Tag Archive: Fabien Voranger

Two Farewells at the Semperoper Ballet

“Theme and Variations” (Triple bill: “Theme and Variations”, New Suite”, “She Was Black”)
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
March 30, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Voranger, Semperoper Ballet © I.WhalenSemperoper Ballet bid a double farewell on April 1st. True to his announcement last year, Mats Ek withdrew his works from the stage forever as he heads into retirement. “She Was Black”, originally choreographed in 1995, is among those that will retire with him. It has been part of the repertoire of the Dresden company for six years. When I learned about the 2nd goodbye, I thought it might be a premature April Fools’ joke – but it wasn’t. Fabien Voranger, the 36-year old principal of the company, ended his active dancing career with a final pas de deux in “She Was Black” in the middle of the season.

Born in Aix-en-Provence in Southern France, Voranger was trained at the Opéra National de Paris and the Studio Ballet Colette Armand in Marseille. A Prix de Lausanne scholarship led him to The Royal Ballet School before signing his first contract with Roland Petit’s troupe in Marseille. Engagements at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Vienna State Ballet soon followed. As Voranger stated in an interview in 2015, he tended to move on to another company whenever he felt stuck in his artistic growth: There will be always someone who can do more pirouettes than you, who is technically superior. So the most important thing in a career is to find someone who makes something of you.” (more…)

Welcome Innovations

“Oracle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Gibson, “Oracle” by J.Hernandez, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016With the new year quickly approaching, the art of prophecy is in great demand in Dresden. One clairvoyant resides in a cozy, tiny hut on a beautiful, rustic Christmas market in the old stable yard next to the Dresden Castle. An expert in palm reading, cartomancy and runes magic, the white-haired lady offers glances into what next year will bring.

Not far from her stall, in the former opera restaurant just recently altered into the studio stage “Semper Two,” another soothsayer, a quite prominent lady, is at work. Or, to be precise, is fed up with work. Alas, there is currently no chance to receive advice from her. Joseph Hernandez, coryphée of Semperoper Ballet and a fledgling choreographer, attended to the matter in the dance theater “Oracle”, his first piece for Semperoper Ballet. Accompanied by a musical mix consisting of vintage jazz as well as cello and violin sounds of various atmospheres, it unveils the Oracle of Delphi’s problem. Exhausted from putting herself into a trance to answer the never-ending questions, the woman priest, simply called Oracle (Aidan Gibson) by Hernandez, wants to get off the hot seat. But how? (more…)

Straightforward Towards Mediocrity

“Don Quixote”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 13, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Gileva, I.Simon and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by A.S.Watkin, Semperoper Ballet © S.Ballone 2016One wishes for better program coordination given the fact that three German companies, Stuttgart Ballet, the Aalto Ballet Essen and Semperoper Ballet are offering “Don Quixote” almost at the same time. Premieres in Essen and Dresden were even scheduled for the same day, November 5th. The versions in Stuttgart and Essen are traditional adaptions; in Dresden, artistic director Aaron S.Watkin came up with his own creation. The idea sprang from set and costume designer Patrick Kinmonth to strip the adventurous story of Alonso Quixano alias Don Quixote down to a mere framework on which a new, “more real and convincing story” was hung. (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…)

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…)

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…)

“As an artist it is my duty to speak up.”

Fabien Voranger
Dresden, Germany
November 30, 2015

Interviewed by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

Fabien Voranger, photo: Ian Whalen 2015Fabien Voranger, principal dancer of Semperoper Ballet Dresden, is French. Confronted with the terror attacks in Paris a few weeks ago he feels compelled to comment on the events.

“First, there is the right to free speech, which was massively threatened by the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January this year. As an artist I am grounded in freedom of expression. Second, the biggest massacre of the recent terror attacks in Paris happened in Bataclam, a music club. The theater, the stage is my home. This time the target was a music club, but what places might be attacked in the future?”

“What has happened is horrible and it is my duty to take action. I don’t want to focus on politics or discuss whether one religion is more right or wrong than another. Instead I feel the need, the responsibility, to fight for keystones of our culture: freedom of expression and pluralism. Culture evolves through influence from outside. Without that input it wouldn’t develop. We all know that. Therefor we should be courageous and take a clear stance. We believe in what can be achieved by art. We have an opinion. Ballet dancers are not naive. Hence we should encourage, foster and defend diversity. It is our fertile soil.” (more…)

A Sweeping Goodbye

“Manon”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 11, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Hamilton and J.Bubeniček, “Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, photo Ian WhalenOne could make things easier when it comes to the end of a dance career. A favorite piece which the audience likes should make for a decent leave-taking. Jiří Bubeníček is of another caliber. After nine years with Semperoper Ballet Dresden he tackled a debut for his farewell, Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon”. Moreover, he asked a ballerina, with whom he had never danced before, to be his Manon: Royal Ballet’s principal Melissa Hamilton, who will stay with the Semperoper company for the whole season.

“Go for it!” is one of Bubeníček’s principles. Exactly this is what he did. In fact, what the whole company did. Aaron S.Watkin, the company’s artistic director, aimed to use “Manon” to explore yet another style with his already versatile company. It was enthusiastically received. No wonder. All ingredients merged splendidly presenting “Manon” as a gripping narrative. (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…)

“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…)

A Well Assembled Spectrum

“2. International Ballet Gala”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
March 20, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Vallejo, “Canon in D Major” by J.Bubeníček, “2.International Ballet Gala”, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg © B.Stöß 2015Goyo Montero is in his seventh season as artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet. Since then the Spaniard has established the troupe’s reputation – nationally as well as internationally. Last weekend’s ballet gala – the second since Montero took over the reins – gave ample proof that dance prospers in Middle Franconia’s largest city.
Montero, son of a ballerina and a dancing and choreographing father, studied at the Royal Conservatory for Professional Dance in Madrid and the School of the National Ballet of Cuba. Amongst others he danced with the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Royal Ballet of Flanders. Solidly rooted in classical dance, Montero explores contemporary movement vocabulary in his choreography. This season his company, twenty-two dancers, many of them his compatriots, present works by Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, Ohad Naharin in addition to Montero’s own creations. In early July they will guest with “Cinderella” at the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow. Dance definitely has moved on from its former niche existence in Nuremberg!
This season’s gala wasn’t sparing with highlights: on the guest list were dancers from Stuttgart Ballet, Semperoper Ballet Dresden, English National Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo and Stanislavsky Ballet Moscow sharing the program with Nuremberg’s troupe. (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…)

In Honor of Richard Strauss

“Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
July 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Fabien Voranger, Tanzsuite by A.Ratmansky, Semperoper BalletRichard Strauss (1864 – 1949), the German composer and conductor, would have celebrated his 150th birthday this year. He was closely connected to Dresden, where nine of his fifteen operas had their world premieres. Thus it isn’t surprising that the Semperoper Dresden is celebrating this jubilee extensively with an array of operas, concerts, song recitals and the ballet evening “Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”. The ballet program, based on Strauss music, includes two world premieres. For the first time, Alexei Ratmansky has created new choreography in Germany – the ensemble piece “Tanzsuite”, first on the program. The other premiere, “The Legend of Joseph”, is by Stijn Celis, a choreographer already familiar with the Semperoper’s dancers.

Richard Strauss and Alexei Ratmansky seem to share a trait: both are passionate about the past, about evoking history and reconfiguring it as contemporary art. One of Strauss’ historical sources of inspiration was the French rococo period. Its lightness and esprit found expression in Strauss’ creation “Ballroom and Theater Dances in the Style of Louis XV”, better known as the “Tanzsuite”, which premiered 1923 in Vienna. Strauss’ composition drew on a selection of François Couperin’s ‘Pièces de Clavecin’, pieces for the piano from the years 1713 – 1730, which Strauss adapted, rearranged and scored for small orchestra. The style of 20th century’s late romantic music was subtly woven into the rococo miniatures, which evoked a French court of the 18th century. In charge of the choreography for Vienna was Heinrich Kröller (1880 – 1930), a German ballet master and choreographer who worked first for Munich’s ‘Royal Court and National Theater’ and later for the Vienna State Opera. Playing with court dances and including mythological figures, Kröller enchanted his Viennese post-court audience with royal grandeur. (more…)

Sex and Crime – Stijn Celis’s Shakespeare Falls Short

“Romeo and Juliet”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
February 21, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Julia Weiss, Jiri Bubenicek, Romeo and Juliet by S.Celis, Semperoper Ballet To ‘carry off the audience to emotionally deep experiences’ was Stijn Celis’s stated aim for his new “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation at Dresden’s Semperoper. His approach is totally modern, avoiding any reference to the Renaissance. The Belgian choreographer wanted his work to be ‘linked to reality’ and to abstain from ‘artificiality and deformation’. Did he accomplish these noble goals?

Concrete dominated the set, aptly so for a current approach. Gray walls served as a church interior or as facades of austere homes. Two large windows allowed either a view into what was going on in apartments or, when the windows were opened, served as balconies for the two lovers’ core encounter. The atmosphere was as gloomy as Jan Versweyveld’s decor.

(more…)