Ballet Across America II at the Kennedy Center 15-20 June 2010Three different programs, nine different companies
Posted 17 June 2010 - 05:33 AM
Briefly, I'll say that I thought the first ballet, Houston Ballet's Artistic Director's Falling, was beautifully danced and had some substance, but had a highly variable relationship to its music, an early divertimento or serenade by Mozart, and was inconsequential; the second, Monumentum/Movements, a distinguished pair of ballets by George Balanchine, well suited its music throughout and got a generally apt performance by the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, maybe sightly better the second evening, when it was much better received, incidentally, by a younger audience; and then North Carolina Dance Theatre offered Shindig, by its artistic director, Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, which was a big hit with the audience the first night but seemed so insubstantial I skipped it the second time.
Here's a link to a clip of the third item on the first program, North Carolina Dance Theater's Shindig:
(It was good to see TSFB's Momchil Mladenov recovered from the injury I saw him sustain in Minneapolis in March, too.)
Posted 17 June 2010 - 06:01 AM
COPIED FROM JACK's INITIAL THREAD on MONUMENTUM/MOVEMENTS
TSFB troupe did a very fine job last night [opening night] with these two ballets. I was most impressed with Natalia Magnicaballi's reserved abandon - quite Farrellesque.
The other two offerings of the night were also well performed. Welch's Falling, to a Mozart score, had some lovely movements by exceptional dancers, such as Melody Herrera. However, the hit of the night among most audience members was, without a doubt, NCDT's Shindig, closing the evening with a bang.
The brief post-performance chat featured Patricia McBride and Suzanne Farrell together on the stage once again (along with Bonnefoux, Welch and emcee Kim Kokich).
Jack, as much as we ballet lovers admire Balanchine's Stravinsky works, I'm afraid that there's much less appreciation among the public at large. For example, I heard snores in my 2nd Tier area during M/M. A group of high schoolers occupied the two rows directly behind us, so it was a young gang in my area. One of the young people exclaimed "Thank God - good music!" as a bluegrass tune was heard before curtain-up for Shindig. Then, as the curtain rose, there was huge applause...not just for the troupe on the stage but for the "relief" of finally hearing & seeing something that they could enjoy. Sad but true.
p.s. And "it ain't over" for Monumentum/Movements at the Kennedy Center by any stretch. Oh, no. M/M is scheduled not once but TWICE next season -- for the next TSFB regular run in the late-fall, then at NYCB's spring visit ('Balanchine Black-and-White' mini-festival). I suppose that Ms Farrell, as KennCen ballet programmer, is dispensing "M/M Overkill" castor oil. ( "It may not taste the best but it's good for you! You will swallow it and that's an order!") She is to be commended for trying...but I hope that nobody will be turned off ballet as a result. Newbies should want to BUY more tickets in the future, not run away. Oh well, the beauty of mixed-bill programs is that there's bound to be something for everyone.
Posted 17 June 2010 - 07:42 AM
Anyway, I'm not clear on whether you were at the second night as well, because the person sitting next to me had been to both, and also thought, as I did, that M & M got a much better hand from the orchestra seats Wednesday evening than Tuesday, and it was a much younger audience, or at least, just looking around, we saw a lot more younger people. (I don't think Farrell thinks Balanchine's black and white ballet "is good for you" except in the best, spiritual sense; she serves the cause, and personally, I hope no one ever tries to persuade her to betray that cause by dumbing down her repertory. There's huge variety of good stuff.)
I've put in my scant notes from the short post-performance panel discussion Tuesday the 15th below, in Post #11, FWIW.
Edited by Jack Reed, 19 June 2010 - 04:56 PM.
Posted 17 June 2010 - 07:55 AM
....not clear on whether you were at the second night as well,.....
Alas, I missed the 2nd night, Jack. Was watching La Danse on TV. Glad to read that M/M received a better ovation than at the opener.
Agreed on the importance of not dumbing down the repertoire. If pleasing the crowd were the only goal, then we'd have nothing but DON Q. As it is, DON Q shows up at least once every KennCen season (Bolshoi in 07, Mariinsky in 08, WashingtonBallet in the present season of 09/10...and were getting it again next season with the Cuban Ballet).
Posted 18 June 2010 - 05:46 AM
Ballet Arizona's large-scaled Diversions, set to Britten and choreographed by company AD Ib Andersen, should have been the hit of the night but was hampered by a too-slow rendition of the score by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra...something that was still bothering Andersen one hour later during the post-performance discussion. I would love to see this ballet performed in the appropriate tempo some day, as it displays the work of a sensitive choreographer who is not of the post-Balanchine cookie-cutter variety. The haunting pas de deux by the leading couple -- sorry, don't have my Playbill for names! -- was a highlight. The costumes were gorgeous, with a modified 'tutu-like' leotard with feathery ruffled skirt for the ladies and hand-painted bird's feathers at the hipline of the men's tights. The entire piece made me think of birds or floating angels.
Alas, the evening ended on a downer. Pacific NW Ballet's dancers are far too talented for the monotonous and cliche-filled triffle served up by choreographer Benjamin Millepied, to Stephen Reich's dull, repetitive music. [Sorry, Mr. Reich - you're no Phillip Glass.] The ballet 3 Movements is only 15-16 minutes long...but even one movement would have been too long! Let me guess -- Millepied is being mentored by Peter Martins. Even the 'streetwear' costumes were blah. The saving grace was Carla Korbes -- a beautiful presence, generous in her movements.
One more program -- one more night, tonight. Maybe the Joffrey, Aspen Santa Fe and Tulsa ballets can pull us back up to the quality of the two 'hits' of the run so far -- Shindig and In Dreams?
p.s. Only two of the three ADs appeared in last night's post-performance chat. PNWB's Peter Boal was the no-show. The moderator announced that he suffered some sort of injury back home and was unable to join his troupe in DC.
Posted 18 June 2010 - 07:25 AM
Posted 18 June 2010 - 07:27 AM
.... The pas de deux couple should have been Russell Clarke and Tsuchia Huang, who have a wonderful and consistent chemistry.
Yes, that's the magical couple, ArizonaNative. Thanks.
Posted 19 June 2010 - 10:04 AM
Posted 19 June 2010 - 12:37 PM
Anywho, BAZ dancers are having a grand old time here and loving the opportunity we have been given. I think it is opening a lot of eyes about what is going on in the southwest.
Posted 19 June 2010 - 04:52 PM
Ballet Across America panel discussion, Tuesday evening, 15 June, Opera House, Kennedy Center; thus this brief discussion happened right after the first performance of Program I, and so it's out of sequence in this thread, but I hope these bits I caught of it will be of some interest anyway:
Kim Kokich, moderator, with Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, Patricia McBride, Suzanne Farrell, and Stanton Welch seated left to right downstage
K K: Is there an American style of dancing? J-P B: It has energy and joy, but there are many kinds. P McB: Each company has its own style. Its choreographer maintains his style. S F: America is young and ballet is young. America was colonized by people from many countries... S W: America is diverse, like Europe.
Q from audience: Where does a choreographer get his inspiration? J-P B: From the bluegrass. The rhythm is fun. S W: He might begin with a story and look for the music.
Q: Who were the Balanchine ballets [Monumentum and Movements] choreographed on? S F: On Diana Adams... They have a similar pristine quality, [corresponding] to the starkness of Stravinsky. There's similarity, but contrast. The opposite sides of the energy coin.
Q: Is it more thrilling to dance or to choreograph? S F: It's easier to be a dancer. P McB: You're more nervous for your dancers. [It may have been here that Farrell and McBride began to hold hands]
Q: The diversity of styles was impressive tonight. How did you choose what to bring? J-P B: We were asked for videos and the Kennedy Center chose.
Posted 21 June 2010 - 05:26 AM
Posted 21 June 2010 - 06:47 AM
Did anyone else go? There were a lot of people there -- more comments would be appreciated!
There are three reviews up on danceviewtimes. Here are the links:
Program I (George Jackson):
Program 2 (George Jackson):
Program 3 (Alexandra Tomalonis)
Posted 21 June 2010 - 07:57 AM
"Q: The diversity of styles was impressive tonight. How did you choose what to bring? J-P B: We were asked for videos and the Kennedy Center chose."
(from Jack Reed's description of a post-show discussion) very interesting, in light of the comments that have been made about repertory choice. I'm wondering, now, what the mechanism was for the last festival (where PNB, my hometown company, caught some flack for dancing Nacho Duato's "Jardi Tancat")
Posted 21 June 2010 - 07:59 AM
I found Program C to be very enjoyable from a 'movement to music' perspective. I was especially surprised that I enjoyed the first two works -- Elo's Red Sweet for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Duato's Por Vos Muero for Tulsa Ballet -- as both are more 'modern dance' than true ballet. And I loved Liang's Age of Innocence for the Joffrey despite the dopey costumes for the men!
Jorma Elo's Red Sweet, set to Vivaldi and Biber, showed-off the honed physiques and musicality of the Aspen Santa Fe troupe. I call it Sliced Even Sharper -- very similar movement to Elo's well-known Vivaldi opus for NYCB, even more-to-the-point and satisfying. A lot of the exiting/entering moves and lifts are taken straight from the NYCB work but are more effective now because only the dancer's faces and limbs are bright, beautifully contrasted against all-black background and the dark-toned leotards with bare legs. Also in contrast to the black background and costumes, the floor was a brightly-lit fuschia. Many in the audience complained that the women were not on pointe. ("Aren't we supposed to see ballet tonight?") However, I could have sworn that the women were on pointe, as they danced almost on the tips of their toes throughout. Truly extraordinary and it must have been very difficult to maintain pointe-like positions without pointe shoes. I loved the clever exits that had the dancers appearing to be swimmers -- the 'wavy legs' movements that we see in other Elo works.
I went into Nacho Duato's Por Vos Muero expecting to hate it. I took No-Doze as prep. I warned my husband not to expect much. I had already seen this work on DVD by the originators, Duato's National Dance Company of Spain. I was prepared for chunky, weighted-down dancers moving to boring 15th-C Spanish madrigals, interspersed by pretentious poetry readings. It was a delightful surprise to see this work performed by lighter, ballet-trained dancers of the Tulsa Ballet, who brought sunshine to the piece. OK, I still dislike the work but I was able to appreciate the balletic gifts of the Tulsa dancers and, hopefully, their next visit to Washington, DC, will see them dancing true classical ballet.
Balletic relief came in the form of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago dancing Edwaard Liang's gorgeous Age of Innocence, which deals with manners and feelings among men and women 100-200 years ago and, as such, hearkens to Lilac Garden or even the corps in Sonambula. [Too bad that the men in the ballroom were stupidly outfitted in white short-shorts.] There was much to love about Liang's steps to the beautiful Phillip Glass score BUT the piece de resistance was the final pas de deux, exquisitely danced by Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels. I could watch that pas de deux -- and this entire ballet, in fact -- forever and ever. It is the essence of what I love in the art. A clever movement in which he quickly flips her and she ends up "perching" on his back will live on in my mind for some time. Bravi!
All three troupes were equally and warmly cheered by the night's very lively audience -- liveliest of the three nights that I attended.
p.s. The post-performance chat and Q&A was the longest and liveliest tonight. The Tulsa Ballet's director - Marcello Angellini- was a particular hoot with his candid comments about costumes.
p.s.s. It's hard and probably unfair to pick favorites among the nine ballets and troupes on view during the festival but I'll have to select Joffrey-Age of Innocence, while my husband sticks firmly with North Carolina's Shindig.
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