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Jack Reed

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Everything posted by Jack Reed

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.)
  14. 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."
  15. 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
  16. 2017 Mother's Day

    No neat publicity material to post here, but when Kenna Draxton gave her farewell performances with Ballet Arizona here in Phoenix this Mother's Day afternoon, she not only did herself proud first with a calm, beautifully expansive Second pas de Trois in Agon and then after intermission by a Rondo in Western Symphony where she fully enjoyed the fun within it, she then (what makes these remarks appropriate here) received a bouquet from her daughter of about eight. Her son of about four was also present and, after a bit of coaching from his dad, joined in the clapping onstage.
  17. It gets better! Friday Evening 12th May I cannot account for it, because the principal cast was the same, the recordings were surely the same, and I sat not far from where I sat last night, but most of the issues and reservations I had with last night's show were resolved by this evening. I had a better appreciation of Barrell and Lima in Square Dance, both in their pas de deux, which didn't seem too slow this evening, and in his variation, which seemed more continuous and expansive tonight, and the tempos in the fast movements seemed rightly brisk tonight, not driven, as I may have implied about last night. That the second pas de trois in Agon went off without a problem - indeed most of the group dances in Agon were better than merely problem-free tonight, if not on quite the scale I have sometimes seen them elsewhere, in the past - should probably go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Just a little of Part One was a little wild - and these were unforgiving tempos, but, again, not driving. And Barrell and Lima made the pas de deux if anything, yet more effective. Likewise, the ensembles in Western Symphony were vivid except the - what shall I call them? - the representational moves and gestures in it which are not part of the academic vocabulary but give this ballet its color, character - or should I say characters? - and humor. And the sound was better, clearer, although a little louder (which in some situations makes more distortion) throughout the evening. The differences were so great I'm tempted to think it was me, somehow - but maybe it's a case of, what a difference a day makes!
  18. Kenna Draxton Retirement Announced

    Any indication there'll be a change to the repertory on that occasion? There's nothing on the cast sheet. I expect to be there for the weekend anyway: Having enjoyed Natalia Magnicaballi's ability to fill out a role that calls for some characterization as well as large and clearly-legible and musical dancing, I was wondering whether I dared anticipate her in LeClercq's role in Western Symphony, and I see now Kenna Draxton, whose dancing I regret to say I know less well, is cast there too, three times. This looks like the kind of farewell celebration that has some fans, ahem, reflecting on how dancers' careers may be physically challenging for them, but emotionally challenging for us, too, at the end. On the other hand, Draxton's going out with a bang - she has LeClercq's part and the second pas de trois in Agon on Sunday afternoon. "Leave 'em wanting more," is the old show biz saying.
  19. 2017-18 Season

    We've seen that before, at NYCB in the mid-'80s, at MCB a few years ago, maybe at PB (Pennsylvania Ballet), and TSFB looks like going out of what existence it had in December. One positive indication in Sarasota, though, is that Webb is staying on. Especially while I was reading Natalia's posts, I was thinking, I'm sorry I missed it, but he's signed up for another 10 years, right? So there's another glimmer of hope.
  20. 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.
  21. NYCB in Paris

    Vive la France!
  22. Helene has made a few remarks about getting around downtown Phoenix and sitting in the Orpheum Theater (scroll down the linked page - there's even advice how to shop for tickets in the Orpheum there), but now that BA is back in its main venue, Symphony Hall, for most of its performances, I'm wondering about that story, not previously discussed here as far as I can find. (Is it really a converted hockey rink? Just curious. I think one of Carolina Ballet's regular venues in Raleigh is a converted basketball arena. Not that it matters. Whatever works, and center seats in Fletcher Opera Theater there are mostly pretty good, in my experience.) So, where are the better/worse seats for ballet in Symphony Hall? (And how do you order them? The interactive on-line seating chart looks promising until you discover that the little squares representing the seats contain one of four colors but only two colors are explained in the lower left corner of the chart. When the technology fails us, there's still some of our fellow humans around, but I haven't tried the box office - for the upcoming Balanchine program - yet.) And where are the better creature comforts these days? I gather downtown Phoenix has its share of huge chain hotels (and probably some urban noise, although the airport itself looks to be four miles east) but at the moment I'm considering taking that light rail up and down Central Avenue about four miles (half an hour?), to a little B & B, Maricopa Manor. Is this just off a busy intersection, though?
  23. Visiting Phoenix to see Ballet Arizona

    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.
  24. 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.
  25. 2016-17 Season

    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.)
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