Tag Archive: Jake Stepansky

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

Now More Than Ever!

“The Nutcracker And The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 24, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Lord (Jansje), K.Hirst (Young Clara), F.Eimers (Louise), and L.Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” series was abruptly brought to an end due to – what else – “COVID-19 related restrictions.” A lockdown was once again imposed on the entire country – this time until mid-January. Nevertheless, the company decided to dance their Christmas Eve performance, which they’d intended to livestream. As artistic director Ted Brandsen welcomed the online audience from the empty auditorium, it was clear that the situation was a difficult one – emotionally and beyond. (more…)

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Heart-Warming

“The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 18, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Potvin (Young Clara) and J.Stout (Mouse King), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen As yet another round of COVID-19-related restrictions began to choke social life in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet reacted swiftly by adding two livestreams of their Nutcracker production to their pre-Christmas schedule. I viewed the first one on December 18th; the second will take place on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM. Both performances will subsequently be available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022.

Every rendition of the Nutcracker has its own personal flair, and Amsterdam’s – co-choreographed by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling in 1996 – is decisively Dutch. (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)

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…)

A Bold Combo

“Giselle” (Act II), “Agora”
São Paulo Dance Company
Teatro Sérgio Cardoso
São Paulo, Brazil
October 02 and 03, 2021 (live streams)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Pegurelli (Giselle), “Giselle” by L.van Cauwenbergh after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © C.LimaBefore resuming their international tours, the São Paulo Dance Company opened the season at home in the Teatro Sérgio Cardoso with a refreshingly bold double bill that contrasted the second act of “Giselle” – an foundational piece from the romantic era – with “Agora”, a punchy 2019 creation by the São Paulo-based choreographer Cassi Abranches. I viewed two performances with different casts that were streamed live on October 2nd and 3rd, 2021. (more…)

Unparalleled

“TOER” (“Lucifer Studies” / “7th Symphony”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 25, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M. ten Kortenaar and T. van Poucke, “Lucifer Studies” by T. van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H. Gerritsen “Unparalleled.”
That’s how Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet, described Toer van Schayk – Holland’s renowned multi-disciplinary artist. van Schayk, who celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday earlier this month, has excelled across a broad spectrum: as a dancer, choreographer, set and costume designer, painter, and sculptor. His knowledge of the history of the arts combined with his wholehearted dedication to his craft and persistent motivation to create make him one-of-a-kind in the field. Though he has been a pillar of the Dutch National Ballet since its founding, his pieces have rarely been scheduled in recent years – and so it was most welcome that this year’s 60th anniversary season opened with the double bill “TOER”. It consisted of van Schayk’s much-acclaimed “7th Symphony” (1986) and a new ballet titled “Lucifer Studies”. I watched the live-stream on September 25th; it will be repeated on October 6th, 2021. (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…)

Blabla Or Food For Thought?

“Blitirí”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
July 25, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Nunes, O.Alonso, S.Vervaecke, C.Blanco, V.Ketelslegers, A.Fernández, A.Tavares, J.Toscano, and S.Tozzi, “Blitirí” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2021 © J.VallinasBlitirí is a term used in medieval time for something that has no meaning,” explains Goyo Montero, choreographer and artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet ensemble. He compares the word to jovial “blabla”. Indeed, his new choreography for “Blitirí” revolves around joy – at least, almost entirely.
Though originally planned as a solely digital project, the 25-minute piece premiered on July 10th to a live audience at Nuremberg’s State Theater as part of the triple bill “Goecke / Godani / Montero”. A few weeks later, Stefan Kleeberger and Montero realized the initial plan by releasing a filmed version that is available on the company’s YouTube channel. (more…)

Amsterdam’s Dance Students

“Dancers of Tomorrow”
Dutch National Ballet Academy
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
July 10/11, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students of the Dutch National Ballet Academy, “10 Years Tailor-Made” by I.Lešić, Dutch National Ballet Academy 2021 © S.Derine End-of-year performances are a highlight for the students of any ballet school. Last weekend, the Dutch National Ballet Academy performed “Dancers of Tomorrow” on the main stage of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet for an empty auditorium due, sadly, to ongoing COVID-19-restrictions. The silver lining: a video of the performance, augmented by footage from backstage, was streamed online for two days, allowing a much larger audience to see the work. I wonder: could we include online streams and video broadcasts as a standard addendum to live performances in the future?

“Dancers of Tomorrow” was assembled from ten pieces geared to the students’ age groups and adapted or created especially for the occasion. All students participated. (more…)

A Journey Through Time

“Beauty Mixed Programme”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
July 09, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Hayward and C.Coralles, “Morgen” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Ninety years ago, Ninette de Valois founded the Vic-Wells Ballet, which would later birth today’s Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Royal Ballet celebrated the anniversary with a mixed bill that linked the past and the present, showcasing works by two pillars of the repertory – the late Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan – and works by resident choreographer Wayne McGregor, artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon, principal dancer-cum-choreographer Valentino Zucchetti, and Arthur Pita. The crown jewel of the program (more…)

“And I Have So Much to Say, But…”

“Sleeping Woman”
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Opera House
Wuppertal, Germany
July 02, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.-C.Yu and ensemble, “Sleeping Woman” by R.Behr, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch 2021 © E.RodoulisPina Bausch was the heart of Tanztheater Wuppertal – and since her premature death in 2009, the company has struggled to find new leadership to shape its artistic future. The termination of Adolphe Binder’s contract as intendant and artistic director in 2018 – after only one year in office – was followed by a two-year lawsuit between her and the theater. Although Binder won the suit (and the matter was settled out of court), Binder waived her claim to the post, making way for Bettina Wagner-Bergelt. (more…)

Exploring a Romantic Dream

“Les Sylphides” (“Chopiniana”)
São Paulo Dance Company
Teatro Sérgio Cardoso
São Paulo, Brazil
June 25, 2021 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Prata, V.Vieira, and L.Yuk, “Les Sylphides” by A.Botafogo after M.Fokin, São Paulo Dance Company 2021 © F.KirmayrThe COVID-19 pandemic compelled the São Paulo Dance Company to postpone this June’s run of “Giselle” to September. In its place, the company has offered another gem from the romantic repertory: Mikhail Fokin’s “Les Sylphides”, newly revised by Ana Botafogo, a Brazilian actress and former principal of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. The performance on June 18th – attended by a live audience and broadcast online on June 25th – was presented as part of the company’s educational program and followed by a 30-minute lecture about the piece and its production. (more…)

Two Dutch Premieres

“Four Seasons” (“The Two Of Us” / “The Four Seasons”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 15, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tsygankova and C.Allen, “The Two Of Us” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenJust one week after the premiere of “Prometheus”, the Dutch National Ballet premiered a second program as part of the annual Holland Festival: “Four Seasons” – a double bill comprised of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Two Of Us” and David Dawson’s “The Four Seasons”. Two dance films created by members of the company during last year’s lockdown – “Oblivion” and “The Garden” – were shown during the break. The performance was attended by a live audience and, in addition, broadcast online.

“The Two Of Us” premiered at New York City Center’s 2020 Fall for Dance festival and paired New York City Ballet’s principal Sara Means and David Hallberg, close friends who’d never before had the chance to dance together. In Amsterdam, the duet was performed by Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, depicting two tender souls unsure whether to stay together or to part.

As the curtain opens, Tsygankova is seated on the floor, her elbow resting pensively upon her knee. Allen kneels behind her, his hand touching her shoulder. He begins to walk away from her, and at that exact moment we hear the first sounds of a melancholic guitar strummed by Joni Mitchell. “I don’t know where I stand,” Mitchell sings, verbalizing Tsykankova’s state of being. (more…)