MCB Program IIIScotch Symphony, Promethean Fire, Nine Sinatra Songs
Posted 11 February 2011 - 07:31 PM
Scotch Symphony was very nice. At first I was trying to make sense of the whole thing, but I gave up after a while. Too many questions, you see...who's the "demi girl"..? Why are those scotchmen being so protective of the sylph...even mean-looking? Why is the sylph mentioned in the programme as a "real girl" as opposed to a mere spirit...? Why are the women wearing sylph-like costumes with that black thing on top...? Are they sylphs too...or human beings...? And on and on. After realizing that there were no answers for all those questions- (and some more)-, I started just to relax, "watch" the ballet and enjoy the dancing -(No, I still don't need that "Oh dear...go home, drink some little wine and read some fairy tales" response...at least no yet. ). The Sylph was Katia Carranza, and "James" -( )-Renato Panteado. Carranza was beautiful to watch and she wore the romantic tutu with conviction. Panteado partnered her very nicely too and threw some attractive steps here and there. But honestly, the highlight of this performance for me was definitely Miss Leigh-Ann Esty as the “demi girl”-(can I call her Effie…?). Miss Esty- (just as her twin sister Sara)-is one of those dancers that radiates lots of energy and convincement in whatever role she is in, and I always enjoy her vitality and high-spirited demeanor onstage. Brava!
The sylph wasn’t thrown from her men to James- (as in the Tallchief/Eglevsky video)-; she was merely passed over to him. I wish they had kept the more effective older step though. The romantic PDD was lovely to watch, but I didn’t really see that much of a love story-(if this is the original intention, or if this is just the dancers’ choice of interpretation I don’t know).
Still…this is a ballet that I could definitely come to appreciate/like, but not to love, I think.
Something on "Promethean Fire" tomorrow- (will go back for a second view with friends and my mom)
Edited to add: I didn’t stay for Tharp’s.
Posted 12 February 2011 - 12:18 AM
I've seen a lot of Taylor, but never seen this before.
I think Miami COULD do htis -- but the attack, the weight, will have to be tremendous, and not what ballet dancers are used to.
The piece is tremendous They actually match up to the art-deco histrionics of Stokowski's version of this sublime piece -- -- it's all there in Bach, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is not for sissies, it's flat-out GOthic!
but iut's hard not to picture the opening of Fantasia as he conducts this, and the abstract light show that accompanies the music seems to have influenced Taylor's imagination quite a lot here, in the pelting way the dancers attack your field of vision.
Posted 13 February 2011 - 10:28 AM
Will elaborate when I'm back from the beach...Lovely day today!
Posted 13 February 2011 - 02:05 PM
Will elaborate when I'm back from the beach...Lovely day today!
So, Cristian, do I get the feeling you DIDN'T enjoy Nine Sinatra Songs?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts -- including the reasons for your on the Tharp.
Posted 13 February 2011 - 02:44 PM
Will elaborate when I'm back from the beach...Lovely day today!
I had to check the actual post to see what "icon8" was
Hope you have a great day at the beach!
Posted 13 February 2011 - 10:16 PM
Thanks Helene. It was a gorgeous day. The water is still cold, but nothing like a good swimming session in winter time! -(that's my other passion, BTW...is there a SwimmingTalk.com by any chance..? )
Anyway...back to Program III...
Having such a limited understanding/acceptance/knowledge of modern/contemporary dancing, I'm very pleased to report that I enjoyed Taylor's piece more than what I expected. I mean...the formula can't go wrong. First of all you have Stokowski's blatant, unashamed transcription as a musical background, tragic sounding and everything. Here goes 50% to the likeness side. A very simple, but effective costume design where everyone looks great-("while in doubt, wear black")-, emphasizing the V shapes of the dancers' upper bodies, males and females, and enhancing their muscularity, plus a wonderfully designed lighting scheme with changing shades and spot lights in the right places/moments and then you have another 20 % on the good. Finally, a very pleasant choreography with fluid combinations and symmetric constructions WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE THE DANCERS LOOK GROTESQUE WITH RIDICULOUS STEPS and voila!...you have the tutu/pointe-dependent guy enthusiastically clapping at curtain calls.
Yann Trividic danced the lead both on Friday and Saturday night, alternating with Tricia Albertson-(loved her here!)-on the first night and with Mary Carmen Catoya-(welcome back, girl!)- last night. Very intelligent thinking. Albertson and Catoya are both petite dancers-(Catoya the smallest of them all)- and Trividic is the tallest, more solid bailarin of the company, meaning that he was able to manage both of them as if they were feathers. No shaky lifts, no cheating...nothing. He did a great job. In general the whole company was wonderful here. Usually contemporary choreographies are so crazy and "free" looking that one would never guess in between all the floor rolling, running and confusion if they are doing something wrong or even if they are improvising...(that happened to me while watching the Cunningham's company...I realized that they all could had been doing whatever they pleased and I would had never realized...and I don't like that...I like to feel somehow "in control" even as a watching entity.)
Anyway...two thumbs up here!
"Nine Sinatra's Songs" definitely has an audience here which indentifies itself with it. The cheering and applause of the elderly sector of the audience was too obvious and loud to ignore, so if it collects the dollars we need to be able to see T&V, then go for it Eddie...
The disco ball was to much though...
Posted 05 March 2011 - 10:57 AM
Posted 11 March 2011 - 08:43 PM
The same couple led Scotch Symphony, and while Guerra was fine, I think I've seen planes of existence more differentiated in the "Sylph" role than Kronenberg showed tonight - when they dance together, they're together, but there are moments when she is inaccessibly surrounded by men when some dancers in the "Sylph" role have regarded the mere mortal seeking her with some interest but little human warmth, to describe one manifestation of this. The nature of this woman moves back and forth, in other words, between a fantastic creature and an everyday one. Or it has these different sides. So while this was a fine opener, as Villella claimed for it in his pre-performance remarks, it could have had more dimension. (Not Kronenbrg's own fault necessarily, to be fair; as always, it's a matter of what the dancer supplies, in addition to what her preparation supplies her with.) Leigh-Ann Estey was the Kilt Girl in the first movement, and I think the role needs a bouncier treatment.
Promethean Fire, led by Tricia Albertson and Yann Trividic, still seems obscure to me, which certainly doesn't mean it's not good - that could just as well mean it's quite good indeed. (It's sometimes to the credit of a work that "getting it" it is not an easy transition from other work by the same artist.) The lightness of these ballet dancers' rendition, compared to the power and weight of the Taylor dancers' movement I first saw in it a few years ago probably doesn't help me, and the dimness of the lighting sometimes, for example in most of the middle section, doesn't, either. (The Taylor company's performance also had some lighting changes, but less extreme, I think.)
Posted 12 March 2011 - 02:19 PM
The weightless softness Albertson showed earlier in the season made her a logical choice for some Scotch Symphonys, and that quality paid off handsomely in the second movement this afternoon, although I'm not sure Kronenberg didn't animate the last movement better, if Albertson realizes the other-ness of the "Sylph" character more extensively. For one thing, in the two moments where the "James" runs across and back downstage, Albertson regards him with something like the academic interest of a spirit leading him on. (I want to add that her softness appears to be like the tactile kind, not the optical kind - there's nothing fuzzy about her dancing!)
Nine Sinatra Songs was not quite the repeat of last night it might have been. Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra performed "One For My Baby" again, making it look just about nuts, which is contradictorily why it looks like they own it - witness where he crouches toward us and she clambers up on him as though too ploughed to grasp more than her objective, never mind the means to reach it. But Nathalia Anja, with Andrei Chagas, was just superb in "Something Stupid" for her clarity in realizing the witty missed-signals substance of this dance. Last night it had been Albertson; it looks like this earthy stuff is not so much her level as the rarified plane of the supernatural.
Edited by Jack Reed, 13 March 2011 - 06:39 AM.
Posted 12 March 2011 - 08:37 PM
Albertson was back in Promethean Fire, and danced like one of the large ensemble who perform this ballet, rather than like the unique inhabitant of it Catoya had been, except of course that her part is the largest for any woman; and the ballet was effective this way for me through this and a similar approach to the one that worked so well in Scotch - forget about the disaster references and look at it as more abstract. Not entirely, but just notice the inescapable references and otherwise watch its relation to its music, and so on. So while this performance lacked Catoya's transcendent and transcending presence - she seems to me to raise the ballet by her presence within it - it was more moving as an abstraction, if its degree of abstraction is variable over its running time.
Finally Nine Sinatra Songs is beginning to wear on me a little, although Kronenberg and Guerra again made "One for My Baby" very effective, and Albertson's unfailing spot-on timing from beginning to end made "Something Stupid" the sharply-observed comedy it is, even if her characterization was less full than Arja's had been.
Posted 13 March 2011 - 06:19 PM
By Promethean, I was down in Row Q, where I could concentrate on Catoya (and Trividic, imposing figure that he is in this) and see everyone else simultaneously. This is the way I like this piece, as more or less abstracted from the music, with situational or character references from time to time.
Without many cast changes, there were still some nice surprises in Nine Sinatra Songs, especially Albertson, who with Michael Sean Breeden again, seemed to have brought "Something Stupid" more fully to life. She had already nailed the timing, essential if action humor is going to be funny. And Kronenberg and Guerra made "One for My Baby" if anything more flowing and lyrical and just as nuts as before, and the audience, gray nation that most of this one is, had a very good time with it. As they did with "My Way," which music is their anthem, as Croce pointed out, following Sinatra's introduction to the first recording of it we hear.
And it was good to see Jeannette Delgado heating up "That's Life" with Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, specially since I believe she's been sidelined recently, though I do miss the risky original version of this woman rushing at her partner across the front of the stage to jump at him, while he puts on his jacket - here as elsewhere it's been tamed. (Not that I want Jeanette D. sidelined again; anyway, I've never heard of anyone missing the catch, so to speak. Dancers can do anything, can't they?)
*Re-reading this next day, I would like to emphasize that Kronenberg's rendition was the richest experience for me of the three dancers I saw, especially as approached without the distraction of whether the dancer before me was more or less "Sylph-like" - talk about chasing will-o-the-wisps, there's irony for you! - although of course I would liked to have had a better look at Lauren's performance.
Posted 23 March 2011 - 11:09 AM
First of all, I really loved the balance of works in tihs program. During his pre-performance talks recently, Edward Villella has been stressing the theme of stylistic variety and praising his dancers for their ability to perform in a variety of dance styles. One can quibble about this or that detail -- or about the essential look and feel of MCB's approach to the Taylor and even the Tharp -- but Program III showcased each of the three works very nicely.
When the weekend ended I found myself feeling slightly exhausted, emotionally satisfied and, in a way I still do not understand, enriched.
I've seen this on and off since the 60's but it has never ranked with my favorite Balanchine works. This time around, I was especially impressed by the dancing of the corps, and with the the intricate, delicately detailed choreography Balanchine has made for them, especially in the last movement.
MCB certainly seems to have fielded a lot of Scotch Girls. I did not see Arja, though I can imagine this role as being a good fit. I've always thought of the Scotch Girl as having a slightly hoydenish, devil-may-care quality, combined with great technical precision and speed. None of the dancers I saw had this difficult combination. For speed and clarity of technique, I liked Zoe Zien best. For sauciness and character, Ashley Knox. For charm, Sara Esty. Of the male demi-soloists, Michael Sean Breeden displayed a can-do enthusiasm, combined with beautiful ballon and careful attention his attention to his partners, that was especially appealing.
What about the leads? I've never experienced this as a particularly mysterious or "Romantic" ballet. Jack seems right when he says that there appear to be different "planes of existence" for the "Sylph" role. In a less charitable mood, I might call this: "poorly executed story-telling." Somehow, all these elements have never come together for me, though my dim memories of Allegra Kent suggest that she probably came close.
I saw Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra three times and Mary Carmen Catoya/ Renato Penteado once. All four seemed to ignore the sylphide aspects in the plot. Nor were they much troubled by the on-and-off menacing behavior of the male corps. This Scotch Sympony was an excercise in dancing, not coherent story-telling.
There are times, however, the power of dancing itself can make up for all sorts of narrative deficiencies For me, it happened on the last performance of the weekend: the Sunday matinee. Kronenberg came to life -- which means that the Kronenberg/Guerra partnership came to life -- as did not happen (for me at least) in their other performances. I can still visualize a magical series of parallel jumps in which Kronenberg and Guerra were subtly off beat with the orchestra but completely in sync with each other. For me, the magic that many find in this partnership, but which often eludes me, suddenly came to life.
MCB's production is beautifully costumed but is performed in front of a crudely painted flat (castle, lakes, etc.) that seems borrowed by a high-school production of Brigadoon.
This is a great dance work. Or so it seems to me. I watched the video of the original Paul Taylor cast several times before the MCB weekend. We've already talked about the weightedness, the relationship to the floor, that makes this work a challenge for a ballet company. Promethean Fire is full of bent over runs; fast, low one-footed skips; forceful straight-arm gestures; dramatic collapses to the floor; low grands jetes increasing in height as the dancer escapes from the stage. The Taylor Company performs this with a remarkable uniformity of style. They are powerful, even in collapse. They maintain gravitas and never descend into melodrama. MCB's dancers convey the power and weightiness of the piece very well, but come across as more vulnerable -- more as individuals than as members of a tribe. This may actually add to the poignancy of the piece. Anyway, I loved them.
Yann Trividic was extraordinary in the lead male role. His lean torso, long arms, flying hair, intensity, and sense of desperation will stay in my visual memory of a long time. He dominaates the stage. Among the other men, everyone did most things right. One young dancer, Chase Swatosh, seemed closest to the Taylor style. While some around him seemed to skim the ground while running -- or floated upwards as they skipped -- Swatosh seemed to stay close to the ground, even when jumping rather high. There is a point in the ballet when the dancers collapse one by one onto a mound of bodies. One at a time, each dancer stretches a single arm upwards as he or she falls. Later each crawls off stage surrending it to the two lead dancers. Swatosh's straining arm, his sudden fall, and his frantic, ground-hugging crawl to the wings, mesmerised me.
I saw Patricia Albertson and Catoya.in the lead women's part. Both worked smoothly with Trividic in the wonderful long pas de deux, though they lacked the strength and presence of Lisa Viola in the original Taylor performances. MCB is full of wonderful women dancers, but none in the Viola mold. In this work, at least, all the women tended to blend into the ensemble. This was not the case with Taylor's own dancers..
P.S.: MCB is the first outside company licensed to dance this piece. (Villella mentioned that he and Robert Gottlieb had a long personal association with Taylor, going back to the 50s.)
Nine Sinatra Songs.
This is such an inventive piece, and so clever about creating "characters" for each couple. So why do I find it so forgettable? Jack wrote that it began "to wear on me" by the fourth viewing. Me too. Highlights for me included:
-- Sara Esty and Renan Cedeiro in the opener: Softly As I Leave You. (Cerdeiro has the makings of an elegant hoofer, in the Jeremy Cox manner. It's nice to see Esty in a sexy, elegant role.)
-- The magnetism of Carrie Manning and Yann Trividic in Strangers in the Night. The choreography here has some awkward, arbitrary lifts, meant to call attention to themselves. The dancers handled these lifts so smoothly that you almost didn't notice how hard Tharp was trying to impress us..
-- Tricia Albertson and Michael Sean Breeden, deligihtful in the silly, slightly slapstick Something Stupid.
-- Jeanette Delgado (in a sexy red dress) back on stage after a long recovery from injury , dancing with Isanusi Garcia-Rodriquez. . This is a tumultuous relationship, to put it mildly. Delgado throws herself into passionately, it just as she throws herself into every role. Great dancing. Welcome back !!!!
-- The Highlight of Highlights -- The Finale, set to My Way. Tharp is strongest, It think, in filling the stage with so many couples. The couples dance only by themselves, never interacting with the other couples. But the stage picture suddenly becomes brilliantly, magically complex. I can still see those long, gorgeous traveling lifts, A thrilling conclusion to an on-and-off ballet.
Posted 03 April 2011 - 08:01 PM
(Another new Scotch backdrop I saw at NYCB in June, credited to Karin von Aroldingen, no less, an ivory and beige abstraction, or an evocation of the bleakness of the Scottish Highlands, or both, contributed to dwarfing the dancers, whose presence was also weakened by my distant seat, in row N, of the Koch theater at Lincoln Center, a good distance before the recent remodeling.)
Years ago, there was a woodsy, "outdoor" backdrop which seemed to me to suit the ballet well.
As to bad story-telling, I think that's perceptive, bart, but you don't go far enough: I don't think there is a story in Scotch to tell, just evocations of situations; characters, even, but no story. Who are they? Who are these guards? Why do they interfere, and protect her, and then hand her over? Why don't we see the first-movement girl again?
In "Balanchine's Complete Stories," he merely outlines the three movements. We see wisps of narrative, no more than that. References to La Sylphide, too, or to the second Act of Giselle for that matter, for those who recognize them, or a different kind of delight for those who don't but can "read" the evocations of her ephemerality. For me, it's all authentic and typical Balanchine. When people asked him, Why did you do this, or Who is that, he's said sometimes to have replied, What did you see? An ambiguous answer, meaning, I'm curious what you think? or, It's up to you?
I dug up some notes on the Tharp ballet the program ended with - I find it useful remembering the performances, though it might have been better to have had this handy beforehand instead. Maybe they'll serve better linked to next time:
Some notes for Nine Sinatra Songs - from twylatharp.org and, then, from Tharp's Sinatra, by Arlene Croce, in The New Yorker for February 13, 1984.
1. Softly as I Leave You
based on the theme of infatuation
2. Strangers in the Night
militant tango by a serious, straight-backed team, parody
3. One for My Baby
a "close" couple in late night, knowing rapport
labyrinthine acrobatic choreography - a tortuous series of slithers, blind leaps,
upsy-daisy lifts, and ass-over-heels floor work
4. My Way - previous 3 couples
5. Something Stupid
lends tart, comic relief
the essence of dopey, Junior Prom ecstasy
6. All the Way
bathed in unhurried, unshowy glamour
7. Forget Domani
couldn't be showier
dance manuals and cruise brochures; the essence of dopey middle-class escapism
8. That's Life
the capstone couple engrossed in a battle of wits and maneuvers; they play it hot,
hard, and furious
9. My Way - all 7 couples
Posted 04 April 2011 - 05:15 AM
Probably because, as Maria Tallchief says in her autobiography, Balanchine spent a lot of time
and energy on the first movement solo for Patricia Wilde; Tallchief says that she herself
jokingly said, 'George, I thought this was supposed to be a ballet for ME'-- but that she
thinks he took this comment seriously, because he made no more choreography at all for Wilde
in this ballet after that.
Of such things is art made--like the girl who fell at Serenade rehearsal,
and the Union 802 strike which eighty-sixed the ballet Balanchine wanted to do
with Suzanne Farrell as Salome.
Posted 04 April 2011 - 06:23 AM
jsmu. Thanks for that information on the development of Scotch Symphony. This does help explain why I have always felt that there is a diffuse, even cobbled-together aspect to the piece. As though Balanchine's attention wandered during its creation.
Thanks also for the interesting story about the aborted Balanchine version of the Salome story. Why do I have the feeling that this piece, had it actually been created and performed, would not have been among my Balanchine favorites. With Farrell or without her.
Do we know anything about the music he was hoping to use? (Not Strauss, I hope.)
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