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Cool VibrationsSpring 2006 program


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#1 Treefrog

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 04:39 PM

The Joffrey's spring program, "Cool Vibrations", opens tomorrow night and runs for nine performances over two weeks.

Deuce Coupe, choreography Twyla Tharp, music by The Beach Boys
Motown Suite, choreography Donald Byrd, music by various Motown artists
"Sometimes it Snows in April", from Billboards, choreography Gerald Arpino, music by Prince (in collaboration with Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman)

I'm wondering what any of you know about the history of these pieces, and about their original performances in the 70's.

I'm also curious about how the character of the current performance will be different. I'm thinking about how the music originally was new and fresh, and likely to be the music the dancers were listening to on the radio and playing on their stereos, whereas now the music is at best known as "oldies" to the current dancers.

And finally ... do you think programming like this will attract today's audiences, or turn them off? Not asking what YOU prefer, but whether you predict good attendance and enthusiastic applause, or just the opposite.

#2 carbro

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 04:58 PM

Today's audience? I have no idea. Yesterday's audience, maybe. But such categories make me feel like I'm putting middle-of-the-boom babies like myself (and I presume you) in the day-before-yesterday category. That's the one that sees "Beach Boys" and "Motown" and grins. Prince may draw a younger crowd.

But alas, I fear that those guys are to this young generation as Cole Porter (whose music entertained our parents) was to us -- not to be fully appreciated during our youth.

I loved Deuce Coupe (which I saw as DCII when it was new to the Joffrey), but wonder whether it will feel like a a relic now.

I know I can count on you to share your reactions, Treefrog. Also, let us know if you think the audience seems to have more 20-somethings than usual.

#3 sandik

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 08:10 PM

The Joffrey's spring program, "Cool Vibrations", opens tomorrow night and runs for nine performances over two weeks.

Deuce Coupe, choreography Twyla Tharp, music by The Beach Boys
Motown Suite, choreography Donald Byrd, music by various Motown artists
"Sometimes it Snows in April", from Billboards, choreography Gerald Arpino, music by Prince (in collaboration with Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman)

I'm wondering what any of you know about the history of these pieces, and about their original performances in the 70's.


I'm not sure if you're referring to the dances or to the music -- as far as the dances are concerned, only Deuce Coupe is from the 1970's (1973) -- the score by the Beach Boys mostly comes from the 1960's. Billboards premiered in 1993 and I believe that the Motown Suite is new, but you could say that the music for both of these was popular in the 1970's.

Deuce Coupe was a watershed work for the Joffrey, for Tharp, and for the direction of ballet. It was one of the first truly successful "crossover" ballets, and led the way for a school of thought that looked to combine "unlikely partners" in ballet commissions. It was, interestingly, percieved as a role model for Billboards -- the company looking for a work that would pull from both popular culture and contemporary choreography. I'd be curious to know why the company has commissioned a new work to Motown artists, rather than reviving Forsythe's Love Songs, with music by Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, but Donald Byrd has made several works for ballet companies recently, as well as modern ensembles, so perhaps they want to continue the crossover tradition

#4 Treefrog

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 08:33 PM

I'm not sure if you're referring to the dances or to the music -- as far as the dances are concerned, only Deuce Coupe is from the 1970's (1973) -- the score by the Beach Boys mostly comes from the 1960's. Billboards premiered in 1993 and I believe that the Motown Suite is new, but you could say that the music for both of these was popular in the 1970's.


Sorry -- yes, I meant to refer specifically to Deuce Coupe when asking about the original 1970's performances. Thanks for the history.

#5 Treefrog

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 05:03 PM

Overall, as one might expect, this program was rather much of a muchness. Great if your music taste runs to oldies and your ballet taste runs toward the contemporary.

Like much of the Joffrey's 1970's repertoire, I suspect that Deuce Coupe doesn't play nearly as well now as it did originally, when it was new and startling and seemed to be making a statement. (It especially doesn't play new and startling when paired with two clones ....) I thought the performance lacked a certain energy necessary to make its contrast come off. (For those not familiar with this piece, a solitary ballerina figure in white skirted leotard appears periodically to methodically explore the classical ballet vocabulary, in the midst of brightly clad dancers -- orange dresses for the ladies, red pants and Hawaian-inspired shirts for the gents -- whose movements are partly based on 1970's dance party moves.)

That said ... Heather Aagard exhibited superb control and balance in the ballerina role, Brian McSween and Julianne Kepley did great justice to the exagerated movements in "Long Tall Texan", and Ikolo Griffin made an amazing leaping entrance to "Wouldn't it be Nice". (It was actually difficult to identify all the dancers, since the women had their tresses unpinned and the men had grown out their hair to almost 70's length!) I was totally wowed by the lighting of "Got to Know the Woman": warm orange/red on two thirds of the stage, cool white/blue on the other third, with one contemporary dancer (Julianne Kepley) occupying the warm side and Aagard, the cool side, but edging toward the divide and straddling it ... until Kepley disappears, leaving Aagard alone on the stage, which suddenly is bathed entirely in white/blue.

Motown Suite was actually lots of fun. It is a portrayal of the up and down, on-again-off-again nature of teenage romantic relationships among six (mostly) couples and one lone boy. The awkwardness of the school dance, the flirtation, the passionate kisses, the wandering eyes, the confusion .... it's all here. My absolute favorite scene was "Where Did Our Love Go?", in which Jennifer Goodman does a dead-on portrayal of a girl who knows it's over, doesn't want it to be, and is by turns angry, desperate, despairing, hopeful, and incensed, while her former beau (Thomas Nicholas) mostly stands there not sure what to do -- sweet, certain the relationship is over, not wanting to hurt her but certainly not wanting to encourage her. That love/hate, gotta-have-him/want-to-kill-him hurt and confusion within Goodman was really intense, and especially evocative to anyone who's been there.

Billboards was the clear crowd favorite, and with good reason. The cast was made up mostly of the youngsters in the company, and they radiated an energy that was lacking in their more senior counterparts earlier in the evening. Of course, the rock-'n'-roll soundtrack and the leaping, energetic choreography didn't hurt either.

The crowd, by the way, was very very respectable, with only scattered empty seats in the orchestra. It seems as though this program worked to bring in a new audience.

#6 bart

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 05:27 PM

Thanks for the review, treefrog. I'm glad the crowd was large, enthusiastic, and "new," though I sometimes find myself wishing wistfully that the same could be said --as it once was -- for an evening of Balanchine.

re: Billboards. I don't know this, and it's been a long time (when the Joffrey was in NY) that I've seen anything by Arpino. Was there more than youthful energy and rock and roll that made it the audience favorite. Tell us more!

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 05:42 PM

Billboards isn't by Arpino - that section (Sometimes it Snows in April) is by Laura Dean.

Being an old fart before my time, it was my least favorite of the night (yep, I was there!)

#8 Treefrog

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 06:18 PM

Leigh, please do give us your impressions!

bart, I wouldn't say that it had much more than youthful energy. The choreography is fairly repetitive -- think "thread the needle" diagonals of dancers doing the same jumps and leaps ... which, come to think of it, is very like Arpino's choreography even if it was by Dean. It wows, it mesmerizes, it builds ... but, like Leigh, I wouldn't say it actually spoke to me in any profound way.

#9 allegromezzo18

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 04:24 AM

We saw the performances last night 6/13 at the Harris theater. It was great.
One or two questions, please. Is Jennifer Goodman the dancer with the short red straight hair and
J. Kepley a little taller with blond, kind of curley hair?
I got them mixed up and would like to know who is who.
Both were great although I would have like to see both of them do more dancing on pointe.
Be Well,
Thanks.
Mezzo :clapping:

#10 Treefrog

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 09:13 AM

Jennifer Goodman does have shorter hair. Last night, she was the dancer in green in Motown Suite , and she had two little ponytails high up on the sides of her head. She danced the "I'm so angry with you/please don't go away" section with Thomas Nicholas.

Julianne Keppley is indeed a little taller, and to my eye, with a bit more sparkle in her dance. She was the dancer in pink.

#11 allegromezzo18

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 05:49 PM

Julianne and Jennifer were both great on Tuesday night at the Harris.
Are they both performing on Thursday night at the Harris?
I would love to see Jennifer and Julianne perform Twarp's in the Upper Room with Philip Glass
music.
Be Well.
Mezzo :huepfen024:

#12 Treefrog

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 07:31 PM

I've no idea who is performing Thursday. The program includes Pas des Déesses, Tensile Involvement, Return to a Strange Land, and Sometimes It Snows in April. When I last saw Pas des Déesses, two years ago, Jennifer Goodman played the Cerrito role (with Maia Wilkins and Suzanne Lopez as the other two dancers), so there's a reasonable hope of seeing her onstage Thursday. I wouldn't expect to see either of these high-energy dancers in Strange Land -- I'd bet more on the elegant cast I saw last (Wilkins/Victoria Jaiani). The two ensemble pieces might well include both Goodman and Keppley. I can't remember if they danced Sometimes It Snows in April last night.

By the way, Mezzo -- would you mind using the "Add Reply" button at the bottom or top of the thread to post a reply? By using the "reply" button on my posts, you trigger a needless quote. (This function is useful when you want to highlight a particular idea, or refer back to something said earlier in the thread, but generally not necessary just to keep the thread going.)

[Helene edited to add: I removed the quotes before I saw this post. But Treefrog's advice is correct.]


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