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Lincoln Center: Reviews & Impressions


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#46 nysusan

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:30 AM

I'm afraid I can't join the growing consensus.

tikitatata, Iím glad you enjoyed my last post and I hope I don't offend anyone with my negative view of this company's week in NY. I really wanted to love them, Iíd never seen them before and was very excited about their visit. I didnít think I was going to love their Sylvia but I expected to love their gala & mixed rep programs. In fact I was upset that a business trip wouldnít allow me to see their mixed rep program twice, now Iím glad Iím not going again this afternoon!

For me SFBís week in NY is ending the same way it began, leaving me with mixed feelings. Their rep program showed the dancers to much greater advantage than previous programs, and they do have some beautiful dancers. Tan, Feijoo, Possokhov, Garcia, Molat, LeBlanc, Boada & Maffre really stood out. However, I didnít like the pieces they chose to present.

I actually thought 7 for 8 was ok, not great but ok . It gave the dancers something to sink their teeth into and was the first thing Iíve seen this week that showed them at their best. I figured the program would pick up from there. Unfortunately while Quatenary also provided a showcase for the dancers it now has the distinction of being the only thing Iíve ever seen by Wheeldon that I truly dislike. It seemed very derivative of his other works and went on way too long to keep my interest. Frankly, aside from the Maffre /Possokhov pdd I found it boring.

I liked Artifact and if I had enjoyed the 2 pieces that proceeded it Iím sure I would have liked it more but I was already so numb from sitting through 7 for 8 and then Quaternary that halfway through Artifact Suite I almost got up and left. Literally, I talked myself out of leaving 2 or 3 times during the last 10 minutes. I can't remember the last time I felt that way at the ballet. If this is the future of ballet I will run screaming back to the past. Fortunately, I know it is only ONE future direction out of many possibilities.

If SFB is a post modern ballet company, then so be it however if they consider themselves to be a classical ballet company then I really think they missed the boat with the type of rep they brought for this engagement.

#47 Helene

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:45 AM

To quote him from an interview we did this week (it will be forthcoming in the print version of Dance View) he did it with ABT once and laughed that there was no way his body could produce what Desmond Richardson's could - New York saw his "small, intimate" version of the role.

:huh: I'm waiting with bated breath for this one.

Possokhov's Phlegmatic is one of my all-time favorite performances.

#48 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:49 AM

Just goes to show that three people does not a consensus make!

nysusan - I agree with almost all of what you experienced (especially about Artifact), I just added up the score differently. It seems to me that SFB is in fact trying to set itself up as a major contemporary/postmodern force rather than a "high classical" one and also that the company was interested in showing us its dancers first and foremost.

When I saw Quaternary in SF I liked it a lot less - it may get better on a second viewing (I didn't love it, I just didn't feel the same negativity towards it).

Helene - with immense regret (because I loved it too) I realized afterwards that Phlegmatic was something we did not discuss (we were concentrating on choreography).

#49 Helene

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:59 AM

Helene - with immense regret (because I loved it too) I realized afterwards that Phlegmatic was something we did not discuss (we were concentrating on choreography).

I'm glad that was the focus of the interview, and that SFB is diversifying house choreography.

#50 drb

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 05:32 PM

The Last Dance, Sunday July 30

The seven movement Tomasson/Bach 7 for 8 started with Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun and Pierre-Francoise Vilanoba. As on opening night, she maintained her continuous flow of movement. Kristin Long and Gonzalo Garcia followed, and as in Sylvia he projected a warm-hearted virtuosity. Then came Frances Chung, Elizabeth Miner and Pascal Molat. Next Jaime Garcia Castilla joined Garcia, Long and Miner. So far a pleasant show piece, and each dancer was pleasing. Pascal Molat came on for a very well-danced solo, I feel it was significantly better danced than his Aminta, making it a bit easier to understand why he is such a well-regarded principal.
The sixth movement featured a return of the lead pair, Pipit-Suksun and Vilanoba. There was a moment when she let go of his hand and managed to simultaneously move toward and away from him. Maybe she didn't move at all. But it was the moment of poetry in this ballet. As on opening night, there is something very special about this dancer. She delivers those you-gotta-be-there moments, yet so quietly that you wonder what other you may have missed with the blink of an eye. There is something subtle about her fluid movement that transcends even direction. All the dancers were enjoyable in the finale. Choreographically light, but showing each dancer pleasingly, if not sufficiently challenging them.

Poor Mr. Wheeldon. When you are called "the best young ballet choreographer" everyone expects an almost Sleeping Beauty or a Symphony in C or an After the Rain. So Quaternary isn't it. Still, it has its merits.
Winter (Cage) gave another chance to see Yuan Yuan Tan, here partnered by David Smith. Solists were Elana Altman, David Acre, Lily Rogers and Quin Warton. Maybe because I like Cage's music for prepared piano I liked this. Maybe a better reason is that I really enjoyed Tan this season, she has such fine amplitude and presents the choreography in such a crystaline way.
Spring (Bach) featured Lorena Feijoo, Joan Boada, Tina LeBlanc and Rory Hohenstein. Although anticipating looking at the first pair, I was drawn to Tina, whose dancing explained the title of the section. At least for me, Wheeldon's invention seemed to flag by mid-movement.
Summer (Part). Here's Wheeldon! Muriel Maffre and Tiit Helimets were the dancers. In NYC we've seen some extraordinary duets created by Wheeldon on Wendy Whelan and ultra-partner Jock Soto. One knew from the opening Gala that Helimets was a real partner, then he disappeared during the Sylvias. Why? Maffre brought her imagination, that gave such completeness to her Diana, to play in this more abstract scenario. She was riviting. The piano's notes plucked singly very slowly, but deeply, and the space between was filled by Wheeldon's completing, giving continuity to the seemingly discrete music. The music has an emotional heart, of course, the notes the beating of the heart and the dancers swimming on this quiet wave. Helimets created the vast and calm sea in which his secure partner could entrance. When he exits stage left she is left to sit onstage, alone. This was very well received, in the moment and substantially during the bows at ballet's end.
Autumn (Mackey, played by the composer on electric guitar) completed the seasons. Sarah van Patten and Ruben Martin, with Brooke Moore, Garrett Anderson, Jonathan Mangosing, Garen Scribner, James Sofranko. Liking this is probably highly correlated with how one feels about the music. Is there some meaning to van Patten's coming over to console, and then remove Maffre's gown? There is a lot of action for the corps. I note again, as in the Gala, that any emotion that Sarah projects does not involve facial expression.

Forsythe's Artifact Suite had a large number of dancers, plus leading roles for two couples, Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith, and Tina LeBlanc and Gonzalo Garcia, with Muriel Maffre as the Sentinal and William Forsythe as the Big Ego. The thudding curtain and that long pause as we were forced to sit in semi-darkness, awaiting breathlessly the next burst of divine creativity: For once I was not in a mood to shssss the restless talkers. When we were allowed to see some choreography and dancing it was as good as the season's given. When it was over you wouldn't have known that this was the company's farewell. Perhaps the audience felt too mistreated, and hadn't the heart left to pay proper honor to SFB's worthy dancers.

Favorites? One would be tempted toward a long list. But allowing two of each.
For the women:
Yuan Yuan Tan, she taught me much about what I was seeing, and had the amplitude and presence of a ballerina.
Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun, precisely because I don't know why.
For the men:
Guennadi Nedviguine, for going beyond technique and for gazing at his ballerina.
Tiit Helimets, perfect partnering for two totally different ballerinas.
Grand Prix:
Muriel Maffre, for being the season's Heart of Dance.

#51 jps

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:03 PM

It seems to me that SFB is in fact trying to set itself up as a major contemporary/postmodern force rather than a "high classical" one . . .


I think this is absolutely correct, but I haven't seen it stated so clearly. I think many SFB dancers want it and are in a postion to carry it out, and many of us in the audience would support it. SFB will never be the Kirov or NYCB, but it could be a great contemporary/post-modern ballet company. The economics work against it (a mixture of classical full-lengths and contemporary ballets is what Helgi has opted for, and that has kept the company in the black). But SFB's real strength is actually in the contemporary/post-modern idiom, even if it hasn't explicitly said so. Thanks for pointing out something crucial about the company's real strength (even if it is not everyone's idea of what makes for a great ballet company; it does explain why Mark Morris woud see SFB as the "best" ballet company--the one most open to and able to carry out his own post-modern visions. We could do a lot worse).

#52 Helene

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:30 PM

SFB will never be the Kirov or NYCB, but it could be a great contemporary/post-modern ballet company.

Maybe not the Kirov, but SFB has always had it's share of full-lengths, even before Peter Martins started presenting his full-length Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, and I think there is little difference between today's NYCB and SFB repertoire in terms of type of work performed. (SFB performs fewer works each year.) Helgi Tomasson is firmly in the neo-classical school in his own choreography.

#53 sz

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 10:00 PM

>>... and I think there is little difference between today's NYCB and SFB repertoire in
>>terms of type of work performed.


Excuse me.... but what??!! NYCB performs how many great Balanchine ballets and good Robbins' ballets during each season compared to SFB's rep? Diamond Project seasons are one thing, but...


What I will remember most about SFB's visit here this past week is how enthusiastic *every* dancer was in *every* ballet performed, and what a fine credit that is to Tomasson's directorship.

#54 jps

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 01:56 AM

Excuse me.... but what??!! NYCB performs how many great Balanchine ballets and good Robbins' ballets during each season compared to SFB's rep?


When I saw NYCB this Spring after a break of five years, I thought, "no one does Balanchine like this company. They are absolutiely Numero Uno in this department--a national treasure if we ever had one." I think SFB has a different, complementary set of skills and values, and Leigh's comment helped me to see it more clearly. But SFB is still very much in the process of defining itself artistically. It may be America's oldest professional ballet company, but it has only recently moved from regional to international ranking, and it is still developing its core idenity. It's a very young company in spite of its long history. I really appreciated the critical eye so many of you lavished on SFB this week in New York on this board. Thank you!

#55 atm711

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 08:06 AM

halfway through Artifact Suite I almost got up and left.



I had the same misgivings, and got up my courage to leave 5 minutes before the end (a first, for me!). I guess the many 'thuds' of the descending curtain and the lack of 'wings' screamed 'avantgarde', in case the audience was not quick enough to catch on. Granted, it could be my problem that I cannot see much merit in this work. I did have the unsettling thought--'would I have booed the premiere of 'Rite of Spring'; but then, I did have an appreciation of Balanchine long before he became an Ikon, I was able to recognize genius (forgive the word, I can think of no other) even at a tender age.

The one ballet on this mixed repertory bill that I would really like to see again is Tomasson's '7 for 8'. I don't think I have ever seen a b allet where I come away marveling at the male port de bras---all the men exhibited beautiful port de bras but the honors to go Pascal Molat in his solo 5th movement--and Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun I would love to see again and again.

As to Wheeldon's 'Quaternary'---I found it a bit hard to swallow that he is considered by many to be the great-hope for choreography. I am a bit weary of the I'll-slide-down-your-back-crotch-in-the-face School of Choreography. I saw some of this last week in Chautauqua NY by the North Carolina Dance Company, but the choreographer was a teen-ager and I attributed it to raging hormones. But at least 'Quaternary' gave me a chance to see Tiit Helimets perform.

#56 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 08:07 AM

To me, the profiles of NYCB and SFB are significantly different. Alexandra and I were speaking yesterday about SFB; we noted that during Tomasson's tenure he moved away from the Balanchine satellite company model to a more European contemporary model - and it was what the audience and the company needed. The company doesn't have a legacy to guard and I think Artifact shows the company more accurately than Who Cares (to pick a Balanchine ballet out of a hat)

SFB was one of the earlier US companies to get a Forsythe premiere, New Sleep ca. 1987. (Joffrey got Love Songs earlier and also Square Deal, which I never saw. NYCB got Behind the China Dogs a year later.) I know Forsythe has not allowed other early works to be performed, I wonder if that's another one he's withdrawn.

Completely off topic and thinking back to the mid to late 80s with works like that and Frankfurt's visits to NYC bringing France/Dance and Same Old Story. . .every dancer in NYC showed up when a company brought a Forsythe work on tour. Once upon a time it really looked like he was going to re-define ballet - or at least what the generation after Balanchine was going to add to the historical stew. That was going to be our contribution to the mix.

What the hell happened?

#57 Helene

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 08:27 AM


>>... and I think there is little difference between today's NYCB and SFB repertoire in
>>terms of type of work performed.


Excuse me.... but what??!! NYCB performs how many great Balanchine ballets and good Robbins' ballets during each season compared to SFB's rep? Diamond Project seasons are one thing, but...

Balanchine is a neo-classical choreographer. NYCB dances very few strictly classical ballets (mime and Candy Cane from Nutcracker, first two acts of Coppelia, Swan Lake pas de deux, sections of Sleeping Beauty), unlike the Kirov. NYCB, through substantial Diamond Projects and the American Music Project, commissions works that range from neo-classical to contemporary.

If anything, SFB dances more strictly classical ballets than NYCB, with two full-lengths a year (not counting Nutcracker) -- although it sounds like Martins is trying to catch up -- with the occasional ABT piece, like this season's Rodeo. The majority of their repertory is firmly rooted in the neoclassical -- the majority of new work is choreographed by Tomasson and Wheeldon, as well as work by Julia Adam, and now that Possokhov is resident choreographer, I'd expect more from him. I don't know whether Morris' piece Pacific was intended as a ballet, like Sylvia and Maelstrom.

For next season, the balance of the repertory consists of Paul Taylor's Spring Rounds, Lar Lubovich's Elemental Brubeck, David Bintley's Dance House -- the one time I saw his work, it wasn't memorable, and I don't recall his style -- and works by Wayne McGregor, who has choreographed for NYCB and according to this interview is a self-styled "contemporary" choreographer, and Matjash Mrozewski. I haven't seen either, but the latter is creating new work for SFB, Royal Danish Ballet, and National Ballet of Canada this year, with works in the rep of Royal Ballet, Houston Ballet, West Australian Ballet, and Royal Swedish Ballet as well according to his website. That alone doesn't guarantee style, but he seems to be one of young "hopes" among classical ballet companies worldwide, with a resume deeper than many Diamond Project choreographers over the years.

#58 bart

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 08:36 AM

Once upon a time it really looked like he was going to re-define ballet - or at least what the generation after Balanchine was going to add to the historical stew. That was going to be our contribution to the mix.

What the hell happened?

Leigh, would it be possible to start a new thread elsewhere addressing just that question?

Many of us get the chance to see a few Forsythe works now and then, because they've entered the regional rep. I my case, the total that I can recall by name are Steptext and Love Songs. Plus excerpts of In the Middle Somewhat Elevatated on video.

I'd reallly like to listen in on a serious discussion of Forsythe's ballet-oriented works compared to more recent non- (or even anti-) ballet work I've read about. It might also be useful to get a list of those ballets that you, Alexandra and others consider are part of Forsythe's more ballet-friendly output, and to find out who, where, and how they are currently performed in the US.

#59 Helene

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 10:18 AM

To me, the profiles of NYCB and SFB are significantly different. Alexandra and I were speaking yesterday about SFB; we noted that during Tomasson's tenure he moved away from the Balanchine satellite company model to a more European contemporary model - and it was what the audience and the company needed. The company doesn't have a legacy to guard and I think Artifact shows the company more accurately than Who Cares (to pick a Balanchine ballet out of a hat)

I've been watching the rep over the last decade, and it looks to me like Tomasson has replaced Balanchine with his own work and, lately, Robbins'. I don't see an overwhelming number of European contemporary; if I don't feel it's worth traveling to SFB to see a program, it's more likely to avoid Tomasson's work than not. He is trying to develop and encourage choreographers from within his company, notably Adam and Possokhov. (I think Christopher Stowell's style is a little too similar to Tomasson's for that to be a great fit.)

I do think the Company's ability to dance Balanchine well is a gauge. In the late 90's, I saw a stunner of a Liebeslieder Walzer with Julia Diana and Evelyn Berman, and over the years, a few wonderful Stravinsky Violin Concertos, as well as superb relatively recent performances of 4T's. I was less enthralled with the recent Apollos than most. I don't think they do a good job with Who Cares?, but, then again, I hadn't seen very many good performances of the ballet by NYCB in the early 90's, and I can't remember any outside the company, including Durante's guest turn in the 1993 Balanchine Celebration.

ETA: There must be something in the water in San Francisco, with choreographers Possokhov, Adam, Christopher Stowell, and Paul Gibson all coming out of the SFB dancers ranks.

#60 FauxPas

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 07:00 AM

Some scattershot impressions and comments:

Sylvia: Thursday, July 27th - Elizabeth Miner, Pascale Molat and Pierre Francois-Vilanoba

I was told by NYSusan that there wasn't really any dancing until the third act. I actually was very taken with the first act. The stage was somewhat bisected by a stream and greenery on the upper stage left which cut into the dancer's space. The set of the ABT/RB "Sylvia" is similarly rather cumbersome and intrusive on the dancing space. I liked the opening dance of the satyrs, dryads and naiads with the naiads and dryades competing for the attentions of the satyrs. Morris used the music well in letting the shimmering arpeggios in the accompaniment signal the entry of the naiads from the stream.

Elizabeth Miner had an airy, outdoor fresh quality to her Sylvia with some of that cheerleader spunk you associate with the "All-American Girl" choreography that Balanchine created for Suzanne Farrell. However, she is also definitely very feminine and warm onstage, so her conversion was never really in doubt. Where I felt Morris did better than Ashton is in the mime and storytelling. The relationships seemed a bit more fleshed out in this version with dramatic tension sought out in the choices. Eros is more of a clown and trickster which seems appropriate and gives a comic dimension to this story of amorous misadventures. In fact, Morris never stooped to camp which some people were looking for knowing his previous work. He threw in dry humorous touches but played it quite straight and let the humor take care of itself. So there was contrast between serious ballet presentation and goofy modernity.

There was contrast too between the choreographic steps - the leads were very balletic with some fluent solos but the supporting characters were given more modern dance moves. There is no such contrast in the Ashton where everything is very 19th century balletic. Either you prefer the stylistic consistency and period charm of the Ashton or you are turned on by Morris' eclecticism.

The second act which some people liked best, I liked least. Maybe it was more what you would expect of Morris but I found the choreography thin. The Pas D'Esclaves music was just thrown away on a clumsy dance for the male corps with little invention. The cutesy orientalism of the music didn't fit the primitive roughness of the male slaves/cave dwellers. The clumps of rocks in the middle of the set limited the dancing space though it did create levels. I used dramatic license to dispel disbelief that Orion could be knocked unconscious by Welch's grape juice, perhaps he is diabetic. :mad: Luckily this act is short.

Morris made the dramaturgical choice to keep Orion in pursuit and his lovers in suspense for Act III. In Ashton's Act III the plot has basically been entirely resolved and it is all just a lovely divertissement marriage celebration like Aurora's wedding in "Beauty". In Morris, Aminta though alive doesn't know where Sylvia is or that she now loves him. Sylvia is brought in disguised as a houri-like slave girl by Eros disguised as a pirate/slave dealer. Sylvia is veiled and Morris devised a gorgeous pas de deux (I may prefer it to Ashton) for the veiled Sylvia and the still-clueless Aminta. First of all, this lets the lovers discover each other and provides the missing love/courtship scene because previously they have been kept apart by circumstances and only reunited by divine intervention. The use of the veil was a direct quote from the "Kingdom of the Shades" act from "La Bayadere" one of my favorite, if not my first favorite, ballets. I liked the choreography for Aminta's solo in this act very much but wished I was seeing Marcelo Gomes or Angel Corella dance it. Pascale Molat was generally elegant but seemed to have to push here. Orion reappears in this act and fights with Aminta for Sylvia but is vanquished by Diana. The denouement is then similar in both ballets. However, this choice keeps the dramatic conflict going throughout most of the evening. In the Ashton the story seems pat and anecdotal.

The third act set of a courtyard with columns in the background with a drop of an idealized Hellenic landscape by Martin Pakledinaz was stunning and open and was a wonderful space for dancing.

The beauty of the music is evident in this version and is emphasized by Morris' musicality. But the problems stem from the story and libretto which leaves all the work to the deus ex machina and makes the two lovers seem like puppets with no inner life of their own. The love story between Aminta and Sylvia happens mostly offstage. There were enough lovely moments, good ideas and fine choreography in this version that I will miss certain elements when I see the other version, though I feel that Ashton, in general, is more successfully realized. I wish Ashton was alive to steal some of Morris' better ideas for his version.

I also attended the first night on Saturday July 29th of the mixed program and will post on that later.

Faux Pas


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