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Everything posted by Drew

  1. My mother claimed she made her Kasha following a Balanchine recipe printed in the Times ...
  2. The "Ballerina Body Cookbook" by Misty Copeland sounds like a bestseller on the face of it...
  3. Publicity for the April program of Atlanta Ballet this season was organized around the company premier of Possokhov's Firebird and the presence of a live orchestra. Unfortunately, the live orchestra was present only for Firebird and the rest of the program had recorded music. I understand the financial exigencies, but I wish the problem could be solved. This was the second of two 'new' programs put together by the company's new director and if the first was dominated by work at least partially distinctive, if not unique, to Atlanta Ballet (a world premier by Gemma Bond and a North American premier by Liam Scarlett) this program was characterized by more familair fare--something people have expressed concerns about on another thread. When it comes to the specific case of Atlanta Ballet, I don't entirely share those concerns for reasons I've tried to explain on that thread, but I will note that one of former Director McFall's more interesting Atlanta-specific projects is coming back next month and I am greatly looking forward to it--an adaptation of Tenessee Williams' Camino Real commissioned from Helen Pickett. Anyway, for myself I was very happy to see the company giving a respectable and lively account of Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Even having to dance to canned music, the dancers looked energized and alert -- in some key passages I was just delighted by the crispness of the ensemble's timing as one couple would shoot the woman into arabesque on point and then another and another. (Elyse Borne did the staging.) Since it has been over ten years since the company danced any Balanchine and since last month's Petipa effort at times saw the company's reach exceeding its grasp, I felt some trepidation when the curtain went up. But the performance was genuinely pleasurable: I didn't just have to root for the dancers, I could enjoy and admire them. The last time I saw this ballet was at New York City Ballet with Tiler Peck in the ballerina role -- a performance of preternatural facility and musicality; it was as if she could dance at any speed fast, slow, or in between at will, and even change her speed in the middle of a phrase. Hard to put into words how good it was. (This week's reports on NYCB's season opener with Peck in the same role suggests she may now be outdoing the performance I saw!) Atlanta Ballet's Nadia Mara doesn't dance with that kind of facility etc, but I will note one quality she and her partner Alexander Barros brought to the ballet that I did not find to the same degree in that relatively recent NYCB performance, which was a sense of romantic connection between the leads, a quality that Maria Tallchief talks about as important to Allegro Brillante in a Balanchine Foundation Interview. And it does make a difference to the overall feel of the ballet. On the technical end, I thought Mara handled the back and forth whirl of double pirouettes very well (at least to my relatively untrained eye), with maybe one little glitch at end of the performance immediately countered with a terrific overhead lift for the final exit as, with what looked like wonderful ease, Barros got her directly over his head so her extended leg pointed right up to the sky. The ballet itself is, I suppose, "minor" Balanchine, but it really is amazing how much it does with very little--small numbers of dancers, unfinished score and not one of Tchaikovsky's greatest, and even rather repetitive steps: how many times can a ballerina double pirouettte or dip into arabesque penché ? Yet somehow he takes these modest ingredients and makes them into a concise, complete work of art with just a hint of a deeper romantic inner life, quite nicely brought out by the Atlanta Ballet performance. The ballet was warmly received but in all candor the biggest cheers of the evening came for Kylian's Petite Mort with Firebird a close second. I had never seen the Kylian before--indeed have seen very little Kylian choreography other than the joyful Sinfonietta. Pre-performance publicity from Atlanta Ballet claims it has been danced by 60 companies, so I guess it counts as something of a modern classic. Strictly speaking I can't judge how well it was danced, but certainly I can say it was effectively danced--special praise for Tara Lee. I also found the work's construction on first viewing a little puzzling and the swords and gowns-on-wheels etc. almost kitschy (intentionally? Ironically?) and the ending arbitrary...which Kylian's note for the ballet suggests is intentional. For the rest, I have seen the ballet described as "erotica" and I can't come up with anything better so I won't try. I didn't dislike it, but wasn't crazy about it either. Seeing it so soon after Scarlett's Vespertine which also played with 18th-century decorum set in contrast to pseudo-nudity and sexual passions, it struck me that Scarlett may have been influenced by it...though Scarlett's work actually had more psychological complexity to my eyes. In any case I might see the Kylian differently if I saw it with his own company... but I'm pretty sure I prefer my stage-sex more sublimated. Based on pre-publicity, the program's official "big" event was the Possokhov Firebird. This had many charms and I enjoyed it, but feel I need to see it a second time to settle my thoughts as it's quite different from the other versions I've seen and which I found hard to put out of my mind. For one thing, it's much less opulent visually, which took me some getting used to--a reaction I had not anticipated. As people who have seen the ballet with SFB or Oregon Ballet Theater know, Possokhov thickens the dance roles by giving Kaschei spectacular demi-character dancing, putting the princess and her friends on pointe, giving Ivan some showy classical dance passages and giving Ivan and the Princess an extended pas de deux. And he has thickened--or perhaps just sentimentalized--the story by having the Firebird develop an attachment to Ivan. In the end she is left mournful and given a rather touching solo. This also makes her something of a Little Mermaid type character--a supernatural being who saves a human man's life, but can never win his love. The powerful choreography for the Firebird when she returns to save the day was one of the ballet's highlights, possibly because Jackie Nash came more into her own in that portion of the ballet. I found her a little less effective in the mournful final solo, but the solo itself still seemed intriguing. I also enjoyed the choreography for the communal celebration at the ballet's end though I can't swear I wasn't simply swept away by the score at that point. And I always love to see Alessa Rogers who brought a lot of humor and charm to her goofy princess. In general, Possokhov's slightly ironic treatment of the score and story does, in distant ways, recall Ratmansky's as well. (I know Possokhov's ballet preceded Ratmansky's by some years...) Anyway, the performance had the charms of a slightly ironic fairy tale and a stunning score performed live, but it did, on first viewing, rather strike me as "a good Firebird for a small-to-mid-size company without a huge budget for sets." This both is and isn't a compliment. I suppose Balanchine's Allegro Brillante could be described as a "good classical showcase for a small-to-mid-size company without a huge budget for sets," but that's not what you think when you watch it. (At least I don't.) But here again I really would need to see Possokhov's ballet a second time to settle my thoughts. Overall, though I obviously have my strong personal preferences in choreography, I found this a pretty substantive program. More live music please.
  4. The situation in modern dance has always been very different than the situation in ballet. Women were founders and inheritors in modern dance. I think that when it comes to this particular issue, ballet has a very different record and different problems. I am tempted to quote Christopher Wheeldon's formulation -- there is 'no overt misogyny' -- which, if true, raises all kinds of questions about just what kinds of misogyny there are. (God knows ballet historians could say a lot about the way woman ballet dancers have been viewed in the -- let's call it distant -- past.) But women have played important institutional roles in ballet. Decisive even...especially when ballet institutions had to be invented/founded (De Valois, Chase, Rambert, Franca etc.) -- if you will, when ballet itself was a more 'downtown' affair. But even then, the major creative figures that emerged under their leadership were mostly men. (I am not forgetting that De Valois was herself a choreographer.) Mysteriously (cough) once companies become big, wealthy, institutions, we find more men at the helm even as directors. But not men exclusively, and it does seem as if women directors in more recent decades have not addressed this issue either, which probably speaks to how systemic the issues are -- and how entrenched certain traditions. But I do think the issue is finding choreographers from within the world of classical ballet--its traditions and techniques--as opposed to crossover modern dance choreographers. One reason there is so much justified excitement about Wheeldon and Ratmansky is that they have that deep knowledge of ballet from the inside as well as their uniques talents. And Peck at least promises to be another major force of that kind.
  5. I can believe that!! Though on the whole, in recent years, the Bolshoi has seemed to place more of a premium on speed than the Mariinsky. In an interview, another Mariinsky 'import' to the Bolshoi, Stepanova, mentioned working with her Bolshoi coach on the speed of turns which (she said) were done faster at the Bolshoi. With some Bolshoi ballerinas (I am thinking of dancers whose entire careers were spent at the Bolshoi) it does seem to come at the cost of refinement -- do they even care where they place the working leg in fouettes? What seems so extraordinary about Smirnova, as best I can judge having seen her live only a couple of times, is how she can be at once very fast and very, almost exaggeratedly, refined The 'refinement' remark isn't exactly meant as a knock on the Bolshoi; I rather appreciate the distinctive inflections of the two different companies. But it can be very striking to watch Smirnova whirl around the stage like lightning while maintaining this cool, crystalline elegance at the same time.
  6. If Smirnova had stayed at the Mariinsky, I wonder if she would have developed the commanding speed she has now--
  7. Boxers have the same problem. But I don't think it's that hard to understand psychologically. These artists (to stick with dancers) seem to live not just for the stage but also uniquely on the stage, so to speak. They become who they are in front of an audience. At least that's how I understand it. But it can be upsetting to see them so very diminished from who they were...(A few -- as seems to have been the case with Fonteyn -- probably need the money.) On the other side, I also dislike it when the moment someone's technical prowess or suppleness isn't exactly what it used to be, people write them off as fading or needing to make way for others. Older artists still bring a lot to the table and sometimes can do so for a long time past their so-called prime. The problems start when choreography is being betrayed. The best performances I have seen of ballet dancers well past their prime (Vasiliev and Maximova when she was around 50) have been in special vehicles created for them at that stage of their careers. I thought Plisetskaya did a certain amount of dancing specialized roles/choreography as well...is that not so? And, actually, in the performance I mentioned above Maximova was unbelievable in her youthful charm and energy. I kept checking my program because I couldn't believe it was really her: "That can't be right--I must be confused...where is the aging dancer I have to make allowances for??" Answer: she had disappeared into the brilliantly tactful choreography her husband came up with for her. And into her own infinite charms. Still one of my favorite performances ever. But in this case, well...a dancer like Plisetskaya gave so much to her audiences over the years . . .Many people who bought tickets probably knew very well what they were going to see when they went to her final performances and wanted to pay homage to her anyway. I haven't yet watched all of the Faun above (and some of what I didn't like about it didn't seem to me to have anything to do with age), but she did cast her head back at one point very slowly and the line of her neck was very beautiful.
  8. I'm not sure I followed the "O.S." (if you mean Skorik--I wouldn't mind seeing her Nikiya at all). But yes it would be fantastic if we could get the Mariinsky with Olga Smirnova as Nikiya--and Chudin as Solor too for that matter. I fear completely unrealistic though...But the Mariinsky has some other good Nikiyas, however unfortunate it is that they let Smirnova slip away.
  9. In a manner of speaking, these quotes do a rather fine job of answering the question of why there aren't more prominent women ballet choreographers .
  10. My first Siegfried...Congratulations!
  11. The issues being discussed in the abstract or as they apply to other companies are very interesting and even important, but I'm not sure the exact case of Atlanta Ballet fits them all that neatly. I'm pretty excited for the future. But we will see what happens...
  12. On the repertory front, I think it is way too early to assume that we won't see a balance of the familiar and distinctive--or as the company's website says the "local, regional, and international" from Nedvigin's leadership -- with the difference that he is more committed to ballet tradition as the 'baseline' for the company than McFall was and also, I infer, less drawn to the "pop" ballets that always seemed to me the culinary equivalent of fast food rather than regional cuisine. I do completely agree with the point made above by Pherank that to do what Nedvigin and the board seem to want to do will require generous, far-sighted donors. The question of stylistic inflection is more complex and I can't speak to it in this context except maybe to add how exciting it was for me to see Farrell's Company dance Balanchine this past fall--definitely distinctive and really exciting. So I very much appreciate that interest in different approaches/philosophies. But Atlanta Ballet has been dancing a great deal more modern choreography and a great deal less classical choreography than the companies mentioned. There will be a number of new dancers next season too...we will see what emerges. My first point of comparison is not likely to be other companies, but how Atlanta Ballet has been dancing in past seasons. Perhaps worth saying the obvious: I'm one audience member. When we have a thread about San Francisco ballet...well, lots of people participate who have been watching them for years and, as the saying goes, mileages vary. And...on the subject of mileages varying: Gottlieb's dismissiveness towards San Francisco Ballet's repertory and dancers may be vintage Gottlieb, but I don't see it as the last word on that subject.
  13. To pick up on questions raised above: I think the first pertinent comparison for Atlanta ballet and what it will be is ... what it has been. The homogenization of American companies may be a concern for observers who care about ballet -- but I think this is likely to be experienced rather differently by people who actually live in a particular city and are concerned with what they can see on a regular basis. And not on DVD. Of course in its early history, Atlanta Ballet was a Balanchine satellite. Mcfall changed that--and advertized on the company website he had changed that!--and part of what he changed that into was Moulin Rouge, Dracula, The Great Gatsby etc. Even if one cares about that repertory (I don't) much of it did not originate in Atlanta. I have no idea what issues and behind the scenes budget concerns he was facing, but there you have it. Things got decidedly more interesting in (very) recent years, but a great deal of that energy was directed at contemporary and modern dance (Lopez-Ochoa, Heginbotham, Elo, Pickett, Naharin) though we did get a Tharp premier and one work by Maillot and one by Ratmansky. I suspect from things the company management has said that they heard from a number of fans wanting more of that kind of programming. That is, ballet-based. I will add that this past weekend we saw Atlanta Ballet dance Balanchine for the first time in over a decade: Allegro Brillante -- well staged, enjoyably performed. I hope ballet fans can forgive me if, as someone who actually attends performances in Atlanta, this seems like a very good thing to me, even if the performance wouldn't count as important or impressive in the hometown of New York City Ballet. Or does not represent a unique Atlanta brand. (I do think the company is not unconcerned with the latter issue and the premiers Nedvigin has commissioned so far include works from the company's ballerina-choreographer, Tara Lee, and from choreographers who have not been doing a lot, or anything, in the States; these could be interesting though certainly are not without risk.)
  14. I somehow missed this statement on the Atlanta Ballet Website which went up about a day after the departures/non-renewals were announced: https://www.atlantaballet.com/news/the-artistic-vision-of-atlanta-ballet The initial focus is on the company's continued commitment to a varied repertory, followed by mention of departing dancers in particular: "Each dancer who has shared his or her gift on-stage with Atlanta Ballet has contributed to its legacy, and that gift is irreplaceable. Even though we will miss seeing some of our beloved and well-known dancers’ faces on-stage in future seasons, we respect the decisions of those dancers who have chosen to retire from the profession or express their artistic energy either in a new way or to new audiences in Atlanta and around the world. While it is sad to see any of our dancers go, we appreciate their time with Atlanta Ballet and look forward to following each dancer’s journey after his or her final bow on-stage with the Company." And finally: "Change is an expected and natural reality for any organization [. . .] Particularly in this industry, the artistic interests of a dancer and the artistic vision of his or her Company must mutually align. Under the direction of Gennadi Nedvigin, Atlanta Ballet’s artistic vision embodies a balanced mix of classical, neoclassical, and contemporary repertoire, which will require versatile dancers who are not only able to perform a variety of works, but who also share the passion and have the desire to perfect their technique in those various dance styles. Even though Atlanta Ballet’s vision for the Company may not perfectly align with some of the current dancers’ creative interests, we wish them all of the best as they transition into their respective next chapters."
  15. New story on the changes with quotes from Nedvigin and John Welker (who retired earlier this year): http://news.wabe.org/post/atlanta-ballets-firebird-shows-companys-new-vision
  16. Yes, it worked -- thank you. And I guess...oh dear.
  17. Link didn't work for me...don't know why...
  18. The article had a vague "plenty of Balanchine" presumably because the reporter thinks it's like reporting the Mariinsky is dancing Swan Lake. But let's hope it really is 'plenty.'
  19. Lovely news--sorry to hear the fellowship is coming to an end though. Warm congratulations to Cassandra Trenary.
  20. Aaah...that's better...
  21. The ballet barre bit is not in the novel--I think it is meant as a metaphor for the way Bela has to adapt to her Russian lover. Be 'tamed' so to speak. For my taste, it was not terribly effective. We were told at intermission that the sound dropping out was being experienced everywhere and came from the source but they (that is people responsible for international feed) would work on it during intermission. I later saw this being discussed on Twitter as well. In the second half, the sound did drop out for a second once at the beginning and, in my theater at least, even the picture for a second, but fortunately the problem did not return. The man touching Novikova on the shoulder was the company director Vaziev. Once I was okay with--friendly gesture I guess--twice I thought he should just keep himself out of the frame if he is not being interviewed. My own experience with male colleagues who feel licensed to touch me in a 'friendly' manner may have influenced my negative reaction. As I understand, this production originated a bit unusually with Filin approaching a well-known, experimental film and theater director (Serebrennikov) to develop it and Possokhov and Serebrennikov worked together with the latter playing quite a big role. I think that is why the composer emphasized his work with the director. Unfortunately, I missed most of the interview. Regarding story ballets and the Balanchine "no mothers-in-law" in ballet rule-- on the whole, I'm team Balanchine and yet, I feel the art form suffers if creative people don't try to push it in new directions. I increasingly find more complex approaches especially seem to enliven the narrative genre which too often in ballet flattens or sentimentalizes the story. I do NOT mean nineteenth-century ballets which are themselves highly stylized (and do, for many people unfamiliar with ballet conventions, require knowledge of the story beforehand), but something like Cranko's Onegin. Lermontov is also such a classic for the Bolshoi's main audience, that it seems to me to allow for a more experimental approach. And I think it reasonable for a company to do things that speak to their audience in a particular way. This production is STILL plenty traditional. There is even a Polonaise! Opera and theater audiences cope with far more disorienting ways of telling stories all the time. I would hate for opera's more 'experimental' approach to classics to take hold in ballet, but there is no reason why new ballets shouldn't try new narrative structures. It's not that I think Hero of Our Time is a spectacular success...How could I tell anyway just seeing a broadcast? I agree with many of the criticisms--based on the broadcast at least--and I also thought Act III seemed the most effective. I even found myself wondering if "Princess Mary" could be made into a one act narrative ballet -- just revising the dance for Pechorin at the end. But I still found the whole ballet a really interesting and, at times, moving and dramatic project worthy of the Bolshoi. (I have found all the Bolshoi broadcasts this year strangely dark or dull in the lighting department and assume it is a broadcasting problem. But I infer this production posed additional problems with the dark scenic effects and costumes.)
  22. Wearing high heels too I thought--if we are thinking of the same figure? I think she was the soprano -- appearing on stage the way other musicians had earlier (say, the cellist in Taman). But I can't say I am sure.
  23. I agree with Jayne about the last act. As for 'making fish or fowl' of it...Novikova tried to give some basic indications about some of the ballet's more metaphorical ways of proceeding, but her notes went by very fast. Some more knowledge of the Lermontov helped me, but that's a problem since the ballet should be able to stand alone. (Though, as mentioned above, with a Russian audience it may be more reasonable to expect familiarity with it.) Hard ballet to broadcast, too, as there were obviously a number of scenes in which a lot of different action was happening on different parts of the stage. One might add that even in the theatre black costumes against dark sets are not the easiest to see... I found the middle episode, Taman, the hardest to follow in terms of matching what I was seeing to the story I understood was happening, but the ballet as a whole, stiil, I found compelling and I am very glad they broadcast it. Flawed for sure, but intriguing and moving as a way of trying to put an episodic novel on stage, capturing something, by the very end, of the hero's despair/nihilism and staging the episodes in ways that were self-conscious, but still dramatic. I also thought the dancers were giving it 1000 percent and that's always compelling. A handful of sections I found genuinely fantastic including the episodes with the wounded soldiers in wheelchairs, but also the brutality of the attack on Bela and--lack of realism to one side--the pas de deux that preceded her death. The three Pechorin's kept one from investing in the protagonist in quite the way one conventionally does, nor did the character seem choreographed/characterized that differently from episode to episode beyond the different qualities of the men cast. So I was surprised when I found myself rather moved by the dance for the three of them together at the end. It really felt like a kind of meditation on repetition compulsion and self destruction. Flawed for sure--lots of narrative details were obscure, at least in the broadcast, and not all of the choreography was equally interesting. And, for example, ballet as a metaphor for Bela's submission/education in Western mores didn't work for me -- beyond the compensations of Smirnova's remarkable performance. (The use of music to capture the Christian/Muslim tension in the story may have been clearer if one understood what was being sung though I realize it was also there in the musical modes.) But I am glad I saw the broadcast and would love to see the ballet in the theater...where of course one could judge it more clearly.
  24. I had mixed reactions to the production, and found a great deal of it as Volcanohunter wrote above "peculiar and eccentric." (Is Giselle's family supposed to be petty bourgeois? Are her best friends all opera dancers? Are the hanging curtains meant to remind us we are in a nineteenth-century melodrama?) but I will mention two things I liked very much. One is that Bathilde's initial reaction to Giselle explaining that Albrecht is her love, is to laugh--laugh disdainfully perhaps--but still she is laughing. That seems to me very convincing. As best I remember most productions I've seen, Bathilde just solemnly (if sometimes disdainfully) corrects this--from her point of view--stupid peasant. (I suppose the laugh may be the interpretive choice of the dancer playing Bathilde rather than the production. Either way, I liked it.) The other is the entrance of a portion of the corps of willis from upstage so that they seem to emerge directly from the dark forest painted or projected on the backdrop. That really heightened the atmosphere . . . Praetorius's piquant face and the immediacy of her acting are very appealing. There were passages of her dancing in Act II I rather liked as well, but she can still develop in this role.