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Opening Night Gala Spring 2010


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#16 abatt

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:12 AM

I was at the Gala last night. I thought Millipied's new ballet (with its pretentious title, "Why Am I Not Where You Are") was a disappointment. However, the Ratmansky ballet is a keeper. Millipied's basic concept here was to have Sean Suozzi be the lone outsider, who is dressed all in white. He is surrounded by a stage full of people dressed in bright colors. Kathryn Morgan starts out as one of the people dressed in bright colors, and is apparently repulsed by outsider Suozzi. (In one scene, she touches Suozzi's chest, and then looks repulsively at her hand, as though she has just contracted lice. It was pretty funny, although it wasn't meant to be so.) Eventually, the people in bright colors, led by Amar Ramasar, put a colored vest and colored jacket on Suozzi. Presumably, Suozzi has now become one of the colored folks. But wait- there's more! Kathryn Morgan is eventually stripped of her colored costume, piece by piece, until she is stripped down to a white dress. Now she is the outsider! The drama, the suspense- NOT. The concept is a loosely based rip off of La Valve, but, unfortunately for Millipied, the choreograhy is not nearly as inventive. There are lots of people running around the stage, but none of it adds up to much. The audience reaction was very tepid. The most interesting thing about it was the contribution of Calatrava of an arc structure as part of the scenic design. The music was interesting, but, as has become typical of Millipied, the music is largely used to create a mood rather than as a foundation for the choreography.


The new Ratmansky ballet was full of inventive patterns and steps, with wonderful choreography for Jenny Ringer, R. Fairchild and, especially, Wendy Whelan. There are some gasp inducing leaps for Danny Ulbricht too. The only negative was the costumes, which I thought were ugly (particularly the costumes and headwear for M. Fairchild and A. Stafford).

#17 hbl

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:54 PM

I had a far more positive experience than Abatt. I thought the evening was a delight and I didn't even get to go to the dinner. It started with a film produced by Kristen Sloan that interviewed the dancers, choreographers, Martins and Calatrava. Then Peter gave a little speech and toasted Calatrava and his wife with Aquavit (I think) in honor of Calatrava's Swedish wife. They used to give little bottles to everyone in the audience to also toast whomever. Then they just had little cups of vodka available at intermission. Now nada. Hard times I guess - but it was such a nice gesture. And how much could the bottles cost - and couldn't they get them donated?

Then we had the curtain rise on Calatrava's wonderful inventive set and Millipieds choreography. The sole dancer (Suozzi) appears and moves slowly through the set. Then lots more dancers in bright delightful funny interesting colorful outfits. As Abatt stated over the courses of the Ballet he is dressed while the delightful Kathryn Morgan is stripped to a white costume. The movement through the Calatrava arch were well executed. I think Millipied made excellent use of the set. I thoroughly enjoyed the ballet. It was moving and funny at times. And the performances by all the dancers was outstanding. Especially the principals: Suozzi, Kathry Morgan (replacing Janie Taylor at the almost last minute), Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar.

After the intermission the Ratmansky piece began. I don't have the time now to go into great detail and I really look forward to seeing this a couple of more times this season. The costumes were colorful - although some of the wigs annoyed me because I had trouble recognizing some of the dancers. But they gave the piece a very historical and/or futuristic appearance. The black wigs on the corps looked like 1920's flappers. The head gear for some of the men looked very futuristic. This ballet is certainly going to be a keeper. It was a bit long but never lagged in interesting structure and dancing. There were comic roles (Jennifer Ringer was a delight in this). Some superb bravura male dancing by Daniel Ulbricht. Robby Fairchild as well as Whalen and Mearns were superb. Abi Stafford and Meghan Fairchild were a delightful pair dancing with Ulbricht. I can't think of anything really negative about this. I look forward to seeing it a couple of more times this season as well as in the future.

#18 bart

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 03:23 PM

It's wonderful to read your reports, abatt and hbl. A little diversity of opinion makes it even more fun.

Was anyone else there?

The New York Times has some rehearsal photos -- http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance -- but not images of the performance. I confess to being curious about the Calatrava designs.

#19 nysusan

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:42 PM

I had mixed feelings about both new ballets. I liked them both a bit, but didn't feel that either one hit a home run. The Millipied was interesting, but even though I LOVE Kathyryn Morgan I thought this really suffered from Janie Taylor's absence. She has such a thrilling, daredevil, intense quality and I can't help but feel that this would have been a different, much better ballet with her in the lead female role. I also thought that Mearns was not used well in this ballet. Suozzi, though, was fabulous. I'd like to see this again but will try to wait until later in the season in the hopes that Janie is back from injury and gets a shot at performing the role that was created on her.

The Ratmansky was interesting, but bizarre. The costuming especially was really somewhat offputting, a cross between an homage to 1920's bathing beauties and a futuristic look. Eric Taub made this observation on twitter:

Imagine if Pierre Lacotte smoked the crack pipe instead of Solor, and you'll get an idea of the Ratmanstky

What a hilarious & astute observation & I agree completely! For me, in addition to being a bit bizarre it just didn't sustain my interest for the 60 minutes that it ran. Wendy & Robbie's pdd was beautiful but it took too long for Ratmansky to use Wendy to her fullest potential. He had some great ideas, and there were some really beautiful moments, wonderful dancing from everyone but just not enough to fill the hour that this ballet ran. Another one that I'd like to see again in combination with some tried & true favorites. Oh well, there are still 5 or 6 new ballets to come!

#20 bart

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 06:39 PM

Here's the Times's slide show, to help us visualize:

http://www.nytimes.c...01-gala-ss.html

Strange, but elegant. I love the white bathing caps. And there are steel cables in the background of the first photo, reminding us of Calatrava's bridges. There's definitely a late-Diaghilev look to it, as in le Train Bleu.

#21 Marga

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 07:33 PM

Here is some of what I wrote on Facebook about the Ratmansky after I arrived home last night -- my just-having-seen-it reaction:

What's with the bathing caps? A little Russian, what? And, if everyone is going to wear the same headgear, how can we tell the dancers apart? I wanted to see the individuals! (For all the effort at unity, the dancers did not move as one a lot of the time!)

And the Petipa influence! Holy positioning! Too many diverse elements in the ballet. He could remove whole sections and not lose anything. I appreciated the humour, though, of the soloists, especially Jenifer Ringer's cigarette-wielding character.

Balanchine must have been turning over in his grave to see all those lovely ballerinas' heads covered so unattractively! I don't think he would have deemed it necessary in any way, shape, or form! He loved long flowing hair and he loved his delicate bunheads. I thought the headgear was grotesque!


The Ratmansky did go on forever. That is a negative. The Ratmansky was full of beautiful patterns and interesting choreography. That's a positive! There was a lot to love. It opened with a group of female dancers in black, swimcap-like wigs wearing long, flowy, mid-calf-length yellow dresses and a sailor-suited boy (Fairchild). The black-capped chickies flew by from time to time throughout the ballet. The (fantastic) soloists wore short tutus reminiscent of 50's swimsuits with their strapless tops and little skirts. They were in shades of blue, the colors of the ocean. Then there were a few copper-headed and costumed dancers. I don't know what they represented. At times the stage lighting made the floor look sandy. In total, it made me think "Oh, beach blanket bingo ballet!"

I would think that Ratmansky would leave the very Russian penchant for coiffing their dancers with awful identical wigs behind. We don't do that in America! We don't like to see it! Maybe it would work in England, where the same costuming crime has been committed in some Nutcrackers, but NOT HERE!
That was a big negative.

About my Petipa reference: In a few of the overly long sections, while the soloists were dancing, the corps - both boys and girls - posed in half-reclining positions on the floor, positioning their arms across their bodies, hand to opposite shoulder, heads turned to the side - and similar still-lifes. I didn't get it. Why channel Petipa? The music, despite its 19th century origin, sounded more modern than classical to me. Pleasant, pretty music, but alien to such stilted-position choreography.

Wendy Whelan was stellar! Jenifer Ringer, too! Robbie Fairchild, Sara Mearns, Megan Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht, Abi Stafford - all were a treat for the eyes and performed at high energy and with strong technique. Daniel Ulbricht had lots of side-split leaps to do and he soared! I wonder how high his jumps measured? Robert Fairchild had a long string of entrechats to perform, and I couldn't help wishing his feet were like David Hallberg's or Marcelo Gomes's or any of that ilk. There were so many beats, I was sorry that Fairchild didn't have the feet to impress. Besides not having supremely arched feet, his beats were a little back-to-front instead of sharply scissorlike and side-to-side.

I was up too high and unable to see the things that you get to enjoy when you sit close. It was impossible for me at that height to identify any of the corps members under their bathing caps ;) and that was a great disappointment. Among those that I wanted to be able to identify were Lauren King, Likolani Brown, Erica Pereira, Stephanie Zungre, Zachary Catazaro, and Justin Peck. The movement was so swift, and I only guessed at who was who.

Overall, a beautiful ballet that was way too long and too hodge-podge. I've said my piece about the headgear. Would I see it again? After it's shortened, yes.

Benjamin Millepied's ballet impressed me hardly at all. I disliked the music and the costumes weren't the greatest, either. Sean Suozzi was. So was Kathryn Morgan.

The Calatrava structure was a huge, stage-spanning, half disk - not unlike the 45 records of our youth, with the large hole in the middle - strung with enormous harp-like strings which quivered occasionally as if caught in a passing breeze. It was positioned obliquely across the back-of-the-middle of the stage and the dancers mostly entered through its portal (center hole). Only once during the relatively short piece did the shape move in its entirety by dipping downward toward the floor.

Ratmansky's ballet, btw, was performed on a bare stage.

#22 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 02:58 PM

Marga
I would think that Ratmansky would leave the very Russian penchant for coiffing their dancers with awful identical wigs behind. We don't do that in America! We don't like to see it! Maybe it would work in England, where the same costuming crime has been committed in some Nutcrackers, but NOT HERE!
That was a big negative.


Remember the dancing girls at the beginning of "The Blue Necklace ?"

#23 carbro

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 10:24 PM

I'll take Marga's lead and repost my FaceBook update from Thursday:

Ratmansky! Boy, can that guy choreograph. And choreograph, and choreograph , and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph, and choreograph ... It's like being... cornered at a party by a charming conversationalist, but cornered is still cornered.

to which a friend replied, "but did you like it ?" My first reply was lukewarm, that I don't like feeling choreo-nered, but later, after a little while to let it settle in, I decided that given a choice between feast and famine, one should always choose feast. The problem is that there is really only one weak spot (which I identify with the spoiler, below), and I hope that Ratmansky will find a way to cut the length and make "Other Namouna" and "Namouna in the Night", or somehow find another staging for some of his terrific inventions. Meanwhile, I'm tempted to ask for No More Now.

I don't object as vehemently as Marga about the wigs/hats on the corps dancers. For me, the black, Louise-Brooks style wig/caps set an era in the 1920s, immediately helping me to recognize this as the work of Bright Stream's choreographer (which of course, had nothing to do with Lalo's 1880s score :excl: ). But despite that vague similarity, the quality of invention and the off-beat humor pervading Bright Stream was abundant here. And the dances, each one fresh and entertaining, kept coming and coming and coming. The white swim caps, though, I could have done without.

I hope I don't sound like I'm damning with faint praise. Here's nearest analogy I can think of. My stepmother's parents, the P___'s, used to host us every year for Thanksgiving, and they always served a full assortment of hors d'oeuvres, including irresistible, two-bite pizzas. And every year, we filled up on the pizzas and other appetizers. Long before we saw the turkey (and never mind the array of dessert pies), we were stuffed to the gills. My sibs and I called it "P___ Syndrome." This ballet is "P___ Syndrome." With the food, it was our own doing, but the feeling was the same. If I could pick these dances off a tray, I'd probably repeat the behavior, even though I know the result. Wait, give me another.

My reaction to Millepied's ballet was less charitable after having seen Ratmansky's. You could see Millepied striving for originality, whereas it seemed to flow unbidden (and, for better or worse, endlessly) from Ratmansky. The commissioned score sounded ever so much like Firebird, and the women's magenta and black romantic-style tutus were less glamourous renderings of Karinska's La Valse costumes. (Here, each had unique style details. I particularly hated the one with one long sleeve, the other side shoulderless, and Kathryn Morgan's looked ill-fitting around her midriff.) By the end of the ballet, I decided it was Millepied's reversal of La Valse.

A slideshow of the ballets (as opposed to rehearsals) accompanies Alastair Macaulay's review.

You can see the video of the featurette on Santiago Calatrava here. Mr. Calatrava speaks English with an architect's precision, but he has a heavy accent, and it was difficult to understand him in sections when background music was playing.



[size=4]!!!!Spoiler Alert!!!![/size]

After about the fourth or fifth dance, each for an ensemble or a soloist, maybe a trio, I wondered, Where is the pas de deux? Well, we finally get one near the very end of the ballet. It is the weakest segment of the ballet, and putting it off so late does it -- and the ballet -- no favors.



#24 perky

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 05:04 AM

Here's the Times's slide show, to help us visualize:

http://www.nytimes.c...01-gala-ss.html

Strange, but elegant. I love the white bathing caps. And there are steel cables in the background of the first photo, reminding us of Calatrava's bridges. There's definitely a late-Diaghilev look to it, as in le Train Bleu.



Thanks for the link to the slideshow. I agree that the costumes look very twenties and futuristic. A hovering Zeppelin would have not been out of place in the background as scenery. Who did the costumes?

#25 rg

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 06:14 AM

Costumes by Marc Happel and Rustam Khamdamov

#26 Marga

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Posted 05 May 2010 - 01:44 PM

I was very glad to read Deborah Jowitt's review of opening night in The Village Voice. It was refreshingly positive and gave me food for thought. Now I'm ready to see both ballets again! As a blogging ballet reviewer, I'm attuned to minutiae. Sometimes I need to get the negative things off my chest in the first flush of passionate afterglow after the ballet is over. When I was a young dancer myself, I only saw the good! Now I'm a curmudgeonly armchair critic and feel it's my duty to report both negative and positive aspects of all I view. :clapping:

Deborah Jowitt spoke so glowingly and in such detail about both ballets, making me enjoy just reading her review immensely. Contrary to my initial reaction, I wish I could go back and see both ballets again.


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