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Morphoses 2009 season


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#16 Quiggin

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 08:50 PM

Many of his ballets are unremarkable and some are plain dull. And some of his better things are performed better by other companies. (San Francisco Ballet as an example). And I can't see him taking on the mantle of Robert Joffrey. Their esthetic just isn't the same.


Wheeldon's ballets are stunning & virtuosic -- especiLly when done by SFBallet and he's just been here and put all the finishing touches in place -- but I can't sY they're wonderful. They don't really develop and I agree with alaistair M that he can't do variation form which is at the heart of ballet -- even Cunningham has maybe a form of it in his wit and Michael Clark Company despite its punky dishelvedness has a nice musicality and fills the stage like a painter does his or her canvas. I can't imagine seeing three W's on one program.

Disclaimer - typed on an iPod touch while hard drive is in shop being replaced. Many happy go lucky defaults -- especially it's / its --must be overridden.

#17 DeborahB

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 04:31 AM

This might be a little bit off topic but I was at the Wendy Whelan evening at City Center (Studio 5) last night (and was lucky enough to ride the elevator up with Chris Wheeldon. I asked him if he was jet lagged -- Morphoses just returned from London on Sunday night -- and he gave me an extremely good natured answer. He is just adorable!)

At one point -- later in the 90 minute program -- Damian Woetzel invited both Alexei Ratmansky, and then Chris, to talk about why they choreographed parts specifically for Wendy. Chris's answer was quite interesting. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially he said that he sees Wendy
in every ballet he choreographs, even if she's not in it.

The evening was delightful. NYCB dancers Tiler Peck, Jared Angle, Philip Neal, Andy Veyette, Megan Fairchild and Philip Neal, as well as David Hallberg (he performed a lovely excerpt from "Apollo" with Wendy), and Matthew Prescott performed short pieces from Wendy's best known ballets. Wendy also danced with Philip, Jared (twice), and David. But the highlight was when Damian -- in street clothes -- took Wendy in his arms and danced for a couple of minutes (from a Balanchine ballet).

Two of the ballets that will be performed by Morphoses (back to the topic!) were also previewed.

It was truly a special event.

#18 carbro

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 02:14 PM

Wheeldon's ballets are stunning & virtuosic -- especiLly when done by SFBallet and he's just been here and put all the finishing touches in place -- but I can't sY they're wonderful. They don't really develop and I agree with alaistair M that he can't do variation form which is at the heart of ballet ...

I think you hit the nail squarely on the head, Quiggin. The early critical praise for Wheeldon, which may well have been intended as encouragement, was read by many as an anointing. He has occasional interesting ideas, but he tends to plunk them into his ballets without taking them anywhere.

His ambition is greater than his talent, and his timing in striking out on his own is just plain unlucky.

...Damian Woetzel invited both Alexei Ratmansky, and then Chris, to talk about why they choreographed parts specifically for Wendy. Chris's answer was quite interesting. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially he said that he sees Wendy
in every ballet he choreographs, even if she's not in it.

As many suspected Balanchine did for Farrell after she'd left. :-)

But the highlight was when Damian -- in street clothes -- took Wendy in his arms and danced for a couple of minutes (from a Balanchine ballet).

Oh, don't be a tease! :wink: Which one?

#19 dirac

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 03:12 PM

The early critical praise for Wheeldon, which may well have been intended as encouragement, was read by many as an anointing.


It was hard to avoid that conclusion, given some of the hosannas with which the advent of Wheeldon was greeted. I did think that Wheeldon was initially overpraised but I also felt for him when the inevitable backlash occurred.

.....his timing in striking out on his own is just plain unlucky.


Couldnít have been worse, in retrospect. But itís possible for the gifted and blessed to learn from tough times and in the long run Wheeldon may profit from the difficult period heís going through now. I'm glad to have been able to see so many of his ballets in San Francisco.

#20 DeborahB

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 04:09 PM

Oh, don't be a tease! :wink: Which one?

______

Oops, sorry! I thought I included it -- Mozartiana!

#21 miliosr

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 04:51 PM

As someone living in Seattle, WA, where we have an excellent local company but don't see much ballet beyond them, I would be thrilled if Wheeldon's company took the Joffrey as their model because the Joffrey toured extensively.

Speaking from 90 miles north of Miami, I agree completely. I'd put in a plug for West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale too, since each has a winter audience that includes many fans -- and financial supporters -- of NYCB and the NYC dance scene in general.


Thank you sandik and bart for identifying a possible niche for Morphoses. As a corollary, I would add that there is a hunger for dance in smaller cities and large college towns. The modern/postmodern/contemporary companies meet this hunger fairly well as they are willing to tour extensively and perform "one night stands". (Suzanne Farrell and her little troupe are actually doing something like this in 2009-10 with visits to the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota.)

Is Wheeldon willing to go down that route, though? If you think about it, he 's led a very charmed life in terms of where he's staged his dances. He started out at the top -- City Ballet -- and has pretty much avoided the small markets ever since. Just this year has seen/will see glamorous stops in Martha's Vineyard and Vail and London and New York. Does he have the stomach to slog it out with other mere mortals in the hinterlands???

Wheeldon for me is a bit of the "same, old, same, old" all the time. Many of his ballets are unremarkable and some are plain dull. For a touring company to succeed you have to offer the audience a bit more than dancers in endless contortions that come to nothing. After seeing the recent "Seven Sonatas" from Alexei Ratmansky at the ABT Fall Season, one can easily distinguish a master ballet maker (Ratmansky) from a choreographer that has been hyped too quickly and from whom we can probably expect very little.


It seems unlikely that Wheeldon will fulfill his original promise (or, more accurately, meet the extravagant claims foisted upon him by overexcited critics.) Sadly for Wheeldon, the current curdled reaction to Morphoses and his current work comes just as Mr. Ratmansky appears to be stealing his thunder as the next, great hope of ballet.

#22 kfw

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 05:30 PM

Oh, don't be a tease! :wink: Which one?

______

Oops, sorry! I thought I included it -- Mozartiana!

In street clothes? And it worked?? I guess that's the power of great choreography.

#23 Helene

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 05:52 PM

Oh, don't be a tease! :wink: Which one?

______

Oops, sorry! I thought I included it -- Mozartiana!

In street clothes? And it worked?? I guess that's the power of great choreography.

And/or a great dancer. In the Delouche film about Monique Lourdieres ("Comme les oiseaux"), there's a scene with Vladimir Vasiliev coaching Lourdieres in "Giselle", in street clothes and black patent leather shoes. It is a dream.

#24 cygneblanc

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 03:32 AM

They will be in Paris in April 2010

http://www.chatelet-...er-wheeldon,421

I have to say that right now, I'm going see to them not because I'm convinced of CW's genius but because of the dancers.

#25 DeborahB

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 03:11 AM

I attended Morphoses program B last night. City Center was packed. Many NYCB dancers -- including 3 of the new NYCB principals (Tyler Angle, Tess Reichlen and Amar Ramasar), and Craig Hall, and Justin Peck, as well as David Hallberg, Damian Woetzel and his wife Heather Watts (I was a big fan of Heather's when she was with NYCB) -- were out in force to support Morphoses.
You know that something is wrong when audience gazing is more fun than the actual ballet program.

I did not love "Continuum" -- a ballet that most of the London reviewers consider one of Chris Wheeldon's finest. However, I will be seeing it again tomorrow; I hope a second viewing will illuminate the ballet. The dancers were uniformly excellent. I especially loved Danielle Rowe,
Rory Hohenstein, Edwaard Liang (who was "the" dancer of the evening in my book. He gets better every year. I do miss him at NYCB), and the
always magnificent, Wendy Whelan.

I loathed (a word I rarely use) "Softy as I leave You." It's little more than a gimmick -- and a bad one at that. It's also a total waste of the
"Goddess" (and if you haven't seen this woman, believe me -- she's that great), Drew Jacoby. Rubi Pronk showed his usual
incredible extensions, but my eye was always drawn to Drew -- even in this trashy (and boring!) ballet.

There's a ballet waiting to get out of "Rhapsody Fantasie." It's crying out for a ballet "editor." Right now it's a lot of starts and stops -- mixed in with some gorgeous dancing. It's also too long. I saw part of this piece at Wendy Whelan's evening at City Center on Monday night --
that seemed to be the best part of the entire ballet. There was also a very good section with three male couples. All the men were good, but Edwaard Liang was brilliant (and I really did like Rory Hohenstein again; He's grown a lot as a dancer in the last year).

As for the women in "Rhapsody Fantaisie, " it was so nice to see the always smiling former NYCB dancer, Carrie Lee Riggins back on the stage.
Danielle Rowe was also good in this ballet, as were Melissa Barak (also formerly of NYCB) and Rachel Sherak. Drew Jacoby was terrific with Rubi Pronk in this piece, but it was the final section with Wendy Whelan that was the heart of this ballet. It had everything in that part that seemed to be missing in so much of the rest of the ballet.

#26 kfw

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 05:05 AM

Thanks for your review, DeborahB. I'd been really looking forward to reading reactions here. Unfortunately Gia Kourlas in the Times didn't think any better of the program the night before. I'm sad for Wheeldon's sake and sad for the art form's sake.

#27 DeborahB

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 05:23 AM

Thanks for your review, DeborahB. I'd been really looking forward to reading reactions here. Unfortunately Gia Kourlas in the Times didn't think any better of the program the night before. I'm sad for Wheeldon's sake and sad for the art form's sake.


It really is worth going kfw, if only to see these dancers (who truly are terrific). And again, I'm going to give "Continuum" another shot tomorrow (I bought tickets long ago). But at City Center prices, it's hard to justify this splurge.

#28 nysusan

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 06:22 AM

Thanks for your review, DeborahB. I'd been really looking forward to reading reactions here. Unfortunately Gia Kourlas in the Times didn't think any better of the program the night before. I'm sad for Wheeldon's sake and sad for the art form's sake.


Don't feel too sad for Wheeldon (let alone the whole art form) - the house was packed for the first 2 nights with the orchestra, gt, mid mezz and rear mezz full both nights, gallery open on opening night. This was the fullest house I've seen at City Center in a couple of years (excluding Fall for Dance & Gala programs, including ABT, Taylor, Ailey, MCB etc). And the audience was very appreciative of all the works on both programs. Individual reactions may vary but I found it really interesting that the reaction of the critics has been pretty uniformly negative while the audience reaction has been mostly positive.

I loved the first program, and really liked the second one. Program A (Commedia, Leaving Songs, Softly and Bolero) was accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, led by the beautiful & charismatic young conductor Alondra de la Parra. I'm no music critic but to me they sounded wonderful, the Stravinsky in particular sounding very fresh and light. It was whimsical in some places and romantic in others. The second program was all set to piano scores, with Cameron Grant & Susan Walters sharing the musical duties. I'm not sure how great an idea it was to program an entire night of piano pieces (with the exception of Softly, which is performed to recorded music) but it may have been due to budgetary requirements. Anyway, kudos to Wheeldon for finding a way to afford first rate live music on a tight budget.

I loved Commedia last season, and loved it even more this time around. Danielle Rowe was absolutely beautiful in the Leanne Benjamin role - she is a beautiful dancer with a winning combination of steely technique, lyricism & emotional expressiveness. Matthew Prescott partnered her - I remember liking him with the Farrell Ballet and it was good to see him again here. Carrie Lee Riggins was also a standout in this.

Didn't love the Tim Harbour ballet but the critics had prepared me to hate it and I definitely didn't hate it. I found it interesting and am looking forward to seeing it again.

I saw "Softly as I leave You" for the 3rd time last night and I absolutely love it. Since it was roundly dissed by just about all the critics (and a couple of my good friends), let me add that it received huge audience ovations each time I've seen it. I think I can understand why many critics and die hard ballet fans dislike it - I generally dislike that type of choreography myself. I think of as it as a European hybrid of modern dance & ballet - no point shoes, angst ridden, overly dramatic. But in the hands of Jacoby & Pronk I thought it was a masterful examination of the dissolution of a "can't live without him, can't live with him" relationship and I thought the box that Jacoby fought to get out of (and Pronk wound up trapped in) was an appropriate visual metaphor.

I enjoyed Ratmansky's Bolero a great deal. It was very amusing, uptempo with an interesting dynamic of individual competitiveness played against group unison.

I didn't think that the second program (Continuum, Softly, Rhapsody Fantaisie) was as strong as the first. Continuum was new to me and I loved it, but I love Ligeti and love Wheeldon's "Balanchine mode". There were lots of references to Agon and the 4T's themes but of course with Wheeldon's personal spin and choreographic outlook. I was disappointed in the new Wheeldon piece, I guess I expected it to be more upbeat than it turned out to be. I think it was a bit too long and not really cohesive. I also found the men's costumes distracting. However those were my first impressions and it may grow on me after I see it again.

#29 liebs

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 06:56 AM

We can all agree that the dancers are good. But program A was dreary and long. The films add nothing to the evening and even seemed a little sophomoric to me and don't really add to your understanding of what you see on the stage.

I was amused to see the box in Softly - a device that Elizabeth Streb has used more interestingly for the last 20 years. And hearing the same Arvo Part music that Wheeldon uses in After the Rain made the evening seem really enclosed in some kind of dance world bubble.

I did enjoy some of Commedia and Bolero but that was not enough to make up for the disappointment of a very poorly constructed evening.

#30 bart

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 08:31 AM

Thanks, everyone, for your responses so far. I detect some ... disagreements?

I loved the program, and rally liked the second one.

Program A was dreary and long.


This sounds like an excellent topic for discussion. What are the implications for the future of Morphoses? The response of an enthused, supportive opening night dance audience at City Center is one thing. Will programming like this have legs? Would things work better by jettisoning the film?

The Times being the Times, Kouras expands her own personal reaction to the program into something larger and more absolute.

In its opening-night appearance at City Center on Thursday, Morphoses — even with live music performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas — was full of flaws, the most major being that while Mr. Wheeldon is accomplished at creating dances, he doesn’t have a flair for programming them.




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