ballet


The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center (or the Opera House as it is popularly known) has a very solid dance program each season which brings every year to Tel Aviv most of the best ballet and modern dance companies world-wide. We used to be subscribed for a few years to the series, but the lack of time pressed us into giving up and attending only occasionally the ballet performances here or in other places in Israel. This time we changed the tickets to a cancelled opera performance for what was probably one of the picks of the ballet (actually modern dance) season this year.

 

source http://www.costanorte.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/12foto02.jpg

 

Deborah Colker was born in Brazil in 1960, she started her own company named now Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker in 1993. The style she developed is based on the celebration of the human body and on the artistic and acrobatic skills of her dancers. Some of the more recent performances show more sophistication in combining music, dance and stage accessories that amplify and enhance the efforts of the dancers. It’s no coincidence if the style reminds Cirque du Soleil, as Deborah created one of the most recent performance of that company.

 

(video source Cia Deborah Colker)

 

The program brought to the Israeli audiences is named Mix and brings together parts of the two first shows of the company created in 1994-1995. Six different pieces with a duration of around 10 minutes each deal with the relations between the human body and the environment, between men and machines, and between couples. The most daring piece and the one that will be remembered by all audiences who have seen the show is is the final one, which is danced on a vertical plane, creating a very special experience for dancers and viewers and challenging the sportive skills of the dancers. I have seen the idea perfected in the Cirque du Soleil’s ‘K’ show one decade after this program was created, and it seems that Deborah Colker really pioneered an idea that is still striking and daring even today.

The dancers gave last night a fantastic show, and even if the acrobatic thrills in some places seemed to prevail over the artistic emotions there can be no doubt about their dedication to the art they are making, and about their passion (and the evident pleasure of the leader of the company who showed up on stage at the end to thank the audiences) to dance and to be here. A great evening of modern dance.

I know Alvin Ailey’s company for a very long time. It was this company and choreographer and the one of another great artist Alwin Nikolais and his ‘Nikolais Dance Theater’ who came in tours in Romania at the beginning of the 70s and opened my eyes and soul to the world of modern dance, starting an interest in this form of art that continues until today.

While Nikolais’ company is gone after the death of his founder, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded in 1958 continued the tradition of its founder under the direction of Judith Jamison and is today one of the better known dance companies in the world. I have seen another performance of theirs a few years ago, in a theater on Broadway around the 51th street. Last night was my third opportunity to meet with their art. America changed radically since the company was founded and the world of dance changed as well, pushed ahead by artists like Ailey among other. If in 1958 the idea of a multiracial company was a novelty, as well as the use in modern dance of music and themes descending from the Afro-American tradition, today such groups are to be found almost any place around the world and jazz and gospels and blues and popular American music are an integral part of their creations. While Ailey created many of the performances of the theater, he also raised and opened the stage for many other creators to research, create and express their voices in the company performances. The expressiveness of the body as a whole which Ailey saw and developed starting from Martha Graham‘s style and the freedom that dancers express exposing their own perspective while remaining part of the ensemble, a method driven by Ailey from jazz music had become part of fundamental alphabet of modern dance.

The program last night at the Opera House, closing the fall dance festival in Tel Aviv, included an original creation by Ailey, another classic work from the 70s and two works from the last decade. Luckily I found on youTube fragments of all performances for me to remember and for the readers of the blog to get a glimpse of the wonderful experience that we enjoyed. The success was tremendous, the knowledgeable dance audiences in Israel spoiled with almost everything that modern dance can offer including a hot and innovative local scene know how to appreciate such a combination of high professionalism and attractive programs.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The performance started with one of the recent works of the company – Dancing Spirit created in 2009 by Ronald K. Brown – en exploration of the African roots of the Afro-American music and dance melted in a modern style and ambiance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tpy3V-lYfKY

(video source danceconsortium)

Suite Ottis was created in 1971 by George W. Faison, a young choreographer at that time who further developed and became a well known creator and founded his own dance company. It’s a tribute to the music of Ottis Redding and a good opportunity of nostalgia for those who love the soul music of the 60s.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The shorter piece named Unfold completed the second part of the performance. It’s a duet on an opera aria which was interesting to watch not only by its own concentrated beauty but also as an indication of the direction the company may take in the future, as the choreographer is Robert Battle who will take over the direction of the company in the summer of 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT8SX35m0lU

(video source andithankyou2)

The last part of the performance included the classic creation of Ailey Revelations. When created in 1960 it was one of the first pieces in the history of American dance to bring directly to stage the music and spiritual experience of the Afro-American community. Since then it became a classic and a reference piece, with new generations bringing their own perspective within the framework drawn by Ailey. It certainly is a crowd-pleaser any place in the world where it is presented, and an excellent closing for an evening of modern dance to remember.

The Web site of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can be accessed at http://www.alvinailey.org/.

I chose to see two performances from the Tel Aviv Dance 2010 Festival. The second one will be another encounter with Alvin Alley and his American Dance Theater, the third one after he made me discover modern dance in Bucharest at the beginning of the 70s, and then I have seen him again on the 53rd street in Manhattan a few years ago. Last night’s performance of Miguel Angel Berna and his Compania de Danza was a fantastic first experience with the work of an impressive artist.

(video source centroaragonesdedanz)

Berna has founded his company in 1990, so he must be now in his 40s, but he has the eternal youth look of many of the great male dancers. He is himself a very gifted dancer, with the silhouette, style and temperament that can belong only to a Spaniard. Together with his team he created in Goya a performance that is deeply Spanish, which takes the themes of the Caprices, Follies and Disasters of War melds and recomposes them in a dark, deep and expressive universe in which humanity fights for survival under the threats of terror and and evil. The result is true to the form and spirit of the work of Goya and has impact on the feelings and interior world of the modern viewer. The performance in Tel Aviv last night was rewarded by the knowledgeable audience here with thundering applause, no little matter if you know that this audience is exposed to the best the contemporary dance scene can offer from the local and world productions.

The Boris Eifman Ballet troupe from St. Petersburg is a constant guest of the dance series at the Golda center in Tel Aviv (same hall that hosts the New Israeli Opera). He brought here during the last decade all his important works which made of him the best known Russian choreographer of the day. He is kind of a cult hero in Israel, the ballet audiences here especially the ones of Russian origin adore him, although in the Western media he is quite controversial, some criticizing him sharply for the commercial touch of many of his performances.

(video source yk387)

I have seen today the latest work of Eifman, which is inspired by Pushkin’s ‘Onegin’. I liked the performance,  although I was neither shocked, nor charmed by everything that happened on the stage. There are two tings that I can complain about – one that the show lacked the inventiveness, the spark, the special ideas I found in other productions of Eifman. Second that too little of the Russian soul or Pushkin;s romanticism made it to the stage. Instead the story was adapted to happen in the period between 1991 and today, and talk about the Russian society of today. The music reflected quite well this discrepancy – the combination of Tchaikovsky  and rocker Alexander Sitkovetsky’s music never worked together, and the effect is of rupture rather then of continuity. The dancers were all very good, you would not expect anything less from a first tier troup of Russian dancers, with Nina Zamaitzev especially shining as Tatiana. Stage sets were mostly focused around a circular screen that was used as dynamic background (interesting and efficient) enhanced by masterful light games. Eifman was present at the performance, and received standing ovations from the audience which may have been 80% Russian-speaking.

(video source pointemagazine)

Here are a few professional reviews of Eifman’s Onegin, for these who wish to read more than my amateurish one:

http://me-artsblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/dance-review-eifman-ballets-onegin.html

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/05/review-eifman-ballets-onegin-at-ocpac.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/arts/dance/01eifm.html

http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_09/jul09/et_rev_eifman_ballet_onegin_0509.htm

source www.batsheva.co.il

The Batsheva Dance Company founded in 1964, under the artistic direction of Ohad Naharin since 1990, established itself as one of the most interesting and well known modern ballet companies in the world. We saw last night their last production ‘Bill’ at the Suzanne Dellal center in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, which became in the last decade one of the preferred entertainment areas of the city and a good place to spend a Friday night out with a friend coming to visit home from her remote California location.

(video source batshevadancecompany)

‘Bill’ is created by choreographer Sharon Eyal and takes the style of the company to its extremes. It is one hour of dance in a conception that focuses on the bodies and movements of the dancers, getting rid of many of the other elements that come together with the usual dance performance – narrative, sets, colors. What we see on the stage are only the dancers, in monochromatic costumes and with their bodies painted the same color and lights, and the continuum of the trance – style music guiding their movements. The result is that as a viewer you can focus on watching the dynamics of their movements, which build the whole performance. I liked what I saw on stage, it was permanently interesting, surprising, expressive – with the dancers interacting between themselves and the group in a sort of endless tribal ceremony from an universe that was created in front of our eyes. Even if the concept may seem too abstract and repetitive to some (it was not for me) the talent and effort of the dancers in the hot almost summer-like conditions (with the air conditioning not working for unknown reasons) was rewarded by well deserved applause from the audience.

An extensive interview with choreographer Sharon Eyal can be read at http://www.haaretz.com/magazine/friday-supplement/a-dance-on-the-wild-side-1.291018.

‘Violette and Mr. B.’ tries to break the usual method of doing biographical films about great dancers and choreographers. These are usually based upon archive materials intermingled with interviews of other artists, and students, and critics of the artist who worked with him or commented his work. In this case director Dominique Delouche chose a different method, by bringing to screen Violette Verdy who was the student and dancer of Balanchine. After shortly telling the story of her meeting with the genial choreographer the film moves in the dancing studio where Verdy teaches her students different works of Balanchine, explaining them his art by the very practical means of having them dance his very work.

All looks like a master class in dancing, certainly a high level one. It’s not really great documentary. Viewers who are into dancing or who are are passionate ballet fans you will probably love this film. Otherwise this film is probably not going to impress more than any other professional film in a profession that is not ours.

More information about the documentary by Dominique Delouche, transmitted a few days ago by Mezzo can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303195/

This biography film is one of the two that the French music and culture channel Mezzo screened lately by director Dominique Delouche. It traces the life and career of Ukranian-born French choreographer Serge Lifar who directed for several decades the ballet of the Paris opera and for a few years the Monte Carlo ballet. An influential figure of the 20th century dance history, Lifar was part of the Parisian artistic circles, worked with the most famous dancers, musicians, artists who created the decors of his works. He was a great dancer himself, and as a choreographer created reference versions of many key ballets. The film is quite scarce in biographical details although these are not completely missing and focuses mostly in his principal works which are presented through film clips of the original works, as well as of modern versions, and valuable comments about the artist and his work. It’s a valuable documentary for people interested in the history of ballet and in the life and work of Lifar.

More about the film at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486473/maindetails