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Giannina

Watch those old ballet tapes!

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If blogs had been started sooner I would have started one for these impressions. I have been transferring my VCR tapes to DVD’s and have watched quite a few of them in the process. It has been a wonderful, eye opening experience. I’ve mentioned a few: the perfection of Loscavio in “Who Cares” and Merrill Ashley in “Four Temperaments”; there are many others which I’ve already forgotten, darn it. There’s Bocca portraying Romeo as a teenager in love and acting goofy, as teenage boys do. There’s McBride and Bart Cook in “Union Jack” reminding you that ballet can be fun and light hearted; no one is more light hearted than Cook. Much to my surprise I have enjoyed 2 ballets that I’ve always...well...I don’t like using the word “hate” but it comes to mind: Forsyth’s “In The Middle Somewhat Elevated” and Balanchine’s “Western Symphony”. I am not a fan of Forsyth’s choreography but I watched Guillem in “In the Middle……” and paid attention to the classicism of Forsyth’s choreography. It’s there, just very askew. I loved it! I found it beautiful and exciting! The music to the ballet is percussion sounds. I wondered how the dancers could dance to sound rather than tones, and then heard Forsyth “singing”/mimicking the “music” by grunts and “ah’s” and various other noises. It was addictive, and the sounds did indeed become music. Having barely recovered from that I watched “Western….”. Now I just plain old don’t like this ballet AT ALL, including the black pointe shoes and black tights, but this time…... Robert LaFosse was so enjoyable as the clueless cowpoke meeting the hard as nails saloon girl (dead-pan Saland). The major deciding factor was Peter Boal in the final pdd. What a wonderful dancer he is. I’ve seen dancers who perfectly perform complicated steps seemingly with time to spare. With Boal I got the impression he wasn’t going to be able to finish the step within the framework of the allowed music, and then at the last possible mini-second he completes the step right on the music’s beat and it’s perfect. I was in tears during a ballet I really don’t like.

The moral of the story is: watch your taped ballets every now and then. Your eye and your taste change and it’s like a whole new set of ballets.

I really do love ballet!

Giannina

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Great topic! Thank you. Re-watching tapes can be an enriching experience (as you've written) and it can also be rather sobering -- a dancer you thought was absolutely marvelous last Thursday embarrasses you Saturday when you show the tape to a friend, to the point you're positive he hasn't been taking class. (I noticed that Dowell's Oberon changed quite a bit when he'd lived on a shelf next to Plisetskaya's Kitri for a year ;) )

(I'd say, parenthetically, that I agree with what you wrote on "In the Middle." My theory is that Paris can make anything look classical :devil: I liked this ballet very much when I saw a tape of POB dancers, but less so when I saw Frankfurt Ballett do it. While you're going through tapes, if you have the Balanchine biography, watch that "Western Symphony" -- LeClercq was the one who made me love the ballet.)

It is fun -- any more rediscoveries?

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Continuing with my tape-to-DVD transfers I had a most unusual time watching Swan Lake and Giselle. Bourne's Swan Lake and Ek's Giselle.

Bourne's SL is not my favorite but Cooper is wonderful in it. And, unlike other SL's I cry at the end of this one every time I see it. I don't know why.

Ek's Giselle is alarming! I recalled being shocked by it the first time I watched it but still liking it. I now remember why I was shocked, and even though it's a bit too...shall we say..."earthy" for me I liked it even more. I don't understand much of it; unfortunately some of it I understand all too well! :blushing: The dancing by the leads is superb; strong technique and long lines. At first I thought the choreography was modern but soon realized it's very balletic. I then wondered why Ek hadn't done it on pointe but it was quickly obvious that it would be impossible to do on pointe. I found it surprising that the camera was often aimed away from the main action on stage; when Albrecht's nudity in the final scene was carefully "minimized" I realized why!

We tape these programs for a reason. Watch them! (No, silly; not for the nudity, for the dancing.)

Giannina

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I have the opposite of the usual situation -- I have a DVD player but not a decent VHS one. While you're individually making your DVD transfers, is anyone doing it in an institutional way? I've found some stuff, but no Balanchine other than the Nutcracker through the 'usual sources.'

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if i get your question correctly, you're asking if any commercial distributors are re-issuing what were videotapes as dvds? good question.

alas, as you've already noted and pointed out, the balanchine library that exists on video hasn't been re-issued on dvd. let's hope it's only a matter of time before such a changeover will happen, but until then, the videocassettes are all that's out there.

the general dvd range is limited but there seem to be new titles making their way to dvd slowly.

if your dvd player can deal w/ PAL format DVDs as well as NTSC ones, which i THINK means also having a PAL-compatible monitor, you'd have an already enlarged range of possibilities.

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I'm pretty sure I'm NTSC only -- didn't realize that standard applied to DVDs as well as video. And yes, you got my question absolutely correctly.

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someone more knowledgeable than i am will have to confirm (or deny) my sense that to play PAL dvds one needs not only a player that can read these but also a tv monitor that can comply as well.

but, long story short, dvds are NOT interchangeable from 'region' to 'region' or 'zone'

we here in the US are in region/zone 1; england, etc. i believe is zone/region 2, and the beat goes on.

so does the frustration and confusion.

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Yes, for pal dvd players and VHS players, you have to have either a converter or a special tv. The "world system" types, do the converting for you and is what I would recommend. The world system vhs players have gone down in price the last time I looked from about $800 to $400. It could be lower now. The same thing would probably hold for the DVD player in a few years. But RG is right, you cannot just plug a PAL player to your normal set, it has to do with the electrical current. There tends to be more available on PAL, for ex. the POB is releasing a whole series of new discs of the company performing Nureyev's productions that include a featurette of them rehearsing etc.. with interviews. There are about 4 or so out now, but only Romeo and Juliet is available in the U.S. Who knows if they're going to release the others here. They released the POB Don Q. here earlier this year, but not the Sleeping Beauty.

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There tends to be more available on PAL, for ex. the POB is releasing a whole series of new discs of the company performing Nureyev's productions that include a featurette of them rehearsing etc.. with interviews. There are about 4 or so out now, but only Romeo and Juliet is available in the U.S.  Who knows if they're going to release the others here.  They released the POB Don Q. here earlier this year, but not the Sleeping Beauty.

The recent documentary about the POB, Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, will be released on a Region 1 (North America) DVD on Oct. 21. Amazon carries it (hint, hint -- see banner at top of page).

Also, multi-region DVD players are available in the U.S. (and other countries). See my post here.

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Bought a new VHS and immediately played Elite Syncopations by the Royal Ballet that we'd recorded off PBS about 4 generations of recorders ago. Thankfully the picture has gotten better. Love Jennifer Penney and Monica Mason. :(

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Still going thru old tapes and I came across the first Eric Bruhn Competition in 1988. Among those dancing was Lloyd Riggins whom I'd just seen in "Nijinski". He's hardly recognizable he's so young. He danced with Rose Gad and their style is so different than their competitors'...the Bournonville influence: it's pure; there's no better word for it. Wonderful that they both went on to great careers. One thing about Riggins: he wasn't perfect but he recovered from his errors, neatly straightening out missed 5th positions, etc. Also dancing was a very young, and more filled-out, Durante. She, too, showed the promise to come. Wes Chapman was featured; does anyone know what he's doing now? His partner was Bonnie Moore. The 2 of them danced the Sleeping Beauty pdd. Interesting to see Moore in something so classical as she became known for her character roles. Moore and Chapman also danced the Romeo & Juliet balcony pdd and it was simply lovely, really a stellar performance.

Giannina

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Giannina,

Wes Chapman is the AD of Albama Ballet.You were probably thinking of Kathleen Moore who danced a lot of "character" roles( very well too) during her time at ABT.

Joe

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Giannina, Bonnie Moore came from Washington Ballet and ended up with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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Went back to the credits and it is Bonnie. So I had the name right but the dancing/company wrong. At my age 50% isn't all that bad.

Giannina

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50 percent is very good! ;) I remember B. Moore from the age of 13 or so and was sorry I didn't see her adult career. She was a tiny dancer -- incredibly (naturally) slender and short -- and then suddenly she grew a bit, and started dancing on pointe, and the combination made her about a foot taller. So when she was young, she danced like a small girl who didn't realize she was tall. She was in ABT for awhile before going to Birmingham.

I wish there was a Kathleen Moore video! She was one of my ballet heroines. A beautiful classical dancer, in my book, though she seldom got to do those roles. She danced in an old-fashioned style; she was trained, if I'm remembering correctly, by a Ballet Russe teacher and it showed. Beautiful arms, very musical, soft dancing. And was the best American character dancer I've ever seen. I keep waiting to see her name turn up on a list of coaches and stagers -- I can't imagine she could be less than first rate at that, too.

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Yes, folks, I do watch those old video tapes and I have found that I always come back to just two of them - viewing now rationed a bit, must make new copies.

"Tzigane" with Farrell and Martins and "Giselle" with Maximova and Vassiliev. Then, there was another one, sadly deleted by accident, not for the dancing, but for the production. It was done in a technique called chromakey (I might be spelling it wrongly), but it was done only for TV by Birgit Cullberg. Old posters might remember that I am not a great fan of neither Cullberg nor Ek.

But this was called "Red wine in green glasses" and it was really beautiful - the dancers were in real life crawling about on a pale blue floor and these images were then superimposed on paintings depicting green foliage. The result was that the dancers seemed to be dancing among the leaves in the treetops. Great stuff and I am very sorry indeed that it has disappeared. Anybody heard about or seen this TV ballet?

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Wow! Where did you come across Maximova and Vasiliev in "Giselle"? I'm sure it's not commercially available, at least not now, but I'm curious.

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djb, isn't there a bit of "Giselle" -- second act pas de deux? -- on one of those "Great Moments of the Bolshoi" tapes? It struck a bell with me -- but I can't for the life of me remember WHICH one. (I only saw them at the very end of their careers, when they were well into their 50s, at a little chamber performance here and they still made everyone else on the stage look like they were made of cardboard.)

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Alexandra,

Concerning K Moore, the only time i saw her dance a "classical" role was when she danced the jilted bride(?) in Snow Maiden. I thought she was wonderful in the PDD in the last act.Didn't she dance Hagar?

Joe

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This is what the library says about "Red Wine in Green Glasses" :

Produced for television by Sveriges Radio-TV 2. Director: Måns Reuterswärd. Choreography: Birgit Cullberg. Music: Ludwig van Beethoven (Piano concerto no. 3 in C minor, first movement). Costumes: Ulla Malmer-Lagerkvist. Danced by Mona Elgh and Niklas Ek of the Cullberg Ballet. Summary: Pastoral pas de deux inspired by the 18th century Swedish poet Bellman danced by a cavalier and his lady before a background of 18th century landscape paintings by Watteau, Fragonard, and Brueghel (through use of the chromakey filming technique).

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Joe, I'm remembering Kathleen Moore from her time in thie corps. I think the biggest classical role I ever saw her do was one of Aurora's "Maids of Honor" in Sleeping Beauty, but I liked her dancing a lot, especially the arms. Yes, she did Hagar, and a lot of other "character" or acting roles.

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These old tapes are addicting! I stumbled onto a interesting interlude. I thought Tudor had choreographed "Fall River Legend" so I put it on my Tudor DVD. De Mille! The ballet was danced by Dance Theatre of Harlem and was so enjoyable. Now in a de Mille mode I proceeded to a biographical program titled "Agnes the Indomitable de Mille". What a wonderful program! De Mille was her fascinating self, there were snippets of "Fall River Legend" with Nora Kaye and John Kriza (sigh), and (even better) snippets from "Bloomer Girl", my favorite musical from my youth. "Sunday in Cicero Falls", "When the Boys Come Home". With all the restagings of musicals I've always wondered why "Bloomer Girl" was never among them; anyone have any ideas?

Nora Kaye was better than I remembered her, but then I saw her when I was young and her dramatic roles were not my favorites.

Giannina

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Speaking of old tapes and DeMille...

Anyone conversant enough with Frederick Wiseman's documentary film Ballet to know what ballet Ms DeMille is working on? Who's the ballerina? Was it Ms. DeMille's last piece of work?

Always wondered...

Oh...and someone last year asked who the newly hired dancer was. Did we ever find out?

Thanks in advance.

Watermill

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Watermill,

I think it was Beloved and it was her last ballet w/ABT. That was Amnda Mckerrow.I don't know who the newly hired dancer was.

Joe

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