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Jack Reed

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Everything posted by Jack Reed

  1. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    Saturday evening's cast, largely from opening night, I gather, seemed to me the best of this (second) weekend; Peter Boal, after the show, called it "A-list" himself, acknowledging the large turnout in the lecture hall. The "Emeralds" pas de trois (Biasucci, Generosa, Davis) had the continuous flow I had wanted, but it was Lindsi Dec, the tall girl in "Rubies" - the most interesting dancer I'd seen so far - who, energizing that part, really lifted the evening; and then, Lesley Rausch in "Diamonds" (with the towering Karel Cruz) brought us her mastery on that elevated plane. No, more: "Mastery" might imply it's finished, done, perfect, boring; with Rausch, it's fully inhabited but inherently unsettled. It's the quality we talked about above - she's cool and independent, yes, but her prince matters to her, too. This duality, this tension, shone forth from within this dancer.
  2. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    So this was Generosa's third "Rubies"? Okay, but I still think there are tentative moments to be seen across the stage, not just her, in this "Rubies" - as well as lots of moments which have come to themselves, so to speak, and are realized. Fast-paced and quirky that it is, any cast in this ballet has its work cut out for it to bring it off without fuss. Maybe three essays at a part are not experience enough in this. There wasn't much strain in Orza's pas to be seen; and listening to her little autobiography after loving what I saw her do, I too was glad that she got herself out of NYCB and found she could have a life in Seattle.
  3. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    My post just above Helene's applies to Thursday evening's performance (September 28th); here's what I thought after a return visit on the 29th: Much joy in watching Friday evening's performance. The "Emeralds" cast was the same, so I can't easily account for why it was so much better an experience than Thursday, not that there was anything wrong with that. They'd had a day for more studio time, or it might have been me or my seat - I was smack on the center line in Row N, and being smack in the center at "Emeralds" does a lot for me , but Merchant and her companions were - how shall I say? - populating a calm but vibrant world, inhabiting the space of Faure's steady, even sounds. An odd way to put it? Well, the man, Balanchine, himself remarks somewhere in the old 2-hour PBS documentary about him that, "The dancers are the fish! And the music is the a-quar-i-um!" I think it's a good metaphor in general for his kind of ballet, but especially for this one. Many people saw it originally as connoting "a world beneath the sea". However you put it, the visible movement ebbed and flowed within the audible last night, until the pas de trois, where there were a few of those minor instants of rest, stopping the flow, as though they had to give their music an instant to begin again. "Rubies" was led creditably by Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths, but "Rubies" continues to be something of a sometime thing here, though Cecilia Iliesiu was outstanding as "the tall girl" and well-liked by the audience. Friday's pianist was Christina Siemens, whom I thought gave her part more eloquent inflection than Allan Dameron had on Thursday (though not reaching the level of wit heard in the four or so recordings I've heard with the composer's participation). In "Diamonds" Sarah Ricard Orza made a fine debut, looking just a bit strained to hold her dance together by the slow tempos of the pas de deux and a little hard pressed by Emil de Cou's good, brisk tempo in the scherzo which follows it, as a kind of coda - but here, she seemed determined to show us clearly and fully, in the flow, everything we heard, no blurring or short cuts, and I loved her for it. (In the conversations in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall which followed, Orza said that dancing in slow tempo is more challenging because it's harder to maintain control.)
  4. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    "Emeralds" seemed imbued with much life by everyone last night; it looked as native to these dancers as it looks alien to the POB dancers, in their well-shot video. (Even if the Parisians are arguably more accomplished in other ways.) But I missed the gravity and stillness, the trance-like mystery of that "walking" duet, originated by Paul and Moncion. Similarly "Diamonds." Yes: I like these Seattle dancers better than the Paris ones, in this. But "Rubies" is more - idiosyncratic? So some bits looked tentative, even led by an experienced cast, though most of it looked enlivened, as "Emeralds" had. A ballet constructed of startling moments, "Rubies" has often been shown in recent years with the most startling one replaced by a dead moment. A real lapse: It's at that point in the dance of "the tall girl" with her four boys when we hear the opening music again, and each boy rushes to her and grabs a wrist or an ankle. They manipulate her through a series of arabesques until the girl looks out at us from the group so that we see her face - originally, upside down! For years she has looked upstage, showing us the back of her head - for example, in that POB video - with no effect, but now here once again, the original startling effect of this moment is restored. Another of PNB's efforts pays off. As for the new settings, having seen them on stage, I agree more strongly with volcanohunter and jsmu. And then some: The huge picture frame doesn't just diminish some of the movement, it dwarfs the cast; and the touches of pink in the costumes softens the cold, hard dazzle of "Diamonds." The blank black backdrop for "Rubies" doesn't have this problem, though it doesn't set the ballet off, either, and the starry night-sky backdrop for "Emeralds" just seems odd, oddly prosaic: Stars, not jewels? Not settings for jewels?
  5. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    In the traditional SL, frightened though she is at first, doesn't she does eventually submit in confidence to his embrace? I remember him behind her but both face us at the end of the pas, the more for her expression to move us. He wins that confidence from her; in "Diamonds" she remains remote in tone, if not so much in her place on stage.
  6. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    The "Diamonds" pas in particular is more one of an independent being and her admirer than your typical romantic, win-her-over pas; see where she proceeds across, downstage, alone, while he runs across upstage with excited little jumps, swinging one raised hand in salutation or exclamation. And Farrell was usually her cool, expansive self in this, showing us how Mr. B. heard Tchaikovsky's cool, spacious sound. So, yes, a ballerina today can get this quality from the choreography, and it's a tribute to Rausch and an important thing to observe and to report that she found it and showed it, too. (The ending is played a little differently different times; I've seen the same dancers - Illeana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, in the MCB of old - show us how she lets him kiss her hand, or, another time, how she is surprised when, kneeling, he takes it - but the point is that neither way is it ever a warm embrace, never near. He may warm to her, but her? Very cool.)
  7. Jewels: 22-23 Sep and 28 Sep-1 Oct

    Based on the "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" clips from the current production linked here, I'm in agreement with both of you. (Not charmed by the tiaras, but encouraged by the comment about how the skirts flow. Costumes must move well.) Moreover, the movement in both clips keeps stopping in poses and then starts again. Not what I remember from the '70s (and prefer), either, especially in the "Diamonds" performances propelled by Robert Irving's rather stiff and fast tempos, or in Hugo Fiorato's still brisk but more wonderful rubato approach, as well as in some recent ones, notably Villella's MCB. (Haven't seen any of the PNB performances. Yet. Nothing quite like dancers on stage, and I'm looking forward to Rausch and Dec, especially.) What's taking in authentic Balanchine is how the poses flash by, vividly visible, in the flow, in what I think Alexandra called the "through-line".
  8. I just learned about this hours ago. Here's a link: http://www.artscenter.org/events/suzanne-farrell-ballet/ It's billed as the Farewell Tour, to be followed in a few days by the troupe's last season at the Kennedy Center. I notice the center of the main floor at Purchase is already pretty well sold.
  9. Suzane Farrell Ballet at Purchase December 3, 2017

    Let's remember that in the past the Kennedy Center has held preview performances of excerpts of TSFB's seasons in their Millennium Stage series in the foyer there a couple of weeks in advance, and these previews are livestreamed and most of them have been archived on the K. C. website. They are excerpts, they are previews, and the dancing continues to develop by the time of the performances in the theater, but, nevertheless ...
  10. Building New Ballet Audiences

    Even better, put the trailers on line when tickets go on sale, so potential "consumers" can sample the goods?
  11. NYCB in Paris

    On the other hand, the Rubies pas de deux, danced by Patricia McBride and Robert Weiss, which was included in Part 2 of the four Dance in America "Choroeography by Balanchine" programs, and broadcast in November 1978, has not been seen much since. Not commercially reissued nor on Youtube. (Some of the current Youtube posts of these performances have less-good image quality than we have seen over the years, but, my God! The dancing! In spite of the taxing conditions at Opryland in Nashville, the long hours, the hard floors.)
  12. NYCB in Paris

    I hope everybody realizes that the company Balanchine actually supervised to dance his ballets as he wanted to see them danced was also recorded in color - though not anything like such glorious color and definition as today: The cameras they used to tape the PBS broadcasts in 1977 and 1978 later released on VHS and on the two "Choreography by Balanchine" DVD's produced pretty garish color, and when I play any of the dances on those, I usually turn the color knob down slightly. Not only that, "Robert Schumann's Davidsbuendlertaenze" was also taped in color around the same time, though released only on VHS and Laserdisc, as far as I know, neither broadcast nor issued on DVD; but now I remember one of the greatest astonishments of all, the 1966 film of Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," filmed in color in a studio in downtown New York, with Suzanne Farrell as Titania, Edward Villella as Oberon, and Arthur Mitchell as Puck. (There's also a water fountain upstage in Act II - never in the theater. Balanchine remembered how that could be done in the Czar's theater where he danced as a boy, and he sometimes expressed regret that he couldn't do it in his own theaters.) "Davisbuendlertaenze" can be found sometimes; but the "Midsummer" film is rare, at least in America, apparently. But KarenAG's description of her enjoyment of seeing on screen at home, whenever you want, dancers you see in the theater, is what sent me down memory lane here: I well remember that evening when the first "Dance in America" Balanchine show was broadcast in Chicago in December 1977: Look, I thought, there they are! Those dancers I knew from my expeditions to New York. Not their faces so much as their individual movement flavors. And the next evening, having rewound my cassette, I could repeat the experience, right in my own living room, without the effort of traveling! And I could use those recordings to familiarize myself more thoroughly with the ballets, as I had used music recordings. Yes, I agree, I would also like MCB, or somebody, to release their PBS program - actually from longer ago, 2011 I think.
  13. Here in Chicago, I found the livestream went off more or less as announced - several minutes' late starting (not unheard of in ballet performance) - and with some lapses between about 7:25 and 7:51 Pacific Time. Some of this might have been owing to problems at my end, but a "card" went up on Facebook acknowledging they had a problem, as well. Some of Rausch's dancing, lovely when I could see it, was lost to me this way, but Imler and her partner, Bold, (and Tchaikovsky!) made the anxiety and uncertainty abut what was going on and what to try do about it worthwhile. And a lot of the camera work was very good! They made the hard choices - "ants" vs. "giants" - and usually got it right. (Poor Rausch got cut off at the shins sometimes, in what some of us call "mud shots," because it looks as though the dancer is shin-deep in it.) (I think I saw somewhere that the video would be available for a month, actually; that would be until July 11th.)
  14. 1978 . . . and Today

    And some of us would quibble that NYCB doesn't have so many Balanchine ballets. His steps, yes. The choreographer was reported to ask, "Steps? Steps are what?" The 2016 Paris videos show impressive displays of technique, of highly refined athletic ability, but to someone who saw hundreds of performances of Balanchine's NYCB - when he supervised it - Sara Mearns (and possibly Tyler Peck - praised in those videos by the reliable Alastair Macaulay, but I haven't caught up with her there) are the exceptions who infuse this movement with "meaning" or a sense of a reason for doing what they do, other than that display. But this is an old story, much older than Balanchine's death, 34 years - a generation - ago.
  15. Critics on Social Media

    I thought the question here was more like, Do they really think they will attract more of the audience advertisers want by filling in more junk?, but you may be right in condensing the intermediate step. Another angle may be that media in general improve their bottom line not only by bringing in income, i.e. from advertising, but also by reducing costs, and junk may be cheaper to come by. (The CBS radio outlet here in Chicago carries a lot of "police blotter" material, which holds our breathless attention and must be very cheap to get, not that it has no utility - none of us want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.) Back in the day, it looked like The Times was able to inform the nation according to the calculations of the major upscale department stores.
  16. Critics on Social Media

    He's not only a critic, he's The New York Times on this subject! "All the News That's Fit to Print," right? But the main thing for me is what I infer from your second point: What makes AM worth paying attention to is not only what he says about what he sees, but, usually, how he says it. Because he describes it so well, I can see what he sees, and I can follow his thinking through to his judgements, and this makes reading what he says experience useful even when I'm watching ballet he hasn't written about, and even when I disagree with some of his judgements. A kind of tutorial by an expert on how to watch. I think he's the best dance critic the Times has ever had, and being in the hands of a broader audience than more specialist publications, even compared to The New Yorker, where he wrote for a time, he's in a position to do a lot of good.
  17. Just briefly, as I am at breakfast, but Gabriella Domini is such a Sylph! Such a "natural"! Did Martins program Scotch on her account? You could think. It's not just the lightness, the willowy quality, it's the stage presence - for example, she lifts her partner's droopy arms, tilts and turns her head to check - yes, that's right - and moves on - these touches of the role are built-in, or course, but she doesn't show them, do them, she makes them. Three times I've seen her - the first time - well, okay, we're not supposed to write about rehearsals, but it was then I felt rewarded for the effort it cost this old man to get here from Chicago. I'm sorry for Natalia not to have seen this unimaginably wonderful creature, but there will be other opportunities (speaking of apprentices). But in the company she will not have the same association with such teacher/coaches as Suki Schorer anymore. On the other hand, she was satisfying in Scenes de Ballet too; it didn't take moment to pick her out, paired as the dancer are in that, she doesn't really have a double. Yes, there were others on stage, notably Andres Zuniga - notable for the nobility he brought to his role, not to mention his partnering - everything she needed, as far as I could see, and his own fine dancing. Not bad for a teenager? Pretty good for any dancer! And there were other ballets, and I look forward to canbelto and others to round out the picture.
  18. You got me going now, Natalia. With two sailors and a girl in a cafe, A la Francaix starts out like Fancy Free, so don't you want that one on the program, too? Earlier. As the opener? Then La Sylphide, and Scotch. And A la Francaix to end up, to leave the audience dissolving in helpless laughter, not to mention fatigue? No? No, I suppose not. Let's get serious, and even farther OT? The friend who accompanied me Saturday inadvertently tipped me off to another experience of the invisible becoming visible, like where the Sylph makes her boy (James or Albrecht) aware of her presence. In this case, it's Rembrandt's realization, in "Abraham Entertaining the Angels," of the episode in Genesis 18, I think, where Abraham gradually becomes aware of who his visitors are. We see the three of them gradually revealed, revealed in gradations, in the painting, one's wings concealed under his coat, another's partly open, the third's fully extended and illuminated (in Rembrandt's wonderful way with light), by which we understand this angel is the Lord. Abraham is stopped in pouring from a pitcher, his activity arrested with his thumb still holding the pitcher's lid open, and Sarah looks on from the doorway in the background. As the curator has it, "They have not yet grasped what is taking place but are at the cusp of revelation, suspended between seeing and understanding." Where have we seen this before? The image in the Frick museum is tiny, but having been "set up" for it, it had big effect. In Scotch and in La Sylphide and in Giselle, too, we see a young man at the cusp of revelation. We see his revelation, and we anticipate Abraham's.
  19. I'm coming around, Natalia. Hmm... Yeah, Scotch second. "Comedy" (i.e. with the happy ending) after tragedy, ancient-Greek style? But I'm unclear about the quadruple bill, with A la Francaix and Union Jack? A la Francaix, La Sylphide, Scotch, and even just Part 1 of Union Jack? Wow. Okay, I won't even think about it. (Unless you elucidate, that is.) (The original triple-bill plan for Stars and Stripes, Tricolore, and Union Jack, or "Entente Cordiale," was sensibly abandoned when Tricolore turned out a mess.)
  20. Oh, dear, where is that red-faced emoticon! Sorry your comment didn't catch my eye but glad Gaby's dancing caught yours! That's the important thing. What a joy! And I do appreciate your characterization of Mira - such accurate details help to bring back to me that all-to-brief experience of this art that disappears before it is even finished. But, can I disagree a little bit about putting Sylphide and Scotch on the same program? In that order? Yes, I want - and I want the audience to have - those agreeable little pangs of recognition when the references to the older ballet appear in the newer - but, partly because of having recently endured another proof of an old Balanchine analogy of program-making to menu-planning in the form of three new "Game Changer" ballets on one Joffrey program in Chicago, one needs to consider that "people don't want beef three times - some like oysters," how about we present Sylphide earlier in the season - the week before, or something, then Scotch? And let people have that experience that way. Not that we're going to get the assignment, but for the sake of discussion... We can only disagree with someone who cares about the same thing, right? Otherwise, it's a shrug. So it's not all bad. So I venture the point.
  21. I believe these are customarily announced from the stage just before the 7:00 Benefit performance, on Monday again this year, as it was until a few years ago when it was moved to Tuesday. I see no comment here so far of Gabriella Domini, the alternate, Sylph-like "adagio" girl in Scotch. Many of us who've seen her apply the affectionate diminutive: Just 18, she's "Gabbie" to us. Lovely, and with a lovely stage presence, too, though an acute friend, while granting Gabbie her virtues found Mira Nadon "truer to Mendelssohn". My friend and I agree that Gabbie's stage presence helped to make the enduring, timeless Scotch the hit of the program, not to mention the stagers' care to restore myriad bits of pantomime; agreed, the Wheeldon and the Martins are rather "busy," skillfully fitting movement to to music, but to little further effect. (Some say Hallelujah Junction is Martins' finest ballet, and, comparative statement that it is, it may be true.) I feel Suki Schorer and Susan Pilarre, the Scotch stagers (for principals and corps, respectively), deserve lots credit for their achievement. Scotch came to life again! Two casts. Relative youngsters on view, but an abundance of riches.
  22. Interview with Edward Villella

    Well... when it comes to what the choreographer can ask for or hope for, doesn't it often depend on who the choreographer chooses to collaborate with? I think some of the stories I've picked up about Ashton or Balanchine going into the studio with someone, listening to some music, and saying, "Show me something," are probably not limited to those two gentlemen - or maybe that's also less common nowadays. The dancers in those stories were usually ones the choreographer had worked with, whom he was familiar with. (Would Balanchine have made Emeralds if he hadn't had Verdy? Or, would Balanchine have made Jewels if he hadn't had Verdy? Some say, to the second question, no.) Getting back more to Villella, I recall one evening in Ft. Lauderdale, responding to a question in one of his pre-performance talks, when he was directing MCB, he said, "I can't teach talent. I can teach technique to talent, but I can't teach talent." I think that's what we're talking about, maybe with a little different emphasis, but yes, it's magic, real magic. We see beyond the moves - at least I do - into the world of that ballet.
  23. Interview with Edward Villella

    Hard to miss, with Edward Villella, I'd say. As Rebecca says near the end, tune in on June 12 for part two. But she also refers to Prodigal as among the roles Balanchine made on Villella; I don't think so. I think Mr. B. revived it for him, which is not quite the same, although it showed that in Villella Balanchine saw someone right for the role. Anyway, the big "take away" for me in this installment was Villella's recollection of how stimulating it was to be a different person in each of several roles in an evening's program. Now, he says, when he coaches a role, the dancers only approach it technically; "they don't know who they are on stage." As a spectator, this is what I usually find missing onstage today, the dancers' knowing who they are. (When I go at all, that is.)
  24. Thursday Evening, 11th May Square Dance This might have been a particularly good choice to lead some of the audience into the second-place Agon, because this is the later version in simpler, more minimal costumes like Agon and very clearly and openly laid out on the stage like Agon, too, though contrasting the second ballet in other ways, musical and movement style. The dancing had somewhat smaller effect than I would have liked, though, a little on the perfunctory side, not that I like overstatement, but very legibly performed with appropriate bounce by these dancers (in near break-leg tempos) in the fast movements. In contrast, the tempo of the pas de deux with Jillian Barrell was unusally slow; and her partner, Helio Lima, gave a somewhat understated performance of the the famous male variation Balanchine added when he revived and revised this ballet in 1976. Agon The first performance of a new program can have a few glitches, and tonight the absence of an orchestra with a conductor contributed to a missed cue, when the second pas de trois cast entered to silence, several counts ahead of their music, which is recorded at these performances. Repeating some steps for a moment until the music caught up, they soon had their dance back together. Generally the dancing in Agon, staged by Richard Tanner, seemed to me to make a larger effect than it had in Square Dance, staged by Ben Huys, though the contrast between the two wasn't so much as it was a year ago between Symphony in Three Movements, also staged by Huys, and the Apollo, staged by BA's AD, Ib Andersen, which followed it on that program. But much greater largeness of effect was to come in the central pas de deux, danced by Jillian Barrell and Helio Lima; not only was their dancing "large" in strength of clearly legible shapes made instant by instant, but it gained cumulative effect from these instants appearing in a continuous flow of movement punctuated by the isolated sounds of Stravinsky's music. And more than that: When that music becomes aggressive, choppy, and rough-textured for a short section, their dancing also acquired some violent flavor. This section begins downstage audience left, where the ballerina's partner grabs her by the wrist of the arm she has extended extended back toward him; he hauls her toward him, and they dance in a new manner we haven't seen in Agon before and don't see afterward. It's part of what I like best about dancing, when it happens: I like to see what I hear. Balanchine makes that possible more than most, and good coaching and listening dancers realize the possibility. As here. Very, very good. Not the least of my fun here is that I came to Phoenix hoping to see Natalia Magnicaballi and Kenna Draxton, in particular in Agon and the "Rondo" of Western Symphony, where they are in fact cast over this weekend, because I had enjoyed watching them in the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Washington, DC. I hadn't known about Barrell and Lima, and so they were another surprise, a happy one, like the appearances of Tzu-Chia Huang two years ago, in addition to four other ballerinas I had enjoyed watching in TSFB. With 30 dancers (listed alphabetically in the program, incidentally), BA is not a huge company, but experiences like these lead me to agree with Alastair Macaulay's praise for this troupe as one of the most significant among the Balanchine "diaspora." Western Symphony This is the three-movement version we usually see nowadays, the old third-movement "Scherzo" not having been seen anywhere since 1960, apparently, until its revival by Edward Villella's Miami City Ballet in 2011. Again, this staging by Huys also tended a little toward the perfunctory, though much of the humor was nonetheless clear enough to the audience - like the last moments of the "Adagio," though not, this time, the references to Giselle - no laughs for those; and Kenna Draxton brought some of the right coy wit and sparkle to Le Clercq's role in the final "Rondo."
  25. Thanks for the encouragement, both of you! But who was it who said, "I write so slowly that if I had to do it for a living, I couldn't make enough money to buy a tin cup"? Meanwhile, I've posted a little item abut this run in another forum: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/42571-2017-mothers-day/#comment-380983