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A Hushed-Up Scandal

“Mayerling”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
March 19, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State OperaEighteen years after its Hungarian premiere, Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling” returned to the stage of Budapest’s newly renovated State Opera this March. According to a local dance critic, audience members cried while watching the 2004 performance, as the tragic 1889 death of Crown Prince Rudolf (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) is a chapter of Hungarian history that stirs up many emotions. Though he led a life of debauchery and primarily performed insignificant tasks in his role, the liberal-leaning Crown Prince was popular among the people. They pinned great hope on him, (more…)

Brilliant!

“Anna Karenina”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
March 08, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Hendricks (Anna Karenina) and C.Linnane (Count Alexei Vronsky), “Anna Karenina” by Y.Possokhov, The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.BusbyWhile western cancel culture appears to be targeting all things Russian, the Australian Ballet points the way towards cooperation. This February, a ballet about an icon of Russian culture – Tolstoy’s epic novel “Anna Karenina” – premiered in Melbourne. Co-produced with the Joffrey Ballet and decorated with the 2021 Prix Benois for best choreography, it was a prime example of the uniting power of the arts. Its US-based choreographer Yuri Possokhov was born in Luhansk / Ukraine; the composer Ilya Demutsky, a frequent collaborator of Possokhov, is Russian. Valeriy Pecheykin, an Uzbeg working at Moscow’s Gogol Center, wrote the libretto. Set and costumes are by the British designer Tom Pye. Finn Ross, also a Brit, oversaw the video projections, and US-born David Finn created the lighting. (more…)

Impromptu

Einmalig”
(“Bliss” / “Falling Angels” / “Solo” / Excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Schöpfung”, and “Mayerling” )
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Bliss” by J.Inger, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletAlthough the Stuttgart Ballet’s new all-Johan Inger triple bill was thwarted by a number of COVID-19 infections in the company, artistic director Tamas Detrich did not give in. Rather than canceling the scheduled March 4th performance, he assembled a substitute program literally overnight. From the original schedule, only Inger’s “Bliss” (2016) remained (2002’s “Out of Breath” and the recently premiered “Aurora’s Nap” were eliminated). A courageous dive into the company’s vast repertoire – short pieces by Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, and three excerpts from evening-length pieces – filled out the bill. (more…)

Absurd

“Liebeslieder” (“Other Dances” / “Concerto” / “Liebeslieder Walzer”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
January 14, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor2. H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet’s new triple bill is an all-American one, combining works from staple choreographers (Robbins and Balanchine) with a short piece by Lucinda Childs, whose name is less familiar in Europe.

Robbins’s “Other Dances”, a pas de deux set to one waltz and four mazurkas by Chopin, was tailor-made for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976. In Vienna, Hyo-Jung Kang and Davide Dato brought folksy playfulness to their roles as the carefree, happy-go-lucky couple. Their encounter is as lighthearted and upbeat as the light blue backdrop and the sheer blue fabric of Kang’s dress suggest (costumes by Santo Loquasto). After swaggering about with macho energy in a solo, Dato attends to Kang’s every step with buttery care. (more…)

Now More Than Ever!

“The Nutcracker And The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 24, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Lord (Jansje), K.Hirst (Young Clara), F.Eimers (Louise), and L.Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” series was abruptly brought to an end due to – what else – “COVID-19 related restrictions.” A lockdown was once again imposed on the entire country – this time until mid-January. Nevertheless, the company decided to dance their Christmas Eve performance, which they’d intended to livestream. As artistic director Ted Brandsen welcomed the online audience from the empty auditorium, it was clear that the situation was a difficult one – emotionally and beyond. (more…)

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Heart-Warming

“The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 18, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Potvin (Young Clara) and J.Stout (Mouse King), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen As yet another round of COVID-19-related restrictions began to choke social life in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet reacted swiftly by adding two livestreams of their Nutcracker production to their pre-Christmas schedule. I viewed the first one on December 18th; the second will take place on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM. Both performances will subsequently be available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022.

Every rendition of the Nutcracker has its own personal flair, and Amsterdam’s – co-choreographed by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling in 1996 – is decisively Dutch. (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)

In Seventh Heaven?

“Im Siebten Himmel” (“In Seventh Heaven”): “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” / “Fly Paper Bird” / “Symphony in C”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
November 14, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Gargiulo, “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” by M.Schläpfer, Vienna State Ballet 2021 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor“Im Siebten Himmel” (“In Seventh Heaven”), the Vienna State Ballet’s second new triple bill this season, follows the formula of the previous one: one piece by Balanchine + one by Martin Schläpfer (the company’s artistic director) + one by a contemporary choreographer. Last time, this third choreographer was Ratmansky; this time, it’s Marco Goecke.

For the music, Schläpfer’s “Marsch, Walzer, Polka” – created for the Ballett Mainz in 2006 – was a fitting choice. What could be more engaging for the Viennese audience than popular melodies by Johann Strauss I and his two sons, Josef and Johann? Schläpfer uses “The Blue Danube”, “Annen- Polka”, “Sphärenklänge”, and “Radetzky March” – and, to expand the existing choreography, draws in the “New Pizzicato-Polka” as well. (more…)

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. (more…)

Giving Back

“Creare Crescere”
Stuttgart Ballet / Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey
Stuttgart, Germany / Monterrey, Mexico
September 25, 2021

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey 2021 © Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de MonterreyRocío Alemán, principal dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet, started her dance education in 2003 at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. In 2008, she moved to Stuttgart, where she finished her studies at the John Cranko School. After carving out a successful career for herself, she thought it time to thank her school in Monterrey for what it has given her. Her plan was to invite ten graduate students from Monterrey to visit the Stuttgart Ballet and work with dancers-cum-choreographers (of which the Stuttgart company, thanks to their annual choreographic workshops, has many) – but the plan was thwarted by COVID-19. Still, Alemán didn’t give up, adjusting her project to the new circumstances. If students and choreographers couldn’t meet in person, (more…)

Unparalleled

“TOER” (“Lucifer Studies” / “7th Symphony”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 25, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M. ten Kortenaar and T. van Poucke, “Lucifer Studies” by T. van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H. Gerritsen “Unparalleled.”
That’s how Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet, described Toer van Schayk – Holland’s renowned multi-disciplinary artist. van Schayk, who celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday earlier this month, has excelled across a broad spectrum: as a dancer, choreographer, set and costume designer, painter, and sculptor. His knowledge of the history of the arts combined with his wholehearted dedication to his craft and persistent motivation to create make him one-of-a-kind in the field. Though he has been a pillar of the Dutch National Ballet since its founding, his pieces have rarely been scheduled in recent years – and so it was most welcome that this year’s 60th anniversary season opened with the double bill “TOER”. It consisted of van Schayk’s much-acclaimed “7th Symphony” (1986) and a new ballet titled “Lucifer Studies”. I watched the live-stream on September 25th; it will be repeated on October 6th, 2021. (more…)

Comparisons

“Tänze Bilder Sinfonien” (“Symphony in Three Movements” / “Pictures at an Exhibition” / “Sinfonie Nr. 15”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
September 21, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Hashimoto, D.Dato, A.Firenze, and D.Tariello, “Symphony in Three Movements” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2021 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet opened their season with a revival of “Tänze Bilder Sinfonien”, a triple bill that premiered in June. It is comprised of two ballets originally created for the New York City Ballet: Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements” from 1972 and Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” from 2014. The third choreography – “Sinfonie Nr. 15” – was a new piece by Martin Schläpfer (formerly the artistic director and choreographer of the Ballet am Rhein; currently in the same positions at the State Ballet Vienna). I viewed the live-stream of the performance on September 21, 2021.

“Symphony in Three Movements”, set to Stravinsky’s eponymous composition, is Balanchine’s tribute to the composer following the latter’s death in 1971. (more…)

Blabla Or Food For Thought?

“Blitirí”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
July 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasBlitirí is a term used in medieval time for something that has no meaning,” explains Goyo Montero, choreographer and artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet ensemble. He compares the word to jovial “blabla”. Indeed, his new choreography for “Blitirí” revolves around joy – at least, almost entirely.
Though originally planned as a solely digital project, the 25-minute piece premiered on July 10th to a live audience at Nuremberg’s State Theater as part of the triple bill “Goecke / Godani / Montero”. A few weeks later, Stefan Kleeberger and Montero realized the initial plan by releasing a filmed version that is available on the company’s YouTube channel. (more…)

Amsterdam’s Dance Students

“Dancers of Tomorrow”
Dutch National Ballet Academy
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
July 10/11, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the Dutch National Ballet Academy, “10 Years Tailor-Made” by I.Lešić, Dutch National Ballet Academy 2021 © S.Derine End-of-year performances are a highlight for the students of any ballet school. Last weekend, the Dutch National Ballet Academy performed “Dancers of Tomorrow” on the main stage of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet for an empty auditorium due, sadly, to ongoing COVID-19-restrictions. The silver lining: a video of the performance, augmented by footage from backstage, was streamed online for two days, allowing a much larger audience to see the work. I wonder: could we include online streams and video broadcasts as a standard addendum to live performances in the future?

“Dancers of Tomorrow” was assembled from ten pieces geared to the students’ age groups and adapted or created especially for the occasion. All students participated. (more…)