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Sensitive

“North Korea Dance”
Eun-Me Ahn Company
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
October 15, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “North Korea Dance” by E.-M.Ahn, Eun-Me Ahn Company 2022 © J.-M.ChabotLast season, Eun-Me Ahn Company’s visit to Ludwigsburg fell victim to COVID-19. This October, the South Korean troupe made up for the cancelation by offering two performances of “North Korea Dance” at the Forum Ludwigsburg.
The Seoul-born Eun-Me Ahn studied dance in her home country and in New York. After returning home, she took the reins at the Daegu City Dance Company, Korea’s first national contemporary dance ensemble. In 1988, Ahn founded the Eun-Me Ahn Company, which has been a regular guest on western stages.
Little is known about dance in North Korea. To change this and to explore the common roots of North and South Korean dance, Ahn consulted the internet. Based on the dance videos from North Korea available online, she created her own interpretation of the neighboring country’s dance culture. The final product: a ninety-minute revue-like journey through time. (more…)

Unwieldy

“Cri de cœur”
Paris Opera Ballet
Palais Garnier
Paris, France
October 01, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Barbeau, “Cri de cœur” by A.L.Øyen, Paris Opera Ballet 2022 © A.PoupeneyAlan Lucien Øyen: not a particularly familiar name to dance audiences outside of his home country of Norway – but his new creation “Cri de cœur” (“Cry of the Heart”) for the Paris Opera Ballet will soon change that.
Øyen grew up in Bergen, where he was introduced to the theater at the young age of seven. He received his dance training at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and subsequently joined contemporary ensembles in Norway and Cologne. In 2004, Øyen turned to choreography; two years later, he founded Winter Guests, an interdisciplinary touring company. I missed his 2018 “Bon Voyage, Bob” at the Tanztheather Wuppertal and was curious to finally learn about his work in Paris.

To start, dance is not the most important ingredient of “Cri de cœur”. Acting, singing, and film are all featured – and, in particular, there is a great deal of spoken text in French written by Øyen and Andrew Wale. That’s a major difference from the dance theater of Pina Bausch, in whose footsteps Øyen is said to follow. (more…)

Borrowed Dreams

“Nachtträume”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
September 30, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Nachtträume” by M.Morau, Ballet Zurich 2022 © G.BatardonWhile many companies revive earlier ballets to warm up for a new season, the Ballet Zurich offered a premiere right away. The new one-act piece – “Nachtträume” – is Marcos Morau’s first creation for the company. The Spanish-born Morau has never danced professionally, but studied choreography, photography, dramaturgy and theory of the drama and runs the Barcelona-based company “La Veronal”.

Hidden desires, dark fantasies, and – above all – themes of power and subordination make up the fabric of Morau’s gloomy dreams. His point of reference is Kurt Jooss’s “The Green Table”, a piece from 1932 that depicts ten diplomats bargaining about peace and war. It is a timely choice. Like Jooss, Morau uses a table – but his is round, much larger, and able to rotate, allowing for huge meetings. However, the office workers that tentatively crawl out from under the table are not string-pullers but underlings. (more…)

Happy Eightieth!

“Egon Madsen 80”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakEgon Madsen has been a foundational figure in Stuttgart’s ballet and theater world for close to his entire career. He gave his stage debut at the young age of ten in a children’s ballet in his home country of Denmark. Nine years later (in 1961) he joined the Stuttgart Ballet under the newly appointed John Cranko. Key roles in Cranko’s signature pieces were choreographed on Madsen during a period dubbed the “Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”. After Cranko’s death, Madsen stayed with the Stuttgart Ballet until 1981. In the years that followed, he helmed several companies (the Frankfurt Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Ballet of the Teatro Communale/Florence) before becoming Marcia Haydée’s assistant director at Stuttgart and serving as ballet master in Stuttgart and Leipzig. In 1999 – at age fifty-seven – he returned to the stage with Nederlands Dans Theater’s NDT III. He also served as the troupe’s teacher and rehearsal director until it disbanded in 2006. One year later, Madsen returned to Stuttgart as a driving force behind Eric Gauthier’s newly established Gauthier Dance Company at the Theaterhaus. In addition to dancing in numerous Theaterhaus productions (most recently “Greyhounds” in 2015), Madsen also coached and trained the dancers. Since 2014, he has forayed into play-acting; his solo evening “King Lear”, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, can be seen at the Theaterhaus for a final time this November. (more…)

After All

“Giselle”
State Ballet Berlin
Staatsoper unter den Linden
Berlin, Germany
September 18, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Giselle), D.Motta Soares (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Bart after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © M.KulchytskaDavid Motta Soares honed his artistic skills under the watchful eyes of the teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet. This spring, he joined the State Ballet Berlin as a principal dancer, and in June he gave his debut as Prince Désiré in Marcia Haydée’s “The Sleeping Beauty” alongside Ksenia Ovsyanick’s Princess Aurora. Last Sunday, the two again shared the stage as the leading couple in Patrice Bart’s rendition of “Giselle”. How did they fare?
Albrecht and Giselle’s romance, unfolding under the warm autumn sun shining on mother Berthe’s quaint cottage yard (set and costumes by Peter Farmer), was not as sweet as expected. In Moscow, Motta Soares had danced Albrecht in Yuri Grigorovich’s “Giselle”. Bart’s version was new for him and his Albrecht here – cocksure and confident – flitted between gentle wooing and impatient attempts at taking. In certain moments he stood with his arms crossed, signaling reserve. After two botched tours en l’air, Motta Soares seemed slightly unsettled. Though he made a decent showing by the end of his second solo (Pas de vendanges), its piecemeal choreography – involving a great deal of jumping back and forth, as if drunk on infatuation and indecisive about which direction to move – offered little chance to shine. (more…)

Kylián Samples

“Bridges of Time”
Czech National Ballet
The National Theatre
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Cuadrado, L.Balogová, and A.Petit, ”Bella Figura” by J.Kylián, Czech National Ballet 2022 © S.Gherciu Theaters in the crisis-ridden EU face difficult times as soaring maintenance costs join the ever-present fear of declining ticket sales. Last Saturday, though, matters seemed to be in order at Prague’s National Theatre. Despite the approximately 70.000 protesters who hit the streets of Prague in the afternoon to demonstrate against skyrocketing energy prices and inflation, the evening performance of the all-Jiří Kylián bill “Bridges of Time” was well-attended – and well-received.

Typically, most theaters pick the same, better known titles from Kylián’s massive (over one-hundred-piece-strong) oeuvre. The Czech National Ballet’s artistic director Filip Barankiewicz did the same in 2018 when assembling a tribute program to the Czech-born Kylián on the centenary of the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence. (more…)

Stirring the Imagination

“Paper Story”
Laterna magika
The New Stage
Prague, Czech Republic
September 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Petrák (Boy), “Paper Story” by R.Vizváry and M.Ramba, Laterna magika 2022 © P.BoreckýLaterna magika’s 2021 “Paper Story” is a winner with young audiences. One young nipper, curious about the stage set – a halfway-unrolled reel of white paper – escaped the watchful eyes of his mother and triumphantly ran across the stage before the performance. The bored boy (Matěj Petrák) was pelted with laughter and sneering when it became clear that he had discovered that the paper reel had a life of its own. The reel escaped his headlong dives, pulling him here and there, flying magically, ambushing him, mocking him constantly, and even folding around his head into a Napoleon-esque hat. The wad of paper that Petrák throws into the distance doesn’t end the magic, but instead opens the doors to a fantasy world made entirely from white paper. (more…)

Ill-chosen

“Notre-Dame de Paris”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Terme di Caracalla
Rome, Italy
August 03, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Notre-Dame de Paris” by R.Petit, Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2022 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di RomaThe Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is in the enviable position of being able to relocate their performances to impressive antique open-air venues during the warm months. While the 2021 summer performances took place at the Circus Maximus, this year the company returned to its traditional stage at the Baths of Caracalla. I watched the final performance of Roland Petit’s “Notre-Dame de Paris”, based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

The ballet tells the tale of the disabled Quasimodo (bell-ringer of Notre Dame in late medieval Paris), his master Claude Frollo (Notre Dame’s archdeacon), Esmeralda (a beautiful Romani woman), and Captain Phoebus (Esmeralda’s lover). In a departure from Tikhomirov & Burmeister’s take on the story for the Stanislavsky Ballet (their “La Esmeralda”), Petit stripped down the original plot to its nuts and bolts. (more…)

Unwilling (but actually eager)

“The Taming of the Shrew”
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
July 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tognoloni (Katherine) and F.Mariottini (Petruchio), “The Taming of the Shrew” by J.-C.Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroThe gender dynamics depicted by Shakespeare in “The Taming of the Shrew” render it one of his most controversial plays. Staging it risks setting off a litany of accusations. Some deem the comedy to be misogynistic, chauvinistic, and sexist. Nevertheless, Jean-Christophe Maillot found the guts to choreograph a new adaption for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2014 that has become hugely popular. In 2017, he modified it for his own company – Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Last weekend, the troupe performed the piece on tour in Ludwigsburg.

Following the lead of earlier choreographers of the work, Maillot omitted Shakespeare’s frame story (the drunken tinker Christopher Sly is fooled into experiencing a make-believe world). The frame story allows the central story (about Baptista’s struggle to marry his two daughters – the much-courted Bianca and the wayward Katherine) (more…)

Soft Wrapping – Crisp Core

“Soirée 3 Choréographes” (“Claude Pascal” / “Casi Casa” / “Back on Track 61”)
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum
Monte Carlo, Monaco
July 16, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Beyne (Marie-Claire), A.Reist (Pierre-Marie), A.Maksakov (Jean-Pascale), and G.Riou (Marie-Claude), “Claude Pascal” by J.Kylián, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 2022 © A.BlangeroLes Ballet de Monte Carlo’s recent triple bill combines a new piece by the company’s artistic director Jean-Christophe Maillot (“Back on Track 61”) with Jiří Kylián’s “Claude Pascal” (2002) and Mats Ek’s “Casi Casa” (2009).

“Claude Pascal” is a misleading title, as no one in Kylián’s black-and-white-hued piece is so named. There’s Marie-Claire (Lou Beyne), a grand dame with a Russian accent and a fan collection; the childish Marie-Claude (Gaëlle Riou), who plays rock n’ roll on her tennis racket; Jean-Pascale (Artjom Maksakov), wielding a walking cane and talking about hair loss and grief-stuffed pants (…); and the athletically-inclined Pierre-Marie (Adam Reist), who recites an excerpt from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” on the life expectancies of turtles, elephants, parrots, frogs, and fakirs. All four are time travelers from 1890(ish) – (more…)

Plays within Plays

“Made For Us III” (“The Last Coincidence” / “Nighttime Showtime”)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
Play House
Nuremberg, Germany
July 01, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Cummings (Soldier), S.Vervaecke (Bride), O.Alonso (Magician), P.Lassere (Pierrot), and A.Fernández (Gentleman), “The Last Coincidence” by B.Arias, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © B.StößThe ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg recently premiered “Made For Us III” and, in so doing, resumed their project of commissioning ballets from external choreographers (a project originated in 2014). This year, pieces by Bryan Arias and Joseph Hernandez shared the stage.

In Arias’s “The Last Coincidence”, two women and three men engage in a lively multi-language debate (or monologue?) on a bare, box-like stage. Huge papier-mâché masks enlarge their heads and make them into distinct characters: a braided, epauleted soldier (Mikhael Kinley), a magician wearing striped knickerbockers (Carlos Blanco), a female Pierrot (Stella Tozzi), and a bride (Kate Gee) in love with a disheveled and portly gentleman (Edward Nunes). When the spotlights are suddenly switched on and the group lines up for a revue dance routine, it becomes clear that we are watching a backstage rehearsal. (more…)

Inadequate

“The Sleeping Beauty”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper
Berlin, Germany
June 24, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ovsyanick (Princess Aurora) and ensemble, “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Haydée after M.Petipa, State Ballet Berlin 2022 © Y.RevazovThis May, the State Ballet Berlin premiered Marcia Haydée’s version of “The Sleeping Beauty” after twice postponing the 2020 production – first due to a lack of preparation, and later due to the pandemic. At the time of the piece’s creation in 1987, Haydée had just taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet as its artistic director. “The Sleeping Beauty” was her choreographic debut and – aided by Jürgen Rose’s (aesthetically and financially) overwhelming set and costumes – was a grandiose success.

Since then, several other companies have tackled Haydée’s interpretation (currently: the Czech National Ballet and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens Montréal), but usually opt to use a more reasonably priced designer. So did the State Ballet Berlin when commissioning set and costumes from Jordi Roig. (more…)

“The Cherry on a Sundae”

“Harlequinade”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
June 24, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Bemet (Columbine), B.Chynoweth (Harlequin), and ensemble, “Harlequinade” by M.Petipa, additional choreography by A.Ratmansky; The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.Busby“The cherry on a sundae” – that’s what the Australian Ballet’s artistic director David Hallberg called “Harlequinade”, the latest (and this season’s last) addition to the company’s repertoire. “Harlequinade” – a popular Petipa-ballet in imperial Russia – premiered in 1900 in St. Petersburg, and was last performed in its original form at the end of the 1920s. Working from the notations and numerous other documents archived in the Nikolai Sergeyev collection at Harvard University, Alexei Ratmansky and his wife Tatiana reconstructed the choreography just as he has done with previous Petipa classics. American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and the Australian Ballet collaborated on the revival. Four years after its premiere at Costa Mesa, California, the two-act commedia dell’arte romp finally hit Melbourne’s stage. I saw the livestream presented on June 24th by Catherine Murphy and Hallberg. (more…)

Life Support

“common ground[s]” / “Le Sacre du printemps”
École des Sables / Pina Bausch Foundation / Sadler’s Wells
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
June 17, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Acogny and M.Airaudo, “common ground[s]” by M.Airaudo and G.Acogny, 2022, photo M.Vanden Abeele © Pina Bausch FoundationSince Pina Bausch’s death thirteen years ago, the Pina Bausch Foundation – chaired by Bausch’s son Salomon – has worked hard to keep her oeuvre alive. Some attempts were successful (I’m thinking of the Bavarian State Ballet’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, for example), while others failed. In a recent project, the Foundation joined forces with the École des Sables, a dance training center in Senegal, and Sadler’s Wells. The result was a double bill comprised of the new pas de deux “common ground[s]” and Bausch’s 1975 work “Le Sacre du printemps” that premiered in Senegal before setting off for a tour through Europe. I saw the first of three total performances at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival. (more…)

An Asset

“Kunstkamer”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
June 10, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Kunstkamer” by S,León, P,Lightfoot, C,Pite, and M.Goecke; The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.BusbyAustralian audiences aren’t particularly familiar with the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg scored a coup by adding to their repertory “Kunstkamer” – a dance theater piece created in 2019 on the occasion of NDT’s 60th anniversary and as yet never danced by another company. (The Australian Ballet celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.) And Hallberg was not only able to import a collaboration between four of NDT’s defining choreographers (Paul Lightfoot and Sol León – until 2020 the company’s figureheads – as well as associate choreographers Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke), but also used this as a chance to interrupt his retirement from the stage and participate in the piece himself. Putting aside the director’s scepter to take on a role that was weird rather than flattering required courage – which Hallberg mustered. To me, it seems there was no better way to deepen his connection to the dancers. (more…)