NYCB DIGITAL SEASON: Three Sides of Balanchine
The New York City Ballet dedicates its Digital Spring Season to its founder George Balanchine. The series of 3 ballets will close with the YouTube premiere of Balanchine's favorite ballet in his own words: Stravinsky Violin Concerto at 8 pm tomorrow, 11 March, NYC time and 2 am 12 March Zurich time. Created for the Company's landmark 1972 Stravinsky Festival, it encapsulates both Balanchine’s devotion to the composer’s work and his iconoclastic approach to choreography.
The video will remain available on YouTube for a week - until 18 March. If you hurry, you can still catch the second part of the series: the most programmed Balanchine ballet worldwide, Theme & Variations, which can be streamed until tomorrow. Interestingly, when reading the comments below the Theme & Variations video, there is some critisism to be discovered regarding the camera work and the misusage of close-ups cutting out the corps de ballet. The videos which NYCB makes available within its Digital Spring Season were recorded some time ago before Corona and no special cameramen nor famous film- and videomakers were engaged, unlike for example the Bayerisches Staatsballett which hired an Emmy-nominated Christoph Engel to direct its Swan Lake streaming program during the pandemic. I am curious to see how the viewers react to Stravinsky Violin Concerto recorded in 2018, which is 3 years after the recording of Theme & Variations - still before Corona, which made more evident how important camera work is, when recording a ballet performance, not for archive purposes only, but for streaming.
The New York City Ballet explores Mister B.'s legacy by offering a free streaming of his ballets and linking it to a fundraising campaign. It is clear that the US ballet companies are more vulnerable to the ongoing crisis as they have less support from the government than European ballet ensembles. Until now, around 3000 USD have been raised according to the YouTube counter. Complimentary to the ballet streaming itself, the NYCB created the so-called "Inside NYCB" series of talks which are hosted by Principal Dancer Russell Janzen and feature interviews with dancers about their experiences with learning and performing the piece as well as coaching sessions:
To get more of a historic perspective on the ballet piece NYCB adds the trending content format: a podcast entitled "Hear the Dance"
The NYCB podcast is hosted by its former dancer Silas Farley. In the episode dedicted to Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Farley is joined by former Principal Dancer Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, who worked with Balanchine himself back in the day. In the first half of their conversation, Bonnefoux describes joining the Paris Opera Ballet at the age of 14, achieving the rank of principal dancer at 21, and relinquishing his position there just a year short of earning his pension to move to the US. The episode includes a short excerpt from legendary Russian teacher Alexander Pushkin’s class as well as Bonnefoux’s retelling of his last-minute lifesaving intercession on behalf of fellow Pushkin student, Rudolf Nureyev. He was the one to make the decisive phone call from Paris Bourget airport which facilitated Nureyev’s defection to the West. The comments below the podcast recording feature a quite interesting reading list for classical music and ballet lovers including publications about Balanchine, Stravinsky & Nureyev.
THE CRIMINAL BALLET OF BAYERISCHES STAATSBALLETT: Cecil Hotel by Andrey Kaydanovskiy
Right on time to the freshly released Netflix documentary "Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel", the Bayerisches Staatsballett is offering the most criminal and filmic of its repertoire in the frame of its digital season: Cecil Hotel by Andrey Kaydanovskiy. The ballet was live streamed on 3 March and is available to watch as video-on-demand for 24h until 3 April as one of the #Montagsstücke on the Vimeo channel of Bayerische Staatsoper:
The clearly overstreched documentary on Netflix focuses on one of the mysterious deaths, which occured at Cecil, somehow marking the final culmination in its very obscure history and supposedly leading to its closure in 2017, namely the mysterious drowning of the Canadian college student Elisa Lam in one of the hotel's water tanks. Choreographer Andrey Kaydanovskiy wraps up the plot within 35 minutes of balletic film noir, also making a leitmotiv out of Elisa's story. I have been a big fan of the unique narrative choreographic style of Andrey since I got the chance to coordinate his first ballet comission for Bayerisches Staatsballett back in 2017 - it was also a one act narrative ballet called Discovery.
Cecil Hotel is the his most recent piece created for Bayerisches Staatsballett by Andrey Kaydanovskiy in 2019. Interestingly, the father of Andrey was a Russian film actor and director, while his mother is a former Bolshoi ballerina. Andrey Kaydanovskiy somehow inherited the dance and the film genes at once and is one of the few choreographers of the younger generation who create narrative ballets. A great storyteller that he is, Andrey lets the most notorious and criminal guests, such as serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterwegger, meet in the opening scene engaging in some sort of Danse Macabre with the dead bodies of their victims until Elisa rings the bell at the lobby desk.
The Cecil Hotel was a home for many bizarre figures and haunted souls: There were suicides and homicides that were never completely solved and for this very reason gave rise to speculation. In Kaydanovskiy's evocation of this infamous place, different stories are linked together in anachronistic way: Elizabeth Short (= Betty), also known as the 'Black Dahlia,' was rumored to have visited the Cecil before her grisly 1947 murder. Because of the graphic nature of the crime (Short's corpse was bisected at the waist and severely mutilated, with cuts carved into both sides of her mouth up to her ears), the murder caused a media frenzy and a nationwide search for the killer. But the killer could never have been the Night Stalker, alias Richard Ramirez, who was a serial killer active in LA in the 80's.
The "bell ringing" by Elisa at the end of the opening scene is actually an interesting metaphor for people suffering from mental diseases and being ignored by the society -in the particular case of Elisa Lam it was bipolar disorder. The hotel stuff represented in the ballet by a lobby boy danced by Dustin Klein, seemed to have ignored the alarm signals of her unstable mental state which was reported by her roommates to the hotel management. The Netflix documentary reveals this aspect and the fact that Elisa's parents pressed charges againt the Cecil hotel for negligence. To underline the Cecil's dark and haunting aura, Andrey introduces personified Suicide marvelously danced by Robin Strona styled by set and costume designer Karoline Hogl as drug queen en tenue négligée. Karoline Hogl is also responsible for the set of the new ballet prduction of Andrey Kaydanovskiy"The Blizzard" after A. Pushkin's novel of the same name and which is in preparation right now to premiere hopefully in the open Bayerische Staatsoper for live audiences on 16 April 2021. Even if it will be an online Premiere due to extended lockdown in Germany, such filmic ballets as those of Andrey are also interesting to see on camera.
SASHA WALTZ & GUESTS: Premiere of a minimal ballet »In C« on ARTE Concert
Sasha Waltz is one of the few female choreographers who enjoy international recognition in a still quite male dominated world of ballet and dance. Interestingly, she was born on the International Women's Day, 8 March and celebrated her 58's birthday this Monday. Two days before, her most recent work »In C« premiered on ARTE Concert per live stream from radialsystem Berlin and will remain availble on YouTube and ARTE Concert website to view for free until 4 April.
The music piece composed by Terry Riley of the same name marked the beginning of the minimal music back in 1964. There are 53 figures in the score, each musician can repeat a figure of the score as often or as little as he or she wants. Waltz applies the same principles and structure for the choreographic score: the dancers can create different applications and figurations to move through space in unison with others or in their own pattern. It is "a democratic score" which gives the freedom of the individual within an ensemble - an aspect interesting to explore within the context of the Corona pandemic. Each individual is asked to limit his/her own freedom in order to avoid harming the society. »In C« is an experimental, constantly evolving process that once again refines Sasha Waltz & Guests’ long-standing approach as well as the dialogue between dance, music and space, both digitally and in real life.
According to the disclaimer of the video the dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests is beginning an innovative artistic process that will result in the continuous production of both digital and live formats, so we better stay tuned for new creations to come!