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Mixed Bill at Kenn. Cen., DC, June 20-21


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 05:46 AM

I went to last night's fantastic mixed bill ('La Valse,' 'Tanglewood,' 'Enigma Variations' and 'Gloria') & I know that I was not alone, among BalletTalkers. :) Anyone care to post comments? I'll write something substantial after seeing tonight's alternate cast...but it will be VERY difficult to top Cojocaru/Acosta/Suares in MacMillan's masterpiece, 'Gloria.' It's a particularly poignant ballet, in light of yesterday's finding of the cadavers -- and revelation of the brutal manner of death -- of America's two soldiers in Iraq.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 08:12 AM

I was there -- nearly full house. "Gloria" didn't do anything for me, I'm afraid, although I liked Acosta's dancing very much. But I was glad to see Ashton's "La Valse" and "Enigma Variations" in a theater rather than on film. "La Valse" is all atmosphere and music and epaulement. The dancers didn't quite look comfortable with the latter, but it's good to have them have to dance this, and the craft in constructing what's essentially a corps piece out of waltzes amazed me. "Enigma" is one of Ashton's masterpieces and generally acknowledged as a great ballet, and even though there were a lot of technical bobbles in this performance -- few of the cast members matched the dancers on the 1968 film -- and I disagree with some of the casting, I thought the performance was very moving. A program note would have helped -- I don't think the dancers conveyed completely the crucial point that Elgar feels that he is a professional failurel, and I heard people asking at intermission "what WAS in that telegram?" (Rencher, as Elgar, could convey that, even on film). But still, I thought the company, as a whole, did the ballet justice.

I think most of the audience would agree with Natalia about "Gloria" -- it got the most applause of the evening. I generally prefer MacMillan's one-act ballets to his full lengths, but this one was too general for me, despite some striking images (soldiers in silhouette outlined against a horizon) and lovely dancing from Cojocaru, who was a silken kitten in the pas de deux, just one soft-spun line after another.

The new ballet, "Tanglewood," had some interesting moments, but.....I think it needed stronger dancers -- stronger personalities -- to pull it together.

Several bouquets, though, to the Royal which actually gave us an opening night rather than a raggedy dress performance.

#3 kfw

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 12:27 PM

Gloria was intriguing, with its raked set and its WWI and (I guess) flapper costumes. I take it that the soldiers are supposed to be remembering. I want to hear the Poulenc again, but the ballet didn't touch me to the degree it's obviously supposed to. The dancers were another story. Acosta's smooth power made for the most exciting male dancing of the evening, and while MacMillan's choreography didn't show off Cojocaru nearly as much as I'd hoped, she was, as Alexandra said, soft and seamless.

Enigma Variations came alive for me as I expected it would, and as it had not on the recording. I could still do without some of the lighter material, for example the children's games, but the poignant parts were affecting, especially the brief walking duet in the Nimrod variation for the Elgar character and his close friend, and the suspense and then joy as the momentous telegram is received. Strange that Elgar is the last to hear the news, and walks in on the celebration. The bicycle and tricycle drew laughs. Was it Giacomo Ciraci who took a bad spill near the end of his allegro solo? It didn't matter dramatically, and the audience gave him a big hand at the curtain call. I suspect the characters in this ballet would grow on me with further live viewings.

I didn't understand La Valse. Where was the dramatic momentum and the sense of 'dancing on the edge of a volcano'? Grinning on the edge of the volcano was more like it. I guess that was intended irony, but for me it didn't add up, and the work didn't build. Perhaps this would grow on me as well, although I did see the afternoon rehearsal. As the first among three ballerina equals, I thought Ansanelli was fine but not outstanding. She did have a lovely pliable back, but my eye was often drawn to Deidre Chapman in yellow.

Tanglewood, with its step vocabulary reminscent of Apollo at times, did move me, starting with Rorem's violin concerto, at least while Benjamin and Harvey held the stage. I thought the material for the second principal, Nunez, dragged after awhile, but Benjamin was fleet and authoritative and I wish she was danciing in Sleeping Beauty.

Thank you, Royal Ballet!

#4 kfw

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:04 PM

I forgot to mention that Tanglewood's costumes, especially for the women, are reminiscent of Apollo as well. See what I mean here.

#5 canbelto

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:07 AM

I remember seeing Enigma Variations in the theater and i was totally, utterly confused. No other way to put it. I wasn't given any program notes explaining the background or characters in the ballet, and so to me it just seemed like people hanging out in a British country house for one afternoon. I really wish for a ballet like this they'd give at least some kind of background explaining the characters and whatnot. It would have really helped me. Instead, I stared at the stage blankly, and wondered how hard it was for the women to dance in those heavy Victorian dresses. :)
Mayerling is another one of those ballets. I didn't really "get" it until I read up on Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera and the Hapsburg clan.
ETA: I agree with Natalia about La Valses. Ashton's La Valses (available in the Evening of the Royal Ballet dvd) seems too ... cheery. Don't know how to describe it, but it didnt match the somewhat sinister music at all.

#6 Natalia

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 06:09 AM

Another magnificent night last night. I enjoyed Ashton's delectable 'Enigma Variations' more than on Tuesday, as Edward Watson was able to dance a clean, spectacular Troyte variation -- the zippy one created by Dowell -- unlike Cervera on opening night. It is amazing how one major error can knock the wind out of a ballet. Not last night; 'Enigma' reigned supreme. The ballet presents a moving set of miniature character studies. Ashton perfectly depicts each eccentric personage with just the right movements. Beside Watson's amazing Troyte, I greatly admired Brian Maloney's quick-paced solo (including slides, a-la Widow Simone in Fille) as the guy with the newspaper in his hand. Bravo to Brian -- yet another fine alumnus of Washington, DC's Kirov Academy of Ballet who has made a name for himself in the outside world! :)

The opposite happened with 'Gloria,' in that Lamb & Watson markedly fell short of the pathos and perfection of Cojocaru and Acosta on opening night. Lamb got into certain positions with difficulty, while Cojocaru was smooth as silk. HOWEVER, Laura Morera, in the Wendy Ellis role at both viewings, danced cleaner last night than at the opening. The chorus and soloists were 1,000-times improved, no longer drowned-out by the orchestra, as on Tuesday. Again -- MacMillan's masterpiece totally engulfed my soul. It is one powerful piece of theater. Choreographic & acrobatic artistry -- perfect movement to the beautiful music. Ballet as high art.

The weakest part of both nights was, sorry to write, Ashton's 'La Valse.' Schlocky MGMish group dancing without purpose or meaning. An outtake from a Leslie Caron movie, perhaps? Ugly, heavy, black-splotched long tutus for the girls; 1950s idea of true glamour? Always a glowing presence, Alexandra Ansanelli was much better served last December, dancing the lead in the Balanchine version, with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Even masters have their down moments & this was Ashton's, no doubt.

The new ballet, Marriott's 'Tanglewood,' was more enjoyable at the second viewing. However, it is yet another in the long line of Balanchine - Apollo knock-offs, not just the costumes, but many of the movements. For a while, I thought that I had wandered into a Peter Martins ballet; not a good sign. The very best segment is the brightest & most briskly-paced (next-to-last); that one was followed by another somber movement that almost made me fall asleep. The dull music and hideous kindergarten-splotched backdrops didn't help a bit. However, the two principal women -- Leanne Benjamin & Marianella Nunez -- danced admirably...and it was great to spot among the six corps boys my fabulous "Spirit of Fire" from last week's 'Homage to the Queen' in London -- Steven McRae, this time without the crazy 'fire' wig!

Now on to the new-old 'Sleeping Beauty 1946,' commencing tonight. Four different Aurora/Desire pairs within five performances. I'll be attending one of each, beginning with Cojocaru/Kobborg tonight. Let the 'Aurora Sweepstakes' begin!

#7 Natalia

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 07:58 AM

p.s. to the above:

Speaking of 'sweepstakes'...

As Alexandra mentioned earlier, it's a shame that the programme notes did not explain the story being related in 'Enigma' -- Elgar waiting for word on whether or not a musical commission has come through. The telegram relays the good news that his piece has been accepted.

On both nights, I had to explain this to my seat-neighbors during the intermission, following the ballet. Mind you, these are total strangers. Last night, after my explanation, one of my neighbors, a witty elderly gent, quipped back: "I get it. They were surprised by the 'Prize Patrol'!" :clapping:

#8 chauffeur

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 05:43 PM

OK, first of all, my daughter and I win the award for "Lengths That People Went to in Order to See Wednesday Night's Show" (though Leigh still wins the overall competition on lengths to see the RB). Picture if you will, a woman and her daughter, sitting in an airport in Columbus, Ohio, getting their 12:15 pm flight to BWI cancelled because of "bad" weather, and being told they might get on as standbys on the already full 5:10 flight. Which would get into BWI at 6:25. For a show that starts an hour away at 7:30.

Well, long story short, we made it onto the 5:10 flight. Which got into BWI at 6:35. Where a cab driver, for a mere $65 plus tip, hauled to get us to Kennedy Center three minutes after La Valse started. The toughest part of that journey was the loop-de-loop around the Kennedy Center. If it weren't for two illegal U-turns, we would have first ended up in Georgetown and then second ended up in Crystal City. My daughter slipped on a skirt in the cab. I fortunately was nicely enough dressed to begin with. We dumped our luggage in the coat room, watched La Valse on the monitor outside the First Tier, and then were seated in time to watch the rest of the show.
La Valse looked a little out of synch on the monitor, but otherwise an interesting whirl of activity.

Loved Tanglewood. It kind of reminded me of some of Stephen Baynes's work we saw in Australia (he's the resident choreographer for AB), but it felt more fully realized. Very sensuous in an interesting way. I look forward to seeing more of Marriott's work in the future. His choreography was innovative without being precious.

Enigma Variations blew me away. It's so simple yet so rich. I've never seen anything like it and it really restored my faith in the ability of dance to be set in a ye-olde time period yet feel totally timeless. (that makes sense?) I (obviously) didn't get a chance to read any of the program notes before seeing it, and when it ended, I felt like I had about three possible storylines to explain what the telegram was at the end there. Yet somehow it didn't really matter. Something had happened to this guy, people cared deeply for him, and everyone was happy when it turned out OK. And it touched me. And I think ultimately that's what Ashton was trying to say about what Elgar went through -- he triumphed because of the people in his life. The dancing was simple and beautifully done. The set design was sublime -- such visual balance and textural richness!

Finally, there was MacMillan's Gloria. Another one that I still don't know the precise interpretation on, but I decided to follow my instincts on this one and use the WW1-looking hats on the guys as my cue. Ultimately it all felt very "life affirming and triumphing over the forces of evil." Not in a grandiose way. Just very simply and in a quietly moving way. The two lead men, Gary Avis and Edward Watson, impressed me very much with their energy and commitment (as well as technique). Sarah Lamb, as the lead female, was impressive but I felt like she came out on the short end of some of the more gymnastic partnering moves. Hard to tell whose fault that was. But she projected a very strong and lithe presence. Loved the lighting design, especially with the closing images. Very powerful, and when we spent the next afternoon at the Holocaust Museum, I found myself channeling a lot of this piece. Can you really ask for anything more of your art?

#9 kfw

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 06:14 PM

OK, first of all, my daughter and I win the award for "Lengths That People Went to in Order to See Wednesday Night's Show"

Yes you do, and bravo! :tiphat: I really love to read these what-I-did-for-art tales.

Something had happened to this guy, people cared deeply for him, and everyone was happy when it turned out OK. And it touched me.

It would have touched me as well, even if that's all I'd known.

#10 kfw

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 06:34 PM

The weakest part of both nights was, sorry to write, Ashton's 'La Valse.' Schlocky MGMish group dancing without purpose or meaning. An outtake from a Leslie Caron movie, perhaps? Ugly, heavy, black-splotched long tutus for the girls; 1950s idea of true glamour? Always a glowing presence, Alexandra Ansanelli was much better served last December, dancing the lead in the Balanchine version, with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Even masters have their down moments & this was Ashton's, no doubt.

I wish I could see Ashtons "La Valse' through British eyes. Ansanelli glowed, alright, but in Balanchine's version she glowed as a character.

#11 Helene

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 09:55 PM

chauffeur, you do win the prize! I'm so glad you and your daughter made it to the performance, and that you had such a wonderful time.

#12 Starr

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 04:52 AM

We also had travel problems on Wednesday, but flying from Detroit. Our flight to BWI was cancelled and they wanted to put us on a 2pm flight. I asked if we could fly into one of the DC airports since we were going to DC. Got a noon flight to National.

My son and I enjoyed the Mixed bill, he really liked La Valse, though I thought it seemed to be "off". Tanglewood was interesting(anything new that Clement Crisp liked had me thinking I had to see this). Enigma would have been helped by better program notes. Gloria was interesting, but I didn't love it like the 2 older ladies in our box. They liked the "gymnastic" type lifts(their phrase not mine.)


Though I think I may have had the bigger problem that Chauffer before I even left the house. About 20 minutes before we left for the airport, lightning hit our house. Fryed 2 tv's, one computer and modem, a cordless phone and the motor on the awning for my deck. Husband luckily to care of eveything and it looks like the computer will pull through. It should be realeased from the computer hospital on Monday.


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