"Bringing Balanchine Back"Dance on Film Festival, NY 1/10/06
Posted 10 January 2006 - 08:37 PM
Richard Blanshard, U.S., 2003; 80m
From the program notes: "Peter Martins took the New York City Ballet to St. Petersburg in 2003 with a repertory of George Balanchine ballets, unseen since 1972. This intimate look at the dancers in rehearsal and in performance on the stage of the famed Marinsky Theater is full of intimate moments, crises, and triumphs. A U.S. premiere. The Director will introduce."
In his introduction to the film, Mr. Blanshard noted that the film was shot in two weeks, with one day off. They had three camera crews.
Christopher Ramsey made a few interesting comments before the film: in his view, this film was about a child going home after losing both parents.
The child is the company, the parents were George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. "In reaching out with love for its parents, the child grows up."
The film began with the very rushed preparations for the tour, which was set up in a very short time. (as I write this, miraculously, the music from "Ballo Della Regina" is on the radio.)
It then shows comments by Solomon Volkov, Boris Eifman, and Sergei Gergiev,
a number of students from the Vaganova Academy (but no dancers from the Kirov, who may have been away) who discuss the Company's visit from the Russian point of view. After performances, audience members outside (in the midnight sun) are asked their opinions as well. Most are quite positive, though
almost universal in feeling that whereas NYCB are fast and flexible with great feet and legs, the Kirov has the advantage with the arms.
From the Company, Peter Martins, Rosemary Dunleavy, Albert Evans ("I hate the raked stage!"), Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, Craig Hall, Benjamin Millepied, Alexandra Ansanelli Darci Kistler each make a number of comments, and Carrie Lee Riggins, Alina Dronova, Daniel Ulbricht, James Fayette, Pascal van Kipnis and others also speak about their experiences. Alina, who is originally from Russia
was hyper-conscious of being judged on if and how she had changed (she had a principal role).
Rosemary, who had been to the then-Soviet Union with Balanchine in 1962 and 1972, found herself very overwhelmed, remembering how it was when they were there previously. While she clearly felt his presence, she clearly missed him tremendously. A number of other company members -- even those born after Mr. B. died in 1983 -- talked about feeling his presence.
They showed both rehearsals and performance excerpts, the editing and photography were SUPERB. The director did not have to exaggerate or overdramatize to show the kind of stress the Company was under: after 24 hours
traveling, they went right into rehearsal and apparently performed that very night! In the nine (I think) days they were there, they had only one day off, and we get to tag along a little bit there.
There was a bit of a drama when Gergiev, who was invited to conduct on opening night, vanished for a half hour or more during the first intermission, with the entire orchestra. He conducts, unshaven, in a tee shirt. Peter Martins commented, at a reception afterwards, that "we only take 20 minute intermissions."
Ironically (in light of later events) there was a real "sub-plot" about Alexandra Ansanelli, and her struggle -- after recovering from an injury -- to make her debut in "Serenade." She did not dance it as scheduled. We were not told why (but we're used to that!).
The film ends, after showing the taking of the magnificent group photos onstage at the Maryinski, with breathtaking shots of St. Petersburg at night (now, how did they do that, if it's always light??), and at one point, the very pensive photo of Mr. B. by Tanaquil LeClerq is superimposed. That, I must confess, brought tears to my eyes.
The repertory for the tour (as I remember, and that's not saying much), was, "Serenade," "Symphony in C," "Agon," "Symphony in 3 Movements," "Glass Pieces," "Hallelujah Junction," "Western Symphony," and "Interplay."
I think the festival planners made a serious mistake in only programming this wonderful, incredible, beautiful film once. I recommend a massive outcry.
Posted 10 January 2006 - 09:22 PM
I intend to make known my dissatisfaction with the Dance Film Festival, not least the fact that it doesn't run in August, September, November or March, when there's not a lot of live dancing to see. (Relatively speaking, of course. This is New York).
And yes, the scheduling of so many of the films for one screening only (and often during the day) seems short-sighted on the programmers' part.
Posted 10 January 2006 - 09:56 PM
Now perhaps if we're very, very good, a DVD will be released
Posted 11 January 2006 - 06:33 AM
Happily, though, they do arrange college tours for the festival, so there may be additional screenings near you. And if you know of an institution that might host some screenings, perhaps you might encourage that institution to look into the possibilities.
Here's a link to the touring program (it seems to be quite reasonable):
Posted 11 January 2006 - 09:15 AM
I would travel a good deal more than 90 minutes for the chance to see this video in the company of other ballet lovers, which is so much better than sitting on one's own with a DVD (IMO, at least, except for ability to freeze, move backwards, etc., on DVD).
Thanks, violin concerto, for your beautifully descriptive account.
Posted 02 August 2006 - 08:04 PM
Broadcast Alert: Bringing Back Balanchine
In July 2003, NYCB visited George Balanchine’s birthplace of St. Petersburg, Russia, for the first time in more than 30 years to help celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city and the start of the Balanchine centennial year. This documentary film presents an insider’s view of this historic tour, including excerpts of many remarkable performances there, backstage views of the famed Maryinsky Theater and stunning panoramas of a city that is legendary to anyone with an interest in ballet. Bringing Balanchine Back, will air on public television this fall. Narrated by Kevin Kline, this film is a treasure trove and will be available for purchase on DVD—just in time for the holidays. Check back in this space for specific date(s), channel and air times.
Posted 04 August 2006 - 04:25 PM
Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:17 PM
Now, I'd like some explanation as to why people seemed to like this documentary. I hated the jumpcut shots (the blurry slo-mo) and cuts in the performances, the too-dark shots of Serenade opening and closing, the cheesy tourist shots, and the portentious narration. I did enjoy hearing from Rosemary D., and appreciated the subtitles rather than voiceover translations, but I thought the rehearsal footage of Alexandra Ansanelli in onstage rehearsals was a bit bizarre (why was she and she alone in costume? Why was Peter Martins rehearsing her in Serenade? And I don't think it's OK not to be told why she ultimately wasn't cast). Despite the thrill of seeing Symphony in Three Movements on TV, the show just didn't cut it for me.
Posted 08 September 2008 - 06:24 PM
[If only the title were true...]
Posted 09 November 2008 - 08:58 PM
Posted 10 November 2008 - 06:25 PM
Posted 11 November 2008 - 11:02 AM
I just got through watching it, having ordered my copy in advance from Amazon, it was wonderful....but I did not see it initially on PBS, so I can not comment on what extra footage appears in the DVD that did not appear in that broadcast. I also thought the "subplot" regarding Ansanelli was interesting, but it seemed pretty clear to me from th footage why she didn't dance Serenade....she seemed to really be struggling with it in the short bit that was shown at rehearsal, and you could easily sense the tension between her and Peter.
Interestingly I watched Ansanelli as the lead in "Serenade" last night. She exhibited nothing to suggest to me personally that she had affinity with this Balanchine ballet. This is not surprising as the RB have no understanding of this work which I have witnessed 3 times in the last few weeks. As I mentioned in the RB topic recently, the performance of "Theme and Variations" that ended the programme again, showed that the company can perform some Balanchine ballets in a way which would not make a New York audience squirm in embarassment.
Posted 22 April 2013 - 05:44 AM
Old news is sometimes really good news.[/size][/font]
Just rented this 2003 'classic' from Amazon instant internet play and it's a gem ![/size][/font]
Paticularly touched by Alexandra Ansanelli.[/size][/font]
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