Sunday, 1 November 2020

"Live" - Van Manen's Narrative Ballet?

© 2020 Dutch National Ballet Licence Standard YouTube

inplayer Dutch National Ballet Live  10 Oct to 7 Nov 2020

Hans van Manen made it very clear that he does not do story ballets in a discussion that followed the first screening of the latest filming of Live.   To emphasize the point he added that that was why he had never created a full-length ballet.  It is true that there is no synopsis or libretto but you don't need a plot for a narrative ballet.  That was about the only point upon which a panel of experts on narrative dance was agreed when I asked that question at the "State of the Art Panel Discussion: Narrative Dance in Ballet" in Leeds some years ago.   For me, Live tells the story of a relationship at least as eloquently as any ballet.

It is also much more real and immediate.  Unlike the storybook ballets, Live is not confined to the stage.  It starts there bit spills into the audience's world.   It proceeds into the lobby of the Music Theatre and finally the streets.  The last scene shows the woman in red walking slowly along the banks of the Amstel towards the Waterlooplein underground station.  

Van Manen's Live is therefore just as much a work of cinema as it is of ballet.  On his foundation's website, van Manen lists Live as a "video ballet" rather than simply as a ballet.  He gives the cameraman equal billing with the dancers. That is likely to be because the cameraman is very much part of the action.  The interplay between dancer and cameraman is best appreciated in Altin Kaftira's film Diana Vishneva in 'LIVE' of Hans van Manen.  The cameraman is in the dancers' faces, particularly the woman's. At one point, she repels him by pressing her palm against the camera lens.  The other important element of the film is the music. Van Manen chose the following pieces by Liszt:  Sospiri, Bagatelle sans tonalité, Wiegenlied,  Vier kleine Klavierstücke and Abschied.

Live was filmed for the first time in 1979  Colleen Davis and Henny Jurriëns were the original dancers and Henk van was the cameraman.  It was filmed in the Carré because the Music Theatre had not been constructed at that time. The video has been remade several times with different dancers including, of course, Vishneva.  The film that has been released between the 10 Oct and 7 Nov 2020 casts  Maia Makhateli as the woman in red and Artur Shesterikov as her partner. 

I have long admired Shesterikov and Makhateli for their virtuosity but in the film I also saw superb acting.  There were moments when sparks seemed to fly.  The drama was heightened by the accompaniment of Olga Khoziainova.  After the screening, there was a short conversation about the film between van Manen, Rachel Beaujean and Davis.  Clips from the 1979 film were shown.  I was amazed to learn that Davis was only 19 when she danced the lady in red. Particularly as her successors in the role have included Vishneva and Makhateli.

Though he was much younger than the other choreographers and his work was very different, van Manen was one of the recurring names in the 1960s when I first started to follow ballet.  His works were reviewed in almost every issue of Dance and Dancers and The Dancing Times which I devoured when I was at university. His name was mentioned as frequently as those of Ashton, Balanchine, Cranko, Darrell, MacMillan and van Dantzig.  All those great choreographers have gone.  Only van Manen is left.  He must be well into his 80s but he still knows how to excite, surprise and delight.

The film may be viewed on the Dutch National Ballet's website until 7 Nov 2020.  The access charge is €2.95. 

No comments:

Post a Comment