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Leigh Witchel

Ivesiana

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It's gotten a good deal of talk since coming back in repertory.

Like the others, I enjoyed the performance, but to me the ballet feels like carrion Balanchine picked at: Hallowe'en gone, Over the Pavement in and out, Argument as well. It's got the same structural weaknesses as Episodes - actually the same as any dance to assemblages of music. And in both cases, Balanchine pulled a few bricks out of the wall.

I use the carrion metaphor because there are later pieces in repertory that feel to me like Balanchine revisiting the expressionist landscape of Ivesiana, perhaps attempting to create a succesor work. The Five Pieces section of Episodes has similar tension to Central Park in the Dark, though it is not as overtly menacing. Variations for a Door and A Sigh owes a lot to The Unanswered Question (but the later is better). Some of these associations could be in casting, James Fayette is in both of the first pair, Tom Gold in the second.

Trivia: I did an interview in 1997 with Barbara Milberg, a company member from the 40s and 50s. From my notes:

The only time [Milberg] remembers Balanchine losing his temper at the dancers was at the dress rehearsal of Ivesiana, during the "In the Night" section as they crawled about on their knees and one of the male dancers mentioned Toulouse-Lautrec, everybody started to break up, laugh, fall, etc.  Balanchine came onstage, incensed, and sniffed "If you don't like it here you can all go to Radio City Music Hall."

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