Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Posted 04 October 2001 - 09:50 AM
"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.
Posted 04 October 2001 - 05:03 PM
Posted 04 October 2001 - 05:36 PM
Posted 05 October 2001 - 08:47 AM
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).
Posted 05 October 2001 - 05:30 PM
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 ]
Posted 06 October 2001 - 10:06 PM
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 ]
Posted 08 October 2001 - 01:04 PM
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.
Posted 08 October 2001 - 01:53 PM
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 ]
Posted 08 October 2001 - 02:51 PM
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.
Posted 08 October 2001 - 02:56 PM
(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!)
Posted 10 October 2001 - 08:50 PM
Posted 12 October 2001 - 02:09 PM
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).
Posted 12 October 2001 - 07:34 PM
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.
Posted 16 October 2001 - 09:20 PM
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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