If you are in search of beauty, the kind of beauty that is achieved through dedication, hard work, and inspiration – it’s all right here, at the Israel Ballet. In a dance scene dominated by the alternative and experimental, it is worth taking notice of the exception. The Israel Ballet is a dance company devoted to classical ballet, yet it is not resting complacently on the laurels of the past. Now entering its 49th season, the program reflects their aim to present the best of the international classical repertoire to Israeli audiences, with a contemporary consciousness.
Opening the season, will be the Israeli premiere of Raymonda, a ballet from the oeuvre of legendary choreographer Marius Petipas, with music by Alexander Glazunov.
“Why Raymonda?” said Moray in discussing this choice, “It is one of the most beautiful classical ballets, and has never before been performed in Israel. We have the power to be the other, to be different, to present those works that you cannot see anywhere else in Israel.”
“The music is wonderful,” he added, noting that here too, it’s not the same ballet music that is performed year in, year out by many dance companies, “it’s a pleasure to spend nights, to be in this dialogue with the music.” Raymonda was first performed in St. Petersberg in 1898, and the original ballet of three acts is two and a half hours long. The Israel Ballet will be performing a new adaptation by Maté Moray that is about 90 minutes long. Moray explained that most of the cuts are places in the work that are more background and conversation, while the essence of the ballet is retained. In other words, as the King said: a little less conversation, a little more action.
Nina Gershman, a former principal with the Israel Ballet and much lauded dancer, now Co-Artistic Director of the Israel Ballet, said, “Raymonda is part of the tradition of classical ballet and as such, presents a challenge to the dancers.”
Lea Lavie, General Manager of the Israel Ballet, noted that of the 40 dancers who will be performing in Raymonda, 8 are students in the professional track of the company’s ballet school, giving the students the opportunity to experience performing onstage, with the company dancers.
The Hannukah holiday will usher in a new, original production of Cinderella, with new choreography by Ronald Savkovich, who has created works for Staatsballet Berlin, Croatian National Theater Rijeka and other companies, and until recently was the artistic director of the national theater of Rijeka, Croatia.
“I’d like to make it like a movie,” said Savkovich, sharing his thoughts on Cinderella, “audiences today not ready to watch 6 acts in 3 hours, but they are willing to see something much faster, more direct.” The choreographer has just arrived in Tel Aviv to work with the dancers of the Israel Ballet, sharing with them, as he said, “My version of Prokofiev, to be inspired, and with them, create. We’re going to respect the classical tradition. We’re not going to do anything contemporary and twisted. We’re going to have all glamour, all the fun and comedy with the characters. I’m about to start so it’s hard to say what it will be… but I’m very full energy and inspiration.”
Another offering for young audiences is Bilbi, created by Lena Rosenberg, a dancer in the Israel Ballet. Bilbi is the Israeli name for Pippi Long-Stockings, the audacious red-headed character created by Astrid Lindgren, a favorite of children and adults worldwide. The dancers performed a brief scene from the ballet, and it looks like a lot of fun, full of the mischief and energy of everyday life.
“At long last,” said Lena Rosenberg of the ballet she created, “the principal dancer is not a princess! She is strong and independent, as we’d all like to be…I wanted to create something for children that reflects the kind of thing that I would like to see…something authentic. Children are just as intelligent as we are, perhaps sometimes they are more sensitive, and they can understand and experience much more than we think.”
An intriguing project that is still in the works is a new production inspired by Swan Lake, as yet untitled. The work will be in two parts, with the first consisting of the well known second act of Swan Lake with the original choreography by Lev Ivanov, and the original score of P.I Tchaikovsky. The second part will be an original choreography for the Israel Ballet, in a contemporary adaptation of the work, choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis, a former dancer in Maurice Bejart’s Dance Company and the Lyon Opera Ballet, who has created works for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Lyon Opera Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company and many others. I’ve seen one work by Foniadakis, Glory, which was performed by the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in at the Israel Festival 2013, an unforgettable performance, entrancing spectacle.
Towards the end of the season, the Israel Ballet will express their reverence for the tradition of classical ballet in the most appropriate manner, with the original production Balletology, a history of the ballet conveyed through dance. Balletology will take the audience from the Italian Renaissance, through the court of Louis XIV, to imperialist Russia, American neo-classical ballet and the contemporary ballet scene in Europe. The dancers will perform excerpts from significant works, accompanied by an actor who will portray leading figures in the history of ballet such as Diaghlev and Balanchine. In a cultural scene that is often preoccupied with the future of dance, it is a worthwhile endeavor to become acquainted with the richness, diversity and creativity of the past, and acquire a meaningful understanding of the classical dance tradition.