Most would agree that the holidays are a joyous occasion, however for some it can be a time of isolation, deep sadness or tragedy. Such was the 1845 Danish tale by Hans Christian Andersen about The Little Match Girl, now set to music and brought to life as classic ballet by choreographer Heinz Manniegel for the Private Ballet Academy, Benedict-Manniegel.
The little match girl begins her methodical steps to the music of Franz Shubert, alternated by soloists Viola Klostermann and Eriko Kogure, and within each step exudes the misery of her reality and why she is desperate to sell match sticks before she can return home. However, unsuccessful in her pursuit to sell anything, she drifts off into a fantasy land and the waiting arms of her dearly departed grandmother, performed by American and former prima ballerina Laurel Benedict; the little match girl passes from this life to the next freezing to death all while dreaming of dance and the beauty it offers. The little match girl performs many imitating dance steps in her efforts to try and show that she feels that she can really fit in, meaning, to fit into society, said Ada Ramzew, rehearsal coordinator.
The musical crescendo within Franz Shubert's Fantasy in C-Major for Violin and Piano launches the mechanical marionettes scene, depicting an uncaring society marching past (very machine-like), while the blurred images through the eyes of the little match girl hallucinates characters from her past into her dream-like fantasy vision. "The 'parallel sliding' steps show how the little match girl is freezing or almost frozen to death, and is certain to move the audience emotionally," said Benedict.
The pace quickens with the fight scene between the "mean drunken father," performed by Björn Dippon and the sailor boy, Philip Knapp. Their saute' de basques are executed with precision and eloquence; these high jumps with mid-air twists draw the audience directly into the drama as they literally fly across the stage.
Most of Act II, both music and dance, is from the Nutcracker, The Land of Candy Canes, with magnificent solo performances in the Grand pas de deux by Kogure and Knapp. Especially notable are Kogure's perfectly controlled pirouettes and fouettes accentuating her long legs and soft flowing arms as she spins like a top. A big reprieve from the sad tragedy and sure to raise one's spirits, are the scenes with the small ballerinas dressed as clowns. These children immediately win both the hearts and smiles of the audience. As one little ballerina put it, "It's too sweet to be real."
Once again, Manniegel has proven that he is the master of choreographing the saddest of the saddest moves on stage, and perhaps this energy may just freeze your thoughts long enough to give you something to think about as you embark upon the commercial rituals of holiday shopping. All dancers are students or former students of the Private Ballet Academy, Benedict-Manniegel. Photography by Peter Werner.
This review was drawn from screening the première last December and invitations to recent rehearsals. Munich show times are Sunday, Dec 11th at 17:00 in Theater Leo 17, and 20:00 Saturday Dec. 17th and 11:00 matinee Sunday Dec. 18th at KUBIZ in Unterhaching.