European Companies

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…)

Incongruent

“Lyssa”
The Royal Ballet & Nadine Shah
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
June 04, 2021 (dance film)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Shah and artists of the the Royal Ballet in “Lyssa” by L.Page, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Verzhbinsky In late 2019, the British choreographer Lynne Page created “Death in Venice” for the Royal Opera. “Lyssa”, a twenty-or-so-minute film, features her first-ever choreography for the Royal Ballet. After a year of pandemic-induced artistic drought (and a severe lack of live music), she felt that the time was ripe for arts institutions to tackle new genres in order to reach new audiences. This project, a merger between song and dance, brings together the English singer / songwriter Nadine Shah and seventeen female dancers from the Royal Ballet. Shah sings “Trad” from her 2020 album “Kitchen Sink”, a less-than-four-minute song with very few lyrics, which has been extended to fifteen minutes in a new version featuring the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. (more…)

The Royal Ballet Re-Opens

“21st-Century Choreographers”
(“Within the Golden Hour” / Optional Family: A Divertissement” / “The Statement” / “Solo Echo”)

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 28, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Artists of the Royal Ballet, “Within the Golden Hour” by C.Wheeldon, The Royal Ballet 2021 © B.Cooper Over half a year ago, pandemic-related restrictions forced the Royal Opera House to close its doors. On May 18th, a limited audience was finally welcomed back to see the company live on stage. The program – “21st-Century Choreographers” – consisted of four pieces: “Within the Golden Hour” by Christopher Wheeldon; “Optional Family: A Divertissement” – a new piece by Kyle Abraham; and two pieces by Crystal Pite: “The Statement” and “Solo Echo”. (more…)

Made For Film

“Young Creatives” (“Memento” / “Rose” / “I Feel It Too”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Stoop, D.Bai, S.Quintyn, L.Rosillo, W.Wijkstra, and M.Kumar, “Memento” by W.Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFollowing the online premiere of “Metamorphosis”, the new ballet by Dutch National Ballet’s associate artist David Dawson, the company released three additional videos at the end of May. Each features a ballet film by a young creative associate: “Memento” (concept and choreography by Wubkje Kuindersma), “Rose” (direction, concept, and choreography by Milena Sidorova), and “I Feel It Too” (creative direction and choreography by Sedrig Verwoert). All three films can be viewed for free on the company’s YouTube channel until October 2021. (more…)

The Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographers

“Spring Draft Works”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 14, April 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Junker, I.Lubach, F.Serrano, I.Gasparini, K.McNally, and T.Dubreuil, “The Morning Routine” by J.Junker, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.UspenskiIt’s hard to imagine that the pandemic has had any positive impact on the performing arts – but, as Kevin O’Hare, the Royal Ballet’s ever-optimistic artistic director points out in his introductory comments on this season’s “Spring Draft Works” (an annual project that assembles choreographies created by the company’s dancers) – there’s a silver lining: more free time to unlock hidden choreographic potential and rehearse, and the chance to include live music. Even the renowned lighting designer Natasha Chivers had time to create clever lighting tailored to each piece. (more…)

What Became of …?

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Ballet School
Teatro Nazionale
Rome, Italy
May 2021

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Starace (Oberon), C.Onesti (Titania), and ensemble, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” by A.Delle Monache, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Ballet School 2014 © Y.KageyamaEarlier this May, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma unearthed an archival recording of a 2014 performance by the opera’s ballet school: Shakespeare’s romantic comedy (or, rather, satire on romantic comedy) “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, choreographed and directed by Alessandra Delle Monache. Her genre-spanning production is grounded by the explanations of a narrator (Giulia Tomaselli, a student of the Accademia Nazionale D’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico, Rome) who helps us sort out the tangle of romances blossoming in the forests outside Athens. It’s an understandable move, since – unlike in other productions – two of the four couples (Hermia & Lysander, Helena & Demetrius) are dressed so similarly that mixing them up is inevitable. (more…)

Uplifting

“The Sleeping Beauty”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
April 29, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1.A.Fujii (Fairy of Wisdom), A.Pera (Fairy of Grace), E.V.Gonzales (Fairy of Force), R.Zvonařová (Lilac Fairy), M.Hejduková (Fairy of Beauty), K.Němečková (Fairy of Eloquence), P.Holeček (Carabosse), and ensemble, “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Haydée after M.Petipa, Czech National Ballet 2021 © S.Gherciu It is nearly impossible to mount a three-act full-ensemble classic in the midst of a pandemic – or at least it has been for many companies. That the Czech National Ballet accomplished this feat feels like a harbinger of better times to come. Last Thursday, on World Dance Day, they premiered “The Sleeping Beauty” on their YouTube channel. The video will be online until May 5th. (more…)

Nuremberg’s Junior Choreographers (III)

Exquisite Corpse Extra” (episode 3)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg

State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 24, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Ketelslegers, “The Path” by C.Ide, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © B.StößThe final program of the three-part “Exquisite Corpse Extra” project by the Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg was comprised of four short contemporary pieces by six young choreographers: Chisato Ide, Bo Jacobs, and Oscar Alonso (who created one piece each) and Michael García, Victor Ketelslegers, and Ana Tavares (who created a joint work). As with the previous presentations (episode 1, episode 2), the program lasted for around a half hour and was accompanied by videos in which the choreographers commented on their work. (more…)

Nuremberg’s Junior Choreographers (II)

“Exquisite Corpse Extra” (episode 2)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 17, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes and L.Axel, “Indoor” by L.Axel, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © B.StößThe second part of the State Ballet Nuremberg’s “Exquisite Corpse Extra” project featured works by four aspiring choreographers: Lucas Axel, Sarah-Lee Chapman, Kate Gee, and Sofie Vervaecke. As with the first part, the program lasted for around a half hour and was accompanied by videos of the dancers commenting on their work.

The opening piece was by Brazilian-born Axel, who received his training at the Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville/Brazil and danced with three companies in São Paulo before moving to Germany. There, he joined the ballet of the State Theater Augsburg, later moving to Nuremberg’s company. He describes himself as having struggled with anxiety since the age of ten. This experience was one grounding focus of his choreography – depression, anxiety, and death. (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…)

Nuremberg’s Junior Choreographers (I)

“Exquisite Corpse Extra” (episode 1)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 10, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C. Blanco, “Me Inside Me” by C.Blanco, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © B.StößThirteen of the State Theater Nuremberg’s twenty-one dancers tried their hand at choreography this season, resulting in eleven new contemporary pieces split over three programs. The first of these programs premiered last Saturday; the remaining two will be broadcast online on upcoming weekends.
The first program (approximately 30 minutes) was assembled from three short pieces: a solo (choreographed and danced by Carlos Blanco) and two ensemble works (one by Edward Nunes and one by Andy Fernández). Each choreographer commented on their work in an accompanying video. (more…)

Dancers’ Choice

Spring Special”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
April 05, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Tonoli, S.Yamada, J.Spunda, and S.Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFor most artists, the flow of opportunities for performance on home stages or abroad has either thinned to a trickle or dried up altogether since the onset of the pandemic. The Dutch National Ballet filled some of those gaps with a “Spring Special” -gala that featured a selection of ten short pieces in total – eight excerpts from the company’s existing repertory, one new acquisition, and one world premiere. Each dancer was able to choose which piece to perform in (with appropriate attention to pandemic-related restrictions of group size). All of the principals, several soloists, and one member of the corps de ballet participated. The gala was streamed live on April 5th. A second broadcast is scheduled for April 10, 2021 (more…)

Saucy

In and Out”
Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
March / April 2021 (online video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Mardegan (center) and members of the Junior Company, “In and Out” by H.van Manen, Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenAlthough the Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company hoped to tour Hans van Manen’s “In and Out” in spring 2020, their plan was shattered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, though, the current members of the Junior Company revived the short ballet on the Dutch National Ballet & Opera’s main-stage. The performance was recorded and can be viewed for free until April 25, 2021 on the company’s website.

(more…)

Necessity Yields Virtue

“Puppet” / “ Dos Soles Solos”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
March 18 and 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1) F.Scarpato, “Puppet” by D.Lee, Czech National Ballet 2021 © M.Divíšek The Czechs’ are clearly adept at making films – no matter the genre. Last December, the Czech National Ballet danced a heartwarming “The Nutcracker – A Christmas Carol”, which was broadcast live on national television and on YouTube. This March, they premiered recordings of two short new pieces on their YouTube channel. The works – “Puppet” by Douglas Lee and “Dos Soles Solos” by Alejandro Cerrudo – are well worth watching. They are part of a triple bill (the third, yet-to-be released piece is by Cayetano Soto) that will be performed for an in-person audience whenever Czech theaters are allowed to re-open for the public. Martin Kubala, the filmmaker who oversaw the recording, expertly captured the production from interesting angles and distances. (more…)

Second International Ballet Conference at Dutch National Ballet

“Positioning Ballet 2019”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

February 16/17, 2019
by Ilona Landgraf

Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

This February, the Dutch National Ballet welcomed international dance professionals for a two-day working meeting at the second “Positioning Ballet” conference. In 2017, at the first iteration of the event, the key topics were heritage, diversity, and identity. The 2019 meeting dealt with the relevance of ballet in the 21st century, the work culture ballet aims to embody, and the types of leadership required from artistic directors. Unlike in 2017, this year’s conference was closed for the press on the first day. As such, I missed the two keynote speeches – one by Jennifer Homans, the author of “Apollo’s Angels”, and the other by Theresa Ruth Howard, the founder and curator of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) – and the discussions that followed. Homans spoke about internal and external threats to the arts and ballet in particular, while Howard’s speech was titled “The Deconstruction of the Anatomy of Culture and Leadership in Ballet”. (more…)