Gala Galore

Mathias Deneux

Mathias Deneux in ‘Just Solo’

The Czech National Ballet’s Ballet Gala had disappeared due to financial limitations. But its special June 21st edition made up for past lost chances.

″It used to be a good custom for our company to present annually an evening titled Ballet Gala, or Rendezvous in Prague.″

So writes Czech National Ballet Artistic Director Petr Zuska in the evening’s program notes.

Unfortunately, the past few years have been exceptions, he continues, ″as our (low) budget simply does not allow for implementing such events.″

Revival

But the Ballet Gala was revived this June for the official, public introduction on stage of the 2017/18 season’s new artistic director, Filip Barankiewicz. The former principal dancer of The Stuttgart Ballet selected an incredible array of dance styles and guest dancers, along with the CNB’s own principals, for the revival and his introduction. It was an evening packed with dance, choreography, music, and emotion galore. Here’s a brief sample.

Just Solo, Firebreather

Czech National Ballet demi-soloist Mathias Deneux impressed the audience with his performance of Viktor Konvalinka’s gorgeous Just Solo, a short, strong, but unforgettable contemporary piece. Mr Deneux’s modest ″who, me?″ smile as he bowed to the audience’s cheers added to the performance.

Daniel Camargo, principal dancer of The Stuttgart Ballet, performed another solo, Firebreather, a world premiere by Polish choreographer Katarzyna Kozielska, herself a demi-soloist of The Stuttgart Ballet. In an earlier press conference, Mr Barankiewicz had said his ultimate goal is to present dance as a way of ″just interpreting the body, with beautiful music, into the soul.″

His decision to invite Ms Kozielska and Mr Camargo to premiere this breath-taking piece – for which no verbal description is adequate – proved to be the correct one.

'Firebreather'

Daniel Camargo in ‘Firebreather’

Jakoby, Mono Lisa

The Gala also gave space to CNB demi-soloist Ondřej Vinklát’s choreography, Jakoby, an intriguing dance-theatre piece with four Prague dancers in front of a gigantic mirror, escaping and then being pulled back to it by long streamers. At the end, the mirror tilted to reflect the entire audience, bringing it up onto the stage along with the dancers.

Jacoby

Kristýna Němečková, Viktor Konvalinka, in ‘Jakoby’

Itzik Galili’s contemporary classical Mono Lisa featured Stuttgart principal dancers Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly. Ms Amatriain exhibited incredible strength, flexibility, and talent with her long legs; she achieved a beautiful machine-like precision and expression without losing any of the human touch.

Le Grand Pas de Deux

Christian Spuck’s amusing classical ballet featured Anna Osadčenko, Stuttgart, accessorized with eyeglasses and a purse to go with her tutu. Mr Reilly played the romantic straight man. Both danced with elegance and just the right amount of humor to tickle the audience; the cow shown in advance publicity photos was an unneeded, unused ″extra.″

The dancers carried the show.

The Space to Create

In his on-stage introduction before the curtain parted, Mr Barankiewicz said he wished to give the audience ″space to create its own images and feelings,″ and for the dancers ″to communicate directly with the audience.″

The Czech National Ballet’s future artistic director’s choices for this Ballet Gala provided an enticing invitation for the audience to experience those possibilities in the seasons to come.

Barankiewicz

A peek backstage at the conclusion of the one-night-only ‘Gala’ introducing Filip Barankiewicz (center)

– Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor

Photo Credits: 'Just Solo,' 'Jakoby,' by Pavel Hejný; 'Firebreather' and backstage photo by Martin Divíšek

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