Now having read through Jacobs's article, I think it might be more constructive if I try to be a little more specific than just to take a swipe at it, but since this is not a thread on Jewels
anyway, I'll just say that while there's sharp observation and a little good evocative writing in it, I really found the phantasmagoria too much:
In “Rubies” the men have remounted— they’re chess knights (and pawns)—and the girls are fillies, tomboys, pin-ups, Broadway gypsies, Gypsy Rose Lees, the whole fast-striding, high-kicking, gear-stripping gamut of leggy American allure. Stravinsky’s percussive score, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, is syncopated like rush hour, then cocktails: you hear the subway rumbling underneath, feel neon Broadway and New York noir take over. In response to the “Rubies”=America equation, Balanchine has said “I did not have that in mind at all.” Nevertheless, the first glittering glimpse of “Rubies”—its cast holding hands upstage in a paper-doll arc, poised on pointe—never fails to draw a gasp of appreciation from the audience. It’s a city skyline at night, the Big Apple ablaze.
That's just an early example; for me, it gets worse. I liked the occasional down-to-earth comments by Balanchine (who famously resisted interpretation) and Verdy she quoted, but she pushes them aside too eagerly. For the most part, I'm sorry, bart
, but I think that, on this occasion at least, Jacobs
builds a castle, a castle in the air, not Balanchine, and I'd suggest other writing about Jewels
. (I do embrace her basic idea of mystery, though.)
But as I've noticed, this thread is about something else, or was, and I'd like to record that when the curtain finally went up here on Morris's Mozart Dances
Friday night, the 24th, the dominant pleasure for me for the first moments was that I could see
the dancing without all the fancy interference put in the way by "Live from Lincoln Center"!
And as I watched, I remembered that for some, Lauren Grant's initial
identification with the solo piano (later it gets more complicated) in "11" looked mechanical, although I took this simplicity in the beginning as introductory, but when we got into the first-movement cadenza, the whole thing lifted into the air for me, and pretty much stayed there, at a varying altitude, for the rest of the evening; the middle movement of "Double" was certainly a high plateau (as it was in the TV broadcast, apparently because all the dancers were together, although jammed into the sides of the frame); but then "27" was more complex, and I didn't get into it so well until the third time I saw it (from row Q, instead of Z and then X).
But I missed the refinement and nuance of ballet, even when I enjoyed the way Morris's dancers "swam" in the music -- It's not so bad to be a "slave" to a great master -- Mozart -- and anyway, Morris shows himself to be not such a dumb slave as an inspired listener, impelled to get up and "dance" with the old boy. (I also take Morris's title as double meaning.)
Being one of the BTers who have put some dance on video, I don't see what's so hard about doing this better than it was done on PBS this time. It's always been my own goal to "disappear", and let the viewer see the dancing by showing the space and letting the dancers dance in it. When I video-taped a ballet-school performance in a theatre, I didn't just frame the stage and sit down; when the dancers were going to use only part of the stage, I showed that.
We see a lot of television and film, and we can adapt to and orient ourselves to a space we are shown, if we're helped to do so, but if odd angles are thrown in, or worse, if "partials" -- shots showing only part of a dancer's body -- are mixed in, our orientation is upset: If a partial is followed by a shot of the full stage, it aggravates the familiar "ants" problem, and if it's the other way around, having adapted to the stage space, suddenly it looks like a giant, a fifty-foot dancer. So I never showed less than half the stage width myself, and I also liked best those moments on "Live from Lincoln Center" when we could see some space. I also liked the soft transitions, dissolves, in "Double", because they helped to make the televising "disappear", which would have been reason for me to use them throughout.
When I did it, I attended many rehearsals, so I knew where the dancers would be at each point in the music, and I could plan my sequence of shots accordingly. I was alone, and I wonder whether the big budget of a production like "Live from Lincoln Center" might have been better spent on a much smaller crew putting in their man-hours doing the same thing, and making a simpler, more satisfying result.