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Alexandra

Hagar

35 posts in this topic

A couple of people have mentioned Sallie Wilson as Hagar -- I thought I'd start a thread for a discussion of Hagar in general.

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Well, I think Sallie Wilson was a great dramatic dancer (she was in ABT, for readers who are too young to remember her). Her acting style was very realistic, and to me she was totally believable in this role. I also was very moved by her performance.

I'd love to see Julie Kent as Hagar; I was very impressed when I saw her as Giselle.

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I loved Sallie Wilson. Her's was the last Hagar I saw until this season and it's apparent how difficult it is to really capture and project the nuances of this role.

djb, Julie Kent was one of the 3 Hagar's this season. I've seen all 3 and I'm sorry to tell you that she was my least favorite. To me, her characterization was very weak and one dimensional. I just felt a constant numbing sadness in her interpretation, no passion, or fear, none of the depths of emotion that Sallie Wilson brought to the role. I also thought that, dramatically speaking, she had the weakest supporting cast. Corella played the man from the house opposite and David Hallberg was the friend. Corella wasn't compelling enough for me as the man across the way (do you remember the way Marcos Paredes oozed sexuality with Sallie Wilson?). Hallberg is an absolutely wonderful dancer, but he's tall and very pure of line, blond & handsome with matinee idol good looks - dramatically it just didn't make sense to me, though I'm sure others will feel differently!

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Well, I'm sad to hear that. I was reading someone's review of Gillian Murphy as Hagar, and the reviewer thought that she gave a one-note performance. Did you see anyone besides Julie Kent in the role?

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Yes, I saw Murphy, Kent and McKerrow, all of their first performances. I liked Murphy's interpretation much better than Kent's but I can also can see why the reviewer called it a one note performance. So far I think McKerrow has been the most successful at conveying the emotional changes that Hagar undergoes and at reacting and responding to the events that occur as the story unfolds. Neither Kent nor Murphy seemed to be changed much when their Hagars thought they had lost the man they loved to the little sister, or when they found themselves discarded by the man across the way (not that they didn't register emotion, just that these pivotal incidents didn't bring about any perceptible change in their emotional trajectories). They both started off doomed and stayed that way. I guess I just found Murphy's portrayal more dynamic and more interesting than Kent's. Murphy's Hagar seemed to wallow in despair at the beginning, her anguish was very apparent , she seemed almost hysterical to me. She seemed completely willing to rush headlong into disaster. I thought it was a very emotional performance, fascinating but almost too emotional without enough modulation and nuance.

Then I read Carbro's review in the week 2 thread and a lightbulb went off in my head.

QUOTE (carbro @ Oct 29 2003, 07:20 PM)

I loved Gillian Murphy's Hagar. For the first time, I realized that Hagar was really an adolescent. An older adolescent, perhaps, but certainly not yet an adult.

Of course, Murphy's Hagar was a teenager, caught between her older sister's static world of repression & self denial and her little sister's almost psychotic need to flirt with every man she sees (Xiomara Reyes was the little sister for Kent & Murphy). Her world and her choices were filtered through the teenager's heightened emotionalism that makes every casual slight into a disaster,every molehill into a mountain. Certainly not Wilson's Hagar, perhaps not even a Hagar that Tudor could have envisioned but I thought it was very interesting, well thought out and compelling. Kent, I thought, was just dull!

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I really do not want to get off 'topic', but I have to say something about the younger sister. I think she is getting a very 'bad press' as a malevolent being. She is young, she is obviously a teen-ager and she enjoys her emerging femininity. (somewhat like the old song--"I enjoy being a girl!"). Living with those two repressed women, it's a wonder that she turned out to be so feminine. Over the years, the portrayal of the younger sister has changed from one who might have been unthinking in her behavior to Hagar, to one who is consciously mean (since I can't say the 'b' word). I can't lay the blame for this on the current production, for I saw the same interpretation on an old 1973 tape with ABT.

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I agree, atm. As I remember it, when coached by Tudor, the younger sister was a flirt, and a bit of a brat, but not exactly a b----. :wacko: (Although that can also depend on who is dancing it. One of the two during my time was Ellen Everett, and I felt that she captured her as intended by Tudor. The other I will not mention by name, as her own personality pervaded the character and changed it considerably, at least IMO. I was dancing the Eldest Sister at the time, with Sallie Wilson as Hagar. There were a few performances with Veronica Mlakar as Hagar, but it was mostly Sallie. I was the only cast in Eldest Sister during that period of time.)

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From what I've read, I'd agree that the Younger Sister sounds overdone. (I had liked McKerrow in this role very much; I didn't think she was malevolent.) I've thought of the Younger Sister as being barely adolescent, just discovering her sexuality -- or her effect on men, that she had some power over men. And not yet mature enough to realize that her actions had consequences. I think it's more interesting that way.

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Victoria, I rember Ellen Everett. So I guess I saw you as well - how wonderful. I also remember Lucia Chase as the Elder Sister - showing my age.

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Liebs, I was the first one to do it after Lucia. The ballet had not been done for many years when Tudor finally restaged it in '66. I think Lucia still wanted to be doing it! :wink: Anyway, I had private rehearsals with Tudor, which were totally incredible. An education in themselves. However, Lucia also decided to rehearse me, and every time I had a rehearsal with her, and then went into one with Tudor, there was a huge problem. He would stop......think about it a moment, and then say, "You must have had a rehearsal with Lucia." And then he would roll his eyes and tell me what he wanted, or make me figure out what he wanted, which was more his way. :wacko:

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Oh, Alexandra, you have expressed my sense of Younger Sister to an absolute T. As I see the family dynamic here, Elder Sis has pushed down any sexual feelings (or willingness to acknowledge them; I don't think it matters), Younger is celebrating their onset, and Hagar, in the middle, is torn between those two states of being -- the societal constraints :clapping: vs. the emotional cravings :clapping: . That is her torment.

To my eyes, Tuttle's YS was less mean, more innocent than Reyes' -- more along the lines of McKerrow's YS. Nicely done.

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I'm going to continue off topic here for a moment. Victoria, I just went through my collection of programs and the first Pillar I saw was in'73, with Bonnie Mathis as the older sister and Everett as the younger sister. Mathis is the prototype of the older sister in my mind. Were you still dancing with ABT then?

Also, ATM, if the tape of Pillar you have referred to is the one in "ABT - a Close-up in Time" then that is Elllen Everett as the younger sister and Bonnie Mathis as the older one. Already at this point, I think Everett's portrayal has a malicious component to it - so I've never seen this role done any other way. I do think that Reyes has taken it a step further, her flirtatiousness bordered on the psychotic in my mind, and she definitely appeared to be deliberately taunting Hagar. Tuttle's portrayal probably wasn't much less malevolent, but after Reyes it seemed much more benign to me!

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I remember when ABT brought Pillar here in the late 80's, the critic Keith White remarked to me, 'o Leslie Brown can't do Hagar -- she's too pretty."

This may be a gay man's response -- Keith was certainly gay, and so am I -- but so was Tudor. It's not sexist, really, for it's not about WOMEN -- it's about beauty, and how you respond if you need to have it and you don't. Very mid-century theme -- it's in Rodeo, and all through Tennessee Williams.

I hope it isn't too tacky of me to say that Hagar has to be a homely girl, if not downright ugly. Sallie Wilson could be transfigured by hte beauty of her expressions and of her dancing, so that great beauty shone through her, but she was not a good-looking woman. Julie Kent can't possibly do the role, she's Breck-girl pretty, and she doesn't have the dramatic range to play someone who doesn't THINK she's pretty that (say) Ingrid Bergman or Olivia de Havilland had.

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nysusan, no, I had left ABT by then. I did it in the sixties, before Bonnie. I think it was '64 or '65 when Tudor staged it again, and I did it until I left in late '66.

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Paul you are right and that is the problem with Gillian Murphy in the role as well.

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Well, Paul, you brought it up :rolleyes: I do not agree that a beautiful woman is not credible as Hagar. If she is a beauty, I think it strengthens the fact that she is so repressed, it's not her looks that keep her that way. Nora Kaye was an attractive woman and it was this quality that I missed when I saw Wilson; Wilson looked like an old-maid schoolmarm sitting on those steps, and one could be surprised when the Friend showed her attention. Hagar was a desirable woman and did not know it; that fellow across the way knew it, and just waited. Beauty is not an excuse for an ineffective Hagar.

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Hagar's beauty -- an interesting point. (I don't think it's a sexist one at all, Paul.) I could argue this both ways. Remember Polanski's "Repulsion"? A girl who's desperately lonely and so afraid of men she freezes at kindness and kills when the very nice young man, sensing her loneliness, tries to reach out for her. The girl was Catherine Deneuve, and her astonishing beauty made the character more interesting. What had happened to that child?

What if Hagar IS a beauty? The poor Older Sister (both parents gone, run off or dead, the sister is responsible for the moral upbringing of those two girls....one troubled with an all too active fantasy life, the other a minx in the making).

Nora Kaye was a striking woman, from photos. I agree with atm -- I thought I was the only perosn alive who didn't find Wilson definitive in this role. I never saw Kaye, but I always thought Wilson's Hagar made the ballet about a woman who was ugly. She was repulsed by the Man from the House Opposite and his nocturnal activities -- I never got the idea that she was also attracted to him, or sexually curious.

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All these things are kind of in hte past now, and the new historicists make it difficult for us to get back to the emotions associated with certain kinds of looks--

But I certainly agree with you about Kaye -- and I am absolutely certain she was staggering in the role. She was a strikingly beautiful woman who nevertheless could portray that kind of hunger that gay men felt condemned to have to suffer and never have appeased - rather like Judy Garland, she could embody that condition of being condemned to a form of starvation...

And that's partly because she looked Jewish -- in a period when Jews were still outsiders looking in.

Hagar CAN be beautiful -- she just can't be conventionally pretty. She's got to be a "non-contender" ( "I coulda been a CONTENDER!")

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The most salient quality about Hagar is that she is an outsider -- for WHATEVER reason.

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Yes, I think I'd agree with that, Thalictum -- and so she could be beautiful or hideous, or just plain ordinary.

What about Kathy Moore? Did anyone see her Hagar? (I did, and she was a dancer I admired profuselyl, but, as with Wilson, I couldn't FEEL what I'd read I was supposed to feel.)

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I saw Moore and was very impressed. My only other Hagar came in the video with Wilson. I've become quite interested in this ballet, so I've got to do some research and look at the silent films of Kaye at the library.

I think one of the reasons I've disagreed with some of the critics is they keep pointing out that the ballet is old fashioned. But although our sexual mores have changed to an extent (but not everywhere), there are many things in the ballet that still hold true and I think Paul and Thalictum hit on it - she's an outsider looking in. Certain (I'd venture to say most) human characteristics don't change - the need to feel loved and understood is still important, the fear of being alone, exploring our sexuality and our ability to love... And Paul, I'd agree with the connection to Tennessee Williams - watching the ballet reminded me of the play Sweet Bird of Youth.

I think I read it in a review (or on the board) recently, but to really get inside these characters takes time in the studio and on stage. I think maybe ABT should have stuck to Murphy and McKerrow and given them an extra performance. Kent really didn't work for me, not that she wasn't trying. I hope, despite the large space of the Met, that ABT puts this ballet on in the Spring Season (I know they're taking it on the tour to Cleveland and elsewhere) so the casts can continue to develop. And maybe bring in a former Hagar such as Wilson, who (I think) coached McKererow for a Washington Ballet production.

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It is very disappointing to me as well that ABT refuses to hire Tudor's former assistant, Airi Hynninen. She notated many of Tudor's ballets and knows them inside and out -- and more than just the steps.

I saw Kathy Moore first in 1987 when ABT was in Los Angeles. I thought she was bland then but by the time she last performed the role in 1991 I was moved by her performance. It does require time, thought and repeated performances, but Hagar in my opinion requires a more dynamic, even volcanic dancer than Kent, perhaps with a more mobile torso.

I also loved Leslie Browne and Magalie Messac in the part. I saw Cynthia Gregory's one and only performance and was impressed, although Tudor was not. Lise Houlton was also a first class interpreter of Tudor as Hagar and Caroline, et.al.

I was always at the edge of my seat watching Pillar of Fire -- until this season. McKerrow's second performance was vastly improved, however.

Edited by Thalictum

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Dale, Thalictum, what you're saying makes senseto me. THanks for sharing the knowledge you have of the performance and rehearsal tradition......

Dale, I hope you'll share with us how you respond to Kaye on the film "at the Library......" -- what a fantastic resource, how marvellous to be able to get to it without having to cross the continent.....

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Paul, there are few videos I hope to look for (and a few articles) - there's a four-minute clip in the 40s and another one from the 50s, and a performance with sound done by Swedish Ballet, which worked closely with Tudor.

Does anybody know if Kirkland ever did Hagar?

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Hmm. Well, I never thought the reason Hagar was an outsider was because she was unattractive or thought she was unattractive, and I didn't get the feeling that Sallie Wilson played her that wasy. (And I never thought she was unattractive, either). I agree that she's an outsider for whatever reason. I suppose I never thought about why she's an outsider, but just accepted the fact that she is.

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