Semperoper Ballet

Still in the Warming Phase

“Bella Figura”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
September 05, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Albouy, Weiss, Cangialosi, Bella Figura by Jiri Kylián, Semperoper Ballet Semperoper Ballet Dresden heralded the new season with the triple bill “Bella Figura”, titled after Jiří Kylián’s eponymous “Bella Figura” and complemented by David Dawson’s “The Grey Area” and “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin.
(The photos show a different cast of an earlier performance.)

Where is the borderline between art and artificiality? Between fantasy and reality? Truth and falsehood? Such are Kyliàn’s questions behind “Bella Figura”. Also: at which point does a performance actually start? “Bella Figura” has no formal beginning. While the auditorium fills, the dancers warm up. They wear practice clothing and repeat step combinations. When the lights dim, the curtain shuts. With the start of the music – a collage of various Baroque composers plus a Renaissance-based suite by the contemporary American composer Lukas Foss – two dancers are in the spotlight: a section of the curtain, as large as a door, is left open on the right. It leaves room for a man in skin-colored undershorts (Maximilian Genov). Lying on the floor with bent legs up in the air, he reminds of an insect that accidentally has fallen on its back. To the left, Jenni Schäferhoff, bare-breasted and likewise in skin-colored undies, is wrapped into the curtain’s folds by invisible arms from behind. Repeatedly she walks, gesticulating to the forestage but – perhaps confronted with something daunting – backs away and again seeks shelter in the curtain’s embrace. (more…)

In Honor of Richard Strauss

“Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
July 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Fabien Voranger, Tanzsuite by A.Ratmansky, Semperoper BalletRichard Strauss (1864 – 1949), the German composer and conductor, would have celebrated his 150th birthday this year. He was closely connected to Dresden, where nine of his fifteen operas had their world premieres. Thus it isn’t surprising that the Semperoper Dresden is celebrating this jubilee extensively with an array of operas, concerts, song recitals and the ballet evening “Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”. The ballet program, based on Strauss music, includes two world premieres. For the first time, Alexei Ratmansky has created new choreography in Germany – the ensemble piece “Tanzsuite”, first on the program. The other premiere, “The Legend of Joseph”, is by Stijn Celis, a choreographer already familiar with the Semperoper’s dancers.

Richard Strauss and Alexei Ratmansky seem to share a trait: both are passionate about the past, about evoking history and reconfiguring it as contemporary art. One of Strauss’ historical sources of inspiration was the French rococo period. Its lightness and esprit found expression in Strauss’ creation “Ballroom and Theater Dances in the Style of Louis XV”, better known as the “Tanzsuite”, which premiered 1923 in Vienna. Strauss’ composition drew on a selection of François Couperin’s ‘Pièces de Clavecin’, pieces for the piano from the years 1713 – 1730, which Strauss adapted, rearranged and scored for small orchestra. The style of 20th century’s late romantic music was subtly woven into the rococo miniatures, which evoked a French court of the 18th century. In charge of the choreography for Vienna was Heinrich Kröller (1880 – 1930), a German ballet master and choreographer who worked first for Munich’s ‘Royal Court and National Theater’ and later for the Vienna State Opera. Playing with court dances and including mythological figures, Kröller enchanted his Viennese post-court audience with royal grandeur. (more…)

Last Dance

“Giselle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
April 22, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Yumiko Takeshima, Giselle by David Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Two principal ballerinas of the Semperoper Ballet gave farewell performances at Easter: Natalia Sologub and Yumiko Takeshima. I watched Takeshima’s goodbye in the title role of a “Giselle” production which David Dawson had staged for her in 2008. Sologub’s last appearance had been a few days earlier, and in the same role. To come straight to the point, Takeshima’s farewell was altogether well-rounded.

Dawson’s “Giselle” belongs to the present. Fresh and light footed at first glance, the emotions and the resulting tragedy are, in fact, clear cut and powerful.
The romance of Giselle and Albrecht unfolds against the setting of wedding preparations for another young couple. This opens up abundant opportunities for dancing: there is a wedding pas de cinq and various other groupings. The warning that she will become an unhappy bride and end as a Wili is presented as a macabre joke and in act 2 turns out to have been an exaggeration. Dawson’s Wilis are innocent natures. (more…)

Sex and Crime – Stijn Celis’s Shakespeare Falls Short

“Romeo and Juliet”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
February 21, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Julia Weiss, Jiri Bubenicek, Romeo and Juliet by S.Celis, Semperoper Ballet To ‘carry off the audience to emotionally deep experiences’ was Stijn Celis’s stated aim for his new “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation at Dresden’s Semperoper. His approach is totally modern, avoiding any reference to the Renaissance. The Belgian choreographer wanted his work to be ‘linked to reality’ and to abstain from ‘artificiality and deformation’. Did he accomplish these noble goals?

Concrete dominated the set, aptly so for a current approach. Gray walls served as a church interior or as facades of austere homes. Two large windows allowed either a view into what was going on in apartments or, when the windows were opened, served as balconies for the two lovers’ core encounter. The atmosphere was as gloomy as Jan Versweyveld’s decor.

(more…)