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Casting for February program/Reviews

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#31 Joshua



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Posted 07 February 2006 - 09:43 AM

It was great. The bulk of the discussion centered on Tharp's technique and anecdotes from various performances. Shelley Washington gave an account of her first introduction to Twyla Tharp at a workshop in DC (around 1973 if I recall). In which Twyla would teach 10 movements a day, each given its own number. As the workshop progressed combinations were built by Twyla calling out the numbers in a sequence to build phrases. She also spoke a bit about retrograding (learning a phrase and then performing it in reverse as if rewinding) and inverting (all movements pefromed in a opposite manner from which they are learned - for a simple example, a movement performed palms up would be performed palms down). There was some discussion of Twyla Tharp's use of video in her creative process - being able to recombine movements through editting of video footage (apparently a process she adopted quite early). Shelley also spoke about of Twyla Tharp's use of musical selections. Something I did not know was that In the Upper Room was not originally choreographed to the Phillip Glass piece that now accompanies it. In a move that would have Balanchine on edge, the music was changed very close to its first performance date. I can't remember the original score, however.

It was a pretty full hour, if I remember more I'll post it.

#32 doug


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Posted 07 February 2006 - 10:50 AM

Stacy spoke at length about moving from performing ballet to performing Tharp - everything from the physical differences to the different modes of working, dancer perception, etc.

#33 drb


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Posted 07 February 2006 - 01:17 PM

...I would rather see NYCB come to Seattle, and be a performance in the subscription season, like Russell described in a season before I moved here.  ... Ideally, it would be an exchange, however much a pipe dream this is, with a union compromise so that the orchestras could play for each other....


A great idea, but lets complete the deal, and in a way that should make both orchestras happy. NYCB's Spring season ends rather early and the theater goes dark for a while. Why not have PNB visit here for a week, working with NYCB's orchestra, to make up for NYCB's week in Seattle, with PNB's orchestra? Whether as subs add-ons or on their own, probably both would fill the respective houses. Both orchestras would get an extra week's pay, both companies would get exposure to experienced, knowledgable audiences. There's even enough rep overlap so that neither orchestra need get terribly overloaded with rehearsal time. If this could be managed quickly enough we NYer's would get one last look at the great Patricia Barker, as well as get to see what Peter Boal is doing (in itself enough to sell out the theater!).

#34 Helene



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Posted 07 February 2006 - 01:39 PM

Why not have PNB visit here for a week, working with NYCB's orchestra, to make up for NYCB's week in Seattle, with PNB's orchestra?  Whether as subs add-ons or on their own, probably both would fill the respective houses. 


I wasn't very clear, because that was what I meant :)

#35 carbro


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Posted 07 February 2006 - 03:18 PM

Something I did not know was that In the Upper Room was not originally choreographed to the Phillip Glass piece that now accompanies it.  In a move that would have Balanchine on edge, the music was changed very close to its first performance date. I can't remember the original score, however. It was a pretty full hour, if I remember more I'll post it.


Not sure it would have had Balanchine on edge, as he once suggested that John Clifford (about which ballet I forget) keep the steps but change the music to the ballet John was making at the time. (Pretty sure that's from Repertory in Review.) But this seems to be a common Twyla modus operendi. At a talk she gave quite a few years ago, she recounted doing this with another of her works. Can't remember which right now, but I'll try to look it up. *

I think an exchange program -- if not with whole companies, then at least sizable delegations -- is a great idea. :) Let PNB spend a while in NYST, while NYCB visits the Northwest! It would be especially interesting to see new dancers in familiar ballets, which they may have learned in a whole different manner than our regular dancers!

*Eureka! It's Bix Pieces!

Part Three gets introduced. Now the music is Haydn's, which the narrator informs the audience, was the music to which Tharp originally composed her choreography when creating her dance. So, as they then get repeated, familiar choreographic moves complement the different score as harmoniously as they mated with Beiderbecke's score. . .

Obviously, these are not random substitutions!

Edited by carbro, 07 February 2006 - 03:45 PM.

#36 Dale


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Posted 07 February 2006 - 04:24 PM

The Clifford story was in the book "I Remember Balanchine," edited by Francis Mason.

Tharp switched music after doing the choreography for the work The Beethoven Seventh, for NYCB. She originally used some of Beethoven's quartets.

#37 Helene



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Posted 10 February 2006 - 12:49 AM

In tonight's performance, the principal casting and the female demi-soloist casting for Ancient Airs and Dances was different from the one I saw last Saturday afternoon. Dynamically, in the pas de deux especially, it was like watching a different ballet. Ariana Lallone was light and graceful as the woman in the first couple, especially in her open upper body and arms. She was partnered by Casey Herd, whose bold plies into second reminded me of his performance in the 4th movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet a couple of years ago. Carla Korbes and Christophe Maraval danced the second couple. While Nadeau on Saturday was all controlled explosiveness, drawing the eye to fine detail, Korbes was expansive and playful. She made a wonderful pairing with Christophe Maraval, who has the presence to match her. His mini-solos were very musical, and he showed a contrast between quick, sharp footwork and a more malleable upper body. Kaori Nakamura and Le Yin danced the third couple. They were sharp, athletic, and very evenly matched. It's great to see him back. The two demi women, Lindsi Dec and Laura Gilbreath were gracious framers thoughout the group sections. It must be a hard ballet in which to be corps or the demi-men, having to keep warm throughout all of the pas de deux sections.

Korbes, or "the girl with the hair," got many props from the Second Tier side section where I was sitting. (When she did a lunge and arched backwards, her very long ponytail swished the ground.) She really knows how to connect with her partners.

Brunson and Herd again performed Kiss, and it was just as powerful and beautiful as the first time I saw it. There were general murmurs of "Cirque du Soleil" around me when the curtain came up, but this work was created in 1987. Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984, and while it is possible that Marshall was influenced by it, it wasn't the worldwide, televised phenomenon it is today, and its presence not yet iconic.

Lallone and Wevers reprised the first couple in Red Angels. (They appear first, but are listed in the casting as Couple 2.) Lallone looked like a totally different dancer tonight: sharp, dynamic, and space-eating. It was a great, powerful performance. Rachel Foster and Lucien Postlewaite made their debuts as the second couple, and had a great success. The dynamic differences between Foster/Postlewaite and Rausch/Pacitti may have been due partially to the greater height difference in tonight's couple, but they both seemed to have a rounder approach as well. All four dancers seemed to emphasize the arched backs in the choregraphy.

Nine Sinatra Songs had nearly the same cast as Thursday night. The exception was that Mara Vinson was paired with Jeffrey Stanton in "All the Way." Vinson was darling and Stanton dashing, but they weren't the emotional heart of the ballet for me tonight. (Thomas and Spell in the lightest of the dances were.) It was a dance, and maybe even a romance, but not a relationship that had a chance to last decades. From a vantage point in the Second Tier, the opening dance, "Softly As I Leave You" had much more sweep, and Brunson and Cruz made a more vivid impression. The Gallery Upper, where I sat on Saturday, has a slightly side view, and that dance was much more effective head on. Boal mentioned in the post-performance Q&A that because the disco ball was blinding in some sections of the hall, the lighting was dimmed a bit, which made it a bit difficult from above to see Maria Chapman and James Moore in "One for My Baby," with him in tuxedo pants and her in a black dress with black stockings, against a dimly lit black floor.

Saturday I was watching Noelani Pantastico so much that I didn't notice that Jordan Pacitti was hysterical in "Something Stupid." In the Q&A the dancers were asked if it was supposed to be comic, and Pacitti said that Shelley Washington, who staged the ballet, said no, but that they were supposed to be a husband and wife, where the husband was shorter than she, and that he was supposed to have a "Woody Allen personality." (Perhaps she meant that they shouldn't exaggerate it for laughs, because I'm not sure there are many more comedic set-ups than that.) Pacitti and Pantastico were quite evenly matched, especially since she was in ballroom shoes, not pointe shoes, and I didn't pick up on height as part of the comedy.

As on Saturday, Maria Chapman made a pre-curtain speech about Second Stage, the career transition program for PNB dancers. On Saturday, her speech was interrupted a number of times by applause, when she mentioned that she'd be dancing later in the program, when she told the audience that the dancers had donated their salaries from Opening Night to the fund, etc. Tonight there was complete silence during her speech. I was afraid the audience would sit on its hands for the performance, but, instead, was more enthusiastic than at the matinee. I wasn't sitting among the "woofers," but there was lots of applause and buzz.

Other Q&A topics: someone asked what Boal was looking for when he cast Kiss. First he mentioned that usually stagers like to do their own casting, but with this program, he got to do all of it. He said that he chose Vinson and Moore because they had been having such a great season and because of their "quiet intensity." He chose Brunson because he recognized a "powerful presence that had not been explored in depth," and Casey Herd for their "raw sensuality." He noted that Susan Marshall was in town this past weekend, and was pleased with both casts, which made him proud.

Boal mentioned that both Pacitti and Pantastico would be in Dominque Dumais' new piece, which premieres in the March program. He said that the pas de deux that Pantastico will be in is beautiful.

Miranda Weese is in Seattle; her first performance is tomorrow night as the woman in the Second Couple in Ancient Airs and Dances. She was at the Q&A, but didn't speak. It would have been the middle of the night for her in EST. Boal mentioned that Rasta Thomas has been touring in Movin' Out.

Someone complimented the recent radio commercial for the Valentine program, which Boal said sold 3 times the projected ticket sales. He commented that the Marketing Department was trying new angles, and that he wanted everyone to feel invited, even if they didn't come. The Company is planning to lower the lowest price tickets to $18 next year to make the ballet more accessible. The only way I got to attend so many performances of NYCB, particularly during graduate school, was because standing room cost $2.50, and if I could scrape together $7.50 from my coat pockets and under the sofa cushions, I could afford the ticket and the round-trip on the bus and subway. Even adjusting for inflation, it's hard to imagine how someone starting out or on a fixed income could afford to attend very often.

An audience member said that when she tried to renew her subscription in the Second Tier, the company tried to move her down. Boal said that PNB was offering to move subscribers to lower sections at the same price, to fill gaps in the house which made the house feel empty, even when it was not. He did say that people who want to stay in the Second Tier, which is a great place to see the patterns in big ballets like Symphony in C, should insist on it.

As a note, it is possible to renew at McCaw Hall in the lobby right behind the main entrance, but the Celebrate Seattle add-ons can't be processed at the same time, at least not yet. But early renewers get the great PNB calendar, with photos by Angela Sterling, former soloist with PNB. The photos include Jeff Stanton in Silver Lining, a Silver Lining group shot, Carrie Imler as Flora, Patricia Barker as the Siren, with a great reaction shot of Jonathan Poretta from the background, Maria Chapman and the now-departed Oleg Gorboulev in the Third Theme from Four Temperaments, Louise Nadeau in The Piano Ballet, which is also the cover shot, Poretta flying over the males corps in Rite of Spring, Stanko Milov and Patricia Barker in the Apollo starburst image, Christophe Maraval and Louise Nadeau in the Second Movement of Symphony in C, Ariana Lallone in Lambarena (with Maraval?), and Kiyon Gaines, mid-jump, from Firebird. (Approaching senior moment -- it's in the car and I can't remember the rest. But it's gorgeous.)

#38 sandik


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Posted 10 February 2006 - 10:13 AM

But early renewers get the great PNB calendar, with photos by Angela Sterling, former soloist with PNB.  The photos include Jeff Stanton in Silver Lining, ... and Kiyon Gaines, mid-jump, from Firebird.  (Approaching senior moment -- it's in the car and I can't remember the rest.  But it's gorgeous.)


I should have such detailed "senior moments!"

#39 Helene



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Posted 12 February 2006 - 08:14 PM

Sadly, the Sneak film series, in which subscribers would show up to a movie theater once a month and see whatever movie the program directors chose, is now defunct. The silver lining was that I was able to go to the last performance of the "Valentine" program this afternoon.

When I went to pick up last night's ticket from Will Call at 7:25pm, there was a line of at least 30 people waiting to buy tickets, and there were very few empty seats in the Second Tier and what I could see of Upper Gallery Left and the Main Floor. When I went to buy a ticket for this afternoon's performance, all but about 10 seats in the Second Tier had been ticketed. This is great news for the Company, because word-of-mouth has spread. Boal mentioned in both post-performance Q&A's that the audience has warmed to Kiss over the run, and that there were people who came back to see it again. He also said last night that we would see works from this program in future years (after next season, which is already planned and published.)

Last night Boal said that because Dominique Dumais, who is choreographing a work for the March program, needed to rearrange her schedule, both she and Shelley Washington were in Seattle at the same time, and, as a result, Ancient Airs and Dances, was rehearsed for a shorter-than-usual period of time. (Brittany Reid described in last night's Q&A how the had been begun in November and continued briefly during Nutcracker.) I was surprised by this, because the work had looked so tight the first three times I saw it; the only thing unusual was that Wevers looked like he was concentrating hard when partnering Weese, who had flown in last Monday for rehearsals on Tuesday-Thursday. Today, there was something off when the three men, Herd, Maraval, and Porretta, danced together. I'm pretty certain that the men were supposed to be in unison, but it seemed like one of the men was a bit behind or ahead. (This is the first time I saw these three men together.)

Last night, Barker and Cruz reprised their roles, but it was the first time I saw Weese and Wevers paired, and Nakamura danced with Lucien Postlewaite (they debuted as a pair on Friday night). Barker and Cruz again were very free and playful. Weese danced with a lovely upper body and arms. (When in the Q&A she said that the role had been originally done for Heather Watts, I was surprised that it was Watts' role she was cast in, and not the role danced by Barker and Lallone. As a civilian, she was simply stunning, with alabaster skin, and more beautiful than in photographs. The next time a film director decides to go period, instead of trying to convince us that Winona Ryder or Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock is an early-20th-century character, s/he should head straight to Weese.) In the third couple, I thought that Nakamura was best matched with Postlewaite, because of contrasting styles and his height; she could really stretch out with him. In a way, they looked like the stylistic inverse of Imler and Porretta.

For a shortened rehearsal time, it was amazing that while I had seen all of the couples in this afternoon's performance, I had never seen them together. Lallone and Herd, Korbes and Maraval, and Imler and Porretta were the three. While I liked many other individual performances, I thought that apart from the aforementioned synch issues, this combination made the nicest stage pictures, particularly in the short pas de trois with Lallone, Herd, and Maraval, a very tall, lean, long-legged line of dancers, and in the mirror dancing by Imler and Korbes, who looked beatifully matched together and when joined by Porretta. Of the four performances I saw, it got the most enthusiastic response from the audience today. There were four pre-teen to teenaged girls behind me with one mother, and the false ending at the end of the Korbes/Maraval pas de deux got a spontaneous, collective "Wow!!!!" from the group, and there was lots of screaming at the curtain calls.

The NYCB website lists "Original cast: Valentina Kozlova, Heather Watts, Wendy Whelan, Philip Neal, Jock Soto, Damian Woetzel." Does anyone know who the pairings were and who danced the first and third couples? (It looks like alphabetical order, but that may be coincidental.)

In both programs, Kiss was performed by Mara Vinson and James Moore. What a contrast to the more languid Brunson and Herd. There was almost a desperation in Moore's performance, and an innocence that contrasted to his darker persona in Sinatra. Last night, I felt like Vinson was being swept away from Moore, beyond his reach and her control, as if by an ocean wave, but in today's performance, it seemed more deliberate, like she was controlling the situation. It was just as visually gripping, but, emotionally, I felt like a voyeur watching an impending tragedy, which was odd, because I didn't feel like a voyeur watching a more sensual performance by Brunson and Herd.

Last night, the pairs for Red Angels were Korbes and Maraval, Foster and Postlewaite. This was the most homogeneous cast in terms of the round, sinuous, cat-like movement quality, and it made the differentiations in the choreography stand out more. There was much more contrast in today's couples, Lallone and Wevers, Kaori Nakamura and guest Rasta Thomas. Lallone and Nakamura both gave dynamic performances, but because their heights and body types are so different, the affects were strikingly different too. Lallone's long lines and arcs were blazing; Nakamura was more explosive. Thomas' performance was very open and bright, much like I remember his Apollo.

Olivier Wevers and Christophe Maraval are often cast in the same roles, and it was fascinating to contrast them. It's as if Wevers has a coil inside him; when he stands still, you know something striking is going to come. Maraval dances a phrase and comes to a dead stop, with the resonance of motion still in the air encircling him. (Porretta, by contrast, looks as though he has the entire contents of the Harbour Bridge New Year's fireworks inside him, ready to go off at any time.) I had forgotten who was dancing the role today, but even in the semi-darkness of the opening, when the dancer walked across upstage from the wing, there was no mistaking that it was Wevers, just from his walk.

The differences in Nine Sinatra Songs were as striking as the differences between the two casts of Kiss, but magnified by five. (Thomas and Spell danced Couple 6 in all eight performances, and Korbes and Stanton reprised their role.) In "Softly As I Leave You," Lesley Rausch, with her blond hair swept up, and her graceful style, reminded me of Darci Kistler. Stanko Milov as her partner had a lot of panache and was fun to watch, but he was playing the romantic lead, while Karel Cruz partnered Kari Brunson as if he was in a romance. In "Strangers in the Night" Ariana Lallone danced a glamorous, perfumed tango (straight), while Christopher Maraval, with his slicked back hair, played a tango lizard; all he was missing was the pencil-thin mustache. (Maybe he had one that wasn't visible through my opera glasses.) That was a complete contrast to Rachel Foster and Le Yin's spirited tango, in which I detected no irony. While in the first two performances, Maria Chapman portrayed a too-tipsy woman trying to steer a rather broody James Moore away from a bar fight or smashing the car into a pole -- today he seemed lighter and she seemed drunker -- Chalnessa Eames was the life of the party girl that Anton Pankevitch was trying to get home while she still had life in her, and the effect was more comic.

Carrie Imler and Jonathan Porretta were explosive and hysterical in "Somethin' Stupid." They have mentioned in Q&A's that they are friends offstage, and Boal said last night that they are just like their performance in real life. In response to a question about how he cast for comedy, he said he picked Imler and Pantastico for the role because of their general timing and technique, which would work in any dance. Pantastico was more outgoing and funny in this afternoon's performance. There was still more depth with Korbes and Stanton in "All the Way," but this afternoon, Vinson and Stanton danced more smoothly together, and they were more sparkly. Kudos to Thomas and Spell, who brought the same life and high standards to each performance of "Forget Domani," one of the highlights for me.

About "That's Life" Joshua wrote, "I would say that Kaori Nakamura in that part exhibited a different character - one that dished out as much as she received. This certainly made the part a little more palatable." He was not kidding: Nakamura might even have been running that show. She has been cast so strongly in this program, bringing out previously unexploited aspects of her dancing. I don't think I would have guessed that she would turn out to be an Authentic Twyla Girl: she looked like she could have jumped off the stage of McCaw Hall and right into Tharp's company.

At the end of the "That's Life," someone tosses the man's jacket to him from the wings, and he puts it on before the woman runs across the stage and jumps in his arms. Casey Herd was already smoothing out his collar when Nadeau took her leap, but Wevers upped the ante: he barely got his second arm in the sleeve when Nakamura came flying through the air. For those who think the ending leaps of Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux have gotten tame, these two could give them a lesson in danger.

It may have been the energy level of the last performance of the program -- Lallone said in today's post-performance Q&A that she felt sad before her entrance in Red Angels, knowing it was the end of the run -- but Nadeau gave it back to Herd today, too. Maybe not as aggressively as Nakamura, but Herd wasn't getting away with much this time. Looking at the work as a whole, last night's cast was something that would have been more recognizably Tharpian, with more of the edgy irony. But there were so many good performances across all of them, that I was glad I didn't have to choose.

For Dolly Dinkle watchers, in the Q&A, Lallone started by describing her early dance training, which was in a ballet studio in a strip mall in Southern California, next to a bar and I think she said dry cleaners. Lallone was delightful. Boal said that the Dumais work is being built around Lallone. It is the piece in the next program to which I'm most looking forward. In talking about the upcoming Choreographers' Showcase on 22 March, in which company members present their works, Lallone described working with dancers who are friends and peers, but are in the role of Ballet Master when choreographing. She gave the example of saying that she didn't like a step, and he said, "just do it" :thanks: but she said it was a fun experience.

Boal answered questions about the guest appearances in both sessions. He said that while he was at NYCB, there were lots of guests, for anywhere from a couple of performances to two years. He noted the dancers who have guested from PNB, like Patricia Barker going to Boston Ballet, and Pantastico and Wevers dancing with NYCB, and wanted to reciprocate. He said that he wanted to invite both Weese and Thomas this year, but didn't plan specifically to have them dance on the same program. He also said that when the men cast in Red Angels heard there was going to be a guest, they "took it up a notch." (He said they had been good before, but got even better.) And people say women are competitive :)

It's really a shame that this program has to end.

Edited by Helene, 12 February 2006 - 11:59 PM.

#40 sandik


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Posted 12 February 2006 - 11:02 PM

Last night Boal said that because Dominique Dumais, who is choreographing a work for the March program, needed to rearrange her schedule, both she and Shelley Washington were in Seattle at the same time, and, as a result, Ancient Airs and Dances, was rehearsed for a shorter-than-usual period of time. 


This makes sense to me -- the beginning of the run felt a bit out of kilter, though I think part of my feeling comes from the actual choreography.

Today, there was something off when the three men, Herd, Maraval, and Porretta.  I'm pretty certain that the men were supposed to be in unison, but it seemed like one of the men was a bit behind or ahead.  (This is the first time I saw these three men together.) 


I was there Sunday afternoon as well, and yes, they did seem to be out of sync, and not evenly spaced either. For a couple of sequences Maraval was "in the middle" with Herd in close on one side and Poretta further away on the other.

#41 SandyMcKean


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Posted 13 February 2006 - 05:38 PM

Boal answered questions about the guest appearances in both sessions.

My second viewing was last Thursday night.

After reading your and others comments earlier in this thread regarding the pros and cons of having guest artists, I noted one of Boal's answers during the Q&A as telling.

He was asked about using guest artists (by you for all I know since I believe from a previous post of yours that you were there too :wink:). The fragment of his answer that caught my attention was when he said something along the lines of "see and be seen". It struck me as a pretty smart ploy on his part to increase the exposure of his company and his dancers to members of other companies (especially NY companies I would think). I believe he even said something about Seattle being a bit isolated up here in this corner of the country. Clever agenda I thought.

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