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Spring 2007 Kennedy Center seasonJune 6-10

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#16 Jack Reed

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 08:09 PM

Here's what I have from tonight's short discussion with Martin Duberman & Suzanne Farrell on Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine, before I crash in bed. If you can't figure out the initials, ask:

Compare LK and GB? MD: Like fire and ice. K was on fire inside, he couldn't ever be satisfied.

K's artistic contributions to the SAB and NYCB? MD: In the first few years he made suggestions about designers etc. After that B consulted him rarely. Ballet Caravan (about two dozen dancers) emphasized "American" dancing. K felt B was contemptuous of him sometimes.
SF: He went around and made sure everything was done so we wouldn't worry where our toe shoes would come from and could concentrate on dancing. Now I have my own company I appreciate what he did. Would any of you like to be a LK? There's no college course that teaches that.

MD, what qualified you to write about LK? I became a balletomane in the 50s. We have some common background: Both our fathers were poor and made the money in the family; we're both Jewish and gay. There's always more than one biography; no one person can empathise completely with such a large subject. I got to read what he wrote.
SF: Reading LK was difficult. I always have a dictionary beside me. His writing was simple and complex, powerful. It always supported B. I don't know why I'm here except L gave me this outfit after the Don Quixote premiere.

MD: LK ws a terrifying figure at the NY State Theatre. The formidable exterior protected a sensitive soul. He wanted nothing in return for what he did, often helping people in such a way they didn't know who had done it. In writing the book I grew to love the man.

#17 carbro


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Posted 08 June 2007 - 08:32 PM

Thank you so very much, Jack!

Do you understand what SF meant by I don't know why I'm here except L gave me this outfit after the Don Quixote premiere.
? I'm guessing it had nothing to do with what she was wearing. :(

#18 drb


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Posted 08 June 2007 - 09:22 PM

... Then after I had seen Bejart's love scene from Romeo and Juliet, which seems fully to flesh out Berlioz's wonderful score, some of the best music ever written for any purpose, I felt even more strongly that the corresponding scene from Martins's new setting of the difficult Prokofiev music, which had turned up on the Workshop program, was like little more than clear water thrown on warm rocks to evaporate into nothing, having nearly no effect to remember. By contrast, Bejart and Berlioz conjure up a great deal in a quarter hour; Ashley Hubbard and Matthew Prescott realized the whole stream of shifting modes and moods in this as a continuous flow, a journey through a microcosm, the world writ small...

Thanks to all for these glowing reports. I'm especially glad that Mr. Bejart's association with Suzanne is being honored. I am forever grateful that he brought her to us during the unhappy time. Their time together also was important to the art of ballet in another way. Just reading the long Time Out interview with Alessandra Ferri. The ONLY reference to a ballerina's influence on her career was of Suzanne:

When I was in the school in Milan at La Scala, we had a lot of Maurice Béjart. He came with his company a lot, and I remember that one of the things that I first saw was one of his ballets with Suzanne Farrell. I was plucked very early for the theatrical side of dance...

#19 Farrell Fan

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 06:15 AM

"LK was a terrifying figure at the NY State Theater." I certainly felt that way, but he held no terrors for my cheerful wife. On those occasions when we sat in the first ring, she would invariably cross the aisle before the performance to wish him a good evening, while I cowered in my seat behind my program. He always reciprocated her wishes. One evening toward the end of Lincoln's regular attendance, the young man with whom he normally sat sought us out at intermission and said to Alice, "Thank you for paying attention to Mr. K."

Thanks for your reports, Jack

#20 Jack Reed

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 06:56 PM

carbro, I hate to tell you that's a bad guess; it was exactly to do with what she had on, as she made plain by touching her clothing as she spoke. I might have included that, but I was fading at the time I posted, sorry.

I did get to both rehearsal-teas (interesting concept, that), and because they were open rehearsals, which anyone could buy a ticket to, I think I'm not breaking any of our rules by describing one particular moment I will cherish, about Farrell herself:

She doesn't perform on stage any more but she still certainly cuts a fine figure: She strolled down the cross aisle after an intermission, chestnut hair, cream colored sport coat, dark slacks, erect, slim, with a little black and dark grey poodle on a taut leash. Very chic, I thought. In keeping with the standards of honesty and accuracy we maintain here at BT, I have to admit I'm prejudiced, but I just thought she looked terrific.

#21 koshka


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Posted 10 June 2007 - 06:41 PM

First about the class on Saturday:

I thought it was fantastic and will eagerly sign up if it's offered again.

There were 40 in the class, with a _very_ wide range of ballet experience from practically none to a lot. I would put about half the class in the category of "fewer than 10 ballet classes last year". It was held in the upstairs rehearsal room, which is big and has a good floor and mirrors but is otherwise quite ugly, with no windows and an industrial look.

It was a fairly standard ballet class, albeit at a basic level with relatively simple combinations. I think there was something that everyone could take from the class.

Now about Sunday night's performance:
First up was Mozartiana. The principals were terrific--energetic and yet precise. I was not particularly taken with the young dancers--they were cute and their entrance and poses were very elegant and polished, but some of the later choreography struck me as under-rehearsed.

Next was the Scene d'Amour. Somehow it didn't capture me as much this time, although I still enjoyed it. Du still struck me as too rigid at times.

Divertimento Brilliante was, alas, the weak point. Mladenov danced unevenly--at some times pure elegance and at other times unbecoming awkwardness. Parsley,likewise, had an uneven performance: the allegro portions were sharp and sparkly, but the adagio partnering was weak. It was not clear if they were under-rehearsed or if one or the other of them (or both) was having an off night.

Slaughter was just as fun the second time around (and I was still disappointed to see no more of Mladenov after the prologue), although Katelyn Prominski (Thursday night) was a much more outgoing Striptease Dancer, at least to my eye.

One problem with the production is that the at least one of the people sitting near the gangster (who sits in the audience and is spotlit at times), an older lady, seemed to be bothered by the spotlight. Considering that there were a fair number of empty seats tonight, I think the ushers should have warned people in the neighboring seats and should have offered to reseat them if desired.

#22 kfw


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Posted 11 June 2007 - 06:35 PM

I'm not much of a critic and I hadn't meant to post, but thinking about the performances again was so stirring that here a few thoughts:

We saw both Saturday programs, my wife and I; we really treasure this company, the Little Company that Could, I think someone called them, and we cheer them on. Pickard was in her element in Scotch, radiant and ethereal, completely confident and secure in the drops. To my mind, she was perfection, and Runqiao Du is always ardent and noble.

Mozartiana was more of a stretch, and after the Preghiera the technical challenges did look like challenges sometimes. I thought there was a spot or too when she was off the music. But she was no less moving for it; she had the spirit of the ballet. In Divertimento Brilliante, Shannon Parsely, the other redhead and our favorite among the women, gave us much more pleasure than she did the critics. She looked a little heavy in the tutu, but she was quick when she had to be. And we've seen her enough to know that her "pasted on smile" (LaRocca's words) at least, was for real. The choreography to the Glinka, and in the evening to the Mozart, was the sort of perfect and perfectly understated Balanchine classicism that makes your heart soar.

The Bejart is kitsch, but the two young lovers, Hubbard and Prescott were so adorable I didn't care. Slaughter got two differing performances. As the striptease girl Elizabeth Holowchuk at the matinee vamped with great freedom and great sexy glee. Lisa Reneau in the evening was just as much in character but sometimes looked awkward on the floor, and couldn't match Holowchuk's abandon. As the Hoofer, Kirk Henning was a delight at both performances, drawing laughs for example as he momentarily lost rythminic complexity in his taps after receiving the warning note. But his matinee solo lacked characterization. By the evening the blank look was gone and he showed the proper fear and desperation in his face and in his voice, even leaping over the dead Big Boss with greater determination.

#23 Jack Reed

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 07:27 PM

From someone who's "not much of a critic" kfw, that was really good to read. Thank you, and I hope you won't be so hesitant in the future.

#24 TutuMaker



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Posted 25 June 2007 - 04:30 AM

Here is my attempt:

The first program I saw opened with Scotch Symphony. The dancing was crisp, clean and technically precise by both the corps and the soloists. As the dance progressed and the speed of the footwork increased, there was never any indication of sloppiness that frequently goes along with fast footwork. The only wobble I saw was on the part of Bonnie Pickard while being supported by Momchil Mladenov. Her arm was visibly shaking as if from tension or fatigue. She did also seem to hold tension in her face, but there were fleeting facial displays of sheer joy. If she had been able to completely release that tension, her performance would have been perfect! In fact, a little girl sitting behind me asked the adult accompanying her asked, “What is wrong with her face?” It was distracting up close, maybe not so much further back? Although this was a difficult piece for the corps, they executed it flawlessly. This was very impressive considering the intricacies of the steps. Their timing was spot on, and their lines were straight. Additionally the costuming was great. It is very difficult to precisely fit a rotating group of dancers and sometimes you just do the best you can. Each dancer looked as if the costumes were made just for them. Not one gape or wrinkle to be seen. Kudos to wardrobe! I disagreed with the choice of bright red (with a trace of orange) for the costume for Gina Artese. I think I would have picked a richer, darker red, but that again is my own personal preference! The bright red just seemed jarring. The pale pink for the female corps (Violeta Angelova, Amy Brandt, Morgan Davison, Kristen Gallagher, Kara Genevieve, Elisabeth Halowchuk, Katelyn Prominski and Lisa Reneau) was beautiful. The male corps dancers (Daniel Benavides, Joseph Bunn, Ian Grosh, James Reed Hague, Kurt Henning, Andrew Kaminski, Benjamin Lester, and Keelan Whitmore) were also costumed with great care and it really showed. Sometimes I am distracted by costumes, and start watching the costume and not the dancer. In those cases, I would have to criticize the wardrobe department. Their job is to enhance the dancer, not to over power, but to aid in moving the ballet forward. The wardrobe department really nailed this entire collection of dances!

After the first intermission, Adagio from Concierto de Mozart began. Elisabeth Holowchuk was more than competently partnered by Matthew Prescott. I recall thinking that they gave the impression that they truly enjoyed what they were doing. It was pleasant to see a couple that appeared to be a team, with both partners contributing equally to the success of the dance. It was evident to me that Ms. Holowchuk was always cognizant of contributing to the effort, rather than expecting Mr. Prescott to do all the work without her assistance. Again the footwork was precise and both dancers’ technique was pure and crisp. There seemed constant eye contact between the dancers. I really doubt that Ms. Holowchuk will remain in the corps much longer. If I were a betting woman, I would wager that she will be moved up the hierarchy very soon! Her performances seem not only consistent and dependable, but also quite entrancing. The violin was beautiful and was like icing on a cake. The costumes were of a light blue that is difficult to use well. Again wardrobe got it right! I especially liked the petal skirt of the tutu. I enjoy simplicity with few sparkles. These costumes were just that.

Following a brief pause, Scène d’amour from Romeo and Juliet was performed. This was my favorite from both shows. Others can call it “noodleing.” I would respond that they just don’t “get” Béjart! Maybe one must be a Baby Boomer to fully appreciate it? From the rise of the curtain with Runqiao Du waltzing with his imaginary Juliet, to the fall of the curtain, I was hooked. Ashley Hubbard portrayed a teen-age girl with believable ease. She relayed at times a feeling of joy that I have never seen on stage by any dancer previously. Her face beamed as her ponytail bounced as she moved across the stage. Ms. Hubbard also expressed distress and grief with equal effect. Mr. Du was also impressive. He too displayed the emotions Romeo experienced with ease. None looked forced. His dancing was technically pure and precise. The corps (Daniel Benavides, Joseph Bunn, Kurt Froman, Ian Grosh, Ken Guan, James Reed Hague, Kirk Henning, Andrew Kaminski, Benjamin Lester, Neil Marshall and Keelan Whitmore) performed well with no one dancer standing out from the group, which is precisely as it should be! The costumes while basic were again perfect for this piece, as was the simple moon on the drop. Dressing the soloists in white was perfect. The two subtle dark colors for the corps got the job done without being overbearing. I am partial to boots on men. Again, the men wore boots but their presence was perfectly subtle. Once again great job! The evening performance had the same cast, with the same result, which demonstrated to me the consistency of these dancers.

Closing the afternoon performance was Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. In this performance, Katelyn Prominski danced the role of the Strip Tease Girl. I believe her performance on the stage on the stage was subdued on purpose. This was when she was at work, simply doing her job. When she dances on the floor in front of the bar, with pure abandon, she is dancing simply for her own joy. Her costume is at first an innocent pale pink and then she changes into a black dress. Katelyn was superb! Elisabeth Holowchuk danced this role in the evening performance. She was capable, but Katelyn owned this role! Kirk Henning danced the Hoofer in the afternoon and Kurt Froman performed in the evening. Kirk was a technically superior tapper, but Kurt dripped with charisma. I enjoyed watching them both equally. They just were quite different, neither better than the other. Benjamin Lester played the role of the Big Boss; Daniel Benavides and Joseph Bunn played Bartenders; Neil Marshal was the Thug; Momchil Mladenov was Morrosine, premier danseur noble; Jared Redick, Ken Guan and Ian Grosh were Policemen; and James Reed Hague, Andrew Kaminski, Matthew Prescott and Keelan Whitmore made up the male corps. These dancers were the same for both matinee and evening shows. The female corps for the afternoon was made up of Emily Erin Adams, Gina Artese, Morgan Davison, Kara Genevieve and Vanessa Woods. For the evening, the dancers were Emily Erin Adams, Violeta Angelova, Gina Artese, Amy Brandt, Kristen Gallagher and Vanessa Woods. There was so much activity on stage at times, even seeing this piece twice I feel as if I have missed parts. After being served tastes of Balanchine and Béjart, this was dessert!

My sincere apologies for taking so long to post this. The simple explanation is the sheer craziness of my work and travel schedule.

#25 Farrell Fan

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:41 AM

Your report was worth waiting for, TutuMaker :clapping:

#26 MDNJ


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Posted 28 June 2007 - 06:04 PM

I really enjoyed reading your comments about Sunday's two performances, especially since I was there for both shows as well. (I actually saw several, in order to see all the various casts.) This is my first attempt at posting, just a few thoughts really...
I agree with almost everything that you said regarding the performance and the caliber of dancing, the wonderful costumes and the melodious violin.
I have watched the company over the years and am so happy to see Pickard now a Principal. I find her to be a very consistent dancer and her promotion to me seems very well deserved.
The children's smiles during the finale of Mozartiana were infectious. How special for ones so young to have such an opportunity.
I enjoyed Bejart's Romeo and Juliet. It was the first time I had seen any of his choreography, except for the bits of Farrell herself in her documentary. I thought the corps of men did a nice job adding drama to the scene without distracting from the pas de deux. I liked Du and Hubbard together, although I found Prescott to be a more exuberant Romeo on previous days.
Seeing multiple performances of Slaughter was interesting to me, since all three leading ladies, who were just recently coached by Farrell, were very unique in their personal interpretations. And although I am no expert I would have to say that after Sunday evening's perfomance, I found Holowchuk's to be the most convincing. She and Henning seemed to really connect on stage and from where I was seated, the passion and drama all seemed very authentic. The supporting corps of the ballet really seemed to be having fun with the choreography and flavor of the ballet. I left the theatre each night humming the music.
I found both programs to have something that everyone could enjoy. Each piece had it's own special ingredient to add to the evening. And while so different on their own, altogether the pieces created a remarkable evening of ballet.
Having followed this company for many years, it has been exciting to see this group flourish. I am always amazed at what they accomplish. We have Open House to enjoy in September and then there's November's season to be thankful for. Let's hope 2008 brings us more of this company.

#27 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 06:18 PM

Yes, TutuMaker, thanks for that richly-colored, well-tailored and finely-stitched review! You really live up to your screen name, and reading what you wrote brought back much of the pleasure of seeing the performances. You and kfw and MDNJ inspire some random comments:

I think Pickard has a little tic, which shows sometimes, and it reminds me that dancers are human, I guess, although those on Pickard's level make it hard to comprehend that propostion as a mere fact: What these - humans? yes, I guess they really are after all - do becomes all the more miraculous in the moment, whatever way we may reflect later on what we saw, for the human hints we see in performance.

For example, I know in an analytical way that the light on stage is supplied by electric current, but when I saw Pickard's Scotch begin to unfurl there at the rehearsal-tea I thought it had luminosity of its own, as though we could've seen some of it even if they turned the lights off; and kfw calls her performance "radiant" so I think he must have seen this effect too, and so the miracle must really have happened and stirred him to write. (That's what's supposed to happen. Your experience of these worlds is supposed to change you.) But I was up in the First Tier then, and I may have always had more distant seats than you did, TutuMaker; your account reads more "close up."

As to the bright red of the demi's costume, I couldn't agree more! (When the company's other prominent redhead, Shannon Parsley wore it, it made her look brunette, it was so bright.) Darker, better, yes! How about dark green jackets, just like the boys wear, the identical costume, kilt, long argyle socks, cap, and all? That's the way I first began to see "Scotch" years ago with Balanchine's company, and part of the fun for me was that the demi was dressed like the boys, but she sure wasn't a boy! (She was usually Marnee Morris or, later, Roma Sosenko, both small, neat, especially clear, quick dancers.)

Otherwise, except for the bright red one, the costuming was just as it was years ago, and I agree, they're exactly right for the dances, all of them. (I heard once that Balanchine said he had the costumes, and so, decided to make the ballet. If that's true, no wonder they're appropriate!) And speaking of eye contact, which you noticed in R & J, I noticed a lot of looking into each other's faces in Scotch; it was part of the Sylph-and-James element of that ballet for me: He's under her spell, although Balanchine doesn't spin out the whole story here.

And speaking of Parsley, I agree with kfw about her dancing and her smile, in everything she did. It's all genuine, responsive to the moment.

The joy in dancing Suzanne Farrell's dancers show onstage compares in my experience only with Edward Villella's dancers in his Miami City Ballet. And Du's dancing is dependably classically pure and clear, and his partnering seems to be among the best in the company, but I agree with MDNJ that Prescott brought his Romeo more spirit. I think even my non-dancer's eye has noticed Du's development in his few years with this troupe, and so I was satisfied to see him in this big dramatic role - development in another direction, maybe.

I haven't seen a lot of Bejart's choreography either, MDNJ, although I have some memories of my one look at his Le Sacre du printemps (on Balanchine's published recommendation) years ago, and I can see how one may take the Scene d'amour from his Romeo and Juliet as kitsch, as kfw does - although I think it's partly the choreography that makes us take the lovers to our hearts - but I was constantly struck by how Bejart hears in Berlioz's wonderful music occasion for developing stage action, including the intrusion of the (other) Capulets and Montagues. Even though I don't hear some of these occasions when I listen to the music alone. Berlioz's music doesn't require completion, but, similar to Balanchine but in his different way, Bejart incorporates it into a larger something without looking foolish, as some of the "symphonic" choreographers did, I believe.

Sometimes in ballet I'm aware of the choreographer largely ignoring what the music says or what it seems to ask for, using (misusing) instead only the tone and meter, or even imposing something alien on it. In this part of this ballet at least (I understand Bejart has choreographed Berlioz's entire score, about an hour and a half) musical integrity gives it some organic quality. For me, if it's kitsch, and maybe it is, it's kitsch of a high order.

As to the costuming and setting of the Scene, I also like simple efficiency - the darkness of the corps keeping it in the (dramatic) background, the brownish and greenish tones distinguishing between the two families - but the huge, accurate moon image on the backdrop bothered me for a while, until it began to dawn on me that this huge, brooding moon gives perspective to the story of these tragic, doomed little mortals: Action over, lives over, the moon still hangs up there, impassively, as though watching, unblinking.

Speaking of Bejart's Le Sacre du printemps, there's been regret expressed about its cancellation, twice, but I take heart from Farrell's having programmed it twice. She wants to present it, and so, I think, when she can, she will.

And thanks for that insight into Prominski's rendition of the Strip Tease Girl, TutuMaker.

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