to Know…”. The film documentation “Miracles and Superheroes – 55 Years Stuttgart Ballet” received its cinema premiere on July 15th. It was broadcast on television on July 20th. (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…)

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

“Turangalȋla”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
July 05, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Evans, “Turangalȋla” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © K.West 2016Traditionally Hamburg Ballet opens its annual Ballet Days with the season’s second premiere. This July John Neumeier’s “Turangalȋla” saw the light of day. It is set to Olivier Messiaen’s symphony of the same title, composed in 1948. “Turangalȋla” is derived from the Sanskrit words “turanga” and “lila” roughly meaning a “love song and hymn of joy, rhythm, life and death”. I saw the second performance after the premiere. Unfortunately, one found little to delight in.

Choreographing to Messiaen’s symphony has been on Neumeier’s wish list since the 1960s. But Messiaen persistently refused to give his approval. He deemed the composition a sacral work not meant to be danced to. (more…)

For the last Time

“Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
June 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Sukhorukova, N.Losada, Z.Zahradniková, J.Cook, J.de Andrade, L.Engel, N.Strada, G.Romano, S.Ferrolier, M.Dilaghi, A.Tuzil, R.Strona, S.Throop, M.Navarrete Villalba and M.Urban, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Bavarian State Ballet 2016Last Wednesday Ivan Liška’s era at the helm of the Bavarian State Ballet ended after a final performance of Pina Bausch’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” (“For the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”). Together with him a large part of the company is leaving. There could have been no better piece than Bausch’s for this event. “For the Children…” tells of what makes life alive: being foolish, crazy, full of joy, desperate, sad and over the top, showing off, trying togetherness, falling in love, quarreling and playing mean games. Many situations are absurd, all are touching. Love is a core topic, emotions in general are. (more…)

Limitations

“Nijinski”
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…)

Losses

“Illusions – like Swan Lake
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
June 19, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Urban, “Illusions – like Swan Lake” by J.Neumeier, Bavarian State Ballet, Munich © W.Hösl 2016Melancholy pervaded Munich’s National Theater on Sunday. For the last time the company performed John Neumeier’s “Illusions – like Swan Lake”. With Igor Zelensky taking over as the company’s director, this production will be stored in mothballs for the time being. Also, twelve dancers had their last evening on stage. Twenty-nine members — around forty percent of the ensemble – are leaving. Being part of the audience made me sigh deeply, as did looking at the front curtain’s golden embroidery on a blue-white ground decorated with swans and lilies. Then there were Jürgen Rose’s superb decors and marvelous costumes. What a pity that so much of this will disappear from view.

“Illusions – like Swan Lake” is a 1976 collaboration of choreographer Neumeier and designer Rose. Although steeped in Bavarian history, this version of “Swan Lake” premiered in Munich only in 2011. Neumeier linked the swan story and the fate of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II (1845 – 1886), who had become known as the Fairy Tale Monarch or Swan King.

Parallels between Ludwig II and the ballet’s Prince Siegfried and also with composer Tchaikovsky are striking. Ludwig II struggled with being homosexual, as did Tchaikovsky. (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…)

Dull Orgy

“Salome”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
June 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain, “Salome” by D.Volpi, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2016“Salome” is the second program-filling piece that Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer Demis Volpi has made for the company. “Krabat”, also multi-act, in 2013 was his auspicious first attempt. Last year’s “L’Histoire du Soldat”, part of a triple bill dedicated to Stravinsky, was weak.
For “Salome”, Volpi again gathered the “Krabat” team. Vivian Arnold, Stuttgart’s director of the press, communications and dramaturgy, was in charge of the libretto and the dramatic direction. Set and costume designs are by Katharina Schlipf. Lighting is Bonnie Beecher’s. This time, though, the quartet’s work fell short. (more…)

Giving Perspectives

Tigran Mikayelyan and “Forceful Feelings”
Munich, Germany
June, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Mikayelyan, Bavarian State Ballet © S,KletzschI doubt whether Armenia was on the international ballet map twenty years ago. That this has changed is due to Tigran Mikayelyan. He was the first to leave his home country in 1997 for the sake of dance. Others followed. In 2006 he founded the ballet troupe “Forceful Feelings” with his best friend, Arsen Mehrabyan. They were joined by three fellow Armenians, Arman Grigoryan, now soloist of the State Ballet Berlin, Vahe Martirosyan, first soloist of the Royal Swedish Ballet and Artur Babajanyan, who dances with the Joffrey Ballet. Mikayelyan is principal of the Bavarian State Ballet; Mehrabyan, also principal, dances with the Royal Swedish Ballet.

For a number of years the five have been building bridges for their art between their home country and the west. All were born in Yerevan, trained in the Armenian National Ballet School, and left their country to pursue their careers abroad. They are as close as brothers, not related by blood, but kindred spirits. Also their families are closely connected. Now geographically separated, their paths came together again in Zurich where they danced with Zurich Ballet under Heinz Spoerli’s tenure. The next performances of “Forceful Feelings” at the end of June will bring them back to Switzerland’s global city. (more…)

A Bright Spot

“Jewels”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper
Berlin, Germany
May 26, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Jewels” by G.Balanchine, State Ballet Berlin © S.BalloneSince Nacho Duato took over as artistic director of the State Ballet Berlin in 2014 positive news about the capital’s company has been rare. Neither has the repertory aroused enthusiasm nor has Duato been in favor with the local press. Though the dancers’ pay disputes and strikes dragging on for months last year met with the audience’s understanding, they caused no positive headlines either. It was high time to reclaim a reputation suitable for a State Ballet. Exactly what the company managed to do with George Balanchine’s “Jewels” which premiered last week. (more…)

Fundamental Changes at the Bavarian State Ballet

Ivan Liška and many dancers bid their farewell
Bavarian State Ballet
Munich, Germany
May 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Liška and N.Hatano rehearsing the Pas des Odalisques from “Le Corsaire”, Bavarian State Ballet © C.Tandy After eighteen years, Ivan Liška, artistic director of the Bavarian State Ballet, is handing over the reigns to Igor Zelensky at the end of this season. During the last months it had already became apparent that from then on things would not stay as they were.
This week the news became official. Of the ensemble’s seventy dancers twenty-nine will be leaving this summer. Among those are six of the total nine principals: Lucia Lacarra, Ekaterina Petina, Daria Sukhoukova, Marlon Dino, Cyril Pierre and Lukáš Slavicky. Ivy Amista, Javier Amo and Tigran Mikayelyan stay with the company. (more…)

Brisk Steps

“Young Choreographers”
Noverre Society
Schauspielhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 11, 2016


by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Miccini and B.E.Comak, “Cello contra bass” by R.Novitzky; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers © Carlos Quezada Since the era of John Cranko, Noverre Evenings have been firmly established in Stuttgart. They offer fledgling choreographers a chance to present their works to the audience. This year Rainer Woihsyk, head of the Noverre Society, had chosen thirteen pieces. “The evening is a bit too long”, he told me, “but I never know if one or the other backs out shortly before the premiere. That’s why I usually accept a few more applicants.” This time all succeeded and, as Woihsyk does not withdraw a promise once given, the program amounted to three hours including a break. Yet the pieces had been cleverly arranged, their variety kept one’s attention. (more…)