Posted on September 23, 2010
Ballet Week 2009
The Bavarian State Ballet celebrated two anniversaries during its annual Ballet Week, held this year from May 3-10: the company’s 20th birthday as an independent institution and the centenary of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
On opening night Jirí Kylián presented his birthday gift to the company, a new work called Zugvögel, meaning migratory birds. The first part of the piece consisted of a walk under the stage through narrow corridors, technical spaces, and storage rooms. In unexpected nooks and crannies, dancers clad as birds pecked, scraped, nested, or performed mating rituals in a fantasy décor of branches, eggs and nets to eerie sounds. Ascending onto the stage, one found oneself in the middle of a rehearsal where a film was projected onto the back wall, and with the view of the auditorium filled with virtual flying birds.
The second part consisted of dance interspersed with four film sequences showing a woman and a child – perhaps the woman when young – and their love for the theatre. An elderly couple, Caroline Geiger and Peter Jolesch, were the central figures around which the company danced sometimes as birds with broken wings, sometimes with parachute-like objects on their backs, and sometimes as creatures from the underworld. The company was on good form; the dancers seem to have a natural flair for Kylián’s movements. Zugvögel was a moving dance showing a profound love for the theatre. Kylián has called this piece his “swansong” and homage to the theatre, the only stable element in the world of dance. Everyone else are like migratory birds, occasionally coming to the theatre.
A gala evening on May 7 later exemplified this, when an array of international guest artists appeared for just one short evening. Paired with the programme “100 Years Ballets Russes” (see Dancing Times, February 2009), one was taken on a trip through the history of the Ballets Russes. Fokine’s Scheherazade represented the exotic, opulent fantasy world from which modern ballet emanated, and was followed by his Firebird danced by The Royal Ballet’s Mara Galeazzi and Thiago Soares and Le Spectre de la rose performed by Igor Kolb and Yana Selina from the Maryinsky Theatre. In 1911, Diaghilev presented an almost complete production of Swan Lake in London, and as a commemoration of this event, American Ballet Theatre dancers, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, performed the “Black Swan” pas de deux. She had a strong presence and danced superbly.
The fusion of modern art and dance came to life in Massine’s Parade with sets and costumes designed by Pablo Picasso and danced by the Donlon Dance Company from Saarbrücken. Aoi Nakamura as the “Little American Girl” was notable for the speed and sinuous movements of a body seemingly unconstrained by bones. Then on to 1921, when Diaghilev presented Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty in western Europe for the first time. Sadly, the host company’s Lisa-Maree Cullum proved a weak Aurora in the Rose Adagio. Nijinska’s Les Biches brought the flair of Riviera leisure to the stage, but the culminating account of Balanchine’s Apollo by Alexander Sergeyev, Yana Selina, Anastasia Nikitina, and Ekaterina Osmolkina of the Maryinsky Ballet was miserably performed. The dancers created a slow blur of movement, which took all the zest out of a piece that comes to life through clear cut lines in space.
A special treat during the gala evening was the three different versions of L’Apres-midi d’un faune shown: Vaslav Nijinsky’s, Jerome Robbins’ and John Neumeier’s. The pleasure of being able to indulge in so many different versions of one ballet from Diaghilev’s time more than made up for the varying quality of performance.
During the remainder of the week, the Bavarian State Ballet also performed Le Corsaire and gave a wonderful account of Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias. Lisa-Maree Cullum was a splendid, touching Marguerite partnered by Alen Bottaini, her noble Armand. At this same performance Daria Sukhorukova appeared in the role of Manon. She is a soloist of much promise and a rare dancer who can spellbind an audience just through the way she moves. Sukhorukova also danced as one of the three couples in Hans van Manen’s Adagio Hammerklavier on May 8, partnered by Marlon Dino. On the same programme were two ballets created for the Munich company in 2008: Simone Sandroni’s Cambio D’Abito and Martin Schläper’s Violakonzert/II. These new works showed how the Bavarian State Ballet has developed a style of ballet in which daring and technique meld into an unforgettable expression of dance.
A scene from Jiri Kylián’s Zugvögel for the Bavarian State Ballet. Photograph by Wilfried Hösl.