Posts Tagged ‘Lucia Lacarra’

Review – The Nutcracker – Bavarian State Ballet at the Bavarian State Opera House

December 29, 2012

My very first ballet was the Bavarian State Ballet’s Nutcracker, way back in 1981, I think, or possibly in 1990. Time, it passes, things change, and I figured, while technically I was going to see this ballet again, in fact it would seem like it was new. The only think I remembered about it from before was that it did not have a Christmas theme like every other Nutcracker I’d seen. My (German dwelling) uncle said that’s just how it was; I thought perhaps they’d changed the staging because we were watching it in June.

That said, I’m convinced that this was absolutely not the Nutcracker I saw long ago, but a completely revised version. This is so far removed from every Nutcracker that I’ve ever seen that not only does it not have dancers performing in mouse heads (hurray!) or a giant Christmas tree, it has NONE of the traditional dances (well, mostly) or interpretations (i.e. “It’s about Clara becoming a woman,” “It’s about Clara discovering true love”). Instead, it has a narrative that I found utterly compelling, one that allows for excellent dancing in the utterly coherent first act (shock!) AND sets up a second act that, well, I just wanted to sit down and watch bits of it all over right away.

So what is this incredible innovation? Simple and obvious: Clara (called Marie, played by Katherina Markowskaja) is a little girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina. She starts the show playing with a Dresdener porcelain statue of dancer, then with her own paper doll ballet theater. Drosselmeier (Cyril Pierre) is a dance teacher; not some mysterious magician who conjures up dancing harlequins, but a fop and a fool. His _important_ gift to Clara is not a nutcracker, but her first pair of toe shoes.The gift to us is a first act in which there is a party of mixed young and old but no children (other than Clara), so we have adult soldiers (not children) dancing with their girlfriends during the group dance scenes. Imagine: a corps of adult men dancing the first act of the Nutcracker, very much in character as they showed off to each other and the women. What a pleasure it was to watch!

The transitional scene between the real world (where Clara desperately wants to dance with the adults) and the dream world takes place as Clara runs downstairs with her Nutcracker man … to try on her toe shoes. She does, and can’t dance in them, but falls asleep on the floor … and I waited for a tree to appear … or a cuckoo clock … but instead it was just Drosselmeier, and as he lifted away the walls of the room of Clara’s house, he revealed … a ballet studio all done in silhouette, cream and black, like the paper cut outs of Clara’s theater. MY GOD IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL and for me pure theatrical magic.

The second half was constructed as “Clara attends the ballet class and watches classical ballets performed to the Nutcracker Suite.” I was enchanted by seeing the “greatest hits” of classical ballet done as extracts to very different music: so we had “The Living Garden” (aka “Le Jardin Animé” from Le Corsaire) to Waltz of the Flowers; “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” (a man in woman in Egyptian costume dancing to the “Arabian Dance,” really gorgeous); “Esmerelda and the Fool;” “The Chinese Bird” (Mai Kono dancing with Cyril Pierre – I was thinking of her as the Nightingale from Hans Christian Anderson; “Dancing Lieutenants” instead of the Russian dance. Clara tried to get involved with many of the dances (most adorably in the Neapolitain dance) until finally Drosselmeier let her dance by herself. While I think it would have been nice if this were the highlight, instead it was the Grand Pas de Deux with Clara’s sister Louise (Lucia Lacarra) and her refigured soldier boyfriend Gunther (Maxim Chashchegorov). My god, he did an overhead lift to a drop that had me gasping as all contact seemed to be lost before she magically did not hit the floor; and Lacarra was just so jaw-droppingly beautiful in that “what little girls dream ballerinas look like” kind of way.

Oh, I’m sure there was more I could say about the dancing, but I really just went to enjoy myself and not to sit there taking notes, and I was just hoping for “good.” Instead of that weak experience, I found my heart swelled with joy; I smiled; I laughed out loud; I was emotionally satisfied in a way I never thought I could be watching The Nutcracker. Damn. Now that was a good night out!

(This review is for the evening performance that took place on December 27th, 2012. If you want to see it next year, try buying tickets in September as it does sell out very quickly – I bought mine in October and some performances were already sold out – and I believe the people outside fishing for single tickets did NOT meet with success.)

Review – Pavlova Gala – London Coliseum

March 7, 2012

Sunday night was yet another of those Russian gala evenings in which a fistful of different dancers who normally never share the stage are dumped together for one event and only allowed to dance for about 8 minutes each. At times, these have been recipes for disaster (under-rehearsing a perennial problem, lack of chemistry and bad programming another); sometimes, though, it’s a true showcase with a rare chance to see outstanding performers who rarely grace the London stage in works that showcase them at their best (and a bonus opportunity to see works I am not familiar with). I hadn’t been planning to go to Sunday’s Pavlova gala at the London Coliseum (the advertising passed me by), but fortunately (as it turns out) Graham Watts’ Twitter feed pointed me to it and gave me enough feel of who was performing that I rolled the dice on a Sunday night out … and won!

Pavlova, I think, does not need me to discuss her; however, this was a charity event and the hall was stuffed with shockingly overdressed folks not normally seen in my upper Amphitheater hideout at the Royal Opera House. But it was the dance that brought me and it was great.

Two dances for me provided the best performances of the evening. The first was Ulyana Lopatkina (“Big Red”) in “Russkaya” (new for me). With her Russian headdress on, Lopatkina utterly commanded the stage, dancing very slowly to traditional(ish, by Tchaikovsky) music on her toes, smiling quietly to herself, almost toying with us. Then … as if Mama Rose has shouted, “Sing out, June!” she went into overdrive, suddenly a whirlwind of white gauze and flickering feet.

Also top of the heap was the “Raymonda” duet performed by Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin. Polunin did moves I’d never seen before, with spins in the air with one leg half bent underneath him, and amazing landings with his legs arranged in ways that made my knees ache: only for the young! As I watched him power through the solo work, unaware of who was performing, I thought, “The incarnation of the danseur noble!” Afterward, reading the program to see whose performances I had enjoyed so much (Rojo was a charmer, too), I couldn’t but selfishly hope that Polunin stays in the dance world.

In the “strange curiosities” department were “Splendid Isolation” and “Life Is a Dream.” The first will probably be known forever as “the dance with the really big skirt.” A woman is on stage in the center of a ten foot diameter circle of fabric: her partner walks around her but seems to not be able to get close to her. The expression of their isolation is overly reliant on OTT arm gestures; the use of the skirt is primarily as stage dressing when flamenco shows us just how much more you can do if you try. I found it shallow. (See: “Marcia, next time do it without the chair.”) Meanwhile the world premiere performance of “Life Is a Dream” left me with the uncomfortable feeling that Rojo’s talents were being wasted: I had no desire to see her imitate a fish (even though having one onstage was a novelty).

Finally (though I could praise Alina Cojocaru and Alexandre Riabko’s joyous “Dame Aux Camelias” duet) we have the gala “bonus points” which I award if I get to see pieces that make me long for the whole. “La Prisonniere,” with choreography by Roland Petit, was a fabulous interpretation of Proust’s narrator’s relationship with Albertine that I guessed few people could enjoy as much as I did (see Sarah Crompton’s review for photos). The obsession, the voyeurism, the desire to control were all brought to life by Marlon Dino; the innocence, the arrogance, the love of life and the desire to hold on to her sense of self all expressed richly (and appropriately coolly) by Lucia Lacarra. The entire piece showed the arc of their relationship (yet to me somewhat shuffled together), from innocence to lust to manipulation (she tries to escape, he holds on to her ankles; later he rolls her along his legs) and finally to her death: the sheet falling down on her at the end nicely bookending it. I barely managed to take notes: if only I could see all of Proust ou Les Intermittences du Coeur!

The second (and probably more generally popular) “discovery” piece was the balcony duet from Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet,” danced by Iana Salenko and Marian Walter. What utter joy this was! I adored the way Salenko’s knees bent as Romeo turned her; she was so excited she was weak at the knees! Walter was as wonderfully strong as the “older” partner should have been, exactly the kind of youth a teenaged girl would fall head over heels for – and yet both of them were passionate and somehow shimmering with new love. Again, it was a dance that captured my attention to a degree that my notebook sat ignored while I enjoyed myself. Overall, it was a great evening and I feel so lucky to have been able to see so much great talent and such a diverse set of choreography. Thanks to all!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, March 4th, 2012.)