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  1. The Stuttgart production with new sets and costumes by Jürgen Rose will be online for 24 hours from April 11th, 18.00 CET to April 12th, 18.00 CET on Stuttgart Ballet's Youtube Chanel https://www.youtube.com/c/dasstuttgarterballett The cast is the premiere cast at Stuttgart, with Friedemann Vogel (Rudolf), Elisa Badenes (Mary), Miriam Kacerova (Elisabeth), Alicia Amatriain (Larisch), Diana Ionescu (Stephanie), Anna Osadcenko (Mizzi), Marcia Haydée (Sophie) and Egon Madsen (Franz Josef).
  2. I suspect the answer to this is going to be "no", but my daughter is reading Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin" and hasn't yet been able to see a performance of Cranko's ballet. She was away when RB last performed it in 2015 (?) and too young for it prior to that. I know the Tchaikovsky opera is widely available on DVD but apart from excerpts of and interviews about the ballet on Youtube, there doesn't seem to be a recording of the full ballet available anywhere. Nor does the RB or any other company seem likely to stage the ballet in the UK this year or next. Am I remembering correctly that there isn't a DVD of the full ballet in existence?
  3. Its certainly a boon time for Ballet companies putting up on the internet past performances of their ballets, below are a three Stuttgart Ballet's "The Sleeping Beauty" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GDNAN6x-C4 Teatro San Carlo The Nutcracker (with Vadim Muntagirov and Lauren Cuthbertson) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBVTr1oxbFs&t=14s Cinderella Act 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DauSAFpSApI Act 2 and 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgEHoSIALYU&t=9s We all need a bit of light in such trying times
  4. Fabulous insight event (“Ballet Talk”) this morning about the forthcoming premiere of Mayerling with Stuttgart Ballet. Tamas Detrich spoke about why he chose to add Mayerling to the repertoire in Stuttgart – he’d seen the work performed by the Stanislavsky Ballet and was “blown away” by it, thought that the dramatic narrative would work well in Stuttgart with its history of three-act story ballets by John Cranko, and had been looking to get Juergen Rose involved. Gerald Dowler talked about the creation of the work for the Royal Ballet in 1978 and its reception – in London and elsewhere - over time as well as about recurring focus areas in Kenneth MacMillan’s works. This was really useful to refresh my memory since I last saw Mayerling at the ROH but more importantly his description of MacMillan’s choreographic style made me think that I should really really really really go for a ticket for Mayerling as vivid images came to mind from a number of scenes throughout the ballet. I was probably sitting there with a permanent grin on my face throughout the event. Mikhail Agrest, guest conductor with Stuttgart Ballet, described Lanchbery’s choice of music by Franz Liszt for Mayerling - theatrical, romantic, sweeping, music with a Hungarian touch, and he referred to a piece that Franz Liszt had written for Empress Elisabeth. Juergen Rose gave a humorous account of how he needed convincing that he should take on the costume & set design for Mayerling and highlighted how instrumental Marcia Haydee was in ultimately achieving this. Equally entertaining was his description of the challenges that he encountered and the solutions that he identified with regards to the sourcing of the set as well as of the fabric for the costumes. So the carriage that they located in Styria is from the 1880s, and the furniture that they unearthed in an antiquity shop near Munich is from that time period, too. As for the costumes, he went with different colours for different roles so as to facilitate the identification of who is who within the ballet. The costume designs for the hunt scene in Act 3 have been inspired by pictures of Emperor Franz Joseph in lederhosen, and so some dancers wear lederhosen during that scene. Tamas Detrich confirmed that there’ll be further performances of Mayerling next season. There is also an insight event planned for the end of the current season which will deal specifically with Rose’s costumes. Rehearsal pictures on the company’s web site https://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/schedule/a-z/mayerling/
  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. A fabulous Wednesday evening with a total of 10 works by “Young Choreographers” (“young” in the sense that they aren’t established choreographers yet i.e., not related to their age), some of whom are dancers with the company while others are based elsewhere. Some of those with the company participated for the first time whereas others had already contributed in previous years. Stuttgart Ballet has taken on the organisation of these annual events from the Noverre Society, and so this year’s event was the first one that was organised by the company. What made this year’s programme special for me was that I enjoyed pretty much all of the works shown, certainly aided by the introduction provided to each piece via audio recording, enabling the audience to gain an insight into the choreographer’s motivations. Highlights for me were the following, in order of occurrence - Aurora De Mori – Pompei. A piece in two parts, before and after the volcanic eruption. Part 1 to music from Orff’s Carmina Burana with joyful movements by dancers in loose white shirts. Part 2 with dancers in ashen unitards to much more contemplative music by Bizet, and trying to deal with the complete change in environment e.g., hands seen pressing against white cloth as if seeking to get through thick clouds of white smoke/ ash following the eruption. Musical, emotive, thought-provoking. - Agnes Su – White Light. The piece explores the composition of white light i.e., the colours red, blue and green and the effects caused by their interaction. Three dancers, each representing one of the three colours dance in light shafts of that colour. Their interaction creates light in different colours until the light emerges as white when they all come together. Poetic, contemplative, thoughtful. - Alessandro Giaquinto – Just Sometimes. The title of the piece refers to the fact that in thinking something through or exploring something, it is only sometimes that such depth is achieved that the outcome is meaningful. The choreography thus shows dancers searching for this “something sometimes”. I thought that the piece definitely found this “something sometimes”. - Fraser Roach – Demon Days. This was glorious, surreal, hilarious, scary, just wonderful, all at once. Three couples in early 20th-century (?) costumes, one of them shy, the other happy and flirty, the third one calm, plus one person sitting on a bench and reading a newspaper. A person clothed in black with a hunchback and a long stick appears. The couples are scared by this appearance, and all is well again once that person has left. An eerie couple in white appears (Elisa Badenes/ David Moore), they attack the 3 couples. Not much of a chance for these couples to go unharmed … until an angel appears from above (Matteo Crockard-Villa). The angel’s display of exaggerated delicate feminine movements (e.g., hip shaking to remove the belt that had held the angel while it was being lowered down from the top, bourrees on demi pointe) led to repeated outbursts of laughter by the audience. The angel triumphs over the couple in white, and the 3 other couples are saved. Yet the couple in white returns and prevails over the angel. The person reading the newspaper has been oblivious to all this throughout the piece. He succumbs to the couple in white when they attack him from behind, and the piece ends with the reader’s shriek as the lights go off. The piece had a clear storyline, a beginning, a middle, an end, superbly fitting costumes, it had the right length and it came with great acting by those on stage. Wow just wow. Did Fraser Roach take part in any of the choreographic competitions at the RBS when he trained there? - Shaked Heller – Polosma. Rhythmic and musical with clear lines, enrapturing the audience. - Armen Arturi (Aalto Ballet Essen) – Many a Moon. My ability to take it all in was somewhat reduced towards the end of the evening but I thought this piece was just utterly impressive with its mix of choreography, costumes and lighting. Much looking forward to next year’s event. A review in a local newspaper so as to have more than one viewpoint on this year’s event, and with lots of pictures of the various works https://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.der-noverre-jahrgang-2019-stellt-sich-vor-junge-taenzer-und-wie-sie-die-welt-sehen.bd15ecc7-0791-41e5-870c-b0b7ed3825c2.html, and via google translate https://translate.google.de/translate?hl=&sl=de&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de%2Finhalt.der-noverre-jahrgang-2019-stellt-sich-vor-junge-taenzer-und-wie-sie-die-welt-sehen.bd15ecc7-0791-41e5-870c-b0b7ed3825c2.html&sandbox=1
  8. This mixed programme premiered last Thursday, inspired by the 100th anniversaries of both the creation of the Bauhaus and the events surrounding the adoption of the Weimar Constitution. Katarzyna Kozielska’s piece IT.Floppy.Rabbit draws on designs created by artists at the Bauhaus. The lamp designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld is depicted through a white, semi-translucent lamp shade with a dancer in shiny black as lampstand underneath who does lots of bourrees. A dancer crawls along the floor, moving towards the lamp (a metaphor for searching and finding the iconic design?). A PDD makes use a Bauhaus design for a cloth, the performing couple is linked by the fabric, making for intriguing choreography. A video shows a figure from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet being drawn. Other than the initial solo, lots of PDD and dancing in groups, with female dancers on pointe. Costumes and hairstyles are inspired by those at the time, too – bobs for the female dancers and identical tight tops & shiny shorts which are tight at the waist and pretty wide at the legs. The music is rhythmic, pulsating a well as soft with strings and percussion. The piece ends with lots of small lamps lit behind a semi-transparent screen (an indication that the Bauhaus has been fully established & the designs have been made widely available?). The introductory talk explained that Edward Clug got inspired for his work Patterns in 3/4 by paintings created at the Bauhaus. The work is design oriented and playful. Tall light grey movable structures that look like the mirror image of the letter “L” illustrate what I think are the bottom right hand corners of window frames (a plant is put on one of them later on). Lots of arm swinging in front of the body in combination with (quarter) turns each. A dancer moves one of those small red push birds that are designed to help toddlers learn to walk across the stage. Heads bob along the lower part of the window frames. Dancers wear identical black pants and white shirts with a red line along the spine, female dancers in ballet flats this time. The music in three-four time (hence the title of the work) incudes Steve Reich’s Tokyo/ Vermont Counterpoint (so that was a good dose of music by Steve Reich at the weekend, I don’t hope it’ll be before long that I’ll have that pleasure again). If the first two pieces referred to the Bauhaus, Revolt by Nanine Linning took its inspiration from the tumultuous times surrounding the adoption of the Weimar Constitution. The choreography portrays how protest movements, based on the right to free speech, arise and develop, starting with the activities of individuals who then carry others with them (while still others initially walk past without paying attention) to form groups that then increase in size. Movements just as the music pulsating, moving forward, combative. Again the same costumes for female and male dancers, in shades of blue, with face masks towards the end, and no shoes this time. I found this programme convincing in a number of ways - based on historical events, the link to another art form, the clear and straightforward stage designs, the identical costumes for female and male dancers, the fact that most of the choreography doesn't reflect the dancer's positions in the company, and that there lots of members of the corps on stage. So the programme was really interesting, and it was also positively life affirming. Thinking about the works that I had seen – in Stuttgart and elsewhere – over the previous months, I had started to wonder where the sparkle had gone. This programme has shown that it is still there and very much a matter of choreographic styles and musical choices. Fingers crossed for tickets for performances of this programme towards the end of this season. Link to pictures https://www.swr.de/swr2/kultur-info/ballett-abend-aufbruch-in-stuttgart-ueber-100-jahre-bauhaus-und-weimarer-verfassung/-/id=9597116/did=23750942/nid=9597116/1hhyjbj/index.html Link to extracts from the three works https://www.swr.de/kunscht/ballett-aufbruch/-/id=12539036/did=23431918/nid=12539036/30wbqs/index.html
  9. The festival week in celebration of Reid Anderson’s 22 years as Artistic Director of the company is in full swing, having kicked off with a cinema viewing of Romeo & Juliet last Friday and ending with a gala performance this coming Sunday. Full programme here https://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/schedule/festival-anderson/. Some nights I can’t do, others show works that I’ve seen recently, so last night’s performance of Party Pieces was the first programme that I attended. All works in Party Pieces were created for specific occasions over the last 22 years e.g., birthdays, galas, Young Choreographers’ evenings, and they were all celebrated enthusiastically last night, as were the dancers. Some of the works had also been shown at Sadler’s Wells in 2013 (e.g., Marco Goecke’s Fancy Goods, Demis Volpi’s Little Monsters), two of the pieces were performed to huge acclaim by former First Soloists of the company (Marijn Rademaker in a solo from Edward Clug’s Ssss…, Daniel Camargo in Katarzyna Kozielska’s Firebreather, a piece full of virtuosity, Camargo was indeed breathing fire so-to-speak, dance wise), some humorous pieces (e.g., Rolando d’Alesio’s Come Neve al Sole, showing a couple in various states of their relationship, whereby the handling of their loose-fitting and very elastic shirts was key to illustrating the state their relationship was in), the PDD were dreamy / emotional/ angular and rhythmic. Cheers and ovations at multiple curtain calls, leading to standing ovations when Reid Anderson came back on stage as part of the final curtain call. The work from Tuesday night’s recent programme The Fab Five that I would have liked to see again but couldn’t make it was Marco Goecke’s Almost Blue, set to three songs by Etta James (At last, Trust in me, Sunday kind of love). Taking the three songs in this order, it seems to encapsulate the stages of a relationship from finding/ falling in love to realisation that not all is well/ that the ideal is unachievable. Early on, some of the dancers wear long black gloves, giving them the silhouette of a jazz singer some decades ago, possibly of Etta James herself. The lyrics of At last include a reference to the blue sky, and so with the third song in mind, the sky is almost blue, cue the title of piece (… my reading …). Lots of sand falls down on stage as part of the final song, and there is an emotional solo by the wonderful Alessandro Giaquinto who has red paint splattered across his upper body, originating from where his heart is located, and thus depicting the emotional pain of the person in question. A brilliant illustration of the content of the three songs by Etta James, but so much more for me in that I also see this piece as a reflection on Goecke’s time with the company over the last ten to fifteen years ( … again, my reading …). There are some works by Goecke that make me think “hmm”, others that I enjoy watching, and those that I utterly adore. Almost Blue clearly falls into the latter category. What a masterpiece, I can’t get enough of it, and I do hope it’ll be back on stage somewhere soon. Now ... just back from the Encounters double bill Dances at a gathering/ Initials R B.M.E. What a night ... details to follow, once I've emerged from paradise and come back down to earth.
  10. We don't appear to have an overarching thread for next season's cinema ballet broadcasts, so here it is! Details of the Bolshoi season are here: Do we have the Royal Ballet details anywhere yet? I can't find them.
  11. This year’s programme of “Ballet in the Park” included the live broadcast of Maximiliano Guerra’s Don Quixote by Stuttgart Ballet on Saturday evening and a mixed programme performed by the John Cranko School on Sunday morning. This was also the 11th anniversary of such live broadcasts, and it was explained that the inspiration came from a public viewing in Trafalqar Square in 2006! With approximately 7,500 people in attendance on Saturday evening (I’ve also seen a figure of 10,000 though this will maybe include the broadcast on Sunday morning), the area dedicated to the live broadcast was closed to avoid overcrowding, and people were thus watching even from across the lake just outside the Opera House. I went to see Don Quixote predominantly for the wedding celebrations in act 3, with the lead roles danced by Elisa Badenes and Adhonay Soares da Silva. Once I was there, I realised that this was also one more opportunity to see Robert Robinson and Myriam Simon perform before they leave the company at the end of this season, and to witness the official farewell to Georgette Tsinguirides, who retires after 72 years with the company. There was a short speech by Reid Anderson in praise of Tsinguirides before the start of the performance, she gave a sparkling and humorous interview during one of the intervals, and there was a procession of dancers and colleagues past (Birgit Keil, Vladimir Klos, Egon Madsen … and others whom I didn’t recognise) and present following the final curtain call, presenting her with red roses and other flowers and some very intensive, memorable and emotional hugs. On to Elisa Badenes and Adhonay Soares da Silva in the lead roles of Kitri and Basilio. Oh, act 3 was so much worth the wait with their magnificent solo variations and PDD! I couldn’t take my eyes of Soares da Silva, only 20 years old, and promoted to the rank of Soloist recently. Clean double tours en l’air followed by pirouettes followed by double tours …, and on and on it went, all with an exuberant smile. Also, the scene in act 3 where he pretends to be dead was so funny, right from when he falls down on the floor, then Kitri removing the knife with his upper body bouncing up, and Basilio reaching out for her body (which is not something that I would normally find overly funny however this was so much over the top, I just couldn’t help bursting out laughing). What a night! Back in the park on Sunday morning for a performance by the John Cranko School. I got badly sunburnt and didn’t notice a thing while I was there as I was so mesmerised by the dancing. The programme covered the broad spectrum of the students’ training, from Lavrovsky’s Classical Symphony via neoclassical choreography to a number of short contemporary works, and closing off with “Extracts from Etudes”, bringing together students of all age groups, from flexing/ pointing of toes by the youngest students to highly technical jumps and turns by the graduating class. Highlights for me were seeing The Four Seasons again (more about this work in last year’s post ... extract below), Classical Symphony with Gabriel Figueredo (who was so impressive as Tadzio in Death in Venice recently) as male lead in the first part and Natalie Thornley-Hall as female lead in the second part (luminous and full of poise and maturity), and Goecke’s revised version of A Spell on You. I am very happy to be back to see the same programme from within the Opera House next Sunday. Next year’s Ballet in the Park broadcasts will be gala performances by the company and the school, both with international guests, as part of the festive week to celebrate Reid Anderson’s directorship.
  12. Fabulous premiere of Demis Volpi’s production of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice last night, a coproduction by Stuttgart Ballet and Stuttgart Opera. .... This being a coproduction, I've been in two minds as to whether I might better post this in the performances or the opera section. I saw the piece last night based on the dance elements so I've gone with the performances thread. No Venetian sights – instead, semi-transparent walls made from plexiglass and in various formations illustrate the labyrinth-like structure of Venice (sets and costumes by Katharina Schlipf). Depending on the lighting, the walls are more or less see-through, reminiscent of foggy weather. No Venetian gondolas either – instead, racks that are used in hotels to move luggage and clothes serve as means of passenger transport across the city, moved along by staff as if they were ice-skating – pushing one foot off the ground and keeping the leg in arabesque, transforming this into a dance-like sequence. Dancing for Apollo (David Moore last night; Marti Fernandez Paixa in a later cast), Tadzio, his mother, his brothers and sisters, and his friends on the beach. Students of the John Cranko School play Tadzio (Gabriel Figueredo, superb), his brothers/ sisters and friends. Clever use of stacks of books throughout. At the start, Aschenbach (Matthias Klink, truly fascinating; massive ovations for him at the end) lies amongst the stacks of books/ stands on them when he describes his dissatisfaction with his situation and then tears up the pages of a book before he leaves for Venice. Some of these books are subsequently used as passenger seating for a gondola, other books are used for the boys’ games on the beach (throwing and catching books as one might do with sports equipment), still others as stepping stones for Aschenbach on the beach - as if part of Aschenbach's previous life is gradually disintegrating. Apollo appears as statue with golden hair, a golden waist cloth and golden spray paint along the body, every inch the physical ideal, moving through a number of positions known from classical statues. What is reality, what is illusion? Based on what I remember from reading Thomas Mann’s book last summer (please flag if my memory is playing tricks), there is no direct interaction between Tadzio and Aschenbach (they just look at each other), between Tadzio and Apollo, or between Aschenbach and Apollo (Apollo appears in a dream). The staging last night took these aspects further and transformed what I remember as being imagined and/ or longed for by Aschenbach into something that looked real (or real in Aschenbach’s mind?). Aschenbach participates in the boys’ beach games – Tadzio throws a book at Aschenbach which the latter catches; later on, they align their hands on either side of one of the semi-transparent walls. Apollo dances around Aschenbach, the latter is entranced by his looks and movements, and he later takes up yoga and attempts to do some dancing himself. Apollo coordinates the boys’ beach games, helps Tadzio win the games and passes on his golden crown to him. The boys climb onto the water lily-like pedestal on which Apollo stands following the games, they all stand behind each other, and together they become Shiva, moving its multiple arms in coordinated fashion. Towards the end, when the cholera is present, most tourists have left Venice, Aschenbach knows about the danger and yet continues to expose himself to it, the Apollo statue has toppled and rolls along the floor. It is picked up by hotel staff and remains initially unstable. Aschenbach’s counterpart (Georg Nigl, brilliant in his various incarnations) rubs sun cream on Apollo’s arms, and they transform from a statue to human being. Finally, Apollo takes the bottle of sun cream and simply walks off stage … the physical ideal has disintegrated and disappeared. Aschenbach dies of cholera not soon thereafter. Long and thunderous applause last night. Picture gallery here https://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/schedule/2017-05-07/death-in-venice/images/
  13. I saw the new triple bill „Night pieces“ on Tuesday evening. It was also a great opportunity to meet Angela before the performance, to put a face to a name and catch up on ballet and things. J Edward Clug’s Ssss… provides the atmosphere of a quiet late-night bar – a pianist playing Nocturnes by Chopin live on stage, lots of empty low chairs, a few guests/ dancers sitting on some of them. All dressed in midnight blue, the dancers in loose smart clothing and the pianist in a beautiful long evening dress. The piece depicts a number of temporary relationships, focussing on (the following all my own interpretation) isolation and yearning (e.g., a long introductory solo), keeping someone at a distance (e.g., a female dancer stretching out one foot at 90 degrees in front of her), attraction/ holding on to someone/ not letting go (e.g., a male dancer holding the ankle of that foot, or lying on the floor and holding on to the ankle of a female dancer standing next to him), a relationship triangle where two male dancers struggle over the same woman, with her getting bored about it, etc. The relationships don’t hold – at the end of a Nocturne, a dancer either goes off stage or back to one of the chairs. I really enjoyed this piece and its calm, contemplative atmosphere, and in fact much more than when I saw it for the first time, back in 2013. Qi by Louis Stiens stands for atmosphere/ breath/ energy and was premiered last Friday. Reading the programme notes, the link to the term “night” stems from the calmness, depth and creativity that night-time brings. Also, the clothing is elegant black sleepwear. The choreography alternates between solos/ duos and group scenes, in particular the latter with smooth/ round and synchronised movements, especially for the arms. The music is electronic at the start and very end (which is also where movements are a lot more angular and hectic) with a long phase of music by baroque composer Schmelzer in-between. I really liked the choreography to Schmelzer, being soft, melodic and rather hypnotising in its parts for the larger group. There were lots of loud and prolonged cheers for the dancers. Jiri Kylian’s Falling Angels also had music live on stage and was simply stunning. The all-female cast walks towards the front of the stage in slow motion. One dancer after the other, they start to dance to the rhythm of the drums (the first part from Steve Reich’s Drumming). From time to time, one or two of the dancers break out from the group to perform a variation and then go back into the group with its synchronised movements. The movements come with an amazing creativity – different ways of walking, turning one’s head, flexing one's arms, pulling one’s costume, lying supine on the floor and raising one's upper body and legs as in a fitness routine, … and many more. None of the dancers leave the stage, and they all dance non-stop from start to end. Kudos to the dancers for their stamina and memory. The applause erupted like lava from a volcano last night. I had hesitated for a long time before I bought a ticket for the triple bill, thinking that it might be too contemporary for me. I would have missed out on a great evening. There is a photo gallery from the triple bill on the company’s web site https://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/schedule/night-pieces/images/.
  14. 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.
  15. A wealth of global talent on the stage tonight. Students of the John-Cranko-School of all ages (The four seasons, A spell on you, Extracts from Etudes), and guests from the Ecole de Danse de L’Opera national de Paris (PDD from the 3rd act of Nureyev’s The Sleeping Beauty), The Royal Ballet School (Sae Maeda and Nicholas Landon in the PDD from MacMillan’s Concerto), Canada’s National Ballet School (I loves you Porgy by Demis Volpi), and the School of the Hamburg Ballet (Extracts from John Neumeier’s Yondering). The Four Seasons has been coordinated by Demis Volpi, and each season is created by a different choreographer, all active at Stuttgart Ballet, three of which as dancers. Katarzyna Kozielska for spring (pointe work, students from the 1st year of the lower school to the final year of the upper school, dancers in nude tights/ unitards and with flowers across the body), Louis Stiens for summer (contemporary, leisure wear), Fabio Adorisio for autumn (leggings and unitards in dark blue with shades of purple, plus a number of semi-transparent yellow raincoats), Demis Volpi for winter (pointe work, a single long PDD with lots of slow intricate lifts, performed superbly by two dancers of the final year of the upper school, clothed in white). Marco Goecke’s A spell on you was created for the school in May 2016. Performed to songs by Nina Simone, it shows what I would describe as trademark Goecke – black pants, flickering ams, angular movements. I loved it. The two pieces together showed very impressively the depth and breadth of the skills of the students, performing brilliantly across a wide spectrum of choreographic styles. Three of the four performances by the guests were single PDD. As a result, highlighting individuals would inadvertently create a question about those names that are not mentioned. While I enjoyed all their performances immensely, and as they are all still students, I thus leave it to emphasising the joy of performing that was visible throughout – when they came on stage, during their performances, and in receiving the so well-deserved applause. Extracts from Etudes, choreographed by Tadeusz and Barbara Matacz, closed the programme. Bringing together students of the John-Cranko-School of all ages, it started with stretching exercises on the floor by the youngest students and progressed through the age groups, showing their ever-increasing skills as part of their training. An endless flow of grand jetes across the stage, a series of fouettees that didn’t travel an inch, a manege, and many more. Long, and loud applause, many shouts of bravo, repeated curtain calls, the look of immense joy on the dancer’s faces. A marvellous evening. It was wonderful to meet Yumiko in the interval tonight, and the 20 minutes that we had didn’t suffice for our conversation.
  16. The run of a triple bill at Stuttgart Ballet with choreographies by Hans van Manen, Glen Tetley and Katarzyna Kozielska ended on Saturday. I saw its penultimate performance on Friday evening. Hans van Manen’s Kammerballet was created in 1969 and is new to the repertoire in Stuttgart. Music is by Kara Karayev, Domenico Scarlatti and John Cage. If I needed to summarise the ballet in one sentence, it would be “dancing while others are watching”. One dancer after another comes on stage carrying a side table on which they then sit, and from where they watch, observe - some interested, some with an intense stare – those who are already on stage and those who are still walking on stage with their table. 4 women and 4 men, clothed one each in yellow/ orange/ brown/ black. Individuals and then pairs start to dance (each however with a different colour than their own), watched/ observed by everyone else. Larger groups start to dance, still observed by those who don’t dance at that time. Finally the dancers rearrange the side tables to form a semi-circle, to watch from there a long PDD by Elisa Badenes and David Moore. My words don’t do justice to the intricacies of the movements and variations of glances and stares; suffice to say that I loved it and that I found it funny and intriguing to see the dancers observing and interacting with each other. Glen Tetley’s Arena was created in 1969 and first shown in Stuttgart in 1973 as part of the same evening that saw the premiere of Voluntaries. Had I not known that the ballet was created more than 40 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. The arena (a.k.a. the stage) is a bare room with a large electric fan to the left, a running sink to the right, a stack of chairs at the back, and large red panels on all three sides of the stage. The music is by Morton Subotnick and called “The Wild Bull”. Played on electronic synthesiser, some of it does sound like a wild bull. The title is fitting for what follows. Six men wear nude underpants and identical red makeup on their forehead and various places on their torso, reminiscent of ancient warriors. A dancer sits on top of the stack of chairs. The men enter into fights over power and domination through sets of jetés and pirouettes and through duets with lots of strenuous and stamina-testing lifts. One duet seems to show a little more intimacy and yet still leaves a dancer motionless on the floor. Another duet is a clear question of oppression whereby the remaining dancer from the first duet is left lying on the floor, knees up, with the victorious dancer sitting on these knees to emphasise his dominance. Towards the end, the stack of chairs is dismantled one by one and the chairs are thrown into different corners of the arena in an outburst of anger by the dancer who has risen again from the first duet. The curtain goes down while he is walking faster and faster around the victorious dancer from the second duet. Congratulations and respect to all dancers, with Robert Robinson and Louis Stiens outstanding on Friday. Katarzyna Kozielska is a demi soloist with Stuttgart Ballet. Neurons is her second ballet for the main stage and was premiered at the start of this run in March 2016. She took inspiration for the choreography from having her brainwaves measured while listening to music by Max Richter. She uses music by Max Richter and John Adams for her piece, and the two composers are cleverly integrated. The curtain goes up on a dancer doing bourrées, wearing a costume that looks like a metallic sheet that is pulled tight at the waist. At first the stage is barely lit with only the arms visible, then a circle of lights turns to show the whole neuron (i.e., dancer). Costumes for the other neurons are like from space age, marbled grey unitards with a little shiny silver around the waist and near the shoulders. The other neurons come on stage in a series of dream-like PDD and other interactions, with mist flowing in from the side. The wonder at watching what was happening on stage took over from remembering the details of what was shown, and I would really like to see this again as there was so much going on. It is difficult to highlight individuals amongst so much excellence however I was mightily impressed by Constantine Allen and by Martí Fernandez Paixa. The latter graduated from the John Cranko School only in 2014, had a substantial role created on him by Demis Volpi while he still was an apprentice with the company, joined the corps the ballet in 2015 and was promoted to demi soloist earlier this year. What I really like about this company is the vast variety of style among its repertoire, including in the same evening and by the same dancers, and its ability give opportunities to young dancers very early on in their careers. ------ edited for typo
  17. One of the recent posts in the forum topic "acquisitions" referred to the Cranko mixed programme with Stuttgart Ballet, and this inspired me to write this review. @ Moderators, I wasn't sure whether to post this in "performances seen" or "news from Germany" and went for "performances seen" - please move the post if it better sits elsewhere in the forum. Opus 1 and Initials R.B.M.E. had been on my list of ballets to see for a while so buying a ticket for the run that just finished at Stuttgart Ballet was a given, and the only decision was which date to go for. I settled on Friday 26th June, not least influenced by the fact that the programme was also scheduled for the following evening, thinking that this may give me another opportunity to see it, tickets permitting. And what a performance it was on Friday! The first thing that I did yesterday morning was to buy a return ticket for last night (which was also the final performance). If this review maybe reads too overly positive, the performances were simply, to my amateur eyes, so incredibly good. The programme consisted of four ballets by John Cranko: Concerto for Flute and Harp, Holberg Pas de Deux, Opus 1, and Initials R.B.M.E. Concerto for Flute and Harp has two lead couples and a corps of ten men, all dressed in cream and white. The corps often move in pairs of two or ten, so synchronicity is essential in making this ballet work. They also join in dancing with one of the male leads and/ or partnering one of the female leads, and equally the male leads join the corps for some of the choreography. I had seen Concerto for Flute and Harp in my teenage years and didn’t remember much of it other than that I didn’t like it back then as I thought it was too “classical”. With that, I wasn’t sure what to expect before Friday night. How preferences change over time! I believe that my own efforts in taking beginner level ballet classes over the past year helped me appreciate the choreography as I was able to see how some of the movements and steps that I tried in class should be performed. What hooked me both on Friday and last night was the quality of the dancing of the corps. The corps consisted of dancers from apprentice to soloist level, and the apprentices did just as well as the more experienced dancers – synchronised lines, on count, solid landings after jumps and turns. Adam Russell-Jones in the corps for this ballet had a nice speedy solo of pas de chats. When casting was announced a couple of weeks ago, I was happy at the prospect of seeing Alexander Jones once more before his departure for Zurich at the end of the season. He captivated me with his completely infectious smile throughout his dancing and his incredible stamina; on Friday night, there was no visible breathing after the end of his lengthy solo. Opus 1 was premiered together with Song of the Earth. The programme describes that there was no exchange between the two ballets during the rehearsals, and yet both the topic and choreography show similarities (the ending in Song of the Earth though is more upbeat than in Opus 1). Opus 1 depicts live, loss and death. It starts with the corps lying in a circle – the female dancers creating the outer ring, the male dancers the inner ring – and the lead male dancer in a foetus position held up by the arms of the male corps, then gently turned, stretched and tumbled to the floor. The female lead appears, the two leads dance together and yet they need to part. The male lead, superbly danced by Jason Reilly both on Friday and Saturday night, is gliding to the floor and is stretching himself, desperately longing to reach the female lead (Anna Osadcenko) who is carried past by another dancer, yet unable to reach her. At the end, he is left lying on the floor alone and moves slowly back into a foetus position where he dies. Opus 1 is only 11 minutes long and yet it is able to show a wealth of emotions in this short period of time. Equally, the choreography for Opus 1 shows some similarities with Song of the Earth. While in Song of the Earth, the Woman jumps sideways into the arms of the Man and the Messenger of Death; in Opus 1, the male lead such a jump into the arms of the corps. In Song of the Earth, a female dancer is progressing through cartwheels on the shoulders of male corps dancers; in Opus 1, both the male and the female leads are tumbled forwards over the shoulders of the male corps. Initials R.B.M.E. The initials R, B, M and E stand for the first names of the dancers on whom John Cranko created the ballet (Richard Cragun, Birgit Keil, Marcia Haydée, Egon Madsen), and the ballet depicts the friendship between four dancers, supported by a corps of varying size. While each section has one of the initials as lead, the dancers who perform the roles of the other three initials appear in each section to greet the lead. Daniel Camargo danced in the lead in the R section with incredible virtuosity, and a prolonged series of jumps and variations of pirouettes in quick succession received well-deserved applause on the spot. The choreography for the lead of the M section, danced by Alicia Amatriain on Friday and Saturday, included a slow, dreamlike PDD with Jason Reilly and an astonishing series of quick-footed bourrées both forwards and backwards, exiting the stage as if drawn backwards by an invisible line. Adam Russell-Jones, who only graduated from the Royal Ballet School last year, had his debut as the lead in the E section on Friday night and danced the same role again on Saturday night, and he did really well on both occasions. His solo started with fast footwork of small jumps, and he was then greeted by a series of individual corps members who danced around him, to which he reacted with a visible sensation of positive surprise each time. The other dancers applauded him at the curtain calls for his debut on Friday, and he received huge cheers from the audience. Just as the corps for Concerto for Flute and Harp, Initials R.B.M.E. included some apprentices. The latter, additionally, even featured three students of the John Cranko School, and again, they and the apprentices did well. Hats off to all these young dancers as both ballets would have left no place to hide, and congratulations to them and those who decided on casting on giving the young dancers these opportunities so early in their career. Another aspect that I liked - the pianist played some of the passages of the piano concerto that is used for the ballet during the interval directly in the orchestra pit, and it provided a beautiful, relaxing, poetic atmosphere throughout the ground floor of the building. As with the performance of Song of the Earth that I saw in April, curtain calls for the four ballets took place as long as the audience continued to applaud, and the final curtain calls for a ballet were with all dancers not just those who danced the principal roles. The joy of receiving the audience’s appreciation was visible in the dancer’s faces. The audience in turn reacted with a huge roar of approval when they were successful in having the curtain opened one final time. The run of this mixed programme is now finished however the trailer for the programme is still accessible on http://www.stuttgart-ballet.de/schedule/all-cranko/trailer/. Edited to adjust line breaks
  18. So, Stuttgart Ballet are putting on a very brief run of "The Taming of the Shrew" at Sadler's Wells this weekend. I think it's probably the first time it's been seen in the UK since about 1990 when ENB danced it at the Coliseum. Did anyone go, and what did you think? (Oh, and a message from Sadler's Wells warns that the Northern Line at Angel will be out this weekend due to engineering works, so allow extra time to get there if you're going)
  19. This evening showcased the company's men (and their beautifully toned (bare) upper torsos!). As most of the pieces will be new to the majority of people I won't say more until after tomorrow night's performance. I will say, though, that my favourites (and, I think, the audience's) were 'Fanfare X' and 'Mono Lisa'. I don't know what Luke Jennings will make of the programme.
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