Five Dances – a modern ballet evening
Hungarian National Ballet, Erkel Theatre, Budapest – June 1, 2013
In its aim to attract newcomers to enjoy dance, the Hungarian National Ballet certainly got things right when putting together its latest evening of modern ballets. With pieces not too long to let attention wander, and accompanied by beautiful music with plenty of passion and comedy to please everyone, the two-hour programme did just what it set out to do. The 2,000-seat auditorium of the Erkel Theatre in Budapest was packed with all ages, from youngsters to oldies, and their enthusiasm for the programme was infectious. Whistles, cheering, slow (appreciative) handclapping followed the curtain calls, and for those more used to the big story-telling traditional ballet evenings the company is known for, this programme certainly opened eyes to seeing that dance without specific scenarios can be just as entertaining.
The black and white photographs of the dancers of the Ballets Russes in Natalia Goncharova's designs for Les Noces, posed in the gardens at the back of the Casino in Monte Carlo in the 1920s, are a reminder of the works created in the principality by Serge Diaghilev's company – works that have enriched the dance repertoire ever since. Jean-Christophe Maillot, the current artistic director of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, attempts to maintain the spirit of Diaghilev – partly by supporting the work of emerging choreographers, partly by providing a platform for other companies, and partly by his own drastic reconstructions of classical ballets, with his LAC being the latest contribution to the company's repertoire. His most recent project is the establishment of a ballet academy for talented young dancers.
It is a wonderful time of year in Budapest: whorls of autumn mist curl up from the Danube, the avenues are lined with golden trees and the mulled wine sellers are out in force. The Hungarian National Ballet has added to the pleasure with its new production of John Cranko’s globally popular Onegin (or Anyegin in Magyar), which I saw on November 3, presented in the glittering, golden jewel-box of the capital’s Operaház.
In addition to the feature “Who’s the Boss” printed in the September issue of Dancing Times we are publishing on our website a series of supporting interviews between the author, Graham Watts, and those in administrative and artistic leadership within dance companies. The second of these interviews is with Kathryn Bennetts who was until recently artistic director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders.
In addition to the feature “Who’s the Boss” printed in the September 2012 issue of Dancing Times, we are publishing on our website a series of supporting interviews between the author, Graham Watts, and those in administrative and artistic leadership within dance companies. The first of these interviews is jointly with Amanda Skoog, the managing director of Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB), and Ethan Stiefel, former principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and now in his inaugural season as the artistic director of RNZB.
When we entered the Burton Taylor (the tiny studio attached to the Oxford Playhouse, usually given over to student theatre) it was quite dark, apart from a thin shaft of light, and quite empty, apart from the figure of a woman lying in the middle of the floor. We ranged ourselves against the walls, standing. The feeling of anticipation and curiosity is incredible. Suddenly a torch is raised – another woman is caught by its beam in the corner, struggling with a silver coat. The torch bearing man moves round and as it catches the light again the silver glows fiercely, the woman gasps.