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Hamburg Ballet in New YorkNeumeier's "Nijinsky"


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 08:30 PM

Andre, re structuralism and expressionism -- I don't think these are artificial distinctions at all, but very basic ones, and pertinent to our discussions here. The point, I think, is recognizing the nature of a work so that one understands the choreographer's point of view, where s/he's coming from, and can judge a work within that context. Definitely, one doesn't have to consider any of this to enjoy a performance, but they're helpful terms in trying to discuss or analyze a work of art.

Re "Nijinsky" -- which I just saw tonight, I wasn't uninterested. As I wrote on the "half price tickets available" thread, I'd recommend it. It's very different from our usual fare, Neumeier is an important choreographer, highly regarded in Europe, and I think his work should be seen. I'm not sorry I went, and I'm going back. That said -- and much more, I'm afraid, as I'm going to write about this -- I was disappointed. Neumeier obviously knows a lot about Nijinsky, and those ballets. There are movements and phrases from a huge chunk of the Ballet Russe repertory woven into the fabric of the piece, and there are moments from Nijinsky's life -- like the scene where he's standing on a chair, screaming the counts at the dancers as he did at the premiere of Sacre, when the boos overtook the music. But despite this, I found the depiction of him as a person very superficial. The images of madness were stage madness, generic twitching movements that have been used over and over in other works.

Re hockeyfan and Manhattnik's comments -- a little distillation would have helped, I think, especially in the second act, where Neumeier has to stretch his ideas to fill the music's length.

Manhattnik, I haven't seen Bejart's Nijinsky ballet, but a colleague of mine has and I've asked him to write about that. I'm curious about that, too. From what I've read, I think Bejart's would have been more theatrical, more flamboyant. This one opens like a tanzteater piece, and there were moments (when they started yelling at the end) where I thought of tanzteater too. Bejart was more free form. Perhaps more imaginative? I think. I'd also be curious if anyone here ever saw Bejart's Nijinsky work.

#17 Andre Yew

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Posted 26 February 2004 - 11:05 AM

Alexandra,

Re. Structuralism vs. expressionism. I'm not sure I agree that they are fundamental pillars upon which to discuss work. I can't think of an appropriate dance example for now, so I will revert to musical examples. The first movement of Mahler's 3rd symphony is a gigantic sonata form, classically disciplined except perhaps distended in proportions. Yet, when most people hear this work, they don't hear intro, development, coda, etc., they hear the expressionistic effects: the big, stentorian trombone solo, the shrieking winds, the cruel trumpet, chirping birds, marches, and other impressions excerpted from real life. Is the work structural in nature or expressionistic? Both in fact, and it's usefully seen as both depending on what you're trying to get out of it, so I'm not sure such a binary distinction is a good way to describe this work.

I was going to make a leap and compare Neumeier's Nijinsky to a prototypical Mahlerian work, but the hole I'm digging may be getting too deep already! :sweating: :wink:

But I'm glad you found Nijinsky interesting. The dancers are quite fabulous.

--Andre

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 26 February 2004 - 11:10 AM

Not trying to make the discussion binary (there are other "categories" too, of course,) nor saying they're pillars for a discussion, just useful words and concepts in analyzying a work.

#19 Helene

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 04:05 PM

Hockeyfan228,

Some messages are delivered in 40 minutes, while others require 2 hours.  Is Mahler's 9th symphony any less profound than one of Bach's piano sonatas?

--Andre

(Sorry to have taken so long to respond to a good fight -- the friend I stayed with is last week is "cookie-phobic," and I couldn't sign in until I got home.)

My comment about length was in response to your comment about how unlikely it would be for an American company to fund a intellectually and emotionally challenging piece. My point is that there are Balanchine (and Tudor) works that reflect emotionally and intellectually charged messages -- including madness, repression, the viciousness of family dynamics -- and are staged across America, at a much shorter length (and lower cost).

Dance, on the whole, has a smaller palate to work from than music, by virtue of being performed on a large stage. The pianissimo of a single instrument can be heard clearly in the back row of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera; small movement that might reflect the music cannot. There are entire parts of Mahler's 9th Symphony -- slow, structural development, extremely soft dynamics -- that come across as dead in a dance piece. From what I've seen of Neumeier's older choreography to Mahler, I would say that his choreography doesn't come close to matching the emotional and intellectual challenges of Mahler's music, regardless of his subject.


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