Tag Archive: David Dawson

Superficies

“Requiem” (“Citizen Nowhere” / “Requiem”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 16, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Wijnen, “Citizen Nowhere” by D.Dawson, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © H.GerritsenDavid Dawson’s “Requiem” premiered in early February as the second half of an all-Dawson bill from the Dutch National Ballet. The first half was “Citizen Nowhere”, a twenty-or-so minute solo, also created for the Dutch company and first performed in the “Made in Amsterdam 2”-program in 2017.

That “Citizen Nowhere” was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella “The Little Prince” only becomes clear when a selection of signaling words and quotations are projected onto the gray backdrop: “Fox: anything essential is invisible to the eyes; one can only see clearly with the heart”; and “SNAKE: The Tears” (Tears is subsequently replaced with EYE and HEART). Instead, Dawson’s reading of the novella is a political one that tackles nationalism, displacement, and – highly topical – the building of walls. (more…)

Society’s Boggy Grounds

“Manon”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
September 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Arndt, M.Madar, A.Ol, J.Vallejo and A.Gibson, “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Semperoper Ballet 2017 © I.Whalen Semperoper Ballet opened the season with a final run of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon.” In most performances since the Dresden premiere in fall 2015 Melissa Hamilton danced the title role. Hamilton returned to her home company, the Royal Ballet London, in May this year. The gap she left was filled by two guest ballerinas familiar with the role – Anna Ol (Principal of Dutch National Ballet) and Dorothée Gilbert (Étoile of Paris Opera Ballet). Both dance twice. The Semperoper Ballet’s Gina Scott is cast for the final two performances in mid-October. I saw the opening night with Ol alongside Julian Amir Lacey as Des Grieux. (more…)

Conversations with Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Dutch National Opera & Ballet © L.KramerThe beautiful opera house and national ballet company are as welcoming and open as Amsterdam itself. During my last visit for the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” in mid-June, I took the opportunity to talk with two principal dancers, Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga, about their career and their plans for the future.

Rademaker, a Dutchman, returned home in 2015 after many years with Stuttgart Ballet. We met in a cafe opposite the opera house a few hours before the premiere. Rademaker’s answers are in italics. (more…)

Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Pastor and a New Dawson

“Made in Amsterdam 2”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Yanowsky, R.Wörtmeyer and ensemble, “Concerto Concordia” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenThe program “Made in Amsterdam 2” consisted of ballets by four established choreographers. It was the Dutch National Ballet’s second mixed bill of works specifically intended for this company. One piece – a solo by David Dawson – was brand new whereas the other three – Christopher Wheeldon’s “Concerto Concordia”, “Souvenir d’un lieu cher” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Moving Rooms” by Krzysztof Pastor – dated from between 2008 and 2015. (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…)

Handwritings

“Transatlantic”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
June 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Year of the Rabbit” by J.Peck, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016The program of “Transatlantic”, recently premiered by Dutch National Ballet, is a teaser. The mixed bill has four pieces: two world premieres by George Williamson and Ernst Meisner, a Dutch premiere by Justin Peck and “Overture”, choreography by David Dawson from 2013. A kaleidoscope of up-to-date ballet! Strangely, large parts of the auditorium were empty at, the sixth and second to last performance on Saturday, June 25th. Maybe the round of 16 matches of the European Football Championship kept many glued to the TV screens. They missed a lot. (more…)

Visions

Swan Lake”
Scottish Ballet
Theatre Royal
Glasgow, Scotland
April 19, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Martin and C.Harrison, “Swan Lake” by D.Dawson, Scottish Ballet © Scottish Ballet 2016Each new piece reveals more of a choreographer’s artistic self. If it is just “Swan Lake”, the ballet of ballets, tackling an own version equals an acid test. David Dawson just dared it. His interpretation of the tragic love story between Siegfried and Odette/Odile premiered with Scottish Ballet on April 19th. His vision had been to shift the focus to the choreography, to follow the story inherent in Tchaikovsky’s music and, above all, to tell it credibly. The aim was to distill he universal emotional essence of “Swan Lake” into a pure, light and classical ballet. What was the outcome? (more…)

Giving Oneself to the Love

“Tristan + Isolde”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
January 17, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Richardson and F.Voranger, “Tristan + Isolde” by D.Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 
How many performances exist in which the energy already rises with the first tunes of the prelude? Which make one feel that something substantial is about to happen? David Dawson’s “Tristan + Isolde” danced by the Semperoper Ballet Dresden is such a ballet. About one year after its premiere the company revived the piece for three performances in January. Two more are scheduled for June. The car trip to Dresden is long and no fun on wintery highways, yet watching the piece again compensated for the effort. Having ripened during the last year it now is unfolding its whole power. (more…)

“I am always in love.”

Fabien Voranger
Dresden, Germany
October, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Fabien Voranger, photo: Ian WhalenLove guided and catalyzed Fabien Voranger’s career in several decisive situations. Just aged ten, being infatuated with a young girl fueled his interest in ballet and led to his audition for the Ballet School of the Paris Opera; and, as it happens, he was accepted. Later, while he was in a scholarship study program at the Royal Ballet School in London his girlfriend was his major support during a reorientation forced by injury. Love almost made him follow a ballerina to Australia. His desire to express his art led to many moves but ultimately to success.
Now, at the age of thirty-four, his love is rooted in Dresden, where Voranger, meanwhile principal of Semperoper Ballet, lives with his wife, opera singer Antigone Papoulkas, and two sons. In early October we met there in a French bistro to talk about his career, his life and his vision of the art of ballet.

Voranger started to take ballet lessons around the age of six together with two of his his three sisters in his home village close to Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. (more…)

Taking a Fresh Look

Ian Whalen
Dresden, Germany
August 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ian WhalenA picture paints a thousand words, within milliseconds attracting attention, evoking emotions, and subconscious opinions, – or, if poorly chosen, leaving no trace or, worse, an unintended impression. Its impact is enormous, especially in a highly visual art such as dance. An art in itself, dance photography, as well as videos, transports a production’s atmosphere and the story behind it to a wider public, hopefully attracting people.

Yet advertising goals are only one aspect. Beyond advertising, dance photos must document a work. That they show the dancers at their best should be self-evident. Yet it isn’t. The quality of photos available for press purposes differs considerably. It can happen that a production has the most gorgeous costumes and set, but that the photos are bland and of run-of-the-mill quality. Or that only few photos provided show solely the leading couple, at worst in boring standard poses. Supporting roles and the corps sometimes seem invisible to the one behind the camera. But there are also many companies which place high value on pictures, aware that they greatly influence their public image. (more…)

“I fight for quality. That’s why many people call me difficult.”

 David Dawson
Berlin, Germany
June 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. David Dawson © P.Wamsganz 2015David Dawson seems not at all complicated, when I met with him at his home base in Berlin during his summer break, rather straightforward, open and kind. In conversation, one soon notices that he is driven by a clear vision of the art he aims to create and that he channels all energy towards this goal.

London-born Dawson is a sought after choreographer, mainly working in Europe, but also abroad. He regularly creates for Semperoper Ballet Dresden and Dutch National Ballet. His choreographic language is grounded on the classical style which he explores to and beyond its limits. Both narrative and abstract ballets are his metier. We talked about his beginnings as a dancer, his career on stage and, most of all, about his choreographic work. (more…)

Go All Out Again!

“Giselle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
April 18, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Richardson and F.Voranger, “Giselle” by D.Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 2015Earlier this year, Courtney Richardson and Fabien Voranger enthralled Semperoper Dresden’s audience in the leading roles of David Dawson’s “Tristan + Isolde”. In April both had their debut in Dawson’s “Giselle”. I was curious as to how the two would tackle this quite different love story. The performance on April 18 – the second for Richardson and Voranger – was the last of this season’s run of “Giselle”.
For the specifics of Dawson’s version I would like to refer to what I wrote almost exactly one year ago (Landgraf on Dance: Last Dance). In short, Dawson’s reading of the classic is timeless yet modern. The roles of Berthe (Giselle’s mother) and the Duke of Courland are dropped; the first act’s hunting party is replaced by a wedding party; the miming scene foreboding disaster takes place in the course of the wedding festivities. The second act depicts Abrecht’s memories, his mental state, his process in coping with what had happened. Neither Hilarion appears again nor is there a grave. Nor are the Wilis avenging spirits. Rather, they remind one of impartial beings. (more…)

Stunning Emotions

“Tristan + Isolde”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
February 17, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Richardson and F.Voranger, “Tristan + Isolde” by D.Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 2015Reportedly a few of the audience had expected to see the opera, while others, having had a slightly closer look at Semperoper Dresden’s program, were anticipating hearing Richard Wagner’s famous music. Both parties must have been surprised. “Tristan + Isolde” is a ballet by David Dawson to new music by Szymon Brzóska.
Dawson wisely abstained from using Wagner’s well-known opera music. Instead Brzóska, a Pole, composed a tailor-made score for the Dresden company. Both had already collaborated on Dawson’s ballet “Overture” for Dutch National Ballet in 2013. Generally speaking, his music, Brzóska told in an interview, would range between contemporary avant garde and extended tonality that inclined towards minimalism. The new composition reminds one of film music. It’s emotional music, conveying love’s bliss but also dramatic, fragile and threatening moments. Though expressive, Dawson never left it to the music to bring forth the action but always backed it with choreographic substance. Paul Connelly and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden highly focused playing captivated one from the first tone on. Laurels to them! (more…)

Still in the Warming Phase

“Bella Figura”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
September 05, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Albouy, Weiss, Cangialosi, Bella Figura by Jiri Kylián, Semperoper Ballet Semperoper Ballet Dresden heralded the new season with the triple bill “Bella Figura”, titled after Jiří Kylián’s eponymous “Bella Figura” and complemented by David Dawson’s “The Grey Area” and “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin.
(The photos show a different cast of an earlier performance.)

Where is the borderline between art and artificiality? Between fantasy and reality? Truth and falsehood? Such are Kyliàn’s questions behind “Bella Figura”. Also: at which point does a performance actually start? “Bella Figura” has no formal beginning. While the auditorium fills, the dancers warm up. They wear practice clothing and repeat step combinations. When the lights dim, the curtain shuts. With the start of the music – a collage of various Baroque composers plus a Renaissance-based suite by the contemporary American composer Lukas Foss – two dancers are in the spotlight: a section of the curtain, as large as a door, is left open on the right. It leaves room for a man in skin-colored undershorts (Maximilian Genov). Lying on the floor with bent legs up in the air, he reminds of an insect that accidentally has fallen on its back. To the left, Jenni Schäferhoff, bare-breasted and likewise in skin-colored undies, is wrapped into the curtain’s folds by invisible arms from behind. Repeatedly she walks, gesticulating to the forestage but – perhaps confronted with something daunting – backs away and again seeks shelter in the curtain’s embrace. (more…)

Last Dance

“Giselle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
April 22, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Yumiko Takeshima, Giselle by David Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Two principal ballerinas of the Semperoper Ballet gave farewell performances at Easter: Natalia Sologub and Yumiko Takeshima. I watched Takeshima’s goodbye in the title role of a “Giselle” production which David Dawson had staged for her in 2008. Sologub’s last appearance had been a few days earlier, and in the same role. To come straight to the point, Takeshima’s farewell was altogether well-rounded.

Dawson’s “Giselle” belongs to the present. Fresh and light footed at first glance, the emotions and the resulting tragedy are, in fact, clear cut and powerful.
The romance of Giselle and Albrecht unfolds against the setting of wedding preparations for another young couple. This opens up abundant opportunities for dancing: there is a wedding pas de cinq and various other groupings. The warning that she will become an unhappy bride and end as a Wili is presented as a macabre joke and in act 2 turns out to have been an exaggeration. Dawson’s Wilis are innocent natures. (more…)