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ABT's Kennedy Center opener


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 12:28 AM

Who was there? Tonight was a triple bill -- Gong, Dim Lustre, Symphony in C.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 11:00 AM

Oh, all right. I'll go first. (But I know who you are smile.gif )

All in all, as a viewer, I was happy with the evening, a triple bill of Mark Morris's "Gong," Tudor's "Dim Lustre" and Balanchine's "Symphony in C." And the audience seemed VERY happy.

I liked "Gong." I didn't like it as well as some of Morris's other dances for ballet companies. This one seemed like a modern dance with some pointe work -- but not articulated, interesting point work, just "stand on your toes" pointe work. (Five women in tutus, five women in little skirts, five men, all in sherbert colors, all making arm movements that were the East Asian equivalent of the stiff arms and waving hands that characterize blackamore dances; in other words, if Indians and Indonesians (I detected bits of both) were a vocal segment of the dance audience, this wouldn't be allowed without protest.) The women, especially the tutu women, seem to be props, with Morris exploring ballet technique from an outsider's perspective. Hmmm. You're in fourth position. I wonder what you'd look like if he picked up up and spun you around while you maintain that position. Unlike "Drink To Me Only" (another ABT Morris work) the dancers aren't characterized -- I don't think a change of cast would make much difference and I didn't recognize some of the dancers until the curtain calls.

BUT the piece looked fresh, the dancers were terrific -- Gillian Murphy especially -- and the company's no-style style worked fine. (Odd, how in modern dance, the company looks too uniform, while in ballet, one notices that there are dances from here, there and everywhere. I noticed with amusement that the dance was done plain. Not a single wrist flick, mannerism, or any of the things that, for me, mar this company's classical dancing. Now, if there could be some transference here....

"Dim Lustre" (staged by David Richardson) was the evening's misfire for me. I kept thinking, there must have been more here. This was the Jaffe-Graffin cast that friends of mine liked in New York, but I wasn't moved by them. Like so many narrative ballets, this looked like a succession of scenes with no through line. Pas de deux. Now the four corps couples come on. Now a solo. Yearn. Look confused. How long will Tudor last?

"Symphony in C" was danced in its own accent. I thought last night's performance was more "The Vertiginous Thrill of Swan Lake." I was never so conscious of turns in this ballet as I was last night, and that's because they're delivered like skater's deliver their jumps. Everything else is preparation for THE TURNS. De Luz's double air turns (3rd movement) were so tight and fast it seemed he wanted to do quads, but was reigning himself in.

Julie Kent danced the second movement and she had arm positions I've never seen before and never want to see again, many straight from "Swan Lake." They took a walk-back-from-the-wings curtain call after the second movement, which seemed jarring in a Balanchine ballet. Paloma Herrera did the first movement. She looked good, very sleek, dancing well, but with no spirit and in another country from the music. Ashley Tuttle was the third movement ballerina and, next to De Luz, seemed floor bound, her dancing so less sharp than his that they were mismatched. Michelle Wiles led the fourth movement and, to me, was the most in sync with the ballet. She's grown up now, totally comfortable with her size, and danced beautifully -- and with real joy. She was the most relaxed of the principals, I thought.

With all those quibbles, why was I happy with the evening? Because the company looked good, generally, and the dancing was up, full of energy. We often get ABT after a long lay off, and openers are often messy. For this one, they were on. And that was nice to see.

Others?

[ March 07, 2002, 10:40 AM: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#3 samba38

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 12:20 PM

Math, mush and music. Last night was about the 3Ms for me. Gong was a sherbert sundae set to music I hadn't heard before. I think I enjoyed the McPhee score more for having "seen" it like an elegant mathmatical equation. The pleasure in the piece was seeing Marcelo Gomes now sleeker and stronger than last year. Even better: Gomes has not yet sucumbed to the dreadful ABT trick-and-mug habit (more on that later).
Alas, poor Tudor. What WAS that mush? I'm not a veteran on Tudor so I could use a good tutorial from the many BA experts but... I always thought his works should be like a thoroughbred racers --- engines of amazing power who appear deceptively delicate and temperamentally high strung. This ABT version could not be rescued from the pile-of-laundry costuming,and clumsy emoting even by Jaffe's solid dancing or Graffin who appeared a better actor than dancer on Tuesday.
I thought Symphony in C was gorgeous and, not knowing better, loved Julie Kent's command of the entire evening. To me, it seemed the audience leaned back and cooed with delight: A real ballerina at last. Note, this comes after Paloma's variation. To give Paloma some due, particularly since I've avoided her programs for 2 years, she looked like a happy grown-up and finally seemed to know how to use her arms in ways that didn't make me want to poke her with my own elbow. Whatever has been going on in her life/training, it's showing to the good on stage. Tuttle was charming but she was saddled with the talented, misguided DeLuz who went merrily grinning-and-spinning-and-spiking his way through the movement. (Please please don't let this ABT-tic spread to Gomes who still dances as if his talent and handsome presence would be sufficient. Of course, partnering Ms. Kent, you really do want to keep your cool because no one is looking at you anyway.) Lastly, I'm a charter member of the Wiles fan club and was delighted to see her in this role. Still, I think the people who see her Thursday are going to be happier because she'll be more assured than she was on Tuesday It's hard to take a variation after the 3 preceding queens but she is charming and full of promise.

#4 Ari

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 04:37 PM

I enjoyed the evening, too, although like Alexandra and samba38 I had problems with certain aspects of it. My reaction to Gong was pretty much the same as theirs: a finely crafted work as far as musical response went, but empty of content. I got the feeling that Morris was fulfilling a commission rather than creating a ballet.

I liked Dim Lustre, perhaps because after the Morris piece my mind was on structure. I kept thinking that today's choreographers could never match Tudor's solid craftsmanship, to say nothing of his emotional maturity. These days, choreographers think that if they throw a bunch of dancers onstage and swirl them around chaotically, they've got a ballet. Tudor could teach them otherwise, if they'd bother to watch. The ballet looks old-fashioned in its ballroom-and-formal-dress setting and in the way that other dancers are used to dramatize the main couple's inner lives, but if people (audiences as well as choreographers) could view it in historical perspective, I think they would get more out of it than the flashy junk that gets them so excited at most performances.

My response to Symphony in C is tempered by the fact that I believe that ABT should not, not, not be dancing it. Bizet is as much an NYCB signature piece as Serenade or The Nutcracker, and taking it from them seems like thievery. Of course, the City Ballet had no say in the matter since John Taras is, as the program conspicuously reminds us, "the owner of this ballet," but I do think that Kevin MacKenzie could at least have asked Peter Martins's permission. And maybe he did, but ABT should still not be dancing it.

That said, I thought it was quite a good performance. I didn't think the dancers looked confused as to how to present themselves, as a couple of reviews of the City Center season said (although a few of the dancers did grin too hard). No, they're not at home in the Balanchine style--they had some trouble letting the long enchainments flow smoothly without stopping or adding more preparations--but they did very well on the whole. I'd like to see them abandon their contained dancing style and go for bigness in their movement, but that may come in time.

The audience reaction to the first two ballets seemed tepid to me, but they really did like Bizet. Always nice to see good taste. smile.gif

#5 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 10:18 AM

I attended the Wednesday night performance of this program. While I enjoyed the performance as a whole, especially Dim Lustre, which was brought to life most beautifully by Julie Kent and Maxim Belotserkovsky, I really found Gong very silly and basically boring. The colors were fun, and there were a few interesting moments, but I had trouble getting past the music and the stiff, angular movements. Herman Cornejo was excellent in this ballet, also Gomes. The dancers were fine, just did not like the ballet.

Dim Lustre is one of the Tudor works which I do not know well, and have seen only once before I think. It is dated, but I still found it very beautiful, and, as Ari said, so well structured, musical and mature. It was wonderfully danced last night.

My problem with the Bizet was the four principal women. The men were very fine, but I'm afraid I just don't care for any of the ballerinas. Murphy danced the first movement very well technically, but she has no personality or performance style at all, and a very unattractive look on her face. Dvorovenko has never been a favorite of mine, and Reyes and Anna Liceica did absolutely nothing for me last night. I don't get it with their rise to principal roles, especially Liceica, whose port de bras was truly awful last night. Reyes' arabesque is too far to the side and she flags her foot into a most unattractive line. Some work on her neck and shoulders would be helpful too. There are, I think, several other dancers in this company who are more suited to move into classical principal roles if they are going to cast people other than the major principals like Kent, Jaffe, Herrera, etc. Wish I could have seen Wiles in this one. I enjoyed Reyes in Peasant Pas last year, and thought she was well suited to that. Have not seen Liceica in this kind of role before.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 11:02 AM

I was there last night, too (by some strange coincidence, sitting right next to Victoria! smile.gif )
I was also sitting on the other side (left last night, right opening night) and "Gong" looked quite different from this angle -- neither better nor worse, just different.

I appreciated the craft of "Gong" more on a second viewing. As a Swiss watch, it's brilliantly crafted. But there's no humanity in it -- odd for Morris, since his works for his own company are so human. These were little clockwork people. The company could divide itself into six groups, each one going on each night, and it wouldn't matter. The roles aren't allocated by style, body type or personality. (A tall dancer is the girl in purple one night, a very slight, fragile one the next, etc.) The pas de deux are about partnering, balance, manipulation of the female. It's as though Morris had "two pas de deux" in his contract and he fulfiled it, but if he's ever made a duet in which a man and a woman relate to each other in any way except technically and spacially, I haven't seen it. The dancers were terrific, and as a novelty, the piece is fine.

"Dim Lustre" was much, much better last night, I thought. In comparison, Tuesday night's was sloppy, perhaps underrehearsed, whereas last night the action was much clearer -- and the dancing far, far better in the leading roles (Julie Kent and Maxim Belosertkovsky). They danced it as though they didn't THINK it was old-fashioned, but they also danced it very cleanly, which is nice to see in Tudor. (Often, I get the feeling the dancers think that Tudor should be acted, and forget to dance him.)

I liked "Symphony in C" very much last night. They don't look like City Ballet (the upper bodies aren't as pulled up, the legs aren't as sharp, there isn't the uniform look to the corps) but that doesn't bother me. This was one of the most musical performances of the ballet I've seen in years; it was beautifully phrased, not just by the principals, but by the corps as well. You could see the musical phrase being passed from dancer to dancer, how the corps' movements complimented that of the principals.

I thought Murphy was gorgeous. Her detachment works in Balanchine, for me. There's nothing detached about her dancing, and I thought her dancing went beyond technical perfection. From reports here, I'd expected Dvorovenko's second movement to be more quirky than I found it. Perhaps it's idiosyncratic in an NYCB context, but I thought she was far more attuned to this ballet than Kent had been. There was a bit more "soul," perhaps, than one usually sees -- this was a ballerina who had suffered, no doubt about it -- but she was not confused about her identity; no swanisms here. And Molinas's partnering was excellent, I thought -- he was THERE without intruding. I also liked Reyes and Cornejo very much in the third movement. They danced very well, but they also danced very well together and looked as though they were having fun. Cornejo did not look as though he were delivering his short program at a skating championship -- it's not usually necessary to write that, but after opening night, I was glad to see we were off the ice and back in a theater. The fourth movement was a disappointment -- Anna Liceia (I'm writing this without my program, so apologies to everyone for any misspelled names) wasn't quite up to the fourth movement, technically, and her dancing was heavy.

People were talking about the performance as they left at the end, which is a very good sign. This is the best triple bill I've seen from ABT in years.

#7 samba38

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 11:37 AM

Reading the Wednesday night comments makes me want to run back to KC and see this fascinating bill all over again ( or maybe just Symphony in C)tonight. There's so much fodder for thought and honest dispute -- and delight in it.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 11:46 AM

What a great segue to a commercial, samba smile.gif I forgot to mention that tonight (Thursday) is not quite sold out. There have been some empty seats in the very back and side orchestra, and there's standing room, and anyone familiar with standing room can make that connection smile.gif

I also forgot to say how hard it was, having just seen "Lilac Garden" to divorce the two Tudor ballets. It was as though Tudor People go from one party to the next. You leave the "Lilac Garden" party, gossip a bit about what a miserable life they'll have together, and then rush off to the "Dim Lustre" party. Tudor's Greek choros are party people, watching, knowing, never intervening, never sleeping. They're out there, somewhere, waltzing still. Are the two people in "Dim Lustre" Caroline and Her Lover, 20 years later? (I don't think they really are, but the thought occurs seeing the two ballets in close proximity.)

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 01:06 PM

Anyone else go? Auvi? Are you out there smile.gif Juliet, have you been yet? Bard's B? Other Washingtonians? How about all of you on the Moms and Dads board who are parents of WSB, or other, local students? OR you students yourself? There's a wide range of views, so you can't be worried about disagreeing with anyone; we've already done that smile.gif

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 08 March 2002 - 04:01 PM

Didn't anybody go last night? How was Ananiashvili in Bizet? Did Jaffe dance? Tell, tell.


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