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Estelle

Dance as Ever performances

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So, did anyone attend the Dance as Ever performances?

Don't be shy! :thumbsup:

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Estelle, I truly had planned to attend and had it written on my calendar forever, but unfortunately we couldn't make it due to an illness.

I'm so sorry Leigh! :thumbsup:

I had really been looking forward to going.

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I went on Friday night and had a wonderful time. The day before, I was uncertain whether Isabel (the hurricane) would take precedence over Alexandra (the dancer), but it turned out that Isabel had no impact on Manhattan. Ansanelli, on the other hand, danced up a regal storm in her solo. In her David Quinn dress, she looked like she might have stepped from a John Singer Sargent painting, only livelier. I didn't get the title of the piece, "The Pause on the Way Down," but that's okay. A little mystery never hurts.

Similarly, "The New Rome" eluded me as a title, but was fascinating as a dance for two women and three men -- Elizabeth Drissi, Sarah LaPorte Folger, Abraham Miha, Robert Rosario, and Peter Snow. It was danced to a commissioned score by (I have to be careful typing this) Evren Celimli. The great thing was that it was performed live by a real string quartet. The first violinist, Mat Maneri, had also accompanied Ansanelli's solo. That music was by Biber, the Passacaglia in G Minor.

The first two pieces on the program, "A Waltz Remembered" and "Rideau," were danced to recorded music. by Sibelius and Debussy respectively. The Waltz was a pleasantly pyrotechnical pas de deux from 1993. (Dance as Ever's first season?) It was danced on this occasion by Mary Carpenter and Robert Rosario. I loved it.

"Rideau," a sweetly romantic piece for Carpenter, Drissi, LaPorte Folger, and Miha, was danced in front of, behind, and through diaphanous draperies. The program helpfully informed us that "Rideau" is the French word for "curtain." It also said that the ballet "is dedicated to my good friends Estelle Souche and Philippe Bruhat on the occasion of their marriage." I figured out that means you, Estelle. What a lovely wedding gift!

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Well, I was there, of course, being the lighting designer and, being so, my views are necessarily biased, but here goes....

Rideau, Leigh's wedding present to Estelle, was a legacy from last year, and I liked it even better this time around (here's where both my bias and my unique point of view come in; one major reason I liked it better was because I liked the lighting better). I like dances in which sets and lighting are integral, rather than added on after the fact. The fifth character in Rideau is the curtain; dancers perform in front of it, behind it, and through it.

A Waltz Remembered was beautiful and touching, as two dancers look back on their relationship that might have been. Frankly, I'd like to do this one again; I was pleased, mostly, with the lighting, but opening night was one of those figurative hand-slap to the forehead moments when I realized there was another, better, way to light the opening.

Peter Boal's solo, A Shropshire Lad (performed Thursday night only), is one of my favorite ballets (see the above comment about lighting being an intrinsic part of the choreography). Boal is an amazing dancer and Leigh's choreography certainly took advantage of this.

The Pause on the Way Down (Friday through Sunday) was Alexandra Ansanelli's first guest appearance since being promoted to principal dancer. It's hard to summarize Ansanelli; the word "kinetic" certainly comes to mind. She's going to have a glorious career. The Pause on the Way Down is as different from A Shropshire Lad as Ansanelli is from Boal (Peter's style is much more controlled and considerate), but in its own way just as good.

Until I saw it in performance, I wasn't sure I'd really like The New Rome (as it turned out, I did). For one thing, it was written for a string quartet, but in the studio, we rehearsed with a CD recorded from a synthesizer. It's a dark, moody piece; interestingly enough, the modern dancers I spoke to in the audience all liked it best.

Oh, and I agree; David Quinn's dress for Ansanelli and his costume for Mary Carpenter in A Waltz Remembered were entirely stunning.

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I, too, have regrets for having missed the performances. I enjoyed 'Rideau' last year. I am not familiar with the writings of Mindy Aloff, and I hope Leigh turns her off. She took a lot of baggage with her to the performance; she was also much too condescending.

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Thanks atm711 for putting into words some of my own reactions to reading Ms. Aloff's piece. I kept wondering if she was attempting to be "humorous" :) :angry: ? At times I almost felt as though I were reading a Molly Ivins' review. But then, of course, I've met Leigh and like him and perhaps am feeling "protective"?

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BW, I don't think it is a case of being "protective". It seems to me she went to the performances with preconceived ideas; and was too pleased with her cleverness. Others on the board, whose opinions I respect, have welcomed her. Let's keep an open mind :)

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It's awkward for me to comment on my own work; I can never fully know what someone else is seeing, at the same time no one knows my process, my goals, or what I'm seeing - and at this point I haven't really finished deciding how I felt about the concert!

In Mindy's defense, though, I read her piece and didn't consider it condescending to me. I kinda liked the line about The New Rome and Prada a lot, and thought it was pretty close to the mark!

To those who couldn't make it, you have blanket absolution; we only do one weekend a year, sometime's it's the wrong weekend for someone. Witchel's law of scheduling: All dates are bad.

I'll stay out of this thread from here on in - I hope people will resume discussing, whether positively or negatively. I appreciate you coming to see the work!

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I wanted to comment further on the comments above -- and I honestly do not mean this to be condescending, but I don't know how that review could be read as NOT being humorous and I would genuinely like to know how people read it (apologies to Leigh for diverting the thread; others who saw the concert, PLEASE comment).

Re the review: it's not a negative review, although Aloff does give suggestions at the end of the piece, but phrased in a way that reviewers use when they're trying to make helpful, constructive suggestions as opposed to throwing darts. The beginning is glowing praise -- by saying Witchel is NOT doing what, by her hyperbole, she regards as, well, crap. (i.e., not DanceAsEver, but other ballets being programmed elsewhere.) She's saying, this is a good choreographer whose work does not get the attention it deserves because he respects classical ballet and is creating ballets, not the pop stuff that is being programmed more and more these days. I suppose I'm the more surprised because this is an issue that is discussed so often on these threads. I really would like to know -- because there's no point in using humor to make a point if that causes readers to miss the point.

Here's a quote from the lead To me, the tone is obviously satiric, although that's obviously not how others have read it:

Readers of DanceView may already know Leigh Witchel's informed essays on the works and dancers of George Balanchine. Witchel's own choreography, primarily for his New York chamber company Dance As Ever, is not as widely available. It's very good choreography, but, alas for Witchel, it also concentrates on the language of classical dancing, which it showcases with an uncommon degree of love and respect. Language, love, and respect: he s got three strikes against him before the curtain goes up. The theory of ballet programming for large houses now would say that that's the stuff dancegoers can get any day of the week.

Did others read this as being nasty, a serious review in that way? For those who did, what line(s) gave this impression? Thanks!

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being so far away, i haven't got a clue how the company or the choreographer is usually perceived in NY. i read the beginning of the review (what's on the first page at the website) and immediately took THAT much to actually be complimentary or flattering to the group/the choreographer - for daring to do what is beautiful or classic or respectful of balletic heritage, rather than just 'black' or fashionable or shocking.

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Alexandra, I read it as humorous--in fact, I thought it was hilarious :)

Full of praise for Leigh's choreography and for sticking to his principles--that is, not doing flashy tasteless junk just to get an audience but presenting quality work regardless of how many seats are filled.

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All right, I take it back - almost every word. :rolleyes:

I did get the "satire" (thanks Alexandra that is the word I should have used, and I did think it was funny, however, I also felt that I have read so much of this type of thing in different reviews over the course of the last few years that it just was not that "fresh" an approach. It wore on me a bit.:dry:

I suppose my negative reactions came upon the heels of

Both solos are a little gloomy in their theatrical trappings...

...in a set by Mathew Mohr that would look like the rubble of a city, if it didn’t first look like styrofoam blocks at a Gymboree. If you don’t already know the words to the Houseman, you won’t learn them from the sound system; and if you aren’t already familiar with the form of a passacaglia, Ansanelli isn’t going to clarify it here. Doesn’t matter: each solo has been built on its dancer’s strengths and made to show the full range of what he or she can do. They won’t outlive the individuals for whom they were made, and they aren’t the best examples of Witchel’s choreographic imagination.

Yet, she does then say "Nevertheless, they do reveal what he can do when working with a dancer at the top of the profession: they’re calling cards to his knowledge of ballet as a vocabulary and a craft."

Ms. Aloff is a dance critic and I am not, nor could I ever be. Since I was not there, I really just should have kept my cyber mouth shut on this one. :giveup: :)

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I think it's a terrific piece of writing! I expect to see it in collections of essays used as examples for college composition classes, in the vein of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," except that Swift maintains a completely consistent irony all the way through and is writing about something he is MUCH more passionately identified with (the starvation of hte people of Ireland) than Ms Aloff had to hand.

It probably IS fair to say that she came to the show wit h a lot of baggage -- but all critics always do, they're -- or we are, for I'm a critic, too -- concerned with the state of the art as well as with this particular instance of it, including the state of the discourse ABOUT the art -- and at the moment, as the art itself declines (the Golden Age probably ended with Balanchine's death, and the Silver Age may have gone with the death of Joffrey) the conditions for WRITING about it are deteriorating even faster.... and Ms Aloff herself recently took a slam from the very capitalistic, survival of the fittest publishing economy we've got now.

Ms Aloff has re-entered the fray with this article, and I'm thrilled to see her back and in fighting shape-- it's like having Sir lancelot back in the lists (or maybe I should say Hermione, who scored 112% on the Transformations exam). She may have ridden in less as Leigh's champion than on his back -- but there is no way she could plausibly have argued that his concert was a turning point in hte history of ballet, and the best use she could have made of his show is to champion the pleasures of well-made, civilized classical entertainment against the raucous thrills of avant-cliche.

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"Avant-cliche" -- bravo, Paul, you've done it yet again! Great phrase. Consider it stolen, as I'll be actively seeking opportunities to use it.

Aloff's review was terrifically entertaining and informative at once. It's clearly the work of someone who has admired Leigh's work over a period of time, and believing he is capable of reaching a deeper level, is graciously inviting him there. Good piece.

I am so very sorry to have missed this run. Mix-up/confusion.

:dizzy: :wink::wink: :shrug:

Next time, I'll know better.

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believing he is capable of reaching a deeper level, is graciously inviting him there.

I'm breaking my own admonition to enter this thread again and I apologize, but since it's so infrequent that people are on both sides of the fence (writing/being written about) I thought Carbro's quote deserved discussion.

In another discussion on dance writing Nanatchka said emphatically that an essay is a dialogue between the author and the reader and audience. She's absolutely right. It isn't a dialogue with the artist, and there's barely any point in that. Aloff is telling you what she sees in my work, both good and bad and what she would like to see. I happened to read it, so I can take her comments or leave them (and I appreciate that they're quite supportive), but I know what I want to make and I know what I thought of my work. The comments are meant for you, the reader. I think Aloff is wise enough to understand this as well.

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Leigh, thank you for that comment -- it's very beautifully put and (from a critic's point of view) right on.

I'm interested to read all comments, pro and con -- thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion. People read reviews differently and want different things from them -- just as we all see what's on stage differently. Some people want a review to be reportage -- no theory, nothing except what's on the stage. I think there's a place for those kinds of reviews -- that's what newspapers generally do. Some writers want to write about themselves -- "I had a nervous breakdown this morning, my car had a flat on the way to the concert, my spouse left me and I'm just getting over a bout of food poisoning. But none of that prepared me for....." or "Leigh's concert reminded me of the lovely month I spent in the Hampshires" or something of that kind. That kind, I don't print :wink:

What I look for in a writer is someone who cares as much about choreography as about dancers, someone who can see a company for what it is -- not constantly compare it, in his/her mind's eye, to a favorite or home company and dismiss anything that's different as "bad" -- and someone with a broad world view who can put what they're watching in context and a strong background in dance and cultural history. In addition to being a good writer, of course. So if that's not the kind of review that interests you, you will not want to read any of the DanceViews -- the online or the print version. I know that contextual reviews drive some people crazy -- they find them pretentious, or irrelevant, or not useful, or lots of other things, and I have no problem with that. It's a perfectly valid point of view. That's why it's important to have as many voices as possible, to give readers as many choices as possible. (And to provide more coverage for artists. The more reviews there are, the better, simply because the odds are that there will be a range of views.)

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What I look for in a writer is someone who cares as much about choreography as about dancers

From my point of view, it's nice if the writer also acknowledges that the artistic vision of the company -- or even of a specific work -- extends beyond choreography and dancing, and gives credit (and blame*) where it's due. So far, two reviews of this year's incarnation of A Shropshire Lad have mentioned that, at the end, the dancer is confined to a coffin-like box of light; neither has given any indication that the light appeared by other than magical means.

But back to the nominal subject at hand....

I, too, would be very interested in comments from people who saw the concert.

* As annoying as the lack of recognition of good design is the lack of condemnation of inadequate work; there's a tendency to not mention technical elements except to praise them, which means that much bad lighting, costume, and set design goes unpunished.

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It's not the same thing as saying "the lighting was wonderful/ghastly" but in that, and all future reviews, the production credits (names of musicians, dancers, lighting, designer, etc.) are at the bottom of the review. :wink:

Editing to add: I'd echo Jeff's comment about bringing the discussion back to the CONCERT -- were others there? What did you think?

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Because I (of course) have more to say, I've taken the liberty of copying the relevant parts of this discussion to The Pro Shop.

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I saw the Saturday night performance. Sorry it took me so long to post. As far as the Aloff article is concerned - I loved it - and agreed with most of it. I am not nearly as cleaver or as knowledgable as she is - and thought a lot of her comments were on the money.

I thought the performance is one of the best that Leigh has put on. I have probably seen the last 4 or 5 - except 2001, and I enjoyed this peformance more than any of the others. Not that I didn't enjoy the previous concerts, just that I think Leigh has generally improved with age. I am already looking forward to next years program.....

The highlights of the evening were the piece he did for Ansanelli and the "New Rome". The fact that they were performed to live music only enhanced the mood they set. I found the first part of the program, "A Waltz Remembered" and "Rideau" less interesting and a bit bland.

Ansanelli was just terrific and I believe that the choreography was both cleaver and inventive and played to her strengths as a dancer. The choice of music was interesting as well. I am fond of baroque music in general although I know little about it (or any other music), and found the piece a wonderful choice. Very easy to see the exposition of the score in the dance movements. This was just a perfect performance - the costume, the music, the lighting, and of course the dancing and choreography.

The "New Rome" to commissioned music was dark, yet spirited and full of energy. I was expecting a let down after seeing Ansanelli - but had anything but. Wonderful music, wonderful dancing.

A very lovely evening of dance. We had brought along a friend who rarerly goes to any dance and he enjoyed the performance as well.

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