This was my fourth choreolab in Vienna. Except it wasn’t in Vienna. For some reason, the Vienna Ballet Club moved their marquee event to St Polten. Now St Polten is fine but it’s over an hour from Vienna. I missed the Friday night premiere so I can’t tell what attendance was like for that night, but on Sunday the crowd was very, very ballet, apart from the Hungarian ambassador to Austria and a few other political luminaries.
Nothing against St Polten, but please bring choreolab back to Vienna, to the Odeon or Museumsquartier and to a wider public. choreolab should not be a private event for the Staatsoper inner circle and dancers.
The evening was very short running just over an hour with six choreographies. Gone were the past years of incredible forty five minute works from Vanessa Tamburi or Patricia Sollak. We were treated with only miniatures in this year’s choreolab.
What has happened at the Staatsoper is that a generation change has taken place. Nearly all of the senior generation that had grown up under the old system are gone. As well as Mlles Tamburi and Sollak, Niki Adler has also left the Staatsoper. There are apparently no real replacements for these dancers, eager to put on their own choreographic works. Fallow periods happen in theatres.
In the Bolshoi Theater after the period of Vladimir Vasilyev, Ekaterina Maximova and Maya Plissetskaya, while there were great performers after them there were no real replacement personalities for years – striving to put on their own ballets.
On top of their youth, apparently the dancers are worn out this year. The corps-de-ballet is dancing much better, but it’s due to overwork. Vienna State Opera Ballet Director Gyula Harangozá leaves the company little energy for any extra-curricular activities, including going out dancing with friends on the weekend. So there was less enthusiasm as usual from both potential choreographers or dancers. In past years, Choreolab was where young dancers went to showcase their wares in hopes of snagging more solo roles next season.
Two choreographers from past choreolabs were on the program, Serbian dancer Vesna Orlic and Russian choreographer Karina Sarkissova.
Vesna Orlic’s piece Parfum had excellent music, from the Gotan project. Four female dancer begin with langorous movements. Eventually men come to accompany them. It all ends in a gorgeous vertical wreath of bodies.
Richly colourful costumes in purple and orange and a bit of drawn on tattoo gave a slightly Aztec or Indian feel to Parfum. Definitely somewhere around mythology. While Parfum did not have the emotional resonance of Vesna Orlic’s last choreolab Tango, the colours and music and dancing gave the audience pleasure.
Uber das Leben (About Life) is the first work of Dutch choreographer Brenda Saleh. It was a short piece about loneliness, finding an other and then having to share him. The best part of About Life was the music. Ms. Saleh didn’t have to go far to get it, as the music was the creation of her partner Christian Mann. He both wrote and played a very moving piano concerto. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to prepare for live performance so we heard a recorded version on the weekend.
The dancing was again good, Ilianna Chivarova put in a beautiful performance as the third in white, in contrast to the black clad Ms. Saleh. I felt Ms. Saleh did not seem able to emote adequately to the grand theme – life – she wished to cover. Her loneliness did not move me as much as it could have.
In the end, music apart, the short About Life felt pretty but inconsequential.
Karinna Sarkissova’s was the veteran choreographer and star among the Choreolab choreographers of this year. A soloist in the Staatsoper, Ms. Sarkissova is relatively tall. With her long blonde hair, bright eyes, she cuts a striking figure in her black dress.
Happily enough Ms. Sarkissova’s choreographic abilities have improved. If it weren’t for the self-indulgent soundtrack, the movement would have been quite touching. Both Alena Klochkova and Andrej Teterin took full advantage of the opportunities Ms. Sarkissova afforded them against a simple blue backdrop.
At this point, my hopes were low with two more unknown choreographers and another Sarkissova piece on the program. Then Dan Datcu (Rumania) and Rebecca Horner (Austria) surprised in his touching and eloquent miniature Given, But One Wing.
Given, But One Wing again treated the issue of loneliness. In this case man meets woman and they bind. Mr. Datcu ceaselessly invented lifts and rolls and high kicks to express both the delight and the frustration of love.
Sadly at the end the couple falls apart and Ms. Horner is left alone on the stage. There was a little bit too much emotional content in the seven minutes. This duet could easily run twenty minutes with slower emotional development.
Both Dan Datcu and Rebecca Horner were totally inside their characters and translucent emotionally. Of the evening, Given But One Wing, was the short but potent hint of what wonderful dance can be. After this first piece, I look forward to seeing more of Mr. Datcu’s work.
Karina Sarkissova’s second piece Beichte (Confession) is a solo set to the music of Russiann singer Nikolai Noskov. Confession is an emotional ballad of the kind which only the Russians can manage credibly. So at least Ms. Sarkissova had the music at her back.
Denys Cherevychko takes Ms. Sarkissova’s ball and runs with it. He leaps, turns in the air, throws himself on the floor and crucifies himself on point several times for the audience. Very flashy dancing – I’m not sure yet whether it was moving or just excessive but Confession certainly did not pass unnoticed.
Perhaps Ms. Sarkissova could choreography to such emotionally excessive music if she requires melodrama to inspire her and switch the music in the last week of rehearsal to something more thoughtful and less indulgent.
Samuel Colombert’s piece was the longest, including variations from four women. The structure of the piece deeply classical with a conventional dance vocabulary. The music (collage?) was fine, the choreography correct but dull. Happily with four beautiful dancers deeply engaged in their work, it was not difficult to just relax and enjoy the moment.
Lisa Cano and Iliana Chivarova were particularly focused and absorbing. Erika Kovácova’s dancing was large and physical. Rui Tamai was correct but a bit cold.
The small line of coloured cloths across the back of the stage and the varied red gowns were tasteful and appropriate to the piece.
And after one hour that was the end.
Much applause but not much of substance to hold onto apart from Dan Datcu’s Given But One Wing. But it is so difficult to put on independent dance with full members of a classical company, it is wonderful that Choreolab 2008 took place. Full congratulations and thanks to Ballett Club Wien president Ingeborg Tichy-Luger and Ballett Club supporters.
The hope and the dream of great new works stays alive. Some of the new members may be inspired to prepare their own pieces.
Whether, Choreolab can continue as it is without honorariums and attract the top talents is an open question. At least one professional level choreographer from the Choreolab alumni didn’t participate this year, as he “can’t afford to create for nothing”.
I understand the feeling.
For even more pictures of Choreolab 08 St Pölten – Wien. Anyone who would like prints of these pictures can order them online there.