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Kennedy Center - Week 2


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 07:51 AM

A very few words to get the ball rolling....

"Four Temperaments" -- Miami City Ballet in a fine performance. Got a scattered standing ovation -- very rare for a program opener, and I don't think they were all Miami residents. I especially liked Yann Trividic in Phlegmatic. Melancholic was a bit on the bland side, but otherwise I was happy.

"Sea of Troubles." MacMillan. The world is full of nasty people and we saw six of them, purporting to be characters from "Hamlet" in just about every sexual permutation that can be imagined, including necrophilia. Hamlet loved his mother. Or was it mothers? Polonius is an eavesdropper! Everyone except Hamlet wore crowns that would have looked at home in a primary school production of the play. I liked the Ophelia figure; I have no idea who she was.

Now, all that said, much of the movement was interesting and if they'd taken off the crowns, the shrouds and the overcoats I would have enjoyed it more.

I'll leave it to others -- I spied several friends :P -- to weigh in on the production values of "Shades." For me, Pavlenko's performance in the ballerina role is the high point of these two weeks so far. Her dancing is beautifully clear and centered, the high extensions look natural, not extreme, not trying to get attention. But there was also juice to her dancing, fire underneath the calm. Solor was Leonid Sarafanov, who looks about 16 and still has the body of a schoolboy (according to the Kirov web site, he graduated in 2000). I thought he was entirely too light, at this stage, for Solor, and understandably is not a strong partner. But the audience loved him.

Others?

#2 Ari

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 08:47 AM

I agree with most of Alexandra's comments. 4Ts received the kind of clean, unforced performance that we've come to expect from Miami City Ballet. That may not sound very exciting, but it's exactly the style that Balanchine — and this ballet in particular — needs, and that not many companies performing Balanchine give us. It went over very well with the audience, which was genuinely enthusiastic.

The cast was: Themes — Katia Carranza & Didier Bramaz; Tricia Albertson & Jon Hall; Andrea Spiridonakos & Bruce Thornton. Variations — Jeremy Cox; Jennifer Kronenberg & Renato Penteado; Yann Trividic; Michelle Merrell.

I, too, liked Trividic's Phlegmatic very much. He uses his body very expressively without straying from classical decorum. The corps in this variation, however, wasn't crisp enough, too taffylike. I thought that Cox, while he obviously understood what was needed in Melancholic and tried hard to provide it, didn't have the necessary elasticity.

Akira Endo, a former music director of ABT, conducted (the Kirov brought their own conductor, and the MacMillan was danced to taped music). Apparently the orchestra was divided in two, with one portion backstage, watching Endo on a monitor.

The MacMillan wasn't as bad as I'd feared — I'm no fan of his. It was a completely modern work, danced barefoot and without any ballet steps. Could it be that this contributed to its success? MacMillan's work seemed more comfortable and fluent in this vernacular than it does (to me) in his "ballets." The movement was interesting, but the drama was not. Lacking words, MacMillan couldn't figure out a way of making Hamlet's passivity interesting, so all Adam Cooper did was to wander around the stage watching the other characters interact. All these entanglements (both figurative and literal) never reached a conclusion, since MacMillan did not want to tell a story. Incidentally, the costumes that Alexandra objected to were designed by the choreographer's widow Deborah, who was also instrumental in persuading the Kennedy Center to stage this production.

To close out the program, we had a chamber version of the Shades scene given by the Kirov. Eighteen Shades made their way onto the Eisenhower's stage — about as many as they could fit in there, but not enough to make it Bayadere. Without a ramp (last week the KC couldn't find a wing chair for Spectre de la Rose, and this week they couldn't find a short black ramp?), the Shades entered center stage through a gap in two black curtains. Owing to the small size of the stage, the small orchestra pit, and the intimate size of the house, they seemed to be right on top of us (and I was sitting in the balcony). This doesn't work for a vision scene, where the dancers should seem remote and misty. The reduced size of the corps didn't provide the same hallucinatory effect that 32, or even 24 dancers do. And there were a couple of wobblers. So it wasn't a true Kirov Bayadere experience, which is a shame since the real thing is one of greatest spectacles in the ballet world.

Pavlenko has a beautiful technique but remains a cold performer. The soloists were Irina Golub, Irina Zhelonkina, and Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, all pretty good. Golub and Ostreikovskaya will dance their variations at all performances this week, with Zhelonkina alternating with Ekaterina Osmolkina. The principals at subsequent performances will be Sofya Gumerova & Anton Korsakov and Ekaterina Kondaurova & Danila Korsuntsev.

This week's program is an odd contrast to last week's; it's as substantial as last week's was light. I'm sure that scheduling played a large part in determining what was going to be danced when, but the results could have been better.

#3 samba38

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:11 AM

I'm not a source for unbiased views on Miami City, my favorite company, or 4Ts, my favorite ballet, so take with liberal salt that I thought they owned the evening. They had some advantages --
--a work of genius to perform.
--a work that fit perfectly on the small stage and required no scenery or costumes (a major problem for other companies in the 2-week fest and the earlier ABT collision course with the Concert Hall stage)
-- the right dancers in the right roles. I must have seen Yann Trividec before. He's not new to the company. But in this role he rises to stellar attention -- a muscial dancer with a sinuous body. Merrill in Choleric (as usual, no program along so I'm mangling spellings) had a commanding presence that initially startles but then works very well.

Now, to make one amendment to my staging, costume complaints -- "Sea of Troubles" was performed before a narrow web of suspended fabric set just off center. There was never anything symetrical about the barefoot ballet. The women also wore exquisitely draped taupe dresses that took on their own life. Those two qualities were the most interesting part of the ballet. Otherwise, I'd call it "Swamp of Incest", I'd like to know how Ophelia breathes with what appears to be a giant baggie over her head 1/3 of the time, and I'd warn people there's a reason it's rarely staged. Of course it might fare better with a modern-dance audience, not the blue/grey/champagne hair opening night crowd where I heard more than one person muttering "their feet were so dirty..."

On the Kirov, mixed response at my house. I wasn't wowed (too few dancers and it's not kosher without a ramp) but enjoyed it (maybe because the man didn't wink and mug and milk applause after every leap a la ABT). But maybe this reveals my ignorance.

Kiddo was savage! Her view: "His tacky blue K-Mart costume left blue sweat stains all down the side of the ballerina's costume. She was dispassionate, cold and uninteresting. There were more legs shaking on the entry than in my summer ABT SI presentation. If I can dance that without wobbling, I expect the Kirov corps to do it. "

Let's be charitable and hope they get their legs under them after the opening night "shake-out".

Lastly, my envy to those who will see those performances this week with Deanna Seay, MCB rising star, in 4Ts. I think her cerebral brilliance will suit it and I'm sorry she wasn't in the opening night cast. I'm tempted to go again just to see her but... Limon Company is upstairs at KC with their beautiful and moving Moors Pavane so I'm going to head that way if I can tonight or Friday. I've only see this performed by them once (albeit on in the intriguing setting of Riverside Church in NYC) so I'm curious about seeing it on stage.

#4 Estelle

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:32 AM

It's interesting to read about Yann Trividic, he used to dance with the Ballet de Marseille for a while; in 1999 he had danced Romeo in Van Dantzig's "Romeo and Juliet", partnering Pietragalla, but I had only seen the second cast. He probably will have a more interesting repertory to dance in Miami...

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:47 AM

I think Trividic danced The Hoofer in Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" during the Balanchine Celebration. He was good there, too, but gave a real star performance in Phlegmatic (completely in scale, though. Not too much of a star.)

I'm glad it wasn't just me who thought that Shades without a ramp is like "Deliverance" without rafts and a river. I saw the tiny, impoverished Moscow City Ballet (led by Gordeyev) some years ago in Baltimore do Shades. They had a ramp -- it looked like they'd dragged it away from a handicapped entrance down the street, but it was a ramp. Without it, the entire design of the choreography is lost -- Petipa's love of different levels -- AND the entrance of each dancer is invisible.

I was very interested that both Ari and Samba found Pavlenko cold. I'd call her reserved. She reminded me of Elisabeth Platel in some ways -- including the reserve, which is a quality I like in a classical ballerina. (I don't post that to argue -- if one's perception is that a dancer is cold, then that's perfectly valid. But I genuinely find such differences in perceptions interesting.)

#6 samba38

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 10:21 AM

Actually, I thought she had a cold demeanor because, isn't this the kingdom of the shades? Isn't she a ghost? So to me, potentially wallowing in ignorance on this ballet plot, cold worked. But kiddo wasn't buying this.

Which raises a question:

When presenting a scene from a larger story ballet, how much context is required? Does it take on different meanings?

Or is it like looking at just one painting from a tryptich. Perhaps, suddenly, you see it differently, notice things you hadn't before or find that it loses power -- even though the object itself is unchanged.

Another observation: I wonder if anyone but me thought there was a odd choreographic unity in the end to the three different works -- a night of angles and edges and zig-zags. Even with all the Graham-esque contractions in "Sea of Troubles" there was nothing soft or circular, delicate or even fatly robust about the three works. This is not a criticism in my book, mind you. Extremes have their appeal to me.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 10:39 AM

Ah, but kiddo is young and has as yet little experience of ghosts :)

Samba, you raise interesting points. I'll vote for staying in character in an excerpt -- and, like Swan Lake Act II, Shades can be considered a mini-ballet, a work sufficient unto itself. I didn't think Pavlenko was especially ghostly -- but I haven't seen that much of her, so I don't have a broad context in which to view her.

The lack of a context is what, to me, was so missing in some of the performances of "Napoli." The Cavallo-Massot-led cast treated it as though it were just a series of solos. The Lund-Gad-led cast (and he was definitely the ballerino, as, in that ballet, he should be) was quite different. Lund and Gad were at its center -- they WERE its center -- not just two people dancing solos 4 and 5.

I see the connection you're making -- the structures were similar among the three works, even though the vocabulary wasn't. The endings were especially similar, structurally. Balanchine and Petipa are lines and angles and diagonals. I don't put MacMillan in that company (and I agree with Ari that this "ballet" was modern dance, not just from the bare feet, but in vocabulary and approach) but what was balletic about it, if anything, WAS that structure. There wasn't any of the freedom about it that I associate with modern dance. It was all quite predictable.

#8 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 10:58 AM

Thank you for the reviews. Shame the Shades Act of the Mariinsky was that poorly staged.

Of course it is different when seeing a fragment or even a complete act from a ballet, taken out of context. Yet, judging from your impressions (I didn't see it), I don't think Daria Pavlenko wasn't any different here than when she is dancing the full length ballet. Only, in the full length ballet her appearance in the Shades Act makes more sense: call it cold, ghostly, I'd rather say remote, with a sense of mystery, working pretty well in this particular Act.

To my mind Pavlenko is at this moment one of the most complete Nikiya's of the Mariinsky. Her reading is satifying overall, foremost because of the mere quality of her dancing, which is a lot more classical and subtle than, say Diana Vishneva's barnstorming hysterics or Svetlana Zakharova's predictable gymnastics (yet virtually nothing happens with them in the Shades Act except misplaced bravura). And yes, Alexandra, this other superb classicist, Elisabeth Platel comes to mind.

#9 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 12:05 PM

Originally posted by Alexandra
The lack of a context is what, to me, was so missing in some of the performances of "Napoli."  The Cavallo-Massot-led cast treated it as though it were just a series of solos.  The Lund-Gad-led cast (and he was definitely the ballerino, as, in that ballet, he should be) was quite different.  Lund and Gad were at its center -- they WERE its center -- not just two people dancing solos 4 and 5.


I'm just writing about the Canadian production of Napoli so this fascinates me. Because Hubbe had bulked up the excerpts with the Flower Festival pas, there was no way to give context to the work, because you've created two "ghost leads" and the central characters (Teresina and Gennaro) dissapear into the divertissment as soloists. Martine Lamy did Teresina's part when I saw it, though, and she made it central just by doing it so well.

I did an interview on this for background, it turns out Lamy was brought up under Erik Bruhn's tutelage and danced Schaufuss' Napoli when she was young, and "she had all the heads already." It's nice to know it does stay with some dancers.

#10 carbro

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 12:40 PM

I think I've seen enough Kirov renditions of the Shades act over the years to conclude that, whether thru custom or artistic imperative, their Nikiyas are remote. The idea seems to be to distinguish this act from the corporeal ones (whether it is danced in context or not) by distilling it into an abstraction. Even Assymuratova, who could almost be seen as yearning beneath the surface, never really connected with her Solor. She sort of hovered around him. It's not an approach that I prefer (Solor's vision: wouldn't he imagine his ideal love to be more passionate?) but it is valid.

#11 Ari

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Posted 15 March 2003 - 08:47 AM

Just a quick word about last night's performance — Bayadère was fabulous. Adjusting myself to the performing conditions, I focused on the dancers, and they came through. (It was the same cast as on Wednesday, except that Ekaterina Osmolkina danced the second Shades variation.) They made one change in the staging that helped a great deal: still no ramp, but instead of the curtain rising on an empty stage and the first Shade entering through parted curtains like Johnny Carson coming out for his monologue, the curtain rose to reveal the first Shade posed at the rear of the stage, arms en couronne, the tulle extending up her arms like a halo. It was breathtaking — I could hear people sighing with pleasure. And Daria Pavlenko and Leonid Sarafanov were both terrific, she with her beautiful line and adagio and he with strongly centered turns and beautifully controlled leaps. A gorgeous performance.

In 4 Ts, Deanna Seay's stronger technique and stylistic maturity made for a more satisfying Sanguinic than Jennifer Kronenberg on opening night. Not that Kronenberg was bad, but Seay's performance was more reminiscent of great NYCB Sanguinics of the past.

#12 Ray

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Posted 16 March 2003 - 07:30 AM

Dear all,

A quick message:

I attended yesterday's matinee @ Kennedy Ctr., and I must respectfully disagree with some of your reactions. Most strongly, I felt that Trividic's performance in Phlegmatic was not great, despite the promise of his physical stature and bearing. It wasn't--well, *phlegmatic* enough; it needed more sangfroid. "Wild abandon" would be my 2-word description. And I'm puzzled by the comment that Cox was not pliable enough in Melancholic. I thought he was one of the most supple M's I've seen; what bothered me about his performance was the way he did the repeated falls--and this is a common problem, I think, in this variation: they don't feel like falls; something was askew in the execution. This, in turn, points to a larger problem in his performance and the 4T's performance as a whole: I felt it needed more experience, more maturity. Put another way: if I lived in Miami, I would have been happy with viewing the performance as a promising step; in a one-show context, I was less than satisfied, although I have seen much much worse.

I'm very curious as to why Cooper would have chosen *this* MacMillian piece; I found it interesting from a dance history/biographicat P.O.V. but excruciating to sit through (the dancers' fine performances saved it [god how many times do we say that these days...]). Any insight?

Ray

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 16 March 2003 - 08:20 AM

Ray, according to Sarah Kaufman's preview piece that ran in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, originally the plan had been for the Royal Ballet to bring "Monotones" and "Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan." This was scrapped in favor of the MacMillan when Lady MacMillan "reminded" Michael Kaiser (and this is according to Kaiser, who's quoted in the article) that it was the 10th anniversary of MacMillan's death and wouldn't it be more appropriate to do a MacMillan ballet? I believe it was she who suggested this one.

Re Phlegmatic and Melancholic, I think the "not a pliant back" comments about Melancholic were from people who saw Bart Cook in that role (I heard quite a few such comparisons in intermission talks). Personally, I accept Cook as a "one-off;" no one will have a back like that again. As for Phlegmatic, I think often the role is often misinterpreted now, and danced as limp. I thought Trividic's dancing was quite controlled, and saw detail in his (and Cox's) performance that I haven't seen in years. I don't think the characterization should be layered on. I don't expect Melancholic to moon about and look like a Romantic Prince, and I don't think Phlegmatic has to be a dishrag. I also like it that in Miami's production, Choleric is not an Amazon on steroids, as it's come to be danced elsewhere. Merely a strong woman. So, as is often the case, perhaps differences in opinion lie in what one's expectations are and which version of the ballet one knows? I heard a lot of happy comments from old-time NYCB watchers that "this is like the ballet used to look." (Now, one could argue, of course, that this means the 1960s, which isn't necesarily the "original," or that the ballet should NOT look as though it did 40 years ago.)

I do agree that, looked at in the greater cosmos, the MCB leads were not up to the great NYCB casts of the past (unfortunately, I had to miss Seay's Sanguinic) -- but I think the company shows the ballet clearly. Compared to what is being danced today, I think MCB's 4T's is very strong. They don't have the bodies that NYCB does -- they can't yet; the company is too young -- and they don't have a full set of world-class principals, and so in that sense, I agree that it is in a transitional stage.


On "Sea of Troubles," it was just as dull at a second viewing. I tried to like it for the sake of the dancers, who were excellent, and very committed. I changed my mind, too, on calling it "modern dance." It's a ballet choreographer trying to do modern dance, but it's not REAL modern dance. The movement is all in the limbs. What it is is Not Ballet. It's as though MacMillan could never escape from his ballet backgorund, try though he might. He still thinks like a ballet dancer; he just hates the vocabulary, the ethos, the aesthetic, the whole idea of it.

As several people have said, what ultimately sinks this one is the lack of a viewpoint. There's no point to everyone getting to dance all the roles, unless it's a deeply cynical in joke about dancers' secret desires (to dance everything.) I kept thinking of Jerome Robbins' "Mother Goose Suite," where the "children" go to the big toy chest and take out costumes appropriate to their fairy tales, and then go dance out the fairy tales. And then they switch roles. 'No fair! You always get to play Ophelia! I always have to play Gertrude because I'm tall!" stamp, stamp. Costume switch. The play goes on.

The "you are all Gertrude, you are all Ophelia" idea mighit work if Hamlet/Polonius/Ghost Dad all remained the same characters but no, they all have to try out each role as well. And using different dancers to show different aspects of the character -- now Ophelia is a wispy little thing (so that the men can throw her around like the proverbial sack of potatoes) now she's a big strong mama, just like.. oh no! Mama!! seems so obvious, as does the Red Lined Overcoat of Death that gets passed around.

A very brief word on Ekaterina Kondaurova's debut in "Shades" Thursday night. This is a beatufiul dancer, tall, pencil slim (but not scrawny) with an absolutely gorgeous line. I would have been happy to look at her stand in fourth position all night. It was a careful performance, rather schoolgirlish, trying to get each position RIGHT; she hasn't pulled it all together yet, but one wouldn't expect her to. Aside from the pique tours in the coda, she seemed to have trouble with pirouettes. But in that coda, the turns were strong, and -- Victoria, I thought of you -- she had "circular arms"; the arms were brought in to form a circle with each turn. Beautiful, beautiful style -- and nice to know that all Kirov schoolgirls aren't encouraged to do Extreme Ballet!

She was partnered by Danilo Korsuntsev, who is not a virtuoso -- he didn't try the double assembles -- but who can present a ballerina and fill a role. And in his first solo, the series of grands pirouettes a la seconde into pirouettes in attitude were very smoothly done. There isn't enough room on that stage to do jumps, and Korsuntsev was very reigned in, as Whiz Kid Sarafanov had to be on opening night.

#14 Ray

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Posted 16 March 2003 - 09:03 AM

Because my response was so quick and dirty, I didn't have time to elaborate on my views. And I did avoid raising comparisons to great 4T-ers of the past. I agree that Phlegmatic shouldn't merely be limp; my problems with Trividic's performance are actually on the level of how he performed particular steps: I guess I have trouble seeing his performance as "controlled" (actually, I am puzzled by that characterization). I did think the rough outlines of what he did were appealing. And I think Cox was very very promising (he's actually supple in a way that Bart Cook was not); I just think his phrasing was off in what is, admittedly, a very difficult-to-phrase variation. And what I didn't add to my previous message is that sometimes the MCB dancers punched too hard--the movement quality of the male partner in Sanguinic. for example, was unnecessarily harsh--at the expense of amplitude (I guess this was what those NYCB dancers of the 60s-80s were so good at--what a lot of us miss: hitting hard without foreshortening the movement).

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 16 March 2003 - 10:08 AM

I like your "hitting hard without foreshortening the movement" comment a lot. I thought Penteado's attack was harsh. I wondered if the shortening -- or lack of stretch? are we seeing/saying the same thing there? -- was part of the original concept of the role? That the other three soloists -- all Solitary -- stretch out in their space, but that the two Sanguinics complement each other, and so the individual movements are comparatively shortened. But that may be fancy (extrapolated from comments in "Repertory in Review" that for Balanchine, only Sanguinic could be danced by a couple, and the other three temperaments were incomplete because they were solitary. That's a bad paraphrase of Reynolds but, I think, an accurate one.)

As for poor Trividic, by "controlled" I mean that I saw nothing limp about, or unclear in, his movements. Certainly I saw no flailing, nothing that smuged the shape of the role (which "wild abandon" implies, to me), nor, at the two performances I saw, anything I would consider sloppy technically. This is a time when I wish I knew Effort-Shape and could be more precise! To me, this is a "loose" rather than a "tight" role, and Trividic is the first Phlegmatic I've seen who was both flexible -- loose -- and yet performing the steps clearly. I do think his performance was on a larger scale than any of the other principals', but I didn't think it was out of scale with the ballet. He was the only one I thought was dancing at NYCB level. I don't think I'm completely off-base, as this seemed a general impression among older critics I spoke with, including one who had danced with City Ballet in the '50s and knows the ballet quite well. "General impression" being -- it's nice to see it danced that way again. (I don't offer that to imply that other opinions ARE off-base, of course.)

Ray, could I ask, do you mean you thought he was technically sloppy -- wild in that sense? Or did you think he misconstrued the role?


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