“Please sir, I want some more.”
Technique Vs. Emotion: The current battle for the Bayerische Staatsballett
The new turnover for the Bavarian State Ballet seems to still be in adjustments with its new director, and unfortunately, the affects are prevalent for this established ballet company and its München patrons. Their recent production of La Bayadère on January 25th, 2018 was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Patrice Bart, and set to the music of Ludwig Minkus. This exotic ballet is set in royal India and tells the story of a love triangle between Nikija; the beautiful temple maiden, Solor; the beloved war hero, and Gamazatti; the envious royalty.
It seems that the Bavarian State Ballet’s new director, Igor Zelensky, emphasizes a great deal on the technical advancement and precision of this company. From former performances, the acting and believing of the characters has lowered. As an audience member, we could not relate to these characters that merely were emotions on the surface. Being a patron of the Bayerische Staatsballett, one can see how the level of skill amongst this company ,as an entirety, has risen to a higher standard, but ventured away from these emotions.
In doing so, the corps de ballet in this production of La Bayadère has grown immensely. Several female dancers, fighting for attention from the audience, enticed my gaze during these group sections. They performed exactly as my eyes wanted, full of life and skill. The men regrettably did not hold up to these standards. There were several timing mistakes, lack of emotion, and movement variances when compared as a group. The poor struggles of the corps de ballet may sometimes not even be faults of their own. During the first act, there were five falls amongst the dancers in a particular area on the stage. Hopefully, this was due to neglectful care of the floor, and not the exhaustion or mistakes made by the dancers. Whether which reason it was derived from, it is unacceptable for a company of this caliber.
The diamond in the rough that shined through was the principal soloist, Lauretta Summerscales. Her depiction and artistry of Nikija, was the only character I could connect with. She carried with her delicate attention to the emotional rollercoaster of this temple maiden doomed from the opening scene. An impressive virtuosic performance blended with this artistry, created a dynamic character that transcended from the realm of technique. Summerscales’ counterparts, principal Osiel Gouneo and first soloist Prisca Zeisel, did not meet these statures in comparison. Although they lack in emotional depth, both have a great deal of impeccable virtuosic abilities. Zeisel’s technique is clearly well developed, but playing such a role as Gamazatti, a jealous and vengeful royal princess, so much more could have been emoted and said this evening. Her over enunciated smile never breaking was not how Gamazatti should be played. Gouneo as Solor followed suit like in a game of euchre. He too shared these accomplished feats of technical skill, but his sadness, rapture, and confusion were not believable or heartfelt, and nor were his partnering capabilities with both ladies.
When the curtain closed, a majority of the audience was ready to leave after the the first set of bows ,and myself was included. This specific evening of La Bayadère was clearly below average. One was taken out of the experience by all the faults and was never given the emotional connection, which is why one should worry about the future for the Bayerische Staatsballett. We wonder if this is a still a transitional period as the company finds its footing or if this is going to be the new style for this Bavarian troupe.
Translated by: Jacob Henss