Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz

May 10th, 2014 § 0

In his Fifth TanzGala Graz the director of the Graz Ballet, Darel Toulon decided to finish off dance critics once and for all. At half time, it's already almost ten o'clock. We've seen seven excerpts and one full miniature already. The non-writing public is delighted by this cornocopia of choreography. Animated chat and high spirits reign.

The evening began with a short extract from one of Toulon's own most ambitious works, Swan Trilogy (Schwanentrilogie). I saw the full piece at its premiere in 2009 and Swan Trilogy has aged well. The giant eggs with cracks in them create impressive atmosphere while Dianne Gray looks fabulous as the Swan princess. Michal Zabavik is in great form. The live orchestra give the performance the feel of one Europe's great cultural capitals like Moscow or Paris. It's a pity the excerpt was so short.

The next pas de deux came from Roland Petit's Proust ou les intermittences du coeur. Two men dance naked to the waist as equal partners. Beautiful shapes, tender movement. Gabriel Faurie's Elegy for Violoncello and Orchestra provided a deeply moving acoustic background for what Toulon correctly noted as a masterwork. 1974 is like today. Rainer Krenstetter and Marian Walter's communication via movement will be the best we see tonight. A perfect performance of Petit's perfect piece.

Marian Walter und Rainer Krenstetter in Roland Petits Duett aus Les intermittences du Coeur
Marian Walter and Rainer Krenstetter in Roland Petits
Duett from Les intermittences du Coeur

Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz Continues »

Ballet Graz: Die Liebe Einer Konigin or A Royal Affair in Dance

March 8th, 2014 § 0

One of the the more peculiar and exciting stories of recent royalty came out of Denmark. In 1766, the quite mad Christian VII ascended the throne at just seventeen years of age. He remained in power for an astonishingly long time, considering his limited facilities. A young and beautiful wife from England was brought to him Caroline.

After the birth of an heir, Christian took a trip abroad and came back in the care of a Danish-German physician Johann Struensee. Struensee became both confidante and friend of King Christian, later the lover of Queen Caroline. Together they ruled in Christian's place for almost two years, before the Dowager Queen led a palace coup in favour of her own son. Result: Struensee executed, Caroline exiled.

In 2012, the Danes themselves made a majestic film version starring Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Struensee called A Royal Affair. Both sensual and intellectual, idealistic and cynical, Mikkelsen is thorougly compelling in the role. His queen is a fascinating and contradictory Caroline, divided between duty and passion.

Ballet Graz artistic director Darrel Toulon's instinct to treat this story in ballet is unerring. Dance thrives on passion and emotion, love and death. The Struensee affair has all of it.

How did Toulon do?

Ballet Graz: Die Liebe Einer Konigin or A Royal Affair in Dance Continues »

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper

December 15th, 2013 § 0

The evening opens with Forsythe’s The Second Detail. When we see works like this, it’s clear Forsythe is such a great choreographer and his current strange experiments become even less comprehensible and more astonishing. But few people cared for Stravinski’s music in the 1920 so perhaps it’s we who just don’t understand.

Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1
Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1

The Second Detail opens up with a huge bright grey rehearsal space with just the words THE at the front. Thin white horizontal lines dividge the strange into precise grids. The dancers are in the same grey as the floor. I’m not quite sure why Apple is getting away with suing Samsung for packaging as Forsythe had the iPhone and MacBook Air boxing under control back in 1991 in Frankfurt. This is an early great work.

Vienna State Ballet company looks great dancing Forsythe these days. Under Legris, they’ve acquired both the élan necessary and the discipline necessary to put it all together. Strangely, the men have improved more than the women (who have been excellent as along as I’ve been in Vienna). Particularly notable is strongman Vladimir Shiskov but Mihail Sosnovichi also delivers an imposing performance while Eno Peci and Alexis Forbasco look good too. All of the men have developed powerful lower bodies and are a joy to watch.

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper Continues »

OntarioDances.ca but no website

November 25th, 2013 § 4

How governments allocate and manage arts projects is a mysterious science.

pouquoi je danse
splash image for pourquoi je danse - see video at bottom of post

This week the Ontario Arts Council announced OntarioDances.ca a program to connect dance companies with dance presenters.

For some reason there are only nine theatres included:

OntarioDances.ca but no website Continues »

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry – Assange’s Chinese Shadow

November 23rd, 2013 § 0

Imagine being a world famous artist. Imagine designing national monuments. Imagine thinking that you are invulnerable to repression. Imagine speaking out against human rights abuses at your country's Olympics (Olympics for which you designed stadiums). Imagine being warned to shut your fat trap. Imagine you keep talking. Imagine that a few months later they come to arrest you and lock you away for 81 days. Imagine you come back with the strict warning that if you continue to make an international media spectacle damaging to the regime which is buttering your bread, you will go away not for three months but forever.

If your imagination is rich, you will have just lived the three years of artist Ai Weiwei's life who for many years had a blessed position as Lear's fool in Beijing. His nonsense answers and ironic commentary on the regime probably even amused the higher party bosses. A useful fool.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Assange's Chinese Shadow Continues »

View from Konigswart

November 13th, 2013 § 0

Where the Austrian emperors came to greet their Hungarian armies. Ironically, it's one of the last great NATO listening posts now, still fenced and guarded with now unneeded and obsolete gigantic satellite dishes. The woods stretch off in all directions for miles. From the watchtower one can see in every direction, from Hainburg to Bratislava to Kittsee and further to Hungary.

Konigswart NATO Kittsee full
Konigswart NATO Kittsee full

View from Konigswart Continues »

Blowing up pianos – Cats Park Your Love is a Sin

October 22nd, 2013 § 0

Watching this video is tough for someone who loves music, musical instruments and antiques. trip pop Russian band Cats Park destroys a gorgeous old C. Goetze signed black upright piano. When the paint started to flow I thought it might just by water based and wondered how they would clean it off. How wrong I was.

If Hollywood can blow up cars and buildings (less and less, more and more done purely in CGI), indie music videos should have the right smash old pianos in the pursuit of art.

Apart from the death of the piano, a quite beautiful and simple video. Like most good videos, there's a single strong image and it's followed through consistently. We create and then we destroy. There is no permanence. Echoes of Shelley's Ozymandias. Even truer in emotional terms. The closest couples often become the most bitter enemies or the most estranged souls on the planet.

Blowing up pianos - Cats Park Your Love is a Sin Continues »

Marchenwelt Ballett at Vienna’s Volksoper: A Fairy Tale Evening

October 19th, 2013 § 0

Volkoper plays an interesting role in the arts life of the Austrian capital. Viennese love both their operetta and their comic ballet and Volksoper must feed this sweet tooth.

Often the works are either historic pieces or imported. This year Volksoper ballet director Vesna Orlic and Staatsoper dancer and choreographer Andrey Kaydanovsky have collaborated on a new program called Marchenwelt or Fairy Tale World. The two parts are unified by dramatic Russian music, first Modest Mussorgski’s Pictures from an Exhibition and then Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherezade.

1001-Nights-Genie-in-Volksoper-audience-1200
Boris Eder's brilliant turn as the Genie stuck in a lantern in Orlic's 1001 Nights

Kaydanovsky has contemporised The Ugly Duckling for his fairy tale. His version includes high fives, industrial agriculture and sport hunting with rifles. And why not? Fairy tales should be timeless.

Marchenwelt Ballett at Vienna's Volksoper: A Fairy Tale Evening Continues »

Elio Gervasi’s Solo with Guests (Part Two) in Vienna’s Odeon Theatre

October 12th, 2013 § 0

Elio-Gervasi-Solo-with-Guests

As the final show of this summer’s ImPulstantz, Vienna was privileged to welcome the premiere of a new work by underrecognised but brilliant Elio Gervasi. One of the first choreographers to bring modern movement to Vienna, his improvisational influence spread wide. Gervasi, like many creative geniuses, is often a bit gruff. Strong movement is his native idiom not redundant words and empty promises. After blooming at the end of the nineties and start of the noughts, Gervasi’s company was one of the first dance companies to fall victim to the city of Vienna’s heavy arts cuts starting in about 2004. For several years, Gervasi worked in miniature with either principle muse Leonie Wahl or at most a quartet of dancers. Most of the others, including Homunculus are no longer here at all.

Elio Gervasi's Solo with Guests (Part Two) in Vienna's Odeon Theatre Continues »

Staatsoper Nureyev Gala: Kourlaev and Tsymbal Shine in Mayerling

June 30th, 2013 § 0

Galas are often long affairs. And this one was no exception. Manuel Legris was fortunate to be mentored in his early dance career by Rudolf Nureyev during his reign at the Paris Opera. There is a Nureyev gala in Paris and now there is one in Vienna. I still question whether it makes sense to so honour someone who recklessly infected others with HIV but I do understand Legris's attachment to the teacher who gave him so much.

The evening opened with a fine excerpt from La Sylphide with full decorations, with Maria Yakovleva in the eponymous title role and Masayu Kimoto as her partner. While La Sylphide is always easier to watch in its entirety both were very good and the corps-de-ballet looked good too. An auspicious start.

Staatsoper Nureyev Gala: Kourlaev and Tsymbal Shine in Mayerling Continues »