iwatchthecorps

MCB films PBS Great Performances special

67 posts in this topic

Thanks for linking this blog. It's interesting to me for obvious reasons. As usual, though, I still have the same question I've had ever since DinA began: Where are the female directors, camerapersons etc.etc.?

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I agree with 4rmrdncr: thank you for this link.

This is a fascinating insider's view. I envy King's ability to convey what the experience feels like for the dancers. She writes well and has an eye for telling details as well as the gift of cogency.

I was struck by the dance experience of the director, Matthew Diamond, who has also done many non-dance tv shows:

He told us that he is a former dancer, was a choreographer, and has watched the the three ballets that we will be filming over 50 times each. He said he was excited to start working with us and looking forward to the day's rehearsals.

[ ... ]He has also directed three other Dance In America programs, "San Francisco Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'", "American Ballet Theater's 'Swan Lake'", and "From Broadway: Fosse".

[ ... ]It was apparent right from the start that Mr. Diamond has every detail of this filming planned out. He had a binder full of notes on each ballet that he followed as the dancers were dancing. He was mouthing the counts and snapping his fingers as if to indicate a shot change. In each rehearsal we would mark through each movement with the music before really doing it . This process enabled him to see the patterns and how we would move around the stage.

The biggest surprise was a consequence of the absence of a conventional stage curtain. That means that the 34 dancers in the Western Symphony finale will have to perform 14 (rather than the usual 7 or so) pirouettes in perfect lines. :smilie_mondieu:

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[ ... ]It was apparent right from the start that Mr. Diamond has every detail of this filming planned out. He had a binder full of notes on each ballet that he followed as the dancers were dancing. He was mouthing the counts and snapping his fingers as if to indicate a shot change. In each rehearsal we would mark through each movement with the music before really doing it . This process enabled him to see the patterns and how we would move around the stage.

We've all seen on You-know-where the kind of video that results when the person behind the camera is surprised by where the performers go, haven't we? Even for shooting a ballet-school program with one camera, I thought it was mandatory to sit in enough rehearsals to know the stage patterns in their music, and let that familiarity guide the sequence of shots. I can't imagine doing a decent job any other way.

The biggest surprise was a consequence of the absence of a conventional stage curtain. That means that the 34 dancers in the Western Symphony finale will have to perform 14 (rather than the usual 7 or so) pirouettes in perfect lines. :smilie_mondieu:

And then what? Sudden darkness? Seeing all of those pirouettes completed, and then seeing the dancers stop, sounds to me like an alteration of Balanchine's effect. If you don't see them stop (because the curtain has come down), isn't it like they're going on forever? So some equivalent video effect is called for, to preserve Balanchine's effect on us, it seems to me. Maybe a fade-out, or a cross-fade. We'll see what happens.

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I guess that Diamond will try to preserve the Balanchine effect, even without the curtain. Perhaps they wanted such a large number of pirouettes to allow them time and freedom to make decisions during the editing process.

I assume something like a fade-out will be involved. After 6 turns? After 8? After 14? Will it be more exhilarating than the descending curtain, which allows us to imagine an unending -- possibly infinite -- series of turns? We'll see. :)

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Thanks for linking this blog. It's interesting to me for obvious reasons. As usual, though, I still have the same question I've had ever since DinA began: Where are the female directors, camerapersons etc.etc.?

Yes, that's part of the question that also includes 'where are the female choreographers and company directors?"

Dance Chronicle is bringing out an issue in the next year on the topic -- the call for proposals is still open.

Dance Chronicle

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The entry on the fourth day of shooting is up:

http://tendusunderap...e.blogspot.com/

Three consecutive takes of Western Symphony's symphony 4th movement and finale seem rather heroic, though perhaps not for the young. :sweatingbullets::flowers:

Wish we knew who the soloists are in each movement.

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Callie Manning -- who danced in The Golden Section and the third movement Scherzo of Western Symphony -- is interviewed on the MCB blog. She focuses on differences between dancing in a theater and dancing for the camera in a film studio.

The news here is that Villella is reviving that very difficult Third Movement, originally danced by Patricia Wilde and Andre Eglevsky, which was dropped by NYCB in 1960.

http://www.miamicity...nce-in-america/

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NYCB occasionally brings back the Scherzo as well.

Western was filmed for Dance in America around 1990 as well, with Peter Boal doing the second movement - if memory serves, it was filmed in Copenhagen as a co-production with Danish TV.

I'm trying to remember how they handled the end - it was different than onstage (am I crazy or at the end of the pirouettes did the men throw their hats in the air, and the camera froze on them and the credits rolled?)

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Western was filmed for Dance in America around 1990 as well, with Peter Boal doing the second movement - if memory serves, it was filmed in Copenhagen as a co-production with Danish TV.

I'm trying to remember how they handled the end - it was different than onstage (am I crazy or at the end of the pirouettes did the men throw their hats in the air, and the camera froze on them and the credits rolled?)

Yeah, they throw them, jump up with their legs back, and the frame freezes. The lead couples are Soto/Roy, La Fosse/Saland, and Boal Alexopoulos.

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Does anyone know why Balanchine removed the Scherzo? Or why it is re-introduced occasionally?

Manning mentioned that, from a dancer's point of view, it's "hard," using that term several times. Can THAT be the reason for its frequent omission? :unsure:

P.S. The Scherzo WAS included when MCB danced this in January 2006. The 2 sets of leads I saw were Callie Manning/ Renato Penteado and Jeanette Delgado/ Alex Wong.

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Thanks for linking this blog. It's interesting to me for obvious reasons. As usual, though, I still have the same question I've had ever since DinA began: Where are the female directors, camerapersons etc.etc.?

Yes, that's part of the question that also includes 'where are the female choreographers and company directors?"

Dance Chronicle is bringing out an issue in the next year on the topic -- the call for proposals is still open.

Dance Chronicle

Where? I went to the link you provided but didn't see any mention of an upcoming issue or RFP. But I would be very interested in the topic (and may have something to contribute about it.) Thanks 'sandik' for alerting me (BT) to this forthcoming issue; I am glad someone is finally willing to research the topic more thoroughly. The major US publications have never had the nerve--well maybe they put in a line or two about women choreographers making forays, but that's all I've observed these many years. And 30yrs later, I'm still waiting for someone to sue NATAS and/or the DGA again for doing nothing.

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MCB Corps member Rebecca King has just posted the first part of an interview with Matthew Diamond. Mr. Diamond is director of Miami City Ballet's PBS special "Great Performances: Dance In America"

Questions include:

  • While working with Miami City Ballet dancers, what moment sticks out most in your memory?
  • How did you prepare for this filming? I would be interested to hear a bit about the notes that you brought to rehearsals that week in the studio?
  • The choreographers created these ballets to be performed live on stage. How do you find innovative and exciting camera angles, while simultaneously preserving the integrity of the stage performance?

You can find the interview at Tendus Undar a Palm Tree

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Has this program been broadcast? I haven't heard or read anything about it in months and I've been looking forward to it

Thanks.

MCB Corps member Rebecca King has just posted the first part of an interview with Matthew Diamond. Mr. Diamond is director of Miami City Ballet's PBS special "Great Performances: Dance In America"

Questions include:

  • While working with Miami City Ballet dancers, what moment sticks out most in your memory?
  • How did you prepare for this filming? I would be interested to hear a bit about the notes that you brought to rehearsals that week in the studio?
  • The choreographers created these ballets to be performed live on stage. How do you find innovative and exciting camera angles, while simultaneously preserving the integrity of the stage performance?

You can find the interview at Tendus Undar a Palm Tree

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According to Edward Villella, in a pre-performance talk, this will run on PBS stations in the fall.

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According to Edward Villella, in a pre-performance talk, this will run on PBS stations in the fall.

Fantastic! I can't wait.

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According to Edward Villella, in a pre-performance talk, this will run on PBS stations in the fall.

Thanks, Bart.

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PBS Arts from Miami: GREAT PERFORMANCES "Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp"

Broadcast date: Friday, October 28, 2011, 9:00 p.m. ET

Read more

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Thanks for posting that, iwatchthecorps. I've also posted on "Head's Up!" where I hope we'll get even bigger readership.

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So it did, bart. T.Y. Been waiting for this announcement. Can't wait to see the production after hearing what the dancers had to say about the process. Plus, I love the Tharp and Western!

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Just a reminder. The Great Performers show featuring MCB will be on tonight in New York City, on Channel 13, with a rebroadcast on that channel on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30. Check you listings and set your DVR.

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To answer a couple of questions--the Scherzo, originally for Patricia Wilde, was dropped because at the time Balanchine felt he had no woman with a strong enough jump for this role. Carolyn George, Allegra Kent, etc., used to dance it... Sadly, most companies do Western without it to this day, including NYCB. NYCB did the Scherzo for a while in the late 80s and early 90s with Nichols in the Scherzo (she used to do not only turning roles but jumping ones as well), and I saw a performance once with Katrina Killian/David McNaughton there.

The freeze at the end , hats thrown in the air and pose, doesn't work at all, nor did the way the end of Golden Section was handled. I had to explain to my partner what the respective endings are in fact; he was quite surprised and disappointed.

How is it possible that the union is not all over MCB and Great Performances like flies on excrement for the APPALLING omission of any principal casting in the entire broadcast, either verbal or visual? This is beyond inexcusable. I recognized, of course, Jeanette Delgado in Square Dance, Jennifer Kronenberg and I believe Carlos Guerra? in Western I, and Callie Manning in Western III-- but otherwise, who knows? With corps parts as demanding as those in Square Dance, we should have known the names of ALL the dancers. I have yet to find the info, by the way, anywhere online. Perhaps MCB's website has it buried somewhere?

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Who on earth were the principals? Anybody know? This must be the day of not identifying dancers -- first the Bolshoi Reopening, now this. The Miami dancers seemed mighty fine, so this faux pas stinks.

Great to finally have a full telecast Square Dance & very nice to have the 3rd movement (Scherzo) of Western, which is omitted by most companies. I could have done without the Tharp but, hey, another ballet on DVD. The back projections were funky, including the ever-changing clouds for Square Dance. (Did anbody on the production team even think about plain pale blue?) And the Western dancers now perform in a cactus field...not to mention wear derivatives of the original NYCB costumes that can best be described as "Karinska on Acid."

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While watching MCB on PBS, (of course), and appreciating the dancers/dancing (of course), I was actually even more interested in the camera angles/editing choices (of course) and the couple times I saw what appeared to be a high-angle cam on a wire--or maybe it was just a dolly/truck--but either way, still interesting to see in an arts video production and not a football telecast. I didn't catch all the credits, so didn't see if a robotic cam used. It was also interesting to notice the cuts to certain angles, and when they occurred...Sometimes the jump from a high to low angle in a single cut was slightly jarring, but eventually I got used to it, and some of the other angle choices started to remind me of a lot of my own work. (Did anyone notice what I wrote many years ago about diagonals adding depth to tv's 2-D image?)

This isn't my favorite Tharp work but watching Twyla Tharp's "Golden Hour" made me realize how many choreographers have since copied the blocking and moves used by her in this work and others. Can't contemporary choreographers come up with their own moves anymore? A borrowed move, or even series of steps maybe, but the blocking of whole sequences? Come on! Where is the originality? Or do newer choreographers believe they are just rehashing a 'classic' a la a new version of SL that still retains the requisite set pieces? But if they copy Tharp, she should get the credit. Personally, I preferred "Square Dance" -- but then again, there are a lot of standard 'Balanchine' moves in that, too, which get repetitive when seen in many many other works by him.

I've never seen "Western Symphony" before and agree that in this case dancing in a cactus field may not have been the best choice for a 'translight' projection. I did appreciate the choreography (of course) and the MCB dancers seemed to enjoy dancing it, which given the constraints of filming, was probably asking more than the norm.

Thanks again to PBS for remembering to include ballet in its arts fest, and finally showing another company than 'the usual suspects' in NYC.

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(Did anyone notice what I wrote many years ago about diagonals adding depth to tv's 2-D image?)

...

I've never seen "Western Symphony" before and agree that in this case dancing in a cactus field may not have been the best choice for a 'translight' projection.

Would you like to post a link to what you wrote about putting dance on screen, 4mrdncr? I thought the excellent company deserved better than what it got - a choppy, sometimes distorting treatment, with a number of good moments showing that that could be done.

For instance - writing from memory at a late hour after the broadcast, without reviewing my recording of it, there are moments in the fourth movement of Western where two lines of dancers arranged on a diagonal dance toward and through each other which are shot along the other diagonal, so that their "diagonality" is destroyed - we see them square on as though they were across the stage. Whatever sense of variety Balanchine had for us at that point was erased.

In the first movement of Western, Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra get an uninterrupted, undistorted stretch of time and space to dance in (and to dance beautifully, too; she especially was in fine form). So this was well shown. But then, at the end of the second movement, we see a closeup of - whoever he is - turning his head this way and that, and then his partner, also in a tight shot, waving; we have to figure out they're across the stage from each other, and finding each other. (Did you get that, 4mrdncr? I was expecting it, because I know the ballet well enough.) I think the relation of dancers to one another in the stage space should have been clearer, as it is on stage.

Another dancer I'm sure I recognize in this is Renato Penteado, in the third movement. His easy, clear dancing identifies him before I get a good look at his face.

As to that cactus field, it doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Originally, and when MCB dances it in the theater, Western takes place in a street in a western town, in front of painted and weathered store fronts. You can understand that people would gather there.

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