Royal Blue

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    avid balletgoer
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    New York
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  1. But what if when Titania opened her eyes the first being she laid eyes on was a prince who had lost himself in this humongous universe? Just kidding, of course! Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as Balanchine’s ballet based on the play, are both truly great. This week’s NYCB performances at Koch Theater, therefore, invite plenteous comment. For now I will simply say that with a cast that includes Ashley Laracey as Hermia, Brittany Pollack as Helena and Ashly Isaacs as Hippolyta, I would happily have attended tonight’s performance if I had the appropriate ticket. Although I did have a ticket for the matinee, after the utterly sublime, ennobling performance of the Divertissement last evening by Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle (the wonderful Sleeping Beauty pair from this past winter) there was no way—much as I respect all of NYCB’s artists—I could bring myself to go to the theater.
  2. On paper it might seem a tad dull. Program No. 9 of the Festival, however, which was made up of Red Angels, Varied Trio (in four), Barber Violin Concerto, followed after intermission by Polaris, After the Rain pas de deux, and Concerto DSCH was a genuine feast for the eyes and ears. Color dazzles me; so, the use of red in the first ballet—particularly in the final tableau, with its obvious resemblance to Agon—was entrancing. Dove’s choreography may not be extraordinary, but with Angels such as Rebecca Krohn and Teresa Reichlen in the cast this was highly enjoyable. With its use of light blue contrasting sharply with the previous production, Varied Trio—notwithstanding its nondescript title; and echoes of at least two Balanchine ballets—was radiant and thoroughly delightful. Not being familiar with the music of this composer, I was surprised by how lovely the Lou Harrison score (partly utilizing peculiar percussive instrumentation) for this work is—particularly the third movement. Sterling Hyltin’s use of the arms and hands in this ballet was striking; and the ending was adorable. Assuming at least a decent performance, it is no longer possible for this listener to hear Barber’s Violin Concerto without being stirred: it is one of the finest of all concertos. Its first two movements are breathtaking, the second being especially poignant. Martins’ decision to choreograph Barber Violin Concerto for just two couples, one from the world of classical dance and one from the world of modern dance, which effectively change partners in the latter two movements is intrinsically intriguing. Howsoever one regards the humor and friskiness of the short last segment of this ballet, its two first parts—always taking account of the haunting music—are impressive. Sara Mearns was superb in the role of the female classical dancer; and seemingly danced with every fiber of her being, as she typically does. With his body type, Jared Angle is uniquely suited for the role of the male modern dancer and partnered her with great finesse in the evocative second section. Color again plays a significant role here, with the white of the costumes blending beautifully with the dark blue of the backdrop. A mixture of black and white and gray characterizes the palette of Polaris, which appropriately (since this ballet is about the stars in the heavens) makes it plausible for the empathetic viewer to feel they are looking into space. Listening several times beforehand to William Walton’s Allegramente from Piano Quartet in d minor made it easier to concentrate on and enjoy Myles Thatcher’s choreography. In addition to all the balletic motions she performs so beautifully, what struck me here were Tiler Peck’s contemplative gazes. When facing the audience, she seemed to be peering at—the cosmos. For several years, Maria Kowroski has been the de facto senior ballerina of NYCB. (All three women who could have laid claim to the appellation were plagued with injuries during their final years with the company.) This contributed greater poignancy to all the recent performances of the pas de deux from After the Rain, performances which were among the highlights of the season. Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel is a repetitious, but powerful and spiritual composition to which Wheeldon created apt and irresistible choreography. The beauty of Kowroski’s long limbs and extensions, as well as her noble demeanor were evident throughout this run. Ask la Cour partnered her superbly. A dazzling array of color suffuses Concerto DSCH—its production, its music, its choreography. Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2 in F major is as haunting a composition as is Barber’s Violin Concerto: in its mere 22 minutes or so it combines brilliantly an infectious vigor and liveliness with a profound, gentle yet aching melancholy. Ratmansky matches his compatriot’s brilliance with some of his own and provides every conceivable ballet lover with something to relish in this work. In the outer movements, in addition to all the sparkling activity for the corps there is bravura galore not just for the main couple, but for three other soloists, two males and a female. Gonzalo Garcia and the amazing Joaquin De Luz shone in this season’s performances of the ballet. Although she has been experiencing a slight problem with her turns during the spring, on Sunday afternoon, Ashley Bouder—in a part which takes advantage of all her dynamic qualities—was fantastic! What is probably the most thrilling moment of the ballet, however, is the lift involving the main couple—in this run, Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle—that occurs during the musical climax of the first movement. Mearns’ poise and Tyler Angle’s strength in this sequence took the breath away. And yet, the heart and soul of both the music and the ballet lie in the sublime, pensive few minutes inserted between the livelier segments. Three other couples, in addition to the main one, share the stage and immeasurably enhance the beauty of this section—the section for which this work by Ratmansky will likely be long remembered.
  3. I beg forgiveness from Kristen Segin and Rebecca Krohn even if during the premiere of The Decalogue they fell down unintentionally. Segin has generally a tendency to smile too much when dancing. Otherwise, she is one of the loveliest members of the female corps: her presence in The Decalogue is a boon. Last evening, in the pas de deux with Gonzalo Garcia from Slice to Sharp and throughout The Decalogue, Rebecca Krohn was magnificent! Original or not, Justin Peck’s new work is indeed quite beautiful; and its music is becoming attractive to my ears. Not only does it use ten dancers, but it is divided into ten sections. In the 8th—a pas de deux with Jared Angle—Krohn was especially wondrous. Geminiani’s adaptation of Corelli’s famous Concerto Grosso is not just attractive: it is splendid—which is in part what made these performances of Chiaroscuro so marvelous. No matter what Stravinsky thought, Vivaldi did compose excellent music; so, of course, a portion of the music used in Slice to Sharp is pleasing. But the best here is probably that used in the pas de deux mentioned above. Notwithstanding the strikingly tepid response from the crowd, the cast in Stabat Mater gave another excellent performance of this work. Something notable in this run was how ethereal, how spiritual Lauren Lovette and Ashly Isaacs seemed when their respective countenance was serious. For reasons not worth relating, from a musical standpoint last night’s performance was superior. A greater portion of the score than I realized is in a livelier mode, which paradoxically makes it easier to use in a work of dance.
  4. Should a spectator who views a ballet for the first time be concerned whether it was created in 1994, 1998, 2006 or 2017? Or if it was choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Peter Martins, Jorma Elo or Justin Peck? Like other contemporary ballets Chiaroscuro contains sequences which seem strange or peculiar. Set to attractive Baroque music, it is nonetheless an appealing, riveting work. Seeing Ashley Laracey and Brittany Pollack (both looking positively gorgeous) in this piece alone was worth the price of admission to program No. 8 of the Festival. These two were well-complemented by Lauren King and the three men in the cast, particularly Andrew Veyette, who had an effective part. This is the sort of ballet with a vague narrative that intrigues you. Conversely, the Baroque music chosen for Slice to Sharp is less engaging, despite being mostly by Vivaldi. Elo’s reaction on first listening to the latter’s composition, as described in the program note, is worth noting: “he felt ‘It was extreme playing on the edge of madness’ “. This explains somewhat what transpires onstage; but I find neither the baroque melodies nor the accompanying “modern movement” in this ballet especially beautiful. Watching the four(!) principal women—Ashley Bouder, Maria Kowroski, Rebecca Krohn and Teresa Reichlen—cast here dancing, however, has its own rewards. Artists should never consider any subject—no matter how difficult or controversial—as off-limits for treatment in their work. Things are not so simple in practice, however—particularly one would suppose for choreographers. That Martins’ Stabat Mater served as a tribute to a much-loved ballet teacher who had recently passed away is certainly laudable. Yet is it proper or easy to create a ballet in any way connected to the crucifixion of Christ and Mary’s suffering? A convincing, powerful effort would manage to be at the same time undeniably beautiful (the main function of ballet) and absolutely shattering. Stabat Mater is only the former. Would it be palatable fare to NYCB audiences if it were somehow also the latter? Inevitably, one wonders how the words being sung are reflected in the movement displayed onstage while watching this. Pergolesi’s justly famous opus may not be the most solemn musical treatment of the Catholic hymn, but it is wonderful and moving. (A couple or so sections are mildly jaunty enough to afford the dancers an opportunity to smile.) While it is a score best heard outside the confines of Koch Theater, the fact remains that it is the best music of the program and one of the chief reasons—along with the lighting, the background setting, the colorful costumes and (yes!) the choreography—why the ballet is so beautiful. Lauren Lovette, Ashly Isaacs and naturally Sterling Hyltin (who soared upwards toward the sky when lifted by Jared Angle) appeared and danced like angels. (To have seen Isaacs, incidentally, in both The Times Are Racing and Stabat Mater during the same week was fascinating.) Chase Finlay and Joseph Gordon completed what turned out to be a winsome cast. It is highly improbable to put Sara Mearns and Rebecca Krohn on the stage, have them execute various common balletic steps and motions and not come up with anything beautiful. So, of course, there is beauty to be found in The Decalogue! But what makes this particular work so original, so different from numerous others? Presumably, it is linked to the Ten Commandments; but how so other than the number of dancers it utilizes? More importantly, after hearing the score a second time on Sunday afternoon I find it merely acceptable; and for a ballet to be truly inspiring and touching its music must be arresting! Everywhere We Go and its composition have been much criticized in this forum, but as of now, I find nothing as compelling, as alluring in the new work as the segments assigned to Maria Kowroski (exquisitely also danced by Krohn) in the earlier one.
  5. I beg forgiveness from Kristen Segin and Rebecca Krohn if during the premiere of The Decalogue they fell down intentionally. To Drew: “You could not step twice into the same river.” Perhaps we should view a work of art as being, in a way, like a river? It seems best to me to be and remain as open-minded as possible about any artwork. None of us sees, thinks, feels or understands--and can therefore judge--perfectly.
  6. It would be hard to imagine that anyone who views askance the artistic collaboration between Sufjan Stevens and Justin Peck will find much to enjoy in The Decalogue. On first hearing the music sounded soporific. One almost feels sorry for the choreographer that he had to come up with a ballet set to this material. There was some interesting movement towards the end of the piece but otherwise the choreography seemed uninspired and unoriginal. To add to this there were two falls during the premiere, one by a likable member of the corps (Kristen Segin) and another by a principal I think very highly of (Rebecca Krohn). Yet wild horses couldn’t prevent me from going to see program No. 8 of the Here/Now Festival again. All of the other works in it—Chiaroscuro, Slice to Sharp, and Stabat Mater—are new to me also, and as a matter of principle I regard my first reaction to artworks as provisional. Unless one just does not like the dancers in the current roster of NYCB, the casting for this program is furthermore simply incredible! Amazingly, it does not even include Tiler Peck, who had a remarkable week and whose work in general—not surprisingly—continues to enrapture me.
  7. Wednesday evening at NYCB was simply magnificent --both in terms of the choreography and the dancing on display. Balanchine's ballets are so rich that they demand to be seen many, many times and from multiple perspectives. It is just impossible to fully appreciate everything that is going on stage at any single viewing, especially if one is as inclined as I am to concentrate on what the soloists are doing. I particularly liked Abi Stafford, Ashly Isaacs, Rebecca Krohn, Ashley Laracey and Brittany Pollack; but many other dancers (male and female) were excellent also. At the center of each ballet fittingly stood the respective performance of each of the leading ladies from Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2: Sara Mearns' in Episodes; Teresa Reichlen's in Agon; and Tiler Peck's in The Four Temperaments. All three women were superlative.
  8. This is one of the nation's top ballet companies and you bring it to New York City Center for a meager four performances at a time during which the winter season of NYCB is still on and the Vienna Philharmonic is performing right next door at Carnegie Hall? Is it really that complicated to bring PNB to New York for at least a week's worth of performances at a moment when NYCB and ABT are inactive in the city? New York City this time around in late February apparently offers a genuine embarrassment of riches! I see that the Mariinsky is at BAM right now too!
  9. Ballet Alert! Mission: "To be a place for civilized discussion about classical ballet"
  10. That's what I was trying to find out --whether size matters in this ballet. The reference to the hair is silly but someone above suggested that only blondes were cast in certain roles.
  11. I am not at all interested in who is "the best ballerina in the company in the Tschaik Concerto". (The three women who danced the part this season are all stellar ballerinas.) I am very interested in the issue of size (and hair color, I guess). It was a great honor and a privilege to have witnessed last night's performance of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Another lead part, another triumph.
  12. You should not feel uneducated and unqualified to post! I feel bad for what you experienced in January and hope that you will soon get another opportunity to watch NYCB live. Coming from someone who is a young member of the corps and was not even scheduled to dance this part, Indiana Woodward's performance in La Sylphide last night simply stunned me. Not only did she dance superbly, but even more impressively she showed great dramatic sensibilities! She was totally enchanting! Anthony Huxley as James was also great. Sara Mearns' debut in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 on Saturday afternoon was not quite as successful as when I saw her first dance Mozartiana. But I consider her a remarkable ballerina so it came as no surprise to me to see her settle down and give an excellent performance in this piece last evening. I was especially glad that this was so after what reportedly happened on Sunday afternoon. Last time NYCB did Piano Concerto I enjoyed it very much but still did not quite appreciate how marvelous and wondrous a work it is! Balanchine and Tchaikovsky were tremendous artists! Every one in the female corps seems beautiful to me when they dance in the Concerto. Last night at one point one of them lost her balance and fell out of position. I wish that this young lady one day acquires the strength, the courage, the imagination, the authority, the artistry, the grandeur --whatever is required-- to dance all the "queenly" roles in the Balanchine repertoire!
  13. Last night at NYCB I saw a deeply moving performance of La Sylphide; and a magisterial, awe-inspiring one of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Kudos to two very special ladies of NYCB!
  14. It was clearly not my intention to offend any human beings --or for that matter any animals and plants! But I edited the sentence. As far as a consideration of historical context is concerned I am all for it (in due course); but in this particular instance I offered my opinion and I'm finished with the issue. My latest post was in response to the one Drew wrote, not to Kathleen O'Connell's observations and opinions. Also, I am to blame for how this discussion came about, not Kathleen O'Connell. I apologize.
  15. I'm not really disagreeing with you either. Nothing in this world can be taken entirely out of context. If you take a kangaroo and a potted cactus flower to a performance of The Sleeping Beauty neither of them will make any sense of what is going on onstage. So, yes you have to be a human being; and a member of the civilized community. You need (for example) to have a basic understanding of what a King, a Queen, a Prince, a Princess, a royal court and an aristocracy all are. But once we take that for granted-- The Sleeping Beauty is a celebration of life, humanity and --love! It suggests that we never truly come alive, never truly become aware of the endless possibilities this world presents us with or the dangers that confront us until-- we truly fall in love with someone. And that the only thing that ever has a chance to vanquish the everpresent darker forces in this world is the power of human love. Is this idealistic nonsense? Each of us has to decide for themselves. But it is worth remembering in the midst of all the celebratory dancing that we see and music that we hear that nothing comes about easily in this tale: how many years does Princess Aurora have to lie asleep? what internal and external struggles does Prince Desire have to undergo before he finds her? And there is nothing in Tchaikovsky's majestic music at the end to suggest anything otherwise than that being a Queen is no simple matter, and that Princess Aurora --now a Queen-- will give birth to a new Aurora ....The struggle between good and evil here is implicitly everlasting. You do not need to be a member --or be fond-- of the nineteenth century Russian landed aristocracy to grasp any of this. Nor do you have to be an expert in Russian socio-economic history, a Westerner, a One Percenter in the United States of 2016 .... And you don't really need to know all that much about choreography and music either. Deep down this is why people of all kinds flock to see this ballet. Its themes and messages are universal and have the potential to resonate within every one of us. It will continue to be so for as long as we retain our humanity. This is an example of an artwork that transcends the time that produced it. To say about something like The Sleeping Beauty that it is "an idealized depiction of the mating rituals of the landed aristocracy and is rooted in reality only to the extent that such a class existed" (my emphasis) does such a masterwork --I feel-- no justice.