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Robert Gottlieb on New York City Ballet in the New(March 2007)


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#1 Dale

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 07:07 PM

The always thought-provoking Robert Gottlieb gives his state of affairs on the New York City Ballet in this week's column:

http://www.newyorkob...ttliebdance.asp

I don't always agree about specific dancers (different taste sometimes) but I felt as he did during Raymonda Variations. What do you think?

#2 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:52 PM

I also agree with some and disagree with other comments about specific dancers (Jenifer Ringer -- BLAND????), but then, no two people will ever have the same opinions about dancers, casting, programming, etc. I certainly support Gottlieb's view on the set programs and those god-awful names.

His point, as I see it, comes down to his long-running artistic disagreement with Martins. There's a lot I dislike about Gottlieb (his smugness, his clothes) but his ardent and staunch support for Balanchine never wavers, and for that I will always respect him.

#3 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 10:16 PM

I don't always agree about specific dancers (different taste sometimes) but I felt as he did during Raymonda Variations. What do you think?

When I first read this post, my thought was, "Why, when Gottlieb can write something that I find maddening, do I so look forward to his criticism, when I look forward to finding links to the exasperating Lewis Segal about as much as I do when a read an article on figure skating that sounds like it was written by a Mike Lupica wannabee?"

My conclusion is that with Gottlieb, I feel like I'm deeply in the same world, looking at the same thing, even if my reaction is different, while with Segal, I wonder sometimes if I'm living on the same planet as he is. So when Gottlieb writes, "Miranda Weese, Jenifer Ringer, Yvonne Borree are all, despite their varying levels of competence, essentially bland," I find myself arguing as I continue reading, "I don't think Jenifer Ringer is bland. Not sparkly, but not bland. She's got a bloom and a perfume that's more subtle, but I don't think bland..." etc. etc.

But when I come to this part,

AND SPEAKING OF ROBBINS, THE PROGRAM devoted to him (“Jerome Robbins: An American Icon”) was badly misjudged. Robbins may be iconic, but 2 & 3 Part Inventions, A Suite of Dances, In Memory of… and I’m Old Fashioned are not.

The first is a useful if sterile exercise, made in 1995 for the School of American Ballet to show off the talent of eight of the graduating boys and girls (he used the same configuration of four boys and four girls to greater effect in Interplay, made exactly 50 years earlier); the second is a novelty solo, created for Baryshnikov; the third is a lugubrious lamentation that not even Suzanne Farrell, his original ballerina, could bring to life; the last is (bad) pastiche that, apart from its lack of original invention and unsatisfactory construction, shoots itself in the foot by dwarfing its all-too-mortal cast with huge screen images of the immortal Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dancing overhead.


which distills so much into so few words, I wish I had written it.

#4 zerbinetta

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 10:18 PM

Wicked, witty, wonderful Weese "bland"?

Gottlieb needs an eye check.

#5 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 10:36 PM

As usual with Gottlieb, I’m in violent agreement with about half of what he says and utterly baffled by the other half. Weese “bland” and Bar “uningratiating”? Perhaps his palate has been jaded by Sylve’s rather more gargantuan effects. (It is of course a matter of taste, but I much prefer Weese to Sylve in Tchai 2.)

One issue I have with Gottlieb’s criticism is that his assessments of dancers often read like personal attacks on their characters rather than as analyses of what their dancing is actually like in terms of technique and artistry. By the time he’s done extolling Whelan’s “modesty” it’s practically taken on the coloring of a moral failing – yet to my mind, her scrupulous modesty and honesty are among her glories and are what make her dancing in fact unconventional. Yes, casting Gold and La Cour together in Four T’s was probably ill considered, but Gottlieb’s assessment of the effect created thereby is perilously close to ridicule. He turned what might have been a valid point about NYCB's current casting conundrums into a mere cheap shot.

#6 perky

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 01:12 PM

Actually, calling Ringer and Borree "bland" is less offensive than some of the things he's written about them in the past. As for the casting of Lowery in Four Temperments which Gottlieb call a very bad move, perhaps Martins was trying to incourage her dancing in a new direction? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. What will be interesting is if he continues to miscast her in it.

#7 carbro

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 01:28 PM

What will be interesting is if he continues to miscast her in it.

"Interesting"?

Very diplomatic, perky. :blush: The ballets, however, deserve better.

As for the inclusion of Gold, LaCour and Reichlen in 4Ts, the height disparity between the men made it extremely uncomfortable to watch. Poor Tom Gold, reaching as high as he could, while Ask had to support his share of Reichlen's weight in midair at what looked like a particularly stressful level. She, meanwhile, was visibly working hard to keep herself level. I liked LaCour's Phlegmatic, but for him, just back from injury, it was the first (or second?) week of the season, and he was conspicuously refreshed.

The block program, at least for the first time out, did not seem to achieve one of its desired effects -- to spread the work so that everyone's performance is optimized throughout the run.

#8 drb

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 03:41 PM

As for the inclusion of Gold, LaCour and Reichlen in 4Ts, the height disparity between the men made it extremely uncomfortable to watch. Poor Tom Gold, reaching as high as he could, while Ask had to support his share of Reichlen's weight in midair at what looked like a particularly stressful level. She, meanwhile, was visibly working hard to keep herself level. I liked LaCour's Phlegmatic, but for him, just back from injury, it was the first (or second?) week of the season, and he was conspicuously refreshed.


In fairness to Mr. Martins, Gold's inclusion was one of those last-hour emergencies, the dreaded "injury or illness" program insert. Of course, the casting imbalance was repeated for the rest of the run of The Four Temperaments. So it couldn't have been all that bad in the eyes of those in control. Or maybe no-one else in the company knew the part. It is, after all, a minor part in an obsolete antiquity of a ballet. :blush:

The block program, at least for the first time out, did not seem to achieve one of its desired effects -- to spread the work so that everyone's performance is optimized throughout the run.


To put it mildly! Ask Ashley Bouder. 13/14 perfs in one two-week interval, followed by 1/14 in the next two.

#9 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 04:19 PM

As usual with Gottlieb, I’m in violent agreement with about half of what he says and utterly baffled by the other half. Weese “bland” and Bar “uningratiating”?

...........One issue I have with Gottlieb’s criticism is that his assessments of dancers often read like personal attacks on their characters rather than as analyses of what their dancing is actually like in terms of technique and artistry. ..........Yes, casting Gold and La Cour together in Four T’s was probably ill considered, but Gottlieb’s assessment of the effect created thereby is perilously close to ridicule. He turned what might have been a valid point about NYCB's current casting conundrums into a mere cheap shot.

That's what I meant by smugness.

#10 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 05:11 PM

I just wanted to add that I was not at all unhappy to see Gold cast in 4Ts -- I hope my original post didn't suggest that I was. He’s a dancer I’ve watched with pleasure for many year and I was interested to see what he would do with the role. In the end, I didn’t find him wholly persuasive in it but I’m glad that I got a chance to see him give it a shot nonetheless. Yes, the height disparities were unfortunate, but the performance of 4Ts that I saw was problematic for plenty of other reasons -- putting a taller dancer in Melancholic or a shorter dancer in Phlegmatic wouldn't have salvaged it.

#11 carbro

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 05:16 PM

I completely agree, Kathleen.

#12 Helene

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 11:44 PM

The block program, at least for the first time out, did not seem to achieve one of its desired effects -- to spread the work so that everyone's performance is optimized throughout the run.

It's a difficult enough model for mid-sized companies to achieve when they only do one or two (SFB, for example) program at a time. Injuries and illness can shatter the best plans, and when there's a new work, the choreographer's initial choices may not always work out in the long run, or the piece can take on different dimensions with more demands.

To accomplish this within the demands of a large company with so many performances and program diversity required by subscribers is even more so. I don't know how long NYCB will stick with it, but I suspect there were a lot of lessons learned this season.

#13 Drew

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Posted 28 February 2007 - 11:51 PM

As ViolinConcerto wrote (and others have echoed): "Jenifer Ringer -- BLAND????"

Sometimes reactions to dancers are matters of opinion--but an 'opinion' may also indicate that someone has missed something that IS happening on stage or is just unresponsive to it...I do like to read Gottlieb and take him (more or less) seriously, but I really stumbled over this one...

(I picked the weekend that included performances of The Four Temperaments to come to New York for my once-a-year chance to see some ballet and I was disappointed to see such uneven performances of the ballet--which has not always faired badly during the Martins regime--and especially disconcerted by the casting of Sanguinic. So I understand Gottlieb's dismay...but for my taste, too, he was a little too snyde when alluding to the height disparity problem between Gold and LaCour...)

#14 sz

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 08:09 AM

Why don't you send Gottlieb an email and ask him to further explain his opinions. His address is at the end of his review.

I think saying Bouree is bland was too polite....


I also like reading Gottlieb because of his serious and strong opinions. He clearly cares about what is happening (good and bad) at NYCB, and when a season is not at its best, he's not going to sugar coat any of it.

And for further thought, if Gold was the only option to put together with LaCour, and 4Ts was overall so poorly cast, that's a flaming-red sign that very little attention is being given to rehearsing Balanchine ballets, sufficiently. I think Gottlieb was reacting to that with first response knives rather than getting underneath the symptom.... and perhaps he cannot go underneath the symptom(s) because he is no longer an insider.... so he just reacts with fury. I can appreciate that even if I don't agree with every comment. I think Gottlieb was correct to call this past season City Ballet Blues.... with too few exceptions, it was not overall cast well or danced at its best.

It'll be interesting to read the new NYTimes dance critic soon......

#15 clicker285

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 02:27 PM

I also agree with some and disagree with other comments about specific dancers (Jenifer Ringer -- BLAND????), but then, no two people will ever have the same opinions about dancers, casting, programming, etc. I certainly support Gottlieb's view on the set programs and those god-awful names.

His point, as I see it, comes down to his long-running artistic disagreement with Martins. There's a lot I dislike about Gottlieb (his smugness, his clothes) but his ardent and staunch support for Balanchine never wavers, and for that I will always respect him.

:devil: "his ardent and staunch support for Balanchine never wavers, and for that I will always
respect him." AMEN Martins has little interest in dancers of intelligence, only in their being thin to the point of skin a shade of blue plus a worship of him as being his self titled "chief in chief blah blah", which Balanchine would never have approved. OH, where are you, Damion??????? Do something.... We will help you.....Honestly.


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