Tag Archive: Liudmila Konovalova

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…)

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…)

Pirate’s Luck

“Le Corsaire”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
October 14, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Manolova and R.Szabó, “Le Corsaire” by M.Legris after M.Petipa et al. © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Spared for a very long time, Vienna’s State Opera was finally conquered by pirates earlier this year. Solely Manuel Legris, artistic director of the ballet company, is to be held to account for this invasion. Yet I assume he bears responsibility with pleasure as his “Corsaire” is well received.

According to the program book, around 70% of the choreography is Legris’s, the rest is based on Marius Petipa’s tradition. I missed the “Corsaire”, which Doug Fullington reconstructed from the Stepanov-notation of Petipa’s 1899 version for the Bavarian State Ballet in 2007, so I cannot compare the Viennese choreography with what is thought to come closest to the original. Lord Byron’s 1814 poem “The Corsair” is the initial source of inspiration for opera and ballet adaptions alike. But already in the first “Corsaire” ballet, Joseph Mazilier’s 1856 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, little of the original was left. Subsequent choreographies weren’t more faithful to the text source either. Apart from a few changes in the libretto Legris’s three-act piece has the ingredients familiar from other versions: a great portion of classical variations, character dance, heroism, romance and a hefty dose of kitsch. (more…)