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Ballet Austin's Taming of the Shrew


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 08:33 AM

Did anyone else see this? In my 25 years of reviewing, I've seen four things about which I could write nothing positive, and this is one of them. (My review is in the Post today).

The two low lights, of many, that stand out are:

One. Petruchio to the (completely uncharacterized and undifferentiated) suitors of Bianca, who have just described the object of their affections by much heart pounding and "drawing" the female form in the air, a la soldiers in WW2 movies: "So! Does she have a sister?" (repeat, says that. Not in mime, not in surtitles, but as in mouth open, words coming out)

Three suitors, after much consultation and evil cackling: "Yeah! She has a sister!"

Two. The red exercise ball. (symbolizing anger? a red exercise ball?) You haven't lived until you've seen a woman in a tutuesque costume take an arabesque with a red exercise ball between her thighs.

I'd be curious to hear other opinions, especially from those who enjoyed the performance. I'd seen Ballet Austin's "Midummer Night's Dream" (also choreographed by Stephen Mills) two years ago and it was derivative, but not unpleasant.

#2 koshka

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 09:50 AM

I saw it Saturday at 1:30. I thought it had some redeeming qualities--I liked the spare, abstract sets, and I thought some of the choreography was quite inventive and many of the costumes very nice (I especially liked the pompoms on the slippers of the male corps.)

I did _not_ like the spoken lines (utter lack of creativity) and the "taming" which was really coercion and abuse (forced marriage, deprivation of food and sleep), which was at odds with the plot summary given in the program (program stated that Kate is "tamed" by seeing her husband outdo her in bad behavior) and was _terrible_ for children. Yuck.

It's a shame, because in general I think these one-hour productions are a great way to introduce kids to ballet, and I was glad I didn't bring my 4-year-old niece to this one.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 09:56 AM

Thanks, koshka. I think your point about the coercion is a very good one. She doesn't have a realization in the starvation scene. She's still angry. There's no moment where she realizes, "Oh, this is how I treat other people."

I think the taming was also .... Let's just say that Kate was suddenly docile the morning after. As in all that B----- needed was a good, um, wedding night. That's what I meant by writing "the story was reduced to locker room one-liners."

I think one-hour programs are a great way to introduce kids to ballet, too. And there are companies that have good children's programming. I don't know how this one got here -- if this had been called "Kate and Pete," it wouldn't have gotten in the door.

#4 koshka

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 10:33 AM

About the "taming": more to the point, the program states that Petrucchio treats the servants so badly that even Kate feels bad for them, whereas in the performance, Petrucchio was (as I read the mime) conniving with them to torture her. There was a girl about 7 sitting a couple of seats from me, and she was seriously confused.

Let's just say that Kate was suddenly docile the morning after. As in all that B----- needed was a good, um, wedding night.

This one went right over my head, so we can only hope that that was the case for the younger members of the audience as well.

Of course, I am hopeless at following plots, so it's fortunate that following the plot is often not an essential part of enjoying a ballet performance.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 10:46 AM

It's always hard to judge audience reaction, because that really does depend on where one is sitting, I think. But the children around me weren't laughing very much, and the few kids within eyeshot were squirming during that scene. I think they may well have identified with Kate and read the whole thing as "Kate's behaving badly, and they're punishing her." One little girl kept flinching every time P picked K up and threw her over his shoulder.

I'm sure the kids didn't pick up on the "morning after" change of mood, and I didn't mean that I thought it was inappropriate for children; more that it was an inappropriate reduction of something more complicated.


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