Latest Posts

Power Melts Away

“Tatiana”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
June 29, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Edvin Revazov and Hélène Bouchet, Tatiana by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet, photo H.BadekowTraditionally, Hamburg Ballet opens its Ballet Days at the end of the season with a premiere. This year it was “Tatiana”, John Neumeier’s new interpretation of Alexander Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin”, a production in collaboration with Moscow’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater.

In the playbill, Neumeier emphasized that he wasn’t driven by the notion of outdoing Cranko’s popular “Onegin”. Conjectures regarding this struck a nerve, however. Indeed, one has to agree with Neumeier – why not risk a new approach to the famous verse romance? It is, after all, almost fifty years since Cranko created his masterpiece of a ballet.

(more…)

Today’s Trash and Tradition Warmed Up

“The Girl and the Knife Thrower”, “Le Sacre du Printemps”
Bavarian State Ballet
Reithalle (Riding Hall)
Munich, Germany
June 19, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, The Girl and the Knife Thrower, Bavarian State Ballet One of this season’s revivals that dance connoisseurs in Germany awaited with much interest, was Mary Wigman’s “Le Sacre du Printemps”. More than fifty years after its Berlin premiere, the Bavarian State Ballet tried to bring the piece back to the stage together with a modern counterpart: Simone Sandroni’s “The Girl and the Knife Thrower”.

Sandroni’s ballet is based on an eponymous cycle of poems by German writer Wolf Wondratschek about singular moments in the daily life of a circus troupe. The main characters are the knife thrower, his target – a girl, two other young women and a clown. Sandroni relocated the goings-on to a filthy playground and supplemented the group of itinerants by devising roles for two hip-hop Russians.

(more…)

Differences in Quality

“Notations”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 15, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jan Casier, William Moore, Manuel Renard, Denis Vieira and Surimu Fukushi, Kairos by Wayne McGregor, Ballet ZurichA huge, metallic green gleaming ant decorates the playbill and the advertising posters of Ballet Zurich’s ballet evening “Notations”, which premiered in April this year. What kind of connection is between the ant and the dance? A riddle! But maybe I’ll get it later.
“Notations” unites no less than three world premieres: Wayne McGregor, working for the first time with the Swiss company, created “Kairos”. The second piece, “Sonnet”, was contributed by Ballet Zurich’s artistic director Christian Spuck and “Deer Vision”, the third piece, is by Marco Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer. (more…)

Dark times for the love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 15, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Eva Dewaele , Cristian Alex Assis, Katja Wünsche and ensemble, Romeo and Juliet by Christian Spuck, Ballet ZurichChristian Spuck, formerly Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer, is in his second year at the helm of Ballet Zurich. “Romeo and Juliet” was his first work for Zurich in 2012. A challenging and appealing task for the newly assembled company back then and a chance for Spuck to contrast with Stuttgart’s Cranko heritage. Spuck deemed Jürgen Rose’s set design for Cranko’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” as too sweetish for the story’s hardship and aimed for more emotional authenticity. He got to work with set designer Christian Schmidt and costume designer Emma Ryott. Did he finally come up with a new, convincing approach? (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…)

Patience Pays

“The Triadic Ballet”
Bavarian State Ballet II
Reithalle (Riding Hall)
Munich, Germany
June 06, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. The Triadic Ballet by Gerhard Bohner, Big Skirt, Nagisa Hatano, Copyright W. Hösl The revival of Gerhard Bohner’s “The Triadic Ballet”, after a quarter century of enforced slumber, has been a much-anticipated event in Munich. The legendary sequence of dances – famous for its strange, unwieldy costumes – was kissed awake by the Bavarian State Ballet’s artistic director Ivan Liška and his wife Colleen Scott. Both had belonged to Bohner’s faithful first cast from day one. Actually, Bohner’s piece was a reconstruction and revision of an original by the German plastic artist Oskar Schlemmer (1888 – 1943). Schlemmer’s heirs had thwarted every effort to make his artistic work available to the public. Now, seventy years after Schlemmer’s death, the intellectual property rights have expired and this gave Liška leeway to proceed. (more…)

More, Please!

“Les Ballets Russes”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
May 30, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Amo, M.Chashchegorov and ensemble, "Les Biches" by B.Nijinska, Bavarian State Ballet Thumbs up for Bavarian State Ballet! Known for their ambitious programs, the troika of artistic director Ivan Liška and his assistant directors Bettina Wagner-Bergelt and Wolfgang Oberender offer their audiences a varied diet, ranging from the classics to brand-new pieces. While Cunningham, Limón and Massine were already part of this season’s menu, some days ago the Munich trio served up a formidable evening of Ballets Russes. If the remaining two premieres – Oskar Schlemmer’s “Triadic Ballet” and Mary Wigman’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” – are danced with the same verve the prospects for ballet aficionados are happy ones. (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…)

A lightweight legend of lovers

“Orphée et Euridice”
Stuttgart State Opera and Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
May 08, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Yuko Kakuta and ensemble (2009) Orphée et Euridice by Christian Spuck, Stuttgart Coproductions of opera and ballet are not the order of the day in Germany. Hence I looked forward to Stuttgart’s revival of “ Orphée et Euridice”, a 2009 production based on Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera, directed and choreographed by Christian Spuck. Then Spuck was Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer. Now he heads the Zurich Ballet.
Spuck used Gluck’s French version of the opera, a quite radical revision of the initial Viennese “Orfeo ed Euridice” from 1762, tackled in 1774 for Paris. Regarding French opera tradition and Parisien taste, Gluck adapted the original score and reworked the orchestration. As castrati singers weren’t established in France, he transposed the part of Orpheus to tenor. Further, the original’s ninety minutes were expanded into the dimensions of a full-evening to make room for extended ballet scenes. (more…)

What’s gone is gone

“Café Müller”, “The Rite of Spring”
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Opera House
Wuppertal, Germany
May 02, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Tanztheater Wuppertal, pina40, copyright Maarten Vanden Abeele WEBThis season marks the 40th anniversary of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. To celebrate this jubilee the company has already toured extensively. Bordeaux, London, Hong Kong were only some of the stops. In the upcoming months, it will head to Toronto and Paris. More performances are being given in the Ruhr region too, and they include an additional program. I saw two of Bausch’s signature pieces, “Café Müller” and “The Rite of Spring” at the company’s traditional home base of Wuppertal.

“Café Müller”, a 1978 production, depicts the encounters of six people in a somewhat shabby cafe, which is – like its guests – past its best years. The decor as well as the costumes are by Rolf Borzik. He lined several mirrors up along the side walls. A revolving door at the rear is the cafe’s main entrance. Wooden tables and chairs stand around in disorder and during the following three-quarters of an hour the café becomes even more messy. (more…)

Where’s this route taking them?

“Wayfarers”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
April 25, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Edward Clug, Maurice Béjart, Demis Volpi, Wayfarers, Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet’s innovative energy seems unstoppable. Some days ago this season’s third premiere, “Wayfarers” went smoothly, a fourth will follow this month and the annual evening of the Noverre Society, featuring young choreographers, is yet to come. “Wayfarers” is a triple bill consisting of two world premieres, Edward Clug’s “No Men’s Land” and Demis Volpi’s “Aftermath”, framing  Maurice Béjart’s “Songs of a Wayfarer”, a work familiar to the Stuttgart audience.

Sparing neither trouble nor expense, both new creations had new music. Slovene Milko Lazar had been commissioned for the music of “No Men’s Land”. His suite of five movements for cello and full orchestra, belonging to the field of minimal and postmodern music, evokes an energetic, martial atmosphere. Only a cello solo by Zoltan Paulich provided a little lyricism amidst the unvaryingly pulsing rhythm. (more…)

Last Dance

“Giselle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
April 22, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Yumiko Takeshima, Giselle by David Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Two principal ballerinas of the Semperoper Ballet gave farewell performances at Easter: Natalia Sologub and Yumiko Takeshima. I watched Takeshima’s goodbye in the title role of a “Giselle” production which David Dawson had staged for her in 2008. Sologub’s last appearance had been a few days earlier, and in the same role. To come straight to the point, Takeshima’s farewell was altogether well-rounded.

Dawson’s “Giselle” belongs to the present. Fresh and light footed at first glance, the emotions and the resulting tragedy are, in fact, clear cut and powerful.
The romance of Giselle and Albrecht unfolds against the setting of wedding preparations for another young couple. This opens up abundant opportunities for dancing: there is a wedding pas de cinq and various other groupings. The warning that she will become an unhappy bride and end as a Wili is presented as a macabre joke and in act 2 turns out to have been an exaggeration. Dawson’s Wilis are innocent natures. (more…)

Mass at Neumeier’s

“Messiah”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
April 18, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Aleix Martinez, Messiah by John Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet This year Hamburg Ballet broke with its (almost) usual practice of performing John Neumeier’s “Saint Matthew Passion”. Instead, the company revived Neumeier’s “Messiah”, a 1999 work to George Frideric Handel’s eponymous oratorio.
For Neumeier, Handel’s oratorio is more than a depiction of Christ’s life of suffering. The oratorio goes back to a time before the Redeemer’s appearance, it includes several prophecies and predictions, it tells of Christ’s birth, of his ordeal and his Ascension. Moreover, it includes the disciples’ spreading the word, the doubters’ rejection of the Christian message, their punishment and also the joy of the ones who are of true faith. Thus, for Neumeier, it is the suffering of all mankind, of all humanity that Handel considered his subject matter.

In the context of the 1998/99 war in Kosovo Neumeier focused on people’s desire and pleading for peace. This certainly has currency and is as relevant as it was a decade and a half ago. Together with Günter Jena, a church music specialist, Neumeier chose arias, choruses, accompagnati and recitatives mainly from the first part of Handel’s threepart “Messiah”. Preferring God as the Prince of Peace, Neumeier omitted such arias as “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”. Recalling a comment by Will Quadflieg (one of Germany’s major post-World War II actors) that during happy moments one has to keep the darkest moments in mind, Neumeier chose – following the triumphal Hallelujah Chorus – to close with Arvo Pärt’s “Agnus Dei”. This put Handel’s apotheosis of God’s omnipotence into perspective. Similarly, Pärt’s “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” as the opening, indicated that a fall was needed to make the subsequent redemption comprehensible. (more…)

The Recurring Chance to Awaken the Beauty

“Sleeping Beauty”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
April 13, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Han and O.Kollmannsperger, Sleeping Beauty by Mats Ek, Zurich BalletHaving the Royal Ballet’s gorgeous production of Marius Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty” in mind (with Alina Cojocaru in the title role), I faced Mats Ek’s modern version, currently performed by Ballet Zurich, with mixed feelings. A drug-addicted Aurora seemed to be an all too tasteless twist on the iconic fairy tale. The Zurich company, however, disabused me. Ek’s “Sleeping Beauty” provided around two hours of fascination during which I kept my eyes glued to the stage to miss no single detail. (more…)

Does a Big Name Deliver its Promise?

“Ratmansky/Welch”
State Ballet Berlin
Schiller Theater
Berlin, Germany
April 04, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, Clear by Stanton Welch, State Ballet BerlinAt the end of his era as head of State Ballet Berlin, Vladimir Malakhov mounted two German premieres: Stanton Welch’s “Clear” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Namouna – a Grand Divertissement”. Both works showed the company to be in good shape and its atmosphere confident.

“Clear” was Welch’s reaction to the terror attack on the World Trade Center that took place September 11, 2001. It premiered with American Ballet Theatre the same year. However, a connection to 9/11 isn’t obvious at first glance. Seven men and one woman indulge themselves in energetic duos, trios and group numbers. Foremost, these dances radiate verve. They are lively, in accord with the music – Johann Sebastian Bach’s concertos (Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C-Minor and Concerto for Violin in G-Minor, excellently played by violinist Wolfram Brandl and oboist Fabian Schäfer).

(more…)