uncoy.com | la vie viennoise a winter in vienna. theatre, dance, poetry. and some politics. 2017-05-23T21:55:10Z http://uncoy.com/feed/atom WordPress alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[2017 Junge Choreographen des Wiener Staatsballets]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1918 2017-05-23T21:55:10Z 2017-05-23T21:10:37Z Often Choreo.lab is the ballet highlight of the season at Vienna State Opera. Choreo.lab was originally the brainchild of Vienna Ballet Club founder Ingeborg Tichy-Luger and Staatsoper director Renato Zanella whose first edition took place in 2003. I’ve been fortunate to see each Choreo.lab since 2004 (I believe it was the second one) with full photo essays for many of them. 2017 is another Choreo.lab year (it seems to take place every second year now instead of every year).

Since French étoile Manuel Legris took over the reins at Staatsoper, he’s insisted on rebranding Choreolab as the rather dull “Junge Choreographen des Wiener Staatsballets”. Vienna ballet lovers remain grateful for his enthusiastic support under its new moniker.

Ingeborg-Tichy-Luger-Choreolab-2017
Ingeborg Tichy-Luger founder of choreo.lab and Vienna Ballet Club

This year choreo.lab enjoyed a particularly full program at its new venue Theater Akzent on 7 and 8 May. In two parts, the evening began at 7pm and ended about 10pm, granted that the pause was a full half hour for resetting the stage for live music (more on that later). There were a total of thirteen original works presented.

If one considers the Stravinsky Hommage at Volksoper last week an extension of Choreo.lab (Eno Peci, András Lukács and Andrei Kaydanovsky are all veterans of Choreo.lab), there are sixteen original works presented this year by Staatsoper dancers.

As every year, there are a few outstanding works in 2017. Yet with this much production, the quality is inevitably uneven. Even in the lesser works, one feels a sincerity. Perhaps there should be a last editorial pass where the only the best finished choreographies are presented to the full audience. Of course there would be a risk of politics and many broken hearts, so less damage is probably done by forcing a rapt audience to sit through a few too many short dance pieces.

Without further ado, let us revisit the choreographies in order.


Trevor Hayden’s pas de sang is a dance take on the original dracula story to dramatic music from Bela Bartok and Sergei Prokofiev. Alas, brilliant casting of a gaunt and frightening Alexis Forabasco as the Vampire and Eszter Ledan as his victim. Ionna Avraam is uncharacteristically dull as a physical manifestation of blood or the vampire’s bloodlust. There are some nice lifts but there isn’t much continuity to the dance. Many of the sections feel rushed or unfinished.

I’ve been keen on vampire stories, since I first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in high school and it’s perfect for representation in dance (passion and death) but Hayden misses the mark here.


Shadows-We-Cast-Attila-Bako-full-cast

Hungarian dancer and third time Choreo.lab veteran, Attila Bakó leaves mysticism behind for technology in shadows we cast. His large group of dancers are strapped to pulse monitoring devices which project the beats per minute of their pulse live on the back of the stage as a waveform. The technical visuals could have been presented with more panache but that’s really a question of time and budget. Much thanks to Vienna’s Technical University and Uni Wien for participating in a dance project in their free time.

On the dance side, shadows we cast is much brighter. There are some excellent duets (Mila Schmidt and Greig Matthews comes to mind) and the excellent group movement is truly elegaic. The whole piece makes me think of Rosas and Anna Teresa de Keersmaekers’s best work which is high praise indeed. Géraud Wielick’s long hair is perfectly in place here (unlike in Movements to Stravinsky) and he dances well. Elena Bottaro, Sveva Gargiolo and Zsolt Török round out a committed cast.


Daneben-Nina-Polakova-Gala-Jovanovic-Jakob-Feyferlik

Étoile Nina Poláková presents her visually austere daneben (nearby) to an emotional Yann Tiersen score. Jakov Feyferlik and Gala Jovanovic are dressed in what look like early twentieth century costumes – he’s wearing suspenders and she in a long dress – and seated on two chairs. They struggle to understand one another. While Jovanovic is a commanding dancer, she overmatches the slight Feyferlik. Where their duet should be sensitive and soft, he’s clearly struggling to carry and lift a dancer who is almost the same size as she is. This piece would have worked better with a light, ethereal and fragile dancer like Poláková herself.

daneben is Poláková’s first public choreography so it would be server to judge the work too harshly.


Anima-et-Corpo-choreographer-Francesco-Costa-with-Nina-Tonoli

Francesco Costa’s anima et corpo is intrinsically a crowd pleaser with lots more white sheets (pas de sang) and a bedroom atmosphere. The women (and men) enjoy the young Jude Law like beauty of James Stephens while Nina Tonoli’s exuberant youthful beauty and talent delight the men. Natalya Butcho and Francesco Costa do fine work, albeit outshone by a radiant Tonoli and Stephens.

As for the movement, there’s thrashing in sheets on the floor, Arab music, some close duets. I didn’t take away anything deeper than a tasteful lascivity and physical beauty from Costa’s dance poem but that’s sometimes enough.


Realite-Laszlo-Benedek-Alexander-Kaden-Marie-Sarah-Drugowitsch-Suzanne-Kertesz

Another Hungarian dancer, László Benedek makes his choreographic debut with realité. This is the first but not the last piece to a gag or joke made three dimensional with dance. realité talks about the promises a man makes to seduce a new woman in contrast with the reality of his indifference to the woman in his life. This is a well-known plight across cultures and across centuries. Once Alexander Kaden in the lead role controls an interchangeable (done with identical wigs) Marie-Sarah Drugowitsch or Suzanne Kertész, he becomes brutal and indifferent. The dance sequence at the end with projected video from a sex doll factory as Kaden dances with both ladies is laugh out loud funny.

I suppose the moral of the story is roughly Perrault’s from Little Red Riding Hood:

All wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!

Don’t expect too much from men or love! Cunningly made and performed with charm, realité was a success with both the audience and on its own light artistic terms.


Skin-Leonardo-Basilio-Masayu-Kimoto-James-Stephens

Young Portugese dancer Leonardo Basílio debuts as a choreographer with another beauty piece, appropriately titled Skin set to sensual electronica from René Aubry. We have sexy dancing and sexy costumes worn by Nina Tonoli and James Stephens again, with an equally beautiful Alaia Rogers-Maman and the powerfully built Masayu Kimoto rivalling them for charm. The women again are almost interchangeable in dark bob length wigs. The men wear nothing but sparkling briefs.

The dance is largely about symmetry with the two couples mirroring each other’s movements. Some original lifts and dramatic focused lighting bring an originality to a largely sensory piece. While the pleasure was skin-deep, it was complete. I’m curious to see where Basílio goes with his next works.


Movements-of-the-Solul-Nikisha-Fogo-Sveva-Gargiulo

Swedish soloist Nikisha Fogo’s dramatically titled Movements of the Soul offered more visual irony in the vein of realité. We see blonde Sveva Garguilo against a blood red projected backdrop which turns purple and blue. The piece ends up as a study in colours. Unusual electronic music the barbatuques and Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein add to the surreal feel. The dance follows a young woman’s feeling about life. While Movements of the Soul failed to touch me, Fogo enjoyed an enthusiastic reception from the audience. Or perhaps many were looking forward to the long-awaited pause.


Brazilian Volksoper dancer Tainá Ferreira Luiz’s Thoughts & Feelings was the most ambitious work of the evening. With musician Sebastian Brugner, Ferreira Luiza created an original musical and dance work, with a full jazz orchestra with six musicians on stage (Brugner on vibraphon, brother Simon on drums, brother Franz on piano, Vienna star trumpetist Lorenz Raab, Roman Bisanz on viola and Luiz Gustavo d’Ippolito on contrabass).

The story follows two waiters in a tango bar both in love with a colleague and what happens when one of them falls in love with a client. There’s both an entrance to the nightclub where the waiters smoke outside and a colourfully lit interior set with tables. The two romances and mixed up feelings go back and forth, with the waiters hiding each other’s actions from the other woman. There’s always uncertainty about who really loves whom. Behind the comedy of manners Ferreira Luiz works to communicate a more serious point about class structure and social mobility. Whichever waiter stays in the club with the waitress will face a life of hard work and toil, unlike the wealthy and spoiled clients. The same band plays on and on as the ordinary struggle to survive and the wealthy play there way through life.

Felipe Viera and Andrés Garcia-Torres play off of one another perfectly and manage to communicate the slippery qualities of Latin waiter/lovers to perfection. Irene Garcia-Torres is beautiful as the waitress colleague while Natalia Salazar plays up her role of wealthy client to perfection.

There are a lot of acrobatic lifts and funny faces in what is a thoroughly delightful divertissement with heart. It’s inspiring to see this kind of ambition to get music, choreography, decorations and costumes right. If Ferreira Luiz maintains this level of intensity of preparation in her stage work, at the very least she’ll be in demand to stage the dances within opera and operetta. Time will tell if Ferreira Luiz has the talent and sustained inspiration to make it as an original choreographer in her own right. As a first work Thoughts & Feelings is a great start.


French Volksoper dancer Samuel Colombet is a choreo.lab veteran since 2008 with four original creations. Colombet has worked as an assistant ballet master in the Volksoper for the last couple of seasons. His choreographic work usually includes sophisticated costumes and high emotions. In Verrat (Betrayal), Colombet misses the mark. The costumes are ugly, partly cheap satin and partly sleazy sequins. The backdrop was just projected light without much atmosphere. The overblown Tchaikovsky score drowns us in unearned emotions. While Iliana Chivarova and Trevor Hayden valiantly try to communicate huge emotions neither the choreography or the atmosphere justify the music and emotions.

On a technical level, Hayden seemed to struggle with his partnering at times, suggesting a lack of adequate rehearsal time and sometime strength. Colombet himself is a wide chested man with a rippled muscular physique and probably over-estimated Hayden’s strength. It also seemed that the stage at Theater Akzent was quite simply too small for the dance which Colombet imagined as Hayden and Chivarova always seemed to be cutting short their movements. Colombet’s past choreo.lab works were a cut above Verrat.


Veteran Slovak dancer Martin Winter is presenting his second work at choreo.lab after the excellent don’t know in 2012. A tall and handsome dancer, Winter has been with the Vienna Staatsoper since 2007 and used to dance on the main stage until volunteering to move over to Volksoper due to some nagging injuries. Excellent dancing skills, along with height and good looks make him a great asset.

Outside In is a profound work set to a filmic score from George Crumb and Michal Hruza. A blistering performance from Mila Schmidt as Winter’s lover sets the pace. Tainá Ferreira Luiz dressed in a long black dress is a passionate dark döppelganger for Winter’s character in a simple charcoal suit who seems to be reluctantly abandoning his lover for Ferreira Luiz.

What’s special about Winter’s work is his ability to reinvent movement. He injects classical dance movement with a completely casual and fluid language of feeling. One symptom is a more complex hand movement than one would ever see in ballet. But Winter’s language of movement goes beyond simple explanation. It’s feeling made into movement.

In Outside In, Schmidt’s lover is suffering from jealousy, abandonment. It’s not clear if Ferreira Luiz is a rival or her own lesbian lover. What is clear that Schmidt is deeply in love with Winter’s dark suited man and something is separating them. Winter’s own ambiguous feelings about the relationship and himself perplex and intrigue. There’s a deep existential crisis taking place inside of him, for which Schmidt bears the costs.

In the end, Schmidt’s character is left with Ferreira Luiz when Winter leaves her.

After the performance I was able to speak to the choreographer and ask him about the structure of the ménage à trois. It turns out that Winter and Ferreira Luiz are one person. Winter based his thirteen minute work on the lives of close friends. Winter’s character suffers a sexual identity crisis and decided to physically change genders but wishes to stay with Schmidt’s character after becoming a woman. Schmidt’s crisis is losing the man she loves deeply yet having the possibility of becoming his/her lesbian partner after Winter’s sex change.

The fascinating backstory is less important than the authenticity and depth of feeling Winter managed to invest in Outside In and the performances he coaxed out of his female partners. Outside In is the most moving dance work I’ve seen in the last two years.

If Outside In is ever re-staged or you have the opportunity to see any of Martin Winter’s work, do not miss the occasion. It turns out Mila Schmidt is a rising star in Volksoper and will be honoured the Vienna Ballet Club’s Founder’s Prize next month. If Outside In is any indication, look out for Schmidt’s performances in roles which benefit from dramatic presence and intensity.


Handsome young Spanish Volksoper dancer Andrés Garcia-Torres first choreography an die ferne Geliebte (To a distant love) was a very traditional affair. The choreographer himself is in the lead role in an 18th century gentleman’s ruffled shirt at a desk, writing with a quill while a candle burns. Dramatic Beethoven music accompanies his writing. He sees a vision of his distant love, the very beautiful Irene Garcia-Torres in a long flowing dress (his wife, I will presume). She comes to him and the pair dance a beautiful pas-de-deux. The whole episode seems more like something made for Louis XVI rather than a modern audience but the piece is well made. Its modern antecedent would be Roland Petit’s dramatic and dark Jeune Homme et le Mort (A Young Man and Death) set to J.S. Bach). An die ferne Geliebte is far more upbeat of course and the charisma of the two dancers takes us a long way.

I’d be more interested in seeing Andrés Garcia-Torres dancing some princely roles (his looks and lines seem a bit wasted at Volksoper) than more of his choreography for now.


Austrian native-born rising star Jakob Feyferlik whom we’ve already seen dance a couple of times tonight also made his choreographic debut with the last piece of the evening. Desire is another crowd pleaser with ballet silhoettes, gorgeous curvy dancers, handsome men and lots of show-off style dancing. Ethereal music comes from the works of post-minimalist contemporary British composer Max Richter. A bevy of beauties Nikisha Fogo, Natascha Mair, Nina Tonoli make up the women. Francesco Costa, Greig Matthews and James Stephens are all look heroic and partner the ladies through high lifts and spectacular throws effortlessly.

There doesn’t seem to be any deeper message to desire than to the emotion of joy and delight at being young and beautiful. The choreography hints men’s desire is stronger than female desire as it’s always the men pushing the women further. No opinion ventured on that subject here, this is just a report. Desire is a feel-good and well-danced positive envoi for the evening.


The Spanish Embassy provided a glamorous reception to conclude another excellent choreo.lab. This year’s cuvée did lack some of the excitement and ambition of past seasons (live automobiles driven on stage, casts of twenty, both courtesy of Patricia Sollak) or a scent of scandal (Karina Sarkissova’s Moulin Rougesque erotic works). Some of the pieces seemed a bit underrehearsed (though less so than at Hommage to Stravinsky) due to the very non-stop workload of another busy Manuel Legris season (no complaints, dancers live to dance, better a few too many performances than too few). What interests me is to see how Winter, Ferreira Luiz, Bakó and others develop as choreographers.

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Misguided ideas about dance film: Angelo Silvio Vasta]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1896 2017-05-18T23:32:17Z 2017-05-18T22:55:01Z Opus-Jazz-Passage-For-Two-promo
Frin Opus Jazz: Dance Filmed Right: Exciting, Dynamic

For years I’ve been a member at a site called NoFilmSchool – short form – NFS. Originally the online workbook of aspiring filmmaker Ryan Koo. Gradually Koo’s film projects (Vimeo) took him away from writing NFS and publishing standards have fallen.

1. They steal content from more reputable writers and re-post it as “click bait”
2. Judging by the brief and easily agreeable copy it’s easy to tell that the newer writers barely understand what they’re writing about nor do the writers even watch some of the tutorials/case studies they post anymore.
3. Ryan Koo, Robert Hardy and Joe Marine don’t write enough. And when they do it’s half-assed. They are this blog, and they are dropping the ball.
4. Quality over quantity has been lost and the reputation of the blog is suffering as a result. The basic idea of “think before you speak” could really benefit some of the writers here.

Gordon Robert’s critique is pretty much right on.

In this context of deteriorating standards, Lauretta Prevost recently put together an off the cuff clickbait article about dance film, based on the work and opinions of a certain Angelo Silvio Vasta.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Angelo Silvio Vasta dance showreel 2016

Based on his uninspired and dull showreel, I wouldn’t take any of Angelo Silvia Vasta’s advice on shooting dance. In particular, Vasta dismisses dancing with the dancer and handheld footage.

“Don’t try to follow the action directly with camera movement,” Vasta advises. “If the dancer is going left to right to left to right, don’t do the same with the camera. That’s disturbing.” You don’t want to be so directly connected, but move around the space. “There’s this idea of ‘dancing with the dancer’ some people prescribe to,” Vasta says. “I don’t think it is so directly connected.

Evidently Mr Vasta is unfamiliar with the steadycam. Dancing with the dancer is harder but it can yield exciting dance footage. Removing depth of field from dance (everything in focus) is another cardinal no-no which Mr Vasta blithely advocates. The goal with dance film is not to chronicle the spectacle (that’s the craft of shooting theatre archives) but to capture the inspiration and movement.

Here’s a counter example, Althea Frutex.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Althea Frutex, Alec Kinnear, D.A. Hoskins, Kristy Kennedy

Vasta goes further recommend eliminating depth of field:=”http://uncoy.com/images/

Pro-tip: Camcorders are best for dance, with a limited depth of field. Never shoot below a 5.6 aperture.

Here’s a modern dance video in HD which breaks every rule in Vasta’s book (depth of field, camera movement) and is hence intrinsically exciting, Wendja Regentanz.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Wendja Regentanz Music Video

If you’d rather see dance which is not part of a music video, take a look at Opus Jazz. Here’s an extract on PBS, Passage for Two. Breaks every rule in Vasta’s dull book and is hence absorbing.

[This post contains video, click to play]

Opus Jazz – Passage for Two

Here’s the trailer in HD (start watching at about fifty seconds as before that there’s no movement):

[This post contains video, click to play]

Opus Jazz Trailer

Dance film can be exciting. And should be exciting. Camera should move with the movement. Every effort should be taken to create an almost 3D effect. Dance is movement in three dimensions.
The only bit of Vasta’s advice with which I can agree is to attend dress rehearsals. Before you film dance it should be at least your second time seeing that piece:

One important tip Vasta offers is to attend the dress rehearsal and make notes on lighting changes….Vasta shares that at this stage in his career he’d be uncomfortable filming a live show without seeing a dress rehearsal.

If you are a dancer and thinking of creating a video record of your dance, whatever you do, do not take Angelo Silvio Vasta’s advice on how to shoot dance. You will bore your audience to tears. If you are an aspiring dance filmmaker, find another mentor.


This was originally a much shorter comment under the article but Lauretta Prevost managed to get my comment blocked and banned so I posted my comments at greater length in an article.

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Berlin, City of Glass and Concrete: Photo Essay]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1835 2017-05-16T00:02:41Z 2017-05-15T23:52:06Z Berlin needle from Gendarmenmarkt
Berlin needle from Gendarmenmarkt

Last weekend I was in Berlin for the first time for WordCamp Berlin 2017, despite having met and collaborated with some talented Berliners like Luci van Org in my days as a dance film director. Visually I was astonished by the amount of concrete and glass.

Berlin is also very flat, like Holland so it’s an ideal place to cycle. If you come to Berlin be sure to rent a bicycle immediately as the U-bahn is somewhat expensive (€2.80) and dark and smelly. Much less joyful than gliding along beside Berlin’s canals or through its huge parks on your way to your destination.

WordCamp Berlin 2017
Remnants of Wars Lost

The main reason Berlin has so much more concrete than say Vienna or Paris – equivalent nineteenth century capitals – is of course the second world war. Vienna and particularly Paris were spared. Berlin was not. Between punishing air raids and Russian artillery there was little left of the incredibly rich architecture of Berlin. You find partial facades left as both a memory and a reminder. The Allies (American and British) enjoyed the destruction. Berlin stands as a permanent monument to consequences of defying London and Washington and federal reserve banking. Tripoli recently experienced more of the same. Moscow, Teheran and Beijing should take careful note and guard their alliances carefully. Washington and London along with the puppet governments of Australia, Canada, Germany and France would like nothing better than an opportunity to wreak the same havoc on those metropoles.

Berlin Weight of the World
Berlin Weight of the World

If Berlin is any gauge, it takes a hundred years to rebuild a destroyed imperial capital to even a shadow of its former self.

Carthage must fall, declaimed the Senator.

And visiting Berlin in some ways is like treading the stones of Caesar’s partially rebuilt Carthage. Like Phoenicia, Germany may never be whole again. Huge parts are lost in Poland. Germany has only partial sovereignty since the Second World War with no final settlement of peace. The German government is captive to Washington and the secrets which the American alphabet soup have ferreted out concerning current leadership. Strange to see such a proud and capable people captives of a civilisation, historically in many ways its inferior.

There are still remnants of earlier grandeur like the dome at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Berlin-Gendarmmarkt-dome
Berlin-Gendarmenmarkt-dome

So much of Berlin is highly geometric, like even the quiet Besselstraße.

geometric-Berlin
Geometric Berlin

While Berlin is a cycling and hipster city, there are traces of Germany’s dominant car culture even here, with majestic top of the line engineering marvels from BMW and Mercedes parked on almost every street.

See top of the line German engineering on almost every street
See top of the line German engineering on almost every street

What I liked very much is the aesthetic of the advertising. It’s remains functionalist all these decades later unlike French advertising which is all based on emotion. The appeal to functionality and clarity appeals deeply to me.

A Shoe Shop Window in Besselstraße
A Shoe Shop Window in Besselstraße

The facade of this entire building at Potzdamer Platz was under renovation and covered with painted canvas. Cleverly on top of the canvas there is a photographic ad of models on a beach in swimwear. The only real part of this facade are the lights which illuminate the ad! True you could see something like this in Paris but the execution wouldn’t be as flawless with a perfect visual match between the real lamps and the painted facade.

Painted Facade at Potzdamer Platz
Painted Facade at Potzdamer Platz

The other side of the building does the same thing but a red iPhone 7 is not nearly as arresting as these ladies.

Going deeper into Potzdamerplatz there’s lots more concrete and glass.

Bahnhof Potzdamer Platz in motion
Bahnhof Potzdamer Platz in motio

Whether at the Ritz Carlton.

Berlin Ritz Carlton Concrete and Glass
Berlin Ritz Carlton

Or even underground:

Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Platform
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Platform
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Escalator
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Escalator
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Concrete Passage
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Concrete Passage
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Exit
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Exit
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Glass Ceilings
Potzdamer Platz Bahnhof Glass Ceilings

If the photos above seem futuristic and somewhat alienating, then I’ve achieved my aim. But Berlin is not all about caging humans with concrete and glass. There is a lot of green mixed in with the concrete and glass.

Sunset in Berlin
Sunset in Berlin

While Berlin impressed me with both its architecture and design in Berlin, sartorially Berlin underwhelms. People are as a whole horribly attired, as if they lived in some post-apocalyptic future where there are only tired leather jackets, denim jackets, dirty hoodies and every kind of nineties post-Soviet stone-washed jeans.

Men’s hair is dirty and uncombed, most of them wear neck beards on their three to twelve day stubble. Most of the women’s hair is not in much better shape, half combed out and flyaway. There’s probably not a place in Europe with a harsher no makeup policy. Perhaps even less than Toronto. This works well for a minority but leaves the majority defenceless in front of nature.

If you are wondering where they photos of badly dressed and worse groomed men are, neither taking nor posting photos of people looking their worst would be unkind. Despite the catastrophe on the clothing front, I don’t mean to sound too negative about Berlin. There are beautiful women, if on the surface their demeanour is a bit austere. Native Berliners like Karoline Herfurth are clever, engaged and passionate.

karoline-herfurth-portrait
Karoline Herfurth as Dani Wirth in Passion

As an actress, Herfurth is excellent in In Winter Ein Jahr (2008) while she brings depth and glamour to Wir Sind Die Nacht (2010; a guilty vampire pleasure of mine) and Das Wunder von Berlin(2008). In the English speaking world, you may remember Herfurth from her supporting role as Dani Wirth in Brian de Palma’s otherwise forgettable Passion (2012). Sadly her best known film is the very vulgar and modestly amusing Fack ju Göthe (2013). Shamefully Herfurth signed up for chapter two but happily had the good sense to refuse a third outing for the lowbrow franchise.

In addition to her work as a performer, Herfurth has already written and directed a well received full length dramatic feature SMS für Dich (2016). This is all by the age of thirty two. If you can stand strong opinions in your women, Berlin is a great place to go for a fascinating argument with an intelligent and talented member of the fairer sex.


All photos apart from the portrait of Karoline Herfurth by the author. Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC.
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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Wiener Volksoper: Eifman’s Red Giselle a Triumph]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1887 2017-05-16T16:46:55Z 2017-05-06T16:34:05Z Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova
Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova

There are few companies in the world who can pull off the first scene of Red Giselle. Boris Eifman puts eight princes on stage in glittering classic princely raimant and eight princesses in exquisite white tutus.

It’s a hallucinigenic and disorienting spectacle to face that many principal dancers at the same time, each dancing his or her grand role. Staatsoper is a particularly beautiful ballet company with the men for the most part fine featured and long limbed. The Staatsoper corps-de-ballet women are slim, soft curved and graceful. Thanks to their pretty faces and fine dancing skills the illusion of eight princes and eight Giselles convinces.

Staatsoper is a better match than Eifman’s own company for Red Giselle as the Staatsoper dancers perform the classics every week and are prettier. Eifman’s own group are a bit shorter and more muscular – primarily modern dancers.

Red Giselle’s story follows a principal ballerina who abandons her choreographer director husband in the early years of the Russian Revolution for a fling with a Red Kommissar. Initially her plans were for a short affair but the black coated kommissar is not prepared to let her go.

Ioanna Avraam is perfect as the arrogant and willful ballerina who gets her and everyone she knows into such trouble. Later her choreographer husband is thrown into a basement somewhere and tortured to death. Andrey Teterin dances his way to death with distinction and poise.

The role of the Kommissar equally suits Alexis Forabosco, whose sinister handsome face reminds one of Christopher Walken in his prime. Princes don’t suite Forabosco’s gaunt features but villains do, he exudes dark power.

Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova
Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova

Avraam’s strong almost masculine features and powerful shoulders are a good match for Forabosco’s muscular physique. I’m not sure how effective Red Giselle would be with a fragile Giselle type dancer in the lead role.

When Forabosco’s Kommissar takes Avraam’s ballerina to visit his revolutionary mates, the women spurn her at first. The costumes are Red chic, with revolutionary caps, scarves and long quotes on both men and women. Avraam then wins them all over with a bold dance. This is fantastic spectacle, worthy to be the principal scene of any West End musical.

There is a ravishing Soviet late night café scene complete with flappers where the entire cast swings through the night. It’s the same tight group of thirty dancers who play the Ballerina’s dancer friends, the Soviet revolutionaries, the decadent Soviets, a second dance troupe and finally Willis. There are full costume turnaround in less than two minutes at some points without a single cue dropped. It’s amazing work by the corps-de-ballet, drawn from both Staatsoper and Volksoper companies and by rehearsal masters Alice Necsea, Jean Christophe Lesage and Albert Mirzoyan.

The underused Igor Milos is perfect here as Avraam’s principal ballroom partner. As Avraam’s post-Kommissar dancing partner, Staatsoper étoile Roman Lazik convincingly portrays both dancer and prince.

The minimalist decoration communicates a post-Revolution Leningrad perfectly. The lighting plan is well wrought and atmospheric. The score provides a wide range of musical delights from Peter Ilyitch Tschaikowki’s Serenades, diverse Alfred Schnittke’s extracts, particularly from the Gogole Suite and finally Georges Bizet’s L’Arlessiene Suite. Red Giselle ends of course with the finale of Adolphe Adam’s Giselle.

Giselle-Rouge-Second-Act-The-Madhouse-Willis-Ketevan-Papava
Giselle-Rouge-Second-Act-The-Madhouse-Willis-Ketevan-Papava

The fast forward Giselle in the second half is very strange and in some ways goes on too long. It’s unclear what Giselle’s story has to do with an arrogant ballerina who thought she could bed whomever she wanted without consequence. It’s a role reversal from the original Giselle where the prince was the thoughtless one. In this case, the Kommissar should become Giselle in a complete role reversal. But in the final Willi scenes, Giselle remains Giselle. Despite the very effective shock-value madhouse costumes on the Willis, the last third of the piece doesn’t make much sense.

Yet when a theatre work is so well-composed and so varied and so effective, a small thematic failure can be overlooked in favour of the spectacle.

Eifmann’s work is perfect in Volksoper with a grand group of Staatsoper dancers. An almost flawless must see show.

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Volksopera Review: Der Feuervogel | Petruschka | Movements to Stravinsky]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1802 2017-05-15T23:57:28Z 2017-04-30T14:57:41Z Feuervogel
David Dato in a photo by Johannes Ifkovits, the publicity image.
In Movements to Stravinsky costume where Dato does not dance

Volksoper has debuted a full evening of choreography dedicated to Igor Stravinsky’s musical work, Petrushka, Pulcinella Suite and Suite Italienne and The Firebird. What’s especially impressive about the evening is all three pieces are choreographed by Staatsoper born and bred talent. Eno Peci, András Lukács and Andrei Kaydanovsky all have enjoyed long careers as dancers and taken their own first steps as choreographers in the Staatsoper, often at Ballettclub’s Choreolab (coming up soon).

Stravinsky’s compositions for ballet were the core of Sergei Diaghelev’s Ballets Russes. The Firebird premiere took place in Paris Opera in 1910, while Petruschka premiere also took place in Paris but in Théâtre du Châtelet. The original choreographer for both ballets was Michal Fokine. Both of these ballets enjoy a rich tradition around the world, with versions in the repertoire of The Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov), National Ballet of Canada, The Bolshoi Theatre, the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre to name just a few. Ironically enough, the Russian premiere of Fokine’s The Firebird had to wait until perestroika in 1993.

In fairness to Michal Fokine, what we saw this week should probably not bear the name of the original compositions, a while the music is still Stravinsky’s, neither the original choreography or libretto plays any role in Peci or Kaydanovsky’s creations.

Petrushka – Eno Peci

Nina Tonoli, Davide Dato in "Petruschka"
The original Petrushka tells the story of the puppet Punch (Petruscha) who loves a Ballerina puppet who in turn loves the Moor puppet who takes the Ballerina away from Petruschka. The loss of his love kills Petrushka. Most of the action takes place in the middle of a bustling Russian street market.

Petrushka is a difficult work to rebuild as a new ballet. The clown, his mistress, the Russian market. How do you replace all of that colour and energy?

Peci choose to open with a birthday party at home where Petrushka is with his beautiful partner celebrating the birthday of their young son. The ongoing motif is a clock installed in the ceiling on which the hands turn and turn.

Davide Dato in "Petruschka"

Suddenly we are in a white schoolroom with wooden desks and very high ceilings. The girls come in white jackets and very short skirts. Céline Janou Weder enthusiastically leads her able fellow classmates including Emilia Barano, Adele Fiochhi, Anna Shepelyova….in the playful dances of schoolgirls. They are joined by an equal contingent of six boys who quickly quarrel and stir up petty rivalries and trouble. On a high trumpet note Petruschka enters as a buttoned down school teacher in brown suit and tie.

David Dato quickly takes control of the hijinks and quarrel between the boys and the classroom settles down. Dato’s Petrushka owes more to Hollywood dance start Fred Astaire than Michel Fokine. He’s convincing in his fifties style persona with a big smile and a cheerful attitude.

Davide Dato in "Petruschka"

A very dangerous Rebekka Horner comes across as a giant wasp in her geometric black latex suit. It’s uncertain for me if Horner should represent the Magician or the Moor. In any case, she’s accompanied by two young street thugs who cause trouble at the school and rape the teacher/Petrushka’s wife. Trevor Hayden and Arne Vancervelde convince with malice. Even their 80’s hairstyles are offensive.

Rebecca Horner in "Petruschka"

Pavol Juras’s decorations, costumes and light are the real highlight. The huge blackboard, the high ceilings, the worn out windows, the faded colour palette are all on the mark. Peci has struggled with story in his past works, often as beautiful as perfume ads but equally shallow. It’s great to see him working in close partnership with a dramaturg. The great Juraj Grigorovich did his best work in close collaboration with stage designer Simon Virsladze.

Less convincing is the relationship between Petrushka and his wife, a very beautiful Nina Tonelli. In the original, one feels Petrushka’s humiliation when the Ballerina prefers the Moor’s ravishment to Petrushka’s true love. This time around the humiliation takes place in front of his students. Any teacher would say that’s almost as bad. It’s quite a distance from unrequited love.

Nina Tonoli, Davide Dato in "Petruschka"

The choreography and movement are solid but not extraordinary. There is no original spark in the movement, instead a pastiche of suitable fragments gathered from here and there.

Peci and Jurás’s collaboration is an original and strange yet viable re-interpretation of Fokine’s work.

Movements to Stravinsky – András Lukács

Alice Firenze, Masayu Kimoto in "Movements to Stravinsky"

Movements to Stravinsky opens in a bare off-white box. The costumes are black and white. Some of the men have neck ruffles, some of the women battery lit horizontal white tutus.

The majestic Stravinksy melodies relentlessly insist on lyric art, as the dancers regally walk in from the sides, extremely elegant. Everything is extremely tasteful.

Between bouts of elegant walking we enjoy duets, solos and triplets.

The first pair is the best. Long limbed Cypriot Ionna Avraam is in another category tonight, bending her body like copper, harmonious, perfectly in sync with the music and very long. James Stephens is an able partner.

Nikisha Fogo, Greig Matthews in "Movements to Stravinsky"

The other major duet Nikisha Fogo and Greig Matthews. The choreography is excellent and Fogo’s soft curves are well suited to the sensual lifts. Unfortunately both she and Matthews appeared very uncertain while dancing. They could both use at least a week or two of additional rehearsal before public presentation.

Alice Firenze in "Movements to Stravinsky"

Alice Firenze with Masayu Kimoto fare better against a less challenging duet. Céline Janou Weder dances a trio in pants with an absurd looking Géraud Wielick in some kind of tunic skirt with a Mongolian pony tail on his head. Wielick’s casual hipster look nearly collapsed the entire aesthetic of Lukács’s neo-classical piece.

Alice Firenze, Masayu Kimoto in "Movements to Stravinsky"

Movements to Stravinsky is a lot like any Kyllian piece staged in Paris Opera from about 1985. Its roots go even further back to George Balanchine’s structured art like Jewels. Some would call Movements to Stravinsky dated, others might consider it timeless. The conservative Viennese audience adored it, András Lukács has created a real crowd pleaser. Movements of Stravinsky or something very like it will be danced in 2050 as well. There’s probably not enough passion or innovation in this particular version that it will survive much beyond next year. Choreographer András Lukács is capable of much more feeling.

The Firebird – Andrei Kaydanovsky

Rebecca Horner, Masayu Kimoto in "Der Feuervogel"

The Firebird is a great story of resurrection and redemption. Unfortunately choreographer Andrei Kaydanovsky has chosen to wrap it in his own dark notions of modern times:

rampant consumerism of our time, our egoism, and the problem of dead centres of personal development.

I don’t disagree with Kaydanovsky about the wasteland of contemporary mainstream life. But the Firebird was never about the mainstream and general despair. It was about rising above the ordinary.

As far off target as he is with the music and the theme, Kaydanovsky’s sense of stagecraft is magnificent right from the parting of the curtains. A group of men gather outside a Russian deparment store goggling at the mannequins. Kaydanovsky creates this atmosphere with just a few wood frames and a Универсал (Department Store) sign in Russian.

A man in a giant chicken costume wanders in and circulates among the men handing out restaurant fliers. After a time the mannequins come to life and the men flee. Chicken-man (the character of Ivan in the original Firebird follows the Firebird mannequin into the store where there is an entire wall of boxes stacked high in three giant shelves with the text above them in Cyrillic characters, straight out of Soylent Green.

Hier bist du Vogelfütter

Shoppers crowd around and riot underneath the boxes until they fall down. At this point the shoppers turn into zombies writhing in the boxes – Kaydanovsky’s rampant consumerism. The movement is very sloppy but exceptionally organic.

Ivan now follows the Firebird deeper into the basement factory of the department store where grey female rag doll princesses move along a conveyor line.

The dolls are dancers who drop into old dirty yellow foam at the end of the conveyor line. This is quite a clever reinterpretation of the twelve princesses of the original. There is still hope the story will take an interesting and parallel path with the original.

Masayu Kimoto, Davide Dato in "Der Feuervogel"

The workers are in overalls from the thirties or fifties. The vast empty space of the workshop is created by rows of overhead flourescent lamps. Richard Szabó in particular convincingly offers the rough movement of a factory worker in a trio with Zsolt Török and Géraud Wielick (whose hair once again distracts).

Ivan dances – rather stumbles around – with the mannequins trying to find one he likes. Finally he finds his Vasillisa in a dirty pink costume and a huge orange wig. It’s Rebecca Horner under a thick cake of white zombie makeup.

Rebecca Horner, Masayu Kimoto in "Der Feuervogel"

Their awkward duet finally ends in collapse on the floor. A window appears at the back of the atelier. Dato’s Firebird takes his place in the window when a man in a hotdog costume wanders by. The end. Kaydanovsky offers no redemption, there is no firebird, just a guy in a shiny jacket, luring you into a department store.

Rebecca Horner, Masayu Kimoto in "Der Feuervogel"

Kaydanovsky doesn’t give the dancers much to work with so one cannot talk much about the performances but all of the dancers acquit themselves well enough. While the performance and the stagecraft, Kaydanovksy’s The Firebird remains fairly shameless shocktastic piggybacking on top of a classic with which his work has nothing in common. An approach symptomatic of the same weak ethical qualities and consumerism about which Kaydanovsky complains.

Orchestra – Conclusion

Throughout the evening the orchestra under David Levi offered an excellent classic interpretation of Stravinsky’s splendid scores. The Volksoper orchestra is a bit thin for the Firebird in comparison to the Marinsky or Bolshoi or full Staatsoper orchestra but the three pieces make an excellent musical evening.

According to his granddaughter and trustee of his works, Isabelle Fokine, Michal Fokine was not keen on radical changes to his works:

When Alexander Golovin’s designs were destroyed, Diaghilev commissioned Natalia Goncharova to design a set that would be easier to tour. My grandfather was horrified by the result – “It dealt a death blow to my ballet.” This was due to the fact that dancers were reacting to elements of the staging no longer present. This may not have troubled Diaghilev, but to a choreographer for whom dramatic sense was paramount, Fokine believed it made nonsense of his work….My grandfather greatly resented his ballets being altered. Today nobody would dream of tampering with the work of a living choreographer, so it seems inconceivable that it took place, but it did – often.

It’s good thing Fokine has been dead for 75 years. Let’s hope Peci’s and Kaydanovsky’s revisions don’t bring him back from his grave.

Out of the three works, Eno Peci’s Petrushka is easily the most successful. If you don’t pass out from déjà vu, Lukács Movements to Stravinsky is harmless and elegant fare. Kaydanovsky’s The Firebird is painful and depressing. Watching it is a suitable and delightfully ironic punishment for those superficial balletomanes who seek only shallow beauty from a night at the operahouse. As the Volksoper is often the first place people see dance in Vienna, Kayadanovsky’s The Firebird risks demotivating many to ever see another ballet.


All images copyright Wiener Volksoper 2017 and Ashley Turner.
Dancer credits beneath each photo in lightbox
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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Post-Apocalyptic Trump World]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1784 2017-04-26T02:51:09Z 2017-04-25T20:45:02Z Fantasy_Tornadoes_in_the_post-apocalyptic_world_096943_

A good friend and colleague of mine is a professional political pundit. He was and is very anti-Trump. I argued a case in favour of Donald Trump. In the end, electing Donald Trump on his message of MAGA seems to have been as futile as electing Barrack Obama on his message of hope and change. Here is my mea culpa to my friend. It appears prudent people should plan for a post-apocalyptic world:

Just to note: you were right about Donald Trump (I argued above you didn’t give him a fair chance). Trump is the same sellout as Barrack Obama was, betraying his MAGA voters as Obama betrayed his hope and change voters. Was George Carlin right about the unseen angle on the Kennedy Assassination?

Whomever the Americans elect, regardless public platform, that politician turns around and pursues a Wall Street/military industrial complex/Big Oil agenda.

Hillary Clinton was a known disaster. Voting for her was likely to end in two more Middle East wars and World War III with Russia/China (her game would have been to separate China from Russia and then to attack – while perhaps a better strategy for America, it’s just as sour a plan for the world). Donald Trump was an unknown, a wild card. But you may be right. In the end, as awful as Hillary Clinton would have been, Donald Trump might manage to be worse. He still has his homework in front of him.

There’s no one left to root for. The old codger Sanders went along with his sandbagging. Rand Paul has neither party backing nor is he particularly reliable himself.

The whole plutocracy is rotten through and through. We’re living through a modern version of the 1770’s or 1780’s. You’ll remember how that ended in France.

On the issues important to you:

  • Israel won’t make a reasonable settlement (equal rights or independence) with the Palestinians.
  • industry (and in particular) American industry will not accept climate change so we will continue to pollute and poison ourselves into an imminent (give or take fifty years) extinction event

Sadly part two might be the best thing we could do for the planet. We wiped out the Denisovians, the Neanderthals, the North American Indian and countless other species. If we could just wipe out ourselves, life would have another chance at making a kinder, gentler and wiser sentient species.

Like you as a father, I have to do my best to combat our self-destructive tendencies for the benefit of future generations. Our efforts for the moment seem to be in vain as the water table is fracked poisoning an enormous of the US groundwater and the ocean is slowly reduced to a toxic bath. This is without mentioning the steady air pollution. If I had to wager, nuclear war will put most of us out of our misery before we manage to damn the environment entirely via conventional means.

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Is the Admiral Grigorovich a threat to USS Porter and USS Cole?]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1645 2017-04-26T02:51:32Z 2017-04-08T18:46:33Z The Admiral Grigorovich will be shadowed by submarines. Any large warship is a sitting duck at this point to a capable adversary. The displacement of the Admiral Grigorovich is just 4000 tonnes loaded in comparison to almost 9000 loaded for each of the USS Porter and USS Cole, albeit Admiral Grigorovich is a 2013 issue warship while the USS Porter and USS Cole are about fifteen years older. Even without the submarine thread or the menace of an attack by American planes from nearby Mediterranean airbases, the Admiral Grigorovich would be hard pressed to sink both the USS Porter and USS Cole at the same time.

Moreover the Admiral Grigorovich is one of just three such Russian frigates while the US has 62 Arleigh-Burke class destroyers in service. The Russians would not like to trade the Admiral Grigorovich against even three such US destroyers.

What the Admiral Grigorovich could do though is interfere with cruise missile launches electronically as well as shoot down a fair number of the departing missiles. Whether that non-aggressive hindrance would inspire the US to try to sink a Russian navy vessel is an open question.


The bigger picture: Trump’s cruise missile strike has turned a co-operative neutral and occasionally allied country into a military adversary. The geopolitical situation has changed radically and we stand much closer to direct armed conflict between Russia and the United States.

The moment that starts I cannot wargame a scenario where the conflict does not escalate within a matter of about a week to full on nuclear war. None of us are safer, not even Syrians. That the neocons and MSM are cheering Trump indicates just how bad an idea this illegal act of war was.

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Remnants of Hapsburg Pressburg]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1531 2017-04-12T00:38:41Z 2015-07-08T17:37:46Z One of the great things about having a dog is that he will take you off the beaten track. Sometimes far off the beaten track. In this case on a 37 degree day, Thor insisted on going through the woods. I ended up crawling through bracken in shorts with low rise socks (very cool looking invention until crossing berries and vines in the woods).

Pressburg Pionier Oberleutenant Karl Hoper LPressburg Pionier Oberleutenant Karl Hoper (L)

In this case, Thor led me to a very old memorial tableau from 1909, reminding us of some unfortunate Pionier (in German) who were blown up by a mine. Until I saw the date I couldn’t understand why the Russians or Slovak would write in German, as the Russians also had Pioneers. But no, this was a trace of Hapsburg Pressburg, when Pressberg was probably about the fifteenth city in the Austrian side of Austro-Hungary.

Bratislava Castle Danube boats postcard 1Bratislava Castle Danube boats postcard (L)

While I was there I took a photo of the castle with boats passing. This photo has the feel of old postcards for me. Technically it’s shot on a Leica R 50mm f2 mounted on a Sony NEX-5T. With the NEX-5T you can mount all your amazing old manual lens. Aperture exposure mode works great (unlike on the Canon 5D Mark III and other Canon DSLR). 

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Presburg Mirror]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1496 2015-01-20T17:46:37Z 2015-01-20T17:37:09Z So this is how Hans felt
before the war. Hitler’s voice drones
on the radio. A toothbrush in his hands,
his eyes in the mirror. Surely,
he thought, it won’t come to this.
Level heads will prevail. Not twenty years
ago the cannons went silent.

But this time my bleary eyes admit,
it’s been seventy years. Three generations
lived and died with just whispers
in the jungles or Balkan piano clatter.
An inconsequential hundred thousand
Arab children may have starved.

Nothing real, nothing like this. Slow heartbeat,
the distant boom of the end, absolute.
Hans’ wife pooh-poohed the menace then
as mine now. Take Gretta with you my love
while you’re out with the dog. Fresh air
will do you all good.
She smiles, urgently
rubbing cream into her forehead. A furrow
across her brow, dismisses any other care.

Real men do not fret about
what they cannot change.
Children
to be taken to school, cannons to load.
Duties to be discharged equally.
Centuries alter not man’s destiny, woman’s
insouciance. Accept the force. Indispensable
nation. Sieg Heil!

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alec http://uncoy.com <![CDATA[Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz]]> http://uncoy.com/?p=1300 2014-05-11T23:38:41Z 2014-05-11T00:49:12Z 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

Aimless is just one year old, Dimo Milev won the Copenhagen International Choreographic Competition with his short reflection on life: “it’s not important where you go but with whom you go”. Style is Hong Kong cinema with rust coloured pants and flowered shirts. Tango music from Marc Ribot adds a sensual funkiness to slinky synchronous movement. Performer Tamako Akiyama moves like a young dancer in her timeless and trendy swan song.

Dimo Kirilov Milev und Tamako Akiyama in Aimless von Dimo Kirilov Milev Foto Costin Radu
Dimo Kirilov Milev und Tamako Akiyama in Aimless
von Dimo Kirilov Milev Foto Costin Radu

Fortunately the Graz Oper’s speaker system is good enough to mix with live orchestra. Jean Sibelius’s “Ariels Lied” mixes into nature effects in the next duet, another extract from Toulon’s own Swan Trilogy. Anne-Marie Legenstein’s costume for the white swan remains breathtaking, a tightly pulled gauze bodysuit with transparent sections, decorated with silver and jewels. Bruna Diniz Afonso did justice to Toulon’s finely wrought choreography but her partner Keian Langdon persistently let her down. He looks good but his movement was sloppy and neither his head nor heart were in the dance this night.

“Fifth Corner” tries to tell the story of solitary confinement through three dancers. We hear opera arias mixed with some synthetic beats but the mix feels like a posed cool. Three long-haired beardos in Mao suits are the dancers but for me the movement was second rate. Choreography credits are shared by Guido Sarli and Manuel Rodriguez. Perhaps the full Loser King from which “Fifth Corner” was extracted makes more sense: Loser King won prizes in both New York and Madrid.

Toulon takes us back again to Swan Lake with Pascal Touzeau’s two year old reinterpretation of the pas de deux from the second act. The music is original and gorgeously played by the Graz Orchestra but the movement is entirely new, in what is an almost naked Swan Lake. This is great dance from a ballerina in her prime. Anne Jung brings a ferocious German intensity to Tchaikovsky’s elegaic score. A slightly awkward Christian Bauch does his best but he’s not able to keep up with Jung. It would definitely worth the trip to Mainz to see an astonishingly refreshed Swan Lake with parallel love stories (Odette and Odile are twin sisters).

Anne Jung und Christian Bauch in Pascal Touzeaus Schwanensee Act II Pas de Deux
Anne Jung und Christian Bauch in Pascal Touzeaus Schwanensee Act II Pas de Deux

Tarek Assam’s Alter Ego brings two men together on the stage again to the pure industrial sound of Alva Noto’s Argonaut. Michael Bronczkowski is a big black miracle worker of a dancer, his long arms extend forever. His silken movement makes you wonder how there any white male dancers. Manuel Wahlen holds up his end but Bronczkowski absolutely dominates the stage in one of the best performances of the evening.

Stephan Thoss’s Between Midnight and Morning returns us to Swan Lake but in a peculiar parody with the focus on an Odette head over heels in love with Rotbart. Laia Garcia Fernandez has a tutu which goes up to her chin. With short runs and bodychecks, Fernandez bowls Tenald Zace over again and again in fits of jealously. The game is funny at first but we quickly tire of it, repetition of the same joke breaks the funny bone.

Phew. That’s part one done. Back to our seats. After the second half, the orchestra does not return nor does Swan Lake.

Chat Rooms 2 is a sneak preview of Rosana Hribar and Grego Lustek’s contribution to the new Oper Graz dance evening. Bostjan Ivanjsic comes out early with Laura Fischer where he takes over an armchair and squaks about love. Others join them in bright green, red, blue shirts to ask the same question while tumbling. “Do you still love me?” which is always followed up by “I have to be sure which side you are on.” “Your side of course.” Uncertainty in love is universal so the trope of funny voices amuses at first but Michal Zabavik, Thanh Pham, Clara Pascual Marti and the rest wear it to death. The entire audience breathed an audible sigh of relief at the end of the short excerpt.

The simple piano music of Yarosava Ivanenko’s Invisible Grace brought soothing relief to raw nerves. A very beautiful pas de deux between the choreographer himself and Heather Jurgensen offers subtle gestures, great feeling and amazing empathy. There’s only black costumes but fine choreography and emotional performance makes one forget anything except the music and the dancers. If you are anywhere near Kiel, check the Ballet Kiel program to catch Jurgensen.

Heather Jurgensen und Yaroslav Ivanenko in Invisible Grace
Heather Jurgensen und Yaroslav Ivanenko in Invisible Grace

Grey boxes, grey glothes and grey movement are what Kevin O’Day brings to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, a work where good choreographers go to die. The sad duet between older men is art with a capital A, important with a capital I and boring with a capital B. Dance is not about death from old age, even if the boomers are getting older, but about passion and fire. Thoughtful and interminable.

Kevin ODay und Robert Glumbek in Four Seasons Photo Christian Kleiner
Kevin ODay und Robert Glumbek in Four Seasons Photo Christian Kleiner

Hung-Wen Chen’s acrobatic dancing in V.V.V. quickly made Oper Graz much livelier. Half way through their leaps and flips, up come the house light. Lester Rene Gonzalez Alvarez asks the audience about games of chance before going back to horizontal and vertical floorwork. Veni Vidi Vici is very entertaining though the black and white costumes and the movement often seem very eighties (not necessarily a bad thing).

Hung Wen Chen und Lester Rene in Veni vidi vici von Hung Wen Chen
Hung Wen Chen und Lester Rene in Veni vidi vici von Hung Wen Chen

David Dawson’s brand new “Opus.11” is a choreographic reflection on the impossibility of truly coupling and life’s temporality. It was written for two retiring dancers. Tonight Courtney Richardson was majestic in the role written for Yumiko Takeshima. Raphael Coumes-Marquet’s movement seemed a bit too distant and self-involved, as though not only was he not interested in this woman, but no women.

Courtney Richardson und Raphael Coumes Marquet in David Dawsons Opus11 Photo Costin Radu
Courtney Richardson und Raphael Coumes Marquet in
David Dawsons Opus11 Photo Costin Radu

Chat Rooms 1, another sneak preview, closed out the evening with a bang. Checkerboards of light and industrial banging grab our attention. Young star James Cousins does not seem to have a clear point yet in this preview. Oper Graz’s company looks good but in a fashion piece like this regal ice princess Sarah Schoch is clearly missing. A dancer like Schoch would add a visual edge to this fashion piece.

Throughout the evening, we had the pleasure of Toulon’s introductions and reflections on dance. Toulon’s mix of intellectual humour and pomp mostly charms. Toulon seems more self-conscious about his age than he needs to be. While dancers careers are short-lived, a choreographer’s need not be.

Toulon came up with a great promotional and fundraising idea: attractive black t-shirts with next season’s program on the back and a quote from Nietzsche on the front for €10: Most sizes sold out.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

Next year is Toulon’s final season in Graz. There will be a sixth International Tanzgala here next May. Graz is wonderful in May and so are Toulon’s dance galas.

A splendid respite from pas de deux from Don Quixote and La Bayadère.

Further reflections on the future

If I had any wishes for future Graz Tanzgalas they would be to have fewer pieces, but longer excerpts. I’d like to continue to see as many pieces with live music as possible, even if it doesn’t involve the whole orchestra (piano with cello for example live). There is a danger of hitting the same wells each time: it’s important to see dancers from new venues every year rather than the same dancers back with something new each year. Several repeating artists does provide some continuity though and artists in their prime often have five or six stupendous years in a row, so the right mix of repeating and new artists is a fine line to tread.

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