Tag Archive: Samuel Snodgrass

Choreographer Nominees for the Prix Benois 2023

Prix Benois de la Danse
Li Jun / Maša Kolar / Wayne McGregor / Vyacheslav Samodurov
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
June 15, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

On June 20th, the Bolshoi Theatre hosts the annual Prix Benois ceremony, followed by a gala on June 21st. Prizes will be awarded for the best choreographer, and the best female and male dancers. Mikhail Lavrovsky will be honored for his lifetime achievement.

Four choreographers are competing this year:
1. “Where to Pour All My Love?” by L.Jun, National Ballet of China © National Ballet of China 2. “Where to Pour All My Love?” by L.Jun, National Ballet of China © National Ballet of ChinaLi Jun, dancer-choreographer of the National Ballet of China, is nominated for “Where to Pour All My Love?”, a twenty-minute piece set to music by Zhao Jiping. It premiered at the company’s 12th ballet workshop in April 2022. Jun’s source of inspiration was the Chinese multi-episode TV drama “Da Zhai Men” (Grand Mansion Gate) which traces the history of a Beijing-based family from the late Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) to World War II. “Where to Pour All My Love?” focuses on Bai Yuting – one member of this family – whose love for Peking Opera gets out of control. (more…)


“Ivan the Terrible”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre (Historic Stage)
Moscow, Russia
June 06, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Obraztsova (Anastasia) and I.Vasiliev (Ivan the Terrible), “Ivan the Terrible” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2023 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov For Yuri Grigorovich’s “Ivan the Terrible” at the Bolshoi Ballet I needed some preparation. The biography by the late Ruslan Skrynnikov (1931 – 2009), a research professor at St. Petersburg State University and a leading historian of early modern Russia, seemed useful. Although it was instructive, the reading was tedious. Skrynnikov is a painstaking sociopolitical analyst, an expert in imparting the cruelty of medieval life, but I learned little about the person Ivan the Terrible (1530 – 1584). Interestingly, his nickname terrible results from a misleading translation of the actual epithet Грозный (grozny) which – according the Russian lexicographer Vladimir Dal (1801 – 1872) – can be translated as “courageous, magnificent, magisterial and keeping enemies in fear, but people in obedience”. A “tsar who managed to keep everything under control” – that’s how ballet legend Ivan Vasiliev (who’s regularly performed the role) describes Ivan the Terrible in an interview (subtitled in English and very much worth seeing), adding that “when you bear responsibility for such a huge country, you cannot lose control.” (more…)

The Very Essence

Swan Lake”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia

June 05, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Drodzdova (Odile) and V.Tedeev (Prince Siegfried), “Swan Lake” by V.Burmeister and L.Ivanov, Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 1974 © Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2. M.Drodzdova (Odette), “Swan Lake” by V.Burmeister and L.Ivanov, Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre © Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 3. O.Kardash, K.Ryzhkova, M.Drodzdova, and K.Shevtsova; “Swan Lake” by V.Burmeister and L.Ivanov, Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2023 © Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre When I arrived at the Stanislavsky Theatre’s royal blue auditorium for Vladimir Burmeister’s 1953 version of “Swan Lake” I had no clue what was awaiting me. No one had told me that this performance wasn’t a regular one, but dedicated to Margarita Drodzdova, People’s Artist of the USSR, who spent almost her entire career at the Stanislavsky Ballet. A leading ballerina, many roles were tailored especially to her. After her farewell from the stage in 1987, Drodzdova continued to work as a teacher, passing her knowledge to future generations of dancers.

On the occasion of Drodzdova’s 75th birthday on May 7th, the Stanislavsky Ballet honored her with a special “Swan Lake” that featured three of her coachees in the roles of Odette and Odile. (more…)


“The Flames of Paris”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre (New Stage)
Moscow, Russia
June 04, 2023 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Kokoreva (Jeanne), V.Lantratov (Philippe), and ensemble; “The Flames of Paris” by V.Vainonen, Bolshoi Ballet 2023 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova “A highly unlikely work” – commented the late Clement Crisp in his Financial Times review about “The Flames of Paris”, which the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the Royal Opera House as part of their 2016 London tour. He argued that the dramatic scheme was papery and the chief roles were predictable.
I checked myself, watching the 85th performance of the latest production at the Bolshoi Ballet’s home base in Moscow.

“The Flames of Paris”, first staged in 1932 at the Kirov Theater in Leningrad (today’s Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg) is about how French revolutionaries turned politics and society upside down. Its rousing score by Boris Asafiev draws on music by Lully and Rameau, including the Marseillaise, and climaxes in the powerful revolutionary song “Ça ira”. In 2008, the Bolshoi Ballet’s then artistic director Alexey Ratmansky restored and revised Vasily Vainonen’s original choreography. Nikolai Volkov’s and Vladimir Dmitriev’s libretto, initially spanning four acts, was condensed to two acts. It tells the story of the revolutionaries’ march to Paris and their storming of the Bastille in July 1789. Oblivious to the people’s fury, the monarchy and its representatives continue to debauch in festivities (including a court ballet) at Versailles, but eventually apprehend the looming danger. Puppets of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette are already mangled by the crowd, soon to seize the palace. (more…)

Loyal Friendship

Armenian National Ballet
Armenian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
Yerevan, Armenia
June 03, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Sargsyan (Cipollino) and A.Zakaryan (Signor Tomato), “Cipollino” by H.Mayorov, Armenian National Ballet 2023 © Armenian National Ballet“Cipollino” (Little Onion) sounds like a ballet made in Italy. Though inspired by the Italian children’s story “Il romanzo di Cipollino”, by Gianni Rodani (1920 – 1980), the ballet came into life miles away in Kiev. Henrich Mayorov (1936 – 2022), a Russian-Ukranian choreographer, turned the fairy tale into a two-act ballet to which Karen Khachaturian contributed a catchy score. Since its premiere in 1974, “Cipollino” has become a fixture of many eastern companies. I watched it in Yerevan, the home base of the Armenian National Ballet which I visited for the first time.

Where there is a little onion, adult onions aren’t far away. In fact, “Cipollino” employs an entire onion family – mother Cipolla (Mariam Aslanyan), father Cipollone (Artur Karchikyan), their daughter Cipolette (Marina Baghdasaryan), and their plucky son Cipollino (Gor Sargsyan) – plus a bountiful harvest of fruit and vegetables. Among them are the young, dauntless Little Radish (Tatevik Grigoryan), the lonely Count Cherry (Milton Kirakosyan), and the beguiling Magnolia (Nare Markosyan). The violin-playing Professor Pear (Vahe Babajanyan) belongs to the town’s folk, as does the homeless Godfather Pumpkin (Davit Kghbelyan), who’s busy assembling brick stones for constructing his own shelter. (more…)

A Farewell and a Fresh Start

“Pavilion of Armids” / “Hungarian Dances” / “Sextus Propertius”
Ural Opera Ballet
Yekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Yekaterinburg, Russia
April 14, 2023 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletPerseverance pays off. A few weeks after the premiere of the Ural Opera Ballet’s new triple bill in mid-April I finally got access to its recording. Three Russian choreographers contributed to the program: the Maryinsky Ballet’s dancer-choreographer Maxim Petrov, the artistic director of the Perm Opera Ballet Anton Pimonov, and the Yekaterinburg company’s own artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov.

Petrov chose to reinterpret Michel Fokine’s “Le Pavillon d’Armide” – one of the ballets that manifested the Ballet Russes’ legendary tour to Paris in May 1909. Its libretto by Alexandre Benois (which is based on Théophile Gauthier’s novel “Omphale”) tells of the sorceress Armida who descends at night from a magic tapestry in a marquis’s garden pavilion to bewitch an aristocrat. Petrov relocated the action to a modern-day museum and swapped the tapestry for a wall-sized modern field painting, evoking the work of Mark Rothko (set design by Aliona Pikalova). Instead of an aristocrat, Armida (Anna Domke) beguiles (or rather befools) a young, bored museum attendant (Alexandr Merkushev). Petrov didn’t stint on satire when portraying Armida’s maneuvers, reinstating the humor Benois had deleted when adapting Gautier’s “Omphale”. (more…)

An Insidious Cultural Erosion

“La fille mal gardée”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Teatro Costanzi
Rome, Italy
May 06, 2023 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Simkin (Colas) and R.Bianchi (Lise), “La fille mal gardée” by F.Ashton, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2023 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Two performances of Frederick Ashton’s hilarious “La fille mal gardée” in sunny Rome – doesn’t that sound irresistible? Laughter is inevitable when Lise, the wayward peasant’s daughter, mischievously arranges tête-à-têtes with her lover Colas. That’s how I’ve experienced “La fille mal gardée” previously.
This time, though, the laughter stuck in my throat. Too much did the overexcited quirks of Lise’s mother Simone – a role traditionally danced in drag – remind me of reality. A reality that – at least in some of the western countries – has been shaped by the LGBTQ+ community’s persistent effort to be celebrated within mainstream culture. Bearing in mind some of their avid advocates (the transgender model Dylan Mulvaney, for example, or the drag queen Joshua Kelley who recently was appointed the US Navy’s first digital ambassador), I don’t find Simone funny anymore. And worse, the moment a sense of reality sneaks into Ashton’s village folk, the characterization of Alain (Simone’s favorite son-in-law) as the village idiot becomes unbearable too. Though of marriageable age, he clings to his wealthy father’s coat-tails like an infant. Lise disdains him; the village youth laughs down at him – and so do we. But isn’t he actually the victim of nasty bullying? (more…)

A Gain

“Goldberg-Variationen” (“Tabula Rasa” / “Goldberg-Variationen”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 27, 2023 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Vandervelde, D.Dato, G.Fourés, and ensemble; “Goldberg-Variationen” by H.Spoerli, Vienna State Ballet 2023 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor Since Martin Schläpfer took over the reins of the Vienna State Ballet in 2020, his pre-existing and new choreographies entered the company’s repertoire. Most of them I wouldn’t call assets. However, the most recent double bill is a gain. It combines Ohad Naharin’s “Tabula Rasa” (1986) and Heinz Spoerli’s “Goldberg-Variationen” (1993). Sadly, the livestream of the premiere began only after the break, omitting “Tabula Rasa”. Hence, I can only comment on “Goldberg-Variationen”.

I should have known better, but I was not prepared to read the name of Horst Koegler (1927 – 2012) in the piece description on the Vienna State Ballet’s website. It quotes Koegler who labeled “the Goldberg-Variationen as one of the works from Spoerli’s Bach ballet cathedral which describes people and life in a series of poetic, choreographed images and scenes (…)”. Koegler, one of Germany’s renowned ballet critics and the author of a book about Spoerli, was very well versed with the latter’s oeuvre. He loved “Goldberg-Variationen” – both Bach’s music and its interpretation through dance. Would he have liked Vienna’s one? (more…)