Archives de Tag: Egon Madsen

Avé Cranko : Tous les chemins mènent à Stuttgart

P1090927Alles Cranko! Ballet de Stuttgart. Représentations du dimanche 14 juin, matinée et soirée.

A Stuttgart, on célèbre le chorégraphe-phare de la compagnie, John Cranko, décédé en 1973. Pour ce Alles Cranko, deux de nos Balletonautes ne partaient pas précisément du même point; non parce qu’ils n’écrivaient pas dans la même langue – cela a-t-il de l’importance? Ayant créé leur propre petite Pentecôte, ils rédigent dans le même esprit – mais parce que Cléopold cherchait la Terre promise tandis que Fenella était à la recherche d’un Paradis perdu. Que nous disent en deux langues – mais qui croit avec ferveur au ballet comprendra l’une et l’autre – nos pilgrims de Stuttgart?

Konzert für Flöte und Harfe Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Elisa Badenes, Alexander Jones, Friedemann Vogel, Alicia Amatriain, Ensemble

Konzert für Flöte und Harfe
danseurs: Elisa Badenes, Alexander Jones, Friedemann Vogel, Alicia Amatriain, et le corps de ballet. Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

 

Cléopold : Cranko, l’inconnu.

John Cranko est un célèbre inconnu chez nous. L’Opéra de Paris, comme n’importe quelle compagnie de ballet de la planète, possède son Onéguine depuis une dizaine d’années. Elle a eu, bien subrepticement, son Roméo et Juliette. Monté à grand frais en avril 1983, dix ans après la mort prématurée du chorégraphe, pour huit représentations (Marcia Haydée – créatrice de cette version – était venue danser le rôle de Juliette avec Charles Jude et Noëlla Pontois l’interprétait avec Mickaël Denard), il fut remplacé sans ménagement, dès 1984, car Rudolf Noureev voulait imposer sa propre vision. En 1955, John Cranko, alors chorégraphe au Sadler’s Wells, avait même créé sur Yvette Chauviré et Michel Renault « La Belle Hélène », musique d’Offenbach, charmants décors et costumes de Vertès. Le ballet avait, semble-t-il, été bien reçu et Chauviré y avait révélé des dons comiques insoupçonnés. Mais là encore, il n’y eut pas de reprise et la chorégraphie est certainement perdue.

Dans l’histoire récente, les Parisiens n’ont guère eu l’occasion d’associer Cranko à autre chose qu’au ballet d’action. En 1991, Marcia Haydée présentait Onegin sur la scène du Palais Garnier. En 2007, la compagnie, très remaniée sous la direction de Reid Anderson revint avec l’excellente « Mégère apprivoisée » (1969).

Deux œuvres de jeunesse de Cranko ont été récemment rééditées dans un DVD, « Pineapple Poll » (1951) et « The Lady and the Fool » avec l’exquise Beriosova (1954) ; là encore, des ballets narratifs.

En cela, le programme « Alles Cranko ! » était sous le signe de la découverte et de la nouveauté. Il n’est guère aisé de rendre compte de quelque chose d’inhabituel, surtout quand à la découverte de la chorégraphie s’ajoute celle d’une compagnie qui a nécessairement changé en huit ans. Tout se brouille en un fouillis d’émotions, d’atmosphères et de couleurs en partie crées par la danse et ses interprètes, en partie par les costumes. Alors quid de Cranko « l’abstrait » ?

Simplicité … Enfance de l’art… On aimerait pouvoir utiliser ces termes mais on en est dissuadé par l’extrême technicité des pièces présentées. Les solos d’hommes débutent souvent par des sortes de manifestes pyrotechniques avec doubles tours en l’air et multiples pirouettes avant de s’apaiser pour offrir aux interprètes l’occasion de développer leur lyrisme. C’est le cas pour le «Konzert Für Flöte und Harfe», un surprenant « ballet blanc pour hommes » où douze gaillards en pourpoint blanc s’offrent en écrin à deux danseuses solistes. Les garçons ont presque tous une chance de se détacher du groupe, soit à l’occasion d’un pas de deux avec les solistes féminines, Alicia Amatriain et Elisa Badenes – car si Friedemann Vogel et Alexander Jones sont leur partenaire en titre, les demoiselles folâtrent avec qui bon leur semble – soit dans une compétition amicale avec un membre du groupe. Arman Zazyan et Jesse Fraser endossent ainsi les parties de la harpe et de la flute, sorte de Moyna et Zuylma de cette Giselle masculine. Lorsqu’un garçon retourne dans le corps de ballet après un solo, il peut occasionnellement jouer des coudes pour se replacer dans la ligne. L’humour ou la tendresse ne sont jamais loin dans les pièces sans argument de Cranko. On regrette cependant un peu que le premier soit tellement distillé dans Für Flöte und Harfe.

Le registre de la tendresse est en revanche parfaitement équilibré dans «Aus Holbergs Zeit», chorégraphié sur le 1er, le 4ème et le 5ème mouvement de la suite de Grieg, un ballet-Pas de deux en forme de badinage chorégraphique. On retrouve dans ce pas de deux « abstrait » tout ce qui fait la force des duos d’Onegin : des portés acrobatiques, des poses inattendues (celle de la fin de l’adage ou la fille termine en cambré, posée sur l’épaule de son partenaire agenouillé), la présence en filigrane de la danse de caractère qui offre d’ailleurs au ballet sa conclusion en forme de charmant pied de nez. La pièce semble avoir été écrite pour Daniel Camargo et Elisa Badenes alors qu’en matinée, ils effectuaient tous deux leur début. Lui, a une plastique parfaite mais pas seulement. C’est un « grand » qui a la vélocité d’un petit gabarit ; et lorsqu’il est immobile, il dégage une sorte d’aura lyrique. Elle est une jeune et jolie ballerine avec un travail de pointe époustouflant qui lui donne l’apparence d’être montée sur coussins d’air.

Aus Holbergs Zeit Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Elisa Badenes, Daniel Camargo

Aus Holbergs Zeit
Elisa Badenes, Daniel Camargo Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

La qualité des solistes emporte en général l’adhésion même lorsqu’une pièce laisse plus perplexe. «Opus 1», sur la Passacaille pour orchestre, op.1 de Webern n’est pourtant pas une pièce faible, bien au contraire. Elle s’ouvre sur l’image saisissante de douze danseurs couchés au sol en formation d’étoile servant de piédestal à un soliste, presque nu, recroquevillé en position fœtale. Les six garçons le portent à bout de bras et le manipulent pour le mettre en état d’apesanteur. On ne sait pas trop ce qu’ils figurent. À un moment, ils forment une chaîne le long de laquelle chacun des nouveaux membres vient s’agréger en glissant le long de la ligne de ses camarades et se raccrochant à eux par une couronne en forme de maillon. On pense à des chaines moléculaires. Jason Reilly, le corps musculeux, presque trapu avant qu’il ne commence à danser allonge alors ses lignes et bondit parmi les vagues successives du corps de ballet. Au milieu de cet espace étrange et vaguement inquiétant, Reilly rencontre Alicia Amatriain, ses longues lignes et son travail de pointe moelleux propres à magnifier toutes les rencontres lyriques, qu’elles aient lieu dans un ballet d’action (on se souvient de sa Tatiana à Paris la saison dernière) ou ici dans un ballet abscons qui, curieusement, à l’air d’une partie détachée de son tout.

Opus 1 Ch: John Cranko Tänzer/ dancers: Alicia Amatriain, Jason Reilly

Opus 1
Alicia Amatriain, Jason Reilly Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

Mais de tous les ballets présentés, celui qui résiste le plus à la description est sans doute pour moi « Initialen R.B.M.E », créé par Cranko en 1972 pour son quatuor fétiche de danseurs, Richard (Cragun), Birgit (Keil), Marcia (Haydée) et Egon (Madsen) entourés d’une importante troupe de danseurs. Ce « ballet pour quatre amis » est de structure complexe. Cranko dédie un mouvement à chaque danseur mais les trois autres ne sont jamais loin, à l’image des scènes d’ouverture et de fermeture où le garçon du premier mouvement est entouré par les trois autres dédicataires. Le problème – mais en est-ce un, vraiment ? – c’est que ces amis ne sont pas encore les nôtres comme ce fut sans doute le cas avec les créateurs, immédiatement identifiables par leur public d’alors. Ici, on reconnaît aisément le talentueux et sculptural Daniel Camargo, qui bénéficie au premier mouvement d’une sortie spectaculaire, partant en vrille dans la coulisse côté jardin, ou encore Arman Zazyan, dans un mouvement à la batterie ciselée, car ils avaient déjà dansé précédemment. En revanche, dans le troisième mouvement, celui originellement créé pour Haydée, on découvre la brune et délicate Myriam Simon. Mais son partenaire n’est autre que Friedemann Vogel qui impressionne par la noblesse de ses ports de bras. L’équilibre du ballet n’en est-il pas bouleversé ? Même chose dans le deuxième mouvement. Notre attention est attirée par la danse moelleuse de Hyo-Jung Kang. C’est pourtant Anna Osadcenko qui est en charge de la partition de Birgit Keil. Mais pour perdu qu’on soit, on peut se laisser dériver au gré du concerto de Brahms et surtout des vagues successives et inattendues du corps de ballet masculin et féminin paré des mêmes couleurs que le rideau de scène « tachiste » imaginé par Jürgen Rose. À un moment, dans le premier mouvement, huit garçons évoluent en ellipse au centre de la scène, des lignes de filles traversent alors l’espace en lignes si droites qu’elles en paraissent coupantes. Ce jeu d’oppositions semble ainsi animer la peinture d’une vie propre, comme si un enfant s’était amusé à faire tomber des gouttes de gouache dans un verre d’eau et perturbait volontairement avec un pinceau l’expansion des cercles de couleur.

Quid de Cranko chorégraphe « abstrait » ? Disparu prématurément en 1973, le chorégraphe appartient certes à son époque – Konzert Für Flöte und Harfe, 1966, utilise des portés décalés presque lifariens et Opus 1 a un petit air de famille avec les grands messes de Béjart. Mais ses ballets ne sont pas datés. Le mouvement, la fantaisie et la musicalité ne se démodent jamais.

Un exemple qui est trop rarement suivi par les faiseurs de pas qui monopolisent actuellement les scènes du ballet mondialisé.

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P1090939

Fenella: Stuttgarter Ballett, Psalms to Life

“Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives sublime,/And, departing, leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time.”

Your body is your instrument. You are a flute. When the sound fades, the sight of you is lost. You live in someone’s memory. But when everyone who has ever seen you dance that day is dead, what remains? That is every dancer’s tragedy. But if your shape, once carved into the air, gets inhabited by another, that’s way cool. Every Giselle makes Grisi rise up out of the grave, every James tickles either Mazilier’s toes or Bournonville himself, and every time you try to make those damn fouéttés come out perfect you must hear Legnani’s encouraging giggles rise up out of the floor.

“Let us, then, be up and doing/With a heart for any fate/ Still achieving, still pursuing/Learn to labor and to work.”

Too often, we mindlessly applaud the “abstract.” We kowtow to a dance-maker but not enough to the next dancers who must make it come alive. We increasingly consider ballet as a tarted-up floor-mat exercise or a version of figure skating with better music. Forget “six o’clock,” we have become blasé to “ten past six.” But is that what dancing should be about? All dancers have forever possessed astonishing plasticity, but god spare me yet another photo-shopped 10 out of 10 template as a definition of what dance is about.

Yet some abstract ballets live on and manage to both celebrate and tame these extravagant gymnastic abilities in order to achieve a greater goal: that of expression. John Cranko’s sort of abstract “Initals RBME,” I am glad to report, remains one of them.

P1090942There was something in the air in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s, when choreographers offered their dancers little gems, seemingly abstract, but so personal that each step seemed to have been chiseled by an adoring Pygmalion in response to a plethora of statues already able to breathe on their own. “Dances at a Gathering.” “Jewels.” I can’t see them without conjuring up the original casts. Yet these generous ballets allow new casts – none of who by this generation could have ever known their respective “Masters” – to give new gifts to those of us still sitting here, passionately, in the dark .

Bien sûr, I still believe that for “Dances” only Edward Villella could have forced Robbins to find that “Boy in Brown” who lived inside of both of them. But what allows me to continue to delight in “Dances at a Gathering” – almost too much so — is that I can easily convince myself to forget which dancers originally painted what colors and let new movers just wash over me. Pink? Blue? Who? Which year, what company? Even the gulls of the Trocks can make my day when they don their skirts of chiffon and Chopin it.

So there I was, in Stuttgart for the first time in my life, terrified. I was about to confront a ballet –twice in a row with a cast of dancers I didn’t know – which I had adored at every single one of its performances in New York by the original cast too long ago, then had lost track of for decades. Worse than that, I was about to rediscover a ballet where each letter of the title refused to let me forget “who was who way back then.”

I dreaded the moment when memories must crash. But they didn’t. I’m rather pleased that I now have new faces to go with that grand old concerto by Brahms that has never stopped rattling around my brain since Cranko made me discover it along with this, his valentine to dancers.

“Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant/Let the dead Past bury its dead!/ Act, – act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o’erhead.”

Initialen R.B.M.E. Arman Zazyan, Myriam Simon, Daniel Camargo, Anna Osadcenko Photographie

Initialen R.B.M.E.
Arman Zazyan, Myriam Simon, Daniel Camargo, Anna Osadcenko. Photographie ©Stuttgart Ballet

“Initialen RBME”

“R,” vaguely dressed in brown himself, has too long lived in my memory as a specific dancer and a persona: “Ricky.” Cragun, that is.

This new to me “R,” Daniel Camargo, attacked all those steps designed around Cragun’s easy whiplash toss-about spins and turns, but also gave me the feeling that he wanted us to realize how carefully he was paying homage to our memories of the nonchalantly calm and poised way Cragun used to always finish a gesture, raw muscle and emotions reined back in. The choreography encourages the dancer to embrace character in the momentum engendered by each step, not the gymnastics of any specific one. Intent trumps the specifically remembered height of a jump. Willful head-tilts in pirouette (as many as the dancer is wont to do), a nod to his two female satellites (play as you will), why not a simple set of rond-de-jambes front-side-and-back: the choreography somehow anchored this generation to the pull of the pas. Polished and manly, Camargo both reminded me of Cragun’s curly headstrong vividness and allowed me to finally finish mourning that I could never see him dance live again. I grinned, happy that the past had met the future.

Cranko developed the “B” (Birgit Keil) movement around a “homegrown” ballerina and perfect flower along the lines of England’s Jennifer Penny and France’s Isabelle Ciaravola. All of these women shared those feet, that short bust that made their arms and legs seem as long as Taglioni’s, that heart-shaped face and supple neck. But most of all, they shared a fierce determination to make you forget all that: to harness their physical beauty to characters, not contact sheets. Alas, this section satisfied me the least. I was more convinced – as was Cléopold – by the demi-soloists, particularly the creamy and spooling Hyo-Jun Kang, than by the “Birgit.” Kang, as most of us despairingly live with, does not have the above-mentioned ridiculously ideal body, but she makes hers vibrantly alive. She let herself catch the mood embodied in the steps and in those rhythms as offered by Brahms’s piano and orchestra. She understood the way Keil never took her perfect body as the be-all–and-end-all. Both Keil and Kang knew/know that an audience should be treated not as a cold mirror rather but as a friendly face. Please, this movement’s creators still gently urge us – if we would do nothing else ever again in our lives – please try to listen to the dance.

“M for Marcia”(Haydée) must terrify the new dancers even more. How can you step into the shoes of Cranko’s muse? (Just think of the Suzanne Farrell effect, generations later). Haydée had danced like a glorious she-wolf — keen-eyed, strong-shouldered, power springing deep from paw and hind leg. She made you think she was made of rich fur on supple bones, ever ready to pounce. Well, Myriam Simon –who hopefully didn’t even imagine these metaphors – took on the same damned impossible steps with a lighter heart. And, magically, they conspired to let her turn this lady into a fox. So not the same, no, Cheerier and slinkier. It worked for her, and for me.

Ah, “E” for Egon (Madsen). An Antony Dowell of the high, unblocked, and almost backless arabesque; a worthy descendant of Bournonville in his buttery light batterie. Plus a humorous sense of timing Robbins would have loved. No one parses tragedy better (he inspired Cranko’s Lensky of the endlessly supple backbends) than a born comedian (Madsen will always remain my beloved fabulously stiff and absurd arioso-prone Gremio, too). Arman Zayan caught this dichotomy and teased the steps into playing along with him. He got Cranko’s sense of Madsen’s sense of the funny sigh, of his fleetness of foot, of his pliant grasp of reining in and letting go.

The little to and fro gestures and inside jokes Cranko once embedded in the steps of this ballet make each soloist reach out and react to a corps that-as alive now as then – completely loses anonymity and never merely serves as a decorative frame.The other two thirds of this program, rich and juicy and full of opportunities for corps members to step out and shine, have been well-described by Cléopold.

If old Cranko, revived, can make me feel that what was old is new again, then this is a company — if you haven’t seen it then or now — you must go visit Stuttgart and see and judge for yourself.

“The heights by great men reached and kept/Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept/Were toiling upward in the night.”

Quotes are from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” and “The Ladder of St. Augustine.”

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Onegin : Dirty Feet

Haydée's ShoeOnéguine, Monday, February 10th (Pagliero, Paquette, Grinsztajn).

Among the weird objects I will admit I own and cherish: one of Marcia Haydée’s ravaged pointe shoes.  Standard Freed’s, ballet size 4 ½, lined hastily with something akin to ripped Kleenex. Broken and dirty and small, it still reminds me of how each time I saw her on stage all of her came together, how she grew beyond her limits and used the body beyond that shoe to tell me a story.

Whether by calculation or instinct – but certainly to the delight of the choreographer — the creator of Cranko’s Tatiana always drew the audience into her orbit.  In any role, Haydée could seem almost demonic: fearless – especially when hurling herself heavily at partners – greedily absorbing and consuming emotions and then expulsing them out of every corner of an unconventional body. Everything she did emanated from a radiant core and this dancer never feared looking ugly or going too far if it served the narrative. Even if  you imagined her partners screaming “ice pack” as soon as they hit the wings, you rooted for her from the top of Family Circle at the Met because she somehow possessed a Callas-like shimmer that made all of us up there feel as if we were sitting only three feet away.

Haydée had a controversial dance equivalent of “vibrato.” Haydée could be scary. I am devastated that whoever owns the rights to the few recordings of her performances make most of them utterly inaccessible. (And equally enraged by all the other “Dead Choreographer Trust Babies” who systematically force erasures on UTube. The choreography keeps getting sold to companies, but why should that require washing away the footprints of prior and current generations of performers?)

Please believe me, I do not live in the world of “I was there, you were not.” Indeed, what keeps me going to the ballet is the hope of discovering new performers I can root for and new performances that will keep these old masterpieces alive and memorable.

But alas, on February 10th in Paris, I could only root for Eve Grinsztajn’s Olga. She alone seemed to have read the poem and listened to the opera. Lacking access to old video recordings I rely on my fading memories of Susanne Hanke: lustrous and poised, possessed of beautiful feet in the days before beautiful feet became standard issue, politely fighting back but gently amused by her wilder older sister.  Grinsztajn alone of this cast radiated a thirst for life, a desire to fill the air with her limbs and pearly feet and take at least a few emotional risks. This energy sadly seemed to have been drained from the other leads before the performance even began.  If it has taken me too long to write to you, it is because I came home dulled and enraged and loath to hurt the feelings of these dancers and their fans alike.

Ludmila Pagilero should have read more of what Pushkin says Tatiana read: Richardson with his sturdy damsels in distress, his villains more appealing than his heroes, his warm irony, but also his tacky exuberance.  His characters eat, they are sensual!  Pagliero’s performance broke my heart for all the wrong reasons.  For, when I finally broke down and used my binoculars from the last row atop the Palais Garnier during curtain calls, I could see that her face was filled with spent emotion.  Her face, yes, but her body had never once ripped loose. Instead her instrument had been precisely calibrated, each time doing Cranko’s triple repeats of steps exactly the same careful and studious way.  Thus nothing was ugly, but not ripe or rawly beautiful or expressively expansive either. Everything she did seemed small. We want our heroines to be…big.

I’ve found that Pagliero needs time to grow into a role onstage and fill it out.  She lets go of the classroom by the 4th time, usually. (This was her 2nd)  Unfortunately, I will not get to see her again. She’s out. Injured.  Indeed I delayed writing in anticipation of seeing her on the 25th, expecting an “aha” moment. Was she already fighting against pain on the 10th? Certainly that could entirely explain away an overly cautious attack, a reluctance to get her feet bruised by Cranko’s dangerous partnering landscape.  Thus I do I look forward to the next time she gets a chance to take a chance on Tatiana.

But perhaps Pagliero’s wan Tatiana could be also be ascribed to a major lack of chemistry with Karl Paquette’s Onegin?  He should have read more Byron… While the ballet makes the “hero” less likeable, when you read Pushkin’s original, you get how multi-layered and complicated the guy can be.  Onegin’s only real problem – even if well-read — is that he doesn’t listen to (or realize that he has) a heart when there is still time. Paquette – like Haydée, or any of Byron’s poems – can be a marvelous vector of emotion and most pleasing to spend time with, but only when he is at ease (as in this fall’s “La Dame aux camélias”).  Here he, like Pagliero, seemed too stiff from the get-go, uncomfortable in Onegin’s alien skin. Instead of getting into the story, I sat there wondering during each of this couple’s encounters “what if.”  What would Haydée’s crazy shoes have forced out of Paquette, or an encounter with the toss-around madness of Richard Cragun (or the suave and creepy confidence of Heinz Clauss) have released out of Pagliero?

If Egon Madsen – the Antony Dowell, all pure lines and tender tension, of Stuttgart back then – could have been in the audience this night, he would have picked Florian Magnenet up by the ear and hauled his sloppy Lensky back into the rehearsal room.  I am not sure which of the rehearsal directors imported from Germany actually worked with Magnenet, but I blame them all for allowing such a half-baked effort to be presented on stage to the dancer’s disadvantage.  Let’s get over the fact that he is relatively good-looking and tries to turn that fact “into “acting, Magnenet has lost his bearings. He doesn’t even know how to land from a jump or launch into an arabesque anymore without wobbling all over the place.  After his solo I wanted Onegin to shoot him.  Blessed with beautifully arched feet, apparently, even that fact has become invisible lately.  Why doesn’t he use them, and the rest of himself, to pull himself up and out of approximate performances?  He needs to shake himself up as both artist and dancer before it’s too late.

After an evening so utterly lacking in poetry, I could only think of Edward Lear’s “serve up in a clean dish, and throw the whole out of the window as fast as possible.”  These dancers should dare to get dirt on their shoes. And when they will, the story will come alive again and we will have the excuse we need to whip out the crinkled Kleenex in order to joyfully smear tear-ridden mascara all over our faces.  Ah yes, that’s it, advice from the uxorious Robert Browning: “No, when the fight begins within himself, /A man’s worth something.” [Bishop Blougram’s Apology].

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