Jane Simpson

NYCB in London

59 posts in this topic

Leigh - I was typing as you were demanding! ;)

I've got a good coconut chutney recipe for your sambhar and dosa, bhaiya.

:smilie_mondieu: I've been cooking Indian food pretty much every day for over 10 years now so I know my way around a masala but I cooked idli for the first time yesterday and totally screwed it up. You could use the damn things for brick mortar!

Back on topic :wub: I'm pleased to read these reports from our London members. It gives a fresh perpective on my favorite topic. I am confused by the Brit repulsion for the Karinska Symphony In C tutus. You have to see these costumes close up to really appreciate how stunning and well constructed they are. I think they're gorqeous but to each her own.

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To answer your question I'd like to say that I first saw Serenade either in 1964 or 65, roughly 45 years ago and hair was always pinned up as a matter of course back then, in fact the only dancer with loose hair was Giselle when mad. Modern dance of course was another matter. As Serenade was created back in the 1930's and is in the repertoire of most of the major companies I'm inclined to regard it as a classic and it is therefore the only ballet of its kind that makes a feature of hair hanging loose. Of those that remember Serenade without hair whipping around, sweeping the floor and so on, I've not yet spoken to anyone that likes it. Most share my view that it is seriously distracting.
A note from New York:

The hair-down business was a change Balanchine made in the late 1970s. A lot of us never quite got used to it, either. To me, it feels contrived.

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Also, I think sometimes tempos are slowed down because dancers today dance bigger, sacrificing speed. Probably something they need to examine!

Agreed - to an extent. I think the best of what I saw on Weds were those dancers who danced big and accurate - Whelan especially. And although it's all from video, I never thought of the 'original' NYCB ballerinas as *not* dancing big - in fact what was so fabulous about them was their use of space regardless of tempo. To some extent, what I've liked about some Balanchine ballets (or shall I say, casting for Balanchine ballets), is a bit of the challenge to usual senses of dancer 'types' - here we see some tall, leggy dancers whipping through quick allegro. When done right, it can be absolutely brilliant.

As much as we like to think of favorite NYCB dancers of yore as dancing big, there is video evidence that, by today's standards, even the leggiest dancers danced "small." The dancers in an old video I saw once of Barocco looked positively demure.

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The hair-down business was a change Balanchine made in the late 1970s. A lot of us never quite got used to it, either. To me, it feels contrived.

Yes, he did that in 1977. Balanchine did a lot of tinkering in the 70s, some of it very weird (anyone remember Karen von Aroldingen's batty white-winged Firebird with that long train?). However, I have to admit the loose hair in the last movement of Serenade never bothered me, though it certainly is a contrivance to emphasize the final section's internal, somewhat symbolic quality. What his motives were besides restlessness and boredom with old productions I don't know. Maybe he just wanted everyone to look like Farrell with her lion's mane down. Whatever, I don't mind it and sometimes I even find the intimacy and vulnerability of it rather moving. Does anyone remember if there was any critical comment at the time - say, from Arlene Croce or her colleagues?

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As much as we like to think of favorite NYCB dancers of yore as dancing big, there is video evidence that, by today's standards, even the leggiest dancers danced "small." The dancers in an old video I saw once of Barocco looked positively demure.

Where were they dancing? The films done specifically for TV were done on very cramped sound stages that could account for some of that. I also wonder if things didn't get far bigger out of a need to fill the stage at the State Theater.

:smilie_mondieu: perky, you're lucky your idlis only taste like bricks. The times I have made them (and from a mix - no rice pounding here) they tasted like packing material. Mmmmmm.

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I have to admit the loose hair in the last movement of Serenade never bothered me, though it certainly is a contrivance to emphasize the final section's internal, somewhat symbolic quality. What his motives were besides restlessness and boredom with old productions I don't know. Maybe he just wanted everyone to look like Farrell with her lion's mane down. Whatever, I don't mind it and sometimes I even find the intimacy and vulnerability of it rather moving. Does anyone remember if there was any critical comment at the time - say, from Arlene Croce or her colleagues?

Croce wrote in '77 that the loose hair

may be the way it was done once upon a time but today [it] looks out of place. The sisterhood of the corps in Serenade, which has expanded over the years as Balanchine expanded the choreography, is in its anonymity one of the most moving images we have in all ballet, and the three new heads of hair in the last movement violate the image.

She also laments a couple of minor changes in the Elegy.

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Alastair MacCauley has made several blog posts in the New York Times about NYCB's London season. In one he writes that the second program with "The Concert" has

cartoon drop curtains (commissioned by Robbins) by Edward Gorey, for decades a balletomane who missed few City Ballet performances. They have never seen in New York but are superior in drawing, in fantasy and in wit to those by Saul Steinberg, used by City Ballet.

Can anyone describe these, or say where they can be found in print or online? I could swear the Steinberg curtains are what I saw in D.C. a couple of weeks ago, but perhaps I'm mistaken.

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More later - but I took all of your advice and saw Tarantella last night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Will write more once I've collected my jaw from the Coliseum's Orchestra Pit......

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Another subdued and pallid performance by Bouder and Ulbricht?

In New York, we keep hoping the two of them will finally come out of their shells . . .

:lightbulb:

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the quote from macaulay's blog w/ reference to the gorey drops for THE CONCERT given above as <<They have never seen in New York but are superior in drawing, in fantasy and in wit to those by Saul Steinberg, used by City Ballet.>> is likely missing a word or two - i suspect macaulay meant that gorey's drops "ave never BEEN seen in New York," which is true.

the royal ballet has not brought its staging of THE CONCERT to nyc so far as i can tell. thus it has not shown gorey's work for the ballet to US audiences - i'm not aware of the royal ballet's touring this robbins ballet anywhere outside the UK. NYCB has consistently used its steinberg drops at home and on tour. i don't know if history records robbins's own admiration or preference for the different designs.

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the quote from macaulay's blog w/ reference to the gorey drops for THE CONCERT given above as <<They have never seen in New York but are superior in drawing, in fantasy and in wit to those by Saul Steinberg, used by City Ballet.>> is likely missing a word or two - i suspect macaulay meant that gorey's drops "ave never BEEN seen in New York," which is true.

the royal ballet has not brought its staging of THE CONCERT to nyc so far as i can tell. thus it has not shown gorey's work for the ballet to US audiences - i'm not aware of the royal ballet's touring this robbins ballet anywhere outside the UK. NYCB has consistently used its steinberg drops at home and on tour. i don't know if history records robbins's own admiration or preference for the different designs.

Thanks, rg. I see that I read MacCauley too quickly, and what he said was that the Royal uses Gorey's backdrops, not that NYCB did in London.

ami1436 and mashinka, thanks so much for your reviews!

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Unfortunately I do not have as much time today to write as I wished! At the last minute yesterday I decided that seeing this Tarantella might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and as I was in London, I should see if there were tickets... lo and behold. Yes, I missed the RB I had been scheduled to see.... but I'll be seeing them again soon!

Thou Swell.... Um. Yeah. Unfortunately to me, this felt like it would never end. The waitress girls seemed really under-rehearsed to me, and should they have really been carrying trays, well, some of them were very funnily shaped, and somehow managed to have superhero abilities in fighting gravity regardless of the angle at which they were held! Sarah Mearns began the piece and seemed to be dancing similarly to her Symphony in C... this changed though and she became sassier - I think this more blatantly jazzy style suits her well. And to Ramasar's credit, despite his rising shoulders, he was totally acting the part, looking seriously smitten. But the biggest thing this piece seemed to lack was the sense of real chemistry between the couples. And that sense of chemistry might be the only thing that saves the ballet! I think Kistler danced the main pdd in it (to Bewitched...?), and Faye Arthurs is the one who goes for the 6'o'clock secondes? I was a bit surprised (not because of her extensions) that she is only a corps member - she had some lovely lines overall. I don't know what more to say though... by the end of this, I was more than ready for it to be over.

I didn't stay for West Side (and am seeing this bill on Saturday matinee), but overall I enjoyed Western Symphony. Although I'm distinctly aware that Albert Evans may be approaching the end of his career, I dare say the other men have a lot to learn from him, especially in terms of stage presence/gravitas/acting. He acted from beginning to end while he was on stage, which made everything the more enjoyable. Poor Martins seemed to act for a second when it was choreographed, and then slip into 'it's time to concentrate'.... hmmm. I was impressed by Hyltin, his partner, in the second movement - and especially by her arms. She had a nice lyrical quality to her, which makes me wonder what she will be like in the Tarantella on Saturday. I'm afraid I'm not necessarily moved by the Staffords, but suitably enjoyed Reichlen and Hanna. Again, however, I thought some of the corps looked slightly under-rehearsed... and some of the arabesques were not even secondbesques... but very clearly turned in secondes attempting to be arabesques.... really unsightly.

Alright, enough for the bread, time for the meat: Tarantella. I'm so glad I went. I was scared, because I think 2 years ago now we had a local performance to Gottshalk and there were 4 boys and a girl in the Tarantella. The Tarantella was the most over-rehearsed piece in our little performance, and I was seriously haunted by the music and felt that it was too long (I wasn't in it!). Literally, a few of us would have nightmares to the music. I was hoping I could put it aside - and now I could listen to the music quite happily!

I think Daniel Ulbricht stole the show, and upstaged Bouder. He worked his tambourine so hard that the little metal discs went flying off, and he and Bouder danced with so much attitude and cheek - again, so nice to see that kind of presence! (Side note - Bouder actually looked fab in that little tutu - work it, girl!). Ulbricht can't really be that tall? But he could jump so high! His first jump I was like (my speak becomes all teenager-y when I'm in awe) 'What, huh? No way!'. But as it went on, I continued to be surprised by everything he did. I've never seen such slow, clean, articulate jete entournant entrelace before. Such fast grand jetes en menage... Really spectacular. Boy could school Acosta in ballon. Bouder... well... she just makes it all seem so fabulously fun and easy. It goes without saying that these two are real virtuousos (sp?), but underneath that bravura is so much lightness, quick and accurate. Does this girl *need* a preparation to jump? It's like she just thinks 'up' and she's there.

Wow wow wow. I'm still rather inarticulate. I'm looking forward to see what Sat's cast make out of it.

Question 1: Is there a video of Villella and McBride in Tarantella? Please please please say yes!

Question 2: Re: the women's curtsies. This has been bothering me since last week. But when the women bow, they stand as usual, in a b+ position, with the gesturing foot pointed. Most dancers I've seen, when they bow in this position, regardless of whether they go down to the knee or not, keep the foot pointed as it slides along the floor. This is also how I've always been taught.... But the women of NYCB seem to swithch their foot to a demi-pointe... ? Is this something that's always been? It's a small detail I know, but something that was so blatantly obvious to me...

Right... I'm off to find a tambourine...

editted to add: Unfortunately I'm only seeing Programme 1 and 4... hopefully others will comment on 2 and 3!

eta, part 2: Hyltin was Evan's partner, not Martins'! and changing the second question 1 to question 2....

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Question 1: Re: the women's curtsies. This has been bothering me since last week. But when the women bow, they stand as usual, in a b+ position, with the gesturing foot pointed. Most dancers I've seen, when they bow in this position, regardless of whether they go down to the knee or not, keep the foot pointed as it slides along the floor. This is also how I've always been taught.... But the women of NYCB seem to swithch their foot to a demi-pointe... ? Is this something that's always been? It's a small detail I know, but something that was so blatantly obvious to me...

this is part of the balanchine style--they always curtsy like this. If someone knows why or when this developed I would be very interested. It literally drives me nuts (I believe I've commented on this before here, sorry!) as I think it is incredibly ugly.

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this is part of the balanchine style--they always curtsy like this. If someone knows why or when this developed I would be very interesting. It literally drives me nuts (I believe I've commented on this before here, sorry!) as I think it is incredibly ugly.

I guess I'm asking if it is a stylistic choice 'on purpose' - and what purpose it serves? I'm trying to remember if I've seen Ansanelli do this here. I don't remember this from other companies like DTH, SFB, PNB...

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Right... I'm off to find a tambourine...
Now that's the way one SHOULD feel after this ballet! Ami1436, thank you for your reports. And please keep us informed as to how the tambourining goes!

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this is part of the balanchine style--they always curtsy like this. If someone knows why or when this developed I would be very interesting. It literally drives me nuts (I believe I've commented on this before here, sorry!) as I think it is incredibly ugly.

I guess I'm asking if it is a stylistic choice 'on purpose' - and what purpose it serves? I'm trying to remember if I've seen Ansanelli do this here. I don't remember this from other companies like DTH, SFB, PNB...

eep clearly i meant "interested" not "interesting" as I don't think having an answer to this question would have any effect on how interesting I am ;)

I would be interested if the other Balanchine-oriented companies do it, but I don't know the answer. I'd imagine Ansanelli does NOT do it at the Royal--for one I'm sure you would have noticed as it would stick out oddly (as it did when I saw Kowrowski perform with stars of the 21st c--and i noticed she transitioned to the standard curtsy by the 2nd time they took their bows).

It has to be on purpose, or at least enforced as they all do it. As for what purpose... I'd love an answer too!

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The curtsey: Yep that's how they do it there. I actually asked Alexandra A. to point her foot when she worked with me in '03, and she seemed quite happy! She points her foot at the Royal.

Ulbricht and the tambourine: OK, he's now done this three times I know of. I thought it was accidental, now I'm very unsure.

Macbride/Villella video: There's a 1965 recording at the Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center. I've seen it - it's looser than it's currently done in an ingratiating way.

Title New York City Ballet [videorecording]

Imprint 1965.

Location Call Number Status

Performing Arts - Dance *MGZIC 9-227 AVAILABLE

Performing Arts - Dance *MGZHB 12-115 AVAILABLE

Persistent link to this record

Description 1 videocassette (U-matic, NTSC) (30 min.) : sd., b&w ; 3/4 in.

Note (U.S.A.: Dance, no. 4)

Telecast on WNET/13 in 1966. Producer: Jac Venza. Director: Charles S. Dubin. Written by Bo Goldman.

Choreography: George Balanchine.

Costumes for last three ballets: Karinska. Performed by members of the New York City Ballet Company.

Summary: Balanchine briefly discusses his views on dance (throughout program). Comments by the male dancers precede each of the four works performed.

Contents CONTENTS: Agon: Pas de deux. Music: Igor Stravinsky. Danced by Arthur Mitchell and Suzanne Farrell. -- Tarantella. Music: Louis Gottschalk, orchestrated by Hershey Kay. Danced by Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. -- Meditation. Music: Peter Tchaikovsky. Danced by Suzanne Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise. -- Grand pas de deux. Music: Peter Tchaikovsky. Danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques D'Amboise.

Does Bouder need a preparation to jump: No.

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Did A.A. say *why* they didn't pointe the foot?

Thanks for the video info Leigh (although curious as to why you find it ingratiating!); I will need to fly to NYCB, see this again live and on video, and sample your sambhar. I am able to make dosa from mix.

I don't think Bouder needs prep for anything. She was just born ready.

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If you can find "The Man Who Dances" for sale, it has over 5 minutes of grainy color footage of Tarantella, but perhaps a minute of that is of Villella gasping in the wings, and of the bows afterwards.

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Did A.A. say *why* they didn't pointe the foot?

Thanks for the video info Leigh (although curious as to why you find it ingratiating!); I will need to fly to NYCB, see this again live and on video, and sample your sambhar. I am able to make dosa from mix.

I don't think Bouder needs prep for anything. She was just born ready.

Why they curtsey with a bent foot: You know, I recall that we discussed it - but unfortunately I can't recall the substance of the discussion. I apologize.

There's something about the '65 video that's very honest and not presentational. McBride and Villalla get ready to begin; they look at each other trying to be sure to start on the correct cue, and they bounce gently to keep time and smile. It's personal and unforced and a rather nice unguarded moment.

I do think you're due for a NY visit. Think of how nice it will be to spend dollars as dollars for a few days. We can go to Pongal and Minar if we don't feel like making dosa. I think a dosa is about $6-$8 at either place, depending on the fillings - and it comes with sambar and coconut chutney.

I'm hungry!

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Bent foot curtsey: It used to drive me nuts, but I'm embarrassed to say that I don't even see it any more. A survival technique? :)

The effect of it is to make the dancers less aristocratic, more "real-people"-ish. That may have been Balanchine's intention, a way to distinguish his dancers as American rather than European.

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Wowsers, folks. Saturday was Holi, so I hope y'all got some dosa....

These are just some quick last notes...

I saw Programme 4 again, Saturday matinee. This time around, I disliked Thou Swell even more, although still impressed by Faye Arthurs, and had the delight of Janie Taylor in this cast. Tyler Angle also dance opposite Sarah Mearns. And I hate to say this and I don't feel that I should name names, but: DANCERS - when you are 'not dancing' and sitting at your tables in the back, you are still on stage, performing. Sitting slumped over, fast gestures, turning upstage to yawn, obsessively playing with your costume/accessories, etc... well, WE SEE IT, and it is distracting and really unprofessional...............................................

Tarantella: this time with Hyltin and Garcia, so a very different bag from Weds night... Very clean, very enjoyable, and Hyltin demonstrates great musicality... but just not the same. I do feel that the matinee audience was also really subdued, which didn't help the overall aura in the house.

Western Symphony - Tinsley-Williams in the first movement, was loads of fun, and Megan Fairchild was adorably ditzy (I don't think that's the word I want, but it's all I got right now...) in the adage. Woetzel, however, in the Rondo - fantastic. Is he really retiring? Le sigh.

West Side Story... don't have much to say here - a fun piece of dance theatre, especially for those of us who love the musical. Again Faye Arthurs stood out as Maria, and the head of the Jets (Veyette) did as well. I'm assuming the majority of the songs were lip-synched? There were teary-eyes all over the back of the balcony.

That's it from me - again, hopefully someone posts on the other two programmes. I do hope they return to London with greater frequency, and perhaps with better prices (and different ballets). I'd especially like to see them bring Jewels, and some Balanchine narratives. Please, leave Thou Swell at home!

eta: carbro: I don't think it makes them seem more 'real-people' at all! but that's just me....

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I'm assuming the majority of the songs were lip-synched?
Nope. The dancers do all their own singing live.

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I found the reviews from London fascinating.

Some things I understood - NYCB is an inconsistent company (or at least the NYCB I know is) and I've trained myself on how to avoid (or ignore) the lows and seek out the highs. It's harder to do this on a limited tour.

Other things made me smile, such as reviewers complaining about the corps in Symphony in C not being in lines. Remind me to kvetch about Royal Ballet dancers not moving enough. That's how they do things, and that's how we do things, too. I thought that was established long ago.

I don't see nearly as much of the Royal as I do of NYCB, but for three years I have gone back and forth between the two companies. From personal experience, it takes a while to adjust your viewing to either company. When I go to London, the Royal dancers look unenergized until I reacclimate. When I come back, NYCB's dancers look sloppy. It takes time to see each company as it is.

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