Midnight ballet might become a new trend in Berlin. People come for seeing a silent movie through the night – but before they enjoy the graceful and joyful movements of modern ballet: it is made and danced for them, to be seen in just this situation. So Laura Tiffany Schmid, the wonderful ballerina from Munich, and me, Gisela Sonnenburg – as a hard working journalist and choreographer from Berlin – have founded a new tradition at least for ourselves. Babylon, the culturally diverse and valuable cinema in Berlin-Mitte, was the place to be: last midnight, two choreographic miniatures were performed, in round about 12 minutes dance all together, and they got explained and moderated by the choreographer. The idea of midnight ballet became reality! With live music played by generous and gorgeous organist Anna Vavilkina, this ballet prelude was leading to the historical film “Madame Dubarry” by Ernst Lubitsch, who was also accompanied live by Vavilkina. The effect was very fine: Indeed the audience was pleased. And a very nice guy said after the show: “I did not know that ballet could be so beautiful.” Maybe the best compliment for us!
So normally the spell of film art reigns in Babylon.
But now the stage in front of the cinema screen became a magic show, too. Wasn’t it made for this?!
The first solo is named “Traum der Rettung” (“Dream of Rescue”).
With a little foreplay it becomes here a dramatical scene: The ballerina enters the stage, wearing a splendid outfit with a “Chopinanska”, a longer tutu, and she obviously is just coming from a loud and hectic ballroom. She is happy to be alone now.
She finds herself on a roof terrace – typical for Berlin – and looks gingerly towards the audience below her and to the stars above.
And she starts praying with the smoothy music of the Ciacona in F minor by Pachelbel – and she talks with her mind and body about her feelings, about all her trouble, about her hopes.
Suffering turns into passion.
This delicate ballerina is gaining strength out of the music, out of the dance.
Body, mind and soul connect to fly higher and higher just by doing it.
There is no limit in our thoughts, no limits in what we want – in the name of love, goodness and beauty.
Our souls can only be saved when our hearts go with it.
And the light for this is beautifully blue, so blue – just like a midnight blue in a hot summer dream.
The light manager named Bernd Rohde has deserved a special applause!
And not only the jewels in the tiara of the ballerina are twinkling when the lights turn slowly down.
The audience is extremely with us for my feeling, and virtuoso Anna Vavilkina acts with the organ as if she would play every night for the dancer’s need. Wonderful! We bow with respect and are so thankful to her!
Musically, the repetitions and variations are quite difficult here. But no problem for Vavilkina who masters the soundart as delightful as she gives the right time flow to the ballerina. Thank you so much again!
The second dance piece is less plaintive than the first one and more witty, but also full of melancholy.
“Die Verführung” (“The Seduction”) leads us to a rose garden, of course by night.
The light turns into red for this – and the music is the “Lacrimosa” from the “Requiem” in D minor composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Maybe “Wolferl” never would have dreamed of being interpreted by a lovely female organist with absolute power in her hands and feet at midnight – just to show a brilliant ballet dance!
Laura Tiffany Schmid indeed dances the piece marvelously, with the touch of heaven in her heart and with a lot of hot erotic power in her beautiful face, in her long arms and in her wonderfully endless legs.
It is about love and pain, there are blossoms and a date – and a letter.
The ballerina’s role here is an amused woman who enjoys picking up flowers and trying their smell.
But instead of her attended lover in the garden an obscure letter is to be found by her. And the meaning of it is: no guy tonight…
Maybe he got seduced by another one. Maybe he is just busy. Maybe he is lying. Maybe he just has different preferences.
Maybe baroque life made him a superficial person without any responsibility.
Will that be a disaster? Not at all!
Even alone this elegant and modern lady of baroque lifestyle knows how to help herself.
Turning some fouettés, changing into passé pirouettes and circling on the place – she feels strong enough to enjoy the night even alone.
Lovesickness is not for her, or she can handle it on her own way.
Her posure at the end shows how free and inspiring a woman can be!
„The Seduction“ is a seduction to be oneself.
The applause showed that we were right, even if of course different interpretations are possible: the audience understood and loved.
We are happy: The spectators could take what we have to give – and the mood was quite sublime.
This was also a merit of Anna Vavilkina who fulfilled Mozart’s notes with her strong feelings.
This last piece was especially made for this evening, to bring up the atmosphere of a female perspective and a nearly baroque sense of living.
For Ernst Lubitsch, the genius film director, who lived just around the corner of the Babylon cinema, this would have been nothing new. He was able to show how difficult it is to survive as a female being in a man’s world.
His movie “Madame Dubarry”, made in 1919, is mixing up historical scenes and dramas with the individual fate of a fine young lady named Jeanne whose only chance is loving as a concubine.
Even the king of France – Louis XV – is enchanted by her and makes her the most important woman at court. But in the eve before revolution, the crowd discovers Jeanne as perfect image of a decadent enemy of the people’s welfare.
Of course this is not fair, and Jeanne really loves a poor student named Armand (we remember “The Lady of the Camellias” whose big love also is named Armand).
Pola Negri is acting as Jeanne with wide open eyes and an also a big heart. Emil Jannings is her dynamic partner as the king, and charming Harry Liedtke is her Armand.
When revolution comes – and even before – Jeanne has to fear her social descent.
Trying to help Armand who became a soldier, her love is extremely difficult. They both love and hate each other – social circumstances never let them be a happy couple.
At the end the crowd makes revolution, and in 1792 – in the middle of the French Revolution – Armand is shot in Jeannes arms, meanwhile she is sent to guillotine, as if she would have done harm to someone.
History is not fair, but all in all the cruelness of the kingdom was leading to revolution.
With the music of Anna Vavilkina who is famous for playing for silent movies without a score, just by her ingenious talent for improvisation, this story becomes a real heartbreaking love story with an important historical and also musical background.
Be now just in time, live just in the moment, lose your fears and get your strength – that’s what the musician art of Anna Vavilkina is telling us.
The movie also has its moral.
So the historical and patriarchal baroque system had its pleasure, of course – but only for very few people.
Let’s learn from it, please!
And thank you again in all modesty to everyone who helped with this very special night for uniting dance, music and film art to a versatile cultural enjoyment. Let’s do it again!
P.S. The next Midnight Ballet in Babylon will take place on Saturday, 31st of July 21, with star ballerino Rainer Krenstetter from Miami City Ballet! More detailed informations will follow…