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'Agon' and 'Symphony in Three Movements'For a first-timer...


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#16 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:27 PM

Bravo!

I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself and feel free to be long-winded any time.

Some thoughts on your observations.

When I've seen Parker in Balanchine, he's always looked quite at home in it.

Over the years I've come to the conclusion that Balanchine done "wrong" is like Justice Potter Stewart's attempt to describe pornography in a Supreme Court ruling: "I know it when I see it." Projection or attitude can be fine in Agon, vamping the audience isn't.

The balances in the second pas de trois can be like those in the Rose Adagio - blow them and you've blown the whole thing, so they're nervewracking. And I know Joseph Caley is maybe two years out from graduation at RBS. You get major roles in BRB quite quickly.

Erotic but not crude sounds about right for the pas de deux. There's definitely power exchange there and it would be naive not to find it erotic. But telegraph the effects and the pas de deux loses its mystery.

In the second aria in VC, Martins was almost frightening with Mazzo - he was just so much bigger and that last movement when he bends her neck back has you nervous for a split second.

I remember when Dominic Antonucci was David Howard's protege in NYC (and Robert Parker's wife, Rachel Peppin, was Robert Barnett's in Atlanta). Tempus fugit.

#17 scherzo

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 02:01 AM

Carbro, thankyou so much for that thread: I somehow managed not to find it while doing my research. :clapping: Also for your advice about seats. Though I am glad that I saw everything 'up close' at least once: I think it was helpful to see in detail the dynamics of each section for a first-timer like me. (It's so great having such a large pool of knowledge to draw upon here! I would just have moved right on downstairs otherwise. Sorry, raving over. :blush: )

Leigh, on the whole there wasn't much wrongness (ummm..... though..... was Sakuma wearing glitter on her eyelashes???). I got the feeling that in the Agon pd2, Roberts was kind of glaring out at the audience with a bit of an 'ice-queen' expression rather than simply dancing. But she did capture what's referred to in the Agon thread as Adams' 'patrician manner' (your words, in fact!).

It's true that watching last night was very instinctive. After reading about Balanchine on this board for years, to finally see these great works for myself was rather daunting because I was afraid that I wasn't going to 'get it'. But yes, I think (hope, after having posted my thoughts) that I could see what was right and wrong.

What was also interesting was to see various choreographic motifs being used in different ways in the three ballets, like that supported walking the women do, reclined right back. It's great to see a different vocabulary being consistently used (another example: promenades linked at the elbow).

#18 scherzo

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 02:38 PM

Round 2...

STRAVINSKY! A CELEBRATION; 21st Feb 07; The Lowry; Birmingham Royal Ballet

Agon

1st pd3: Alexander Campbell, Momoko Hirata, Laura Purkiss
This had a rather different, more lyrical character than the first cast, but with no less wit (to match the coda's music: fantastic!).

2nd pd3: Lei Zhao, Rory Mackay, Steven Monteith
I preferred this one to yesterday's: the two men had a more serious, focused manner and there was a sense of tension which I enjoyed. Zhao danced the Sarabande with a sultry feeling that I found very effective.

Pd2: Elisha Willis, Iain Mackay
Both were better cast in this than Violin Concerto. Willis' line was absolutely beautiful and her control was amazing (although there was a very hairy moment during the slow penchee supported by the slowly reclining man: I thought she was going to keel right over). Rather than a feeling of the woman's power, there was a more uneasy uncertainty in Willis: she had less 'patrician manner' and much more vulnerability. Mackay appeared more in control and more of a calming influence on Willis. Over the whole pd2 there hung a sense of impending doom, something huge but which neither was willing to face. Pretty powerful stuff!

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Aria I: Victoria Marr, Dominic Antonucci
Aria II: Ambra Vallo, Chi Cao

Marr was more appropriate than Willis: she was livelier and appeared more of a match for her partner. She had trouble with the horrible part in the Aria where she has to bend right over backwards into a bridge, which made me realise just how extreme that part is! (Also, doesn't Aroldingen manage to stand back up without support? Wow!) Great energy and very engaging. Her galloping entrance was fantastic!

Antonucci was OK, but he has an awkward carriage to his head, it always looks a bit too forward. He also appeared cautious compared with Robert Parker. Having said that, he caught the spirit of each movement very well.

Vallo was in general quicker than Sakuma yesterday, and also 'showed' certain poses which was nice. She looked a bit self-conscious in the finale, which is so bouncy and childlike (the corps link arms and windmill them, like a children's game).

Cao was...interesting. To be perfectly honest, I didn't like him in this at all. His general demeanour in the 1st movement was WAY too intense: Mackay was serious, but Cao was positively LIVID, face like thunder all the way through.

Symphony in Three Movements

Lei Zhao, Dominic Antonucci
Nao Sakuma, Jamie Bond
Laetitia Lo Sardo (I don't think it was actually, but am not sure), Joseph Caley

Carbro, I took your advice and stayed in the Upper Circle, and I thank you: this ballet looked SO much better from up high. What looked confused yesterday made a lot of sense and the formations were clearer.

The reviews that you pointed me to were also interesting (just read them), and it's good to see that other people make similar associations with war etc. Yesterday the ballet did strike me as being very punchy and martial in its movement. Today I picked up on the marching en pointe.

I'd be interested to know what people think is 'going on' in the pd2 (I will do some searching as well). It's been described as the 'helicopter' and 'Oriental' pd2. I saw it as yet another variety of relationship, tentative and delicate. The raised hand gesture (like 'hands up!') was reminiscent of Oriental dance, but also a gesture of submission. I'd like to see it again, with different dancers, just to get another perspective on it.


So, I think that's all the Balanchine I'll be getting for a while. :( But this was such a great programme, and it was really exciting to see two completely new works to me. So, :P :yahoo: :yahoo:

#19 Alymer

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 03:58 PM

Scherzo, I saw the same cast in Birmingham as you saw on 20th February and would say that your comments were spot on! The only difference was that on that occasion the balances in the Agon pas de trois were rock steady. But even so, I thought the cast took it too seriously. I used to love Virginia Johnson of Dance Theatre of Harlem in that; she had a very saucy little twitch of the hips in her solo variation which seemed to me to add a little spice and colour to the event.

#20 carbro

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 04:05 PM

I used to love Virginia Johnson of Dance Theatre of Harlem in that . . .

Oh! Me, too! Thanks for pulling up that memory, Alymer.

#21 scherzo

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 01:58 AM

Scherzo, I saw the same cast in Birmingham as you saw on 20th February and would say that your comments were spot on! The only difference was that on that occasion the balances in the Agon pas de trois were rock steady. But even so, I thought the cast took it too seriously. I used to love Virginia Johnson of Dance Theatre of Harlem in that; she had a very saucy little twitch of the hips in her solo variation which seemed to me to add a little spice and colour to the event.


Yeah, sorry, I'm always WAY over-critical about balances. :P I agree that on the 20th the character of the Bransle Gay (I think that's the one you mean?) was a bit lacking. But I thought that in the first pd3 there was a wry quality that suited it very well, especially all the arm-fiddling at the end of the two ladies' variation.

Out of interest, where were you sitting in the (wonderfully purple!) theatre?

A question: one of Balanchine's most-quoted sayings is (something like) 'don't think dear, just do'. How often is this applicable to these ballets? The thing is, with so many potentially symbolic movements (like helicopters in Symphony in Three Movements) and possible scenarios (like the pd2 in Agon), to what extent should a dancer not 'think'?

#22 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 06:03 AM

The thing is, with so many potentially symbolic movements (like helicopters in Symphony in Three Movements) and possible scenarios (like the pd2 in Agon), to what extent should a dancer not 'think'?


I think most dancers should avoid "commenting" on their own performances during the performance itself - and that's part of "Don't think, just do." One viewer's helicopter is another viewer's windmill; the audience provides allusions and associations rather than the dancer. There's the famous Tudor story about telling a group of dancers that a certain movement was like wishing upon a morning star, whereupon they all dutifully came forward and wished upon a morning star. There also comes a point in the process of preparing for a role when one needs to let go of it. When you see a dancer who is too controlled in his or her interpretation you'll notice it. Thinking is for rehearsal; the stage needs some spontaneity.

#23 JMcN

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 04:48 AM

I've seen six performances of the Stravinsky 2007 programme over the last couple of weeks and enjoyed them all. It's a terrific programme but we obviously are not as used to this type of programming in the UK and the audiences (particularly at the Lowry) were very small - although enthusiastic.


Violin Concerto was the only one of these works that I had not seen before and I really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the cast that was Marr/Antonucci/Vallo/Cao because of the interaction between those four dancers.

My main exposure to Balanchine has been through BRB and I couldn't comment on the technicalities of interpretation except to say that they all looked fine to me.


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