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Is there such a thing as a Suzanne Farrell style?and does her company have it?


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#1 BW

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 04:12 AM

We're heading down to Brooklyn today to see Suzanne Farrell's company and wondered if we should expect to see some different touches in the dancing?

I know there's a thread all about her company on another forum...but I wanted to throw this out to the general audience...and see if one would consider hers to be "a style" or not.

Farrell Fan are you out there? :thumbsup:

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 05:29 AM

Others may feel differently on this, but no, I don't see a company style. I'm not talking about Farrell's dancing, but about the company itself. It's a pickup group; she doesn't get to work with these dancers consistently, and they came from just about anywhere and everywhere. Even so, it would be possible to detect something consistent about the dancers were it there. I don't think I would look at those dancers later and they way they move, watch them and say, "I wonder if s/he worked with Suzanne."

#3 BW

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 05:39 AM

Thanks Leigh, I understand your points...and I guess I should have thought of that aspect - the pick up group one. Although I never have seen Ms. Farrell dance, except on videos, I suppose I was imagining her coaching her dancers to perform in certain ways... :clapping: Does this make any sense?

What I'm getting at is that someone will see NYCB perform and the generalization is that the dancers have a different way of executing a particular step.. that would be different from, for example, the way a Bolshoi ballet dancer might... Perhaps I'm just confusing my question ever more by this? :thumbsup:

#4 underdog

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 05:43 AM

Peter Boal danced Apollo! I didn't know he was a part of her co. Tzigane was excellent. Here's a sneak preview of the costume in the link below. If that is Natalia, she was wonderful. The whole show was great.

http://www.whartonce...nne_farrell.asp

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 06:12 AM

I don't think you're confusing your question, BW. Still, no. I didn't see it, though others may disagree. And yes, Peter was quite wonderful, but I don't think it makes sense to factor him into a company style. Peter does an awful lot of guest work, he's pretty much independent of the small companies he works with. If anything, he rubs off on them more than the other way around.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 06:24 AM

Yes, there's a style. It's a pick up group in that the dancers don't have a full year's contract -- and this definitely inhibits the group's development, as does her limited choice of dancers -- but most of them have been with Farrell for several years and many of the younger ones come from her summer program. Obviously I haven't seen this year's program yet, but last season, Divert and Raymonda Variations, especially (as the two full group pieces we saw here) had a very distinct style, the one that Farell had learned in the 1960s (according to several teacher/critic colleagues of mine in DC who had seen NYCB and Farrell, of course, during that time.)

#7 Farrell Fan

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 06:54 AM

I think Farrell's company has gone beyond being a pickup group, a term which implies casting whatever dancers are available. This is Jennifer Fournier's third season with the company; Chan Hon Goh's fourth season; Runqiao Du's fourth as well; Natalia Magnicaballi has been with Suzanne since 1999. As for Peter Boal, this is his third season with the Farrell Ballet, but he's actually been dancing for Suzanne since 1995 when he did Mozartiana and Scotch Symphony during "Suzanne Farrell Stages Balanchine" at the Kennedy Center. He says he loves dancing for Suzanne. Nevertheless, I agree with Leigh that his style rubs off on other dancers more than vice versa. But from what I saw last night at NJPAC, the company has started to jell as a recognizable entity. Don't ask me to describe it though, other than "very very good."

Yes, that 's Magnicaballi in the Tsigane costume, pictured with Momchil Mladenov, another veteran of the Farrell Ballet.

#8 citibob

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 07:19 AM

In my experience, a good director will be able to get dancers to dance the way he/she wants in significant ways, even in just one season. Dancer turnover is often high in small companies (and even in many large companies; witness the recent YEARS of chaos at Boston Ballet), but to label a group "pickup" just because it's small is somewhat insulting. It demeans the director's ability to get what he/she wants. It degrades the hard work put in by the dancers who have been there year after year and who form the core of the company's artistic personality. In this case, it also degrades the hard work Farrell has put in to build a training program --- not at all the norm for a small company.

To suggest that Peter Boal has a greater influence on the dancing that Suzanne Farrell, even though he's only there briefly to guest, is also insulting. Peter Boal is certainly a great dancer ---- but so was Suzanne Farrell, and she DOES run the company. I consider any dancer who gets to dance with her to be rather lucky.

I am therefore not surprised that people who have seen Ms. Farrell's company say it dances with a consistent style. I would not expect anything less from someone of her caliber. It is the ONLY way a small company such as hers could attract and maintain national attention for as long as it has.

#9 Ari

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:09 AM

I don't think anyone was implying that Boal has had a greater influence on the SFB than Farrell, citibob. His name came up in the discussion of whether Farrell's style has influenced her dancers, of which he is one. Leigh said he thought that Boal was more likely to influence other dancers than to be influenced by Farrell, that's all.

Boal is such a fully formed dancer that any influence Farrell (or anyone else) might have on him is likely to be less noticeable than it would be on a younger and less experienced dancer. But since he continues to work with her, it must be a rewarding relationship for him.

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:54 AM

Gosh, pickup is just a descriptive term. Almost all of my dancers have worked with me multiple times, year after year. We're still a pickup company. They only work with me a portion of the year, when and if I have the work (no, I am not comparing my company to Farrell's) and they work with many other people as well. At least two of Farrell's soloists have worked with me, for instance. I don't consider "pickup" an insult, though. You can see development and improvement in some of Farrell's repeat dancers (Bonnie Pickard comes right to mind) but for me, when Farrell's dancers are exclusively hers, when Fournier and Goh don't dance with NBoC 8 months of the year and Farrell on their off time, for instance, then she's not pickup.

And yes, directors have gotten clear stylistic choices and consistency out of pickup groups. But for me, that wasn't what I saw last night. I saw a decent performance with varying levels of ability and style. Was it good or bad is a different question, but if the question was, did it have a specific style? No, not from what I saw.

OK, I have to close up my suitcase and get on a plane, so I'm being cowardly and bowing out of this discussion!

#11 Roma

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:55 AM

I saw the company both in Princeton and, yesterday, at NJPAC, and it was precisely the consistency of style, which surprised and delighted me most. They have wonderfully pulled up and open upper bodies; the movement has range, attack, breath, beautiful, finished phrasing, and a unified sense of purpose. They look like a company. Perhaps some of the dancers donít have the polish of an NYCB, but the ballets havenít looked this alive in ages.

#12 carbro

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 10:37 AM

If the question is, did all the dancers in each piece look like they were doing the same ballet, and specifically that ballet? Emphatically yes.

Roma speaks for me. Farrell's values of musicality and spontenaiety were abundantly evident. I had a fabulous time. Fabulous. :clapping:

I will also note that Boal's Apollo was magnificent. I'd never seen him give it the wealth of integrated details and power that he showed last night.

Special kudos, too, to Ms. Parsley for her freshness and joy in Divert.

Edited by carbro, 13 October 2003 - 10:04 PM.


#13 underdog

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 11:04 AM

Carbro, I'm glad you thought that much about Mr. Boal's performance. That is the first time I ever saw him. Ironically I tried to see him on 2 other occasions and missed him (once at JOyce theater in something choreographed by Evans and was detained and another time in Leigh's show but a tornado kept me away!)

Yesterday, I didn't expect to see him and he was there. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.



(Farrell Fan, thanks for the feedback.)

#14 liebs

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 12:51 PM

I saw some consistency among the dancers last night but it wasn't to the good. Divert was marred by flapping arms and broken wrists, blurred or left out steps and a failure to get into a the tight sousou position that is a foundation of Balanchine's work. There was also a consistent look of tightness or tension among the dancers, which I found distressing.

That said, I enjoyed Tzigane and thought Natalie's performance much improved over the one I saw at the New Victory. Apollo was good, Boal giving a terrific performance with adequate performances by the Muses. Parsley just looked embarassed as Leto.

It was a pleasure to see Ritter dancing so beautifully. He had the elegance Du lacked. Du seemed to think he was in some bus and truck performance of Coppelia, dancing a rather crude rendition of Franz.

Variations should be retired. It was well suited to Farrell's gifts, which included an ability to be on and off balance at the same time as well as an ability to link vastly differing steps into a coherent phrase. Variations is built around these talents and Parsley doesn't have them. Nor is she a very interesting dancers. She gave it her all in the fifth variation of Divert but was hopelessly outclassed - blurring or leaving out steps.

One of the great things about Farrell as a dancer, and I saw her many times from her return to NYCB in the 70s to her retirement, was her acute theatrical sense. But I didn't see that last night either in her direction of the program or in her coaching of the dancers. It was a nice evening with a decent regional company but certainly didn't offer any revelations either in the setting of the ballets or the performances of the dancers.

#15 Farrell Fan

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 02:58 PM

At the risk of appearing to contradict myself, I think that in the Balanchine repertory, Peter Boal is nowhere better than he is in his performances with the Farrell Ballet.


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