• French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj says a 'passionate shock' urges Romeo and Juliet to 'dare to escape the face that traced for them'. Photo/Jean Claude Carbonne
  • The company's newest work, 'Carmina Burana', is being seen here for the first time outside Geneva. Photo/Gregory Batardon
  • The New York Times called the dancers in 'Premethean Fire' are 'building blocks in the human cathedral that Paul Taylor constructs uncannily and perfectly'. Photo/Paul B Goode
  • Princess Diana is tied in to the Helicon Opera's publicly and critically acclaimed 'Un Ballo in Maschera'. Photo courtesy of Helikon Opera
  • Baras of 'Voces, suite flamenca' has been called
  • While the 'Swan Lake' coming to Bangkok this Thursday and Friday might look familiar, it's yet another less-staged version. Photo courtesy of Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet

Poetry in movement

Art September 05, 2016 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand

Spec

Classical and contemporary dance and opera are among the highlights of this year’s festival



With seasonal downpours around rush hour rapidly becoming the norm, we now have a good excuse not to go straight home from work as one of the highlights of the city’s performing arts calendar – the Bangkok’s 18th International Festival of Dance and Music, organised by International Cultural Promotions in celebration of HM Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday anniversary – returns to town. 
For the last 17 years, the line-up consisting mainly of classical ballet, opera, classical music and jazz has delighted audiences at Thailand Cultural Centre. 
And as always, I’ve studied the programme, read what my fellow critics say about each work and come up with a list of highly recommended performance.
There are reasons why I leave out certain of the shows. For example, I don’t think a concert of Hollywood movie soundtracks or Chinese acrobats belong in the same festival as Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet, Ballet Preljokaj, Sara Baras and Paul Taylor Dance Company. Also, as much as I enjoy jazz, I’ve never had much fun at a jazz concert in a 2,200-seat auditorium. That said, this is of course a personal opinion.
 So here are the performances I’m looking forward to watching, in chronological order, and they’re all by the companies who have graced previous festivals.
 
The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s “Swan Lake” (September 8-9)
The festival risks being dubbed “The ‘Swan Lake’ festival” by not only presenting another production of the world’s favourite classical ballet but also scheduling it as the festival’s opening act. But this is not the “Swan Lake” we’re familiar with – with choreography by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa – but Vladimir Bourmeister's 1953 revisionist staging. 
The New York Times writes: “As a vibrant theatrical spectacle, it is all fire and ice. Bourmeister's choreography for a fiercely dramatic ballroom act has a devilish red glow. The evil magician Rothbart turns the usual floor show into a stunning entertainment intended to confuse the prince. It isn't just Odette, the Swan Queen and a maiden by night, who appears in a vision to reproach Prince Siegfried for his betrayal of their love. Even her malicious double, Odile, initially appears and disappears as a seductive mirage amid an array of menacing character dancers. It is a dazzling scene heightened by its contrast to the ice-blue images of the lakeside acts, in which Siegfried encounters the swan maidens.”
 
Helikon Opera’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (September 18)
We’ve never watched Giuseppe Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” here, but that’s not the only reason I’ve picked this performance. The last time this Moscow-based company performed at the festival, they showed us how new interpretation of classics filled with contemporary references could bring us closer to the original and prove that the classical can be timeless. Now here they are again, thanks to the unique vision of People’s Artist of Russia Dmitry Bertman, who regards this Golden Mask winning work – he opened the company’s season three years ago with it – as “an opera about two passions, two drugs which attract almost everyone – power and love”.
 
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve’s “Tristan and Isolde” (September 24) and “Carmina Burana” (September 26)
Since this festival, unlike many others in the world, doesn’t plan to present any works by Thai artists soon, watching a Thai dancer in an international company on her home soil is as close as can get. Sarawanee Tanatanit will portray the title role in “Tristan and Isolde”, by Swiss choreographer Joelle Bouvier. French choreographer Claude Brumachon’s new interpretation of “Carmina Burana”, with costumes by Paris fashion house “On aura tout vu”, will have its international premiere here, 
 
Ballet Preljocaj’s “Romeo and Juliet” (October 12)
The Aix-en-Provence-based company blew us away with their “Blanche Neige” two years ago, and now they’re back with this timeless love story set under the totalitarian regime of an East European country. And in this version – partly inspired by George Orwell’s “1984”, premiered in 1996 and restaged in 2015 – the militia responsible for keeping social order is confronting the family of the homeless. When you know a story by heart, it’s always fun to see it presented in a way you’ve never imagined. 
 
Sara Baras Dance Company’s “Voces” (October 16)
Earlier this year, I read Baras’ interview with English newspaper “The Guardian”, in which she said: “Flamenco is a way of life. It takes courage, but flamenco artists often have longer careers than other kinds of dancers. They learn to adapt to a type of exercise that develops extra agility and vigour. Older flamenco dancers can perform with a strength that you will not find in other dance genres. But the most important thing in flamenco is passion. It is not about technique, but about emotion – if you don’t feel it, you can’t do it. It’s not just a physical expression; it must come from the heart.” Those of us who watched her here in 2008 and 2012, we know that she means what she says. Reviewing “Voces” earlier this year in London, the Evening Standard noted: “It’s calculated but it works; showmanship with substance”. 
 
Paul Taylor Dance Company (Programme 2, October 19)
The much-awaited return of this American modern dance company, which boasts an extremely large repertoire, will see two programmes performed here. The second one, with “Mercuric Tidings” (1982), “Beloved Renegrade” (2008) and “Promethean Fire” (2002), is slightly better and closer to 2016. New York Post wrote about the first, “Danced for the sheer joy of it”; New York Times acclaimed the second as “the best new choreography in 2008”, calling it “a work of philosophic as well as dramatic power”, and wrote that it had “grandeur, majesty and a spiritual dimension”With seasonal downpours around rush hour rapidly becoming the norm, we now have a good excuse not to go straight home from work as one of the highlights of the city’s performing arts calendar – the Bangkok’s 18th International Festival of Dance and Music, organised by International Cultural Promotions in celebration of HM Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday anniversary – returns to town. 
For the last 17 years, the line-up consisting mainly of classical ballet, opera, classical music and jazz has delighted audiences at Thailand Cultural Centre. 
And as always, I’ve studied the programme, read what my fellow critics say about each work and come up with a list of highly recommended performance.
There are reasons why I leave out certain of the shows. For example, I don’t think a concert of Hollywood movie soundtracks or Chinese acrobats belong in the same festival as Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet, Ballet Preljokaj, Sara Baras and Paul Taylor Dance Company. Also, as much as I enjoy jazz, I’ve never had much fun at a jazz concert in a 2,200-seat auditorium. That said, this is of course a personal opinion.
 So here are the performances I’m looking forward to watching, in chronological order, and they’re all by the companies who have graced previous festivals.
 
The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s “Swan Lake” (September 8-9)
The festival risks being dubbed “The ‘Swan Lake’ festival” by not only presenting another production of the world’s favourite classical ballet but also scheduling it as the festival’s opening act. But this is not the “Swan Lake” we’re familiar with – with choreography by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa – but Vladimir Bourmeister's 1953 revisionist staging. 
The New York Times writes: “As a vibrant theatrical spectacle, it is all fire and ice. Bourmeister's choreography for a fiercely dramatic ballroom act has a devilish red glow. The evil magician Rothbart turns the usual floor show into a stunning entertainment intended to confuse the prince. It isn't just Odette, the Swan Queen and a maiden by night, who appears in a vision to reproach Prince Siegfried for his betrayal of their love. Even her malicious double, Odile, initially appears and disappears as a seductive mirage amid an array of menacing character dancers. It is a dazzling scene heightened by its contrast to the ice-blue images of the lakeside acts, in which Siegfried encounters the swan maidens.”
 
Helikon Opera’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (September 18)
We’ve never watched Giuseppe Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” here, but that’s not the only reason I’ve picked this performance. The last time this Moscow-based company performed at the festival, they showed us how new interpretation of classics filled with contemporary references could bring us closer to the original and prove that the classical can be timeless. Now here they are again, thanks to the unique vision of People’s Artist of Russia Dmitry Bertman, who regards this Golden Mask winning work – he opened the company’s season three years ago with it – as “an opera about two passions, two drugs which attract almost everyone – power and love”.
 
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve’s “Tristan and Isolde” (September 24) and “Carmina Burana” (September 26)
Since this festival, unlike many others in the world, doesn’t plan to present any works by Thai artists soon, watching a Thai dancer in an international company on her home soil is as close as can get. Sarawanee Tanatanit will portray the title role in “Tristan and Isolde”, by Swiss choreographer Joelle Bouvier. French choreographer Claude Brumachon’s new interpretation of “Carmina Burana”, with costumes by Paris fashion house “On aura tout vu”, will have its international premiere here, 
 
Ballet Preljocaj’s “Romeo and Juliet” (October 12)
The Aix-en-Provence-based company blew us away with their “Blanche Neige” two years ago, and now they’re back with this timeless love story set under the totalitarian regime of an East European country. And in this version – partly inspired by George Orwell’s “1984”, premiered in 1996 and restaged in 2015 – the militia responsible for keeping social order is confronting the family of the homeless. When you know a story by heart, it’s always fun to see it presented in a way you’ve never imagined. 
 
Sara Baras Dance Company’s “Voces” (October 16)
Earlier this year, I read Baras’ interview with English newspaper “The Guardian”, in which she said: “Flamenco is a way of life. It takes courage, but flamenco artists often have longer careers than other kinds of dancers. They learn to adapt to a type of exercise that develops extra agility and vigour. Older flamenco dancers can perform with a strength that you will not find in other dance genres. But the most important thing in flamenco is passion. It is not about technique, but about emotion – if you don’t feel it, you can’t do it. It’s not just a physical expression; it must come from the heart.” Those of us who watched her here in 2008 and 2012, we know that she means what she says. Reviewing “Voces” earlier this year in London, the Evening Standard noted: “It’s calculated but it works; showmanship with substance”. 
 
Paul Taylor Dance Company (Programme 2, October 19)
The much-awaited return of this American modern dance company, which boasts an extremely large repertoire, will see two programmes performed here. The second one, with “Mercuric Tidings” (1982), “Beloved Renegrade” (2008) and “Promethean Fire” (2002), is slightly better and closer to 2016. New York Post wrote about the first, “Danced for the sheer joy of it”; New York Times acclaimed the second as “the best new choreography in 2008”, calling it “a work of philosophic as well as dramatic power”, and wrote that it had “grandeur, majesty and a spiritual dimension”. 
 
The 18th Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music is made possible through the support of The Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, B. Grimm Group, Ministry of Culture, B.M.W., Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, Nation Group, PTT Group, Singha Corporation, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International.
 
Book your tickets now
“The 18th Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music” runs from Thursday to October 19 at the Thailand Cultural Centre’s Main Hall. Showtimes are 7.30pm, with some performances starting at 2.30pm on Sunday. Tickets are from Bt600 to Bt4,500, at ThaiTicketMajor outlets and online. Visit www.BangkokFestivals.com.