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Edward Watson and Ivan Putrov in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Edward Watson and Ivan Putrov in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

In 2012, Ivan Putrov had the conceit to produce an all-male gala where Don Q variations were banished, Le Corsaire’s jetés outlawed, and Albrecht’s entrechats six forbidden on pain of death. It short, he wanted to do something different in forming Men in Motion: a celebration of male dancing from Nijinsky to now.

Putrov assembled an impressive group of dancers at the La Versiliana Festival on the Tuscan coast. He brought some of the same programme and company from this year’s performances at the London Coliseum, though it was presented in very different surroundings: an open-air stage, set between trees, in the grounds of a villa by the Mediterranean Sea. He also proved his ability for forming collaborations, and giving dancers and choreographers alike new opportunities.

The most exciting addition to the group’s repertoire was the début of Edward Watson as the Swan and Putrov as the Prince in the pas de deux from Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. There were other débuts and premières too: Andrey Merkuriev in a solo from his ballet Shout which he created in the Ukraine earlier this year and in a piece from the Edinburgh Festival by Susana B Williams called Traveling; Berlin State Ballet’s Marian Walter presented an glorious new work by Ludovic Ondiviela entitled, appropriately, Berlin; Putrov, together with Berlin’s Tim Matiakis, performed Peter Leung’s In Duet; Matiakis also performed a section of Petrushka for the first time, as did Daria Klimentova, the only female presence in the group, who débuted in L’après-midi d’un faune and Le Spectre de la rose.

Igor Kolb and Daria Klimentova in L'après-midi d'un faune 2

Igor Kolb and Daria Klimentova in L’après-midi d’un faune 2

Igor Kolb kicked off with the first Nijinsky piece of the evening, L’après-midi d’un faune, with Klimentova as a lone nymph. Both captured the stylised posing, and Kolb the perverse sensuality, with a fine touch. Curious, though, his tail which was extraordinarily virile and perky and placed not at waist-level like Nijinsky’s, but butt-level, resulting in a strikingly ambiguous final image when he lies prone on his rock as the lights fade.

A strong performance by Andrey Merkuriev in Alexey Mirosh­nichenko’s Adagio was one of three solos by the Bolshoi dancer. Traveling found him in a floor-length blue skirt in a piece created by Williams that had been performed for the first time just the week before, and the last was his own creation Shout which was powerful in its intensity, with Merkuriev literally shouting with his mouth and body but not with his voice, making the futility of the action even more despairing.

Then came the Watson-Putrov pas de deux. It is a delicate moment in Bourne’s most famous creation: the young Prince contemplating suicide to release him from the torments of his world. The Swan saves him by breaking down his defences with bold, almost violent, insistence, and shows him affection in a way he has never known; this was beautifully and perfectly handled by both men. Putrov’s Ukrainian melancholy inhabited the desperate Prince; Watson’s powerful acting skills made the strength and dominance, yet loving tenderness, of the Swan, multi-layered and intriguing. It would be a wonderful gift to see these artists perform the roles in the complete ballet.

Tim Matiakis was technically strong and made for an extremely athletic, if vulnerable, Pet­rushka, and Vadim Muntagirov was at his most macho, in the most delightful of ways, in Le Train Bleu, where he could show off some of his bold technique.

Marian Walter in Ludovic Ondiviela's Berlin

Marian Walter in Ludovic Ondiviela’s Berlin

Ludovic Ondiviela, First Artist of the Royal Ballet, is the choreographer of the forthcoming dance work, Cassandra, at the Linbury Studio. He has created Berlin for Marian Walter, on music by Max Richter, who wrote the score for Wayne McGregor’s Infra. It was one of the highlights of the evening: the piece is beautifully and intelligently constructed, and Walter is a dancer of great charm and physical power. Something to see again immediately.

Another captivating performance from Walter came later in Lac­rimosa which began and ended with him in the candle position as though in vertical prostration before the might of God. Guala Pandi’s choreography to Moz­art’s Requiem has Walter’s taut muscular body pleading for mercy, arms extended as though on the cross, finally returning face down, waiting for judgement. Powerful and moving.

Arthur Pita who, like Matthew Bourne, was in the audience in Marina di Pietrasanta, saw his Volver, Volver piece brilliantly performed by Edward Watson. It was created for Watson, under the Men in Motion umbrella, in January this year. Watson has a perverse stage personality: he can be a wonderfully earnest Romeo, but maybe the complex Crown Prince Rudolf is more his natural territory. It would probably offend him to say that a ballet on vampires could be just his thing, but a role seeing him sucking blood out of victims, then smiling like a choirboy, would seem to fit him like a glove. Or maybe it was just having seeing him earlier in Bourne’s white swan make-up.

In Pita’s genial little creation, Watson is thoroughly mesmerising. First his arrogant swagger toward the audience with Black Tie and white gloves like a cruise-liner conjurer, followed by him being shot after which he cockily shows off the blood on his white dress shirt. Things become even more surreal as he strips to reveal a Spiderman costume underneath. Yet this is empty posturing, the superficial bravado that our world has become so proficient at, because, underneath this layer of action-hero lycra, there is bare skin which cannot conceal anything. Watson peels off his red leotard to show that he really is wounded: two bullet holes in his torso ooze blood. Watson flits from emotion to emotion with an unnerving facility; we laugh when we should probably cry. It is truly theatrical, truly absorbing, and Volver, Volver tells an important truth.

Vadim Muntagirov in Le spectre de la rose

Vadim Muntagirov in Le spectre de la rose

Vadim Muntagirov is physically perfect for Le spectre de la rose: he is graceful, pliable, has high leaps and is unafraid of the required baroque port de bras. His Young Girl is Daria Kli­mentova who dreams her way through every passage of dance, showing off her beautiful feet whether during a pas de bourrée or sitting in her chair, and is full of girlish wonder as the piece ends. A shame that there was no bonnet though…

For Vladi­mir Varnava’s Begin­ning, Igor Kolb is discovered centre stage wearing a bowler hat and with an apple in his mouth mimicking Rene Magritte’s self-portrait The Son of Man, but this jokey/disturbing image was spoilt by an “Oh, no, not again” moment when Eric Satie’s Gnossienne No 1 started. However, Varnava’s piece is touching and Kolb recalls Marcel Marceau’s Bip the Clown with his crumpled suit and weathered expression. His desperate reaching and recoiling gestures, and his elastic body ripples, made for a fascinating four minutes.

Yet another première ended the evening, with Putrov and Matiakis in Peter Leung’s In Duet, sending the mesmerising notes of Steve Reich’s music out under the night sky.

Ivan Putrov and Tim Matiakis in Peter Leung’s In Duet

Ivan Putrov and Tim Matiakis in Peter Leung’s In Duet

Although there are some sensitive moments as the pair seemingly help each other to continue on their journey, there are no romantic overtones as in Bourne’s Swan Lake. There are lifts and pushes and pulls; it is full of sound and fury and, while it doesn’t exactly signify nothing, it doesn’t seem to say very much, and, fine as Putrov and Matiakis are, it was a curious choice to close the programme.

Ivan Putrov as hit on a fine idea with Men in Motion, and very different from the Kings of Dance format which is flashier and more outgoing. Putrov’s programming is moodier, more introspective, and should be able to carve out a permanent niche in the dance circuit. A thinking man’s gala and, from what came across, and gala featuring men who think.

Men in Motion’s magic under the Tuscan sky In 2012, Ivan Putrov had the conceit to produce an all-male gala where Don Q variations were banished, …

Carla Fracci celebrates her 78th birthday in a new ballet

Carla Fracci celebrates her 78th birthday in a new ballet

Carla Fracci and Toni Candeloro in ArtemisiaOn 20 August last year Carla Fracci was celebrating her birthday frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea with her two grandchildren. This year, her 78th birthday, she’ll be opening in a new ballet in the open air – fingers crossed with this year’s Italian summer – in Oria, a hill town with a population of 15,000 in the Apulia region, in the middle of Italy’s heel.

The work commemorates the 50th…

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David Hallberg cancels engagements to recover from surgery

David Hallberg cancels engagements to recover from surgery

David Hallberg at La Scala

David Hallberg at La Scala

American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet principal David Hallberg will take short break from performing to allow his left ankle to recover fully after surgery.

Hallberg will be undergoing necessary surgery following his recent summer engagements with American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet at Lincoln Center, He has been advised by his doctors to have ankle…

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Director Damiano Michieletto behind the scenes of La Cenerentola © Luigi Caputo

Director Damiano Michieletto behind the scenes of La Cenerentola © Luigi Caputo

On 21 August, Italian director Damiano Michieletto will become the first Italian to stage operas on three consecutive years at the Salzburg Festival.

After the success of his La Cenerentola at the Whitsun Festival on 5 June this year, the production returns with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role for the summer festival. Michieletto previously directed La bohème in 2012 and Falstaff in 2013.

I wanted a take on the Cinderella story that was simple and well-defined, but at the same time to give it a touch of a contemporary fairy tale,

says Michieletto.

The scene is set in a diner where anything can happen, also things that are most unexpected . The people who eat there are those who are barely scraping by, the surroundings are poor and humble. Cinderella dreams of freedom and love that exist only in her imagination.

La Cenerentola can be seen on 21, 23, 26, 29 e 31 August, at the Haus für Mozart in Salzburg.

Damiano Michieletto directs three Salzburg operas in consecutive seasons On 21 August, Italian director Damiano Michieletto will become the first Italian to stage operas on three consecutive years at the Salzburg Festival.

La Bayadère - Sodre 2012

Julio Bocca has been at the helm of the Uruguay’s Ballet Nacional for almost four years. The company – officially known as the Ballet Nacional SODRE (BNS), as it comes under the umbrella organisation of Uruguay’s national broadcaster, SODRE – was formed in 1935, though it has had some hard times through the years. A fire in 1971 destroyed Montevideo’s Estudio Auditorio del Sodre, the company’s base, and for almost forty years, until 2009, the theatre was closed. The year after the new theatre was opened – the Auditorio Nacional Adela Reta – Bocca met with Uruguay’s Minister of Education and Culture:

I talked about the possibility of becoming the company’s director, and I laid out my requirements for rebuilding the company. The Minister called Uruguay’s President, José Mujica, and two days later we met, and he offered me the position of Artistic Director. I’ve been living here for the last two years.

The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring

The trip from his home in neighbouring Argentina was not a long one – the plane from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes less than an hour – but making his home in Uruguay demonstrated his long-term commitment to the company.

It celebrates its 80th Anniversary next year, but since the fire it fell into a very bad state with poor working conditions. I saw that the dancers were supporting the company, but had little support in return. I enjoy challenges, and thought I could rebuild the company.

When asked what he wants to change about the company, Bocca’s answer is unequivocal,

Everything! The working day will be extended from the current 5 hours a day to 7½; we will broaden the repertoire, though it will remain a classical company, to include other styles; and we’re working: we’ve gone from just 15 performances a year to 90, with national and international tours.

The new theatre has the facilities necessary to aid a growing company. Two rehearsal rooms (one of 15 x 15 metres, the other slightly smaller), dressing rooms for the 65 dancers with no more than four in each, a physiotherapy department, and the possibility to build a production – costumes and sets – in the theatre. This is something that Bocca is keen to encourage instead of hiring in.

I don’t want us to lose the skills needed to paint a backdrop, create a costume or make props. If  we can make productions internally then the money we spend won’t leave the country. There isn’t a large choice of locally-made fabrics as this is a small country, so we do need to shop abroad for certain things.

La Bayadère, Act 1 - 2012

La Bayadère, Act 1 – 2012

The theatre also has its own orchestra, chorus and a youth orchestra, with a 18 x 20 metre stage and seating for an audience of 2,000. Does it sell out?

It is a public that is growing and getting younger too. When I started the audience was largely of older people, in fact, it is a country with an elderly population. But the public is widening and continues to grow.

We manage to do between 10 and 12 performances of each programme, and sell up to 20,000 tickets for each. We are also encouraging the schools to come. The company must return to having its place of prestige in Uruguay, and the population here deserves to have it.

The company is treating its dancers as well as it can with 13-month contracts and unemployment insurance paid for by the State, which also meets costs of maintaining the theatre. The company has five main sponsors for funding its productions. Three are public companies: ANTEL Telecommunications (which resides in Uruguay’s tallest building, the Torre Antel, and dominates the skyline of Montevideo), the Banco Republica, and ANCAP Oil; and two private sponsors: Buquebus transport and Pronto! financial services. Their support also covers the infamously costly issue of buying pointe shoes,

At the beginning it was very difficult because I did not understand very well why so many pairs were needed… now I know why!

The infrastructure is coming together, but it is worthless without a vision.

We must continue to strive towards excellence, enlarge the repertoire, to produce our own ballets and rely less on outside organisations. I want to bring in more teachers from abroad – we’ve had for the third year running a teacher from the Paris Opera – and my dream is that we can attain a level of excellence like at ABT, the Royal Ballet, La Scala and the Paris Opera Ballet. Here in Uruguay there have always been talented dancers but there has never been a long-term project.

Ciro Tamayo and Maria Riccetto in Le Corsaire

Ciro Tamayo and Maria Riccetto in Le Corsaire

Bocca has enticed ABT principal Maria Riccetto back to her homeland, and promoted the 20-year-old Spanish dancer, Ciro Tamayo, to principal last November.

Latin dancers have an exciting daredevil quality that they bring to performances and we must use that in rehearsals and refine it to improve the quality, both technically and artistically.

So what will make it work this time… apart from Julio Bocca himself, of course.

It’s different now: there’s great support from the government, the companies who sponsor us and especially the public. I’m very grateful to friends and colleagues who have come, or will come, as choreographers and dancers, to support me in this adventure.

At the end of August 2014, Riccetto and Tamayo will star in the company’s new Don Quixote and the theatre is happy that it has already sold more than 16,000 tickets. It seems that Bocca’s dedication, and that of his colleagues and dancers, is paying dividends.

As this takes off it will be an opportunity for dancers throughout the world, and especially in South America, to have another company where they can work and live doing what they love… dancing!

The Ballet Nacional SODRE will be touring Spain from 18 October until 9 November 2014 with El Mesías (The Messiah), choreographed by Mauricio Wainrot, which will visit San Sebastian, Seville, Alicante, Avilés, Gijón, Majorca, Vitoria, Pamplona, Logroño, Madrid and Toledo.

Spanish Tour – El Mesías

Don Quixote

The company’s new production of Don Quixote, with Raúl Candal and Silvia Bazilas’s choreography and Hugo Millán’s sets and costumes, opens at the end of this month. On 28 October, there will be a benefit performance for the Fundación Niños con Alas (Children with Wings) with Vanessa Fleita and Ciro Mansilla. The official opening is with Maria Noel Riccetto (making her début as Kitri) and Ciro Tamayo as Basilio on 29 August.

Ballet Nacional SODRE Don Quixote

Photography by Santiago Barreiro

Julio Bocca and his plans for the National Ballet of Uruguay Julio Bocca has been at the helm of the Uruguay’s Ballet Nacional for almost four years. The company - officially known as the Ballet Nacional SODRE (BNS), as it comes under the umbrella organisation of Uruguay’s national broadcaster, SODRE - was formed in 1935, though it has had some hard times through the years.

Alessandra Ferri to guest with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

Alessandra Ferri to guest with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

Julie Kent as Artemis - photo by Marty Sohl

Julie Kent as Artemis – photo by Marty Sohl

Alessandra Ferri will take the title role in Artemis in a new production of the piece by the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company.

Artemis, based on the Greek myth of the goddess of the hunt, was originally created for American Ballet Theatre in 2003 as part of the Cultural Olympiad and featured Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes. Lubovitch Company dancer Tobin Del…

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Men in Motion at La Versiliana Festival: classics, premières and surprises

Men in Motion at La Versiliana Festival: classics, premières and surprises

Volver Volver  with Edward Watson

Volver Volver with Edward Watson

The latest incarnation of Ivan Putrov’s Men in Motion comes to Italy’s La Versiliana Festival.

Men in Motionwas first presented at Sadler’s Wells in 2012 and has since been performed with great success in Moscow and at the Ravenna Festival, Italy. This version, first presented in London at the Coliseum in January of this year, devised by Putrov, is an exploration…

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The Stella of Kansas goes to Naples: Joyce DiDonato’s latest album

The Stella of Kansas goes to Naples: Joyce DiDonato’s latest album

Joyce DiDonato - Stella di NapoliJoyce DiDonato’s new album, Stella di Napoli, is out in September and “ventures far off the beaten bel canto track”, says her Erato label.

Graciously, Cecilia Bartoli is nominated because, as everyone knows, she has been wandering far from the traditional mezzo career path for years. Italian conductor Riccardo Minasi, who collaborated with Bartoli when he was the curator and editor of the…

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Vittorio Grigolo’s new women’s shoes and a song for Hillary Clinton

Vittorio Grigolo’s new women’s shoes and a song for Hillary Clinton

Vittorio Grigolo The Romantic HeroVittorio Grigolo is not normal. While no artist is normal – whatever that is – and some are downright strange, Grigolo is something of an eccentric, both onstage (just look at that marvellous baroque bowing he does) and off. Here’s an extract from an interview with Italy’s Io Donna magazine which begins in a toy shop on the outskirts of Milan where he’s having problems with his mini helicopter.


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Decca’s Cecilia Bartoli Superfan campaign backfires

Decca’s Cecilia Bartoli Superfan campaign backfires

Cecilia Bartoli   The superfan hunt

Are you Cecilia Bartoli’s BIGGEST fan?

Decca are trying to whip up excitement about Cecilia Bartoli’s new album, St Petersburg, precisely where it isn’t needed. Her fans are excited anyway, aren’t they? If you get an “OFFICIAL SUPERFAN STATUS” – yells the blurb – you will also get an “official Cecilia Bartoli Superfan pin badge as well as a signed copy of her forthcoming new album!” All very…

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