Royal Danish Ballet Tackles Twelfth Night
Nikolaj Hübbe is setting the Shakespearean classic on some of the company’s youngest dancers.
Shakespeare seems to be on choreographers’ minds these days. In addition to Christopher Wheeldon’s new Winter’s Tale for The Royal Ballet (p. 39) and American Ballet Theatre’s reprise of Alexei Ratmansky’s recent Tempest (p. 42), this spring will also see the premiere of Royal Danish Ballet director Nikolaj Hübbe’s take on the Bard’s Twelfth Night.
But it’s not Hübbe’s vision alone. Created for the company’s apprentices and youngest dancers, it’s also a collaborative work, featuring the up-and-coming dancers’ insights and input. “I think it’s important that emerging artists get to be part of a creative process, a work that’s done on and with them,” Hübbe says. “We sat the kids down—they’re all very green—and had them read the play. Afterward we had a powwow where we asked them, ‘What do you think of Viola? Or Olivia?’ And we went from there, so that their thoughts became a part of the characterizations.”
Hübbe felt Twelfth Night’s cross-dressing characters were good fits for dancers just beginning to figure out their own identities. “In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare tells us, ‘I’m not what I seem, and nothing on the surface is what it seems,’ ” he says. “Women become men, men become women. Our cast for this ballet is all young people just coming out of puberty, questioning, ‘Who am I? What is my sexuality, and where do I fit in?’ They have a special relationship to this story.” —Margaret Fuhrer
Bolshoi Bouncing Back?
Will 2014 be a year of renewal for the Bolshoi Ballet? As the company prepares to visit Washington, DC, with Giselle (May 20–25), its artists are certainly hoping to put the macabre saga of the past year behind them. Since the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin, which prompted a guilty verdict for dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko and two accomplices in December, the turmoil and infighting have led to the departure of principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze and general director Anatoly Iksanov.
Filin went back to Moscow last fall, and while he must still make regular trips to Germany to continue his complex eye treatment, he says he has “fully returned” to his duties as artistic director. He believes the change of personnel has been positive for the company: “Everything is going the way it was before,” he told Pointe. “Without some of the people who have left, we have a chance to re-create a good creative atmosphere within the theater.”
Former Bolshoi ballerina Galina Stepanenko, appointed interim director after the attack, has stayed on as ballet manager to help him. In Filin’s absence, the Bolshoi also re-created an artistic council reminiscent of the one in place in Soviet times, which was expanded by Filin in January to include all 21 coaches on the roster, as well as the directors. A new labor contract is in the works to settle the disputes surrounding pay and working conditions.
Meanwhile, Filin is keen to focus on artistic matters again. David Hallberg, who was hired by Filin in 2011, will headline the Washington tour alongside Svetlana Zakharova, Ekaterina Krysanova, Ruslan Skvortsov and Artem Ovcharenko. The Bolshoi will also be in New York in July with Swan Lake, Spartacus and Don Quixote. Back home, the company is rehearsing a new version of The Taming of the Shrew by Jean-Christophe Maillot, the first of two creations to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
Behind the scenes, new general director Vladimir Urin is also working to put together a team that will bring more positive attention to the Bolshoi. “Last year was a nonstop attack, and we could only react to it,” says Filin. “When I joined as artistic director, I always said that we needed fewer words and more action. We’re all devoted to the Bolshoi, and the only goal before us is to get artistic results.” —Laura Cappelle
Ballet All Over
Pennsylvania Ballet on PBS
A national television broadcast isn’t a bad way to celebrate a 50th birthday. “Pennsylvania Ballet at 50,” featuring a special anniversary performance by PAB and interviews with founder Barbara Weisberger and director Roy Kaiser, will air on PBS May 2 at 9:00 pm.
Corps member Alexandra Hughes has a featured role in the broadcast, dancing the pas de deux from Margo Sappington’s Under the Sun—a company classic since its premiere in 1976—with principal Ian Hussey. “It’s a great work for this anniversary program because of its history with PAB,” says Hughes, who joined the troupe two seasons ago. “It was popular in the seventies, and it’s still popular today because of its contemporary, acrobatic quality. I love that this pas de deux lets me go back to the company’s roots—it makes me feel like I’m officially part of its legacy.”
Bourne’s Vampires in Your Living Room
The bloodthirsty fairies of Matthew Bourne’s gothic Sleeping Beauty caused quite a stir during the show’s U.S. tour last year. Now Bourne’s shadowy fairy tale will reach an even wider audience: PBS is airing the ballet as part of its Great Performances series on Friday, April 25. Check local listings for times.
Tanaquil Le Clercq’s Tragic Beauty
Witty, lithe Tanaquil Le Clercq was Balanchine’s muse in the 1950s, before she contracted polio at age 27. Though the disease left her paralyzed from the waist down, Le Clercq, who was Balanchine’s fourth wife, remained active in the ballet world. The documentary Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, which includes remarkable footage of Le Clercq, opens nationwide in April. Visit afternoonofafaun.com. —MF
DTH Returns to NYC
After its triumphant New York season last year, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in April—the eighth stop on its 13-city 2014 tour. New York premieres include Petipa’s Pas de Dix, originally staged as part of Raymonda; Ulysses Dove’s elegiac Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven; and Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis’ past-carry-forward, an examination of the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. —MF
Milwaukee’s Twisted Fairy Tale
Milwaukee Ballet director Michael Pink’s ballets can always be counted on to bring the drama. Perhaps a cousin of his ever-popular Dracula, Pink’s latest full-length for the company, Mirror Mirror, is a dark retelling of the Snow White story. Opening in May, the work features a new score by Philip Feeney and costumes inspired by the fantastical fashions of Alexander McQueen. —MF