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Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Sofia BulgariaFour perfs with Nat'l Ballet of Bulgaria - June 9-11


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#1 Victoria Page

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 09:59 AM

I and three friends were able to attend the four performances of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Sofia. As kfw helpfully noted earlier, the program was titled "Balanchine & Farrell: American Ballet for Bulgaria" and included two Balanchine works: "Agon", performed by TSFB members, and a PDD "Divertimento Brillante" (originally part of "Glinkiana") performed by dancers from the National Ballet of Bulgaria. The program also included two works performed by the National Ballet of Bulgaria: "Stepping Stones" by New York choreographer Kathryn Posin and a new ballet "Vardar Suite" by TSFB principal Momchil Mladenov.

All New Yorkers, we had heard that Sofia was ballet-friendly but didn't really know what to expect. Happily, the house was packed for every performance except the matinee, and there were standing ovations the first and last nights. "Divertimento Brillante" was in second place on the program, and it was danced by Marta Petkova and Nikola Hadjitanev the first and last nights, Katerina Petrova and Tsetso Ivanov at the matinee and Boryana Petrova and Nikola Hadjitanev the second evening. (May they forgive our transliterations of their names from the Cyrillic program!) Boryana Petrova gave a particularly charming performance, conveying an easy lightness and feeling of joy in the female variation. Testso Ivanov's performance was remarkable as we had heard he is now just 16 years old.

Agon was very well received, and was beautifully danced by Momchil Mladenov (back at home and dancing the PDD every performance with Massine-like flair) and Michael Cook (showing a remarkable level of clarity and individuality in every step). Elizabeth Holowchuk made her debut in the PDD looking strong and sure, and Violeta Angelova (a fellow Bulgarian) returned to the Bransle Gay section with a welcome bit of sly flirtatiousness. TSFB members Ian Grosh, Andrew Shore Kaminsky and Kirk Henning danced with energetic yet controlled style, and Amy Brandt and Lauren Stuart displayed the grace and musicality we have come to expect from this uniquely wonderful company.

The program opened with "Stepping Stones", Kathryn Posin's athletic and balletic work to Joan Tower's music. The National Ballet of Bulgaria women shone in all four performances of this work, displaying great extensions and strength. The men looked less strong as a group, particularly in partnering. Both NBB men and women looked equally comfortable in "Vardar Suite", however, danced to music by Bulgarian composer Pantcho Vladiguerov. This celebration of Bulgarian folk tradition included a corps on pointe and the female principals in ballet slippers. The ballet reminded us somewhat of "Apollo" but with the hero guided by three lovely ballerinas representing Faith, Hope and Charity (and each dressed in one of the three Bulgarian national colors), and partnered by a fourth ballerina representing Sofia (wisdom).

#2 kfw

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 06:39 PM

Thank you so much for that report, Victoria. It's great to read that the company was well-received. I'm surprised they haven't tweeted about the trip, but perhaps blog posts and photos will follow. Of the Bulgarian pieces, Vardar Suite sounds utterly fascinating. A celebration of the national folk tradition with the principal women representing virtues and the corps women in pointe shoes . . . no kidding? How delightful that it's a contemporary work, and one by Mladenov no less. How did you like it?

#3 Victoria Page

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 02:59 PM

Thank you so much for that report, Victoria. It's great to read that the company was well-received. I'm surprised they haven't tweeted about the trip, but perhaps blog posts and photos will follow. Of the Bulgarian pieces, Vardar Suite sounds utterly fascinating. A celebration of the national folk tradition with the principal women representing virtues and the corps women in pointe shoes . . . no kidding? How delightful that it's a contemporary work, and one by Mladenov no less. How did you like it?


We liked it very much, but had the feeling there was a lot we missed. For example, after one of the performances we spoke with a ballet fan from Sofia who explained that each of the virtues were dressed in one of the Bulgarian national colors, and that all three together were the colors of the Bulgarian flag. It was sort of like watching "Stars and Stripes" without having a background in American culture - you miss a lot of the references even though you don't want to...

#4 Jack Reed

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 05:58 PM

I'm glad for your report too, Victoria. Agon evidently got a vital performance - not all seriousness, but its other dimensions, too. As we would expect, as you said. And an appreciative audience! That we wouldn't necessarily expect. They can sit there like stones in some places. (Glad and sad. Sad I wasn't there myself. I can't imagine getting too many performances like that.)

As someone who still does his social networking by phone, I let Google come up with some links:

Here's an interview with Farrell*, apparently in Sofia;

and here's a slide show on Facebook, apparently from an event in the Bulgarian embassy in Washington, but at least we get to see Farrell, Mladenov, and Posin, FWIW.

Last but not least is a fascinating bit of information about the project of which these appearances are a part, on the embassy web site:

The American Ballet for Bulgaria project is supported by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. It is the first of its kind in the history of ballet art cooperation between Bulgaria and the U.S. In collaboration with the organizers, the Consul General of the Republic of Bulgaria in New York Radoslav Totchev and the Honorary Consul of Bulgaria for the State of Massachusetts Adam Portnoy the Embassy coordinates two more presentations of the project in New York and Boston respectively.

There will be two more presentations of the American Ballet for Bulgaria project – in New York, hosted by Mr. Totchev, and in Boston, hosted by Mr. Portnoy.


(We don't believe everything we read on the Internet, but we can hope; and what artists these further presentations will include, TSFB or others, remains to be seen. I'd speculate that some Bulgarian National Ballet dancers will appear with companies resident in Boston and New York.)

*I'm later finding this link to the website vagabond-bg.com temperamental. (The title of the interview is "WHITE SWAN" if you need to search for it.) I hope the problem is temporary.

Edited by Jack Reed, 20 June 2011 - 08:21 AM.



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