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Fall for DanceCity Center - September 17-27, 2008


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 07:51 AM

My review of Program 1 is up at Danceview Times, so I won't repeat myself.

Though the major stuff (ABT, Paul Taylor, Merce) is a draw, I'm not really going to for it - in most cases it's better seen in their regular season and the extra dollars are worth the improved experience. The reason I'm going to all the programs is to see the stuff that might otherwise not be on my radar.

So far, I've preferred the "ethnic" dance I've seen to the contemporary that's been on offer.

I really enjoyed Pichet Klunchun's choreography (Khon, Thai classical dance - Program 1) and Madhavi Mughal's Odissi work (Program 3). Her niece, Arushi, danced with her and was a real beauty - perhaps I thought so because her line and proportions would be perfect for ballet! The musicians for Mughal's work were marvelous - an Indian friend carped mildly because she felt the music was Kathak (Northern in style) rather than Odissi. Mughal did her work in two parts - the first a solo and then her niece joined her for the duet. I didn't have a problem with the length, but I'm learning that to most western eyes Indian dance solos are too long and can be pared down. The duets have more geometric interest - and frankly we "get" the fast Indian dances and the solos seem too self-involved.

I haven't been very happy with the contemporary pieces. Aszure Barton's work (Program 3) eludes me entirely. I just didn't find it very well made. Hofesh Schecter's work, also on Program 3, was very loud, very filled with testosterone and very much like a long music video. From Program 2, I didn't think much of Crystal Pite's theater dance work for Louise Lacavaliere (my opinion pretty much matched Gia Kourlas in the NY Times) and I just didn't think the tap piece was at a level to be shown in New York.

I know other Ballet Talkers were there, what did you think?

#2 printscess

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 08:49 AM

I agree with you Leigh. I found myself enjoying the ethnic dancing quite a lot and agree with you on the comments regarding Hofesh Schecter's work. Oy, the music was so loud, although there parts of the choreography that I did enjoy.

I went last night to see The Gentlemen of Hälau Nä Kamalei, who I saw on Dance in America (PBS). The only disappointing part was that they were not on stage longer. They were fascinating on PBS and I loved the back story. I was willing to fly to Hawaii to see them, but was happy that they flew my way. Their short time on stage did not give on the true sense of their amazing talent.

The Bakery was a pleasant surprise. Lots of balletic jazz. I would have perferred the 2 men to be either bare-footed or in jazz shoes. Dancing in socks seemed sloppy.

On another note, I thought that Mr. Connor from Houston Ballet, in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de deux was not very inspiring, especially during his variation. His partner, Sara Webb seem to be having the time of her life.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 09:35 AM

Which reminds me - the ballet piece that's been new to me so far was Wheeldon's Rush done by OBT (Alison Roper and Arthur Sultanov) Several people I talked to thought it outre, I liked it - I am generally happier with retro Wheeldon than effortfully New and Now Wheeldon. I also thought the dancers looked very nice in the work.

I'll see this program tonight, printcess and report back. I'm reporting on Program 5 for DVT and then I see program 6. It has been a LOT of dance.

#4 printscess

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 10:16 AM

Which reminds me - the ballet piece that's been new to me so far was Wheeldon's Rush done by OBT (Alison Roper and Arthur Sultanov) Several people I talked to thought it outre, I liked it - I am generally happier with retro Wheeldon than effortfully New and Now Wheeldon. I also thought the dancers looked very nice in the work.

I'll see this program tonight, printcess and report back. I'm reporting on Program 5 for DVT and then I see program 6. It has been a LOT of dance.



The pas was an excerpt from the entire ballet that OBT performed in June at the Kennedy Center. I hope having this debut at City Center means that in the near future OBT will perform somewhere in NYC.

#5 drb

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 07:47 AM

I've been waiting to read someone's commentary on the Balanchine/Farrell Pithoprakta recension Thursday night, 25 September, especially someone who remembered the original. The fearsomely described "stochastic" (Greek for random, and in modern physics the expression preferred to "probability") music by Iannis Xenakis was not fearsome at all, but quite logical. While the fine details where chaotic, there was overarching form. Thus, it is an analog to (at the time) modern understanding of what a universe is: pure chaos deep inside its tiniest things, the place of Quantum Physics, yet, in-the-large, harmonious, moving to the harmony of relativistic spacial curvature, held serenely together by good old gravity.

The original leading dancers, Suzanne Farrell (The Goddess, here, perhaps the Creator of this Universe), and Arthur Mitchell (the Attractor, big enough to be subject to Gravity rather than Chaos) I see as the dance's characters. The Corps, 12 dancers in black, the underlying substance of this Universe, are bound to the far stranger order of sub-atomic chaos. It seems that Farrell (danced by Elizabeth Holowchuk), as the Creator, operates the forces that hold this Universe together. As the dancers in black careen about each other and the two leads in white, Farrell seems to force their stochastics into patterned chaos, avoiding catastrophes, guiding them with movements (randomness guided by divine intent) of her wrists and hands. But Mitchell (danced powerfully by Matthew Prescott) attracts her, he is not chaotic, yet needs another kind of guidance, gravity, to move him. Thus to him alone she uses the power of her whole body, twisting, slinking, curving space to bring him within her orbit in the central PdD of the ballet. This calls to mind at times the Agon duet, and in itself makes this a ballet one might well wish to see again. And again. At its most moving the dancers do not touch, the harmony of orbit is attained. The intimacy of star with planet.

But as Farrell and Mitchell achieve their harmony, she neglects her hand-efforts at controlling underlying chaos; and then gravity too fails, as Mitchell helplessly breaks away. The Goddess is left alone, her Universe failed. Facing the audience she concentrates. Her fingers move, each complexly weaving that which we cannot see. Is she beginning a new Universe? Will this one succeed? She is Farrell. It will be done.

It is hard not to wish for this ballet to come home. At NYCB the part of Farrell seems ideal for Tess Reichlen. Yet another reason for a Farrell Martins detente...

After this came a solo dance, more than enough of an excerpt of Sharon Eyal's Love, danced by Talia Paz, to a seemingly empty piece of fluff by Lisa Germano, a kind of music that seems to be created for each generation of youngsters, regardless of the music of its times, timelessly void. It had the look of a modern dancer just killing time to a piece that she currently liked. This was followed by the Lombard Twins dancing frenetically to joint exhaustion, at least to live music of substance by Astor Piazzolla, but not able to be seen above the memories of Pithoprakta. It was time to leave the high altitude perch at City Center, to try to out-race the rain-storm home. And just savor the blessing of having seen a "new" Balanchine ballet. Thank you Suzanne Farrell. But I wish you had taken a bow.

#6 Farrell Fan

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 11:54 AM

Thank you, drb. I was there Thursday night but have remained silent till now because I thought my rabid favoritism must have clouded my judgment. It seemed to me that I was watching not a Balanchine novelty being revived, but a major Balanchine work. Surely that couldn't have been correct? Your brilliant review has reassured me that it's a worthwhile work and deserves to be seen again. Of course I saw it in 1968, but, like Arthur Mitchell, remembered nothing about it. On Thursday, I had a wonderful seat in the orchestra, thanks to the generosity of some fans of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. One of the people sitting in the vicinity was the goddess herself, who came up at intermission to visit with me. I haven't gotten over the glow yet. It had started to rain when the program finally came to an end (Suzanne stayed through it all) and taxis were impossible to come by. So I was given a ride home by Elisabeth Holowchuk's parents. What a night! :(

#7 bart

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 12:38 PM

Thanks very much, drb, for your account of Pithoprakta. If I'd had a story-line like that to follow when I saw it in its premiere year, I might have enjoyed it more. My own memories seem to have more to do with the difficulty of human sexual relationships -- "hooking up," as I would have thought of it in thsoe days -- possibly because Farrell was costumed as a girl working in a downtown bar. Also, most people in the audience knew the story of the Balanchine's feelings for her.

You could see back then how difficult the piece was to dance, given the abstractness and randomness of the music. This made me see Farrell's character as more vulnerable, nervous and tentative than it is apparently performed now. "Goddess" somehow seems better.

I always thought that this piece might seem a little dated if revived now. It's wonderful to hear that this is not the case. Farrell didn't inherit a great deal in the way of Balanchine ballets, but she has made remarkable use of those she has. I agree with you that it would be nice to see it back with the NYCB. Hiring the right person to set and coach it, of course, is the key to everything. :(

#8 bart

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 04:14 AM

A photo (enlargeable) of Elisabeth Holowchuk and Matthew Prescott in Pithoprakta appears in Valerie Gladstone's review in the NY Sun:
http://www.nysun.com...r-master/86276/

#9 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 01:49 PM

My review of Program 5 with Pithoprakta is up at Danceview Times, for a different point of view.

Of the rest of the festival, Program 6 was my favorite, with Sweet Fields, In The Night and Esplanade, by far the one with the most substantive choreography.

Brief comments -

Program 4 - I'm one of the few people who didn't really care for Richard Siegel's work (embarrassing enough for me as we took class together reasonably often in the early 90s). I probably would have liked it a good deal more if I hadn't seen so many "popular" works in the Festival. By the time this one rolled around I was really getting tired of "accessible" choreography and a little tired of the audience that liked that best. Of the other pieces I thought the Beijing company's work was interesting to see a sample of contemporary dance from China. Their dancers are pretty obviously culled from their ballet academies with the same extreme facility, and it colors the dances. Lots of phenomenal extensions, not much weight. It may be just me, but I found the lace costumes rather Frederick's of Hollywood.

A Texan eating barbecue in New York City probably would have understand how I felt watching Houston Ballet doing Tschai Pas. It was nice, but they do it wrong. To give an example of why I say wrong rather than differently, they don't do the final dives as dives, but just as jumps where the woman is caught safely perpendicular. That's not different; that's wrong. Also, to do it "differently" you need to have a substitute style, rather than the absence of the original style. This was pretty generic. Both Connor Walsh and Sarah Webb are very nice dancers, and the whole thing was done on a very placed axis, so it no longer looked much like Balanchine. The men's steps are often ad libitum, but Walsh changed just about everything in the coda, probably because the spacing was too tight.

On Friday night the Jerome Robbins Foundation gave $100,000 each to Twyla Tharp and SF Ballet (maybe next time give the money to people who need it a little more urgently?) and City Center, and after the round of self-congratulations the dancing began. Sweet Fields is a work with a great deal of atmosphere, well danced by Aspen Ballet. It's to Shaker hymns, which made me miss Doris Humphrey's Shakers, a more literal and historic work.

When they saw the final tempestuous pas de deux, the audience was convinced that In The Night was a comedy, even though Lorena Feijoo and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba did not play it for laughs. They laughed all the way to the end. I thought Feijoo and Vilanoba nailed the ambiguity of the pas de deux close to perfectly. Yuan Yuan Tan danced from the neck down in the first pas de deux, Sofiane Syle is much as she's always been in the second.

Esplanade was a perfect way to end the festival - great choreography that's also "accessible" dance. I'm used to seeing Michael Trusnovec in this now and miss any opportunity to see him dance (I think Rob Kleinendorst did his part.) Michelle Fields brought elegance to the role Lisa Viola had made cute. I am not sure I would go to all six shows again - I think I enjoyed it paradoxically less because I was overstuffed!

#10 bart

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 01:57 PM

Thanks, Leigh, for that response and analysis. The Danceview Times article can be found here:

http://www.danceviewtimes.com/

Scroll down a bit for Leigh's article.

Regarding the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux:

... [T]o do it "differently" you need to have a substitute style, rather than the absence of the original style.

This is a very helpful insight, it seems to me. It might be a good idea to keep in mind as we watch the proliferation of Balanchine ballets around the world, especially in those companies for which "Balanchine" is not a natural form of movement and expression.

Which companies, I wonder, dance Balanchine in their own style and still manage to make it a legitimate, plausible extension of what Balanchine oriignally set in New York? Paris comes to mind. Houston, or so it seems, does not.


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