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A special Don Quixote in Kiev as Kateryna Khaniukova Returns Home


A special Don Quixote in Kiev as Kateryna Khaniukova Returns Home

Kateryna Khaniukova in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

Kateryna (Katja) Khaniukova, who has been dancing with English National Ballet these last 15 months, returned home to the company where she was a much loved principal dancer – Kiev Ballet. Graham Watts reports on the night and ballet in a country at war…

Kiev Ballet (National Ballet of Ukraine)
Don Quixote

Kiev, National Opera House
5 June 2015
www.opera.com.ua

Ballet enjoys significant popularity in the Ukraine and the Kiev State Choreographic Institute – now run by Nobuhiro Terada – has produced some of the world’s leading dancers (Alina Cojocaru, Sergei Polunin, Denis Matvienko and Ivan Putrov to name but a few). Another recent export is 25 year-old Kateryna Khaniukova who joined English National Ballet in March 2014 – a Rojo recruit, sufficiently attracted by the ambition and inspiration of the company’s artistic director to relinquish the status of principal ballerina in her home city of Kiev, to become a junior soloist in London. As a first thought, it may seem odd for Khaniukova to have swapped this elite home status for a lower place in another company’s hierarchy but Tamara Rojo’s drawing power and the expanding repertoire of ENB is clearly worth the risk.

It is even more remarkable given that Khaniukova had no prior intention of leaving Kiev to dance elsewhere. During a brief visit to London, she was advised by her coach in Kiev – Alla Lagoda (also a former mentor to Cojocaru) – to take class while away, thus becoming a relatively unknown guest at ENB’s morning ritual. Her impeccable technique immediately attracted Rojo’s attention and the subsequent offer of a contract. The expressive quality of English ballet was a powerful incentive but the potential of working under Rojo was the decisive factor. “We had only seen her on DVD”, Khaniukova told me, “and so the opportunity to come and work with an artist of such dramatic quality was something that I just couldn’t miss. I wanted to absorb all those feelings into my work”.

Kateryna Khaniukova in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

Leaving the Ukraine permanently was not so easy. The Maidan Square Revolution erupted soon after her return and the visa centre was in the line of sniper fire. It took weeks to sort out the paperwork through all this chaos, during which time Khaniukova’s parents – both doctors – were tending to the Maidan’s victims. The requisite passport pages were eventually stamped and Kateryna (informally known as Katja) was able to join ENB, two months later than planned.

A cold night in February 2014 saw her farewell performance at the Kiev Opera House, given to a skeleton audience sheltering from the troubles outside. Just like Pavlova and others dancing on in St Petersburg through the 1905 Russian Revolution, Katja felt that “…dancing ballet seemed so pointless when people were dying on the streets a few hundred yards’ away”. Since the ballet being performed was The Nutcracker, the land of the sweets must have seemed a million miles away!

Kateryna Khaniukova in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

What a difference in just 15 months! Khaniukova’s return to Kiev for a one-off performance of Don Quixote was accorded the glittering, red-carpet treatment of a major premiere. Fashion magazines were there to photograph the event; TV stations filmed it; a documentary film crew followed the ballerina wherever she went over the whole weekend. A “sold-out” theatre included an audience of politicians, journalists and assorted celebrities from the worlds of sport, film and the arts. It was an occasion that fully demonstrated the power of Ukrainians’ affection for an artist who had left to make a mark elsewhere; turning up in their droves to welcome Katja home.

The National Opera House of the Ukraine (named in honour of Taras Shevchenko) is a gorgeous – if slightly dishevelled – architectural gem, designed by Victor Schröter. A curved neo-renaissance exterior – the façade a neat double-height row of columns and porticos – sits under a domed roof topped off by impressive statuary; enclosing a classical interior, based on the Viennese model of the early 20th Century. As so often the case in Central European cities, this opera house replaced another that was consumed by fire (allegedly caused by a candle left alight after a performance of Eugene Onegin) and the new building on Volodymirska Street was opened in September 1901. The backstage areas and studios are spacious although in need of refurbishment and the public parts are a splendidly ornate warren of corridors and passageways with a surprise around every turn. Unnoticeable to most but key to those who perform there is a flaking, apparently uneven, wooden stage with a vicious rake.

Kateryna Khaniukova in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

The version of Don Quixote in the Kiev repertory is a typical hand-me-down interpretation of Gorsky’s 1900 revision of Petipa’s original 1869 ballet, seen through the prism of many further retouches through the years of the Soviet Union. It enjoys detailed painted – but generally dull – backcloths to represent generic scenography and vivid, decorative costumes (not least, the gorgeous crimson and black tutu with gold embroidery worn by Khaniukova’s Quiteria in the final act celebrations). In many ways, the design of this Don Quixote was a cipher for the opera house in which it played: both beautiful and decrepit; grand elegance slightly worn out by age. It would sit appropriately within a Venetian setting.

There are some additions to the traditional libretto including a gypsy pas de deux to music with which I am not familiar and is neither by Minkus or Drigo. The conductor – Herman Makarenko – told me that this addition was by a little-known soviet composer and had been added during the mid-twentieth century. He couldn’t remember the name but my guess is that it was composed by Vassily Soloviev-Sedoy for the Bolshoi’s production in 1940. Anyone with better information is welcome to comment below.

Viktor Ishchuk, Kateryna Khaniukova and Sergei Litvinenko in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

The comic-book characterisations of the title character and his side-kick, Sancho Panza, were accomplished in broad-brush style, respectively by Sergei Litvinenko and Nikita Sokolov. The latter is a fine name for this ballet since it was another Sokolov (Sergey) on whom the very first Basil was created in the premiere of Petipa’s ballet at the Bolshoi in 1869 (and incidentally, he was alsoSwan Lake’s first-ever Rothbart) Litvinenko was a most appropriate, tall and lanky, tourist-book evocation of the wandering, chivalrous knight. If in need of another job he could become a Don Q look-alike around the arid plains of Castilla La Mancha (where only a week previously, by coincidence, I visited the tiny village of Santa Quiteria and met a matador!)

Elsewhere in the cast, I was taken by fiery performances from another Kateryna (Kurchenko) as the Street Dancer and the vivacious Mercedes of Ksenia Novikova; plus a gypsy solo with swirling red skirt and elastic spine from another Ksenia (Ivanenko). Maxim Kamishev was a haughty Espada (known as Esparto in the Ukraine); Irina Borisova brought regal elegance to the Queen of the Dryads; and yet another Kateryna (Kalchenko) was ethereally fleet-footed and busy as the Cupid. One overriding impression that remained with me throughout the ballet was of ultra soft landings on this hard uncompromising stage. All the dancers’ jumps were generally high and long, yet their landings were largely silent.

Kateryna Khaniukova and Kateryna Kalchenko in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

Khaniukova was reunited with her former dance partner, Viktor Ishchuk, who graduated into the Kiev company in 2001. He is ideally cast as Basil, the carefree but indigent barber of Barcelona. In a modern adaption he might suit being a skater boy since Ishchuk has that quality of naturalistic, blithe and buoyant chirpiness. He is a dancer with the prodigious virtuoso skills required for Basil but there’s also a charming “devil-may-care” dishevelment around the edges.

Kateryna Khaniukova and Viktor Ishchuk in Don Quixote.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

Khaniukova’s Quiteria is a delicately-framed but ebullient minx. As merited by the special circumstances of this show, she was truly a divinity returned from exile. An adoring audience lapped up every second of her return, beginning with that gleeful opening solo in the Barcelona marketplace. By the time of her fast terre-a-terre entry to the harp accompaniment in the final act variation, Khaniukova had the whole audience clapping along with every step; not something I have experienced many times before.

Few ballerinas have an entire armoury of elite skills but Khaniukova seems without any weakness. She spins and jumps strongly (her jeté is an object of marvel), possesses an intuitive musicality, extraordinary flexibility, graceful port de bras and épaulement; and she gilds the lily by capturing the romantic, comedic and Machiavellian essences of Quiteria with exquisite, expressive acting. It was a performance perfectly pitched to the gala occasion of her homecoming. Remarkably, she and Ishchuk managed to rise above having almost no time to rehearse together, holding it all together securely through their collective body memories. It was only when Khaniukova was required to dance in harmony with Borisova and Kalchenko during the dream scene that any lack of rehearsal was detectible.

Kateryna Khaniukova flanked by Viktor Ishchuk and conductor Herman Makarenko - Don Quixote curtain calls.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

Don Quixote is such an anomaly in the classical ballet repertoire. The performer in the title role never dances and is merely a supporting character artist; it is an adaption that bears almost no narrative relation to the original novel; a rare example of a comedy amongst a horde of nineteenth century melodramas and tragedies and an even rarer example of a ballet being named after a man and not the leading female.

The layered contributions from Petipa and Gorsky in versions that went back and forth between Moscow and St Petersburg have left us with the best of both worlds in Eastern European stagings that have followed – including this archetypical production in Kiev – with comedic fun, pantomime characterisations and – most especially – the opportunity to see state-of-the-art ballet technique, expertly performed.

Kateryna Khaniukova - Don Quixote curtain calls.© Ksenia Orlova. (Click image for larger version)

One might add that Don Quixote is a ballet of hope, best represented by the title character’s chivalric quest for honour and a happy ending. In that sense it seemed very appropriate to the current situation in the Ukraine, a country under threat from its eastern borders. The notion of honour and a happy ending are especially relevant to their troubles of today.

In addition to this excellent gala performance, my weekend in Kiev included a tour of the Kiev Ballet School, meeting legendary teachers (such as the octogenarian, Vladimir Denisenko) and watching an awed class of young dancers receive a signed pair of Tamara Rojo’s pointe shoes. Kiev has a second fully-fledged opera house with a full-scale ballet company, which rejoices in the wholesome title of the Kiev Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theater for Children and Youth. Walking past the theatre on Mezhyhirsta Street on Saturday afternoon, my charming guide suddenly disappeared inside and – within seconds – I found myself being ushered into the central box to see the final act of Valeriy Koftun’s Cinderella, which had dancing of a decent, professional standard. An opera house just for kids – no wonder culture thrives in the Ukraine!

Reblogged from Dance Tabs  http://www.networkdance.com/ballet-news/A-special-Don-Quixote-in-Kiev-as-Kateryna-Khaniukova-Returns-Home/24872

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The Stone Flower Adagio – Raisa Struchkova & Yuri Grigoriev


via The Stone Flower Adagio – Raisa Struchkova & Yuri Grigoriev – YouTube.

Memorium in passing, but Maya was dynamite! Maya Plisetskaya and Maris Liepa Scenes from the ballet by Minkus Don Quixote! Enjoy!


via Maya Plisetskaya and Maris Liepa Scenes from the ballet by Minkus Don Quixote – YouTube.

Definitely an opera day! Pagliacci Muti 1997-full opera


via Pagliacci Muti 1997 – YouTube.

Also see the film, if you’d rather https://youtu.be/dSURBaT3XF4

Or the 1936 film version (Stella Dumi)  https://youtu.be/m6PI5b6YKeY

Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley Succeeds With ‘Do-or-Die’ Fundraising Effort


Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley succeeds with ‘do-or-die’ fundraising effort

By Karen D’Souza

POSTED:   03/16/2015 06:00:07 AM PDT# COMMENTS| UPDATED:   A DAY AGO

Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley successfully overshot its do-or-die fundraising goal over the weekend by almost $100,000. Many see it as a much-needed shot in the arm for the valley’s fragile art scene.

“The community does not want to lose another arts organization,” said Lisa Mallette, head of City Lights Theater Company. “People are willing to step up and ensure that this one remains strong and vital.”

The South Bay’s major resident dance company snagged $640,000, more than the $550,000 it needed to stay alive. With the emergency push behind it, ballet leaders said they intend to reboot its operation, including rebranding it: Silicon Valley Ballet.

Corps de Ballet members, from left, Alison Stroming, Grace Anne Powers and James Kopecky, practice during a company class taught by San Jose Ballet Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño, at Ballet San Jose in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )

“This campaign proves that people care about the ballet as much as we do and it gives us the ramp we need to get out ahead of the situation,” said ballet CEO Alan Hineline. “Finally there is some good news for the arts in the South Bay. We believe the ballet can be a rallying point for the city and the downtown.”

Withhttp://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site568/2015/0310/20150310__SJM-BALLET-0311~1_300.JPG many in the arts community still reeling over the loss of San Jose Rep, the fact that the ballet stayed afloat is the source of great relief. It was also seen as a vote of confidence that the valley, often knocked as an industry town interested only in high tech, also values the arts.

TEETERING ON THE EDGE

It’s also a refreshing outcome because it comes after a series of devastating losses in recent years.

Corps de Ballet members, from left, Alison Stroming, Grace Anne Powers and James Kopecky, practice during a company class taught by San Jose Ballet Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño, at Ballet San Jose in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )

The region has lost not only the Rep, which went under last year, but also Shakespeare Santa Cruz, which died in 2013 (before being reincarnated in a smaller form) and American Musical Theatre of San Jose, which perished in 2008.

Hineline, for one, has been pushing hard to buck the trend of local arts groups teetering on the edge.

“We know that the collapse of the Rep hurt everyone. A loss like that sends shock waves,” Hineline said. “We wanted to change that narrative, to change the ending of that story — and we did. Finally there is some good news for the arts in the South Bay.”

So, what made the ballet better positioned for survival than the Rep, which was also a beloved local institution?

One of the smartest moves the ballet made may have been making a public appeal over its fate, instead of slipping away quietly.

“The Rep went under without a word, which upset a lot of people,” said Andrew Bales, head of Symphony Silicon Valley. “The ballet made some noise and gave people a chance to have their say.”

Of course, this could be just a temporary reprieve. Ballet leaders must stay on their toes because there is another deadline looming. Company officials say they will need to raise $3.5 million by October to restructure the company’s business model and re-brand itself as Silicon Valley Ballet. The troupe, now led by ballet hotshot Jose Manuel Carreno, wants to raise its profile and reach out to a wider geographic audience.

SHORT HISTORY

The troubled company, which partnered with New York’s American Ballet Theatre in 2012, has weathered many fiscal crises over the years. Old debts have piled up, including a $500,000 tax bill, and the company’s biggest patron, John Fry, CEO of Fry’s Electronics, dialed back his patronage. The ballet has countered by cutting back, scrapping some performances and dropping live music accompaniment here and there. The budget for the organization, which includes 32 professional dancers and bustling school of 350 students, now stands at $5.6 million, down from a high of $8 million.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the harsh South Bay arts economy is the comparative wealth of groups in San Francisco and Berkeley. Yet local arts honchos suggest these struggles may simply be growing pains.

“The San Francisco art scene was built over 150 years, seeded in the Gold Rush,” said Randall King, head of San Jose Stage Company. “South Bay cultural resources have a relatively short history. We have built a competitive environment in a very limited timeline. We are younger, but no less valid or viable.”

Contact Karen D’Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at http://www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, and follow her at Twitter.com/karendsouza4.

via Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley succeeds with ‘do-or-die’ fundraising effort – San Jose Mercury News.

Advancing Creativity


RB choreographic award

 

Advancing Creativity

Posted on February 16, 2015

On Thursday and Friday evening last week we showcased two key strands of our work, the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award and aDvANCE. These innovative projects provide opportunities for Royal Ballet School students to explore their creativity and develop skills creating original work.

Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award

This year nine 2nd Year students were shortlisted to develop and show their choreography for the Award, which is generously sponsored by Peter Wilson. There was a rich display of ingenuity put before our three distinguished judges Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, Jeanetta Laurence OBE, Associate Director of The Royal Ballet and Arthur Pita, choreographer. After much deliberation they awarded first prize to Arianna Maldini for Quia Contra (For and Against), a piece of choreography inspired by an imagined meeting of the four elements of nature: water, fire, air and earth. The piece was set to Ezio Bosso’s music Thunders and Lightnings.

Second prize went to Joseph Sissens for his piece inspired by the transatlantic slave trade called Let My People Go. His emotive choreography was set to The Bitter Earth by Max Richter and On the Nature of Daylight by Dinah Washington.

Third prize was awarded to Grace Paulley for Amo, Amas, Amat, which explored the grammar of love, and the luminosity of impressionist art. It was set to Debussy’s Reverie.

 

The Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award has played an important role in encouraging the development of young choreographers since its inception nearly half a century ago. It has provided a launchpad for many influential figures including David Bintley, Christopher Wheeldon, Cathy Marston and Liam Scarlett.

Ursula Moreton was an instrumental figure in the encouragement of emerging choreographic talent in the mid-20th century. By nurturing  great artists, such as Kenneth MacMillan and John Cranko, she played a vital role in the development of the British style. She was Chairman of the Royal Academy of Dance’s Production Club and later became Principal at The Royal Ballet School.

Our thanks to the judging panel for giving up their valuable time and to composer Russell Hepplewhite, who was music consultant to the choreographers. Congratulations to all the choreographers and dancers involved.

aDvANCE

Our aDvANCE scheme is part of our Dance Partnership & Access work, which provides broader access to ballet and the work of the School through an extensive range of primary and secondary school projects. aDvANCE offers our 1st Year students a unique opportunity to work with young people learning dance in other contexts. This year the students collaborated with students from Featherstone High School in Southall, West London. Over the past five months the young dancers have taken part in a series of creative and choreographic tasks as well as visiting each other’s schools to work together on a joint performance. On Thursday and Friday evening, the audience were treated to a performance by each school group separately before watching the collaborative piece Stabilimentum, choreographed by students themselves led by Dani Batchelor with assistance from Bim Malcomson.

The dancers took the tale of Arachne, a talented weaver who antagonised the goddess Athena and was then condemned to live as a spider, and developed it to create their own abstract interpretation of the story.

We are grateful for the generous support of the Department for Education, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and The Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation.

via Advancing Creativity – Royal Ballet School.

Ballet San Jose, Fancy Free | Review | SFCV


Ballet San Jose Sharp in Season Debut

February 24, 2015

BALLET SAN JOSE
(from left to right) Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia, Grace-Anne Powers, Ommi Pipit-Suksun and Joshua Seibel; Photo Alejandro Gomez

Fancy Free, whose company premiere Friday highlighted Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley’s first repertory series, would seem a natural for the troupe. Now a close ally of American Ballet Theatre, its artistic director, stellar ABT alum Jose Manuel Carreno, was known for his macho participation in Jerome Robbins’ classic romp about three sailors on shore leave, the bones of which were to lead to the smash musical On the Town, now in Broadway revival, and thence, via Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, to the movie version and immortality.

 

Fancy Free, created when Robbins was still dancing with Ballet Theater, remains one of his greatest works, also paving the way for landmarks by its young and brilliant composer, Leonard Bernstein.

So entertaining, debonair and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust. That would be a shame. Robbins, for all his genius, was never a fancy-free choreographer, and without the precision he dictated, from inception through its passage from Ballet Theater, as the company wasthen called, down to the present, when it remains a staple of the New York City Ballet, ABT, and dozens of fortunate troupes around the world, Fancy Free would be oh, less than nothing.So entertaining, debonair, and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust.

But, like most great choreographers, Robbins left orders in place to guarantee that his work would be staged the way he wanted it staged. We also see this, of course, in the work of George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp among many others; both of them were also represented Friday in Theme and Variations, a BSJ standard, and In the Upper Room, which joined the rep last year.

The way staging happens is in part through the sharing of dancers’ physical and performance recollections – dance being very much a “body to body” art form, as Edward Villella says – as well as film and notation (and pointed remarks) directly from the creator. So the stagers for these three ballets, designated by the respective artists and their trusts, worked with Ballet San Jose’s dancers to make everything the way it ought to be. They were (Fancy Free) Philip Neal, who danced for Robbins when he was co-ballet master-in-chief (whew) at the New York City Ballet; (Theme and Variations)Sandra Jennings and Stacy Caddell for the George Balanchine Trust, also at City Ballet, and (In the Upper Room) two former Tharp dancers, the great Shelley Washington, and Gil Boggs (now Colorado Ballet’s artistic director).

Of the three, Fancy Free was the standout, rising way above the tinny, taped music (Ballet San Jose, still woefully short of funds, could not reach an agreement for the services of Symphony Silicon Valley). Richly nostalgic with its angular Oliver Smith bar-room set design and Bernstein’s score, its keen rhythms evoking his fascination at the time with things Latin, plus the entire notion of carpe diem or, dare we say, dame – it was, after all, shore leave in the middle of World War II; everything, particularly the rhumbas, the moments of boyish brooding, the fights, the flirts, the resilience, the friskiness of the chase, all of it came together at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts so precisely, with fine technique and such wonderful, readable nuance.

In the small cast, the great performances abounded: Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia and Joshua Seibel as the gobs; Grace-Anne Powers and Ommi Pipit-Suksun as their leggy quarry, and, in smaller roles, Emma Francis as a last-minute distraction, and James Kopecky as the long-suffering bartender.

Theme and Variations, all satin, tutus, Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 for orchestra) and chandeliers, went off without many hitches, though this taxing and stunning opener needed a few moments for the company to hit its stride. In the leads, principal dancers Junna Ige and Maykel Solas were prodigies of durability and grace, drawing in all viewers for the central ballet, Balanchine’s wonderfully intimate, tender yet frolicsome pas de deux.

Again, not to beat a dead horse, this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t. The likely exception would be for In the Upper Room, whose Philip Glass score might really demand the ministrations of a full-time and totally unaffordable company orchestra. On Friday, the audio sounded as good as anyone else’s, which isn’t really as grudging as it sounds, if you love Glass as much as this viewer.… this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t.

As noted here before, this – thanks in no small part to Glass – is one of the great creations of Tharp or anybody else. It flies by, and the minute it’s over, you want it all again. Is it the dry-ice fog, the lights, the Norma Kamali black-and-white prison pj’s contrasted with red tops and toe shoes, or white sneakers and shirts? Nah. It’s Twyla, first, last and always. Nobody has ever pointed up as viscerally what it means to dance and perform, in so many ways, as she does. (Oh, we could perhaps argue that her Push Comes to Shove is equally brilliant in this argument, plus it came equipped with Mikhail Baryshnikov at its premiere. But no.)

At any event, Ballet San Jose, even on its uppers, gets and represents In the Upper Room to the marrow of its bones. This company needs – and all of us need it – to keep on dancing.

Janice Berman was an editor and senior writer at New York Newsday. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Magazine

https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/ballet-san-jose/ballet-san-jose-sharp-in-season-debut