14 February 2000 - Prologue: The Legacy of The Stuttgart Ballet
1960, John Cranko, the far-sighted South African born choreographer,
went to stage his Prince of the Pagodas in Stuttgart and
remained there as ballet director . His repertoire made it one of the
most important companies in Europe, his school ensured its future, and
his guidance and encouragement to the dancers to choreograph produced a
wealth of talent* which included John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Jiri
Kylian, (who in turn inspired Nacho Duato), and Uwe Scholz, winner of
the Prix Allemand de la Danse last spring.
audiences were privileged to see a programme of Scholz' work at the Théâtre
de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines recently which demonstrated his exceptional
musicality, his choreographic inventiveness, his respect of beauty and
harmony, and above all, his ability to translate great music into
another art form.
A Conversation With Uwe Scholz, Director
of the Leipzig Ballet
When I met Scholz, now forty, but who
seems barely older than dancers half his age, at the Théâtre
de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines where his company was appearing on their
first visit to France, he spoke of the three people who had most
influenced his life. Recalling the meeting with Cranko, the man who
choreographed such great classics as The Taming of the Shrew,
Romeo and Juliet, and Onegin, Scholz told me, "I
was only thirteen when I met him in May 1973, the month before he died.
I had gone to audition for his school in Stuttgart and knew
instinctively that he liked me........the ballet masters were not so
sure! There was an immediate complicity between us, although I hadn't
seen any of his choreography."
"Cranko's ballets are
full of generosity and human warmth. He doesn't just make use of a
score, but makes his ballets come alive through it, whether in long
narrative works or in the shorter choreographic jewels like Jeu de
A five-month stay in New York introduced the
eighteen-year-old student to George Balanchine whose ballets he found
more detached, but superbly conceived. He was fascinated by their
luminosity and extraordinarily clear structure.
seemed as if he was working with a very sharp knife ," Scholz said.
"He knew exactly when and where to cut, and everything he created
is marked by an incredible musicality. The greatest compliment anyone
can pay me is to compare my work to his and Cranko's, for they are the
undisputed masters of the twentieth century. I would happily like to be
considered as something of Cranko, plus a little of Balanchine, shaken
up well and spat out a quarter of a century later!"
Uwe Scholz' early musical education at the Darmstadt Conservatory, where
he studied the piano, the violin, the guitare and singing, as well as
dance, should have led him to fulfil a childhood ambition to be a
conductor, but at seventeen he realised with surprise that he had become
It was John Cranko's muse, the Brazilian
ballerina Marcia Haydée, who, inviting the shy adolescent to
choreograph works for the company shortly after she became the artistic
director of Stuttgart, determined the course of his life. In 1980, two
years after writing his first work, Serenade pour 5 + 1, music
Mozart, he abandoned dance, to become the troupe's first resident
choreographer since Cranko's death.
then , Scholz has created over a hundred ballets not only for his own
company and Stuttgart, but for other troupes including the Ballet of
Zurich, which he directed for six years, the Nederlands Dans Theater, La
Scala-Milan, Vienna State Opera Ballet and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
was in 1991 that he was invited to take over the Leipzig Ballet, the
largest city in East Germany after Berlin. The troupe had known a
glorious past in the aftermath of the romantic era, but had been reduced
to a motley collection of tired , disheartened dancers after the
collapse of the Berlin Wall and withdrawal of state funding. It is no
secret to anyone that despite possessing possibly the greatest classical
choreographers working in the world today, Germany still gives priority
to the orchestras.
"The history of Leipzig , Wagner's
birthplace, is magical", Scholz told me. "Many parts of the
old city, including the Jewish quarter, have been restored, and you are
surrounded by the atmosphere of the past, by the ghosts of Schumann and
Mendelssohn. I'm old-fashioned and love to choose romantic classical
music, and although I suspect there are those who regard me as the last
of the dinosaurs, I never mix styles, preferring to use whole scores. In
Classique. Symphonique (music Prokofiev, Rachmaninov; decor
Scholz after Kandinsky), the basic ideas were inspired by the composers
and the painter themselves. The three of them meet and, I hope
understand each other in my work." "Moreover, I'm fairly
traditional with a neo-classical style. I work mainly on pointe, using
classical steps and my aim is to transmit an emotion. I have fifty
dancers of twenty-two different nationalities, which is both an
advantage and disadvantage. I have to give them all one style as only
two or three were trained at my own school; I'd like to hire more, but
there is no money available".
been under criticism for only presenting my own work, but this was
through financial necessity. With the prize money I won recently, we
staged John Cranko's Onegin in June, and are able to invite
Robert North and Jiri Kylian next season. Indeed, the last thing I want
is a company of one choreographer; it's important for my dancers to have
the experience of working with others, for it will also affect their
interpretation of my ballets."
While Scholz has created
several ballets to shorter pieces by Mozart, many, like his 1985
masterpiece, La Creation (oratorio in three parts, by Joseph
Haydn), also programmed at Saint-Quentin, rely on complete scores by
Schumann, Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, or Prokofiev.
never abstract works, but are written to see below the surface of the
music and discover more about the composer himself . "Right now,"
said the choreographer, "I'm working on Bruckner's Eighth
Symphony, to be premiered in Leipzig on December 17th, so I'm
coloured by his life. I live, think, and breathe his music."
does his choreography. However, the composer to whom Uwe Scholz refers
to repeatedly in conversation was not born in the nineteenth century but
is very much part of the world's cultural life today. He has immense
admiration for Pierre Boulez, who has fortunately given Scholz
permission to use his work, although he has not written music
specifically for him.
Scholz' ballets are a bridge between
past and future. His genius and sensitivity ensure that classical dance
remains very much alive, and his ballets as well as those of John Cranko
and Kenneth MacMillan before him will continue to be danced by future
generations. They are not merely products of inflated egos like so much
of the experimental and gimmicky pieces flooding France today.
choreographers of note under Cranko's directorship included Ashley
Killar and Gray Veredon.
Photo : Ballet: Classique
Choreography : Uwe Scholz
Credit : Andreas
Boccadoro writes on dance from Paris. She contributes to The Guardian,
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC
Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor
26 February; 3, 7 March 2000
Sinfonietta / Troy Game /
Sinfonie in D
25, 30 March; 1, 15 April 2000
21 April, 18 June 2000
Sinfonietta / Troy
Game / Sinfonie in D
24 April, 5, 10, 14 May 2000
18 May; 1, 12 June 2000
Ballet School Gala
4 June 2000
25 June 2000