The Manu-athon of Dance – Program A

The New Universe of Manuel Legris gala’s are always incredible programming with fabulous dancers that make up the most remarkable experiences in dance. There are always two programs and both are always well thought out and offer lots of wonderful bits of both classical ballet and contemporary work.

Program A ran for two nights. The evening opened with a PDD from Carmen danced by Nina Poláková and Kirill Kourlaev, both are first soloists with Vienna State Ballet. Nina and Kirill are excellent dancers and although opening with Carmen should have provided a stunning and exciting start to the evening, I thought it lacked aggression and passion. The dancing was technically very good but… it lacked the dangerous abandon that Carmen should have. I think that with time and experience they will be fully capable of the kind of performance that Carmen deserves but not exactly just yet.

Next up was Patrick de Bana dancing his own choreographed piece “Wind and Clouds” to music by Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard. Bare-chested and dancing in a long, flowing blue iridescent skirt, Patrick was positively mesmerizing. He has that inexplicable presence that captures and controls your attention. The man knows how to work a skirt too. If you are not familiar with Patrick, he was trained at Hamburg Ballet and was a principal dancer at Béjart Ballet Lausanne and at Compañia Nacional de Danza of Spain before striking out on his own. His work is visceral; he tells stories through emotion and a manipulation of space rather than mime and bravura. His work is thrilling and he  himself is stunning. I’m a huge fan. Wind and clouds was fulfilling dance.

Tchaikovsky pas de deux danced by Maria Yakovleva and Denys Cherevychko also first soloists of Vienna State Ballet, followed. Maria was on fire but it was not Denys’ night. I think Denys is a fantastic dancer – small, bright, fast, great energy, and lovely technique – he came back on the second night but was not as energetic or perfect as I’ve seen him dance in the past. Jet lag maybe? The first night he dropped Maria from above his head down to his shoulder on their way off stage. I was sitting in a place where I could see into the wings a bit so I’m not sure if everyone saw it or just those of us sitting to the side with an angled view. It felt a little lopsided in energy, Maria=on, Denys=not as much. Better the second night.

Neumeier’s Spring and Fall starring Hamburg Ballet’s Silvia Azzoni and Alexandre Riabko and The Tokyo Ballet was next. I am so in love with Silvia and Alexandre, I can barely express it! I do believe that I will need to trek to Hamburg in the near future. Spring and Fall is very Neumeier. I have a love/hate thing with Neumeier, he makes absolute beauty and then does some weird rolling on the floor, over handling, odd grabby business and I’m like – NoooOOooooOOOooo, stop that! There is a section where the boy corps dance and they have these little partnering bits and it’s just clunky. It’s not the dancers either, it’s the choreo. Sometimes Neumeier’s work is just clunky, there I said it. Sometimes he puts a lift, a turn, a hop, a flexed foot, and a half-dozen developes where one tendu would do nicely. But as I said, he also can create pure perfect heavenly beauty and Silvia and Alexandre danced that beauty for all it could be. In the end, the small bits of clunkiness are forgiven and forgotten in the happiness of a gorgeous performance.

Die Fledermaus. You’ll recall that I went to Tokyo to see Manuel Legris dance this ballet in full with Vienna State Ballet last year. This ballet is too much fun. Manuel dances with Maria Yakovleva, who is adorable in this role. Manuel hams it up perfectly and the whole thing is pure delight. Manuel was all energy, every step light and floaty and quick, perfect turns. Maria has a great sense of comedic acting and is wonderfully charming as the distraught wife of a man who inexplicably turns into a bat and flies away – who comes up with this stuff?! Perfection.

After an intermission, we are offered Helena Martin in Triana. I believe that Helena is a flamenco dancer with Ballet Teatro Espanol. Unfortunately Google does not produce much information about her so if you’ve got any, please share. She is wonderful and I love that Manuel included a flamenco inspired piece in the program. I say flamenco inspired because it lacked full on flamenco-ness and I would have loved to have had more heel work because it was a little light but her arms were intense and flamenco-y goodness.

Maria Yakovleva and Kirill Kourlaev danced Bach Suite III, always a winner. This is also a Neumeier piece and it seemed that this year we were a bit Neumeier heavy. I’m not complaining, only an observation. Bach Suite III is very pretty, full enjoyable and danced beautifully.

Patrick de Bana was back with Dimo Kirilov Milev and Tamako Akiyama in a piece choreographed by Patrick called Red Tears. Dimo and Tamako were both principals at Compañia Nacional de Danza of Spain. In my own ballet ignorance I had never heard of Tamako but I remembered Dimo from seeing him dance Creatures with Patrick a few years back in Ardani’s Tour de Force II. They are both beautiful dancers. Tamako is small and lithe and moves with such sincerity and soul, before the end of the night, I was in love with her. The piece was sublime, delicate, and literally drew breath and tears right from the soul. It ended with red petals dropping from the ceiling onto the three dancers. Performed in Japan, it made the piece even more poignant.  The red petals were the perfect symbolism for the delicate shower of cherry blossoms that are both glorious and sorrowful at the same time. Cherry blossoms are in bloom for just a brief time, only about two weeks! so when the wind blows and you are showered in the petals, it’s gorgeous and amazing but you are also sad because you know that once the petals fall to the ground, the beauty of the cherry blossom in bloom is all over until next season. You feel Red Tears, you just don’t see it.

Silvia and Alexandre were back with a PDD from Neumeier’s Hamlet. I had zero experience with this version so I had no idea what to expect. It’s a modern version and from just one PDD, it’s hard to gather what exactly what the angle was but Silvia and Alexandre dance beautifully. I think I need to see this ballet in full.

Manuel had planned on choreographing a piece for himself but he’s got a lot going on and just didn’t have the time, which he explained in a note in the program. So we got Ludwig II – The Swan King. This was premiered during the Vienna State Ballet trip to Tokyo last year, which I also saw – of course. Danced by Manuel, Maria Yakovleva, and Nina Poláková and choreographed by Patrick de Bana, this piece is really stunning. It was a truly moving way to close the evening. On a stark stage, the dancers’ costumes are in direct contrast to each other and to the darkened atmosphere, Maria in dark, bustled full length dress, Nina in a sparkly nude bodysuit, and Manuel in simple all white. We watch The Swan King fall into madness danced to the music of Wagner, there is a sense of voyeurism, of peeking in on something that you have not been invited to see and perhaps is even dangerous to witness. A perfect way to end an evening of glorious dance.

It was such a great program, I saw it twice! There was a one day break before Program B, so I guess there was nothing to do but go ballet shopping at Fairy and Chacott!

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