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Balanchine Birthday events Jan. 22


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#31 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 08:41 PM

I also had a lovely time, and enjoyed the film (which I've seen enough times to know much of it by heart), the talk with Sean Lavery, the class as well as the performances. Sean referred to the opening lines of the film, which quote (and I've heard that this is misquoted) Petipa on Jan 22, 1904, saying "'All my work is reduced to ashes.' On that day George Balanchine was born." Sean spoke of his experiences with Balanchine (not as a teacher, because he had performed with other companies before he came to NYCB) but as a dancer. Sean was able to make everyone feel very much at ease, and I recall that as a quality that I saw when I watched him give a class as well. He asked the three dancers (Jenifer Ringer, Chase Finlay and Sterling Hyltin -- pronounced "Hill -TEEN") what their first roles were, what their "aha" moment was when they knew they wanted to dance, and what attracted them to NYCB. Jenifer Ringer mentioned, among other things, that she originally thought of dance as an after school activity, and wanted to be a veterinarian. Sean also referred to a few "insider" jokes, such as "PMS" -- Parent, Mouse, Snowflake -- as the first set of roles young corps member do in "Nutcracker," and "white-tights-itis" as a terror that young men experience when doing their first Cavalier roles in white tights, which don't hide anything! Chase Finlay said he'd had a few of those moments. All the dancers said that they loved dancing Balanchine because the choreography seemed so natural and "easy." (EASY FOR THEM TO SAY...) Sterling said she could rehearse his ballets in her head as she walked down the street.

I'm glad to see that others who watched the on-stage class noticed the young woman with the halter top and earrings... she was poised and lovely. I felt that Peter Martins gave almost all his attention to a few men, (there was one young man, on the short side, in the center, who I felt was quite good and Martins completely ignored) until the end. Martins really tried to squeeze in as much as he could in the short time he had, and worked well with the students. At one point, he said that he couldn't demonstrate a combination, and said "It would give me a heart attack!" A few of us were actually worried because he was huffing and puffing, All those years of smoking!

At the matinee I was very impressed with Justin Peck and Allen Peiffer in the "Themes" sections of "The Four Temperaments," and their work in "Cortege" as well. I was disappointed in Reecca Krohn, and felt that she was not as musical as Suozzi -- who I agree tried a bit too hard. I wrote "Mearns, Mearns, Mearns" across the top of the program page.... She can command the stage with a glance. I liked Maria Korowski in "Walpurgistnach" and Wendy Whelan in "Mozartiana" (though she was not as precise as I would have liked in some of the footwork) I missed the serene sureness that Kyra Nichols transmitted especially in her last 10 years with the company in those roles. Sometimes I feel I still see the shadow of Suzanne Farrell in Mozartiana (and Chaconne!)

#32 Amy Reusch

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 10:05 PM

I felt that Peter Martins gave almost all his attention to a few men, (there was one young man, on the short side, in the center, who I felt was quite good and Martins completely ignored) until the end.


I noticed a young man who carried himself very well during barre... in the front row, a little left of center (house left rather than stage left)... but then I didn't notice him during the center work. I wondered if Martins was looking to add some young men to the corps, considering how much attention he was giving the the boys (I think at this age, they're close enough still to be called that).

Several times Martins called out a boy on far house left... who seemed to have a lot of personality (would like to see him in Fancy Free some day)... but I don't remember the name (will see if my daughter does).

I was hoping the huffing had to do with his attention to the students' efforts interfering with the natural rhythm of his breathing (though surely as a dancer he never looked like he didn't have control of his breathing, so why now...) as if he were hesitating to say something until he saw it and forgetting to breath as he hesitated... but I've never seen him do a lecture demonstration before... Is he usually like this?

#33 ksk04

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 11:56 PM

Also interesting to hear Peter Martins requesting heels on the ground when so many of the girls were releasing their heels in demi plié... but perhaps he was addressing the boys... I wasn't surprised at the release but rather at the admonition not to...


Is this different in Balanchine style than others? Heels should always stay on the floor in demi plie, only in grand plie at the deepest point of demi plie you can manage should they be released (at least this is how I was taught and have similarly taught when I teach). Otherwise you are shortening the calf stretch. But perhaps it's different for Mr. B...my experience is, admittedly, rather limited in respect to NYCB/SAB style.

#34 Eileen

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:26 AM

I saw the film for the first time Saturday, and it was simply magnificent! It was an experience that moved me deeply. I learned so much about Balanchine, and I have watched his ballets and read about Balanchine for much of my adult life! (But I don't own a television or DVD player and for this reason have never seen the film.)

I wish there had been subtitles for the early broadcasts of Balanchine speaking because the sound was not clear - maybe early broadcasts were inferior or the sound has deteriorated. Wish engineering could do something about this - remastering like they do historical classical recordings.

I had no idea there was so much archival footage of Balanchine working and of his early (1950's) dancers. The footage of Violette in Midsummer (?) and Jewels was glorious. She had the perfume, and was as joyous in performance then as she is in the lecture hall today. And I'm sure teaching class. She must be such an inspiration to the advanced girls.

The film is shows an arc of development - but it was all there in the 20's in the masterpieces Apollo and Prodigal Son. I saw from the film that Balanchine seemed to have fully accomplished the Balanchine style by his later years. Once he had a ballet company and a stage perfectly suited to his needs, and muses and cavaliers as human clay to mold, he canonized, clarified, his style. You see this in the Dance in America excerpts - the preciseness of the steps, the crystalline technique, the quickness, the exaggeration of traditional ballet vocabulary.

The Balanchine film also showed that interaction with his dancers was essential to Balanchine's creative spark. His dancers created Balanchine as much as he created ballets for them. Balanchine was created by Maria Tallchief with her atavistic quality, by Tanaquil LeClerc with her cool elegance, by Diana Adams, who inspired Agon and the precursor to Suzanne, and of course, the immortal Suzanne, captured on film in her youthful beauty, impassive poise, and immaculate technique.

#35 puppytreats

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:19 AM

I am learning so much from this board and wanted to say, "Thank you." I attended the SAB class this weekend and left with a glow. I am 44 years old and am just starting to learn the language of this great art. I feel like I am being taught by experts here. While I learned a great deal from the SAB class and am picking up a lot from these discussions, I am frustrated by not being able to understand or observe as much I would like to, given my lack of vocabulary, experience, and ability. I am embarrassed to say that I lived across the street from Lincoln Center for 3 years while attending Fordham Law and never attended the ballet (although I was an impoverished, overburdened student with a job!) I likewise wasted my 4 years at Columbia without taking advantage of my access to the arts (except for a class trip to see "Carmen" at the Met.) Is there any way to accelerate my learning at this stage?

#36 Amy Reusch

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 10:03 AM

Is this different in Balanchine style than others?


I am in no way authorized to say what Balanchine Style ™ or Balanchine Technique ™ is or isn't... but my understanding is that adjustments were made to enable the speed of Balachine dancers in certain steps. I think it's possible to say that a hallmark of Balanchine technique is the speed it enables. I do know that after years of being admonished by Joffrey/ABT/Royal Ballet style teachers to make sure my heels reached the ground in landing every petit allegro jump; when I found myself in a major Balanchine principal's class, he specifically put his hand beneath my heels in little jumps to force me not to put them down (or I'd be hurting his hand). We used to be told we'd get Achilles tendonitis if we didn't stretch the heel to the floor, but in this class it was actively discouraged. We used to think there was a lot of tendonitis rampant at NYCB, but it could have been rivalry gossip. Certainly the Irish Step dancing and Highland Dancing seem not to put their heels down in fast repeated jumps... so there must be a way.

Usually we discuss technique over at Ballet Talk/Alert's sister site Ballet Talk for Dancers, but because of the lecture demonstration I think it's okay to discuss it here a little. (Moderators, please let me know if I'm wrong)

One other thing I noticed was the use of the hands. Peter told a Balanchine anecdote about showing all the fingers, but I wasn't won over to the aesthetic by the students' use of their hands... they didn't look natural... and yet when the company dancers used the same style hand position it looked natural and more relaxed... i think perhaps the company dancers flowed in and out of it a little more whereas the students were trying to be academically correct.

Eileen, what a wonderful observation! I think you are right about the dancers' influence. I think America itself had an influence on his style. Would it have been the same if he had stayed in Paris? It would have been different than what had gone before, but would it have been what we know today?

#37 bart

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 10:10 AM

Is there any way to accelerate my learning at this stage?

Welcome to the Ballet Alert, puppytreats. I identify; a lot of us are or have been in your position. You are fortunate to live in New York City. But a rich dance culture can seem over-rich if you let it overwhelm you. I started as a teenager, with time off during certain parts of my education and career. I'm actually glad that circumstances (limited money, limited time, and -- occasionally -- competing interests) kept me from overdoing.

As in so many things, "one step at a time" is the advice that helped me most. It's clear that you start with a couple of big advantages -- the passion for experiences combined with something equally important: the need to connect the dots.

One thing, though: Please don't forget to share your explorations with your fellow members of Ballet Alert.

#38 ksk04

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 10:17 AM

Hmmm. Yes, sorry don't mean to get too technique oriented on here, but I thought there must be more to it the way you phrased your sentence! I find it odd, but I guess it's just my own training speaking.

I guess I'll go investigate some precious 30 sec snippets left on the NYCB youtube channel and see if I can't see for myself!

#39 Eileen

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:48 PM

I am learning so much from this board and wanted to say, "Thank you." I attended the SAB class this weekend and left with a glow. I am 44 years old and am just starting to learn the language of this great art. I feel like I am being taught by experts here. While I learned a great deal from the SAB class and am picking up a lot from these discussions, I am frustrated by not being able to understand or observe as much I would like to, given my lack of vocabulary, experience, and ability. I am embarrassed to say that I lived across the street from Lincoln Center for 3 years while attending Fordham Law and never attended the ballet (although I was an impoverished, overburdened student with a job!) I likewise wasted my 4 years at Columbia without taking advantage of my access to the arts (except for a class trip to see "Carmen" at the Met.) Is there any way to accelerate my learning at this stage?


In a word, no. You are an achiever and want to make up for lost time, naturally. But I started out like you - at Fordham Law and impoverished. Then at large law firm and too busy. As time and funds permitted, I learned by watching the company dance over a period of years. It took me time to appreciate the Balanchine aesthetic - many years, and I started in 1978 feeling Balanchine was too spare, stripped down and unemotional. I was too young for Balanchine then. You are at the perfect stage of life to pursue an aesthetic goal. At 44 you are mature and more open to experience than a young person with more rigid ideas about what's "right".

The only way to really become a connoisseur is what my teacher David Dubal called "comparative listening" - he meant to differing versions of the same piano piece. But it applies to ballet, too! By watching Serenade over many seasons, you build your visual library and each time you see a new performance of the ballet, you see new aspects you never realized were there. At first all is a-swirl. Then Serenade over the years begins to unfold its mysteries to you.

When I first saw Mozartiana in 1981 I thought, oh it's so dark and not very interesting. But Balanchine was 77 when he created that dance and I was in my 20's. How could I appreciate it? Now - now I know so much more with perspective of life and repeated viewings.

Appreciating Balanchine is a life's work. You have your work cut out for you! Onward!

#40 Eileen

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 07:07 PM

Is this different in Balanchine style than others?


I am in no way authorized to say what Balanchine Style ™ or Balanchine Technique ™ is or isn't... but my understanding is that adjustments were made to enable the speed of Balachine dancers in certain steps. I think it's possible to say that a hallmark of Balanchine technique is the speed it enables. I do know that after years of being admonished by Joffrey/ABT/Royal Ballet style teachers to make sure my heels reached the ground in landing every petit allegro jump; when I found myself in a major Balanchine principal's class, he specifically put his hand beneath my heels in little jumps to force me not to put them down (or I'd be hurting his hand). We used to be told we'd get Achilles tendonitis if we didn't stretch the heel to the floor, but in this class it was actively discouraged. We used to think there was a lot of tendonitis rampant at NYCB, but it could have been rivalry gossip. Certainly the Irish Step dancing and Highland Dancing seem not to put their heels down in fast repeated jumps... so there must be a way.

Usually we discuss technique over at Ballet Talk/Alert's sister site Ballet Talk for Dancers, but because of the lecture demonstration I think it's okay to discuss it here a little. (Moderators, please let me know if I'm wrong)

One other thing I noticed was the use of the hands. Peter told a Balanchine anecdote about showing all the fingers, but I wasn't won over to the aesthetic by the students' use of their hands... they didn't look natural... and yet when the company dancers used the same style hand position it looked natural and more relaxed... i think perhaps the company dancers flowed in and out of it a little more whereas the students were trying to be academically correct.

Eileen, what a wonderful observation! I think you are right about the dancers' influence. I think America itself had an influence on his style. Would it have been the same if he had stayed in Paris? It would have been different than what had gone before, but would it have been what we know today?


Thank you, Amy! Absolutely, Balanchine would have been different had he stayed in Europe. He would not have had the resources he had in America, first of all. He would have had the human material, but not shaped to his specifications, rather, there were already ballet traditions in European capitals and ballet schools. He totally was influenced by the American dancer (female), the energy of America, the wide open spaces of America (at least in mid-century), and the expansiveness of his aesthetic - the sweep across the stage which is characteristic of his ballets - can be viewed as a reflection of the freedom he found in America and the spaciousness, the freedom from want, the ability to breathe. Because there was no tradition of ballet in America, Balanchine was free to create one.

#41 Paul Parish

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:22 PM

About not putting hte heels down and hte American way of dancing.

1) The Lindy hop was the great social dance of the early twentieth century -- the dance that belongs to swing music, everybody did it. Lindy hop dancers did not put their heels down, they danced like cats, on the balls of their feet. not on HIGH half toe, but with the weight way forward over hte metartarsals. ANd they could dance VERY VERY fast.

2) Balanchine is said (many places) to have admired hte way Danish dancers jumped. he brought Stanley williams from Denmark to teach in a style where in plie the dancer was already ready to be "on pointe." THe Danish placement is over the balls of the feet. Jennifer Homans claims that Danes bound and rebound so easily because Bournonville, the author of the Danish style, had a short achilles tendon (implying that he had to bounce out of his plie, which is very plausible).

3) I'ts also claimed -- by Joan Brady, in "The Unmaking of a Dancer" -- that Carol Sumner danced like this in class and Balanchine told everyone to dance like Carol." Brady is hostile ot ballet and to Balanchine, but this claim seems to be widely accepted. Sumner became a soloist in NYCB and danced a huge variety of roles, and upon retirement taught at SAB before opening a school of her own.

#42 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 08:58 AM

I put this up before, but it disappeared!
Apollinaire Scherr has a review of the day in The Financial Times, that has some interesting observations.

#43 carbro

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 04:12 PM

But Stars and Stripes... I just see Jacques d'Amboise written all over this ballet. Anyone here remember seeing him in the role?

I see specific dancers -- even dancers I never saw live -- in his ballets. Women who move nothing like Patricia McBride, when doing that little feet-forward run, can't help but remind us of Patty. Balanchine was such a close observer of his favorite dancers, he made their idiosyncracies intrinsic to the works.

(By the way, should I delete my dining questions from this thread?

No. :) But thanks for asking.


...there was one young man, on the short side, in the center, who I felt was quite good and Martins completely ignored ...

Austin Bachman, perhaps? You can see a beta version of Austin (corps dancer Callie's brother) on this video from 2005.

Also interesting to hear Peter Martins requesting heels on the ground when so many of the girls were releasing their heels in demi plié... but perhaps he was addressing the boys... I wasn't surprised at the release but rather at the admonition not to...

That was one of several things that irked me in the demonstration. Another is the way the girls (I have never noticed this with SAB men) close their tendus and grands battements. Instead of pulling a stretched leg back to fifth with the foot releasing as it closes, the knee relaxes, the heel is slightly lifted, and as the foot closes, the knee straightens, only then allowing the foot to go flat. This also gives the impression that within the pointe shoes' boxes, the toes are clenched.

Then (I can feel my temperature start to rise here) was Peter's emphatic assertion, no less than three times, that "We are the ONLY COMPANY that prepares pirouettes this way," i.e., the small lunge, as compared to the even fourth position demi-plie (which I call the "double squat"). I guess he is unaware of the many companies started or headed by Balanchine-trained dancers who also insist on the cleaner (IMO) preparation.

Is there any way to accelerate my learning at this stage?

In a word, no.
...
Appreciating Balanchine is a life's work. You have your work cut out for you! Onward!

I agree. Just see as much as you can. The wonder of Balanchine is how, during your 937th performance of one of his great ballets, you suddenly see something for the first time. As you begin this odyssey, you may find yourself at some point losing the forest for the trees -- that's okay, as long as you're mindful of it. It's a phase -- probably necessary -- and you'll probably outgrow it. Also, read. I recommend Edwin Denby and Arlene Croce, both of whose reviews are available as books.

#44 Amy Reusch

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 07:29 PM

"

We are the ONLY COMPANY that prepares pirouettes this way," i.e., the small lunge

I was a little surprised at that one myself... if he had them do the deep lunge with the back leg drawing up into retiré instead of bending to push off to retiré... I would have agreed... but I was rather thinking the preparation from an even demi plié in 4th was rather Cecchetti, and there weren't many companies doing that any more...

The tendu thing is a speed thing... I've never liked it, but if they're going to do tendu that fast I'd rather they reach a fully extended arch... if it's a "freeze for the snap shot of 5th", then "freeze for the snap shot of the carefully placed tendu" with the movement between as fast as light... then it "doesn't matter what happens in between" as we used to be told (I rather disagreed at the time, but now understand the style.... he wanted the clean images, not the blurry movement in between). It looks terribly cramped up if it's a slow tendu.. but in the fast tendus the sharp image makes the step sparkle.

Couldn't tell if it were Austin...

#45 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 07:37 PM

...there was one young man, on the short side, in the center, who I felt was quite good and Martins completely ignored ...

Austin Bachman, perhaps? You can see a beta version of Austin (corps dancer Callie's brother) on this video from 2005.


No, (that video was cute but the wrong kid) the young man I was watching had dark-ish, curly-ish hair. He seemed very self-contained and had a quiet confidence. I was impressed.


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