Jack Reed

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About Jack Reed

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
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  1. Ballet Chicago will hold a free preview in their studios at 17 N. State Street (19th floor) at 5:00 PM today, lasting about 75 minutes; get a pass on this page http://www.balletchicago.org/springrepertory.asp This page also has details and ticket-order links for the 20th Anniversary season of the Ballet Chicago Studio Company, the performing wing of this Balanchine-oriented ballet school, which will take place in the Harris Theater on May 6th, at 2:00 and 7:30 PM.
  2. Vive la France!
  3. I tried it a year ago, and the view from up there looked worth it, except that a few clouds lay over the sun, low in the western sky, making the whole panorama gray and dim: Lurking in the gloom, the sharply-outlined mountains, not eroded and worn in that dry climate, jutted abruptly into the air from the flat desert floor. With the lights on, so to speak, it must be pretty dramatic, especially for somebody from the upper Midwest, a.k.a. Flatland. I'll try it again if I go back - thinking about that brought me back here to this thread - but I'm going to be more careful about the weather forecast.
  4. From personal - therefore limited - experience going back about that far (my own off-air recordings seem to have begun in 1979, according to my notes) I'd say both surmises are correct: In New York, at least, it was broadcast (and recorded by a friend) in color, and that with two or three or more transitions along the way from that to what we see here, the "color information" was lost. Whether the tape this is derived from was possibly made from a black-and-white broadcast, or recorded on a black-and-white recorder, in Chicago, and then found its way into the Chicago archive, I can't say. (Other details may be unearthed by someone who enjoys searching the NYPL Dance Collection catalog more than I do!) But Chryst is pretty remarkable! Black-and-white or full color, there's no doubt! Good to see that.
  5. I'm all for keeping standards up, even if it means a postponement of the performance. But, with regard to that replacement repertory, is there any word as to which of Balanchine's Valse Fantaisies is planned? (The 1953 version, for four principals - three women and a man - or the 1967 one, for a principal couple and four women?) Ian Webb's published remarks in the article linked to indicate an admirable bias toward maintaining good versions in repertory, so maybe it'll be the earlier one, presumably in greater danger of loss owing to being older - but also, as some think, being better. Personally, having seen both on stage, I might say I've enjoyed both very much, though the one I think less of (1967) was literally buoyed up by Mr. B's cast, led in lighter-than-air fashion especially appropriate to this perpetuum-mobile number, by Judith Fugate and Daniel Duell, when I saw it around 1980 (not that the little corps were anything to sniff at), while the earlier one danced by Villella's MCB in 2010 looked to be a revival of more brilliant choreography, making more substantial effect - and very well realized by those casts, too. (I gather there is yet an earlier choreography of this piece by Balanchine, making three in all.)
  6. Having attended on Thursday the 23rd and Friday the 24th, I'm in general agreement with my two predecessors here, especially their ranking order of the three ballets. Wheeldon is capable of beautiful effects, but both his and McGregor's dances often seemed arbitrary, unmotivated - I like to see what I hear, one way or another - and, especially McGregor's, busy and lacking point. Wheeldon's last construction, with the girl on top just lifted up there and held there, epitomized his procedure, not that there were no admirable phrases or passages along the way. (Polyphonia remains my favorite of the few Wheeldon ballets I've seen.) On my second visit I could focus my attention to much better effect all the way through - the luminous promenade above Infra was just as visible the second time but no longer a distraction, just defining a performance space below it, which I looked into steadily. The first time, I kept checking back for some relations among the movements, above and below. Uh, uh. As in Wheeldon's new The Nutcracker a couple of months ago, the Joffrey dancers were so differently good in these two different ballets, they made me want to see them in something better; betting on Peck's Rabbit was what got me into the Auditorium, and right away it was the payoff I'd hoped for. And then some. And then some more. A lot more. But never too much, nowhere near too much: It's all constantly rearranged in fresh and refreshing ways, like a high-speed kaleidoscope, as Tobi Tobias put it; as a long-time professional critic, she also found specific references to Balanchine and others I was less concerned to look for, but all the same, I was struck by the final tableau, when the music becomes more deeply dramatic and Peck arranges his stage into two parallel diagonal lines of dancers forming an alley for his soloist to fly down - and be lifted by three men waiting upstage, heroically, joyfully, facing us - arms up in a V, this time, not back, as in the end of Serenade. The dancers excelled themselves here - having attended the presentation before Thursday's performance, I learned from AD Ashley Wheater's remarks that not only had Janie Taylor set the work (as jsmu mentions in his comprehensive account) but afterward, Peck had come to give the movement quality, the bright crispness (my phrase, not Wheater's). And there were other - what I might call Balanchinesque virtues, not absent in other choreographers' work, though not the other ones on view here - the way you can always see all of the dancers, what Edwin Denby called Balanchine's "luminous spacing," and the way much of the shape of the flow of the movement, not only its quality and substance, is directed from within the music. Yes, put McGregor away, please - and let's see what else Justin Peck can do!
  7. Likewise. Meanwhile, we have that wonderful little note from Acocella, with its evocations of Serenade - and, I would add, Balanchine's art in general: It's "a little odd," and, "you’re not quite sure." A great little introduction, or re-introduction, to Balanchine's world.
  8. Thanks for the insight. I had wondered what that pig was all about! And thanks to rg for reminding me of the old decor for NYCB's production. I think it's the difference between that greeting-card-like scene and this realistic moving picture - literally - it looks like a sequence shot by a camera suspended from a helicopter, or something, a drone, maybe - that bothered me. Looking at that card while listening to the overture lets Tchaikovsky set the scene; here, he has some competition. But I don't want to belabor the point to make it seem more important than it is; the dancing is the thing, and right through the end of the Saturday matinee, with Elle Macy's memorable substitution for Elizabeth Murphy as Dewdrop, there was a lot to like. (No criticism of Murphy; she was one of the better Coffees, even managing a ringing tone with her finger cymbals.)
  9. What the choice of the earlier PNB version of Nut suggests to me was that somebody at the station thought it was time for something seasonal and that video - a commercial release by now, right? - would fill the bill. Interesting that the PBS station sacked the director - or maybe not. If there are enough complaints about on organization, I suppose it is the director who goes, under the presumption that changes will be instigated by the replacement.
  10. Was there any indication of her background? From her remark about "midwestern values" her thinking sounds literally provincial: The School of American Ballet is far away and our local market won't relate to it, or something like that. (Such provinciality does get some New Yorkers laughing, not that they're always so well informed about things "west of the Hudson" as I'd wish.) This thinking is ignorant of the value of communications generally to take us away from our familiar and ordinary experience and ignorant of the mind-expanding potential of art in particular. I don't mean her geographical background but the background of her thinking, where she's "coming from" in that sense.
  11. Which, please? The video of their previous version? Stowell & Sendak & Co.? Even without those particulars, it's an interesting datum about media treatment of high culture, but if it's their recent Balanchine production, it's even stranger. And what about the station? Not part of any network or chain belonging to one owner? Series might generate more of the visibility sponsors want, I suppose, whether Amazon or Netflix or ... (Is the example of the early A & E worth mentioning? Some of the content - a lot of the content - was pretty awful, IIRC. Amazing it went on so long.) Strange, incomprehensible things go on. Merry Christmas from Seattle, anyway! (Or, bah, humbug?... No, not about PNB's current "Nut", enjoyable and charming, that, but about the present unsatisfactory subject.)
  12. No performance commentary? Am I in the right thread? But I came into Seattle on the 21st to have a look at this. It's the third choreography of The Nutcracker I've seen in a couple of weeks, and it still looks like the best to me. Certainly the best of the three, the others being Christopher Wheeldon's for the Joffrey Ballet, and Daniel Duell, George Balanchine, and Patricia Blair's for Ballet Chicago. I have issues with the opening animation for PNB's, though, projected on a forecurtain. I take it it's the concept of the production designer Ian Falconer, and it sure looks like the wildest dream of a childen's-book illustrator, which I think Falconer is: Illuminated, seen from on high, and realistically animated, it carries the viewer from a snow storm down through a snowy forest into the front yard of a stately mansion, whose doors are then pushed open for us by a horde of brown rats, leaving realism behind; but as the Overture Miniature ends, and the action begins as we swoop in, it is Balanchine's true realization of Tchaikovsky's instructions, instant by instant, minute by minute, scene by scene, with scarcely a missed moment. One trouble with it is that it introduces the "snow" theme long before Tchaikovsky calls for it - would that Falconer would hear Tchaikovsky as well as Mr. B., or maybe even Duell and Blair, or as well as some ballet-watchers who discuss on another thread here the magical, transcendent effect of the un-choreographed snow music at the end of Act I. By introducing snow so early, that later effect seems to me undercut, weakened, a little anticlimactic; it's less of a "lift-off" for our imaginations, our winter dreams (to plug another work by Tchaikovsky). But as I say, once the action begins, it's rich world Balanchine and PNB sets before us. I have some quibbles about the costumes, though, in regard to the bold horizontal red and white stripes used mainly for Clara's dress and the lining of Herr Drosselmeier's cape, but otherwise the freshly re-imagined designs decorations have the right effect. (I wouldn't insist on imitations of Karinsa's work but the effect should be right, and if it is less than hers, it's the right kind.) Unfailingly charming. (Wheeldon & Co. never reach that level.) I saw both casts on the 22nd, and the evening happened to be superior to the matinee at most or of all the usual points of comparison, Sugarplum, Dewdrop, Marzipan, right down the list, including the kids, even though Dewdrop in the matinee was Lesley Rausch, who acquitted herself as Sugarplum in the evening as especially light and sharply clear, while nevertheless soft and flowing, and showing us what she heard. But surprisingly the casts so far have not taken away the memories of Dana Coons and Nina Montalbano in Ballet Chicago's performances, whose toes exemplified such a light touch on the floor for an instant or another, they seemed only to be establishing a point of direction, not supporting the dancer. Just a touch, then up and on. (That's not the main thing about classical dancing for me, but it's wonderful when it happens. Weightless! Not just lighter than you can believe, but weightless!) And yes, this is not only superficial - it's not the only thing, or even the main thing - but unfair to say, too. Coons and Montalbano had just a few performances, all Ballet Chicago might be able to afford, just four last weekend after the previous weekend I didn't see, and I have a feeling that plowing through the casting data Helene has assiduously been supplying us with would show a much heavier season for the PNB casts. But that's the way it struck me. But this a fine show, excellent, if just a little mild overall in quality of performance. It's true; true to Balanchine? Well, he was true to Tchaikovsky, even more than Ballet Chicago's overall. (They show us Mr. B's SPF choreography, otherwise it's home-grown, and danced with good energy and a little punch.) That's the "truth" I look for.
  13. Friday evening 16 December 2016 I’ve been enjoying this production for many years, often seeing some familiar names in the program from a few years back, but this year there were a host of new ones. Different more-or-less traditional versions of The Nutcracker differ according to which ballerina role is supreme, Sugar Plum or Dewdrop (the leader of the Waltz of the Flowers); this one has three major roles: In the order we see them here, in the Snow Pas de Deux to the great, adagio Pine Forest music beginning the Snow scene; Dewdrop, and Sugar Plum. Here the Sugar Plum pas de deux is a traditional four-part classical pas deux, the Balanchine choreography for the adagio, female variation (to the lovely celeste music), and coda, and a male variation made by Daniel Duell to replace the lost Balanchine one. My friend and I agreed that Elizabeth Chlanda (one of the few names I recognized) showed us her dancing with beautiful mastery, partnered by Brenton Taft, who only rarely evinced the difficulty that underlies dancing like this; we enjoyed Emily Fugett’s Dewdrop, another dancer who has been on view before, but felt this flower was maybe just beginning to wilt slightly by comparison with the crisp, clean line of most of the dancing on view; but, ahem, fifteen-year-old Nina Montalbano (one of the names new to me this year) so realized Sugar Plum and made visible her fairy presence here in the fantasy land of The Land of Sweets, she made it natural and right and inevitable that this magical land was hers. Her cavalier, Lee Borowski, seemed to provide everything Montalbano needed. There were other highlights, more than I’m up to naming, but David Riley was the crisp, effective Soldier Doll in the “Prologue” or party scene entertainment, and the role of Nutcracker, marshaling his toy-soldier troops and finally doing-in the Mouse King in the Battle was an expansion in keeping with this, but this was only a harbinger of his quick, sharp, high leaps in the Russian dance, with four boys. Not least, Riley is a little guy, but oh, my, big effect. I might mention here that this Battle is more a danced contest of clashing ranks and less rough-and-tumble in its effect than some versions - like the famous one choreographed for the 1954 NYCB Nutcracker by Jerome Robbins. And Ruby Sindelar, Marie, is much littler than Riley, but well up to her role, including some new action as the orchestra starts the introduction to the Waltz of the Flowers: Marie hears Tchaikovsky telling us “something is coming”and moves from corner to corner, expressing anticipation. (The Waltz underway, Marie mostly watches, seated downstage our right; the Act II divertissements here are presented partly as entertainment for the Sugar Plum’s little visitors, as for us.) Overall, the striking thing this year was the continuity of impetus of this production; this was good in previous years, but when the 45-minute Act I was wrapped up, my companion, who hasn’t seen this for a few years, exclaimed that it couldn’t be intermission yet. “That just flew by!” Considering the variety of actions in Act I, that’s something; and considering the criticism of the new Joffrey production for its bumpy transitions (among other criticisms - this is not necessarily the thread for those) that’s a lot. You can get a glimpse of this by perusing the BC Nutcracker image gallery.
  14. I was underwhelmed myself. (I saw the first two performances, the Saturday evening and the Sunday matinee). The lengthy, encyclopedic Macaulay review and the briefer Greskovic one (in the Wall Street Journal) said it pretty well. The composer's wonderfully imagined scenario doesn't mesh at all well with Brian Selznick's - the score really implies a warm genteel interior at the beginning, not a scrappy construction site with petty theft going on - but this looks like a ballet by someone who's not listening closely (this time) with other content - or action - or distractions - piled in for a similarly inattentive audience. Indeed, Macaulay called attention to early examples where Tchaikovky's score had to yield to Selznick's scenario; it was rearranged, re-orchestrated in a few numbers. At the matinee, the dark suits and expensive-looking dresses were much less in evidence than at the premiere, and next to me were a mother and two daughters; late in Act I the six year old reported she was bored, and her mother complained, "I'm an Orthodox Jew, and I want the magic of Christmas!", and laughed. (You don't have to be an established critic to pin-point the problem.) Too much "stuff" - visual effects to be sure, moving projections, including scenery - falling leaves, a forest of giant pine trees - and forecurtains. (Interesting that all that apparatus and technology can be taken on tour, e.g. to Iowa City; but then the Auditorium Theater itself is under-equipped by modern standards, so apparently it can be set up anywhere.) It's not automatic that less is more, it depends what it is; but it can be, in the right hands. The bodies were there - the performers were strong and sure if often inexpressive on stage (so far; these were the first performances) from the top of the huge cast right down to the bottom and into the pit. My neighbor (with her daughters) wanted to see the Joffrey in something else, something more suited to them. We believed they can show us what we hear. That makes the magic.
  15. Thanks for the link! Macaulay puts his finger right on the main problem with Wheeldon's Nutcracker where he says, "... this version becomes trite as you watch because no individual character is fresh. I couldn’t believe his heart was in this story." I think this helps account for why the six-year-old girl sitting on the opposite side of her mother from me at the Sunday matinee was bored. And the rest of his review is a good account of the other problems - not least the rearrangement of some of Tchaikovsky's music - clarinet passages played klezmer style early in Act I, for instance - which add up after while to my problem with it: These revised versions of art reduce or deny the audience or spectator the possibility of the experience of being taken "out of themselves", of visiting another world; instead, they bring it down to the viewer. Some artists know better, for example, as Suzanne Farrell put it at NYU in September, To me this is the richer experience. A vital, vibrant world in itself, different from the one we see around us - not without references, perhaps, but essentially different. Ironic, that such a revision of the "traditional" Nutcracker should turn out so trite. Its new scenario burdens it - as the mother of the little girl said, "I want the magic of Christmas!" Not much magic in this show.