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Ballet Across America week at Kennedy Centerthree separate programs, June 10-15, 2008


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 06:57 AM

The 'Ballet Across America' week commenced last night at the Kennedy Center, with Program A, featuring:

* Ballet West in Balanchine's Serenade...and their own 'Big Red' (a-la Kondaurova of the Kirov) - a very tall redhead in the leading female role...not sure who she is, among names in the playbill [edited to add: below, pnbmom writes that it is Christiana Bennett]

* Pennsylvania Ballet in Robbins' In the Night...Riolama Lorenzo particularly gorgeous (2nd pdd)

* Houston Ballet in Welch's Velocity...the sure-fire audience 'hit' of the night...imagine Forsythe's 'Vertiginous Thrill' with a cast of 20+ dancers and going on for 25 minutes! The Herreras -- Melody and Randy -- were particularly outstanding among the soloists.

This program repeats tonight only (not the weekend). Program B commences tomorrow and repeats during the weekend. Program C commences on Friday & also repeats during the weekend.

#2 pnbmom

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:02 AM

The first company to perform last night was actually Ballet West. I believe the dancer you are referring to is Christiana Bennett, a beautiful dancer.

#3 Natalia

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:04 AM

Thanks, pnbmon. I'll correct the name. (Yikes...I must be tired!)

#4 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 05:57 AM

Did anybody go last night to the 2nd (& final) presentation of Program A?

It must be Vacation Season. Sadly, the 2nd Tier was about "half full" at the Tuesday opener...although the enthusiasm of the audience made up for the numbers. Hopefully things will pick-up as we enter the weekend.

I see that Sarah Kaufman's review of the opening night, for the Washington Post, is now up:

http://www.washingto...=sec-artsliving

#5 Natalia

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 05:00 AM

Went to Program B last night. It appeared to be a larger audience than on Tuesday, in general, although 2nd tier remained "half full"...including lots of appreciative dance fans! :clapping:

This appears to be the 'chamber program' of the run, with only one of the three dances utilizing a live orchestra...and a reduced one at that (14-15 member chamber ensemble).

Quick thoughts; will leave it up to others to elaborate:

Pacific NW Ballet - Jardi Tancat (Duato/Bonet recordings) - great job in one of Duato's seminal modern-dance works, set to Catalonian songs (as is the later & longer work by Duato, Arenal). Long-limbed Ariana Lallone (5'10" tall?) was particularly spectacular, making amazingly beautiful 'swishing' moves in her long blown skirt. Noelani Pantastico and Casey Herd were also wonderful -- both dancing their very last performances with PNB, before moving on to Monte Carlo and Amsterdam, respectively. In fact, all six dancers in this work were impressive.

Kansas City Ballet - The Still Point (Bolender/Debussy) - a Tudoresque short-story ballet -- in minimalist designs...no set, simple costumes -- with a touch of Balanchine in segments that include the full six-person ensemble. It's a shame that the playbill did not include a scenario although it seems to be about an outcast girl who finds love when the right guy comes along. Well performed and appreciated.

Washington Ballet - Nine Sinatra Songs (Tharp/Sinatra recordings) - frothy fun and a touch of melancholia in this well-known Broadwayesque modern dance. Super reception from the audience for the 'hometown team'!

The only pointe shoes of the night -- and live musicians -- appeared in the middle work, Still Point. Maybe they should have titled this program "DANCE Across America"?

#6 Mike Gunther

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 10:21 AM

Did anybody go last night to the 2nd (& final) presentation of Program A?


I was there Wed. evening. Pretty much a full house downstairs, though I don't know about upstairs. Lots of out-of-towners too. I loved Ballet West's "Serenade." The corps was light and tight and althogether right; the principals were strong, very dramatic and emotionally connected. They made a beautiful story out of this "plotless" ballet, although one that would be hard to put into words. Christiana Bennett danced both nights: 'Waltz Girl' on Tuesday night and the 'Dark Angel' on Wednesday night (thanks glebb for the info about Christiana!).


I share your observations about Riolama Lorenzo (In The Night); she and partner James Ihde got the biggest response of the three couples on Wed. (which is not at all to denigrate the other two couples!)

The audience just went nuts after Velocity, which fittingly closed the program (no way could anything else have followed it). They stood up and cheered until the house lights came on. I hadn't realized what a strong company Houston Ballet is.

Program B (Thursday) was less compelling, though it's always great to see the home team in action. Didn't seem like quite as full a house, perhaps because of the competition from NSO's concert version of Eugene Onegin in the Concert Hall that night. I am looking forward to Program C (Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet dancing Lilac Garden, and Oregon Ballet Theatre) tonight!

#7 Helene

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 12:41 PM

Natalia, it's great to hear about Lallone. She suffered a calf injury on stage in April during "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and she was back for the first time two weeks ago in the second pas de deux in "In the Night." "Jardi Tancat" is one of her greatest roles; I'm glad you got to see her in it.

Wouldn't it be beyond wonderful if Maria del Mar Bonet showed up to sing live :clapping:

#8 Natalia

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 07:11 AM

Last night, I attended the opening of the third and final program in this mini-festival. As predicted, attendance has really picked up and, from my vantage in 2nd tier-side, it was nearly a full house with the exception of a couple of pockets in 2nd tier. Audience enthusiasm was as high as before.

The 3rd program took the grandeur up a notch, with all three (very different) works employing pointe shoes for the ladies and with a full live orchestra for two of the three works. Oddly, it was the ballet to music of Mozart that was canned...but I'll explain more below.

As before, I'll give a 'quick take' on the companies & ballets presented, leaving it up to others to elaborate:

Boston Ballet in Brake the Eyes (Elo/Mozart...with some odd talking and growling sounds in the mix)

Ugliest, most sickening ballet that I've seen in a long time. I stayed out of respect to the excellent dancers -- especially the hyper-athletic and 'funky moving' Melissa Hough -- but my partner actually got up and left halfway through. [Happily, he returned at intermission and enjoyed the last two ballets.] If ballet went to hell, this is what it would look like. Shame on Elo! Shame on Boston Ballet's management...having, in five or six years, singlehandedly destroyed its beautiful classical legacy for this kind of crap. Enough. On to better things. [p.s. I thoroughly enjoyed Elo's Slice to Sharp for NYCB a couple of years ago. I know that he can do quality work...but Break the Eyes is so depressingly "brown," muddy, contorted, sick. It's not why human beings go to the ballet, IMO. If they want this sort of thing, they can go to Butoh.]

Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in Lilac Garden (Tudor/Chausson)

Normalcy was restored with a gorgeous rendition of Anthony Tudor's early masterpiece that perfectly captures the psychology and feelings of its leading characters. Fantastic ensemble work and superb soloists but my hat's off to Victoria Jaiani as "An Episode in His Past." The new costume designs are a bit more colorful that the old traditional ones, e.g., Jaiani's character is now in fuschia instead of blue...Caroline's white dress now sports extra flounces. The set has no perfume or impact...some browish vines, from where I sat. Nonetheless, the ballet was a triumph and welcome relief from what we had to endure before this.

Oregon Ballet Theater in RUSH (Wheeldon/Martinu)

Pure delight from Wheeldon and the Oregon Ballet -- an explosion of beautiful, tasteful dancing in the ensemble sections of which Wheeldon is surely the world's #1 choreographer!!! WHOAH - Where did this ballet troupe come from? They are the undisputed revelation of the season, simply because I've been following ballet since 1978 and had never heard about them until this Ballet Across America festival. These are absolutely first-class dancers, not the least impressive being Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov in the achingly tender pas de deux that comprises the 2nd movement of the piece. Huge, huge ovation from the crowd.

A week of three cool programs and mostly-great dancing. Still...for me the very highest highlight of the week -- the moment of greatest impact and electricity -- blending dancing, designs, lighting, music, steps -- remains the Houston Ballet's Velocity in the first program. It's the one ballet among all seen this week that lifts my spirits to the highest level. I can't say why exactly...it just DOES!

#9 Mike Gunther

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 11:17 AM

Program C (Fri. 13th):

"Brake The Eyes" (2007) -- well, it ain't Swan Lake, and it didn't break any new ground, we've seen this kind of thing before. The broken uglified movement fighting against a classical score, with some portentous sub-bass electronics tossed into the mix just to make us all understand that this is a "serious work." But, Boston danced the thing with such impressiveness and conviction that I actually enjoyed it! I'm so ashamed :clapping:

"Lilac Garden" (1939) -- I'm probably in some kind of heretical minority on this, but I've always wished for more dancing, and less psychology, in this iconic work. Still, as with "Brake The Eyes," it was performed _so well_ ... thank you, thank you, Joffrey Ballet!

"RUSHİ" (2003) -- In the 1st part with its eye-popping costumes and bouncy, cheerful, beach boys and girls on happy pills, I thought well, this is going to be a feel-good piece. And that would have been enough, all by itself; but then it got even better. In the middle part, Wheeldon deepened and intensified everything with a keen and yearning pdd (kudos to Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov) that perfectly matched the shift to profundity in Martinu's score. Good Times returned in the 3d and last part, leavened by some themes from Part 2, and jazzed up by some patented Wheeldon tricks (like where the lady, supported horizontally by a couple of men, skips lightly across the chest of her upright partner!) I had barely heard of Oregon Ballet Theatre before this performance, but they have to be on everybody's radar now!

Overall, this has been one of the most exciting weeks (or two weeks, counting Proteges) of contemporary ballet at the Kennedy Center. The mix of companies, styles, and works, both known and unfamiliar, has been simply outstanding! To pick just three out of many, if Ballet West, Houston Ballet, and Oregon Ballet ever decide to get together and hold a festival, I'll be on the first plane out west!

#10 Helene

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 10:52 PM

I had barely heard of Oregon Ballet Theatre before this performance, but they have to be on everybody's radar now!

Christopher Stowell has catalyzed great change in the company's rep and technical standards, and it's great to see recognition for the company's work.

#11 printscess

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 06:28 AM

I had barely heard of Oregon Ballet Theatre before this performance, but they have to be on everybody's radar now!

Christopher Stowell has catalyzed great change in the company's rep and technical standards, and it's great to see recognition for the company's work.



I second that :clapping:

#12 Natalia

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 07:12 AM

The Wash. Post's Sarah Kaufman's review of the 3rd program. I don't always agree with Ms. Kaufman but could not help but cry-out "Spot On!" when reading her take on the three ballets on view last Friday night:

http://www.washingto...8061501932.html

#13 Helene

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 01:52 PM

traumatized ballet


What a brutal and dead-on description.

And,

Tudor's works are rarely seen anymore -- they require a level of character preparation from the dancers and attention from the audience that aren't necessary with the more contemporary repertoire.


That's it. I going back to bed now to crawl under the covers.


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