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Evaluating (re-evaluating?) Dances at a Gathering-- Claudia La Rocco on a recent NYCB performance


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#31 Helene

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 08:22 AM

La Rocco lost me with this:

'Robbins is often more interesting when he isn’t trying to be so serious; such is the case with “West Side Story Suite.” '

I've never seen any of the "Dybbuk" versions nor "Watermill", but I would rather watch "Moves" three times in a row in a cold room than see "West Side Story Suite" again.

Croce described the early Royal Ballet performances of "Dances at a Gathering" as "Dances at a Garden Party".

Reading descriptions of the creation of the work by the original cast, Robbins had several dancers learn the same parts, and then would compare them: "Why can't you be more like Violette?" "Why can't you be more like Allegra?". It's not surprising that the roles could morph, based on the group of dancers.

#32 SandyMcKean

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 09:35 AM

Some works are very clearly examples of their time, their style or their genre. They represent something about the artists involved, and their view of what dance should do. They may be on the forward edge of the art form when they are made, but that edge continues to travel while the work itself remains in its place.


sandik, what I great image in that 2nd sentence. I'm saving these words. It opens up a whole new time-centric way of organizing "art" in my mind. Thanks.

#33 richard53dog

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 10:24 AM

I've never seen ..."Watermill",



Be thankful........

#34 carbro

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:19 PM

As far as the question of narrative and character -- I don't know this for a fact, but I think that Robbins was responding to the expectations that many people had of him based on his musical theater work. Compared to "West Side Story" or "Fiddler on the Roof," "Dances at a Gathering" doesn't "tell a story," but it does evoke a series of moods and suggest a wild variety of people.

This is an important point, since Dances marked Robbins' return to the ballet stage after swearing off verbal theater. He probably wanted a clean distinction between the genres.

I've never seen ..."Watermill",

Be thankful........


:blushing:

I respectfully disagree. The first time I saw WM (with Villella, which is significant), it changed my life. It is entirely dependent upon the performer and on the viewer's ability (which, alas, I don't always have) to become fully immersed in the very slow action on stage.

Would I want to see it every month? No! No more than once every four to five years and only with a dancer able to convey the extreme intensity necessary to make it work. But I consider it one of Robbins' best works.

La Rocco lost me with this:

'Robbins is often more interesting when he isn't trying to be so serious; such is the case with "West Side Story Suite." '

LaRocco chose a poor example in citing WSSS, which (except for a new dance for Tony) was not intended as ballet. It clearly stems from his desire to preserve what many (including himself?) consider his greatest work. A better example of a less serious effort might be The Four Seasons, a gentle spoof of ballet genres.

#35 bart

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:41 PM

Would I want to see [Watermill] every month? No! No more than once every four to five years and only with a dancer able to convey the extreme intensity necessary to make it work.

You make me curious, carbro. Are there any current dancers who, in your opinion, might make this ballet work again?

P.S. I saw this and am embarrassed to say that I don't remember it as dance so much as its striking setting and (another embarrassment) length. :blushing:

#36 papeetepatrick

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:48 PM

I've never seen ..."Watermill",

Be thankful........


:blushing:

I respectfully disagree. The first time I saw WM (with Villella, which is significant), it changed my life. It is entirely dependent upon the performer and on the viewer's ability (which, alas, I don't always have) to become fully immersed in the very slow action on stage.


Yeah, I only saw it once, way back in 1979, I think, with Villella, and I thought it was beautiful. I don't know whether I'd still feel that way about it, though, or how much it had to do with Villella. Did Hubbe do it in the Spring, 2008, season, as someone once indicated might have been going to happen? I'd like if with him too, I imagine. It needs a natural magnetism, some kind of physical aura that not even some of the otherwise best dancers have. Not everybody thinks Hubbe has that, but I do.

#37 carbro

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:49 PM

Are there any current dancers who, in your opinion, might make this ballet work again?

Marcelo Gomes who, unfortunately, is not in a company that is ever likely to include this work in its rep.

Disclaimer: You could ask me that question about any ballet (except maybe Dying Swan), and I'd likely answer "Marcelo Gomes." :blushing:

#38 bart

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:51 PM

Disclaimer: You could ask me that question about any ballet (except maybe Dying Swan), and I'd likely answer "Marcelo Gomes." :)

That works for me! :) :blushing:

#39 papeetepatrick

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 01:53 PM

Yes, Gomes could probably get it right. This is something modern dancers could also do, though. I can easily see Bertram Ross or Stuart Hodes knowing how to do this, or Paul Taylor--if any were still dancing (if also alive). But there's no virtuosity required at all, so one could search for personality outside the big ballet companies for this one. I think Corella could do it too.

#40 richard53dog

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 05:08 PM

I've never seen ..."Watermill",

Be thankful........


:blushing:

I respectfully disagree. The first time I saw WM (with Villella, which is significant), it changed my life. It is entirely dependent upon the performer and on the viewer's ability (which, alas, I don't always have) to become fully immersed in the very slow action on stage.



I will admit I was being flip. I only saw this once, when it was brand new . I absolutely did not have the ability at that time to become immersed at that tender age( :) )and the piece was nothing more than torture for me. Was I perhaps a bit shallow at the time??? Perhaps!!!!

In all honesty, after all those years have passed I think I have gained an ability to absorb works in many more ways; but at this point I have also become somewhat impatient. I don't know if Watermill would work any better for me today, but for different reasons. Two steps forward and one step back, as they say......


But I'm certainly clearer on understanding that different viewers come with different sets of criteria and what may work for me may not work for someone else and vice versa.

#41 sandik

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 11:49 AM

And the "clones"; maybe a bit harsh of a term, but in a general way I agree, it does sort of take a very particular "bookmark" and drag it across time, space, and personality boundaries.


I wondered if "clone" would feel too judgmental, but I was in a rush. The gist of what I'm trying to say is that as well as being an extraordinary ballet in its own right, "Dances" inspired a lot of other work, some of it not as distinguished. I've always thought that Peter Anastos's "Yes Virginia, Another Piano Ballet" for the Trocks really caught some fundamental elements of the style, loving them as well as poking some gentle fun at them.

#42 sandik

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 11:56 AM

Some works are very clearly examples of their time, their style or their genre. They represent something about the artists involved, and their view of what dance should do. They may be on the forward edge of the art form when they are made, but that edge continues to travel while the work itself remains in its place.


sandik, what I great image in that 2nd sentence. I'm saving these words. It opens up a whole new time-centric way of organizing "art" in my mind. Thanks.


This is very kind -- there's some real use in being old enough to have watched the long-term development of something!

I do want to say, though, that there are other works in the repertory that seem to float along with that leading edge, so that we use them as a lens to understand whatever developments are going on. I think several of Balanchine's works do this (4 T's is my personal favorite, but your mileage may vary), a lot of Cunningham does this.

I'd like to add an element to this discussion, if people don't feel they've already said everything they have to say. I think it's very important that "Dances" is made to Chopin piano music -- I don't know that it would have had quite the same effect at its premiere if Robbins had used a different composer. Since this is Chopin's bicentennial year, I've been listening for him more carefully, so perhaps I see this out of its balance.

#43 Helene

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 12:13 PM

And the "clones"; maybe a bit harsh of a term, but in a general way I agree, it does sort of take a very particular "bookmark" and drag it across time, space, and personality boundaries.


I wondered if "clone" would feel too judgmental, but I was in a rush. The gist of what I'm trying to say is that as well as being an extraordinary ballet in its own right, "Dances" inspired a lot of other work, some of it not as distinguished. I've always thought that Peter Anastos's "Yes Virginia, Another Piano Ballet" for the Trocks really caught some fundamental elements of the style, loving them as well as poking some gentle fun at them.

Robbins choreographed several other Chopin ballets -- "In the Night", "Other Dances", and I think a third -- so he seems to have cloned himself.

#44 papeetepatrick

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 12:21 PM

I'd like to add an element to this discussion, if people don't feel they've already said everything they have to say. I think it's very important that "Dances" is made to Chopin piano music -- I don't know that it would have had quite the same effect at its premiere if Robbins had used a different composer. Since this is Chopin's bicentennial year, I've been listening for him more carefully, so perhaps I see this out of its balance.


Well, no it wouldn't have, because it couldn't exist without the Chopin, DaaG is as much Chopin as Robbins. He could have made another piece to another composer, but nothing that even resembled DaaG. in fact, both DaaG and Les Sylphides are, ultimately, Chopin's work as much as they are Robbins's and Fokine's. I think this may always be the case, unless the work is determined to be undistinguished and falls out of favour, the music might then still remain, but no longer associated with the choreography, of course. I guess the only alterations that may occur from piece to piece are like using pieces of SB or SL in changed form or in different places, or using something from Nutcracker in SB or SL, as we sometimes see, maybe you could leave out a piece here and there from DaaG, you may know more than I do, it's been a long time; but 'les sylphides' always has to be like that, doesn't it? You can't leave out pieces of it. I may not be right on this, but I can't imagine 'Les Sylphides' altered at all, I'm ot sure about DaaG, but don't know for sure.

#45 carbro

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 12:42 PM

Robbins choreographed several other Chopin ballets -- "In the Night", "Other Dances", and I think a third -- so he seems to have cloned himself.

His first Chopin foray, The Concert.

I know you knew that, but it's in such a different mood that it's easy to overlook it for this discussion.


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