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Kennedy Center Spring Gala, 3rd May 2009"Women in the Arts" Linda Sims, Suzanne Farrell, Veronika Part


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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 07:25 AM

(from Washington, DC) At the annual Kennedy Center Spring Gala performance, "A Celebration of Women in the Arts", on Sunday evening the 3rd of May in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the three dancers were my favorites: In order of appearance, they were Linda Celeste Sims of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Suzanne Farrell, and Veronika Part of ABT.

Sims, introduced by Judith Jamison, performed part three of Ailey's Cry, and I had my usual reaction to Ailey company performances, that the dancers -- or dancer, in this case -- were underutilized by what they were doing. That said, she seemed to give this dance exactly what it needed: Plenty, but not too much.

Farrell was present to introduce Part, who performed the Fokine Dying Swan, and I thought her remarks as one of many introducers of the evening were easily the most intelligent and by no coincidence, she was the most beautifully dressed (in a coat ornamented oriental-style, as far as I could see from row W, over medium-gray slacks that suggested satin drapery; links in Post #9, below).

And I can't figure out why I was surprised! I guess it was just the habitual naivete which serves me well in the theatre, making it easier for me than for some to suspend disbelief and to let the performance have its way with me. (Actually, speaking of naivete, I had come expecting to see Farrell receive tribute, as I think she deserves, rather than give it, and so I underestimated her generosity of spirit.)

Maybe her own text will appear on the Kennedy Center website as one of her occasional "Notes from the Ballet". Meanwhile, here's a taste of what she said. As usual, the goodness and the truth of it are hers, the blurs and smudges are mine:


Ballet began in the court of Louis XIV as an entitlement of aristocracy, and dance makers were men, though their inspirations were a swan, a sylph and a Sleeping Beauty. Ballet had to grow up...

In music, the notes don't change; and words are written down, too. But choreography is subject to variables... Dancers are their own technology, their own instruments. That dance is fragile makes us strong. [I.e. we carry choreography in our bodies.]

Balanchine was feminist before it was fashionable, putting women on pedestals some criticized for limited room, but no one on his pedestals has ever complained.

[The way she refutes* this judgement formula of stale feminism in favor of the fresh and immediate view of the women themselves, invoking in other words, the progressive and democratic principle that people are their own best judges of their situations, in a couple of passing sentences just puts me the more in awe of this woman.]

Every dancer is built of those before, a bridge from the past to a foothold in the present.

Veronika Part will be a principal at American Ballet Theatre.

Oscar Wilde said memory is a photo album we all carry, but I say live performance is a mirror to reality and imagination.

[And then at the very end, Farrell used the word "apparition" in introducing Part's performance, but my notes are unclear here.]


Part's performance of this old solo -- I wondered whether Part's choice gave Farrell some direction in her remarks, about the fragile relation of choreography past to present, but she didn't say this explicitly -- was pretty impeccable, although I thought the swan's death came a little abruptly this time, like a final exhalation, at the end, without being developed. I think I can remember a clip of Pavlova, who makes the number more pathetic by letting us see the end coming, not that I would want to see Part -- or anyone -- show us an imitation of anything. In contrast to the bright white light Sims got, Part was tritely lit in dimmer blue light but not so much dimmer as to interfere with seeing her.

The rest of the evening was not for me, really. Midori played what had to be the last movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto, although the program had it as "Movement I" (the National Symphony Orchestra was conducted throughout the evening by JoAnn Falletta), and I thought that something less "impressive" and off-putting but more immediately engaging and charming, like the Tchaikovsky concerto, might have been a better classical choice for this audience, which, following Part's performance, got to its feet for a histrionic display by Patti LaBelle, including her throwing a microphone stand half way across the stage, whose focus (if any) went right by me, so I was very much the odd one out, outside the event, and essentially unmoved. Nor did some raunchy language by some other performers do much to offer me a world to visit from this daily one.

Lots of women in this "Celebration", and bless 'em, but a little short on the "Arts"? This show was open to the public, but primarily for those who contribute support for the Kennedy Center. Is there some sociological conclusion to draw here? Strolling the River Terrace during intermission in Saturday evening's performance of Haydn's oratorio The Creation, I read again some of the words of President Kennedy cut into the stone of the west wall of the building: "I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty." It's been nearly half a century since he said that.


*Originally I had Farrell "brushing aside" this formula, but that usually means something like ignoring without answering, not at all what she did.

Edited by Jack Reed, 13 May 2009 - 10:16 AM.


#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 08:50 AM

Thanks for this excellent report, Jack. The word "genius" is too easily tossed around in our society, but I think it is certainly merited by Suzanne Farrell.

#3 kfw

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 10:43 AM

Jack, that was thoroughly enjoyable; thank you. Would that Part would appear with Farrell's troupe at the center next March! Perhaps in Afternoon of a Faun? We can dream.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 10:57 AM

Thank you, Jack. Well, how appropriate that Veronika Part should be featured in this Kennedy Center Gala -- the theater where she gave a landmark performance of SWAN LAKE that may very well have 'sealed the deal' for her promotion.

#5 bingham

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 12:32 PM

I hope and pray that Suzanne gave Veronika some tips on her forthcoming performances in "Mozartiana" at the Met. :wallbash: :beg: :beg:

#6 Dale

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 12:46 PM

I hope and pray that Suzanne gave Veronika some tips on her forthcoming performances in "Mozartiana" at the Met. :wallbash: :beg: :beg:


I was thinking the same thing, bingham. Part has performed several roles Farrell created or performed (Mozartiana, Diamonds, Symphony in C). It would be nice if they spoke of these things. Thank you, Jack, for the report.

#7 bingham

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 01:57 PM

I hope and pray that Suzanne gave Veronika some tips on her forthcoming performances in "Mozartiana" at the Met. :wallbash: :beg: :beg:


I was thinking the same thing, bingham. Part has performed several roles Farrell created or performed (Mozartiana, Diamonds, Symphony in C). It would be nice if they spoke of these things. Thank you, Jack, for the report.


Dale, i forgot that Veronika did S in C, when she was new at ABT( not very well received if i remember correctly).Maybe, it's time for ABT to revive the ballet for her.

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 05:40 PM

You're all quite welcome.

With regard to Farrell Fan's remark, I thought of it this afternoon when I visited the studios of Ballet Chicago -- run by Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair -- and read one of the mottos placed over the doors to the studios, because I think it applies to Farrell particularly. In typical, compressed, lecture-notes style, it's attributed to Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

#9 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 06:49 PM

The Winnipeg Sun has a slide show up:

http://www.winnipegs...04/9344706.html

Slides 3, 8 and 9 show the final applause-taking (with Farrell second from left), and, from earlier in the show, Sims's and Part's performances, respectively.


Here's a better shot from the end, from the Washington Times:

http://washingtontim...9/may/05/43832/

#10 Farrell Fan

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 09:02 AM

The Washington Times photo is especially better of Suzanne; thanks Jack. :)


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