CriticalDance Forum

Royal Ballet of Flanders
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Author:  kathrynp [ Thu Nov 06, 2003 11:04 am ]
Post subject:  Royal Ballet of Flanders

I know that Robert Denvers is leaving the company at the end of this season and I'm wondering if there's been any announcement regarding his replacement. Has anyone heard anything about the search to replace him? Thanks so much for any info! :)

Author:  marc29 [ Thu Nov 06, 2003 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Royal Ballet of Flanders

I think Mr Denvers is leaving the company at the end of the next season (2004-2005). I heard Jan Broeckx is among the candidates.

Author:  marc29 [ Sat Nov 22, 2003 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Royal Ballet of Flanders

I confirm that Robert Denvers will leave in 2005. The new director is to be announced... The company will present a new production of "La Bayadère" in february 2004 staged by Anna Maria Holmes.

Author:  mehunt [ Mon Nov 24, 2003 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Royal Ballet of Flanders

Thanks for the info marc29. Any word on what Robert Denvers will be doing next?

Author:  David [ Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:17 am ]
Post subject:  Impressing the Czar

‘Impressing the Czar’ - The Royal Ballet of Flanders
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London; November 6, 2008.

Kathryn Bennetts, artistic director of The Royal Ballet of Flanders was William Forsythe’s ballet mistress for fifteen years. Since moving to Antwerp in 2005, she has been working to cast off the company’s safe image. On the evidence of their London performances she is well on the way to succeeding. Her knowledge of Forsythe’s work, her ability to communicate it, and her dancers’ ability to dance it, are clear from the moment the curtain rises.

“Impressing the Czar” opens with “Potemkin’s Signature”, which takes place on a stage brimming with props, including what looks like a giant chess board set at an angle with objects on and around it. It is an almost anarchic mix of references to the arts and current events. There is so much going on, you just don’t know where to look. Canvasses are unrolled and wrapped around the dancers, who at one point take a pose, looking themselves for all the world like a work by some Flemish master. A commentary is provided by Agnes (Helen Pickett) and Rosa (Karina Jager-von Stuplnagel) that includes references to Sarah Palin and the credit crunch. They seem to be trying to find their favourite piece of art, which turns out to be Mr.Pnut on TV. Among all this, dancers perform a crazy mix of dance styles, from court dance to some impressive contemporary ballet. The whole act is a riot of action and colour.

That ballet gives a taste of the highlight of the evening, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”. All nine dancers performed with great verve, especially Aki Saito, the leading female, who combined explosive power, razor-sharp movement, and moments of delicious melting. The dancers got right inside the music and Forsythe’s choreography. They were clean, sharp and technically superb. Yet they seemed to really understand the work rather than be focusing simply on the movement. The contrast with the Mariinsky Ballet, who performed the same work in London earlier in the season, and who seemed to smooth out Forsythe’s edginess, could not have been sharper.

The third act gets steadily more manic and comic. “La Maison de Mezzo-Prezzo” links back to the opening, the props and dancers, including Mr. Pnut, dragged forward in turn, displayed to the audience and auctioned off. Agnes tries to keep control, haranguing everyone, the front row included, in a way Basil Fawlty would have been proud of. It’s crazy, manic, and quite brilliant. The mass circular dance that follows in “Bongo Bongo Nageela” is like some tribal ritual, with everyone, men included, dressed in schoolgirl uniforms. It was humorous, but with a hint of menace too. And so to the finale, “Mr Pnut goes to the Big Top”, so madcap it leaves you breathless.

“Impressing the Czar” does leave you wondering what on earth it was all about - especially if you haven’t read the programme. Even then, I’m not sure that anyone watching it understands everything. But you don’t need to, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Just sit back, and enjoy the madness of it all.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:54 pm ]
Post subject: 

Clement Crisp did not enjoy the Forsythe programme -- his review in the Financial Times:

Financial Times

In The Times, Debra Craine seems to have enjoyed it rather more:

The Times

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Nov 28, 2008 5:46 am ]
Post subject: 

Clement Crisp writes in the FT:

" may rest assured that this is the same old portentous choreographic three-card trick with which Forsythe has gulled his public since the 1980s."


"For those with a taste for dance as graffito, for costive intellectualism as credo, here is your reward."

So, Crisp accuses the choreographer of repeated fraud and also abuses any audience members, including virtually all the dance professionals I know, who appreciate Forsythe's work. If this review was posted on CD, I would point out to the Moderators that it breaches our courtesy rule - not the first time that Crisp has been guilty of such rudeness.

Crisp is an important ballet historian and archivist and I respect his views on classical ballet. On anything else, he has long been an unreliable judge and this is a particularly vicious example.

Given that Sadler's Wells is mounting a year-long festival of Forsythe's work, I wish the FT would use one of its other critics to review further programmes in this series.

For a review from someone who I rate a much fairer judge of contemporary work, read Judith Mackrell's review from The Guardian: ... er-s-wells

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Nov 28, 2008 7:23 am ]
Post subject: 

I wish the FT would use one of its other critics to review further programmes in this series.

Perhaps poor old Clement simply drew the short straw on that occasion. :twisted:

Author:  Rosella [ Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:21 am ]
Post subject: 

I have just returned from Reggio Emilia, in the north of Italy, where I saw their astonishing "Impressing the Czar", will soon report about it. I had just seen "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated" in the past, but watching the whole piece was an incredible experience. The Italian audience was really conquered by Forsythe's wit and irony!

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 2:10 pm ]
Post subject: 

Roslyn Sulcas catches up with Royal Ballet of Flanders in Ludwigshafen, Germany for a performance of William Forsythe's complete "Artifact." Her review in the New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Rosella [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:01 am ]
Post subject: 

Teatro Valli, Reggio Emilia, October 24, 2009

You cannot be indifferent to this piece, you either love it or hate it. It is monumental and complex, funny and surprising. William Forsythe first presented it in 1988 and in 2005 Kathryn Bennets, director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders after having been Forsythe’s ballet mistress for 15 years, reconstructed it to acclaimed success. Watching the piece now, it does not look that ‘old’. In a way it has become a classic in its own terms, thanks to its deconstruction and, at the same time, celebration of ballet.

The title immediately displaces the audience, what has a czar to do with ballet? It has not and it has. It has not because the choreography is not about czars, it has because it refers to the relationship between Imperial nineteenth century Russia and dance. At that time ballet was mainly created to celebrate and impress the czar. Politics and power have often influenced and sometimes manipulated the arts, Russia was no exception. The title and the piece are a parody of not just Russian ballet, but of Western culture at large.

Divided into five parts, “Impressing the Czar” is a tour de force through Renaissance art and the postmodernist culture of consumption with an exceptional break in part two dedicated to pure dance. The first part, ‘Potemkin’s Unterschrift” (Potemkin’s signature), is a mix and match of many things. There is so much going on onstage that you do not really know what to follow. There is a dancer with a bow recalling the Renaissance paintings of Saint Sebastian, a fair haired dancer dressed in a schoolgirl uniform talking on the phone about a mysterious Mr Pnut (whom we find out is the guy with the bow), a group of female dancers making the parody of mime in ballet and numerous other dancers in different costumes that range from long evening dresses to adherent leotards and overalls. There are many props, like a throne on the right and a panel in the shape of two black cherries on the left. And cherries are another enigmatic fil rouge in the piece.

They appear again in the second part, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”, in a different size and colour, small and golden. In this case they seem suspended centre-stage up. They are in a way connected to this part, which is a kind of break with respect to the previous part and to the other parts too. In this section, which Fosythe created as a separate entity in 1987 and which has become a kind of signature piece for his style, all the messiness the audience has seen before has disappeared. What is left is the embodied art of dance shaped by Forsythe’s radical approach to ballet. Along with the verticality of ballet, we see horizontal and diagonal lines, curves, rapid shifts of weight and of focus. The dancers wear black and green adherent costumes and perform duets as well as solo and group pieces.

After this rarefied atmosphere, the third part, ‘La Maison de Mezzo-Prezzo’, is a return to the initial absurd mood of the piece. There is an auction being conducted by Agnes, the blond dancer in the schoolgirl uniform we had seen before. Her tone is emphatic and her objects include dancers dressed in shiny golden costumes. Mr Pnut’s face emerges from a box placed on a table. If he is supposed to be the ‘hero’ of this pantomime, his journey has definitely taken a dead end turn. However, we are mistaken as he appears again in the fourth section, ‘Bongo Bongo Nageela’ in the middle of a big circle of dancers all dressed in schoolgirl uniforms, men and women alike. Their dance is percussive and frantic, an explosion of energy after the auction parody. In the last section, ‘Mr Pnut Goes to the Big Top’, as Stefano Tomassini notes in the programme, “the choreography recomposes into a more precise and recognisable” structure with, in the end, Mr Pnut repeatedly blowing into his paper trumpet “as to remind us that, maybe, it has all just been a joke”.

Forsythe’s use of parody recalls that of another great protagonist of late twentieth-century dance, Mats Ek. With regards to Ek, it is inherent in his style and in his transformation of ballet and ballet dance technique, while in Forsythe it is more in the type of work he is creating. The above mentioned section, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”, does not have the tones of parody. However, both their approach seems to be devised to question the authority of ballet throughout dance history, Forsythe, by breaking its verticality and cultural status, Ek, by incorporating everyday gestures and an almost Grahamian use of the back into his revision of famous ballets like “Giselle” or “Sleeping Beauty”.

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