Swan Lake by NYCB vs. ABTWhat is the difference? Should I see NYC
Posted 01 December 2005 - 03:11 PM
Posted 01 December 2005 - 04:57 PM
As for ABT I enjoy it very much. I just wish it was a fuller version then just two acts. I could be wrong, but it seems that American companies fells that American audience are incapable at watching a full four act ballet. Everything they stage a classic that has four acts they always it seems to reduce to just two acts. To me not only do we miss some important elements in terms of character development but to me its rather insulting to think that American companies think audiences are not able to seat though. "Let's not bore them! Rush, rush, rush!" I can see why maybe comparing the first two acts, but I would have loved if Kevin McKenzie would have keep the third and fourth act intact. The fourth act gives the audience the chance to see the Prince express his regards at dooming Odette to a life of being a swan and it shows Odette slowly forgiving him and both their decision to kill themselves in order to be together. You don't get any of those fine details in McKenzie production. Mainly because the corp send too much time dancing in front of a backdrop, so the behind the scene crew can loudly remove the huge set of the ballroom scene in order to continue with the ballet.
Posted 02 December 2005 - 07:23 AM
GeorgeB Fan - you have hit the nail exactly on the head in your description of the ABT staging’s shortcomings. Even though it’s basically a good version you really don’t get the emotional catharsis that you do with a great version, so it’s kind of like kissing your sister...I suspect that in addition to the reasons you cited for ABT’s tendency to “streamline” Petipa, financial considerations may also be at play. Whatever the reasons, I hate that attitude. It’s really disrespectful of both the audience’s intelligence & Petipa’s genius.
Leigh’s point that the SL you prefer depends on which company you prefer is a good one, but I still feel that regardless of which style you favor - Swan Lake is a classical ballet with Petipa/Ivanov at it’s core - not a Balanchine (or in this case a Martins) ballet. Balanchine understood that and avoided the issue completely since the version he created is just the lakeside “white” act, which can be presented as wholly abstract rather than narrative. By extracting that one act he differentiated it from the full “story” version and gave us something beautiful with a different focus & intent than the full length ballet. Martin’s version is just wrongheaded. Even though I don’t think ABT’s is a great staging, at least it doesn’t distort it to the degree where you lose all the romantic/period/character overtones like NYCB’s does. IMO Swan Lake is not, and should not be a 21st century ballet. You want post modern? Then create something new, or extract just the portion that speaks to you and refine it the way Balanchine did. Otherwise, don’t meddle with a masterpiece!
Posted 02 December 2005 - 11:39 PM
Calling it an abomination is being kind.
Amen and amen. You took the words out of my mouth. The designs gave me a headache. "Jackson Pollock Goes To The Ballet." The production on the whole gave me nightmares.
Editing to note my sincerest apologies to Jackson Pollock and his fans.
Posted 03 December 2005 - 03:13 PM
Balanchine understood that and avoided the issue completely since the version he created is just the lakeside “white” act, which can be presented as wholly abstract rather than narrative. By extracting that one act he differentiated it from the full “story” version and gave us something beautiful with a different focus & intent than the full length ballet. Martin’s version is just wrongheaded. Even though I don’t think ABT’s is a great staging, at least it doesn’t distort it to the degree where you lose all the romantic/period/character overtones like NYCB’s does. IMO Swan Lake is not, and should not be a 21st century ballet. You want post modern? Then create something new, or extract just the portion that speaks to you and refine it the way Balanchine did. Otherwise, don’t meddle with a masterpiece!
I have to agree, that I think I look at Balanchine Lakeside One Act piece as a kind of tribute to the original rather than an adaptaptation.
I may go to the Martins out of curiousity, it was originally televised right? I seem to remember so. But that was during a period of very low ballet attendance for me and it did nothing to encourage me, I was so bored I just shut the TV off and copied over the tape.
Posted 04 December 2005 - 07:28 AM
Your comments are great about NYCB and ABT. My next question is "If I forget about the Petipa SL, and the story line, and see NYCB SL as a 21st century ballet by Martins, is the dancing and the choreography worth seeing?
Posted 04 December 2005 - 11:39 AM
Still, a bad dancer can make a masterpiece dull while a great dancer can transform garbage, so I would encourage you to tip the scales a bit in ABT's favor, but mostly choose a cast you like.
From an educational point of view, seeing as many different ballets and productions as possible will enable you develop your own frame of reference.
Posted 04 December 2005 - 03:31 PM
I've enjoyed this discussion and admit to being a non-fan of the NYCB full-length Swan Lake. The memory I have of this (which I haven't seen for 5 or 6 years) is of a performance that was of rather drab and unatmospheric decor, a cool, anti-romantic affect, and the impression of steps being performed by rote rather than in the service of what should be a heart-breaking story.
Let me add my voice to those advising caution if you decide to go to NYCB's Swan Lake. Calling it an abomination is being kind. Picture this - streamline the choreography, keeping just the iconic moments, strip all reference to period or culture from the costumes & scenery - and there you have NYCB's SL.
This relates to style and "look." But I wonder about the choreography per se. I'd appreciate it if someone could pin point a single section -- one that many of us would be familiar with -- and compare Martins' steps, etc., with the versions perfomed by more traditdional companies.
Posted 04 December 2005 - 03:47 PM
Posted 04 December 2005 - 09:37 PM
Martins completely re-choreographed the Act I pas de trois, and removed the big swans pas de quatre. The little swans are still there, with small changes. He also altered the ending, which appears to have been stolen from "Giselle"--that is, Odette remains a swan and bourrées offstage, and Albrecht--I mean Siegfried--kneels in grief or something.
Posted 04 December 2005 - 10:01 PM
As Hans also noted, the business for the swan corps is a mess.
Posted 04 December 2005 - 10:16 PM
Weese now takes (the tape of) Makarova as inspiration. She worked out the story with the help of former partner Peter Boal. She feels that Odette came more easily to her.
Whelan had difficulty with her pacing early on, found Odette more natural for her. She too has taken Makarova's performance to heart, especially relying on it for her Odile.
Somogyi, who as I recall was successful in her first season with the ballet, felt an immediate affinity for the role, and "tried to let the dancing dramatize the story. I didn't worry about the 32..."
Kowroski felt that Odile came to her more naturally, even though it was technically the more difficult part for her. Peter Martins advised her to "forget about the technique and think about the character." When she danced the role at the Mariinsky, coaches objected to the way she had been taught to flutter her arms. She was told there "...long, long arms, long arms, you are not a duck, you are a swan." Lopatkina worked extensively with her. The last time I saw her Balanchine one-acter, I found it very moving. She seemed to have found its (spiritual) story, and I am very curious as to how her recent Balanchine and Mariinsky performances will transform her performance in the Martins version.
Posted 06 December 2005 - 07:57 AM
I still have the tape of NYCB's Swan Lake, and I drag it out occasionally, usually turning it off before Act II. As I recall, Martins altered the black and white pas de deux a little, but not substantially. However, Woetzel and Weese's styles of performing them are so strange that I receive the impression that the choreography is entirely different, and he added some annoying complications to the various dances of the swan corps.
In fairness to Weese - who I have liked in this role -- she ddn't know she was going to perform that night until very close to curtain. Kistler was scheduled but suffered a last minute injury. Weese also usually did the ballet with a different partner -- Boal -- so was doubly disadvantaged.
Posted 06 December 2005 - 10:48 AM
McKenzie at ABT has cut the White Acts and with them the role of the girls corps de ballet to an absolute minimum. He's completely eliminated Act IV for the girls' corps, and suggested it instead as a brief pas de quatre or something for the cygnets. Instead he's built up the waltzes in the Court to give all the boys lots and lots of dancing. He even has the suave non-reptile Von Rothbart seducing the princesses in a series of crude pas de deux at the beginning of Act III.
Now I think all that waltzing at the court of Siegfried's mom, with or without the jester, is the dullest part of Swan Lake. I'm bored by it in both versions. In McKenzie's version, though, it amounts to 3/4 of what happens.
When I think Swan Lake I think Ballet Blanc, moonlight (yes Hans, Act II Giselle a little bit too) and the girls corps de ballet in Swan mode. City Ballet does these white acts much better. Not only is their girls' corps de ballet better trained, and in better shape from top to bottom (that's the biggest difference in their favor between the two companies) -- but McKenzie has totally eliminated the White Act IV anyway so there' s no debate about this point, even if one wants to dispute which company's girls' corps is better. McKenzie has simply cut this material. If you love the White Acts, its thus NYCB pure and simple.
In that theater that first season or two, Monique Meunier -- for those who remember her then briefly in her top dancing form before she blew out her hip -- was a beautiful Odette/Odile. And Silja Schandorff, in from Denmark for one guest appearance with NYCB on a Saturday afternoon when Miranda and the other girls principals had the Flu.
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