Ballet Critic Klaus Geitel at the presentation of the German Dance Award for Uwe Scholz:
Since the most advanced ballets of Balanchine there has been no more comparable counterpart between choreography and music, and it even appears from time to time that in this relationship Scholz has the gift to surpass himself, and outgrow the master.
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.
(March 6, 1999, in Essen)
State’s Opera Berlin, press release 2000:
…the rigorous classical form and the extravagant urge to express oneself from the romantic era [confront each other]. This principle of confrontation is also present in the choreographic style of Uwe Scholz. The strict form of the classical ballet encounters a cold aesthetic of the body to acknowledge the profound human need to express one ’s own emotions. Uwe Scholz draws from the classical and academic movement vocabulary and, with his choreography, creates as a matter of course a whole language both artificial and natural. Through this, Scholz not only treats the music as a mere subject, but includes at the same time with a genius musicality its inner substance.
Patricia Boccadoro on Uwe Scholz:
Prologue: The Legacy of The Stuttgart Ballet
In 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.
French 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 Th éâtre 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 Cartes.“
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.
„It 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! “
Logically, 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 a choreographer.
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.
Since 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.
It 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“.
„I’ve 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.
They are 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.“
As 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.
*Other choreographers of note under Cranko’s directorship included Ashley Killar and Gray Veredon.
(www.culturekiosque.com, 14 February 2000)
obituary by Patricia Boccadoro:
German Choreographer Uwe Scholz Dead At 46
„I would happily like to be considered as something of Cranko plus a little of Balanchine spat out a quarter of a century later. “
- Uwe Scholz
The German choreographer Uwe Scholz, who died on 21 November at the age of 46 after many years of poor health, was the last prot égé of John Cranko* whom he met at the age of 13 and revered for the rest of his life. His ballets, well over a hundred of them, were all marked by his extraordinary musicality, and owe much, not only to Balanchine and Cranko, but to his own very great innate gifts. He made no secret of his favourite composers; Mozart and Stravinsky.
Scholz was born in Hesse on 31 December 1958. He began studying the piano, the guitar and singing at the Conservatoire of Darmstadt, although I remember him telling me with a smile that from the beginning, his parents thought he was destined to be a second Nijinsky as each time he heard music on their radio, he would start to dance and jump from arm-chair to armchair in the living-room.
Albeit, it seemed as if the shy adolescent was headed for the career of an orchestra conductor, fascinated as he was by their ability to choose how each score of music should be played, but he found himself instead in Cranko ’s school, and inspired by the latter’s Romeo and Juliet, created his first choreography at the age of seventeen.
In 1977 he spent five months at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, entranced by the luminosity and clarity of the Russian ’s work, before returning to Stuttgart to complete his studies and join the German company, but he abandoned his career as a dancer to concentrate on his choreography barely three years later. When he was 23, Marcia Hayd ée, Cranko’s muse, now director of the Stuttgart company, offered him the post of resident choreographer there.
After his successful directorship of Zurich Ballet (1986-91), he was appointed artistic director of Liepzig Ballet in 1991. Not only did he revitalise their repertory, but he transformed them into a troupe of international standing.
One of his first ballets to be shown in France was set to Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, music which is slow and formal, and, one would have thought, impossible to choreograph, but he created a fascinating work, where sound actually became visible. Two principal dancers of the company, Kiyoko Kimura and Christophe Bohm, internalising the score, were at the centre of the creation, which served and added something extra to what one had heard before, giving the spectators the feeling they were actually experiencing the music for the first time. It was brought to France in 1999 by Pierre Moutarde, director of the Th éatre of Saint-Quentin-en Yvelines at the time.
Moutarde recalled his amazement when Scholz insisted upon having the recording of Sergiu Celidibache, with the Orchestra of Munich, for the programme because it had exactly the tempo and fullness he needed.
Scholz was a man so closely associated to music that I always thought he was the conductor of an orchestra who had temporarily taken another path. He read and instinctively understood every score, and I remember numerous occasions when we ’d be listening to some recording, which he always played very loudly, where he’d interrupt to say, oh no, dear, dear, they are playing the music all wrongly, it should be played like this. And he ’d get that particular score out and slap the paper with his hand to demonstrate his point. “
Moutarde, who went to see over twenty ballets of Scholz in Liepzig, recalled some of them. „I was fascinated by the central figure in his version of The Miraculous Mandarin. In the ballet he kept to Bartok’s story where three ruffians force a young girl to seduce the passers-by while they rob them, but when his mandarin arrived on stage, he was all dressed in white. Everything in the tale is sordid yet the mandarin was so pure, he seemed like an angel. Scholz was a pessimist yet a great humanist at the same time. In his darkest works there was always a ray of light, no matter how faint. He always gave us hope. “
„I loved his ballet on America“, Moutarde added, „so full of invention, and with an extraordinary choice of music; he portrayed the United States as he saw it. I also saw his Swan Lake, transposed to the court of Saint Petersburg, and his version of Sleeping Beauty, when, in each case, he complained that he didn’t have enough dancers“.
In Sleeping Beauty, while respecting Petipa, Scholz cleverly adapted the choreography to suit his dancers. He created a very contemporary pas de deux. Another innovative touch was to add a mouse in the mouth of the cat in the (in)famous pussy-cat duet! Adored by the German audiences!
„It was his work on movement which fascinated me most“, Moutarde told me. „It was at one with the music which itself dictated the shape of the ballet, as can be clearly seen in Bach Kreationen, where there is a step for every note. It was of breathtaking beauty. And unlike the majority of choreographers today who work with maybe eight or nine interpreters at most, he staged pieces for a minimum of forty dancers. “
Indeed, each time we’d meet, Scholz would speak proudly of the fact that he had a company of fifty dancers, and wanted more, even though he possibly was not that interested in running a company. He needed them for his choreography. But each year, instead of hiring new dancers, cuts in subsidies obliged him to reduce the numbers of his troupe, from fifty to forty-six, and again down to forty, a fact which distressed him enormously, and involved him in lengthy arguments, disastrous for his general well-being and health, always fragile from childhood.
The first time I met him, in 1999, he was so thin he was almost transparent, with huge, dark, intense eyes in a pale face. His clothes always seemed too big for him and his hands, slender and delicate were half hidden by a jacket two sizes too large, and although he ’d give the impression that he wasn’t interested by what people said, he’d come to see me after a programme and the most important thing in the world to him was to know that his ballet had made me happy. „Hug me, then“, he’d say. And I would. He was one of the most touching and engaging dance personalities I have met. A man whose personality as well as his work went straight to your heart
For Pierre Moutarde, the image that he will retain of the frail German choreographer is that of a star fallen from the heavens, a man who was probably the last in the line of the great Romantic 19th century figures.
„The last time he came to Saint-Quentin,“ he recalled, „he insisted in bringing La Grande Messe, set to Mozart’s unfinished Mass in C Minor , with added music from Thomas John, Gyorgy Kurtag and Arvo Part, and with his own decor, lighting and costumes. I think he regarded it as his testament, the black side with its images of war portraying the chaos and suffering of mankind contrasting with movements of great purity, the music ending as abruptly as did his own life. I always had a premonition that he wasn ’t meant to live long.“
„He was very human, yet at the same time, not of this world“, Moutarde continued. „It was as if he’d arrived where he was without realising how and he seemed to carry the world’s troubles on his shoulders. Life wasn’t easy for him, and you can see the echo of that in his ballets. He was all alone with his music and his sublime ballets, ill at ease outside of his work. I had the impression that he was not really happy, because he was searching for an absolute which he knew could never be reached, a perfection he knew he ’d never find. Well, if there’s an elsewhere after death, he’s now in company with the poets, with Mozart, with Balanchine, and with his god, John Cranko. „
And the world of dance is a less beautiful place.
*John Cranko died just one month after their meeting.
** Scholz’ ballets have almost all been written down and recorded on film.
Uwe Scholz, born 31 December 1958; died 21 November 2004
(www.culturekiosque.com, 23 December 2004)
obituary by Paul Ben-Itzak:
He ate, slept and drank Art
[…] Working in the classical ballet idiom, Scholz — who succeeded John Cranko as Stuttgart’s resident choreographer at the age of 23 — was singular proof that the path to ballet relevance in the 21st century starts in the heart of the music, is blazed by the imaginative choreographer, illuminated by the artistically and emotionally invested dancer and, finally, taken home by the converted spectator.
„I am interested in ballerinas who make my heart rotate“ as opposed to technical phenomenons, he once told this interviewer. Seen on Leipzig in San Francisco ’s War Memorial Opera House in 1995, in a stunning US debut for both company and choreographer, Scholz ’s „Pax Questuosa,“ to music by Udo Zimmerman, carried away audiences with its eloquent intimacy, as did the grander „Beethoven’s Seventh.“ Performing alongside more established companies like the Bolshoi and Royal Danish Ballet as part of San Francisco Ballet ’s United We Dance festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the young company and its young dancemaker stole the show.
„I remember seeing his first ballet to Mozart music while he was still studying,“ said current Stuttgart director and Cranko disciple Reid Anderson, who knew Scholz when he was a student at Stuttgart ’s Cranko school. „It was so remarkable! So musical, so clear, and so creative. He already had his own version of neo-classical dance. He loved music and responded to it. He was not its slave but he enabled the audience to understand and to see the music better. I experienced all of his works and even worked with him myself.
We are all saddened at the loss of Uwe Scholz.... Uwe Scholz was not easy on himself. He ate, slept and drank art. There was nothing else for him. His loss is particularly sad because Uwe Scholz has always made the kind of dances that others were not doing. He didn ’t let himself be swayed by deconstruction, movement fads or tinkering with the music. He was a symphonic dance maker. One of a kind! “ […]
„He taught me to feel the music and to express it,“ said Kiyoko Kimura, first soloist with the company and one of its leading dancers. „From him I learned to use the imagination, to fill out the music full of emotions. And to give everything onstage.... He was incredibly musical, and he understood the music deeply. So he was able to transfer music to movement. He was the one of the choreographers able to choreograph with such big symphonies as those by Beethoven, Bruckner, Mozart, Wagner, et cetera.
The time spent working with him was very substantial. He was a person with lots of humor, but also lots of passion and emotion. I still cannot believe his death. It is very sad to lose such a great artist. “ But, Kimura added, „I feel that he is still immediately at my side.“ […]
Scholz’s compassionate and invested vision for ballet will be remembered for a long time through his inspiring oeuvre and the dancers he inspired.
(The Dance Insider, www.danceinsider.com, 2004)
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