viernes, 24 de noviembre de 2017

The Ballet of Catalunya is now a reality

Mathilde Marlin, Rebecca Storani & Alexandra Urcía in Ensemble,
coreography by Elías García. Photo: Josep Guindo

The «Ballet de Catalunya» is already underway and after what was seen in the Presentation Gala of the company, we can only hope that this magnificent project is consolidated. They deserve this and we need them.

Carolina Masjuan

"For three years, they have been sowing the seeds, designing a custom-made project for Catalonia with international projection to be enjoyed by our esteemed audience.

Alessandro Burini in Paquita
Photo: Josep Guindo
The project was based out of concerns and sensibilities of people and institutions who were searching for a way to bring the best dance here, giving Catalonia the image it deserves. Throughout difficult yet enthusiastic years, people from all over have come together with the original promoters from day one in order to arrive where we find ourselves today.

Not only will we see 19 incredibly talented dancers but a great amount of courage on display. Effort and enthusiasm can only begin to describe what these dancers bring to the performance. Let them express how they feel through the best way they know, because words would never be enough to express what they want to say.

The presence of all who are here today is immeasurable and we would like to thank each and everyone of you. And above all, we express our gratitude to the city of Terrassa for welcoming the Catalunya Ballet.

Thanks to all who have come from near and afar. We hope you feel at home and we will continue to come back in the immediate future"

This was how the Ballet de Catalunya presented itself to the audience that filled the Terrassa auditorium on the afternoon of November 19, the day of its presentation.

The dancers of the Ballet de Catalunya (BNC) have been selected from a total of 200 candidates and are in Terrassa betting on this project aware of the difficulties, but delighted with the experience and the prominence that gives them being the first dancers of the BNC. 

Mathilde Marlin & Lorenzo Misouri in Corpo.
Photo: Josep Guindo
And for the ballet public, who came quickly to discover them, it is a dream to have our company, to become familiar with them, to follow their evolution, enjoying some more in a certain style, others in another. Surprising ourselves when discovering qualities that we had not detected, respecting them, admiring them, even loving them as close beings, so necessary in our lives. Artists that bring us peace, emotion and joy in times when we need all this so much. In short, living it intensely, much more than any ballet lover from another country, given that we have been denied to have this for so long.

Exciting to discover among the public, teachers, former directors of companies, choreographers of the country who, generous, support the project and tend ties, as it should be. Feeling that on the other hand this is reciprocal, since from the management team of the Ballet of Catalonia the company is open to anyone interested in contributing and collaborating. Mrs. Mercedes Ribera, who at 103 years old is a tireless follower of Ibstage, could not miss this inauguration Gala, as we also discovered admired the ex-étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet, Hélène Trailine with whom the dancer Elías García, Artistic Director and teacher of the BNC, took some ballet classes while dancing with the Ballets of Montecarlo

Maria Luisa Yoshida & Leander Rebholz
in Corsaire. Photo: Josep Guindo
It's a project that really thrills, the more you know it more and the more you know its dancers more and the more you see them working in class, rehearsing and now in this first show, even more. A consolidated team, with Leo Sorribes at the front, Elías García and Larissa Lezhnina, she to a lesser extent, in the artistic part, Marina Quera in the administrative and financial part, Gina Nunura and Martina Montorfani, in costumes and the teachers, apart from Elías himself, Ángeles Lacalle, Gloria Gella and Ksenia Korobchanskaya, who also acts as a repetetor, polishing, improving, taking care of style details, as well as Ricardo Alegría as technical manager and lighting design.

The Cultural Center of Terrassa, which celebrates its 35 years of dance season, being a reference in this art throughout the Spanish state, is hosting its headquarters. So the Company could not be presented any were that there. The Opening Gala showed a very young cast, dancers from Japan, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Portugal, France, Germany, Spain and, of course, including three young Catalans. They staged a varied program that in its first part showed fragments of classical ballet, neoclassical and more contemporary styles, to demonstrate the repertoire to which the company aspires.

The second part was devoted to the demanding work of the classical repertoire, Paquita, which was offered to us in the form of a suite for showcasing the soloist and principal dancers of the cast together with the dance corps.
Miho Okamura, Alessandro Burini & Alexandra Urcía in Paquita P. de Trois.
Photo: Josep Guindo

It was a very exciting day, Elías explained that the most important thing in the company are the dancers and their goal is to make this project a reality in order to ensure a decent future in all respects, salaries, equipment, repertoire, training, and projection....

What we saw at the Gala were enthusiastic, excited and happy young people, full of talent and with great potential, who defended a program worked in just three weeks, in an admirable way. They can get much more, of course, as it is clear that they will achieve it.

Maria Luisa Yoshida in Paquita.
Photo: Josep Guindo
The first part began with a very beautiful choreography by Elías García, Ensemble, with music by Mozart, in which we were able to enjoy a large part of the cast and to discover the work of some soloists. It followed a Pas de deux of The Corsaire, well danced by María Luisa Castillo Yoshida and Leander Rebholz. The variation of the three odalisques of the same Corsaire, with Madoka Sasaki, Rebecca Storanni and Valeria Kuts was very celebrated, the three were great, each in its variation, the nerves were disappearing and the program was developing in an "in crescendo" that the public was enjoying more and more.

The most contemporary part of the Gala was the Pas de deux Plenitudo (2002) of Italian choreographer Raphael Bianco, danced by Júlia Roca and Lorenzo Misuri. Júlia, a former dancer of Ángel Corella's Barcelona Ballet and the Companhia de Bailado of Portugal, has decided to return home. What a pleasure to have her between us again. Júlia has always been a classical, elegant dancer with a strong stage presence, which did not prevent her from perfectly integrating this contemporary piece into her repertoire. Lorenzo, on the other hand, was revealed as an important asset of the Ballet de Catalunya, a very expressive and confident dancer who that day celebrated its twentieth anniversary.

The first part was closed with Corpi (2001), another creation of Raphael Bianco, with music by Rachmaninov, in which the dance corps and soloists participated. The bodies of the dancers in flesh colored maillots are shown in all their splendor, creating figures of great beauty. A work in line of that of creators such as Kylian or Wheeldon, which subjugates and transcends. The dancers were fantastic, Mathilde Marlín, already discovered in Ensemble, is wonderful here. She is the prototype of a ballerina, with stylized lines, a sweetness of movement and a beautiful expression, no matter what the style of the choreography is.

Rossanna Morelli in Paquita. Photo: Josep Guindo
In the second part, with Paquita's suite it was where the best potential could be discovered. This demanding work of classical ballet did not disappoint. The dancers have style and despite not being a uniform cast, its directors have been able to place each one where it looks better.

So, for example, the fantastic dancer, well known to us, Alexandra Urcía, 18 years old and who together with Júlia Roca and Mónica Gómez are the three Catalans in the cast, formed a trio with another small dancer of stature but also plenty of talent, Miho Okamura, 19 years, and both, with the magnificent Alessandro Burini, danced a Pas de trois loved by the audience. Monica, on the other hand, has just finished her training at the Corella Dance Academy and she told us how happy she was to have her first contract as a professional dancer in her own country. Having seen her very often in the year end festivals of the academy, where she always had roles of principal in whose she was always great, we are very happy for her and for us being able to follow her evolution closely.

The Paquitas, that of the beautiful María Luisa Yoshida, so exquisite in its variation and that of the spectacular Rebecca Storani, already well known and admired by the Catalan public, because of the Ibstage program and Galas and indisputable star of the company, with her spectacular pirouettes and fouetées. The two Lucien d'Hervilly's, Leander Rebholz and Lorenzo Misuri are surely other two values ​​of the cast. Several variations and the beautiful corps, completed a suite that allowed us to dream of a company that will give us great joys. Thank you very much dancers, all of you, for a very good performance that we enjoyed with great excitement.

Rebecca Storani in Corsaire. Photo: Josep Guindo

This company has to consolidate itself as our ballet company. This time, yes, please. Several ways of collaboration have been established so that it not only depends on public support. Now, despite the great interest shown by the Conseller of Culture, Lluis Puig and his entire department, is not yet signed, given the special circumstances of the Govern of Catalonia.

Private sponsorship is sought. As in many European cities, the main companies finance the dance companies for identifying themselves with the ​intrinsic values to the art of ballet. We hope that they can find here brands that recognize and want to take advantage of the prestige that would suppose for them to have such a powerful image.

Madoka Sasaki & Lucien Vecchierelli in Corpi.
Photo: Josep Guindo
Beauty, quality, perfection, or the closest to it, can only be achieved through effort. Porsche for example, sponsors the Stuttgart Ballet. The image of Alicia Amatriain, light, subtle, aerial, ethereal, but at the same time strong, secure with steel tips nailed to the ground in an impossible balance, is extremely convincing and transmits in an unequivocal way the values ​associated with a high level dancer: Perseverance, tenacity, physical and psychic strength, discipline, ambition, effort, capacity for suffering and overcoming, tolerance, teamwork, ... Values that any brand would surely be proud to transmit, without forgetting the plastic beauty of a good dance image.

The Ballet de Catalunya is a private institution promoted by the Foundation of the same name. The great challenge of the Foundation is to position Catalonia as a national and international point of reference for the creation, awareness and diffusion of the art of dance. At the same time it is presented as an accessible institution to all those who want to enjoy the dance whatever their nature (public or private).

The Ballet de Catalunya seeks to be present in the best theaters, but also wants to reach the public by offering services adapted to different formats and proposals of all those who want to incorporate dance into their celebrations, events, institutional events, popular festivals and a long etcetera. They offer interesting tailored proposals, depending on the number of dancers, time and number of performances, with different formats and stagings.

Julia Roca in Paquita. Photo: Josep Guindo
Tailor-made shows are designed according to the needs and desires of the client who has the possibility to visit the company and choose the dancers, if interested please visit here.

Likewise, the Ballet of Catalonia is in search of funding and funds from patronage and sponsorship. They offer diverse formulas adapted to any type of proposal, either with contributions to the activity (productions), sponsorship of dancers and Trainnee students and financing or contributions to face the investment of the Headquarters of the BNC.

Collaborating in the search for these needs is also a way of contributing, as well as proposing the project to potential sponsors. They are open to receiving proposals as they comment on their website

For our part, we are eagerly awaiting the Nutcracker, which will premiere on January 4 at the Kursaal Theater in Manresa and for which there is already more than half capacity sold. Tickets here.

The Ballet de Catalunya in Paquita. Photo: Josep Guindo

viernes, 29 de septiembre de 2017

Collaboration between the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and the Italian city of Urbino

Sila Avaakum taking pics of students of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy
in the beautiful city of Urbino.

The Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow chose for the second consecutive year the Italian City of Urbino, World Heritage site of Unesco, to carry out its Summer Course. We learnt about this collaboration and wanted to know more. We hope our readers will enjoy this article as much as we did learning and writing about this interesting initiative.

Carolina Masjuan

Some years ago I met Francesca Bottacin, Doctor in Art History and Professor at Università degli Studi "Carlo Bo" of Urbino, thanks to the Summer Course and Galas that Ibstage organizes each August in Barcelona. 

Francesca Bottacin, Vilberto Stocchi, Luciana Savignano
Emanuele Burrafato. Photo by Paolo Bianchi
She was giving lectures to the talented students following this course that during three weeks gathers the most relevant dance teachers: Anna Maria Prina, Piotr Nardelli, Elías García, Xiomara Reyes, …  impossible to mention all of them (please find link here), finishing with two outstanding Galas with ones of the best dancers in the world such as Daniil Simkin, Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Alicia Amatriain, Lucía Lacarra, Anastasia Limenko, Evgenia Obratzova, Kimin Kim, Gonzalo García, Ashley Bouder, Tiler Peck, and a never ending list of the very best...

So, we had the chance with Francesca to share thoughts and talk about our passion. When she explained me about the Bolshoi Academy course in Urbino, I immediately felt interested to know more. And at the end it seemed to me that it would be worth to write an article and share it in our web Ballet y más.

For two consecutive years the famous Academy of Dance of the Bolshoi of Moscow chose the Italian city of Urbino as the venue for its summer courses. This year they were present in the city from 17 to 28 July.

Sila Avvakum making a photograph
of a ballerina in Urbino.
This year, the City of Urbino, together with the "Carlo Bo" University and its spin off Lingua Ideale, Italian language center and culture for foreigners, in synergy with the Russian Ballet International, wanted to enrich this initiative with further cultural content involving the whole city, with the aim of enhancing the prestigious presence of the Academy of Moscow and its pupils from all over the world.

Monday July 17, in the meeting room of Palazzo Ducale (formerly the Winter Garden) to inaugurate this second edition of the Bolshoi summer school and to welcome the dancers, there was an exceptional guest: the étoile of the Scala, Luciana Savignano, who also trained at the Bolshoi and who presented her biography "L'eleganza Interiore" (Gremese Editore, Rome) on the occasion of this venue. To present the book, together with the author, was the dancer and historian of dance Emanuele Burrafato.

The conference was introduced by Irina Pyatkina, who was étoile of the Bolshoi and currently is a teacher at the Academy and Honored Artist of the Russian Federation.

For official greetings, there was present Vilberto Stocchi, rector of "Carlo Bo", Maurizio Gambini, Mayor of Urbino, and Vittorio Sgarbi, famous italian Art Critic. The meeting was coordinated by Francesca Bottacin as scientific director of project and Dmitry Povolotzky from Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Director of Russian Ballet International.

Sila Avvakum shooting inside the theather in Urbino.

Monica Ruggeri, as responsible for cultural activities and events of Lingua Ideale, also took part in the initiative as it also did Counselor Marianna Vetri, who has believed in this project because of the high cultural value it brings to the city and at the University of Urbino and who followed with enthusiasm its realization.

Vilberto Stocchi, Emanuele Burrafato, Luciana Savignano,
Maurizio Gambini, Francesca Bottacin, Irina Pyatkina and 
Dmitry Povolotsky. Photo by Paolo Bianchi
As presented during the inauguration ceremony, interesting activities took place in this edition: the presence in the city of the famous Russian dance photographer Sila Avvakum and the new collaboration between Bolshoi Ballet Academy and FIMA (organizer of the Festival of Ancient Music of Urbino) carried out with the participation of the National Gallery of the Marche.

As far as Sila Avvakum participation is concerned, it has to be outlined the Dance Photography Exhibition of her work; Sila being the official photographer of both the Stanislavskij (before in Mariinsky) and Ibstage. Urbino, the amazing city with such a great cultural heritage was the perfect environment to appreciate her shots. Sila herself was truly moved to see her photographs on those palaces, gardens or theaters, especially in wonderful painter Rafael birthplace.

Please find a link to a video where you can learn more about and watch a bit of the wonderful spectacle gathering dance and live antique music. A gem.

Sila Avvakum and students of the Bolshoi Dance Academy
Summer Course inside the house where Rafael was born in Urbino.

When a city, its citizens, are truly interested on Art and the cultural organizations on it share this passion, then great things can be accomplished. We congratulate everybody involved on the organization of such an event and encourage others to follow this example. 

martes, 6 de septiembre de 2016

Ibstage 2016: The consolidation of a magnificient project

Ibstage Students after Paquita Suite at el Liceu.
Foto: Josep Guindo

Another Ibstage edition took place in Barcelona and again it has been a great success of participation. For three weeks, around hundred and sixty young students from twenty nationalities, have followed the classes of some of the best teachers from the most recognized international schools. At the end, they danced in two galas with some of the most acclaimed ballet stars, in a Liceu with almost no seats available.

Carolina Masjuan

As in previous editions, the holiday month par excellence has forced many vacationers to return a few days in Barcelona to enjoy this unparalleled event. Three weeks of classes and open rehearsals with free attendance at the Institut del Teatre and two Galas of the highest level at the Liceu, have called for ballet-addicts who took advantage of such an opportunity.

Vadim Muntagirov and Daria Klimentova
Foto: Josep Guindo
We spoke with Leo Sorribes, Ibstage director, along with Xiomara Reyes and Elías García (art directors) and he told us that Ibstage is consolidating thanks to the increased support they are receiving and to the interest of prestigious schools such as Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, JKO in the USA,... who recommend their students to follow these courses in Barcelona. Many students also come from Japan and Italy and a still small percentage of Spaniards, around 35%.

"In addition we can speak of a “IBStage audience” as tickets were almost sold out. We calculate an occupancy close to 90%" tells Leo and he keeps on "for next year my dream is that we can have live orchestra in the Galas." It also should be noted that dance schools have promotions of 40% discount for good locations in different areas of the Liceu for teachers and local students to not have to miss the show for economic reasons.

Students of Ibstage in Paquita.
Foto: Josep Guindo
But Ibstage isn't only about ballet classes taught by the best teachers of the best schools, it is also a platform for many of its participants to find contracts with companies such as Houston Ballet (Samuel Rodriguez), Royal Ballet (Maria Luisa Ishida), or American Ballet (Paulina Gaski) the three winners of the 2015 Ibstage awards. This year we already can mention the young Jarod Curley who will join the ranks of the American Ballet.

In addition to the many scholarships offered either by the Ibstage itself and by its sponsors, mainly the Banco de Sabadell, other opportunities are given. Jan Spunda and Kyono Chantal Morin winners of the Junior OWPD Prize "On Stage With a Principal Dancer" will dance a pas de deux in the next year Galas. The main OWPD prize went this year to the Italian young dancer Gloria Benaglia. She will return next year and will share the stage at the Liceu with one of the great guest dancers.

Andrey Ermakov and Oksana Skorik.
Foto: Josep Guindo
Regarding the Galas, it is absolutely fantastic to see all these stars sharing the stage with students. Their generosity and the magnificence of their art are an example and an encouragement for the new generations that are coming up.

Meanwhile, the young dancers learn the choreography with the possibility to dance different fragments in which everyone can participate. It is very clever and also very original the way the participation of the guests and the suite of the classical ballet are structured for the Galas. Also an educational talk about the ballet "Paquita" which was the one represented in this edition, was given by Professor of Art History at the University of Urbino, Francesca Bottacin.

It has been a plus for the students who were able to learn of it and also helped them to get more involved in the role. Five pianists in total, Roberto Infiesta, Ismael Elberdei, Carlos Silva, Rocio Sevares, Oscar Machancose were responsible for ensuring the accompanying music during classes.

The young dancers opened the Gala with the usual Défilé, choreography by Elías García and music by Anatole Liadov. It's always exciting to see them appear as professionals despite his youth and all the Liceu getting embroiled by their enthusiasm and excitement. The climax of the second part arrives with the Paquita suite, choreography by Marius Petipa, music by Edouard Deldevez and Ludwig Minkus with adaptation and staging of Elias Garcia, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev.

Steve McRae and Iana Salenko.
Foto: Josep Guindo

The participations of the young dancers were marked by their technical skills and enthusiasm. The level of the guys was really great and among the girls we can mention Alexandra Urcia who leaded the series of fouetés at the Grand Final, alternating simple and double fouetés with other ballerinas joining her up to the conclusion of the series. The extremely musical and delicate young Italian, Gloria Benaglia (winner of OSWPD) that captivated us in her solo in the Adagio and also the charming little dancer, Sarai Omi. However it is very difficult and unfair to talk about students because honestly every one deserves a mention. Please find the complete list at the end of the article of those who performed at the Gala, as they all should receive our gratitude for these two evenings of good ballet.

Ada González and Xander Parish.
Foto: Josep Guindo
And if when talking about ballet "sublime" is often a word that comes to mind, I can not imagine right now a better example to represent this than the performance of Ada González as Giselle. Ada is one of many Catalan dancers forced to emigrate. After training at the Centre de Dansa de Catalunya, Ada began his career in the Ballet of Sibiu, Romania, where the following year she was already Principal, dancing all the leading roles of the classical repertoire. Now she will join the main company in Romania, the Bucharest National Opera.

Ada thrilled the Liceu audience with a wonderful Giselle in the Pas de deux of the second act, which requires a mastery of technique while a sensitive and emotional interpretation. Her partner was the handsome Xander Parish Principal at the Mariinsky and both achieved that many of us found ourselves with nearly tears in our eyes while applauding enthusiastically.

Larisa Lezhnina and Juanjo Arqués.
Foto: Josep Guindo 
The Spaniard Juanjo Arques and Russian Larisa Lezhnina contributed with the most contemporary piece, the Pas de deux of Black Cake by Hans van Manen, choreographer they both know well because of their links with the HET Nacional Ballet. With music by Stravinsky "Story of a Soldier" it was a delight to know more about this choreographer that is not often seen here and to be able to appreciate his work by means of these two great performers. The response of the audience confirmed the success it was to include this fragment in the Gala.

As for the other proposals, we must speak of high voltage wit the Black Swan of Australian Steve McRae, Principal at the Royal Ballet and the Russian ballerina, Iana Salenko, currently principal at Ballet of the Berlin Opera; The Corsair of Oksana Skorik and Andrei Ermakov, who also danced Scheherazade, choreography by Agrippina Vaganova and music by Riccardo Drigo, on Sunday and the D.Q. of Daniil Simkin, principal of ABT and very loved and admired at the Liceu, where he has danced in several occasions, including last year Gala of IBStage, and the young Russian ballerina Tatyana Melnik star at the Hungary Opera Ballet.

Her Kitri variation in the coda surprised to be different to what we are used to and delighted us. Her entrance with its liveliness, her balances and fouetés with fan where really outstanding. Some Pas de Deux we usually see in Galas but each one bringing its distinction and unanimously celebrated by an audience completely captivated.

Tatyana Melnik. Foto: Sila Avvakum

The masterpiece it is Balanchine's Tchaikovsky PDD amazed us by the musical and charming Lauren Curbhertson Principal at the Royal Ballet, who on Saturday also offered us the PDD of the third act of Sleeping Beauty with Xander Paris. Vadim Muntagirov, currently principal of the Royal Ballet, once again delighted us with his high and elegant dance, either as a partner of Laureen in Tchaikovsky PDD, and with Daria Klimentova who was his usual partner at the English National Ballet, in Mashkovsky Waltz.

Steve McRae. Foto: Josep Guindo
This piece with choreography by Vasilij Vainonen and music by Maurice Moszkowski, is a magnificent and unknown work for most of us, with spectacular jumps and lifts while very musical. It has been very loved by an audience completely dedicated. Daria, also present in other editions of Ibstage was a Principal at the English National Ballet and she is currently a teacher at the Royal Ballet School.

Two exciting solos completed the participation of the guest stars: Iana Salenko was wonderful as the Dying Swan... what an arms and what an interpretation! She left us speechless.. and Steve McRae returned with overflowing energy with his solo of tap dancing, Something Different, choreographed by himself with Tap music. Fan of this discipline after having had to learn it because of the role created for him by Christopher Wheeldon in Alice in Wonderland, he was spectacular and the Liceu response was truly passionate.

Paulina Waski who won the 2015 OSWPD Prize, could not enjoy the opportunity to share stage with a Principal Dancer in Galas, as she had a contract with the ABT and these days the American company was in Paris, invited by the Paris Opera Ballet, to dance at the Bastille the Alexei Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty, in which she already has a solo, the Sapphire Fairy variation.

Daniil Simkin. Foto: Sila Avvakum
And we can not forget to mention the Liceu audience. The audience of the IBStage Galas was there because they love dance, an art they respect, they value and because they form a community very grateful to have such a unique opportunity in Barcelona and probably all over the word, to enjoy in a single show the dance of some of the greatest stars worldwide, together with passionate and enthusiastic young talents who are called to be the stars of the future. Each and every one of the attendees was truly moved and excited and demonstrated their feelings by a warm acclaim.

Moreover, thanks to the Visual Producer, Carmen Tanaka, the Galas could be seen live worldwide in streaming with a total participation of about 12,000 people. From these recordings two DVD's will be available shortly.

A perfect show from start to end for two evenings to never forget. Ibstage, we are looking forward to seeing you next year!!!

7 editions from which 4 in Barcelona.
1.093 participants in total
23 Nationalities
94 Teachers

Sponsors 2016
Fundació Banc de Sabadell. Yumiko. Autocars Pujol. Hoel Vilamarí. Restaurant THAI Barcelona y Elx.

And with the support of : Grand Teatre del Liceu. Diputació de Barcelona. Institut del Teatre. Generalitat de Catalunya (Departament de Cultura). Ajuntament de Barcelona.

Ibstage students, Guests Stars and Ibstage Directors
at el Gran Teatre del Liceu after the Gala.
Foto: Josep Guindo

Students of the 2016 edition who participated at the Liceu Gala


domingo, 26 de abril de 2015

Interview to Kazuko Omori

Kazuko Omori. Foto: Manuel de los Galanes
Kazuko Omori has been an icon in Angel Corella's company. She was with the troupe from the very beginning and she remained up to their last performance in January this year. Settled down in Barcelona, we have had the pleasure of interviewing her and if as an artist we already admired her so much because of the quality of her dance, her command of the technique but also and mainly because of the way she reached the audience; behind the outstanding artist, we discovered a very nice person, kind, simple and humble but tenacious, strong and brave who completely captivated us.

Carolina Masjuan

Kazuko in A+A. Corella Ballet. Foto Josep Guindo
How did you become interested in danceThere was a dance school near home and my mother asked me if I wanted to see how it was, so we went and I liked this very much and said I wanted to dance. I was four. As a child, I did not like the discipline but I loved the skirts, the leotards and tutus and so on... that yes! I liked it very much!! I wanted to get my pointe shoes immediately and I was disappointed when seeing this was not that way and that I would have to wait for long he, he....

Are there many differences in the conception of dance between Japan and Europe? I think that in general, the system and the way of working are similar, but in Japan we have another culture, there is the Kabuki, the Noh theatre, ... and money goes to enhance our culture more than to the dance which is not something typical from our country. Companies do not get subsidies, only the National Ballet gets aids and dancers have a salary, but this is an exception.

Take the Tokyo Ballet for instance and in general all the other companies too, they get funds from their own schools that use to have a lot of students. The incomes of the schools are allocated to the company and even generally dancers pay to be able to dance. Families finance that way the companies that can also have private sponsors. In many cases, when families are not so wealthy, dancers collaborate in other ways, selling tickets, teaching ballet or even they have another job as salesperson, waiters, etc... So, you see, we complain here but in Japan it is much worse. There, being a dancer is really vocational, because the sacrifice is huge. Although in many cases, dancers come from wealthy families and for parents it is a prestige that their children are dancers.

Kazuko Omori. Foto Manuel
de los Galanes
What has been your career path? Since I was four years old up to sixteen I was a student in Japan and when I decided that I wanted to be a dancer I joined the Flanders Ballet School. I stood there for two years and then I joined the company for one year. In Japan we work a lot, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays and there are less holidays. 

So I thought that in Europe I could relax a bit more but it was not. In Flanders we worked very much: classical dance, repertoire, contemporary, pas de deux, jazz, character dances, Spanish dances… furthermore I didn't know the language, we talked in English of course, but I perceived that I didn't fit there and it was also quite a hard time too.

When I finished the school, I didn't get hired by the company immediately and I did many auditions without any positive result, but in June, when I thought that I would not get any contract, there was a vacancy in Flanders Ballet and they offered me to join. 

But that environment was very closed, we all were from the school and I didn't feel comfortable enough there so I decided to leave. Again I started auditioning but again I found nothing and at the end I left to Hong Kong.

I was offered a position at the Hong Kong Ballet without even seeing me. Only with a video I got the contract, so I was very happy and furthermore I was closer to Japan. I think it has been a matter of good luck, my video came at the right moment and in Hong Kong it is very easy to get a visa so I headed to and I stood there for three years. But soon I realized that I was used to the European style and that there it was really, really hard!! Like in "Mao's Last Dancer" film! you know? It was so similar to a military academy!  (laughs), and in addition nearly all people were Chinese, except the Manager, Stephen Jeffreys ex principal dancer at the Royal Ballet and his wife, with whom things were going on very well but the second manager had a total Chinese mentality and the exigency both physical and mental, was nearly inhumane.

I na rehearsal with Herman Cornejo.
Corella Ballet. Foto Fernando Bufala

And as I was not Chinese and had trained in Japan and Europe, I felt that I was not fully accepted, neither my way of dancing. I got many injuries because it was about: 100% classes, 150% rehearsals and 200% stage, non stop, not a single moment of relax, it was incredibly hard... I coped with it for three years, most Europeans do not resist a single year, it is too hard that discipline and rhythm of theirs. But I have to recognize that I learned many things, to be strong, to be patient, ... 

At the end I collapsed, I went back home and being twenty two l was thinking about my future and what to do and even if I knew I was strong, I decided to take a year off and meditate about my life, I still could study at the university and try other things. 

As Nikiya in a rehearsal with Natalia
Makarova and with Ángel Corella as
Solor. Foto: Rosalie O'Connor
But after six months or so I came back to take classes and I was lucky enough to meet my teacher, the Slovenian Leo Mujic, ex dancer at Montecarlo Ballet and at the Forsythe Company and also choreographer for the Berlin Ballet among others, who got to advice me very well and who I respect very much as he has been a very important person in my career. I remember the last thing he said when I already was First Soloist at Corella Ballet: ”Do not accommodate in your current position!”. I knew he was very happy for me for all what I had achieved but he always pushes me and encourages me, even if sometimes he seems to be somewhat harsh, I know this is part of his esteem to me... so, these are topics that are part of professional dancers life, one has to assume that there is only with very hard work, always learning new things each day, being open minded, that one keeps on making progress.... 

But back to that time when I was deciding what to do, he told me that I should prepare myself to go back to auditions. I did that and I went to Germany as from there I could easily reach many cities with dance companies, so it was a good place to stay to try to have good luck. But there was always the same, I spent three months doing auditions, public, private, and nothing at all. Then I moved to New Zeeland and then to the USA but the style there was very different, very fast steps and a rather different way of moving too. I also made some auditions but at that moment I didn't fit there, so I came back to Germany and Leo, my teacher in Japan, said: “you have to decide what is the company you do really want to join””with this mentality of yours that you have to accept whatever you get offered, you can't look for a job!!” (she laughs as she remember this) but it was not that easy, you could have an objective but it didn't work... and I wanted a job allowing me to live from dancing.

Don Quijote with Ángel Corella
And again more auditions and again no good luck at all... but during this second season in Germany I had a friend in Portugal who said me to go there to take classes and to see a small company which director was a former dancer at the Gulbenkian Ballet, César August Monis, who was doing some new works and so. I went there and danced, even with no contract, in a project with his company the Kamusua Ballet Company. In Portugal I met many people but when the project ended I made more auditions but again with no positive results and I went back to Japan.

And how has it been that you came to Spain? Then, as I wanted to work, I started in a publicity agency although I kept on taking ballet classes. I was just starting to work there when a friend told me that a dancer in Spain was looking for dancers for a project with the Barcelona Liceu Opera House. He was George Birkadze (who later on joined Corella Ballet where he met her wife the American dancer Ashley Ellis, now Principal at Boston Ballet) but I couldn't join immediately because I had signed a contract with the agency and I said, maybe in two months or so... and after a certain time I asked and they said there still was a place for me, so I headed to Barcelona.

Kazuko Omori. Foto: Manuel de los Galanes
But when I arrived it was not, there was no job free.. Nevertheless, I stood to visit the city and think about what should I do, furthermore, George felt a bit concerned because I had travelled from so far away and he said he would help me to find a job, maybe at the Liceu or with the David Campos Ballet (a small company in Barcelona). Those were possibilities so I stood... and then at the Eulalia Blasi ballet school, while doing ballet classes... I happen to meet Ángel Corella!! I already met him while going to the ballet school, I introduced myself and we did the class together, he told me about the tour he was preparing for Spain with some ABT dancers and that a dancer, I think it was Erika Cornejo, who couldn't join and he offered me her position.... So I started with the troupe with Ángel and from there to his Company.

Stanton Welch's Clear with Corella Ballet.
Foto: Fernando Bufalá
In fact, I think there has always been as a kind of predestination with Ángel. When I was a student I happen to met him at the airport in Tokyo. I was extremely shy but I made the decision to ask him for an autograph but as I had no paper I asked him to shake hands with me instead. He did and I felt that this was a very special moment, as a kind of sign that in the future we would meet again and we would dance together. I also think that even if during my stay in Germany I got nothing, at the end it has been thanks to the people I met there that I got that opportunity in Barcelona. A city that has meant a lot in my life.

What are your memories of the beginning at Corella's Company? Even unfortunately short, the experience has been so exciting, at least for the audience, that you know, we were absolutely enthusiastic and thankful for that great adventure to which we participated thanks to the kindness and generosity of the company staff and dancers.. did you also feel that magic? I felt that this was a dream, we all felt that project so ours and we saw the illusion of the audience... it is incredible that such a so huge achievement was left to disappear... mainly in Barcelona but also in the entire Spain. One can not understand how, with a so great talented dancers and a so devoted audience there is for ballet in this country, this is not taken into account, it is really sad. I will always be grateful to Ángel Corella to have allowed me to stay in Spain and to have given me the chance to have those marvellous and amazing experiences that have made me grow and hugely progress at both personal and artistic levels.

A+A with Russell Ducker, Corella Ballet. Foto: Josep Guindo
You have been one of the rare dancers that has remained with the company up to the end in January this year, from the very beginning. Did you consider any time about the possibility of leaving? No, never. That was really my place, I felt very well there, I felt full, I felt great and that made me grow very much as an artist, and in addition there was the variety of styles we danced: repertoire, Balanchine, Neoclassical, contemporary, new works created for the company,... that have meant so much to me, to my training and to complete me. Now I feel I'm prepared and able to face any new challenge at any company, in any continent.

Can we talk about something totally out from the strictly artistic stuff? It is because there is something that I have always found both surprising and nice and it is the huge amount of couples there have been in the Corella Ballet... was the ambience that good that love appeared everywhere? (Laughs) I think that at all Companies it is usual that some couples are formed, but ours one has to think that it was located at La Granja, that very small town where what can one do? It was so boring... At the beginning it was ok but after a certain time it was all so monotonous, Madrid was not that far away but the weather was awful very cold and snowing, sometimes we even could travel, so it is normal there wewre so many couples but yes! It is true that most of them still are together, many even married (Without taking into account those who joined being already couples, we could count at least eight new, so quite a good ranking!!)

ANikiya in a rehearsal with Natalia 
Makarova and with Ángel Corella as
Solor. Foto: Rosalie O'Connor

Your case is also a bit special, isn't it? Do you mind telling us about? I met Roberto because he rented me a flat when I just arrived in Barcelona. As I had an open ticket for three months, instead of staying at a hotel or a hostel I decided to settle down and this was how we met. Roberto had lived two years in Japan and although he didn't talk the language when he was there, he studied it in Barcelona and now he can speak Japanese fluently. This was how we met and how all started... You see that I have a very strong conection with this city, Barcelona!!

Who cares? Balanchine, with Ángel Corella.
Foto: Fernando Bufala
Thanks Kazuko! And back to the company, is there something you would outline from that time? A special moment or memory? To have had the opportunity to work with Natalia Makarova has been the best experience I have lived in the dance world. We have been working with Christopher Wheeldon, Twyla Tarp ballets, Stanton Welch, with Ángel, with many good teachers, it has all been fantastic, amazing, but nothing compared with working with Natalia Makarova. To have been teached by her in private, having her at rehearsals, to share with her those moments.... it has been something really unique and extraordinary, something one has hardly access to and that I consider a great privilege.

I think that you take classes, you are dancing in many Galas or as guest in ballet companies, you also go very often to Japan... what can you tell us about your current plans and life? Yes, since February 2015, I'm dancing as a free lance. I'm hired for Galas or as a guest in ballet companies, I also teach ballet classes and at the same time I take them at the Corella Dance Academy here in Barcelona. And I go very often to Japan, I dance there in Galas, and I have many opportunities to dance, I can't complain. Teaching is something I love very much and what I think is preparing me for the future.

This summer in Japan I'm going to dance Swan Lake and to teach summer courses together with a teacher from the Paris dance conservatoire. He gives the first class, then I teach repertoire and at the end they do gyrokinesis session of master trainer. These are my plans for this summer, I also will dance with a partenaire I have there in Japan, in fact I have two with whom I get along very well and when any project arrives, we take the chance.

A+A with Russell Ducker. Corella Ballet. Foto: Josep Guindo
I'm in a good moment now but, although I'm dancing as a free lance and do not stop doing things, I would like to dance in a stable way in a company again. It doesn't matter if it is in Europe or in the USA, as after this experience of eight years with Ángel, I can dance any style and any repertoire and adapt well to any company.

We leave wishing Kazuko all the good luck in the world, she truly deserves it. For sure we will miss her talent and her beauty on stage, it is always a great source of inspiration to see this ballerina. The company contracting her will be a very fortunate one.  

martes, 11 de marzo de 2014

Alicia AMATRIAIN, invitée de l'Opéra de Paris

Nouvelle série de représentations d'ONEGUINE, signé CRANKO, à l’Opéra national de Paris. Et nouvelle belle surprise avec l’invitation de l’Etoile de Stuttgart, la ballerine d’origine basque, Alicia AMATRIAIN, qui, en quelques pas, a conquis le cœur du public parisien. 

Loïc le Duc
Né en Afrique du Sud, engagé au Sadler’s Wells Ballet par Ninette de Valois qui lui commande ses premières chorégraphies, vite révélé au monde de la danse comme un authentique créateur, John CRANKO prit en 1960 la direction du ballet de Stuttgart dont il fit l’une des compagnies majeures européennes. C’est dans l’avion qui ramenait la compagnie d’une tournée et qui ne put atterrir assez vite à cause du mauvais temps, qu’il mourut d’une crise cardiaque au milieu de ses danseurs. L’essentiel de l’œuvre de Cranko est très significatif du style néo-classique de l’époque et couvre les grands ballets du répertoire académique et bon nombre de ballets anecdotiques comme Le Prince des Pagodes sur une partition commandée à Benjamin Britten, La Mégère apprivoisée, ainsi qu’une Belle-Hélène que créa en 1955 Yvette Chauviré à l’Opéra et un Roméo et Juliette entré au répertoire de la compagnie parisienne en 1983. 

Pièce en trois actes, Eugène Onéguine constitue assurément l’une des plus belles réussites du chorégraphe sud-africain ; le livret joue sur les thèmes de la passion tourmentée, de l’honneur et des regrets et n’a pas pris une ride. La production, signée Jürgen ROSE, propose un dispositif de rideaux à l’italienne au charme désuet. Les costumes, à dominante châtaigne et aux nuances pastelles proposent une légèreté dans la gravité de l’œuvre et ôtent un caractère sacré et intimidant à ce drame commun. 

Photo : Julien Benhamou / Opéra national de Paris
Alicia Amatriain (Artiste invitée)

Musicalement, Kurt-Heinz STOLZE a réalisé un ensemble homogène d’extraits des Saisons, de Roméo et Juliette, des Caprices d’Oxane et de Francesca da Rimini, illustratif, sans prétention, accompagnant judicieusement la progression dramatique des principaux protagonistes. 

Quant à l’écriture de Cranko, elle s’affirme d’abord dans des pas de deux redoutables, course de portées plus saisissants les uns que les autres. Régulièrement soulevée dans les airs, la ballerine se retrouve, battant des jambes pendant que son partenaire traverse le plateau en la tenant à bout de bras. Arc-boutée, cambrée à l’extrême, elle se jette en arrière, se fait récupérer in extremis par le danseur qui enchaîne aussi sec une nouvelle figure. Mais la touche Cranko déborde la seule technique. Les rôles principaux exigent simultanément une virtuosité aiguisée et un jeu d’acteur délicat. 

Alicia AMATRIAIN donne une somptueuse leçon de danse et de théâtre. Ici, il y a tout, une technique époustouflante, un sens psychologique accompli, un art théâtral total, dans les moindres nuances. La ballerine rend très justement la Tatiana du poème de Pouchkine, jeune fille rêveuse et imbibée de  lectures, puis éperdument amoureuse de cet homme à qui elle ose avouer son amour dans une lettre passionnée. Même immobile, Alicia AMATRIAIN exprime tout, comme à la fin de l’acte deux, lorsqu’elle reste figée et regarde avec autant de mépris que de froideur Onéguine qui vient d’assassiner Lenski. Elle ne fait pas un geste, mais on sent qu’une page est définitivement tournée dans sa vie, dans son âme, qu’elle ne sera plus jamais la même. La froideur de son partenaire tranche avec une passion qu’elle ne cherche pas à dissimuler. Puis la Tatiana d'Alicia incarne une femme et épouse, fidèle, de la haute société russe. L'amour que lui propose Onéguine lui est désormais interdit. 

Karl PAQUETTE a, certes, le physique romantique de l’emploi mais ses qualités dramatiques capables de donner vie à son personnage sont moindres. Bon partenaire, une certaine froideur bloque l’émotion qui doit se dégager aussi de ce rôle cynique mais vibrant.

Photo : Julien Benhamou / Opéra national de Paris
Alicia Amatriain (Artiste invitée) et Karl Paquette

Le couple Olga-Lenski rassemble Eve GRINSZTAJN et Fabien REVILLION. La première danseuse campe une charmante Olga, vive et insouciante. Elle croque l'instant présent à pleine dent et accepte l'invitation de danser d'Onéguine sans arrière pensée mais provoquant la fin tragique du poète.  La danse de Mademoiselle GRINSZTAJN reflète, dans chaque pas, chaque geste, l'évolution de son personnage, ce jeu des passions et des faiblesses humaines. Fabien REVILLIION, sujet dans le Corps de ballet, compose un Lenski de bon niveau, joliment assorti à sa partenaire. Il danse avec ampleur, musicalité, facilité, beaucoup de sûreté, et offre un personnage qui attire d'emblée la sympathie. 

Christophe DUQUENNE incarne avec crédibilité un prince russe distingué et martial. La pas de deux Tatiana / Grémine du bal chez le Prince est d’une beauté, d’une justesse, d’un romantisme à couper le souffle… Incontestablement, l’instant dansé le plus fort de cette représentation exceptionnelle. 

Les ensembles parfaitement rodés du Corps de ballet sont particulièrement mis en valeur. Chaque danseur qui apparait sur scène sait qu’il porte une part du ballet et s’implique dans la signification de l’ensemble. Parce qu’Onéguine est truffé de courtes scènes qui se déroulent en même temps que l’histoire des personnages principaux et qui viennent l’éclairer et la compléter. Cette harmonie est magnifiée par l’accompagnement musical proposé par l’orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris, placé sous la baguette de James TUGGLE

Photo : Julien Benhamou / Opéra national de Paris
Alicia Amatriain (Artiste invitée) et Christophe Duquenne

Vraiment, une très belle soirée… Seule ombre au tableau : aucune mention particulière n'est portée dans le programme sur l’Etoile du ballet de Stuttgart, invitée tardive de cette série... Glisser, dans chaque programme, un feuillet relatant la carrière de Mademoiselle AMATRIAIN ne me semble pas une tâche insurmontable et traduirait le respect que porte l'Opéra Garnier à l'Etoile invitée.

Distribution - représentation du 4 mars 2014

LENSKI / Fabien Revillion
TATIANA / Alicia Amatriain
OLGA / Eve Grinsztajn
LE PRINCE GRÉMINE / Christophe Duquenne