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Apollo -- which approach? which dancers?

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Balanchine's Apollo is famous for its long history of different versions (long and shortened) and approaches ("wild boy" and danceur noble).

Balanchine himself seems to have changed his interpretation of the role over the decades. In a 2004 thread, Leigh Witchell wrote: "Is it possible that Balanchine had a split view of the ballet as a work for demi-charactere dancers or classical dancers?"

Certainly, the casting -- from Bruhn and Martins at one end of the spectrum and Nureyev and Villella at the other -- has been diverse to an astonishing degree. Has there been ANY major male dancer of the past 50 years who has not interpreted this role?

(Link to this thread, which focuses on the long-version/ truncated-version debate) is: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...howtopic=17047)

I've saw a lot of the long version in the 1950s-60s., and since then mostly the shortened version. I recently started making of list of the dancers I remember seeing in this role, almost all at NYCB. Some made a strong impression; others did not.

My favorite (in the 1950s - 60s): Jacques d'Amboise. This was the long version, which I believe he also danced on television with Suzanne Farrell. His youth, passion, and impetuosity in the early portions of the ballet prepared the way for his transformation into a noble god at the end, a transformation he arrived at hesitantly and with some resistance.

Of a later generation, I enjoyed Ib Anderson and Nikolaj Hubbe. Despite dancing the shortened version, they kept the characterization as much as possible and were almost as mesmerizing in their own way as d'Amboise had been in his.

Others were Adam Luders -- and (a dancer I always had great difficulty in appreciating) Peter Martins. Martins performed as if he were always destined to become a god -- or possibly a quite agile Victorian banker.

Which dancers and versions have spoken most powerfully to you?

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Peter Boal, for his purity and simplicity.

Bart, I love your description of Martins's Apollo as "a quite agile Victorian Banker" :thanks:

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Boal is my favorite Apollo, too. Not only was (:thanks: damned past tense!!!!) his performance completely self-effacing, but he was able to trace Apollo from Wild Child to Young God. In his later Apollos, he watched the Muses with avid wonder.

I am another one who, while I could appreciate the finesse of Peter Martins' dancing, never enjoyed it. Too clinical. Never seemed to mean anything. And I echo Hans' response to your very clever description, bart.

Baryshnikov. Try as he might, he just never achieved nobility.

Andersen, too light for me. I need a little more brawn in my male dancers.

His compatriot Hubbe, I seem to have caught on "off" nights, but I could see the makings of a very interesting Apollo there.

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I have seen nearly all the dancers mentioned above (other than Bruhn and D'Amboise and Luders) and found wonderful things in every one, including the perfection of line in Peter Martins' performance, tho he could certainly never be called a Wild Child.

In March, 2004, at Symphony Space there was a full day tribute to Balanchine ("Wall to Wall Balanchine"), with many wonderful discussions and performances. It was topped off by a full performance of Apollo by the Dance Theater of Harlem, with Apollo danced by Rasta Thomas. J. D'Amboise coached him, and I have to say it was totally unique. There was so much going on in his face, he was so alive and reactive, that it was amazing. I don't think those cool Danes could have done that at all. His dancing was also wonderful, though probably constrained by the small stage.

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I regret never having seen Boal in this role. And -- for entirely different reasons -- Nureyev.

Now, Rasta Thomas would be INTERESTING. How did he approach the apotheosis at the end? We he a convincing god?

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This summer ABT will spread clear across Bart's Bruhn/Martins-Villella/Nureyev spectrum. In alphabetical order: Acosta, Beloserkovsky, Carreno, Hallberg, Stiefel. One could speculate how they'd place in the spectrum, with Acosta Nureyev-like, and Hallberg Bruhn-like. But I suspect there'll be some surprises.

But noone has mentioned Terpsichore, where Farrell made Martins my Apollo of choice.

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drb, I must admit that when Boal was onstage, I never noticed who was Terpsichore. :thanks:

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Now, Rasta Thomas would be INTERESTING.  How did he approach  the apotheosis at the end?  We he a convincing god?

I saw him in the role twice -- at Wall-to-Wall Balanchine and then a few months later at SummerStage. I remember the first performance (which I think was the abbreviated version?) as one where Apollo is pretty rough throughout. In fact, it was, to that point, the roughest Apollo I'd seen.

The second time, Thomas seemed very out of shape. His technique -- or lack of it -- got the better of him, and there wasn't much point in trying to divine his interpretation.

Editing to add: I swear, honest to goodness, that I didn't realize there was a pun in the last line until after I posted. :pinch: Forgive me!

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I won't belabor the point with Boal beyond "Me too", so I'd like to put a word in for Gonzalo Garcia as the best Wild Boy Apollo I've seen. He was also coached by d'Amboise and I think it's the closest I'll get to what d'Amboise might have been like in the role.

Parenthetically, I'm a one-L Witchel. Always have been.

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Boal is unrivaled in the full-length Apollo, just as Peter Martins was the best in the version which starts with Apollo ready to strum his lute. It's a breathtaking pose and Martins already looked godlike when the curtain went up. This truncated version seemed made to order for him. He never looked convincing in swaddling clothes or trying out his god powers, unlike Boal. I liked d'Amboise and Villella in the part too, a couple of wild boys, but I saw them much less often. With the current crop of Apollos, I wish NYCB would restore the full-length version.

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I like Stravinsky's description of Serge Lifar in the role:"still quite young, conscientious, natural, spontaneous, and full of serious enthusiasm for his art...". Peter Boal was even more amazing in the role than I previously thought when I realized he achieved all this at a much later age.

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Me too on Boal. The elegance & serenity of his interpretion was breathtaking. I also liked Steifel's wild boy approach, but I wouldn't put it in the same league as Boal's. I am eagerly awaiting Hallberg's debut this spring...

Now, Rasta Thomas would be INTERESTING.  How did he approach  the apotheosis at the end?  We he a convincing god?

I saw him in the role twice -- at Wall-to-Wall Balanchine and then a few months later at SummerStage. I remember the first performance (which I think was the abbreviated version?) as one where Apollo is pretty rough throughout. In fact, it was, to that point, the roughest Apollo I'd seen.

The second time, Thomas seemed very out of shape. His technique -- or lack of it -- got the better of him, and there wasn't much point in trying to divine his interpretation.

Editing to add: I swear, honest to goodness, that I didn't realize there was a pun in the last line until after I posted. :pinch: Forgive me!

Carbro, are you sure that was Thomas at Summerstage? I went to the 2004 Summerstage performance and don't remember him there. I just saw him recently and thought it was the first time I'd seen him. He really impressed so I hope I'd have remembered his Apollo. I just checked my Summerstage program for Tues & Wed 7/27/04 & 7/28/04 and it lists Duncan Cooper as Apollo. Of course there could have been a substitution one night or the other (I only went to one but I don't remember whether I went on Tues or Wednesday).

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With the current crop of Apollos, I wish NYCB would restore the full-length version.

I was wondering how much lattitude individual dancers nowadays actually have in their approach to this role? How far is it permissable to adjust the performance of the role (not the steps, of course) to the stage personality of an individual dancer?

I also wonder if it's not possible to over-state the effect of the long-versiion/ short-version distinction on the way the character of Apollo is presented. In the short version, there is plenty going on to suggest that Apollo has not yet accepted his destiny and does not do so until the his approach to the final sun-burst apotheosis. that is one of my criticisms of the Martins interpretation. The curtain went up and -- BANG! -- there was Apollo Belvedere.

Plus: the NYCB is only a small part of the world-wide Apollo story nowadays, and certainly less central to the Balanchine canon than in the past. I have read posts on Ballet Talk suggesting that you can see superb versions at the Kirov, Paris Opera Ballet, etc. Not to mention sons-of-Balanchine companies like Miami City Ballet.

How is the dance taught and prepared in these other companies? How is it danced outside Balanchine's old company? Who are the best interpreters of the role outside NYCB, and how do they compare with what was done under the supervision -- apparently changing over time -- of Balanchine?

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Another SFB Apollo appealed to me more than Garcia (though I agree, Garcia was amazing).

I may have been in a romantic mood that year, but Vadim Solomakha's princely Apollo fascinated me. I don't think I've ever seen the role played that way before -- and Solomakha tends to play EVERY role that way, as if he were just waking up like Solor and saying "Where am I? What flowers are at my feet? What creatures are these?" But for many roles, where muse-like visionary women are about to appear, it is actually an appropriately receptive spirit -- and he underwent the ballet as something that was dawning on him, attentively -- and when his divinity revealed itself in him, he DID LOOK LIKE APOLLO BELVEDERE. I found it amazing to see all those familiar moves from such a soft perspective, and I've never seen Apollo himself look more beautiful.

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Carbro, are you sure that was Thomas at Summerstage? I went to the 2004 Summerstage performance and don't remember him there. I just saw him recently and thought it was the first time I'd seen him. He really impressed so I hope I'd have remembered his Apollo. I just checked my Summerstage program for Tues & Wed 7/27/04 & 7/28/04 and it lists Duncan Cooper as Apollo. Of course there could have been a substitution one night or the other (I only went to one but I don't remember whether I went on Tues or Wednesday).

There was only one performance, Susan, the first having been cancelled for rain (the second being a very close call). You're probably right about the casting. Apollo-gies* to both Messrs. Thomas and Duncan. I was in the throes of personal crisis at the time, with my dearest friend succumbing to cancer and my oldest suddenly dropping (temporarily) out of sight. Could have exacerbated my usual level of confusion.

*Whoops! Can't seem to help myself. :pinch:

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This is one of those roles that seems to support many different interpretations and approaches, which makes it such fun.

Nureyev was close to the end of his dancing life when I saw him in the role, and he turned the ballet into an essay on death and transfiguration rather than birth and development. It was certainly an unusal performance, but a fascinating one, and in retrospect, quite moving.

With Pacific Northwest Ballet I've seen Jeffrey Stanton and Stanko Milov in the role. (I believe Olivier Wevers was originally scheduled to perform -- he was the Apollo in the poster -- and with his acting skills he would likely have done a fine job). Stanton was very serious -- it was all about being schooled, learning how to control the muses and be a god. Milov was more boisterous (in a review I compared him to Elvis in the "strumming" moment) -- part of what he was learning to control was himself.

With both of them I was very interested in seeing how their Terpsichore's meshed with their characterizations. Stanton performed with Louise Nadeau, whose quickness (especially at the beginning of a phrase) seemed a sparky contrast with his more andante style. Milov was paired with Patricia Barker -- her cool competence made her into a teacher.

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While I haven't seen enough Apollos to really be able to talk along here, I would like to mention Kenneth Greve's interpretation. Seeing Hubbe on one night and Greve the next enabled me to make a very direct comparison between the two. Hubbe was lighter, more versatile and playful, but at the same time emotionally shallow(IMO). He was born a God in the full use of his powers - there was no growing into it, as in Greve's interpretation. Greve, less agile and more statuesque than Hubbe, gave the ballet a serener, more "sculpted" feeling. Personally, I prefered Greve's Apollo to Hubbe's, although plenty of people were not in agreement with me.

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I haven't seen a lot of Apollos either, but I love this ballet. Unfortunately, I have never been wowed by the dancer playing Apollo (I wish I'd seen Boal's!)

Is there anyone else dancing now who "shouldn't be missed" in this role?

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I haven't seen a lot of Apollos either, but I love this ballet. Unfortunately, I have never been wowed by the dancer playing Apollo (I wish I'd seen Boal's!)

Is there anyone else dancing now who "shouldn't be missed" in this role?

I've had the good fortune to see at least a dozen different Apollos (both versions) over the years. Igor Zelensky remains my favorite, although I don't know if he still dances the role. The word I found myself using to describe his Apollo was "feral" -- a quality which others may or may not find appropriate to the role, but which I think fits it very well. I'm probably in the minority on this, but I prefer Hübbe to Boal ...

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Zelensky just did Apollo for his gala during the Maryinsky Ballet Fest. I agree with you, he's one of my favorites, too, in this role. He didn't get to do the long version at NYCB, but does do it with the Kirov.

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It's up earlier in the thread, but among Apollos still doing the part, I'd say my current favorite is Gonzalo Garcia at SFB. Kathleen, if you like Hubbe's wilder approach, you might like Garcia as well.

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Zelensky's Apollo, when he first visited New York with the Kirov, was just gorgeous. I can only imagine it is more finely honed now. I'd love to see it.

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I liked Rasta Thomas' Apollo (long version), but I think it might be a little on the goofy side for many. The opposite approach, and one of my favorites of current performers' renditions, was Astrit Zejnati's at Ballet Arizona.

I would love to see Olivier Wevers' take on the role. Sadly, the ballet won't be part of the "Stravinsky 125" program that will end the 2006-7 PNB season. I'm also sorry I missed Zelensky in the role.

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I've had the good fortune to see at least a dozen different Apollos (both versions) over the years. Igor Zelensky remains my favorite, although I don't know if he still dances the role. The word I found myself using to describe his Apollo was "feral" -- a quality which others may or may not find appropriate to the role, but which I think fits it very well....

Igor is currently dancing Apollo with Nina Ananiashvili's company in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he learned ballet in Vakhtang Chabukiani's class. He has danced both versions, but says in an interview in "Georgia Today" that he prefers the one without the beginning birth of Apollo scene. He has danced it at NYCB, and especially admires the way it is danced there, and the coaching by Peter Martins for this role. Perhaps the association with Martins explains why he feels the role suits him well: "A blond, tall guy surrounded by three muses," and he feels that he is trying to choose one of the three, which is an interesting take on the ballet (perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek?).

He takes what I would consider a very Balanchinian view when he says

“every time you do it, it’s a different piece. You modernize it, you grow with it. There are so many details in it, and I think it’s great that Balanchine left a margin for each dancer to do it his way. His choreography is just a framework, and it’s fascinating to watch that every dancer does it differently. The piece has its plasticity, its technique, and you just breathe a new life in it. Besides, every dancer has a different body and that also an important factor.”

He has danced about 30 Balanchine ballets and finds that "work on each one was never the same. With time he was growing as a person and as a choreographer."

His fans might be interested in the reaction to his performances in Georgia: "Igor Zelensky almost stole the show last weekend, when his Apollo literally lit up the stage and proved that his great jump, excellent stage presence and partnering skills are not just words." He also made it clear that he feels a part of Nina's company and wishes to dance with them frequently.

The entire interview:

http://www.georgiatoday.ge/article_details.php?id=1289#

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