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Bayadere premiere

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I was at the première on Wednesday evening.

Nikiya : Aysem Sunal

Solor : Priit Kripson

Gamzatti : Olga Voloboueva

Brahman : Giuseppe Nocera

Must say I was really looking forward to this and after the "Swan Lake"-disaster it was rather a reassurance that Anna-Marie Holmes was responsable for the choreography.

All things didn't turned out to a success I'm afraid, we got a performance with very mixed qualities. The changings in the choreography are -maybe insignificant, if not unneccesary- but if you drop the processions (and the elephant !) you somehow touches the atmosphere of the ballet... what a task to tackle a huge quality piece like 'La Bayadère' ! :sweating:

And I don't understand why Solor has to kill himself at the end ?! I don't feel it adds to the drama. As 'finale' Nikiya led solor into the Kingdom of the Shades.

Well, I start to miss a collapsing temple !

Costumes and lighting were disappointing : the costumes were 'minimalistic' in terms of Indian clothing :D not exactly enchanting the atmosphere of wealth at a palace of a Rahdja.

A lot of the dancers struggled with their lack of mime- and actingskills.

Sunal and Kripson were totally 'blank' - to my taste anyway ! But what bothered me the most was the lack of 'being in a role' of some of the corpsmembers.

Afterwards - when looking at the program-book- I saw it's even noticable in some of the pictures :)

Maybe I should go again in a couple of weeks to see how the company is coping with it by then ?

Although, if I only had seen the Third Act, I would have been more enthusiastic !

This one made it up for the evening, it was obvious that a lot of training went into this and it showed :wink: The small stage tooks away a lot of the magic of the Shades-act, but we have to live with this !

Overall we got a good performance (no more and no less) from Olga Voloboueva who's Gamzatti literally overclassed Nikiya. Their fight was a real dangerous, dramatic one !

My absolute favourite was Wim Van Lessen as the Golden Idol ! He was fantastic, full of energy, a real surprise.

Oh...and a little 'faits-divers' : the parrots were the best I've ever seen, with their flapping wings they didn't seem to be simple 'stuffed' birds :rolleyes:

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Since I am reviewing this production, I won't add much - moreover, Viviane has said it all :wink: - except maybe the following.

As is well known, Belgium doesn't have a proper tradition when it comes to dancing the great classics. I understand and appreciate the novelty of the whole thing for the Royal Ballet of Flanders. Truly, it wasn't the evening it could or should have been, for obvious reasons.

Yet what bothers me most of all is that in some of our newspapers (if they cover it at all) "La Bayadère" was described as a dull, overlong piece of old-fashioned romantic wish-wash which doesn't have a place here. And, yes, hadn't our brave reviewer been watching three hours of glorious Pina Bausch in Antwerp recently, enjoying every second of it? So, the main idea is clear: get rid of this classical bore and bring in some real, exciting dancing. To my mind that's a rather serious situation. Undoubtedly not unique to our regions, but there we go.

What do others think?

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Marc, this is exactly the reason why I don't read newspapers anymore :angry:

Overhere dance is -to say the least- criticised WITHOUT any base of knowledge ! And this can makes me SOOOOOOOOOO ANGRY !

(All : our newspapers never heard about Haegeman overhere) :wink:

Sadly these so-called 'critics' are capable to create an atmosphere that even alerts the money-providing authorities ! :)

Sigh....we know where our company is heading for :green:

(eh....I'm trying all the smilies :cool2: )

Oh...and now I see I've past post nr.100 :D

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Congratulations, Viviane, you are now officially a Very Frequent Poster (and a very welcome one).

The viriulent anti-classical situation in newspapers is serious -- as it would be if there were critics who would only review classical ballet and dismissed everything else, regardless of quality, as "stupid and harmful experimentalism" or the like. We were headed for the same way in America, but Balanchine found a way to make classical ballet appeal to the much (though not all) of the critical avant-garde, and so both the critical left and the critical right found a place in his big tent.

As for La Bayadere -- Solor kills himself at the end? Gosh, why didn't Petipa think of that?

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The thing is that the reviewer foolishly admitted not having a clue what he was reviewing: "La Bayadère is considered by ballet-lovers as a masterpiece in the genre".... as if he was talking about a football match on a different planet - and in his case he actually was.

Alexandra, I have to admit the suicide was in undiluted Madama Butterfly style. :rolleyes:

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I went searching for some reviews on "La Bayadère" and found a disapointing review by Elke Van Campenhout in 'De Standaard' (200204). Another example of poor, unfundamental criticising, if you can call it that way.

I also found a more alarming article (190204) in the same newspaper by Guy Gypens (Director of Rosas). Interesting to notice that a 'quality' paper (sic) lends itself as a mouthpiece for a money-seeking director !?

The think-path of our Flemish Minister of Culture, Paul Van Grembergen, to make the Royal Ballet of Flanders part of the cherished club of 'important cultural institutions' (like there are the Opera, de Singel and some orchestra's) seems pretty much received as offensive - seen from the contemporary (avantgarde ????) danceworld's (*) point of view ofcourse.

Mr.Gypens proposes a cooperation between the Netherlands, Belgium and part of Germany for keeping 1, travelling dancecompany who brings the Romantic repertory. That could be a solution to get more money for the current comtemporary companies. "The whole world envy's us for having Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Alain Platel, Jan Fabre and Meg Stuart".

As long as one don't confuses the whole world with the "critical avantgarde" (spot-on, Alexandra !) I think we can have an interesting debate :)

(*) = Rosas, Ultima Vez, les Ballets C.de la B.

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Mr.Gypens proposes a cooperation between the Netherlands, Belgium and part of Germany for keeping 1, travelling dancecompany who brings the Romantic repertory. That could be a solution to get more money for the current comtemporary companies. "The whole world envy's us for having Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Alain Platel, Jan Fabre and Meg Stuart".

I don't think the Dutch National Ballet would be terribly eager for this nonsense plan.

Re. Keersemaeker etc being "the world's envy": Modern Dance companies do "travel" better than mid-tier Ballet companies (plus they travel a hell of a lot lighter, usually). In Holland the N Dance Theater has visited NYC etc successfully; they are an excellent group and they have original material. However it wouldn't be very worthwhile for the Dutch National Ballet to visit NYC and dance Swan Lake or a Balanchine program, or bring Giselle to Paris.

You need to bring something new to the party. If they could do a Van Manen program and some Krystof Pastor, it would be a different story...

The jeremiads above remind me of a remark I overheard last Fall. The program had featured the one-act Paquita and a (IMO) depressing premiere by a young choreograph. However someone behind me said he'd liked the new piece best, because in modern stuff he didn't have to worry about dancers being absolutely synchronous. Suddenly I understood why the modern piece always gets the ovations. :shrug:

Edited by Herman Stevens
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Good points, Herman -- another side to your last comment is the complaint from classicists that "you can't tell whether they can really dance". As often is the case, it depends on how you look at it!

I think your point about having to have something to take on tour -- the "calling card" -- is very apt, and perhaps why mid-tier companies try to find something very original. The Dutch National Ballet toured New York in the '70s and '80s, but with Nureyev as the draw. The programs were all home-grown, all works by 'the Vans." I was glad to have had the opportunity to see them.

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As much as I have my doubts about the intentions behind Gypens suggestion, it is a fact that the Royal Ballet of Flanders is already to a large extent a touring company. Most of the season the company is touring Belgium and neighbouring countries and there are relatively few performances in their hometown Antwerp. They don't have anything special, they just take the current program on the road. (Viviane, maybe that's why the sets are always so sparse :rolleyes: ).

The new production of "La Bayadère" was already shown in Dordrecht, The Netherlands last Saturday, and more performances will follow in the coming months, as well as in Italy.

Schedule on: http://www.koninklijkballetvanvlaanderen.b...llet/index.html

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I'm afraid overhere one confuses having 'international appreciation' with quality !

Even the authorities are constant repeating the need to have a classical company with international radiation. They do perform abroad but the 'critics' are not satisfied because they are not invited to the 'hot'-places !? Well, they have been in New-York and recently in London... Don't think it's necessary to make all that fuzz around travelling...as long as they can't make up a decent travelscheme in their own country. For instance, the current 'La Bayadère'-production will not be shown in Ghent until the end of the year ! (Ghent being the heart of Flanders...eh, they do think different about this in Antwerp :grinning: )

And Herman, you made a good point with your example of DNB...you only can bring something abroad if you distinct yourself with originality !

'If' you are travelling to Antwerp to see this production I would advise to see them at the Opera instead of 'het Eilandje' and try to book for Aki Saito's Nikiya .

Alexandra, I don't think Rudi Van Dantzig's book (In het spoor van een komeet) on working with Nureyev is translated and that's a real pity ! I consider it as one of my favourites among the 'Nureyev'-books and very moving. It was great to learn that Nureyev himself choose the DNB, their new work intrigued him that much...and Van Dantzig was flabbergasted at that very moment.

You were indeed *very* lucky to have seen them !

oops...Marc, I hadn't seen your post :D

Yes, ofcourse that must be the main-reason for 'sparse'-sets. Although this time I don't think that was the major problem with the production. They were quite inventive in turning atmospheres and create other spaces with the basics they had.

But ofcourse it didn't had the quality of some of the Van Schayck designs I adore :)

Maybe I can add the following re-travelling in their own country :

I've always heard this is a necessity because the public in Belgium don't make'big' moves :D For the Americans : 'big' is 40-50 km. :yawn:

Another ambiguous train of thought ?

In the 7ties whole of Belgium was travelling by coaches to Brussels to see Béjart :grinning: (sorry Marc, I know I keep repeating this !)

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The whole notion of what makes a company "international" is intriguing. There are mid-sized American companies whose publicity says they're "an international level company" because they have been "invited" (ie, the director has connectoins, in most cases) to this or that city or festival. The Dutch National Ballet web site, the last time I checked, said that the company was on the same level as companies such as the Bolshoi, Paris Opera, New York City Ballet, etc.

Does being "international" mean that a company regularly tours to....New York? London? Paris? Paris Opera Ballet seldom tours to the U.S. and, thus, is often left off the "Big Six" (Five, Seven) list. There are French, and even Russian, dancers that we in America are nearly ignorant of because they don't dance here. (One of the reasons I've been so happy with Marc Haegeman's series of Paris interviews for DanceView is that I was determined that ONE generation of French dancers, at least, would leave an English language footprint.)

When I was working on my book of Kronstam, I was surprised, at first, that dancers of his generation consistently referred to him as one of the great dancers of the age -- he's not even mentioned in three of the books devoted to "great male dancers of the day" published in the last 20 years, or, if mentioned, is in a sentence along with a string of other Danes. "He didn't dance in New York enough," one dancer finally explained to me. Oh.

Back to the topic :D it sounds as though you have a very international Bayadere!

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The whole notion of what makes a company "international" is intriguing.  [...] The Dutch National Ballet web site, the last time I checked, said that the company was on the same level as companies such as the Bolshoi, Paris Opera, New York City Ballet, etc. Does being "international" mean that a company regularly tours to....New York? [...]

Sorry, Alexandra, perhaps the wording has been changed, but the way the Dutch NB defines itself as an international company is by pointing out it has dancers "who either come from or are regular guests with" companies like the Kirov, the Royal Ballet, San Fran and NYCB. (No doubt my wife would like me to point out that there's a pretty neato group of Spanish dancers, too, in the DNB - she's from Spain herself.)

The traffic goes the other way around, too. Sofiane Sylve was at the DNB for eight or more years, and now she's at the NYCB. There's a couple of DNB dancers who moved to the Royal Ballet, too, the past two years.

A thing that's very important to me, too, apart from the quality of the dancers and the esprit de corps is the theatre and the orchestra. I.e. perhaps a company can tour too much. DNB has a good solid home base in the Music Theatre - the rehearsal studios are in the same structure as the stage, and its own orchestra. No tapes or pick-up orchestras. (I've never seen the Flanders Ballet with an orchestra...)

Ultimately the question whether a company has international status depends not just on whether they travel, but whether people are willing to travel to come and see (as in the case of the Paris Opéra). Why don't you come on over to Amsterdam, Alexandra, for the Balanchine program (it's too late for Van Manen's lovely Schumann Pieces by now)? I'd be happy to buy you a nice dinner.


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I think the wording has been changed, Herman, if that's what it's saying now. There's a new director in place since I last checked the site, but it once said "is one of the great?/major? companies in the world, along with," and then listed ABT, NYCB, Royal, Kirov, Bolshoi and Paris. I thought that was a bit of a stretch. :) The current listing, what you cite above, is more accurate. [editing to add: I just checked the site -- it is different; there's been a redesign of at least some pages since I was last there]

What about a company like Vienna, that has an old and honorable tradition, and some very fine dancers, but never travels? I admire it from afar, never having seen it live, but it seems to know and reflect the taste of its city.

I think Herman's point that it's not only important that the company travels, but that people travel to see it, is a good one. Unfortunately, in today's marketing climate, this too can be manipulated. Since every company has to have a "calling card" -- preferably a heritage repertory, but if not, a hot new ballet or (the trend of the past 20 years) a big revival, or festival. Sometimes people may come for curiosity rather than, as 40 or 50 years ago, because you can't visit Paris without dropping in at the Louvre.

I also agree that live music is important -- it used to be "a first-class orchestra goes without saying" but this, too, is endangered. A first-class conductor, a music director too.

About dancers and guest stars -- often, perhaps, still, mostly, this happens because a dancer really is a star and gets on "the circuit" and can go from company to company on his/her reputation. Or a dancer has an interest in a particular repertory, or in working with a choreographer or this company. But you're also beginning to see "swapping" -- I'll invite your dancer, so you can say you have an international star on the roster, and you invite my dancer, or take one of my ballets.

When I win the lottery, Herman, I'll be glad to drop in on the Dutch National Ballet and many other companies! :)

Edited by Alexandra
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I checked one of the old program bookies, from Eagling's time, and you may be right, Alexandra. There is no English text, but the Dutch one comes close to saying the DNB is "on the same level as the Kirov, RB, POB and NYCB".

I think that's pushing it. The current DNB can dance stellar nights in row. (I have seen the Kirov on an off night.) Technically all dancers are vastly more assured than they were in seventies when they visited NYC. Actually Hans van Manen went on the record on the occasion of the revival of his Schumann Pieces saying Gael Lambiotte and Boris de Leeuw dance roles Nureyev and Dowell used to dance and the younger dancers do it with much more ease and poise.

However I'm not sure DNB has the depth of principals the companies above have. Also big stage personalities is not something that comes naturally in Amsterdam.

I think DNB should make a Van Manen program and do a tour of the East Coast. Schumann Pieces, Five Tangos, Three Pieces for HET. You'd see these are great dancers.

BTW, after all the adverse notices on this thread I think I should give the Flanders guys a chance and check out the Bayadère.


Edited by Herman Stevens
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Herman, I mean no disrespect to DNB -- I know there are some fine dancers there, and there were in the 1970s (I remember Han Ebelaar and Alexandra Radius, and Clint Farha, especially), and they brought the Van Manen pieces you mentioned. They had a strong profile then -- new rep by "the 3 Vans" and a solid base repertory of the 19th century classics and, I believe, the largest Balanchine repertory in Europe. It's just that one shouldn't overstate -- I'm a decent writer, but I ain't Shakespeare! :-) I think today, though, companies (like everyone else, from muffins to football teams) have to overstate their charms. THE biggest, THE best, THE most daring, etc. Because simply saying, "This is our company and this is what we do; hope you like it" doesn't sell tickets.

I'd like to see more Van Manen; I wish more of his ballets had entered American repertories. Many are small-cast, so they'd be ideal for small or mid-sized companies.

With apologies to Begium for hijacking your thread to talk about international issues!!!

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See, with two clicks of a mouse, your thread is an International Center! Viviane, I'm impressed that your company can do a good shades scene, considering that Swan Lake! (no, didn't see it, just read Marc's review and saw the photos)

We actually have five other people who've registered here listing Belgium as their location. If you're out there, please tell us what you thought of Bayadere!!

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That's OK, Alexandra, we feel very much at ease within international company and chatting about international issues :grinning:

As far as I understand from the HNB booklets under Wayne Eagling the notion "international" had a lot to do with the fact that internationally renowned choreographers worked with and for the company and sort of created an "international" repertory. (Something which the POB also always takes great pride in.) They named first of all the famous Dutch choreographers (the Vans), followed by a whole group of big names from today's dance world - Carlson, Forsythe, Lock, Marin, among others.

I felt, too, that the favorable comparison with POB, Kirov, Bolshoi, RB, ABT was pushing it a bit too far, but yet, Herman, on the other hand it isn't that far-fetched when you realize the richness and diversity of the HNB's repertory - and what's more, they can give a more than decent (to put it this way) show of everything they have. Frankly, I never felt that way about the Royal Ballet of Flanders, even though that company, too, is of a pretty good level and is attempting the same things, but it's simply no comparison to what HNB can do - and the difference is not just by sheer number of dancers.

It will be interesting to hear your take on the Bayadère, Herman. :)

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Ah, there's that blasted Swan Lake again :). Maybe this can explain the difference, Alexandra: the choreography of the Shades Act was pretty straightforward and what we usually see in this particular scene - let's call it Petipa choreography. Swan Lake wasn't - the choreography as we know it had been mistreated by incompetent hands and very hard to salvage from total disaster.

There was a funny documentary, sort of "The Making of" of "Swan Lake" (or rather in this case "The Unmaking of....") :grinning: In one scene we had Fabre supervising the rehearsals of the swans in act 2. It still looked like Ivanov. But then Fabre suggested to just drop those particular steps - they didn't make sense to him. And that's what they did.

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Must say I was surprised to see Sofiane Sylve in the broadcasted 'Sleeping Beauty' though ! 

Herman, I'm eager to hear you about our Bayadère  :)

I will tell you, Viviane and Marc, in March!

So may I ask what you thought of Sofiane's Aurora, Viviane?

Perhaps we should go to the DNB room, but I thought her Act I was simply astounding (I saw it three times in a row). It was Beauty and Beast in one, emphasizing Aurora's birthday girl audacity. Sofiane may have wanted to show Amsterdam one last time what they are going to miss for quite a bunch of years.

I would love to hear how you felt about it.

Marc, I think it's perfectly OK to be not quite the Kirov (if only for not having trilions of principals) and yet be a wonderful company, like the DNB. I love 'em. On the other hand I think the Flanders Ballet, which is a notch down anyway, isn't helped by having to tour the relentless way they do (with a limited number of good dancers).


Edited by Herman Stevens
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OK, I see. The repertory of the RBof Flanders is still largely classical/neo-classical. The problems in performing the great 19th century ballet are to my mind more related to company-wide aesthetics and incomprehension of style (which can also be said for the DNB), as well as matters of scale, means and number. But they still look fine in classical choreography.

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