Phaedra392

"Jewels" DVD and PBS Great Performances broadcast

168 posts in this topic

I loved the smiles and interactions in Emeralds. The pas de trois was especially nice because of this, and the ballet takes on a completely different, better feel. It was interesting comparing this to the old NYCB video where everyone seemed to be frowning.

--Andre

Share this post


Link to post

Andrew,

But Emeralds should be frowny. It's an other-worldly ballet, or at least everyone is in her or his own world and the whole ballet in a box, separate from the audience--as opposed to say Ballet Imperial or Donizetti where everyone is dancing for each other and for the world. The Kirov's version of Emeralds seemed to be appropriately sober. And the Gergiev's tempos sharper, don't you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Andrew,

But Emeralds should be frowny. It's an other-worldly ballet, or at least everyone is in her or his own world and the whole ballet in a box, separate from the audience

I think the exceptions are the two women's solos and the pas de trois, which are more relaxed. (Although I don't think grins are called for anywhere in Emeralds, just like I don't think "Come hithers" and seductive glances are appropriate in Diamonds.)

Share this post


Link to post
But Emeralds should be frowny. It's an other-worldly ballet, or at least everyone is in her or his own world and the whole ballet in a box, separate from the audience[.]

I agree that the solos, at least, fit the "everyone ... in her own world" characterization. But that doesn't necessarily mean isolation from the others on the stage.

In the original NYCB performances, there was a definite spirit of connection in the pas de deux and trois. Verdy has written about "a social coldness and restraint" in the ballet. Although there was restraint, especially as compared to Rubies and Diamonds, I never felt any kind of coldness in the early days of Emeralds. This was especially true of Verdy's own own dancing.

The idea that the ballet is "frowny" -- which I take refers to a quality of austerity and remoteness in the interactions of the dancers -- may derive from the way it was being danced at NYCB by the 80s, the last time I saw it. I distinctly recall the feeling that the NYCB dancers were not very involved (or happy) when dancing Emeralds -- though they still were with Rubies (the leads anyway) and Diamonds (the star part). Emeralds has gotten more than its share of ho-hum, walk-through performances at the State Theater.

The Parisians, however, capture the spirit of total engagement which I found in the early NYCB Emeralds peformances from the late 60s and the 70s.. They demonstrate that one can be reserved but also warm, self-contained but also connected. In the solos, Pujol and Osta do smile. But their smiles are from within and for themselves and their pleasure in the act of dancing. This is an introspective ballet. There's no need or wish to charm others.

The Parisians seem totally absorbed in -- and pleased by -- what they are dancing. This gives their Emeralds an energy and life without taking away from the other-worldliness called for by the choreography and music.

Share this post


Link to post

In the marvelous documentary, Violette et Mr. B, Verdy is smiling as she demonstrates the opening, famous port de bras of her variation. She is trying to impart the delight of discovery, and a smile is perfectly fitting there, IMO.

For the pas de deux, rather than "frowny," perhaps the most appropriate face is placid, which allows for subtle smiling as if to oneself. But yes, this is mostly an introverted ballet, and the dancers would catch the mood if they forget about the audience out there and not think of performing.

Edited by carbro

Share this post


Link to post

I'm over stating what has been said, apologies, but I can't imagine Verdy ever "frowny." When Jewels was staged at San Francisco Ballet a friend of mine conveyed the same feelings that Pujol did in the documentary after seeing the clip of Verdy in Emeralds.

Personally I love Pujol in this. She looks so thrilled to be dancing AND to be dancing THAT role.

I love that we have this DVD of the full length Jewels to discuss. Here here to POB for filming it.

Share this post


Link to post

Frowny only in comparison to smiley: neutrally, introspectively. It's wonderful that we have this performance, but it shouldn't become the standard Jewels (especially as regard to tempos), which I fear it might. As mentioned previously here, we need the Kirov version (with Gergiev conducting) and the Miami versions on DVD for balance. Any chance of that?

Share this post


Link to post
Frowny only in comparison to smiley: neutrally, introspectively. It's wonderful that we have this performance, but it shouldn't become the standard Jewels (especially as regard to tempos), which I fear it might.
I'll have to watch it again to look for the tempos -- I was so distracted by the costumes and set, which I think were gorgeous, and I didn't want it to end.
As mentioned previously here, we need the Kirov version (with Gergiev conducting) and the Miami versions on DVD for balance. Any chance of that?
Natalia reported on the progress of the Mariinsky version, which was filmed in early April and is expected for release (timeframe unknown) on DVD, on this thread. (:) :))

Miami City Ballet -- not unless a miracle happens :yucky:

Share this post


Link to post

I have received the POB Jewels only recently, and am most pleased with Emeralds. For Rubies the beautiful, soft Dupont does indeed seem a strange choice.

First thing that struck me in Emeralds (apart from the overall beauty of the performance) was that the funny dizzy pointe-and-plie work by the two girls in the Entr'acte which I mentioned before has lost its Marzipan character. They just do the steps.

Second, Pujol dances beautifully, but I have to agree that the open-mouth emoting is a little too much. If you do that every time you're preempting the audience's admiration, as it were.

In the documentary I was struck by Pujol saying the arms in her variation are like a girl examining her rings. Well, whatever it takes, but I can't help thinking Verdy talking about a woman discovering the beauty of her arms and her upper body is just a little closer to the Balanchine vision of the sacred.

However these comments don't take away this is a beautiful version of Emeralds, and when you compare it with the previously mentioned seventies "Choreography by Balanchine" on Nonesuch it stands up really well, primarily because Pujol seems better suited to the role than Merill Ashley. Plus this is the complete ballet.

As to the documentary, I was rather peeved at the large excerpts from the ballets. I'm guessing the documentary is really only 20 minutes long, and I would have loved more footage of the dancers, either talking or rehearsing, rather than those typical French free-floating theories which can be equally applied to virtually ever ballet in the repertoire. I loved Agnes Letestu, both for her the specificity and smartness of her comments and for the way she got audibly moved as she was talking about Balanchine and Farrell's histoire. Frankly if they'd just let Letestu do the talking for the entire documentary I think we'd been much better off.

Share this post


Link to post

Delighted to see that we've somehow sparked an Emeralds Appreciation group on this thread. :)

About Miami -- The ballet was first done in the early 1990s with a cast of dancers who are no longer dancing with the company. These are the performances that led to Arlene Croce's fairly long appreciation of the company's efforts and helped bring it to national attention. (Villella's gamble was correct.)

I think the last performances were in the 2000-01 season. Since we moved here shortly after that, I've not had the chance to see them do this, though Ileana Lopez and Franklin Gamero performed the pas de deux as part of her fairwell season in 2004.

It's not on Miami's schedule for 2006-07. I have it on my serious wish list for next year. :beg: Jewels, with it's three contrasting styles, is a marvellous challenge for ambitious regional companies. Miami, quite a young company, has progressed in style, size and depth since this ballet was last performed. They have the dancers who fit the emploi for all the roles. It would be fascinating to have the chance to see what this current company would do.

Great ballets seem to be at their greatest when performed by grand companies which have vast resources and a definite sense of style. But one of the qualities of greatness is that there are so many facets and depths, that the finest choreography actually benefits from interpretation and performance by different kinds of companies, including smaller regional companies.

PNB's video of the Balanchine Midsummer Night's Dream, which has become virtually the only performance that most ballet fans in America have had the chance to see (at least outside NYC and Saratoga), is an example of this.

A Miami Jewels, like a Boston or Pennsylvania Swan Lake, a Houston Manon, or a San Francisco anything would indeed be welcome on video.

Share this post


Link to post
I loved Agnes Letestu, both for her the specificity and smartness of her comments and for the way she got audibly moved as she was talking about Balanchine and Farrell's histoire. Frankly if they'd just let Letestu do the talking for the entire documentary I think we'd been much better off.
I wish that her dance intelligence had matched her verbal intelligence in her Diamonds role. That would have been something.

Share this post


Link to post
or a San Francisco anything would indeed be welcome on video.

There is Lar Lubovitch's Othello with Yuan Yuan Tan, which is relatively recent.

I loved Agnes Letestu, both for her the specificity and smartness of her comments and for the way she got audibly moved as she was talking about Balanchine and Farrell's histoire. Frankly if they'd just let Letestu do the talking for the entire documentary I think we'd been much better off.
I wish that her dance intelligence had matched her verbal intelligence in her Diamonds role. That would have been something.

Share this post


Link to post

Now, now, Helene. I will comment later when I have watched the Diamonds part a couple of times in tandem with the Farrell / Martins video. All I've noticed thus far is that her partner's hair is wrong for the role.

Speaking of dance intelligence I'll just quote from Marc Haegeman's 2002 Dance View interview with la Letestu:

"After all, we aren’t dancers for only eight hours per day. When you leave your dressing-room and the Opera, you don’t forget everything. It’s not like a nine-to-five job. To prepare a role takes all of your time. You have to take initiatives, do some research, think about the role you have to dance, try to identify with the character, the historical surroundings of a certain ballet, a peasant girl doesn’t behave like a princess, and so on. We aren’t just well paid functionaries. There has to be a personal investment."

http://www.danceview.org/interviews/letestu.html

Share this post


Link to post

Herman, thank you for locating that wonderful intereview, wich confirms the impression that I had of Letestu: very observant, very thoughtful, quite articulate, and more aware of what's going on in the larger ballet world (past and present) than most dancer's I've heard.

The DanceView archives are a rich resource. (I posted Letestu's comments on Guillem and Zakharova on another thread -- the one discussing a new Giselle video with Zakharova/Bolle/La Scala.) Link: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...topic=22307&hl=

Helene, your comment about "dance intelligence" was thought-provoking. Can you elaborate, please? Like Herman, I am planning tor revisit the Diamonds section soon. Your review earlier was critical of Letestu:

Letestu in Diamonds. The lead in Diamonds is not Odette. (pas de deux). The lead in Diamonds is not Aurora (first half of solo) or a principal in Etudes (end of solo). Letestu perked up a bit in the final movement, but the lead in Diamonds should not be put to shame by the contrasting energy of the corps, no matter how beautiful her placement is.

On the whole, I agree with you -- though I was not troubled by this as much, and find a bit more Odile than Odette in the choreographic allusions. The POB style is different, but I think Diamonds can take it in a way that Rubies cannot. (I'm looking forward to the Kirov version, which, I gather, has yet another stylistic approach on this choreography.)

Does "dance intelligence" imply that the dancer is thinking and making decisions --or is it something more intuitive? What role did this play in Letestu's performance?

Share this post


Link to post
(from Herman Stevens) However these comments don't take away this is a beautiful version of Emeralds, and when you compare it with the previously mentioned seventies "Choreography by Balanchine" on Nonesuch it stands up really well, primarily because Pujol seems better suited to the role than Merill Ashley. Plus this is the complete ballet.

Yes, Merill Ashley, very much an allegro dancer, is somewhat overly anxious in the 70's Nonesuch version of Emeralds. She darts about like a goldfish, suddenly in one place, suddenly in another. I do find the complex counterpoint between the couple and the corps more readable in the 70's version, where everyone is squeezed together into the middle of the screen. (The liner notes say they transposed the ballet onto a triangular, rather than rectilinear, stage.)

However, the Nonesuch version is indeed a complete and authoritative ballet, reshaped on the spot by Balanchine, who added a whole new act. Cutting out the two women's solos is a great loss, but the transition directly from the first part to the pas de trois seems quite effective.

And the new ending deepens and makes the ballet even more mysterious. It's as if it's happening after the curtain goes down, some long unwinding. As at the end of Apollo, it looks as if they are preparing themselves for something, but just what are they--at the end only the men are left--preparing themselves for? (Faure is certainly less upbeat on this matter than Stravinsky.)

Share this post


Link to post

I'm never sure what ballets are supposed to be about, but the important thing for me is that the dancer makes the choreography work for that moment. Pujol does this in her solo, and the POB in general for Emeralds. If it turns out to look different than NYCB, Kirov, or MCB, so be it: the world got a bit richer because someone's just added to it another valid interpretation of a masterpiece.

BTW, did anyone else notice that the POB dancers are very grounded for ballet dancers? Notice, for example, Thibault's solo in the pas de trois: all the preparations for the big jumps have this very grounded, powerful quality. Perhaps they're not using some secret butt muscle. :)

--Andre

Share this post


Link to post
I wish that her dance intelligence had matched her verbal intelligence in her Diamonds role. That would have been something.

As we all know, our opinions are subjective. :)

BTW, did anyone else notice that the POB dancers are very grounded for ballet dancers?

I have noticed that in terms of technique AND their personalities. I was remarking to a friend that the POB dancers sure are "gabby" lot. Between the Etoiles DVD and the Jewels documentary, I am very impressed at how well they express themselves verbally. I can say I haven't really experienced that with dancers (and I was one) very often. :beg:

Share this post


Link to post
Helene, your comment about "dance intelligence" was thought-provoking. Can you elaborate, please? Like Herman, I am planning tor revisit the Diamonds section soon...

Does "dance intelligence" imply that the dancer is thinking and making decisions --or is it something more intuitive? What role did this play in Letestu's performance?

For me, dance intelligence is a fundamental understanding of the impetus for movement, phrasing, musical response and appropriate style of whatever work is being performed. In a piece by Robbins, it is thinking and making decisions and having a reason and for every gesture onstage, because that is what he demanded of the dancers he worked with, at least according to their words, and to be stylistically appropriate to the work in both dance and gesture. For Balanchine, again from dancer's testimony, it was more on the "don't think, just do" side of the spectrum.

There is no "character" in Diamonds. There is a dance relationship between that man and that woman, not between a fairy tale character and her swain. To quote Balanchine, "So how much story you want?" The woman in Diamonds does not peer back over her shoulder to see whether her detachment has the desired affect on the man. If she is detatched, it is because that is who she is.

On the whole, I agree with you -- though I was not troubled by this as much, and find a bit more Odile than Odette in the choreographic allusions. The POB style is different, but I think Diamonds can take it in a way that Rubies cannot.
I saw an Odile in Letestu, because that is what I think she imposed on the role. The blatant reference is to Raymonda, and there were a couple of times during the pas de deux that she turned that very specific gesture into a different, Swan Lake-like gesture.

After watching the pas de deux several times, and coming to the same conclusion, I now hit the "skip" button for the movement. I'd rather watch the corps and the quartet.

I much preferred Dupont in Rubies to Letestu's Diamonds, at least intellectually, even if I think she was wrong it. Her approach might have missed, but it was pure. She did not tart up the role.

(I'm looking forward to the Kirov version, which, I gather, has yet another stylistic approach on this choreography.)
I am, too.

Share this post


Link to post
There is no "character" in Diamonds. There is a dance relationship between that man and that woman, not between a fairy tale character and her swain. To quote Balanchine, "So how much story you want?" The woman in Diamonds does not peer back over her shoulder to see whether her detachment has the desired affect on the man. If she is detatched, it is because that is who she is.

Maybe so. However are you really sure the dancers who have wrked on this piece haven't given all these matters any thought? Right now you make it sound like what they're doing is not the result of artistic consultation and decision-making, but just plain inadequacy. I'd be tempted to give them more credit.

The blatant reference is to Raymonda, and there were a couple of times during the pas de deux that she turned that very specific gesture into a different, Swan Lake-like gesture.

This was not necessarily Balanchine's intention. Farrell recounts how she just made a gesture towards the back of her head, and Mr B said "let's keep that.' Should you feel that this is really a case of Raymonda intertextuality, then I'd say you'd have a Big Time Character / Story in Diamonds. The idea that Balanchine ballets are abstract by definition has, fortunately, been put to rest some time during the nineties.

On balance I think it's fair to say Letestu & Bart's Diamonds is rather pale compared to the Farrell & Martins. After all it was made on Farrell: not a single jump, lots of off-balance stuff. My guess would be a good 2nd or 3d generation Diamonds pdd would not necessarily aim for the same thing as the Farrell one. That kind of pathos may not be of our times. (I have to confess Farrell's "neither here nor there" expression gets a little on my nerves.) Another thing to keep in mind is that Farrell at first was not a success in this piece either, if we're to believe Arlene Croce. Apparently she needed many years to make the piece work. Maybe the same goes for Letestu (and in that time Bart can get a better hairdo, too.

Share this post


Link to post

There is no "character" in Diamonds. There is a dance relationship between that man and that woman, not between a fairy tale character and her swain. To quote Balanchine, "So how much story you want?" The woman in Diamonds does not peer back over her shoulder to see whether her detachment has the desired affect on the man. If she is detatched, it is because that is who she is.

Maybe so. However are you really sure the dancers who have wrked on this piece haven't given all these matters any thought? Right now you make it sound like what they're doing is not the result of artistic consultation and decision-making, but just plain inadequacy. I'd be tempted to give them more credit.

On the contrary: in the case of Letestu, I would say she has given it too much thought in the wrong direction and that she has made the wrong artistic decisions. I think it was a very deliberate performance.
The blatant reference is to Raymonda, and there were a couple of times during the pas de deux that she turned that very specific gesture into a different, Swan Lake-like gesture.

This was not necessarily Balanchine's intention. Farrell recounts how she just made a gesture towards the back of her head, and Mr B said "let's keep that.' Should you feel that this is really a case of Raymonda intertextuality, then I'd say you'd have a Big Time Character / Story in Diamonds. The idea that Balanchine ballets are abstract by definition has, fortunately, been put to rest some time during the nineties.

I expressed this badly. I don't think that the Raymonda gesture in Diamonds turns the lead in Diamonds into Raymonda any more than the Plisetskaya jump Ashley chose for Ballo della Regina turns Ballo into Don Q. My point, not expressed very clearly, was that Letestu took a very classic gesture -- one she was quite familiar with -- and morphed it into the style of a classical character Odette.
(and in that time Bart can get a better hairdo, too.
It was an odd haircut, so unlike the other men's.

Share this post


Link to post

Ok maybe I'm being a bit of an iconoclast but I've seen Jewels live, now I've seen it on video, and I of course have seen the Farrell/Martins pdd. And Diamonds is by far my least favorite section of Jewels, especially the pas de deux. Because the choreography is ... a lot of walking. Or at least it seems like a lot of walking. The music sounds very dirge-like. I think it's the hardest section to pull off, and at this point I've seen the ballet enough to think that it's because it's the worst section of Jewels. Letetsu and Bart are very slow and deliberate, I agree, but they IMO only expose the weakness of the choreography.

Share this post


Link to post
Letetsu and Bart are very slow and deliberate, I agree, but they IMO only expose the weakness of the choreography.

Well stated IMHO. Regardless of approach or interpretation, there is IMHO much to admire about most of the POB dancers.

I've seen Ansanelli in the Diamonds pas and while very entertaining, was an almost exact replica, again IMHO of Farrell's performance. And that doesn't have to be bad, just not very thought provoking on the dancers part.

:)

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't seen this particular DVD, but I have seen a few POB performances, and I know I'm not alone in thinking that the Paris Opéra dancers (and presumably their coaches) tend to heavily over-think their roles. Maybe I missed this earlier in the thread, but does anyone know who staged "Jewels" for them?

I'm really interested to see the Kirov dance it; they're probably excellent at Diamonds.

Share this post


Link to post
Because the choreography is ... a lot of walking. Or at least it seems like a lot of walking.
The second pas de deux in Emeralds is also a lot of walking, as is the first pas de deux in Chaconne, both of which I think are sublime. Do you feel the same way about those, or is just Diamonds that you find blah.
Maybe I missed this earlier in the thread, but does anyone know who staged "Jewels" for them?
Sadly, I can't find this either in the credits or in the booklet that comes with the DVD.

In the documentary, Pujol expresses regret that she was not coached by Verdy personally. Gillot speaks of Patricia Neary having coached her.

I'm really interested to see the Kirov dance it; they're probably excellent at Diamonds.
It will be interesting to compare the corps in both DVD's.

Share this post


Link to post

From the review in the LA Times of the DVD by Lewis Segal:

"The only thing missing [from the DVD] is the names of the former New York City Ballet dancers who staged the production (Karin von Aroldingen and Sara Leland, according to the Balanchine Trust, though Patricia Neary also reportedly did some coaching)."

Share this post


Link to post