Mary Lynn Slayden

Mark Morris Live from Lincoln Center

57 posts in this topic

Thank you, kfw; very well put. I mean we should think of the analogue in music or opera: what if they just stopped playing the music or singing in the middle of a piece to cut away to something else? I really got the sense from whoever was doing the editing that "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax." Again, think opera--the Queen of the Night in Magic Flute repeats quite a few vocal lines!

Plus I wasn't crazy about the camera work even when it was focused on the dancers--too many closeups at inappropriate times, to my taste.

As it was being broadcast, I was capturing it to my computer to make a DVD, while watching :) SYTYCD on the TV in another room. But spot-checking my home-made DVD later, one point in particular was for me objectionable in the camera work: this is in the finale of 27, at the point one of the boys runs diagonally upstage into the arms of another man. This is just caught on camera before they cut away to Ax playing a cadenza, and then returns to stage view as the embrace ends. It was one of the most memorable points in the ballet when I saw it live last year, and leads me to wonder whether "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax" or "a guy is in the arms of another guy, so we're not sure how that's going to play in the Bible Belt."

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As it was being broadcast, I was capturing it to my computer to make a DVD, while watching :) SYTYCD on the TV in another room. But spot-checking my home-made DVD later, one point in particular was for me objectionable in the camera work: this is in the finale of 27, at the point one of the boys runs diagonally upstage into the arms of another man. This is just caught on camera before they cut away to Ax playing a cadenza, and then returns to stage view as the embrace ends. It was one of the most memorable points in the ballet when I saw it live last year, and leads me to wonder whether "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax" or "a guy is in the arms of another guy, so we're not sure how that's going to play in the Bible Belt."

I hadn't noticed that--thanks for pointing it out--but knowing PBS I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were the reason for the cutaway.

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By way of continuing the discussion of scheduling this show, we're getting it in this particular boondock once only, Monday, 20th August, at 10PM. But then, we get three performances on stage the following weekend in the Harris Theatre. So, is the local PBS audience different from the local dance audience? I can't figure it out.

It'll be a nice warmup, I hope, botched camerawork and all. (Thanks for those comments everybody, they'll lessen the shock when I watch the broadcast.)

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I too noticed the cutaway at that diagonal into a male-to-male hug, and I too thought it was to ease the broadcast acceptance by certain segments of the U.S. population. I also questioned the timing of the musician cut-aways, not the fact there were such cutaways. Overall, I didn't like the (video's) production technique: It was truncated, chunky, and sort of destroyed much of the fluidity inherent in the choreography, so that I felt many times that I was missing things. A stange occurance considering...

1) The television director was very experienced and had done many previous "Dance in America" or "Live from Lincoln Center" performances.

2) If it was LIVE or Live-on-Tape (or disk or hard drive these days), and it was switched live, than choice of camera shot(s) to take was the responsibility of the director and his TD. And since they were experienced, and I would hope the camera crew was too, then it is even more surprising the cuts were so visible and it wasn't as seamless as usual.

3) Editing should only have been done for length; to insert titles, required underwriting credits or backstage interviews/documentary footage; or clean up any egregious live technical or production mistakes by the video, theatrical crews, (or dancers?)

4) Sometimes the choreographer sits in and provides a "shot-list" etc. to the AD as a "heads-up" to cuing cameras, something I am not so sure happened this night. Or the dance company's stage manager is in contact with video crew (director/AD/producer) too.

5) Most dance productions are filmed with at the least 6 cameras and often more. [e.g. 3 cameras L-ctr-R down front, (diagonals and CUs), 1-3 cameras center and/or back orch. section (MS), 1-2 reverse angles cameras in pit for conductor, musicians, and audiance reactions, 3 cameras L-ctr-R in mezz/1st balcony (FS/or wide), one high up for full-stage safety WS and curtains] I've seen productions with 15 cameras--an expensive proposition. (This does NOT include the many other tv crewmembers in a production, or the theatre crew either.) So with all of that, a lack of camera coverage for angles most probably was not the problem.

Just my impressions from being on both sides of a production, and please remember, I only saw the last half of this broadcast so may have missed much more effective directing earlier.

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I too noticed the cutaway at that diagonal into a male-to-male hug, and I too thought it was to ease the broadcast acceptance by certain segments of the U.S. population. I also questioned the timing of the musician cut-aways, not the fact there were such cutaways. Overall, I didn't like the (video's) production technique: It was truncated, chunky, and sort of destroyed much of the fluidity inherent in the choreography, so that I felt many times that I was missing things. A stange occurance considering...

1) The television director was very experienced and had done many previous "Dance in America" or "Live from Lincoln Center" performances.

2) If it was LIVE or Live-on-Tape (or disk or hard drive these days), and it was switched live, than choice of camera shot(s) to take was the responsibility of the director and his TD. And since they were experienced, and I would hope the camera crew was too, then it is even more surprising the cuts were so visible and it wasn't as seamless as usual.

3) Editing should only have been done for length; to insert titles, required underwriting credits or backstage interviews/documentary footage; or clean up any egregious live technical or production mistakes by the video, theatrical crews, (or dancers?)

4) Sometimes the choreographer sits in and provides a "shot-list" etc. to the AD as a "heads-up" to cuing cameras, something I am not so sure happened this night. Or the dance company's stage manager is in contact with video crew (director/AD/producer) too.

5) Most dance productions are filmed with at the least 6 cameras and often more. [e.g. 3 cameras L-ctr-R down front, (diagonals and CUs), 1-3 cameras center and/or back orch. section (MS), 1-2 reverse angles cameras in pit for conductor, musicians, and audiance reactions, 3 cameras L-ctr-R in mezz/1st balcony (FS/or wide), one high up for full-stage safety WS and curtains] I've seen productions with 15 cameras--an expensive proposition. (This does NOT include the many other tv crewmembers in a production, or the theatre crew either.) So with all of that, a lack of camera coverage for angles most probably was not the problem.

Just my impressions from being on both sides of a production, and please remember, I only saw the last half of this broadcast so may have missed much more effective directing earlier.

Thank you for all of this insight. I wonder what MM thought of the broadcast?

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Was he even consulted for input?

The performance was broadcast as it was happening -- no editing. But the theater was set up with mics on the previous night -- it's probably safe to assume there were cameras recording as a preliminary run through. I would assume, too, that the directors had seen rehearsals in the studio and on the theater's stage. They should have been able to find better moments -- weaker moments, I mean -- to insert shots of the musicians.

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I want to echo Ray. Thank you, 4mrdncr, for your information. I've always wondered how these things are accomplished.

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I haven’t seen much of Morris, but based on what I’ve seen I’m not a big fan. So count me as one of those people who don’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s not like I hate his work- I didn’t like Sylvia but I kind of liked Gong and liked (but didn’t love) Drink to Me only with Thine Eyes. I enjoyed parts of Mozart Dances - but I’d never run to see anything I’ve seen of his the way I feel the need to see Promethian Fire when Taylors in town, or Diversion of Angels, Revelations, Concerto Barocco, Swan Lake, etc.

I think I just don’t care for his style of movement - the loopy, loose upper body. In fact I don’t like a lot of his upper body & arm movement - I don’t find it aesthetically pleasing. And I find his sense of humor more annoying than whimsical.

I’ve seen Mozart Dances 3 times now - once at the State last year, again there last night and I watched the PBS program this afternoon. First off, the cuts in the filming give the dance a very different shape. One of the things I liked in the theater is the way most of the solos and group dances seem to emerge organically from the ensemble and are often incorporated back into it. A lot of this was lost on the PBS program. I guess it’s a good reminder of what a poor substitute film is for a live performance, and how it can distort a choreographer’s intent.

I recall that the first time I saw this I liked the middle piece, but was very, very bored by the first and last. Last night I found much of the first section lyrical and appealing, but still in the theater there was too little dynamism for me. To my eyes this part looked much better on TV - the cuts back and forth to specific dancers and groups of dancer varied the focus and made it more interesting to me! I still really liked the middle section - I loved what Morris did with the men here. I thought his circle motifs and dissolving daisy chains were very inventive and evocative and I especially liked the section with Noah Vinson and the ensemble. But I still found the last section boring. Oh well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.

By the way, take a look at Wolcott’s blog for a very different take on Acocella's review (second story "JOANNIE LOVES CHUNKY"):

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcott

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I’ve seen Mozart Dances 3 times now - once at the State last year, again there last night and I watched the PBS program this afternoon. First off, the cuts in the filming give the dance a very different shape. One of the things I liked in the theater is the way most of the solos and group dances seem to emerge organically from the ensemble and are often incorporated back into it. A lot of this was lost on the PBS program. I guess it’s a good reminder of what a poor substitute film is for a live performance, and how it can distort a choreographer’s intent.
It's really useful to have this kind of insight, from someone who has seen both formats in such proximity. Thanks, nysusan.

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I was going to post on the original thread for Mozart Dances, as I saw it twice last week, but missed all but the final section of the broadcast (and, as the cuts to the musicians began to add up, with less and less attention :thumbsup: ).

The backdrops reminded me of cosmetics swatches, did nothing to add to or detract seriously from the ballet, other than to prompt the fleeting question, Why?

The costumes were strange. Yes, the women in the first section looked like they were wearing lingerie -- or rather, just plain underwear. Not flattering to the bodies, not helpful in seeing the dance. What's wrong with covering the midriff? Why isn't simplicity enough? (see below)

The men's costumes in Double are much more successful, suggesting the clothing of Mozart's era, except for the bare legs, open chests and short puff sleeves, which really reminded me of girls' party dresses of my childhood. And I didn't get Joe Bowie's open frock coat. I wondered if he was supposed to be a Death figure, but that never made sense. I rue the day he left Paul Taylor.

I had no complaints about the costumes for the final section, every dancer in a unique, white outfit -- once I got beyond my memory (prompted by the men's shirts) of the Seinfeld "Puffy Shirt" episode.

As for the ballet itself, ho-hum. Susan stated my opinions very well. All I can really add is that the slow movement of Double, which is not much more than walking in formations, I found powerfully involving. Morris eschews cuteness and whimsy. The utter simplicity was proof that whispering commands more attention than shouting. It was that movement -- only that movement -- that brought me back for a second viewing, and while I was marginally more involved in the first concerto the second time, and less in the second one, the sonata was equally absorbing. I began to feel frustrated, though, by the absence of relationships in these works. The same has been said of Balanchine, I know, but even in Balanchine's most depersonalized ballets, there is always a suggestion of who these dancers are to each other. The most I get from Morris is a general sense of congeniality. While I applaud his mastery of craft (not much of that around these days), it's not enough. For me, most of the evening was an emotional desert and ultimately not satisfying.

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I had no complaints about the costumes for the final section, every dancer in a unique, white outfit -- once I got beyond my memory (prompted by the men's shirts) of the Seinfeld "Puffy Shirt" episode.

I like them as well, and I like the fact that they allude back to the costumes for "Eleven" -- the bare midriffs, the dresses instead of negligees over underwear again, and the black succeeded by, transformed into, as it were, white. This makes me not mind Eleven's outfits quite as much.

I began to feel frustrated, though, by the absence of relationships in these works. The same has been said of Balanchine, I know, but even in Balanchine's most depersonalized ballets, there is always a suggestion of who these dancers are to each other. The most I get from Morris is a general sense of congeniality.

Are there any Balanchine ballets where male and female members of the corps don't partner with each other? The pretty strict "gender" neutrality is interesting, but over the course of the dance it constricts for me the emotional impact of the work. Human beings simply don't relate to each other that way all the time.

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Are there any Balanchine ballets where male and female members of the corps don't partner with each other? The pretty strict "gender" neutrality is interesting, but over the course of the dance it constricts for me the emotional impact of the work. Human beings simply don't relate to each other that way all the time.
You don't need male and female partnerships for that, though -- or partnerships at all. The women of Serenade (nahd? nayd? :thumbsup: ) are often called a "sisterhood." I rarely feel with Morris how any pairing or grouping is meant to be perceived, socially.

I was thinking, too, of the contrast between Morris and Taylor in this regard, and no matter how non-human the dancers' depictions in some of Taylor's works, there is always an underlying feeling of community -- in fact, that's pretty much a Taylor trademark, isn't it? and therefore the Tayloresque category of "insect dances." Maybe Morris' emphatic lack of heirarchy is one reason. In classical ballets, who the ballerina and premier danseur are easily identified; the corps is their "court." This is true even in ballets without stories, such as Theme & Variations. The relations are analagous to many social structures we live with today, if not quite as strictly drawn. Lauren Grant and Joe Bowie were singled out as "special" in Mozart Dances, but for what purpose?

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By the way, take a look at Wolcott’s blog for a very different take on Acocella's review (second story "JOANNIE LOVES CHUNKY"):

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcott

I LOVE that someone has finally called her on her sanctification of Morris, even if it is a bit over the top (most good satire is)--especially considering all of the dance that happened in NYC (and Jacob's Pillow and ADF) that she ignored in order to give space to him for, as Woolcott jabs, "the 400th reiteration." Maybe it takes a dance outsider to articulate what no one in the field dare say. Thank you nysusan!

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Maybe it takes a dance outsider to articulate what no one in the field dare say. Thank you nysusan!

He's not really an outsider, though: he's married to critic Laura Jacobs, who has made her feelings about Mark Morris quite clear.

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Maybe it takes a dance outsider to articulate what no one in the field dare say. Thank you nysusan!

He's not really an outsider, though: he's married to critic Laura Jacobs, who has made her feelings about Mark Morris quite clear.

Point well taken--and I never knew that! So is he a "sock puppet" for Jacobs (to use his words)?

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If you go back to the Wolcott piece, you'll find he ends it with a

Bold disclaimer: To put any rumors to rest, the above represents solely the opoinioin of the writer of this blog and in no way reflects ....
followed by a few absurd possible influences.

It's very much in the snide, unfunny tone that Wolcott adopts when his feelings are engaged and when he is trying to imitate rapier wit while wielding a verbal truncheon.

Maybe he's just a little bit touchy about suggestions that his dance opinions "reflect" those of his wife? Or gets over-agitated when writing about critics with greater talent than his own?

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Point well taken--and I never knew that! So is he a "sock puppet" for Jacobs (to use his words)?

I don't know either of them, but there's a correlation between their published taste, which in his version, in my opinion, when negative, mostly comes out as shrill and demeaning, and when positive, ex: Part, comes across as gushing. I don't find him terribly credible.

If you go back to the Wolcott piece, you'll find he ends it with a
Bold disclaimer: To put any rumors to rest, the above represents solely the opoinioin of the writer of this blog and in no way reflects ....
followed by a few absurd possible influences. It's very much in the snide, unfunny, tone of Wolcott's writing when his feelings are engaged. Maybe he's just a little bit touchy about suggestions that his dance opinions "reflect" those of his wife? Or when writing about critics of infinitely greater talent than himself?

Those were my thoughts as I read the disclaimer.

Arlene Croce has been both a tough act to follow and critics that followed seem have to tear down the gospel first when they disagree. In the first paragraph of her article on Morris, Jacobs writes,

Nine months later, on January 2, 1984, Mark Morris was born in the pages of The New Yorker, in a key-to-the-city review by Arlene Croce titled "Mark Morris Comes to Town." The timing was elegant, just the kind of fateful precision that served Balanchine during a long life of ups and downs, decisions and revisions. And the timing was comforting, not least because it was so Balanchinian. New York -- stripped of its genius, its prize, its lyric lord -- needed a reason to keep going. And here he was: a new genius, chewy, cherubic, with pre-Raphaelite ringlets and a dimple in his chin.

Take that, Arlene Croces. And, of course, no one "needed" a successor to Balanchine more than Arlene Croce, right?

Dance Critic of The New Yorker is a highly coveted and influential post. Vanity Fair that tries to be iconoclastic, which is a natural set-up for conflict and more issues sold for the join publisher, Conde Nast. Wolcott's assessment of Acocella is right in the Vanity Fair vein of exposing the connections between the authoritative spokesperson/frontman -- in this case ascribing the roll to Acocella -- and the subject. I just don't think that Acocella makes any bones about being connected to Morris, and her bias is right out in the open, hardly hidden. And I don't think it's particularly more intellectually honest for a married dance and social critic to attack from both sides.

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I just don't think that Acocella makes any bones about being connected to Morris, and her bias is right out in the open, hardly hidden. And I don't think it's particularly more intellectually honest for a married dance and social critic to attack from both sides.

But does that make it OK? Is the fault, then, of the New Yorker for not using other reviewers (as they do with almost all other arts)? I was thinking today about the amount of space Croce devoted to Balanchine, her fave, but that was in the context of far more frequent reviewing. These days, it's hard enough to have to wait so long between dance reviews, and disappointing to me when they don't cover any new critical ground--again, there was lots of dance, and even new dance, in the area this summer.

While I certainly appreciate your thoughtful comments, Helene--enlightening as always--I'm holding onto my pleasure in reading SATIRICAL writing about the dance world, a tone that has always seemed to me woefully lacking: as a theater friend of mine once quipped, "dance people are so damned serious." And I think one of the most powerful voices in dance criticism (a small pool, to be sure) is fair game. Laura Jacobs is hardly as well known as JA.

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But does that make it OK? Is the fault, then, of the New Yorker for not using other reviewers (as they do with almost all other arts)?

I think The New Yorker is at fault for categorizing this under "Dancing" instead of a feature article in the center of magazine, as Arlene Croce's attack on Bill T. Jones's "Still/Here" was. I don't think it's a flaw that The New Yorker has a single dance critic.

I was thinking today about the amount of space Croce devoted to Balanchine, her fave, but that was in the context of far more frequent reviewing. These days, it's hard enough to have to wait so long between dance reviews, and disappointing to me when they don't cover any new critical ground--again, there was lots of dance, and even new dance, in the area this summer.

In the '70's and 80's I used to go to the newsstand and go straight to the Table of Contents of the magazine and look for Croce's byline. During the dance season, the weeks she skipped were painful. If I did this for Acocella's reviews, I'd be starved between articles.

Laura Jacobs is hardly as well known as JA.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

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Laura Jacobs is hardly as well known as JA.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Acocella and Jacobs are among my favorite dance writers--don't have to agree with them in order to learn something. I wish Jacobs wrote more often, she can be fascinating, as in this old essay on Balanchine's Jewels:

http://newcriterion.com:81/archive/16/mar98/jacobs.htm#top

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But does that make it OK? Is the fault, then, of the New Yorker for not using other reviewers (as they do with almost all other arts)?

I think The New Yorker is at fault for categorizing this under "Dancing" instead of a feature article in the center of magazine, as Arlene Croce's attack on Bill T. Jones's "Still/Here" was. I don't think it's a flaw that The New Yorker has a single dance critic.

I was thinking today about the amount of space Croce devoted to Balanchine, her fave, but that was in the context of far more frequent reviewing. These days, it's hard enough to have to wait so long between dance reviews, and disappointing to me when they don't cover any new critical ground--again, there was lots of dance, and even new dance, in the area this summer.

In the '70's and 80's I used to go to the newsstand and go straight to the Table of Contents of the magazine and look for Croce's byline. During the dance season, the weeks she skipped were painful. If I did this for Acocella's reviews, I'd be starved between articles.

Laura Jacobs is hardly as well known as JA.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Just wanted to remind folks that Croce's "Writing in the Dark" is a terrific collection of her New Yorker reviews.

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drb, thanks for that link to the 1998 Jacobs article on Jewels. It certainly packs in a great deal of lore and experience. It should be required for those who ae interested in the history of the ballet and who will be attending Miam's, NYCB's, and other companies' performances this coming season.

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My thanks, too, drb, for the Jacobs link, and especially for your observation. In fact, don't you sometimes get more from the review you don't agree with? Just skimming Jacobs, I think she misses the boat, but as a swimmer myself, I think that's healthy exercise. And part of what makes Balanchine great is that it admits of different interpretations, up to a point, not only by the performers but also by the watchers. (I think the maker himself, teacher that he was, was okay with that.)

But I do have something to try to say about Villella's remark about Farrell that Jacobs puts in her "final note": Although that was back in 1998, five years after Farrell was fired (again) from NYCB, what I've seen onstage in recent years makes me think that if she had been considering herself apart from the others, "first among equals" as stagers of Balanchine, she may be right. Her own troupe, without enough budget to hire the best dancers on normal contracts -- they get 11 weeks with her, about a third the usual, I think -- looks in important ways more like Balanchine's company did than any other I see. Even Villella's, thrilling though it is. (I'm really looking forward to seeing their Jewels in Ft. Lauderdale this season.)

I like to think of myself as smarter than to pick a fight with a former boxing champ (which Villella was), and I hope I haven't gone and done it now. We'll see. In any case, you can only disagree with someone who cares about the same thing as you do.

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