Dale

New production of Firebird by Ratmansky

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Thank you! I am more excited than ever to see all 3 casts and experience all 3 of these women and their different styles. I am a huge Alexei Ratmansky fan and I get his sense of style and enjoy his humor and creativity. I know it is a matter of taste, but it is MY taste I Think he is a genius!

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... The Firebird leaps off and Ivan and the Maiden are left alone onstage (as the foreboding forest projections begin to fade and turn to sunlight), and she realizes her dress is coming off of her to reveal a white slip underneath (this is a bit like Giselle's mad scene where Bertha is trying to make it look like she isn't actually taking Giselle's hair down, so...not that realistic). Ivan pulls on her frizzy blonde and green wig, and a much nicer all blonde wig is revealed underneath. Then the trees open to reveal trapped men that the Kaschei has been enslaving this whole time (though, imo, it's odd we don't see them before this moment because both times someone in the audience around me has said "oh so the maidens were actually...men? and they have been turned back into men now?"). Then the Swamp Maidens who have long left the stage return in the same white slip as the Maiden (also w/ a better blonde wig). The men have a nice bit of dancing together, and they have a bit of finale number of the kind that Ratmansky seems to favor. Finally the Firebird returns and the Freed Gents raise her above their head so it looks like she is flying and they dance around her in a circle, thanking her for freeing them all.

Thanks for the additional details -- I've often thought that the last section of the ballet score, after Kastchei is vanquished and the maidens are freed, is the most problematic part to stage. The music is beautiful, but there's no real action called for. We've all seen a variety of processional stagings, sometimes with an apotheosis for the Firebird (thinking of Holder's version for Dance Theater of Harlem) but it isn't often that we get dancing as beautiful as the music here. From your description it sounds like we get a series of transformations, which can be more exciting kinetically than a slow parade across the stage...

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um, DTH's FIREBIRD was staged by John Taras, o'course the designs were Geoffrey Holder's - does your ref. above to "Holder's version" note the designs or the choreographic effects?

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um, DTH's FIREBIRD was staged by John Taras, o'course the designs were Geoffrey Holder's - does your ref. above to "Holder's version" note the designs or the choreographic effects?

Oh, there's nothing like making a dumb mistake in public, is there!? Many thanks for offering me the easy save with the Holder designs (which were very lovely) but this was my bad!

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I saw both shows on Saturday, with Boylston in the matinee, and Osipova in the evening. Duets was danced by what I was told was the 2nd cast, while the Wheeldon was danced by the first cast for both shows.

Anyway, Duets was inadvertently funny for me, because I remembered thinking, "Wow, I didn't know Cunningham made a ballet," and just enjoyed his style of composition and structure with really balletic steps. Later on a friend told me he hated the dancing because the style was totally wrong, having seen the Cunningham company do it. The Wheeldon had his signature: it totally looked like his work, and the lighting was really, really gorgeous. However, like all of his latest abstract creations, it looked slick, expensive, and utterly soulless. It's like one of those model homes where you can't sit anywhere. There was some beautiful dancing (Misty's solo), but the whole thing amounted to not much.

Now Firebird... I came into this with really high expectations, having being totally charmed by The Bright Stream (with Boylston as the Ballerina) last summer, and left pretty disappointed. First the sets: the stage looked crowded to me with all the obscene-looking tree things (I won't say what they remind me of), and the really cumbersome, unflattering Firebird costumes. The partnering also looked really awkward, and some of it looked costume-related.

But really the biggest problem is that Ratmansky's zany humor just doesn't work with this music or the dramatic arc. Ratmansky's steps are really strong when they develop or demonstrate a character's personality, and I think that's why the Bright Stream worked really well. In Firebird, it's like we were thrown into a world with characters whose roles in the world were already set, so it was like Ratmansky was forcing his steps onto existing characters, and a lot of it came off looking really caricatured with no development or logic to the roles. The Count Chocula x spurned prom queen look was interesting, but why that look? It really didn't go with anything else that came before it in the production. The plot development was also a bit discontinuous and chunky. It's almost like he had watched too much SYTYCD, and adopted some of the stylized zombie designs that some of the choreographers there like to use.

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.....The stage is sparse, four huge trees loom as the only background, with digital projectionss filling in the rest. .....

"Sparse"... 'El Cheapo' strikes again! toot.gif

I love that you can be so dismissive of something you haven't seen.

.....

I saw it now. I can definitively state: El Cheapo has struck again! toot.gif

In her review for Dancetabs.com, Marina Harss writes:

The designs, by Simon Pastukh (who also worked on “On the Dnieper”) are haunting, weird, almost post-apocalyptic. One could call them ugly.

Damn right there!

I feel sorry for people who paid more than I did to see this. Mr. Pastukh, you're no Benois!

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.....The stage is sparse, four huge trees loom as the only background, with digital projectionss filling in the rest. .....

"Sparse"... 'El Cheapo' strikes again! toot.gif

I love that you can be so dismissive of something you haven't seen.

.....

I saw it now. I can definitively state: El Cheapo has struck again! toot.gif

In her review for Dancetabs.com, Marina Harss writes:

The designs, by Simon Pastukh (who also worked on “On the Dnieper”) are haunting, weird, almost post-apocalyptic. One could call them ugly.

Damn right there!

I thought the designs and costumes were very interesting, visually arresting, and not cheap looking in the slightest.

From still photos I wasn't sure if I would like the firebird costume itself, but I found I did, quite a bit. And I thought the set design was fantastic.

Besides, at least the colors weren't drab, right? ;)

I really thought it was a stunning production.

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The design elements are the least of the problems with this Firebird. The choreography is at the heart of what's wrong here. Even if you changed the sets and costumes, it would, in my opinion, still be a very poorly constructed ballet.

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The design elements are the least of the problems with this Firebird. The choreography is at the heart of what's wrong here. Even if you changed the sets and costumes, it would, in my opinion, still be a very poorly constructed ballet.

I totally agree, Abatt. However, even in 1910 (Benois/Bakst) and the early '20s (Goncharova's new designs for the original Fokine), the designs of Firebird were equal in beauty and effectiveness to Fokine's steps and Stravinsky's score. That was the enchantment of the total oevre, The Firebird. Beauty and majesty in all three elements -- music, choreography and designs. [To think that, until recently, ABT still performed the gorgeous Fokine-Goncharova version! Maybe those designs are somewhere in MacKenzie's attic and they can be resurrected?]

Example of new designs that were beautiful, romantic, enchanting: Geoffrey Holder's for that unforgettable Firebird by Dance Theater of Harlen in the 1980s, set in a lush tropical garden with huge orchids....the exquisite white-chiffon scarves on the bejeweled semi-nude bodies of the princesses!

I have nothing against change; I just hate changing something from lovely to ugly-cheap.

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It's interesting sometimes, the things that we find beautiful. I saw Firebird twice in California. The first time, I thought it was okay, but I spent most of my time trying to understand the sets, the costumes and the choreography. The second time I saw it (with Misty Copeland), I absolutely fell in love with it, and it surprised me. I am a costume designer who loves traditional story ballets. I have many books on Russian clothing, Russian royalty, Faberge eggs, fairy tales and the beautiful book of Firebird illustrated by Boris Zvorykin. So I went to Firebird hoping to see some of that old-world elegance. Once I got over the fact that it was not going to be the way I expected it to be, I was able to see how perfect it was. To me, the choreography WAS the music come to life. The sets and costumes became more of a fantasy than the traditional fairy tale look that I am attracted to.

I don't know why this happens sometimes. When I go to an art museum, there's so much art to see, that I tend to go see my favorite styles, breezing through the areas with the type of art that I don't particularly care for. But then, sometimes, something catches my eye that speaks to me, even though it's beauty was not channeled through "my style" of art.

I have limited funds to see all the ballets that I would like to, so I will still tend to make my choices based on what I think I will like to see, but it was nice for me to get a reminder that I might be missing out on a lot of beauty by limiting myself that way.

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The first time, I thought it was okay, but I spent most of my time trying to understand the sets, the costumes and the choreography. The second time I saw it (with Misty Copeland), I absolutely fell in love with it, and it surprised me. I am a costume designer who loves traditional story ballets. I have many books on Russian clothing, Russian royalty, Faberge eggs, fairy tales and the beautiful book of Firebird illustrated by Boris Zvorykin. So I went to Firebird hoping to see some of that old-world elegance. Once I got over the fact that it was not going to be the way I expected it to be, I was able to see how perfect it was. To me, the choreography WAS the music come to life. The sets and costumes became more of a fantasy than the traditional fairy tale look that I am attracted to.

Critic Marina Harss made a similar observation, which, like her, I find true of every Ratmansky I've seen: "Sometimes the second time is the charm." There's always so much going on, and from what I've seen, he deliberately blurs the focus from the main characters, leaving it up to the audience to decide where to look. That's not a notably comfortable place.

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Critic Marina Harss made a similar observation, which, like her, I find true of every Ratmansky I've seen: "Sometimes the second time is the charm." There's always so much going on, ....

The problem with this: Who the heck has the money nowadays to give this ballet 'a second chance'? It's easy for critics who get 'comp tickets' to write this sort of thing. Rarely have I experienced a ballet so ugly that I wouldn't give it a second chance. There has to be a redeeming value for a normal paying spectator (even if he/she has the money) to even want to set foot a 2nd time in the theater if the 1st viewing was klunker. Balanchine knew this and ensured that audiences 'got it' the first time.

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Balanchine changed his ballets over time. I am not defending this Firebird, but I don't think the criticism is apt.

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Even geniuses have off days; yes, that was a klunker too. But Mr.B. got Firebird right!

Did the normal paying public go back to give PAMTGG a "second chance"?

Some ballets just have to be killed instantly...but I'm sure 'Ardani Ballet Theater' has sunk a lot of cash into this one.

PLUS - what a big embarrassment it would be for ABT to ditch AR's Firebird immediately, when it has yet to be shown in Holland, as Dutch National Ballet co-sponsored the production!!! [No doubt, with an eye to continuing the 'Golding-Tsygankova Collection' of DVDs, which is unending.]

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The opening night playbill had an insert listing who made the Firedbird possible. David H. Koch was at the top of the list. Based on that I'm sure there will be plenty of money available to tinker with the details. People will be forced to see this again if they want to see the Dream, because they stuck it in as the second ballet on the program for every performance of the Dream. At least it's last, so you can leave early.

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Also, Koch is not subsidizing ticket prices, as funders did in Balanchine's heyday, which might soften audiences hearts to these duds. And they're hyped up as masterpieces before the first step is even choreographed. I think the problem here too is not so much that Ratmansky made a bad ballet within a trajectory of a mostly successful career, but that ABT, with all its history and expertise, produced yet another high-priced clunker. If I were a patron I'd be thinking of all the starving children I could save...

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The opening night playbill had an insert listing who made the Firedbird possible. David H. Koch was at the top of the list. People will be forced to see this again if they want to see the Dream, because they stuck it in as the second ballet on the program for every performance of the Dream. At least it's last, so you can leave early.

I wont be "forced" to see it again. Instead I am looking forward to seeing it again as I actually very much liked it the first time.

It was not a critical failure and many people did enjoy it.

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ABT has put on much worse in the past. Does anyone recall the Pied Piper or HereAfter? How about MacMillan's Anastasia? How about Citizen, in which David Hallberg had to wear a bustier? Ratmansky's best works are where he is creating a ballet from scratch, without a prior history associated between the score and a ballet. I still think Russian Seasons and Concerto DSCH are his best work. In Firebird and Nutcracker, he seems to try hard to avoid making his work look like the work of others who have previously choreographed the same ballet. This objective can easily backfire.

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The problem with this: Who the heck has the money nowadays to give this ballet 'a second chance'? It's easy for critics who get 'comp tickets' to write this sort of thing. Rarely have I experienced a ballet so ugly that I wouldn't give it a second chance. There has to be a redeeming value for a normal paying spectator (even if he/she has the money) to even want to set foot a 2nd time in the theater if the 1st viewing was klunker. Balanchine knew this and ensured that audiences 'got it' the first time.

Not all of Balanchine's work was understood on first viewing during his lifetime, and even his masterworks were changed along the way, for better or worse. Ratmansky's works are dense, often need more rehearsal than they get, and aren't in their final shape when they first get to the stage. They need time to settle on the dancers' bodies, and, unlike Balanchine's work, aren't always created with one specific dancer in mind (In that sense, he's more like Robbins.) I wouldn't see his work without that in mind, but, I agree, most people would expect a more finished product and aren't interested in the living organism aspect.

The upside of mixed bills is that they often have at least one thing to see twice, and I've seen many works a second, or third, or fourth time that I wouldn't have bothered to see on their own. Sometimes I change my mind (in both directions), sometimes I don't, and, once in a while I skip it altogether, and if it's the middle work, I'll sit in the lobby and read a book.

If a work is so aesthetically displeasing to be offensive, I would never suggest repeat viewings, but one person's "Never again" is another's "What sets?", is another's "I really liked the sets," as we've seen in this and many other threads.

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The upside of mixed bills is that they often have at least one thing to see twice, and I've seen many works a second, or third, or fourth time that I wouldn't have bothered to see on their own. Sometimes I change my mind (in both directions), sometimes I don't, and, once in a while I skip it altogether, and if it's the middle work, I'll sit in the lobby and read a book.

Practicing your Edward Gorey imitation? laugh.png

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Did he drink while reading? ;)

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ABT sent out a Tweet Monday afternoon from IB:

Recovering from firebird run-through this afternoon-- Alexei ADDED a manège for the firebird, keeping me on my toes! #IB

I haven't seen this production, but I wonder if those who have and who are seeing it again this weekend might watch for what he changed.

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