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Alexandra

Suzanne Farrell Ballet

35 posts in this topic

The company opened last night. I'm reviewing the second performance (tonight) and so don't want to comment until after that is in print, but I hope others who were there will report.

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What, no posts yet? You could think no one was there but the audience! Let's see...

Opening night, Chan Han Goh was lovely and light in the Sylph role in "Scotch Symphony", and Ben Huys was her very fine partner, in particular miming very well in the Sylph bits; Kristen Stevens in the Scherzo (1st movement) demi role I liked better in her upper body than below, although Ron Matson's tempos, appropriately brisk until the finale, which was a little slow, meant that she had her work cut out for her. Saturday afternoon, Christina Fagundes was beautiful in the role but lacked Goh's lightness and needs to tone down what she does with her face. Her young partner, Runqiao Du, hadn't got down the mime that opens the second movement, but that may come with time; already he has what his partners need for complete security, evidently, and that's greatly to his credit in my book.

Following Goh's "Scotch" we had Natalia Magnicaballi and Du in "Afternoon of a Faun", which I thought very creditable, with Du's youth appropriate to the role and matched by a certain informality, not to say improvisatory quality, in his partner's dancing. But Saturday afternoon, Goh and Huys gave this ballet a larger and more effective performance.

"Duo Concertant" follows on Program A, danced rather carefully on Thursday by Jennifer Fournier but on Saturday afternoon really enlivened by Magnicaballi. Their adequate partner was Du, looking a bit over his head.

Closing the program, whether it should or not, was "Apollo", with Bonnie Pickard lush and vivid at the top of the platform right at the beginning as Leto on Thursday, but with Marialena Ruiz vague and much less effective for me Saturday afternoon. But what of that? Ben Huys was a clear and dramatic Apollo, making the rapid developments of the first scene, that Balanchine later omitted, etched like frames in a film strip. I liked Fournier on Thursday better as Calliope, although I liked Goh even better in the role on Saturday. Magnicaballi was fine as Polyhymnia Thursday, and Pickard showed in it on Saturday more of the strengths we had got just a little of, seeing her Leto. I enjoyed Fagundes's Terpsichore on Thursday even though it seemed a bit disconnected; "Apollo" seems to me to be more like that throughout than Balanchine's later ballets, but on Saturday Fournier gave a performance of Terpsichore more connected and clearer than Fagundes had done which I enjoyed even more, and was the most satisfying one I've seen by her so far.

Whatever "Apollo's" shortcomings as a closing ballet - I think the last pose both a conclusion and a harbinger - the person sitting next to me volunteered the opinion that it had been "beautiful" - it never hurts to end a program with the audience feeling good - and wondered why the Post writer had been so "snotty" about it. I haven't caught up with that review yet, so I don't know, but the cast was different.

Friday evening's Program B led off with a slowish and even performance of "La Sonnambula" - it lacked the contrasts among parts that this ballet needs. Even the music lacked crescendos. Goh was pretty impressive as the Sleepwalker, nonetheless, and much appreciated by the audience, and Huys was effective as the Poet.

"Monumentum/ Movements", as it used to be listed in days of yore, was the high point of the run for me, especially "Movements for Piano and Orchestra". This staging showed what this ballet really is; it was a little diminished by Fournier's careful approach in contrast to Du, her more energized partner. After only a pause, it was followed by "Duo Concertant", given an altogether larger performance by Magnicaballi and Huys than she and Du had given Friday night.

"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ended the program, but it generally lacked the energy and crispness of MCB's last Spring; Edward Villella's Thug will not soon be replaced in my experience, apparently; and Fournier's modest Strip Tease Girl does not compete so well with memories of Farrell's own as some others I've seen since. But it's a good time anyway, and I didn't mind hearing someone whistling the music in a Seven-Eleven afterward.

(posted from Washington, D.c.)

[ 09-30-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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My wife and I saw the 2nd bill Sunday afternoon, and the orchestra section couldn't have been more than 3/4 full, if that. What a shame. I don't have much to add to Jack and Alexandra's reviews. We see little enough ballet and are easily pleased. So yes, "Slaughter" has been sharper and Fournier is not the most abandoned dancer around, but we enjoyed them. "Duo Concertant" probably received the best performance of the evening, and Magnicaballi almost made me laugh in the opening moments of the duet, as she swiveled her hips. I hadn't seen the ballet in 10 years, but I don't remember Darci Kistler looking quite so frisky! Ben Huys really stood out for us in all 3 pieces he danced. We've seen him several times before but he just seemed to have more energy when called for than anyone else on stage, especially in "Slaughter." In the last minute or two of that, in the little encore section after the murder intrigue business is through, he looked to be dancing for pure joy. I guess that's just the impression one is supposed to give there, but, well, he had us convinced.

Jack and Alexandra, I wonder if you would expand your criticisms of "Somnambula." We especially enjoyed Bonnie Pickard and Christina Fagundes. I do remember that the illusion of the sleepwalker moving past the upstairs window had more power on the State Theater's big stage.

As for "Apollo" not being a closing ballet, I agree. It's funny, I remember Farrell closed one of her bills with it two years ago too.

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Thanks very much for those reports, Jack and Ken. Re attendance, we've been hit down here with post-Sept 11 tourist blues too, especially with National Airport being closed. The news reports hotels at 10 or 20 percent capacity! While D.C. residents seem to be going, anything that depends on tourists is in trouble -- at least one musical has closed before opening. How this will affect the rest of the season is, of course, still unclear.

Ken, Sonnambula is a ballet I've seen a lot, so I guess I'm measuring, but, as I wrote, I thought it had no atmosphere. The Poet is innocent, naive, the others sophisticated. The Host keeps his wife locked in a tower; there's no wholesomeness here. There was once a lot going on in the first part -- decadence, irony. I can understand that this is a very complicated ballet to try to stage for a very new company, but there were problems. Another thing, which happens often today with narrative ballets, is that the story isn't TOLD. It's illustrated. People respond to musical cues, not to what's going on around them. I didn't have the feeling that the Coquette knew why she was interested in the Poet (tease? set up? genuine?), what the Poet felt about her, what The Host was up to, or even whether the Poet felt that the Sleepwalker was his ideal, or a love. It just hadn't jelled yet. But most important, the smell of moonlight and romanticism should be evident. It's a 20th century romantic ballet, but it's a romantic ballet. I didn't get any of that.

As for Apollo being a closer, Ken, last season, in the Terrace, it worked better somehow, to me. (I think, also, if the performance had been transcendant, it would have been better. The opening night, at least, was very raw. "Scotch" was the strongest performance on the program and everything after it was diminished.

I can't get a handle on the audience. I don't see a lot of the regulars. On the other hand, there are more small children than usual at the ballet -- really small, preschool, early grade school. I don't know if it was on a family subscription.

The audience opening night didn't feel too happy, from where I sat. The second night, they were more into it. But generally, it seems to be not a dance audience. People laughed during Apollo. Lots. The audience almost always laughs at the pas de deux for the Poet and Sleepwalker in Sonnambula (which I find upsetting. It's a desperate moment, not a funny one.)

Despite my quibbles, I'd like to stress that I admire the Kennedy Center for its backing of Farrell, and Farrell for what she's doing. When it's good, it's very, very good. She's trying something no one has done since Joffrey -- start a major company from scratch. It takes time. They can't rehearse for six months; they have to be on stage. So I understand at least some of the problems. I hope it will be possible for Farrell to have more time. If she's limited to having a short autumn season with what is essentially a pick up company (freelancers or dancers needing work before their regular season starts) it will be difficult for her to accomplish what I think she's capable of doing.

BUT and nevertheless, we're getting nearly two whole weeks of Balanchine and I think that's good for the dance audience here. We once got NYCB for three weeks a year (and sometimes another one or two in the summer, at Wolf Trap) and the audience was more attuned to choreography during that period.

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Alexandra et. al., thanks for the insights on the first week of the Farrell Ballet's run. A few of us among the DC 'regulars' have been holding out 'til this week due, in part, to the prior knowledge that Peter Boal is dancing in the latter part of the engagement. [Yup - count me in as another of his admirers.] Furthermore, performances tend to gel and improve as a season progresses, as you pointed out elsewhere.

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Alexandra, thanks for the explanation. I see what you mean, of course -- I didn't catch any of that detail either. Jack, I reread your review and remembered seeing Farrell's production of "Faun" in the Terrace Theater a couple of years ago, as you probably did as well. If memory and the publicity photo serve, Huys danced with Veronica Lynn, and the Magnicaballi performance was with Phillip Neal. Here again I welcome more experienced eyes, but I loved both performances.

I can't decide what I hope to see Boal in this week. Everything!

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I'm just hoping Peter's not exhausted by the time I get him next week!

I think we're going to be able to rehearse Midare again for the first time at dress rehearsal (I'm not worried, he knows it and it was made on him, but one rehearsal with the instrumentalist would have been nice for peace of mind.) He's been dancing non-stop this summer, Saratoga, Europe, then Japan with Molissa Fenley, Suzanne and me. And I have no idea what he does after.

Some retirement!

[ 10-02-2001: Message edited by: Leigh Witchel ]

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I want to offer a correction to the penultimate sentence in Alexandra's review as printed in Monday, 1st October. At least as I read it, "continues through Saturday" means the run ends Saturday evening, while the caption under the picture below the review "...through Oct. 7 [sunday]" is correct, apparently, according to someone with the company I spoke to today; there is still a matinee on Sunday. A little nervous these days, I thought maybe it had been cancelled.

I also found things to enjoy in "Sonnambula", mainly a couple of nice big pas de deux (the Coquette and the Poet, and the Sleepwalker and the Poet, Fagundes, then Goh, with Huys) and a smaller one (the Divertissements pas de deux, Pickard with Du). But the dimension Alexandra has written about above - I might have said "sinister" rather than "no wholesomeness", but she and I are responding to the same quality, I think - was very attenuated compared with the Old Days (i.e. when Mr. B. was supervising), when crescendoes, orchestral and otherwise, were underlined. For example, when the Baron has gone offstage and stabbed the Poet to the repeated three-note figure (ta-daaa-duh) forte' in the brass and the corps of party-goers mass horrified on the opposite side of the stage, the Divertissement dancers, having gone offstage at the end of their Divertissement, run back on, as Farrell's do, but the girls' hair is in disarray and all their costumes are torn - this ballet was more hair-raising for us than anything else, I'd say, including "La Valse", as it built steadily along. We felt for this sensitive loner who wanders in, but we don't feel so much for him in this staging. Not at any point I would say, beginning with his adventures with the Sleepwalker, whose motion he can affect, but whose mind he canot reach. And so when he meets the end we do not foresee in particular but sense in general, we are not so moved as before. This is a good beginning, I'd say; if it can be filled in, colored and shaded, fine , but I don't see how, even allowing for the lack of budget for a set of torn costumes for the Divertissement dancers, because there's little opportunity to show it after this short season, including the tour. I believe what Alexandra says about the difficulty of mounting this with complete success. But I admire Farrell for doing it when she could - artistically, she's got guts. Then again, she always did.

Incidentally, for other admirers of Bonnie Pickard, whom I first noticed as Leto, then in the Sonnambula Divertissements pas de deux, and then as Polyhymnia, the good news is, she's getting another nice part as the Fourth Variation girl in "Divertimento No.15"; the bad news is, it won't be shown here in Washington as part of this season. They're preparing it for other venues where the stage is smaller than the Eisenhower Theatre.

I also want to add to my original post my satisfaction with Mario Hernandez as Harlequin and Kristen Stevens in the Pastorale pas de trois in "Sonnambula", although I still like Stevens's lovely arms better than her legwork.

This evening I saw Peter Boal's first "Duo Concertante" (with this group, anyway) and while I thought he did more for Magnicaballi than Huys did, which is going some, I thought he pretty much whipped off his own doancing, and I think I prefer Huys so far. Boal makes an effect of physical power but less effective dance, if my meaning is clear. (Maybe Leigh should call him up and express his concern directly.)

This program ends with "Slaughter", and I am glad to see Fournier's (comparative) abandon at the end of it, after the show-within-the-show is wrapped up.

A friend who has been looking at "Scotch Symphony" for decades and who has benefitted me (and others) with her insights into all the dance she sees wants someone to explain the plot of this ballet to her. The demi- soloist in the first movement is never seen again, and the second movement doesn't make sense. She can see why James refuses to go into the darker parts of the forest with the Sylph after he is twice prevented from following her, but then what happens? The easy answer, assuming this isn't all spelled out in "Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets", my copy of which is at home, is to say, do what Mr. B. did when he found he had all these Scotch costumes on his hands: Call up Mendelssohn and ask him. I.e., what the music prescribes (or supports), happens, and nothing else. (I remember the superb action Balanchine made seem naturally to grow out of the overture bits in "Midsummer".)

But maybe it's something about how it's the nature of sylphs to tease but they can be tamed by a little firmness and become loving forever after. (See third movement.) No, this doesn't really fit, does it? It reduces it terribly, doesn't it? And I think there's the nub of it - it doesn't explain. I mean, what happens in "Scotch Symphony" doesn't explain. That's why it's so good. If you see it, you believe it. No? Anybody else want to try?

(posted from Washington, D.C.)

[ 10-03-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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It would be hard to judge what Farrell's doing from Peter (not that Jack was at all.) In this case he's the quintessential guest artist. Peter landed on a plane from Japan to New York last evening, got on a train this morning and performed in DC tonight. I think Magnacaballi would be lucky if she got to rehearse with him beyond a runthrough before they performed, and Suzanne might have gotten a "hello" in there somewhere, but not much more. If his performance wasn't up to his usual, that might be why. It's not the ideal situation for anyone involved, I think, but you takes what you gets when you can't afford full-time contracts. (I'm on a much smaller scale, but I understand exactly what Suzanne is trying to work with. Actually, I think she's working at a disadvantage because she's bound to pre-existing repertory. I can at least tailor the dances to the dancers I've got.)

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A note: Peter Boal has worked with Farrell before and, I believe, learned "Scotch Symphony" from her.

Jack, on "Scotch Symphony," a friend of mine who knows the ballet better than I says, forget "La Sylphide;" it's "Brigadoon."

The only performance of Scotch that made total sense to me -- in the ineffable way that "Serenade" does, which means it makes sense when you're watching it and evaporates with the applause -- was with the Kirov, and it was, I think, because those dancers had the same context for the ballet that Balanchine had: i.e., they had grown up dancing "Giselle" and had lived Romantic ballet. It's the only production I've seen where the repeats (especially the Men Guarding the Sylph) didn't seem like mere musical repeats.

[ 10-03-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I attended for the first time last night -- Tues., Oct. 2, Program B (Sonnambula, Monumentum/Movements, Duo Concertant & Slaughter).

There were many positive points about the evening but Peter Boal in Duo Concertant was the absolute highlight for me. He was fleet-footed, highly musical and radiated charisma. [it is hard to believe that he just got off a plane, all the way from Japan, just before this performance - my goodness!] What's more, Boal was paired with his equal in energy & musicality - the delightful Natalia Magnicaballi. Woah - have they ever danced together prior to this evening? I sat in the front row for this performance & could see the little facial expressions between the two dancers; after every movement together, each would smile at the other in a funny way, as if to say, in amazement, "Wow - Did we just breeze through that section, or what?" They were perfect together, in technique, musicality & temperament. The small-but-enthusiastic audience really lit up and there were many 'bravos'...unfortunately, right before the dark & slow finale...ooops!!!! I guess that not too many folks are familiar with this ballet. But they yelled 'bravos' again at the end. :)

What else can I mention about last night? Everything else seems to fade somewhat. Ah, yes - Sonnambula was performed crisply. The lithe and lovely Chan Hon Goh is as fine a Sleepwalker as I've seen...I don't recall any of the recent NYCB ballerinas floating during the bourrees quite like Chan. Perhaps Allegra Kent, who I never saw in the role, conveyed the same effect? Chan was a true spirit of the air. As the Poet, Ben Huys performed admirably; together, Chan & Huys struck an emotional chord in the sleepwalking pdd. I did not hear any snickers among the audience (as Alexandra reported from another night).

I'm sorry that the divertissements were pared down - no "hoops" dance (the fourth divertissement) and only three performers in the Pastorale, rather than the four to which I'm accustomed. But what we saw was very capably performed...particularly the orientalistic pas de deux with willowy redhead Bonnie Pickard (what a physique!) and Washington Ballet's Runqiao Du, who displayed energy and personality to the max! The corps dancers were a real treat to see; each was really into his/her character and all displayed fine nuances that show the deft coaching of Farrell.

Monumentum/Movements - Runquiao Du displayed beautiful classiciam & fine partnering of Jennifer Fournier, who never quite 'let go' of a certain reserve and over-cautiousness. On the other hand, the six corps ladies in Movements were magnificent; two groups of three ladies each performed intricate patterns and formations. Throughout the ballet, these two clusters of corps dancers mirrored each others' movements amazingly. Honestly, I spent more time focusing on the six corps ladies...they were that good.

Slaughter - Sorry, I'm prejudiced, as this is close to my least-favorite Balanchine ballet. Fournier was OK - and ever 'let loose' a bit -- as the Strip Tease Girl and Ben Huys was fine as the Hoofer. Even though this was meant to be the "big ballet" of the evening, intended to send the audience home with a smile...I found myself wishing that Duo Concertant would have been the closer. By the time that Slaughter began, I had Boal/Magnicaballi etched in my mind & was not very receptive to anything that fell short of that standard...yeah, a bit unfair for Slaughter. I had a hard time shaking off the sublime effect of the earlier work.

All in all, an inspiring evening of first-class ballet.

[ 10-03-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Jack, This is off topic, but there was a long and I thought interesting discussion of Scotch Symphony earlier on this board. I assume you can find it by searching the earlier postings. No, it doesn't really hold together as a story, but works, for me, at least, as a variety of moods, and it can be absolutely beautiful.

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Does anyone remember where the Scotch Symphony discusion was? I searched and couldn't find.

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Kent's Sleepwalker sailed onstage as a force to be reckoned with, as I recall, and this was in keeping with the overall heightened level of energy and tension in the entire ballet that I tried to suggest above. I mean, she commanded the space before her as soon as she appeared. Goh's airiness is suitable in the sense that the Sleepwalker is remote, unreachable, and I admired and enjoyed her performances, but airiness is even better in "Scotch". There are things to like and enjoy in this "Sonnambula", but overall it's a promising sketch in need of filling in with color and shade.

I didn't see the Terrace Theatre performances and can't comment.

I wouldn't argue that "Slaughter" is a great ballet - maybe one of its virtues is that it doesn't obliterate the earlier parts of the program. Or is that a stretch? It can be great fun, with neat bits like the way the Stripper descends from the runway on the Hoofer's outstretched hand.

This evening I saw Boal in "Apollo" and spent the time wondering what he was trying to do. When his strength and power are contained within shape in slower movement, he enlarges the effect of the role, compared to Huys; but so often, he snaps and whips movements so that they are less visible, not more effective. And his shifting slightly during the Muses' variations may express active attention to them, compared to Huys's stationary pose, but it also distracts from them and draws attention to him, although his craning to see what Calliope has hidden, as she approaches him at the end of her variation, underlines that she has hidden what she wrote. Leigh's account of the circumstances of Boal's arrival may help to explain why his performance looked unsettled, especially when I remember hearing that his train from New York was late, so things were even worse than Leigh said, and I'll be interested to see how it develops. But at this point I prefer Huys overall in the role.

I'll see if I can find the "Scotch" thread in the archives, cargill, but my friend feels the need of a plot more than I do - I feel okay with Balanchine's way of evoking bits of story without linking them, and then some more appear, as appropriate to a particular musical passage but not necessarily continuing the earlier bits, as though he'd forgot. When I'd got fairly familiar with a ballet I was seeing often years ago, I would try to calm the worries of people I'd run into in the theatre who had loved the ballet they'd seen, marveled at the beauty of the dancing, but were sure they'd missed out on the story. We'd discuss the story bits they'd noticed and I'd assure them those were all there were, there wasn't a continuing narrative; but if they came to see it again - an idea that surprised many people who nevertheless said they returned to favorite restaurants, vacation spots, records, or even films, but thought they'd waste their money seeing the ballet twice even if they'd enjoyed it the first time - they'd see for themselves and enjoy it again, seeing it better, taking in more details.

No, now that I think about it, I'm not just okay with it, it's better than that - the element of mystery is part of the power of the best works - I tried to get at that above. At the same time the exercise of looking for a plot is valuable for bringing things out, even if no final "explanation" emerges. So, thanks for the tip, cargill.

(posted from Washington, D.C.)

[ 10-04-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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Wednesday night, I thought everything had jelled (I hadn't seen the company since Friday, so the "jelling" may have happened earlier). This was the level that Farrell had given us several years ago with the Washington Ballet at the Opera House, far above the performances at the Terrace last year (which had the look of an experiment -- an interesting experiment, but still, an experiment).

"Scotch" was, in some ways, much better than opening night -- the corps now looks like a corps and the opening night jitters and bumps were gone. I thought the ballet as a whole dragged a bit -- it seemed a little slow, and Fagundes, who danced very well, but almost self-consciously light and Romantic, doesn't quite have the starpower to pull the ballet together. At the end, she missed a step and seemed to fade technically; perhaps she was dancing injured. It was a very careful, loving performance, and the best I've seen from her.

But the rest of the program, I thought, was light years ahead of last week. Chan Han Goh in Faun (with Ben Huys) gave a very detailed performance -- more so than other women with this company, I thought. There was a wildness about her, which was interesting with Huys, who always gives an extremely well-thought-through performance but isn't particularly animalistic.

Magnicaballi and Runqiao Du did "Duo Concertant." I thought Magnicaballi was quite good Friday, but last night, she was beyond good, so confident she could play with the steps. Her characterization, too, is interesting. She's small, and there's a hint of vulnerability, but she also dances fearlessly, and her heartless, giggling legs become the metaphor for what many find in this ballet -- not just a love duet, but another Balanchine poem on the Artist trying to inspire, control, then capture, a Muse.

I thought Boal's Apollo was magnificent. I hadn't seen him do it for about eight years. Then, I thought he danced it beautifully, very classically, in the Martins line, but this was quite different, a throwback to the 1950s and early 1960s (which I know only from video, film and books). This staging looks back to the 1960s; it's more story ballet than abstract. Boal was very powerful, very raw. That he's at root a classical dancer served as a metaphor for Apollo's coming of age: the rawness (babyhood and youth) had a classical base (the god he would become). His first solo showed mass, not line. The line emerged as the ballet progressed, the way a statue emerges from marble. His relationship with the Muses, and each Muse, was clear, and his dancing with Terpsichore (Goh again, dancing beautifully, but a bit light for the role) showed his pleasure at finding someone who loved music, and danced as musically, as he did.

This probably wouldn't interest anyone who isn't also interested in dance history, but I saw in this performance much of what I'd read about early Apollos -- that it was created during The Age of Sport, that Balanchine was very interested in German Expressionism at the time, etc. I don't mean it looked archaic; it was very much alive. My guess is that this is closer to the version Farrell first danced with D'Amboise.

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I concur on Boal's Apollo. It was the finest I've seen since Baryshnikov about 20 years ago when I had not one clue what I was seeing and was just starting to watch ballet. But overall, I'm not as enthusiastic as Alexandra. Wednesday was my first chance to see Farrell this season so I can't compare it to earlier performances in the run. Unfortunately, I can compare it to the time-after-time versions that Farrell has presented here. (Thank goodness we'll see some different rep tonight). Farrell's choices of dancers -- thirty-somethings surrounded by youngsters -- is probably to be expected by a new company but I'm disappointed in her choices. I think she's not taking full advantage -- beyond the lovely Chan Han Goh and Natalia Magnicaballi -- of the chance to bring dynamic new-to-most-americans dancers to the front and make some stars of her own instead of leaning on the fading Fagundes and some of her other seniors. No one flashed any exceptional talent in the corps either although it woudl be interesting to review this group at the last stop on their tour and see how much they've learned and grown with expert coaching. When it comes time to plan next season, I hope she'll be braver in rep and casting. It takes incredible guts to launch a company but once launched, you can't lose your nerve!

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Why assume it's lack of guts? I think it's more a scheduling and money problem. She can't offer a full-season job. That narrows the options considerably.

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Okay, I'm changing my tune now. Thursday's program, the last night of that rep, was delightful. Even the weaker moments were full of possibilities. Natalia, who was lovely in Duo Concertante Wednesday, kicked it up several notches when her partner was the radiant Peter Boal. Something about the assurance of a perfect partner...

Slaughter had snap and verve. Didn't know Huys could tap! Plus the costuming turned Farrell's choices of a variety of body types for the corps to an advantage. They all had legs and knew how to use them but each brought a distinictive personality to her role and that works in Slaughter where you don't want to see it in a Balanchine leotard ballet. (don't have my program with me so I dare not mangle titles any further).

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Thanks, Alexandra, for that remark about "Duo Concertant" as Artist and Muse! I hadn't quite got it - clearly the last movement is about her offering inspiration - but reading your words I felt something click into place.

I'm in general agreement with what you say about the improvement. Having seen all the performances so far, I'd add that it seems to have come about gradually, piecemeal, but fairly systematically, as though Farrell watched each performance, noted the weakest spots, and honed them the next day. Incidentally, she mentioned at the "Corps de Ballet" lecture-demonstration at 6 on Wednesday that they were late getting into rehearsals in a studio on 42nd Street because they had hardly started and when it had to be evacuated. So they've had less time than planned. As to egos, don't dancers know when they're dancing better? And seeing some rehearsal, I think they mostly like working with her - she's thorough, sometimes saying why she wants it her way, in terms of its effect, quietly, steadily industrious, never raising her voice, laughing with them when something goes wrong.

samba, do you consider Bonnie Pickard a member of the corps? She's listed and often in it, conspicuous because of her brilliant red hair and prominent placing on stage. See if she repays your attention. Or maybe since she's already got some big roles, she doesn't qualify as part answer to your complaint.

Also, the "Sonnambula" program goes twice more on Saturday; Thursday was not the last night, or do I misunderstand your remark?

Anyhow, I'm in general agreement with Jeannie, Alexandra, and samba, except for Boal. I think I recall d'Amboise doing "raw" without the things I've been complaining about in Boal's interpretation; Martins I remember as making everything continuously visible from the beginning too. Huys doesn't have his power but he has a lot of that virtue.

Part of the fun of it is watching things come to life and shine.

(posted from Washington, D.C.)

[ 10-06-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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Some people who have seen several performances, in particular both of today's, thought that this evening's "Sonnambula" was better than this afternoon's, in particular Goh's role. I'd assumed above that improvement came about from further work with Farrell, but asking Goh about this after her performance I learned she had not rehearsed this afternoon, and she ascribed the difference to how the music seems to her at different times and how doing the role several times gives her the chance to live with it. So dancers improve their roles alone, too. I've long thought dancers were pretty special people, and I find more to be impressed by all the time. The orchestra and the solo violinist, Eric Grossman, also seem to be playing better; and this evening's audience was one of the more enthusiastic ones.

samba38 raised a good point about lack of promotion from the corps. I suppose lack of time to teach roles is a factor, but one particular young dancer I would like to see advance is Lydia Walker. In "Apollo", she's the Handmaiden on the left and the one who is upright as the two of them bring in the lute; in "Sonnambula", she's also one of the two Guests in blue, the second girl to remove her mask, for anyone else who has noticed her already.

BTW, Leigh, would you like to check your parenthetical reference on 10-03-2001 02:12 AM to something I posted? I value your comments but it looks like a word's missing from this one.

(posted from Washington, D.C.)

[ 10-07-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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The final performance (Sunday afternoon) was a bit of a fizzle. The dancers seemed tired and the afternoon was flat. But it looks like a company now. The different ages and training and bodies of the mini-corps weren't as glaring in "Scotch" as they were opening night. I thought Boal's "Apollo" was very different from his first a few evenings before, much more a traditional reading.

Friday evening, the second performance of Sonnambula that I saw was much tighter than the opener, and probably isn't that far removed from what City Ballet does, but still without the atmosphere or the detail that this ballet can have. I liked Boal very much in Duo, with Magnicaballi. I had a different reaction from Samba (and yes, we were sitting fairly close :) ) I thought she had been the dominant partner when dancing with Runqiao Du, yet seemed very junior when dancing with Boal.

What these two weeks have shown, to me, that companies and dancers need performances to grow. I hate to say that Goh "improved" from performance to performance, because she's a fine dancer. But these were unfamiliar ballets, and her dancing became freer and more interesting as she got used to them. (Good coaching isn't following dancers around with corrections. Often a coach will leave a dancer alone after opening night, unless there's one point that really needs to be clarified, to let a dancer find his or her own way.) The corps, as I mentioned, began to meld into a corps -- I have to say I think this company is far too small and young to think about promoting the apprentices. I had criticized last season's Farrell venture for giving us every dancer in every role, usually with a different partner, at each performance. I was glad to see it more settled this time. I don't think a company can program for people who go to every performance; that's a tiny minority. If we get bored seeing the same person more than twice, well, tough :)

I don't see how the company can continue as a two-month autumn venture, though. I hope it's possible that the company will have a stronger structure (general manager, fundraiser) so that it can grow.

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Alexandra, Sunday afternoon may not have been the company's best performance, but I thought it was anything but a fizzle, and the audience seemed to agree with me. I noticed a few regulars; maybe they agreed with you. Well regulars?

I love, just love, the parts of Apollo Balanchine cut. I didn't see Boal's earlier Apollos here, but yesterday's was the most glorious and moving I'd ever seen from anyone, him included. I loved the delight he took in his Muses, and I loved the way his face turned serious when the music began calling him to Parnassus, and I especially loved the power in his solos. I realize I'm not being very specific, but to borrow Jack's phrase, he enlarged the role beyond what I'd ever seen it it. About the expressionistic quality you noticed Wednesay but not yesterday -- I thought I noticed that a couple of years ago in New York. I did think the Muses were uneven yesterday. I can imagine fatigue there, but I sure didn't see it in Huys or Fagundes in Scotch beyond, perhaps, an unclear step or two.

Friday night in Scotch it was obvious the Boal and Goh weren't entirely comfortable with each other. Boal must be incapable of givng a bad performance, but this wasn't a fully inhabited one, and I spent more time driving in to see it than they'd spent preparing for it. Something's not right there, especially when Huys and Fagundes could have handled the roles so nicely. Friday I could see Boal thinking; Sunday I just thought I was seeing Apollo. Still, Friday's was only the second performance of that ballet I'd ever seen, and would have been worth it with almost anyone dancing.

About Runquio Du, I agree he seemed a junior partner to Magnicaballi, especially after seeing her with Huys. At the risk of sounding unkind, Du's over-eagerness bothered me a bit. I don't think it would have with a dancer of similar temperament, it just seemed unreciprocated. I thought Fournier gave a better performance in "Duo" than I thought she might (although she couldn't match Magnicaballi's playfulness), but to me there's something impassive about her dancing at this point. Is it her face?

[ 10-08-2001: Message edited by: kfw ]

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Ken, aside from just plain differences of opinion, I think all viewing is comparative: we match pictures. I thought the audience seemed content -- not ecstatic (but there certainly were more of them. I didn't see either Saturday performance, but it was much better attended than the weeknight performances I attended.

I also find Fournier impassive. There's a heaviness, a stolidness, about her dancing, to me. And I thought Scotch was off Friday, too, though more on Boal's part than Goh's. I thought she was more relaxed, more playful (and more playing with the music). I put it down partly to not enough rehearsal, partly that Boal isn't a very good partner, and partly because he's six years older than he was the last time I saw him dance the role, which he doesn't dance with NYCB, at least not regularly. I think Duo is more in his current repertory, which may be why those performances were stronger.

As for the Apollo, all I can say is that two other people I spoke with who'd seen the first one had the same reaction I did. As I posted earlier, I hadn't seen Boal do Apollo in years, so I don't know what his more recent interpretations had been like.

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