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"Impressing the Czar" at Lincoln CenterAnyone attending?


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#1 socalgal

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 07:04 PM

My DD and I are going to see "Impressing the Czar" on Friday. We aimed at viewing something that was a bit more "out side the box" for ballet, as it were. Looking forward to fun evening. We are Forsythe fans. Anyone here going?

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 08:56 PM

Seeing it Saturday night - on duty for DVT.

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:42 PM

"Impressing the Tsar-(Czar)-"
wow...whatever it is, it sounds grand. In another context :) , i can't help but think what would have been the impression of the late last Russian Monarch right before being shot along with his wife and kids. Such cowardice... But back to the subject...

#4 FauxPas

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 06:04 AM

I saw this on the last performance on Sunday afternoon. This was presented at the Rose Theater which is the new Jazz space at Columbus Circle.

In my experience there are two William Forsythes. One is a very talented, brilliant within a limited scope modern neoclassical choreographer with the edgy, athletic, angular style we all know from "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" and "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude". The other is rather Eurotrashy despite being American who specializes in sub-Pina Bausch "danz-theater" with all sorts of random goings-on all over the stage, dialogue mixed in with repeated random actions and little dance riffs thrown in to keep the audience off-balance.

In "Impressing the Czar" both Forsythes were on display in their best form with some other aspects revealing themselves as well. The good news: even the Eurotrashy stuff has its entertaining features and the evening as a whole is not too long. Those who are expecting pure dance will have some disappointment with the first and last thirds of the evening. Others who know what to expect will sometimes be bored but not for long and will have lots to enjoy throughout the performance and even more to talk about afterwards. The first act seems to be Eurotrashy Bill F. with a large chess board on the right of the stage, various dancers on the left enacting dance steps from various millenia from the Renaissance on, narrators speaking bizarre commentary, a TV set on the right, simulated violence, etc. all punctuated with lovely little neoclassical dances on the very far left on the stage at regular intervals. There was constant action all over the stage with dozens of dancers in various historical costumes doing various tasks at a fast pace to a musical conflation of Beethoven and a modern electronic score. This act was longer and seemed to baffle the audience - the applause at the end was the tentative "is it over? what was it? I don't know if I liked it or hated it" type. The middle section is the ballet choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" and is gorgeous and received a fine performance by the RBoF dancers. This got rapturous applause at the end of the act. The last act is in two sections - the first is a short 12 to 14 minute vaudeville with an auctioneer selling off various dancers dressed in gold impersonating various bizarre luxury items. Lots of fast commentary that was obviously newly rewritten and was hilariously topical and wicked - jabs at the fall of the American dollar, the price of oil, election shenanigans, etc. The last fifteen minutes had the entire corps dressed in schoolgirl uniforms getting down in hip-hop and stomping formations. This had a jumpy beat and was quite energetic - it was not ballet but it was entertaining. And not too long. Enthusiastic applause at the end since the fun stomping and hip-hop dancing had high energy.

The Royal Ballet of Flanders btw is a very, very good company. I don't know how they would dance "Swan Lake" but there was lots of finished, exciting talent throughout the ranks. I had trouble taking in the first act because I was in a side box and a lighting bar blocked the far left edge of the stage which totally blocked out the ballet portion of the action (the best part). Later I was reseated in the orchestra and enjoyed it much better. There were various recurring characters like Mr. Pnut (pronounced "peanut") and Agnes (the auctioneer) and Rose but what they were up to was kind of "experiential" - you know, don't try to figure it out just let it happen and take it for whatever you want it to be and enjoy the experience.

Kind of sums up the whole evening for me. I enjoyed various parts of the evening but they were all very different and didn't seem to coalesce into one central unifying theme. I mean Forsythe was throwing out ideas about how classical dance started out as courtly ritual and entertainment for various royalty including the Czars of Russia where most of our central ballet classic rep comes from. Then he goes on to corporate power, television, the commodification of high art for the moneyed classes, etc. but he is kind of shooting all over the place at once. Supposedly at the question and answer sessions, the stagers taking a cue from Forsythe were mysterious about "what the piece is about".

#5 Roberto Dini

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 09:10 AM

I saw this on the last performance on Sunday afternoon. This was presented at the Rose Theater which is the new Jazz space at Columbus Circle.

Thanks for the review. I would have liked to see it.

#6 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 09:38 AM

The Royal Ballet of Flanders btw is a very, very good company. I don't know how they would dance "Swan Lake" but there was lots of finished, exciting talent throughout the ranks.


Just curious, why did the RBOF seem "a very, very good company" to you? Any particular dancers you remember?

#7 FauxPas

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 10:04 AM

The Royal Ballet of Flanders btw is a very, very good company. I don't know how they would dance "Swan Lake" but there was lots of finished, exciting talent throughout the ranks.


Just curious, why did the RBOF seem "a very, very good company" to you? Any particular dancers you remember?


The dancers who were dancing on the left side in Act I seemed to be soloist and corps dancers. Since I am not familiar with the company and they were all dressed in simple grey leotards and black tights it is hard to pick them out. They were not identified in the program. Unlike ABT and NYCB, I don't follow this company so I can't pick out who they were. The lead soloists in "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" were the same dancers who danced on opening night. I don't have my program with me. The lead girl was Aki Saito. There was a lead male who was quite exciting and surprisingly expressive and one soloist girl (dark hair, muscular torso) who impressed me very much. I think she was Joelle Aspert. There also was a blonde who was very, very good. Jim de Block who danced Mr. Pnut did wonderful hip hop moves in the last section.

Anyway, they had very good technique with clean footwork, speed and placement in demanding choreography. There was a sense of precision in all their movements and they looked thoroughly coached in the style. This is due to the fact that the artistic director Kathryn Bennetts was Forsythe's ballet mistress and a former soloist in his Frankfurt company. I would imagine these dancers would be very good in Balanchine. Sorry I can't give you more details but I am unfamiliar with the company and these dancers and there were very many onstage - particularly in Act I where they were all doing a lot in short spurts all the time.

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 11:05 AM

Having seen the dancers in mixed rep in Ghent (including Balanchine's Apollo) this May, I'd say the Forsythe flatters them in ways that Balanchine doesn't - it helps that they have coaching close to the source for Forsythe (not that Pat Neary is any slouch as a Balanchine stager)

My review will be up in a day or so, but I was really impressed by Eugeniy Kolesnik.

#9 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 12:44 AM

Great to hear the company made a favourable impression, although I would have preferred it was with something more balletic. The progress they made in the Forsythe rep is indeed considerable, remembering how awkward most of them still looked when they first staged in the Middle under previous AD Robert Denvers. Some years later they now look more at ease in it than in anything else, simply because they have been really focusing on it and take it with them season after season. A Balanchine ballet like Theme and Variations or Divertimento #15 is done 5 or 6 times and never again.

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 05:52 AM

Marc - how much of the company was hired by Bennetts - or is she working by and large with Denvers' dancers?

#11 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 02:57 PM

Marc - how much of the company was hired by Bennetts - or is she working by and large with Denvers' dancers?


Leigh, the majority of today's dancers was already there under Denvers.
Of course there are a few new faces who joined since Bennetts is directing and lest one should forget Denvers muse, Aysem Sunal, thankfully left with her master.

#12 bart

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 05:03 PM

Some years later they now look more at ease in it than in anything else, simply because they have been really focusing on it and take it with them season after season. A Balanchine ballet like Theme and Variations or Divertimento #15 is done 5 or 6 times and never again.

I can understand why they would focus on the Forsythe, given their market. But why the lack of dedication to the Balachine ballets? Is it a question of lack of management interest? lack of audience interest? dancers not entirely suitable to the Balanchine rep?

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 05:21 PM

I don't think that schedule indicates a lack of interest. It's pretty much what most smaller non-Balanchine companies with only a few yearly seasons do when they acquire a Balanchine ballet.

#14 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 08:18 PM

I don't think that schedule indicates a lack of interest. It's pretty much what most smaller non-Balanchine companies with only a few yearly seasons do when they acquire a Balanchine ballet.


Exactly. They only have 3 or 4 programs per season. But you could ask yourself, why bother with it then? By performing a Balanchine ballet for 5 times and then drop it, you will never create genuine interest from dancers or public (let alone any amibtion to become a decent Balanchine company) - because in this case neither takes Balanchine for granted.


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