Phaedra392

"Jewels" DVD and PBS Great Performances broadcast

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I think Dupont would have been much better cast in Emeralds.

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Helene -- Thanks for the review. I'm wondering about the camera placement generally. Do you get to actually see the dancers properly? Is there a lot of cross-cutting, odd angles, fast edits, etc.? I'm hoping for the best.....

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Helene -- Thanks for the review. I'm wondering about the camera placement generally. Do you get to actually see the dancers properly? Is there a lot of cross-cutting, odd angles, fast edits, etc.? I'm hoping for the best.....
I have to watch this again to answer your question properly. I think the corps of Emeralds got lost a bit to focus on the principals. I remember the solos and pas de deux being filmed very well, and I liked the way the corps was shot in Diamonds, particularly the opening movement.

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My response, to quote Samantha Jones, was "No. No, no. No, no, no, no."

Ditto!

As expected they were most successful in 'Emeralds', although I wished for more subdued lighting.

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Objections about casting set aside (and Helene is right to point them out, even if I still prefer the French filtering of Balanchine to many others), I find this in many ways quite an exemplary ballet DVD release. The performance itself is augmented by a 58 minutes documentary bonus, more rewarding than its title "George Balanchine Forever" might suggest at first sight. It has interviews with the Parisian soloists featuring in the performance (interesting in itself as it concerns a generation who knows Balanchine only from books and teaching), dance director Brigitte Lefèvre, Barbara Horgan, and designer Christian Lacroix.

There is also a 26-page booklet with photos and with solid liner notes (even if I wouldn't call Balanchine "son of a famous composer"). It even has all the names of the dancers appearing in the performance. OK, they are given in alphabetical order, étoiles mixed with premier danseurs, but hey, how many ballet DVD's have the whole corps de ballet listed?

I thought the filming better than on many other recent ballet DVD's. Surely, there is always something that gets lost in the multi-camera editing, but when there would be just one camera filming the whole stage people would complain they can't see the faces. What's more worrying however is the definition quality of the image, blurry in movements (it seems it was produced for TV?)

Yet as a document on the POB dancing Balanchine, in my view, a superb release that no ballet lover should miss.

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For those waiting for the U.S. broadcast (how can you wait?!), PBS lists it as August 28.

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For those waiting for the U.S. broadcast (how can you wait?!), PBS lists it as August 28.

Dale,

Thanks, I CAN wait! I'd like to see this before deciding to buy the DVD.

For my own taste I'm thinking that it's too bad the PNB production didn't get taped.

Richard

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For those waiting for the U.S. broadcast (how can you wait?!), PBS lists it as August 28.

Dale,

Thanks, I CAN wait! I'd like to see this before deciding to buy the DVD.

For my own taste I'm thinking that it's too bad the PNB production didn't get taped.

Richard

In the best of all possible worlds, they would both be available, so we could compare and contrast.

signed, a very greedy girl

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I've only lately found time to watch the whole video, so I'm adding my two cents worth late, but I would first like to thank the other posters here not merely for making me aware of it but aware that I could get a version playable on my equipment, intended for the North American market, in contrast to the "PAL" designation on the Amazon UK site. (This reminds me again of how sketchy Amazon's product descriptions are. I don't understand this. If Amazon were to post accurate and complete information for its products, no telling how large they might become! On second thought, as the sales rankings they do post imply, they flourish selling well-known merchandise, not what we buy.)

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the value of this presentation of Jewels. It's certainly a fair introduction to the whole suite, I'd say, for those who don't know it, being the only video of all of it, as far as I know, but anyone interested in it really should also see the excerpts on Nonesuch 79838-2 in the "Choreography by Balanchine" series. There, the dancing, under the choreographer's direction in 1977, is radically different - they "just dance," the Paris dancers perform - but so is the televison direction (by Merrill Brockway): The dancing is clearly visible nearly the whole time, using cameras in deceptively simple ways, basically showing space and letting the dancers dance in it, rather than the overcomplicated, busy, and more interfering technique here. (Shameless plug: Just enter "Choreography by Balanchine" in the box at the top of the page and click "Go.") This new one has in its favor the 16:9 wide-screen format I find more agreeable than the standard 4:3 aspect ratio; which ratio the PBS broadacast uses remains to be seen.

I have no use at all for partial views of a dancer's body. "Partials" were inflicted most liberally on the principals, which is partly why I too found the corps' dancing so enjoyable. Indeed, the Paris dancers offer virtues of their own which, while not exactly authentic or maybe even appropriate, nevertheless deserve to be seen more continuously. And the music on the old video is more enlivened by the conductor (Robert Irving), too, if not as beautiful-sounding as on this new one. All in all, the higher energy level the choreographer preferred, and many of those who grew to love his art did too (and still do), was conspicuous by its absence in this new video.

I haven't seen POB ever before, as far as I can remember, so there was that value for me too.

And with so much bad lighting in ballet today - did anybody here see the Divertimento No. 15 excerpt on the Kennedy Center Honors television program last December? - I was pleasantly surprised to see the stage clearly and simply lit and to see Jennifer Tipton credited.

I'd like to see PNB's Jewels, too, on stage or on video, especially if the first thought in making their video is to get out of the way and let us see the dancing. But the company whose Jewels most deserves wide distribution today in my experience is Miami City Ballet's. In a time when there are many Giselles, Sleeping Beauties, and so on, on video, I'd really like for us to be able, someday, to look back at this effort as the first Jewels on video, not least because I recall Balanchine's ambivalence about televising a ballet, because then people will think that's the only way it should be danced; if there were several videos available, people could compare, discuss, become discriminate, and savor, instead, as sandik suggests.

Oh, and then there's the documentary, which really is better than we'd expect from its title. (I'd say it even contradicts its title a bit.) It suggested the source of one of the problems I have with the performances: How these dancers, especially the ones in Emeralds, look for the story, the character, the mood, how they analyze! I wanted to say, as Balanchine was supposed to have said sometimes, Don't think dear, just do!

But some of the intellectualizing resonated. Some of the best of that came from the director, Pierre Cavassilas: "We find ourselves today watching a ballet which completely transcended its own time... Through these ballets we will find a part of the emotions which were [balanchine's] during his life and artistic encounters." (I am depending on the English subtitles, which, by the way, didn't always play in my Pioneer equipment, although on the other hand I hadn't any blurry-motion problems.)

Even though he too struggles here with the necessity of characters (it's in chapter 9 at about 43 minutes and 5 seconds into the documentary), I found this like a fresh breeze, having been depressedly aware for so many years recently here in America, at least, of the perverse (because distracting) nonsense that to enter into an artist's intimate life you must study his biography and the history of his place; M. Cavassilas has the connection the right way round: If you want intimate experience of an artist, enter into his work, absorb it, become him; and "transcending its own time" is my working definition of greatness. (This man's a better philosopher than director! Vive la France!)

So there's a lot to like here. Two cheers! But only two, because the two essentials, IMO - authentic dancing and unobtrusive televising - are compromised. [This last sentence added 7th September 2006]

Edited by Jack Reed

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Thanks, Jack. You've convinced me. I'm just about to cllick the Amazon box above and move the POB Jewels from my Shopping Cart tot he check-out line. (Extra money for Ballet Talk, too.)

P.S.: I like the lighting on all the recent POB videos I've seen. Am I right in thinking that lighting for televised dance has become infiinitely more viewer-friendly in the past few years?

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I haven't seen that video, but have seen "Jewels" performed by the POB a few times, and I regret that it wasn't filmed earlier with one of the first POB casts... I'd have loved to see a video of it with dancers like Guérin, Gaïda or Maurin in "Emeralds", for example. Also I wonder if Carbone was the planned cast for "Rubies": Manuel Legris danced it many times (and I really found him great in it- but well, I've only seen the POB in that ballet) and usually he connects well with Dupont, but there were moments when he was injured... And sometimes Dupont tends to be a bit "cold" on stage (well, I guess that her numerous fans at the POB might disagree with me about that...), but for example I really loved Osta in that role.

Well, sometimes the POB castings are a bit puzzling, especially as in recent seasons there often were something like 17 different casts in the same program and it was sometimes hard to find a logic in it...

Was it Bart dancing with Letestu in "Diamonds" ? They tend to be often paired together, especially as Martinez and Letestu dance less often together and there are not many male dancers tall enough for Letestu, but I often was somewhat disappointing by such a pairing, as I find them a bit too icy together, with very little chemistry...

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Was it Bart dancing with Letestu in "Diamonds" ?
Yes.

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Estelle, it should have been Benjamin Pech dancing the lead in Rubies, but he got injured. Unfortunately, Manuel Legris does not dance the part anymore...

I agree with you, Osta was quite outstanding in Rubies, too bad they did not film her. I guess she was needed in Emeralds because Dupont does not do it ; besides, she is probably far too small to be paired with Marie-Agnès Gillot as the tall girl !

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bart, I've seen so few recently-produced dance videos - the only other one I can think of offhand is the RDB Sylphide - I can't really say. (The Sylphide one was fine in that regard, IIRC.) But the Honors TV program, which wasn't a dance show, of course, had good lighting only for the half-second after the end of the dancing! They could have done that right through, and we could have seen Farrell's dancers to better advantage. An opportunity not firmly grasped, although at least there were no partials.

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The RDB Syphide with Jeppesen and Hubbe? Recorded in 1988. Not recent. :thumbsup:

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Egad, folks! She's right, of course! Tending to prove that better and worse televising (or filming) of dance comes and goes without regard for the epoch when it takes place.

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After having viewed this video, I really wish Osta and Dupont had switched roles. Dupont is really miscast in Rubies -- she has the steps, but none of the attitude. Her pirouettes are truly a wonder. But there's no sass, no flirtation, no fun. Osta is absolutely beautiful in Emeralds, but her role was rather small, and somehow I just think she would have been better than Dupont in Rubies.

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I just received this DVD yesterday I have a lot to say about it, but won't for fear of boring you all to tears.

In short though, I will say I feel very, very lucky to have this companys performance(s) of Jewels on DVD.

I've seen Jewels a number of times at San Francisco Ballet and enjoyed it. This companys take on Jewels is a revelation in terms of what I saw at SFB. No offense to the wonderful company in SF.

The documentary on the DVD is worth the price of owning it, IMHO.

Enjoy!

D

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What's more worrying however is the definition quality of the image, blurry in movements (it seems it was produced for TV?)

I see this problem too. I'm curious if you use a progressive scan TV (eg. LCD, plasma, or something that upconverts to 480p). Other Opus Arte DVDs I have don't have this problem.

I haven't watched all of it yet, but I thought Emeralds was superb: it has a solidity that I haven't seen elsewhere, where its ephemeral perfume qualities seem to be more emphasized. I loved the ring solo, where she starts turning her hand over as if she were examining a ring.

--Andre

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For the most part I like Lacroix's costumes and sets in this production, but the ruffle at the top of the skirts Dupont and Gillot wear in Rubies seems inappropriately fussy for that ballet, and doesn't flatter their midriffs.

Rubies has been in the POB rep since the 1974. Perhaps it was originally done with more abandon. In the documentary I like hearing the dancers muse in typically French fashion. How well spoken they are, and how beautiful, to this English speaker, the spoken French! Another bonus is the photo of Balanchine and Farrell at van Cleef and Arpels, both of them radiant as he puts a necklace on her.

What's strange about this DVD is the way Diamonds is credited in the booklet, with a 31 second "opening" followed by two pas de deux (the second by Ciaravola and Cozette) and then two ensembles.

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I finally got around to watching this, and it was a revelation -- on many levels. I agree with Brioche: we are lucky to have such a stunning production.

OK: It isn't NYCB in the 70s. It isn't McBride and Villella. Or Farrell. Or Verdy. It isn't perfect, and some of the casting choices are not those I would have made.

But it's one of the finest videoed productions I've ever seen. I am grateful to POB for undertaking what is becoming a serious collection of beautifully made ballet DVDs -- at a time when American companies treat commercial DVDs like some sort of expensive disease to be avoided, or rely on Great Performance's once-a-year "big ballet" telecast.

Ironically, Channel 13 is a co-producer of the POB Jewels for 2006. So poor ABT and NYCB will have to sit around for another year or so for another chance to be on tv. So will the fans. What an injustice to a generation of dancers and other ballet artists who will be invisible not only to most Americans today, but also to future generations. :D

On the whole, I agree with Helene's estimate of the performance, though I was much less bothered by the problems she describes. The corps was, as Helene mentioned, exceptional -- especially in Diamonds, where it really is one of the most important elements anyway, but also in Emeralds, where the ebb and flow of the women was beautifully done..

In Emeralds, I was moved almost to tears by Pujol in the Verdy solo "with the arms" (secribed as "fileuse," or "spinner," in the excellent booklet). Osta's performance, especially in the Sicilienne solo, grew on me as I watched it several times. Ganio was everything that is required, as far as I could tell.

Rubies was visually brilliant. True, the dancing did not have the Balanchine risk-taking and off-centeredness, or the energy. Instead, it was disturbingly "perfect" -- crystal clear -- very precise. Very "French" one might say. I have seen a lot of the gestures and movements overdone -- or done in a cartoonish manner -- at NYCB, so the POB version might make a certain amount of sense as a corrective at least.

My biggest disappointment: the bit where the male lead roars around the stage followed by his rat pack of 4 other men. Alessio Carbone seems like the kind of dancer who would make a fine Puck. He has some of Villella's elevation and speed, but without the volatility, intensity, and weight that made Villella such a fascinating performer).

Lacroix's costumes and back-cloths were simple, pure, elegant, and much better than what I remember from NYCB long ago. The opening tableaux of Diamonds was the only one to get a round of applause from the audience.

Diamonds got a performance that, at time, may have appeared a bit too perfect. I agree that Bart and Letestu lacked chemistry. His final gesture -- dropping to his knees to plant a passionate kiss on her hand -- was a bit off timing, and not very convincing. I liked Letestu better than Helene did, and I found that she handled the choreographic allusions to Swan Lake quite well. These have quite a lot of Odile in them-- the use of her eyes, the head turning back to Bart and leading him on. It was not "wicked Odile," but there was coquettry and a certain neurotic quality if you looked closely. And there was also, at other times, sweetness. Maybe Balanchine was trying to combine Odette and Odile in a single act. :huh:

Marc is right about the documentary. I was very impressed by how poised, glamourous, and articulate the French dancers were. (Only women were interviewed.) Especially Letestu, who's thoughts about Balanchine were obviously spontaneous and based on quite a lot of prior thought and investigation.

Another thing about this great evening at the ballet: When I first saw Jewels in the late 60s and at NYCB I was quite young. I had no personal frame of reference for the subtle emotions of Emeralds, and liked it least. Rubies had that snappy Stravinsky score, but seemed dated -- an older generation's idea of what's "jazzy" and cool. So Diamonds became my favorite almost by default, partly because I could fit it into what I knew about the Petipa ballets.

Now, almost 40 years later, I was surprised to find that it was Emeralds which drew me in -- much more than the others. I really was choked up several times, beginning with the eerily beautiful opening tableaux. I was drawn to both women. I found myself rewinding and watching much of this several times. And it is the section I will re-visit most in the future.

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Now, almost 40 years later, I was surprised to find that it was Emeralds which drew me in -- much more than the others. I really was choked up several times, beginning with the eerily beautiful opening tableaux. I was drawn to both women. I found myself rewinding and watching much of this several times. And it is the section I will re-visit most in the future.

I feel the same way. If you look at the contemporary responses Emeralds seems to have been "misunderestimated" as a kind of prelude for the big stuff while it is really a wonderful deeply felt piece with great humor too (the dizzy pointe and plié stuff in 2nds by the two girls just before the guy gets his big diag, reminiscent of Marzipan). I like it best, these days, out of Jewels.

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I picked up the Jewels DVD last night here at Tower just after a foray into Trader Joe's, my second impulse buy of the last week. (The other was a last minute ticket to Ray Davies at the Warfield. If I'm just getting into back rock music, I guess I'll start at the beginning of time with the Kinks, the pre-Socratics of heavy metal.)

On my first viewing of Emeralds--and I look forward to many more, I was taken aback by two things. One is the tempos seemed slowish and overly regular. It was only in the beautiful Sicilienne that I found some variation in tempo, where movements--and time--hesitate, almost falling back before moving forward. I felt some contrasts in the succession of Balanchinian figures were missing as a result of the pacing.

The second thing is the couples looked at each other too much. Should they be aware of each other at all? or run through each other, cross paths but never meet? All Balanchine in some way is about sleepwalkers perhaps, even in allegro movements there is complicitous sleepwalking.

Has anyone else had any qualms about the tempos or the smiles in Emeralds (signaling awareness of the audience in an in-the-box ballet) and eye contact?

(So far my favorite is Rubies despite the understated pelvic thrusts.)

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Has anyone else had any qualms about the tempos or the smiles in Emeralds (signaling awareness of the audience in an in-the-box ballet) and eye contact?
I found the smiling and face emoting in Emeralds very jarring (esp by Pujol). I can't remember where I picked the idea, but I always thought of Emeralds as this dreamy underwater realm. Smiles have no place in my idea of Emeralds.

At the moment my favorite part is the Diamonds mainly for the four diamond girls!

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At the moment my favorite part is the Diamonds mainly for the four diamond girls!
Weren't they terrific?

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