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Wall to Wall Balanchine: reviews, comments


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#16 Amy Reusch

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Posted 22 March 2004 - 09:42 PM

By the way, the Apollo of Rasta Thomas from the Dance Theatre of Harlem was very interesting and I thought well done. This was a "premiere" of the old uncut version of Apollo, which was introduced by Jacques (who set it) and Arthur Mitchell. Thomas danced it more as a demi-character fashion before the "becoming a god" segment. You really saw the growth of child to man before Apollo's apotheosis.


I haven't seen Rasta since his Hartford Ballet days and I didn't recognize him... the lights were so dark through most of the evening that one couldn't begin to read the program... (I was wondering what Cuban this was that DTH had hired!)... he seems to have matured from his hot-shot competition virtuoso days... much more lyrical use of his arms (I kept wondering what the young Lifar looked like dancing this role and what the comparison would be). There's still some sort of breadth/opening through the shoulders I find myself wanting to see in him... some sort of tenseness there that keeps the movement from opening fully, but I think he's come a long way... I couldn't figure out the DTH dancers... they were so much stiffer than the others... I don't mean inflexible; their legs went up to their ears when necessary... but somehow less supple, as if they had been skipping their pas de chevals for a few years running..... their arms almost sort of wooden.... What is it? What's going on? I don't remember this from the old Dance In America films... It wasn't as bad as Vera Zorina, but it seemed like a throwback all the same... The choreography was still interesting... and they certainly were angular... but... was it because they were trying to do a "historically correct" version?

And I hate to say it, but I found I did miss the contrasting skin color in Agon. When I first heard it was always done by a black man and a white woman, I thought that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard... but it was as if the costuming was missing... it left me wishing it had been a white male with a black female for the pas...

#17 Amy Reusch

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Posted 22 March 2004 - 09:57 PM

Violette Verdy on the unity of the NYCB institution...

Do any of you remember Verdy's words when she said something about how different NYCB was from any of the other great companies/schools because of how complete the institution was... really the first time and only time this has happened... dancers starting as children with the very basics trained to do Balanchine's technique? I wish I could hear her words again. At the time I found myself thinking "really? but what about Bournonville... what about Petipa?" But then I got to thinking that maybe she was right... after all, Bournonville and Petipa had to answer to their respective emporers... whereas Balanchine & Kirstein were like gods.... they didn't have to answer to the Czar... no one was going to exile them for a year... and they created their school & company from scratch...

#18 Amy Reusch

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Posted 22 March 2004 - 10:01 PM

David Hays...

Said something humorous about being given so little to do a set with... that when eventually Balanchine returned to his favorite "blue sky", that with so little ventured it felt like less lost...

and then that bit about measuring the success of any particular set by how long it lasted before Balanchine turned it back to blue sky....

What was that piece that Kirstein decided to surprise Balanchine with a set for a birthday present? Anyone remember that anecdote? Balanchine didn't discover there was to be a set until the dress rehearsal?

#19 carbro

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Posted 22 March 2004 - 10:33 PM

This?

Kirstein was crossing the stage at a time when the electrician was in the process of replacing lights (but absent). In the middle of a stage stood a ladder, and Kirstein complained -- or commented in some way -- about the color of the "set," indicating the ladder. Hayes replied as if the ladder were, indeed, the set.

Cute story, I thought.

#20 Roma

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 04:45 AM

Amy, the set was for Native Dances

#21 bobbi

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 04:55 AM

One more film coaching session that I remember with delight was the one of Allegra Kent coaching Janie Taylor in Bugaku. At one point, Allegra says to Janie, "I like what you did with you foot." The clip didn't have much more dialogue that I could hear. But both of them seemed to be on the same wave length. And how amazingly similar the two are in body type! It made me recall the great things about Allegra's dancing that I recall (and I only saw Allegra dance sporatically at the end of the sixties and early seventies in Episodes, Brahms and Bugaku) was her great flexibility and her sense of abandonment and total commitment. These seem to be the very same qualities that Janie Taylor possesses. I had never associated the two before, but now I know why I so enjoy Janie's dancing!

Amy, I too thought Violette's comments were fascinating. I took them to mean that SAB trains the kids for the Balanchine rep (but can still do the Petipa), whereas the other major schools -- to modernize their reps -- must now dance some Balanchine but without the required training for speed. And as she coaches around the world, Violette must see the consequences of that first hand.

#22 Ari

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 05:40 AM

And I was fascinated by the Kirstein biographer (perhaps because I've been wondering if there were a biography out there... this is one book I'll definitely run out and buy)

There's a Kirstein biography in the works? More info, please. Who is the author? How far along is the book -- can we expect to see it any time soon?

I certainly don't envy the author his/her task. Imagine everything you'd have to know to write such a book: all about art, literature, dance, music, esthetic theory, in addition to the details of such a long and rich life. But that's what will make it so exciting to read!

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 08:19 AM

There is a biography in the works -- the biographer said, at W2W Balanchine, I'm told, that he had researched his subject up to the age of....17.

#24 Nanatchka

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 10:15 AM

And I was fascinated by the Kirstein biographer (perhaps because I've been wondering if there were a biography out there... this is one book I'll definitely run out and buy)

There's a Kirstein biography in the works? More info, please. Who is the author? How far along is the book -- can we expect to see it any time soon?

I certainly don't envy the author his/her task. Imagine everything you'd have to know to write such a book: all about art, literature, dance, music, esthetic theory, in addition to the details of such a long and rich life. But that's what will make it so exciting to read!

Martin Duberman is the author. Among his books is a wonderful study of Black Mountain College. Duberman has grown more political in his writing over the years, being a champion of what is sometimes called Gay Studies. He has access to the unedited Kirstein diaries, from which he read. These are quite different from the published version, having been cut for reaons of tact concerning the living. I hope the book will contain a lot of this material. Duberman spoke briefly of Kirstein's relationship with his father--you can see that this is not going to be a dance book per se, but a biography with cultural context.

#25 Nanatchka

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 10:27 AM

Amy, Carbro: the ladder incident and the birthday set are two different sets, two different dances. From the ladder anecdote:

[Kirstein asked] "David, is that going to be this color?" of a metal ladder than happned to be on the stage when he came to look at a set. Balanchine later derived much fun from this, apparently teasing Kirstein that items were going to be "tin" colored.

Sorry I don't remember which ballet had a "surprise" set.

I loved the Hays segment, just as I love his work for the ballets. It was unfortunate that slides of his designs were not projected during his talk. I thought we were afforded a rare look at a relationship between Balanchine and a collaborator, narrated intimately, and with great modesty and charm.

#26 rg

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 11:44 AM

i'll second nanatchka's admiration for hays and for his little anecdotes. re: the ladder, what i thought i heard was that after LK had mistaken the idle ladder for some part of the decor, GB would tease Hays about any number of idle things thereafter as: is it going to be that color?
but perhaps i misremember this.
i was hoping he - Hays - would have gone on a bit about his original Liebeslieder Walzer set and the subsequent - LK commissioned - one from DMitchell. likewise i was hoping for some insight into the post-balanchine remake of the setting for the second act of MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, esp. as the rethought/current version also relates to the look of the drop balanchine originally used for SYMPHONIE CONCERTNATE and for a CBC kinescope of DIVERTIMENTO NO. 15: thus making a connection between GB mozart ballets and his mendelssohn one.
i also loved recollection of balanchine's simple ways of noting 'problems' with stage pictures &/or lighting by saying things like: all i see are legs.
or
'it looks like a laundromat'
re: the upside-down set, i don't have much to go on, tho' there must be some info i'm neglecting in the literature, but it was recalled in edward gorey's 'lavendar leotard' in the early 1970s where the booklet's little characters are depicted upside-down and dressed somewhat like chandeliers; it's captioned as follows: "In my mind's eye i've always known what it would have been like" leading me to suspect that this lost upsidedown ballet was something of 'tradition' at the time of the lavendar leotard's composition. (what became 'the lavendar leotard' first appeared in NYCB's Playbill as a little program essay called, if mem. serves: Ballet-hoo.

#27 Amy Reusch

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 07:41 PM

There is a biography in the works -- the biographer said, at W2W Balanchine, I'm told, that he had researched his subject up to the age of....17.


What I understood Mr. Duberman to say was that at this point, as a scholar, he could only speak about Kirstein up to the age of 17 because that was as far as he had gotten in his research.... not because he intended to stop there, but that this was all he felt qualified so far to speak about...

I thought he said something about Kirstein's autobiography being very different from reality because of Kirstein's tendency toward self invention... Was there an autobiography published? Or was he referring to the excerpted diaries?

#28 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 07:45 PM

Yes, that's as far as he'd gotten in his research! I didn't say that's where he was going to stop! Of course he's going beyond that. No one would write a biography of someone like Kirstein and stop at age 17.

#29 Amy Reusch

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 08:26 PM

My apologies, Alexandra... I thought perhaps you were reinforcing Hall's earlier comment:

Duberman was awful. He never met Kirsten and is doing research on a book but he only seems to know anything about LK's life until he was 17. Not very illuminating on his relationship with Mr. B.

. I'm so pleased the spotlight is being turned on Kirstein... there are so many who would love to step into Balanchine's shoes... would that there were as many who would emulate Kirstein!

#30 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 08:40 PM

In 1994, Kirstein published "Mosaic: Memoirs," (Farrar. Straus & Giroux) which goes beyond age 17, all the way up to age 26. The last sentence is "I was alone now and I knew I must find Balanchine if I was serious about anything..."

There are also bits of autobiography in "Quarry: A Collection in Lieu of Memoirs," Twelvetrees Press, 1986, which has excellent color photographs of Kirstein's art collection; and in "By With To & From: A Lincoln Kirstein Reader," Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1991.

Also of autobiographical interest is "The Poems of Lincoln Kirstein," Atheneum. 1987, which includes "Rhymes of a PFC" and "Poems of a Patriot."

Of course there are many other published writings of Kirstein, including his history of NYCB, "Thirty Years."


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