Reimagining Ravel

Sweden’s Göteborg Ballet puts three new spins on the French composer’s beloved ‘Bolero.'

Bolero (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bolero is a genre of slow-tempo Latin music. It is also the name of Maurice Ravel’s famous orchestral piece, composed for Russian ballerina Ida Rubenstein. For centuries, the Bolero has been adopted, interpreted and enjoyed by musicians and dancers the world over. This month, Sweden’s Göteborg Ballet will perform their take on the Bolero, entitled “3xBolero” at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
The evening presents three different visions of the Bolero by three acclaimed Nordic choreographers. Under the leadership of Göteborg Ballet’s artistic director Adolphe Binder, the three dance-makers were encouraged to challenge their perception of the music and to take the Bolero to places it had never been before.
“Israel has such a strong dance audience,” said Binder in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “We are very excited to present this evening there.”
In Kenneth Kvanstrom’s OreloB, Ravel has been carefully intertwined with the electronic beats of Jukka Rintamaki’s turntables, making for an urbanized version of this style.
“Keith brought in a composer to remake the Bolero, using the frame of Ravel,” explains Binder. The movement and music in Kvanstrom’s piece are perfectly wed, creating an entrancing harmony between bodies and sound. Kvanstrom has been a major figure in European dance for nearly 20 years. He has directed K.
Kvanstrom & Co., Helsinki City Dance Theater and Dansens Hus in Stockholm and has been commissioned to choreograph works for companies in Australia and throughout Europe.
During the time that Johan Inger choreographed Walking Mad, he was slightly obsessed by old footage of Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In the black-and-white film, Inger found the key to the Bolero. What begins as a quiet, gradual piece becomes wild, expressive and intense. Originally choreographed for Netherlands Dance Theater in 2001, Walking Mad is a highly visual interpretation of the Bolero.
“Johan has made two ballets for us.
His Bolero is a crazy, different approach to the piece,” says Binder.
“He took Boleros from all over the world. It’s very open and humorous.”
Alexander Ekman found his Bolero in a variety of sources, including the breathing of his dancers. Switching between pre-recorded orchestrations of the music to live a cappella sound, Ekman’s score hints at the many incarnations of Ravel’s piece over time. Episode 17 was commissioned by Göteborg Ballet in 2008 and is a frantic, energized take on the Bolero.
The “3xBolero” program is one of many projects initiated by Binder since her appointment as artistic director in 2011. Before arriving in Sweden, she lived in Berlin for many years, where she served as artistic director for the Berlin Ballet and as an advisor to the Deutsch Oper.
With 40 dancers from more than 20 countries, ranging from 20 to 40+ years of age, Göteborg Ballet is the perfect vehicle for Binder’s ideas. “We have a great troupe of fantastic dancers. With dancers from so many places, we have a microcosm of the cultural collisions of modern life.
When I look for dancers, I’m actually looking for performers who can embrace the future of the performing arts, who are open to use voice, language and translation from meaning into movement. My job is to take them all and guide them into the future that is changing.”
For Binder, who never took an interest in making her own pieces but dedicated herself to promoting the works of emerging and established artists, Göteborg Ballet offers a unique opportunity to pave a new path in the dance community.
“The exciting thing is the possibility to strategically develop a vision, but to form through the programming a vision that guides into the future to reflect on subjects through this interesting art form. We have a responsibility to bring things into the eye of the public that are probably understood differently in spoken form.
The art form of dance has huge potential in this area,” she says.
Göteborg Ballet will perform “3xBolero” at TAPAC from May 29 through June 2. For more information, visit