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Tudor rarities


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 02 May 2003 - 10:30 PM

I saw MANY BalletAlertniks there and I hope we'll report in. (On a personal note, I also saw my ballet teacher from Boston (Marie Paquet)! I haven't seen her in about 17 years. . .)

To me, the most wonderful thing was getting to see Lilac Garden up close. The work is so intimate and filled with the tiniest of details. It reads like a drama of words unsaid, where the smallest gesture, clasping a hand or reaching gets teased into a momentous act. This probably sounds patently obvious to those who saw the work in the past, but I've never gotten to see the work on a small stage, and it changes it more than you can even extrapolate when watching it at the Met. For the first time, the tableau gave me chills. Cynthia Sheppard was very moving as Caroline and never overplayed, but her smallest move showed the calamity that was unfolding.

I found Fandango interesting, but it raised more questions than it answered. It's a female quintet made in '63 for the Met Opera Ballet to music by Antonio Soler (originally for harpsichord, played on piano). The women have individual names (Desideria, Nana, Conchita, Esmeralda, Serafina) and personalities, and there's a good deal of spoofing (one women warbles along with the melody for a time, two others sing the next phrases mockingly). From a single viewing though, I couldn't tell what direction the ballet wanted to head in. Was it more influenced by Spanish dance, music and art of the 18th century as seen in the costumes costumes - Velazquez inspired - heavy dark fabric trimmed with white lace - and music or was it really more about Tudor's dry British wit? It seemed to wish to be both even when the marriage was uncomfortable. As I watched more I could sense Tudor's musicality better, but I have more trouble sensing what he wants out of the music he chooses. Soler's Fandango is a very interesting, obsessive piece of music with a slow buildup of pressure. Imagine Bolero without the orgiastic climax. Tudor seemed to be less interested in the arc of the music; he had his own purposes to follow.

More about Les Mains Gauches and Judgement later - I hope others will add their observations!

#2 Alymer

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Posted 07 May 2003 - 03:18 PM

My distinct impression is that Lilac Garden works better on a small stage Leigh. It was made for the stage of the Mercury, which was about the size of most people's front room, and is full of detail.
Nureyev mounted it at the Opera Comique - again a small theatre - and it looked terrific. But he also persuaded Maude Lloyd to come and talk to the dancers about the making of the ballet and she was able to put back a lot of detail which had been lost. It's very much a piece about small, half-hidden gestures I feel, and they get lost on a big stage.
I've only seen Fandango a couple of times, many, many years ago, and I found it fascinating. I don't remember it that well, but I do recall that its genesis was a request from Markova to Tudor for a ballet which would help to improve the dancers' footwork. I'd love to see that piece again. It certainly doesn't strike me as music which is obviously danceable.
I'll be interested to learn what you thought about Judgement of Paris. And does anyone do Soiree Musicale these days?

#3 dirac

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 09:26 AM

Any other reports? Inquiring minds in the provinces want to know. :)

#4 dirac

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 06:28 PM

I am waxing impatient, people. Next time I'll just have to hop a plane to New York. :)

#5 cpaolucci

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 06:35 PM

As a dancer in New York Theatre Ballet's recent production of Tudor ballets, I have been contemplating a question and would love some feedback regarding the matter. NYTB produced this concert not to sell tickets or to appeal to the masses with lots of crowd-pleasing choreography, sets and costumes, but to expose NY audiences to some ballets that are not seen often. The evenings were an homage to Tudor and in celebration of a few ballets he made. Whether they are well-known such as Jardin, or rare like Fandango, or even lost like Les Mains Gauches, audiences were given the opportunity to see the ballets in one evening. They were also exposed to the great legacy Sallie Wilson posseses in preserving the ballets and staging them, almost all from memory, being the Tudor protege that she is. Why is it that with every major or up and coming NY dance critic in the audience, (some coming to more than one perofrmance) that there has been only one printed review? Does it seem like critics are not in support of small ballet companies? Any review, in my opinion, is a good review and can be used for numerous reasons. I feel that small dance companies need the feedback. It seems like only major companies are reported on. Is it political? I am curoius. Anyway, I was honored to be a part of the entire process and feel that preserving the ballets and giving our audiences a chance to glimpse into Mr. Tudor's world is an event that I was proud to be apart of.

#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 06:51 PM

Christina and I have a professional relationship so I'll try and keep my own answer brief beyond welcoming her to the forum and hoping you'll stay and participate (and Terry too!)

I know the press was there; I saw them. It isn't easy getting coverage in NYC as you know, and harder when NYCB or ABT is in season, because coverage space goes to them first. It isn't politics as much as pecking order and hard realities. Reportage is based on reader interest. Events that happened in 400 seat houses are assumed to have less reader interest than events at 2500 seat houses. And sometimes, they just don't report on you. Reviews are not meant as feedback, as useful as that is. They're reportage, and they're for the readers, not the dancer.

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:19 PM

I know I owe more commentary, my apologies for the delay.

In the same way I thought Fandango was confused; I thought the same of Les Mains Gauches. It's a miniature work; a cast of three to a brief, allegro piece by Jacques Ibert (it sounded very much of its time and era, if you've heard Jean Francaix, Darius Milhaud or any of Les Six in their jazzy mood, that's the sound). There's a boy, a girl and an oracle. The couple gets their palm read offstage; all we see is the appearance of a rose for the woman and a noose for the man. Their continued dancing leads to a sudden collapse on the floor of the woman. Is she dead? But all's well that ends well, it seems and the ballet ends with her arising, dancing with the man and them both leaping off (interestingly, to seperate wings)

I don't expect Tudor's musicality to be like Balanchine's (I love the differences in works like Jardin aux Lilas and The Leaves are Fading) but why he chose to tell this story to that music eluded me. The music is astringent and witty, but the story brooding and dark. It's almost like setting Hamlet to ragtime. Sometimes the contrast illumines the story, but in this case it left me baffled. It's entirely possible, given Tudor's temperament, that the "darkness" of the piece is a satire in itself; "Look at what happens to two idiots stupid enough to believe a fortune teller." but if that's so, then that's not clear either. Unfortunately, the original costumes merely added to the problem. Although the characters are individual, they are all clothed similarly; the man in a red tunic jacket and the women in short dresses also with a tunic-like cut. Each had the same design on the front, an adaptation of the cubist violin by Georges Bracque that made perfect sense for the music (it also recalled Paul Colin's costumes for L'Orchestre en Liberte, especially of Serge Lifar as a human/violin) but only served to confuse the story. It's interesting to me that Fandango had the same problem of clarity. I don't know all the pieces to the puzzle, but at some point along the line, someone needs to grapple with the fact that both pieces have muddied intentions either in their setting or their resetting.

Judgment of Paris is a fascinating, mean-spirited, misanthropic little work that resets the classical myth to a seedy night club with three rather battered hookers as the goddesses in competition. Fascinating to compare these women to Tudor's can-can girls in "Offenbach in the Underworld." Even in a theatrically sanitized portrayal, Tudor manages to telegraph the raunchiness of his women quite effectively.

As one of the few people who has seen two productions of "Judgment of Paris" this year, (in February at NBoC as well) I found it heartening that two entirely separate stagings - Canada's was by Celia Franca were by and large the same. The National's was a bit better; this is one place where age and treachery helps, and the Canadian cast was their most experienced character dancers, but NYTB's held its own. There were small changes in details (what Lorna Geddes did with her fan up in Toronto was profoundly vulgar while being disarmingly funny at the same time; the NY version didn't have the same edge to it) but it seems both were set from recognizably the same text, which makes me feel confident that we're seeing the ballet as we ought to. A heartening thought.

I don't feel it's proper for me to comment on the dancers publicly, I know too many of them. I will say though, that Jack Hansen's matinee-idol-verging-on-Hitler-Youth looks were used very effectively both as The Man She Must Marry in Jardin and as The Customer in Judgment.

#8 cpaolucci

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:24 PM

Hi Leigh,
I appreciate your reply...I was hoping you would so we can spark some discussion on this. I know that reviews aren't for the dancer, and I am not looking for feedback on performance quality, but do you think the public is jipted out of what is going on in smaller theaters? For instance, they don't have to only go to ABT to see a Tudor ballet...sit further away and spend more money on a ticket. Or what about the smaller companies that are producing works by lesser known choreographers? Do they only have to see the pieces by "named" choreographers? There is alot of creative stuff happening in the smaller houses.

#9 Dale

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:31 PM

Some of the critics who were there are not from dailies, so the reviews might come out in a week, two weeks, a month etc.. from now.

Personally, I was extremely excited at the idea of the program and delighted in its realization. The intimate theater added greatly to my enjoyment of Jardin aux Lilas. All the little looks, shifts in posture, and details were easily observered. One of my favorite moments came when Christina Paolucci (in the brown dress) catches Carolina and Her Lover together. It was great to see her eyes and the look on her face, the delight in knowing a secret. Then in comes Ursula Prenzlau (in white) and shows great humanity and taking Caroline's hand and literially standing with her in her shame and humiliation.

Cynthia Sheppard was a very real Caroline. It was refreshing to see a real woman (with a real woman's body) in the part. The men made less of a impression on me. One thing I noticed...while most of what I've read about Tudor is about the acting or rather the digging for emotional depths of the characters, there is hardly a rest in the ballet. Dancers were almost always moving, which makes the freezes that much more effective.

Fandango was in interesting piece. It's a shame it is not done more as each of the five ballerina parts had a distinct character. It's fun without overplaying the jokes and it requires sharp footwork. Why doesn't ABT do this?

I didn't find Judgment of Paris a really brilliant work. It seems to me the fun is in the cast, such as when Lucia Chase and Agnes De Mille used to do the parts at ABT galas.

My favorite piece was the reconstructed Les Mains Gauches. The cast features The Oracle (danced by a woman), The Woman and The Man. The costumes were beautiful - consisting of satin jewel-colored tunics (long and bias cut for the women). The man was in ruby red with a sort of guitar (I think) on the front (very much like a Yves Saint Laurent dress), the woman was in emerald with the same thing on the front and the Oracle was in pearly gray. The choreography is classical with a few modernist touches. There is a definite 50s feel (it was made in 1951) but I also found it timeless due to its strong but simple gestures. There is a great moment (showing how Tudor can make a strong statement economically) when the Oracle has her back to a black curtain. To her left, a hand (The Woman's) sticks out and the Oracle goes to read the palm. Immediately a large red rose is pushed out, representing love. Just as quickly it is gone and on her right, another hand pops out. As she reaches to read the palm (The Man's), a noose pushes out.

Later, the man "kills" the woman. It is unclear what has happened. Are the Oracle real, is she plotting with the man. I found the ballet very strong, with a surealistic bent, and I'm disappointed I won't be able to see the ballet again on Saturday during NYTB's Dance on a Shoestring program at the company's studios. (www.nytb.org for the time and address).

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:33 PM

Responding to Christina: Obviously, I have a vested interest in agreeing with you, since I'm in exactly the same boat, so I'll just say I agree with you :)

One of the reasons I started the calendar section this week was to try and remedy that even a little. Everyone who reads this site is interested in ballet. We want to know what's out there. Sometimes, I don't find out that something happened (like Miami City, or the ABT Studio Company) until it's over.

So, and this is for all Ballet Alertniks around NYC, email me if you know of an engagement I haven't listed! Is something coming to the Kaye? To John Jay? To Symphony Space? TELL ME and I'll make sure it gets listed.

#11 cpaolucci

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:36 PM

I think that Leigh's commentary on the Tudor ballets and the thoughtful questions he asked are important. Why did Tudor do it that way? Yes, Les Mains Gauches is a slight piece (to quote Jack Anderson, today, on-line in the NYTimes) why were the costumes that way (based on the original)? Why did the lovers jete off into different wings after it seemed clear they were going to be together? I wonder if the public had the chance to read a review, would they go to see the production? They might find it intriguing that there was a piece reconstructed from a silent video over fifty years later. There are obvious reasons why the ballet was only danced at Jacob's Pillow in 1951, but that doesn't mean the piece was altogether bad. I was told that Tudor was given his first bad review only once, earlier on in his choreographic career, and never choreographed again, I think until the 80's with The Leaves are Fading. Is this true?

#12 cpaolucci

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 07:44 PM

Les Mains Gauches will be danced (by an alternate cast) on Saturday May 10th, 7pm at The Dance Gallery. Dance on a Shoestring. Also on the prgraom is Tudor's Little Improvisations.

#13 Dale

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:39 PM

Ask and you shall receive -- the New York Times reviewed the program on Saturday:

http://www.nytimes.c...ce/09TUDOR.html


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