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Suzanne Farrell Ballet tour reviews


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#31 Alexandra

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 09:40 AM

In past seasons, Farrell has used corps women and soloists in principal parts. I think it's very rare, anywhere, for principals to dance soloist or corps parts.

#32 Ari

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 10:42 AM

I think it's very rare, anywhere, for principals to dance soloist or corps parts.

The Royal used to put principals onstage in what looked to me like ensemble parts. Not the top stars, but the regular principals. The parts were not second swan in the fifth row, but those ballets in which the ensemble was less stratified. It was a practice that always puzzled me, but I put it down to the few opportunities (compared with companies that do not share their home with an opera troupe) the dancers had to get onstage.

#33 dirac

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 02:11 PM

I was there for Friday only, so it's hard to generalize from only one performance. Helene, you haven't said anything I passionately disagree with, although I liked the performance of the corps in Divertimento – they had a lot of spirit even if the steps didn’t seem to be quite all there – hard for me to tell as this is my first viewing of the entire ballet. I'm pressed for time today and will be brief.

There were several moments in Divert that made one uneasy for the dancers, but all performed honorably. I did not care for the costumes, which seemed a trifle loud and a trifle rustic, not qualities I associate with this music or this ballet. Joining the amen chorus in praise of April Ball. Her dancing was clear and pretty and in addition she had that something that catches the eye – ("Who's that girl?" asked someone sitting nearby). I greatly preferred Ritter to Du or Mladenov – he was the only one of the men who looked really comfortable in Divertimento.

Next up was the Waltz of the Flowers. There is something to be said for presenting this out of context as a study in Balanchinian composition, but I missed the context all the same (I'm going by the video of the film). And this choreography definitely needs tutus -- as Helene mentions, the chiffon shifts make you think of "Serenade" and there's no reason to think of "Serenade." (It also made for a rather chiffon-intensive program.)

Gotta go, but echoing Helene yet again, Chan Hon Goh's acting in Serenade was indeed somewhat alarming – in the finale, just as she was about to be raised aloft, her expression seemed a bit I'm-ready-for-my-closeup-Mr. DeMille, if you catch my drift. More later, I hope.



#34 Helene

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 05:01 PM

Correction to my earlier post: On Friday night, Mladenov danced the waltz and Ritter danced the Elegy guy. On Saturday night, Ritter danced the waltz and Du danced the Elegy guy.

#35 Quiggin

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 03:14 PM

I was in Berkeley, too, on Friday night at Zellerbach and agree with a lot of what dirac and Helene have said, that April Ball was a pleasure to watch and Alexander Ritter was graceful and musical, and that the Serenade-like costumes were a bad choice for Tempo di Valse.

The recorded music was also a bad choice. It was loud, badly balanced and came from high over the stage, rather than from below, from beneath the dancers' feet as it naturally should. It would have been better, perhaps, had the speakers been positioned in horizonal banks in the orchestra pit. An alternative for a company of Suzanne Farrell Ballet's means would be to use reductions for live piano and/or strings, at least on tours. The Divertimento #15 could be effectively played by a string trio, and both Stravinsky and Balanchine tossed off all sorts of piano reductions, often quite brilliant ones, that might be used. (Some of these are described in the recent Charles Joseph book that I'm just starting to read.)

As it was, the recorded music alienated me from the ballets, especially Divertimento, which was simply shouted out from a big black box. It seemed to hold the dancers prisoners to relentless and inelastic tempos. This only added to the difficulty of this very difficult ballet, which everyone struggled against, struggled bravely to fit all the steps into.

Serenade worked beautifully for me, and I thought of how many of the mysterious and ambiguous Balanchinian relationships are already in place in this early ballet: Strange pas de deuxs that smear into pas de trois; elevated ballerina sculptures; inside-out hook-ups of outstretched arms. I'm looking forward to seeing this ballet again this winter at the War Memorial Opera House.



#36 Alexandra

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 09:43 PM

Quiggin, your description of the music (or lack thereof) is horrifyingly clear!

#37 dirac

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 10:01 AM

Quiggin is spot on about the music. I thought for Divertimento that another recording, the Karajan one for example, would have sounded better and maybe worked better for the dancers. The other pieces on the program had music with beefier orchestrations that didn't suffer quite as much, although the blare factor was ever-present. I agree that Serenade looked better than anything else on the program, but I thought even there the dancers were having difficulties with the tempi and occasionally one had the impression of indeterminate dashing hither and thither as opposed to a continuous flow of movement. (I liked Magnicaballi as the Dark Angel very much.)

#38 Jack Reed

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 08:22 PM

Just a couple of thoughts about amplified music at ballet performances -

After the Jackie Gleason Theatre had for years subjected us in the MCB audience to the sort of boom-and-screech amplification we wouldn't want to have in our living rooms - granted, a theatre is a much bigger room to fill with sound than a living room is - the company hired its own sound engineer, who bought along his own amps, speakers, and skill - or sensibilities - and the sound the past two seasons has been so good I'm sometimes fooled into thinking there's an orchestra in the pit. Only the additional acoustic on the record, and some indistinctness in the bass, give a clue. My point, FWIW, is, in this day and age, theatre sound systems don't have to sound like early-50s phonographs.

In the meantime, what can audience members do? Besides complain, that is. My way of coping is to use EAR "Grande" ear plugs (available in drug stores), which reduce sound - but do not eliminate it - pretty evenly across the spectrum from low to high, instead of muffling it like many kinds of earplugs do. For example, I used these to great advantage last year at the Joffrey Ballet's performances of "Les Noces" when they actually did have musicians in the pit of the acoustically-excellent Auditorium Theatre but amplified them anyway. (Some people sitting near me remarked that it hurt their ears.)

#39 piccolo

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 01:27 PM

I just saw the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Santa Fe this weekend. From my vantage point, both nights looked sold out.

The first night was: Divertimento No. 15, Waltz of the Flowers, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Serenade.

The second night was: Div. again, Variations for Orchestra, Tzigane, and Apollo.

The first night the audience absolutely loved Waltz of the Flowers. I thought the chiffon skirts were gorgeous and especially effective at the end of the number when most of the corps are bouree-ing around and around in place. Wonderful effect.

I did not like the way the dancers used their arms in Div. the first night (arms flying without any connection to the back) but strangely, I didn't have that criticism the second night.

One thing about touring performances in Santa Fe -- most companies think that they'll be "ok" with the 7000 ft. altitude and don't come early enough to acclimate. I was glad to see that, with very few exceptions, the dancers looked full of energy. (I believe it was Fournier who danced the Pas de Deux on the first night and didn't quite make it off stage before slumping...)

Serenade was gorgeous. Unfortunately, the stage in Santa Fe is a bit small for the large sections of Serenade. The girls stayed in formation but on occasion had to dance in the wings.

I was mostly excited about seeing Apollo. I hadn't seen the version with the birth of Apollo in the beginning, and the climbing of the stairs at the end. I have to say, I do prefer the shortened version. I just adore the pose of Apollo and the three Muses legs at different levels at the end and I didn't get it with this version. But, it is always good to expand your horizons, right? The three Muses were absolutely fantastic, easily the best dancers in the company, again with the blond, redhead and brunette. Peter Boal as Apollo was great and I have videos of Peter Martins and Baryshikov doing the role.

A very exciting company to watch.

#40 gatto97

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 05:18 PM

Hearing about the use of taped music upsets me greatly - mostly because I am a musician and secondly because her company is funded by the Kennedy Center - home of the NSO! Isn't there a way they could hire recent graduates (who haven't quite made the transition to pro musician like myself), who don't have many financial obligation...on an intern basis...and form a small travelling orchestra. Sure, it will cost a bit more, but by hiring eager, hungry young musicians ... with support of the NSO...the ballet wins, the musicians win, the dancers win...and the audience wins. Damn...if only I was rich enough to be in management.

#41 Alexandra

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Posted 25 November 2003 - 03:20 PM

gatto, there might be union problems. A company using a non-union orchestra might have trouble getitng booked into a union theater, etc. (Note: the company will perform to live music at the Kennedy Center, according to the Center's web site.) I think traveling with an orchestra is prohibitively expensive these days -- almost no one does it. Companies come with a conductor, who has to rehearse the resident orchestray, and when you're doing one night stands, this just isn't possible. And with all due respect to the young and hungry, a tape might be better than underrehearsed, green players, as many companies have found when they've tried to use a local youth orchestra for Nutcracker. (Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.)

Piccolo, thanks for your review!

#42 gatto97

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Posted 26 November 2003 - 07:28 PM

Unfortunately the problem with all aspects of ART in our CAPITALIST society is the damn Union. Thats why so many of my fellow musicians have quit...and the death of culture is sure to follow.

It could work if someone just gave a damn about art - not their own pocket book.

And...musicians in their mid twenties are not some HS youth orchestra...trust me...I was in Philly Youth 10 years ago...I know all about the difference between HS 13-22 youth group compared to a conservatory level grad program. I've played in both...and yes, both have their problems - mostly due to the lack of mismanagment by faculty (not the music director but some talentless bumpkin above him) Unfortunately it is this sort of injustice that has led to the abandonment of art by many of my peers.

I wish Suzanne Farrell luck...but in about 50 years...if the virus that is American Culture ala Britany Spears and other loosely clad "talent" continues to spread worldwide...all the beauty of true art will be nothing more than a relic.

Thats why I've quit music all together and will become a chemical engineer...its all about the money. At least now I could afford tickets to the BSO...if I gave a damn.

#43 Alexandra

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 09:47 PM

I broke off the Kennedy Center performances to their own thread (easier to find later, since we seem to be getting quite a few posts):

http://balletalert.i...showtopic=14934


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