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Do you have a personal checklist?Choreographers whose work you want to see more of


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#16 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 11:02 AM

On another level, you just want to experience them, no matter how they actually look to us today. Kind of like visiting European cathedrals and checking them off your list. Or seeing as many Leonardos as you can, no matter how far apart they are displayed. An week spent watching Fokine's pre-Diaghilev work would probably be deadly. But wouldn't it be wonderful to have the experience and the knowledge?


That's exactly why I need the time machine. Anyone have a spare?

#17 atm711

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 01:36 PM

I wonder if the Nijinska/Chopin work you saw was "Constantia"?


'Constantia' was a ballet by William Dollar to Chopin and I saw it danced by the deCuevas Ballet International--and...it was not memorable. The Nijinska ballet was called 'Chopin Concerto' and the best thing I remember about it was the performance of the young Maria Tallchief.

#18 liebs

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 01:58 PM

I also think I've seen Les Biches. Did the Joffrey do it in the early 70s? Or perhaps, it was earlier in my life that I saw it. My. memories of it are blurry - I mostly remember the costumes and an overall atmosphere of chic with over tones of lesbianism.


I know Eliot Feld Ballet restaged Nijinska's Les Noces also in the 70s. Cora Cahan danced one of the parents. But I didn't see it.

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 02:23 PM

Les Biches was done at Covent Garden in '05 in a generally decent revival. Whether the girls in gray seemed to be more than friends depended on who did the part. Martin Harvey was deadpan and very funny as the lead athlete.

Les Noces, thank heavens, is possible to find - I've happily traveled to see it (Paris in '04, London as well.) It looked unsurprisingly chic at the Salle Garnier. For me, the most amazing thing about it (past the score) is the restriction of Nijinska's vocabulary, particularly the point work, which is not much more than tiny walks in place on point. She did so much with so little.

#20 JohnP

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 04:28 PM

Some thoughts on Leigh's personal checklist of choreographers:
Is Nijinska a one-ballet choreographer? No. But I suspect the two works which Ashton retrieved for the
Royal Ballet, Les Biches and Les Noces, are far an away the best. I wasn't bowled over by Le Train bleu at the Paris Opera. And among several I saw from the Cuevas Ballet, only Brahms Variations (plotless and with some virtuoso sequences) left any real impression. La bien aimee was clearly liked well enough for the Markova-Dolin Ballet to revive it in the 1930s.
Lifar: Out of the half-dozen or more Lifar ballets I saw, Suite en blanc (also known as Noir et blanc) is the only one I'd care to see again. It was, I think, quite a bit influenced by his teacher Nijinska.
Leo Staats: His Soir de fete, to Delibes music, is a most attractive suite of dances; I was told in Paris that Balanchine much admired it. His interpretations of Sylvia and The Two Pigeons were interesting -- although certainly not as good as Ashton's ballets to those scores. However, Staats deserves to be remembered and revered for his invention of the Defile given at the Paris Opera on special occasions, parading every dancer from the youngest pupil to the most senior etoile.

#21 JohnP

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 02:23 PM

The comments by members on some early productions have reminded me of old memories perhaps worth sharing. William Dollar's Le Combat (aka The Duel), in its original duet form, actually had its premiere from Roland Petit's Ballets de Paris in London, at what was then called the Princes Theatre (now the Shaftesbury), in February 1949, during the same week as Petit's Carmen. On some pretext -- perhaps an interview with Dollar -- I watched a rehearsal before the first night. The woman at that time was Janine Charrat, better known as a choreographer, and her partner was the excellent dancer Vladimir Skouratoff. I have an impression that I liked the ballet better in that form than when the extra warriors had been added.
John Taras: the first ballet by him seen in Britain was Graziana, a reasonably attractive dance suite very much a la Balanchine to Mozart music, brought to Covent Garden by Ballet Theatre in its 1946 season. I remember him playing the Baron in Night Shadow for the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, 1948. He created Le Piege de Lumiere for that company in 1952, with Rosella Hightower as the butterfly heroine; she was the most virtuosic ballerina I ever saw (and later an exceptional teacher in Cannes, Southern France -- she's still there). Among various revivals of Piege was one for London Festival Ballet in 1969, starring Galina Samsova, and I was thrilled by Elisabeth Platel as guest star in a staging for the Lyons Festival during the 1980s.
Taras's best ballet without doubt was Designs with Strings, created for the small English company Metropolitan Ballet to the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Trio in A major. With a cast of four women and two men, it had no plot but a theme of young love, built around the 15-year-old ballerina (yes, already a ballerina at that age) Svetlana Beriosova. Many companies, as you know, have danced this since -- the French title is Dessin pour les six -- and I wish we still had it in a British repertoire, assuming that a suitable cast could be found.

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 03:26 PM

John, I've only seen photos of Charrat, and your post jogged my memory. She had (from what I remember from photos) real glamour, which the casts of "Le Combat" in the late 70s/early 80s certainly didn't. Hightower is another ballerina I regret not seeing -- I'm sure there are films somewhere, and widh they could be released.

#23 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:19 AM

Lifar: Out of the half-dozen or more Lifar ballets I saw, Suite en blanc (also known as Noir et blanc) is the only one I'd care to see again. It was, I think, quite a bit influenced by his teacher Nijinska.


I wonder at Nijinska's influence in the Soviet Union, from her studio in Kiev. I am sure that she taught and molded more students than just Lifar. Likely she set some ballets on her students, and perhaps created some ballets. She does not touch on this in her Memoirs -- which remained unfinished (a 2nd volume was hinted at).

Those Memoirs (brilliant) present her intelligence and emotional understanding -- and ego -- very beautifully, and I am sure these same qualities permeate her choreography.

#24 carbro

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 04:09 PM

Les Noces, thank heavens, is possible to find . . . It looked unsurprisingly chic at the Salle Garnier. For me, the most amazing thing about it (past the score) is the restriction of Nijinska's vocabulary, particularly the point work, which is not much more than tiny walks in place on point. She did so much with so little.

Cooper-Hewitt Museum mounted an exhibition of designs from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at some point in my past (1980s???), and included a video of Oakland Ballet (I'm pretty sure) doing Nijinska's Les Noces. What a powerful, moving work -- even on video. I'd love to see that live, and preferably in a small theater.

#25 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:50 PM

Les Noces, thank heavens, is possible to find . . . It looked unsurprisingly chic at the Salle Garnier. For me, the most amazing thing about it (past the score) is the restriction of Nijinska's vocabulary, particularly the point work, which is not much more than tiny walks in place on point. She did so much with so little.

Cooper-Hewitt Museum mounted an exhibition of designs from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at some point in my past (1980s???), and included a video of Oakland Ballet (I'm pretty sure) doing Nijinska's Les Noces. What a powerful, moving work -- even on video. I'd love to see that live, and preferably in a small theater.



Yes, thanks for the reminder -- the video was shown in a conservatory-like room, and I stood there mesmerized for about three go-rounds.

I think it has been mentioned somewhere else on the BT board that Oakland Ballet presented a program of her ballets out Stonybrook university's campus, 15-20 years ago I believe. That must have been where I saw Les Biches, because I saw Le Train Bleu at City Center.

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 10:20 PM

Who's on you hit list of pre-70's choreographers to see?

...just from the XX Century...?

#27 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 10:49 PM

Simply for the purposes of this discussion, yes.

#28 Paul Parish

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 01:00 AM

Oakland Ballet did a lot of the ballets under discussion -- including a VERY exciting version of Les Noces. As Nijinska's daughter said, they dance it with the right weight. They also did a hilarious version of Cakewalk -- Boris lived within 10 miles of the studio; and must have supervised the production. Richard Chen See, who's now with Paul Taylor, once told me that he worked very hard to please her in his role -- I guess he was an interlocutor, . He had very sharp footwork, excellent batterie, and he made his role elegant and witty. (He was also the spectualor in Green Table, which likewise called for very "knowing" feet.) Abra Rudisill, a brave and tiny ballerina did the queen of hte Swampo Lilies and made the leap that Mel mentioned with great gusto and from a tremendous height -- I don't remember who caught her, but it was probably Ron Thiele, the former baseball player who was Oakland's leading man and most reliable partner. (Thiele was a very fine dancer.)

They did Le Train Bleu with a lot of flair; the golfing Prince of Wales was Don Schwenneson's best role ever - he was a little geeky and raw-boned, though well-trained, and in plus-fours he hadthe perfect combinaoitn of stiffness and grace and good manners the part absolutely required. Susan Taylor, whose sharp features, made her look almost cartoon-like, was sensationally charming as the tennis-pro ballerina, swatting at imaginary tennis balls..... I reviewed it back in 1989, and I quote: "In Train, Bleu, I felt like I was looking at hte ancestor of all my favorite cartoons. The dancers were so clear, their edges so brightly defined, I kept thinking htey had the same kind of outline the Bugs Bunny or Wilma Flintstone have -- and the scenery, painted by the sculptor Henri Laurens in stylized zig-zags, put me in mind of the Hanna Barbera school of drawing. Taylor herself looked like a cross between Wilma Flinststone and Katharine Hepburn. She had complete command of the stage -- and when she took a swing with her tennis racqet andthen raised her back leg in arabesque, her image grew and grew and grew.

Abra Rudisill did an amazing imitation of Betty Boop,or of hte character Betty was based on. And Michael Lowe (alternating with Mario Alonzo) drew cheers as the cheeky acrobat, all brilliantined and full of malarkey, initially danced by the young Anton Dolin.

Oakland did NOT do Les Biches well -- but then I'd seen the Royal Ballet's production, with Monica Mason as the hostess. Oakland's hostesses -- Summer Lee Rhatigan, and later Lara Deans Lowe, were actually very fine -- it was the boys, who didn't have clean sixes, and the corps girls, who weren't stylish enough, that let them down. Oakland's little lesbians, Julie Lowe and Abra Rudisill, were actually VERY fine -- but the corps have to be fabulous or else, and they weren't.

Oiakland also did a better version of Lew Christensen's "Jinx" than SFB did -- it was extremely well prepared,with Chris Christensen conducting, and the dancers captured the sense of the circus troupe as an organism with something sick about it; the ensemble was very fine, all the parts fit and added up to smoething greater than their sum.

With MOST of these ballets, it's style, timing, energy-state, creatureliness that makes the thing work -- or not (which means, it needs lots of rehearsal). SFB's Filling Station was most recently done with all the mime timed squarely to the beat -- which I'm told by those who should know, is NOT the way it was. It sure looks stupid this way My hunch is that it did NOT use to look stupid.

..........

Oh, and Oakland did lots of Massine, with him there setting it. Michael Lowe, who was one of the main dancers, told me that Massine would set the head positions, the upper body generally, before showing them the steps, for he cared enormously about the posture, the lines of the whole body. They did Boutique, one of hte symphonies, and I think some more.

Also they did Tudor's Echoing of Trumpets (not to mention Lilac garden and dark elegies) -- which has rarely been seen anywhere. Powerful piece, somehow bright and dark at the same time.

I hope gina Ness will talk about Christensen's ballets -- she knows his work better than maybe anybody else onthe boards. By hte time I saw any of his ballets, they all were looking slapped together (except Oakland's "Jinx").

#29 bart

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 01:21 PM

Great account, Paul. It's a fascinating story. Is there one single factor more than any other which made the Oakland Ballet such a fertile territory for this kind of revivial? I'd also be interested in knowing what the audiences made of these ballets? Which were most popular with the audiences? Which were perceived as boring or uninteresting or old hat or whatever?

#30 Paul Parish

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 04:09 PM

Bart, the great thing about Oakland is that they weren't too sophisticated to appreciate the strengths of these ballets.

The main reason for the success is probably that Guidi was willing, and eager, to commit time, time, time to the artists. I wasn't there, so I have to go on what Guidi has told me, and he exaggerates -- but he told me that Loring took (somthing like) 5 weeks, full days, to set Billy the Kid; that means the dancers really know what to do, they're in on like the ground floor in terms of motivation, quality of movement, weight, accent, staccato, legato, how inward, how "pushed." Same with Massine and the rest.

One result was that on a program with 3 pieces, there'd be only ONE that was really up to snuff -- but that one was often REALLY worth the wait. Fall River Legend, for example (de Mille's Lizzie Borden story) was like a Barbara Stanwyck movie -- it got very hot in that theater. Tremendous experience for us. There was nothing old-hat about it -- you felt like everybody there knew what murderous family tensions were like, and this was holding the mirror up to Nature. Oakland is not a suburb.


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