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NEW Carmina Burana, a must see for all


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#16 purelyballet

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 02:58 PM

I would also LOVE to see MORE then just one Balanchine Ballet each season but with that said I am happy that they are adding new works like this new Carmina to their rep. I for one think it challenges the company "artistically" to have varied rep with different styles of dance. And as for the audience, from what I could tell from the two performances that I went to, they seemed to LOVE this rep as well. In fact, for the past few years that I have been coming to see PAB dance, I believe this is the best reaction that I have seen the company receive (outside of possibly their new Swan Lake).

As for promoting dancers, I could not agree more. There is a handful of corps dancers that have been with the company for 4 or 5 seasons now that could certainly be promoted to soloist. I am hoping that we will see some of these promotions either later this year or early next year.

#17 Tessa2

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 05:41 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.


Ray, what would you like to see the company perform?

Personally, I would like to see more Jerome Robbins. I thought the addition of three Robbins ballets to the rep in the past few years was one of the company's more exciting recent developments. I'd also like to see some company premieres of various Balanchine works. However, I recognize that the acquisition of these works isn't really up to the company - rather, they're at the mercy of the Robbins and Balanchine Trusts for the rights. I'm excited about Weiss's Messiah next year because of the link to the company's history and the fact that it will likely draw some big crowds (allowing the company to perform some more edgy and interesting material that might not draw such big crowds). I also think that Wheeldon's Carnival of the Animals is a fun and interesting choice.

This question isn't really limited to Ray, I suppose - I guess I'm asking the board in general.

#18 Ray

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 07:37 AM

Ray, what would you like to see the company perform?

Personally, I would like to see more Jerome Robbins. I thought the addition of three Robbins ballets to the rep in the past few years was one of the company's more exciting recent developments. I'd also like to see some company premieres of various Balanchine works. However, I recognize that the acquisition of these works isn't really up to the company - rather, they're at the mercy of the Robbins and Balanchine Trusts for the rights. I'm excited about Weiss's Messiah next year because of the link to the company's history and the fact that it will likely draw some big crowds (allowing the company to perform some more edgy and interesting material that might not draw such big crowds). I also think that Wheeldon's Carnival of the Animals is a fun and interesting choice.

This question isn't really limited to Ray, I suppose - I guess I'm asking the board in general.


I agree about Robbins, and they need to beef up their Balanchine rep. I believe the company can take more control of rep than it does. PAB is woefully short on works by internationally known choreographers, such as Kilian, Duato, and Forsythe. (No, I'm not saying that that performing works by these guys will confer some magical status. But the omissions are notable for a "world-class" company; the company lacks a global world view) I'd love to see them do more comissions; I thought Swan Lake, for all its faults, was a great step; another Wheeldon is great ("Carnival").

#19 Amy Reusch

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:16 AM

Some Roland Petit?

Are we talking known works or commissions?

#20 Tessa2

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:34 AM

Some Roland Petit?

Are we talking known works or commissions?



I was talking about both. Ray has complained in a couple of threads that the company's artistic vision lacks focus and isn't challenging the dancers (I'm paraphrasing, so hopefully that's what he meant) and I was wondering what he would like to see the company perform.

I agree that Forsythe and Kylian would help to round out the rep, though I'm not sure whether other U.S. companies of a similar size are performing works by these choreographers (and if they aren't performing these works, I'm not clear about whether that's due to difficulty obtaining the rights or a lack of interest or something else entirely).

#21 Dale

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:34 AM

PAB is woefully short on works by internationally known choreographers, such as Kilian, Duato, and Forsythe. (No, I'm not saying that that performing works by these guys will confer some magical status. But the omissions are notable for a "world-class" company; the company lacks a global world view)


I would prefer them not to perform those works. Other than some Forsythe pieces, that stuff is not really use the ballet vocabulary. And for a ballet company that was lacking the strong technique required to perform Balanchine's Theme and Variations, I'd hate to see things get worse by feeding them a steady diet of Duato etc...

#22 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:36 AM

I'm going to hell for saying this, because I like the company (I wouldn't go from NYC to see them if I didn't) but Pennsylvania Ballet just isn't world-class. It's a good company that I enjoy watching, but it's only got one or two ballerinas at the top that can be measured up against competing companies. The situation is tougher with the men. As GWTW and Dale mentioned, the company has trouble with Theme & Variations. I'm happy with Kaiser's relatively cautious tastes when it means that he programs Fille Mal Gardee (which also tested the resources of the company. They need to hire temporary dancers to do it.). I'm less happy when he programs Dracula.

I'll see Carmina on Friday night, so I guess I'll have more to say about it then. I'm not saying any of this to insult Pennsylvania Ballet, just to put things in perspective. They're not the Mariinsky, or Paris Opera, or NYCB. Also, remember the disaster at Boston when Boston Ballet announced it intended to be among the world's top ten companies, and the company nearly folded from the managerial turmoil? Hubris is bad.

That said, Ray is right in asking them to challenge themselves. The better the repertory, the better the company. The interesting question from an outsider's perspective is, produce or import? If you're an audience member in Philadelphia and you hear about (hypothetically) Polyphonia or The Second Detail, you want your home town company to do it. As a New Yorker, contemplating seeing the company I think "Oh Goody. Another Polyphonia. Skip that." I'd like a company to develop its own voice. But that takes money - and an audience.

#23 Ray

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 09:58 AM

I'm going to hell for saying this, because I like the company (I wouldn't go from NYC to see them if I didn't) but Pennsylvania Ballet just isn't world-class. It's a good company that I enjoy watching, but it's only got one or two ballerinas at the top that can be measured up against competing companies. The situation is tougher with the men. [...] I'd like a company to develop its own voice. But that takes money - and an audience.


I live here, so I cling on to hope--the men have looked better than ever in the past few seasons, esp. w/the san fran imports. ...yet, sad to say, I don't really disagree with Leigh. I would, though, add to his list of what's needed: artistic leadership, which I believe the current AD and artistic staff does not provide. The company is not alone in "hiding" behind its audience ("If we do X then they won't come"); I think a company as well established as PAB needs to do some leading, and I'm not sure they're up to the task. Interestingly, 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.

I just looked at the PAB website, which claims that the company has a "Balanchine Backbone." With a few vertabrae missing, to judge from recent programming...

#24 purelyballet

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 10:11 AM

World Class? I have to disagree. I feel they ARE world class and in fact (shoot me now) but the last time I saw NYCB I have to say I was very under impressed by the corps. I felt the PABallet corps work was much tigther and cleaner over all. Of course since PABallet is a much smaller company they do not have the large number of principals and soloists unfortunately.

In regards to additional rep, since PABallet is a Balanchine company, I would love to see more Balanchine works. In fact, I think it would be a good idea if in each of their mixed rep programs one piece was always a Balanchine piece.

#25 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 10:59 AM

I agree with you on rehearsal - I just saw Giselle and the nicest thing about Act II was how well the corps was drilled. But the dancers in the corps just aren't at the same level as the big guns, including NYCB. In Theme, the corps men were falling out of their tours and not all the women (including some of the demi-soloists) can wear a tutu. The company doesn't have the unity or consistency of a company with a major league corps de ballet like the Kirov or Paris.

I'm not saying this to slap Penna Ballet around. I guess "world class" is just my Inigo Montoya moment.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


Tessa asked a similar question of Ray, but why don't we all go out on a limb and answer here. Where would you like to see the company go in five years and how do you think they could get there?

I like it when the company acquires works that are theirs alone, so I'm glad that Neenan is working there. I also think the company needs to pull itself up a level technically - they could use more repertory that forces them to mind their p's and q's without exposing them as Theme did. Giselle seemed to help a lot. Maybe doing some Petipa instead of Balanchine Jardin Anime? Paquita? Or creating some buzz by doing a historical reconstruction? Cincinnati Ballet has managed to gain critical attention by doing some innovative revivals. It wouldn't hurt Pennsylvania to look into its own history as well as American ballet history to bring back a few nearly lost works - and I think they have an audience that would go for it. That could give the profile (at a low cost) to use as a springboard for new choreography to round out their repertory.

#26 bart

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 12:26 PM

[ ... ] 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)

#27 GWTW

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 05:37 PM

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.

#28 Amy Reusch

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 09:09 PM

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....

#29 Ray

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 05:05 AM

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?

#30 dove85

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 06:48 AM

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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