to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review 1, 6-29: "Happy Birthday, John!"
Neumeier Feted by NDT, Stuttgart, Bejart, RDB, Maryinsky, and the
By Stephan Laurent
Copyright 2004 Stephan Laurent
New! Sponsor a Flash!
(To celebrate the
30th anniversary of John Neumeier's tenure as director, Hamburg
Ballet is presenting 16 Neumeier creations and a Jubilee Gala for
this year's Hamburg Ballet Days. Sixth review.)
HAMBURG -- One of the
highlights of the annual "Hamburg Ballett Tage" is an event called
"Jubilaeumsgala" (Jubilee Gala) featuring invited companies and
schools. Hamburg Ballet artistic director John Neumeier selects
his annual guests from what he calls "Choreo-Compagnien" -- that
is, companies whose repertoire features mostly the work of a single
choreographer -- as well as schools attached to them. On June 15,
the Staatsoper's stage was brimming with the talents of guest dancers
from several countries in what amounted to a very shiny 30th anniversary
present for Neumeier. Featured were Jiri Kylian and Netherlands
Dance Theater III; John Cranko and the Stuttgart Ballet; soloists
from the Royal Danish Ballet in August Bournonville's "Napoli";
two soloists from the Maryinsky Theater in traditional Petipa fare;
Maurice Bejart's school Rudra; and the Hamburg Ballet's own school.
Originally the intent
was to have the School of American Ballet also represented, but
SAB cancelled, citing a last-minute conflict. The program's nod
to Balanchine fell thus to the Hamburg Ballet School, in an impressive
performance of "JubilaeumsTaenze" (Jubilee Dances), a full-ensemble
piece by one of the company's principal ballet masters (and a former
soloist), Kevin Haigen, to the "Theme and Variations" Suite by Tchaikovsky.
Haigen himself had been exposed extensively to Balanchine's influence
when he studied at SAB, and has cleverly crafted a piece that clearly
pays homage to the great Russian-American choreographer, alternately
quoting the master and taking flight on its own. The 40 or more
young dancers of the Hamburg Ballettschule dug with clean technique
and admirable energy into the crisp lines and intricate formations.
These are extremely well-trained young artists with a great deal
of maturity already evident. Much of the credit for this impressive
display of technique and style goes to Haigen, of course. But Marianne
Kruuse, the director of the Hamburg Ballet School (and for many
years Neumeier's principal muse as a soloist in the company) must
also be credited. The world's great schools better watch out --
SAB, POB, RB, RDB, whatever your letters are -- here comes the HB
School, and soon the world's companies will be full of its graduates.
Maurice Bejart, another
legendary and prolific choreographer, moved his Ballet of the Twentieth
Century from Brussels to Switzerland in 1987 and with it its "Mudra"
School. The company was re-named "Bejart Ballet Lausanne" and the
school changed its title to "Rudra." Two young men from that school
performed at the Jubilee Gala, in a piece entitled "Vivalcita" set
to music by Glazunov and Vivaldi. The athletic Oscar Chacon opened
the piece with a fireworks of ballet tricks, followed by the more
subtle, sinuous contemporary moves of Tadayoshi Kokeguchi. In the
end, the fusion of the two genres -- ballet and modern -- was complete.
This was the premiere of this engaging, very Bejart-like little
piece, which, from the program's laconic listing, is the result
of improvisation work undertaken in the school's modern classes
under Myra Woodruff.
No gala such as this
one could be complete without representation from Marius Petipa's
work. The Maryinsky Theater of St. Petersburg (formerly known as
the Kirov) sent two of its soloists to participate in the Gala:
Daria Pavlenko and Daniil Korsuntev performed the Grand Pas from
Act III of "Sleeping Beauty." Both were extremely clean and displayed
the signature arm fluidity resulting from their Vaganova training.
Yet some of Petipa's most interesting choreographic experiments
in the duet had been taken out and substituted with "safer" moves,
as for instance the diagonal of pirouettes diving into a one-arm
catch in fish position replaced by a simple pirouette finishing
in arabesque and a boring promenade. This was a bit like eating
a sweet fruit with no seeds in it -- nice but disappointing.
Jiri Kylian has been
for many decades another dominant force in the evolution of dance
in Europe. NDT III was founded in 1991 to provide mature dancers
not ready to hang up their slippers the opportunity to continue
performing, and Kylian has been a major contributor to its repertoire.
The June 15 gala featured his 2001 "Happy Birthday," a hilarious
romp for five dancers clad in heavy wigs and 18th-century garments
sitting at a table. After the performers broke into a chorus ("Happy
Birthday, dear John"), most of the action happened on the screen
hanging behind them, as one after the other of the pompous figures
discretely tiptoed off the stage to reappear in the film. The music
had been chosen from some of Mozart's wittiest and fastest-moving
pieces, and the film had been sped up, yet the dancing stayed completely
musical. In a duet that had the audience roaring with laughter,
Sabine Kupferberg and Gerard Lemaitre (two of the pillars of NDT
III) bounced on a bed in fast-motion, vainly trying to embrace each
other as they kept tumbling like trampoline artists. Another witty
moment showed the company's director, Egon Madsen, fencing on screen
with a shadow (also in fast motion) while blinking repetitively
as the cadence of each musical phrase fell. Even though not much
happened onstage the pace of the piece was breathtaking and the
nonsensical contrast between the pompous "live" dancers with their
loaded glances at each other and the accelerated romp happening
on screen with their "liberated" selves was absolutely hilarious.
John Cranko's repertoire
continues to dominate the Stuttgart Ballet even 30 years after the
untimely departure of the great British choreographer. It is worth
remembering here that both Kylian and Neumeier were dancers in Cranko's
company, and it was he who offered them their first choreographic
opportunities. The Stuttgart Ballet presented the entire third act
of Cranko's "Onegin," a ballet rendition of Tchaikovsky's opera
"Eugene Onegin." The first scene featured an opulent ballroom with
countless bejeweled guests waltzing graciously, where the three
central characters (Tatiana, her husband Prince Gremin, and Onegin
himself) gradually emerge as the main protagonists. In the second
scene, set in Tatiana's parlor, Onegin finds himself rebuffed in
his belated advances, even as he had many years ago spurned her
when Tatiana impulsively threw herself on his mercy. Sue Jin Kang
was a fluid, mature, convincing Tatiana, partnered strongly by Jiri
Jelinek as Onegin.
The gala closed with
one of Bournonville's most beloved ballets, the "Pas de Six and
Tarentella" from Act III of "Napoli," performed with satisfying
ballon and Bournonvillian soft epaulements by 11 soloists from the
Royal Danish Ballet.
none of the choreographers featured in the program were natives
of the country whose companies hosted them. Balanchine was Russian-born
and yet became the "father of American Ballet." Bournonville was
French-trained. Cranko came from England to Germany. Petipa traveled
from Paris to St. Petersburg. Bejart went from France to Belgium
and then Switzerland. And the Milwaukee-born John Neumeier is celebrating
30 years of successes in Hamburg. This historical pattern reflects
perhaps not simply the "gypsy" soul of dancers and choreographers
or the fact that often you have to leave home to be appreciated.
It also proves that sometimes an infusion of blood from beyond one's
own borders is needed to move culture a culture forward.
(Also available on the Dance Insider are Stephan Laurent's Flash
Reviews of John Neumeier's "Bernstein Dances," "Peer Gynt," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Seagull" and "Preludes CV," featured earlier in the Hamburg Ballet
Go back to Flash Reviews