Avi Scher's company in NYC, April 2010
Posted 13 February 2010 - 03:36 AM
They will also be in DC in late May.
Posted 02 April 2010 - 12:49 PM
Posted 02 April 2010 - 02:28 PM
I hope nothing serious has befallen Sara, but it has long been a ballet fantasy of mine to see a Bouder-Gomes performance.
For fans of Ms. Mearns, you can get a glimpse of what her performance might have been like in the last moments of this interview with Avi Scher. He discusses the problems of a young, independent choreographer honing his craft and finding work and summarizes the storyline of Utopia Variations.
In addition, Matthew Murphy has posted rehearsal photos on his blog, Ranting Details, here and here.
Posted 03 April 2010 - 06:59 PM
Debut New York Season
Saturday performance (first of three)
All pieces below choreographed and produced by A Scher.
No Matter What (2009)
Music by Aphex Twin and Adam Lewis
Kelsey Coventry, Jennifer Goodman, Nancy Richer, Robert Colby Damon, Ralph Ippolito, Victoria North, Ja'Malik
Mystery in the Wind
(Extended version premiere)
Music by Rachel Portman
Based off of an earlier version premiered at Harvard University, April 24, 2009
* Veronika Part & * Marcelo Gomes
Nancy Richer, Abi Stafford, Elizabeth Claire Walker
Little Stories (2009)
Music by Jason Mraz
I -- Feeling Lucky -- Goodman & Damon
II -- Stories Untold -- Coventry & Shaner Ohmer
III -- Our Love's Defense -- Savannah Lowery & Christian Tworzyanski
Music by Alles Wie Gross and Alarm Will Sound After Aphex Twin
Veronika Part and * Arron Scott
Ippolito, Lowery, * Eric Tamm
Music by Rachmaninov
Pianist: Melody Fader
Ashley Bouder and Marcelo Gomes
Inner Voice (Premiere)
Music and lyrics by Genevieve Labean
Guitar: Wes Hutchinson
Piano: Chris LoPresto
Percussion: James Williams
Richer, Stafford, Tamm, Tworzyanski
Emily Cardea, Victoria North, Walker, Malik, Ohmer, Scott
Overall, I thought Avi Scher is a fairly promising choreographer. The pieces were generally well thought out, although the execution of the pieces by the respective dancers varied in quality (all were fine, but the ABT daners were noticeably better). For the ticket price of $22 for general seating, this was an evening that offered a high quality to price ratio. For the sake of clarity, it would have been a fairly nice evening of ballet regardless of price level.
I sat on the front row of the Ailey theater space, and it gave an unusual immediacy to the performances to have the dancers so close by.
The "Mystery in the Winds" piece involving Gomes was generally appealing, including because of Veronika Part's fairly nice performance. This is the second time I have seen Veronika Part in a week (the last time being the V Vasiliev YAGP Gala), and I came away, like I had recently, with a slightly better assessment of her than had been the case previously. (There was probably no way to go but up, given my past criticisms of her.) Gomes danced well, as he usually does.
Eric Tamm danced well also. Both Tamm and Gomes were in costumes that had no tops in one of their respective performances. Tamm's body seemed quite pale. Tamm looked more boyish than he normally does in ABT performances. His hair seemed to have an orangish tint to the brown I normally see from afar at ABT performances. As I've previously observed, Tamm has quite elegant lines and nice "softer" movements to his arms when he dances. Tamm might need to work on the sureness he conveys in his partnering, but that is not a criticism.
More to come separately.
Posted 03 April 2010 - 07:14 PM
Separate from the horrible lyrics and singing by the lyrics writer, I thought the "Inner Voice" choreography was a bit hectic and involved too many people moving across the stage at some points. That being said, I tend to not appreciate ballet pieces that involve a large number of dancers in non-full-length productions.
The third portion of "Little Stories" -- "Our Love's Defense", danced by Savannah Lowery & Christian Tworzyanski -- was also unappealing to me. The two dancers had bad costumes -- white tank-type shirts, with black shorts and black "gloves" that did not have fingertips on the gloves. How 80s! The dance was intended to convey, I think, a sometimes bickerng couple that end up together again. At one point, the danseur removes his white shirt and dramatically (in a negative way) casts it to the ground. Then, the ballerina removes her white shirt to expose a black sports-bra/sports top type number. Both the danseur and the ballerina each remove one of their black gloves. He removes the elastic band that held her hair in a bun. They end up in a pose that suggests intimacy to me. I thought this portion of the "Little Stories" piece was too sappy and arguably unrefined.
I thought Ashley Bouder and Marcelo Gomes' performance in "Utopia" yielded an appropriate performance, but I did not consider Bouder to be the most polished of dancers. Gomes danced well. Bouder's dancing conveyed confidence, but not elegance. Also, being seated close to the stage, I found it very distracting that Bouder seemed to be breathing in a noticeably noisy way (almost like "heh-heh-heh" sounds throughout the performance, almost like a panting). That might be the way she normally breathes when dancing, but it was not helpful to the audience. Bouder's body did not seem that flexible, and her hands were not expressive. Gomes danced well, but I don't think Bouder and Gomes resulted in a good pairing in this premiere. I don't fault Bouder for this -- as noted by other members above, Bouder was a last minute replacement for S Mearns. The second replacement for S Mearns was Nancy Richer in "Mystery in the Wind".
Posted 04 April 2010 - 04:02 PM
Abi Stafford looked great in both of the pieces that I saw her in. She really knows how to do a lot with a little.
I rather enjoyed the Savannah Lowery/Christian Tworzyansi duet. The sort of love/hate duo. It had moments of wit and the dancers played it to the hilt, which worked for me. (Little Stories Part 3)
I also thought Jennifer Goodman to be a standout. She is new to me. She was a stand out in the first piece (No Matter What) for her clean movement and port de bras. She was fine in the cutesy duet (Little Stories Part 1).
A comment about Little Stories. Ballets done to lyrics are problematic for me usually. Either the choreography acts out the lyrics (as in this case) which usually doesn't work. Or the choreography departs from the lyrics which usually doesn't work. Never the less, as I said before I thought the Lowery duet fun.
Utopia - the Bouder/Gomes duet was cliched and silly. Lots of emotion coming out of no where. Two wonderful dancers though. Gomez movement quality is so silky. I was thinking that he could have a long career, when he is finished with the prince roles, jumps and tricks. His movement quality would serve any choreographer well (Morris, Lubvavitch, Tharp etc.). Bouder's ability to etch shapes, lines and pictures clearly no matter how fast or slow she is moving is amazing.
Veronika Part showed me, once again that she is a beautiful woman who cannot make a bad line. For me that is all there is to her, so I'll never be a fan.
Again, no memorable choreography but $22 well spent. It was a pleasure to see great dancers, dancing well, up close in a small house. All in all quite entertaining.
Posted 04 April 2010 - 05:56 PM
Posted 05 April 2010 - 08:47 AM
so memorable in fact that you can't get them out of your head. The simplicity, innocence and brevity of the songs put them on the borderline of pop music and because that's where they live, they flirt with the sentimental - but that's just where the openess and vulnerability, the personal-ness of her performance took me by surprise. The repeat of the last song, or a bit of it, expressed a moment of sadness and emotion at the end, really the only moment of emotion in the entire program. There were some accoustical problems with the live music in the hall to be sure, but how good to hear live music after six weeks of recorded gigs at City Center. MP
Posted 05 April 2010 - 09:47 AM
I agree with Michael about Labean's lyrics. The music is not my style, but I thought it was strong for the style it was. Her voice is weak, but I kept imagining Trisha Yearwood singing them to great effect. I was surprised at how unbalanced and shrill the sound system was.
In fact, the entire program brought out my inner yenta. I love Part as much as the next intermittent visitor to New York, but where she was featured in "Mystery in the Wind" and "Touch", she looked static, almost like a wounded bird, which was a sharp contrast to the energy of her partners and the other soloists, and I didn't "get" that her introversion and quiet grace was the point. Nonetheless, while watching, I started to cast Ballet Arizona dancers in "Mystery in the Wind", where I loved the sections for the three soloists -- the dresses were beautiful, too -- and would gladly see them again. (I would also gladly see Marcelo Gomes, who could not have been more perfectly costumed had anyone tried, in anything, even "Mopey".) The only other time I had seen Abi Stafford in a featured role was in what I think was her debut in the Act II Pas de Deux from "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and I found her upper body work to be stolid. Here, and in "Inner Voice" she was another dancer, and her full-bodied movement was great to see. I loved the musical selections, which were very dancy.
For "Touch" I was casting PNB dancers, especially in the Pas de Trois for Savannah Lowery, who was splendid -- a knock-out performance -- Ralph Ippolito, and Eric Tamm. I thought Ippolito's correctness looked stylistically odd in "No Matter What", but he was just right in "Touch" and well-matched with Tamm.
"Little Stories" was set to songs by Jason Mraz, and that the work was less ambitious structurally than "Inner Voice" -- three couples compared to many couples with group work -- was probably why I found it stronger, because although Mraz's range was a bit broader, I think it was the format of three couples that allowed more specific characterization. I didn't think it was the strongest work on the program, nor was "No Matter What", but still in yenta mode, I was thinking about how much more interesting the choreography and the characterizations were in these pieces and how much more responsive Scher was to lyrics than in "Movin' Out" and anything I've seen by Susan Stroman, and I wish someone would hire Scher to do a big Broadway show, so that he can subsidize the rest of his work. I think the miss there was the "Our Love's Defense" movement for Savannah Lowery and Christian Tworzyanski. On the other hand, even Jerome Robbins finished "Glass Pieces" with the weak "Aknaten" movement.
I didn't feel at all yenta-like watching "Utopia", in which Ashley Bouder replaced Sara Mearns. While I was hoping to see Mearns for the first time, seeing Bouder was a great treat. The woman is a force of nature, and I'm fairly certain that what I saw was not exactly as the work was conceived. In general, strong work should be dancer-proof, but she may have been too big for the space in this work. I'd love to see it in a quieter performance someday.
If there hadn't been so many verklempt who felt that the On the Boards was defamed by bringing in pointe shoes earlier this year, On the Boards would be a perfect space to see this company in Seattle. The Vancouver Playhouse (*ahem*) has no such qualms and is another terrific space, but I think the price point is a little higher.
ETA: I just realized I didn't describe what I liked about Scher's choreography in general, which were 1. his attention to arms and hands that is very refreshing to me, after several decades of emphasis on legs, 2. absence of wrestling pretzel pas de deux: most of his couples seem to like each other without the man needing to stretch the woman into Cirque du Soleil shapes, and 3. the lack of "when in doubt, pirouette" response to the music.
Posted 05 April 2010 - 02:37 PM
There were weaknesses in the program as well as a lot of strengths. I enjoyed the live music. The songs really spoke to me. I loved his attention to arms and hands. I had seen some of his pieces before and on Saturday night, it was like seeing those pieces for the first time, through new eyes.
Ralph Ippolito was a stand-out. I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. In my opinion, he was the strongest of the "corps" men. It was wonderful to see Abi Stafford in an intimate setting. It suited her very well, as she tends to get lost at NYCB (IMHO). I thought that Marcelo, Veronica and Ashley needed a larger stage.
So let's give Avi some credit for following his dreams. It was a wonderful evening. And I woke up on Sunday, remembering parts of each ballet with a smile on my face.
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