Fifteen years ago, the world-famous former prima ballerina of the Stuttgart Ballet, Birgit Keil, and Professor Vladimir Klos, its former principal dancer, joined forces to create the State Ballet Karlsruhe.
Within a decade and a half, they’d established it among the leading classical ensembles not just in Germany but across Europe.
Karlsruhe went on to produce classics like Peter Wright’s “Giselle and Copellia”, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Christopher Wheeldon’s “Swan Lake” and John Cranko’s “The Taming of the Shrew”.
The ensemble’s repertoire includes many new full-length narrative ballets as well.
And now they’re coming to Bangkok’s 20th International Festival of Dance Music, with two shows – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Sunday and a Gala Performance on Monday – at the Thailand Cultural Centre.
Keil, the artistic director who was once dubbed “the Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”, was a soloist at the Paris Opera, La Scala in Milan, the American Ballet Theatre in New York and the Royal Ballet in London.
She went on to establish the Dance Foundation and is also director of the Academy of Dance Mannheim. Her career is marked by numerous honours, including an Emmy Award, John Cranko Medaille |and Germany’s Order of Merit.
Youri Vamos is choreographer for the company’s rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. He is credited with securing the survival of full-length ballet classics in revised forms that remain faithful to the originals while bubbling with inventiveness and wit, as well as drama and musicality. His “Midsummer Night” is a magnificent work with stunning sets and decorations. Shakespeare’s best-known comedy gets a Vamos makeover in a ballet that is as magical as it is hilarious.
Set to Felix Mendelssohn’s music, the narrative takes the viewer deep into a quixotic mess of multiple love triangles, bands of fairies at war and craftsmen caught in the middle of the chaos.
The Gala Performance will feature the best soloists of State Ballet Karlsruhe dancing extracts from “Swan Lake”, “Le Corsaire” and “Romeo and Juliet” to the choreography of Cranko, Sir Frederick Ashton, Thiago Bordin, Marius Petipa, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Christopher Wheeldon.
The evening opens with Cranko’s “Holberg Suite” pas de deux, created in 1967 for Birgit Keil and Heinz Clauss. It blends virtuoso technique, spiritual expressiveness and sublime musicality.
Ashton was the founding choreographer of the Royal Ballet and is here represented by the “Voices of Spring” pas de deux from 1977, set to Johann Strauss’ “Fruhlingsstimmen”.
Bordin contributes “Desiderium Pas de deux”, “Episodes” and “Sibelius for B”. The first is an emotional dance for two that’s set to Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto and explores the different phases of a relationship between a woman and a man.
“Episodes”, which recently premiered in Karlsruhe, is dedicated to the beauty of Robert Schumann’s brilliant Second Symphony. “Sibelius for B” is a danced dedication by Bordin to his mentor, Birgit Keil. It celebrates the kinship among artists and the ability of dance to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together.
A must for any dance gala is Petipa’s “Grand Pas Classique Pas de deux”, the most famous passage from the ballet “Paquita”. Also from Petipa comes “Le Corsaire Grand Pas de deux”, one of the most famous duets in the history of classical ballet.
MacMillan’s “Concerto second and third movements” is set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concert No 2 and was inspired by Lynn Seymour, MacMillan’s friend and muse, warming up at the barre.
And his “Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de deux” is one of the most beautiful of the 20th century, transforming Shakespeare’s tragedy and Prokofiev’s expressive music into a passionate yet innocent declaration of love.
A Pas de deux from “Swan Lake” Act 2 completes the evening. Choreographed by Wheeldon after Petipa and Lev Ivanov, it captures the moment Prince Siegfried and Odette see each other and fall in love. It is a mesmerising portrait of the impossibility of love and eternal happiness.
Supporting the Festival are the Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, BMW Thailand, B Grimm Group, Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, Ministry of Culture, Nation Group, Major Cineplex, PTT, Singha Corp, Thai Union Group, Thai Airways International, Tourism Authority of Thailand and True Corp.
Both shows start at 7.30pm at the Thailand Cultural Centre of Bangkok.
Seats are on sale at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com and (02) 262 3191.
Learn more at www.BangkokFestivals.com.