New Documentary on HBO Takes On the Bolshoi Ballet
From its eerie opening scene to its dramatic closing interview, Bolshoi Babylon—a documentary filmed in the aftermath of the 2013 acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin—creates a distinct sense of tension regarding the iconic company’s future.
The dance footage and backstage access featured in the documentary are unprecedented—especially considering the public scrutiny the Bolshoi was experiencing at the time. The filmmakers catch the dancers in the wings, onstage and in the studio, giving viewers a perspective that’s rarely, if ever, seen.
Curious why Filin’s contract, which expires in March 2016, wasn’t renewed? Bolshoi Babylon pulls back the curtain on the subtle, and not so subtle, power shifts within a company where it seems that everyone is on edge and anyone is expendable. The documentary airs December 21 on HBO. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
Choreographic Fellowship at BalletX
BalletX’s new fellowship initiative has chosen its first recipient: New York–based choreographer Yin Yue.
Yue was born and raised in Shanghai, China, and has an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The joint fellowship panel—including BalletX artistic staff, Wendy Whelan, choreographer Trey McIntyre and others—chose her from 50 international applicants. She’s choreographed on companies like Northwest Dance Project and shown work at such venues as Jacob’s Pillow. Yue will have January and February to create a new piece on BalletX and be mentored by McIntyre, who will create a separate piece during the same period.
“I think that the two of us creating at the same time will help my own process,” says McIntyre. “When you’re mentoring someone and articulating what you see, you’re giving voice to new parts of yourself, too.”
With his extensive experience coaching, teaching and guiding students, McIntyre is an advocate for fellowships like this one. “Choreographers don’t spend a lot of time receiving feedback—what we do is very solitary. I longed for this early in my own career,” he says.
BalletX will provide Yue’s choreographer’s fee, costume design budget and travel expenses. McIntyre is open to his mentorship extending into the logistical side of creating a new ballet, but he doesn’t intend to set parameters on the relationship. “I don’t want to impose my worldview. What I have to offer is about opening up what is authentic within our own selves.” —NLG
Alessandra Ferri, the iconic dance actress, has emerged, at age 52, from a six-year retirement into an astonishing post-career. After successes with projects like Martha Clarke’s Chéri and the critically praised Woolf Works at The Royal Ballet, Ferri has been tapped by Hamburg Ballet’s John Neumeier as the muse for his Duse—Myth and Mysticism of the Italian Actress Eleonora Duse. As an actress at the turn of the 20th century, Duse’s performances were both highly popular and critically acclaimed, and she was lauded by writers like Anton Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw. The ballet, set to music by Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt, will premiere on December 6.
Why did you return to performing?
I realized a part of me was switched off. I love creating and dancing and performing with other artists. I feel very much alive when I do that. The first thing I did—The Piano Upstairs—was a fascinating collaboration with John Weidman. Then Martha Clarke came along (with Chéri). It all happened without me looking for it. Now I’m more conscious of my desire for doing it. At the moment I feel free and much more appreciative of the talent I was given.
What does John Neumeier wish to explore with you in Duse?
I think John has always been very passionate about theater and acting. Eleonora Duse was the first modern actor. She completely changed the art form. She was a very complex, strong and vulnerable woman and very devoted to her art. It’s funny—when I’m talking about her, I’m saying the same things about myself. She felt alive when she was onstage.
What is it like to portray a real-life character?
It’s so hard in dance to just be biographical because dance is the language of emotion. Duse starts out at the end of her life. John is interested in exploring the different woman she was with all these men in her life, like the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. She really wanted to help and console people. She suffered a lot in her life and was very sensitive to suffering.
Did you make any special preparations for the role?
I visited two museums—one in Venice and one in Asola—which house some of Duse’s original letters and clothes. I also read the book Il Fuoco by D’Annunzio, which describes her life.
Kansas City Ballet’s New Nut
This season, Kansas City Ballet will unveil its all-new Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Devon Carney.
Carney has assembled an impressive team, including set designer Alain Vaës, costume designer Holly Hynes (who was the director of costumes at New York City Ballet for 21 years) and lighting designer Trad A Burns. The show will run December 5–24 at the Kauffman Center. —NLG
Noelani Pantastico Returns to PNB
Former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Noelani Pantastico has returned to the company after a seven-year stint with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. She made her first appearance in November, in PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. —NLG