Lincoln Center: Reviews & Impressions
Posted 28 July 2006 - 07:21 AM
Seeing this again is a different experience, both b/c of Morris and the Company.
Having made my snap judgments Wednesday, I especially looked at what I didn't like. Clearly Morris likes to play "naughty." So just accepted that (why not, it works for his company and this is his ballet). Very different cast.
1. Sylvia: Elizabeth Miner for Tan. As suggested by posters who've seen this in The City (yes, was there for years long ago, and sorry NY, it was), they are very different. I think a choice, if one had to be made, is one of seeing Morris's inventions (Tan) or seeing a Romantic ballet (Miner). Although different players in all the other roles can create figure-ground problems if one really wants to try to compare ballerinas. That, to me, stunning/signature/beautiful horse gait in Act 1 was much more pronounced with Tan. Since I like it I was happier with the "high amp" version. Sylvia and the other Valkyrie/Nymphs in Act 1: Miner is one of them, sort of a first among equals; where Tan is more set apart, as in Birgit Nilsson from the chorus in Die W (I don't mean this necessarily qualitatively). When Sylvia is shot with Eros's arrow, Tan has much more to change. On her return to glimpse the dead Aminta Miner was the one who showed a more genuine set of emotions: it was the beginning of her drawing more audience sympathy for her character Sylvia, the more Romantic ballet interpretation.
In Act 2 I thought Tan put up the more interesting struggle, seemed more in danger. This could have been b/c Pierre-Francois Vilanoba was a less Brutish Orion that was Possokov with Tan. Vilanoba was a bit more tempered by his romantic side. We felt for Miner, the less resourceful, more Giselle-ish victim. We rooted for Tan, the battling valkerie. (The Act 2 curtain drop scene change again was not completely successful looking down, it seems designed for those sitting at orchestra level.)
For Act 3, where Tan was more a Diamond, Miner was pretty-in-pink, a radiant Pink Sapphire (Madagascar) in a diamond setting. With Tan I saw more of the cascade of diamantine effects in the adagio that Mr. Parish described in the previously referenced early review. With Miner more of the romance, a warm glow. Of course the surprises in choreography are more likely to hit one on first viewing.
2. Aminta: Pascal Molat for Garcia. In the variations Gonzalo Garcia did seem the more virtuosic. In particular, after the Act 3 adagio, his pirouettes were more Corella-ish, the renversee was instant and pronounced, reckless, and seemed the tranforming impetus for the throw of himself around himself. Mr. Molat showed more preparation for the final leap around himself.
3. Diana: Katita Waldo for Maffre. It was certainly nice to see Waldo on stage again. While certainly effective, there's no getting around the fascinating character development that Muriel Maffre gives to Diana.
4. Eros: James Sofranko for Castilla. I guess one just has to come to terms with Morris seeing this character so differently from Ashton. On second viewing, it seems that if Morris were to have been a dancer in Sylvia, this is the role he'd have taken. One might enjoy this role by imagining that Mark Morris was dancing the part.
Since this is the home field for NYCB, a company very rich in dramatic ballerinas these days, one can't help but think of possible Sylvias there. Especially after seeing Elizabeth Miner's, Sara Mearns seems a real natural for this choreography. She has the youth and of course that awesome beauty. And so effectively grabs an audience's sympathy, well, adoration. But it's that score by Delibes, the thought of her playing with it. Tchaikowsky, 1877: "Listened to the Leo Delibes' ballet Sylvia. In fact, I actually listened, because it is the first ballet, where the music constitutes not only the main, but the only interest. What charm, what elegance, what richness of melody, rhythm, harmony. I was ashamed. If I had known this music early then, of course, I would not have written Swan Lake."
While this is the home of NYCB, the (again a nicely full house) audience for SFB this summer seems different from the regulars. Both in terms of recognition of familiar faces, and in the way they respond. Especially of late, NYCB audiences can be very demonstrative (although also not, it depends on what goes on onstage, unlike the automatic standing ovations for ABT). This year we had the Diamond Project again. It offers up a few new one-acters every few years. And this year there were a number of big hits, at max the 10 curtain call variety. In the first three nights of SFB, once the curtain is lowered the dancers don't come out for bows. I really wish we'd had the NYCB crowd around for SFB. Were NYCB to have shown Act 3 as a new one-acter, I think the home audience would have gone wild.
An aside. There is a photo exhibit of prior Lincoln Center Festivals on the First Ring Promenade. The photo at the South East corner of the exhibition is of Molly Smolen, dancing Ashton's Isadora (Brahms) with incredible expressive power. It is a Wow! I hope they find a way to get her into the weekend's mixed bill.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:09 AM
Posted 28 July 2006 - 09:37 AM
Act II of the Ballet is the best. Morris had an original idea there and worked in his own idiom and Yuan Tan and Possokhov were most interesting. The final tableau was quite uplifting.
As for the rest: Morris is not a ballet choreographer of great skill by training or experience. He is a great choreographer in his own material but ballet isn't his metier. His ballet here, the enchainements and staging is rudimentary and thin and at times amateurish. A big mistake was to cut the stage to such shallow depth. The processionals in Act III had no punch. The material for the fauns and satyrs at the opening, likewise. There were few variations so no comment on that. But the pas in Act III was student level with a few pyrotechnical tricks thrown in. What I thought of the Gay Svengali Eros I can't say.
This will and has sold tickets because it's Morris doing Sylvia. It should not have been done. Do Act II as a short piece.
Oh, Michael, thank you so much.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 07:31 PM
I must admit, however, as a regular at the San Francisco Ballet, that I'm finding the responses here more interesting. drb captures my experience of SFB dancers best.
Too bad SFB isn't experiencing a regular NYCB audience. Curtain calls are an exception at SFB. I liked the responsiveness of NYCB audiences when I was in town in June, and thought it would be great for SFB dancers to experience it too.
There are a number of people in San Francisco who feel as Michael does about Mark Morris's choreography. I've found, however, that seeing ABT's Sylvia in LA this Spring made me appreciate Morris for the ways he is not Ashton, even though I prefer Ashton's Sylvia overall (Paloma, by the way, was a wonderful Sylvia in California).
Artifact Suite captures a very characteristic SFB energy, daring and grace; it will be interesting to see how it plays in New York this weekend.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:26 PM
The final pairing was Vanessa Zahorian and Guennadi Nedviquine.
Tonight, a different look at the ballet, downstairs. Early on there was a minor stumble and a couple of dancers in named roles had some problems finishing multiple turns. Out of curiosity, how do SF seasons work? Does the company usually dance over a significant number of days without breaks? Not to worry, though, for this turned out to be a very successful performance.
I like the way each dancer in the big roles has interpretive freedom, even some with the steps, in this company. After a fascinating exploration of choreography by Tan, and romantic, capturing the spirit of the great score, by Elizabeth Miner, Zahorian seemed to go for realism. For example, while being carried off by Orion (Damian Smith) half way off she stopped her struggling, overcome with concern for Aminta (or maybe just that a dead guy wouldn't be able to rescue her?). Asleep at Orion's, she was dreaming as he stroked her leg and clearly her expression showed this had invoked an especially erotic moment in her dream, and thus so natural that she made that arching backward reach to encircle her dream-lover's neck, only to be shocked to awaken to Orion. It wasn't just because of Morris's choreographic need to echo Aminta's awakening from death by Sorcerer/Eros (Garrett Anderson). Once the goons had been inebriated to their knees around the table she mounted it. The oboe began to sing erotically like a shenai and we (or rather they) were treated to a dance right out of (in spirit) Bejart's Bolero. This was quite a strong Act for her. The scene change at the end was more magical from orchestra level.
There always seems more to see in Act 3. With all that beautiful classical symmetry, a boy and girl on the left and two girls on the right place one Grecian Urn, centered, on each side. Then place alongside four bowls each, but Zenly not symmetric in their placement. A signal that classical symmetry can be enriched? After all, it is Mark Morris. Well, if there were any doubt, on comes Nedviguine to proclaim this truth, as he came into his own with his opening solo full of renversees, daring to tip into a higher dimension of artistry. Zahorian captivated the crowd with a beautiful floating finish to her solo. The adagio was really magic. This was an Aminta who really partners, presenting the ballerina by gazing at her with such a sense of awe that we must look at her. He evokes Malakhov partnering Vishneva. I can give a danseur no higher praise. What ballerina would not dance for such a partner? His variation was a symphony of renversees, who could care that others might have more and faster pirouettes? Interestingly, that shocking toss of himself around himself was in the opposite direction from the first two Amintas, and smoothly, did not upset the higher symmetries he'd been creating.
I think I may have been a bit imprecise earlier regarding audience response. The curtain does go down and up at least a couple of times, it is just that after the last down applause stops so individuals do not come out in front of the curtain for additional bows. NYCB audiences tend to demand these curtain calls for worthy performances. Tonight was the most responsive audience so far. The company and individuals did have to come forward frequently, even more often tonight. The crowd was especially loud for Garrett Anderson and Muriel Maffre, and of course the leads. While this is the first night followed by a non-work day, I don't think that fully explains the more prolonged ovation. They were good!
Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:32 PM
Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:47 PM
I also found Molat, while not quite as strong, perhaps as Garcia, a much more engaging presence.
On Wednesday, I had almost decided not to go back for a second viewing. But when I was offered the gift of a ticket, I decided to take a look at the new cast. Had I seen this cast in the first place, I surely would have come back for a second take. But that's just a matter of personal preference.
A note about Tuesday's gala: LeBlanc (with Karapetyan) pulled me into in the Handel/Tomasson Chaconne. I owe it to her charm and stagecraft. I found it the most charming piece on the program.
I very much dislike Tomasson's choreography for the women in his Swan Lake pd3. The man's variation, however flowed nicely. The pdd, with Tan and Helimets was textbook perfect but an emotional vacuum. However, the battements serres at the end, so fast that they were a blur, were quite something!
The second half of the program was less lively than the first. Even Glass Pieces -- with its propulsive score -- didn't have the weight or drive I'm accustomed to and didn't really seem like anything until finally all 24 dancers filled the stage.
A mixed bill with mixed results, but overall, the company made a positive impression.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:50 PM
The score by Delibes is so danceable, I thought it a shame that so often Morris relied on stiff and trite archetyple moves and poses for the dancers. (And he needs to realize the difference between a leitmotif and pure repetitiveness.) I also found the second act to be a bit of a poor man's Prodigal Son with the drunkards resembling the bald cap-sporting goons.
Vanessa Zahorian who was technically superb, conveyed little emotion in her dancing. Her face was far from expressive -- it never seemed to register fear, delight, or longing. Much like Abi Stafford (who, to her credit, has had several break out performances in the past season at NYCB), the technique is all there, but the stage presentation is missing. The enjoyment and ease of conveying some sort of story and meaning behing the steps is missing. (Is this possibly a CPYB trait?)
The corps was quite varied I felt. There seemed to be a great range in talent level and some of the group dances appeared a little under-rehearsed. Sometimes as a whole they did not engage, and at others it was drastically over-acted. I especially like Mariellen Olson and Nutnaree stood out beautifully. Why she, and not Brooke Moore, was not Sylvia's friend was beyond me. Sarah van Patten was also pleasantly alluring as a slave girl in the third act. Ruben Martin was excellent as a Herald, although his younger brother's technique is not as crisp as the former. Moises also seemed to lack Ruben's smooth and effortless performance quality.
I disliked both the costumes and the sets, but I thought Martin West conducted admirably. i hope the repertory program tomorrow night brings better luck.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 10:01 PM
Yes. Seven performances in six days (Tuesday-Sunday, two performances on Saturday) is standard for SFB during their regular season. The Lincoln Center schedule is the kind of performance schedule they are used to.
Yes, that is the basic SFB style. Front of the curtain calls happen, but they aren't routine. Maybe they'll bring them back from NY.
Thanks for your very insightful review of Vanessa Zahorian and Guennadi Nedviquine--in fact for all three of your Sylvia reviews. You saw qualities in these dancers I didn't fully appreciate until you pointed them out.
Posted 28 July 2006 - 10:51 PM
Posted 28 July 2006 - 11:31 PM
Just out of curiosity, did Martin West conduct all three Sylvias? West and Gary Sheldon alternated during the home season, and while Sheldon has almost always been my reliant conductor through the years (he makes the orchestra sound different/better than on alternate nights), West is very accommodating towards the dancers (also mentioned somewhere in program notes). I mention this b/c Act II can be drastically different if the tempo is faster – which happened on the third show in SF, I think? – where the humor was lost. But seeing the reviews, I take it that Act II was as hysterical as it could be!
And I agree with you whole-heartedly on Muriel and Katita’s differencet portrayals of Diana (from your earlier post) – I just couldn’t articulate it on my SFB post, but you captured it perfectly!
Posted 29 July 2006 - 12:05 AM
Many who were outraged by Morris’ version seemed to forget that he is not a classical, but a contemporary ballet choreographer, thus utilizing different “vocabulary.” Some phrases/poses in Act 1 are actually more difficult, in my opinion!
Balletchic101 – I agree with you re: the corp’s lack of cohesiveness, esp in Act I. Re:Heralds, I wonder if you would’ve liked the match up of Ruben Martin and Garen Scribner, who were beautifully paired, musically and stylistically in SF. Garen also danced well with Rory Hohenstein.
Posted 29 July 2006 - 01:02 AM
What does CPYB stand for and who are some of its alums? Were Tina LeBlanc, Kristin Long and Brooke (Taylor) Moore CPYB dancers? What is it about Pennsylvania that produces such great dancers? (sorry, slightly off-topic)
Posted 29 July 2006 - 05:09 AM
Exactly. So why does he insist on essaying this classicism? Wouldn't it have been much more interesting to see what he did with a full length Sylvia on his own company? That I'd pay to see.
Posted 29 July 2006 - 05:44 AM
Based on primarily older works, I'm a huge Morris fan. But it seems I'm hearing more criticism of Mark Morris's work -- esepcially for unevennes and misjudgments -- than was once the case.
Is it possible that, with all his commitments involving his dance center, school, company, and extensive guest commissions, he has taken on more than he can handle? Maybe fewer projects, and getting back to some kind of central core, might be a good thing?
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