European Companies

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…)

Co-Evolution

“LAB-WORKS 2022” (“Children of the Night” / “Oh Captain” / “This Too Shall Pass” / “Die Nacht”)
State Ballet Berlin
Komische Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 09, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Children of the Night” by A.Abdukarimov, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © O.KollmannspergerFor many young dancers, it can be incredibly difficult to join a company right after ballet school. There have been many efforts to smooth this transition (for example, years ago the Dutch National Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, and Hamburg Ballet established junior troupes) – including last fall’s launch by the State Ballet Berlin of the ten-month ENHANCE Mentorship Program for graduates of the State Ballet School Berlin. The program provides individualized mentoring by dancers from different ranks of the ensemble (Soraya Bruno, Anneli Chasemore, Arshak Ghalumyan, Mehmet Yumak, Aurora Dickie, and others) and culminates in a final performance called “LAB_WORKS”. This series was introduced in 2019 to showcase choreographies created during the lockdown. This June, the company presented “LAB_WORKS 2022” – comprised of four new ballets by aspiring choreographers from within the company. Eleven program fellows and various members of the main company danced the four works. (more…)

Astonishing

“CREATIONS VII-IX” (“Self-deceit” / “Reflection/s” / “Ifima”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Play House of the State Theater Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 29, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Erikson, “Reflection/s” by R.Novitzky, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet’s recent premiere – “CREATIONS VII-IX” – continues the CREATION series launched in 2019. I was waylaid by several highway traffic jams on my way to the theater and arrived five minutes late, missing the triple bill’s first piece: Vittoria Girelli’s “Self-deceit”. As such, I can only comment on Roman Novitzky’s “Reflection/s” and “Ifima” by the choreographer duo Louis Stiens and Shaked Heller.

“Reflection/s” marks Novitzky’s retirement from an almost two-decade-long career as a dancer. Born in Slovakia, he danced with their National Ballet before joining the Stuttgart Ballet in 2009. Six years later, he was promoted to principal and made his first steps as a choreographer. On top of dancing and choreographing, Novitzky also became one of Stuttgart Ballet’s photographers. He was always busy and – if I interpreted his program-note interview correctly – rarely relaxed. (more…)

To Be Trimmed

“Naharin / Clug / Montero”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
May 14, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Submerge” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.VallinasThe new triple bill from the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet company combines three established names: Edward Clug, Ohad Naharin, and the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. Each contributed a piece from their collection.

Montero re-worked his “Submerge” for Nuremberg – enlarging it from its original eleven dancers (from Zurich’s 2018 Junior Ballet) to a 19-strong ensemble. Barely discernable in the foggy gloom, they wait motionless at the rear of the stage, their eyes fixed on something in the distance. Together they walk forward, staring into the bright glow of the pit, at once an attraction and terror. Simultaneously, they step into the light, as if crossing into a moment of courage. For those in the audience who haven’t consulted the program booklet in advance, the next scene (in which the dancers undulate their limbs like gently floating seaweed) reveals the subject of this piece: deep-sea diving. A scuba diving course in 2018 served as Montero’s source of inspiration. (more…)

Wrongdoings

“The Seven Sins”
Gauthier Dance
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 08, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Corrupt” by S.L.Cherkaoui, Gauthier Dance 2022 © J.BakThose who aren’t well-versed in the dos and don’ts of Christianity might find a visit to the Theaterhaus Stuttgart to be worthwhile. Their recent premiere – “The Seven Sins” – translates each of the capital vices into a short piece of dance by a different choreographer.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s “Corrupt” deals with the first capital sin: greed. Accompanied by an extensive pre-recorded lecture on the nature of greed, nine dancers squirm and writhe, sabotage and manipulate. We hear about the Buddhist way of freeing ourselves from greed; about greed’s connection to hate and ignorance; about the upsides and downsides of wanting something; and about the impact of money. At times, their arms stretch outwards, as if attempting to escape the self-made prison. Cash is their sacred cow; bundles of crumpled notes bulge from the pockets of their dark suits, decorating their arms like bracelets and being exchanged by the handful. (more…)

Magnificent!

“Raymonda”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 06, 2022 (stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.van Poucke, S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne), M.ten Kortenaar, and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman A mid-January newsletter from the Dutch National Ballet did little to hide the company’s disappointment at having to postpone their premiere of “Raymonda” from mid-February to early April. At the time, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions made uncertain the possibility of re-opening the house at full-capacity, but artistic director Ted Brandsen wanted the production – the biggest of the season – to be seen by as many people as possible. So he chose to wait.

Brandsen’s patience paid off. I watched the online stream on May 6th (filmed on April 19th) and from the moment the new front curtain rose (itself a gorgeous art nouveau design), it was instantly clear that this “Raymonda” would be a marvel. (more…)

Haydn Makes it Possible

“Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 30, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, H.-J.Kang, and M.Menha, “Die Jahreszeiten” by M.Schläpfer, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe third premiere of the Vienna State Ballet in this season – “Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”) – is entirely by Schläpfer. Past experience with his oeuvre made me skeptical of this new work, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The piece is set to Joseph Haydn’s 1801 oratorio “The Seasons” (which coincidentally also premiered in Vienna), for which Gottfried van Swieten penned lyrics based on extracts from a poem by James Thomson. Thomson’s verses describe the ordinary daily and seasonal life on the countryside: spring thaw and early field work, the lush countryside, harvest time, and a sudden thunderstorm, which cools down the sweltering summer heat. An autumnal hunt is followed by cheers for the new wine. Amidst winter gloom and the coziness of a warm cottage a fleeting romance blossoms. (more…)

Homage to Iván Nagy

“6th Iván Nagy International Ballet Gala”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Solymosi and O.Chernakova, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © A.Nagy / Hungarian State Opera Iván Nagy (1943 – 2014), a ballet dancer born and trained in Hungary, rose to stardom as a principal for the American Ballet Theatre in the 1970s. He later embarked on a second career as an artistic director – first at the Ballet de Santiago, and subsequently at the Cincinnati/New Orleans Ballet and the English National Ballet. In his final years, he returned to his homeland to support the ballet of the Hungarian State Opera as an artistic advisor. Since 2015, the company has paid tribute to him at a yearly international gala, which was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. (more…)

A Whole Lot

“Without Limits”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Eiffel Arts Center
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students from the Hungarian National Ballet Institute, “Paquita Suite” by T.Solymosi, A.Mirzoyan, and I.Prokofieva after M.Petipa; Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State Opera The new triple bill from the Hungarian State Opera’s ballet company, aptly titled “Without Limits”, certainly offers a whopping amount of dance. Harald Lander’s “Études” (1948), a one-act homage to the formal classical technique, contrasts with William Forsythe’s sprightly “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (1996). A new version of another purely classical ballet Marius Petipa’s Paquita Grand Pas (“Paquita Suite”) – opened the program. “Without Limits” was shown at the Eiffel Arts Center, a former railway maintenance and engineering complex transformed in 2020 into the Hungarian Opera’s second stage in Budapest. The capacious, light-filled venue houses a modern 500-seat stage, rehearsal and storage space, production workshops, and an exhibition area. The toot-toot of the historic locomotive located in the foyer calls the audience back after breaks. (more…)

Overdone

“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 10, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Maria” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools), the first premiere of the season for the State Theater Nuremberg, is a double bill choreographed by the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. It is comprised of two ensemble pieces: “Maria”, a ballad about the bible’s Maria Magdalena co-produced with the Diana Vishneva Foundation, St. Petersburg (Vishneva danced the leading role at the premiere in December; the photos below show her), and “Narrenschiff”, which gave the program its title. I saw the – for now – final performance. (more…)

Pleasureless

Nederlands Dans Theater
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 26, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Toss of a Dice” by J.Kylián, NDT I 2022 © J.J.BosLast weekend, the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT I) toured Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, performing a triple bill they’d recently premiered at the Holland Dance Festival: “Toss of a Dice” by Jiři Kylián (2005); a new piece by Spain’s Marina Mascarell (“How to cope with a sunset when the horizon has been dismantled”); and “I love you, ghosts” – newly created by the company’s associate choreographer Marco Goecke.

The poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (“A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance” penned by Stéphane Mallarmé in 1897) was the springboard for “Toss of a Dice”. (more…)

A Hushed-Up Scandal

“Mayerling”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
March 19, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State OperaEighteen years after its Hungarian premiere, Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling” returned to the stage of Budapest’s newly renovated State Opera this March. According to a local dance critic, audience members cried while watching the 2004 performance, as the tragic 1889 death of Crown Prince Rudolf (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) is a chapter of Hungarian history that stirs up many emotions. Though he led a life of debauchery and primarily performed insignificant tasks in his role, the liberal-leaning Crown Prince was popular among the people. They pinned great hope on him, (more…)

Impromptu

Einmalig”
(“Bliss” / “Falling Angels” / “Solo” / Excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Schöpfung”, and “Mayerling” )
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Bliss” by J.Inger, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletAlthough the Stuttgart Ballet’s new all-Johan Inger triple bill was thwarted by a number of COVID-19 infections in the company, artistic director Tamas Detrich did not give in. Rather than canceling the scheduled March 4th performance, he assembled a substitute program literally overnight. From the original schedule, only Inger’s “Bliss” (2016) remained (2002’s “Out of Breath” and the recently premiered “Aurora’s Nap” were eliminated). A courageous dive into the company’s vast repertoire – short pieces by Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, and three excerpts from evening-length pieces – filled out the bill. (more…)

Absurd

“Liebeslieder” (“Other Dances” / “Concerto” / “Liebeslieder Walzer”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
January 14, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor2. H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet’s new triple bill is an all-American one, combining works from staple choreographers (Robbins and Balanchine) with a short piece by Lucinda Childs, whose name is less familiar in Europe.

Robbins’s “Other Dances”, a pas de deux set to one waltz and four mazurkas by Chopin, was tailor-made for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976. In Vienna, Hyo-Jung Kang and Davide Dato brought folksy playfulness to their roles as the carefree, happy-go-lucky couple. Their encounter is as lighthearted and upbeat as the light blue backdrop and the sheer blue fabric of Kang’s dress suggest (costumes by Santo Loquasto). After swaggering about with macho energy in a solo, Dato attends to Kang’s every step with buttery care. (more…)

Now More Than Ever!

“The Nutcracker And The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 24, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Lord (Jansje), K.Hirst (Young Clara), F.Eimers (Louise), and L.Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” series was abruptly brought to an end due to – what else – “COVID-19 related restrictions.” A lockdown was once again imposed on the entire country – this time until mid-January. Nevertheless, the company decided to dance their Christmas Eve performance, which they’d intended to livestream. As artistic director Ted Brandsen welcomed the online audience from the empty auditorium, it was clear that the situation was a difficult one – emotionally and beyond. (more…)