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I've just returned from the epic, which truly was an epic--as the first act lasted an hour and forty minutes (I should have packed a lunch)

Being a Neumeier newbie, I was hoping that someone could give me a bit about his 'schtick'. I have heard wonders about R & J some years back with Heidi Ryom.


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Neumeier is an American choreographer who's made his career in Europe -- and who's been more popular there than here. (His works aren't very well known in the U.S. he's created an entire repertory for the Hamburg Ballet.) He's more known for his way with drama than his choreography, and is also considered a very fine director: good coach, gets at detail. His "Romeo and Juliet" was one of the mainstays of the RDB repertory for nearly 20 years. Kronstam directed it -- in the same way that a director directs a play, not merely overseeing it or teaching the steps, but coaching the roles, and it was the ballet, along with La Sylphide, that the dancers I interviewed for the Kronstam biography mentioned over and over as being meaningful to them. They remembered having small parts in it as children, they remembered watching the rehearsals -- he'd do all the parts, not to show off, but to show.

The Neumeier Romeo was filmed for Danish TV -- I only saw the first act once, when I was there. It's very dramatic. To my eyes, the choreography itself is, well, unfortunate. It's the most awkard balcony pas de deux I've ever seen. But the drama of the first act is extraordinary and I understood why both company and audience liked it. I've only seen a bit of it -- the pas de trois for the three boys before the ball -- at the memory evening for Kronstam in June 1997, and what they did was very simple, but so obvious: They were friends. Bone and blood friends. And the dancing was about their friendship, it wasn't three solos. I've never seen this, even in some excellent performances years ago of the MacMillan Romeo with the Royal Ballet. Yes, there's always a sense of camraderie, but the Danish trio went beyond that.

Neumeier made another ballet for them, "Hamlet," which was not a success, and sounded absolutely awful. I understand that Kenneth Greve had a huge success in Odysseen and I wish I had seen it.

You can read more about Neumeier at the Hamburg Ballet web site:


Now, what did you think of Odysseen? :thumbsup:

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After a (somewhat gentle) nudge from Mel and Alexandra, here is the visual spectacle that i saw. i think i am going to wait and see what happens tomorrow night before trying to make any sort of commentary, because right now i am a bit befuddled (maybe that was already commentary!)

First, I should mention that I have never referenced my program more in my life than at this performance, with perhaps the NYC performance of Movin' Out coming in a close second. Strangely enough, both of these vastly different events share the linking theme of the Vietnam war. The ballet is divided into 28 scenes, listed in the program in ways like "Calypso's Grotto", "Sirens", "The Stranger". Mind you, it has been some years since I picked up Homer, but I thought I had the story under control.

The stage is set with two semicircular walls that provide multiple entrances through two separate sets of doors along the inner and outer walls. These walls provide a standing platform 20 feet into the air with one ladder descending into the dancing space and some chairs, a railing and a TV that projects the dancing going on below. (Think of slicing a 20 foot tall doughnut in half, or 1/2 a swimming pool--complete with ladder). Additionally there is a tongue that projects from center stage across the orchestra pit and 3 or 4 rows deep into the house that is used for dancing/walking/lying down.

The ballet follows the story chronologically for the most part, with flashbacks and visual re-tellings of Odyseus' story of his journey. The costuming indicates the Vietnam war-- O. dressed in fatigues along with his fellow soldiers, round and pointed hats of the villagers during the rape and plummage scene. The sirens of the sea are swathed in royal blue ballgowns that drape 10 feet behind them in a train that makes for quite a swirling picture. Calypso is clad in jeans and sunglasses, while Circe the sorceress has on a rainbow sheath made of fringe that matches the painting on the back wall. The cyclops is a giant round ball of ostrich feathers with a headlight that blinds the audience. Penelope's suitors near the end appear James Bond-esque with tuxes and white scarves and spats. The ballet opens (no curtain to start or to end, no curtain call either) with people clad in white pajamas atop the doughnut moving slow-mo (which continues the entire ballet, with the cast of characters ever changing, entering and exiting and looking at the TV). Then we see Telemachus Odysseus and Penelope enter riding bicycles. O. has more costume changes in this 21/2 hours than Madonna's last tour!

The music is both pre-recorded and live orchestra interacting throughout. There are vocals occasionally, and large silences or very quiet periods, along with machine-gun fire and a long and lovely cello soloist who appears onstage. The lighting is either very bright, full stage or very smokey/murkey most of the time. Props are abundant, from swaths of cloth as costumes, to a giant red fabric--the shroud that Penelope weaves and unravels whilst biding her time. Chairs, fabric, on-stage costume changes by many characters, boots, guns, a briefcase, a hospital bed. Everything but the kitchen sink is an appropriate phrase.

In the program, Neumeier is quoted: "Ten years of wandering, ten years of returning, ten years of healing after ten years of war! Without war the Odessey is inconceivable. For me it's about how a human being rediscovers himself after a ten-year war: how he finds his way back from this male-defined macho world of battle and war and rediscovers his feminine side. It is called Penelope." He also likens his desire to create story ballet in his own way as an aquired taste and when asked about his (lack of) success in America attributes it to a 'different diet'.

That is just the beginning I suppose. Your further questions will be helpful for me to understand this!

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Thank you for that!!! I think you should get some sort of award for sorting it all out and writing so clearly, aspirant.

I'm curious how the audience reaction has been. Is this popular? Are people spending intermissions reading the program notes? :)

btw, I think Neumeier's "different diet" comment is apt. There were quite a few ballets that I thought were good until I'd seen a lot of Balanchine and Ashton -- when your eye is used to seeing a certain level of choreography it's hard to ignore that as an issue in judging a ballet. But if you've "grown up" on a different diet, that wouldn't be a concern.

Thank you again for taking the time to write this, and I look forward to -- GENTLE NUDGE!!! {we need a new emoticon; little smiley face pushing other smiley face off cliff.....) -- your commentary.

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hello :D

well about the odysseen production its very much a ballet of symbols - you dont get the story just by watching you have to dig down and translate or view your own version of the actions on stage - and i say actions because its not really ballet its more kindda contemporary kindda ballet kindda nothing.... Ill try and explain:

The standing platform "aspirant" is talking about is ment to be a "heaven" were the gods live (pyjamas people) :P they walk in slow motion because its a different world... again just symbolising like they are "above" the real world watching over the real world on tv. :cool2:

and its like that through the hole ballet, you really gotta be in Neumeiers own head to understand it all -

About the audience, i think that it was very hard to sell tickets this year... it also seems to me that a number of people choose to leave in the intermission. but it got a nice respond... soo i guess its a ballet that you either hate or somewhat like :):blink:

Though its not a succes in the way that the house is packed every night - i think that the company is very good in it -

My personal view is that storyballets main purpose is to explain and show the story... And since odysseen is not doing that - it failed.... :ermm:

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When I attended Neumeiers introduction to the ballet, I got very positive. Seing theperformance I realized that he had chosen the three best bits for the introduction. I was very surprised hearing all about his aim to create a modern ballet to realise that he has instead created a pastice of 1970ties agit prop theatre and even I am a classical scholar and have reread the Odyssen the week before, I had difficulty making sense of the storyline.

Re. Neumeier and RDB he has been a popular choreographer here, based mainly on the smash hit Romeo & Juliet 1974 which made stars of Ib Andersen and Mette-Ida Kirk and to some degree A Midsummernightsdream from 1980. He was later commisioned to create a ballet on Hamlet, which never had more than 13 performances. We have later had Knaben Wunderhorn/Mahlers 5 and he will also create a new work here next year.

Romeo & Juliet has been the singulary most succesfull production in the last 30 years, and the parts as Romeo & Juliet is coverted by every dancer (Save Kenneth Greve, who withdrew from the production). It was also a very good performance with a model cast in 1974 which showed the companys streght and introduced a new post-Flindt generation. It was said to be the biggest hit and biggest failure for Flindt (as he would have prefered one of his own productions). I would say that you cannot understand the RDB without understanding the importance of Neumeiers Romeo & Juliet. When Peter Schaufuss entered his production of Ashtons Romeo & Juliet

which was coreographed on RDB, it was rejected by audience, critics and I think dancers as well due to our attachment to the Neumeier Romeo & Juliet.

As Frank Andersen is a firm believer in the myth of Neumeiers R&J (he had pronounced the 1974 premiere as the greatest artistic impression in his life) he has therefore continued to play the Neumeier card.

My opinion is that one man can very well make a great R&J and an awfull Odysseen.

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Well, at the second go round it became a little clearer, although I can't say that I have much stronger ties to it than at my first very apprehensive assessment. I realized this time that there is so very little dancing, and so very much more commotion with props and costumes and such that it was hard for me to focus.

I will second the comment about many members of the audience saying their fond farewell at the intermission (apparently when it premiered in Hamburg there wasn't one!) but those who stayed on to the, somewhat bitter, end were the foot stomping sort.

Riggins was truly a breath of fresh air in the role, both with his interpretation and technical gifts. Kupinski (Dawid this time, not to be confused with his equally talented brother Marcin) seemed a bit aloof, but sound in his easily accomplished triple pirouettes (inside, whilst holding a briefcase!)

The entire company seemed to be onstage at one time or another, which leads me to wonder if they've got any days off coming up!

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