purelyballet

NEW Carmina Burana, a must see for all

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[ ... ] this doesn't mean doing "outrageous" new work; it means, as Leigh points out, sometimes making conservative choices. But it also means following up on those choices ("OK, we've done Fille; where do we take the company from there? More Ashton? ...?"). I never get a sense that anyone is following up on the company's strenghts and weaknesses that the programs reveal.
This sounds like a criticism that could be applied to many companies in the US and Europe too. A little bit of this; a little bit of that; a little bit for everyone.

It's a topic very worth discussing --and one with implications for other companies in Pennsylvania Ballet's league. Also very worth discussing are suggestions, like Leigh's, of what else they could do to create more of an aesthetic trademark -- and possibly, as a consequence, to do even better work.

The Joffrey long ago made its mark by focusing on two ends of the spectrum: reconstructions and innovative, trendy new work. Not by including a bit of everything in the middle, too. Of course the Joffrey was in New York City and the Pennsylvania Ballet isn't. But it's location at the center of the NYC-DC corridor could make it a serious ballet destination for quite a large sophisticated audience.

For the record, the Pa Ballet lineup for 2006-07 (excluding the 17 obligatory Nutcrackers) is as follows:

Robbins program -- 5 performances

Carmina Burana -- 9

Sleeping Beauty -- 8

Audience Favorite -- 1

Giselle -- 8

Modern Masters -- 5 (chosen from a shortlist of the usual suspects: Tharp, Wheeldon, Caniparoli)

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Bart said

It wouldn't hurt Pennsylvania to look into its own history

This is one reason I was so disappointed with Neenan's Carmina Burana. PAB advertized the new Carmina Burana as replacing the old outdated Carmina Burana (John Butler). By denigrating the old version, they really set the bar high for the new version.

I think that a very distinct part of the PAB's 'mission' should be educational - not just outreach, student matinees, blah blah - but also teaching its audience about ballet. We are caught between NY and DC, therefore NO BALLET EVER COMES HERE and how many of PAB's audience travels to NY and DC. Obviously it is the tiny minority. (Overheard in the ladies' room at last week's performance: "Nice to see you here. Do you go to the ballet often?" "Oh, six times a year [to all the subscription performances]"

That's why I actually appreciate an eclectic appraoch. I don't mind a 'usual suspects' program - I don't have any other opportunity to see Tharp and Wheeldon.

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Nuturing a young choreographer like Matthew Neenan is leadership. If that means some of his pieces don't end up as good as his best work... well that could have been said of Balanchine too. Bringing in some world class rep is also leadership, even if ideally it's better to see that world class rep on the companies it originated on... it's still doing a service to the dancers [who grow by dancing it], the audience [who learn to see by watching it] and also the choreographer [whose ouevre becomes more familiar and ensconced] to mount the works in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is not NYC, London, Paris, St. Petersburg and shouldn't be measured on the same scale. It is, however, Philadelphia, a major US city with merit of it's own, not to be totally disregarded for not being NYC.

I haven't seen a Dracula ballet yet... it seems the biggest opportunity for camp imaginable, and yet it's plot doesn't seem so outside the form of 19th century ballet.... perhaps it's the dancing dead idea... but of course we have that in Giselle, don't we?... maybe it's the Hollywood echo. I don't know. Does it really fill houses? I think if Edward Gorey had designed it, I'd go.

And I still wish someone would explain the wide stance pique turns....

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Nuturing a young choreographer like Matthew Neenan is leadership.

Yes, but not if it's done b/c he comes cheaper (thus leaving budget for costumes, sets, and orchestra) and with less hassle than other choreographers. That's just expediency. (From his point of view, of course, he'd be foolish not to grab at all of these wonderful opportunities he's been given.) Again, it's all about the framing--if they nurture him, why not others as part of a larger vision of developing American talent or expanding the creative possibilities for PAB artists (i.e., set up a program for other emerging choreographers)? Then, the less successful productions can be contextualized as part of a process--one that can also be exciting for an audience to experience.

Or, if he's simply to be PAB's resident choreographer, why not create that position for him and compensate him/credit him accordingly?

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And I still wish someone would explain the wide stance pique turns....

I believe the reviewer was referring to the part in which the red girls do pique turns through the arabesque position very quickly, otherwise I have no idea what it refers to. As for Carmina Burana ,I enjoy it immensely, and haven't spoken to anyone who feels otherwise. It is great for the younger generation, which the company is trying to attract. They are launching a young friends group with this program. As for doing more Balanchine ballets, I'm sure everyone would like to see that happen, but there is a lot of expense involved which seems to be a hang up. the company probably needs more funding to do so.

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Bart said
It wouldn't hurt Pennsylvania to look into its own history
Just for the record, that was Leigh. :flowers:

This planning of a relatively small company's rep isn't so easy, it seems. There are so many different routes a company can take. Amy's post points how that there are arguments in favor of any number of possible routes.

About developing new choreography from within the company: I agree with all the advantages mentioned. However, when you have just 5 programs a year (excluding Nutcracker) you don't -- alas -- have lots of time and room for experimentation and failure. There's also the danger of developint a company style that does not reinforce or support the other works in the repertory. Or attempting too many styles with too little time and preparation.

The example of Miami might be appropriate here. In the early days of the company, Villella relied quite a bit on a company choreographer -- Jimmy Gamonet de los Heroes -- whose work was quite popular, apparently, with local audiences. (Those "standing ovations," everyone talks about.) However, as the company expanded its goals, and increased its touring, Villella claims he found that Gamonet's choreography did not travel well. Nor did it stretch and strengthen the company's technical skills when it came to its basic Balanchine rep, or to new works by Taylor, Tharp, etc.. In the end, the Gamonet ballets disappeared from MCB's rep.

It would seem that an AD might need the wisdom of Solomon to balance all the possibilities, each of which comes with its own set of dangers.

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[sNIP]

About developing new choreography from within the company: I agree with all the advantages mentioned. However, when you have just 5 programs a year (excluding Nutcracker) you don't -- alas -- have lots of time and room for experimentation and failure. There's also the danger of developint a company style that does not reinforce or support the other works in the repertory. Or attempting too many styles with too little time and preparation.

[sNIP]

It would seem that an AD might need the wisdom of Solomon to balance all the possibilities, each of which comes with its own set of dangers.

Exactly--and still, they put Neenan on as just another choreographer. And yes, an AD has a tough job; that's why he gets the big bucks. But I do think there are models out there an AD can learn from, and I question how hard this AD looks for solutions--or that he even sees the kinds of issues we're talking about as problems to be solved.

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I think something to consider is PA Ballet's shaky financial history. It's almost gone under several times. So considering the way Kaiser could have gone to keep the company going (pop ballets or ballet lite, like Pittsburgh Ballet recently), I think the AD has done a good job so far.

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So considering the way Kaiser could have gone to keep the company going (pop ballets or ballet lite, like Pittsburgh Ballet recently) [ ... ]
:flowers: Just wondering, does this "ballet lite" approach -- NOT the route Pa Ballet is taking -- actually work when it comes to box office, at least? Are there any examples of it actually "saving" an American company's finances in the long term? Or is this just another anti-"elitism" fantasy?

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Another review of Neenan's Carmina, by Lisa Kraus, the Inquirer's part-time dance critic (although this review was written for danceinsider.com):

http://www.danceinsider.com/f2007/f0329_3.html

Thanks Ray.

Not exactly a rave was it?

No, but I thought she was critical in a careful way--she bases her criticism both in details of Neenan's (young) career and in the context of his current interests, as can be seen here:

"Past works have shown Neenan to be intensely tuned to musical phrasings; here the dancers dash in or out and gesture with little connection to the music's rhythms or structural arcs. The dance's relationship to Orff's bulwark seems distracted and removed, as if the music's thickly cascading sonics are too loaded or daunting for Neenan to play off in a significant or consistent way. He seems to be fascinated instead with a gestural language that functions in its own time -- all sharp shifts and arm hinges, perhaps an influence from recent work with Jorma Elo. Certain Neenan-isms -- the bum stuck out and arms gesticulating, the legs spread wide and torso lurched forward at a right angle -- grow tiresome here with their air of skittish insubstantiality."

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