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Suzanne Farrell Notes on NYCB BalletsKennedy Center in April


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#1 Eileen

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 03:07 PM

For those of you located in the DC area, NYCB will be at the Kennedy Center in from April 5 to 10 - and wonder of wonders, Suzanne Farrell has emailed her notes on the ballets that will be performed. Here is her link for Square Dance, which contains links to her previous notes for other Balanchine ballets. She mentions in her e-mail that she will be doing Jewels at Kennedy Center. That's worth traveling for - from New York. Correction: Her company will be at the Joyce Theater in New York from October 19 to 23. A must see!

Here is the link to her notes for Square Dance:

http://www.kennedy-c...rrell/notes.cfm

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 03:17 PM

I couldn't agree more with Eileen about the value of traveling to see the Suzanne Farrell Ballet perform, and I would like to see Jewels prepared by her, but it's not yet. She says

I'm especially looking forward to the 10th anniversary celebration of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in October, which will feature my company's premiere of Balanchine's Diamonds, originally made on me in 1967 as part of his full-evening Jewels.

I'm looking forward to it, too.

#3 avesraggiana

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 10:31 PM

I couldn't agree more with Eileen about the value of traveling to see the Suzanne Farrell Ballet perform, and I would like to see Jewels prepared by her, but it's not yet. She says

I'm especially looking forward to the 10th anniversary celebration of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in October, which will feature my company's premiere of Balanchine's Diamonds, originally made on me in 1967 as part of his full-evening Jewels.

I'm looking forward to it, too.


Suzanne Farrell's company must be bigger than I had originally imagined. Diamonds is a big-cast ballet. Not to take anything away from Ms. Farrell, who I know originated the ballerina role, the most impressive performances of "Jewels" that I've witnessed in the last five years have been by the Kirov/Maryinsky and the Paris Opera Ballet. The least impressive and most sloppy and disappointing, by the New York City Ballet. Wendy Whelan fought mightily to save the ballerina role and mostly succeeded. Her overweight and out of condition partner, Nilas Martins, was an added embarrassment to the whole evening. The corps de ballet? Typical NYCB messy, careless and seemingly not that interested in doing a good job. A real pity.

#4 Helene

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:42 PM

The corps de ballet? Typical NYCB messy, careless and seemingly not that interested in doing a good job. A real pity.

I think that the odds are miniscule that an entire professional corps is not interested in doing a good job. They might look messy and careless; the same criticisms were made during Balanchine's time. The NYCB corps has had its periodic ups and downs, just as the Mariinsky and Bolshoi Ballets have, and I've read reviews that said that the POB corps has had periods of staleness. The Mariinsky has over 90 members of the corps de ballet, which is around the size of the entire NYCB, and over 80 dancers in the other five ranks. The Paris Opera Ballet has 40 quadrilles and 35 coryphees, not much smaller than the entire NYCB, and 154 dancers in total.

POB's schedule isn't nearly as punishing as NYCB's, and NYCB has a monster-size rep each season, with at least 1/3 new ballets or revivals that haven't been performed in recent seasons. I don't know how to compare the Mariinsky's schedule, because they seem to split up the company and part of it tours regularly, which is hard, but the influx of new ballets isn't as great. Factors that influence how "on" the corps is -- and many fans would gladly give up clean lines for energy that is rarely matched, not that it happens all the time -- are illness and injuries, which impact rehearsal time, and replacement dancers, who are often rushed and under-rehearsed. Injuries snowball, particularly at the end of the long winter season, weakening the "system", which is software terms is called "technical debt", as well as coaching, managerial decisions -- ex: not renewing contracts of senior corps members to make room for younger dancers and/or reduce the company total -- and artistic decisions -- ex. the trade-offs between precision and limited resources under basic conditions.

They do this, like almost all dancers outside of a handful of state institutions, under short-term contracts, without the luxury or tradition of being a civil servant with a state pension and near-guaranteed employment, including through pregnancy. (One look at the roster of Paris Opera Ballet shows multiple generations of families in dance.) They have to prove themselves over and over, sometimes under severe conditions, and they can be dropped fairly easily.

It's wonderful to see companies with great corps traditions especially when they have the luxury of senior corps members, adequate rehearsal time, and substitutes who know the ins and outs of their roles. Or like in Seattle at Pacific Northwest Ballet, where there is often one ballet in a triple bill with a substantial corps, and the corps can concentrate on rehearsal that ballet and a handful of others for upcoming rep (as opposed to, say, 30 ballets) and perform once or twice a night for a maximum of four performances over three days, instead of two-three times a night, six to seven nights a week. NYCB never claimed to be either. They do something else.

#5 dirac

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:17 AM

I think that the odds are miniscule that an entire professional corps is not interested in doing a good job. They might look messy and careless; the same criticisms were made during Balanchine's time.


True, but it's not questioning anyone's professionalism, necessarily. If a corps looks sloppy and uninvolved to one viewer, it looks, well, sloppy and uninvolved, no matter the good intentions behind the performance.

Suzanne Farrell's company must be bigger than I had originally imagined. Diamonds is a big-cast ballet.


I had the same thought, avesraggiana. I would not have thought the troupe up to it, but I haven't seen them for awhile. It will be a good experience for them in any case. (And welcome to the board!)

#6 kfw

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:33 AM

Suzanne Farrell's company must be bigger than I had originally imagined. Diamonds is a big-cast ballet.

She brought in dancers from Ballet Austin when she staged Episodes, and she worked with the National Ballet of Canada dancers when she staged Balanchine's Don Quixote. So perhaps she'll import dancers for Diamonds.

Edited to Add: According to the Kennedy Center's website, Diamonds will be performed

in an artistic partnership with The Sarasota Ballet.



#7 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:28 AM


The corps de ballet? Typical NYCB messy, careless and seemingly not that interested in doing a good job. A real pity.

I think that the odds are miniscule that an entire professional corps is not interested in doing a good job. They might look messy and careless; the same criticisms were made during Balanchine's time. The NYCB corps has had its periodic ups and downs, just as the Mariinsky and Bolshoi Ballets have, and I've read reviews that said that the POB corps has had periods of staleness. The Mariinsky has over 90 members of the corps de ballet, which is around the size of the entire NYCB, and over 80 dancers in the other five ranks. The Paris Opera Ballet has 40 quadrilles and 35 coryphees, not much smaller than the entire NYCB, and 154 dancers in total.

POB's schedule isn't nearly as punishing as NYCB's, and NYCB has a monster-size rep each season, with at least 1/3 new ballets or revivals that haven't been performed in recent seasons. I don't know how to compare the Mariinsky's schedule, because they seem to split up the company and part of it tours regularly, which is hard, but the influx of new ballets isn't as great. Factors that influence how "on" the corps is -- and many fans would gladly give up clean lines for energy that is rarely matched, not that it happens all the time -- are illness and injuries, which impact rehearsal time, and replacement dancers, who are often rushed and under-rehearsed. Injuries snowball, particularly at the end of the long winter season, weakening the "system", which is software terms is called "technical debt", as well as coaching, managerial decisions -- ex: not renewing contracts of senior corps members to make room for younger dancers and/or reduce the company total -- and artistic decisions -- ex. the trade-offs between precision and limited resources under basic conditions.

They do this, like almost all dancers outside of a handful of state institutions, under short-term contracts, without the luxury or tradition of being a civil servant with a state pension and near-guaranteed employment, including through pregnancy. (One look at the roster of Paris Opera Ballet shows multiple generations of families in dance.) They have to prove themselves over and over, sometimes under severe conditions, and they can be dropped fairly easily.

It's wonderful to see companies with great corps traditions especially when they have the luxury of senior corps members, adequate rehearsal time, and substitutes who know the ins and outs of their roles. Or like in Seattle at Pacific Northwest Ballet, where there is often one ballet in a triple bill with a substantial corps, and the corps can concentrate on rehearsal that ballet and a handful of others for upcoming rep (as opposed to, say, 30 ballets) and perform once or twice a night for a maximum of four performances over three days, instead of two-three times a night, six to seven nights a week. NYCB never claimed to be either. They do something else.


I think that's an excellent characterization of NYCB, Helene (as well as providing much other invaluable information), and esp. important that it was always energy that mattered the most even in the richest Balanchine periods of the 60s and 70s, cf. Peter Martins's 'Far from Denmark', among other print sources. I think that continues to this day (although I definitely don't love them the way I once did), and the matter of extremely heavy scheduling is a matter of necessity. Some have said, though, that the corps is more precise now by a long shot than they used to be, that that is one of Martins's more positive contributions. Even when they're not, it's pretty rare that they're really awful. (Some said they were in 'Swan Lake' last year, but I couldn't really see it myself to quite that degree.)

Of ocurse, the POB is always precise, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in summer 2012. avesraggiana, have you seen live performances of 'Jewels' by POB? or just the DVD as I have? I've asked a number of times about other performances of 'Diamonds' in POB besides Agnes Letestu, but have gotten no response. I'd like to hear if Dupont or Marie-Agnes Gillot have done it, or just who else has done it, and has it been distinguished? Because Mr. Letestu's performance is the real failure of that DVD to my mind. She doesn't seem focussed on it at all, if you've seen Farrell or Kowroski do it (and that certainly includes Farrell even on video.) I do like very much the rest of 'Jewels' on that POB video, though--very elegant and spirited as well.

#8 abatt

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:40 AM

Peter Martins brought in two dancers from POB a few years ago to perform the Rubies pdd at an NYCB gala. I can't remember who the dancers were. (I'm sure someone on the board here might recall their names.) I was there, and I thought they were miscast. They looked like they were performing a classical pdd. They were lacking in energy and verve, and didn't seem to have a clue regarding the neoclassical style of the ballet.

#9 Helene

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:14 AM

I think that the odds are miniscule that an entire professional corps is not interested in doing a good job. They might look messy and careless; the same criticisms were made during Balanchine's time.


True, but it's not questioning anyone's professionalism, necessarily. If a corps looks sloppy and uninvolved to one viewer, it looks, well, sloppy and uninvolved, no matter the good intentions behind the performance.


"Messy" and "careless" are observations/criticism about the result. "seemingly not that interested in doing a good job" questions their professionalism, in my opinion, and with that I take exception.

#10 Azulynn

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:49 AM

Of course, the POB is always precise, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in summer 2012. avesraggiana, have you seen live performances of 'Jewels' by POB? or just the DVD as I have? I've asked a number of times about other performances of 'Diamonds' in POB besides Agnes Letestu, but have gotten no response. I'd like to hear if Dupont or Marie-Agnes Gillot have done it, or just who else has done it, and has it been distinguished? Because Mr. Letestu's performance is the real failure of that DVD to my mind. She doesn't seem focussed on it at all, if you've seen Farrell or Kowroski do it (and that certainly includes Farrell even on video.) I do like very much the rest of 'Jewels' on that POB video, though--very elegant and spirited as well.


Diamonds has also been done in Paris by Marie-Agnès Gillot, Delphine Moussin, Emilie Cozette and Stéphanie Romberg. I don't think it's been as strongly cast as you'd hope, but Moussin was supposed to be excellent in it. The best I've seen by far was Laura Hecquet, a Sujet who danced the pd2 at a Young Dancers' Evening a few years back.

#11 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:58 AM

Aha, thanks Azulynn, this interests me greatly. Although I won't get to see Moussin do that here next summer (2012), I'll keep my eye out for her. I love Marie-Agnes, but I know it doesn't always follow that all one's favourites are suited for all roles. I'm sure I'll want to see M.-A. in whatever she does here, though.

#12 Azulynn

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 10:17 AM

Delphine Moussin has just (very quietly) retired, sadly. You'll definitely get to see Marie-Agnès Gillot in Orphée & Eurydice and Béjart's Boléro in 2012 though, and she is usually first-cast Myrtha in Giselle.

#13 Jack Reed

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 06:30 PM

...The most impressive performances of "Jewels" that I've witnessed in the last five years have been by the Kirov/Maryinsky and the Paris Opera Ballet. The least impressive and most sloppy and disappointing, by the New York City Ballet... The corps de ballet? Typical NYCB messy, careless and seemingly not that interested in doing a good job.

I can believe it. I haven't seen the two European companies in it, except for the POB DVD I have issues about, but otherwise that's consistent with my few visits to NYCB since the mid-'80s, and while I hesitate to rush into the middle of a disagreement, I take avesraggiana's inclusion of the word seemingly to mean that the corps's dancing looked as though they were uninterested. (Isn't "how it looks" our main concern here?)

I've often felt the same way, watching NYCB over the past few decades, except for a handful of upper-rank dancers. At the same time, I have not the least doubt about the physical effort and psychological commitment that really go into ballet performance, and I'm confident that after years in the studio most dancers are glad to the point of exhilarated by the experience of finally getting "out there" on stage - but from NYCB the apparent effect is often what some characterize as passing through for their paychecks. (The contradictions here make me feel torn, frankly.)

But what I really chimed in to talk about, since faithful kfw has already posted about where Farrell's reinforcements are coming from, is where to see memorable performances of Jewels: In south Florida. I used to consider Miami City Ballet's Jewels their best program, and then they bettered themselves! It's not on their schedules these days, but that may mean it's due to be rotated back into repertory soon.


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