European Companies

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Heart-Warming

“The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 18, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Potvin (Young Clara) and J.Stout (Mouse King), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen As yet another round of COVID-19-related restrictions began to choke social life in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet reacted swiftly by adding two livestreams of their Nutcracker production to their pre-Christmas schedule. I viewed the first one on December 18th; the second will take place on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM. Both performances will subsequently be available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022.

Every rendition of the Nutcracker has its own personal flair, and Amsterdam’s – co-choreographed by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling in 1996 – is decisively Dutch. (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)

In Seventh Heaven?

“Im Siebten Himmel” (“In Seventh Heaven”): “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” / “Fly Paper Bird” / “Symphony in C”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
November 14, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Gargiulo, “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” by M.Schläpfer, Vienna State Ballet 2021 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor“Im Siebten Himmel” (“In Seventh Heaven”), the Vienna State Ballet’s second new triple bill this season, follows the formula of the previous one: one piece by Balanchine + one by Martin Schläpfer (the company’s artistic director) + one by a contemporary choreographer. Last time, this third choreographer was Ratmansky; this time, it’s Marco Goecke.

For the music, Schläpfer’s “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” – created for the Ballett Mainz in 2006 – was a fitting choice. What could be more engaging for the Viennese audience than popular melodies by Johann Strauss I and his two sons, Josef and Johann? Schläpfer uses “The Blue Danube”, “Annen- Polka”, “Sphärenklänge”, and “Radetzky March” – and, to expand the existing choreography, draws in the “New Pizzicato-Polka” as well. (more…)

Giving Back

“Creare Crescere”
Stuttgart Ballet / Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey
Stuttgart, Germany / Monterrey, Mexico
September 25, 2021

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey 2021 © Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de MonterreyRocío Alemán, principal dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet, started her dance education in 2003 at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. In 2008, she moved to Stuttgart, where she finished her studies at the John Cranko School. After carving out a successful career for herself, she thought it time to thank her school in Monterrey for what it has given her. Her plan was to invite ten graduate students from Monterrey to visit the Stuttgart Ballet and work with dancers-cum-choreographers (of which the Stuttgart company, thanks to their annual choreographic workshops, has many) – but the plan was thwarted by COVID-19. Still, Alemán didn’t give up, adjusting her project to the new circumstances. If students and choreographers couldn’t meet in person, (more…)

Unparalleled

“TOER” (“Lucifer Studies” / “7th Symphony”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 25, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M. ten Kortenaar and T. van Poucke, “Lucifer Studies” by T. van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H. Gerritsen “Unparalleled.”
That’s how Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet, described Toer van Schayk – Holland’s renowned multi-disciplinary artist. van Schayk, who celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday earlier this month, has excelled across a broad spectrum: as a dancer, choreographer, set and costume designer, painter, and sculptor. His knowledge of the history of the arts combined with his wholehearted dedication to his craft and persistent motivation to create make him one-of-a-kind in the field. Though he has been a pillar of the Dutch National Ballet since its founding, his pieces have rarely been scheduled in recent years – and so it was most welcome that this year’s 60th anniversary season opened with the double bill “TOER”. It consisted of van Schayk’s much-acclaimed “7th Symphony” (1986) and a new ballet titled “Lucifer Studies”. I watched the live-stream on September 25th; it will be repeated on October 6th, 2021. (more…)

Comparisons

“Tänze Bilder Sinfonien” (“Symphony in Three Movements” / “Pictures at an Exhibition” / “Sinfonie Nr. 15”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
September 21, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Hashimoto, D.Dato, A.Firenze, and D.Tariello, “Symphony in Three Movements” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2021 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet opened their season with a revival of “Tänze Bilder Sinfonien”, a triple bill that premiered in June. It is comprised of two ballets originally created for the New York City Ballet: Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements” from 1972 and Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” from 2014. The third choreography – “Sinfonie Nr. 15” – was a new piece by Martin Schläpfer (formerly the artistic director and choreographer of the Ballet am Rhein; currently in the same positions at the State Ballet Vienna). I viewed the live-stream of the performance on September 21, 2021.

“Symphony in Three Movements”, set to Stravinsky’s eponymous composition, is Balanchine’s tribute to the composer following the latter’s death in 1971. (more…)

Blabla Or Food For Thought?

“Blitirí”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
July 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasBlitirí is a term used in medieval time for something that has no meaning,” explains Goyo Montero, choreographer and artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet ensemble. He compares the word to jovial “blabla”. Indeed, his new choreography for “Blitirí” revolves around joy – at least, almost entirely.
Though originally planned as a solely digital project, the 25-minute piece premiered on July 10th to a live audience at Nuremberg’s State Theater as part of the triple bill “Goecke / Godani / Montero”. A few weeks later, Stefan Kleeberger and Montero realized the initial plan by releasing a filmed version that is available on the company’s YouTube channel. (more…)

Amsterdam’s Dance Students

“Dancers of Tomorrow”
Dutch National Ballet Academy
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
July 10/11, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the Dutch National Ballet Academy, “10 Years Tailor-Made” by I.Lešić, Dutch National Ballet Academy 2021 © S.Derine End-of-year performances are a highlight for the students of any ballet school. Last weekend, the Dutch National Ballet Academy performed “Dancers of Tomorrow” on the main stage of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet for an empty auditorium due, sadly, to ongoing COVID-19-restrictions. The silver lining: a video of the performance, augmented by footage from backstage, was streamed online for two days, allowing a much larger audience to see the work. I wonder: could we include online streams and video broadcasts as a standard addendum to live performances in the future?

“Dancers of Tomorrow” was assembled from ten pieces geared to the students’ age groups and adapted or created especially for the occasion. All students participated. (more…)

A Journey Through Time

“Beauty Mixed Programme”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
July 09, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Hayward and C.Coralles, “Morgen” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Ninety years ago, Ninette de Valois founded the Vic-Wells Ballet, which would later birth today’s Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Royal Ballet celebrated the anniversary with a mixed bill that linked the past and the present, showcasing works by two pillars of the repertory – the late Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan – and works by resident choreographer Wayne McGregor, artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon, principal dancer-cum-choreographer Valentino Zucchetti, and Arthur Pita. The crown jewel of the program (more…)

“And I Have So Much to Say, But…”

“Sleeping Woman”
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Opera House
Wuppertal, Germany
July 02, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.-C.Yu and ensemble, “Sleeping Woman” by R.Behr, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch 2021 © E.RodoulisPina Bausch was the heart of Tanztheater Wuppertal – and since her premature death in 2009, the company has struggled to find new leadership to shape its artistic future. The termination of Adolphe Binder’s contract as intendant and artistic director in 2018 – after only one year in office – was followed by a two-year lawsuit between her and the theater. Although Binder won the suit (and the matter was settled out of court), Binder waived her claim to the post, making way for Bettina Wagner-Bergelt. (more…)

Two Dutch Premieres

“Four Seasons” (“The Two Of Us” / “The Four Seasons”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 15, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tsygankova and C.Allen, “The Two Of Us” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenJust one week after the premiere of “Prometheus”, the Dutch National Ballet premiered a second program as part of the annual Holland Festival: “Four Seasons” – a double bill comprised of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Two Of Us” and David Dawson’s “The Four Seasons”. Two dance films created by members of the company during last year’s lockdown – “Oblivion” and “The Garden” – were shown during the break. The performance was attended by a live audience and, in addition, broadcast online.

“The Two Of Us” premiered at New York City Center’s 2020 Fall for Dance festival and paired New York City Ballet’s principal Sara Means and David Hallberg, close friends who’d never before had the chance to dance together. In Amsterdam, the duet was performed by Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, depicting two tender souls unsure whether to stay together or to part.

As the curtain opens, Tsygankova is seated on the floor, her elbow resting pensively upon her knee. Allen kneels behind her, his hand touching her shoulder. He begins to walk away from her, and at that exact moment we hear the first sounds of a melancholic guitar strummed by Joni Mitchell. “I don’t know where I stand,” Mitchell sings, verbalizing Tsykankova’s state of being. (more…)

Joint Venture

“Come In” / “Inquieto”
Ballett am Rhein / São Paulo Dance Company
Düsseldorf, Germany / São Paulo, Brazil
June 11, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Carvalho, “Come In” by A.Barton, Ballett am Rhein 2021 © B.StößDemis Volpi, artistic director of the Ballett am Rhein, and Inês Bogéa, the same at the São Paulo Dance Company, have known each other for years. This June, their professional relationship yielded a joint video release that featured one ensemble piece by each company. The video was available on the Ballett am Rhein’s YouTube channel from June 11-13 and can be re-watched there from June 18-20.

The Ballet am Rhein contributed a modified-for-2021 version of “Come In”, a piece for twelve men choreographed in 2006 by Aszure Barton for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell’s Kitchen Dance. (more…)

A Strong Comeback

“Beethoven” (“Prometheus” / “Grosse Fuge”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 08, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Yamada, D.Silva, and ensemble, “Prometheus” by W.Kuindersma, E.Meisner, and R.Wörtmeyer, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday was, in fact, supposed to premiere a year ago. “We’re a little bit late,” admitted Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director, for reasons dictated by COVID-19. The originally scheduled program would have included Toer van Schayk’s “7th Symphony”. The anniversary program that was ultimately shown on June 8th was an adaption of this program comprised of two pieces: “Prometheus” (a new creation by the choreographer-trio Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner, and Remi Wörtmeyer) and Hans van Manen’s “Grosse Fuge”. The break was used for an excursion away from Beethoven to Milena Sidorova’s recently released dance film “Rose”. (more…)

Meager Substance

“Dance Gala Baden-Wuerttemberg”
Theater and Orchestra Heidelberg
Heidelberg, Germany
June 06, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Pérez, artistic director of the Dance Biennial Heidelberg and the Dance Theater Heidelberg © S.Reichardt“Everybody Can Dance” was the motto of this year’s Dance Biennial Heidelberg, the fourth since the event’s inception. Pandemic-related restrictions pared down the three-day festival’s schedule to a few online events, crowned by a dance gala on Sunday, June 6th. Nine of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s dance companies were represented there, together contributing thirteen short pieces – nine digital and four danced live.

The Unterwegstheater Heidelberg, a small touring company whose work spans multiple genres opened the program with the video “Die nackte Wahrheit” (“The Naked Truth”). (more…)