Hamburg’s hero

Hamburg’s hero

This year’s Diaghilev. PS. festival also honors John Neumeier.

Published: November 7, 2012 (Issue # 1734)


Joelle Boulogne and Alexander Riabko dance in “Lady of the Camelias.”

This year’s Diaghilev. PS. festival has a twist to it: It is devoted not only to the great Russian impresario himself, but also to the renowned contemporary choreographer and founder of the Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier.

The festival, which is being held in the city for the third time, kicked off Monday with the presentation of a new book, “John Neumeier in St. Petersburg.” The U.S.-born choreographer, along with his ballet company, was a major presence at the first Diaghilev. P.S. festival, held in the city in 2009.

This year’s event sees two much anticipated performances of the Hamburg Ballet’s “Lady of the Camellias” at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Those who missed Mariinsky principal dancer Diana Vishneva in the title role Tuesday still have the chance to see the Hamburg Ballet’s own Helene Bouchet take her place in the production Wednesday evening, as well as a gala show on Nov. 9 titled “Neumeier Without Borders,” starring the principals of ballet companies from around the world bringing the choreographer’s creations to life.

As usual, the festival features an exhibition, which this year is titled “Vaslav Nijinsky and John Neumeier.” Much of Neumeier’s work has focused on the life and work of the great dancer and choreographer Nijinsky, who was at various points the protege and lover of Sergei Diaghilev. Composed of items from Neumeier’s own extensive collection as well as from the Museum of Musical and Theatrical Art, where it opened Monday, the exhibition includes original creations by Gustav Klimt and Jean Cocteau.

Diaghilev — a dedicated patron of the arts — took Europe by storm a century ago with his Russian Seasons, a combination of Russian ballet, art and music presented to audiences in Paris, London and other European capitals.

“Since I was 11 years old, I have been fascinated by this very important era of Diaghilev and by dance, which I always knew was my calling,” Neumeier said during the original Diaghilev. P.S. Festival in 2009.

“This era, which produced so many important new scores written for ballet — probably the most since the 18th century — was a very important time for me.”

For a full festival program, visit

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