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Wall to Wall Balanchine: reviews, comments

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#31 rkoretzky


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Posted 24 March 2004 - 06:31 AM

The Saratoga contingent was there in four-fold force. We got up at 5 am to get down to the city in time, and were rewarded with front-row seats. We had taken the precaution of becoming members of Symphony Space: at $25 each it seemed a small price to pay for the security of getting in after driving such a distance. It was a good thing, one of our group went out for food and had trouble getting back in--was only successful when she waved our membership card. It could be that she was the young one of our group--my college age daughter, but it any case it was well worth the expense, to be part of a fantastic day.

One of us had to return home early--the other three stayed for the entire 12 hours. Two of us never left the theater from 11 am to 11 pm!

I did get out of my seat a few times--one of my "potty breaks" was during the David Hayes segment. I am sure he has wonderful tales to tell, but his disorganized presentation, jumping from topic to topic in mid-sentence left me very annoyed. I was also annoyed by Anna Kisselgoff's presentation style--and found that segment didn't hold my interest.

I have to put in a plug for Saratoga Springs' own Professor Charles Joseph, surely one of the world's experts on the Stravinsky/Balanchine relationship, who was given short shrift, in favor of the guy next to him plugging a concert that he was conducting that very evening at NYU. Chuck is a gentleman, too polite to interrupt, but it was the audience's loss that he wasn't given more of an opportunity to speak.

Aside from those small issues, and the aforementioned technical glitches, the day was well-organized, comprehensive, a wonderful mix of the theoretical (speaking) and the practical (dancing), a rare opportunity to glimpse seldom-seen personages as well as footage....just marvelous.

Some impressions from me:

In the first segment, the Suki Shorer class demonstration: Suki made a reference to the students' heels. In several of the young ladies, their heels never fully touched the floor, even in demi-plie. Even though Suki assured the audience that "this was fine with Balanchine, and it is fine with me"--I don't like it. I think it is a bad habit--and that if it perfomance the heels don't touch in order to increase ballon--OK, but in class perfect technique should be the goal. Joan Brady, in her book "Once a Dancer" speaks extensively of this heel issue, and states that the trick only works once the dancer is fully trained in returning heels to the floor. I agree with Joan, and while I would never argue about Balanchine with Suki Shorer, wonder if it was truly "fine with Mr. B'.

The DTH Apollo: for the most part, very very well done. I missed the visual interaction between Apollo and the muses that I have come to expect, being accustomed to the Peter Boal model. Rasta is a magnificent dancer and I loved his interpretation of Apollo's solo segments, but I found that during the muses' variations he never looked at any of them, he was staring out into the audience. So how could he choose? Andrea (Calliope) and Polyhymnia (Kellye) both had huge grins on their faces. gorgeous dancers, but the grins were inappopriate and distracting. I LOVE the full length Apollo, and feel that with the addition of the Prologue, the entire ballet makes sense, as a story (yes I know Balanchine didn't do stories!), and choreographically, since so much of the choreography that is later developed is first stated in the prologue.

Who Cares: ELIZABETH WALKER!!! Exquisite in "The Man I Love". Why, oh why don't we see more of this lovely dancer? I had never seen her dance like this before--then I realized I had never really seen her dance! A short variation in "Donizetti", even third movement Barber--never gave me the chance to really see her before.

We crashed at the Quality Inn and went to Peter Boal on Sunday. What a weekend!

#32 AmandaNYC


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Posted 24 March 2004 - 10:10 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed my 12+ hour adventure (having gotten in line at 9am and lasting until the wonderful end).

My favorite parts were hearing from those who worked with Mr. B, esp. those I hadn't heard from before, and hearing about their experiences in different ways. The coaching was great (I haven't made it to any of the Guggenheim's)-- I have always loved going to working rehearsals at NYCB, but having Verdy do the coaching herself and watching the others on video-- wow.

Now, while hearing from these great folks was the highlight for me, it was also my greatest disappoint. Gottleib directed the conversation with Barbara Horgan to things I had less interest in. I wanted to hear more personal things, such as Schuyler Chapin's anecdote about getting Balanchine to choreography 2.5 mins of Boris Gudonov, and less on the facts about the Trust. I relished those moments. Esp the direct moments, such as d'Amboise's film of the NY State Theater's opening night where we got to see and and hear from Balanchine himself.

The full Gudonov story is best told by somone else. What stood out for me in that story was both Balanchine's sense of humor and his generosity (another case of him not taking a fee... or rather returning a few and then making a donation).

Performance-wise, I was, of course, in heaven to have Bouder there. Since I am pressed for time right now, I am just going to speak about Apollo and Renard.

Apollo-- It was illuminating for me finally to see the prologue and see a more dramatic story told. I have mixed feelings about the ballet becoming more story-like. I understand why Balanchine, over the years, trimmed the ballet down to its essence. I am not sure what the portrayals were like in his last years. I do think that most of today's Apollos do not make clear the transition from unsure boy to God. The choreography is still there. And, it doesn't need to be as dramatically asserted as it was in this performance (though I liked this Apollo immensely). It took me years of watching Apollo to see the transition in the character Apollo that the choreography still allows-- I shouldn't have to work that hard to see it.

And, Renard. I kept thinking Small House of Uncle Thomas. And, much less so, Fanfare. I wonder if Robbins ever saw Renard. To me the ballet was much more a foreshadowing of some of Robbins' work than later Balanchine works. I don't mean the simple aspect of story-telling. It was the way the story was told and the dance responded to/ mirrored the vocals.

forgive me for any errors, as I have no time to proofread...

#33 carbro


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Posted 24 March 2004 - 04:56 PM

Apollo--  It was illuminating for me finally to see the prologue and see a more dramatic story told.  I have mixed feelings about the ballet becoming more story-like.  I understand why Balanchine, over the years, trimmed the ballet down to its essence.

Well, aren't we fortunate to have some access to both versions! I think the stripped down version is almost equivalent to Balanchine's one-act Swan Lake, more a commentary on the original, although clearly Apollo II (if you will) has fewer modifications than does his Swan.

And, Renard.  I kept thinking Small House of Uncle Thomas.

I can almost see that! (Paul Taylor's Sacre, a piece I eagerly hope to see again soon, reminded me of Small House.)

Congratulations on your enviable stamina, Amanda!

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