State Ballet Berlin

State of Affairs in Munich and News from Berlin

Bavarian State Ballet / State Ballet Berlin
Munich / Berlin, Germany
September 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Zelensky © W.HöslAt the end of last season, the first under director Igor Zelensky, a second wave of dancers left the Bavarian State Ballet. Exact numbers and names weren’t announced by the press office, but according to information from within the company 22 out of a total of 69 dancers packed their bags. My report prompted an email by the press office that corrected the number to 21 and denied that the principals Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklyarov would quit the company. What did finally come of it?

First, over the summer break the number of those leaving increased to 23, because demi-soloist Wentao Li had meanwhile returned to China, his home country, for family reasons and guest ballerina Svetlana Zakharova had withdrawn her commitment. Yet in the course of the last season Zakharova had performed only once in Munich. Secondly, Shirinkina and Shklyarov indeed did bid farewell to the core company and returned to the Maryinsky Ballet. They will appear in Munich as guest dancers.

So the gaps were considerable. How did Igor Zelensky fill them?
The company starts the new season with 66 dancers, four of them guest dancers (Shirinkina & Shklyarov and again, as last year, Natalia Osipova & Sergei Polunin). Five dancers of English National Ballet have joined: (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – The Die is Cast

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
May 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © A.RivalAround six months ago, questions were raised about the legitimacy of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin. Their appointments needed the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera, but because of the upcoming elections, the board hadn’t (and still hasn’t) the required quorum of members for making valid decisions. Having firmly protested against the appointment of the new directors for months, the dancers intensified their opposition at that time.

Apparently hoping that the furor would die down in the meantime, Waltz and Öhman, together with Berlin’s new cultural senator Dr. Klaus Lederer (DIE LINKE), talked with the dancers as part of a staff meeting at the end of April. Their aim was to provide insight into their artistic program, and to start “an open and constructive dialogue”*. On the following mid-morning, Waltz and Öhman gave a press conference in which they tried to imply that the waves had calmed and that all were eager to establish a “trustful and creative atmosphere”*.

The facts are as follows: (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – Do Incorrect Procedures Mar Waltz and Öhman’s Appointment?

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 28, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © Landesarchiv Berlin 2016Reportedly, Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin were ratified a few days ago. The procedure as taken by Berlin’s Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs puzzles one though. Personal decisions of this caliber require the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera. The Stiftungsrat is the board of the Berlin Opera Foundation, a corporate body under public law, integrating Berlin’s three opera houses, the ballet company and the Stage Services Company as individual organizations under one roof. Seven members constitute this board, among them Micheal Müller, the cultural senator and governing mayor of Berlin. The Stiftungsrat requires a quorum of at least half of all the members. (more…)

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…)

State Ballet Berlin : An Update

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Duato, D.Vieira and K.Ovsyanick, rehearsal of N.Duato's “Nutcracker”, State Ballet Berlin © Y.Revazov 2016 While the State Ballet Berlin is about to kick off its “Nutcracker” season with the newly acquired version by artistic director Nacho Duato, a suspicious silence has spread over the controversial issue of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s assignment as Duato’s successors in 2019.

Getting background information about the candidate search process for the director’s post was laborious, as the Senate Chancellery’s spokesman for cultural affairs, Lars Bahners, was ungenerous in providing substantial information. Hollow words are his metier. (more…)

Quarrels at the State Ballet Berlin Continue

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
September 22, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble of the State Ballet Berlin © State Ballet Berlin 2016The announcement that Sasha Waltz and the Royal Swedish Ballet’s artistic director Johannes Öhman will succeed Nacho Duato at the helm of the State Ballet Berlin in the 2019/20 season is still creating massive waves. Michael Müller, Berlin’s governing mayor and cultural senator since 2014, and Tim Renner (both SPD), state secretary for cultural affairs, announced the news on September 7th, just before the elections in Berlin. Since then, the two men have been facing trouble. Recently, another decision of theirs, the appointment of the Belgian Chris Dercon, director of the Tate Modern in London, who will follow Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne, caused harsh criticism as well. Müller and Renner are accused of making these decisions alone, behind closed doors, resistant to the advice of others. (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…)

Oh Dear!

“Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness”
State Ballet Berlin
Komische Oper
Berlin, Germany
March 14, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Banzhaf and ensemble, “Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness” by N.Duato, State Ballet Berlin © F.Marcos 2015

In mid-February after taking over the reigns of State Ballet Berlin, Nacho Duato received damning reviews of the first Berlin premiere of his “Sleeping Beauty”, an import that he had done in St. Petersburg, his debut as artistic director going badly. Shortly thereafter, Arte, a reputable television channel, broadcasted a documentary about Duato. But it did not silence the cries of naysayers who predicted the descent of State Ballet Berlin. Arte depicted an uprooted artist still struggling over his dismissal as director of the Spanish Compañía Nacional de Danza. Hired by a banana oligarch he had moved to St. Petersburg, becoming the artistic director of the ballet of the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Yet Duato remained a stranger. The film shows him struggling with communication problems and suffering from sleeplessness. He spent many nights smoking cigarettes, drinking red wine and soliloquizing on his smart phone. Almost twenty-five years ago Berlin had first wanted to hire him. Why was he called to Berlin again? An odd stroke of Berlin’s cultural policy? (more…)

Does a Big Name Deliver its Promise?

“Ratmansky/Welch”
State Ballet Berlin
Schiller Theater
Berlin, Germany
April 04, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, Clear by Stanton Welch, State Ballet BerlinAt the end of his era as head of State Ballet Berlin, Vladimir Malakhov mounted two German premieres: Stanton Welch’s “Clear” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Namouna – a Grand Divertissement”. Both works showed the company to be in good shape and its atmosphere confident.

“Clear” was Welch’s reaction to the terror attack on the World Trade Center that took place September 11, 2001. It premiered with American Ballet Theatre the same year. However, a connection to 9/11 isn’t obvious at first glance. Seven men and one woman indulge themselves in energetic duos, trios and group numbers. Foremost, these dances radiate verve. They are lively, in accord with the music – Johann Sebastian Bach’s concertos (Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C-Minor and Concerto for Violin in G-Minor, excellently played by violinist Wolfram Brandl and oboist Fabian Schäfer).

(more…)

Malakhov’s Upshot

“Malakhov & Friends – The Finale”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper Berlin
Berlin, Germany
January 24, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Vladimir Malakhov and Mika Yoshioka, Les Sylphides, Malakhov and Friends, State Ballet Berlin The gala evening “Malakhov & Friends” has its fifth anniversary this season since Vladimir Malakhov became artistic director of State Ballet Berlin, and it’s the final one. After ten years being at the helm the Ukrainian takes his leave. From the next season on he’ll be artistic adviser of the Tokyo Ballet. As an appreciation of his great service for dance in Berlin, Malakhov was awarded the honorary title “Kammertänzer of Berlin” by Berlin’s state culture secretary Andrè Schmitz after the premiere on Tuesday – an act to be understood as keeping face, as Malakhov doesn’t part by mutual consent but was urged to resign. He’ll be succeeded by the Mikhailovsky Ballet’s current artistic director Nacho Duato.

(more…)

Berlin’s New “Nutcracker” – No Cracker Jack!

“The Nutcracker”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 25, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Nikolai Petrak, Michael Banzhaf and Sabrina Salvia Gaglio, The Nutcracker, State Ballet BerlinDespite the amazingly mild weather so far, State Ballet Berlin’s premiere of its new “Nutcracker” heralded an early start for this year’s Christmas season. Vladimir Malakhov, in his last year as artistic director of the company, decided to replace Patrice Bart’s production – which had been in repertory from 1999 until two years ago – with one based on St. Petersburg’s 1892 original. Entrusted with the choreography were Russia’s Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev, both familiar with their homeland’s ballet tradition. Neither of them is unknown in Berlin, having staged an adaption of “La Esmeralda” for the State Ballet in 2011.

A huge spectacle, more splendid, more fairytale-like and magical than ever – those were the superlatives with which Malakhov advertised this “Nutcracker”. Was it to be his proud parting gift (and certainly no cheap one) after his more than ten years tenure? (more…)