HAMBURG BALLET: OLD FRIENDS
March 27, 2017
Old Friends was a soothing evening of ballets presented by the Hamburg Ballet at The Joyce
Theater during the spring season. In a unique all-enclosed vision, the
choreography, costumes, and lighting were created by the company’s Artistic Director, and
Chief Choreographer, John Neumeier.
Old Friends consists of several short choreographic scenes embroidered together with
a nostalgic thread. Drifting in a daydream sense of time, Chopin’s Nocturnes prevailed over
the two-hour program. Ever so beautifully played by Ondrej Rudcenko at a grand piano
accommodated in the orchestra seating area, the variations he interpreted included eight of
Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes as well as excerpts from "Variations on a Theme" of Chopin by Spanish
composer Federico Mompu.
Framed in a contemporary aesthetic, the set included a
modern wooden bench, a couple of transparent plastic chairs, and a circular white flat
surface lit from behind in the background and a section of a light blue cyclorama delimited
by the black backdrop.
The lengthy series under the title “Dangling Conversations,
Nocturnes” represented glimpses of memoirs of several relationships. Accordingly, ten
dancers dressed in loose light pastel attire drifted through the stage, each holding a teacup
and a saucer, while a series of pas de deux fluctuated in contemporary and classical adagios
These “conversations” were delimited by two sections of a dance-theatre interplay of
contemporary duets titled “Old Friends I, Chopin Dialogues” and “Old Friends II, Opus 100 -
for Maurice”, respectively, accompanied by a recording of Simon & Garfunkel’s music.
first section was introduced by a solo male dancer dressed in black pants, black jazz shoes,
and bare chest, sitting center stage in one of the two transparent plastic chairs placed
together. Longingly, he reaches to a light brown sweater resting over the backrest of the
adjacent chair. A ballerina enters the scene, wearing black tights and a burgundy long-
sleeved red casual blouse, with her hair loosely gathered up away from her face. Her
nonchalant demeanor is also expressed in her gestures, as she and her partner hesitantly
approach and divert from each other, intertwining contemporary partnering and fluid
The scene comes to a conclusion as the ballerina sits on a
chair, and her partner sits by her side on the floor reaching out to her, while she responds--
approaching to kiss his hand as the curtain is lowered for intermission.
After the work is
resumed with “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes,” the previous scene presented before the
intermission returns with a different setting where two male dancers dressed alike in black
pants, jazz shoes, bare chest, and black trench coats, engage in an 80s jazzy duet.
Vigorous movement contrasted by gestures clusters is interrupted as the female dancer from
“Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes” reenters the scene, leading to a final blackout.
In consonance with Neumeier’s program notes, Old Friends goes through strange and
indefinable relationships with profound emotion.
Nevertheless, the opening “Overture, Bach
Suite 3”, where dancers in coral pink and orange costumes engage in festive neoclassical play
of compositions to the orchestral suite by J. S. Bach, and the many enthusiastic curtain calls
led by Neumeier, infused a sense gaiety to the melancholic night.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada
EYE ON THE ARTS