CLASSICAL AND COMTEMPORARY DANCE HAS MANY FACES
IMPRESSIONS OF DANCE DEVELOPMENTS IN EUROPE
by BENJAMIN FELIKSDAL
The Dutch Connection
Sonia Gaskell had come from Russia to Holland and gave classes in the Russian-French style. This was being taught, particularly in Paris, by dancers who had been ballerinas under the tsars. But fled of the Russian revolution to French (such as Lubov Egorova, Sonia Gaskell’s most important teacher). Gaskell devoted herself entirely to realizing her dream: The building of a ballet tradition founded on historical and contemporary milestones in the international ballet and contemporary world repertoire This vision was a remarkable one! The National Ballet had been set up in 1961; this was a merger of all other companies, with Sonia Gaskell and Marscha ter Weeme as co-directors. But shortly afterwards Marscha ter Weeme gave up her position, she had conflicting ideas about artistic points of interest with her counterpart Sonia Gaskell. Soon afterwards Sonia Gaskell started to guide the new company by herself. Apart from the classical repertoire and the ‘modern classics’ (where Balanchine occupied a special position), it was the work of van Dantzig which moulded the shape of the National Ballet. The mainspring of his expressionist style of choreography based on Graham was an urge to explore the psychological domain in a manner which led away from the well-trodden paths. In 1968 Van Dantzig and Robert Keasen both choreographers succeeded Sonia Gaskell as co-artistic directors. Unfortunately Keasen decided in 1970 to step down of his position as co-director. He was offered an position as Television choreographer for Show-Productions. The Dutch National ballet in Holland became the fore runner in Europe and abroad to show audiences all over the world that a classical based company could dance the modern & contemporary choreographies of their time. The Netherlands Dance Theater formed the counterpart to this, becoming an exponent of the cultural innovations in the Netherlands in the second half of the 1960’s. We speak here about 1961-1970.
Gaskell invited prominent choreographers and teachers to the company including; Harold Lander, David Lichine, Leonid Massine, George Skibine, Serge Lifar, Igor Belski, famous teachers from Moscow and Leningrad, Abderakhman Kumusnikov, Nathalia Orlovskaya Moscow, Pearl Lang from the “Martha Graham Company” they gave training in classical and modern techniques, John Taras an American ballet master from the New York City ballet, who laid the foundation for the Balanchine repertoire. Sonia Gaskell was not concerned with tradition alone: new developments were also exceptionally of importance. Besides Balanchine’s “pure” dance form, this was one of the new developments of the fifties & sixties. Few people are aware that one of the very first forms of post-modern dance was staged and choreographed by Paul Taylor for the Netherlands ballet and commissioned by Gaskell in 1959. Taylor, at the time an unknown American choreographer in Europe became world famous. Martha Graham and her first soloist Pearl Lang and her company made their first performance in the Netherlands in 1955, exploded like bombshell on the Dutch dance world. Inspired by Martha graham’s psycho dramatic dance pieces, many of too days contemporary choreographers uses movement elements and forms integrated and fusioned in too days choreographies. The Dutch National Ballet of Holland gradually acquired international recognition and played a prominent role in bringing about synthesis of both classical ballet and the Graham & Lémôn techniques. Therefore the Dutch company became an example in the sixties through the eighties for many more companies in Europe, America and elsewhere.
The dance vocabulary, “compelling and fluent” a synthesis of classical ballet and Graham & Lémon techniques were used by pioneers experimenting in this field in the fifties through the seventies were Glen Tetley and other choreographers influenced by Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, José Lemôn and the unknown Lester Horton with their polished body techniques. A practical way for the professional dancer to experience different contemporary styles of training and choreographies is to become a member of a company who is able to dance the diverse styles of dancing. In 1986 we saw in Vienna companies represented a wide spectrum of styles ,all the way from traditional classical ballet to the most developments in contemporary dance in the U S A and in Europe. The German connection with Pina Bausch and the companies from Susanne Linke and Reinhild Hoffman. The National Opera of Vienna, provided a direct link with the central European tradition of modern dance and dance theater. Traditional classical ballet was given by the Bolshoi from Moscow. Modern-classical ballet by Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century. The Paul Taylor Dance Company of New York may be seen as a communicating link with the contemporary scene. As I mentioned before, since the fifties Taylor has variously borrowed from the modern and classical tradition. In 1990 contemporary French choreographers where also given a chance to present their works, together with the American avant- garde Bill.T.Jones and Arnie Zane.
The present climate may be such that we have a new chance to reassess the various influences in contemporary dance and fusions with the classical dance in Europe. We must discover what massage is being communicated by the living medium of dance. William Forsythe, former soloist with the John Cranko Company, now an eminent important choreographer making his debut in the eighties. His contemporary developments where shown in his piece “ARTIFACT I ” and “ARTIFACT II” Forsythe’s quotation from neo-classicism.
Contemporary Choreographers like Jiri Kylian, Hans van Manen, Nils Christe, Rudi van Dantzig, Toer van Schayk, were the backbone and front runners from the sixties through eighties in the Netherlands and Europe.
Nowadays; Forsythe, Mats Ek, Wayne Mc-Gregor, Angelin Preljocaj, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Christopher Wheeldon, Benjamin Millpied, Xavier Le Roy, Marco Goecke, Alexei Ratmansky and Krzysztof Pastor are the leading contemporary choreographers in Europe.
The latest Development in Russia and Germany
The acclaimed Nacho Duato former principal dancer of “The Netherland Dance Theater” an contemporary choreographer from Spain, who earlier headed The National Spanish Dance Company from 1990 through 2010. Will become the new director of the Mikhailovsky Theater Ballet Company in St. Petersburg Russia in January 2011. His contemporary choreographies have been included in most prestigious International European Dance Companies. The shift to Russia is from great importance for the developments of Russian contemporary dance for the next 5 years. The Newspaper Kommersant reports; that such a massive cultural switch would take more than 5 years to breed success either in establishing new training methods or in generating high-quality modern choreography.
The famous Vaganova Academy, the source of Russian classical excellence, is now to put contemporary dance studies on its curriculum.
But recently “The Calvert Journal” said; The Berlin State Ballet has approached Nacho Duato from ST Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre, one of Russia’s oldest ballet and opera houses. The Spaniard who was described at the announcement by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit as “One of the most respected directors in the world of ballet”, will take up his new post as artistic director in Berlin for the season 2014&2015. Duato has been the artistic director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre since 2011 and will continue to contribute as a regular guest- choreographer.
Dance training Contemporary: Now a days in Europe in professional dance training, little attention is played for the pioneers of the early modern dance in Europe like Rudolf Laban, Mary Wigman and Gret Palucca. They laid the basis of the German modern dance. They said: Dance is borne out of movement and is unalterable tied to it. Therefore it should not even in it utmost abstraction lose the stronghold of its origin. If it sense and meaning is kept alive and pure, the Language of the dance can be understood by everybody. The dancer of today take all this for granted. Not having been a witness of the dance evolution of the past fifty years. He should be reminded from time to time. To be able to get any idea from where it all came from and to connect all these developments and organize new complete visions for expressions of their own time.
The contemporary dance training consist of the concept of “opposition” extends throughout all the training themes, not matter what “movement state” is being absorbed through dance practice. The training areas can be outlined as follows:
- The first considers the body structural potential for movement; training to achieve muscular strength and suppleness, placement and stability.
- The second considers rhythm and dynamics, the use of breath, momentum, impulse, impact and swing.
- And the third considers the evolution of movement in space, its focus, pathway, extension and direction.
Now a days in Europe and America there is no need for modern dance to compete with ballet there are increasing signs of tendency towards integration. There is a desire to find common ground in European dance. The European “classical” dancer will seek to acquire at least one modern or contemporary technique and the European “Modern” dancer is prepared to discover the advantages of classical training.
The structure of European dance companies, municipal theaters and opera houses allowed the professional European dancers and choreographers to experiment with all kinds of forms of movement techniques, while at the same time requiring them to maintain the elements of the classical style.
New Trends in Dance exploited by TV programs in Europe and abroad next to the art of dancing there is dancing skill. A lot that is called dancing is inartistic gymnastics, acrobatics (used in hip hop, street dance and other trendy dancing), posturing, pretentions and eroticism. We are on the verge of understanding the meaning of this art and may not judge or decide against it too soon. Dance forms can fulfill specific functions, by linking sources of energy, it can become an integrating force as an expression of an ethnic identity. Break Dance might be seen as an example of this. Born in the sixties in the Bronx NYC and marketed to an acceptable level in the year 2015.