vipa

Spring season continued

55 posts in this topic

I saw the new ballet, "Call Me Ben", tonight by Melissa Barak. The best thing that can be said about it is that the costumes were lovely, and the scenic designs were beautiful. The choreography was amateurish. The "script" was something that belonged in a high school drama workshop, not the stage of the Koch Theater. I can't really put any of the blame on the dancers, who did the best they could with the awful material they were given. There were some points when the dialogue could not be heard over the music, but that was no great loss. What a waste of time and money. This one is going on my NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN list, along with La Stravaganza and The Lady w. The Little Dog. During the ballet, I kept wishing I was over at ABT to kill time before Scotch Symphony.
This one is going on my NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN list, along with La Stravaganza and The Lady w. The Little Dog.

La Stravaganza and Lady w. Dog are entirely more professional than the new Barak piece, for which there is really no precedent or term of comparison that I can think.

Here's what baffles me: Why throw a (relatively) inexperienced young choroegrapher like Melissa Barak on to that big stage where she's almost certain to fail? I recognize the prestige associated with the main house but the down side to it is the immediate 'Pass/Fail' judgement that comes with it. Wouldn't it be better to find a smaller venue for budding choreographers to work in where they could develop an outlook/style and then graduate to a larger stage? (I'm thinking of what the Royal does in London.) In a smaller venue, if a work flops -- it flops. There's not this huge importance associated to it as there is with the big stage.

Moderator: If this is its own topic, please move this post.

Share this post


Link to post
I saw the new ballet, "Call Me Ben", tonight by Melissa Barak. The best thing that can be said about it is that the costumes were lovely, and the scenic designs were beautiful. The choreography was amateurish. The "script" was something that belonged in a high school drama workshop, not the stage of the Koch Theater. I can't really put any of the blame on the dancers, who did the best they could with the awful material they were given. There were some points when the dialogue could not be heard over the music, but that was no great loss. What a waste of time and money. This one is going on my NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN list, along with La Stravaganza and The Lady w. The Little Dog. During the ballet, I kept wishing I was over at ABT to kill time before Scotch Symphony.

The evening started out with a very fine performance of Interplay. Though this is second rate Robbins, it had the benefit of an excellent cast led by Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar and J. DeLuz.

Bouder was FABULOUS in her debut in Scotch. Her footwork in the allegro sections was clear and fast. Her work in the adagio sections was lyrical and melting. Millipied was fine as her partner, although he fudged some of the difficult footwork.

The scene around the table where the mob voted on whether to kill Bugsy reminded me a lot of "The Green Table". Didn't she repeat much of the choreography? It has been so many years since I saw it that I am not sure. That was a powerful ballet, at least when danced by the Joffrey.

CAM

Share this post


Link to post
I saw the new ballet, "Call Me Ben", tonight by Melissa Barak. The best thing that can be said about it is that the costumes were lovely, and the scenic designs were beautiful. The choreography was amateurish. The "script" was something that belonged in a high school drama workshop, not the stage of the Koch Theater. I can't really put any of the blame on the dancers, who did the best they could with the awful material they were given. There were some points when the dialogue could not be heard over the music, but that was no great loss. What a waste of time and money. This one is going on my NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN list, along with La Stravaganza and The Lady w. The Little Dog. During the ballet, I kept wishing I was over at ABT to kill time before Scotch Symphony.
This one is going on my NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN list, along with La Stravaganza and The Lady w. The Little Dog.

La Stravaganza and Lady w. Dog are entirely more professional than the new Barak piece, for which there is really no precedent or term of comparison that I can think.

Here's what baffles me: Why throw a (relatively) inexperienced young choroegrapher like Melissa Barak on to that big stage where she's almost certain to fail? I recognize the prestige associated with the main house but the down side to it is the immediate 'Pass/Fail' judgement that comes with it. Wouldn't it be better to find a smaller venue for budding choreographers to work in where they could develop an outlook/style and then graduate to a larger stage? (I'm thinking of what the Royal does in London.) In a smaller venue, if a work flops -- it flops. There's not this huge importance associated to it as there is with the big stage.

Moderator: If this is its own topic, please move this post.

Barak has done some pleasant but unmemorable ballets for NYCB previously, the first one while she was a company member. None have remained in the company rep. for any length of time. This one was a complete misfire, though. The review is up on the NY Times website. It ain't pretty, but I guess it could have been worse. The problem here is that a lot of money was probably spent on the scenery and costumes. I suspect that they will feel the need to keep this one around to somehow justify the expenditures.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm really sorry to hear about these responses to Melissa Barak's ballet. I was hopeful that a new strong woman choreographer would emerge.

Usually what happens after such a poor reception is that the piece may be seen for two more seasons, if they have already been scheduled, and then vanish. Sometimes something vanishes after one season. I have no idea why the Preljocaj has re-surfaced, I agree completely with abatt.

Not many of you were at the theater to witness the first American Music Festival (1988)which contained two of the very worst pieces of choreography I have ever seen. They both had elaborate sets and costumes after which Martins called for most of the new pieces to be done without big sets and use variations on practice clothes. One had a huge picture of a clown's face in the background. The other one had a very underwater look to it. I don't remember the names of the ballets, but I do remember the choreographers and don't want to name names. Probably they both got very carried away with themselves. I may have even mentioned these horrors before. It's like a bad taste you can't get rid of.

Share this post


Link to post
Not many of you were at the theater to witness the first American Music Festival (1988)which contained two of the very worst pieces of choreography I have ever seen. They both had elaborate sets and costumes after which Martins called for most of the new pieces to be done without big sets and use variations on practice clothes. One had a huge picture of a clown's face in the background. The other one had a very underwater look to it. I don't remember the names of the ballets, but I do remember the choreographers and don't want to name names. Probably they both got very carried away with themselves. I may have even mentioned these horrors before. It's like a bad taste you can't get rid of.

Ha! I remember the American Music Festival. Ironically, it's a sad commentary on the state of choreography that when a selection of those ballets were revived for a retrospective about eight years ago, some of those works didn't look half bad!

Share this post


Link to post

The costumes and design reminded very much of "The Green Table" a very old ballet which has

been done by ABT as well as Joffrey. I am surprised that no one commented on how the

designs and costumes were copies from The Green Table.

Any others out there have the same thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post

While I agree with everyone who felt that Melissa Barak's new ballet failed, I can't be completely negative about it. As she told TimeOut New York, she didn't like the score, and when she asked Peter Martins if she could use other music, he told her that since it was a commissioned score, he'd have to use a different choreographer. Apparently, even with uninspiring music as her raw material, she felt that this was too good an opportunity to walk away from.

Her solution: expand her options, get creative. I think she was admirably gutsy in going the route she chose. Basically, she made a mini-musical comedy without the songs. I kept expecting someone to break out singing. The script and spoken acting were, for the most part amateurish. My biggest disappointment -- that she created the character George Raft, cast him with the talented and appealing Tyler Angle and didn't exploit the character or the dancer.

As noted elsewhere, Interplay got a fine performance by a terrific ensemble led by Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar and Joaquin de Luz. Ashley Bouder was perfect in tone and execution in her debut in Scotch Symphony's ballerina role partnered by Benjamin Millepied. Special mention to standout demi-soloist Devin Alberda.

Share this post


Link to post

I attended the June 5 evening, too, and while I agree with everyone who felt that Melissa Barak's new ballet failed, I can't be completely negative about it. As she told TimeOut New York, she didn't like the score, and when she asked Peter Martins if she could use other music, he told her that since it was a commissioned score, he'd have to use a different choreographer. Apparently, even with uninspiring music as her raw material, she felt that this was too good an opportunity to walk away from.

Her solution: get creative, expand her options. I think she was admirably gutsy in going the route she chose. Basically, she made a mini-musical comedy without the songs. I kept expecting someone to break out singing. The script and spoken acting were, for the most part amateurish. Not much memorable dancing. The pas de deux for Jenifer Ringer and Robert Fairchild was pleasant and left the dancers to speak their next lines while still out of breath. My biggest disappointment -- that she created the character George Raft, cast him with wonderful Tyler Angle and didn't exploit the character or the dancer. Both set and -- especially -- costume designs were fabulous. These were not the same costumes as Green Table, allegromezzo, although they both evoke real fashions from roughly the same era.

As noted elsewhere, Interplay got a fine performance by a terrific ensemble led by Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar and Joaquin de Luz. Ashley Bouder was perfect in tone and execution in her debut in Scotch Symphony's ballerina role partnered by Benjamin Millepied. Special mention to standout demi-soloist Devin Alberda.

Before each festival premiere I've seen this season, they've played the film with the Calatrava profile and the reference back to the Tchaikovsky Festival with its famous Philip Johnson set that was a unifying theme throughout that earlier festival. Every time they show the old set, I can smell the plasticky scent that pervaded the theater for that season. I don't miss the smell this time around, but it seems Mr. Calatrava is being used very differently than Johnson was. The Johnson set could be configured to take on different shapes for each ballet, but it was there -- the same long, clear tubes -- throughout. For this festival, the star architect has to construct something different for each ballet, including painted drops.

Share this post


Link to post
Her solution: expand her options, get creative. I think she was admirably gutsy in going the route she chose.

I respectfully disagree, carbro. I don't regard it as gutsy, but as arrogant. Writing a script requires craft and skill, just like choreography. She was attempting to be a jack of all trades, and script writing happens to be a difficult trade. He who attempts to be a jack of all trades is master of none. Being gutsy in a discipline in which you have no clue what you're doing might have a place in a workshop performance or in a small downtown theater. It doesn't have a place on the stage of a 2,800 seat theater in the rep of one of the most renown dance companies in the world. As an audience member, I felt like my intelligence was being insulted, my money was wasted, and my time was wasted by NYCB. Even if we had Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer delivering the lines, it still would have been a disaster because the "script" was not stage worthy.

Edited to add: I also find it interesting that Barak is giving interviews to explain that she never wanted to work with this music, but was forced to. Apparently, she is attempting to mitigate potentially negative reviews by offering this as an excuse. If she felt so ill equipped to work with this music, she should have passed on the assignment. If you are offered a job that you think you cannot handle, you should pass on the job, especially when the results of your work will be on display to thousands of paying customers.

Share this post


Link to post
Edited to add: I also find it interesting that Barak is giving interviews to explain that she never wanted to work with this music, but was forced to. Apparently, she is attempting to mitigate potentially negative reviews by offering this as an excuse. If she felt so ill equipped to work with this music, she should have passed on the assignment. If you are offered a job that you think you cannot handle, you should pass on the job, especially when the results of your work will be on display to thousands of paying customers.

Yeah, I agree. But especially after she DID go ahead and, clearly out of desire for an opportunity for herself, do the piece, it's tacky to keep talking about how she didn't like the music. That should have been left behind. The way she handled it afterward is even worse than that it apparently failed. Once she worked with the music, she should have shown it respect. Frankly a bit revolting, you know.

Share this post


Link to post
Yeah, I agree. But especially after she DID go ahead and, clearly out of desire for an opportunity for herself, do the piece, it's tacky to keep talking about how she didn't like the music. That should have been left behind. The way she handled it afterward is even worse than that it apparently failed. Once she worked with the music, she should have shown in respect. Frankly a bit revolting, you know.

What I find most amazing about her approach is that she is playing both ends against the middle. In one breath, she is complaining that it's not her fault if the ballet is awful because Martins forced her to use the music. IN the next breath, she makes sure to stroke Martins' ego by explaining what a wonderful guy he is for giving her this opportunity and having confidence in her. She is not a starving artist who needed to take this job because she wouldn't be able to eat or pay her rent. She chose to accept the job, and she should also now accept the responsibility for the reviews. That's what professioinals do.

Share this post


Link to post

Lots of good points here. (Okay, this is BT.) But a couple ideas I don't see yet. In trying to have it both ways, maybe Barak is also trying to play the PR game? As I watched the "ballet dramedy" drag on and on, knowing what was in the program about the circumstances of its making, I thought -- and this was about the best, most positive thought I had at the time -- I thought well of her to take the chance and try to make something, and maybe learn from the experience of making it, whether the product made was good or bad. And so she's done that, and now she -- or they? -- are trying to do some damage control. (And not succeeding very well with that either.) This is all too common, and lamentable. A distraction, a diversion of resources, a reminder of a brittle environment, a display of nervous insecurity at NYCB? Time was, when people complained that the title of the new ballet, Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze, was too hard to pronounce, the choreographer could shrug: "If you can't pronounce it, don't come."

While professionals might turn down dubious propositions -- I certainly think it's better if people stick to what they're good at -- are Barak and Martins on anything like even footing? She may have thought not only was this dubious proposition an opportunity of sorts to be explored nonetheless, mightn't she also have thought it was even more dubious to cross her boss by refusing? (I see that can also be read as "making her boss cross", so I'l leave it.) So she strokes his ego too. (There's some fast footwork for you, and nice going, girl, you look like a survivor.) So I'm not so amazed.

But I'm disgusted. That's about the worst thought that came at the time (the evening of the 9th). How much did they spend on this? I wondered. What could Suzanne Farrell, who gets enough money to hire twenty dancers for twelve weeks a year, have done with that money?

Share this post


Link to post
Lots of good points here. (Okay, this is BT.) But a couple ideas I don't see yet. In trying to have it both ways, maybe Barak is also trying to play the PR game?

She is definitely playing the PR game.

Share this post


Link to post

I just want to make a brief comment about the Thursday night performance. Ashley Bouder. Her performance in Donizetti had me smiling the entire time. Andrew Veyette was terrific too, but seeing Bouder in this ballet was an amazing experience.

I'd love to hear comments from others that attended. My husband & I had a discussion about the problem with Interplay (not the performance tonight, but the piece), so I'd love to read other impressions.

Share this post


Link to post
I'd love to hear comments from others that attended. My husband & I had a discussion about the problem with Interplay (not the performance tonight, but the piece), so I'd love to read other impressions.

Lovely evening for everyone: Katherine Morgan and Robert Fairchild were beautiful in Scotch Symphony, I can't think of this show without mentioning them - very lyrical and compelling performance.

Share this post


Link to post
Edited to add: I also find it interesting that Barak is giving interviews to explain that she never wanted to work with this music, but was forced to. Apparently, she is attempting to mitigate potentially negative reviews by offering this as an excuse. If she felt so ill equipped to work with this music, she should have passed on the assignment. If you are offered a job that you think you cannot handle, you should pass on the job, especially when the results of your work will be on display to thousands of paying customers.

Yeah, I agree. But especially after she DID go ahead and, clearly out of desire for an opportunity for herself, do the piece, it's tacky to keep talking about how she didn't like the music. That should have been left behind. The way she handled it afterward is even worse than that it apparently failed. Once she worked with the music, she should have shown it respect. Frankly a bit revolting, you know.

I would never hold it against a choreographer that she tried to meet a challenge and fulfill a high profile commission even if the end result was poor. I do agree with this:

Once she worked with the music, she should have shown it respect.

Definitely. I'm sure she doesn't intend to shift responsibility to her composer but every effort should be made to avoid even the appearance of doing so. Someone else might have taken the same score and made something of it.

Devising stageworthy dialogue is not as easy as it looks, as abatt notes.

Share this post


Link to post

NYCB performance Thur., June 17 8 pm

A great evening of choreography and dancing with two Balanchines, and a Robbins and a Wheeldon sandwiched in between.

The first, Donizetti Variations, showed us Ashley Bouder with all her special qualities, with Andrew Veyette and a buoyant ensemble.

It was hard not to keep on a smile at the end of the ballet.

Robbins' Interplay with a stellar cast (Laracey, Peck, Scheller, Zungre,

Fairchild, Schumacher,Suozzi, and Ulbricht) followed; a total delight.

Wheeldon's After the Rain was a first view for me.

An exemplary cast (Whelan/Hall, Gilliland/Danchig-Waring, Reichlen/Ramasar).

Whelan received the greatest applause of the evening.

Then, for a perfect ending, Scotch Symphony, with the incandescent dancing of

Kathryn Morgan, partnered by Robert Fairchild.

I really liked Karin von Aroldingen's new set design.

All this and seats in the front row (bought the day before). Serendipity.

Share this post


Link to post

At the Friday night performance I was pleased to see that the house was more than 3/4 full. I was also really happy that they added "La Source" to the program. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz were the principal couple. They did honor to the choreography and were very delightful as well. Ditto Ana Sophia Scheller, who dazzled my husband with her sharpness, verve and projected charm. The real treat for me was the corps of women, not one of whom I had ever seen before, and I was told were all (or nearly all) new apprentices. The stand-out for me was Lana Tong, whose long neck and beautifully distinctive epaulment reminded me of Helene Alexopolos -- and that ain't bad.

Darci Kistler was the lead in both parts of "Monumentum/Movements" - which she performed with great dignity and grace. It was very special to see her, especially since I won't see her farewell. Yes, it's naturally true that she doesn't have the flexibility and speed she had at 18, but we get the benefit of her intelligence, commitment understanding and love.

I didn't like the Bigonzetti one single solitary bit. Everyone else has commented about the poor lighting and bizarre, unflattering costumes. I found the choreography repetitive, unimaginative, cliched and unattractive. The mood and music veered radically from pleasant to morose with no reason, and stuck too long to morose. The choreographer commented in the Playbill interview that he choreographs closely to the personalities of the dancers, which has has come to know after working with them for so long. I can't imagine that he is perceiving their characters accurately -- I feel he has painted them all over with his own inner misery. Please don't!!

I was very disappointed in the performance of Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns and many of the demi soloists in "Who Cares?" that evening. I love that ballet, and the arrangement (I have heard other criticizing the Hershy Kay arrangement, but it's embedded in my soul), but I felt that this cast (other than Teresa Reichlin, and Jenifer Ringer who really GOT it!) just haven't connected to the jazziness, the feeling, the Gershwin.... They'll hopefully grow into it.

Share this post


Link to post

I attended Friday's performance. I haven't seen La Source in a number of years. Megan started out a little stiff, but she got better as the ballet progressed. She was good, if not thrilling. DeLuz was wonderful, with light, airy jumps. Scheller did a wonderful job, too. I like the Bigonzetti more than most, but I feel it is too long. Darci was regal and commanding in Monumentum. However, I think her declining technique showed the most in Movements, where she could merely sketch the steps. Ringer has been doing Who Cares for a number of years, and she is marvelous in the role. However, having seen Tiler Peck's outstanding performance last week, Ringer's paled by comparison. Ramasar, in my opinion, doesn't have the jazzy brio for the role, at this point. Robby Fairchild was a revelation last week. Also, Ramasar's partnering of Ringer was rough in places. I thought Reichlin and Mearns were both wonderful in Who Cares. Reichlin towered over Ramasar. It looked bizarre.

Share this post


Link to post

NYCB perf. 6-20-10 3pm

La Source

Herman Schmerman pdd

The Lady with the Little Dog

The Four Temperaments

Sunday was the only chance to see 4Ts during our short

1-week trip to NY to attend a wedding.

Sunday matinee was also the Albert Evans Farewell Performance celebration.

Evans appeared in the Forsythe pdd with Wendy Whelan and in

the Phlegmatic variation of the 4Ts.

La Source, which we also saw in rehearsal on Thur., had both times the same leads:

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz.

Fairchild gave, in my view, a very authoritative reading of the role and

De Luz was elegantly buoyant in all his aerial work.

Lauren King led convincingly the ebullient womens' ensemble.

An enjoyable performance.

The Lady with the Little Dog as a ballet in the repertory of the NYCB

seems an enigma to me.

Choreographically it has almost no redeeming features; the musical score is second-rate at best;

and the libretto and conception of claiming to 'tell' the story of Chekhov in dance is preposterous.

And this is a short story that Vladimir Nabokov considered to be the best

that has ever been written.

I had admired a pas de deux that Miroshnichenko had choreographed a few years ago

for the Mariinsky Ballet to music of the contemporary Russian composer Desiatnikov.

But his introduction of a chorus line of eight male 'angels'

in the story of The Lady with the Little Dog seems simply absurd.

If the urge to choreograph angels is strong,

then best remove the name of Chekhov from the enterprise. Can't have it both ways.

The Four Temperaments is a 20th c. masterpiece.

Seeing it with top-rate dancers like Marcovici, Somogui, J Angle,

Evans and Reichlen was a thrill.

The Evans Farewell sendoff was a flower-filled and very touching

tribute by what seemed to be the entire company joining him on stage.

Share this post


Link to post
NYCB perf. 6-20-10 3pm

La Source, which we also saw in rehearsal on Thur., had both times the same leads:

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz.

Fairchild gave, in my view, a very authoritative reading of the role and

De Luz was elegantly buoyant in all his aerial work.

Lauren King led convincingly the ebullient womens' ensemble.

Lauren King has been a joy for me to watch for the last 2 or 3 seasons. I'm always happy to see her name in the program because she brings such joy to the stage. I hope Peter Martins is viewing her as soloist material.

Share this post


Link to post

I noticed on the casting list that Robbie Fairchild replaces Chase Finlay in tonight's premiere of Mirage. Chase will dance in Mirage in subsequent performances this week.

Share this post


Link to post
I noticed on the casting list that Robbie Fairchild replaces Chase Finlay in tonight's premiere of Mirage. Chase will dance in Mirage in subsequent performances this week.

Kathryn Morgan posted (via Twitter) that she is dancing MIRAGE with Robbie on Tuesday and Sat Mat, and with Chase on Wednesday and Sat Eve.

Share this post


Link to post

Did anyone see "Mirage"? I just read a review from a music point of view in a blog post by James C. Taylor in the LA Times:

After hearing Salonen’s concerto at Disney Hall, I found the effect of the 30-minute piece different when its music was synchronized to dance and stagecraft. In Movement I (“Mirage”) what Salonen describes in cinematic terms as “an extreme close-up of the string” is accompanied by Calatrava’s giant sculpture/mobile dramatically rising and then morphing into what looks like a set of wings.

Then in Movement IV (“Adieu”), a swelling surge of the full orchestra brought Martins' dancers to a large pyramid form of partnered leaps. The final chord of the concerto, which rings with an altogether different sound from anything else in the piece, prompted a subtle cue of rainbow-colored light projected onto the stage and the dancers in their final tableau.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemon...ty-ballet-.html

I've heard some of Salonen's compositions before and liked them very much. And Leila Josefowicz -- wow! That's like when Elmar Olivera played the Barber Violin Concerto for the Martins ballet (although I loved the way then-NYCB concertmaster Guillermo Figueroa played it, too in subsequent seasons). It's worth going for the concert alone, but, better, I've been hearing good things about the choreography, although no specifics.

Please tell!

Share this post


Link to post