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Suzanne Farrell Ballet


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 09:50 AM

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.

#17 samba38

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 05:03 PM

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!

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 04 October 2001 - 05:36 PM

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.

#19 samba38

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Posted 05 October 2001 - 08:47 AM

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).

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 05 October 2001 - 09:12 AM

Sarah Kaufman's review of Wednesday night's performance:

[url="http://"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8800-2001Oct4.html"]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/artic...0-2001Oct4.html[/url]

#21 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 October 2001 - 05:30 PM

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 ]

#22 Jack Reed

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Posted 06 October 2001 - 10:06 PM

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 ]

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 08 October 2001 - 01:04 PM

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.

#24 kfw

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Posted 08 October 2001 - 01:53 PM

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 ]

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 08 October 2001 - 02:51 PM

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.

#26 Alexandra

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Posted 08 October 2001 - 02:56 PM

Dirac posted this on Links, but I thought I'd put it here, too, to make this thread more complete. Jean Battey Lewis (who is not a Moonie, please, before anyone starts) in the Washington Times:
[url="http://"http://www.washtimes.com/arts/20011006-348835.htm"]http://www.washtimes.com/arts/20011006-348835.htm[/url]


(Note: Lewis only gets to do one piece a week, on Saturday, either a preview or a review. This is, I thought, an extremely clever way of doing both!)

#27 Jack Reed

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Posted 10 October 2001 - 08:50 PM

I can remember thinking, after the first few performances, that although they were not evenly achieved, there was a lot that was good and that they looked like they were headed in the right direction, so that it looked promising; and it was very pleasing to see how quickly the promise was kept, not only on stage but also in the pit, where the orchestra produced clearer and more robust performances. By the time they end their tour, this troupe must really be going to look like something!

#28 Natalia

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Posted 12 October 2001 - 02:09 PM

Thanks for all of the reviews...especially you, Jack, who seem to have catched all of the DC performances of the Farrell troupe. I intended to write a short review about Program A (Scotch, Faun, Duo & Apollo), which I viewed a couple of times last weekend, but have simply been flooded in the office with Afghani-refugee-related work...making it seem as if Farrell Ballet took place a century ago. Nonetheless, I think it proper to at least echo the above-cited sentiments that the Farrell venture is indeed promising. I was very impressed with Scotch Symphony (Goh & Boal were divine as the lead pair last Friday evening!) and noticed the particular 'Farrellisms' that were also evident in her Kirov staging 10+ years ago, e.g., certain risks taken by the ballerina in the central pdd; certain mannerisms & glances by the corps; etc. Judging by both programs, Farrell has obviously invested a lot of time in teaching facial nuances and mannerisms to all dancers, including corps. This makes for a far more interesting ballet than simply watching neat techical dancing from the waist-down.

Among the soloists, Goh & Magnicaballi were real 'finds' for me, during this run. Among the men, this run only heightened my long-standing admiration of Boal.

Oh...and it was very nice to see audience attendance pick up during the weekend (compared to Tuesday night, when I saw Program B).

#29 kfw

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Posted 12 October 2001 - 07:34 PM

Thanks for the post, Jeannie, and I look forward to your review. Alexandra, of course you're quite right that we judge performances based on others we've seen. I guess for once I'm glad I haven't seen as much as you have. I couldn't have attended the Wednesday Apollo, but there was at least one ecstatic guy in the audience Sunday. (And to think she planned on doing Bolero instead).

To what can we attribute the change in Boal's style between the two performances of that last ballet? Must be Farrell's direction, no?

Also, rereading the Post piece on Farrell (9/26), I noted this quote about Somnambula: "Most productions are already too dark in terms of drama, too macabre, too premeditated." So it'll be interesting to see if she makes changes in response to the criticism that her production lacked a couple of those qualities.

#30 Alla

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Posted 16 October 2001 - 09:20 PM

Hi all. I made the long trek out to Long Island from Manhattan Friday night to see the company at the Tilles Center. Despite a cold and some rather unreliable cabbies :) , I enjoyed the performance. The house was pretty full, though again with lots of people who didn't seem to have a clue about ballet. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a shame that more real ballet fans in NYC won't get to see the company this time around.

The program was Scotch Symphony (Du and Fagundes), Momentum/Movements (Du and Fournier), Duo Concertant (Huys and Magnicaballi), and Apollo (Huys, Magnicaballi, Fournier, and Goh). My impressions were very similar to those of others here. I was particularly impressed with the corps, especially in Monumentum/Movements -- lots of detail, energy, clarity of line, rhythmic sensitivity. A beautiful performance of those two pieces. Huys and Magnicaballi got off to a rather hurried start in Duo, but their trust and sense of fun grew immensely as it went on. I liked Magnicaballi's flirty shoulders at the beginning!

As for Apollo, the restored parts at the beginning and end are magnificent. Huys was a very refined Apollo, very light and clear. The three women looked slightly jittery; though her dancing was fine, Goh never quite got hold of her character. Fournier was very careful as Polyhymnia; her reserve was not as noticeable a problem here as in Monumentum/Movements, but it still dragged things down a bit. She is technically quite strong, but she needs to learn the confidence to take some risks.

On the whole I thought the confidence level among the dancers was not too high -- someone here called it a lack of star power. Or maybe they are just exhausted -- after the show I saw them filing out to their bus, looking completely drained. Incidentally, on Friday the music was taped, except for in Duo. Dancing to taped music is in itself somewhat stressful!

That said, there's no disputing the magic of Farrell's coaching and staging. In this performance, these ballets were brighter and fresher than I've ever seen them.

[ 10-16-2001: Message edited by: Alla ]


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