'Fall River Legend' looked very dated to me, or perhaps because I can still remember Nora Kaye's performance---her anguish was felt from the depths of her solar plexus and I saw nothing of that from Wiles, or last year from Murphy (in 'Pillar of Fire').....we just are not nurturing dramatic ballerinas anymore.
I;m thinking of work like "Fall River Legend," "Pillar of Fire," The Cage," "Lilac Garden," "The Combat," "Caprichos," Miss Julie," etc., Although I did not always see them when they first were produced, I was around when there still were dancers who understood the genre and could convey intense feelings feelings to a theater full of spectators.
Some of the dancers, like Nora Kaye (whom I saw in "The Cage" and "Pillar of Fire") were essentially dramatic dancers who had to work hard to acquire classical technique for more ocnventional ballets. Others, however, were supreme classicists. I'm thinking of Allicia Alonso (whom I didn't see in the original cast of "Fall River Legend") and Erik Bruhn (whom I did see in "Miss Julie.")
These dancers had the power to transfix an audience . I have strong memories of sitting in a hushed City Center, surrounded by people leaning forward in their seats, captivated by the image of Lizzie Borden's real and emotional imprisonment within her family home. There were no titters when she killed her stepmother and father, as I gather has occurred during the recent ABT performances.
Today, it's as if the dancer were trying to put on feelings as one would put on a costume or apply makeup -- carefully, thoughtfully, expertly, but from the outside. Some do it well, some do it poorly. Frankly, the thought of Gillian Murphy in Pillar of Fire is astonishing. What would she do, grit her teeth? In my limited experience with revivals of some of these works, this approach does not seem to absorb and move audiences very much.
It's probably unfair to expect 20-something dancers, many of whom have been developed in a protective world of schools and academies, to identify with these stories automatically. The generation of dancers who created the roles and for whom the ballets were made, lived through the Depression and World War II. What is more, they paid attention to those events -- felt them -- and learned from them. Somehow they were able -- either by nature or by training -- to internalize and then project feelings of pain, loss, frustration, entrapment, and rage in what was essentially a cold, cruel, , violent, and dramatically unfair world. Atm711 puts it very well when she talks about "expressing anguish "from the depths of [the] solar plexus" And those did it without awkwardness, embarrassment, or ironic detachment.
Have today's audiences changed so much that they cannot relate to such stories?
Are we no longer training our artists to inhabit such characters, make them their own, and carry along an audience as they do so?
Do these story ballets have a real future in the repertoire -- I mean, a future in which they live, breathe, and engage audiences deeply?