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Amy Reusch, August 10, 2003
Posted August 11, 2003
Hasn't Nissinen been at Boston a year already?
Lots of interesting issues and questions raised; wish I had time to comment now more fully, but I just wanted to answer Doug. Yes, Nissinen completed his first year at Boston Ballet. So he did watch the dancers for a year before making changes.
Paul, thank you for that wonderful description of Stowell -- if ever there was an example of a director cleaning house because he knew exactly what he wanted, and then making it happen, I think it was Helgi Tomasson in San Francisco. I remember, too, some dancers -- like Reyes -- that he kept and that he did change (for the better, IMO). And he also kept dancers like Cisneros (and, I think, Berman was there before he came) and worked with them.
But Paul! Elizabeth Loscavio, for instance, was already there, I remember her in the corps at her very beginning there. I suspect you're not a Smuin fan so I won't go too far in defending him to you, but there are things Michael gets not enough credit for because people had this feeling that Helgi had somehow reinvented the proverbial wheel in San Francisco. He didn't hire Anita Paciotti, but she has been a ballet mistress there since she stopped dancing (with Fille Mal Gardee, a ballet that I have to assume that Michael programmed, given its timing). It's not because Helgi didn't care for her aesthetic that she was kept there to rehearse people. Yes, Alexandra, Joanna Berman was already there and already doing solo roles. And it is not true that Michael would not hire short men. He had them in the highest rank. Remember Julian Montaner and Andre Reyes? And others? Catherine Batcheller was already there, she went to Stuttgart and later to Birmingham Royal Ballet. I think Shannon Lilly went there as well, and she was there with Michael too. Ricardo Bustamante spent some time with ABT later (though I don't recall if it were immediately afterward), and he was there with Michael. It is with Michael that the company first did Balanchine's "Midsummer", and brought Diana Adams to oversee it, and rehearsed it with Michael and Bob Gladstein, and Mr. B's "Western Symphony", which was already in their repertoire when I first saw it, or Concerto Barocco, which was the second ballet I saw there, with Nancy Dickson and Jamie Zimmermann. They did old-fashioned ballets like "Con Amore" (which had been done by the New York City Ballet in the 1950s), which was done at the first performance of the company under Helgi's direction, which was the performance at Stern Grove that year. I could go on (in great detail) but I guess I'm disagreeing with you a fair amount here!
Posted August 12, 2003
Sorry, Mme. Hermine, you are right.There IS a lot to say for Smuin (though I'm often exasperated) -- his "Romeo and Juliet" is not only better than Tomasson's, it's better than Cranko's, and in some ways better than MacMillan's. maybe I made it sound like I don't think there's room for a great gesture-based company.
I got carried away, perhaps. I take every possible opportunity to lament the loss of Loscavio, and i have to say, i didn't realize she was at SFB already... She IS local, like Shannon Lilly -- both were trained by Danny Simmons at Contra Costa Ballet (I think). TOmasson featured her immediately -- she MADE his COntradanses. His first year, we were VERY aware of Loscavio. Certainly Berman was here (she's local, trained by Maria Vegh at Marin Ballet), Berman was a VERY vivid creature as the "other girl" in Smuin's "Hearts," his last great ballet for SFB (a retelling of Les Enfants du Paradis, which I thought was a fantastic ballet).
In fact there was a tremendous dancer with your last name, or something almost the same, whom Smuin built "Hearts" around -- whom Helgi did NOT keep -- which is as good an example as I could come up with of the differences between SFB before and after. Meja -- or was it Mejia? -- was a THRILLING dancer, danced with his heart in his throat, with weight, power, momentum, he was over his edge all the time, he made it but you could not believe he wasn't going off the rails, it was enormously exciting -- there was a manege of double sauts de basques -- or something like that -- at the climax of the ballet (which was set, very cleverly, and sensitively, to Piaf songs). The role he was playing was that of Baptiste, so all that white satin costume was floating and flashing like a flag in a hurricane), and I think the house went so on a roar, the noise was unbelievable. We were all out of our minds. But his dancing was romantic, not classical -- and under that costume...?
Helgi put Stowell in that role -- when it was done the next year -- perhaps to challenge Stowell, perhaps to kill the ballet. Stowell did try, but he wasn't ready to smolder, bank his fires, and then turn up the heat like Mejia did -- it was very early in his career. I think he DID respect the role, I konw he danced an excerpt from it at benefits.
Some other dancers Tomasson kept were Christine Peary (who was not very turned-out but was a demon on pointe, she was thrilling in Forsythe's corkscrewing pirouettes), Jamie Zimmerman, Grace Madduell, and of course Cisneros -- and he has kept Anita Paciotti (who had been with Oakland Ballet before she came to Oakland), who finished her career as ballerina blazingly in Smuin's Medea -- a tremendously theatrical ballet, which Dance Theater of Harlem has in its rep (but since it's set for them by Cisneros, who danced Creusa, not Medea, the title role when I saw it last was not filled out to its largest possibilities). he also let Attila Ficzere have a grand finale in Don Juan (which had been made on him).
And Val Caniparoli has had MANY opportunities....
Smuin is a very clever man, and he has a great way with STEPS that he's not given credit for.... my reservations have to do with a laisser faire way he has with his dancers, who get away with murder. He's probably too nice a guy..... in his latest, Zorro, which had a LOT of fine invention, the effect was ruined by Claudia Alfieri's clueless, generic bunhead "interpretation" of the ingenue. He should have taken her and pasted some convent-girl style on her, but....
Reyes would do gargouillades at hip height, but he wouldn't do a decent glissade. TOmasson DID keep Reyes, and made him tidy up his glissades -- he had to do 8 of them in a circle, Bournonville-style, in Tomasson's Poulenc Concerto..... He didn't stay long.
Posted August 12, 2003
Paul, just because a director has gotten a thrilling and romantic performance out of a dancer, and used that one facet of a dancer's personality, it doesn't mean they are incapable of being classical. Remember that, most especially in the case of a dancer whose dancing and repertory you may not ever have seen again. And "Brahms-Haydn Variations", to name one, is a very nice classical piece, not "gesture-based" IMO at all (I have problems with your use of that phrase in reference to Michael's work in general). If you saw Brahms-Haydn, you saw "what was going on" under that costume. Michael did do beautiful classical work too. Michael put Christopher into Hearts, and he did two performances of Hearts the first year it was done, as the second cast; though I did not see him, I saw all the rest of the performances. In the case of Andre Reyes, what you've written makes it sound as though he left SFB because he couldn't bear having to dance cleanly!!. Also, Daniel Meja left Helgi, not the other way around, with a request for release early in his last contract, which was granted, to join Festival Ballet in London. I saw Medea and Anita was thrilling, by the way, and although I cannot say for sure, was it not Julian Montaner and Andre Reyes as the two brothers?
After all these years!
Posted August 13, 2003
I was certainly sorry we lost Meja -- he was, as I said, a thrilling dancer.
WIth respect t Stowell, I'd like to add that Cheryl Flatow wrote so well about him , with such a clear understanding of his talent and artistry, that she made it easier to understand his development. Her essays over the years in the SFB programs were extraordinarily fine -- she gave you the real deal, to an astonishing degree when you consider that the program book is a publication of the marketing department. I miss her essays as much as I miss some of our finest dancers who have gone on.
Wow this has gone off the Boston Ballet track for sure.
Paul, Loscavio prefers to credit her training at CC Ballet to Don Eryck. Actually, to be fair we all studied with Don, David Ramos, Jocelyn Vollmar and Daniel Simmons -and many others.
Good point, Brioche. Perhaps we could get back to Boston Ballet changes. Anyone who wants to discuss San Francisco Ballet, past or present, or the general theoretical question of how an AD can change a company is welcome to do so, but please start another thread.
Posted August 19, 2003
Check the new roster at Houston Ballet. A handful of BB dancers are there and already rehearsing. A change in AD at any company can be very unsettling.
I (vaguely) recall that when Ben Stevenson took over in Houston about 28 years ago, he replaced a goodly number of dancers.
Posted August 20, 2003
Yes, Ben did replace several, but kept a majority of the existing company. The existing Houston company was very loyal to James Clouser and the dancers Ben brought were loyal to him. Several had been in National Ballet of Washington with Ben.
I was part of the caravan that came down from Chicago as many from Houston went north to Chicago with James Clouser. We joked that we should have just switched apartments, furniture and cars - made the move hassle free!
Posted August 21, 2003
I just wanted to add that at my daughters end of the year performance, they had the great fortune of working with James Whiteside as a guest artist. He has just been promoted from BBII to Corps. I cannot tell you how stunning a dancer he is, at the ripe old age of 18!!
Posted August 22, 2003
I have been waiting to hear. Does anyone know about where Tara Hench is going or has gone?
I believe Tara hench is in Tulsa now, as a soloist.