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").