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They just started their joint direction in August 219, and now both Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman will leave Berlin State Ballet at the end of 2020, as they just announced. Öhman has accepted the position of Artistic and Managing Director at the Dansenhus in his hometown Stockholm. Sasha Waltz then decided to leave also and concentrate fully on her artistic work as a choreographer. Öhman started as director in 2018, after Nacho Duato had left prematurely, Waltz joined him in 2019 as co-director. At the moment, Berlin is shocked. The list of possible successors might include Manuel Legris, who leaves Vienna in summer, or Adolphe Binder, who already directed the Ballet of the Komische Oper Berlin some decades ago. German Press release here
I was just in Berlin to see the performance of Jewels on 31st October. Hmm not sure what to make of it. Overall I felt rather disappointed with Emeralds and Rubies. Emeralds was nice but the second lady Weronika Frodyma did not manage the first set of clock movements which was a pity and I sensed that her partnership with Arshak Ghalumyan was not that great. For the clock moves my benchmark is the unforgettable performance I saw of this section by Leanne Benjamin at ROH years ago when they premiered Jewels. The lead couple was Aya Okumura, recently transferred from Dutch NB, with Cameron Hunter (below) and they were very nice. I felt Hunter was a very elegant dancer, so well suited to Emeralds. I enjoyed the pas de trois team of Iana Balova, Danielle Muir and Ulian Topor, whom I really liked watching. However I do wonder if this performance of Emeralds lacked the presence of a principal dancer? Just to raise it up a level? Rubies was a bit flat for me it lacked the excitement and fizz I witnessed when I have seen when McRae/Osipova with tall girls Yanowsky/Lamb dance and when I saw Nancy Osbaldeston and Osiel Guneo in Munich last year. Dinu Tamazlacaru is a favourite dancer of mine and the only principal dancer fielded in this piece, but I felt he needed a bit more speed in places. The 2 ladies were both performing their debuts and I thought Sarah Brodeck did a nice performance of Tall Girl/Solo and Yolanda Correa with Tamazlacaru did well but lacked the sass I have seen displayed by so many other dancers. I also felt the footwork which is quite "square" in Rubies could have been sharper. Correa/Tamazlacaru/Brodbeck I was also disappointed with the Rubies costumes because, as you can see, the pleats on the dresses have no big gems on them and therefore did not make the click clack noise you get with the original Karinska versions as the dresses move. That is somewhat a part of Rubies for me so I missed that. The set was quite striking for Rubies. For me the whole show was saved by Iana Salenko and Marian Walter who gave a good strong performance in Diamonds, and especially the Grand PDD. I thought Salenko looks on great form after her maternity leave and it was so nice to see her on stage again. The costumes worn by the corps and 4 couples did not quite do it for me again either. I did not see Walter kiss Salenko's hand at the very end though, as it usually ends with the lady being surprised by this? However, Salenko always does the most steady en pointe balances and great fouettes and pirouettes so It was lovely to see these and Walter did his circles of jetes really well with very quiet landings! This couple are just very good together and the partnering is spot on in my opinion. As you can see I had a stalls seat so the choreography does not show "quite" as well as when you sit higher up for Balanchine, but it was still OK. The music was very nice and I think played at the correct speed but there was one horn in Diamonds which seemed to totally dominate the whole sound! As I say I was not over enamoured by the overall performance which was a shame given the effort to get there to see it! At least I have now seen Berlin do Jewels, but really I think their Bayadere is much better and perhaps more them.
La Bayadère Berliner Staatsballett. Ratmanksy - amazing production! Seminova as Nikiya, Virelles as Solor, Correa as Gamzatti. I love the way Ratmansky does Grand Ballet Kitsch with total seriousness and commitment. It was on the one hand watching the 19th. Century come alive, but with Bakst’s spirit hovering throughout, and a witty, knowing but academically informed 21st century approach. His use of mime is perfect - no other does it as well. It was truly a language in itself. The dancing first rate throughout (....although first night wobbles visible amongst the Shades, when they were on solid ground not the slope), Polina and Yolanda totally nailed it. Alejandro’s solo a little underpowered, but still a great performance. Loved the sets - the Himalayas in the background, great palace destruction, and fabulous costumes. Riotous applause!
Two snakes for the price of one Having seen two performances of La Bayadere in Berlin in September, although enjoying them, I was left wondering whether this Ratmansky reconstruction was as revelatory as his versions of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake which I have also seen. The extensive mime passages particularly in the first scene, while interesting, added very little more to the narrative that we already know. As in the previous reconstructions there is more demi pointe work for the female corps de ballet. And the Final scene of the destruction of the Temple was little different from the Markarova version for the RB, albeit better staged and with high tech projections. Also interpolated in this scene was music from Don Quixote which was used for the variations of Gamzatti. The only reinstated scene I found in any way revealing was at the beginning of act 2 after the death of Nikya and before the shades scene. Solor returns home deeply distressed and his servant sensing this, makes 2 attempts to distract him. Firstly he summons 2 women to dance for Solor. This is interrupted by a vision of Nikya seen only by Solor who attempts to reunite with her as she quickly disappears. He then angrily dismisses the dancers. The servant then brings in a snake charmer (yes, really) who proceeds to play his pipe and charm the snake out of the basket in an endearing piece of old fashioned stagecraft. Nikya appears again and Solor rushes towards her as she disappears again. In anger he dismisses the snake charmer. How could his poor servant know? Dancing women and a snake were probably the last things Solor needed to see at that point. But the thing about that scene is that it sets up Solor's increasing distress before he goes for the opium which induces the dream/shades scene instead of rushing to the pipe as soon as he arrives. This also improves the pacing of the narrative at that point. The sets and costumes by Jerome Kaplan were adequate and offered nothing new but there were some unfortunate colour combinations of bilious green and faded orange in some women's costumes. I assume that the framing of the set with borders was to create the effect of looking at an Indian miniature. I had hoped to see 2 different casts but it was the same for both perfs. Salenko who was extremely good and invested in the drama, and Daniil Simkin also very good but weaker on the acting side of things. There was quite a bit of wobbling in the shades scene on the Friday night but the company generally performed very well and with great commitment. The story was clearly communicated throughout. So I am left with the feeling that over the years and various different productions, La Bayadere has not suffered too badly from the various revisions and changes and that while interesting to see the reconstruction for me it has a certain antique charm but is not the revelation I had hoped for.