Tag Archive: George Balanchine

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.
5. D.Dato, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor4. D.Dato and H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor3. H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorIngénue-like at first, Kang cuts a mature profile in her second solo, flirtatiously swinging her hips and slapping the floor with one hand. But this romance has little tethering to reality. It’s overly sweet – in fact, artificially saccharine – muffling credible emotions with layers of softness that remind one of fluffy cotton candy.
Kang and Dato perfectly soaked each movement in creamy tenderness, as if inside a frothy bubble. At the piano, the seasoned Igor Zapravdin accompanied the amorous dalliance with aplomb, serving periodically as a reassuring point of reference for the lovers.

6. Ensemble, “Concerto” by L.Childs, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorIn “Concerto” (1993), Childs places seven dancers – four women and three men – in black pants and black blouses (costumes by Anne Masset) – in front of a monochromatic backdrop whose pallid colors change several times (as do those of the floor). Harpsichord and string chords by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki – pushy, repetitive and sometimes tedious – set the rhythm for recurrent series of hops, jumps, turns, and arm movements. On multiple occasions, the dancers stand with their backs towards the audience and suddenly turn around, lifting their right arms into fifth position. While the pace of the sequences 7. L.Cislaghi, D.Vizcayo, and N.Butchko, “Concerto” by L.Childs, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylordiffers and the arrangement of the movements varies slightly, the style remains the same. Childs might be a famous representative of postmodernism, but “Concerto” – though lasting less than ten minutes – was unimaginative and trivial.

In his 1960 opus “Liebeslieder Walzer”, Balanchine luxuriated in waltzes – thirty-three in total, all by Brahms, accompanied by the poems of Friedrich Daumer and Goethe as chosen by the composer. In this staging, the onstage musicians – four vocalists and a piano duet – are performing at an upper-class soiree in a multi-style parlor (the interior dates between Louis Seize and Biedermeier, 8. Ensemble, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor9. L.Konovalova and Z.Török, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylorwhile Baroque patio glass doors lead out into a starlit night). Four male/female couples in elegant evening wear (luxurious silk taffeta dresses and tail-coats) share the parquet. Though traditional social and gender etiquette are carefully observed, cracks run through the sophisticated facade. One couple (Maria Yakovleva and Masayu Kimoto) is tempestuously enamored (as Daumer puts it: the cottage has caught fire), but Yakovleva, restraining herself, only flings her arms passionately around Kimoto’s neck rather than giving him the one hundred thousand kisses Daumer imagined. 11. E.Bottaro and D.Cherevychko, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor10. R.Lazik and C.Schoch, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorAnother couple (Claudine Schoch and Roman Lazik) lacks juvenile lightheartedness, presumably because Schoch wonders (together with Daumer) whether a young girl can bear the thought of a whole lifetime devoid of bliss without yielding to tender affection. Though Lazik nearly melts her reserve with his wooing, she finally runs off. However much your heart might burn, subdue your desire – that’s what concerns the third, more seasoned couple (Liudmila Konovalova and Zsolt Török). Konovalova, able to suffuse even the sparsest movements with the depth of her emotions, vacillates between flaring joie de vivre and sumptuous melancholy. Török, a courteous gentleman from tip to toe, 12. M.Kimoto and M.Yakovleva, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor13. D.Cherevychko and E.Bottaro, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Tayloraccompanies her affectionately. Couple number four (Elena Bottaro and Denys Cherevychko) has a boisterous relationship. Bottaro’s skirt hardly stops billowing as they swirl and twirl around.
With the exception of one man, who shows slightly too much attention towards another woman, all of the couples stay faithfully together. After a short breather outdoors (perhaps a stroll in the park?), they return one after another. The taffeta gowns and the men’s white gloves are gone, and the women – this time wearing tulle dresses – have switched their character shoes for pointe. As if having shed the facade, true selves come to the surface. To Brahms’s final songs, each dancer re-dons their festive outfit and listens from the edges of the parlor to Goethe’s Enough, now, ye Muses!

When assembling the program for this season, artistic director Martin Schläpfer couldn’t have known how the social and political situation in Austria might take a drastic turn. For weeks, masses of demonstrators have crowded the streets to oppose COVID-19 restrictions and an imminent vaccination mandate. It was jarring to see such an extraordinary discrepancy between our reality and the world-enraptured, self-absorbed society depicted by Robbins and Balanchine. It felt like Versailles shortly before the revolution – an absurd experience!
14. Ensemble, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor

Links: Website of the Vienna State Ballet
Interview with Maria Calegari and Bart Cook, repetiteurs of “Liebeslieder Walzer” (video)
Rehearsal of “Concerto” (video)
Photos: 1. Davide Dato, “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  2. Hyo-Jung Kang, “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  3. Hyo-Jung Kang, “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  4. Davide Dato and Hyo-Jung Kang, “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  5. Davide Dato, “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  6. Ensemble, “Concerto” by Lucinda Childs, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  7. Laura Cislaghi, Daniel Vizcayo, and Natalya Butchko, “Concerto” by Lucinda Childs, Vienna State Ballet 2022
  8. Ensemble, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
9. Liudmila Konovalova and Zsolt Török, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
10. Roman Lazik and Claudine Schoch, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
11. Elena Bottaro and Denys Cherevychko, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
12. Masayu Kimoto and Maria Yakovleva, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
13. Denys Cherevychko and Elena Bottaro, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
14. Ensemble, “Liebeslieder Walzer” by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022
all photos © Vienna State Ballet / Ashley Taylor
Editing: Jake Stepansky

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…)

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…)

Let’s Party!

“Brahms Party”
Ural Opera Ballet
Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Ekaterinburg, Russia
April 2021 (video)

 

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Brahms Party” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2021 © O.Kerelyuk / Ural Opera Ballet Last season, two of the Ural Opera Ballet’s programs were nominated for Golden Mask awards in several categories: “Walpurgisnacht” by George Balanchine (which was shown in a double bill with “Brahms Party” by Anton Pimonov) and “The Order of the King”, a full-evening piece by the company’s artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov. Though the pandemic halted the festival the first time around, the company brought both productions to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre as part of this season’s festival in mid-April. (more…)

Dance and Music

“b.33” (“Stravinsky Violin Concerto” / “Roses of Shadow” / “Polish Pieces”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
January 07, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Liashenko and E.White, “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Ballett am Rhein 2018 © G.WeigeltJust a few days ago, Ballett am Rhein announced that the contract of its artistic director, Martin Schläpfer, has been extended until the fall of 2024. Schläpfer has helmed the company and its associated ballet school since 2009, but in 2016 handed over his administrative responsibilities to Remus Şucheană so that he might regain some freedom to pursue his artistic work. Şucheană’s contract was similarly extended.

Schläpfer names his ballet programs numerically – and with his latest, which premiered in mid-December, he reached “b.33”. It was a triple bill – a recurring and well-established format in Düsseldorf – with a tried and tested combination of choreographers: Balanchine, Schläpfer, and Hans van Manen. Specifically, Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” and van Manen’s “Polish Pieces” were added to the already considerable repertoire the company dances from both choreographers. The middle piece, “Roses of Shadow”, was a new creation by Schläpfer. (more…)

The Post-Diaghilev Generation

Michael Meylac:
“Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes – Stories from a Silver Age”
288 pages, 78 b/w photos
I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., October 2017
ISBN: 9781780768595
January 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes” by M.Meylac, book cover © I.B.Tauris & CoLast year in early spring I met Michael Meylac at a performance of Cranko’s “Onegin” at the Bolshoi Theatre. Passionate about dance, Meylac quizzed me about the German companies and told me about the book on the Ballets Russes he was about to finish. He pondered which title to choose. We had no opportunity to continue our conversation, so I didn’t get to know more about the project.

Meanwhile, the book has been published.
Actually, I had expected a monograph on the Ballets Russes similar to Sjeng Scheijen’s biography of Diaghilev. I was wrong. “Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes” is a collection of interviews – thirty-two in total conducted between 1989 and 2007. Only one interviewee was not a dancer, the secretary of the Marquis de Cuevas; all others performed with the Ballet Russes companies.
Meylac, born in Leningrad, today’s St. Petersburg, is a distinguished Russian literature professor and philologist. Yet, the Soviet authorities disapproved of his work on foreign-published dissident writers and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment and five years in exile. In 1987, after four years in the Gulag, he was released and later settled in France. There he worked as a Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Strasbourg, sharing time between Europe and Russia. (more…)

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…)

Substantial

“b.27” (“Duo Concertant”, “Variations and Partitas”, “The Green Table”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
March 18, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.-K.Adam and M.Menha, “Duo Concertant” by G.Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, Ballett am Rhein © G.WeigeltMuch credit is due to Martin Schläpfer for his repertory policy. Since he has taken over the Ballet am Rhein as director and chief choreographer in 2009, he has fostered variety, even though his own creations dominate the schedule. Unlike Hamburg Ballet, for example, with its excessively one-sided Neumeier-diet, Schläpfer keeps ballet’s historical legacy alive – this season with ballets by Bournonville, Tudor and Ashton – while also offering up-to-date choreographers a platform. Schläpfer has Swiss roots and a close relationship to nature. A recent documentary about him (“Feuer bewahren”) shows him on vacation at his solitary mountain lodge in Tessin. He is likable, unpretentious and down-to earth.

Though Ballet am Rhein’s ensemble might not be as versatile as Stuttgart Ballet’s in adopting different styles – Schläpfer, training them himself, has imprinted his own style on them – it benefits and grows with each challenge. “b.27”, which received its premiere last weekend, is such a case. The triple bill has “Variations and Partitas”, new choreography by Schläpfer at its center, framed by George Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” and “The Green Table” by Kurt Jooss. (more…)

Balanchine, Robbins and a Teddy Bear

“Symphony in C / In the Night / Adam is”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 28, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Symphony in C” by G.Balanchine, Bavarian State Ballet © W.HöslJuxtaposing established choreography and contemporary work can be intriguing. Yet comparing and contrasting a new piece with those of the masters also carries risks. The Bavarian State Ballet’s new evening of ballet dares to do this. It combines George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” and Jerome Robbins’s “In the Night” with “Adam is” – a fresh dance by Canada’s Azure Barton. Did the assemblage work? (more…)

Imprints

“b.21” (“Serenade”, “Alltag”, “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No.2”)
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
October 25, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, "Serenade" by G.Balanchine, (c) The George Balanchine Trust, photo G.Weigelt Behind the abstract title “b.21” in the program of the Ballett am Rhein is a ballet evening by Martin Schläpfer, the twenty-first one, since Schläpfer took over as artistic director and resident choreographer at the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The triple bill encompasses George Balanchine’s “Serenade”, followed by “Alltag” (meaning “Daily Life”), a new piece by Hans van Manen, and closes with Schläpfer’s “Johannes Brahms – Symphony No. 2”. (more…)

What Should Ballet Dramaturgy Achieve?

by Horst Koegler
Transcribed from a lecture given in 1976 at the Noverre Society in Stuttgart.
Stuttgart, Germany

June 29, 2014
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1) Horst Koegler, ca. 1976, photo Gert WeigeltHad anyone asked John Cranko what ballet dramaturgy is, I imagine he might have answered, “Ballet dramaturgy is the figment of a frustrated German ballet critic’s imagination, and that person is Horst Koegler.” I have no illusions whatsoever about my persistent demand for more ballet dramaturgy. I dwell on it in order to correct an intolerable situation that puts ballet at a disadvantage compared to drama and opera.

Because the term ballet dramaturgy didn’t exist in the past and ballet got along without it, some people today do not see the need for it. Although I can understand this attitude histori- cally, I don’t agree. Theater dramaturgy has existed ever since Aristotle’s Poetics, which spelled out the rules for comedy and tragedy. We also know what Gotthold Lessing’s Hamburg Dramaturgy accomplished for the German theater. Opera dramaturgy is less explicitly fixed and, despite the Florentine Camerata’s erudite debates on the topic, never produced globally accepted standards. (more…)

Searching for Misery

Deirdre Kelly:
“Ballerina – Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection”
272 pages, b&w illustrations
Greystone Books, 2012
ISBN: 1-926812-66-2

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Deirdre Kelly, Ballerina, book coverSex sells – and especially well if accompanied by scandal and suffering victims. This truism is used by Deirdre Kelly, a Canadian journalist, author and dance critic, in her book “Ballerina – Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection”, published in the autumn of last year. What looks like a knowledgeable overview of the role ballerinas have played in the course of time is actually more a collection of sentimental, glossy magazine stories.

In about 200 pages Kelly paints a historical line from dance at King Louis XIV’s court to our time, but despite 250 or so references and considerable notes she seems less interested in insightful and comprehensive analysis – which exist already in Jennifer Homans’ excellent “Apollo’s Angels – A History of Ballet”. Kelly pieces together a patchwork of individual fates. Again and again she expresses her conviction that danseuses are tormented, ill-treated and exploited creatures, true martyrs in the service of art. Indeed, she persuasively depicts the situations of ballerinas of the French Ballet de cours, the Age of Enlightenment and the Romantic period. The Paris Opera’s murky backstage did degenerate into an institutionalized brothel, with career prospects dependent on the influence and number of the danseuse’s male protectors, fittingly called “les abonnés”. But things aren’t put into perspective. Not in accordance with the facts, for example, is that from circa 1840 on male roles in France were danced en travesti because so many girls stormed the ballet schools and had to be kept busy later. That the fatal accident of the Paris dancer Emma Livry in 1862 – her costume was set aflame during a dress rehearsal and she died as a result of her serious burns – led to the decline of the Romantic ballet in Paris and the subsequent artistic stagnation, is simply wrong. In this and similar instances, Jennifer Homans’ book is more reliable. (more…)