Hamburg Ballet in New York
Posted 21 February 2004 - 12:49 PM
Posted 23 February 2004 - 11:11 AM
Posted 23 February 2004 - 08:40 PM
Whether you liked it or not, please weigh in! Neumeier is an important choreographer. With Forsythe, he's a star in Europe, considered a leading choreographer. I think we need to pay attention to him -- what did you think?
Posted 24 February 2004 - 08:55 AM
Neumeier's Nijinsky is intense enough to stun small animals at a distance ... perhaps our New York friends are still recovering?
Seriously, I agree with you that we need to take these companies and directors seriously. It's eye-opening to me how different in expression, ideas, and execution they are compared to American companies, and will show us many worthwhile things that we won't see (or at least haven't yet seen) with our native companies. I can't even begin to imagine an American company trying to fund a staging of a 2+-hour, complicated, intellectually- and emotionally-demanding ballet that doesn't hide its darker undercurrents and subtexts behind a pretty or innocuous facade.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 09:16 AM
I still want to read what New Yorkers thought of this one -- come on, guys! You went to Eifman.......
Posted 24 February 2004 - 09:50 AM
rom yesterday's Links thread:
Vaslav Nijinsky, ballet's most legendary superstar, is the subject of more than one ballet. But none has the vision, passion and detail that John Neumeier has poured into "Nijinsky," the two-act dramatic spectacular he presented with the Hamburg Ballet over the weekend.
It is a pity that this engagement, with outstanding casts on both Friday and Saturday nights, ended yesterday at City Center, but there is time to catch "Nijinsky" this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
It is not a perfect work, but its flaws are swept away by the phantasmagoria, with just the right music, that soars onstage into highly potent imagery.
The ballet "Nijinsky" is a grand, theatrical collage featuring a wealth of dramatic incidents, attractive performers, and high production values including delicately abstracted, period costumes and sets designed by Neumeier himself, with music by Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Shostakovich. Dancing at the head of a stylish and beautifully rehearsed company are Jirí Bubenícek, who maintains his withdrawn, internal focus as Nijinsky without ever fading in intensity; and Anna Polikarpova, a deliciously subtle dancer-actress who plays Nijinsky's scheming wife, Romola.
People versed in Nijinsky lore will enjoy this ballet most. The uninitiated may be confused, but Neumeier's presentation is so engaging that it will surely prompt them to investigate further, which may be Neumeier's greatest gift to his idol.
From the Associated Press:
'Nijinsky' Painful Portrait of Genius
There is much that is different and exciting in "Nijinsky," John Neumeier's 2000 creation for the Hamburg Ballet. The ballet is filled with potent and arresting references from the troubled life of this superstar dancer, who was certified insane shortly after that final solo and spent three more decades in sanatoriums before he died.
And that is the ballet's problem, too; it presupposes a knowledge of Nijinsky's life and works. Anyone not familiar with his story or with the characters he danced - the harlequin, the spirit of the rose, the golden slave, the faun - might have a very difficult time understanding the production.
The dancing, though, is first rate, and the choreography is absorbing, although there might be too many fits and twitches, too much frantic rolling around on the floor for some tastes. On Saturday night, in the second of three performances at the City Center, Ukrainian dancer Alexandre Riabko was impressive in his technique and affecting in his acting, providing a moving portrait of a man's descent into insanity.
Gia Kourlas in DanceView Times: (with several photos)
Clichés of Madness
The attempt to shrink a man’s life into more than two hours of stream-of-consciousness movement is bewildering and not the only tragedy to be found in Neumeier’s endless ballet; it’s reminds me of the way Boris Eifman arranges the scenes in his cluttered dances. Ballet steps do not constitute a ballet, and Neumeier, like Eifman, has little flair in ordering steps into a dance or offering the viewer a coherent storyline (scenes are either overly simplistic or complex and confused). The staging, when all the characters appear, lacks clarity, and during more intimate pas de deux, is bereft of movement invention and climax. In every solo, pas de deux or group dance, Neumeier only communicates that his ability lies in the delusion of the false ending—when the real one finally arrives, well, you just don’t care.
Music, played on City Center’s atrocious sound system is a blaring mess; arranged by Neumeier, it shifts, with little ease, from Chopin to movements from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11in G-minor, Op. 103. The chosen selections didn’t help to glue the action onstage, and an often-overwhelming excess of characters only helped to muddle the effort. A real control freak, an approach I normally admire given all the failed collaborations of late, Neumeier himself presides over the ballet’s sets and costumes, which are loosely based on original sketches by Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois. Again, it all seems a bit cheap.
As Nijinsky, Bubenícek is both a cartoon character whose insanity is indicated in clichéd images—he rubs his chest in agony, he droops to the floor after a failed pirouette and he greets images of his past roles, all portrayed by other dancers, with the delight of a retarded child. Urban’s Diaghilev is dashing and blond, in later scenes, he dons a tuxedo jacket and pants but no shirt (as with many of the male characters, Neumeier proves he is fond of the bare chest) and is more contemporary looking than Nijinsky himself. His cocky attitude conjures Cooper’s seductive Von Rotbart but his pimp act looks like a big put-on. Polikarpova’s Romola (most of the female roles in this ballet seem an afterthought) borders on tawdry; with her over-processed blond hair and heavy makeup, she was less the woman who came between Diaghilev and Nijinsky than the sort of lady you typically encounter at the bar at the Russian Samovar on a Saturday night. Twenty-one going on 90.
Eric Taub reviews Hamburg Ballet's "Nijinsky" for Ballet.co's magazine:
The ballet begins with a realistic-looking re-enactment of Nijinsky's final performance in 1919, a solo, with the modest title "Marriage with God," at a hotel near the sanitarium where he was confined for treatment of his increasingly unmanageable schizophrenia. As Nijinsky starts dancing, he's joined by dancers representing members of his family, his most famous roles, and, of course, Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes, who became Nijinsky's lover as he managed Nijinsky's ever-swelling fame. We see surrealistic depictions of various moments in Nijinsky's life, sometimes refracted through the lens of his signature characters, for instance, his love for Diaghilev is depicted by the Spectre of the Rose, with Diaghilev as the dreamer in the chair, rather than Karsavina (who also makes some cameo appearances), or when his wife-to-be, Romola, infamously seduces him on a steamship trip to South America. As she does so, she watches, not Nijinsky, but his embodiment as the Faun from L'Apres-Midi d'Une Faune. Later (much later), the denizens of his asylum/World-War-One-soldiers (it's all the same, isn't it?) are led by none other than Petrouchka. The Golden Slave from Scheherezade and Harlequin from Carneval also wander in and out of the action (for want of a better word).
Posted 24 February 2004 - 10:42 AM
To clarify, by intellectual, I mean one has to think to make the structural connections, and to understand why they're there, much like any other great art form. The dark human baggage stuff (or indeed any other message) is something that the structure conveys and allows us to grasp, again like any other great art form.
Too often, the great classical ballets (I'm glad you got my implication) are staged and presented just as pretty, shallow spectacles. It's one reason why I appreciate many of Balanchine's works, because they often distill the great classical canon down to their essence.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:02 AM
Without having seen this, it isn't fair to lump Eifman and and Neumeier in the same box, but to use Eifman as an example, the great divide is between those who value expressive and theatrical effects above structural ones and those who place structure and form first. What I read about Nijinsky suggests that it's a ballet that expressionists will admire and structuralists won't. The Neumeier I've seen to this point I haven't liked, and found structurally confused, so I ended up passing on it.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:12 AM
I guess that because Balanchine was able to do the same in 40 minutes or less in such works as Davidsbundlertanze, Agon, Episodes, Liebeslieder Walzer (pretty perhaps, but not innocuous), Four Temperaments, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, etc.
I can't even begin to imagine an American company trying to fund a staging of a 2+-hour, complicated, intellectually- and emotionally-demanding ballet that doesn't hide its darker undercurrents and subtexts behind a pretty or innocuous facade.
Or was this a reference to story ballets only?
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:32 AM
Ask a large portion of the Paris audience what they thought when they saw Liebeslieder in December. More than one compared it to waltzing in Vienna on New Year's day. If you're looking for effects first, Liebeslieder is going to feel unsatisfactory. If you're looking for form, Tchaikovsky, Red Giselle, or Ivan the Terrible will set your teeth on edge.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 01:01 PM
Looking at Vienna Waltzes, more literally "walzing in Vienna on New Year's Day", you can see the evolution of the waltz in music, from Johann Strauss to Lehar to Richard Strauss, but also the psychic layers of turn-of-the-century Vienna, from the innocence of the young couple in the opening, to the feined innocence of the thespians, to the dandies and trollops of the demimonde on the border of the Vienna woods, to the jaded Merry Widow, to the neurotic woman alone in the Rosenkavalier waltzes. Or you can see a bunch of pretty dancers in a bunch of pretty costumes.
Posted 25 February 2004 - 08:35 AM
New York -- `Nijinsky," the two-act ballet choreographed in 2000 by the
inexplicably acclaimed John Neumeier for his Hamburg Ballet, starts off
with visual promise. The production's first scene confronts the audience as it enters: The house curtain is already raised, showing the stage transformed into what looks like one end of a hotel ballroom; it has two levels of clean and crisp architecture, both bright, cold and white. Eventually some dancers enter, costumed to suggest 1919, the year given in the choreographer's program notes. And as the first few characters enter the scene and mill about, the theatrical authority begins to fade.
Mr. Neumeier explains that his ballet "begins with a realistic re-creation" of an event in the life of his eponymous character's much documented tragic career. Specifically the scene recalls a solo dance performance arranged by the already legendary Nijinsky after a considerable hiatus in his performing career. The phony-baloney carryings on, however, of Hamburg's chit-chatting and haughty-acting dancers, who bear scant resemblance to the real men and women who would have gathered to see the great Nijinsky once again take the stage, rings hopelessly false.
The segment climaxes with the grandiose first entrance of Mr. Neumeier's multiple Nijinsky-figures -- the central one wrapped in what looks like a cross between a down comforter and a kimono. From here on it's all downhill: The setting gets increasingly spare, often to trite effect, as the action gets fractured, jumbled and fraught with artificial emotion.
Posted 25 February 2004 - 08:56 AM
I would perhaps have enjoyed Nijinsky more (well, at all) if there had been something below, or beyond, the surface, but there wasn't, and the whole ballet was little more than an animated program note, with little depth, and less subtlety.
When Neumeier re-enacted Le Spectre de la Rose, with Diaghilev as the "girl" in the chair, I had some hopes that Neumeier might be about to ascend to the rarified heights of kitsch which Bejart and Eifman scale so easily (Oh, how I wanted that "chorus" of guys in tuxes to start tap-dancing!), but, alas, it was not to be.
I also wished I'd seen Bejart's Nijinksy, Clown of God. From what little I've read, it must've been a real barn-burner.
Can anyone compare and contrast?
Posted 25 February 2004 - 10:06 AM
I can't answer your question very precisely about how a performance of Sleeping Beauty, etc. isn't shallow --- otherwise I'd be staging them! Examples of dance I've seen that isn't shallow include those that show me some aspect of the music I hadn't heard or thought about before. For example, Balanchine is great to me because he made me better understand Agon, an otherwise prickly piece of music which I now listen to by itself for pleasure. I was really struck by Bourne's Swan Lake because it dug into all these dark crevices of Tchaikovsky's score (played at notated speed, no less) and showed me something new in the music. It doesn't just have to about the music, but both pieces had an interesting point of view and could communicate it.
As for structuralism and expressionism, classifying works as one or the other strikes me in the same way that comments on other surface features like sets and costumes, or technical dance steps do --- it's not necessarily a useful thing to talk about unless you can tie it in something deeper (there's that word again!) in the work.
Some messages are delivered in 40 minutes, while others require 2 hours. Is Mahler's 9th symphony any less profound than one of Bach's piano sonatas?
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