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jmb

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  1. In the last month, I've seen Macmillan's R&J with Karlsruhe Ballet, Cranko's R&J (twice!) with Stuttgart Ballet, and now QB's R&J. And I still love the ballet! Both versions! Mia Heathcote was Juliet, and Romeo was danced by Patricio Reve, who is so new to the company that he's not yet listed in the program. He is another Cuban dancer, and brought the dash and brio that all Cuban male dancers seem to have to the role. Mia Heathcote was a beautiful, strong, and determined Juliet. (Her father, Stephen Heathcote was Lord Capulet ... nothing like keeping things in the family!) Vito Berlesconi danced Tybalt with the usual glower. I could wish that just occasionally dancers could create a more likable Tybalt, something that could be done while preserving his role in provoking Romeo and killing Mercutio (Kohei Iwamoto) - and not from the rear! But Tybalt could be a much more interesting character than the bully he is generally portrayed as. But it was a great production, and showed the company to great advantage. The marketplace scenes, and the Capulet,s ball were wonderful. So I still love R&J!
  2. Mum died on Sunday and I'm at the ballet on Tuesday. She would have approved but, particularly as it was Natalia Osipova's Pure Dance, with (be still my beating heart ), David Hallberg. The evening consisted of 6 individual works, starting with the main pdd from Antony Tudor's The Leaves are Fading. The program says the pdd explores 'reminiscence of love and the bittersweet beauty of the passing of life'. That is not how I saw it. For me, it was a glorious celebration of love. Osipova was electric, Hallberg right there with her. Next up was Ivan Perez' Flutter and we were suddenly in a different universe of movement. Osipova was partnered by Jonathon Goddard, but I really didn't like the piece, so cannot do either him or Osipova justice. This was followed by a moody solo from Hallberg, Absentia. Great. Hallberg seemed to withdraw into himself, silent and alone. He was 'partenered' by a huge shadow of himself, a shadow which he completely ignored, increasing the absence of the title. After interval, Osipova danced Six Years Later (Roy Assaf) with Jason Kittelberger. Superb. We do not learn exactly what happened six years ago, but the dance was tender, forgiving, reaching out for the future. It was followed by Yuka Oishi's Ave Maria, which I found a little bland, in spite of Osipova's dancing. And then the finale, Alex Ratmansky's Valse Triste. A triumph, Osipova and Hallberg together creating all the ups and downs of a relationship ... tender, passionate, furious ... overall a great conclusion to a wonderful evening. Which I needed. Thanks
  3. jmb

    Vale Mum

    A heartfelt thanks to everyone who responded to my post. You don't know me but you reached out to me and I can only say a very humble thank you. The support of people on this forum has been very important to me. So once again, thank you.
  4. jmb

    Vale Mum

    My Mum died last Sunday. She was 94. But why am I writing a memorial here, on the BalletcoForum website? Well, Mum was entirely responsible for my love of ballet. About 6 years ago (yes, so recent!), Mum could no longer follow the narrative thread in shows such as Midsomer Murders and New Tricks. Quite independently, I was given a ticket to The Australian Ballet's La Bayadere. Mum was very jelous, but given her very limited mobility, getting her to the Opera House, not to mention sitting through a three hour ballet, was just not on. So I bought a couple of DVDs. The first was a production of the then Kirov's Swan Lake. I have written elsewhere that this was not a success. Mum thought Seigfried was sulky and, worse, stupid. Anyone could see that Odette and Odile were not the same people. The second was different. Nureyev's Don Quixote. A lovely, light, fun-filled production. Mum loved it. And we watched it every night (except 5!) from November to January, by which time I had found other ballet DVDs. This second batch included Giselle, with Alina Cojocaru. And I was hooked. Fatally. So thanks Mum. She was a lively, laughter filled and feisty woman, a doctor, and you don't come across many professional women of her age, particularly in Australia. (My family emigrated from the UK in the mid-fifties. She never looked back.) She will be hugely missed, and not only by me. So Vale Mum. May you dance with the stars.
  5. Last three performances of the Stuttgart tour: Neumeier's Kameliendame, Kilian's One of a Kind and Macmillan's Mayerling. Let's start with Kameliendame (Marti Fernandez Paixa and Miriam Kacerova). Great dancing, but I really don't know if I like it or not. I found the parallel between Marguerite and Manon initially interesting (Marguerite and Armand meet at a performance of Manon), but finally intrusive. I'd got the point. But the P de D! I need to see the ballet at least once more before I decide like/not like.and heaven only knows when that will be, as I don't think anyone in Australia has it. Pity. Kilian's One of a Kind I really liked, gritty as the story is. Spectacular dancing (Miriam Kacerova, again, and just about everyone else in the company!) Including some really wonderful partnering. Finally, Mayerling. What can I say? I approached it with trepidation, given the terrible nature of the story, but was completely enthralled. Friedemann Vogel gave a wonderful performance as Rudolf in his doomed downward spiral. Elisa Badenes was Mary Vetsera, his 'muse', pushing him into ever greater excesses. But while he sought oblivion, she, I don't think, believed in death. I think she expected to be sitting on a cloud, or some such, watching the action from Beyond with amusement. But what a performance from both of them, and from the rest of the cast. As it was the first time I have seen Mayerling, I could do little else but observe the rest of the cast, but even so, Princess Stephanie made a great impression. I will not easily forget her frozen disgust at the demi-monde of the brothel scene. Striking costuming, in shades of black, white and grey, with the occasional flash of colour, and pared back but effective scenery. So the end of an unforgettable trip, with jetlag to look forward to, and R&J with Queensland Ballet at the end of August.
  6. Well, last week I saw Macmillan's R&J in Karlsruhe. This week it's Cranko's R&J in Stuttgart. Twice. I'll leave comments on the technical apects of the performances to more capable commentators than me. But I am constantly asked which I prefer. I don't. Both are wonderful works, and I love both of them, but I think that Macmillan really gets what it is to be 16, 17, 18 and absolutely, dilariously head over heels in love with a girl who similarly loves you. Think the balcony scene. Cranko is way too restrained. On the other hand, Cranko gets devastation, loss and grief. Act 3 is heart-rending. Is there anything in Cranko's life which explains this understanding? Macmillan Act 3, particularly in the tomb, too often descends into bathos and 'look at me.' In my opinion. The Stuttgart presentations were superb, especially David Moore as Romeo, and the following night Hyo-Jung Kang as Juliet. Now I have to wait till the end of next month for Queensland Ballet's presentation of the Macmillan version!
  7. And for me, Shades of White is the first of nine performances with Stuttgart Ballet that I will see over the next 9 days. No white fatigue with me. John Cranko's Concert for Flute and Harp left me asking why more choreographers don't choreograph for a male corp de ballet. Strong, but such superb pas de deux, great footwork, really exciting dance. And the dancers seemed to be having a ball! Kingdom of the Shades, from La Bayadere was in fact the work that got me into my current infatuation. Well, actually I was appauled by the Orientalism of the piece, but the Kingdom of the Shades was utterly bewitching, so here I am. And SBs presentation shows that they are first and foremost a superb classical company. Balanchine's Symphony in C rounded out the evening. It's an absolute favourite of mine, and this evening was no exception. I walked out of the concert hall about 6 inches off the ground, and was still there next morning. And still 8 more productions to go!
  8. So, you might ask, what's a well-brought-up Australian doing swanning around Karlsruhe? Apart from having a ball, that is. I'm here with Tours en L'aire's trip to the Stuttgart Ballet, and Karlsruhe is an optional add-on. (If anyone wants to know more about my wonderful experience with Tours en L'aire, send me a PM). 5 days, 3 ballets, Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet, Wheeldon's Swan Lake, and a new work by Thiago Bordin, Zukunft Barucht Herkunft, which I have translated as Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: a history of ballet in Karlsruhe over the last 250 years. We kicked off with Romeo and Juliet and I was impressed. Karlsruhe Ballet company is small, about 45 dancers, and I had no great expectations, but they were impressive. Australian (!) Blythe Newman and Pablo Octavio danced the lead roles, and gave excellent interpretations of ecstatic if doomed love. The guy to watch out for, however, is Klevis Neva, whose Mercutio was wonderful. Swan Lake was, I think, less successful. Chemistry between the two leads, Harriet Mills and Zhe Le Xu was lacking and the corps de ballet a times a little ragged. But Rothbart was wonderful, and I really liked Wheeldon's depiction of him as a dissolute roue` intent on seduction. ( The ballet was set at the end of the 19th century in St Petersberg.) But overall, still a great presentation. Finally, Yesterday Today Tomorrow was, to my mind, the weakest of the three ballets. Divided into 9 parts, the first three, covering the beginning, the Baroque and the Romantic periods I really didn't like. Too much slapstick, girls poking each other, (incuding the eyes) and ordering the men around. It did however, relentlessly skewer the 'Hey, look at me' tendency. Things greatly improved after interval, as we moved into the Imperial Ballet, the Ballet Russe, WW2, (masterfully depicted in the legions of women with buckets who removed the rubble) the modern era and the future. The last sections would benefit from some judicious editing. But overall a woderful three nights of ballet, and Stuttgart is yet to come!
  9. So the Bolshoi is back in Brisbane, six years after their earlier visit. I have no idea what brings such stellar companies to Brisbane, and nowhere else. La Scala, Royal Ballet, POB, ABT and now Bolshoi again. It is true that Brisbane is a delightful city with a winter not dissimilar to a standard European summer, but is that all? Anyway, the Bolshoi is here, with Spartacus and Jewels. Let's start with Spartacus. I'm sorry, but I did not warm to Spartacus. I did not care one scintilla for Spartacus or his wife; nor did the ever emoting Crassus or his lady do anything for me. My under thirties nephew commented about fillers, all those Roman soldiers marching around illustrating a) how invincible and b) how trully nasty they were. I hadn't seen things this way, but it gave me a useful filter for viewing the bits before and after the astonishing leaps and bounds produced by Mikhail Lobukhin as Spartacus and Artemy Belyakov as Crassus. And the techical level of the dancers, and especially Lobukhin and Belyakov, was extraordinary. The women, Yulia Stepanova (!) as Aegina and Anna Nikulina as Phrygia were also fantastic: it's a pity that the women tend to get forgotten because of those extraordinary leaps. Anyway, I'm glad that I saw Spartacus but also glad that I don't have another ticket. Jewels, but, was a very different kettle of fish. Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful. Supply your own adjective. The confidence displayed in Emeralds was breathtaking. Every extension, every lift, supported or unsupported, perfectly placed, perfectly executed. Anastasia Denisova was amazing, but so were others too numerous to mention. Rubies was less successful. Not enough sass. The best way I can think of expressing it is to say that the dancers gave the impression that they would go to a high-class wine bar before taking the train home. What I wanted to see (more sass) was a group that would go to an underground bar and after more cocktails than was generally recommended end up at his place. But technically supperb. Finally, Diamonds. Brought it all together. Capybara suggested I look out for Alena Kovaleva, and she, with Jacopo Tissi, danced the leading couple. What can I say? Beautiful. Such a distillation of classical Russian dance. Diamonds indeed. So now I have to wait with bated breath to see who's coming next year.
  10. As selected sections of the doco that preceeds this work make clear, aboriginal dance has had a profound and lasting influence on Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian. His work, Stamping Ground is the central work in this three part program looking back at Bangarra's 30 year history. (30 years of 65,000). It is also the first time that the company has featured a non-indigenous work. And what a work it is! It opens with a single dancer on stage, a dancer who is replaced by another, and another. The 6 dancers introduced, they break into pounding duos and trios, the influence of aboriginal dance seen especially in the movement of the hands, the head and the neck. But it is influence, not imitation. Staming Ground is preceeded by the 2004 work Unaipon, by Francis Rings, now Associate Director of the company. This work celebrates the life of David Unaipon, Australia's first great aboriginal intellectual, in 7 parts, each dealing with an aspect of Unaipon's life. I remember best String Games, which involved the dancers interacting with lines of twine across the stage. String games in traditional life are a major means of story telling and passing on cultural knowledge. Finally, To Make Fire consists of extracts from four seminal works, starting with the 2008 work Mathinna. I found this last, commemorating as it does the kidnap and rape of young aboriginal women, acutely uncomfortable, especially as I grew up in Tasmania, where this dance is set. When I grew up, the genocide of Tasmanian aborigines was not even mentioned at school. Through, among other things, the work of Bangarra, and Bangarra's wonderful dancers this has changed. I left the theatre thoughtful and moved, and profoundly glad that even if the Royal Ballet is a long way from my finger tips, we have Bangarra, and Queensland Ballet, not to mention the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Theatre. Among others! How lucky am I?
  11. Free speech is not as simple as it sounds. Young gay boys have committed suicide because of the homophobic comments made on-line. Is the right to say anything you want more important than young mens' lives?
  12. I saw Queensland Ballet's Masters Series; Balanchine's Serenade, Kylian's Soldier's Mass and McIntyre's The Shadows Behind Us on consecutive nights last week, each night a similar distance from the stage, but on opposite sides of the theatre. I saw two rather different performances. First off was Serenade, a work that I have seen on Youtube, but never in real life. Superb. Really, different but superb, from both angles. The corps de ballet established a gloriously romantic setting for the action, if that is the right word. Yanela Pinera and Victor Estevez on Friday, followed by Laura Hidalgo and Kohei Iwamoto on Saturday encapsulated beauty and elegance, while Lucy Green, Georgia Swan and Patricio Reve on Friday and Lina Kim, Vanessa Morelli and Dylan Lackey on Saturday represented heartbreak, betrayal and the ballerina's vulnerability. I know this is a long list of utterly unfamiliar names, but these dancers deserve that their performances be recognised. They were wonderful. McIntyre's The Shadows Behind Us was, to my mind, much less successful. Friday night's performance I did not like at all. I was more impressed with the performance on Saturday night, but am not at all sure of the extent to which this was the result of sitting in a different section of the theatre. Trey McIntyre is a freelance choreographer and founder of the Trey McIntyre Project, a full time company based in Boise, Idaho. The Shadows Behind Us consists of 6 (mostly) pas de deux danced to what McIntyre calls pop songs. I am not sure that characterising songs such as 'Sometimes I feel like a motherless child' or 'Our day will come' as pop songs is appropriate, but the distance between the choreography of Serenade and that of The Shadows Behind Us could scarcely have been greater. The latter featured holds and lifts involving men and women grappling each other and throwing or at times dragging each other across the stage. Hmmmm. Finally, I really liked Kylian's Soldier's Mass, different again as it was. Danced by 12 male dancers, it is really unlike any ballet I have previously seen. It celebrates the comradeship and mutual support that develops between young soldiers, and is unrelentingly anti-war. Seemingly simple but actually fiendishly difficult choreography. Overall, a satisfying evening and I will remember Serenade for a long time to come.
  13. You may remember that Graeme Murphy, TAB's famous choreographer, pulled out of presenting his latest work, The Little Prince only a couple of months before it was due to premiere. Ill health. Anyway, TAB replaced it, in Sydney, with Giselle, which was presented in Melbourne last year ( I saw it with David Hallberg as Albrecht. Unforgettable.) This presentation was good but not great. Ako Kondo was a feather-light Giselle, dazzled by the wonderful, good-looking, apparently considerate creature who was interested in her. You saw her move from dutiful daughter, remembering her mother's (undoubted) warnings, to confident and care-free woman, secure in her love. You saw her reluctance to hurt Hilarion (Andrew Killian) but her determination to respect her own feelings. Chengwu Guo, as Albrecht, was less impressive. He is a great dancer, capable of exploding into action, apparently from stillnes. However, his Albrecht showed no development. You did not see him gradually fall in love with Giselle. In fact his somewhat disengaged demenour at the beginning of Act 1 was largely unchanged at the end of the act. Act 2 was better, but I got little sense of the desperation which needs to underpin Albrecht's dancing. The dancing of the corps de ballet was wonderful, rivetting. In Act 1 they created a sunny, untroubled vision of village life against which the tragedy unfolded. In Act 2 they were steely and flint-hearted: exacting terrible revenge for their own suffering. Overall, a good evening, so I will avoid unnecessary comparisons with last year in Melbourne.😊
  14. Sydney Dance Companies' latest celebrates 90 years of performance, which appears to be an improbably long time. Deborah Jones, in her review, cites 50 years, but 90 years was projected onto the stage curtain last night. Whatever, the program shows SDC to be in rude health. It consisted of three works: Bonacela's Cinco, Nankivell's Neon Aether and Lane's Woof. Lane's Woof is an unforgettable creation, for me the first two thirds of which brought the Elgin marbles strongly to mind. Not in terms of the shapes created by individual dancers, but by the way that groups of dancers defined the space around them: triangles, squares, rectangles. Much of the dancing in the last third was on demi-point and dancers gradually moved from the geometric shapes created by groups to pairings and single dancers, although the group as a whole remained on stage. Nankivell's Neon Aether, to a clanking, banging score that at times included the human voice, evokes our relationship with space, outer space. As with Woof, the group predominates, but a red-clad Ariella Casu strikes an individual and often lonely figure, especially as the piece closes with her dancing alone on a mist-shrouded stage. Bonacela's Cinco, featuring, not unexpectedly, five dancers to Alberto Ginastera's Second String Concerto, is a completely abstract work devoted to exploring the relationship between movement and music, and between the dancers and the shapes they make. Overall, a memorable evening, and one which promises a rich and fulfilling 50 (or 90!) years to come.
  15. For those of you who have followed my news flashes about the drought, I spent last week in far western New South Wales. Flat, flat, flat. Yellow, yellow, yellow. Dry, dry, dry. Even the Old Man Salt Bushes are dying. What else can I say? Poor fellow, my country. But turning to The Australian Ballet's first offering of the year: Verve, a program of three short ballets all by TAB's resident choreographers. First up was Stephen Baynes' Constant Variants. Stephen Baynes has been resident choreographer with TAB since 1995, and Constant Variants was great. Reasonably conventional, but great. Music, setting, lighting and dance worked wonderfully together. Setting was dominated by a number of huge right angles, picture frame corners lit in golds, ambers and greys. The dancers themselves were meagerly lit, yellow light that left part of each dancer in darkness. Music -Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, which set the stage for the variations in the dance. Main event of the evening was Alice Topp's Aurum. Alice Topp is TAB's most recently appointed choreographer (last year) and a Choryphee with the company. Aurum was extraordinary. The work is inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold lacquer. Breakage thus becomes an acknowledged part of the history of the object. Aurum asks us to celebrate our imperfections and discover beauty in our brokeness. As Leonard Cohen says, "There's a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." The vocabulary of movement was far more ground-breaking than was the case in Stephen Baynes' work. Really exciting. Very simple stage dominated by a backdrop reminiscent of cracks in ceramic, cracks which are suddenly and unexpectedly illuminated in gold at the end of the first movement. Interesting work with shadows. At one point the dancers' huge shadows shrink as they approach the back of the stage. Then the dancers move in one direction while their shadows move off-stage. Sounds 'cheap thrills', but it works! Final work of the evening was Tim Harbour's Filigree and Shadow, and I have to confess that I did not warm to this work. Frantic music and movement. The governing metaphor was explained as that of birds in a cyclone. Apparently, such birds fly above the maelstrom below, and, while they may be blown hundreds of kilometers off course, they survive the experience. To my mind, that leaves them in the middle of the Pacific with no land in any direction for hundreds of kilometers. A wonderful and engrossing evening, but when I got home I found an email from TAB thanking me for attending and offering half-price tickets if I wanted to go again. Did I?! But no tutus and no nice ballerinas, so audiences must be down. Aaaaaggghh!
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