Ballet Nacional de Cuba
Posted 22 November 2001 - 12:43 AM
I was blown away last night. The Giselle was danced in the romantic period style, and this, to me, just seems SO right. I always wondered why the style was not maintained in this ballet the way it is in La Sylphide. There were some rather sad looking costumes, especially in Act I, and the dancers shoes are also quite sad looking. This aside, on the whole I loved the production. The corps de ballet was perfectly matched in size, and rehearsed to the eyelash. There was not a fingernail out of place smile.gif
Giselle was Lorna Feijoo. It took her a little while to win me over, but once she did, she REALLY did! The problem early on was poor make up, so she didn't look very pretty, and something that is hard for me to get past, which is a tendency to sickle her right foot, especially when being lifted. However, by the variation I was coming around, and her mad scene may have been one of the best I've ever seen. Her second act was breathtaking, and I never even saw a sickle foot.
Albrecht was danced by Oscar Torrado, who is very beautiful as a dancer. He has long, long legs and very nice feet, and lovely technique. I did not feel that he was a strong actor.
The Peasant Pas de Deux has been transformed into a dance for 6 girls and 4 boys, which I thought a bit strange, but still enjoyable.
Tonight's Coppelia was more mixed for me. The second act was purely delightful, but I had a few problems with the first and third acts. Swanhilda was the charming Viengsay Valdes, who is an exceptionally strong technician. Her pirouettes of all kinds are amazing. However, with the short tutu used in the first and third act, I had a bit more trouble getting past her legs and feet, which, though not at all bad, are just not exquisite. She also has a tendency to sickle, and I found this throughout the corps de ballet as well, with an overall lack of really fine articulation of the feet. This puzzles me, as I think the overall training of the dancers is exceptional. But there is a weakness in use of feet.
Franz was danced by Victor Gili (last night's very fine Hilarion). He is a fine actor/character dancer, with a good technique too, however, he did appear to me to be a bit too old and too heavy for the role of Franz.
The soloists in Dawn and Prayer were disappointing. Prayer (Ivis Diaz) was very pretty, and danced well, but she needs some work on the line of her left leg in arabesque.
Overall I really like this company. There are always things one can pick apart, but they presented good ballets with a lot of good dancers who were strong, energetic, enthusiastic, and charming. I appreciated the attention to the details of the pantomime in both ballets, and to the romantic era style in Giselle. The corps in Giselle was exceptional. The company deserves much better sets and costumes, and the blinking/moving lights behind the scrim in Act II Giselle (supposed to be wilis before they appear)MUST go! The idea is a good one for lights, if they just flickered like one here and one there, but this is a moving bank of lights that look like some kind of alien invasion.
Posted 22 November 2001 - 01:23 AM
I did want to say to Washingtonians that there are very few tickets left, I've been told, except for the MATINEE on Friday! (I don't think I remember a Friday matinee.) So if you don't have anything planned for Friday afternoon and want an excuse to slip out on the relatives, go take in a ballet smile.gif
Posted 23 November 2001 - 09:00 AM
I was very impressed by the Cubans when they were at City Center for their Alonso tribute. I loved their sense of style, and their port de bras -- it did indeed make me think I was looking at How It Was Done in the1940s. And even though there were too many inappropriate tricks thrown in here and there for my taste, I did like that fact that the Cubans seem to have been innoculated against the Guillem epidemic that has infected so many other companies.
I saw Alvarez dance Giselle Act II (and, later, theWhite Swan pdd). I forget her first name. One thing that really struck me about her use of her arms was not only that she always held them beautifully but that she used her arms to let you know exactly what she was doing and thinking -- begging Myrtha and the Wilis, imploring the heavens, bemoaning her fate and, always reaching out for Albrecht. I wish more Giselles were so well-coached.
Posted 23 November 2001 - 10:29 AM
I did like the upper bodies in "Coppelia," but I did not like the "Giselle" at all, especially the corps. Romantic style, to me, is SOFT. These were spiky, jerky, wiry dancers. The arms were held in a round position, but not rounded. When they bend over -- nearly double -- and charge Hilarion, or held their hands to their ears, all I could think of was the Trocks, who dance "Giselle" very much the same way. I think the style does look like it's copied from old lithographs, but to me, that's not a good thing. I think it looks like a very external copy, and it's so exaggerated it misses the essence of Romantic loveliness.
I remember the military precision of the Wilis from the production the company brought here 20 years ago. I hadn't particularly liked that -- although it is pretty astounding; the corps looks like a centipede -- but I'll accept it as a valid and original point of view. (I do like the way the Wilis appear as shadowy figures in the forest at the beginning of the act, and that they come on through a gap in the back cloth rather than always from the wings.
There's a lot of detail in both productions seen here (Giselle and Coppelia, if you haven't guessed) but I don't think the productions are well-directed. There's a detail, another detail, and yet another detail -- not necessarily related. I was distracted by a moment of byplay in "Giselle" where one of the corps girls, handed Giselle's crown by one of the corps boys, looked as though she were Juliet, and Romeo was handing her his mask. Nice touch, wrong ballet. It distracts the eye and has nothing to do with the story.
In Coppelia, several standard scenes were thrown away. Frantz is environmentally sensitive and doesn't stick the butterly with the pin (drat; my favorite moment), the ear of wheat scene is barely there -- Swanhilda shakes the staff at Frantz. He seemed confused. More importantly, the byplay between Swanhilda and Frantz, which appears in both the Danish and the NYCB productions (both created from different 19th century sources) where Frantz does something Swanhilda doesn't like, so she retaliates, which makes him retaliate, etc -- isn't there. They just romp around, acting childish, the way adult dancers playing children often seem. The miming has been generally excellent, very clear. But there's no context to it. [Editing to say that this is apparently a cast problem, not a production problem. While Valdes used the ear of wheat as a prop, Hormigon, at the Sat. mat., made a scene of it, and the byplay between Hormigon and Madrigal was much more clear. Saturday evening's cast was back to the fuzzy version.)
I was looking forward to the Cubans partly because of what I'd read as they made their way here -- how wonderfully old-fashioned they are -- and partly because I remember them fondly from their appearances here in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I think the company is weaker than it was 20 years ago -- this may be very understandable, considering their economic situation -- especially among the men. Alonso had the world's greatest affirmative action program ever in ballet to start this company. She went around to the orphanages in Cuba and picked little boys whom she thought would make good dancers -- and she chose extremely well. The Cuban men were on the highest level then. Big, strong fellows who won medals at every competition. The corps was strong -- and the most well-integrated corps I've ever seen; that's gone, too. What the company had was a ballerina problem. There were several able soloists, but all looked not only that they were imitating Alonso, but that they were frozen in that imitation.
What I do admire about the company this time is that they do not condescend to their material -- they take it seriously. They dance their hearts out. The couple dancing Coppelia DEMANDED that you love them and won me over for doing it. There's an innocence about them that I find tremendously appealing. It will sound paradoxical, perhaps, but there's nothing calculated about this demand.
The Coppelia, I was told by those who were actually around in the 1940s, is a very 1940 production. (Swanhilda did wear a short tutu then; both Alonso and Danilova.) There were some poses that made old photos flash in my mind -- an innocent lasciviousness that's totally gone now, and that the dancers did carry off very well.
Back to "Giselle," I agree that the production has a vision -- the dancers are doing, stylistically, exactly what they're being told to do. I just think there's more to Romantic style than tilting the head and bending forward, and I think both the Danish and Kirov ballets have a very correct and consistent Romantic style that's also soft and lovely, and unexaggerated.
What I find so interesting about the reaction to the Cuban company is not only is it polarized -- in just a few intermission and post-game-show conversations, I've found four friends who would say pretty much what Victoria (and Sarah Kaufman in the Post) wrote, and four friends who'd be more in agreement with what I wrote. Often, differences of opinion are of the "oh, she could not turn" "could to" "could not," etc. but in this case, what fascinates me is that we all seem to be seeing exactly the same thing, yet seeing it very, very differently.
I hope anyone in the D.C. area reading these posts will go see for yourself -- what do you think? I'm going back for two more Coppelias and one more Giselle.
[ November 25, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]
Posted 23 November 2001 - 10:58 AM
To see a corps dance take themselves seriously, perform with precision and become one as a "character" in a ballet is a rare treat these days. It was one of the great delights of the recent Royal Ballet vist to KC and I enjoyed seeing the Cuban corps in Giselle -- even if, as the above experts say, it was very 1940s. It was great for the little "corps" of local teen dancers in the audience, who are rarely taught dance history (unless they are lucky enough to have teachers like Victoria who make connections for them).
And now my request: To those who see this weekend's shows, please talk about Myrta. The opening night Myrta, as my ruthless kiddo says, "couldn't intimidate a puppy."
Posted 23 November 2001 - 11:19 AM
Samba, if all the little girls in Washington think this is the way they're supposed to do Giselle corps to be romantic, I'll be very upset!
I am puzzled by remarks by many people of how consistent and well-drilled the corps was because I didn't see that. I thought the "Wili's hop" was a mess. The one precision moment was Hilarion's death scene, where the line of Wilis ripples as one, and I thought that very effective.
Perhaps it's that different people are comparing different companies, across time as well as space, and coming up with different conclusions? I'd certainly agree that in every American Giselle I can remember, the corps looks as though it's a) doing class and B) wishing it were doing something else. But I've seen European companies where this isn't so. And with that, I'll bow out of this one until I've seen another performance smile.gif I'll look out for tomorrow's Myrtha, Samba.
Posted 23 November 2001 - 11:50 AM
0 user(s) are reading this topic
members, guests, anonymous users
Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases: