N. 263 - November / December 2016

6 News – from the dance world

20 On the cover :
Spanish Dance, a Beloved Mystery

28 On stage, critics :
The Royal Ballet, London
Hamburg Ballet
Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam
Ballet du Grand-Théâtre de Genève
Royal Swedish Ballet, Stockholm
Michael Clark Company
Ballet du Capitole, Toulouse
Co. Dorky Park, Costanza Macras
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Zurich Ballet
Co. Karas, Saburo Teshigawara
Co. Jean-Claude Gallotta
Ballet du Nord, Olivier Dubois
Système Castafiore
Kiss & Cry Collective
Jan Fabre
Royal New Zealand Ballet
Cristiana Morganti


46 Ballet Festival of Havane:
The American-global Cuba

48 Farewell Yvette Chauviré, icon of French ballet

50 BalletTube: Everyone on the red table

51 Multimedia : TV, Web, Dvd, Cinema...

54 Programmes TV

56 International Calendar

Ballet2000 n. November / December 2016

Novembre / Dicembre 2016

Some articles selected for you

There are three genres of dance in Spain: Spanish dance per se, in its manifold varieties (including the refined Escuela Bolera of 18th/9th-century origin and flamenco), classical ballet and European contemporary dance. The custodian and indisputable exponent of the first genre, that of “Spanish dancing”, is the Ballet Nacional de España. Roger Salas takes a look at the company today and discusses its recent programme tribute to the iconic figure of Antonio Ruiz Soler

Spanish dance is in line with the current “global” drive to recover past legacies and historical repertory. The Ballet Nacional de España (the prestigious national company of Spanish dance, not be confused with the Compañía Nacional de Danza, currently directed by José Carlos Martínez and which has a “normal” classical/modern international profile) also follows this trend. Ever since Aída Gómez (1998-2001) was at the Ballet Nacional’s helm, this trend has gained momentum, with varying degrees of intensity.
First of all it is necessary to explain that the art of dance in Spain can be broken down into three great “genres” that account for what is on offer on stage: classical ballet (in all its denominations, from classic-romantic to the newest styles); contemporary dance (whose various denominations fall under the European umbrella of contemporary dance and dance-theatre) and “Spanish ballet”, or Spanish dancing proper, which groups together all the styles and techniques that range from the Escuela Bolera (which was born in the 18th century and whose history runs parallel to and closely resembles that of classical ballet), to stylised dances (the result of the assimilation and adaptation of Spain’s variegated folklore), to flamenco (an essential component of Spanish dance that has contaminated all the other styles and has its own modern stage form).
The great dancer/teacher/choreographer Mariemma (who also danced at La Scala in Milan and created works for that company), used to maintain, and not without reason, that there is only one Spanish Dance as such, with various branches, and that it would denote “lack of culture” to separate them or consider them unrelated to one another, a mistake that would endanger its preservation and development.
Spanish dance’s big problem has always been how to stabilise itself and preserve the repertory correctly.
The Ballet Nacional de España was preceded by two other companies that had a national profile, namely Ballet Antología and Ballet Nacional Festivales de España, both of which focused heavily on “stylised dances” and so-called “Spanish classical” dance, a choral and complex genre suited to story-ballets.
Spanish national companies are relatively young institutions, half a century old at the most; this is too short a time span to be able to talk seriously of the development of a “school” (in the artistic sense of the word) and of a repertory proper. But it is a fact that not everything has always been done in the best of ways since the Ballet Nacional Español was founded back in 1978. Its first artistic director, Antonio Gades, immediately called in some of Spain’s most renowned dance celebrities of the previous period, including Pilar López, Mariemma, Antonio Ruiz Soler, Juan Quintero and Rafael Aguilar.
We cannot say that Ballet Nacional de España’s current director, 41-year-old Antonio Najarro (appointed in 2011), enjoys the full support of the whole company. There has recently been a lot of serious conflict, of the kind that hadn’t been seen since the days in which María de Ávila held sway – with a appropriately iron fist – over the two Spanish state-subsidised troupes (Ballet Nacional de España and Ballet Nacional Clásico) which were united from 1983 to 1986 under her leadership. The new programme of historical choreographies by Antonio Ruiz Soler (1921-1996, known as “The Great Antonio”), presented by the company in tribute to this gigantic dance celebrity and Spanish dance creator, was very warmly received by public and critics alike, despite still being a long way off from true excellence. Such a tribute to Antonio Ruiz Soler, last June and July, was supposed to be the climax of Antonio Najarro’s mandate at the helm of Ballet Nacional; yet it ended up by being a disgraceful moment, with strikes, cancelled shows and union demos in front of the Teatro de La Zarzuela in Madrid. Generally-speaking, this had a negative effect on both quality and artistic productivity and thus one couldn’t have expected more from the BNE’s dancers and technicians. The Spanish Ministry of Culture responded to the unrest by extending Najarro’s contract at the helm of the BNE by a further three years.
The choreographic works in the aforementioned programme, by Antonio Ruiz Soler himself or from his repertoire, are part of the legacy that constitutes the mainstay of Spanish dance today and they would by rights merit clearer attention and a more balanced treatment than they have received to date: they are the ABC and basis of everything that has been created since, in almost three quarters of a century; they explain why dance historians describe 20th-century Spanish theatre dance as a modern art, an expression of the contemporary arts that began to emerge and develop with the avant-garde movements of the 1900s.
The show we saw at the Teatro de La Zarzuela was undoubtedly a big effort, but not a total success. According also to the opinion of renowned maîtres, the company today has numerous dancers of talent, but they need to be better groomed in the authentic style they are dancing in.
The programme consisted of: Eritaña (music by Isaac Albéniz, 1960); La taberna del toro (1956); Zapateado (music by Pablo Sarasate, 1946); Fantasía galaica (music by Ernesto Halffter, 1956); and El sombrero de tres picos (“The Three-Cornered Hat”, music by Manuel de Falla, 1958).
As for the Taberna del toro “taranta”, it was a bit odd to watch this fragment on its own as it seemed out of place, devoid of any connection to the other choreographies of the evening. And with regard to better-known Sombrero de tres picos, we need here to mention a few basic facts. On 24 June 1958 Antonio Ruiz Soler presented a version of this ballet at Teatro del Generalife in Granada, with scenery by Manuel Muntañola and famous dancer Rosita Segovia as the Miller’s Wife; as music critic Antonio Fernández-Cid immediately noted, the impression was that composer Manuel de Falla (who died in exile in Argentina in 1946) “had found his ideal team” – alluding to the fact that all the team members were Spanish. Antonio Ruiz Soler’s later (1981) version with the BNE used scenery by Pablo Picasso and testified to the power of a shrewd publicity stunt that condemned the original sets by Muntañola to ostracism and oblivion and created a certain confusion, taken on board by dancers, critics and history; it so happens that Picasso’s sets had been designed for another – extremely different – work, namely that by Léonide Massine for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, a successful ballet stylisation of Spanish melodies that is still in the repertory to this day.
The confusion was then endorsed by another choreographer and BNE director, José Antonio Ruiz, who created his own version in 2004, again using Picasso’s sets.
However, when the Great Antonio died, he was attired in the very cloak that Muntañola had designed expressly for him in his original Sombrero de tres picos.
Returning to the subject of the style and technique of dancers of this genre, one must consider that together with training in Spanish dancing they also receive classical ballet training. That is how it has been in the past few decades, in keeping with the idea of the “complete dancer”, akin to the 19th-century dancer who was capable of tackling both the classical ballet and Spanish repertories. The last great example of this type of artiste was probably María de Ávila when she was “prima ballerina” at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona in the 1940s. The concept of “complete dancer of Spanish dance” continues to be key of importance and decisive when it comes to preserving a repertory which was, basically, created and devised for this kind of performer. Aida Gómez and Joaquín Cortes were thoroughly complete dancers; when it comes to the present generation, it is Sergio Bernal who, with his superb natural gifts and schooling, fits this ideal profile.

Roger Salas

BALLET2000 n° 263, December 2016

 The Merce Cunningham Dance Company gave its final performance, a very last "Event", in New York last December. Thus, the production of a genius of modern and contemporary dance, who considered each of his works to be unrepeatable acts of creation, risks extinction according to his own last will and testament. But the Merce Cunningham Trust has no intention of dying and grants rights for some "repertoire" pieces to other companies

When I asked Merce Cunningham if he wanted his works performed 100 years from now, he laughed and said, "No, dancing will be completely different then." And so the Merce Cunningham Dance Company closed down at the end of December after six performances during three days in New York. But that is not the end of the story, as the Merce Cunningham Trust, an organization formed in 2003, made clear in announcing its plans for the future.

Nonetheless, these performances as well as the company’s preceding season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (featuring a welcome revival of the rarely seen Roaratorio) and Merce Fair, a somewhat academic survey of Cunningham’s career at Lincoln Center Festival last summer, all constituted a continuous and varied homage by New York to one of its great artists.

Irène Lidova was a dance critic and organiser, a personality who was important in various fields and over many generations, and, besides, an especially faithful and affectionate contributor to our magazine; and, lastly, for as little as it matters, my friend and absolute adviser on all matters throughout this activity that I have chosen, or that has fallen to me.

Irina Kaminskaya – Lidova after her marriage to Serge Lido (a French adaptation of the Russian Sergey Lidov) – was born in Moscow in 1907. Therefore, her loss should have for us the serenity of a natural conclusion, and of a nature that was very generous not so much in granting her a long life as in preserving (and even increasing) up to the last an intelligence of life and such a great love for it (to that extent, perhaps being cruel) that no-one who did not know her well could believe.

It would take more than this note, but I will give a brief account of what I learnt about her in twenty-seven years of friendship, in person in Paris or around the ballet world, or through our daily telephone conversations.

As a child, during the years of the Bolshevik revolution she emigrated from St Petersburg to Paris, leaving Russia in a state of devastation by crossing a frozen lake in Finland, hidden in a sledge. In the French capital, where she was awaited by relations, the family was installed in a quiet flat in rue Chernoviz, where Irène lived, later with her husband, and finally alone, until now.

Like many daughters of Russian émigrés, she had lessons in classical ballet in the small Paris studios where, in order to survive, some of the ex-Imperial ballerinas, including the great Olga Preobrajenska, taught. She was only an amateur student, but the passion for dance took hold of her for ever. After studying art and literature, she entered the world of journalism as a sub-editor of a news magazine, Vu. There she managed to slip in her first dance pieces, in that way beginning to get to know the artists. Serge Lifar, who reigned over the ballet at the Paris Opéra, was her first idol (she once said to me, "I’ve been a fan of a lot of dancers, but Lifar was the only one I adored"), and it was the first sign of that symptom of balletomania that is the dedicated and passionate falling in love with dancers (which she not only recognised but cultivated, with a strange mixture of lucidity and abandon). She met a compatriot who was studying economics, they got married, she infected him with her passion and transformed him into one of the most famous dance photographers of the 20th century. The twenty-five albums of photographs, one a year, by Serge Lido, with the comments (and above all, the choices) of Irène Lidova are an extraordinary witness to a whole ballet epoch.

There were hard years - the war, the Occupation, the immediate post-war period - but they were full of life, and creative. One day at the Paris Opéra school, she chose three boys to be photographed by Serge Lido: they were Roland Petit, Jean Babilée and Jean Guélis. An infallible eye was one of her most important gifts: at the theatre, even in her last year, when she had limited sight, she would immediately pick out a talented youngster from a whole corps de ballet - even in the back row; and the evening was illuminated by the enthusiasm of her discovery.

She placed beside Roland Petit an infant prodigy of a dancer and choreographer, Janine Charrat, she took them round to her friend Jean Cocteau, and they thought up a group, with Jean Babilée, Ethéry Pagava, then Renée (later Zizi) Jeanmaire and other protégés of Irène, and thus the first masterpieces of French 20th century ballet were born. Later on, among those she worked with was the Marquis de Cuevas’ famous and adventurous company.

She was faithful in her artistic loves, but her judgments were very decided. One day, many years after those poor and happy beginnings, she asked Roland Petit at the end of a performance, "Well, Roland, when are you going to make a real ballet for us?". I can understand now what she meant, but he took it badly and never spoke to her again. Artists are like that, all the best you do is taken for granted, one unwelcome word is an irreparable betrayal. Irène knew that better than anybody; she went on loving him and saying and writing that Roland Petit was the greatest talent she had ever met with.

In her circle there were also lasting friends, and in the rue Chernoviz flat large numbers of people from the dance world called their regularly, while the telephone was the remedy when there were no visitors in the sitting-room. Nina Vyroubova, Yvette Chauviré, Janine Charrat, Joseph Lazzini, Mario Porcile (the director of the Nervi Ballet Festival - a place that Lidova loved, and where we spent memorable summers), the impresario Paul Szilard, Lilavati and Bengt Häger, John Taras, Carla Fracci, the critic John Percival and the film director Dominique Delouche were among the most assiduous visitors, up to the last days. Even Rudolf Nureyev, in his early Paris days, was a regular guest for Irène’s Russian suppers; but he soon forgot. She had a particular passion for Russian ballet and Russian artists; perhaps it was a way of rediscovering her roots, at least in the art that she loved, feeling herself to be Russian and speaking her native language. She was proud of being to a certain extent their "ambassadress" in the West, above all in the years during which contacts were rare and difficult. She became friends with some of them: Maya Plisetskaya, her beloved Katia and Volodia (Maximova and Vasiliev), then the younger Vladimir Derevianko and Vladimir Malakhov, one of her discoveries.

Among her closest friends, there had come into being a family of chosen members, above all after the unexpected death of her husband in 1984, which distressed her greatly. There was above all Milorad Miskovitch, another protégé of hers in the happy times, an admired dancer and a friend for ever; he was a kind of son, and as such he received the friends at the funeral on 31 May, in the Russian church in Paris. The other "son", more recently acquired, was myself. And another Italian, of a later generation, Toni Candeloro, who lived in the same house in the years when he danced in Paris, forming with her whenever she went out, a strange couple; as we all know, you can sometimes get irritated with children, but with nephews the understanding is absolute.

I nearly forgot to mention, because it was so well-known, that she possessed an uncommon intelligence, an intelligence that was not conventional, cultured but intuitive, that went straight to the heart of things in art and life and was solidly based on her formidable memory. At ninety, she was able to remember the complete cast of a performance that had taken place fifty years earlier, or she could tell you in a few precise strokes about the career and personality of a dancer who had been forgotten by everyone else. But hers was not the old person’s eccentric memory, fixed in the past; she remembered a day from fifty years ago as she remembered the day before, she was interested in the present and curious about the future. To discover a young choreographer or a gifted dancer was more important to her than having known Lifar or Robbins or having often seen Alicia Markova dance. On the other hand, she did not, like some pathetic elderly people, have the affectation of always wanting to seem up-to-date; in her last years, she really was above all such things, secure in her ancient wisdom and very aware of the present. Classical, modern, contemporary seemed to her senseless words. She loved Giselle but had encouraged and defended the young Merce Cunningham in France when nobody was yet taking any notice of him.

I realise that I am writing one of her "rencontres": the speciality that she had devoted to Ballet2000 for so many years. Perhaps it is because I read, translated and corrected so many of them that I have now written one myself. I shall miss it a great deal - and I am sure, dear reader, that you will also miss - that page towards the end of the magazine, with that old spectacled, smiling face ("c’est votre journaliste américaine", she would joke), with her tightly written piece, all short, incisive sentences, framed by one of Serge Lido’s lovely pictures. I can’t imagine not being able to life the telephone every evening at about seven o’clock, to discuss our little dance matters, or to ask her something that from now on I’ll have to look for, to no purpose, in books. There is one more void, in the dance world, and in the world.

Alfio Agostini

BALLET2000 n. 67 – July 2002