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


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#16 Nanatchka

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:00 PM

What Farrell's dancers lacked the last time I saw them wasn't the Farrell style, which no one has ever had or ever will have except Farrell, but consistent training in Balanchine style. That's why "First, a school, " and that's why one would expect the dancers to look more consistent over time with her. I rather doubt it is Farrell's goal to make dancers look like her (how futile would that be?). What struck me on the wonderful work she did at the Washington Ballet some years ago was--this in particular with Helene Alexopolis and Maria Calegari, who were guesting--was how much she made them look very particularly like themselves, which was very beautiful indeed. (Not to wander off topic out of parentheses: I am sorry I missed this incarnation of Peter Boal's Apollo. My own feeling about Apollos is that studying with Stanley Williams or being Danish enhances the performance. I have to say that the greatest Apollo I ever saw was Peter Martins. Before you throw anything at me, I once heard Maria Tallchief say that "Peter WAS Apollo.")

#17 Farrell Fan

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 04:43 AM

Since the recent performances of the Farrell Ballet seem to have been subsumed into this topic -- did anyone make it back from Brooklyn? How'd you like the show?

I also can't resist asking whether "a decent regional company" has more status than a pickup group. And Shannon Parsley had no reason to look embarrassed as Leto, since Lisa Reneau danced the role.

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:27 AM

From the DanceView Times:

Two reviews of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet:

By Eric Taub

Hit and Miss

What a difference a day makes! After seeing the Suzanne Farrell Ballet perform Saturday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ, if someone had asked me: is Suzanne Farrell were truly the inspired coach and Keeper of the Balanchine Flame she's often been made out to be, my answer would have been, probably not. Her dancers' performances were, for the most part, conservative, flat and markedly free of the risk-taking which was ever a hallmark of Farrell's own style. What can you say about a performance of Divertimento No. 15 where the corps girls seemed more interesting than most of the soloists? True, Peter Boal danced the greatest Apollo I've ever seen, but he's, well, Peter Boal, and what else would one expect?

Sunday afternoon, Farrell's company performed the same program, with the same cast, at Brooklyn College's Walt Whitman Hall, and the effect was greatly different. Although much about the performance was still problematic, the dancers, whether from fatigue or lack of opening-night stress (as NJPAC was their first exposure to New-York-area audiences this year), were less tentative, and, while too often discretion remained the better part of the Farrell dancers' valor (as when soloists discreetly omitted the more difficult bits of some solos in Divertimento), the ballets breathed more, and occasionally you could indeed feel a lightness and freedom which indeed brought to mind the later years of New York City Ballet under Balanchine.


And the other by Mindiy Aloff, in her weekly Letter:

Letter from New York


The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performed twice in the New York area this weekend. Much to my regret, work prevented me from attending the Sunday performance at Brooklyn College. It was a thrill and an honor, though, to be part of the audience for the all-Balanchine evening on Saturday at the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts. A cherished honor, since the rich variety of dynamic texture, the stylistic refinement, and the musicality of the dancing in Divertimento No. 15 and in Apollo (presented in the original New York City Ballet staging, which includes the birth and childhood of the god, as well as Igor Stravinsky’s complete score) are now superb and may be peerless. Despite the fact that certain enchaînement may be textually questionable, the hearts of the ballets are intact. Even the costumes, credited to Holly Hynes—the current Director of Costumes for NYCB and the costume consultant for the George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins trusts, as well as the resident designer for the Farrell Ballet since the company’s inception in 1999—look as if they’ve been slightly rethought since I last saw them.

Or is it the new level of the performances that makes the costumes look renewed? This is the life and breathtaking care with which I remember these two ballets being danced at NYCB during the 1970s; this is the Balanchine that drove me to the New York State Theater night after night, regardless of casting or whether a dancer could nail her pirouettes every time. In previous New York-area seasons of the Farrell Ballet, this is the level of dancing that I’d hoped to witness and never quite did. This is the argument for dancing as an ongoing process of growth and discovery—from performance to performance, from season to season—rather than as an end-stopped product that has been laminated for fixed presentation. This is also the aspect of Farrell’s enterprise that makes a balletgoer miserable over the economic necessity for the company to tour with taped music, which has the effect of placing the ballets behind bars when they should be running wild. As another theatergoer mentioned, to Farrell’s credit she chose recordings that were demanding of the dancers in terms of tempi and articulation.



#19 liebs

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:30 AM

My apologies to Ms. Parsley. The performer dancing Leto looked embarassed by what she was required to do. It is difficult to do this role, I imagine. Small but crucilal and probably not first on the list for rehearsal time, whihc is always limited. And you are up on that platform.

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:40 AM

One of my all-time favorite Danish stories is when I asked a friend how the new cast of Apollo went, and his enthusiastic reply, in its entirety was: "It was fantastic! Mette Bodtcher did Leto!!!"

#21 BW

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 09:39 AM

Yes, FF, we went to Brooklyn - and even made it home without getting lost in Prospect Park!

I've decided not to read the two reviews posted above because I didn't want them to taint my own reactions to yesterday's matinee. OK, I do see that Eric Taub was apparently in Brooklyn too, so I won't give you a play by play.

I loved it and am really glad we made the hike to get there. Initially had hoped to go to NJPAC but couldn't...the only sad part about it all is that our daughter, the ballet student, was unable to make this one too.

Divertimento No. 15 was the perfect opening piece - full of light and life. The music and the choreography seemed to be what I would consider quintessential Balanchine and in my view they danced it beautifully and looked incredibly happy to be dancing it - their faces glowed. I'm not sure who felt Runqiao Du didn't do well, or perhaps it was in another piece during a different performance because he looked strong to me, as did the other dancers in this ballet, as well.

I really should have written my thoughts down last night so I could react closer to the moment.

I didn't care for Variations for Orchestra though I found the silhouette dancer to be kind of interesting...from what I've read here it sounds as if this particular ballet has got to be very difficult to have anyone dance to due to Ms. Farrell's original knock out performance.

Tzigane was my favorite...or perhaps it was a tie between it and Divertimento No. 15? I'd never seen Tzigane before and I thought Natalia Magnicaballi's portrayal was fantastic - what a beautiful woman and she was just right for this gypsy role. And Monchil Mladenov was her perfect match! I'm sure if I knew more, I'd be able to speak to the obvious character dance incorporated into this ballet, but alas I cannot. Although by now the program was getting on in the sense of time, due to a late start, and there was very little, if any air conditioning on in the theater, Ms. Magnicaballi's sultry looks, which seemed to be made for her costume, and everyone's energetic dancing kept me wide awake throughout!

Apollo - another ballet that I'd never seen before. Peter Boal was excellent and looked as though he were a god. I thought the three muses were also very believable - Bonnie Pickard, Natalia Magnicaballi and Jennifer Fournier... obviously due to the role of Terpsichore, Ms. Fournier had the most dancing of the three... I enjoyed all three, their dancing and interactions with Apollo - especially towards the end of the piece. From my neophyte's point of view, it's an unusual ballet and - although I am afraid to even suggest this - I felt that some parts of the piece felt awkward for today, and I wondered if Balanchine were still alive, if he might not have changed it a bit? Additionally, I found Apollo's playing of the lute to be rather overkill at times. Hope you'll forgive me for saying this. :sweating: I love the Greek myths but there was something about his wind up on several occasions that just struck me as a bit too much.

Which brings me to poor Leto's giving birth scene... That has got to be a tough one too. Lisa Reneau looked absolutely beautiful as she writhed in childbirth...up on that scaffolding that kept making me think we were going to see a hanging any minute. Really, she is quite stunning. Yet, I have to ask - in the original staging, or in what is normally done today, is the stairway to heaven like the one they used in their Brooklyn performance? I found it to be ugly and it seemed old fashioned as in what once was considered avant-garde. And when I saw Peter Boal - mummy style - with his eyes blazing from between his wraps, I couldn't help but think of Damien Woetzel in that piece by Feld. I understand the birth analogy...but was glad when it was over. However, now that I've given my negative reactions, I will say that the ending as Apollo led his muses up the stairway to heaven - really was a tremendously powerful image and a great ending. By this time I'd been mesmerized and transported from Brooklyn to somewhere in the clouds.


My only regret was that I hadn't boned up on these ballets ahead of time. Am I correct that Tzigane was "made on" Suzanne Farrell orginally?

I also want to say that I appreciate everyone's responses to my inital question on this thread. It's been very helpful for me to read your posts, and, slowly, I'm beginning to catch on to things ballet.

I especially enjoy reading the reactions to Ms. Farrell's company and their dancing in comparison to how she danced the same ballets. Of course we can't really expect any dancer to dance the way another would or did. Nanatchka expresses what I'm after much better than I when she wrote:



I rather doubt it is Farrell's goal to make dancers look like her (how futile would that be?). What struck me on the wonderful work she did at the Washington Ballet some years ago was--this in particular with Helene Alexopolis and Maria Calegari, who were guesting--was how much she made them look very particularly like themselves, which was very beautiful indeed.

And I believe she achieved this with her current company in Brooklyn yesterday! :)

P.S. It was great to see Alexander Ritter dancing, as well!

Edited by BW, 13 October 2003 - 09:46 AM.


#22 Farrell Fan

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 10:50 AM

Thanks for the report, BW. I'm glad you made it back from Brooklyn safely, and enjoyed the day. When you get around to reading Eric Taub and Mindy Aloff, you'll see that Taub, who was both at NJPAC and Brooklyn performances, thought the latter much better. I was perfectly happy with the NJPAC performance, but wish I could heve gone to Brooklyn, too. I very much enjoyed Mindy Aloff's review of NJPAC (she couldn't go to Brooklyn either), and was particularly grateful for her remarks on "Variations." I feel the same way as she about Farrell's addition of the shadow, but was unable to articulate my reasons until I read this review. In this connection, last year at the Kennedy Center I told Suzanne, "I like what you did with the shadow in 'Variations'." She smiled and said, "Do you? So do I."

#23 carbro

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 01:14 PM

In this connection, last year at the Kennedy Center I told Suzanne, "I like what you did with the shadow in 'Variations'." She smiled and said, "Do you? So do I."

And so do I. I did not find the Shadow distracting, to the contrary, I thought her occasional appearance provided a contrast between variations. The device made it easier to see the choreography.

Aloff's piece largely speaks for me. I would just add my disappointment over Tzigane. I never expect to see the solo danced again the way Farrell danced it -- Balanchine clearly utilized her unique ability to withdraw to a very private place and project that -- but I missed the battle of the sexes between the partners. Saturday's was a flirtation, and I missed the friction we tasted with Farrell & Martins. This production dresses the men in red tones, which harmonize with women's costumes, whereas the tension seen with the original green accentuates the disharmony. Perhaps this is an aspect of Tzigane that Farrell has overlooked? Or was she reinterpreting?

#24 BW

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 05:32 PM

Lovely comment Farrell Fan in re the shadow. And carbo, your point about it helping one to see the choreography more clearly is a good one. :)


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