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Apollo -- which approach? which dancers?


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#1 bart

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 12:32 PM

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.in...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?

#2 Hans

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 03:28 PM

Peter Boal, for his purity and simplicity.

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

#3 carbro

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 04:26 PM

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.

#4 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 06:05 PM

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.

#5 bart

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 06:31 PM

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?

#6 drb

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 06:45 PM

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.

#7 Hans

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 06:59 PM

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

#8 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 07:56 PM

Bart, I wish I remembered my thoughts on that, but I don't.

#9 carbro

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 09:01 PM

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

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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!

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 09:07 PM

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.

#11 Farrell Fan

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 01:08 AM

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.

#12 atm711

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 05:00 AM

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.

#13 nysusan

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 05:51 AM

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?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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).

#14 bart

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 06:45 AM

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?

#15 Paul Parish

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 08:05 AM

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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