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Premiering Next to a Genius

“Balanchine / Liang / Proietto”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
November 01, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Konovalova, V.Shishov and ensemble, “Symphony in C” by G.Balanchine © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Vienna State Ballet’s new mixed bill traces an arc from a piece capturing Balanchine’s pure classicism to a new, multi-art form work honoring the tradition of romantic ballets. The fascination of flying and the idea of weightlessness unites the three pieces. Edwaard Liang’s “Murmuration”, 2013 choreography for Houston Ballet, deals with the flight formation of flocks of birds. For “Blanc”, the evening’s world premiere, Argentinian choreographer Daniel Proietto took inspiration from Michael Fokine’s flying sylphs. The opener, George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”, doesn’t involve aviation but leaves one in the most elevated of moods when it is danced well. And so it was. The company was in sunniest form on opening night.

Natascha Mair and Jakob Feyferlik led the first movement of “Symphony in C.” Both were precise, swift and conveyed an infectious good mood. Í liked Liudmila Konovalova and Vladimir Shishov, the second movement’s main couple. Konovalova, blessed with a refined technique, subtly nuanced between composed grief and almost playful cheerfulness. Her tender fragility was met by Shishov’s caring look and fine partnering. (more…)

A Conversation with Hans van Manen

Horst Koegler in Conversation with Hans van Manen in 1982
Altes Kammertheater
Stuttgart, Germany
October 31, 2016

transcribed and translated by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Hans van Manen, ca. 1980 © Gert WeigeltHorst Koegler (1927-2012) spoke with Hans van Manen in 1982 at the Altes Kammertheater in Stutt­gart during an evening of the Noverre Society, which at the time was directed by Fritz Höver. This article was edited from an audiotape that was transcribed and translated into English by Ilona Landgraf.
Photos courtesy of Dutch National Ballet, Ballett am Rhein, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Maryinsky Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet.The portraits of Hans van Manen and Horst Koegler are by Gert Weigelt. Please click to enlarge.

2. Horst Koegler, ca. 1980 © Gert WeigeltHans van Manen: You ask how I came to speak my German. I think that’s an inborn skill. My mother was German, but we never spoke much German at home. Yet it must be innate because I can speak a quite good German without knowing that many words. What I heard from my mother were mostly nonsense tongue twisters like “Ein Student in Stulpenstiefeln stand auf einem spitzen Stein. Starrte stundenlang auf die still stehenden Sterne.” I think that was the way I learned German. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – Do Incorrect Procedures Mar Waltz and Öhman’s Appointment?

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 28, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © Landesarchiv Berlin 2016Reportedly, Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin were ratified a few days ago. The procedure as taken by Berlin’s Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs puzzles one though. Personal decisions of this caliber require the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera. The Stiftungsrat is the board of the Berlin Opera Foundation, a corporate body under public law, integrating Berlin’s three opera houses, the ballet company and the Stage Services Company as individual organizations under one roof. Seven members constitute this board, among them Micheal Müller, the cultural senator and governing mayor of Berlin. The Stiftungsrat requires a quorum of at least half of all the members. (more…)

Creating an Image

Ballet Companies in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland
Semperoper Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein,
Dutch National Ballet, Zurich Ballet
October 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

What kind of image distinguishes Stuttgart Ballet from Dutch National Ballet? Or the Bavarian State Ballet from the State Ballet Berlin? What is it the dancers – and their audience – identify with as their company? How do companies present themselves to the public? Such were my thoughts when seeing the Semperoper Ballet’s new image campaign, #WHYWEDANCE. I asked several major companies to send me images of their choice representing their respective company’s image.

1. R.Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20162. J.Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Semperoper Ballet chose four of the sixty-one dancer portraits of #WHYWEDANCE. The new ensemble brochure presents each in full-page size. In addition they are spread via social media and on billboards and advertising pillars in Dresden. Aaron S.Watkin, in his eleventh year as artistic director, put the spotlight on his company this season whose face has changed since his beginning in 2006. Next to the dancers, Ian Whalen, the troupe’s photographer and multimedia expert, also shot Watkin and staff members. Names, places of birth, ranks within the company and the year when joining the ensemble come along with each portrait. In addition, every dancer sums up their motivation for the profession, the why and wherefore of choosing a career with dance in a single word. (more…)

Pirate’s Luck

“Le Corsaire”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
October 14, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Manolova and R.Szabó, “Le Corsaire” by M.Legris after M.Petipa et al. © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Spared for a very long time, Vienna’s State Opera was finally conquered by pirates earlier this year. Solely Manuel Legris, artistic director of the ballet company, is to be held to account for this invasion. Yet I assume he bears responsibility with pleasure as his “Corsaire” is well received.

According to the program book, around 70% of the choreography is Legris’s, the rest is based on Marius Petipa’s tradition. I missed the “Corsaire”, which Doug Fullington reconstructed from the Stepanov-notation of Petipa’s 1899 version for the Bavarian State Ballet in 2007, so I cannot compare the Viennese choreography with what is thought to come closest to the original. Lord Byron’s 1814 poem “The Corsair” is the initial source of inspiration for opera and ballet adaptions alike. But already in the first “Corsaire” ballet, Joseph Mazilier’s 1856 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, little of the original was left. Subsequent choreographies weren’t more faithful to the text source either. Apart from a few changes in the libretto Legris’s three-act piece has the ingredients familiar from other versions: a great portion of classical variations, character dance, heroism, romance and a hefty dose of kitsch. (more…)

Almost Holy

“The World of John Neumeier”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
October 08, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Riggins and ensemble, “Bernstein Dances” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © K.West 2016Calling two big stages home is a luxury few can call their own. Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier enjoyed it for the seventieth time this autumn when touring the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden for one week. Usually they bring along two pieces and one workshop moderated by Neumeier himself. This year the two ballets were “Romeo and Juliet”, scheduled three times with different leading couples, and “The World of John Neumeier”, a collection of excerpts from autobiographically significant pieces. It premiered in Tokyo earlier this year and was shown on two consecutive evenings in Baden-Baden. I saw the first performance. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin : An Update

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Duato, D.Vieira and K.Ovsyanick, rehearsal of N.Duato's “Nutcracker”, State Ballet Berlin © Y.Revazov 2016 While the State Ballet Berlin is about to kick off its “Nutcracker” season with the newly acquired version by artistic director Nacho Duato, a suspicious silence has spread over the controversial issue of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s assignment as Duato’s successors in 2019.

Getting background information about the candidate search process for the director’s post was laborious, as the Senate Chancellery’s spokesman for cultural affairs, Lars Bahners, was ungenerous in providing substantial information. Hollow words are his metier. (more…)

The First Run of “Giselle” in Munich

“Giselle”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
October 02, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Wright after M.Petipa, J.Coralli and J.Perrot, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016The Bavarian State Ballet opened its first season under Igor Zelensky with the revival of Peter Wright’s “Giselle”. Each of the six performances was led by a different couple. Of the guest dancers Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin created major excitement on opening night. Further guests included the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and Vadim Muntagirov from the Royal Ballet London. Both were paired with Munich principals. Of the four ballerinas cast as Giselle, Osipova and Maria Shirinkina danced twice, Zakharova and Ksenia Ryzkhova once. Albrechts coming from within the ranks of the Bavarian State Ballet were Osiel Gouneo and Vladimir Shklyarov. (more…)

Closing a Chapter

“Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”
53. International Television Festival Golden Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
September 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. and J.Bubeníček, “Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”, International Television Festival Golden Prague © Czech Television 2016September 28th marked the opening of the annual International Television Festival Golden Prague. The city truly lived up to the festival’s title. Warm autumn sun bathed the beautiful historic facades in golden light, inviting the crowds of tourists to stroll in T-shirts and summer dresses. The five-day television festival took place on the New Stage of the National Theatre, located just behind the old theater house.

Loved by their countrymen, Otto and Jiří Bubeníček have regularly appeared on Czech TV. A new, one-hour documentary, produced by Jaroslav Bouček and directed by Martin Kubala, provides insight into the twins’ artistic and private lives during the last two and a half years. (more…)

Van Dantzig, Van Schayk, Van Manen

“Dutch Masters”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Gyo Choi and Q.Liu, “Episodes van Fragmenten” by T.van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016Dutch National Ballet’s latest mixed bill was all-Dutch. It assembled four pieces by three pivotal choreographers of the Netherlands: “Vier letzte Lieder” (“Four Last Songs”) by Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), the company’s artistic director for twenty years; “Adagio Hammerklavier” by Hans van Manen (born: 1932) ; plus “Episodes van Fragmenten” and “Requiem”, both by Toer van Schayk (born: 1936). This wasn’t lightweight entertainment but a program upon which to ponder. I attended the last performance, the Sunday, September 25th matinée. (more…)

Quarrels at the State Ballet Berlin Continue

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
September 22, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble of the State Ballet Berlin © State Ballet Berlin 2016The announcement that Sasha Waltz and the Royal Swedish Ballet’s artistic director Johannes Öhman will succeed Nacho Duato at the helm of the State Ballet Berlin in the 2019/20 season is still creating massive waves. Michael Müller, Berlin’s governing mayor and cultural senator since 2014, and Tim Renner (both SPD), state secretary for cultural affairs, announced the news on September 7th, just before the elections in Berlin. Since then, the two men have been facing trouble. Recently, another decision of theirs, the appointment of the Belgian Chris Dercon, director of the Tate Modern in London, who will follow Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne, caused harsh criticism as well. Müller and Renner are accused of making these decisions alone, behind closed doors, resistant to the advice of others. (more…)

A Conversation with Tadeusz Matacz

John Cranko School
Stuttgart, Germany
September, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Tadeusz Matacz © T.Matacz The Cranko School is one of the most renowned ballet schools of the world, a talent pool known for excellence and, according to surveys at the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), the second most favored school among students after London’s Royal Ballet School. When I arrived in Stuttgart in mid-September to find out about the school’s formula of success, I was surprised. Located in the Urbanstrasse, around 0,6 miles distance from the State Opera, the five-story building is unremarkable in the row of houses. Only a metal plate next to the entrance reveals that this is the school John Cranko founded in December 1971, ten years after he had taken over the reins of Stuttgart Ballet. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Bavarian State Ballet

“Ballet Extra: A Day of Rehearsals”
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
September 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryzhkova and O.Gouneo rehearsing “Giselle”, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Ballone 2016Igor Zelensky’s directorship at the Bavarian State Ballet kicked off for the public last Saturday with a “Ballet Extra”. The doors of the rehearsal studios in Munich’s City Center were open from 9:45 AM well into the afternoon. The company – or more precisely its principals, soloists and demi-soloists – rehearsed “Giselle”, the season’s first production, and “Spartacus”. Corps dancers weren’t involved.

People queued up in front of the entrance that morning and it seemed a sizeable crowd although, according to new press spokesperson Annette Baumann, it was slightly smaller than last year’s. Given that it was a lovely late summer day, people may have preferred to spend their free time outdoors rather than in stuffy studios full of hard working dancers. (more…)

A Bright Opening

“Gala”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Grand Défilé, Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater 2016Amsterdam’s National Opera House always radiates a light and welcoming atmosphere. This was especially so at this season’s opening gala on September 7th, which saw large crowds, women in evening gowns, flocking into the buzzing foyer amid flurries of camera flashes around the red carpet.

From the start the Grand Défilé, which opened the gala, gained warm-hearted applause. The program of the following three-and-a-half hours had been kept as a surprise. It included three highlights. (more…)

Palucca’s Legacy

Palucca University of Dance Dresden
Dresden, Germany
August, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Palucca University Dresden, main building © K.Hirsch“I could identify with the Palucca School and its values” says Brooke Squire, who is in her last year of the Bachelor program of the Palucca University in Dresden. The nineteen-year-old had started her dance training at Stuttgart’s John Cranko School, but four years ago decided to move, because “unlike in Stuttgart, where the focus is on classical ballet, in Dresden it is half on ballet, half on contemporary. We are more involved in the creative process and the teachers are open to communication.” (more…)