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Memorial, 12-8: Uwe Scholz, 1958-2004
'He Ate, Slept and Drank Art'
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider
PARIS -- Leipzig Ballet
director Uwe Scholz, one of the most brilliant choreographic minds
of his generation, passed away November 21 from pneumonia in a hospital
outside Berlin, comatose, after being admitted to the hospital earlier
to be treated for an infection of the pancreas, a Leipzig spokesperson
told the Dance Insider. He was 45.
are all in shock, because we thought that Uwe Scholz would recover
and return to us," Henri Maier, artistic director of the Leipzig
Opera House, told the Dance Insider. "In the recent past we had
times of sunshine but also thunderstorms together -- as it is in
life. But Uwe Scholz did have a contract until 2006 with the option
to renew it. The death of Uwe Scholz is a great loss to the company
and the opera house. We don't know yet how things will go on. First
we need time for grieving. But this much is certain: Uwe Scholz's
great contemporary oeuvre will stay with us, will be a tradition
and we will attempt to take care of it."
In a choreographic career
that began at the age of 22, Scholz had created more than 100 ballets
for Leipzig, Stuttgart Ballet, Zurich Ballet, and many other companies.
He was planning a new work for Leipzig in 2005. Working in the classical
ballet idiom, Scholz -- who succeeded John Cranko as Stuttgart's
resident choreographer at the age of 23 -- was singular proof that
the path to ballet relevance in the 21st century starts in the heart
of the music, is blazed by the imaginative choreographer, illuminated
by the artistically and emotionally invested dancer and, finally,
taken home by the converted spectator.
"I am interested in
ballerinas who make my heart rotate" as opposed to technical phenomenons,
he once told this interviewer. Seen on Leipzig in San Francisco's
War Memorial Opera House in 1995, in a stunning US debut for both
company and choreographer, Scholz's "Pax Questuosa," to music by
Udo Zimmerman, carried away audiences with its eloquent intimacy,
as did the grander "Beethoven's Seventh." Performing alongside more
established companies like the Bolshoi and Royal Danish Ballet as
part of San Francisco Ballet's United We Dance festival celebrating
the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the young company and
its young dancemaker stole the show.
"I remember seeing his
first ballet to Mozart music while he was still studying," said
current Stuttgart director and Cranko disciple Reid Anderson, who
knew Scholz when he was a student at Stuttgart's Cranko school.
"It was so remarkable! So musical, so clear, and so creative. He
already had his own version of neo-classical dance. He loved music
and responded to it. He was not its slave but he enabled the audience
to understand and to see the music better. I experienced all of
his works and even worked with him myself.
"We are all saddened
at the loss of Uwe Scholz.... Uwe Scholz was not easy on himself.
He ate, slept and drank art. There was nothing else for him. His
loss is particularly sad because Uwe Scholz has always made the
kind of dances that others were not doing. He didn't let himself
be swayed by deconstruction, movement fads or tinkering with the
music. He was a symphonic dance maker. One of a kind!"
After five years of
choreographing for Stuttgart, under the direction of Marcia Haydee,
Scholz took the reins of Zurich Ballet in 1985, at the age of 26.
In 1991, he was hired to direct the Leipzig Opera's ballet ensemble,
which became known as the Leipzig Ballet in 1992. It was a critical
juncture for the company which, located in the former East Germany,
had inherited a repertoire of calcified classical story ballets
which, by the end of the Communist era, were drawing only miniscule
audiences to a grand opera house. Scholz's challenge, which he rose
to heroically, was to create new ballets that challenged the dancers
and brought audiences back to the opera house, at a time when the
eastern sector of the reunified country found itself rebuilding
as well. Building his canon, often to sweeping scores by Mozart,
Bach, Stravinsky and Beethoven, he forged a distinct modern identity
for his own company and a bold yet humble and earnest new direction
for his art form.
to this mission, he told this interviewer in 1994, was taking over
the direction of the Leipzig School, a goal in which he succeeded
in 1997, enabling him to work with dancers from a formative stage.
(Scholz himself began ballet at the age of 4.)
"He taught me to feel
the music and to express it," said Kiyoko Kimura, first soloist
with the company and one of its leading dancers. "From him I learned
to use the imagination, to fill out the music full of emotions.
And to give everything onstage.... He was incredibly musical, and
he understood the music deeply. So he was able to transfer music
to movement. He was the one of the choreographers able to choreograph
with such big symphonies as those by Beethoven, Bruckner, Mozart,
"The time spent working
with him was very substantial. He was a person with lots of humor,
but also lots of passion and emotion. I still cannot believe his
death. It is very sad to lose such a great artist." But, Kimura
added, "I feel that he is still immediately at my side."
Uwe Scholz was born
on New Year's Eve 1958 in Hessen, in Central Germany. In 1973, under
Cranko's watchful eye, he passed his entrance examination to the
ballet school of the state theater in Stuttgart. He was taken into
the company immediately upon graduation in 1979, only to quit dancing
a year later -- at the age of 22 -- to produce choreography at the
command of Stuttgart director Marcia Haydee. In 1982, he became
Stuttgart's first resident choreographer since Cranko's death.
In a career which encompassed
opera as well as ballet, Scholz's work was seen on stages throughout
the world, on his own and other major companies. In 1987, he was
awarded Espressione Europa's Ommagio Alla Danza prize. In 1996,
German president Roman Herzog bestowed upon him the Order of the
Federal Republic of Germany. For his 1998 choreography "The Great
Mass," the Bavarian state government decorated Scholz with the Theatre
Award and, in 1999, he was recognized with Essen's German Dance
Remembered by his company
and the city of Leipzig in an opera house ceremony December 3, Scholz's
compassionate and invested vision for ballet will be remembered
for a long time through his inspiring oeuvre and the dancers he
Rita Felciano contributed to this report, in the form of the
initial news tip.
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