Wednesday, February 15, 2012: Ballet Mania

Ballet Mania

Like the most beautiful and striking butterflies, dancers show their color in Ballet Mania

The Beauty of Ballet Mania

“The Ballet Mania performance will guide you through the history of ballet,” the program promises. That may sound rather daunting. It’s not.

The annual Ballet Mania (Baletomanie) was presented in late January, but fortunately will be repeated Feb 22. Incredibly, its prologue depicts every era, every style, every type of costume, and glimpses of ballet’s “top hits,” all in literally one moment. It is glorious, richly visual, and alone worth the price of admission.

It’s followed by glimpses, glances, and short excerpts from the major periods of dance, starting with King Louis XIV in the 17th century, right through to Giselle, Swan Lake, and the moderns.

But it’s not a mere textbook chronology. Directors Petr Zuska and Václav Janeček have constructed a story line – it’s two days before a ballet premiere and there’s no finished script yet – as a framing device for the various styles which the seasoned dancers present in corresponding costumes. Actor/musician Martin Zbrožek (Big Boss), former dancer and teacher Marcela Černačová (his assistant Marcela), and National Theatre Ballet artistic director/choreographer/dancer Petr Zuska (the “assistant assistant”) cuss and discuss the varieties of modes and movements in between the actual dancing.

The script includes a lot of comedy acting and pantomime, and surtitles high above the stage do the rest of the translating. A detailed paper program in Czech and English can be purchased for 40 kc.

Aside from the historic themes, you have the rare opportunity to see how choreographies by three different Czech creatives “look” when performed to the same music. Legendary Jiří Kylián’s Return to an Unknown Land (1973) is a duet for a man and woman; Petr Zuska’s In the Mists (1996) is a female duet; and the Theatre’s choreographer/dancer Jan Kodet’s Duel is the premiere of a male duet. Each piece is performed to Leoš Janáček’s In the Mists piano cycle composed in 1912.

So if you’re wondering how this annual presentation called Ballet Mania can manage to present the entire history of dance every year, think of it as a metaphor: instead of spending time and money to go on a long African safari, you can enjoy a pleasurable stroll through the zoo. You get to see the best of all the animals in their natural setting; compare their feathers, fins, and furs; marvel at the infinite, beautiful variety of the way they move; and come away with a deeper appreciation for the infinite ways that beauty expresses itself – through dance. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Bigfoto

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