Uwe Scholz’s version of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) will be performed for the first time in Italy by Davide Dato, principal dancer at the Vienna State Ballet.
The work is part of an ambitious show commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death, presented by Daniele Cipriani Entertainment and Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice, called Stravinsky’s Love. It can be seen at the Nervi Music Ballet Festival on 8 July, the Ravenna Festival on 10 July, with a preview performance on 6 July at the Parco della Musica in Rome. Giovanni di Palma, the Italian dancer for whom the ballet was created, has prepared the performance.
I asked Dato how he finds dancing such a demanding piece:
It’s a 32-minute solo, so it requires a lot of strength and stamina. To ‘hold the stage’ for such a long time is not easy for a dancer. At the same time, the music gives me such incredible energy. In a way, this piece, created by Uwe Scholz shortly before his tragically early death, reflects on his life: his devotion to this art; the artist who is born with his destiny written; all the positive and negative sides of a life and career that lead to his death.
Scholz was considered one of the most gifted choreographers of his generation, yet the always fragile-looking man died in November 2004 at the age of 45.
He was four when he started ballet classes and during his childhood he also took piano, violin, guitar, and singing lessons, and his dream was to become a conductor. At the age of 13 – one month before Jon Cranko’s tragic death – he was admitted to the Stuttgart Ballet School and Marcia Haydée would become his lifelong mentor. His first piece was created when he was 17: Serenade for 5+1 with music by Mozart. He received a scholarship for the Balanchine School of American Ballet in New York, which he attended for five months, and in 1977 he returned to the John Cranko Academy in Stuttgart, graduating in 1979.
Scholz became a dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet and from the outset, Haydée entrusted him with a range of choreographic projects, and in 1980 Scholz became the Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer and he ended his dancing career.
At the age of 26, Scholz became artistic director of the Zurich Ballet, and after six years he returned to Germany to become director of the Leipzig Ballet until his untimely death.
Scholz saw himself as a mix between John Cranko and George Balanchine though, of course, he had his own choreographic voice. During an impressive career, Scholz created more than 100 works for the companies in Vienna, Milan, Zurich, Leipzig, and elsewhere, and very broadly they can be described as neoclassical. His early passion for music remained central to his life and work with his focus always on the score, favouring music by Bach, Bruckner, Wagner, Schumann, Schubert, Bartok, Boulez, and his favourites Mozart and Stravinsky.
Davide, what is it, do you think, that makes Scholz’s choreography popular?
In the case of the choreography that I’ll be performing, I think you can identify with it even as a non-dancer. There are moments in the piece where we see depression, euphoria, addiction, trauma and delirium, which are all very real aspects of life. This quality is timeless.
Scholz choreographed two versions of Le Sacre du Printemps in 2003, right at the end of his career: one version is for a solo dancer danced to Stravinsky’s own adaptation for two pianos; the other has a corps de ballet and a soloist and is danced to the orchestrated version. Both versions were performed on the same evening in 2004 and can be seen on video. The solo version can be seen as Scholz’s autobiographical legacy, showing a dancer’s loneliness and despair in both the choreography and in a series of heartbreaking and brutally honest images and film clips projected throughout, climaxing in a shocking finale so powerfully conveyed by Giovanni di Palma during the initial run and in the filmed performance.
Working personally with Giovanni di Palma, the dancer for whom the piece was created, was absolutely incredible and precious. I was lucky to be able to learn the details that only Giovanni could pass on to me because of his close working relationship with Scholz. He is also a very special person and artist.
Uwe Scholz’s Le Sacre du Printemps: Giovanni di Palma rehearses Davide Dato
Ballet critic Klaus Geitel, said,
Scholz composes with steps. He composes with dance. His ballets write with classical steps – to the greatest possible extent – a silent speech on the dance floor: firmly anchored on the track for everyone’s delight, for everyone’s pain. This is what always makes his work turned towards novelty. One listens with the eyes. One sees with the ears.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.