Others / Europe

Encompassing

“Romeo and Juliet”
Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc Rijeka
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
December 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Matarranz de las Heras (Juliet), M.Pastorini (Romeo), A.Salle (Tybalt), and V.Chou (Mercutio), "Romeo and Juliet" by J.Bubeníček, Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc Rijeka 2022 © F.Tutek-Hajnal This season, the Forum Ludwigsburg has attracted an audience by offering an alluring variety of dance. Two weeks ago, it welcomed the Maribor Slovene National Theatre. This weekend, the Croatian National Theatre presented Jiří Bubeníček’s “Romeo and Juliet”, which premiered this April at the company’s home base in Rijeka.

While the quarrelsome Capulets and Montagues vociferously bumped heads in Verona’s marketplace, I thought back to a performance in which Bubeníček himself danced Romeo. Back in 2014, the Belgian Stijn Celis choreographed “Romeo and Juliet” for the Semperoper Ballet, tailoring the leading role to Bubeníček. The ballet was meant to be a feature for the company’s most prominent male dancer, but turned out to be disappointingly banal. Michele Pastorini’s performance as the title’s hero of Ludwigsburg felt like a depiction of how Bubeníček might have wished to dance the role himself. (more…)

Refreshing

“Peer Gynt”
Maribor Slovene National Theatre
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 11, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Isailovic (Peer Gynt) and ensemble, “Peer Gynt” by E.Clug, Maribor Slovene National Theatre 2022 © SNG MariborEdward Clug, the artistic director of the Slovene National Theatre’s ballet company, is currently creating a new “Nutcracker” for the Stuttgart Ballet – but, in the meantime, his own Maribor company has joined him in nearby Ludwigsburg. This weekend, they toured the Ludwigsburg Forum with Clug’s 2015 take on Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”.

Ibsen’s happy-go-lucky peasant’s son Peer is quite the ambiguous figure. It’s easy to dismiss him as a narcissistic slacker and gascon. He never misses a chance to womanize or to seek trouble as he gads about Norway’s mountains. The splendid future that he imagines in his fantasy fails to become a reality. The wealth that he gains abroad does not make him lucky at home. His dream of becoming a crowned king (or emperor?) materializes, but only as an inmate in a Cairo madhouse. Old and feeble, he returns home in an effort to save his own soul. Only in the very last moment does he realize that he would have been much better off staying with his early love, Solveig. But why are we sympathetic to Peer rather than disliking him? (more…)

Unwieldy

“Cri de cœur”
Paris Opera Ballet
Palais Garnier
Paris, France
October 01, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Barbeau, “Cri de cœur” by A.L.Øyen, Paris Opera Ballet 2022 © A.PoupeneyAlan Lucien Øyen: not a particularly familiar name to dance audiences outside of his home country of Norway – but his new creation “Cri de cœur” (“Cry of the Heart”) for the Paris Opera Ballet will soon change that.
Øyen grew up in Bergen, where he was introduced to the theater at the young age of seven. He received his dance training at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and subsequently joined contemporary ensembles in Norway and Cologne. In 2004, Øyen turned to choreography; two years later, he founded Winter Guests, an interdisciplinary touring company. I missed his 2018 “Bon Voyage, Bob” at the Tanztheather Wuppertal and was curious to finally learn about his work in Paris.

To start, dance is not the most important ingredient of “Cri de cœur”. Acting, singing, and film are all featured – and, in particular, there is a great deal of spoken text in French written by Øyen and Andrew Wale. That’s a major difference from the dance theater of Pina Bausch, in whose footsteps Øyen is said to follow. (more…)

Life Support

“common ground[s]” / “Le Sacre du printemps”
École des Sables / Pina Bausch Foundation / Sadler’s Wells
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
June 17, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Acogny and M.Airaudo, “common ground[s]” by M.Airaudo and G.Acogny, 2022, photo M.Vanden Abeele © Pina Bausch FoundationSince Pina Bausch’s death thirteen years ago, the Pina Bausch Foundation – chaired by Bausch’s son Salomon – has worked hard to keep her oeuvre alive. Some attempts were successful (I’m thinking of the Bavarian State Ballet’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, for example), while others failed. In a recent project, the Foundation joined forces with the École des Sables, a dance training center in Senegal, and Sadler’s Wells. The result was a double bill comprised of the new pas de deux “common ground[s]” and Bausch’s 1975 work “Le Sacre du printemps” that premiered in Senegal before setting off for a tour through Europe. I saw the first of three total performances at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival. (more…)

Marijn Rademaker Turns to Choreography

Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”)
Ballet Dortmund

Theater Dortmund
Dortmund, Germany
April 17, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Uzunova and L.Kalbusch, “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”) by M.Rademaker, Ballet Dortmund 2021 © L.JanuszewskiFour years ago, Marijn Rademaker told me about his excitement to return to the stage after a long break resulting from injury. At that time, he was involved in umpteen other projects, yet had not given any indication that he wanted to try his hand at choreography or direction – but, as with any seed, talent can sprout in hiding.

This Saturday, Rademaker presented the first result of his new ambition: “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), a contemporary ballet-film set to Arnold Schoenberg’s eponymous thirty-minute composition, created in collaboration with the Academy for Theatre and Digitality, Dortmund, and the filmmaker Mathieu Gremillet. It was danced by the Ballet Dortmund. (more…)

The Power of Imagination?

“La Fresque”
Ballet Preljocaj
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
January 11, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “La Fresque” by A.Preljocaj, Ballet Preljocaj 2019 © J.-C.CarbonneBallet Preljocaj, Angelin Preljocaj’s Aix-en-Provence-based company, toured Germany in early January with “Le Fresque”. The piece, which features choreography by Preljocaj from 2016, depicts and interprets “The Mural”, a narrative from the collection “Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio” by Chinese author Pu Songling (1640 – 1715). Two male wayfarers, Chu and Meng, are forced by inclement weather to stop at a dilapidated temple. There, a temple fresco showing a group of young women attracts Chu’s attention. He falls in love with one of the women and, while watching her, suddenly finds himself inside the painting. The painting comes surreally to life, and a romance blossoms between Chu and the woman, climaxing in a consummation of the marriage. (more…)

Fighting Back

“Darkness”
Polish National Ballet
Teatr Wielki – Opera Narodowa
Warsaw, Poland
October 07, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nowak, M.Esposito, G.Melfi, L.Alberti, D.Ozeri and V.Kezik, “Darkness” by I.Weiss, Polish National Ballet 2017 © Polish National Ballet / E.KrasuckaDance critic Graham Watts called Izadora Weiss “a tempest on the Baltic shore.” Weiss has been creating a stir in the Polish dance scene from her home base of Gdansk ever since Jiří Kylián spotted her choreographic talent in 1989 during his tenure as artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater. She became his protégé, and would later use Kylián’s company as a model on which to base the Baltic Dance Theatr (BDT), a troupe she founded in 2010 in Gdansk that she continues to direct today. Formerly affiliated with the Baltic Opera, the BDT became an independent company in 2006 and was renamed Biały Teatr Tańca (White Dance Theatr) – BTT for short. Weiss still leads the company, serving as its main choreographer. Pieces by Kylián complement BTT’s repertoire. (more…)

A Prize Accomplishment

“Doctor Zhivago”
SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana
Ljubljana, Slovenia
April 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Pestotnik Stres, “Doctor Zhivago” by J.Bubeníček, SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana © D.Štravs Tisu 2016A couple of months ago Jiří and Otto Bubeníček ended their active dancing careers with their home companies, Semperoper Ballet and Hamburg Ballet. Since then they have crisscrossed the globe creating ballet after ballet after ballet. In view of the sheer amount of their commissions, lingering doubts about quality seem likely. Moreover as their last creation, “Doctor Zhivago”, promised not to be a cakewalk. It is based on Boris Pasternak’s prizewinning novel of the same title, a rather weighty work dealing with an intricate story. David Lean’s 1965 film version is very popular. (more…)

Visions

Swan Lake”
Scottish Ballet
Theatre Royal
Glasgow, Scotland
April 19, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Martin and C.Harrison, “Swan Lake” by D.Dawson, Scottish Ballet © Scottish Ballet 2016Each new piece reveals more of a choreographer’s artistic self. If it is just “Swan Lake”, the ballet of ballets, tackling an own version equals an acid test. David Dawson just dared it. His interpretation of the tragic love story between Siegfried and Odette/Odile premiered with Scottish Ballet on April 19th. His vision had been to shift the focus to the choreography, to follow the story inherent in Tchaikovsky’s music and, above all, to tell it credibly. The aim was to distill he universal emotional essence of “Swan Lake” into a pure, light and classical ballet. What was the outcome? (more…)

On the Fast Lane

An interview with Jiří and Otto Bubeníček about their new ballet “Doctor Zhivago”
Ljubljana, Slovenia
March 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Kmetec and P.Đorčevski, rehearsal of “Doctor Zhivago”, chor.: J.Bubeníček, SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana © O.Bubeníček 2016Only a few months ago Jiří Bubeníček bid his farewell as principal of the Semperoper Ballet. Balancing his dancing career with the one of a choreographer has always kept him busy. But what he accomplished during the last five months is stupendous. He created pieces for the Ballet of the State Opera Hanover and for Tokyo City Ballet. One short ballet premiered at a gala of San Francisco Ballet. The dance interludes of Vienna’s New Year’s Concert 2016 were also by Bubeníček. Quite a lot for a single person. Enough work to be shouldered by two! While Jiří choreographs, his brother Otto is in charge of set designs, sometimes even of the costumes. He also assists with the dramaturgy. (more…)

A Thought-Provoking Trip to the Alsace

“All We Love About Shakespeare” (“Ophelia, Madness and Death”, “Fatal”, “Romeo and Juliet”)
Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin
Opéra Strasbourg
Strasbourg, France
January 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Ophelia, Madness and Death” by D.Lee, Ballet de l'Opéra national du RhinThe Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin has advantageous conditions in order to prosper. The company is the dance hub of beautiful Alsace, a region much frequented by tourists. It has three venues: Strasbourg’s Opéra, La Filature in Mulhouse and the Théâtre municipal in Colmar. Ballet connoisseurs from Stuttgart or Zurich might come across the Rhine for a visit as well. Quite likely they get served interesting and innovative art, especially as the company was gifted with a National Choreography Center in 1985, the only one of in a total of nineteen being hosted by an opera house. (more…)

Béjart in Abundance

“Suite Barocco”, “Syncope”, “Liebe und Tod” (“Love and Death”), “Le Mandarin Merveilleux”
Béjart Ballet Lausanne
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
November 27, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Archibald and G.Arenas Ruiz, “Syncope” by Gil Roman, Béjart Ballet © Ilia CholnikAs Stuttgart Ballet tours Korea and Japan, the guesting of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne on the last weekend in November was a welcome extra dose of dance for the aficionados in the Stuttgart audience. The troupe presented a mixed bill of four pieces. Three of them had been choreographed by Maurice Béjart, one was created by Gil Roman, the company’s artistic director since Béjart’s death in 2007.

Béjart’s “Suite Barocco”, a piece from 1997 to vocal Baroque music, has no clear storyline. (more…)

Thoroughly Reconfigured

“Raymonda”
The Royal Swedish Ballet
The Royal Opera House
Stockholm, Sweden
September 01, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Sellrup and ensemble, Raymonda by P.Lidberg, Royal Swedish Ballet, photo H.Nilsson

When tackling a new version of “Raymonda”, the last grand ballet Marius Petipa created for the Maryinsky Theatre in 1898, revising the plot is a good idea. Its original libretto by Lidia Pashkova and Petipa, based on a medieval legend, features the noble lady Raymonda who nearly gets abducted by the lovestruck Saracen knight Abderakhman during a festivity but is saved just in time by her reputable fiancé, the knight Jean de Brienne. (more…)

Bringing Sparkle Back to the Homeland

“Les Ballets Bubeníček” (“L’Heure Bleue”, “The Piano”)
Nové Divadlo/ J.K. Tyl-Theater
Pilsen, Czech Republic
July 18, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Morariu, S.Vinograd and J.Bubeníček, “L'Heure Bleue” by J.Bubeníček, Les Ballets Bubeníček 2015 © S.Ballone Pilsen, the Czech Republic’s fourth biggest town, is located in Bohemia between Prague and Germany’s Nuremberg. First and foremost it is known for its pils, a type of pale lager beer produced there since 1842. This year Pilsen is making headlines for another reason: in addition to Belgium’s Mons, it is one of Europe’s Cultural Capitals. More than six hundred cultural events, ranging from theater performances to concerts, art exhibitions and other events are offered. The project which started in January is more than a short-lived affair, promising instead to boost the town’s popularity and fuel local cultural life for a long time to come. (more…)

Missing the Fizz

“KYLWORKS”
“All Ages Dance”
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
February 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Kylián in 2010 © S.Ligtenberg 2015One of Jiří Kylián’s merits as artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) – a post he held from 1975 to 1999 – was that in 1991 he initiated NDT III. The main company is NDT I, the juniors form NDT II. NDT III gave the seniors a platform to continue presenting their art. In 2006 the project was allowed to die for financial reasons. Kylián remained connected to NDT as a choreographer until 2009. During this time he created 74 works for NTD – nearly three-quarters of his entire body of work. With “KYLWORKS”, subtitled “All Ages Dance” he took up the idea of NDT III again. Kylián carefully selected six dancers, aged between thirty-five and sixty-five, all descending from various large companies, to present morsels of his work. The group does not form a company, Kylián declared in the small program, but rather represents the idea that everyone has absorbed the talent to dance from one’s infancy. Touring Germany, “KYLWORKS” also visited Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, a sort of homeland for Kylián as his first contract as a dancer in the late 1970s, offered by John Cranko, was with Stuttgart Ballet. Moreover with Stuttgart’s Noverre Society, he took his first steps as choreographer. Also, Kylián’s muse, Sabine Kupferberg, often the main protagonist of many of his works, has strong bonds to Stuttgart. Trained in the John Cranko School she became a member of the company under Cranko’s directorship before joining NDT seven years later. Kylián and Kupferberg shared ways not only artistically but subsequently also privately. (more…)