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Bugaku: questions and more questions...Input needed...!!


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#16 Quiggin

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 07:24 AM

I saw "Bugaku" several times in the early 1990s and was always a little troubled by it. Heather Watts always seemed too wirey for the role and perhaps by then, as Allegra Kent suggests, it had strayed too far from the original.

The Miami clip intrigues me now. To me the metaphor would be the strange combinations of natural and artificial materials in Japanese flower arrangements. The sustained drawing out of line seems unsual for Balanchine, especially the long lateral stances of men and the inner - and intricate, almost endlessly inner - hand gestures.

... and the latter from the Floating World and the Pillow Book.


I wonder if Balanchine was seeing some Kurosawa and Mizoguchi films at that time which were always being shown in small New York cinemas.

#17 Ray

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 08:20 AM

I wonder if Balanchine was seeing some Kurosawa and Mizoguchi films at that time which were always being shown in small New York cinemas.


To digress from the topic of the thread, this reminds us of how much more I'd like to know about what Balanchine saw/heard, and when, and how--beyond legend, beyond Taper.

#18 bart

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 08:40 AM

The arrival of Japanese performance (including film) was a big story -- a revelation, actually -- in New York City throughout the late 50s early 60s. This opened a new (post World War II) world of artistic expression to many of us. I would be surprised if Balanchine were not aware of the films. I agree with Ray that there is much more to learn about the cultural influences on Balanchine, especially during that crucial time in the city in which he and his dancers lived and worked.

Miami Herald has posted some fun pictures of a rehearsal with MCB with Edward and Allegra coaching for the upcoming performance.
http://cid-10c91a789118a2ae.photos.live.com/browse.aspx/Miami%20City%20Ballet%20rehearsal%20-%20%5E4Bugaku%5E4?nl=1&uc=117

Wow! Thank you, cahill. I love the intensity with which the dancers listen and observe. It's a great visual depiction of how the art of ballet is passed on from one generation to another.

Based on the photos, it looks like first cast will be Reyneris Reyes and Patricia Delgado. Other casts: Isanusi Garcia-Rodriques and Haiyan Wu (you were RIGHT, cristian !), and Renato Penteado and Jeanette Delgado. There is a fourth woman working without a partner, but I could not zoom in enough to make out who it was.

Reyes looks impressive. What a debut role for this new member of the company ! Ditto for Garcia-Rodriquez (returning to the company) and Wu (returning after maternity leave).

#19 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 09:30 AM

[font="Arial"]I[size="2"]'m sure that I'm in the minority on this, but I've always wanted to see "Bugaku's" costumes stripped of their more obvious Japanese inflections - the wigs, e.g. (The ballerina's daisy-covered bikini must never be abandoned, however. :wink: ) To my eyes they make the ballet look alarmingly close to clumsy parody or 19th C style exoticism, whereas the choreography itself - despite the stylized gestures and images lifted from Japanese theater and visual art -- seems neither parodic [/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"](at least not by intention) [/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"]nor a like conventional ballet incidentally clad in fancy dress. The movement alone says everything it needs to about the intersection of stylized refinement, ritual, and sexuality; the costumes' more obvious japonaiseries[/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"] are a distraction, IMO. Maybe even a little culturally obtuse.

I lived in Japan for three years when I was in my early teens and first saw Bugaku within a decade of so of my return to the US. The movement made me happily nostalgic for Japan; the wigs and robes really annoyed me (and still do). While we're at it, I'd like to re-dress "Le Baiser de La Fee" (a wonderfully weird little ballet that deserves better than the hand-me-downs that it got), at least the first three movements of [/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"]"Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3[/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"]," Nuts' "Waltz of the Flowers," [/size][/font][font="Arial"][size="2"]and "Walpurgisnacht Ballet" (who wears cocktail dresses to a witches' sabbath? - they make the work look like an episode of "Debs Gone Wild"). [/size][/font]

#20 bart

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 09:44 AM

(The ballerina's daisy-covered bikini must never be abandoned, however. :wink: )

http://www.ballerina.../pic/kent05.jpg

(Photo by Kent's former husband, Bert Stern. In the filmed conversation between Villella and Kent, he picks up copy of NYCB's 50th-anniversary book by Peer martins, with the photo on the book jacket.)

The same photo illustsrates a Nov. 2009 interview with Kent in Time Out. The interview is not directly relevant to this thread, but it is interesting, speaking as an Allegra Kent fan. :blushing:

http://newyork.timeo...ancer-interview

#21 Helene

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 10:42 AM

I've only seen Heather Watts do the role, from 1983-1985 with Bart Cook, and then from 1987-1992 with Jock Soto. I liked her unique anti-vulnerability: she wasn't a warrior, rather no matter how her partner pushed, stretched, and tied her into knots, she'd bounce back to her original form.

#22 Ray

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 01:22 PM

I had the privilege of watching Suzanne Farrell coach the pdd on dancers of the Chicago City Ballet, when I was in that company (I performed a corps role in the ballet). It was one of her first times coaching, and I remember thinking she was not particularly generous or encouraging to the principal woman. Still, it was fascinating to watch--while not a role we normally associate with her (I think Arlene C reviewed her in it once), she clearly new every nuance of it and had a clear vision of what the shapes and rhythms should look like.

The corps movements, btw, were not particularly innovative; I suppose you can say that, as in the corps work in Tzigane, he trusted in the simplicity of the steps.

#23 kfw

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 07:01 PM

I had the privilege of watching Suzanne Farrell coach the pdd on dancers of the Chicago City Ballet

What a privilege indeed. Farrell set the ballet for her own company in 2007 (yikes, was it that long ago?). Alexandra's review is here. I remember two very different but equally compelling leads. I also remember a NYCB rehearsal and performance with Darci Kistler and Albert Evans. If astute NCYB watchers care to bring that duo to memory, I'd love to read your impressions.

#24 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 07:39 PM

Here's an image from that 2007 TSFB run, with Natalia Magnicaballi and Jared Redick. In Post #4, TutuMaker posted a link to our discussion of that, with my post about the ballerina role's fearful aspects and her partner's role's fearsome aspects in the pas de deux, which was so powerful for me when I saw the Kent/Villella cast and which Redick, on his side, realized well.

#25 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 08:24 PM

Stretched to the extreme as she begins in a low-slung position mirrored by Mr. Soto, she moves her leg eventually into a split up her partner's chest. The most acrobatic of embraces is followed by a ceremonial dance for all, full of floating veils kicked up by flicks of a leg. Mr. Soto's performance is especially likable: light in his leaps and beats but solid as a masculine foil, he exudes grace without exaggeration.


I don't remember seeing this revival, but I think the movement passage Kisselgoff delicately describes here is the one shown in a sequence of three Fred Fehl photos in B. H. Haggin's Ballet Chronicle on page 172: In the first picture, we see Kent suspended in an inverted split between Villella's legs, looking up at him, her arms outstretched behind her, he hunched over her, hands under her hips. Thus, reminiscent in some ways perhaps of the pas de deux of the Siren and the Prodigal Son in that ballet, their contact is crotch-to-crotch, although as I hope I've made clear, in submission, she doesn't support herself, in contrast to the dominant Siren, who does.

In the second picture, Villella has straightened up, even begun to lean back, and has raised Kent against his torso; her legs are bent now, the left one over his left shoulder, and with her arms still outstretched behind her, she looks toward the front. The third shot shows more upward progress: Villella, still gripping her waist and hips, has bent back so Kent is upright, straddling his chest sideways - that left leg is still bent behind his neck - and has grabbed her right foot with her left hand. (Sound contorted? At the time of the premiere, some critics, like P. W. Manchester in Dance News, objected to this aspect, while admiring the ensembles, according to Nancy Reynolds' "Repertory in Review".) Having said that, I'll add that I don't have any problems with the "contortions" myself.

In the video cubanmiamiboy has posted, where Villella talks about Bugaku, he uses the word "erotic" twice, including, emphatically, at the end; I think this is what he had in mind, and as it premiered in New York early in the '60s, when cultural limits were being tested, I think it may have been the occasion for the line, "If the cops knew what was going on here, they'd shut it down!"

#26 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 09:57 AM

Another point worth making: I've been watching "Bugaku" since City Center, and from the video, I'd say that the former set by David Hays has been gussied up a bit over time. As I recall it, it was spare, spare, spare, with only a very green groundcloth, an upper platform leading to a central step unit and the dancing ground laid out among four VERY red vertical poles at each corner. Like I said - there was a Zen about it.

#27 bart

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 10:39 AM

[ ... ]a sequence of three Fred Fehl photos in B. H. Haggin's Ballet Chronicle on page 172:

Thanks, Jack, for that mention of Haggin and the Fred Fehl photos of Bugaku. (There are 11 from that first season.)

Your word pictures are wonderful, by the way.

Another point worth making: I've been watching "Bugaku" since City Center, and from the video, I'd say that the former set by David Hays has been gussied up a bit over time. As I recall it, it was spare, spare, spare, with only a very green groundcloth, an upper platform leading to a central step unit and the dancing ground laid out among four VERY red vertical poles at each corner. Like I said - there was a Zen about it.

Quite different from the robin's egg blue of the Miami set, more reminiscient of Monet's skies than of Japan in the feudal period.

What are they doing in New York nowadays, I wonder.

Haggin's comments show how important casting is.

As always, Balanchine's imagination has operated in terms related to the particular capacities and styles of his dancers. With Kent it is the capacity for exquisite delicacy in bodily configuration and movement -- to say nothing of the more physical strength behind this, which in Bugaku makes possible the secure slow-motion execution of the delicate configurations and movements with unbroken continuity.

With Villella it is the virtuoso powers exercised with an elegance and grace that are personal as well as physical, and with a force of mere presence that becomes tremendous in the climactic adagio.

Haggin felt that Mimi Paul came close to Kent's performance but that Arthur Mitchell's personality and style did not work as well as Villella's. (N.b.: the boldfacing is my own.)

#28 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 11:24 AM

Haggin felt that Mimi Paul came close to Kent's performance but that Arthur Mitchell's personality and style did not work as well as Villella's.


http://images.google...0272b32eca2acc5

#29 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 11:24 AM

What are they doing in New York nowadays, I wonder.


I'll have to catch it at NYCB next time it comes 'round on the samisen. I haven't seen it in literal decades. It was programmed so much when I was a kid, I guess I subconsciously avoid it now! The green was so intense, I found myself asking, "Why are they dancing on a pool table?" There also now seems to be a torii-influenced fence around the playing area that wasn't in the earliest set and the area itself is dish-shaped.

#30 bart

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 11:35 AM

It's difficult to see the full set from the photos in Haggin. But I have the impression that they tried in some way to capture the sense of performing in an enclosure (a kind of corral, actually) which is associated with gagaku (instrumental only and instrumental-plus-dance). There is a low angled wall at the back and, apparently, also at the sides.

Does this match your memory of those earlier performances, Mel?

Here are examples of the use of enclosure in a more recent (and definitely non-Balanchine) performance of gagaku. The FIRST and THIRD links have the pool-table green floor that Mel remembers.

http://www.culturalp...6_-10088_50.png

http://homepage3.nif...en/09wien01.jpg

http://farm1.static....a50ce58.jpg?v=0


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