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Seen and not seen . . .Ballets better (so far) in the mind.


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 09:36 AM

Swan Lake

Symphonic Variations

Orpheus

Each of the above is a ballet that I know is great - but I haven't (yet) seen a great performance; I keep fixing them in my head to what I know they could be.

Arlene Croce's examples from her writing were Sleeping Beauty and Divertimento No. 15 (of course, I've said this without checking. . .) Does anyone else have ballets that are better in their imaginations than on the stage?

#2 atm711

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 10:10 AM

Well, Danilova'a Odette and Tallchief's Eurydice satisfied me--but I think it was before your time, Leigh. But, keep the f aith Leigh---In over 55 years of watching Symphony in C I have not found the ideal interpreter of the Second movement. :shrug: One performance I would love to see again is the 30-year old Fonteyn in "Sleeping Beauty"---she is still there dancing around in my head (and this, from someone who is not generally over-awed by her).

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 10:50 AM

Tudor is the most illusive for me. "Pillar of Fire" I've seen performances that others considered fine, but I don't see what I read about the original performances. "Lilac Garden" -- I've put it together from bits of this performance and bits of that.

#4 dirac

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 10:59 AM

I think it was Swan Lake that had Croce imagining what-might-be and if-only. The ballet that pops into my head is Symphonic Variations, which I first saw just recently when San Francisco Ballet did it. I hope as the company performs it more and becomes comfortable with it (which they will do, God willing), I'll see more.

#5 Farrell Fan

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 01:05 PM

I always see transcendent performances of Theme and Variations in my imagination, but seldom onstage.

#6 liebs

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 10:19 AM

Danses Concertante. which Denby describes so beautifully. The two performances I've seen seemed pale by comparison. And Symphonie Concertante, which in the 80's ABT could not cast appropriately.

#7 nysusan

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:59 PM

Symphonic Variations - definitely. Also Monotones. They're both such masterpieces that their beauty shows through even flawed performances. I had problem's with ABT's casting of the female roles in Symphonic Variations last year, I hope they keep it in repertory and work out the casting in the future.

They only live performances I've seen of Monotones I & II have been by ABT's studio company & the recent Joffrey performances. All were good enough, but none were as good as I think they could have been. My favorite so far was the last Joffrey performance I saw with Michael Levine, Samuel Pergande & Valerie Robin in Monotones II. Even though there was a jarring fall in the middle, this performance came closest to fully realizing the otherworldliness of the choreography.

I don't agree with putting Swan Lake into this category. I've seen not one but several performances that were transcendent - technically sound, visually beautiful & emotionally satisfying - as good as (I think) a performing arts experience can get. The Royal Ballet's production in the late 60's/early 70's with Fonteyn & Nureyev, any number of performances of ABT's old Blair production with Makarova & Nagy circa 1974-76. And just this past January - Pavlenko/Zelensky with the Kirov.

I can agree that none of the current productions of Swan Lake are as good as they could be. The Kirov's comes closest to my ideal, but I miss the mime, and of course - there's that happy ending.

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:18 PM

I'd have to say that these categories are personal, and probably generational. I started watching ballet in the eighties, by then those productions were alas gone and I can't consider the Sergeyev Swan Lake satisfactory no matter how good the dancing, not with a dancing von Rothbart and a badly contrived happy ending.

Name a company nowadays that has a good production of Swan Lake in the rep. Name one. Not the dancing or dancers. The production.

And if anyone says the Bourne or the Murphy versions, I'm going to scream.

#9 nysusan

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 03:01 PM

I'd have to say that these categories are personal, and probably generational. 

Leigh, you're right - personal preferences & past experiences definitely play a big part here.

I'm not as bothered by the Kirov's dancing von Rothbart as you are, perhaps McKenzie's "Swamp Thing" has lowered my expectations. Although if I got nothing else from McKenzie's production, Nina A's performance last month reminded me how powerful the mime can be, and how much much I miss it when it isn't there. That's certainly a flaw in the Kirov's staging, and the ending is absurd, but despite it's flaws I still think the Sergeyev production is a good one. It's one of the few that really gets to the heart & soul of the story. Put that together with their stunning lakeside scenes and the conviction that each member of the corps brings to even the smallest role and I'm happy. Especially when you compare it to the other productions out there.

But you have a point. I think I remember a post by Alexandra saying that the most radical thing an A.D. could do these days is to stage a traditional production of Swan Lake. Don't I wish someone would! :unsure:

#10 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 05:50 PM

One of the things that makes Swan Lake so haunting for me is that it doesn't have the perfect, balanced ballet score that Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker do, and somehow that very imperfection magnifies its yearning quality--my mind has to fill in the blanks, so to speak, which means it appeals to a more personal kind of fantasy. For that reason, my perfect production probably exists only in my imagination. In the final minutes, Tchaikovsky's music is just soaring, crying out for something something something--probably something that can't be choreographed--but on stage you always get a bunch of ballerinas running around flapping their arms, earthbound. In anything less than a really great performance, I always want to laugh. It's only afterwards, as I walk home, that the moment is moving to me.

I agree completely about Orpheus. I'm sure it's a great ballet, but I've never seen a really compelling performance. Why does Martins always cast Nilas Martins in this ballet??

I've also never seen a really great performance of Les Sylphides--especially not at ABT, where they must pass out Sominex to the cast and conductor before every performance. (Those of us in the audience don't need it.)

#11 Helene

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Posted 28 July 2004 - 10:01 AM

I've never seen Orpheus outside the New York State Theater, and I've seen a few wonderful dancers attempt the role there. It has always looked disjointed to me on such a big, deep stage, except for the pas de deux, performed at the front of the stage in front of the white, silk curtain.

#12 Ostrich

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Posted 01 August 2004 - 01:17 PM

Coppelia. I love the music, I love the dancing, I (usually) love the sets and costumes, but I've never seen it performed with the proper spirit. To me, it contains so much potential for humour and yet most dancers seem to think that, as long as they grin all the way through, they'll be fine.

And I don't buy into this thing of Franz being an idiot because he falls in love with a doll. In the first place, he doesn't fall in love with her, he flirts with her. In the second, a doll placed at a proper distance can look very convincing. And after all, Dr. Coppelius is supposed to be a miraculous toymaker.

Talking about dolls, I was recently admiring a group of life size, remarkably realistic looking dolls in a shop window, until one of them blinked...

#13 Lovebird

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Posted 01 August 2004 - 02:17 PM

Mayerling. For me it is Macmillan's best ballet, but I have not, until now, seen a performance that is completely perfect. I have seen good Rudolfs, good Marys, good Empresses but never a performance where all the characters are well delineated and all the dramatic gestures are exploited. Maybe this is because there are so many characters and they all are essential to the whole, not to mention the many dramatic opportunities in it.

#14 tempusfugit

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 02:36 PM

Firebird
and the adagio of Bizet
atm, did you see Tallchief in Firebird or LeClercq in Bizet?
understand that Kent was beautiful in Bizet. the snippet of film of this is quite the thing, anyway--

#15 atm711

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 09:54 AM

Yes, I did see Tallchief's 'Firebird' and in that wonderful year of 1949. October gave us Fonteyn's Aurora, and this was capped by Tallchief's 'Firebird'. Up to that time I had only seen the Ballet Theatre Fokine version with Alicia Markova, who was a sprite of a Firebird with her light-as-air jumps. Tallchief brought out the aloofness and drama of the bird, and she looked gorgeous. I did see LeClercq in the 2nd movement of the Bizet. I know some people who saw her were crazy about her performance (including Jerome Robbins), but my first real satisfaction of the role came with Allegra Kent's performance---although, must add, I have never really been satisfied---it's better in my head. B)


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