Others / Europe

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…)

Opinions Divide

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
November 19, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

Reading the recent reviews on the Royal Ballet’s triple bill of works by Twyla Tharp, Arthur Pita and Hofesh Shechter makes one smile and wonder at the same time. Smile, because of the totally different opinions of the writers. While Graham Watts, for example, judged Shechter’s “Untouchable” positively on backtrack.com and Mark Monahan declared it the program’s “undisputable highlight” in The Telegraph, Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, found it “the most preposterously dance-thin ballet I have ever seen.” Jann Parry deemed it a “dated commission that never merited its place in the repertoire” on DanceTabs.

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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…)

Maillot Revives His Beauty

“La Belle”
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Salle des Princes Grimaldi Forum
Monte Carlo, Monaco
December 30, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “La Belle” by J.-C.Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo © A.Blangero 2017Shortly after Christmas Les Ballets de Monte Carlo revived “La Belle”, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s version of “La belle au bois dormant”, written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Maillot kept his original choreography from 2001 as well as Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s set design, but commissioned Jérôme Kaplan for new costumes most of which comically quote details of 16th century fashion. The music is Tchaikovsky’s but trimmed to around two hours.

Perrault took his inspiration from “Sun, Moon and Talia”, a fairytale written by Giambattista Basile in 1834, to which Maillot included some references. (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…)

Summer Ballet Copenhagen

“The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “The Elephant Man”
Bellevue Theater
Copenhagen, Denmark
August 17, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Bubeníček, The Picture of Dorian Gray by J.Bubeníček, photo Costin RaduEnchanting beauty and monstrous ugliness – both extremes were united in “Summer Ballet 2013” at the Bellevue Theater in Klampenborg, a suburb of Copenhagen. The handsome Dorian Gray, striving after eternal youth in choreography by Jiří and Otto Bubeníček, met the deformed Elephant Man, the title character in Cathy Marston’s new work.

Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, in which unscrupulous glorification of physical beauty combined with the chase after everlasting youth and ultimate pleasure ends in disaster, inspired the Czech twins Jiří and Otto Bubeníček’s modern adaptation of the subject. Both principal dancers – Otto at Hamburg Ballet and Jiří formerly in John Neumeier’s ensemble and later with Dresden Semperoper Ballet – they’ve been busy staging their own works with other companies as well as with their own troupe, Les Ballets Bubeníček. Although Jiří is usually the choreographer while Otto designs sets and costumes, sometimes also composing the music, there’s no strict division of labor, but rather a cross-fertilization. (more…)

Happy Czechs!

“Les Ballets Bubeníček”
The National Theater
Prague, Czech Republic
January 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1.Ensemble, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek The Czech twins Jiří and Otto Bubeníček, principals of Dresden Semperoper Ballet ( Jiří) and Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier (Otto), regularly gather dancers from various ensembles to tour their own creations worldwide under the label “Les Ballets Bubeníček”. To date, Rome and Tokyo as well as different locations in their homeland have lain on their route. After five years, they have returned to Prague’s National Theater for one weekend to present a gala of four of their own choreographies: Two plotless, neoclassical pieces, “Le Souffle de 2. J.Bubenicek, J.Vallejo and M.Tucker, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek 3. O.Bubenicek and J.Vallejo, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek l’Esprit” and “Toccata” contrasted with two narrative works, “Faun” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

This time dancers from Dresden Semperoper Ballet made up the major part of the troupe. Augmented by Iana Salenko (State Ballet Berlin) and Arsen Mehrabyan (Royal Swedish Ballet) the Bubeníčeks brought fourteen colleagues along and, to get straight to the point, both scheduled shows – the National Theater has almost 1000 seats – were sold out within a day. For those who couldn’t get a ticket, Czech television filmed the performance. All artists earned heartfelt applause, the twins, however, were celebrated and admired like national heroes.

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