In Balance – Malandain, Venekei and Kylián pieces in the new Hungarian National Ballet mixed bill

In Balance – Malandain, Venekei and Kylián pieces in the new Hungarian National Ballet mixed bill

For the first time in front of a live Budapest audience, the Hungarian National Ballet presents Don Juan by renowned French choreographer Thierry Malandain, and Firebirds by Seregi Award winner Marianna Venekei in their new mixed bill. In Balance also features popular repertoire pieces, Petite Mort and Six Dances by Ji?í Kylián at the OPERA’s Eiffel Art Studios from 3 June 2022.

Don Juan. Photo: Valter Berecz
Don Juan. Photo: Valter Berecz

“Women innately find their own amorous nourishment like birds find seeds or fish.” The quote taken from Salve by Sándor Márai served as an inspiration for Marianna Venekei to create her own choreography set to Firebird, the renowned ballet music by Igor Stravinsky. The show without a plot transfers the witty, ironic mood from Márai’s words in depicting the relationships between men and women by introducing seven types of females: the dynamic amazon, the elegant diva, the passionate lover, the shy damsel, the know-it-all dame, the woman living in the world of opposites, and the ever-tortured lover.

Don Juan.  Photo: Valter Berecz
Don Juan. Photo: Valter Berecz

The visual design and the movements of the thirty-minute show are determined by an abstract set dominating the stage. Set designers Éva Szendrényi and Fruzsina Augusztinyi were inspired by a relic found on display at the Aquincum Museum. The stylized bird-shaped Celtic clasp (fibula) also becomes a character in the choreography as the dancers occupy it on the revolving stage. The spectacle also features costumes by Krisztina Berzsenyi and lighting designed by Balázs Csontos, the choreographer was assisted by Ágnes Sárközi-Holler. The cast includes members of the Hungarian National Ballet: Lea Földi, Cristina Balaban, Inés Furuhashi-Huber, Miyu Takamory, Ágnes Kelemen, Artemisz Pisla, Yuka Asai, Gaetano Cottonaro, Balázs Majoros, Carlos Taravillo Mahillo, Noel Ágoston Kovács, Dénes Darab, András Rónai and Francesco Sardella.

Firebirds. Photo: Péter Rákossy
Firebirds. Photo: Péter Rákossy

The second part of the bill is the premiere of Don Juan by Thierry Malandain, an extraordinary artist of the French dance scene. The legend of Don Juan, a dangerous and daring philanderer whose joyride was cut short by a statue that grabs him and descends to Hell with his prisoner, has been a beloved topic by artists of different genres for five decades. An unconventional choreography by Gasparo Angiolini, premiered in 1761 in Vienna to music by Christoph Willibald Gluck, with the libretto based on Molière’s 1665 piece. Thierry Malandain was driven by a similar inspiration: to show new aspects of the well-known subject-matter in his unique style, pushing boundaries but remaining in the realm of aesthetics.

Born in 1959, the renowned French choreographer started his career as a ballet dancer. His time spent at the Opera Paris, Mulhouse and Nancy in the 70s and 80s also saw his first attempts to create choreographies. A restless artist who was not in the least interested in conventions established a new company called Compagnie Temps Présent in Paris, which later went from a company to an operatic corps de ballet. In 1997, the city of Biarritz offered to establish a national centre for dance art under his leadership, called the Center Chorégraphique National – Biarritz Ballet. It became Malandain’s most important workshop, and it was here that Don Juan was created in 2006. His achievements of three and a half decades have been recognized with a number of international awards, his dance pieces are performed by the greatest ballet ensembles all over Europe, Asia and America.

Firebirds. Photo: János Kummer
Firebirds. Photo: János Kummer

The Hungarian National Ballet production of Don Juan, whose 2021 rehearsal process is overseen by Malandain himself, features a triple cast of Gerg? Ármin Balázsi, Takaaki Okajima, Ryosuke Morimoto, Dumitru Taran, Théo Burg, Mikalai Radziush, Riku Yamamoto and Dmitry Zhukov in the title role, Maksym Kovtun, Ievgen Lagunov and Kristóf Morvai as Commander, and Théo Bourg, Valerio Palumbo and Dávid Kerényi Miklós as Death, as well as dancers of the Hungarian National Ballet (company répétiteurs: Edit Rujsz and György Szirb).

The final part of the evening consists of two pieces set to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ji?í Kylián created the ballet Petite Mort for NDT I specifically for the 1991 Salzburg Music Festival, to mark the second centenary of Mozart’s death; it is paired with Six Dances, created in 1986. The rehearsals were overseen by company répétiteurs Irina Prokofieva, Aliya Tanykpayeva and Marianna Venekei.

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