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What was the last really good BALLET that you saw?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:57 AM

This is a spin-off from a few other topics brewing -- the effect of Balanchine, the search for a new Balanchine and, especially, encourasging new choreographic talent. I'm curious to find out what people have seen that they think is good ballet, something that might last more than a year or two?

I liked the late Clark Tippett's work, and have been very glad that Kevin McKenzie has kept "Bruch Violin Concerto" in repertory (and Gil Boggs has it in the Colorado Ballet repertory as well.) That was 1990, I believe.

I've also admired several works by Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky.

That's about it. (I'm just counting ballets I've seen in performance, not on video.)

Any others?

#2 SandyMcKean

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:09 AM

Forsythe's "One Flat Thing, Reproduced"

Dove's "Vespers"

Of course, one could logically argue that neither of these are ballet, but I consider them to be ballet.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:15 AM

Yes, one could :thumbsup: I think even Forsythe would call that one in his modern dance vein. I can name quite a few works that aren't ballets that I've considered excellent, but this thread is to discuss works using the academic language of ballet. That's what's endangered now. (And a reminder, discussion of classical and neoclassical ballet is the purpose of this board.)

Any ballets people have seen recently they think are keepers?

#4 socalgal

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:54 AM

The one that springs to mind is Forsythe's "Impressing the Czar" as danced by the Royal Ballet of Flanders in NYC last year. It was my first viewing of the ballet, although I have seen "In the Middle....." separately danced by the Royal Danish and others. My retired DD and I had some wonderful discussions afterwards revolving around the structure of ballet both in its art form and its organizational nature. We were quite stimulated by our experience. That is rare for me these days. I loved the wit and full use of the stage as well as the decor and props.
It was a total envolvement for me. And even though the music was taped, the sound system was so superior that it did not hamper a thing for me. I cannot say that it is a masterpiece. But it is a valid work of art that will stay with me for ever. Do I want all ballets to be of this type of structure? No. But it moved me in a different way. I am always thankful for works of art that take me on a journey.

Also Robbin's "The Concert" will stand up there at the top of ballets. It is simple, it is spot on, it is joyous and just plan great fun. No matter how many viewings. A masterpiece for sure.

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 12:06 PM

I'll admit my list is also topped by Forsythe in his ballet mode - Impressing the Czar and even more, the full version of Artifact. Not just for the movement itself (which is inventive) but even more for making a ballet with more content than steps.

I like Russian Seasons by Ratmansky and Wheeldon's After the Rain for many of the same reasons.

#6 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 01:23 PM

I'd like to modify the question a little bit to "what was the last really promising ballet that you saw" and nominate Jiří Bubiniček’s recent NYCB commission, "Toccata."

I don’t think we’ll look back on it in 25 years as Bubiniček’s masterwork—at least I hope we won't—but I liked it just fine and would cheerfully sit through it again. (I’d cheerfully sit through it again twice in a row if it meant I didn’t have to sit through “Stabat Mater” or "Oltremare.") I don't think it will likely have the staying power of, say, Ratmansky's "Russian Seasons" but I suspect that it will wear better than Stallings' "Citizen."

Frankly, I didn't expect to like Bubiniček’s work based on the glimpse or two of it I'd gotten on YouTube. And on the surface, "Toccata" looked like a lot of the new ballets on offer: no plot; no corps; no clear hierarchy of couples; sort-of costumes; musicians on a platform at the back of the stage; dim lighting; tricky partnering; fussy, hyperactive arms and torsos, etc. In the ways that count, I think it was different.

First of all, the dancers interacted like people—like members of a community (a young one)—not billiard balls. Couples and larger groupings melted away and reconfigured constantly, but during the time that any particular subset of dancers were together there seemed to be an expressive reason for it. Let me hasten to add that Bubiniček didn’t traffic in Bigonzetti’s flavor of overt emotionality: the emotional charge was real, but it was more like a substrate pushing up to the surface than something being enacted, if that makes any sense. Mercifully, the mood was something other than anxiety, nameless dread, or jaded anomie.

The style was vigorous and contemporary, but not aggressive—it had more juice than Wheeldon, but less flying glass than Elo. Pretzel pas stylings were kept to a minimum: the women were more than capable of moving under their own steam and holding their legs up all by themselves, thank you very much. I think Bubiniček’s choice of women—Abi Stafford, Georgina Pazcougin, and Brittany Pollack—spoke volumes. You want to see these women move, not just have their legs pinned up somewhere in the vicinity of their ears. They don't lend themselves to "Mannerism" (to pick up a term being discussed in another thread) in the same way that Maria Kowroski or Kaitlyn Gilliland do.

My biggest complaint was that structurally it seemed, well, not "random" exactly—perhaps "ambient" captures its particular feel. (The score, by Bubiniček’s brother Otto, had a whiff of "ambient" about it, too.)

Well, we'll see what he get up to next, I guess.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 01:25 PM

Thanks, Kathleen -- I think "promising" is a very good addition to the question.

#8 bart

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 01:35 PM

Like a lot of us who now live outside the Big Ballet cities, I'm hoping for the availability of performance dvds of Ratamsky, Russian Seasons especially.

I've seen live performances of only a few shorter pieces by Wheeldon. For Four impressed me very much and made me want to see more in this vein. The response to the music, and the exploration of male dancing, were exceptional. My emotional response has been rather like my response to Dances at a Gathering decades ago -- how wonderful to see dancers moving with such weight and seriousness, introspectively as well as communally.

I know that Val Caniparoli has done a lot of work in various styles, but his early full-length Lady of the Camellias contains bits and pieces (especially the big pas de deux and the final scene) that made me wish that he could be given the time and support to work with a really good company on developing another full-length work.

This is a great topic. When faced with questions like Alexandra's my mind tends to go blank, all too often. My memory WILL NOT WORK. I'm counting on others to jog my it for me ("Oh, yes, why didn't I think of that.") and to tell me about works I've never seen or never even heard of.

May this thread have a long, long life.

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:11 PM

Val Caniparoli will have a season where he makes a lot of ballets, or several companies present his works, and then he seems to disappear for a season or two (I write from checking company repertories and reading press releases). Last season, if memory serves, his work was around a lot. bart, it might not be your memory that's failing :unsure: There isn't a lot out there. But I hope our scouts will point out a few.

#10 atm711

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:25 PM

Without hesitation, 'On The Dnieper' is the best ballet I have seen in a long time. I am still mulling over it and can't get it out of my mind---but, then, why would I want to? I saw it with a less than inspiring cast and it still succeeded.

#11 bart

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:26 PM

Val Caniparoli will have a season where he makes a lot of ballets, or several companies present his works, and then he seems to disappear for a season or two

I just checked the biography on the San Francisco Ballet website. You're right. His career has a West Coast focus, which may be why fllies under my own personal radar. But, counting SFB, there do seem to have been a number of companies who have given him time and support".

#12 SandyMcKean

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:28 PM

....this thread is to discuss works using the academic language of ballet

Allow me to push back a little on this.

I once heard (and partcipated in) some fascinating discussions of "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" that included Peter Boal, Doug Fullington, and a couple of PNB dancers as well as audience members. As I've posted elsewhere on this board, I've seen OFT,R 5 or 6 times in the last 2 years. At first I didn't like it -- mainly because it didn't look like ballet to me. Then Fullington pointed out that dancers in OFT,R were queueing off each other instead off the music; Boal gave his opinion that Forsythe was using what he might as well have called "academic language of ballet" in his movement, not precisely perhaps, but that Boal considered it put together using the language of classsical ballet on its most elemental (atomic) level. Once I understood those insights, I started to love OFT,R. In fact the last time I saw it, it reminded me, perhaps strangely to some, more than anything else, of Balanchine.

Having said that, I grant you OFT,R perhaps takes this thread down the "wrong "path.

#13 SandyMcKean

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:41 PM

"what was the last really promising ballet that you saw"

Yes, I like this addition too.

Again from my limited vantage point:

Paul Gibson: Sense of Doubt, or The Piano Dance

Kiyon Gaines: Schwa

Wheeldon: Polyphonia

#14 Estelle

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 04:35 AM

I liked the few works by Jean-Guillaume Bart that I saw (for example "Péchés de jeunesse" for the POB school and "Chaconne" for a "young dancers" program). They were maybe sometimes a bit too flat, but there are so few ballet French choreographers (for example, in the most recent programs showing choreographies by POB dancers, nearly all of the works which were shown were modern dance...) that it's heart-warming to see works which are real ballet.

And I do regret that he wasn't given much support by the company: for example, three other male étoiles, Kader Belarbi, José Martinez, and Nicolas Le Riche, were commissionned to choreograph full-length works for the company (even though Le Riche had very little previous experience at choreography), while Bart, who has shown constant interest for choreography since the beginning of his career, only was commissioned a shorter work for the POB school and a pas de deux for the "Young dancers" program... I don't know if that lack of support was because of the style of his choreographies, or for some other reasons (Bart isn't afraid to speak his mind in interviews, and disagreed several times with the repertory choices of the direction).

#15 Giannina

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 09:51 AM

Wheeldon's "Within the Golden Hour" by SFB. I think there was another good ballet after that but since it doesn't jump to mind then it's obvious that"Within the Golden Hour" is it! Also, I rarely see a new ballet that I like; this was the exception.

Giannina


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