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All Balanchine Program


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#1 Helene

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 10:19 AM

Last weekend was Ballet Arizona's "All Balanchine Program": "Rubies," "La Sonnambula," and "The Four Temperaments".

I reviewed the performance for danceviewtimes, but did any else go? (ArizonaNative??) I'd love to hear what others thought. :clapping:

For me, it was one of the top three highlights of the season, another being Ginger Smith and Astrit Zejnati in "Giselle" last fall.

It was fascinating to watch the audience and to see how absorbed they were in the performance. During the pas de dexu between The Sleepwalker and The Poet, I felt something around me and glanced down my row, and then looked wider: the entire section had collectively leaned forward. The ladies in back of me were oohing and aahing after Zejanati's "Rubies" solo, and the one who proved to be the regular ballet goer whispered to her friends, "He's soooooooo good!" The Themes in Four T's got spontaneous applause -- not the polite stuff because there is an exit -- the "Rubies" opening pose elicited gasps, and "The Four Temperaments", new to the company, got explosive ovations at the end.

Perhaps my favorites upon which to eavesdrop were the two sisters, maybe 7 and 9, who sat behind me on Saturday night, who from their soft gasps were clearly awestruck. At intermissions they practiced their plies and talked non-stop about what they had seen. They were already experienced practitioners of "process of elimination" to identify the dancers, and could explain why they liked a particular dancer.

#2 Arizona Native

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 10:49 AM

Yes, I saw the Friday night and the Sunday matinee performances. Friday was great, but Sunday was FABULOUS. :clapping: And yes -- the Phoenix audience is sooo much fun. I'm off to carpool duty, but will write more this afternoon!

PS couldn't resist taking a quick look at the Dance View Times review. Helene, thank you, thank you, thank you, for providing the review these wonderful dancers deserve!

#3 bart

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 02:57 PM

ArizonaNative, I'm looking forward to your next post. An audience that is "soooo much fun" is one I definitely want to learn more about. Especially when they're watching -- and digging -- Balanchine.

This seems to be a marvelous and ambitious company. We also have Rubies in Miami, as part of the complete Jewels, which I am sure Anderson will be doing. We have Sonnambula too. But I've never seen them do Four Temperaments, so am envious.

Helene, in your danceviewtimes review, you wrote the following:

When I first saw the company in 2004 for its two-program Balanchine centennial tribute, the dancers rose to the occasion. This year, the dancers have been dancing at a peak all season, and Andersen has an interesting dilemma: he was able to cast two casts of "The Four Temperaments" to great strength, danced as well as I've seen any company do the work, and he has dancers to spare. He has found opportunity for the new crop of men who've joined in the last couple of years, and has identified several brilliant young women in the company. With five performances of five programs next year, and six of his "Romeo and Juliet", he has too many dancers and too few roles. But that is much better than the alternative.

This problem of simply not dancing enough is one that a number of regional companies have. Has there been discussion of doing a having season with Tucson or with another city in the region, so that each program could get more performances? What do you and the ballet fans in Arizona think of that possibility?

(As we've discussed before, Miami City Ballet gets 8 - 10 extra performances per ballet by dancing in south Florida cities other than Miami. And LA Ballet seems to be doing the same in its huge and sprawling Los Angeles Metro region.)

#4 Arizona Native

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:20 AM

I was so excited about seeing “La Sonnombula,” having been enchanted as teenager by photographs of Allegra Kent as the Sleepwalker. Different from anything I’ve seen before, it had a more Felliniesque quality than I expected. Kanoko Imayoshi was a passionate, head-over-heals woman, who gave the lie to the appellation “Coquette.” No tease, she. She and her Poet, Russell Clarke, had a strong chemistry, which they managed to maintain during what must be a tedious purgatory for dancers – the extended tete-a-tete maintained in the background.

Rightfully enchanted by the Sleepwalker, Natalia Magnicaballi, Clarke’s Poet seemed to have met his muse – she intrigues him, amuses him, bewilders him – ultimately, his worldliness falls away, as she causes him to envision a new world: he has not, after all, seen it all. The Poet gives a her a little push, but it is the very air she is a part of, seeming to float, with bourees so fast and soft as to be invisible. It is not at all clear that she is a flesh-and-blood human being. Who or what is she? Perhaps she is Art – passion itself, elusive, existing on another plane, incorruptible. When he finally does kiss her, it is as though he seeks to unite their disparate worlds.

Friday night I sat in the balcony, which allowed full view of the Sleepwalker taking the Poet in her arms. Russell Clark is dancer-athlete lean, but he is a relatively big guy, mesomorphic and 5’11” or so. In contrast, while tall, Ms. Magnicaballi is tiny, an ectomorph with bones of a bird. Curled into a tight ball, the group of men placed the Poet in her arms. He seemed to take on her lighter-than-air attributes as she stepped backwards – 1, 2, 3 steps into the entrance of the mansion. I gasped, unbelieving.

In the Sunday matinee, the two of them repeated this bit of magic. However, from my vantage point in the orchestra, the achievement could not be so easily appreciated. Mr. Clarke is so large, relative to Ms. Magnicaballi, that she could hardly be seen!

This production followed the custom of having the light progress up the stair of the mansion, even into the heavens. For those interested in interpretation – people around me thought the Coquette was The Baron’s daughter.

Ms. Magnicaballi did not appear in Arizona Ballet’s last programe, so we were happy to welcome her back, not only in “La Sonnombula,” but the more technically demanding “Four Temperments.” She appeared with Ross Clarke in Sanguinic for the evening performance, and in the Sunday matinee, stepped in to also dance the part with Astrit Zejnati. Both times, she was entrancing, completely inhabiting the role’s demands. Has she always been so fast?

I had a voice teacher who insisted that every piece have a backstory. “You must know the kind of silver that is on the table. You must know the very underwear of this character.” No matter what she is dancing, Ms. Magnicaballi has that backstory, giving her a delicious depth.

Mr. Zejnati is a wonderful partner. Although definitely a star in his own right, he also displays his partner to advantage, with partnering so adept that his own skill is concealed. This was the case, as when paired with Ms. Magnicaballi, who stepped in for Paula Hartley in the Sunday matinee. At one point, I suddenly realized that she had been supported for an extended time, but the illusion was that she was completely free.

Ballet Arizona’s Rubies is exceptional, in part because of its very tall women. When the curtain raised, and we saw the full cast lined up en releve with arms raised and holding hands, the audience spontaneously applauded. Kenna Draxton, blonde and pale, a curvaceous 6-foot-tall dream, is majestic as she holds center stage.

It was two seasons ago, I think, that I complained that the corps was insufficiently involved. The then newly-arrived Russell Clarke showed them up by remaining in character while the others moved in and out, mostly depending upon whether they were dancing. Those days now seem long behind! In this company, every member is engaged, all the time.

Similarly, the utterly beautiful Joseph Cavanaugh, all muscles and round shapes, has in the last two progammes demonstrated a lovely bit of personality, as well. I actually heard an audience member commenting on his charming smile. There are beginning to be a number of interesting and attractive pairings in this company, Mr. Cavanagh and Ginger Smith, who danced together in “Four Temperments,” among them.

As for the audience – the 65+ year old woman sitting next to me Friday night was accompanied by two 25ish men and wearing a tiara. Need I say more?

The best audience comment I’ve heard, yet, was actually made at last month’s progamme, after Paula Hartley and Mr. Zejnati brought the house down with Tharp’s “Sinatra Suites.” (Wish you could have seen it) A young couple, who had been sitting in the third row, hurried up the aisle during intermission, heads together, in deep discussion. “Yes, they absolutely should,” he said. “Yes, they would win. I mean, they are amazing. "But would they be allowed?” she asked. He insisted, “In the professional division of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ yes, they would.”

Many young children were in attendance at Sunday’s matinee. I was somewhat trepidatious, anticipating lots of squawking, as I adjudged them too young for Balanchine. But, hey, what do I know … they were completely quiet through all three pieces. This was a great tribute to the quality of the performance.

It came into my mind – what would Balanchine think of this? As recounted in Barbara Milberg Fischer’s memoir, "In Balanchine’s Company," City Ballet’s tour extended to a dusty, dirt-road, cowboy outpost called Phoenix. I can’t help but think he would have been delighted by this company and this programme of his works.

#5 Arizona Native

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:26 AM

Also - regarding more performances -- next year's schedule is quite ambitious, and will be adding a programme. The company does do something called "Ballet Under the Stars," which are performances in various city parks, which adds a few additional opportunities. I have heard rumblings about some other things in the works, but then I'd be violating the Board's anti-rumor policy, as nothing is official. :angel_not:

There's no question that this is a fabulous company, and that these dancers deserve more performances.

Heck, I wish everybody in town had seen them, both in The All Balanchine and in the earlier Mixed Repertory. What are there, 5 million or so in the Valley of the Sun?

#6 Arizona Native

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:30 AM

One more thing -- at the end of the week, we're going to be at the Gettysburg Festival gala performance of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, where we hope to see Natalia Magnicaballi again, perhaps with Michael Cook, with whom she is so well-paired. :angel_not:

Will we see you there?

#7 bart

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 12:59 PM

Thanks, Arizona Native, for your full and very interesting observations.

Extensive Balachine being directed by Balanchine's leading dancers in Phoenix ... and Philadellphia ... and Miami ... and Seattle ... LA .. and North Carolina ... and, and, and ..... It's marvellous.

I had a voice teacher who insisted that every piece have a backstory. “You must know the kind of silver that is on the table. You must know the very underwear of this character.” No matter what she is dancing, Ms. Magnicaballi has that backstory, giving her a delicious depth.

I like that "delicious depth."

I love hearing about audiences. Thanks for the following, which definitely beats Palm Beach, though possibly not Miami:

As for the audience – the 65+ year old woman sitting next to me Friday night was accompanied by two 25ish men and wearing a tiara. Need I say more?

:angel_not:
And, to support those who say the popularity of dance shows on tv probably has positive effect on ballet attendance ...

“Yes, they absolutely should,” he said. “Yes, they would win. I mean, they are amazing. "But would they be allowed?” she asked. He insisted, “In the professional division of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ yes, they would.”

And, most hopeful of all ...

Many young children were in attendance at Sunday’s matinee. I was somewhat trepidations, anticipating lots of squawking, as I adjudged them too young for Balanchine. But, hey, what do I know … they were completely quiet through all three pieces.



#8 Helene

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 01:38 PM

Thank you so much for your review, ArizonaNative :angel_not: I love reading your descriptions -- I feel like I'm there.

I'm sorry you didn't get to see Paola Hartley in Sanguinic, but it's a tough life when her replacement is Magnicaballi :flowers: I would have like to see Magnicaballi partnered with Zejnati in the role. (She danced with Ross Clarke in the Saturday matinee.)

I've just finished reading the translation of Alexander Meinertz's biography of Vera Volkova. In it there is an excerpt from the never-finished manuscript of her teaching principles:

Another fundamental, if not missed altogether then not suffiently appreciated, is the fact of working from the centre of the body out towards the extremities rather than from the extremities inwards...

This applies to arms as well as legs. Whereas the first fundamental applies most to the supporting leg, the second one applies to the working leg...

The leg should be placed from the centre of the back -- though the hip and groin down the thigh through the knee, thence the calf and foot, and the whole leg then goes where the back dictates and not where the foot dictates...

The same thing applies exactly to the arms and hands, which should be quite relaxed. They are held and placed from the back and go where the back tells them to go.


I thought of Zejnati when I read this. His placement is so gorgeous and centered.

Joseph Cavanaugh caught my eye the first time I saw the company dance. He is beautiful, and I've always been a pushover for dancers with juicy plies and mass. There's resonance in the air once they move out of position.

Sadly, I won't be at Suzanne Farrell Ballet. My personal travel budget trough is now running on empty and needs a rest :) I'd love to read your impressions of the performances. Having seen Magnicaballi with Suzanne Farrell Ballet was the reason I first travelled to Phoenix, that dustly little western frontier town. Seattle was always described the same way, except for the dust part.

#9 SandyMcKean

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 05:19 PM

ArizonaNative,

Your posts have inspired me to see this company.

What months or parts of the year does Ballet Arizona typrically perform? How often?

I have relatives in Phoenix and could maneuver myself down there at an opportune time.

#10 Arizona Native

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:00 PM

Great! I do hope you will be able to come. Here is next year's schedule: http://www.balletaz....smid=1205315941. If the link doesn't work, just go to the Ballet Arizona website, and you'll be able to take it from there. I notice that "Midsummer" is over Halloween weekend, when the weather is finally pretty consistantly nice (read: not sweltering).

As you see, the performances are spread out over the year, with each programme lasting only a weekend.

"Midsummer" is to be Ib Anderson choreography, which might also be of interest.

#11 Helene

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 11:47 PM

I really loved Andersen's "Romeo and Juliet", and I want to hear all about "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I'm going to be East that weekend, and have opera tickets to exchange, too.

The one-weekend schedule is tough; I was out of the country for both of the mixed bills at the Orpheum this year, and I'm hoping that doesn't happen again this year. I really like that theater.

#12 Arizona Native

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:59 AM

Yes, the Orpheum is luscious -- love that Spanish Baroque Revival style. Built in 1929, it is the only remaining example of theater palace architecture in Phoenix and has been lovingly and respectfully restored. For those who haven't been -- in addition to the gilt and elaborate details, it has a "changing sky" ceiling. In addition to its other attributes, the Orpheum is the only place in town with sufficient women's bathroom facilities.

As a sign of commitment to the theater, the City of Phoenix built its newish City Hall so that it shares a common wall.

Yes, Helene, hope your travels bring you to Phoenix for the 2008-09 season.

#13 Arizona Native

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:11 AM

Oh -- and I forgot to mention -- at the end of Sunday's performance, we got the surprise announcement that James Russell "Rusty" Toth and Lisbet Camponioni are retiring. Mr. Toth is going to teach yoga and dance, while Ms. Camponioni will continue to work with Arizona Ballet as a rehearsal mistress.

#14 Helene

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 10:24 AM

Noooooooooooooooooooo!

I'm still in a sulky denial over the PNB retirements/leavers....

I will miss them both.

#15 stinger784

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 02:58 PM

AZ Native,
I can't figure out who you are but I am guessing you take the adult classes in the morning. I have my eye on you with each review. I will figure it out.
Thanks again to everyone for the kind words about the company!
~Ian~


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