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John Neumeier

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Watching the POB dvd of John Neumeier's Sylvia the other night it struck me that his choreography celebrates a real love of movement and the body. And he is so connected to the music. I wondered if dancers feel that when they perform his ballets.

For me Neumeier's choreography expresses beautifully and sensitively the human condition with its many, often conflicting, emotional and psychological levels.

Does anyone else feel this way? I find it interesting that on BT there really isn't much discussion of his choreography and works.

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And he is so connected to the music. I wondered if dancers feel that when they perform his ballets.

For me Neumeier's choreography expresses beautifully and sensitively the human condition with its many, often conflicting, emotional and psychological levels.

Does anyone else feel this way? I find it interesting that on BT there really isn't much discussion of his choreography and works.

Last evening I watched Neumeier's Romeo & Juliet by The Royal Danish Ballet at Ueno, Tokyo, and I was really disappointed. :wink:

The sets were unique and silhouettes were beautiful, but his use of music was simply that of the plotless contemporary dances; the ballet was far from persuasive compared with R&J of John Cranko. Having also watched his Die Kleine Meerjungfrau, I've come up with the conclusion that Neumeier simply doesn't understand music as Ashton and MacMillan (and maybe Bintley) did. I hope somebody tells him that fine sets and bunch of "contemporary dances" wouldn't make good ballets. The right selection and correct intrepretation of music does.

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I hope somebody tells him that fine sets and bunch of "contemporary dances" wouldn't make good ballets. The right selection and correct intrepretation of music does.

After 36 years as the Artistic Director at Hamburg Ballet, I can't imagine there is a whole lot any of us good "tell" Mr. Neumeier. The man has a huge repertoire of choreography and a devoted following in Hamburg. :wink:

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"I've come up with the conclusion that Neumier simply doesn't understand music as Ashton and MacMillan (and maybe Bintley) did."

I'm not a great fan of Neumier's Sylvia and I haven't seen his Romeo, though I have enjoyed many of his other ballets. But I'm intrigued by Kahoyo's comment, quoted above, as it's always seemed to me that Ashton and MacMillan have a very different musicality. I would never have put them together so perhaps Kahoyo can explain further.

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I haven't seen any choreography by Neumeier that I would describe as either musical or expressive. His ballets have a certain "attitude" and can give dancers a good workout, I guess, but poetic experiences they ain't. I haven't seen his Sylvia and cringe at the thought, but I'd give it a try if I could.

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But I'm intrigued by Kahoyo's comment, quoted above, as it's always seemed to me that Ashton and MacMillan have a very different musicality. I would never have put them together so perhaps Kahoyo can explain further.

It's just that they knew what constituted good ballets, what moved the audience, even with diffrerent musicalities. I can at least say MacMillan's Manon, performed by the Royal Ballet in 2005 at Tokyo was fairly impressive. The girl sitting next me was shedding tears when Manon died in Act 3.

The question I want to ask is, for instance, did Ashton or MacMillan ever allow thier company to perform with recorded music, as Neumeier frequently does with his Hamburg Ballet? Does Neumeier really know the good from the bad concerning music?

For the record here is why I didn't like his R&J (performed by the Royal Danish Ballet, May 23 2009, at Tokyo):

1. Group dances of Act 1 and Act 2 were too "contemporary" (and thus became easily obsolete 38 years after the production), and their contributions to the narration of the story were almost none.

2. Neumeier altered Prokofiev's music Dance of the Knights of Act1, the most famous part of R&J, with its ending meaninglessly prolonged. He was audacious enough to challenge the Prokofiev's original score and the result was just a disaster.

3. Neumeier loves to open the stage curtain with no music at all, and did again in Act 3 of his R&J. He may claim it is based on his study of Noh, but it wasn't impressive to me. It is, after all, a denial of the role of the music.

4. (This may be a fault of Nikolaj Hübbe, the director of RDB) In Act 2, the orchestra stopped playing and the Dance of the mandolins was performed with recorded music. Hübbe might have thought that the audience of Tokyo were deaf and they would not realize such trick.

5. (also likely to be a fault of Hübbe) They dropped confetti and hand-clapped (to self-applause) in Napoli a week ago, and they did the same in Remeo and Juliets. I wonder if such procedures were commonly used in the good tradition of ballet. Once might be tolerable, but when it came twice, it just stinked.

So it looks to me as if Neumeier were attempting to become Hegel or Marx of the ballet history, and Hübbe delightfully played his role as Lenin. (Napoli was fine, though.)

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When the Paris Opera Ballet brought Neumeier's "Dream" to London, I was shocked that there was such a theatrical choreographer around and simply amazed by the performance of the dancing and acting of the company. It was received with extraordinary warmth by a seasoned audience.

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Yes Leonid, I remember those performances by the Paris Opera Ballet too. Wonderful dancing and thoroughly inventive choreography. But to take up Kahoyo's point, I think the barrel organ music used for the scenes with the rustics was recorded - but presumably it had to be as you can hardly tour one of those huge barrel organs.

I don't think either Ashton or MacMillan used recordings - but then they didin't have to as they worked largely within an opera house with a resident orchestra. During the war the then Sadler's Wells ballet danced to two pianos.

However, I have on occasion been at performances of Romeo and Juliet by smaller companies where the Mandolin Dance was recorded and always assumed that this was because there were no experienced mandolin players available.

Kahoyo, with regard to your final point about the dancers appearing to applaud themselves; I think you may find that the dancers were applauding the audience and that this is traditional in Denmark and some other countries. My memory is hazey and I'm sure someone on this board will correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect it was a politesse on their part. And I do remember often seeing showers of confetti at the end of Napoli, so this too is a tradition.

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:clapping: I like John Neumeier's choreography a lot, although I have not seen all of it, what I have witnessed I enjoy. There are some works like his Mahler sympnony that may not be appealing to me, as I prefer costume ballets, rather than those just in what could be considered practice clothes. He explains his reasons for using steps to create a characters role, which can be different to the norm,on the bonus with the Sylvia DVD, which you need to watch more than once to reconise what the gestures and mime represent. He speaks in great detail about the use of Delibes wonderful music in the production.

His Le dame aux Camellia's, originally created with Marcia Heydee, is truly wonderful, I saw it in Paris, with Agnes Letestu and Stephane Builon, and I was so touched it made me cry. However, the best portrayal was by Aorelie Dupont, and there were some clips on YouTube with her and Manuel Legris. There are some equistite Pas der deux's, with lifts that almost take your breath away. The final meeting when Marguerite comes back momentarily to Armand, known as "The Black Dress Pas de Deux" which some of the dancerfs call "Pas de Trois or Dance for Three !!!" is very passionate, full of emotion and quite explicit, it shows fully the love of the two characters, their despair, their longing. And it fits perfectly with the music, as does the whole ballet.

I consider John Neumeier to be equal to John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Fred Ashton and Graeme Murphy, taking each of their methods and productions at their own value. Their styles are different, but they have made a great contribution to the repertoire of Ballet.

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I will be watching a Neumeier production of Nutcracker by the Dresden SempOper Ballet on Christmas Day. The storyline is very different than what I have seen in the past and I don't really know what to expect. I am a ballet mom, never a dancer and discussions of choreography just fly over my head. All I know is that if the choreography or the dancer moves me, then I feel like I have gotten more than my money's worth. I can't tell if it is the choreography or the dancer's interpretation of the choreography that is the thing that moves me though. :clapping:

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San Francisco Ballet is giving the U.S. premiere of Neumeier's The Little Mermaid in March, 2010. Had anyone seen this one?

I enjoyed the La dame aux camellias POB DVD, although I thought the story could have been told with more economy (an opinion based on only one viewing). On the other hand, there were so many beautiful moments in the choreography it was easy just to let yourself be swept along.

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I will be watching a Neumeier production of Nutcracker by the Dresden SempOper Ballet on Christmas Day. The storyline is very different than what I have seen in the past and I don't really know what to expect.

His Nutcracker is not at all weird or bizarre, so no need to worry on that score. It isn't set at Christmas but at the heroine's birthday party. (Nonetheless, the Hamburg Ballet performs it nearly every Christmas.) Drosselmeier is a Petipa-like figure, and the second act is essentially a tribute to the history of ballet.

http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/rep/nussknacker.htm

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Very interesting but if it has nothing to do with Christmas, what is the point of doing this production this time of year and calling it Nutcracker? Am I missing something here?

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Those are completely valid questions. The name probably stayed because that's the title of the score. I suppose that while Neumeier tried to free the ballet from its seasonal dependence, public demand turned it into a Christmas tradition nonetheless.

For the last few years in Hamburg the Christmas-free Nutcracker has been running concurrently with Neumeier's more explicitly seasonal ballet to Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

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San Francisco Ballet is giving the U.S. premiere of Neumeier's The Little Mermaid in March, 2010. Had anyone seen this one?

I enjoyed the La dame aux camellias POB DVD, although I thought the story could have been told with more economy (an opinion based on only one viewing). On the other hand, there were so many beautiful moments in the choreography it was easy just to let yourself be swept along.

I have seen the Neumeier Little Mermaid in Japan earlier this year, and it is a very dark yet beautiful piece, very heart-crushing and heavy one.

The Mermaid is portrayed as a strange, rather ugly creature, and her love never reaches the prince. The designs were very stylish, and the score

is very modern but wonderful. This work is a masterpiece and I love it, but maybe so heartbreaking and somewhat cruel that it might be difficult for children.

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I have seen the Neumeier Little Mermaid in Japan earlier this year, and it is a very dark yet beautiful piece, very heart-crushing and heavy one.

The Mermaid is portrayed as a strange, rather ugly creature, and her love never reaches the prince. The designs were very stylish, and the score is very modern but wonderful. This work is a masterpiece and I love it, but maybe so heartbreaking and somewhat cruel that it might be difficult for children.

Thanks for your comments, naomikage. That's encouraging to hear. I've noticed that the ballet audience here (at least for the Saturday matinees that I attend) seems to lean toward the loud and obvious, so it'll be interesting to see how this is received.

Here's a note from the website for the performances:

Please Note: This critically acclaimed production focuses on the deeper, mature themes of the original story and is not recommended for younger children.

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I hope somebody tells him that fine sets and bunch of "contemporary dances" wouldn't make good ballets. The right selection and correct intrepretation of music does.

After 36 years as the Artistic Director at Hamburg Ballet, I can't imagine there is a whole lot any of us good "tell" Mr. Neumeier. The man has a huge repertoire of choreography and a devoted following in Hamburg. :flowers:

I wouldn't think of 'telling' Mr. Neumeier anything at all as I have not seen any of his ballet output for mamy years, actually not since 1977 (that's 32 years ago). So my comments may be valueless in this present time.

But I did know very well his methods of choreographing then since I worked with him at that time while he was doing a Hamlet for ABT. I was ABT's resident choreologist (that's a Benesh dance notator) and so had to attend his rehearsals and write it all down. First of all, his cast could not have been better chosen for star power, or rather given to him by ABT management for box office. Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, Eric Bruhn, Marcia Haydee, William Carter. All top stars. Even with that line-up, the ballet was a disaster from start to finish and Lucia Chase pulled it after only one performance at the Gershwin Theater on 51st Street. I don't know what it's called now as I no longer live in New York.

My feeling was that he had made a bad choice of music: Connotations for piano by Aaron Copland. A solo piano throughout. Baryshnikov kept asking me about the counts and I had a hard time figuring them out myself, and I am trained in music. John does know music and I often saw him studying the piano score, which is not too often seen with other choreographers. The Copland score was unlistenable, at least to my ears. That's only my opinion of course but the audience reaction was the same when I went out front at intermission time to listen. John was rather young then, I think maybe 30 or so, and already well established in Hamburg. I admired him and his tenacity. He was possibly a bit overwhealmed by all that major star power. I remember him asking me how he could to do the curtain calls cautiously, so as not to offend any of them I suppose. (I suggested they come out all at once). I was overwhealmed as well because it was my first job with ABT plus also notating Baryshnikov's Nutcracker and rehearsing Sleeping Beauty at the same time.

I believe John re-worked Hamlet after he returned to Hamburg. I do remember sending him the notated score. It was possibly a big success in Germany. I never did a follow-up but the choreologist there would probnably know.

At the present time I am very much admiring John for his founding of a museum for the Diaghilev/Nijinsky era. Apparently he has done tons of work in collecting materials from all over the world. My friend and neighbor, George Zoritch, who just recently died, thought very highly of John and I believe at least part of his own vast collection will end up in this setting. It is truly remarkable when an American dancer from Milwaukee is so much honored and respected in Germany and we can be proud of him and his success.

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Thank you Richka, that was so interesting. I was wondering if Neumeier come into the studio with his choreography pretty well worked out or if he developed his ideas in the studio? How did his way of working compare with other choreographers you have worked with?

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I believe John re-worked Hamlet after he returned to Hamburg. I do remember sending him the notated score. It was possibly a big success in Germany. I never did a follow-up but the choreologist there would probnably know.

The Hamburg Ballet web site does list Hamlet Connotations. In 1985 he also mounted a full-length Hamlet to music by Michael Tippet for the Royal Danish Ballet.

http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/rep/fall_hamlet.htm

http://www.hamburgballett.de/e/rep/hamlet.htm

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f.y.i.

NYPL cat. listings:

Hamlet: Connotations - Chor.: John Neumeier; mus.: Aaron Copland (Connotations for orchestra, Piano variations, & selections from Piano fantasy); lib.: after Shakespeare's Hamlet; scen.: Robin Wagner; cos.: Theoni V. Aldredge. First perf: New York, Uris Theatre, Jan. 6, 1976, American Ballet Theatre, with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Hamlet, Marcia Haydee as Gertrude, Gelsey Kirkland as Ophelia, Erik Bruhn as King Claudius, & William Carter as the ghost of Hamlet's father.

First Stuttgart Ballet perf.: Württemburg Theater, Nov. 28, 1976; under title: Der Fall Hamlet; scen & cos: John Neumeier.

Hamlet - Original title: Amleth. Chor: John Neumeier; mus: Michael Tippett (selections from various compositions); lib: after Shakespeare's play & the 13th century Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus; scen & cos: Klaus Hellenstein. First perf: Copenhagen. Royal Theatre, Nov 2, 1985; Royal Danish Ballet.

New version. First perf.: Hamburg, Staatsoper, Hamburg Ballett-Tage, May 4, 1997, Hamburg Ballet.

if memory serves there is an exceprt of the latter on Natalia Makarova's BALLERINA series - for a segment on Mette Bodtcher

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Sybil Shearer's evaluation of John Neumeier quoted in a review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

"His praise continues, as the woman who discovered him (none other than the mystical dancer Sybil Shearer) reflects on the choreographer’s progression, ‘Yes, the phenomenon of John Neumeier is unique in the world of ballet. He is avant-garde in an entirely different way from anyone else. He is not rebelling, he is not straining for recognition, lie is not taking up a cause, or joining a school, or throwing out the past. He is simple; through his own integrity and insight, pointing a way to the future.’"

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