DeborahB

Balanchine and Robbins weeks

23 posts in this topic

I'm a bit surprised that no one has posted anything this week. I was there last night and loved Sara Mearns in her "Dances at a Gathering"

debut. In fact, the entire ballet was performed especially well. Jonathan Stafford's spectacular catches in some of the fish dives -- especially the final catch of Megan Fairchild -- elicited gasp from the audiences. Maria Kowroski was especially endearing as the woman in green; Gonzalo Garcia (in brown) and Jared Angle (in purple) were strong, elegant and yet playful (perfect), and the rest of the cast (M. Fairchild, Jenifer Ringer, Abi Stafford, Antonia Carmena and Amar Ramasar) were just splendid.

I haven't seen this much energy in "West Side Story Suite" in years. At one point it looked and sounded like one of the dancers (in the rumble scene) was about to fall off the stage. Andrew Veyette (Riff), Benjamin Millepied (Tony), Georgina Pazcoguin (Anita) reprised their roles

with extra zest. They were terrific. But a special shout out must go to Amar Ramasar. I have made no secret that Jock Soto was my favorite male dancer in the last 20 years, and he WAS Bernardo. Well, not anymore! Ramasar threw himself (literally too) into this role in a way that he hadn't

quite achieved in the past. He was totally invested in the role (talk about acting chops!). His dancing in the gym was brilliant -- quick and polished with a combination of joy and menace. And did I mention handsome and sexy too? You can see why Anita wanted this guy.

In her debut as Maria, Kathryn Morgan was innocent, beautiful and perfectly cast. Finally, special kudos to Gretchen Smith as Rosalia.

Her duet with Gina or Jeni Ringer in "America" is always a highlight. Gretchen really can sing, and she does a fine job in that charming role.

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Thank you! I too have been waiting to hear about the Balanchine and Robbins programs this week and I'm suprised that no one has posted anything!

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A few comments on the All Robbins programs I saw last week and last night. I thought Tiler Peck was fantastic in DAAG in the "pink role". She is musical, and she is probably at the peak of her technical abilities. Tyler Angle was wonderful in the purple role. I preferred Sterling Hyltin's "yellow" performance over Megan Fairchild's. Hyltin made the choreography look spontaneous. Mauve, danced by Mearns, has not been danced this well since Helene Alexopolous left the company some 10 years ago. Chrisitian T. danced "blue". Unfortunately, in the big moment when the girl in yellow is thrown to him, he awkwardly caught Hyltin, sending gasps throughout the audience for all the wrong reasons. I know DeLuz has danced the "brown" role before, but I think he has improved a lot in the role, He has added a lot of small gestures to the quieter moments which add poignancy. Of course, he thrilled in his big solo and the audience applauded heartily. I didn't really care for G. Garcia in the brown role last week. There is no nuance to his performance, in my opinion. I caught West Side Story last week. Gina P. is tearing up the stage as Anita. She has improved tremendously in this role since she first took it on about 2 yrs ago. She is thrilling. Onwards to Jewels.

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I always look forward to seeing Jewels, so last night's performance was strange for me. There were great performances by several dancers - Whelan & Neal were wonderful in Diamonds, De Luz was pitch perfect in Rubies and his arial work was gasp inducing, Reichlin reprised her world class "tall girl" and Mearns was indescribably luscious in Emeralds - yet for me the ballet as a whole just didn't come together. Perhaps this is a case of another infamous NYCB first performance/last dress rehearsal? I had actually planned to skip the opening show but added it when I realized it was the only night that Reichlin was dancing.

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NYT Reviewer is not much of a fan of Whelan's Diamonds performance

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/arts/dance/27jewels.html

Is he just harder on NYCB than other companies? Does he have a point? I've seen several interviews with dancers who have left NYCB for other companies mention the lack of adequate rehearsal time...just a thought.

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Macaulay has his favorites (like Hallberg & Bouder) who can do no wrong and then there are the dancers who can do no right in his eyes. Wendy falls into the later category. I can see his point about her lack of classical line - it annoyed me to no end in her Swan Lake. But she doesn't dance for a "classical" company, its just not her style and that doesn't bother me in most of her rep. I think it's a shame he can't get over that point and appreciate her for the great artist she is. She always draws me deeply into the music and watching her dance is like evesdropping on a private reverie.

On the other hand, I did feel that the opening night Jewels was somewhat disjointed. Not bad, just not great despite some great individual performances. And my problem with several of their dancers is that they just don't bring much beyond the steps, and the steps are just the beginning. So it pains me to admit that I agree with part of Macaulay's analysis.

I'm happy to report that the performances improved after the first night. Abi Stafford looked as good as I've ever seen her in the Verdy role in Emeralds & she relaxed into it more with each performance. The overwhelming standouts for me were Janie Taylor in Rubies (Fri eve) and Sara Mearns in Diamonds at the Saturday matinee. Janie was unbelievable in Rubies, yet just what you'd expect from her. She really pushed it to the edge. She was a fiery, mischievous, sexy presence - just a ball of energy that exploded at all the right moments. Mearns' Diamonds has been beautiful from her first time out. She has such strong, sure technique coupled with that expansive, expressive upper body. She was breathtaking. So was Kowroski on Friday night, she just has a bit too much Odette in her Diamonds for my taste. But that's nitpicking, I actually think all 3 of NYCB's current Diamonds ballerinas are wonderful, each in their own way.

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I saw 3 of the Jewels performances. Sara Mearns was incredible in Diamonds and also in Emeralds. Hyltin made a good debut in Rubies, but my favorite in this role is still Bouder. Unfortunately, I missed Janie Taylor's performances in Rubies. Ellen Bar had a lot of sex appeal in the "Tall Girl" role in Rubies, but she lacked the explosive technique needed for the role, in my opinion. Abi Stafford has improved a great deal in Emeralds since she initially assumed the role some 2 years ago. By the way, there is an article in today's NY Times singing the praises of various NYCB dancers, but most especially Sara Mearns.

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By the way, there is an article in today's NY Times singing the praises of various NYCB dancers, but most especially Sara Mearns.
Indeed. It makes me wish I could have been there, despite the snow:
Then Ms. Mearns appeared in “Diamonds,” arching her wonderful back to catch individual moments within musical phrases, bringing to each section of the role a bold and different hue, eating up space with easy courage and finally flinging herself into the finale to lead the company with gleeful love of dance itself. Rightly, she won an ovation.
... the company’s most remarkable dancer; I’m inclined to think she is now also New York’s finest ballerina, even America’s

About the company as a whole -- including Macaulay's recent suggestion that they could take lessons on dancing Jewels from Boston and San Francisco -- what do you in New York think? It seems to me, going back to the old days, that NYCB was always prone to inconsistencies from night to night, and even within a single ballet. The "great days" of the company weren't "great" because everyone was great all the time. One learned to ignore inconsistencies because the rewards -- some great dancers, some truly stupendous performances where it all came together -- were always to be found.

Is it possible that the situation Macaulay laments is a reflection of everyone's enormous work load, as compared with companies with a different system? Isn't it inevitable that there will be some unevenness in a succession of Jewels performances? Or is the problem greater than that?

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Unfortunately, I haven't seen the entire Jewels performed by another company recently. I recall seeing the Kirov perform it at the MET about 7 years ago (at least). However, that is too long ago for me to make a comparison. More recently, the Kirov performed Rubies at City Center. I was not impressed by their leading dancers in Rubies. The lead woman in each performance was Novikova, who was much too polite and not nearly energetic or angular enough. The leading males from the Kirov (can't recall who they were) also paled in comparison to NYCB. The only dancer from the Kirov who was memorable in Rubies was Kondourova (Big Red on this Board), who was a fantastic "Tall Girl." More recently, the opening night of NYCB in Nov 2009 featured dancers from Paris Opera doing the pdd from Rubies. They were not very good, to put it mildly.

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About the company as a whole -- including Macaulay's recent suggestion that they could take lessons on dancing Jewels from Boston and San Francisco -- what do you in New York think? It seems to me, going back to the old days, that NYCB was always prone to inconsistencies from night to night, and even within a single ballet. The "great days" of the company weren't "great" because everyone was great all the time. One learned to ignore inconsistencies because the rewards -- some great dancers, some truly stupendous performances where it all came together -- were always to be found.

Is it possible that this is a reflection of everyone's enormous work load, as compared with companies with a different system? Isn't it inevitable that there will be unevenness in a succession of Jewels performances?

Ah, remember when Balanchine insisted on casting Merrill Ashley and Karin von Aroldingen in "Emeralds" season after season - now those were the good old days of Jewels-kvetching ... :excl:

I know that I edit my own memories of NYCB performances past into a personal highlights reel that omits the less-than-awesome moments -- and I suspect I'm not the only person who does so. I've probably cobbled a dozen performances of "Jewels" together into a Platonic ideal that no single performance could ever live up to. (The fact that I don't really like "Jewels" all that much doesn't help, of course.)

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About the company as a whole -- including Macaulay's recent suggestion that they could take lessons on dancing Jewels from Boston and San Francisco -- what do you in New York think? It seems to me, going back to the old days, that NYCB was always prone to inconsistencies from night to night, and even within a single ballet. The "great days" of the company weren't "great" because everyone was great all the time. One learned to ignore inconsistencies because the rewards -- some great dancers, some truly stupendous performances where it all came together -- were always to be found.

Is it possible that this is a reflection of everyone's enormous work load, as compared with companies with a different system? Isn't it inevitable that there will be unevenness in a succession of Jewels performances?

Ah, remember when Balanchine insisted on casting Merrill Ashley and Karin von Aroldingen in "Emeralds" season after season - now those were the good old days of Jewels-kvetching ... :excl:

I know that I edit my own memories of NYCB performances past into a personal highlights reel that omits the less-than-awesome moments -- and I suspect I'm not the only person who does so. I've probably cobbled a dozen performances of "Jewels" together into a Platonic ideal that no single performance could ever live up to. (The fact that I don't really like "Jewels" all that much doesn't help, of course.)

Ahh, Bart and Kathleen - I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers the inconsistencies of NYCB's "glory days". I didn't see them in the 50's and I was too young to remember much from the early 60's but I remember the mid 60's to mid 70's very well and my recollection is that there were glorious, life changing performances and then there were other performances when I was bored to tears. And yes, sometimes in the same ballet.

I do think that with today's NYCB some of the Balanchine looks under rehearsed and that's a situation that I'd like to see remedied, but who knows if it's possible with their schedule. I also agree that there are many dancers who simply give small, unimaginative performances but that was the case even in Balanchine's day. Today's company is neater and sometimes that results in a loss of energy and daring, but not all the time. Dancers like Mearns, Kowroski, Bouder, Whelan and now Morgan are right up there with the best I remember of NYCB and there are several other dancers at all levels who flirt with greatness but are still a bit inconsistent (I include Reichlin in this category - I love her but she seems to be struggling just a tiny bit in the transition from soloist to principal the past season or two). Where I see big problems is with NYCB's male dancers. Since Soto, Boal & Woetzel retired the quality of their male dancers had declined precipitously. There are some men who are fine partners, but very few who are real standouts on their own.

Regarding comparisons to other companies, I haven't seen any other company do the complete Jewels live but I've seen the POB DVD (which I hated) and a bootleg of the Kirov from 1999 that I loved. The Kirov's performance was amazing. I couldn't identify the men in the first 2 sections but they had Ayupova & Part in Emeralds, Vishneva in Rubies and Lopatkina & Zelensky in Diamonds. It was just gorgeous however I agree with abatt that the Rubies we saw at City Center last year was not great, the whole cast was much too polite.

And while I haven't seen them in Jewels, I've seen the Boston Ballet, PA Ballet, SFB and MCB in Balanchine. I wasn't impressed with anything I saw from Boston or PA. SFB and MCB were both unbelievably great in 4Ts and MCB did the best Square Dance I've ever seen (with J. Delgado) but both companies disappointed me with several other Balanchine pieces (examples - from SFB the dryest, most academic Divertimento I've ever seen, from MCB very correct, earnest renditions of Western Symphony and La Source and a La Valse that looked good until I saw NYCB's the very next season. Also was unimpressed with their Rubies). So for me, today's NYCB is preferable for to any other Balanchine based company, despite their inconsistencies.

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I know that I edit my own memories of NYCB performances past into a personal highlights reel that omits the less-than-awesome moments -- and I suspect I'm not the only person who does so. I've probably cobbled a dozen performances of "Jewels" together into a Platonic ideal that no single performance could ever live up to.
I think this is a very important point. It's almost impossible to "see" the real performance objectively. Everything is changed by context. We bring history (and expectations) to what we see on stage, and sometimes our expectations are so highly detailed and elevated that disappointment seems inevitable, especially for those who are truly knowledgeable and really CARE about things being as close to perfection as possible.
So for me, today's NYCB is preferable for to any other Balanchine based company, despite their inconsistencies.
I'm glad you say this, Susan. It means something coming from someone who actually has had the chance to observe so many other companies in the Balanchine rep.

NYCB should be the best, on the whole. It has geometrically larger resources and expectations. Sometimes I think that current critics of the company should think about what they are REALLY comparing it to. The best performance ever done in St. Petersburg? Idealized memories of dancers of the past? A one-shot experience of happening to catch Miami or another company at their best?

NYCB has to do this night after night after night, in a huge theater, in front of an audience that includes tourists and socialites as well as some of the most knowledgeable ballet viewers in the world. I don't envy them this challenge. Bravo for truly brilliant performers like Mearns. But bravo also for those dancers who have occasional flashes of brilliance but are, on the whole, merely very, very good ... not all the time, but more often than seems humanly possible.

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More recently, the opening night of NYCB in Nov 2009 featured dancers from Paris Opera doing the pdd from Rubies. They were not very good, to put it mildly.

Maybe I'm just used to NYCB's way of dancing Rubies, but I thought this work quite a peculiar choice for the two visiting dancers, as it would seem antithetical to the Paris Opera Ballet style. Still, I preferred it to the horror that followed it...

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More recently, the opening night of NYCB in Nov 2009 featured dancers from Paris Opera doing the pdd from Rubies. They were not very good, to put it mildly.

Maybe I'm just used to NYCB's way of dancing Rubies, but I thought this work quite a peculiar choice for the two visiting dancers, as it would seem antithetical to the Paris Opera Ballet style. Still, I preferred it to the horror that followed it...

I can't help asking, what was the horror that followed?

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Peter Martins' "Naive and Sentimental Music," one of the biggest train wrecks ever on the stage of the New York State/David H. Koch Theater.

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Peter Martins' "Naive and Sentimental Music," one of the biggest train wrecks ever on the stage of the New York State/David H. Koch Theater.
All the reviewers seem to agree with you, to one extent or other. (At least I think so; I haven't seen any positive reviews.)

This raises questions for me. Putting on a ballet, especially one with so many principal dancers, is a complex affair with plenty of opportunities to stand back and say: "Hey, this isn't working." So why didn't that occur? How does something widely perceived as deeply flawed survive the long creation process and still get on stage? (Especially in these times of diminished financial resources.)

(P.S. Maybe we need a new thread: "What were they thinking?!? (When talented people put awful work on stage.)

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Peter Martins' "Naive and Sentimental Music," one of the biggest train wrecks ever on the stage of the New York State/David H. Koch Theater.
All the reviewers seem to agree with you, to one extent or other. (At least I think so; I haven't seen any positive reviews.)

This raises questions for me. Putting on a ballet, especially one with so many principal dancers, is a complex affair with plenty of opportunities to stand back and say: "Hey, this isn't working." So why didn't that occur? How does something widely perceived as deeply flawed survive the long creation process and still get on stage? (Especially in these times of diminished financial resources.)

(P.S. Maybe we need a new thread: "What were they thinking?!? (When talented people put awful work on stage.)

In this case the answer is surely that Peter Martins runs NYCB (albeit, now as Artistic Director only ). Who is going to say "no" to him? (no one). Plus he must have thought it was working (i.e. viable/good etc.).

I bet this ballet will fade away (thank goodness!) by 2011.

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Peter Martins' "Naive and Sentimental Music," one of the biggest train wrecks ever on the stage of the New York State/David H. Koch Theater.
All the reviewers seem to agree with you, to one extent or other. (At least I think so; I haven't seen any positive reviews.)

This raises questions for me. Putting on a ballet, especially one with so many principal dancers, is a complex affair with plenty of opportunities to stand back and say: "Hey, this isn't working." So why didn't that occur? How does something widely perceived as deeply flawed survive the long creation process and still get on stage? (Especially in these times of diminished financial resources.)

(P.S. Maybe we need a new thread: "What were they thinking?!? (When talented people put awful work on stage.)

In this case the answer is surely that Peter Martins runs NYCB (albeit, now as Artistic Director only ). Who is going to say "no" to him? (no one). Plus he must have thought it was working (i.e. viable/good etc.).

I bet this ballet will fade away (thank goodness!) by 2011.

It's faded away already. They usually run a new piece for 3 seasons but this one didn't make into next season's schedule. Hooray!

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Is it possible that the situation Macaulay laments is a reflection of everyone's enormous work load, as compared with companies with a different system? Isn't it inevitable that there will be some unevenness in a succession of Jewels performances? Or is the problem greater than that?

Sadly, the problem is far greater than that. For a Jewels example from one golden age, imagine Nichols and Calegari in Emeralds, McBride in Rubies, and Farrell in Diamonds. I saw this cast more than once, and it was even more splendid than one would imagine. This was also in a period where one could see Nichols and Ashley at their zeniths virtually every night--for several years--often on the same evening. There can hardly be a bigger workload than these two dazzling ballerinas sustained for years, in the most taxing and revealing Balanchine repertory. I probably do not need to add that NYCB's current Jewels casts are not in the same universe as the one I mentioned...nor on a par with such dancers (Nichols and Ashley aside) as Alexopoulos, Hlinka, Saland, even Fugate. Mearns may be a good dancer, but not in an iconic Verdy role.

Fairchild is efficient and usually clean. Taylor is wild, undisciplined, clearly has never fully recovered from serious injuries, and is occasionally very stimulating. This is not the level of dancing Jewels needs. It's quite true that Seay, J. Delgado, and Catoya at MCB; Nadeau and Pantastico at PNB; and Feijoo at Boston Ballet, put all of NYCB's current Jewels cast to shame and embarrassment.

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A lot of this comes down to personal taste, of course, but I was never a huge fan of Kyra Nichols (heresy, I know) and even less of a fan of Merrill Ashley, unless she was going 90 mph. I have to go quite a while back -- before Calegari (whom I did like) or other ballerinas who came up in the '70s and '80s, to find one whose Diamonds left as strong an impression on me as the one Sara Mearns danced this season. Suddenly, I see Mearns as a world-class ballerina. There are stronger technicians, but what an amazing stylistic range she has! What fluidity of movement! What imagination!

I think between Mearns, Bouder and Tiler Peck, with Kathryn Morgan coming up, NYCB has a mini-golden age of young or youngish ballerinas (maybe not so mini :) ). Unfortunately, its male roster is not so golden. The company does not excel at developing its male talent from within the ranks. Martins imported Garcia. We can see how Robert Fairchild continues to develop. I hope Tyler Angle can become more consistent, because I really like him when he's on. Hopefully, the promise that Chase Finlay displayed in his first solo role was not deceptive.

But I don't think it's only the principals who determine the quality of a company. More important is the aptly termed corps de ballet. You can have a brilliant lead cast, but if the corps isn't good, the ballet as a whole will fall apart. In this regard, NYCB runs the gamut.

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A lot of this comes down to personal taste, of course, but I was never a huge fan of Kyra Nichols (heresy, I know) and even less of a fan of Merrill Ashley, unless she was going 90 mph. I have to go quite a while back -- before Calegari (whom I did like) or other ballerinas who came up in the '70s and '80s, to find one whose Diamonds left as strong an impression on me as the one Sara Mearns danced this season. Suddenly, I see Mearns as a world-class ballerina. There are stronger technicians, but what an amazing stylistic range she has! What fluidity of movement! What imagination!

I think between Mearns, Bouder and Tiler Peck, with Kathryn Morgan coming up, NYCB has a mini-golden age of young or youngish ballerinas (maybe not so mini :) ). Unfortunately, its male roster is not so golden. The company does not excel at developing its male talent from within the ranks. Martins imported Garcia. We can see how Robert Fairchild continues to develop. I hope Tyler Angle can become more consistent, because I really like him when he's on. Hopefully, the promise that Chase Finlay displayed in his first solo role was not deceptive.

But I don't think it's only the principals who determine the quality of a company. More important is the aptly termed corps de ballet. You can have a brilliant lead cast, but if the corps isn't good, the ballet as a whole will fall apart. In this regard, NYCB runs the gamut.

Carbro,

I agree with everything you've written. Thanks for expressing this opinion (mine too!). One thing -- I wish we could see more of the SF Ballet!

Talk about stellar male dancers (wow!). I wish Helgi (sp?) could come coach our male dancers. Do note that I think we have many very good male dancers: both Angles, Robbie Fairchild, Adrian Danchig-Warning (whom I adore and wish he danced more), Sean Suozzi (a personal friend), Philip Neal (I'm going to miss him so!), Joaquin DeLuz, Ben Millepied (who is dancing so much better this season), Adam H.,

Andy Veyette, Amar Ramasar, Antonio Carmena, and others. That said, there's room for improvement (and even thought I'm a NYCB nut, David Hallberg is, by far, my favorite male dancer. M. Gomes comes a close second.)

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The company does not excel at developing its male talent from within the ranks. Martins imported Garcia.

I agree. If you look at male principals over the last 20 years, Martins imported many of them, and most of those from Europe: Hubbe, Lindsay Fischer, Robert Hill, Marcovici, Millipied, Martins, Askegard, deLuz, and Zelensky among others. Come to think of it, Mr. B.'s imports were mostly male: Anderson, Luders, Horiuchi, Tomassen, Kozlov.

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Horiuchi won the Prix de Lausanne and studied at SAB. I doubt he would have been hired at NYCB had he not been at the school. But missing is Peter Martins himself :), and Bruhn danced with NYCB for a short while. For a few years though, Martins, Andersen, Luders, and Tomasson danced with NYCB at the same time and constituted the core of the male Principals, since d'Amboise was dancing rarely in that overlap period. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux danced with NYCB in the 70's.

I can think of several non-North American women who did not study at SAB or join NYCB early and that Balanchine hired: Verdy, von Aroldingen, and Kozlova. Thesmar also guested with the company.

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