Tag Archive: Jón Vallejo

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…)

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…)

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…)

Bringing Sparkle Back to the Homeland

“Les Ballets Bubeníček” (“L’Heure Bleue”, “The Piano”)
Nové Divadlo/ J.K. Tyl-Theater
Pilsen, Czech Republic
July 18, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Morariu, S.Vinograd and J.Bubeníček, “L'Heure Bleue” by J.Bubeníček, Les Ballets Bubeníček 2015 © S.Ballone Pilsen, the Czech Republic’s fourth biggest town, is located in Bohemia between Prague and Germany’s Nuremberg. First and foremost it is known for its pils, a type of pale lager beer produced there since 1842. This year Pilsen is making headlines for another reason: in addition to Belgium’s Mons, it is one of Europe’s Cultural Capitals. More than six hundred cultural events, ranging from theater performances to concerts, art exhibitions and other events are offered. The project which started in January is more than a short-lived affair, promising instead to boost the town’s popularity and fuel local cultural life for a long time to come. (more…)

A Team of Strong Individuals

Semperoper Ballet
Dresden, Germany
April/May 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Semperoper Dresden © M.Creutziger 2015In 2006 the winds of change were blowing through the Semperoper Ballet Dresden. After twelve years under Vladimir Derevianko’s directorship the Canadian Aaron S. Watkin took over the reigns. He thoroughly revitalized the company and adopted a new course for the repertory. The classics, already the company’s linchpin, were kept, but modern pieces were now strongly fostered. As a result, after almost a decade of constant work, the company receives much international attention. Ballets by William Forsythe, David Dawson, Stijn Celis and Aaron S. Watkin are its signature features. Recently I spoke with five leading dancers about their backgrounds and how they experienced the company’s development. (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…)

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…)

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…)