Jewels of the new world



24. October 2010

About the "American" evening of the Wiener Staatsballett
Looking to America, seeking inspiration from the world of art in America, also presupposes a desire to travel along the new avenues developed there. In the context of stage dance, this raises the question of which of these artistic avenues in fact have their roots in Europe and which are genuine American innovations.




It comes as no particular surprise that when selecting the works for his debut as director of the Wiener Staatsballett from the available range of American jewels of stage dance, Parisian Manuel Legris opted almost exclusively for those that have their origins deep in Europe. This applies equally to choreographer George Balanchine and to composers Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms (who turned towards Joseph Haydn), Franz Schubert and Igor Stravinsky.

juwelenAlthough Russian-born George Balanchine's language changed significantly when he emigrated to the USA in the 1930s, his oeuvre is based on St.Petersburg classcism, i.e. the late 19th century. William Forsythe, who was born and educated in New York, clearly expands on the language that Balanchine developed in America. The situation with Twyla Tharp is quite different. Although initially a protagonist of American avant-garde dance, in the course of her impressive career she also turned to ballet; here she succeeded in furthering the work started by Balanchine of Americanizing what had originally been a European art.

Composers are the factor that unites these choreographers and their works; the two Russian composers Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky are quasi family to ballet composers, the more so since Stravinsky achieved the step westwards that Tchaikovsky merely aspired to; he lived first in western Europe and then America. The situation with the Central Europeans Haydn, Schubert and Brahms was rather different. All three would have marveled at the physical form that the danceable rhythms of their music could assume.

Just as the choreographers whose works the Wiener Staatsballett performs are connected in one or the other way, their works are also: George Balanchine's choreography for Theme and Variations, which opens the programme, can be regarded as the aesthetic foundation from which both Twyla Tharp's Variations on a Theme by Haydn and William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude draw their vocabulary and choreographic approach. In Rubies, Balanchine once again returns to the language that he developed for his lifelong dialogue with Stravinsky. While in terms of their of content the first three ballets of the evening can be characterized as "Variations on the theme of Neoclassicism" – the ballet by Tharp was even called a "jewel" of this stylistic movement – Rubies, originally the centerpiece of the Balanchine ballet Jewels, can be seen as the personification of the city of New York (part one of the jewel trilogy, Emeralds, represents Paris, and the romantic ballet, part three, Diamonds, St. Petersburg and the Petipa classic. Jewels is a full evening's programme).

The Jewels of the New World programme therefore not only represents America masterpieces, but can also be regarded as a transatlantic dialogue between the "old" and "new" world.

By the programme of the "American" night of the Wiener Staatsballett, 2010.





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