On October 30th, 2012, the Stuttgart Ballet is leaving for a China tour. The Company will dance John Neumeier’s “The Lady of the Camellias” in Shanghai (at the Shanghai International Arts Festival) and Beijing (at the National Centre for the Performing Arts)!
From day 1 of this journey until the return to Stuttgart on November 11th, 2012, we will post short texts, photos and impressions of dancers and staff members here – so we can virtually take you on our trip to China!
On Wednesday Morning we arrived safely (but tired) in Shanghai. We are received very friendly – already on the airplane we were greeted over the speakers: „We are happy to have the Stuttgart Ballet on board!“ Well, we were surely happy to be on board, too. It is sunny and quite warm here, and we will have a brief look around before going to the studios of the Shanghai Grand Theatre this afternoon for the first time. You can see the amazing theatre building from our hotel! The long flight and the jetlag is still in our bodies, so all the dancers are looking forward to this first class, stretch the muscles and get ready for some exciting days here in China. We’ll be back with more news and photos, thank you for joining us on our journey!
Photo Diary Part 01: Trip to Shanghai
On day 1 of our stay in Shanghai the Company starts rehearsal in the Shanghai Grand Theatre, all sets and costumes are being moved into the theatre, lighting and technical preparations on stage take place, the Chinese extras rehearse and have their costume fittings, and in the evening, the Stuttgart Ballet is presented to the Chinese media in a press conference at the nearby Porsche Center. So we’re having a busy day – luckily after a good night’s sleep. We are looking forward to an exciting week in beautiful sunny Shanghai!
Roman Novitzky accompanies the Tour with his camera, so there will be more photos tomorrow. Here come some first impressions from our journey:
Photo Diary Part 02: The rehearsals begin at the Shanghai Grand Theatre
Hello and nihao!
Greetings to everyone from our tour to Shanghai and Bejing. As a demi-soloist with the Stuttgart Ballet, this is my third visit to China with the company. After going to Beijing in 2009 and Macao in 2011 this is my very first visit to Shanghai. I really like the place, it is a very modern, open city, with a lot different sides to discover for me.
I experience this new city and the new theatre mainly through the lense of my camera, and I will show you some of my pictures in the daily tour diary to give you an impression, too. Most of the time I am busy rehearsing and preparing the shows, though, as The Lady of the Camellias keeps everyone busy. I also have a lot to dance, in one show I have to change costume four times! Rehearsals are going well and we’re looking forward to the performances, I hope people here will enjoy our shows!
Photo Diary Part 03: Before the first performance
Before the performances at the Shanghai International Arts Festival, the company was introduced to the Press at the Porsche Center Shanghai. „Many years ago the Stuttgart Ballet was the very first western ballet company to perform here“, Tamas Detrich remembers at this occasion, „and as we know now we then saw the beginning of what is reality today – an artistic friendship between two nations.“
„We will be introducing two casts in Shanghai, and you will definitely not see a copy of the first show in the second one, but very special artists who show all they’ve learned and what they feel on stage“ Tamas Detrich announces. „There are simply no words to describe what Sue Jin and Marijn can do, and the same is true about Alicia and Jason. This ballet „The Lady of the Camellias“ starts at the heart, and we hope it will go straight to your hearts.“
Photo Diary Part 04: Premiere in Shanghai
e-mail from… the make-up-department (Jörg Müller)
Many regards from all of us down here ion floor B1 of the Shanghai Grand Theatre! This is where we established the make-up-department for our performances in Shanghai, and thanks to a lot of experience with touring we travel well equipped and already made ourselves at home. We are quite busy as the rehearsals, performances and also changes between the theatres in Shanghai and Beijing happen in the course of a few days only, but we could make time to go up the huge Hyatt-tower – so we’ve seen all of Shanghai, at least from above!
As always on tour, there are a lot of surprises and we need to improvise sometimes. First of all we needed to find extra chairs to put them on top of each other in the make-up rooms; we are just so much taller than most Chinese that we need several chairs to sit high enough and stand up straight behind the chairs. We came here with six colleagues from Stuttgart and are supported by seven Chinese aids. One challenge for them was to learn the complicated Russian hair designs for the ladies, which are of course not at all common in the theatre here. We are totally impressed by how these seven can do anything with one hand only: hair, make-up, anything – because the other hand is always sure to carry their mobile phone!
We’re looking forward to some more exciting days, and sending best regards home.
Photo Diary Part 05: Second performance at the Shanghai Grand Theatre
E-Mail from… the physio therapists room (Richard Gilmore)
For me and my colleague Gretus Mossig as physio-therapists, touring with the Stuttgart Ballet is always a special challenge. For a few weeks, we feel responsible for the wellbeing of a big group of artists and staff members who have to perform on a very high level under very unfamiliar circumstances. Because – differently than at home – there are no other doctors or therapists around, we are always the first to be in charge of any type of health issues – from the dancers’ muscles to the technicians’ cold and the pianists’ broken fingernail. I try to be prepared for everything, and always carry two big suitcases with equipment and medicine. Also two transportable massage chairs are part of our tour equipment – unluckily the smaller tour version of this can’t be changed in height and I’m sometimes forced to stand bent over for many hours… there are evenings when I wish I could go see the physiotherapist for a massage myself!
Here in China, we have to adapt to the long distances inside the huge theatres. The ways between the studios, backstage and the little physio-room we moved into are very long, which is why we often do the treatments right in the studio or next to the stage instead of going to our treatment rooms. But the biggest difference to home from physio-therapist’s point of view are surely the very hard floors in the studio and on stage here. The ground in Shanghai was also partly uneven. Dancing on hard floors is very hard on the dancers’ muscles, and the uneven ground can be dangerous for the ankles. Actually I spend a lot more time sitting on the ground massaging legs these days than standing at my massage bench. So we’re very busy, but I love these journeys a lot! You experience so many new things, and I like spending so much time together with my colleagues.
The first time I came to Shanghai was in the 80s, and when I then came back in 2002 I could hardly recognize any of the buildings I’d known in between all the new ones. This time, everything has changed even more. Now I am excited to go to Beijing and see what’s there is to discover!
Two bus rides and two hours on a plane took the Stuttgart Ballet company to Beijing, where it has snowed until the day before! That means: getting out the winter coats for everyone, and then go out and get to know the new surroundings. The city is beautifully decorated and you see a lot of police and military around because of the party conference of the communist party these days.
Especially finding our ways in the National Center for the Performing Arts needs a little time and practice. The company starts technical setup and rehearsals in the huge theatre. Tamas Detrich and the six Principal Dancers who perform the main roles of Marguerite Gautier and Armand Duval in the three performances in Beijing are presented to the press in the evening.
All of us are looking forward to some exciting days here in Bejing!
Photo Diary Part 06: We’re continuing our journey to Beijing
e-mail from… the costume department (Susanne Klein)
For us, the touring staff of the costume department, „The Lady of the Camellias“ is a real challenge. There is hardly any ballet in our repertory that has so many and so elaborate costumes, so many quick changes, such a big corps de ballet. To put such a production on stage in a new theatre requires a lot of transport containers, a lot of effort, a lot of experience… and each time a wonderful sense of achievement when everything worked out once more!
About one hundred costumes are on stage in the course of one performance of The Lady of the Camellias, including also gloves, hats, jewelry, masks and many other accessories. The female main role of Maruerite Gautier alone wears 12 different costumes in one night, some of them need to be changed within less than a minute. In such circumstances, every move has to be automatic.
On the vast back of the stage, the stage director had big black party tents installed for us, because for most of the changes the dancers d not have enough time to make the long ways to their wardrobe. Within the company people already joke about our little party village backstage… After the performances we need to wash, dry and iron all of the costumes for the next evening, and in between the single stations of the tour everything need to be stored and packed with perfect accuracy, so at the next stop you find everything you need quickly.
We came here with ten colleagues of the costume department from Stuttgart, and we’re being supported by Chinese aids in the cities we travel to. It feels a little bit like playing on an advanced charade to communicate with each other using hands and feet only. When we travel, our hosts are often impressed y the quality and the richness of the costumes designed by Jürgen Rose and handmade in the facilities of the Staatstheater Stuttgart – especially in China this means a wonderful compliment, as the Chinese are famous for beautiful fabric and gifted tailors.
Obviously there isn’t much time left for sighseeing, but we made it to the Bund in Shanghai and to the silk market in Beijing, and to see these metropolis glittering in the night is a fascinating sight! One of the most impressive architectural sights, the National Center for the Performing Arts, we get to know from the inside now.
Photo Diary Part 07: Premiere at the National Center for the Performing Arts
e-mail from… the stage (Axel Schob)
I have been travelling to theatres all over the world with the Stuttgart Ballet since 1992, and still every tour is a whole new adventure! Me and my colleagues are in charge of all sets, requisite and technical equipment arrive safely and in time at the theatre we’re guesting in, that after our performances everything we brought gets back home, and that everything is set up right and works perfectly in our temporary home theatre abroad. The requirements can be very different depending on the piece we’re touring with. The Lady of the Camellias – from our point of view – is marked by the many costumes that need to be transported, the delicate sets and the very elaborated lighting.
Especially for the full length story ballets, you need a lot of equipment which we usually transport by ship. One way from Stuttgart to Asia by ship takes about 6 weeks, which means that weeks before the company starts their journey we need to prepare, pack and load everything. Because many of our flight cases, boxes and sets are special designs and not standardized, loading them into containers feels a little bit like a bit Tetris game: We try to fit every piece in exactly so we do not waste a centimeter and everything stays perfectly in place.
A very big part of my work also is the declaration for customs of the entire transport. I am glad that The Lady of the Camellias doesn’t include any shooting or sword fighting – other than John Cranko’s “Onegin” or his “Romeo and Juliet” for example. Whenever weapons have to be shipped that means extra fun at the customs!
This time we’re travelling with nine colleagues from Stuttgart for technics and requisite, and four more colleagues for the lighting. Once everyone and everything has arrived in place, the next part of our work can begin: The technical setup on stage. We try to plan the installation of the sets, the construction of our facilities backstage and the lighting setup in advance as exactly as possible, as all this has to be coordinated with the company’s rehearsal time on stage, of course. In the end it depends on our accuracy f the curtains can rise in time… And when everybody else’s work is done we are still busy preparing the stage for the next day, or packing in each and every light, costume case, wardrobe tent in for the journey home to Stuttgart. Just like today.
Photo Diary Part 08: Last performance in Beijing and going home
After a last, much applauded, performance of The Lady of the Camellias with Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly dancing Marguerite and Armand, at the National Center for the Performing Arts the Company is heading back home to Stuttgart. The sets and costumes have been packed, they will follow us by ship.
This tour went by so fast, it is hard to believe how much has been done in the course of two short weeks only. Everyone just adapted to the time change, learned the ways inside the theatre and found out where to find a hot meal in the streets of Beijing late at night after a long working day , and now we are already leaving. But at the same time we’re looking forward to going home, most of all to seeing our Stuttgart audiences again at the next performances (Onegin!) in the Opera House.
Thanks to all of you who virtually accompanied us on our journey, and see you soon!