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Missing the Fizz

“KYLWORKS”
“All Ages Dance”
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
February 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Kylián in 2010 © S.Ligtenberg 2015One of Jiří Kylián’s merits as artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) – a post he held from 1975 to 1999 – was that in 1991 he initiated NDT III. The main company is NDT I, the juniors form NDT II. NDT III gave the seniors a platform to continue presenting their art. In 2006 the project was allowed to die for financial reasons. Kylián remained connected to NDT as a choreographer until 2009. During this time he created 74 works for NTD – nearly three-quarters of his entire body of work. With “KYLWORKS”, subtitled “All Ages Dance” he took up the idea of NDT III again. Kylián carefully selected six dancers, aged between thirty-five and sixty-five, all descending from various large companies, to present morsels of his work. The group does not form a company, Kylián declared in the small program, but rather represents the idea that everyone has absorbed the talent to dance from one’s infancy. Touring Germany, “KYLWORKS” also visited Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, a sort of homeland for Kylián as his first contract as a dancer in the late 1970s, offered by John Cranko, was with Stuttgart Ballet. Moreover with Stuttgart’s Noverre Society, he took his first steps as choreographer. Also, Kylián’s muse, Sabine Kupferberg, often the main protagonist of many of his works, has strong bonds to Stuttgart. Trained in the John Cranko School she became a member of the company under Cranko’s directorship before joining NDT seven years later. Kylián and Kupferberg shared ways not only artistically but subsequently also privately. (more…)

A Real Man

“Liliom”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
January 31, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Cojocaru and C.Jung, “Liliom” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © H.Badekow 2015“By the way we have to see how Dortmund played” a tall, athletic man said to his female companion when walking into Hamburg State Opera’s auditorium in front of me. Saturdays are usually match days in the German Bundesliga. “Dortmund”, or “Borussia Dortmund” respectively, was obviously the man’s favorite club in the top tier of the German football league system. His companion, slightly annoyed, looked heavenwards. But after all she had made her football addict friend accompany her to a ballet evening. Maybe John Neumeier’s “Liliom” was exactly the right choice to stir his cultural enthusiasm.

At least on first sight, its titular character Liliom fits perfectly into the cliche of a real man. He is a womanizer with plenty of brawn. Talking isn’t his forte. Worse, looking closer, Liliom turns out to be a good for nothing dude. When not knowing how to deal with a situation, when feeling helpless, he can’t stop himself from striking out. He is likewise quick to pull a knife, a macho man with a limited range of action alternatives who avoids at any cost exposing his innermost self. (more…)

Bliss and Grief of Love

“Onegin”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain and F.Vogel, “Onegin” by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015John Cranko’s “Onegin” is not only in the repertory of companies all over the world but for nearly fifty years has been revived time after time by its company of origin, the Stuttgart Ballet. The piece’s charisma has not faded a bit. Jürgen Rose’s set and the costumes are still drop dead gorgeous. In short, “Onegin” is a pearl of the repertory and a darling of the audience. In Stuttgart ballet connoisseurs flock into the opera to compare various casts or to witness a role debut. Just recently principal dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet guesting in “Onegin” caused a great rush. Some days later the opera house was again packed as Friedemann Vogel, the company’s well-traveled premier dancer, danced for the first time as Onegin on his home stage. He had already made his role debut in Bangkok during the troupe’s tour to Asia last fall. Many times he had portrayed the emotional poet Lenski but, having watched the piece since childhood again and again, Vogel was very familiar with the role of Onegin. This time the other central characters were danced by Alicia Amatriain (Tatiana), Elisa Badenes (Olga), Daniel Camargo (Lenski) and Roland Havlica (Prince Gremin) – truly a dream cast!

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Old Friends

“Hommage à MacMillan”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 03, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.J.Kang, “Requiem” by K.MacMillan, Stuttgart Ballet, © U.Beuttenmüller 2015Kenneth MacMillan (1929 -1992) would have celebrated his 85th birthday in December 2014. Stuttgart Ballet used this date as an opportunity to bring its close connection to the choreographer to mind. The double bill “Hommage à MacMillan” comprises “Song of the Earth” and “Requiem”, ballets with a special genesis and both created for the Stuttgart company. I saw the last performance of the first run. A second will take place in April.
In 1963 MacMillan had already created “Las Hermanas” for Stuttgart Ballet. Back then John Cranko had been at the helm of the company for two years. In 1965 the Royal Opera House refused to give MacMillan, who was its resident choreographer, permission to use Gustav Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” for a new piece. Mahler’s music was considered untouchable, definitely not made for dancing. Besides no one had ever dared airing such an unreasonable idea. Fortunately times have changed. John Neumeier, for example, choreographed pieces to all of Mahler’s symphonies, except the 2nd and 8th symphony. Currently he is preparing a new work to “The Song of the Earth” for the Paris Opera Ballet. In any case MacMillan found the doors opened by Cranko in the mid 60s. Both had met as teenagers when studying at the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and became friends. Cranko was the one who encouraged MacMillan to start choreographing because the Scot, who was two years younger, was heavily afflicted by stage fright when performing. (more…)

The Land Where the Lemon Trees Blossom

“Napoli”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 31, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Cazzaniga, A.Riabko, S.Azzoni, K.Tselikov, M.Jubete and ensemble, “Napoli” by A.Bournonville and with new choreography by L.Riggins, Hamburg Ballet © H.Badekow 2014Like the Bavarian State Ballet’s recent triumph with “Paquita”, John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet revived an old classic, August Bournonville’s “Napoli”, a buoyant, romantic love story with dramatic sprinklings, transferring the southern Italian joy of life to the Elbe River.
Premiering in 1842 in Copenhagen, “Napoli” is a staple of the Royal Danish Ballet’s repertory, so long as Nikolai Hübbe doesn’t continue replacing Bournonville’s legacy with his own creations, as happened with “La Sylphide” this autumn. Similar to other ballets of the romantic period, the libretto of “Napoli” is lightweight. Bournonville’s source of inspiration was a journey to southern Italy. Drawing on myriad impressions – from the quarreling fish traders to different types of street merchants, flirting youth, ragged beggars and monks strolling around – he wrote the libretto on his way back home, more precisely in the stagecoach between Paris and Dunkirk in northern France. Even an episode during an excursion to the fishing village Baiae was worked in: until 1848 Bournonville, still actively dancing in Copenhagen’s ensemble and also artistic director and senior choreographer, surprised his fellow travelers when he himself suddenly replaced a dancer of a local dance group in a lightning tarantella. (more…)

What Young Girls Dream About

“The Nutcracker”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 23, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Trusch and A.Cojocaru, “The Nutcracker” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © Holger Badekow 2014Shortly before Christmas Eve, Hamburg Ballet had some special candy in store, John Neumeier’s “Nutcracker” with Alina Cojocaru as Marie and Otto Bubeníček as Drosselmeier. Bubeníček is the strongest of Hamburg’s male dancers in this role and having the opportunity to see Cojocaru dance is a Christmas gift all by itself. The appearance of both had already been planned for last season but was cancelled due to Bubeníček being injured. Complemented by a strong cast, this year’s run of “The Nutcracker” hence had a powerful start.

Inspired by John Cranko’s “Nutcracker” Neumeier also separated his version from the Christmas Season. Nevertheless it’s often scheduled at the end of the year. Any mice involved in fighting were eliminated by Neumeier. For him the story’s core topic is the transition from being a child to becoming an adult. His story begins at Marie Stahlbaum’s twelfth birthday party where she is presented with a wooden nutcracker – her companion throughout the ballet – and her first pair of toe shoes. The latter are a gift from Drosselmeier who is the ballet master of Marie’s older sister Louise and Neumeier’s homage to Marius Petipa. (more…)

Petipa’s Vapid Aesthetic?

“Raymonda”
Maryinsky Ballet
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
December 21, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Tereshkina and ensemble, “Raymonda” by M.Petipa in the version of K.Sergeyev and with choreographic fragments by F.Lopuchov, Maryinsky Ballet © N.Razina 2014“Raymonda” in several aspects marks a turning point amidst the classics. Premiering in January 1898 at the Maryinsky Theatre it was Marius Petipa’s last grand ballet before being gradually disempowered at the Imperial Theatre from 1903 on. By comparison, its score was Alexander Glasunov’s first attempt at ballet music. Relatively unknown as composer, he had been chosen to fill the gap caused by Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893. Though not pleased at first when he faced the kind of detailed array Petipa had used to predetermine Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet scores, Glasunov nonetheless produced varied, colorfully romantic music which won him public appreciation. Albeit a pillar of the ballet repertory in Russia, “Raymonda” attracted little attention abroad possibly because of its unconvincing libretto. Set in medieval times in Southern France, it’s about a young noble lady Raymonda who waits for her fiancé Jean de Brienne’s return. Being an Hungarian knight, he’s off crusading in the Holy Land. While preparing for the celebration of Raymonda’s birthday (or, depending on the text source, name day) the Saracen knight Abderakhman appears as one of the well-wishers. (more…)

Sparkling History

“Paquita”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 13, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Sukhorukova and C.Pierre, “Paquita” by M.Petipa and A.Ratmansky, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2014Blowing the dust off from an aged stage vehicle like “Paquita” and polishing it up for a premiere usually draws very few out of the woodwork. Bavarian State Ballet, however, promoted the project confidently. Quite rightly as no less than Alexei Ratmansky and Doug Fullington had devoted themselves to revive the love story of the orphan girl Paquita. Bavarian State Ballet’s original plans were that Ratmansky would make his German debut as choreographer with “Paquita” but the indefatigable Ratmansky had already staged his “Namouna” in Berlin and the “Tanzsuite” for Semperoper Ballet Dresden. However, this didn’t harm the project because doing justice to a significant piece of art and its creator was the root of the matter. (more…)

Fostering Ballet’s Future

Noverre Society Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
December 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Logo of the Noverre Society Stuttgart © Noverre Society 2014The dance critic Horst Koegler once compared him with a F1 World Champion who – second to none – has held his title for more than half a century: Fritz Höver, founder and longstanding chairman of Stuttgart’s Noverre Society. How would the Stuttgart Ballet have developed without Höver? Back in the early 1960s no one knew John Cranko in Stuttgart, not even Stuttgart Opera’s general director Walter Erich Schäfer. It’s hard to believe these days but in the late 1950s Stuttgart’s audience had not yet acquired a taste for ballet. The genre’s main function, since 1957 in the hands of artistic director Nicholas Beriozoff, ex-dancer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, still was to take part in opera productions. Beriozoff, paving the way for the company’s ascent, put considerable effort in promoting ballet. It was due to the relentless persuasive power of Höver, that the young Cranko was invited to Baden-Wuerttemberg’s capital. In 1960 Cranko staged his first work in Stuttgart, “The Prince of the Pagodas” which had premiered three years earlier atNich The Royal Ballet. One year later he took over the reigns of “The Stuttgart Ballet”. (more…)

An Attempt to Live Up to an Epic Story

“Anna Karenina”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
November 29, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Kapitonova and D.Vieira, “Anna Karenina” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich © M.Rittershaus 2014Adapting a complex novel of remarkable scale for a ballet is a courageous undertaking. Christian Spuck, Ballet Zurich’s artistic director, took up the challenge. “Anna Karenina”, his new work, premiered earlier this season. It is based on Leo Tolstoy’s eponymous novel, more than one-thousand pages of intricate family histories, written within 1873 – 1878. Spuck boiled them down into a two-hour ballet. How did he approach this task and with what success?

Next to the triangle between Anna Karenina (Viktorina Kapitonova), her husband Alexei Karenin (Filipe Portugal) and her lover Count Alexei Vronsky (Denis Vieira), Spuck also portrays the other protagonists’ love affairs as well as other lesser characters: Dolly’s and the unfaithful Stiva’s messed up marriage (Dolly: Galina Mihaylova, Stiva: Arman Grigoryan) as well as Kitty’s and Levin’s tentative approach to each other, their wedding and apparently happy rural life (Kitty: Katja Wünsche, Levin: Tars Vendebeek). Princess Betsy (Giulia Tonelli), a socialite with dubious morals, and her companion (Wei Chen) – a wimp whom she makes look like fool – are featured as is the rigid Countess Lidia Ivanovna (Eva Dewaele), Alexei Karenin’s later life partner. The settings include those of Moscow’s and St. Petersburg’s high society, the Karenin’s home, a farm harvest with hands at work (Levin’s environment), the famous horse race, Anna’s and Vronsky’s sojourn in Italy and, of course, some train journeys to get from A to B plus Anna’s last fatal encounter with a train. (more…)

Lifeworlds

“Forellenquintett” (“A-Life“, “Wings of Wax“, “Forellenquintett“)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
November 28, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Brunner, F.Portugal, T.Gurfein, E.Pérez Samper, M.Ligurgo, C.Alex Assis and M.Borel, “A-Life” by D.Lee, Ballet Zurich © B.Stöß 2014A high-tech artificial world confronting vivacious goings-on of trouts in a streamlet – that is roughly the basic point of Zurich Ballet’s triple bill “Forellenquintett”. The middle piece, a thought-provoking reflection about human hubris, about the shattered dream of commanding nature, is the connecting link between both extremes.

“A-Life“ is Douglas Lee’s first choreography for Zurich Ballet. “A-” stands for “Artificial”. Artificial life is an object of research but also an art movement. In both cases computer simulations, robot technology and biochemical knowledge is used to focus on processes in life systems. Lee was interested in what happens when people, emotional beings, are confronted with the digitalized, abstract world; how, for example, an installation determines the movement of dancers. (more…)

Marzipan and Sweetmeats

“The Nutcracker”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 22, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Simon, “The Nutcracker” by A.S. Watkin and J.Beechey, Semperoper Ballet © C.Radu 2014While Dresden is just starting to build up the numerous stalls for its famous Christmas markets, Semperoper Ballet has already begun to put audiences in a festive mood with the first of a series of sixteen “Nutcrackers”.
Rather restrained in choreographing, Semperoper Ballet’s artistic director Aaron S. Watkin replaced John Neumeier’s version of the “Nutcracker” which had been in the company’s repertory until 2010 by his own new creation in 2011. As with “Coppélia” which also premiered in 2011, Watkin collaborated with Jason Beechey, rector of Dresden’s Palucca School for Dance. Putting aside historical records they created completely new choreography yet firmly grounded on classical movement vocabulary. Both two acts of the ballet involve a great number of students of the Palucca School of Dance giving the Christmasy goings-on and the festivities at the Land of Sweets a natural and vivid atmosphere. Almost the whole school participates, around thirty students of different age per cast complemented by eight little children as Polichinelles. (more…)

A Colorless Mix

“Gala 2014”
Dance Foundation Birgit Keil
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 07, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Andrade, Kt. F.Salamanka and ensemble, “Presente” by R.Oliveira, State Ballet Karlsruhe © J.Klenk 2014Birgit Keil, ex-prima ballerina of Stuttgart Ballet, regularly tours nearby Ludwigsburg to present her work to her former home audience. Since 1997 Keil is director and professor of Mannheim’s Academy of Dance, six years later she also took over the helm of the Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe.

The gala presented both troupes, the Karlsruhe company as well as talented dancers of the Academy. A huge part of the program was reserved for the usual array of guest artists. (more…)

The Paragon of Perfection

Sybille Zehle:
“Jürgen Rose”
480 pages, plenty of of color and b/w illustrations
Verlag für Moderne Kunst, August 2014
ISBN: 3869844337

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jürgen Rose, book cover “Of all set and costume designers he’s the only one not merely competent in all fields but ingenious,” Sir Peter Jonas states about Jürgen Rose. Rose would master everything, ballet – classical or modern – conceptual and decorative theater as well as dramatic and popular operas. “That’s one point. The other is much more important for professionals,” Jonas, said, “and like a gift from God: Rose doesn’t grow old fashioned. He has no expiration date.” Jonas, general director of the Bavarian State Opera from 1993 until 2006, highly appreciates Rose’s designs. He was by far not the only one! Rose was very much in demand, everyone wanted to work with him: Hans Lietzau, Rudolf Noelte, John Cranko, John Neumeier, Marcia Haydée, Dieter Dorn, Otto Schenk, August Everding – to name just a selection.
At age seventy-seven, Rose looks back on around 300 set and costume designs for operas, ballets and theater productions. He gained laurels as a stage director and, for a quarter of a century, inspired students of Stuttgart’s Academy of the Fine Arts in finding their own language as future stage designers. Earlier this year stage director Dieter Dorn and Jürgen Rose, a seasoned, longtime duo, welded together by more than twenty years of collaboration at Munich’s Kammerspiele, followed by eleven years at Munich’s Residenztheater, staged Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” at the Grand Théâtre de Genève to acclaim. Professional to the core, Rose’s life was – and presumably still is – the stage. An outstanding figure of German culture! (more…)

Imprints

“b.21” (“Serenade”, “Alltag”, “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No.2”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
October 25, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, "Serenade" by G.Balanchine, (c) The George Balanchine Trust, photo G.Weigelt Behind the abstract title “b.21” in the program of the Ballett am Rhein is a ballet evening by Martin Schläpfer, the twenty-first one, since Schläpfer took over as artistic director and resident choreographer at the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The triple bill encompasses George Balanchine’s “Serenade”, followed by “Alltag” (meaning “Daily Life”), a new piece by Hans van Manen, and closes with Schläpfer’s “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No. 2”. (more…)