REVIEW ROYAL BALLET OF FLANDERS WORLD PREMIERE Opera House Antwerp, Belgium. APRIL 6valerio polverari on 11.Apr.2012 23:44
A report by Jane Ousted, freelance internet-journalist and former dancer
With Eva Dewaele the Ballet of Flanders can indeed be Royal!
Before leaving the acclaimed Royal Ballet of Flanders, Kathryn Bennett’s offered the audience a beautiful musical performance (all composers were well served!), and well-danced may we say! The Royal Ballet of Flanders exploded in male vigour thanks to the inspiring Finnish creator, Jorma Elo.
“Killer Sweet” returns the crown to Flemish First Soloist Eva Dewaele (for 20 years a shining light in leading choreographies by Ek, Forsythe, Spuck, etc.). Within an unsettling maze of almost genetically manipulated beings (interestingly enough eight men for two women!), Elo profusely explores not only the darker side of Mozart within an almost ceremonial ritual (the composer, a renown Freemason always claimed being manipulated!).
It’s not immediately clear who pulls the strings of these puppets when the exuberant Yevgeniy Kolesnyk creeps around like a scary handler. But even this handler is being handled, and the Force can be truly dark as reflects Mikki Kunttu’s overpowering (and too often overshadowing!) set.
If Courtney Richardson (of true professional excellence in all three works) shows the male needs the female energy, all male soloists (especially amazingly versatile, the evening’s male star Alain Honorez burns the stage with “broad-band charisma and limitless vigour”) could own this contemporary ballet through their magnetic precision between unpredictable time and forgotten space.
But then there is Eva Dewaele, either the puppet or the rebellious puppeteer at any time she isn’t just a great mover with strong legs and expressive feet. Every action has a meaning and the meaning is MOSTLY MOZART. She doesn’t just serve the choreographer she marries him to the composer with the gaze of a tender and feminine eye or the battleship commander’s power.
If “Killer Sweet” wasn’t just slightly too long, it might have lifted Ms. Dewaele indeed to the heavens, for her very performance embellished each choreographic intent between the ruling of Light and Darkness.
The other ballets didn’t benefit of similar qualities or artistic weight. Definitely the universally danced and praised “Serenade” remains a must for each company’s repertoire. Serenade IS ballet history. It was created originally by George Balanchine in 1934, as a workshop for students and premiered outdoors in White Plains, NY. If under the last seven years of Australian Director Kathryn Bennetts, always exploring and with a vivid artistic backing from William Forsythe, the Flemish Company has excelled especially worldwide in works by the latter (and other choreographers inspired by him), it truly takes a real “schooling” to dance Balanchine or his immediate predecessor and equal, “ballet magician” Marius Petipa. Such schooling Belgium has yet to find.
Yet the soloists and especially a young corps de ballet did show a promising and very professional result.
No doubt thanks to Patricia Neary, one of Balanchine’s top specialists, and with the loving care of the company’s staff these dancers may one day grow closer to what the master demands: the music First!
When the muscle is breathing Tchaikovsky only then the dancer has approached the master. With the talented young David Jonathan whose partnering and innate joy reflected such intent, the proof is right there.
“After the Rain” remains a confusing no-fusion of styles for no particular reason. It dropped us from Heaven to Earth. If Mr. Wheeldon danced with Balanchine’s company where he developed into a (rather overrated) choreographer rapidly, far from Balanchine’s genius he does not follow into the footsteps of even a Shoo San Goh (1948) whose musicality and style he may indeed share. (Interestingly enough, this Singapore born choreographer’s work had a far more fluid ballet in the Flemish company’s repertoire). The excellent cast could but give their utmost in a needless emoting (Arvo Part’s over-used Spiegel im Spiegel) or high voltage precision; it could only activate the fans in the audience and so it did.
Before all new changes the company may endure, the loss of this company will be the career move for Ms. Dewaele who with Mr.Honorez is the company’s most eclectic contemporary star; both truly exciting but now exiting. Maybe Mr. Honorez will be able to pass on his astounding qualities to those waiting in the wings!
Hopefully with Kathryn Bennetts’s sudden departure, this beautifully growing ensemble will lift itself above today’s commercially oriented and economically viable realities. With this last tenure, the quality of the productions has been high (The Sleeping Beauty, Eugene Onegin, the many triple bills) but many have considered them costly and the Flemish Government has other ideas, as yet unexpressed, as to this subject. Can Flanders and Belgium sustain such high demands or is one looking towards different ways of developing young dancers through more socially and community oriented programs, maybe even at home first? Can they activate their own homegrown talents (with still too many abroad)?