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Just Dance?

“Shostakovich Trilogy”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Shostakovich Trilogy” by A.Ratmansky, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“Ted, I don’t know what you’re doing with the company,” Alexei Ratmansky said after the premiere of his “Shostakovich Trilogy” at Dutch National Ballet, “but they get better and better.” He was right to praise the dancers. Their dedication and attention to detail – and this piece is replete with details – made the evening a thorough success.

“Shostakovich Trilogy” is the sixth piece by Ratmansky to enter the company’s repertoire and, next to “Don Quichotte”, is the second full-evening one. (more…)

Searching for the Soul

“Corpus” (“disTANZ” / “Lady with a Fan”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 10, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Dell'Aria, J.Fraser, E.Wisenberg and D.Slavkovský, “disTANZ” by F.Portugal, Ballet Zurich 2017 © G.BatardonHow does the soul get into the dance? What relationship does the soul have to the body? Such were the questions, Filipe Portugal and Douglas Lee, the two choreographers of “Corpus” tried to explore in their new works. The double bill premiered at the end of May. Portugal, principal of the company, has been choreographing several years now for his Zurich colleagues as well as for Zurich’s Junior Ballet. “disTANZ”, his most recent creation, was the first on the program. Like Portugal, Lee, a Berlin-based choreographer with British roots, is familiar with the company as well. “Lady with a Fan” is his third creation for Ballet Zurich. Both Portugal and Lee choreographed group pieces. (more…)

Substance versus Effects

“Quintett” (Triple Bill: “rituals from another when” / “Kammerballett” / “Quintett”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble and Junior Ballet Zurich, “rituals from another when” by J.Godani, Ballet Zurich 2017 © C.QuezadaUnlike its title suggests, “Quintett”, Zurich Ballet’s mixed bill which premiered in February this year, is made of not five but three pieces. William Forsythe’s “Quintett”, rarely performed choreography from 1993, lent the evening its caption. The other two ballets were “rituals from another when,” a new creation for Zurich Ballet by Jacopo Godani, and Hans van Manen’s “Kammerballett.” All three pieces were danced to recorded music. (more…)

Changes

“Don Quixote”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
June 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Badenes, A.Soares da Silva and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by M.Guerra, Stuttgart Ballet 2017 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet is facing a time of great change. Just recently, artistic director Reid Anderson announced that the company will part at the end of this season with Demis Volpi, who had been its resident choreographer since 2013. Whether the contract of Marco Goecke, the company’s second in-house-choreographer, will be extended beyond summer 2018 (after which Tamas Detrich will take the reins from Anderson) is still the subject of rumors. What is certain, though, is that this season will be the last for an icon of Stuttgart Ballet. After more than seventy years as dancer, choreologist, coach, ballet master and linchpin for the company, 89-year-old Georgette Tsinguirides will retire in July. (more…)

A Masterpiece?

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
May 26, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryshkova, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” by J.Neumeier, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl Balmy nights that follow days of 86°F are ideal to get one in a dreamy midsummer night’s mood. It was just the right time for reviving John Neumeier’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s iconic comedy, as danced by the Bavarian State Ballet this May. The amorous entanglements Shakespeare invented in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are confusingly intricate and very juicy. Theseus, the duke of Athens, is about to marry Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen, have come to the forests surrounding Athens to attend the wedding. A bit short of domestic bliss, their quarrels cause great trouble among the four lovers of the human world, Lysander & Hermia and Demetrius & Helena. Chaos intensifies because of Puck, Oberon’s shrewd and knavish sprite. A group of incompetent, amateur actors, preparing to entertain the royal wedding with “Pyramus and Thisbe” adds to the overall confusion.

Neumeier streamlined the knotty story by dropping side characters and subplots and allocating distinct music to the three lifeworlds. Felix Mendelssohn’s compositions for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (and other pieces by him) accompany the events at court. The mechanicals rehearse and perform to barrel organ music. Oberon, Titania and their fairies live inside György Ligeti’s electronic soundscapes. The Mendelssohn was played live by the Bavarian State Orchestra under the baton of Michael Schmidtsdorff; of Ligeti, we heard a recorded version. James Lyttle, one of the mechanicals, played the barrel organ. (more…)

Wasted Effort?

“Gala des Étoiles”
Grand Théâtre
Luxembourg
May 20, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Tamazlacaru and I.Salenko / State Ballet Berlin, “Chopiniana” by M.Fokin, Gala des Étoiles 2017 © P.Abbondanza Luxembourg, one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe, has no ballet tradition. To change this is the aim of former dancer Natascha Ipatova and Georges Rischette, both founders of the Luxembourg dance school DanceXperience. This year’s two galas on May 20th and 21st mark the fifth year in succession trying to wet the Luxembourg audience’s appetite for the art form. Unlike the suggestive title of the event, no étoiles of the Paris Opera Ballet were involved. Instead, there were leading principals and their colleagues from various international companies. (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…)

Real Life and Ideals – Nureyev’s “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
May 14, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa and L.Ivanov, Vienna State Ballet © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor “French and Russian style differ, so everything is a bit new at the moment,” Semyon Chudin told me in an interview a few weeks before his premiere in Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” in Vienna. He and Olga Smirnova, both figureheads of the Bolshoi, guested in the leading roles with Manuel Legris’s company. I saw the first of two performances. How did they do?

Nureyev’s version differs in style, choreography and the weight given to several characters in comparison to other traditional interpretations of “Swan Lake”. The role of Benno, Prince Siegfried’s friend, is gone and, unlike in Russian productions, there is no fool either. Instead the focus shifts towards Siegfried, whom Nureyev danced more than fifty times himself; his last performance was in 1988 a few days after his 50th birthday. Nureyev’s Siegfried has more to dance – a formal Pas de cinq at his birthday party followed by a melancholy solo, for example – and allows deeper insight into his psyche. At the end he falls victim to Von Rothbart’s revenge and drowns in the floods of the lake, whereas Odette, still alive, stands at the lakeside like the idealized female. However desperately Siegfried stretches his arms towards her she is unattainable. He is doomed to die. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – The Die is Cast

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
May 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © A.RivalAround six months ago, questions were raised about the legitimacy of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin. Their appointments needed the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera, but because of the upcoming elections, the board hadn’t (and still hasn’t) the required quorum of members for making valid decisions. Having firmly protested against the appointment of the new directors for months, the dancers intensified their opposition at that time.

Apparently hoping that the furor would die down in the meantime, Waltz and Öhman, together with Berlin’s new cultural senator Dr. Klaus Lederer (DIE LINKE), talked with the dancers as part of a staff meeting at the end of April. Their aim was to provide insight into their artistic program, and to start “an open and constructive dialogue”*. On the following mid-morning, Waltz and Öhman gave a press conference in which they tried to imply that the waves had calmed and that all were eager to establish a “trustful and creative atmosphere”*.

The facts are as follows: (more…)

An Ordeal

“Don Quixote”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Sasaki, R.Scott and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2017 © J.Vallinas“Don Quixote” is best associated with the showy dancing of snappy youth, lighthearted joie de vivre and air sizzling with eroticism. The Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg’s new “Don Quixote” offers the opposite. Goyo Montero, artistic director of the company of around twenty dancers, boiled down the traditional three acts to a single one lasting 90 minutes. According to the program booklet, the production begins in a mental institution, a prison or a refugee camp. Given the huge gunny sacks serving as seats, buffers or protective wall (set design by Eva Adler and Montero), the scruffy gray and brown costumes and the simple bag-like headdresses credited to Angelo Alberto and Montero, I thought of mill hands kept in arrest. But regardless of the place one imagines the figures inhabiting it are insane. (more…)

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin on “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Moscow / Vienna
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by Y.Grigorovich after M.Petipa, L.Ivanov and A.Gorsky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovIn mid-May Vienna State Ballet revives Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake,” the version he choreographed for the company in 1964. The new set and costumes are by Luisa Spinatelli. Four guest dancers will take the leading roles in the course of the run. The Bolshoi’s Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin dance twice, on May 14th and 17th; on June 4th Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov of The Royal Ballet guest in Vienna. The last performance on Monday, June 12th, will be streamed live on the internet.

While “Swan Lake” is Smirnova’s debut in Vienna, Chudin returns for the third time to the Austrian capital. Two weeks before opening night I asked both about their roles and about Nureyev’s production in particular. Smirnova, who at that time was in Moscow, answered in written form. Katerina Novikova, head of the Bolshoi’s press office, kindly translated Smirnova’s answers into English. Chudin, already rehearsing with the company in Vienna, talked with me via Skype. (more…)

Noverre Evening 2017

“Young Choreographers”
Noverre Society
Schauspielhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
April 20, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.McGowan and E.Comak, “Fraternal | Stories” by A.McGowan and E.Comak, Noverre Society Stuttgart – Young Choreographers 2017 © R.NovitzkyTwelve young choreographers presented their works to the public as part of this season’s two Noverre Evenings – Stuttgart’s platform for aspiring choreographers of dance. Two of the choreographers are female. Two of the ten pieces are collaborative works. Seven originated from within the ranks of the Stuttgart Ballet, and three were created by individual dancers from Lyon, Munich and Mannheim. Notably, none included point work. The quality of the works varied, but each was warmly applauded and some raised enthusiastic cheers. (more…)

Stuttgart Ballet’s “Walking, Talking Historical Person”

“Reid Anderson – Having it”
240 pages, b/w illustrations
Henschel Publishing House, April 2017
ISBN 978-3894877903
April 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Reid Anderson – Having It”, book cover © Henschel Publishing HouseReid Anderson celebrated his 68 years anniversary on April 1st a few weeks ago. His birthday present was a book: Reid Anderson – Having It, From Dancer to Director, initiated and edited by Vivien Arnold, Stuttgart Ballet’s Director of Press, Dramaturgy and Communications. Its authors, Angela Reinhardt and Gary Smith, are both very familiar with Anderson’s career. Smith covered Anderson’s childhood and teenage years in Canada, his training at the Royal Ballet School in London and his time as director, first of the Ballet British Columbia, then of the National Ballet of Canada. Stuttgart-based Reinhardt contributed the Stuttgart chapters of Anderson’s life, one as a dancer of John Cranko’s company, and the second, ten years later, as director of the company, a post he still holds.

The book, available in German and English, was introduced to the public by Anderson and Tim Schleider, Head of the Culture Department of the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, in a matinée talk in Stuttgart’s opera house on April 1st. (more…)

Heightened Drama

“Mayerling”
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
National Theater
Munich, Germany
April 06, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Polunin and A.Pershenkova, “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2017 © W.Hösl Igor Zelensky invited Moscow’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre, his own former troupe, to perform as a guest company for this month’s Ballet Festival Week in Munich. Last October, after a short period of double directorship in Moscow and Munich, Zelensky decided to concentrate solely on directing the Bavarian State Ballet. Laurent Hilaire, former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile, took over Zelensky’s post at the Stanislavsky in January this year.

The Stanislavsky brought along Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling”, a piece rarely performed on German stages. As a special treat, Sergei Polunin danced the leading role at both performances. I saw the opening night. Although Polunin left the Stanislavsky in summer 2014, he continued to perform with the company on occasion. In Munich, he has been a permanent guest dancer since Zelensky took up the reins.

“Mayerling” isn’t the sort of piece one eagerly watches again and again – for at the root of the catastrophe of the piece is a tragedy that is too sad and a society that is too disgusting to witness repeatedly. The story is based on a dark chapter of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. The Emperor’s third child with Elisabeth (“Sisi”), Duchess of the house of Wittelsbach, was Crown Prince Rudolf, who at the age of twenty-three, was forced into a marriage with Princess Stéphanie of Belgium. The ballet begins with the couple’s wedding ball and ends with the double suicide of Rudolf and his mistress, Mary Vetsera, at the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling. (more…)

Munich Opens Wonderland

“Alice in Wonderland”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
April 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Alice in Wonderland” by C.Wheeldon, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl The first day of Munich’s Ballet Festival Week heralded the start of an extended cricket season at the city’s National Theater. Captains of noble descent lead the competing teams. Which of the players – half a zoo plus numerous playing cards – fight for the Queen of Hearts and which fight for the Duchess isn’t always clear. Games aren’t played by the rules in Wonderland. (more…)