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NEW Carmina Burana, a must see for all


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#1 purelyballet

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 08:03 AM

I've seen Serenade many times and I have to say the work done by Sandra Jennings in setting this ballet was terriffic! The dancers demonstrated very clean lines and were in perfect unison making the choreography the star. It is really hard for me to single out any one dancer because they all did an amazing job; Dark Angel, Waltz, Russian, the four Russians, they ware all wonderful.

But even as amazing as Serenade was, I still have to say, the highlight of the evening for me was Carmena Burana. Where do I begin, but to say you have to go see this one for yourself. Matthew Neenan shows his choreographic brilliance in this piece. The choreography, the costumes, the sets, the dancing and or course the mystifying music made this new rendition a must see. Again, the entire company did a phenomenal job and both Jermel Johnson and Phil Colluci were standouts.

With this new rendition Matthew brings to the ballet world an electrifying production which encompasses moves that one would see in Circus de Soleil from on stage aerials, to athletic but poetic lifts and jumps . But Matthew fine tunes these movements and couples them with balletic moves making this Carmena a ballet that I believe will transcend to a new and younger audience. In fact, I took a young man with me last evening that has only gone to a few ballets (some of which he enjoyed and some of which he found to be quite boring) and his comment to me was that this was not only the best ballet, but the best live performance he has even been to. I think this is something that is needed in the ballet world….and hopefully will put an end to the rumor that “Ballet is a dying and pretentious art from”. I have to give Kudos to PABallet for being innovative and brave enough to once again take an age-old classic and update it bringing new life and exuberance to the stage. I am hoping with these efforts we will see a new and younger audience enjoying ballet.

#2 GWTW

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 11:07 PM

My children have a book called "Zoo Do's and Don'ts" (Do feed a elephant peanuts. Don't feed her peanut butter. etc.) This program should really have been called "Ballet Do's and Dont's."

"Ballet Do" was Serenade is an incredibly beautiful, affecting and moving ballet. It achieves maximum effect with what appears to be minimum effort - striaghtforward music, basic costumes, the most pyrotechnical move is a man invisibly supporting a woman turning on pointe (James Ady did very well with his rather thankless role). There seems to be so much going on - both visually and emotionally.

Carmina Burana on the other hand... Sorry, purelyballet, but I really didn't like this ballet. I don't know why choreographers are drawn to this score. It is virtually impossible to do anything that isn't gratuitously aggressive and macho. The costumes and lighting were so OTT - the aesthetic was this medieval scifi look which peaked in the early '80s in David Lynch's "Dune". I felt especially sorry for the ladies who had been instructed to position their buns close to their foreheads - Heidi Cruz looked like she was on her way to the church choir but had forgotten half her skirt at home. Red-headed Abigail Mentzer looked like a cancan dancer who had stepped on her skirt and torn it. I will also die happy if I never have to see any of the PA Ballet dancers' crotches again. The movement - like some of the men's costumes - reminded one of repressive regimes. Before I lived in Philadelphia, I saw mainly modern dance, and this is the type of movement and type of show I was seeing a decade ago. I would like to see Matthew Neenan do a simpler kind of ballet where dance is the focus rather than one which is taken over by the other elements. The dancers were very committed (Jermel Johnson in particular was outstanding) and the singers were very good too. My husband found the percussion section to be too bland for this full-bodied music. Oh, and I was in a very obvious minority - the audience loved Carmina Burana and gave it a standing ovation.

PA Ballet's next program is titled Modern Masters. I promise to do my best not to say "Well, they should have added a Balanchine ballet to the program". :rofl:

#3 Ray

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 01:48 PM

I'd like to add to GWTW's criticisms.
Carmina was a conceptual mess, with a costumer who had too much money and control over the look of the piece (and I won't even address the gratuitous set piece, which shrank the Academy stage for no apparent reason except to test the dancers' ingenuity). The audience was seduced by a kind of slo-mo strip show, yet there was nothing sexual or sensuous about the choreography, contra the LOUD and insistent marketing hype. Sadly, there was no deep movement investigation, only a lot of shallow rehashing of modernisms appropriated from other choregraphers. With all the costume and hairdo changes, and pseudo-Graham (shadows of John Butler?), it should have just been delivered as a camp sendup of Princess Leia meeting fascists from Pan's Labyrinth (if only this production were that culturally aware!). This is a production with a mixed-up sense of priorities, except for a keen eye on the bottom line. The wonderful dancers worked so hard for so little artistic return (I'm so tired of having to say that!). Another Philly also-ran, alas: flashy and trashy.

#4 GWTW

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 06:07 AM

Another thing apropos Ray's reference of John Butler's version: my impression (based solely on PA Ballet's own press releases and comments and a few photos of the John Butler version) is that PA Ballet felt that the John Butler version was too campy and silly-hippy-sexy (I'm thinking of the Rolling Stones' Rock N'Roll Circus that's been on PBS recently :rofl: ). However, that's exactly what the new version is like.
As Ray said, this ballet is so 'unaware'. This is so contrary to the zeitgeist today, the zeitgeist this Carmina Burana is so clearly trying to tap into, that it just looks obsolete, DOA.

#5 lillianna

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 02:16 PM

I agree with Purelyballet. I had the privilege of seeing PA Ballet perform 3 times last week and loved the new Carmina Burana. I have seen other versions and found this one much more powerful and visually interesting to watch. The two casts approached it differently, it seemed to me. Actually I was impressed that there were 2 casts. Jermel Johnson was amazing and set the tone for the ballet. I really appreciated Amy Aldridge's and Martha Chamberlain's attack in the red costumes. Phil Colucchi was perfect for the part that he played. The singers were marvelous and having the choir really added to the atmosphere. I would have liked to have a score card of the players. I do not know the poetry that goes with Carmina and was having trouble trying to determine who/what some of the sections were about. Were the stiped black girls bumblebees, flies, or swans? Etc. I LOVED the costumes, the sets, the lighting, the music, the choreography and the dancing. I am really impressed by Matthew Neenan's vision of this piece. It shows great creativity and the fact that he knows the dancers well made the choreography perfect for them. I brought a group of 11 with me on opening night. Some of them are veteran ballet goes in other cities and some total novices and they all were so impressed and couldn't stop talking about the ballet. I was attending a nurses' conference in Philadelphia and on Friday, the president, in her opening remarks, told the very large audience that she had been hearing about the PA Ballet how amazing the performance had been the night before. Word is spreading! The house was full on Saturday night.
The company was beautiful in Serenade also. The corps , as always, gave a beautiful performance. Very lovely. Julie Diana was gorgeous as the waltz girl and the dark angel part seems like it was designed for Riolama Lorenzo. Serenade is one of my all time favorites and they did it proud.
Bravo PA Ballet!

#6 purelyballet

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 03:02 PM

Rumor has it that since the audience reaction was so wonderful for this new Carmina, PAB may take this to City Center in the Fall. If they do, I know I will go for sure! :wallbash:

Since I had to leave town, I was only able to see this ballet twice, but each time I was able to take in something new and different. I also appreciated the choreography and the dancing even more the second time I saw it.

In one of the reviews that I read, they commented on the strength of PABallet and applauded them for being able to dance two such demanding ballets in one evening. I could not agree more, especially since most of the dancers were cast in both ballets. Serenade requires a lot of stamina and then to follow up with Carmina is something that only a top rated ballet company could pull off. My hat goes off to all the dancers at PAB......you are all amazing and really showed your strength in this production. :flowers:

I also want to thank the creative team for putting together such a wonderful rep. I thought it was great paring Serenade with this new Carmina. It gives the audience a wonderful variety and defintely showcases the talents of this marvelous company. :)

#7 Ray

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 04:12 PM

I also want to thank the creative team for putting together such a wonderful rep. I thought it was great paring Serenade with this new Carmina. It gives the audience a wonderful variety and defintely showcases the talents of this marvelous company. :)


Who, pray tell, is the "creative team" at PAB that makes programming decisions?

#8 Dale

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 04:53 PM

Moderator here -- let's stay away from speculation, and sarcasm too :)

Although I haven't seen Neenan's work, I applaud PA Ballet for trying to find a company choreographer in house and supporting Neenan. That said, from the reviews I've read, his work seems to be more modern and less ballet. And, I wish, wish, wish people would stop choreographing to Carmina Burana :wallbash:

#9 Ray

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 05:59 PM

Moderator here -- let's stay away from speculation, and sarcasm too :)

Although I haven't seen Neenan's work, I applaud PA Ballet for trying to find a company choreographer in house and supporting Neenan. That said, from the reviews I've read, his work seems to be more modern and less ballet. And, I wish, wish, wish people would stop choreographing to Carmina Burana :wallbash:


I apologize for the tone. And I'd like to add that I also think Neenan is a very, very talented choreographer. This is a "growing pain" for him; too bad it's on such a large scale. My concern is for the artistic possibility of PAB which, in my opinion, is constantly thwarted by company's artistic decisions. They are world-class dancers who are not challenged enough.

#10 purelyballet

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 07:51 AM

As mentioned in one of the reviews that I read....

"The hour-long ballet, choreographed by corps de ballet member and de facto resident choreographer Matthew Neenan, sped along in a revel of eruptive jumps, sexy duets and full, lush ensemble sections. Neenan, who knows Pennsylvania Ballet as no outside choreographer could, cleverly avoided pitfalls that might make his colleagues look less than polished. Instead, he provided them with steps that packed a "wow" factor often missing when this company performs."

"For example, where he might have had the men do a double air turn, he instead put in a single with a motion-stopping split in the middle. A simple series of piqué turns by several women gained pizzazz when danced very fast and with a wide stance."

"The company got into celebratory mode early in the evening, opening the program with a lovely performance of George Balanchine's Serenade. The dancers attacked it with exceptional precision and intention, especially notable considering that - as would not have been the case with a larger company - nearly everyone still had Carmina to dance as well."

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After talking to the a few of the dancers about this rep, they told me that it was extremely challenging, especially in regards to the stamina it takes to perform both of these ballets back to back (and in some cases twice in the same day). And since many of the dancers performed in both pieces, I think it was exceptional how they could go from dancing such an elegant Balanchine piece like Serenade and then attack a more modern piece like this new Carmina. This rep really shows the versatility of PAB.

Again my hat goes off to PAB and to everyone involved with this production. I am looking forward to the next time they do this series again. Yes, I agree that the new Carmina is more modern then ballet, but I think that is why it was great to pair it with Serenade. I also think that is why the audiences loved this series so much...the mix between Serenade and Carmina gave a little of something for everyone.

#11 Amy Reusch

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 07:55 AM

A simple series of piqué turns by several women gained pizzazz when danced very fast and with a wide stance


I don't quite understand this... what are "piqué turns done with a wide stance"? How can you have a wide stance when you're on one leg? Did the reviewer perhaps mean chainé turns?

#12 richard53dog

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:54 AM

And, I wish, wish, wish people would stop choreographing to Carmina Burana :wallbash:



I wish they would stop PLAYING Carmina Burana!!!!!!!!

I sat through a concert of it last fall. Ugh :)

#13 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:05 AM

After talking to the a few of the dancers about this rep, they told me that it was extremely challenging, especially in regards to the stamina it takes to perform both of these ballets back to back (and in some cases twice in the same day). And since many of the dancers performed in both pieces, I think it was exceptional how they could go from dancing such an elegant Balanchine piece like Serenade and then attack a more modern piece like this new Carmina. This rep really shows the versatility of PAB.


I'm sure the steps are challenging on an individual level. I'm more concerned with how the company is challenged artistically--as well as how the *audience* is challenged. I know that PAB is versitile; they've shown that many, many times in the past. I think, though, that they deserve to perform better work.

#14 GWTW

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:57 AM

What Ray said.

Also the PA Ballet is performing at a very high level this season. The strength of the female corps is really strong, especially taking into account the its diversity in terms of height. There are the petite girls like Laura Bowman and Abigail Mentzer, who are often paired, and then there are the tall girls. Just a couple of years ago, when I started watching PAB, Heidi Cruz-Austin stood head and shoulders above the others. Now there are some younger girls, who may not be as tall as Cruz but they dance 'big' like Gabriella Yudenich and Rachel Maher (what a gorgeous back Maher has - I recognized her by her back in Carmina Burana).

I would like to see the company performing works that IMO have more artistic merit. For instance, Serenade is the only Balanchine ballet this season. This isn't enough for a 'baby Balanchine' company. Last season's Theme and Variations wasn't very strong. There is no way that Carmina Burana can improve the dancers' ability to perform Theme and Variations. Only another 'tutu ballet' can do that.

I feel very strongly that the money poured into Carmina Burana could have been used more efficiently. How about promoting some of the dancers? There are so few soloists - Barette Vance is a de facto soloist. So is Heidi Cruz (she seems to be back on form after having a baby in the summer). Among the men, Francis Veyette and Alexei Charov could easily be promoted.

Dale, I agree that PAB's willingness to grow a choreographer is laudable, but the result in this case was not good enough.

#15 Ray

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 12:33 PM

I feel very strongly that the money poured into Carmina Burana could have been used more efficiently. How about promoting some of the dancers? There are so few soloists - Barette Vance is a de facto soloist. So is Heidi Cruz (she seems to be back on form after having a baby in the summer). Among the men, Francis Veyette and Alexei Charov could easily be promoted.

Heidi Cruz is STILL not a soloist????!!!!! Figures. (I think she is amazing, even more so now that I know she gave birth!). Neither is Neenan, for that matter. And they'd better promote Jermel Johnson if they want to keep him.


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