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Hallelujah Junction


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#1 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 January 2002 - 04:47 PM

Last night at NYCB began with a rather somber reading of "Happy Birthday," conducted by Hugo Fiorato. As the Stagebill stated, "Tonight is the sixth annual New Combinations Evening. This event, held annually on George Balanchine's birthday, celebrates his extraordinary creativity with the presentation of new works." Not all these evenings have been cause for celebration, but last night was pretty festive.

There was another performance of Raymonda Variations, with Jenifer Ringer and Philip Neal, and Ashley Bouder particularly sparkling in Variation VII. After the intermission came the new work, Peter Martins's "Hallelujah Junction," to music by John Adams. I haven't a clue what the title refers to. If it's the title of the music, I still haven't a clue. This was the work's NYCB premiere. Martins choreographed it for the Royal Danish Ballet in March of last year. Two of the principals were RDB dancers, Gitte Lindstrom and Andrew Bowman. They had a beautifully lyrical pas de deux, and the third principal, Benjamin Millepied, was tremendously exciting, living up to his name. The ballet included four other couples. I particularly enjoyed Glenn Keenan with Amar Ramasar, but they were all good. The others were Abi Stafford and Craig Hall, Ashley Bouder and Antonio Carmena, and Sarah Ricard and Jonathan Stafford. After a while, the repetitive music made me think "This ballet is going on too long." But no sooner did I think that, than the music, and dancing, stopped. I think Martins has a winner here. Certainly he shows more affinity for Adams than Verdi.

Zakouski followed the second intermission and made me sad Margaret Tracey is retiring. There was some schmaltzy violin playing by Catherine Cho which sounded just right for the choreography. Following that, Abi Stafford returned to tackle anew the ballerina role in Theme and Variations with Damian. I agree with those allerters who don't think she should be doing it. But, all in all, Mr. B's 98th birthday was a happy occasion.

#2 liebs

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Posted 23 January 2002 - 07:27 PM

I thought this was a terrific night at the ballet. I enjoyed this performance of Raymonda even more than the one the other day. Bouree did well as the ballerina but Ringer has terrific. Although she may have been less than ideally suited for Cortege, this was great casting. Ringer gave a radiant and stylish performance and had great rapport with Neal. In her balances, Ringer seems to luxuriate in the moment. Its not just confidence, it seems almost to be a moment of relaxation at the top of the balance - giving us a number of beautiful moments.

The soloists again performed well. It was interesting to see Riggins in the variation that Bouder performed last time while Bouder performed the variation done by Stafford. She was lovely and spectacular in the fouette section with Ash.

Hallelujah Junction was more interesting than some of Martins' recent works but I still felt I had seen everything in it before. Everyone danced well but I didn't think Martins showed us anything new about Millepied and anything that extended his range.

Re: Theme and Variations, I agree with Leigh - Stafford made a debut that was clean and pure in its technique and not marred by mannerisms. I think she has a lot of potential but wonder if she'll get the help she needs to develop into a ballerina. Right now, she reminds me of Merrill Ashley in her early years - great technique and enormous facility but very little projection. Ashley remained at that level for many years before developing into the ballerina we all remember with some fondness. I remember seeing Nichols debut in this role with Lavery - she was just as diffident as Stafford and did not deal as well with the technical demands of the role. Ultimately, Nichols gave great performances of this and other ballerina roles and perhaps Stafford will as well.

Woetzel partnered very well and the corps and demis were impressive.

#3 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 12:11 AM

I wish I'd been able to be there -- it's so exciting to listen in on City Ballet fan conversations by reading the board -- out here in SF, we tend to believe that the City Ballet audience could STAGE a ballet if they had to...

We last saw them on tour through here a couple of years ago, and it was clear that the Martins ballets were extemely difficult perpetual motion things and very well-rehearsed. THe Adams violin concerto actually moved me -- WHelan and Askegaard (Sp?) were an astounding couple -- or rather they're the ones I remember; were there 2 couples and she danced with Jock SOto? it's kind of a smear in my memory, with his beautiful legs and her entire incisive presence the lasting impressions. They between them had parcelled out the masculine and feminine traits in such an unusual way -- he's the voluptuous one, she's all strength and steel, but what an intelligence she's got, what sweep, what power, what command, and how emotional it got me; I was really swept up in it....

The Balanchine rep did not look NEARLY as well-rehearsed, and Square Dance seemed like it would be more fun, more idiomatically phrased by SFB dancers than it was by, oh I don't remember who the Ciy Ballet principals were..... I kept thinking it would be great to see Elizabeth Loscavio and Kristin Long in that, it wouldn't be so chopped up and spit out.

Which brings me to Loscavio, who was the glory of our company 5 years ago, a dancer I can't get over losing (to Neumeier in Hamburg). HER debut in THeme and Variations came to mind when I was reading about Stafford's (and Nichols's, also, in a recent post).

Loscavio's last performance of Theme here (with Tony Randazzo as her parner) was just astounding; it took the roof off. It was in Berkeley, where the audience is more responsive to modern dancers than to classical dancing, and it looked initially as if they were just going to go along with this "for the sake of the argument." But before long you could feel these tremors running through he crowd, she was eating it up, and THEY COULD TELL.

But her first performances a couple years earlier were tentative --"diffident" is a word somebody used about Stafford, and well, that's not exactly it, but sort of.... She NAILED it, but it was lifeless; for example, the pas de chats happened too fast in that variations with the pirouettes, coupe soutenu, coupe pas de chat, which depends for its effects on our seeing passes flash at us in exactly hte right rhythm.... the diamonds snapped shut before they should have, and it all felt very thankless...

My guess is it's a ballet that takes quite some time to figure out the pacing of -- unlike Ballo della Regina, which Loscavio had already done, it made her a star, she was on top of it and exhilarating and fantastically incisive in Ballo from hte first -- Ballo is certainly a bravura thing and fantastically difficult, but is maybe a better ballet, it's a more musical ballet... All you have to do is to dance it, if you can -- it doesn't take any extra PRESENCE....

Myself, I don't find myself actually ENJOYING Theme until the big theme wells up after he's started lifting her; from then on it's a joy, but up till then, though there are great bits, and much that's impressive, nothing is wrong, and i love all the music, it's arbitrary, somehow, like a kaleidoscope -- unlike Concerto Barocco, which is just as abstract, but more inspired, it seems to me...

I'm not sure I believe this, just wondering if it's true, and wondering what others will think. I certainly don't mean to hurt the feelings of people who love Theme; I haven't seen the performances you have (though we may well all treasure Gelsey's performance, which was superlative, both strict and generous at the same time, and it suited her cleanness and incisiveness and need to inscribe her personality on the world.....) It certainly does call for brio...

I never saw Alonzo -- did any of you? When did it enter the City Ballet rep? Rather late, I think -- Tallchief never did it, did she? Tanny? Allegra?
I've heard Alonzo wore midnight blue and was a magnificent creature in it...

[ March 23, 2002, 12:28 AM: Message edited by: Paul Parish ]

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 12:38 AM

Paul -

I don't have my "Blue Bible" (The Collected Works of George Balanchine) with me here in Louisville, but from memory, I think Theme entered the rep briefly in 1960 in a version for Verdy and Villella. It did not last long, and the next revival was for the full Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 with Kirkland.

Given those dates, Tallchief and Kent could have possibly done it, it would have been impossible for LeClercq.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 12:51 AM

According to Repertory in Review, Theme entered the rep 5 February 1960 with Violette Verdy and Edward Villella. No other ballerina danced the role; Jonathan Watts did the male role.

Suite No. 3 is ten years later (3 Dec 1970). The fourth movement was Gelsey Kirkland and Villella. Other ballerinas (until 1976 when Rep in Review was published) were Ashley, McBride, and Mazzo.

ATM saw Alonso, I think. She's our Eyewitness for lots of things from the '40s and '50s. I don't think there's much she didn't see -- maybe she'll see this and chime in.

#6 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 01:04 AM

THank you, guys....

YOu know, I'd give a LOT to have seen Verdy do it -- she had the brio, the warmth, the attack, the deep turn-out, hte epaulement, the manners it takes to fill the role out....

What do you think? THink they'd have it at the Dance collection? I may need to come to New YOrk.....

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2002 - 08:04 AM

Paul, there's an online searchable database of materials at the Dance Collection. Click it before you go to New York:

http://catnyp.nypl.o...~b1o1c1i1p1r1a1

It lists books, photos, videos, anything they have. Searchable by author, title, etc.


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