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ABT meets Baltimore Ballet


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#1 theo

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 12:18 PM

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.

#2 theo

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 12:24 PM

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!

#3 POB_fan

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 01:55 PM

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.

#4 carbro

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 04:29 PM

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.

#5 soloviev

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 08:59 AM

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!

#6 Helene

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 06:16 PM

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.

#7 POB_fan

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 09:10 AM

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.

#8 Helene

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 02:03 PM

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.

#9 POB_fan

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 02:33 PM

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.

#10 soloviev

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 08:23 PM

“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!

#11 Helene

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 04:15 PM

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.

#12 soloviev

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 09:35 PM

Thank you for the information, and I agree...

#13 Chrysanthemum

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 09:44 PM

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.

#14 Cem_Catbas

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 06:49 PM

Dear Helene,
I have been following this thread and posted my choreography of “Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene” on YouTube to dissolve any confusion. It is original and very different than Macmillan’s. Here is the link, enjoy!




#15 POB_fan

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 05:18 AM

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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