Opera House, Stuttgart
July 22, 2018
You couldn’t miss those two words. ‘Danke Reid’. Thank you, Reid. And what a thank you the final Stuttgart Ballet performance of Reid Anderson’s time with the company was. He was a dancer for 17 years, then intendant (director) for 22. So, 22 dances it had to be; a Reid Anderson retrospective, with one taken from the programming of most of his years at the helm, all presented in chronological order.
In many ways, it was an evening when the actual dancing didn’t really matter. It was all about the occasion and the handing on of the directorial baton. Except of course, that the dancing did matter, and what an evening it was; one that very much represented Stuttgart Ballet, the company as it is today, with dances from John Cranko ballets and choreographers developed by the company, alongside other classical and contemporary pieces.
After a burst of youth in a snatch of Etüden by the John Cranko School, and a Défile by school and company, most of the pieces danced were pas de deux, with a few solos and a couple involving an ensemble. Each was introduced with a huge photo of the original cast, which featured Anderson himself a few times.
The main courses started with a bang with a heart-fluttering, love-struck Hyo-Jung Kang and an impetuous Jason Reilly in the balcony scene from Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. An early unusual item was the pas de trois from Suite by Uwe Scholz featuring Alicia Amatriain, Roman Novitzky and Martí Fernández Paixà. To music by Rachmaninov, the dance sees her as the link between the two men, who pass her between each other and often hold her high as she adopts a sort of swimming motion.
After the Act 2 pas de deux from Giselle, came an excerpt from one of Christian Spuck’s early works, Das Sibete Blau, first seen in 2000. Anna Osadcenko was the woman passed from partner to partner, and frequently and dramatically swung around at shoulder height. It is all most impressive. Spuck clearly had something even back then.
Then, firework time! Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo let rip with everything in the big pas de deux from Maximiliano Guerra’s Don Quixote. They were quite simply sensational. Magnificent one-arm lifts, enormous leaps, warp-speed turns. What impresses with Badenes in particular is that it’s about more than the steps. It’s her whole approach, looks, body language, attitude too. That the couple clearly enjoy dancing together was equally evident in the riotous pas de deux from Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew in ‘Act Two’.
The second third opened with a couple of cooler pieces in the shape of pas de deux from William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman and David Bintley’s Edward II, the latter as much a power-play as a duet. I understand Anderson wanted to revive Edward II a few years ago, but Bintley’s Japanese commitments at the time precluded it.
The excitement ramped up again with Eduard Schwarz-Lulu pas de deux from Act 1 of Spuck’s Lulu: Eine Monstretragödie with Badenes and Noan Alves, followed by the fast-moving male ensemble dance. In their black suits, the leery men swept back and forth across the stage in a veritable torrent of movement, and all stunningly in synch.
The rest of the middle part of the evening was calmer. Osadcenko and David Moore were subtle and thoughtful in the pas de deux from Jiří Kylián’s Return to Strange Land. Miriam Kacerova and Marijn Rademaker combined power and beauty with simplicity in the pas de deux from Mauro Bigonzetti’s I Fratelli that’s full of everyday feelings and meaning. Anna Laudere and Jason Reilly were all touching tenderness in a gentle in a pas de deux from John Neumeier’s Othello, before Badenes and Camargo ensured the section ended on an up note with that Taming of the Shrew.
I’m not sure if it’s connected, but as the dances got newer, they struggled more for impact. In many ways, the closing ‘act’ was the least satisfying of the three. A Friedemann Vogel solo from Marco Goecke’s Orlando left me cool, although it should be said that the audience, now totally in party mood, gave it a rapturous ovation. Two very different pieces about relationships followed: Osadcenko and Rademaker in Hans van Manen’s Two Pieces for Het, and a moment from Neumeier’s Lady of the Camelias. Alicia Amatriain and Roman Novitzky (in a role created originally for Anderson in 1978) were beautiful, the dance a perfect illustration of how little can say so much.
A solo from Demis Volpi’s Krabat was another that left little impact, but then what fun. Badenes again, in comedy mode again, in thick-rimmed glasses and that oh-so-important handbag, this time with straight man Jason Reilly in Christian Spuck’s Le Grand Pas de Deux. I don’t usually find this sort of thing particularly funny but the mix of clowning and top-drawer dancing was an absolute hoot.
The excerpts finished with the most spellbinding two of the evening. Kang and Paixà were incredibly expressive in the Sanctus pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Requiem, originally done by Haydée and Anderson, before Amatriain and Vogel rounded things off in style with the Act III pas de deux from Cranko’s Onegin. The gala was an evening of joyful celebration but in just a few moments these two brought deep emotion and tears of a different sort.
It wasn’t quite over, though, for incoming director Tamas Detrich had a trick up his sleeve and turned on the glitz and glamour in a cabaret-style number to music by Marvin Hamlisch including ‘One Singular Sensation’ with its so appropriate lyrics. There were streamers, balloons, flowers, a parade of people Anderson had worked and danced with. He even gave an impromptu, improvised tap routine as the applause resounded round the theatre and the park outside, where everything was being shown live on a big screen.
Away from the actual dancing, in speeches during ‘Act One’, the outgoing director was thanked by prime minister of Baden- Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, for the “Anderson Era.” He also noted that Stuttgart Opera House audiences run at 94 per cent and that almost two-thirds the company’s dancers trained at the John Cranko School. Impressive statistics both. Kretschmann then presented a surprised Anderson with a rare gold Staufer Medal. Usually given in silver, the award is in the personal gift of the prime minister for services to Baden-Württemberg and its population.
Mayor of Stuttgart, Fritz Kuhn then offered his thanks, suggesting that when Anderson eventually does go to heaven, he will surely start a dance company with the angels. In what turned out to be a highly amusing interlude, Anderson was finally joined on stage by Marcia Haydée who regaled everyone with anecdotes from their times on stage together.
It is, in many ways, a miracle that Stuttgart, a city roughly the size of Sheffield in the UK, has such a word-class ballet company; and, let’s not forget, a world class contemporary company too in Gauthier Dance. Anderson has left quite a legacy of dancers, choreographers and ballets, but perhaps his greatest bequest is still to be fully realised. He fought long and hard for the new John Cranko School building, only allowing construction to go ahead when the perfect site was found. It eventually was, and the students are due to take up residence in autumn 2019, along with the company, who will also make use of the fabulous new facilities. The new building will help ensure a continuing supply of young dancers, and perhaps more than anything ensure that Stuttgart Ballet remains in the very top ranks of companies worldwide.