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New Works


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#16 sandik

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 12:01 AM

Sorry this is lengthy -- In general I get around 600 words when I review a program, but I have a lot more that 600 words to say about this evening in the theater.

A Garden -- The physicality is modest, even in sections that call for large movement itís not showy stuff. It matches the intimate quality of the score. The work is full of small details, especially in the gestures (arms specifically halfway between side and front, halfway between forward and down, palms turn over, little adjustments), all riding on top of a very clearly defined structure. Morris is sometimes accused of following the structural elements of the score too closely, but that doesnít feel forced here -- itís very sympathetic.

Dancers look really good here -- Morris likes strong individuals and Carrie Imler is her usual sanguine self, especially in a series of pas de bourees with her head rolling from one side to another. Thereís a great close canon duet with Jonathan Poretta and Barry Kerolis, and Benjamin Griffiths just sparkles in an allegro solo to what I think is a glockenspiel. Very like his work as Oberon in Midsummer, he skims across the space with some detailed and intricate footwork.

PNB has programmed this as the opening ballet, and itís a good placement, but Iím afraid that it might be dismissed as an appetizer, when thereís really much more substance than you might see on a first look. I hope that they bring it back soon and give us another chance to see.

M-Pulse -- At this point I think Kiyon Gaines has more skill in developing movement than in structuring a whole dance. Heís really working on the details of pointework -- how women actually move through a whole phrase using the shoe, not just stepping up or stepping off. This is often a challenge for men, and Iím thrilled to see that heís making this much progress. He gets some excellent performances from his cast, especially from Lindsi Dec and Kaori Nakamura, and they seem very excited to do the work.

Three Movements -- Iíve never seen anything else by Benjamin Millepied, so Iíve no way of knowing where he is in his development as a choreographer -- if this work is part of a logical sequence or if itís a step in a different direction, but itís certainly a handsome work. It has a very Ďreal lifeí vibe to it from the start, especially in the relationships between dancers. It opens with two men playing around (rather like Fancy Free) and then Sokvannara Sar comes sauntering in, like a swaggering breakdancer. That characterization drops away after a few beats, but it reads really clearly when itís there. And when Batkhurel Bold and Carla Korbes enter, they have this little hesitation, as if theyíd opened a door to a club and werenít sure if it was their kind of place. The work is full of individual moments -- Seth Orza channeling Patrick Swayze in Road House, William Lin-Yee loping across the stage, Bold rolling his shoulders like a street fighter, Lucien Postlewaite in a playful mood, Maria Chapman looking absolutely beautiful. Like the Morris, I really hope this comes back soon, so I can parse more of it.

(one other comparison to the Morris, not as happy -- the womenís costumes for both pieces are very similar -- someone needs to watch out for that kind of stuff)

I donít read any reviews of a program until after Iíve written my own, so it was especially twinge-y to see that one of my colleagues also made a reference to Jerome Robbins work, except that the connections seem particularly strong.

One Flat Thing, reproduced -- I know the audiences are still twitchy about this work, especially about the industrial noise score and the aggressively non-balletic movement vocabulary, but this is where the real estate agents get it exactly right when they insist that itís all about location -- if this was being performed on the Meany Hall series (primarily modern dance) no one would be thinking twice. Peter Boal mentioned in a post-show Q&A that he is really committed to this piece, and is willing to go out on a limb to get people to look at it. Thatís pretty obvious, just observing his programming since he got here, but I think itís very interesting that itís this work heís willing to expend his political capital on. I truly like the gymnastic quality of the work, and the exposed feeling of the staging (like other Forsythe, everyone is on stage all the time, ďwaitingĒ for their cues to come up). I donít know that I would have really Ďgottení the Antarctic references in the work without having it spelled out for me in the program notes, but it does have a clearly dangerous environment, and if you squint just right you can see the glaciers in Forsytheís distortions of ballet vocabulary and phrasing.

#17 olddude

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 09:58 PM

Sandik, thanks for that thoughtful and perceptive review - it really helped me parse what I saw.

I found A Garden much more engaging than the excerpt I had seen before; It was very balletic but (as you said) not especially showy - as if it were choreographed more for an audience of dancers than a general audience? For me it was the high point of an evening full of them.

Both M-Pulse and Three Movements had a connected, continuous movement thing going on which I have always found very attractive - certainly I want to see them several more times to get a stable impressions! (Of course I love to see good partnering, and both of them had plenty!) The Millepied was clearly an audience favorite on Friday but I'm not certain whether I agree or not...

On Flat Thing, Reproduced remains a puzzle to me. On the surface, as you said, the "gymnastic quality" and "aggressively non-balletic movement vocabulary" are off-putting for me, a classicist at heart. But I left feeling invigorated and satisfied - the emotional response over-riding the intellectual. A number of people left before this work was presented, and a few within my earshot wished they had. But overall the audience on Friday was wildly enthusiastic - and I think I'm in their number. Or will be when I've seen it a few more times.

It was a wonderful program, very satisfying. In spite of the fact that I've been a subscriber for nearly 30 years, and never seen Bayadere live. Or Corsaire. Or Raymonda. Or Giselle. Or ... well, a great many of the classics which I've seen either on video or not at all. Even Coppelia seems to have fallen out of the repertoire?

#18 sandik

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 12:59 PM

On Flat Thing, Reproduced remains a puzzle to me. On the surface, as you said, the "gymnastic quality" and "aggressively non-balletic movement vocabulary" are off-putting for me, a classicist at heart. But I left feeling invigorated and satisfied - the emotional response over-riding the intellectual. A number of people left before this work was presented, and a few within my earshot wished they had. But overall the audience on Friday was wildly enthusiastic - and I think I'm in their number. Or will be when I've seen it a few more times.


It's occurred to me that, whether people like it or not, they have an intense, visceral response to this work, and that's pretty special in itself.

"One Flat Thing" is a highly structured work, but the patterns are very unlike most works in the classical canon, so they're maybe not as visible. I love these kinds of puzzles, but that's me, and might not be someone else. I think this piece makes more sense if you've seen some of the other Forsythe in the rep -- it's more stringent than "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" or "Artifact," but you can see a bit of where it comes from in them.

It was a wonderful program, very satisfying. In spite of the fact that I've been a subscriber for nearly 30 years, and never seen Bayadere live. Or Corsaire. Or Raymonda. Or Giselle. Or ... well, a great many of the classics which I've seen either on video or not at all. Even Coppelia seems to have fallen out of the repertoire?


I'm afraid that most of those works will not show up in the PNB repertory, unless the company makes a significant change in artistic direction. They still do "Sleeping Beauty," and we get the Stowell/Russell/Petipa "Swan Lake" later this year (and Boal mentioned in a post-show Q&A last year that he's hoping to add the Balanchine Coppelia to the rep) but beyond that I don't think we'll get any of the 19th century full-lengths. Boal's interests lie in more contemporary work -- I don't hold much hope that we'll see the Tudor rep again, much less other stuff.

But saying that, I'm looking forward to Jewels again, and to Dances at a Gathering in the spring, so I'm a hopeful girl at heart.

#19 Helene

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 08:14 PM

After watching the reconstruction of parts of "La Bayadere" in Doug Fullington's "Balanchine's Petipa" (Part II) presentation, I am guardedly hopeful that, someday, we might see this, or at least the Shades act.

It would be such an opportunity for the Company and Seattle to host a symposium on the work or on reconstruction in general, culminating in a performance that PNB had more than a few days to prepare.

#20 sandik

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 12:24 AM

Helene, I will hope you are right, but I'm afraid that I am.

#21 SandyMcKean

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 04:45 PM

I've been derelict in getting this written. I'm determined to write something even if I kid myself that I can do it quickly. The trouble is I feel I could go on for days about my PNB experiences over the last couple of weeks.

First off, thanks of all of you who posted to this thread. You gave me much insight as I saw these performances. I even printed ALL the longer posts and took them with me for the last performance so I could read through them all at each intermission. I don't agree with you all on many things, but you all gave me new and enlightening ways of seeing what I was seeing.

I saw this program 3 times: 2nd performance (11/7); midway performance (11/13), and last performance (11/16-mat). I can't remember taking quite such an extensive journey while seeing the same program multiple times as I did with this program. I'll try to give a flavor of that journey.

I'll start with "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" (OFTR). I've seen this now 6 times (3 times last season, and 3 times this season). I didn't particularly like it the first time I saw it (I wrote about that at the time on BT). The 2nd time I started to warm up to it. But it was the 5th time when I had my breakthru. Doug Fullington gave me the key at his pre-performance lecture at my 4th performance: the dancers take all their cues from each other and none of the cues from the music (if you can call those sounds music). Of course, I had realized that there were some cues coming from various shouts (such as "reset", or "go"), but I didn't appreciate until Doug's comment that the dance had no relation in time to the music. I knew that the piece is sometimes done in ~15 minutes and at other times in ~20 minutes, but I never connected that at no time in the choreography do the dancers directly reflect the beat of the music (except perhaps incidentally). Suddenly, I saw the team work; suddenly I saw what I can only call PdDs, or quartets, or even corps work; suddenly I saw the precision; suddenly I saw big sweeping themes that repeated themselves just as they do in "Swan Lake" or in any other classic ballet; suddenly I saw the Balanchine in Forsythe's work.....it was a revelation. If Peter Boal hoped to reach at least some of his audience by the unusual move of repeating such a difficult work in the very next season, he reached me. I'm grateful to him. I can't say that OFTR is one of my favorite ballets, but I will say that it is one of the most important ballets I have ever seen, and that it taught me more about ballet than anything since "Agon".

Continuing my backwards remembrance. Millepied's "3 Movements" was my favorite. As Helene pointed out, his use of the stage, all of it, was remarkable. I'm a sucker for minimalist music in contemporary ballet (e.g., "In the Upper Room"). I love the way it tends to build and build to a feverish pitch. It carries my emotions on a roller coaster -- and there is nothing I like more in ballet than to be overwhelmed by emotion. The piece made me think of New York City: the streets; the bustle; the alienation; the fleeting, but powerful relationships; the raw emotion and the self-centeredness (don't get me wrong...I love NYC and NY'ers to boot). It seems that chocomel, tutu and I all felt something like this about this ballet. I want to mention one dancer of many I could highlight: Laura Gilbreath. To my eyes Laura is more and more a stand out dancer at PNB. Her long body, incredible extension, and dramatic abilities are making it hard for me to watch anyone else at times. This was one of those times. I don't suppose she can do all roles, but WOW when it fits, it's electric.

I remember to this day the first Kiyon Gains ballet I saw. I immediately said to myself (and to him directly at the Q&A that followed) that here was a powerful new choreographic talent. I have little doubt he has a bright future. To me "M-Pulse" is a cornucopia of ideas, endless ideas, perhaps not yet fully formed, perhaps without "structure" as Helene mentioned, but Kiyon is a well spring of choreographic possibilities that probably he himself has little idea where from. For example, there were movements that were reminiscent of break dancing, or some other "street" moves, that I found particularly striking. Kiyon spoke at one of last week's Q&As and made it quite clear that dancing was his main focus with choreography a side line -- it was obvious by his remarks that he can't get enough of the joy of actually dancing, but as Kiyon matures, and demand for his choreographic vision builds, we are all going to see his ballets one of these days. In another Q&A that didn't feature Kiyon, I asked Peter Boal how exactly did it occur that such a young dancer's work was featured in a regular season program. Peter said a few things, but the heart of it came when he made the simple declaration: "I believe in his talent." Well, that makes 2 of us. (BTW, I love Helene's phrase "lack of faux sophistication" when she wrote of this work. There is something so alive, natural, and genuinely joyous about Kiyon's vision -- he just does it instead of thinking about it.)

As nearly everyone else has commented -- Lindsi Dec is amazing in this piece. I have been a fan of hers for some time (yes, I say she will be among the next wave of promotions). I remember her in the "tall girl" role in Rubies, and other times when not only her dance, but also her style, was on display. Well, she was a force of nature in this piece. Later I discovered one of the reasons at a Q&A. Kiyon worked the hardest with Lindsi, and Lindsi worked hardest with Kiyon. It was nearly a co-creation. Peter Boal said that when negotiations were happening regarding whether Gaines or Millipied would get a particular dancer, Kiyon all but said without Lindsi the ballet would not be possible. To put a fine point on this, some of you know that I am the self-declared Lesley Rausch #1 fan. I picked the Sunday matinee just so I could see Lesley in this spectacular role. For the first time ever, I preferred someone else in a role over Leslie. Since Lelsey was 2nd cast, she likely just didn't have the time to rehearse the role sufficiently, and certainly not to the extent that Lindsi worked one on one, for many hours, with Kiyon the choreographer. This is not a knock on my idol Lesley, but a full out compliment to Lindsi.

I can't move on from "M-Pulse" without mentioning the "knock your socks off" solo done in the 1st cast by Carrie Imler and in the 2nd cast by Kaori Nakamura. This is a tour-de-force that requires a high speed, precise foot work, and dynamic performance while the dancer commands the stage with confidence and a big dash of panache and drama. In other words, a role taylor-made for Carrie Imler. Is there anything Carrie Imler can't do to perfection? She owns this role. Nakamura could not compete in my estimation. Kaori is one of the most refined and skillful dancers I know, but this role requires talent across all aspects of dance. Carrie is the only PNB dancer who has everything, perhaps not the best in every category, but who none the less has it all. She can do the last movement of Jewels and be a stomper in "In the Upper Room" with equal quality. She rarely fails to amaze. (Kiyon's problem with this piece may be that without Lindsi and Carrie the piece can't work.)

As others have said, I think Morris's "A Garden" suffered from being on a program with 3 other such powerhouse works (be they good or bad). Somehow "A Garden" got lost in the fireworks. But having seen the program 3 times, I had the opportunity to focus on "A Garden" too. I like Mark Morris ballets very much (I know not everyone does), and now I see more clearly why. He is so subtle, so sweet, so respectful of the classical tradition, not to mention his humor. Like Helene I was blown away by the point work in this ballet. If I were to dream of ballet, it is this ballet I would like to dream (OK, with different costumes :wink:).

I can't finish without mentioning Kyle Davis. Kyle is the young dancer who recently won a Grand Prize at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne and decided to spend his year with PNB. He is officially listed as an apprentice. Remember this name. Rarely if ever have my eyes been so struck by a brand new dancer. He is so musical, so lyrical, so liquid, so confident. Strangely, his dancing made me think of the best of both male and female dancers -- almost as if he were both at once.

#22 SandyMcKean

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 06:04 PM

OOPS, I forgot.....

sandik, I too was struck by the "bell" sounds in during the performance. So at the intermission during my last performance, I went down to the orchestra to have a look. There were 2 instruments (or maybe just one) I presumed to be glockenspiels (with metal bars), as you surmised, sitting up close to the conductor's stand. Right behind them were 2 larger vibaphones (with wooden bars). There was also a celeste sitting next to the harpischord.

I was sitting in a high box so I could see most of the orchestra pit. I can't be sure, but it seemed to me that the celeste was played during "A Garden", and the glockenspiels and vibaphones were played primarily in the Steve Reich music.

#23 sandik

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 10:00 PM

OOPS, I forgot.....

sandik, I too was struck by the "bell" sounds in during the performance. So at the intermission during my last performance, I went down to the orchestra to have a look. There were 2 instruments (or maybe just one) I presumed to be glockenspiels (with metal bars), as you surmised, sitting up close to the conductor's stand. Right behind them were 2 larger vibaphones (with wooden bars). There was also a celeste sitting next to the harpischord.

I was sitting in a high box so I could see most of the orchestra pit. I can't be sure, but it seemed to me that the celeste was played during "A Garden", and the glockenspiels and vibaphones were played primarily in the Steve Reich music.


Thank you for doing the research -- I thought for a moment about the celesta (and just now I looked it up on Wikipedia -- they describe it as a "a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard. " -- every field has its specific vocabulary!) and indeed for a moment I thought, "Nutcracker preview!," but for some reason it didn't sound right to me. But I think you'd identified it.

But whichever one it was, I think Morris just nailed it with that solo -- it's a fabulous example of the movement and the music inhabiting the same world.

#24 SandyMcKean

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 12:18 AM

I think Morris just nailed it with that solo....


I think we will agree..............so did Benjamin Griffiths :o).

#25 olddude

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 10:54 PM

After watching the reconstruction of parts of "La Bayadere" in Doug Fullington's "Balanchine's Petipa" (Part II) presentation, I am guardedly hopeful that, someday, we might see this, or at least the Shades act.

It would be such an opportunity for the Company and Seattle to host a symposium on the work or on reconstruction in general, culminating in a performance that PNB had more than a few days to prepare.

Boy, that would be a dream come true for me! I can't help remembering there was a close Kirov connection some years ago, placing PNB in a somewhat unique position. Fullington's work can't help but add to that. And the Kirov has done a restoration of Bayadere recently, including the last "destruction of the temple" act which nobody has seen (OK, I exaggerate, but not enough to matter) and which they seem reluctant to stage again. Heck, they even pulled together the music, an apparently enormous effort that should not be lost. I love a lot of things about that ballet, but it just never makes much sense - you would think the last act would help pull it together.

Surely something could be done to bring these pieces together? It could be like the Wagner Ring of Seattle Opera, one of the few places anywhere to see the Real Deal, an international destination - maybe a summer festival sort of thing, every few years? Maybe alternating venues?

OK, I know, there's a recession coming on and I'm dreaming even without Solor's opium pipe. I'll keep dreaming though - sometimes reality is over-rated. :pinch:

Almost forgot to mention - I've been watching a few Bayadere's recently, and Fullington's Entrance of the Shades, even in the studio without costumes or lighting, was to my eye just much more effective than the extravaganzas available on video. Like harpsichord music played on a Steinway, the modernized productions seem to lose as much as they gain.

#26 tutu

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Posted 01 April 2009 - 04:45 PM

I wasn't sure where to post this, but the Synchronous Objects website (http://synchronousobjects.osu.edu/) launched today and has proved to be a really interesting asset in approaching "One Flat Thing, Reproduced," even though the performances were months ago. The site is the result of the Forsythe Company partnering with OSU to explore the piece.

From the "Introduction" link on the main page:

From dance to data to objects, Sychronous Objects reveals the interlocking systems of organization in the choreography of William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced (2000). Those systems were quantified through the collection of data and transformed into a series of objects--sychronous objects--that work in harmony to explore those choreographic structures, reveal their patterns, and reimagine what else they might look like. Our goal in creating these objects is to engage a broad public, explore cross-disciplinary research, and spur creative discovery for specialists and non-specialists alike.



#27 SandyMcKean

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 01:08 PM

Thank you Tutu......I haven't figured out exactly what this is, but it looks very interesting.........especially to a OFTR nut like me.


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