theo

ABT meets Baltimore Ballet

27 posts in this topic

Last night I attended the performance of Baltimore Ballet's mixed bill which featured Pas de Quatre, Romeo & Juliet Balcony Scene and The Firebird. First let me say that I saw this company perform two years ago and they are much improved. Thanks in part, to some ABT help, some new blood and also some better fitting costumes with the exception of Juliet's. A baggy sagging long sleeved night gown does not work for the balcony scene!

Aside from Juliet's costume, the only other negative was the quality of the recorded music. Pas de Quatre in particular was obviously a recording of an old record. It was a bit distracting. On to the good news: The two stand out performers for me were ABT II's Aaron Smyth and Baltimore Ballet's Marianna Zschoerper. According to the program, this was Marianna's first performance with this company. She had lovely stage presence and light movement. She was a pleasure to watch. Aaron Smyth shone most brightly in this hometown production. I hadn't realized during the performance that he was from ABT II and I wondered, "where the heck did he come from" I will be interested to see if and how he progresses through ABT. He very well could be one to watch. There were children in this production, which I did not expect, but they were fun and their costumes did them justice. There was one very small young girl who rode on the back of one of the older male dancers who I thought was an eye catcher. All in all, I enjoyed the show. A hometown performance in a cozy venue is a nice way to spend an evening. And by the way, Mr. Catbas, the founder and artistic director of this company, did an amicable job as Romeo. I didn't want to leave him out.

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Ouch almost forgot! The other two ABT guest artist were Puanani Brown and Alys Shee. Alys was the Firebird and once she loosened up a bit, she was interesting, in a good way. Puanani is a very pretty young woman with lovely lines. I apologize for leaving these lovely ladies out of my first post, especially considering the title. ABT and ABT II dancers have done guest appearances with Baltimore Ballet a few times. Maryland is home to a lot of secret talent!

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I have to agree with the previous poster that they are much improved - I thought that the Firebird was one of the strongest pieces on the program, and it was that piece that used the true Baltimore Ballet dancers. Marianna Zschoerper was lovely and she seemed to be truly living in the performance, more so than the young girls from ABT. Although they were also very pretty to watch, they lacked the depth that Ms. Zschoerper brought to Pas de quatre, and seemed a bit underrehearsed.

This is excusable. The resemblance of moments in the Romeo and Juliet to its Macmillan counterpart, however, is absolutely not. I've seen this before in Mr. Catbas' Nutcracker - it looks like a Kirov DVD (not just Petipa/Ivanov but that very staging of Petipa/Ivanov, down to pieces like Mirlitons, which are not often retained in American stagings) with some Balanchine thrown into Waltz of the Flowers. Nowhere are the names of these choreographers mentioned. With Macmillan too, particularly the attitude/renversé beginning for Romeo, I felt that this went beyond honest quoting and into the territory of stealing.

I think it is fantastic that Baltimore has a growing ballet company that seems to do bigger and better things every year. But I wish that this fledgling company would present honest choreography and then of course give credit to whom it is due.

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Ouch almost forgot! The other two ABT guest artist were Puanani Brown and Alys Shee.
Actually, Alys is in ABT II and at 16 years old, its youngest member.

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The performance was spectacular, congratulations to all the dancers. I also enjoyed last year’s gala at Lyric Opera House. Yet the first attitude recorded in history came from the little statue of the Greek god “Hermes” or Mercury as its Roman counterpart. We still don’t know the name of the artist who molded the statue. While the influence of Kasyan Goleizovsky over George Balanchine is very widely accepted, Sir Kenneth Macmillan could not have choreographed an attitude renversée unless Rudolf Nureyev could execute it. What about the beginning of Swan Lake male variation? Is that also Macmillan’s? Art is born from nature; we merely mimic what we see and is already alive. Knowledge alone is not enough, we must understand it. The moment is precious, desecrating it is easy and it should be a crime. I think we should simply stick to “I liked it, or not” as criticizing is a heavy burden and requires divine qualities. Cheers!

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The moment is precious, desecrating it is easy and it should be a crime. I think we should simply stick to “I liked it, or not” as criticizing is a heavy burden and requires divine qualities. Cheers!

We are a discussion board, and our mission is to discuss classical ballet. We are not a fan board or a shrine. We welcome criticism and will continue to do so.

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Soloviev:

What about the beginning of Swan Lake male variation? Is that also Macmillan’s?

Perhaps I should have been clearer - there were many very successful moments in the performance - and my comment here is not in regards to the dancing nor a comment on the general use of attitude renversée. It is just that I found the first eight eights of Romeo's solo (beginning with the attitude) to greatly resemble the Macmillan, both in choreography and musicality. Perhaps it would have been more easily covered up had it not been one of the most striking portions of Macmillan's version of the pas de deux, but it is one that has stuck with me despite an only moderately in depth knowledge of that particular pas - I left the performance thinking that if I had only known the pas better that I would have surely seen more resemblances since the first was so glaringly blatant.

I just think that if this company is going to progress to the next level and become a ballet company based on resident dancers rather than guests and a school, and support a full Baltimore season (which it can and should - Baltimore has a world class orchestra, why shouldn't a ballet company be next?), it needs to be prepared for an educated audience base that will know and recognize these ballets. This is not the first time I have seen Mr. Catbas' choreography strikingly resemble someone else's - I think that he either should embrace his ability for original choreography and create his own work, restage the classics in the public domain and give credit where it is due (congrats to the company on pas de quatre - it was nice to see that ballet on the program since I haven't seen it done much lately), or bring someone in to stage the Macmillan pas in its entirety, if that is what he is aiming for.

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I just think that if this company is going to progress to the next level and become a ballet company based on resident dancers rather than guests and a school, and support a full Baltimore season (which it can and should - Baltimore has a world class orchestra, why shouldn't a ballet company be next?), it needs to be prepared for an educated audience base that will know and recognize these ballets.

If having a world class orchestra means that the community can or is apt to support ballet companies, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Chicago, among other cities, would have large, thriving ballet companies. There's a lot more to it than that, as well as competition from DC.

This is not the first time I have seen Mr. Catbas' choreography strikingly resemble someone else's - I think that he either should embrace his ability for original choreography and create his own work, restage the classics in the public domain and give credit where it is due (congrats to the company on pas de quatre - it was nice to see that ballet on the program since I haven't seen it done much lately), or bring someone in to stage the Macmillan pas in its entirety, if that is what he is aiming for.

Deborah Macmillan, Kenneth Macmillan's widow, has been vigilant in enforcing production rights and licensing for Macmillan's work.

The distinctions between derivative vs. plagiarism vs. influence vs. quotation in ballet choreography are important, and a question/discussion for our "Aesthetic Issues" forum. Unlike written and musical text, recordings of all live theater, only those who've seen or been involved in the production can compare both the Baltimore Ballet and recorded Macmillan choreography to determine whether any apply, since Baltimore Ballet's production hasn't show up on YouTube or been posted to a company website.

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Helene

If having a world class orchestra means that the community can or is apt to support ballet companies, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Chicago, among other cities, would have large, thriving ballet companies. There's a lot more to it than that, as well as competition from DC.

I agree. This is very true, although I would say that the Joffrey, with over forty company dancers, qualifies as a large ballet company. I suppose I am an optimistic person and all I meant is that in order to grow, the company needs to behave as if they are playing to true dance critics and audiences. If Baltimore Ballet is going to grow (who knows if it will or won't, but I know most small companies are usually striving to do so), it needs to present repertoire that a discerning ballet audience won't recognize as someone else's. To pull in the board members that it would take to make this sort of transition even on a small scale, for instance, or to develop the respect and connections within the greater dance community to be given free or reduced cost rights to certain ballets are two things that I find very much tied up in this - to be respected in your community (in this case both the dance community and the Baltimore/Washington community of dancegoers) is the first step in getting noticed and doing something bigger.

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“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds”, by Orison Swett Marden.

If it was Macmillan's choreography, could you watch it for $35.00? Would you be willing to pay more for a live orchestra? Did you make a donation for their continuous growth? Yet what matters is that you could have found out more resemblances if only you knew more. What a pity! I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and congratulate them again for their efforts and putting Baltimore back on the map. And yes, I made a donation. Cheers!

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Actually, were Macmillan's R&J playing this season at ABT, you could see it from the Family Circle Center for $30 or the Balcony for $40 as part of a three-ballet subscription. If you are between 18-29, you could sit in the Orchestra for $30. You won't sit in the Orchestra, though, for $35 if you are 30 or over; those tickets are $80-$102/ballet.

As far as donating is concerned, most people donate when they are convinced in the product, the idea/vision, and/or the participants or by those that ask them to donate (could be a friend or board member, for example, or a snappy fundraising letter). They are unlikely to donate if they aren't, until something changes to convince them otherwise.

I don't agree that those who don't donate have no say in what they see. The reality may be that they won't see more of it unless they donate.

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What a great show! Me and my husband also enjoyed the dinner at Gertrude's (BMA's restaurant). It made our Valentine's Day celebration complete.

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Thank you for posting this Mr. Catbas!

I would like to rescind my comments in regards to it. I will now agree that the resemblance, while it struck me for its musicality, is small. Although there is absolutely no excuse for having made a comment so strong about a live performance that I could not watch step by step for comparison, I can only say that I acted while overwhelmed by a gut feeling that came with the musicality of the beginning of the pas and that it clearly blinded me to the remainder of it. I would like to extend my sincerest and most profound apologies to the other audience member arguing in its defense as well as to its choreographer.

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I started this thread in hopes of providing some exposure for Baltimore Ballet. I have seen them dance a couple of times and thought they were at least worth mentioning. I new if I added "ABT" in the thread people would read. What I did not expect was the direction the tread took. I have sat back and watched while things got a bit ugly and began to feel guilty for ever having spoken. But I'm glad to see that at lest some redemption has been possible. Tonight I see another local Maryland Company, Ballet Theater of Maryland. And I'm very much looking forward to it. I'm a New York Girl who's used to the likes of ABT and NYCB. I've seen Foteyn and Nureyev, Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun and Suzane Farrell dance live. Yet I am not a ballet snob and I never turn a blind eye to a hard working local company. Dance is a beauty to behold and who are any of us to pick apart those who work so hard to bring to the beauty to us.

My 2 cents

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Theo - your remarks are kind and balanced. Since you mentioned it, I'm curious how you felt about Ballet Theatre of Maryland's performance of Romeo and Juliet. I'm a new poster and I did see the performance but I am not a ballet expert and would appreciate your insight.

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Hi Tari,

It's an honor to be asked my opinion, thank you. I struggled with Baltimore Ballet's production of the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet. The steps and movements were technically executed well enough, but what was missing was the emotion that this ballet really demands. I think acting is something the company needs to work on. Either that or they need to stick to works that don't require emotion to convey a particular story or choreographer's vision. I have only seen them perform a few times. One of my favorite performances of theirs was a piece called "Salome's Daughters," which is a modern work that was choreographed by Nejla Yatkin, one of Dance Magazine's "25 artists to watch in 2009." I was front row center for that performance and thought it suited the company (which has had several changes in the roster since then) very well indeed. They were natural in that piece and I would even go as far as to say they were dazzling.

I am no ballet expert either but I have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to it since I was very young and was blessed with the ability to see world class companies and dancers perform live. I even danced myself, but lacked the discipline, and probably the talent to attempt to pursue it professionally. Sometimes love is not enough. And I do LOVE this art form. I feel it in my bones (especially my feet) and in my heart when ever I watch a performance.

In my humble opinion, Baltimore Ballet appears to be trying to find its identity. They rely a lot on guest artists which I think may prevent them from truly developing as a cohesive unit/company on their own. They are worth watching though and as I said in my original post, going to see them at the Baltimore Museum of Art is a lovely way to spend an evening.

Theo

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Hi theo,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I was originally asking about the Ballet Theater of Maryland performance, which you responded to so well on another thread (and I agree!), but your response on this thread also brings out a similar point - the importance of good, honest acting in dance. This is something I've noticed in my limited experience, that I most enjoy performances that evoke emotion, or a memory, or a better understanding of relationships, and those that lack that, while they can be great technically, are not that memorable to me. It's the honest emotion that makes dance relevant and fresh. And it took me a while to understand why so many companies were called "Ballet Theater" until I realized that the "theater" part was an essential feature!

Thanks for helping me put it all into perspective.

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Hi theo,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I was originally asking about the Ballet Theater of Maryland performance, which you responded to so well on another thread (and I agree!), but your response on this thread also brings out a similar point - the importance of good, honest acting in dance. This is something I've noticed in my limited experience, that I most enjoy performances that evoke emotion, or a memory, or a better understanding of relationships, and those that lack that, while they can be great technically, are not that memorable to me. It's the honest emotion that makes dance relevant and fresh. And it took me a while to understand why so many companies were called "Ballet Theater" until I realized that the "theater" part was an essential feature!

Thanks for helping me put it all into perspective.

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Tari,

I'm so sorry I didn't read your original post more carefully! I don't know how I missed that. I see clearly now that you were asking about BTM. I'm glad you got the answer you were looking for even if it was in a round about way.

Theo

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Last night I attended the performance of Baltimore Ballet's mixed bill which featured Pas de Quatre, Romeo & Juliet Balcony Scene and The Firebird. First let me say that I saw this company perform two years ago and they are much improved. Thanks in part, to some ABT help, some new blood and also some better fitting costumes with the exception of Juliet's. A baggy sagging long sleeved night gown does not work for the balcony scene!

Aside from Juliet's costume, the only other negative was the quality of the recorded music. Pas de Quatre in particular was obviously a recording of an old record. It was a bit distracting. On to the good news: The two stand out performers for me were ABT II's Aaron Smyth and Baltimore Ballet's Marianna Zschoerper. According to the program, this was Marianna's first performance with this company. She had lovely stage presence and light movement. She was a pleasure to watch. Aaron Smyth shone most brightly in this hometown production. I hadn't realized during the performance that he was from ABT II and I wondered, "where the heck did he come from" I will be interested to see if and how he progresses through ABT. He very well could be one to watch. There were children in this production, which I did not expect, but they were fun and their costumes did them justice. There was one very small young girl who rode on the back of one of the older male dancers who I thought was an eye catcher. All in all, I enjoyed the show. A hometown performance in a cozy venue is a nice way to spend an evening. And by the way, Mr. Catbas, the founder and artistic director of this company, did an amicable job as Romeo. I didn't want to leave him out.

Thank You Very much .I am miss Mariana Z. I am really glad you had enjoy the performance, nothing can be more magnificant than hear/ read, good comments about something you did , and spent so much love and energy with . Mister Catbas job also, I must admit . I am now dancing with Baltimore Ballet permanently. Me, my sister and some more dancers. I am sure see you around this Ballet world again very soon . Best regards. M.Z.

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It's wonderful to hear news of a company growing artistically. Belated thanks, theo, for your review of last March's performance. And thanks Mariana Z and your colleagues for being part of this renewal.

Sometimes I fear that ballet -- like opera -- may be on the road to a future of just a few super-companies surviving at the top of a pyramid, the base of which is languishing and in danger of disappearing. (Baltimore Opera, Ballet Florida -- the list of such companies is growing.)

The performing arts needs artistically ambitious, achieving companies at all levels. Congratulations, Baltimore Ballet.

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There was one very small young girl who rode on the back of one of the older male dancers who I thought was an eye catcher.

This young lady is my dd. She very much enjoyed dancing the role of the 'lead creature' in The Firebird with the Baltimore Ballet Company, and thanks you for your kind comments! Thank you, as well, for bringing attention to the ballet world here in northern and central Maryland. Yes, it is a challenge with Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia so close by, but it is well worth the effort to nurture the art of ballet in this part of the state.

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It makes me very happy to know that gifted people I wrote about last year (and their Mom's!) have read my words. Ms. Mariana and that wonderful young lady (lead creature), you were a pleasure to watch. Sorry I haven't had an opportunity to catch Baltimore Ballet this year. I'll be back though. I hope Baltimore Ballet is having a great season and that many folks come to enjoy it!

.

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