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Found 3 results

  1. Seduction in various guises is the common thread of the current mixed bill at Stuttgart Ballet, and its title. I saw the programme on Friday evening. Katarzyna Kozielska’s Dark Glow explores the negative side of seduction. To new music by Gabriel Prokofiev, the piece includes a lead couple and a female soloist (Hyo-Jung Kang & Pablo von Sternenfels and Ami Morita on Friday, the latter two in debuts), three more couples and a female corps, all in shades of pastel colours. The leads and the three couples illustrate aspects of friendship and love through various PDD with high lifts; the corps moves as a group and does not interact with the others. After some time, strong lights appear from the top and most dancers now wear the same black long shirt. Their movements have become uniform and they are attracted by the lights, assembling underneath and looking up expectantly. As the lights come closer, the dancers bend their heads and look down to the floor, curbing their upper bodies under the intensity of the lights. The male lead joins the group, the female lead is left hesitating whether to join or stay on her own, isolated. There is no indication as to what the lights stand for, leaving plenty of room for individual interpretation, and I found this piece incredibly powerful and thought-provoking. Change of mood with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun, which is quite possibly the most sensual piece that I’ve seen over the last ten years. He uses Debussy’s music (for the faun’s introductory solo) plus that of Nitin Sawhney (for the nymph’s introductory solo), and a combination of both for the remainder of the piece. The backcloth shows a wooded area clad in soft sunlight. The faun wakes up with some animal-like movements – slow curbing of the spine, parts of a headstand, moving along the floor in a wide grand plie … He comes on stage again towards the end of the nymph’s solo and sees her. He retreats, she takes the initiative and touches his toes with her toes. That’s when their movements synchronise for a short while, before they start to interweave their arms, their legs, their bodies, in ever changing variations, and in all possible and impossible contortions. They move side by side and go back to entwining. The sunlight on the backcloth changes slightly at various points of the choreography, illustrating the length of the interaction. This piece was truly spellbinding. The performance on Friday was a double debut for Elisa Badenes and Adam Russell-Jones, and they received a huge roar of approval. Marco Goecke’s Le Spectre de la Rose is based on Fokine’s ballet. Goecke adds another piece of music by von Weber, and also a number of ghosts in red velvet suits who scatter red rose pedals on the stage. Red clothing also for the Rose (Louis Stiens on Friday evening, another debut) – red pants covered in rose pedals, and red gloves made out of rose pedals. Movements are typical Goecke with fluttering hands, but he keeps e.g., the jump with which the Rose comes on stage, and adds arm movements that evoke the shape of a rose. My only regret is that I watched a video of Fokine’s version only after I saw Goecke’s piece rather than beforehand. Maurice Bejart’s Bolero, on Friday with Jason Reilly dancing on the table. What can I say; it’s just fascinating to watch how the dance builds up in intensity, commensurate with the increasing volume of the music, and how simple steps can be used to such great effect. The company has published a trailer of the programme on their web site https://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/. The current run is sold out, and the odd return ticket becomes available.
  2. When I walk through town the day after the performance, outlining some of the movements that I saw the day before, my head bobbing to the music that keeps playing in my head … (… well, then the post gets very long? sorry!). I saw the matinee and the evening performances of Bejart’s 9th Symphony based on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Brussels on Saturday, delivered by Bejart Ballet Lausanne and The Tokyo Ballet, with an orchestra and choir from Antwerp, 4 soloist singers and a number of (non-professional local?) dancers. Following three years of research and preparation, performed in Tokyo in 2014 and in other locations since, it was initially scheduled to be shown in Brussels last spring - back in the city where the piece was premiered in 1964 - and then pushed back to the end of last week. As on the DVD from one of the performances in Tokyo in 2014, The Tokyo Ballet performed the 1st movement and Bejart Ballet Lausanne the 2nd and 3rd movements, before they came together for the 4th movement, joined by the additional dancers for the corps. The programme book states that Bejart described the four parts as earth/ struggle to reach an ideal, fire/ joy of dance, water/ love and liberty/ air. The colour of the costumes (shades of brown, bright red, white, shades of warm yellow) and the choreography follow along these lines. In the first movement, dancers yearn – they raise a leg, stretch out an arm. They struggle – they make a fist, they lie in a foetus-like position on the floor, men carry women who seem to be devoid of life. Repeatedly double tours for the men into plie in second, clenching fists. A high lift shows a woman, clenching fists. Individuals break out from their group and yet go back into their group, or are held back in the first place. The atmosphere changes completely in the second movement, to boundless joy. A virtuoso male solo is followed by a female solo which replicates the man’s movements. They take it in turns to dance, looking at each other smilingly. I was in awe at Masayoshi Onuki on Saturday evening, who was able to jump up unbelievably high into the splits (sissones?) from a squatting position, all while smiling at his partner. In the matinee, I much enjoyed Lawrence Rigg’s dancing as the male lead, his winning smile, open eyes, sunny outlook. There was a moment in the matinee performance when I was so much fascinated by Kathleen Thielhelm as female lead that I needed the evening performance with Kateryna Shalkina to take in what else was going on. The other dancers hold hands up high while they dance in circles, they hop on one leg, on one occasion even with a movement of their arms as if skipping. The high lift from the first movement reappears, this time with the woman stretching out her fingers rather than making fists. Fists do appear however are then changed to fingers stretched out wide, illustrating the move from struggle to joy. Change of emotions again with the third movement. Zubin Metha described the music as “the love song of all times” (see below link on Youtube). The choreography is tender, intimate, calm. The male lead for this part slowly walks forward with developes and lies down on the floor. The female lead has a very similar solo, walking towards the man. They dance a tender PDD side by side, flexing and pointing their feet, turning their heads to both sides and towards each other in unison, emphasising their common understanding. They dance one behind the other, providing emotional proximity and intimacy. Elisabet Ros and Julien Favreau on Saturday evening displayed such dreamlike fluidity and understanding, they looked so much in tune with each other, as if the two were just one. Two other couples and then three more couples joined the stage, and the light that was a single spot at the start grew wider and wider. The fourth movement starts with a male soloist (Connor Barlow from BBL in both the matinee and the evening performances on Saturday) who is then joined one by one by the male leads from the first three segments, each coming on stage – still wearing the colour from their own movement - with a trademark movement (in the evening, Dan Tsukamoto for the first movement, Masayoshi Onuki with a wonderful grand jete that seemed suspended in air, Julien Favreau with a develope), and then one by one synchronising their movements until they dance as quartet. This is also when the clothing for all subsequent dancers changes to yellow. Other soloists join and are followed by the corps, dancing solos, in groups, in circles, in lines. They hold hands, walking forward to the front of the stage to the words of “all men become brothers”. At the close of the music, they run in several concentric circles, holding hands, with a female soloist in the centre, her arms stretched out high, endlessly, joyful, free, as brothers and sisters. “All men become brothers”, a timeless and universal message. The fitting floor design was reminiscent of celestial arrangements, showing symmetrical lines and circles of different diameters – such as planets as part of the universe. BBL on their Facebook page say the four performances between Friday and Sunday were seen by 25,000 spectators. While there were shouts of bravo after the second and third movements in the matinee, the audience on Saturday evening kept it all to the end of the performance. It was thunderous. Kudos to all involved for their commitment and stamina for the four performances in the space of 48 hours. The cast sheets for the two performances on Saturday showed the same names for the dancers from The Tokyo Ballet; equally most dancers with BBL were on stage both times, and often in the same roles. The same four soloist singers, the same orchestra, the same two percussionists. There are lots and lots of photos and videos from the performances on Instagram, in particular of the fourth movement (try hashtags such as bejartballet, bejartballetlausanne and tokyoballet, and the event location Forest National - Vorst Nationaal). An exhibition at the Musee Bejart Huis in Brussels about Bejart’s 9th Symphony runs until mid-February. It shows press reviews of the premiere in Brussels in 1964 and of subsequent performances in Moscow, Italy and Paris as well as photographs and videos of rehearsals over the years. The DVD of one of the Tokyo performances in 2014 runs on a loop. There will be a series of exhibitions in 2017 in memory of Maurice Bejart. The documentary “Dancing Beethoven” by Arantxa Aguirre about the preparation of the 2014 performances in Tokyo will be shown in cinemas in Switzerland from Feb 2017 (other countries?). Short extracts of the documentary have been published by BBL on Youtube, here the link to the first part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbTs15mV02M&index=1&list=PLd3QIPr4xOcImxzF9EVaN6F4JqtZ3oU0B edited for typo
  3. 1987 saw the creation of Béjart Ballet Lausanne, 2007 the death of Maurice Béjart. The current programme “Béjart fête Maurice” honours the double anniversary; I saw the double bill on Saturday evening. Part 1 is a new piece with the title t’M et Variations, choreographed by Gil Roman. It is inspired by the many letters that Maurice Béjart wrote to Roman during his lifetime, and Roman’s choreography is seen as a response to these letters through dance. It celebrates dance, and it is, to quote from the programme book, a “declaration of love to Maurice Béjart and to life”. Roman explains the piece as “the heritage provided by Maurice as I see it and as it continues to live …”. There is no explanation given in the programme book as to what “t’M” stands for; I’ve been reading this in terms of “t’aime”, “t’aime, Maurice” or “toi, Maurice”. t’M et Variations shows dancers in the studio and in their interaction with others through a series of PDD/ pas de trois, a solo and a few group elements. Performed to a marvellous mix of percussion live on stage by Thierry Hochstaetter and jB Meier (and using a lot more than just drums) and music on tape by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, dancers wear smart colour-coordinated practice clothing. Dancers react in amazement at a colleague’s arabesque. A dancer takes a bow at the audience’s applause which is played on tape. In a solo, Elisabet Ros is unhappy with her dancing on pointe, takes off the shoes, puts them on her hands as if they were gloves, and uses her hands to practice the virtuosity that she was unable to achieve with her feet. Another part shows a relationship triangle between a woman and two men. Etc etc. The part that I enjoyed most was a duet to string and guitar music on tape by Gabriel Arenas Ruiz and Vito Pansini, walking casually next to each other, almost holding hands, moving to a PDD, and in the end splitting up. If the first part was looking into the future, the second part “Béjart fête Maurice“ was showing where the company has come from. Sitting in a corner of the stage, Gil Roman read a text about the barre, the mirror and the floor as part of a dancer’s daily routine while various dancers came on stage to do basic exercises at the barre. What then followed were ten short extracts that Roman chose from the many works that Béjart had created. Most of them were from works that I hadn’t even heard of previously – 1789… et nous, Heliogabale, Wien Wien nur Du allein, Light, Patrice Chéreau, Dibouk, Hamlet, Rossiniana, Bhakti. Using music from different corners of the world, making references to theatre and historical figures across the centuries, and using a vast range of choreographic styles. The last part was particularly moving as the dancers who performed an extract from 1789… et nous were joined one by one by the dancers of the other pieces, all still in their respective costumes. They then all performed signature movements from their own pieces until the whole company, and including Gil Roman, was united on stage, and the barre that featured at the beginning of the piece was carried back on stage so as to complete the circle. The audience was ecstatic. Many loud and admiring shouts of bravo. Rhythmic clapping. Standing ovation across the stalls. The woman next to me was very much at the shrieking end of shouting (and I don’t mean this in a negative way). I had bought the ticket when the details of the programme had not been confirmed yet, and I was a little disappointed initially when I realised that I wouldn’t be seeing any of Béjart’s trademark pieces. It turns out that the evening was an eye opener for me. It highlighted the breadth of topics covered and choreographic styles used by Béjart. What struck me with regards to many dancers of the company was the intensity of their glances, their eyes. The one dancer, however, who positively stunned me on Saturday evening with his intensity and expressiveness was Julien Favreau. Based on what I’ve been watching on the web since, I guess next time I’ll be at the shrieking end of shouting, too. --- edited for typo
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