researcher33

PAMTGG

60 posts in this topic

Dare we assume--or must we pray--that no company has the chutzpah to bring back Balanchine's PAMTGG?

Jack

researcher 33

Share this post


Link to post

Compared to what has happened in the last 25 years, it may seem like a great lost masterpiece!

Share this post


Link to post

The couple of performances I saw years ago when Balanchine's company was at Ravinia, the Chicago Symphony's "summer home" didn't impress me overall, although the way a dancer, stretched out horizontally, could be passed smoothly and efficiently in rising and falling swoops across the stage by the corps, contributed to my increasing perception that dancers can do just about anything. In this instance though, as I've implied, there was the question of why they were doing it...

Then there was the stage decor, great piles of Lucite luggage, said at the time to be really expensive.

Somewhere in the two-hour Balanchine documentary shown on PBS we hear him say of his ballets, "Some of them weren't so good. I knew they weren't." But he doesn't identify any, and I would hope the resources that it would take to revive this would be spent in more worthwhile ways.

Share this post


Link to post
Compared to what has happened in the last 25 years, it may seem like a great lost masterpiece!

Funny idea.

Didn't the Stravinsky festival come shortly after PAMTGG?

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, the first Stravinsky Festival was 1972. Stravinsky died in 1971. From the Company Repertory Index:

PAMTGG (Pan Am Makes the Going Great)

Music

by Roger Kellaway

Choreography

George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

Premiere

June 17, 1971, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater

Original Cast

Kay Mazzo, Victor Castelli, Karin von Aroldingen, Frank Ohman, Sara Leland, John Clifford

Notice that nothing else is said...... Most people I knew who had seen it just smirked.

Share this post


Link to post

my look at this short-lived creation came early in my NYCB watching career, thus making my recall extra vague - i rem. a somewhat ungainly looking K.v.aroldingen in beads and fringes but also a fleet and impressive young v. castelli - whose choreography included a circuit of dazzling coupe/jetes - also some indication of runways and lighted wands for guiding 'traffic' in and around and off stage.

as has been expressed above, i also suspect that given all that has 'gone down,' so to speak, in the wake of this time, w/ this cast, etc. PAMTGG wouldn't look nearly as frightful as expectation now has it.

what Balanchine could 'shake out of his sleeve' could often dance rings around the hard won efforts of any number of other choreographers.

as clive barnes once noted Balanchine's saying at a press conf. where someone tried to bait him into admitting that Ashton had, in some instance or other, made an incompetent ballet, and i'm paraphrasing what CB recalled for me: 'Mr. Ashton and I make successful and unsuccessful ballets, but we do not make incompetent ones.'

in any case here's the house program cover made of graphics from a photo of von aroldingen.

post-848-1239580503_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post

i've probably said this before, so forgive me please if i did. i didn't see PAMTGG, but was told by a dancer who had been in it that mr. balanchine told them, for the last performance, to wear whatever they wanted of their own clothing for it!

Share this post


Link to post

Re that program cover (thanks yet again, rg), I don't question its authenticity of course, but I do not remember anybody in anything like that! I wonder why? Hmm... (Whew, and Yikes!, both at the same time...)

Share this post


Link to post

well, jack, while i DO rem. this 'look' at the NYSTheater maybe i rem. it from some other ballet? but if so, what other ballet was so dressed?

i don't know that i saw PAMTGG more than two or three times.

here is a scan of a two-page credit rundown detailing PAMTGG casting for Jan. 23, 1972, the season that featured the program cover scanned above. (the scrawled number indcates a change in the program order from that printed on the Playbill's pages.)

post-848-1239676010_thumb.jpg

post-848-1239676989_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post

rg, I'm going Yikes! again because it looks as though you think I doubt your veracity, or something, when I don't, not for a moment! Sorry if you've taken it that way.

What I sought to imply was that the whole sorry business was either something I've efficiently repressed as a sort of traumatic experience -- all those resources, and what result? -- or, more likely, it all just went past me, there being nothing in it I grasped -- nothing I could hold on to -- at the time, possibly because there was nothing there, as I still think, or just possibly because I lacked perception. (Several years before, Emeralds, no less, went past me the first time I looked at it because I hadn't got on to Faure' yet.)

Thanks again for the program scans, it shows the cast was much larger than I remembered, too. No, to reiterate, I accept that the costume picture is true and accurate, I don't challenge that for a moment; my comment was mainly about me, and my reaction to -- or from -- PAMTGG.

Share this post


Link to post

not to worry, Jack, i know your goodwill over the years and regret if my reply seemed to show any dismay toward your post.

i've made plenty of errors in my days and will likely make many more as time marches on.

actually i'm not sure the program's 'graphics' actually identify PAMTAGG as the theme of Matus's design and your query gave me pause, b/c i know you have a keen memory, so it made me wonder if i'd been 'off' here - turns out there is a photo in Repertory in Review, p. 280, w/ von Aroldingen front and center in her fringes and w/ F. Ohman in the background looking equally hippie-ish - so it seems this confirms the fact that this odd costuming is certainly from PAMTAGG. (as we have seen, Kirstein's prog. note makes no mention of the hippie factor to Sharaff's designs.)

so, challenge away when you sense anything off the mark - how else will we keep on our toes.

Share this post


Link to post
in any case here's the house program cover made of graphics from a photo of von aroldingen.

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this groovy image; I had never seen it, and it really made my day!

Share this post


Link to post

Hadn't ever heard of PAMTGG before BalletTalk, but a little Google turned up this review from Time Magazine:

Priceless line: "If nothing else. PAMTGG leads one to wonder what kind of magic he might work if his fancy were caught by a roller derby or a pro football game."

Share this post


Link to post

Time:

Except if it was choreographed by George Balanchine, a genius who can design, with seemingly equal facility, enduring masterpieces or tremendous trifles.

The Time PAMTGG review shows the magazine at its Henry Luce era snippiest. It's a sort of "balanced" reporting (it implies a 50/50 split in Balanchine's production) that has somewhat migrated to the Economist, with its own "silkily arrogant tone" (the novelist Pankaj Mishra's characterization of the Economist).

Share this post


Link to post

That item brings back the days when ballets were reviewed in Time and Newsweek. <sigh> The search engine is a treasure trove. From that particular review, I liked this: "For all its frivolity, PAMTGG does display, once more, Balanchine's uncanny skill at catching the aesthetic potential in America's mass culture and at fusing pop dance with ballet. Slightly dated in its style, the dancing of PAMTGG seems to have been inspired by the sort of mock ballet once seen on the Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason shows. Somehow Balanchine can create grace out of tackiness and art out of kitsch." I think this is a quality that Balanchine shared with those other greats of the 20th century: Stravinsky, Picasso, Hitchcock...

Share this post


Link to post

I'm surprised at how respectful the Time review is -- certainly not a rave, but not an outright pan either. My impression was that PAMTGG was generally regarded as rock bottom for Balanchine following Farrell's marriage and European exile. I saw it but remember little about it. A revival would seem unlikely however, since this most kindly of reviewers already found it "slightly dated" at its premiere.

Share this post


Link to post
I'm surprised at how respectful the Time review is -- certainly not a rave, but not an outright pan either. My impression was that PAMTGG was generally regarded as rock bottom for Balanchine following Farrell's marriage and European exile.

:wub: That makes me wonder, did generalist magazines like Time and Newsweek ever seriously pan a ballet, or did they just alert their readers to what the ballet world considered most noteworthy? I guess that's another way of asking if they ever published serious criticism.

Share this post


Link to post

I was trying to find a link to the Martha Swope photo of Karin von Aroldingen (short fringed costume, band around her forehead) and Frank Ohman (long hair, head band, fringed vest, fringe at the bottom of his jeans). It's reproduced in Repertory in Review.

I couldn't find the photo online, so the following will have to do.

http://www.nycballet.com/uploadedimages/Co...tes/pamtagg.jpg

Was American styhle ever wierder or less attractive sense than in the late 60s-early 70s?

As for the wit and the social commentary of the piece: nothing is so cringe-making as looking at the "hip" as imagined and put on stage by the profoundly un-hip.

I actually remember the feeling of embarassment (for the dancers primarily) I felt when I got up from my seat at the end. It's the only work by Balanchine that I've ever felt that about. It's also the only Balanchine piece I have chosen sit out (remaining in the lobby) when it showed up on future programs.

Edited to add: Just had another flashback. It looked and felt like it was influenced by Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, then at the top of its popularity. Not to mention a little nod to the middle-class urbanites of Sondheim's Company, which I believe was playing on Broadway at the same time..

Share this post


Link to post
what Balanchine could 'shake out of his sleeve'

Here's some of the B.H. Haggin review of PAMTGG (and some of his Chopiniana thoughts) from the Summer 1972 Hudson Review. I generally find Haggin uneven, but here he does give a closer look to the work than the Time or the Barnes NYT accounts do:

I can offer no explanation of Balanchine’s basing a ballet on a Pan Am radio jingle and his using bad music by Roger Kellaway and ugly costumes of Irene Sharaff...[however] it doesn’t deserve the bad treatment it got from Clive Barnes...Harris Green mentioned the costume which made Karin van Aroldingen “look particularly ghastly” but “liked her pas de deux with Ohman”...I discovered that the ensemble of badly costumed airline pilots, stewardesses and ground crews provided a context for three pas de deux of the soloists--the classical pas de deux of Gelsey Kirkland and Earle Sieverling; the powerful night-club-style number, to a blues, of von Aroldingen and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous; and the fast and tricky Latin-American-stye number of Sara Leland and John Clifford; and while the ensembles were a mere competent filling out of time, the pas de deux show the unique Balanchine powers of invention for a girl and boy dancing together to be undiminshed. All three were excellent in their different ways; and the second was outstanding.

Nor--to come to this year’s new productions--do I understand Balanchine’s staging of Fokine’s Chopiniana in the way he did. Ther occurs to me the sttement attributed to Hindemith--that music had a face; and if one didn’t like it one shouldn’t play it; but if one played it one shouldn’t change it...Chopiniana raised such questions: why Masso was assigned to a role which required her to do what she had clearly demonstrated in Diamonds and Don Quixote which she could not do; and why the role not given to the dancer who had repeatedly demonstrated in breathtaking fashion her ability to do the very thing Masso couldn’t do--Violet Verdy...

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for that quote, Quiggin.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't remember where my copy of Haggin's Hudson Review article is, but if I remember correctly, I saw Chopiniana at Saratoga, where the novel costuming, with something like white tunics for the women, instead of the traditional sylph costume, with the little wings at the back; novel lighting, the bright, warm sunlight of high noon instead of pale, cool moonlight; and even novel makeup, or lack of it, some of the girls looking sun-tanned (it was summer) seemed oddly juxtaposed with the qualities of movement and sound, even though I don't think I'd yet seen Les Sylphides, as it was usually called, on stage by then.

When I read what Haggin had to say, I thought this redesign, more than the casting, was what he was referring to, although I don't question his judgement about the casting either. But this is OT. He sure got more out of PAMTGG than I did, but he had a few decades on me, along with the abilities of a musician, and the analytical and descriptive way he wrote, as in this example, remind me how I learned from his writing. So, my thanks too, Quiggin!

Share this post


Link to post

Given the Transport Security procedures of today, the clear plexiglas "luggage" from this production could be revived and marketed by the Friends boutique. It would save time at airports, perhaps demonstrating that you have nothing to hide. Just make sure that you have very attractive underwear packed in there. :wink:

I saw this thing in its first season while I was on leave from USAF service, and had just gotten back from a stint in Vietnam. A good thing, as I needed a good laugh.

Share this post


Link to post
Given the Transport Security procedures of today, the clear plexiglas "luggage" from this production could be revived and marketed by the Friends boutique. It would save time at airports, perhaps demonstrating that you have nothing to hide. Just make sure that you have very attractive underwear packed in there. :wink:

And eventually we will all travel stark naked, all the better to make sure we aren't carrying 3.5 ounces of liquid soap.

Share this post


Link to post
And eventually we will all travel stark naked, all the better to make sure we aren't carrying 3.5 ounces of liquid soap.

It would be a lot easier.

Olympic security was great: laptops stayed in bags and went through xray, liquids were ignored except for personal water bottles, from which people were asked to take a drink, shoes stayed on, and coats need only be opened if they weren't put through xray. People did have to remove belts, though, which led to some interesting episodes when the belt-less had to hold out their arms to be wanded.

Food and beverages brought in were confiscated, but that was due to the "No outside food" rule, although in some venues, unopened water bottles and sealed food was allowed.

Share this post


Link to post