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The Hungarian National Ballet Presents "LOL" (Three Pieces by Hans van Manen) at the Koch Theater
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The Hungarian National Ballet Presents "LOL" (Three Pieces by Hans van Manen) at the Koch Theater

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Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian National Ballet

(Three Pieces by Hans van Manen)
(Production Web Page)

At the David H. Koch Theater
At Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 11, 2018 Matinee

Trois Gnossiennes (1982): Ballet in one act. With Solo female Tatiana Melnik, Solo male Igor Tsvirko, Featuring on piano Başak Dilara - Özdemir Lakatos, Choreographer: Hans van Manen, Composer: Erik Satie, Set designer: Hans van Manen, Costume designer: Hans van Manen / Joop Stokvis, Lighting designer: Jan Hofstra, Répétiteurs: Tamás Solymosi / Mária Aradi.

5 Tangos (1977): Ballet in one act. General cast, Solo female: Minjung Kim, Solo male: Gergő Ármin Balázsi, Female couple: Kristina Starostina / Ellina Pokhodnykh, Male couple: Kristóf Morvai / Dmitry Diachkov, Featuring an ensemble of four women and four men, Choreographer: Hans van Manen, Composer: Astor Piazzolla, Lighting designer: Jan Hofstra, Set and costume designer: Jean-Paul Vroom, Répétiteur: Rachel Beaujean.

Black Cake (1989): Ballet in one act. General cast, 1st pas de deux solo female: Lili Felméry, 1st pas de deux solo male: Gergő Ármin Balázsi, 2nd pas de deux solo female: Karina Sarkissova, 2nd pas de deux solo male: Ievgen Lagunov, 3rd pas de deux solo female: Lea Földi, 3rd pas de deux solo male: Iurii Kekalo, Featuring an ensemble of three men and three women, Choreographer: Hans van Manen, Composers: Jules Massenet / Pietro Mascagni / Igor Stravinsky / Leoš Janáček / Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Set and costume designer: Keso Dekker, Lighting designer: Joop Caboort, Répétiteur: Mea Venema.

Today’s Sunday matinee performance of the Hungarian National Ballet at Koch Theater was quite surprisingly magnificent. The program was titled LOL (Three Pieces by Hans van Manen), and you can watch excerpts in this video, set to a fragment of the third work’s score. I had chosen this program specifically for the selection of music by several of my favorite composers. Noting that five tango choreographies, set to five tangos composed by Astor Piazzolla, was on the program was enough to bring me to the Koch. Also beckoning was a work scored to Erik Satie’s Trois Gnossiennes, and another set to music by Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. The Hungarian guest company did not disappoint. In fact, Hans van Manen’s ballets were intriguing, inviting, and illustrious.

Trois Gnossiennes, for one couple, Tatiana Melnick and Igor Tsvirko, with live piano accompaniment (see listings above for casting and details), was uncluttered and seamlessly simple in design, perfectly suited to the spiritually ethereal trio-piece by Satie. Although the Gnossiennes have exotic and searing tonalities, the dancers moved with more classicism than sensuality, subduing the emotionality inherent in the theatrics of so many duo ballets. There is virtuosic dance here, with stretched arms, split legs against the stage, the man spinning the woman in place, and parallel togetherness, one moving behind the other simultaneously, in shades of blue, and the lighting is eloquent.

5 Tangos, with women in black and red, men in black, with Argentinean attitude and poise, as well as quasi tango motifs in momentary close embrace, was evocative of the tango milongas I have known well. Nobody composes tangos, and few compose anything, that compare to Piazzolla’s tango and orchestral repertory. This music always brings down the house with vivacious accolades. I could have watched van Manen’s 5 Tangos ballet all night. Ordinarily, ballets and modern dance (there are several) that borrow the tango music and genre to enhance new choreography, are appalling to a tango aficionado, but van Manen brilliantly meshed the genres to enhance the experience. Women dance in parallel imagery, then join men in partnering, ballroom style, but not pretending to be tangueros. Women move en pointe, men with macho pulse. Nothing is delicate, but, rather, deliberate. What makes this ballet work is the synchronized angularity of position and motion, with steely demeanor. The ensemble performed with sophisticated panache.

Black Cake, set to music by five composers, with the dancers in white, silver, black, and sequins, was, like the previous work, stark, refined, mature, very European. The affect, throughout, evoked seething passion and repressed laughter, both adding to the dramatic conflicts that entertained the audience immensely. Ballroom motifs, bordering again on tango, maybe waltz, abounded. Fragmented dramas, vignettes, took second place to the stunning choreography that hinted at an homage to Robbins. The swirling dances, with lush Massenet and Tchaikovsky, were an elegant finale to this serendipitous ballet matinee. Kudos to the Hungarian National Ballet.

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower