Don Quixote, Kennedy Center, June 22-26th
Posted 27 June 2005 - 11:18 AM
Posted 27 June 2005 - 01:21 PM
Posted 27 June 2005 - 01:41 PM
On the whole, I'd give Heather Ogden the edge over Sonia Rodriguez -- the risk-taking was clearer. And I was delighted to see her in yesterday's matinee after being dropped by the Merlin character toward the end of Saturday night's performance. I think Mladenov's Don grew in grandeur over the course of the week, and I liked Eric Ragan's Sancho Panza, particularly after sitting next to his mother on Saturday night. I can report that Sancho's mom is a nice woman from Texas. Anyhow, I had a great time. In the interests of full disclosure, I will reveal that apart from the ballet, the highlight of my week was at Suzanne's book signing on Saturday afternoon, when she blew me a kiss.
Posted 27 June 2005 - 04:32 PM
I'm touched by the blown kiss and very glad that you enjoyed yourself so much.
Posted 27 June 2005 - 06:18 PM
Someone should mention Zack Brown's name - he's the scenic designer - because, thanks to a discussion with a friend from New York who came down for the weekend and who helped me remember more of the first setting than the few black-and-white pictures do, I think his work in this is really better than Esteban Frances's orginals. For example, there was a staircase at the left before, just hidden by a curtain; Brown's stair is enclosed in a giant book, which Marcela opens very early in the ballet - Sancho Panza makes his entrance down it - and, very late, when Don Quixote is on his deathbed, she slowly closes it: The Don's reading is over. Considering the role the Don's reading plays in the plot, this is wonderful, compared to a mere curtain.
And my friend recalled for us how dead Frances's Act II was, but while Brown and Holly Hynes have retained the dominent color scheme - black trimmed in gold - the scene doesn't look dead to me - the light fixtures overhead, the metal details in the grand staircase (on the right in this scene) down which the guests arrive at the ball, indeed little glints of light play off the gold trim on the costumes of the aristocrats like echoes of the handsome fixtures above. (I could quibble about the tapestry behind the Duchess's throne, which is so "busy" the Don disappers into it when he stands motionless in front of it, but as my friend pointed out, the aristos pay him no attention either, until it suits them to taunt him, so it fits.) Anyway, for me, the ballet takes off when this scene begins - it's very attractive when we first see it, and the dancing is mostly better than in Act I, and there's more of it.
Not that Act I is nothing. It establishes the characters and the situation and it entertains, too, intermittently: I was delighted by the puppet show, richly imagined by someone who knew what children couldn't do, and didn't force that issue, and how much they could do, and exploited that, in the best sense of the word.
But what prodigious dancing there was last week! leibling's examples are really good ones - post more often, leibling! - because they show the individuality Balanchine encouraged and Farrell encourages, not merely among dancers but among each dancer's dances. Mahoney's two dances were so very differently done that when I first saw them I experienced a kind of cognitive disconnect between what I had seen and what the program book told me - that it was the same dancer in both, at the same performance. And so I think you're right, leibling, Pickard's highly detailed dancing is what Farrell tries to draw from her dancers in the sense that, in my experience anyway, this way of detailing what she shows us is uniquely Pickard's way among Farrell's dancers (like the dancing of Deanna Seay among the others in MCB, my other favorite company). Or was this what you meant?
And Ogden's last Dulcinea was the most marvelous - in the Dream Ballet in Act III she seemed to be pressing onward into risky new territory from the strong, clear verticality that has been hers so far in this production. Do you think so also, Farrell Fan? Or did you see this sooner in the run?
If I had to choose between Mauresque women, I would still prefer Magnicaballi by a small margin over Sladkin - Magnicaballi seemed to me more creamy-clear, large and flowing, showing greater mastery, although Sladkin was often sharper, some details slipped away from her. But Magnicaballi is an established principal, and Sladkin, as Mike points out, is listed in the corps! Both showed us what a great little gem this is, and it's one of those times I'm lucky I didn't have to choose - thanks to the three women - the two dancers and Ms. Farrell - I got both.
Sladkin's third performance in Mauresque Sunday afternoon was even better than her eye-popping one on Saturday's matinee, and was preceeded by a few minutes by another corps girl, Lisa Reneau, in her one performance of Rigaudon Flamenco, with Runqiao Du. If it was a debut, it didn't look like one; it was clear and assured.
But to return to leibling's post, I also wanted a little more drama here and there. For example, when I wash my feet, I lift each one and put it down. And at the end, Marcela is rather dutiful about closing the book and crouching to pick up the sticks to make the cross she lays on Don Quixote. Does she realize what finality closing the book signifies? Maybe she could caress wistfully the edge of the book as she slowly crouches, with her head at a bit of an angle against it too? Or is this sentimental? Just an idea. So much of this production is at such a high level - mainly the ensembles, variations, divertissements and the designs, but not entirely - that when a lapse or blank spot appears, it shows, by contrast.
Posted 27 June 2005 - 06:40 PM
Farrell Fan, I'm really glad you could see the ballet this time!
The rapid shifts between the tragic (which I felt in whenever Dulcinea was onstage or she and/or Marcela and the Don were onstage together) and the farcial (recurring in the Don's battles with Disneyesque phanthoms) still jarred yesterday afternoon, but I was thrilled by Ogden's abandon, and, as I believe someone else commented, each solo and pas and ensemble set piece had fleeting delicious moments that cried out to be seen again.
I too experienced Ogden and Rodriguez and dancers merely portraying rather than fully inhabiting the character of Dulcinea, but for me this was as much a result of their relatively pinched acting as their relatively upright dancing. As leibling said, they lacked sensuality. Give them time. I have a framed photo in my study that I bought in a Russian restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. years ago (they were going out of business): a grainy black and white closeup of of Balanchine in a suitcoat (?) clasping Farrell's arm and leading her on. Or so I read it. It must be from a Don Quixote rehearsal. Both partners have a depth of feeling and understanding on their faces that make last week's couples look shallow by comparison. That said, I'm filled with gratitude to and admiration for Farrell and the whole company for their efforts and the beauty of their accomplishments, and for letting latecomers like me see this historical and remarkable ballet.
Jack, it's been great to read your thoughts night after night.
Posted 27 June 2005 - 07:30 PM
I had little problem with the music other than finding it not top-drawer. The level of Farrell's company is also still very inconsistent. She's going to have to come to terms with the fact that some of her dancers are not at the level she needs.
I've seen most of the Canadian dancers a few times in Toronto, so a few comments. Ogden danced well, but can't fill the role. Rodriguez danced even better (I really liked her Sunday night Act III, and she tries to give a build to the Act I Marcela variation), but she's at this point too mature for the role. It isn't as if Rodriguez is old, but that role needs to read innocent and naive.
In subsidiary roles, Lise Marie Jourdain looked very good in the corps as well as in an Act III variation, but that was also a problem - that's what the level of the corps ought to be, and it isn't. Kevin Bowles was distinguished in character parts - I saw him as Beaujoulais in Toronto, is that his specialty?
Lastly a big compliment to Zack Brown and Holly Hynes - Farrell's productions have always looked impoverished. This one finally didn't, so also a compliment to whomever got her the budget she needed.
Posted 27 June 2005 - 08:06 PM
leibling, on Jun 27 2005, 02:31 PM, said:
I remember it quite clearly: her long hair swung over her head and down, held in her hand, one hand lifting each of Balanchine's feet in turn -- it was more a nurturing motion, as a gentle nurse would do it, or even reverential, as Mary Magdalene to Jesus! Slow and deliberate, intently focused on the task -- one of the most memorable parts of the ballet!
Posted 28 June 2005 - 09:03 AM
Jack, I saw all three of Heather Ogden's performances and agree that the last one on Sunday afternoon was by far the best. It was also the best I saw all week, but I only saw two of Rodriguez's four performances -- opening night and Friday. I think the ballet came together as a whole very well at the Friday night performance. I saw Robert Gottlieb in the audience for Ogden's first performance on Thursday night and can't wait to find out what he thought of it and the ballet as a whole. My reaction at the end of the week is much like yours -- it was a great achievement -- not quite an unqualified success, but a brilliant restoration of an essential part of the Balanchine legacy. And the score has been going through my head for a couple of days now -- no kidding.
Posted 28 June 2005 - 01:35 PM
Posted 28 June 2005 - 02:04 PM
There are miminal listings of company members in the upper right corner (currently only Farrell herself, Principals Chan Hon Goh, Natalia Magnicaballi, and Runquio Du, and Soloist Sonia Rodriguez, with links to bios.)
Posted 28 June 2005 - 02:18 PM
kiki, the soloists listed on the front page of the program number 12 and corps 29 but I think many members of the NBoC are included. The answer to this question might be more complicated than it appears at first. But check back in a day or two; after all, this is Ballet Talk!
Posted 29 June 2005 - 07:00 AM
Chan Han Goh (On leave of absence)
CORPS DE BALLET 
James Reed Hague
Marissa Ann Rocco
Posted 29 June 2005 - 08:06 AM
Posted 29 June 2005 - 08:25 AM
Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell, for Adults (At Ballet Talk for Dancers)
Of course, how gutted am I that this company started up *after* I moved away from DC???
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