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Dance as Ever performancesSept 18-21, 2003

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#1 Estelle


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Posted 23 September 2003 - 12:46 AM

So, did anyone attend the Dance as Ever performances?
Don't be shy! :thumbsup:

#2 BW


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Posted 23 September 2003 - 04:06 AM

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.

#3 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 07:49 AM

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!

#4 salzberg


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Posted 23 September 2003 - 03:23 PM

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.

#5 atm711


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 10:14 AM

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.

#6 BW


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 10:27 AM

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"?

#7 atm711


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 10:44 AM

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 :)

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 11:15 AM

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!

#9 Alexandra


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 12:10 PM

Yes, Aloff was being humorous at the beginning of the piece. "satire" more than "humor," and aimed not at Dance As Ever, but at the dance establishment.

There are now photos up (we changed the format of the site; the review is the same


#10 Alexandra


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 12:27 PM

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!

#11 grace


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 12:49 PM

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.

#12 Hans


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 01:10 PM

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.

#13 BW


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 02:11 PM

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 didnít first look like styrofoam blocks at a Gymboree. If you donít already know the words to the Houseman, you wonít learn them from the sound system; and if you arenít already familiar with the form of a passacaglia, Ansanelli isnít going to clarify it here. Doesnít matter: each solo has been built on its dancerís strengths and made to show the full range of what he or she can do. They wonít outlive the individuals for whom they were made, and they arenít the best examples of Witchelís 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: theyíre 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: :)

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 05:18 PM

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.

#15 carbro


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Posted 24 September 2003 - 08:00 PM

"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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