Thursday, 10 January 2008

introducing friedemann vogel

Stuttgart Ballet's first soloist Friedemann Vogel is widely considered to be one of the best male ballet dancers in Europe today. Although in the hierarchical world of ballet companies, Stuttgart's name may not be as instantly recognizable as that of the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, or the Kirov, Stuttgart's dancers together form a particularly strong company.

Vogel, born in Stuttgart, completed his ballet training at the John Cranko School in his hometown before training at the Princess Grace Academy of Classical Dance in Monte Carlo on fellowship. In 1997 he won a prize at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne--the competition's roster usually reads like a ballet Who's Who list sent from the future. Class of '97 included now New York City Ballet soloist Antonio Carmena and Royal Ballet much-loved principal Alina Cojocaru. The following year Vogel won the bronze medal at the very competitive "Olympic-Style" International Ballet Competition, held every four years in Jackson, Mississippi (don't ask me why).

That year he joined Stuttgart Ballet as a member of the corps du ballet and quickly rose through the ranks. When the Stuttgart Ballet had a brief run at City Center in New York in 2000, legendary dance critic Anna Kisselgoff noticed the young Vogel. "Friedemann Vogel," she writes, "a 19-year-old in the corps, is already a standout, eye-catching in his lively purity." In 2002 he was promoted to first soloist, the company's highest rank. In the same year he also won the much-coveted Erik Bruhn Prize for young dancers, beating Guillaume Côté and David Hallberg, of National Ballet of Canada and American Ballet Theatre respectively. (The female prize went to ABT's Michelle Wiles).

His repertory includes title roles in the classics as well as principal roles in pieces by choreographers ranging from Balanchine to Forsythe and Béjart. Vogel's technique, like many of today's ballet stars, is impeccable. (But some are more impeccable than others). Beyond technique, though, Vogel is a versatile dancer who handles any material with a confidence that's rare even among the top echelons. His dancing has a unique, lyrical quality that's hard to describe--might have something to do with his beautiful lines, remarkable sense of musicality and above-average flexibility (among male dancers). With good looks and great dancing, it is no wonder that Vogel always stands out. He has guested for several companies and has always attracted much attention, including in London (2005 and 2007).

But all the accolades and rave reviews don't mean anything. You've got to see him dance live. Luckily for us, we're all in for a treat as Friedemann Vogel is coming to London. The Stuttgart Ballet is bringing its production of John Cranko's Romeo & Juliet to the city as part of the Spring Dance Season at the Coliseum, the line-up of which will get any dance lover excited: The New York City Ballet, with four different programs (!), Stuttgart, Carlos Acosta with Guest Artists, and Sylvie Guillem/Russell Maliphant (!). There will be eight performances of Romeo & Juliet, from Tuesday March 25 - Sunday March 30. By the way, if you're interested in any of the shows, my advice is: book now! Many of them will sell out. Unfortunately I don't know which dates he is performing yet.. But will definitely try to find out.

If you miss Vogel in March, he's coming back to London again in June, guesting in Derek Deane's "Strictly Gershwin" at Royal Albert Hall, an "in-the-round dance celebration of Gershwin greats." (Last June he was Prince Siegfried in Deane's in-the-round Swan Lake at the same venue and outdoors at Versailles in July). Along with Vogel, Royal Ballet's Tamara Rojo and National Ballet of Canada's Guillaume Côté are joining the dancers of English National Ballet. The show runs from 13-22 June.

Here's a clip of Friedemann Vogel in William Forsythe's notoriously difficult "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated," one of my favorite dance pieces. At the above-mentioned Erik Bruhn Prize, he danced this piece and a pas de deux from Giselle, with another Stuttgart first soloist, Alicia Amatrian. There are several interpretations/versions of this piece on Youtube. Vogel's is one of the most outstanding. (For the definitive version, type in Sylvie Guillem--Forsythe choreographed the piece for her. It's amazing). I couldn't find a good clip showing Vogel in a classical piece, otherwise I would have posted it here too.

No comments: