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Golab17

Has OBT changed??

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So, after years of Canfield has the company actually changed? IT's certainly gotten "younger" in look, with only a core number of dancers able to actually carry themselves on stage with weight instead of looking like students. This hasn't changed really. They do more Balanchine now...but for those of us who do not worship every drib and drab of choreography of Balanchine, this can be as boring as g-strings and rock music. How long before Mr. Stowell runs off to take over PNB? OBT seems to be maintaining it's hostile and exclusive behaviour towards the rest of the dance community in Portland...perhaps because senior administration was "trained" by Canfield and his behaviour and don't know any different way. What about all the Alumni who live and work in Portland? It was nice to see Mr. Thomasson (director of SFB) at the first season...loyalty towards one's dancers even after they have moved on is professional behaviour. I was not all that excited by the first season. At my age i've seen a great deal of Ballet and dance, and other than a so-so reading of Rubies it was a dissapointing evening. Call me a grump.... :)

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OK Golab, you're a grump.

And welcome to Ballet Talk!

You'd probably sound less grumpy if you told us a little about yourself and where your opinions are coming from. From a distance, I'm definitely interested in seeing what Stowell has planned for the company, and I'm willing to cut him slack for more than a single program. Given the choice between imperfect Balanchine and perfect Canfield. . .well, I was never very fond of card games!

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Golab17: Thanks for chiming in with your take on the new situation at OBT.

After seeing a lot of ballet in NYC for 20 years, I have been attending OBT regularly since 1996 and have watched the transition from Canfield to Stowell with great interest.

I would have to agree with Leigh that you are kind of jumping the music by so severely criticizing Mr. Stowell based on his first program. But hey, I get grumpy, too!

The transition from one Artistic Director to another is a complex one. Different artistic visions require different dancers and appeal to different audiences. Personally, I have felt that Christopher Stowell should be given two full years to develop his company and vision. You may of course, disagree with that timeline, but you must allow for some transition period and try not to judge so harshly so quickly.

Please be aware of the economics of the situation: OBT is trying to upgrade and expand the company at a time when Oregon has a lousy economy and private and corporate giving is drying up. That Mr. Stowell was able to capture quality dancers like Kester Cotton, Yuka Iino & Gavin Larsen on his limited budget is a testament to the powers of his persuasion and connections. Also, you should know that he was bound by agreement to offer contracts to most of the Canfield company and has to proceed slowly in making a company that can properly dance his programs.

I can't comment on alienated alumni without more facts, but will agree that there have been some very chill winds blowing from the front office over the years. I sincerely hope that will change.

Chris Stowell is as engaged and excited as a new AD could possibly be. He is not going anywhere else for a very long time.

I hope you will be attending The Nutcracker. Tell us what you think of it.

Writing in the rain,

Watermill

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Hey Golab,

i'm ok with your expressing your feelings about the show you saw. Go AHEAD. I wish I'd been there to see it.

What else was on hte program? HWat was good about Rubies?

Were there flashes of good stuff anywhere?

Please, GO INTO DETAIL....

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My goodness, people actually read and reply!! My thanks everyone for not biting my head off regarding my grumpiness. In reply to mr. Parish's e-mail asking for details of the program, i'd have to say that Alison Roper was fabulous! For a dancer not even remotely trained in a "Balanchine Style" she was drop dead gorgeous and technically superb. Nice to see a dancer that looks like a woman as well as a ballerina. Their guest artist from PNB who's name i'm forgetting as I can't find myj program (spanish or hispanic name i believe) was great...a little strained, but I was told that it had been some weeks since he had a day off as he had just come from PNB's season. The middle two pieces by Mr. Tomahsson and Mr Stowel sr were interesting only as examples of a million other pieces I have seen just like them. Twilight was as cliche'd a pas as i've ever seen, with lovely dancing of course, but hardly exciting or nuanced choreography...perhaps it was meant to be seen with something else, but as it was by itself there seemed to be little context. Duo Fantasy is an older work I was told, and did indeed have a terrific set piece in the square "room" center stage. However the seemingly endless high kicks and splayed torso's served little purpose except as a potential perfume ad, perhaps with some even more naked sulking models instead of ballet dancers. I love company B, indeed I was lucky enough to see Paul Taylor's own company do it, and I do feel that it's alot to ask of young people to try to embody. Lark Hassdedt (sp?) was terrific, but so much was skated over or lost. In regards to the other replies to my e-mails, I understand that it takes a while to "set in" as it were, to find your feet as a new director, however I wasn't speaking of Mr. Stowell so much as I was speaking of the persons on the Board and running the company's business side.

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Don't mean to be a pest, but what happened in that room? And whose ballet was it, Tomasson's or Stowell's?

The Taylor Company's performance of Company B was MUCH grittier and darker than SF Ballet's, which was lighter and higher-spirited ( as goes with the higher center of gravity in hte dancers) but I thought equally wonderful. In theTaylor Rum and Coca-COla, for example, that girl looked like she might not be able to control htese hooligans; in SFB's Joanna Berman was the goddess of hte isles, she was in no danger at all -- but it was I thought equally valid. At SFB< also, ERic HOisington made Tico-TIco something really dangerous -- it was mysterious, tremendous.... but he DID have the weight you're talking about, he came out of hte North Carolina school of hte Arts and had been a modern dancer.

Did you feel that Company B gave the OBT dancers the kind of challenge that could make them grow, or was it just beyond them altogether and a mistake?

PS What did Ms Roper dance? What is she like? I've never seen her.

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The Taylor Company's performance of Company B was MUCH grittier and darker than SF Ballet's, which was lighter and higher-spirited ( as goes with the higher center of gravity in hte dancers) but I thought equally wonderful.  In theTaylor Rum and Coca-COla, for example, that girl looked like she might not be able to control htese hooligans;  in SFB's Joanna Berman was the goddess of hte isles, she was in no danger at all -- but it was I thought equally valid. At SFB< also, ERic HOisington made Tico-TIco something really dangerous -- it was mysterious, tremendous.... but he DID have the weight you're talking about, he came out of hte North Carolina school of hte Arts and had been a modern dancer.

Pacific Northwest Ballet's performances of the work are similar -- much lighter, both in tone and physically, that the Taylor company's. It was interesting to me that I didn't object to the difference here, while I get itchy during many ballet performances of Limon's "Moor's Pavane." I think it's because I saw Company B on a ballet company first, so that's my original reference point.

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Sandik, I'm sure that's true for me, too. I saw SFB first, and I loved Company B, saw it over and over.

But I think it's also really interpretable at two different levels -- one is 'archetypal," the other "realistic." THe Taylor company's version is earthier, LESS musical, more realistic; the ballet version is airborne, larger in movement, larger in energy, more gleeful -- larger than life, and it's very satisfying. Which doesn't keep "There will neeve be another you" from breaking your heart -0- but it's not about these PARTICULAR people, for me it was about my parents' generation, the whole ballet explained more about how my parents met and fell in love and how such different people could come to get married than anyting I'd ever seen before.... so I filtered it through my family mythology, and since both my parents were ghigh-minded and idealistic and rather un-fleshy people, the idealized versoin of hte ballet actually fits more closely into my family romance than the earthier version. If my parents had been earthier people, well, I'd be different myself..... and so would the works of art that really speak to me.

bUT cOMPANY b IS A GREAT BALLET, AND i THINK IT SPEAKS TO many PEOPLE -- WHICH IS ONE REASON i THINK (oops, caps lock) it's a great thing Stowell has done for Portland, to bring them a ballet really worth seeing.

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It was Stowells (sr), and after witnessing his "performance" in NYC and meeting him as well as other miscellaneous links in our lives, I must say I am most distinctly not a fan. Allison is an interesting dancer, picked by Mr. Canfield after having been not dancing for some time, in college and not at all a typical dancer (small head, long neck, skinny, no boobs hyperflexible). This is not to say that she is none of these things, but she did not look "typical" at all. One of Mr. Canfields strengths was picking dancers that had something to offer on stage sometimes in spite of their "untypicallness". Vanessa Thiesson (sp?), Allison, Allegra Lillard and many others were notable in their power and flexibility as artists as well as dancers. Many other artistic directors would have looked past them to a more "usual" physique at a loss of depth and variety in dance quality and artistic ability. He picked dancers badly also, for unknown reasons..there were a few dancers, especially among the men, who were mystifying choices. Having seen Company B first on Mr. Taylor's company and just plain prefering it as danced by modern dancers rather than Ballet dancers, I do understand how ones opinion of a work can be shaped by your initial experience of it. I feel that such a work was a boon for the audience to see, but so far beyond the capabilities of most of the dancers as to do the work a disservice. In all a good thing, but only as a matter of degrees. Audiences have to be well-educated, or they gain a warped idea of the art form. Imagine Company B as performed by OBT when Chris Demillier, Alexandres Ballard, Allegra Lillard, Brett Davi, Fabrice Lemire etc..were there. That would have been something...

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Golab17, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing these thoughts. You seem to me to be representative of the audience that was grown by James Canfield, as well as being a Portland dance community member alienated by OBT administration. You now need to be won over by Chris Stowell. There are a lot of dance fans like you out there. I will watch with interest to see what happens between you and OBT. Keep those cards and letters coming in.

Oh, the men...the men. We could put together a terrific company if we could pick and choose from 15 years of companies. It seems like there are 100 qualified women for every company opening...and 10 openings for every qualified man.

Going to Nutcracker? Check it out and let me know what you think on the OBT Nutcracker thread.

Watermill

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GOlab17, I DO agree with ou about how great dancers can be who don't have that greyhound look --

Oakland ballet had a whole roster of dancers who didn;'t look like that but moved in marvellous ways -- Julie Lowe comes to mind right away, a dancer of wonderful quietness -- and then there was Lara Deans Lowe, who WAS super-skinny but still didn'tl ook BaLANCHINEE-Y -- oops, caps lock again -- both of them had, well, have wonderful imaginations for dancing..... Erin YaRBOROUGH... how many others.... Patti Owen.

I am sorry you didn't get to see the cast you mentioned in COmpany B.

Please keep posting. I'm one of many who want to hear wha it'sl like in Portland. Did you like Nutcracker? (It's not typical Balanchine at all.)

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Paul, you will be glad to hear that OBT continues to have a variety of physiques on stage. How many companies have a ballerina over 6'? McKenzie Fyfe... and she did a nice job of your favorite "I Can Dream Can't I?" in Company B

And the different body types among the apprentices indicates that this variety is going to continue under Stowell. I find this not only healthy but entertaining. Who wants to look at cookie cutter dancers?

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Thank you for the compliments Paul, it's nice to communicate with someone who is as enthusiastic as myself about Ballet. You are correct about being "poorly Used' by OBT's adminsitration. I was also privy to some of the insider goings-on on and off for several years at OBT. My outrage is more for my friends who were dancing in the company rather than myself....Watermill, Mckenzie Fife was hired by Mr. Canfield and kept on by Mr. Stowell, a minor point surely, but still an important one. Most major companies strive for a unified look for the majority of their dancers, with the larger companies having the luxury of some "unusual" body types. ABT's corps are remarkably similar from across the footlights. It's one of the truisms in the ballet world in this country. Once you cross over to Europe it's a little difffernt. I was in Paris last year and managed to catch several Paris Opera ballet performances. They had a remarkable range of body "types" on stage. To tell the truth I was quite surprised because I would hve guessed they would be hardline homogenized. I especially liked a little tiny redheaded girl with an enormous leap (french names escape my memory easily).

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G17, I envy your POB experiences...someday (sigh)...

Not sure which side of the fence you're leaning to re Mary Mac ...but I'll just toss in the fact that because she had not been with the company for three years, Stowell did not have to offer her a contract. But he did. Good for him. Many would not.

By the way, thanks to judicious placement of a tall student in Nutcracker Snowflakes, Mary Mac did not stand out much. It took me a minute to even realize she was a Snowflake. She does a good job adjusting to very tight corps formations. Don't know how they do it. Hear the pom-poms went flying at one performance!

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I'm curious about the alienation of the broader dance community by the previous administration. I'm not sure I understand exactly. Were there actual acts of alienation? Please elaborate, I'm intrigued.

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I'd rather stick my head in a hornet's nest. Let's just say that a somewhat haughty attitude would emanate from the general direction of the OBT office. There were a couple of years when the School admin was outrageously insensitive toward both students and parents. I am fairly certain those days are blessedly done with.

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I especially liked a little tiny redheaded girl with an enormous leap (french names escape my memory easily).

Perhaps Fanny Fiat (I don't find her so tiny but she's redheaded)?

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Haydée Gutierrez is greatly missed by many in Oregon. My daughter was very young when Haydee left, she only trained with her for a short time. I will tell you that I hear often how much she wished she had been trained by Haydee. Since Haydee has left OBT the school is not nearly as clean as they used to be.

My daughter misses her combinations that she did with only the arms. Her difficult combinations in reverse.

OBT has not only lost Haydee but so many great teachers from the school since all of the changes. Elena Carter of course, who passed recently. She was Haydee's right hand lady. Also Fred Locke and Kim Smiley.

Excellent teachers. The only one left from that staff is Elise Legire who did not teach all that much. Why OBT has not hired good teachers to replace all that they have lost is very frustrating for the students that were used to such great teachers. So often I hear from my daughter, I wonder where I would be today if I had been trained by Haydee. So sad that a school that was so strong has lost so much.

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Unfortunately, I've had to remove yet another response that violated the official information rules.

The topic of the OBT school is not only off topic to Ballet Talk, but seems to be a magnet for "insider" info.

I'm closing it.

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