Tag Archive: Jiří Bubeníček

Fostering Ballet’s Future

Noverre Society Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
December 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Logo of the Noverre Society Stuttgart © Noverre Society 2014The dance critic Horst Koegler once compared him with a F1 World Champion who – second to none – has held his title for more than half a century: Fritz Höver, founder and longstanding chairman of Stuttgart’s Noverre Society. How would the Stuttgart Ballet have developed without Höver? Back in the early 1960s no one knew John Cranko in Stuttgart, not even Stuttgart Opera’s general director Walter Erich Schäfer. It’s hard to believe these days but in the late 1950s Stuttgart’s audience had not yet acquired a taste for ballet. The genre’s main function, since 1957 in the hands of artistic director Nicholas Beriozoff, ex-dancer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, still was to take part in opera productions. Beriozoff, paving the way for the company’s ascent, put considerable effort in promoting ballet. It was due to the relentless persuasive power of Höver, that the young Cranko was invited to Baden-Wuerttemberg’s capital. In 1960 Cranko staged his first work in Stuttgart, “The Prince of the Pagodas” which had premiered three years earlier atNich The Royal Ballet. One year later he took over the reigns of “The Stuttgart Ballet”. (more…)

Marzipan and Sweetmeats

“The Nutcracker”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 22, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Simon, “The Nutcracker” by A.S. Watkin and J.Beechey, Semperoper Ballet © C.Radu 2014While Dresden is just starting to build up the numerous stalls for its famous Christmas markets, Semperoper Ballet has already begun to put audiences in a festive mood with the first of a series of sixteen “Nutcrackers”.
Rather restrained in choreographing, Semperoper Ballet’s artistic director Aaron S. Watkin replaced John Neumeier’s version of the “Nutcracker” which had been in the company’s repertory until 2010 by his own new creation in 2011. As with “Coppélia” which also premiered in 2011, Watkin collaborated with Jason Beechey, rector of Dresden’s Palucca School for Dance. Putting aside historical records they created completely new choreography yet firmly grounded on classical movement vocabulary. Both two acts of the ballet involve a great number of students of the Palucca School of Dance giving the Christmasy goings-on and the festivities at the Land of Sweets a natural and vivid atmosphere. Almost the whole school participates, around thirty students of different age per cast complemented by eight little children as Polichinelles. (more…)

Final Fulfillment

“Death in Venice”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
October 17, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

“Wer die Schönheit angeschaut mit Augen,
ist dem Tode schon anheimgegeben,…”
(August von Platen, “Tristan”, 1824)

1. A.Trusch, L.Riggins, "Death in Venice" by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet“Whose eyes saw the beauty is already entrusted to death,…”
August von Platen’s late-romantic song, written in 1825, is grounded on the medieval tale “Tristan and Isolde”. Transgressive love and love-death are core aspects of Richard Wagner’s eponymous opera and Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice”, published in 1913. John Neumeier’s ballet version of Mann’s text pays homage to both monumental figures of the history of art. It wouldn’t be “made by John Neumeier”, however, if he hadn’t included additional historical references to broaden and enrich the total picture of the unique love story. He chose Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Musical Offering” as music to depict the intellectual, well-organized world of Gustav von Aschenbach, alternating with piano pieces by Richard Wagner. The latter evoke the ecstatic, Dionysian counterworld Aschenbach gets into in Venice. Integrating music by Wagner moreover takes into account that many aspects of his autobiography, published in 1911, recur in Mann’s “Death in Venice”. Just as for Aschenbach, Venice was Wagner’s city of refuge. In 1848 he intended to finish his “Tristan” in the lagoon city where he also wanted respite from his broken marriage with Minna and his desperate love affair with Mathilde Wesendonck. (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…)

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…)

Light in the Province

“Ballet Gala 2014”
Mainfranken Theater
Wuerzburg, Germany
July 07, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Bubenicek, J.Bubenicek, J.Vallejo, Souffle de l'Esprit by J.Bubenicek, National Theater Prague Halfway between Frankfurt and Nuremberg lies Wuerzburg, a medium-scale town in Lower Franconia. It happens to be my seat of residence but it’s not a Mecca for dance. That’s why I usually head elsewhere to see performances. This year’s Ballet Gala at the Mainfranken Theater, however, offered some highlights I didn’t want to miss.
The Mainfranken Theater’s own ensemble presented only one piece. The rest of the program was left to guest artists from smaller companies all over Germany and to a duo from the Czech National Ballet in Prague. Anna Vita, artistic director of Wuerzburg’s ballet company, and her dramaturge, Christoph Blitt, moderated the evening – basically a good idea if it had set the right tone. But to start by naming all the sponsors and relate what is in the program notes was a mood killer and rendered the playbill’s description of the pieces unnecessary. We are capable of reading! (more…)

Summer Ballet Copenhagen

“The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “The Elephant Man”
Bellevue Theater
Copenhagen, Denmark
August 17, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Bubeníček, The Picture of Dorian Gray by J.Bubeníček, photo Costin RaduEnchanting beauty and monstrous ugliness – both extremes were united in “Summer Ballet 2013” at the Bellevue Theater in Klampenborg, a suburb of Copenhagen. The handsome Dorian Gray, striving after eternal youth in choreography by Jiří and Otto Bubeníček, met the deformed Elephant Man, the title character in Cathy Marston’s new work.

Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, in which unscrupulous glorification of physical beauty combined with the chase after everlasting youth and ultimate pleasure ends in disaster, inspired the Czech twins Jiří and Otto Bubeníček’s modern adaptation of the subject. Both principal dancers – Otto at Hamburg Ballet and Jiří formerly in John Neumeier’s ensemble and later with Dresden Semperoper Ballet – they’ve been busy staging their own works with other companies as well as with their own troupe, Les Ballets Bubeníček. Although Jiří is usually the choreographer while Otto designs sets and costumes, sometimes also composing the music, there’s no strict division of labor, but rather a cross-fertilization. (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…)

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…)

Happy Czechs!

“Les Ballets Bubeníček”
The National Theater
Prague, Czech Republic
January 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1.Ensemble, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek The Czech twins Jiří and Otto Bubeníček, principals of Dresden Semperoper Ballet ( Jiří) and Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier (Otto), regularly gather dancers from various ensembles to tour their own creations worldwide under the label “Les Ballets Bubeníček”. To date, Rome and Tokyo as well as different locations in their homeland have lain on their route. After five years, they have returned to Prague’s National Theater for one weekend to present a gala of four of their own choreographies: Two plotless, neoclassical pieces, “Le Souffle de 2. J.Bubenicek, J.Vallejo and M.Tucker, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek 3. O.Bubenicek and J.Vallejo, Le Souffle de l Esprit, Les Ballets Bubenicek, Prague, photo Martin Divisek l’Esprit” and “Toccata” contrasted with two narrative works, “Faun” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

This time dancers from Dresden Semperoper Ballet made up the major part of the troupe. Augmented by Iana Salenko (State Ballet Berlin) and Arsen Mehrabyan (Royal Swedish Ballet) the Bubeníčeks brought fourteen colleagues along and, to get straight to the point, both scheduled shows – the National Theater has almost 1000 seats – were sold out within a day. For those who couldn’t get a ticket, Czech television filmed the performance. All artists earned heartfelt applause, the twins, however, were celebrated and admired like national heroes.

(more…)