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What did you think of the season as a whole?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:06 PM

We have a half-dozen people watching the Pennsylvania Ballet! I declare a quorum :)

What did you all think of the season as a whole? Favorite ballets? Favorite dancers? Dancers to watch? An overview of the company -- was this a good year? A transitional year?

#2 socalgal

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 07:13 PM

I am a new member and must reveal that I have been watching PABallet closely these last two years. So I will be joining this thread from time to time! There is a reason for this. My daughter joined the company in 2001. We were totally new to Philadelphia and this company since it is a long way from the West Coast where we live. And I must tell you that we have loved getting to know this fine ballet company and are enjoying following its wonderful dancers. It is my observation that PABallet has a look and feel all of its own. Being familiar with SFB, ABT NYCB in particular, it seems to me that PABallet is a hybred of classical and neo-classical dancing with many of these dancers being extremely adept at high caliber modern dance as well. With a smaller number of top ranking dancers ( a handful of principals and soloists) it seems to give many opportunities to the corps dancers which is one of the strongest corps I have seen outside of City Ballet.

This year I was able to attend the All Balanchine program last October. Scotch Symphony was a delight. The audience gasped as the curtain opened revealing these beautiful women in pink with their partners in kilts. It was stunning. Bugaku was also danced with great style and brillance. I have only seen this piece once before on SFB with Lacarra dancing the principal role. I felt that PABallet captured the essence of the piece far better than SFB. Apollo was also danced on this program and was well done.

Nutcracker is Balanchine's version which they perform with the quickness and clean footwork that is required. I love this version's waltz of the flowers but always find it strange the way in which the sugar plum and cavalier's pas is arranged, with the lady's variation at the beginning of act II. All in all, a fine showing as Nut's go. Balanchine knew how to incorporate children and keep it interesting.

I was glad to be able to see Neenan's "Le Travail" which was choreographed in response to the wonderful Degas exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The sets and costumes were a beautiful palette of colors from Degas' paintings. The music was an original score for the ballet and worked well
with the intent of this piece which was not a literal translation of Degas' paintings but more about these dancers during this time period. I found this ballet to be thought provoking while also a visual pleasure to watch both the choreography and colors on stage. Butler's 'Carmena Burana" was also on the program and I found it exciting for the most part but must admit some of the choreography a bit dated. The company performed with expression and ofcourse the live chorus was a delight to the ears.

"Cinderella' (Ben Stevenson's version) was something I was not planning on attending actually. I am glad I caught this production. The story was told well and was made interesting. There is not as much dancing for the company as in other story ballets. But what there is happens to be lovely. Again, the principals shined and even the corps (including a few apprentices) danced the season variations with extreme polish and elan. I was impressed.

Firebird and Concerto 488 closed the year. Firebird was indeed a spectical of a ballet. The sets were awesome and the costumes strange but spectacular in the theatrical sense. It was a splashy piece to close the year but i must admit that I was not enthralled by Kudelka's choreography in the least. Iwas expecting much more. Lila York's "Concerto 488" was danced well but it did lack excitement and adventure for a modern piece to Mozart that is pure dancing for dancing's sake.

I am looking forward to next season and especially to Wheeldon's "Swan Lake" This is a wonderful gift to this company who deserves an inspiring version of this ballet classic. I really love watching ballet at the Academy of Music. It is a gorgeous old theatre with an aura of American history.

It is great that there are others here on BA that are viewing this lovely company. :) Can't wait til next season!

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 08:05 PM

What a lovely summary! Thank you for taking the time to write in such detail, socalgal, and welcome -- I can imagine you're feeling transplanted, changing coasts :)

#4 socalgal

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 10:08 PM

hey, I did not move! We (mom and dad) still live in So. Cal..... I feel lucky to be able to visit her in Philly when possible and watch her fullfill her dancing dreams :) with this lovely company. And I must mention that she is very very happy dancing in PA.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 10:32 PM

Ah, a frequent flyer :) You're welcome to tell us what you're seeing in California, too!

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 02:48 AM

Socalgal, there's a reason for the strange construction of the pas de deux in Balanchine's version of Nutz. He appears to have been responding to Petersburg complaints "back in the days" that the ballerina had nothing to do until very late in the ballet. Also, the original male variation had never been written out in Stepanov notation, and everybody seemed to have been on his own in composing one. The music for it was a rather anemic tarantella which had originally been scheduled for use in Act I as a doll dance.

#7 Dale

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 08:13 AM

Mel, there seems to be a couple of theories about why Balanchine took the solo out. In an interview with Ballet Review, Andre Eglevsky (Balanchine's original Cavalier in N.) said, "When I left the company (Balanchine) said, "I don't want Nutcracker variation to be done," and the male variation was never remembered after me. It still isn't done. He broke up the pas de deux. There is no male tarantella at all in Nutracker..." Eglevsky basically said that nobody could do his solos Sylvia, Glinka pas de trois and some others) as well as he and Mr. B took them out rather than have anybody else do them.

Others have said that Mr. B, like you said, wanted to give the Sugar Plum Fairy an early highlight, so moved her solo to the opening of Act II, causing an imbalance in the pas de deux that removing the male solo helped solve. He also removed the Cavalier entirely in a version performed in the 50s, having the Sugar Plum partnered by a group of cavaliers.

socalgal, thanks for reporting on Penn Ballet - it's a company I plan to see more of next season, beginning with their October program and including the Nutcracker.

#8 Doris R

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 08:00 AM

The season as a whole was delightful! Some programs more than others, and some ballets within the program more than others. The Valentine Weekend program of "Le Travail" and "Carmina Burana" was probably the one I most enjoyed -- despite nearly getting snowed in. One program that socialgal didn't mention was "Company B" which I had never seen before and thoroughly enjoyed. (Perhaps she wasn't able to make it back for that show.)

I always enjoy watching the dancers -- they really seem to enjoy their work and communicate that to the audience. Arantxa Ochoa is absolutely incredible regardless what she is doing, and I'm looking forward to Valerie Amiss returning from her maternity leave. Both women emote beautifully.

I empatize with socialgal's travel schedule, when our daughter was dancing in Texas we had a similar situation, although we only had to go half-way 'cross the country instead of coast-to-coast. I'm so enjoying having her only two hours away now.

I too am looking forward to the new season. Although I've heard Dracula is more theater than dance, but I've never seen Taming of the Shrew and the new Swan Lake is an exciting prospect.

#9 socalgal

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 12:49 PM

Hi Doris R! You were right.....I was not able to see the Company B performance :wink: even though the BD was dancing in this piece. Heard it was terrific. The distance IS an issue and we are struggling with planning our visits around performances of PABallet. The most frustrating part regards company casting lists which often are posted late. It then becomes difficult to plan air travel. You are so lucky to have your BD closer to you.

Also love Arancha Ochoa's dancing and will be so happy to see Val Amiss back on the performance roster next season!

We are looking forward to the Balanchine 40th anniversary program in October which includes Concerto Barocco and The Four Temperments. See you there !? :rolleyes:

#10 Doris R

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 10:03 AM

Socalgal -- Yes, I'll definitely be there. One of the advantages to living within a couple hours of Philadelphia is not having to miss any of the programs. Maybe we can meet for coffee sometime when you're here. Why don't you send me an email and we'll "talk."

#11 socalgal

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 10:27 AM

Doris R - That would be great. I am a new member and have not graduated to receive full privileges yet. Just ask your daughter who she went to the movies with recently ......you'll know.
:D

#12 BW

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 02:46 PM

It's wonderful to read some detailed reports on the PA Ballet - thank you socalgal and Doris R! :wink:

I wonder if you might have read Francis Mason's interview with Christopher Wheeldon in the Spring 2003 issue of "Ballet Review"? There's a discussion between the two of them on pages 60 and 61 about his doing a Swan Lake for them... Wheeldon says he's not sure how much of it he'll choreograph and how much he'll take from elsewhere, admitting that for him "the ultimate production, which is the Ashton production for the Royal Ballet" is one he'd like to draw from...such as the "white acts" but he seems to be concerned that "the Pennsylvania Ballet will not have enough swans to do that." To which Francis Mason responds:

"Can't you challenge them? They've got the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Pennsylvania Balllet ought to be able, for Swan Lake, to produce and train any number of women."


I'm looking forward to hearing more from you all on this upcoming season, and I hope to make it down for at least one performance this fall.

Thanks again. :D

#13 socalgal

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 06:28 PM

BW - I have not read that particular review regarding Chris Wheeldon's approach to his "Swan Lake" for PABallet. But now that you mention it.... I too wonder how he will deal with the numbers of corps cygnettes. In the past, they have used their studio company dancers and also hired additional corps for bigger ballets. I will keep my ear to the ground! There really has been no open discussion of "Swan Lake" to the dancers other than an official announcement a while back. (Mr. Wheeldon did sit in and watch a company class in June) There will be changes in the roster this coming season as well, but no announcements have been formally made yet.
I am excited about the prospect of the Royal version in the 'white acts' and am very curious to know how he will treat Acts I and III as well. It is all very exciting :D

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 08:23 PM

Slightly off-topic --

re that Ballet Review interview with Christopher Wheeldon by Francis Mason -- Mason himself lived in Philadelphia as a teen-ager and went to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts religiously, every Friday night, he told the Dance Critics' Association only a month ago -- so his jaunty remark (I'm paraphrasing) that Philadelphia ought to be able to train enough swans, this is Swan Lake! is I'd bet expressing admiration for hte way Philadelphia (home of that famous orchestra) rises to an occasion like this and will do things right.

PS I really wish I could see that company -- and sure would like to see Company B. IT's a great ballet; I think it will be around for a long time. SFB danced it for several seasons. Joanna Berman was the Rum and Coca Cola goddess of the islands, Ashley Wheater was O Johnny, Christopher Stowell was the Bugle Boy. Grace Madduell was heartbreaking in "There will never be another you," and Eric Hoisington was over-the-top astounding in Tico-Tico. It was spectacular dancing, and it was also really disturbing. That's been at least 5 years now, they're all gone now......

I'm absolutely ready to see it again.

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 08:43 PM

I have to say I'm cheered that Wheeldon's vision of "Swan Lake" is the old Royal production! That production was full of new (then-contemporary) choreography, but it was all traditional -- nothing was stood on its ear, especially the swans. It would be wonderful if Wheeldon could achieve something similar.


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