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A Bold Combo

“Giselle” (Act II), “Agora”
São Paulo Dance Company
Teatro Sérgio Cardoso
São Paulo, Brazil
October 02 and 03, 2021 (live streams)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Pegurelli (Giselle), “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.LimaBefore resuming their international tours, the São Paulo Dance Company opened the season at home in the Teatro Sérgio Cardoso with a refreshingly bold double bill that contrasted the second act of “Giselle” – an foundational piece from the romantic era – with “Agora”, a punchy 2019 creation by the São Paulo-based choreographer Cassi Abranches. I viewed two performances with different casts that were streamed live on October 2nd and 3rd, 2021.

“Giselle” (Act II) is a new addition to the company’s repertoire, adapted by in-house ballet teacher Lars van Cauwenbergh – a 3. B.Paulino (Myrtha) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.Lima2. B.Paulino (Myrtha) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.Limaformer dancer at the Royal Ballet of Flanders and the English National Ballet. van Cauwenbergh based his work on the original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, retaining Adolphe Adam’s music as well as the traditional setting and decór (one difference: the forest surrounding Giselle’s grave is a tropical one often overtaken by wafting mist). A red drape curtain frames the proscenium, reminding us that what we watch is fiction (set design by Vera Hamburger, costumes by Marilda Fontes). Wagner Freire’s lighting occasionally looks unsubtle on camera.

4. C.Pegurelli (Giselle), B.Paulino (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.Lima5. V.Vieira (Duke Albrecht), C.Pegurelli (Giselle), B.Paulino (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.LimaAmong the small changes made by van Cauwenburgh, I noticed the – hopefully – merciful fate of Hilarion, whom the Wilis sling towards the forest behind Giselle’s tombstone rather than drowning him in a lake. The storyline seemed clearer than usual and, especially in terms of the leading couple, Giselle and Duke Albrecht, a touch more emotional.
 7. V.Vieira (Duke Albrecht) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.Lima6. V.Vieira (Duke Albrecht), C.Pegurelli (Giselle), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.LimaCarolina Pegurelli’s Giselle, which I saw on October 2nd, combines softness with inner strength. She wafts through the air like fine muslin. Determined to save Albrecht from the vengeful Wilis, she humbly but persistently pledges their queen Myrtha (Beatriz Paulino) for pity. For Vinícius Vieira’s Albrecht the loss of Giselle seems to have revealed the depth of his love to her. 8. H.de Castro (Hilarion) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.Lima9. C.Pegurelli (Giselle) and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.LimaGrief stricken, he doesn’t hold back in showing his tender, caring affection. Paulino’s Myrtha is commanding up to her fingertips – a fascinatingly powerful queen! But don’t be misled by how supple and springily lightweight she moves! Implacability is written all over her face.

10. T.Prata (Giselle) and G.Moreira (Duke Albrecht), “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrThamiris Prata’s Giselle, seen on October 3rd, pours her heart into rescuing Albrecht (Geivison Moreira), pleading Myrtha (Luciana Davi) docilely for lenity. Giselle’s neat bouncy jumps and assured balances express her soul’s refinement. Lifted high above Albrecht’s head she seems as light as a feather. The way Moreira’s Albrecht approaches Giselle’s grave made me think of a statue of Dante. Albrecht’s reassurance after finding Giselle’s flowers stirs compassion. Hope and a faint smile flicker across his face as he faces the audience in the final scene. His assured jumps when forced to dance are monitored by no one except for two of the Wilis – Moyna (Luiza 11. L.Davi (Myrtha), “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr12. Ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrYuk) and Zulma (Ana Roberta Teixeira). How Myrtha senses when to turn round to Albrecht and re-enforce her order to continue can only be explained by her supernatural abilities. Davi’s Myrtha was so cold and rigid, that I was happy to see her shed the role and smile at the curtain call, revealing a glimpse of her true personality.

14. Ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr13. T.Prata (Giselle), G.Moreira (Duke Albrecht), L.Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrIn both performances, Hilarion was portrayed as a ballsy guy with a big heart (Hiago de Castro danced the role on October 2nd; Diego de Paula on October 3rd). It was hard to watch these seasoned men on their knees, begging for their life. Yuk and Teixeira danced Moyna and Zulma at both events, their brief solos illuminating the circumstances of their deaths. Zulma committed suicide by throwing herself from a cliff – hence a solo solo that features dramatic jumping. Moyna was trapped in the circular motion of a river current and drowned – leading her to perform beautifully curved reversees.
15. D.de Paula (Hilarion), L.Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr16. D.de Paula (Hilarion), L.Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrThe twelve other Wilis that submissively follow Myrtha seem at first glance to be pristine beauties, but in fact make up a ruthless, vengeful brigade, their feet pounding the floor ceaselessly as they chase after their men. In the instant that they are able to separate Albrecht from Giselle’s protection, they circle and trap him swiftly, bending their upper bodies like hunters on the prowl.
For now, the company has no plans to stage a complete “Giselle” – but given their mastery of the challenging Act II, it may be worth it to rethink this decision.

17. Ensemble, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr“Giselle” was immediately followed by the twenty-minute-long “Agora” (meaning “now”). It opens with pairs of gleaming red pinpricks of light appearing on the pitch-black stage. Were they animals’ eyes? As the spots grow, it becomes clear that they are the reflections of red lighting on the dancers’ bodies. A metronome-like beat accompanies them, its tick-tock steadily accelerating (soundtrack by Sebastian Piracés). After a short blackout, off-white spotlights define spaces for each of the twelve dancers. They nervously shift their weight from one leg to the other, jogging in place before scattering across the stage, breaking out for solos, and joining one another for duets or group sequences.

18. L.Yuk and L.Barcelos, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr19. L.Yuk and L.Barcelos, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrAbranches’s choreography interlaces swiftly moving groups with slowly moving ones. Some dancers walk, and others run forward or backwards and on or off stage. With regularity, women jump boldly into men’s arms, or switch roles, taking the lead. The energy of their movement flows naturally through their bodies, originating – for example – in the pelvis and running like a wave through the torso until petering out in a shake of the head. Again and again, the dancers thrust one hip as they step forward, reminding me of a young John Travolta playing the sexy macho man in tight hipster jeans. These twelve dancers, though, 21. Y.Suzuki, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr20. N.Souza, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayraren’t wearing jeans, but instead wear earth-colored costumes – pants for the men and simple dresses for the women – designed by Janaína Castro. At times, the red lighting – sometimes dim and diffuse, sometimes rich and orangy – creates a nightclub-like atmosphere (lighting by Gabriel Pederneiras).

To the sound of an untuned piano, clittering crickets, and croaking frogs, a man and a woman meet for an erotic late-night pas de deux. Another woman, slowly circling around them, soon separates the couple, filling up the arena-like space with her solo. Later, vigorous percussion and howling squeaks drive the dancers into a quicker pace. In the final moments of the beating metronome, they return to their solitary spotlights, which switch off one after another.
22. Ensemble, “Agora” by C.Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.Kirmayr

Links: Website of the São Paulo Dance Company
Photos: “Giselle”, October 2nd, 2021
1. Carolina Pegurelli (Giselle), “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
2. Beatriz Paulino (Myrtha) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
3. Beatriz Paulino (Myrtha) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
4. Carolina Pegurelli (Giselle), Beatriz Paulino (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
5. Vinícius Vieira (Duke Albrecht), Carolina Pegurelli (Giselle), Beatriz Paulino (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
6. Vinícius Vieira (Duke Albrecht), Carolina Pegurelli (Giselle), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
7. Vinícius Vieira (Duke Albrecht) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
8. Hiago de Castro (Hilarion) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
9. Carolina Pegurelli (Giselle) and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Charles Lima
“Giselle”, October 3rd, 2021
10. Thamiris Prata (Giselle) and Geivison Moreira (Duke Albrecht), “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
11. Luciana Davi (Myrtha), “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
12. Ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
13. Thamiris Prata (Giselle), Geivison Moreira (Duke Albrecht), Luciana Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
14. Ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
15. Diego de Paula (Hilarion), Luciana Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
16. Diego de Paula (Hilarion), Luciana Davi (Myrtha), and ensemble, “Giselle” by Lars van Cauwenbergh after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
“Agora”
17. Ensemble, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
18. Luiza Yuk and Luan Barcelos, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
19. Luiza Yuk and Luan Barcelos, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
20. Nielson Souza, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
21. Yoshi Suzuki, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
22. Ensemble, “Agora” by Cassi Abranches, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © Fernanda Kirmayr
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Exploring a Romantic Dream

“Les Sylphides” (“Chopiniana”)
São Paulo Dance Company
Teatro Sérgio Cardoso
São Paulo, Brazil
June 25, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Prata, V.Vieira, and L.Yuk, “Les Sylphides” by A.Botafogo after M.Fokin, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrThe COVID-19 pandemic compelled the São Paulo Dance Company to postpone this June’s run of “Giselle” to September. In its place, the company has offered another gem from the romantic repertory: Mikhail Fokin’s “Les Sylphides”, newly revised by Ana Botafogo, a Brazilian actress and former principal of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. The performance on June 18th – attended by a live audience and broadcast online on June 25th – was presented as part of the company’s educational program and followed by a 30-minute lecture about the piece and its production. (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 Conversation With Guillaume Côté

Moscow, Russia
December 16, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Côté rehearsing “Frame by Frame” by R.Lepage and G.Côté, The National Ballet of Canada 2018 © The National Ballet of Canada / A.AntonijevicGuillaume Côté, principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, had just made his debut as a guest dancer with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet the previous evening, dancing Romeo in Alexei Ratmansky’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” alongside Evgenia Obraztsova. The role was originally created on Côté in 2011. We met early in the morning – a couple of hours before Côté would return to Toronto – to talk about Romeo, love, his career, and Russia. The first topic we touched upon was dance critique.
Côté’s answers are in italics. (more…)

The Alvin Ailey Company Tours Germany

“Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater”
Deutsches Theater
Munich, Germany
August 22, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Pereyra, “Four Corners” by R.K. Brown, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater © P.KolnikThe summer tour of the Alvin Ailey company kicked off in Paris and, after one week in Basel, reached Germany in early August where the main body of performances was scheduled. The last stop will be in Copenhagen in September.
I saw the opening night in Munich, one of the five cities on the troupe’s German itinerary. The four pieces on the program included “Four Corners” by Ronald K. Brown, “Exodus” by Rennie Harris, Robert Battle’s short “Takademe” and the company’s signature piece “Revelations,” one of the Ailey’s earliest works. He created it in 1960 when he was just twenty-nine-year-old. “Four Corners” and “Exodus” were replaced by “Open Door” and “Piazzolla Caldera” at other venues on the tour. (more…)

Four Dancer Nominees for the Prix Benois 2017

Prix Benois de la Danse
Bolshoi Ballet / Korean National Ballet / National Ballet of Uruguay
Moscow / Seoul / Montevideo
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Statuette of the Prix Benois de la Danse, design by I.Ustinov © Y.PokrovskyOn May 30th and 31st the Bolshoi again hosts the ceremonies of the annual Prix Benois de la Danse Galas. Prizes will be given on the first evening, while the gala on the following day will look back on highlights from the twenty-five-year history of the Prix Benois. It is already known that Marcia Haydée will be awarded the Benois Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Aurelie Dupont the Russian-Italian Prize Miroir de la Danse.

This year’s nominees include seven choreographers, six ballerinas and seven male dancers. I asked four dancers – two female, two male – about the roles which earned them the nomination: they are, alphabetically, Nina Kaptsova (Bolshoi Ballet), Jae-Woo Lee (Korean National Ballet), Maria Riccetto (National Ballet of Uruguay), and Denis Rodkin (Bolshoi Ballet).
All four were asked the same questions:
“Why was performing this role special compared to other roles you danced? What challenged you? In what perspective did the role make you grow as an artist?”

Here is what they answered: (more…)

Grand Glamor

“Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
August 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Swan Lake” after L.Ivanov, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo © S.VaughanFor almost a week the venerable “Trocks” have been doing themselves the honor of guesting at Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus as part of an extended tour through Germany. A packed house duly welcomed them and was generously rewarded with a mixed bill of iconic classics. I saw the program on opening night which, “in accordance with the greatest tradition of Russian Ballet”, slightly differed from what had been announced in advance. Instead of the “Pas de deux Mystérieux” we were presented with the threesome of the “Le Corsaire Pas de Deux”, “Go for Barocco” and the “Dying Swan” which were framed by Act II of “Swan Lake” and the Grand Pas Classique of “Paquita”. (more…)

Tradition made spectacular

“The Kabuki”
The Tokyo Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
June 08, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, The Kabuki by Maurice Béjart, Tokyo Ballet 2014 The Tokyo Ballet toured Stuttgart on June 7th and 8th with one of their core repertory pieces, Maurice Béjart’s “The Kabuki”, a dance-drama created for the troupe in 1986. The plot is based on the Japanese national myth “The Revenge of the 47 Ronin”, events which took place between 1701 – 1703 during the Edo period. The term ‘Ronin’ means ‘masterless samurai’ due to the master’s death or the loss of the master’s favor or privilege.

It’s an intricate story set in the circles of the Shogun. Morono, a high-level officer of the Shogun, is rejected by Lady Kaoyo, the wife of Lord Enya Hangan. Out of wounded vanity he starts to quarrel with the husband. Enya Hangan finally loses his temper and attacks the womanizer, earning more than he bargained for. Provoking fights inside the palace is forbidden and is punished with the stipulation to commit Seppuku, ritual suicide through disembowelment. He also has to dissolve his clan. Having no choice, he took his own life. (more…)