Director's Choice: Casting and ReviewsDances at a Gathering, After the Rain PDD, Symphony in C
Posted 19 May 2009 - 04:23 PM
Everyone's new, for PNB at least, in "Dances at a Gathering" and "After the Rain Pas de Deux". Korbes/Bold share the latter with Nadeau/Stanton and Chapman/Cruz, pretty much as varied as is gets. Same with Postlewaite and Moore as Boy in Brown and Nakamura and Weese in Girl in Pink. Korbes (2nd), Gilbreath (2nd!), and Rausch (4th) make their debuts in "Symphony in C".
I hope the Saturday matinee cast dances the second Thursday or Friday; I had to give up this subscription performance for a road trip. (What, me, greedy?)
In preparation for the program, here is a short clip from the PNB website of Korbes and Bold in excerpts from "After the Rain":
(It's also on YouTube.)
Here are more YouTube clips:
Boy in Brown:
Manuel Legris (the recently retired Paris Opera Ballet etoile, from 1991)
Girl in Green:
Retired POB Etoile Isabelle Guerin (Girl in Green) in rehearsal with Violette Verdy (from the film "Violette et M. B."):
Royal Ballet Principal Lauren Cuthbertson talks about her role, Girl in Green, starting at 4'20"
A little promotional clip of NYCB Principal Megan Fairchild talking about DaaG:
From Remembering Jerome Robbins Project:
From about 2" Mazzo talks about the creation of "Dances at a Gathering"
Robert La Fosse
Not part of the series, but the ever-stunning
Posted 19 May 2009 - 04:59 PM
Posted 19 May 2009 - 07:44 PM
I was at part of a rehearsal today, and from what I could see, it's looking very lovely.
Posted 27 May 2009 - 02:24 PM
Posted 27 May 2009 - 08:30 PM
Posted 28 May 2009 - 11:27 PM
I loved everyone in "Dances at a Gathering", which was, according to Peter Boal in tonight's Q&A, staged in two parts, once in November by Susan Hendl and Ben Huys, and then again recently by Huys. Louise Nadeau as Girl in Green was delightful. Her "What's wrong with you, dude?" look at Karel Cruz (Boy in Green) was priceless, and it was wonderful to see what she did with her eyes and her impeccable comic timing. Mara Vinson, who was scheduled to make her debut on Saturday afternoon, replaced an injured Carla Korbes (per Boal in the Q&A, to her rib), and took to Robbins like a fish to water, dancing with the most abandon I've seen from her as Girl in Mauve. Sarah Ricard Orza gave a rare richness, at least in my experience, to Girl in Blue. Seth Orza looked right at home in Boy in Purple, moving with a bit more freedom in his head and shoulders and giving a powerful performance in the role. Jordan Pacitti's port de bras and epaulement in the "throwing" sextet were exquisite, and he made several great catches as well. Jonathan Porretta as Boy in Brick was luxury casting of the highest order; it was a privilege to see him in this role.
Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite, so fine on their own, have such great chemistry, that the original pas de deux in the ballet between Girl in Pink and Boy in Brown was the emotional center of the work. I don't know of any dancer who portrays quiet ecstasy better than he. Another relationship that showed hints of spark were Chalnessa Eames and Orza, and he and Vinson looked more comfortable than earlier in the season in "Jewels".
It's been a while since I've seen Chalnessa Eames cast in a role in which she could sink her teeth, but as Girl in Apricot, Eames danced with a combination of speed and clarity and softness and elegance, and she lit up the stage.
Allan Dameron's interpretation of the piano pieces was lovely.
Maria Chapman also made an early debut in Christopher Wheeldon's "After the Rain Pas de Deux", replacing Korbes; she danced with Korbes' partner Batkhurel Bold. (According to Boal, they had their first rehearsal together at 2pm this afternoon.) Although a very different dancer than the roles creator, Jock Soto, as a partner, he has Soto's muscular groundedness and virility. Their performance was very moving; I don't know how Wendy Whelan could bear to let Soto go. Tom Dziekonski (violin) and Christina Siemens (piano) who played the Part score, were superb.
In "Symphony in C", Carrie Imler in the First Movement and the finale, showed the essence of each movement and step. Nadeau's performance in the Second Movement was thrilling. Nakamura and Porretta were light and sprightly in Third Movement, and Mara Vinson was especially fine in the Fourth Movement. Liora Reshef's port de bras was lovely in the Second Movement corps role, as were Lesley Rausch's open neck and shoulders as a First Movement demi-soloist. Jerome Tisserand's elegance telegraphed from the back of the stage as he partnered Rachel Foster as a Second Movement demi-soloist, and his carriage and upper body were splendid.
Lucien Postlewaite was the guest in the post-performance Q&A. He recounted that at 13 he thought of quitting ballet, but his parents told him that since they had paid for his tuition for the coming year, he could quit if he had the money to pay them back. Which he didn't, and he continued, which is very lucky for us. Also lucky is that Peter Boal patiently calmed his parents' fears about him moving to NYC to study at SAB.
Boal announced that Postlewaite would be performing at Bumbershoot on Labor Day. Postlewaite explained that it will be a piece choreographed by Olivier Wevers and which he will be dancing with Jonathan Porretta, whose part was made on Charlie Hodges, who had guested with PNB in "Afternoon Ball" in the season opening "All-Tharp" program.
Boal also said that Korbes is playing her return by ear.
Posted 29 May 2009 - 08:55 AM
Posted 29 May 2009 - 11:20 PM
The performance started with a technical glitch, with the house lights going to half, and the audience chattering away. Poor Allan Dameron, the pianist: his mind ready to start, only to sit at the piano for minutes before whatever happened was resolved, and then having to re-focus. Luckily the audience energy carried through to the performance, not typical of Fridays. If anything, it was a bit too quick to applaud in the middle of the more technical variations, but better that than sitting like corpses.
The work itself was performed with just a little more energy and freedom than last night, and the power it gave it was exponential: it clicked perfectly and the overall chemistry onstage was magic.
In everything she's been dancing, Kaori Nakamura has been taking control of her performances, no matter what is thrown at her, and one result is that she makes every man she dances with look like a prince of a partner. That kind of command and artistry transcends any official rank.
It was hard not to think of Nadeau's upcoming retirement when she danced "After the Rain Pas de Deux", partnered by Jeffrey Stanton. There was little sense of loss in her performance; instead, it was one of exploration, with Stanton there to enable it for her.
That quality in Stanton was perfect for "Symphony in C" Second Movement, in which he was a last-minute substitution for Karel Cruz, with a very quick costume change during the pause between the Wheeldon and Balanchine and the First Movement. While I expected Chapman to have grown in confidence and strength since she first did the role in 2004, to have danced so beautifully in place of the injured Carla Korbes for the second night in a row, with her second last-minute partnership in two days, was an extraordinary accomplishment, and Stanton's rock solid partnering and the care he showed for his ballerina was exemplary.
Nakamura reprised Third Movement with Benjamin Griffiths in a gripping performance. (In the Q&A Boal told us how Chalnessa Eames, with Griffiths a Q&A guest, was originally cast in the role, but because one of the demis in First Movement was ill, she had to give up the Third Movement lead.) Miranda Weese's dancing as the lead in First Movement was full of joy and musicality, and, particularly from the waist up, her movement was expansive. Her partner Batkhurel Bold looked tentative in the virtuosic sections. In the Q&A an audience member asked if the dancers thought about 1947 Paris when dancing the work; neither did, and maybe Lesley Rausch didn't either, but her dancing in Fourth Movement made clear why the original title had "crystal" in it.
Yet, as a whole, despite beautiful individual performances, there seemed to be a little bit missing that was present in last night's performance. But there are six more to go.
Posted 31 May 2009 - 08:02 AM
Central to the change was Miranda Weese's Girl in Pink. Her dancing was earthbound, and she was the anchor. With James Moore's Boy in Brown, she was playful, and as a result, the central/original pas de deux was lighter and more affectionate. The drama was in the pas de deux with Boy in Mauve, here Batkhurel Bold, in the center of the penultimate Scherzo (Op. 20), and when the music changed, and they separated, the self-conscious sense that they had crossed a line unexpectedly was palpable, even before they expressed it in gesture.
Bold is an unusual dancer, in that he is tall and muscular and his movement is plush and virile, until he is mid-air in a jete; there without appearing weightless, he looks as if he can hang in the air forever, much like the diver Greg Louganis. He was "on" in "Dances" yesterday. He and James Moore were funny and brilliant in the Two Boys section. (In the Q&A on Thursday, Boal said that Jerome Robbins described this as "Bulldog and Terrier", but neither Postlewaite [Thurs and Fri] nor Moore were remotely terrier-like, and it's hard to imagine that Villella, the originator of Boy in Brown was. I prefer to think of it as "Big Bro/Little Bro".) Like Legris and Valastro in the YouTube clips, Postlewaite and Moore gave very different emphasis to Boy in Brown, and Moore's was the more muscular and grounded.
Jodie Thomas debuted in Girl in Apricot, and the qualities that Francia Russell and Kent Stowell described in the "Bon Voyage" insert -- "petite, fair beauty, dazzling smile and wit, and quick clear technique...grace, charm and musicality" -- were embodied in her performance. Her crispness contrasted with Benjamin Griffiths' juiciness as Boy in Brick. Olivier Wevers, like Karel Cruz (Thurs, Fri), danced the happy role of Boy in Green with humor and grace. Rachel Foster was a light youngest sister in the Foster/Weese/Vinson trio.
Vinson is a natural soloist -- in the sense of role, not rank -- and her dramatic solo as Girl in Mauve had all of the makings of a Juliette. For me, she's less convincing in partner work: no matter how experienced the partner, it too often looks like work to me, especially when it looks easier with their other partners. "Dances at a Gathering", with its perpetual partner shifts, affords immediate contrasts.
In "After the Rain Pas de Deux", Maria Chapman danced with her original partner, Karel Cruz, and while her performance with Bold on Thursday was very moving, it was even more powerful with Cruz, with whom she has great chemistry. The ease with which they did the turning overhead lifts to upstage right made it look like she was floating in space.
In first time appearances this season in "Symphony in C" Jodie Thomas and Lucien Postlewaite were bright in First Movement, and it was lovely to see the male solos fully realized. I had forgotten than Laura Gilbreath, like Maria Chapman, had danced the Second Movement in Russell/Stowell's last season (2004), and she, too, reprised it this season. (I think it's great that dancers are given chances half a decade apart.) It was a heroic attempt and quite daring, leading to a couple of strong saves, and Gilbreath's long legs are ravishing in the continuous supported arabesques of all types. Gilbreath was also strong in the allegro section of the Fourth Movement. Carrie Imler danced Third Movement with Jonathan Porretta, and she cut him no slack, matching his jumps, and almost diving into the movement-ending arabesque with wonderful abandon. It was a great performance.
There have been many substitutions this week, and at the Q&A, Boal was holding a small note, which he said was a list of dancers he had to call before the evening performance, since there have been a number of injuries. Some were announced, like Leah O'Connor replacing Lindsi Dec as a demi in Third Movement; since Dec danced in the corps, I'm assuming this was part of a multiple substitution. Eric Hippolito Jr. once again replaced Sokvannara Sar as a Fourth Movement demi, and unannounced was Josh Spell replacing Kiyon Gaines as a First Movement demi. When speaking about the retirements, someone asked how big the company would be next year. Boal said that while it will be a little smaller, it was impossible to do large ballets like "Symphony in C" with fewer than 50 -- there are 45 + 6 apprentices now -- given that there will need to be substitutions. With three full-lengths in addition to "Nutcracker" on next year's schedule, it seems to me that it's a no-brainer that the trade-off for the revenue-generators is a larger company. Boal also mentioned that while he did hold auditions this year, he is also interested in dancers from the school as well, and, I hope, some of the apprentices will be offered company contracts, with four dancers leaving/retiring, since it's been a bumper crop this year.
While if he told us which dancers would be cast in the season opening "Romeo et Juliette", he would have to kill us, Boal did say that Carla Korbes, who was originally cast for Juliette last year (but had to withdraw due to injury) would be cast, as well as both Romeos from the original run, Lucien Postlewaite and James Moore, and there will be more.
I wish I could remember all four pieces that Boal said would be performed at the Bagley Wright Theater on Labor Day at Bumbershoot, but I do remember "Mopey", "Vespers" (I think), and a new Wevers piece for Postlewaite and Porretta.
Laura Gilbreath was the guest at the Q&A, and she had nothing but praise for partner Stanko Milov. She said that he told her that his job was to present her, and that she should never worry about what he was doing. In response to a question about whether it was difficult to be partnered by dancers shorter than she, Gilbreath said that while a lot shorter would be hard in some moves like finger turn pirouettes, in general, it's a matter of working out how to hold herself to support her partner. She also said that at 5'10" she's the shrimp of her family: her parents are 6' and 6'2", and she has a 6'9" brother. She mentioned working very hard on her shoulders and arms -- someone had complimented her on her arms -- since as a tall dancer, her tendency was to hunch (she demonstrated). PNB has a number of quite tall women, and it's great that they can all stand tall.
Did anyone see any of these performances or last night's? Please tell us what you thought. I'm hoping we can read sandik's review -- I hope "Seattle Weekly" -- very soon.
Posted 01 June 2009 - 10:47 AM
And what a great program! How fun to see so many principals and soloists all in the same program!
Dances at a Gathering: The 14 year old ballet student I brought with me who had never seen a PNB performance was most impressed with Jodie Thomas who stepped into Apricot girl for Chalnessa Eames, and Lucien Postlewaite who danced brown. I thought Miranda Weese brought a great personality to green girl. I'm sure everyone has known that type of pestering flirt. Mara Vinson showed more personality in mauve girl than I've ever remembered seeing in her other roles, and I loved the way her legs just seemed to get longer and longer during each développé and arabesque. But my eyes were most drawn to Sarah Ricard Orza, blue girl. She had a young, innocent quality with such fluid, delicate movements. For the men, I expected Jonathan Poretta (brick) to be the one I would watch, but it was Seth Orza (purple) for me. He was powerful, but tender. Karel Cruz (green) seemed happy, like he was having so much fun. To be honest, I didn't even notice Jordan Pacitti (blue) was in it until the very end, which surprised me because he has been so amazing in the last couple of programs I've seen. Kaori Nakamura danced pink girl with a fun energy. I loved how the choreography had the girls exiting in some odd positions -- upside down, diving offstage, etc. It was fun.
After the Rain PDD: We had Rachel Foster and James Moore. This was the favorite dance of all 3 teens that were with me. Although I thought it was amazing, I'm afraid that I still wondered what it would have been like if Carla Korbes hadn't been injured. Rachel is so muscular, but Carla has a more womanly and feminine quality that I think would have been nice in that piece. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm taking anything away from Rachel Foster, because she was excellent.
Symphony in C: I can't even begin to tell all of the substitutions, but for the lead roles 1st Movement stayed Carrie Imler/Stanko Milov, 2nd movement stayed Louise Nadeau/Olivier Wevers, 3rd Movement became Kaori Nakamura/Benjamin Griffiths, 4th Movement stayed Mara Vinson/Seth Orza, I think. My favorite part of this was all of the corps work. Wow! They were so well synchronized! It was a thing of beauty! Once again, my eyes were drawn to Sarah Ricard Orza, who danced one of the pairs on the side. At one point they did penchée arabesques, and Sarah Ricard Orza's was so long and straight and pointing straight up. It was gorgeous. And how fun to have all of those principals on stage dancing together side-by-side surrounded by a whole corps. Spectacular! I would love to see this piece several times. There is just so much to see!
Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:54 AM
Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:57 PM
It didn't help that I couldn't stand most of the Chopin.
Since then I've learned to like, even love, a lot of Chopin, and the first time I simply loved it was when I went back to NYC and saw a random NYCB performance. I was a bit afraid this time with PNB, especially since I had to drink several cups of coffee to be sure I'd be awake. (That would have been equally true for "Stars and Stripes".) I was surprised how much I felt the same after three in a row, and am looking forward to seeing it twice again later in the week. I now suspect that turning the corner with the score made me turn the corner with the ballet.
I took a long, long time to get there, and I wouldn't have bothered, had there not been other things I wanted to see on the NYCB programs.
I suspect if you felt Nadeau was too broad, you would have liked Miranda Weese better in the role.
Edited to add: The length is to an extent Balanchine's fault: it was originally the pas de deux between Boy in Brown and Girl in Pink, and Balanchine reportedly peeked into the studio and told Robbins to keep going. It wouldn't be the first time that Robbins didn't know when to stop, but I was thinking the other night that I'm not sure which parts I'd cut. Boys in Brown will hate me for this, but the only thing I could think of was the second solo, which I wish was given to Boy in Brick, if it has to be there. I feel the same way about Balanchine's "Who Cares?" -- too long, but what to cut?
Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:28 AM
I took a little shorter than Helene to love this work.....like 10 seconds!
Any suggestions for a second look? Do the regulars here find this work consistently interesting? If so, how do you think it succeeds?
Seriously, I loved, loved, loved this ballet from the first moments. OTOH, like Helene, it probably took me many years to get there. Altho I've been going to ballet for decades, it has only been in the last 6 or 7 years that I have really paid close attention, and allowed myself to become a bit obsessed with it. I can't know for sure of course, but my guess is that 10 or more years ago I would not have liked this ballet. I wanted excitement and bravura from ballet in those days. Today I am finally in the place where the exquisite beauty and subtly of "Dances at a Gathering" register with me.
Last Friday was my first ever "Dances". My experience of it reflects Helene's comments since for me it totally flows out of the music (no wonder Balanchine liked what Robbins was doing!). I like Chopin so that helps. Indeed, given both my and Helene's experiences past and present, whether you love or dislike this ballet may depend on your relationship to the music. For me I found endless emotions in the music quite independent of the dance. In fact, I think I got nearly all the emotion and feeling from the music: joyful humor one minute, sad reflection the next, followed by tender love the next. I distinctly remember sitting there having these waves of emotion flow over me realizing the those feelings were coming directly from hearing the music with my ears (and Allan Dameron's insightful playing of the piano), and at the same moments seeing incredible beauty with my eyes as I watched the dancers. What made "Dances" one of my most treasured ballet experiences was how the music and the dance were in separate realms, so to speak, but so intimately connected in what I can only call "artistic unity". I would be remiss if I didn't also add to this time-stopping marriage of music and movement, the deeply felt insight into humanity that Robbins always seems to find: be it in "Dances", or "The Concert", or "In the Night". IMO, no American-based choreographer has his dancers reflect the "every day" human being like Robbins. Add to that his impeccable humor for the human condition (which strangely reminds me of the absurdist humor of Beckett or Stoppard).
Last Friday, watching this piece, I felt I was in the presence of genius. I don't feel that very often (except for almost anything Balanchine). I just sat there in awe. It took me 10 seconds or more after the curtain fell to even start to clap. Of course great credit must go to the dancers themselves. It is clear to me that if even 1 or 2 of the required 10 dancers were "not up to par", this work would fall flat. Probably one of the most amazing elements of the performance I saw was the universally high quality of the dance, and perhaps even more important, the high standard of acting. Seeing "Dances" made me very, very proud of this company.
To answer your question directly......I loved this piece and consider it a true masterpiece among hundreds of ballets I have seen in over 40 years of watching. Why? It has more to do with my heart than my brain. It is that marriage of music and movement. It is the humanity of the ballet -- that I suspect would be as fresh 200 years from now as it is today. It is the sheer beauty of movement coupled with the ubiquitous feeling of remembrance with which Robbins infused the work. It is because Robbins elevated my appreciation for Chopin in just one hour. It is the opportunity to see incredibly skilled and seasoned dancers work together in an ensemble with full mutual respect that I just don't remember any other piece of ballet demanding as "Dances" does. That's it for me: the piece allows the dancers to dance at the peak of their ability while at the same time to be in such strong relationship with each other that only artists of this caliber have a hope of pulling it off. This piece creates a "team" of mutual respect on a very human level that I don't think I've ever seen before in ballet.
P.S. I do understand the reaction of "Dances" being too long. I will say that it was not too long for me. Perhaps it could be if it didn't change so often (well, it's really the mood of the music that changes so often). I did occasionally start to get a little bored in the 2nd half, but almost as soon as that started to occur, the music would go into a minor key, or in some other way, transform the basic human emotion of the music/dance. This mood change would often be coupled with Robbins changing the dancers on stage, and I was right back into the piece -- excited and moved once again at a very high level. That Robbins could have found so many ways to create interest and variety was amazing to me (of course he had Chopin's ever changing music to inspire him).
Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:30 PM
I went to two of the question and answer sessions led by Peter Boal, following the performances. I believe every seat was filled. I was impressed with Mr. Boal's down-to-earth casualness, and his sense of humor. He really knows how to connect with the audience. No wonder there are so many supporters of the ballet in Seattle! I was also struck by the people asking Mr. Boal questions. I never thought I'd hear men asking questions as to why a piroette is turned to the left by one dancer, and to the right by another! Talk about attention to detail! Not to mention, the pointe shoe and "good feet" questions. What a sophistocated group!
I completely enjoyed every performance and every moment. As I left Seattle, (on my Red-Eye Flight back home), I was filled with the memories of the ballet, and the quality of the dancing. I highly recommend Director's Choice. I promise you will not be dissapointed.
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