Dancing Merrily Along Four Years After His Death - Stuttgart, Leipzig and Zurich Celebrate Uwe Scholz at his 50th Birthday

For a choreographer who died at age 46, Uwe Scholz left an enormous oeuvre, having created ballets almost in perpetuum mobile style for companies all over Europe, among them Stuttgart Ballet, Ballet de Monte-Carlo, La Scala di Milano, Vienna State Opera, Royal Swedish Ballet, Maggio Musicale Ballet as well as for the Zurich, Leipzig and Frankfurt opera-houses. Now the Stuttgart Ballet decided to celebrate his 50th birthday on December 31 with a 2008 New Year’s Eve gala by inviting the Leipzig and Zurich companies, of which he had been artistic director, to join Stuttgart for a triple gala-program, which turned out an unanimous success.
Having been born in 1958 in Jugenheim, a city near Darmstadt/Frankfurt, Scholz very early became a pupil at the reformed John Cranko Ballet School in Stuttgart, starting soon to create for the school and Noverre matinees, which John Cranko, when he came to Stuttgart in 1961, had changed in best British Rambert and de Valois fashion into a breeding forum for young choreographers like John Neumeier, Jiří Kylián, and William Forsythe. Scholz joined the company as a dancer in 1979, by which time he had already choreographed his first pieces for the school, starting regularly to create for the for the resident troupe to music by Mozart and Richard Strauss, succeeded by a string of works, which showed him a young man of wide musical tastes. He was almost a prodigal child; Marcia Haydée appointed him the first resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet after Cranko’s death, but that did not prevent him to leave Stuttgart already for the 1985/86 season, when he was engaged as artistic director of the Zurich ballet – the youngest ever to be promoted to this position in these regions. Perhaps that was too much for him in such a short time. Though enormously successful, with extra performances added to the normal schedule of the Zurich opera-house (especially of his highly ambitious staging of Joseph Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation”) he run into severe psychological problems, suffered various break-downs and illnesses – among them some alcoholic excesses – so it came as no surprise when he suddenly decided to quit and try to start a new life by accepting an offer for the 1991/92 season to head another company in a completely different set-up: the Leipzig Ballet. This came at a time when Germany was in political turmoil with what had been the East Zone being dissolved and being reunited with the West – a challenge for some idealistically minded Western intellectuals to move over to the East and help to rebuild the devastated country. Leipzig seemed especially attractive in this respect: next to Berlin the biggest city in East Germany, with a world-famous fair and an appropriate opera-house, the ballet-company of which had fallen into sad oblivion. The keyword in those months was ‘Aufbau’, i.e. Rebuilding, and Scholz sensed here the chance to create something from scratch.
Obviously Leipzig did him enormous good, for he turned the company and the affiliated school within rather short time into a beehive of ballet activities. Almost incessantly creating new ballets, encouraging talented young choreographers, inviting guest choreographers, guesting with his company all over Germany and abroad and enriching the Leipzig repertory by solidly basing it on classics like “Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake” and “Coppélia”, which were all marked by his own stamp – adding some full-length pieces, repeatedly returning to Bach (after all claimed by the city as its number one composer) and Mozart as his favorite composers, but covering an enormous scope of music from classics like Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Wagner and Rachmaninov through Americans like Ives, Gershwin and Stravinsky, including the so far completely neglected by choreographers Anton Bruckner, and, not to forget, Udo Zimmermann, one of Germany leading cotemporaries and at that time Generalintendant (General Manager) of the Leipzig opera-house, who became his sort of paternal advisor in all musical matters and an active patron of the Leipzig Ballet. Over the next years Leipzig became the most talked about ballet-city in Germany, critics flocked to its premieres, and Uwe Scholz was in constant demand as a guest-choreographer all over Europe, creating in 1996 one of his most daring avant-garde pieces for Vladimir Malakhov, the spicy “Notations I-IV” by Pierre Boulez, for a Stuttgart mixed bill. Of all the choreographers working in Germany at that time, Scholz was obviously the one who was most influenced by Balanchine, and especially by Balanchine’s musicality. It was as if he had been breast-fed with music as his mother’s milk. And yet nobody ever accused him of being a plagiarist. But if his love of music was genuine, so was his respect for it. Music seemed for him to represent the ‘ordo’, by which the world was ruled (Kirstein would have loved that) – and if not obeyed properly, dissonances would create chaos and anarchy. And so he always tried to reflect in his choreographies the theory of harmony which governs the music – with Bach and Mozart as his gods. Not by translating its grammatics into patterns of movement, but by trying to use his choreographic means as the instrument of metamorphosis to make its inner workings visible. And so the Stuttgart gala, with the State Orchestra in the pit under its musical director James Tuggle, presented three works, which by their very musical substance could have appeared at every concert program – all, by the way, designed by Scholz himself and thus avoiding any extra frills that could distract from one’s concentration on the music and the dance. It opened with the Leipzig Ballet, today under the direction of the Canadian Paul Chalmer (who at his time as a young dancer was a colleague of Scholz in Stuttgart), with Robert Schumann’s “Second Symphony”, created in 1990 for Zurich – a concert ballet if there ever was one, in neo-classical style, a brilliant play of lines, circles and diagonals, with lively contrasts of soli, small ensembles and full corps de ballet. It starts with two females, joined by two males and thus displaying two couples (Leipzig’s principals Oksana Kulchytska with Jean-Sébastien Colau, and Itziar Mendizabal with Martin Chaix), succeeding its mathematical build-up by four couple and then six couples and thus mirroring its musical crescendo from its signal like Sostenuto assai through its gay and boisterous stretta-like Finale: an elegant visiting car of the Leipzig company, winning them spontaneous sympathies. Next came the Mendelssohn “Octet”, that miracle work of the not yet 17 years old composer, which so unmistakably herolds his “Midsummer Night’s Dream” music. Created in 1987 for the Zurich company, its four movements are cast for 18 dancers, among them Ana Carolina Quaresma and Filipe Portugal in the central pas de deux and four energetic boys in the scherzo-like third movement. It’s a youthful, vivacious piece, quivering with life, exploring different personal relationships, not without a whiff of sophisticated melancholy, performed by the Zurich dancers with Swiss clockwork precision (again I was thinking of Kirstein and his plea for ballet as a demonstration of polite manners).
As the inviting company Stuttgart had reserved the finale for itself – with Beethoven’s “Seventh Symphony”, created here in 1991 and from its very beginnings considered as one of the company’s proprietaries. And so it was danced on that night, with the fire and steam-rolling elan which have become a trademark of its style. Called by nobody less than Wagner ‘the apotheosis of dance’ it seemed on that very night to be powered by some extra high octane fuel. And there was a special reason for it, for it marked the return after a two years absence due to some persistent illness of Maria Eichwald, a principal, who had endeared herself to the local audience as the crown princess of the company. Seeing her after such a long time, we became aware what we had missed: her elegance and the naturalness of her clean and secure technique, her polished line, her sculptured stability and the lace-work of her feet – all in all then by her charisma. Proudly presented by her partner Jason Reilly and lovingly attended by her Stuttgart colleagues, she added that extra thrill which distinguishes a gala from a normal performance. If Uwe Scholz had seen her, I am sure, that he would have choreographed a “Bouquet for Maria” for her.
Links: www.scholzballets.com www.oper-leipzig.de www.opernhaus.ch www.stuttgart-ballet.de

Veröffentlicht am 31.12.2008, von Horst Koegler in English Reviews

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