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Jack Reed

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  1. Balanchine - a man of few words - was known for a number of compact expressions, and "Never mind perfect. Perfect is boring." may be among the more notorious ones with some people, but it points to the freshness I find in the best, to me the most authentic, Balanchine performance. (Such as those by TSFB we were seeing in Purchase and in Washington.) Between the show at Purchase on the 3rd and these now in Washington this weekend (I wrote this December 8th), I saw a show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York of the draftsman, painter and sculptor Michelangelo, who (I learned there) was admired in his time for a certain quality, a certain characteristic, in his art. For example, Michelangelo's way in sculpture was to find his statue in the stone - he even wrote a sonnet about that, on display there - and when the statue had emerged sufficiently, he'd found it, and he stopped. Similarly with his drawing and painting. Other artists - there were contemporaries on view in the show - produced beautiful marvels, finished, complete and, in painting, perfect from edge to edge, and you marveled at the beauty, but you moved on. Something else, something more was going on with Michelangelo's works - you saw how they were still becoming what they were, you saw some of his process, because they were not yet - and never would be - finished and perfect, and this was the aspect for which many admired him in his day, this quality of his work which was called non finito, "not finished." So with Balanchine, whose art has the added complication that he did not make art in stone or even chalk on paper, nor is it even written down like other performing art, to be interpreted later by other dancers than he worked with, as we know (and as Suzanne Farrell reminds us). Mr. B. then is a latter-day Michelangelo, with an important difference that the sculptor worked in stone (as well as chalk on paper); but for Mr. B's works, even less finito, dancers are required, making ballet an art - the art - that, as soon as it comes into existence, disappears before it is, well, done, finished, perfect, finito. Is Balanchine's art, then, unique in this way? No other choreographers made work like this? I wouldn't say so - but I would say that, much like Michelangelo, he carried it higher than others of my experience, and, also like Michelangelo, consciously savored this quality himself. Are there other admirers of this quality here? (In either artist! Or in others.) What do you think?
  2. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    Seeing these fine realizations of Balanchine's ballets and an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum set some thoughts flowing, but they're more generally about Balanchine's art, so I've posted them here, for what they're worth: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/43497-balanchine-non-finito/
  3. Suzanne Farrell

    Still thinking about the question of what's next for Farrell, I remember that a friend and fellow follower of TSFB over the years pointed out lately that when one thing is finished, it frees you up to work on the next thing. Maybe my friend has stumbled on some of the meaning behind Farrell's remark about how, having retired three times, she's looking forward to the fourth one.
  4. Robert Gottlieb on Jewels

    We might each pick different favorite writers, but I think we three may still agree that the most valuable dance writing anchors the reader's mind in description of what the writer saw and carries the reader along with the writer's thinking to the writer's conclusions and judgements - showing how these conclusions were arrived at. The reader is always free at the end of it to disagree with those conclusions, but seeing the whole process - "riding along" with the writer for a moment - can help readers learn to make their own better judgements of performances the writer isn't even writing about, or that they haven't even read about. It's good exercise, good practice. This effect might sometimes be accidental, or intuitive, but at least sometimes it's intentional: Meeting one of my "favorites," I told him what I liked abut his writing, along the lines of what I just said - helping people to appreciate other ballets than the one written about, ballets they haven't even seen - and he replied that that was just what he was trying to do. But Gottlieb's commentary is usually more condensed, more compressed - he doesn't "connect the dots" often, and once in a while he even remarks that he's not much of a critic, if one at all; just an amateur - but those of us who have read him for a time have gotten to know him, gotten to know his mind, and we've learned a little about "where he's coming from" so we can interpret (or interpolate?) some of what he leaves out. Here he's an insider, mostly reminiscing, and watching Balanchine's company was such a formative and nourishing experience for me, I'm enjoying it (and I'm glad for his information on the contemporary scene, too) even when I demur from some of his opinions.
  5. Nutcracker 2017

    Not so much "The Land of Sweets" anymore, but "The Land of Palm Trees and Surf"? Aw, shucks. Not as much fun in that. What's art about, anyway? The experience of it takes us away, to another "place," different from our everyday situation, doesn't it? And then we return, changed, like from a little vacation (and no jet lag). (Sometimes, we're changed permanently.) I'm sorry, but these "localized" Nutcrackers I hear about (and sometimes see) seem to me to deny the audience a fuller, more valuable experience by being brought down to our everyday world instead of inviting us to go up into their special worlds.
  6. Nutcracker 2017

    Another report of a depressing trend - the new Wheeldon Nutcracker for Joffrey Ballet I watched here in Chicago a year ago was also dumbed down with digital projections, projections onto downstage scrims and upstage screens - like the MCB treatment seems to have been - we were shown something to think about while the Overture plays! Here I may disagree with my friend Cristian - I think we should have the music alone to listen to, and to help and encourage our imagination come to life. Tchaikovsky is setting the scene there, before the dramatic action begins. But why? Why did Lopez or anyone do that? Multiple reasons, I'd guess. A practical reason? We were told about the new Joffrey production that these screens are more easily portable, so that the production can tour more cheaply. (Like MCB touring to San Francisco?) But artistically, Lopez may want to feel up-to-date, with a kind of mixed-media, post-modern production - part traditional staging, part high-tech. I think the Joffrey people - the company bills itself as the "premiere" company - thought along those lines when it mounted a new production. "New" sells. Because there's always marketing. Traditional theater, especially ballet, creates worlds for us to visit - those of us with the imagination to do so - that's what Balanchine was doing for us. (Not only him, of course.) Marketers sense that this "product" appeals to cultivated taste, a narrow market, and want to bring it down to the uncultivated masses, a larger market. "Newbies." But nobody was born cultivated, we were all newbies once, and denied the opportunity of developing taste as we did by being denied the experience of better art like we had, they won't develop it. This is a tragedy worth anger in addition to what Cristian expresses over the "digital mess" onstage. I think he and I love good art enough to want to share it with others, and we are angry when it's messed up and that possibility is taken away, besides what it takes away from our own experience. But I may only be projecting my own feelings about the contemporary situation now.
  7. Suzanne Farrell

    The short answer, to all questions like that about continuing and future projects and "initiatives" of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, is, it's over. As dirac says, "kaput". No performance or presentation schedule, nothing. I believe the name, "Suzanne Farrell Ballet," may be the Kennedy Center's "brand" to use or not as it wishes, but in the meantime, as far as I know, her only continuing work at the K. C. is her teaching. For example, her annual summer intensive, "Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell," was announced for July 23-Auguast 11, 2018, in handbills in the programs at the K.C. Audition applications are due today, December 24, by the way; according to the handbill, information is available and applications may be submitted at education.kennedy-center.org/education/farrell or by calling (202) 416-8851. (Curious where the auditions will be held? I was. Here's the list: New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Nashville, Santa Fe, and Houston.) More than the encouraging signs I've mentioned, I'm sure there is interest and activity directed toward enabling Farrell's work, but nothing specific has emerged in public.
  8. Suzanne Farrell

    While there's truth in the idea that you sometimes don't value something as much when you have it as when you know you've lost it, their last five performances - thinking mainly of Gounod Symphony and especially of Serenade - and including the Purchase show on December 2nd - were some of their best, IMO. Nor just my opinion - some of my considerable betters went farther, for example, George Jackson in Danceviewtimes for December 8th: Trying to write about it after seeing the Purchase performance, I was pretty lost for words - a "universe," compared to a mere "world", like Gounod - but I agree with Jackson about the scale of the experience.
  9. Suzanne Farrell

    More interesting background, Helene, thank you, and it may help to explain how TSFB's last show - I'm not saying Farrell's last show - happened in December instead of October or November - it's a matter of when enough resources can be patched together for the show to go on. (Likewise, I gather that the Kennedy Center Opera House orchestra plays for TSFB during hiatus in the opera season.) I don't say "Farrell's last show" because of a hunch that she would rather do more, not less, and because of a couple of other things: On a panel after TSFB's open class - open to the public to view, free of charge - at Purchase College (in Purchase, New York) on December 2nd, she remarked to us that "I've retired three times and I'm looking forward to the fourth." So, she's "come back" three times already. And in an interview with Marina Harss in Dance Magazine early this month, she remarked
  10. Suzanne Farrell

    I think you're right, vipa. For instance, Robert Greskovic spoke this theme at the end, in his review, "Suzanne Farrell's Curtain Call," in the December 11th Wall Street Journal, for example: Exceptional dancers know they can command exceptional salaries, although some worked for Balanchine for less than they could get - did get - elsewhere, and this is another limiting factor, as money often is. But Farrell has resourcefully "picked up" dancers she had worked with before, often filling the ranks from her classes at FSU in Talahassee, as well as putting such satisfying dancers as Natalia Magnicaballi, a member of Ballet Arizona, and Heather Ogden, of the National Ballet of Canada, to mention two on view in these last performances, in the more prominent roles. (Ogden, and Violeta Angelova, both of whom I was very glad to see dancing with TSFB again, have not always appeared in Farrell's recent seasons, though.)
  11. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    George Jackson's enthusiastic response to Thursday's and Friday's shows is on Danceviewtimes: http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2017/12/for-the-future.html#more I'm confident there will be more, probably an interview, even.
  12. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    Agree with YouOverThere that TSFB deserved more money and Farrell deserves better recognition. As time goes by, the Kennedy Center seems more and more like a provincial operation where some great performers pass through. Tonight's performances seemed to me and some friends pretty strong for the run so far: Most considered Allyn Noelle, who led the opening Gounod Symphony to be becoming "a real ballerina"; I don't disagree, though I think Natalia Magnicaballi, who danced this last night, already is one. Her Tzigane tonight was not a copy of last night's, but also involved and involving, and the ballet also benefitted from the right degree of flamboyance Kirk Henning brought to her partner's role. Even better was Meditation, with Heather Ogden's poignancy, Michael Cook again in the man's role. And then Serenade, which an experienced and acute professional ballet-watcher thought the best performance of it he'd ever seen. (This was the cast I was so taken with - stunned, really - in Purchase, which he had not seen.) Many long-time ballet-watchers, whom I sometimes call the published and unpublished critics I pay attention to, were well pleased with this program.
  13. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    Kennedy Center Opera House, December 7, 2017, Thursday, 7:30 PM In the context of having seen this troupe last Sunday (December 3rd) in the Purchase College Performing Arts Center, Purchase, New York (see above), more astonishments - watching this Chaconne I felt that I could more clearly see what I heard in this ballet - always for me a source a great pleasure in watching dance - than I had for some time. "See the music, hear the dance" a friend said, but I object to slogans because of the danger they will stop or take the place of actual engagement in the present - but beyond this great pleasure there was more - the delicacy of performance of this loosely-knit suite of numbers, to essentially opera-ballet music, led this way by Heather Ogden and Thomas Garrett and danced this way by everyone there. My friend also thought that Chaconne, a loose suite of numbers (and made essentially to opera-ballet music at that), was a lesser ballet than Gounod Symphony to one of that opera composer's two symphonies; but I'm not so sure, given the greater firmness of tonight's performance of Gounod at the end, that the delicious delicacy of this one makes it less valuable at the beginning - different in substance, to be sure, but that different in value? Maybe for Mr. B. it was reason enough to have that famous flute melody in our ears, when it finally comes. (He was quoted, I think, about the pleasure of hearing it in the studio every day when he was making the ballet.) Natalia Magnicaballi's performance of Tzigane was huge tonight - compared to the one in Purchase, all the blood had flowed back into it. And Elisabeth Holowchuk's performance in Meditation was stronger, larger in geometric shapes and so on, than in Purchase; and Kirk Henning again gave the man's character much vital presence. Then, Gounod Symphony, more seasoned tonight, not to say mellow, rather than the glistening one we saw at Purchase; deeper, wonderfully realized now in another of Magnicaballi's performances Farrell told us about from the stage at Purchase last Sunday: By the end of this run, Magnicaballi will have danced in all six ballets on the schedule. Watching Noelle and the others in the large cast at Purchase, I heard more Gounod's luminous spirit, animated in recreation (after the failure of one of his operas) with music of other composers he enjoyed; watching Magnicaballi explore, listening, how her moves fit her music tonight, I heard through Gounod to the rhetorical force and classical wit in that other music, the music of Beethoven and Haydn. With the bright freshness of Noelle's dancing highlighting the newness of it, Gounod Symphony was the right opener in Purchase; with a little more Germanic weight, if you will, though no loss of luminosity, Gounod Symphony was the right finale tonight in the Kennedy Center. (Among the many pleasures of watching this troupe is the quality of the program arrangements, the sequence of repertory and the placement of cast in that sequence.)
  14. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    Purchase College Performing Arts Center, Sunday, December 3, 2017, at 3::00 PM (This is going here after some of the other events we're posting about. Sorry for any confusion.) The program opened with a beautifully clear rendition of Gounod Symphony - or three movements of it, the third, Scherzo, movement of Balanchine's original being lost by now (although back in the day Peter Martins made a replacement that Arlene Croce thought was passable). But the involved slow movement, with its beginning fugue, flanked by flowing fast ones, made a fine presentation, made even better by the crystal-clear dancing. "A band-box performance," a friend who writes on dance called it, referring to its freshness, like something you just brought home from the store, but I was reminded of another critic's phrase I'd run across years and years ago: "As fresh and glistening as creation itself." (She thought my phrase was even more apt! Out of our common experience, that's for sure.) There are a lot of dancers in this one, 32 counting the principals - Allynne Noelle and Thomas Garrett, the two in the publicity shot - and in the big shot, with all of them, which hints - just hints - at the clarity of the patterns. I say, hints, because these patterns whirl and change, lines and geometric figures appearing and disappearing, when the fast movements are under way, but never blurring. You always have a sense that you see everything. And not only the dancing - the mostly black-and-white costumes Farrell has introduced this time (by her frequent designer, Holly Hynes), versus the pink and yellow from the SAB production years ago, we're told in the post-performance discussion, as well as J. Russell Sandifer's lighting, for the most part, etch the effect. Their care with the details is wonderful: Just one instance to illustrate, early in the slow movement, Noelle stands upstage center with Garrett in half-light - there is a darker lane across the back of the bright space - and her measured changes of head and feet (if you see them - she doesn't draw attention) look for all the world as though she is not just waiting there, outside the action, but watching the fugue lines weave together and apart - participating in her mind, and perfectly naturally, not as though danced. (This is "careful" in the best sense, large, clear, focused, sharp, vital - not "careful" in the lesser sense of held in, subdued.) After intermission, Tzigane, led by Natalia Magnicaballi (with Michael Cook), who, this time, gave a rather more danced performance, rather than as genuine realization of the role as I was anticipating - in Phoenix, last May, for example, she had given us two Terpsichores in subsequent performances (in Balanchine's Apollo), each different, both true. And one of us faulted her penche's in this; but Cook was fine, and enjoying his gypsy romp. Then, after a pause, Elisabeth Holowchuk, whom we haven't been seeing for few years, with Kirk Henning, in Meditation; her effect was a little weak, compared, say, to Magnicaballi's in the same role in Chicago on the 12th, but it had the right tone; and Henning was very good. After second intermission, Serenade. At NYU's Skirball Center, Ms. Farrell had remarked, "It's not, we come down to you. We invite you to come up into our world." World? The world of Serenade her dancers set before us was a universe, flowing and swirling, energy rising and subsiding, light and dark and light again. This time the cast was led, to the extent one ballerina leads Serenade, by Heather Ogden, with modest clarity and just a little vulnerability. (Not inappropriate here.) We haven't seen her in too long a time, either. Natalia Magnicaballi's supple richness looked native to this rich ballet, and Violeta Angelova, someone else we've missed - she wasn't on view last year - brought warmth and point in comparison and some contrast to the girl she was paired with (a blonde whose name I haven't learned) and we benefited from watching these two show symmetrical moves in their individual ways. Individuals, hearing their music, not optical reflections, not copies. (What wonderful creatures inhabit Farrell's universe!) After the performance, there was a short panel: Toward the end, Farrell was asked something about how final these performances were, and she replied, "I've retired three times and I'm looking forward to the fourth… I'm always with Mr. B."
  15. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    The video is saved (for the time being, I suppose) here:
  16. "This Thursday" - December 7? If I'm really in luck, I'll be in the Kennedy Center Opera House, watching TSFB. (Their show in Purchase last Sunday included a radiant Gounod Symphony and an even better Serenade I don't have an adequate single word for - this is not the thread for that anyway, but I can't contain myself!) I'll get back to Pite in due course - heck, I can see that and sleep in my own bed.
  17. I went to the "Golden Celebration of Dance" in the Auditorium Theater in Chicago on November 12th, which turned out to be more of a Golden Celebration of the re-opening of the Auditorium fifty years ago, and some of the historical content presented between the dance numbers by projection and spoken word was a little different from what I remembered, including references (from the stage) by Edward Villella to opening with "A Midsummer Night's Dream," so I went to the archives of the Chicago Tribune and filled in what I never knew or had forgotten. (I only remembered seeing "Jewels.") Along with performance reviews confirming that NYCB had performed "Midsummer" and "Jewels" about three times each and a few mixed-repertory programs as well, I found an interview with a Cincinnati Reds fan, 22-year-old-Suzanne Farrell (who spoke to us by recording before the show) from November 5, 1967. Here's a little of it: But on November 12, 2017 there was a baker's dozen of dance numbers, danced by members of as many companies, from solos up to small ensembles, including three by Balanchine, whose rich perceptions of his music was the most rewarding to see even in the cool, remote, analytically virtuoso performances we got of most of the program, like the opening Tarantella, danced as bravura demonstration of technique but with little personality and fun by Megan Fairchild and Daniel Ulbricht of NYCB. This predictable disappointment was followed by the reason I was there, Meditation, danced by the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook. They didn't analyze, they didn't demonstrate, they made this short dance, with its concealed technique, about life and change, though springing from Tchaikovsky's music, live and breathe. The "top act" of the evening, for me, looking back. Though I must say the excerpt from Solo Echo (not unlike Paul Taylor), by a choreographer I hadn't seen before, Crystal Pite, performed by a small ensemble from Hubbard Street Dance, was something I wanted to see more of, and the pas de deux and variations from Chaconne was creditably-enough danced by Emily Adams and Adrian Fry from Ballet West that it would also have made me want to see more of it, too, were it not already on my list of good dance I need a good dose of once in a while. But otherwise I was dismayed to see things like the traditional "Don Quixote" pas de deux shorn of traditional panache by Maria Kochetlova of the San Francisco Ballet and Daniil Simkin of ABT, which made it an more impoverished conclusion than the opening Tarantella. I think panache is the main point of this show-off piece.
  18. Earlier I posted some comments about this performance of dancers from many companies marking the 50th anniversary of the re-opening of the Auditorium Theater in Chicago in a more appropriate forum, but most of the most satisfying aspects of the event and its surrounding history for me were provided by Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook of TSFB dancing Meditation and an interview with the then-22-year-old Suzanne Farrell: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/43190-golden-celebration-of-dance-november-12-2017/?tab=comments#comment-390385
  19. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    FWIW, the class was rather milder than the one I saw at the KC a few years ago. It wasn't company class anyway. Afterward, we met a dancer from NYCB in the 60's through the early 70's there, who pointed out how different it was from Balanchine's class - Suzanne got her dancers thinking, used a variety of music, and difficult counts; Balanchine's classes were generally without music, repetitive, and went for speed and elevation. Farrell's music was eclectic, to say the least. A fair amount of Tchaikovsky, but some syncopated jazzy numbers, and one familiar tune to whose rhythms I heard words, including "seid umshlungen, Millionen - Tochter aus Elysium!", although in a slightly different harmonization from Beethoven's use of them at the end of his choral symphony! There were about 60-80 dancers, including over a dozen of the NYCB dancer's students; during the barre, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook were downstage center, she, in wine tights, finishing everything with her beautiful understated elegance, but during the center, she transformed herself into a more casually-styled, not to say abandoned, dancer, and changed into scarlet above a short royal blue skirt as well. (I was reminded of her two rather different Terpsichores in Phoenix last May - both were well heard, and both valid.)
  20. Final Kennedy Center Performance

    And at 12:00 PM today, there'll be an open class. No ticket required, AFAIK. Just show up. Same place, Concert Hall. Scheduled to run until 1:30. (Sorry I didn't post here earlier myself.)
  21. What are you looking for?

    The one with Farrell, Castelli and Andersen? The one to see, the one to see! The greatest ballet video a friend has ever seen, she says, and I have a hard time thinking of any I like as well. They still danced like Mr. B. was there on his stool in the wing, even though it was months after he had last seen his dancers. I have some difference with pherank, though. Whether a particular performance on stage or on screen does more for you depends on who's looking, and on their experience, though the immediacy and presence of the stage are real advantages. But comparisons do help to sensitize you - I found this out for myself when I watched alternate casts step into the repertory years ago - before we had PBS's Dance in America and other blessings, but when we still had the blessing of ticket prices within reach. ("Count your blessings" where you find them, right?)
  22. Jennifer Homans' planned biography of Balanchine

    What worries me is whether we have - or will have - the work(s), the steps and gestures, or most of them - I've seen some disappear and then reappear; or whether we have, or will have, the worlds of those ballets. It depends a lot on qualities of performance, and those who knew Mr. B. won't be around a lot longer - though there is film and video, not least the Interpreter's Archive of the Balanchine Foundation. Even the steps and gestures, performed just as show-off material, are something - some spectators will listen as they watch, and be rewarded by what the dancing shows them in the music, for example, but I'm not sanguine that we will still know the ballets - ballets as worlds of their own. But if we do know them, don't we know the things most intimate to their maker? The artist's interior life?
  23. Jennifer Homans' planned biography of Balanchine

    I'm also in agreement with canbelto and DanielBenton, just above. But I am especially struck by DanielBenton's earlier post, because it reminds me of a remark of Balanchine's, that which, whenever I think of it, makes me wonder whether it was part of his view of things that when we watch certain kinds of dance - his kind, in particular - listening as we watch - we may glimpse the "real world" he had in mind, or whether he meant something entirely different. Many of his recorded remarks were "in the moment", so that we would benefit from knowing their context, which I can't provide this time, having forgotten, but this one seems to be general in its very expression. And consistent in its mysterious content with his commonly "evasive" reply, when asked what something in one of his ballets means, "What did you see?" or words to that effect. I put evasive in quotes because I think Mr. B. was not being evasive at all, but coaxing his questioners to find their own way to their own answer.
  24. What are you looking for?

    I'm in the habit of listening closely as I watch, to see how the dancers' moves fit the sounds. I've learned that I enjoy watching dancing the most if I see what I hear. This way of watching has proved so fruitful, I will even try to get acquainted with the music , or at least some of it, ahead of time, if the music is unfamiliar. And I've even found that this way, the dancing may help me to hear things in the music I wouldn't have heard, or I don't hear, when I listen to the music alone, like from a recording. So I recommend it. Balanchine's choreography provides some of the richest possibilities for this experience. It might not hurt to have a look at some video, too, to "warm up" for the experience, or maybe to review it afterwards. Chances are, the video will be different in important ways from the theater experience, but they ought to be similar enough for some comparison - comparison and contrast is a good method to bring out the subtleties in things and help you to get more out of each of the things you're comparing.
  25. 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.