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Ocean's Kingdom

57 posts in this topic

Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.

Your question could start an interesting thread. Is "pop" music suitable to ballet? What should come first? The music or the dance? What are some examples of successful ballets done to pop scores? Who has or could in the future write a great pop score? Can great choreography transcend and enrich a pop score? Is Gershwin a "pop" composer? What about Mozart?

Was Gershwin a pop composer? Absolutely -- those fabulous standards were first and foremost pop hits. And good pop is really, really hard to do. In fact, I find Gershwin's standards are far more satisfying than "Rhapsody in Blue." In some cases - Gershwin's for instance -- it's not a question of choreography transcending a pop score, it's a question of the choreography living up to it.

Lots of choreographers have done terrific work to pop tunes -- Tharp is one of them, and so is Paul Taylor. I know, I know, it's not "ballet," but there's no reason it couldn't be.

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In defense of Gershwin, he came to long compositions late and still had much to learn when he was composing "Rhapsody in Blue," although I like it anyway. There is no question that writing a good pop song is harder to do than it looks, though.

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A good arrangement of "pop tunes" can be very effective in the hands of a skilled choreographer. I'm thinking of works Tharp's 9 Sinatra Songs or Balanchine's Who Cares? and Vienna Waltzes. (Those waltzes were pop tunes in their own day).

Both Tharp's and Balanchine's ballets use pop tunes in a complex manner. On one level, we have a collection of "numbers" rather like in a divertissement. On a deeper level, because the songs are well-arranged in relationship to each other, they create an emotional arc -- tell a kind of story -- that transcends the content of each individual song.

McCartney's "classical" music strikes me as what was once called "semi-classical," with elements of pastiche. The works which I have heard all seem to be missing something. It's almost one of their defining characteristics. The music of the Liverpool Oratorio gets whatever life it has from dramatic structure provided by the words. McCartney's classical versions of his own songs require a knowledge of, and fondness for, the original songs themselves. They don't work if you don't know the songs.

It's quite common to find people who love Tchaikovsky's ballet music (on cd, in concert halls) but haven't seen and do not care about the staged ballets. I wonder what this 50-minute McCartney work would be like if listened to without the visuals.

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In defense of Gershwin, he came to long compositions late and still had much to learn when he was composing "Rhapsody in Blue," although I like it anyway. There is no question that writing a good pop song is harder to do than it looks, though.

I didn't mean to disparage Gershwin's long-form compositions -- I just wouldn't trade away the songs for any of them. I do think much more highly of his orchestral efforts than McCartney's, although both of them have added undisputed treasures to the world's hoard of songs. It's funny, I could listen to "An American in Paris" all day (well, almost) but "Rhapsody in Blue" just doesn't grab me in the same way.

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I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.

Hopefully...

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Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.

Your question could start an interesting thread. Is "pop" music suitable to ballet? What should come first? The music or the dance? What are some examples of successful ballets done to pop scores? Who has or could in the future write a great pop score? Can great choreography transcend and enrich a pop score? Is Gershwin a "pop" composer? What about Mozart?

What happened with the Pet Shop Boys' ballet?

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I like "Rhapsody" because it seems so evocative of its era, despite its structural flaws. Comparing Gershwin's efforts with McCartney's seems a bit apples-and-oranges to me, although the two have been compared. McCartney came to classical music very late and his ambitions in the form (and the degree of his gift in it) are nothing like Gershwin's IMO. McCartney passed his peak some time ago but he still manages to come up with a good tune or two even on his most dismal efforts in my experience, although I haven't heard his last couple of albums, and one gives him credit for his unflagging energy.

McCartney's "classical" music strikes me as what was once called "semi-classical," with elements of pastiche.

I agree.

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Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.

Your question could start an interesting thread. Is "pop" music suitable to ballet? What should come first? The music or the dance? What are some examples of successful ballets done to pop scores? Who has or could in the future write a great pop score? Can great choreography transcend and enrich a pop score? Is Gershwin a "pop" composer? What about Mozart?

What happened with the Pet Shop Boys' ballet?

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You should start that thread. The first examples that come to mind, of GOOD ballets to popular music, are "Who Cares?" and "Company B." Both of which are IMHO wonderful ballets.

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Couldn't get that Tobias link to work. Try this blog entry of 9/24/11:

http://www.artsjournal.com/tobias

Continuing our discussion of McCartney's music, this is what Tobias writes:

When it comes to classical-music credits on his résumé, McCartney's been there and done that for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, his score for Ocean runs the gamut from movie music to faux-Broadway. [ ... ]

The pre-curtain efforts of the City Ballet's chief music man Fayçal Karoui and his orchestra to make a case for the score were well brought off but unconvincing. The little teaching session served to fill in time because, I'm told, McCartney refused to have any other ballet share the gala opening-night program, (not even Balanchine's Union Jack, which was originally scheduled).

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Interesting, old Peter Martins quote from when he was a baby ballet-master-in-chief. Perhaps Ocean's Kingdom gets a pass, since its score is a serious composition. :dry:

http://www.nytimes.c...t-s-daddy.html?

There will be ''no ballets to the Beach Boys'' or other rock music by guest choreographers, if any, at the City Ballet. Unlike those who say Balanchine ballets must be preserved intact, he feels they should be danced differently in 10 years in order to survive and hopes to supervise this stylistic change.

Apologies to those who are not paying to subscribe and cannot access NYTimes.com's archive.

For clarification, the text in the quote box is Kisselgoff's. Within the quote marks " " are Martins' words.

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I don't know. I saw Ocean's Kingdom today and thought McCauley was pretty much on the mark -- and I generally think he's a bit hard on both Martins and many of the dancers. I was surprised at how much I liked the music. The choreography, on the hand, was dull. Not horrendous but it really dragged. And there were not nearly enough steps -- just lots and lots of lifts and turns. I'm not a fan of most of Martin's choreography but he can do and has done better than this -- he should have really put more effort into it.

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Interesting, old Peter Martins quote from when he was a baby ballet-master-in-chief. Perhaps Ocean's Kingdom gets a pass, since its score is a serious composition. :dry:

http://www.nytimes.c...t-s-daddy.html?

There will be ''no ballets to the Beach Boys'' or other rock music by guest choreographers, if any, at the City Ballet. Unlike those who say Balanchine ballets must be preserved intact, he feels they should be danced differently in 10 years in order to survive and hopes to supervise this stylistic change.

I don't see any contradiction. McCartney does have a track record in orchestral work even if he is not a true classical composer, and it's not as if the ballet was made to taped music from The Beatles or Wings.

I was surprised at how much I liked the music.

The critics have also been kinder than one might have expected, in general.

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Financial Times gives it two stars out of five possible:

By the third delirious duet, I might as well have been trapped in a subway car opposite smooching teenagers, I was so desperate to look at something else.

Regarding Gershwin's significance as a composer, Arnold Schoenberg gives a touching eulogy on this clip via Terry Teachout's blog.

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Yes, that is Ulbricht in the clown wig. He should get bonus pay for all of the hideous costumes he has been required to wear this month. (His attire for the Jester role in Swan Lake is also awful.)

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As always, New York Social Diary is on the case at the gala:

http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/1907475

In the curtain call photo, is that Daniel Ulbricht in the clown wig? If so, poor unfortunate -- greatly to be pitied.

The first photo of NY Social Diary is captioned: Stella McCartney and NYC Ballet Dancers (all wearing Stella McCartney)

Why didn't they mention that the dancers are almost all principals and are Wendy, Ashley, Teresa, dancer with curls on head who I recognize but can't place, Maria, and Georgina. Can anyone name the dancer next to Stella on our right?

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Eileen, it is Janie Taylor. Her hairdo looked a lot better in person that it does in the photo.

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Eileen, it is Janie Taylor. Her hairdo looked a lot better in person that it does in the photo.

She really looked very pretty in the photo. On stage she often looks pale and wan.

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I saw the September 25th matinee performance of Ocean's Kingdom and Union Jack.

New York City Ballet’s production of Ocean’s Kingdom has been anticipated for months. Does Ocean’s Kingdom live up to the hype? In my opinion, not really. The score is very nice, but nothing special. Some critics have found the music to be better suited for a film, but I found it to be very danceable.

The choreography for this ballet was created by New York City Ballet’s Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins. To me, Ocean’s Kingdom is a typical Peter Martins’ work, with dance movements which are both bland and repetitive. I did, however, find the choreography for King Terra and the Terra Punks to be punchy and edgy. The ballet comes to life whenever Amar Ramasar (King Terra) and his crew appear on stage.

There is not much character development to be found in Ocean’s Kingdom. The performers are given so little to do that not even proven dance actors like Sara Mearns (Princess Honorata) and Robert Fairchild (Prince Stone) can make much of their roles. Ocean’s Kingdom is a ballet crying out for an innovative and inventive choreographer like Alexei Ratmansky. The Little Humpbacked Horse is basically a silly story, but Ratmansky created a delightful ballet from it.

I sincerely doubt that I’ll ever see Ocean’s Kingdom again, unless it’s paired with a ballet as phenomenal as George Balanchine’s Union Jack. Union Jack is a three part salute to Great Britain which uses regimental military tattoos, Scottish ballads, British folk music, music hall ditties and sailor’s hornpipes to set the desired moods. The score is provided by Hersey Kay, who did similar arrangements of music for Balanchine’s cowboy ballet, Western Symphony, and his Sousa work, Stars and Stripes.

Part I is a tributes to the Scottish and Canadian Guards Regiments. 70 members of these clans, dressed in their complete tartan finery, march onto the stage in complex formations. Then the parading evolves into spectacular dancing. The highlight of these is the MacDonald of Sleat variation, where the lead dancer performs a very fast paced solo to a staccato drumbeat. Wendy Whelan has owned this solo for years, but on Sunday she slipped and fell halfway through the variation. She immediately got up, finishing beautifully, and was rewarded by a tremendous round of applause.

Part II is the Costermonger pas de deux. It is set in an Edwardian music hall, where a down at their heels husband and wife team perform. Andrew Veyette shows a goofy charm as the Pearly King and Megan Fairchild is delightfully hammy as his wife, the Pearly Queen. At the end of the pas de deux, their daughters, the Pearly Princesses, arrive in a cart pulled by a donkey. Some of the funniest moments of Union Jack are provided by a donkey who wants nothing more than to leave the stage at the David Koch Theatre. His little boy handler cannot bring the donkey under control, so Andrew Veyette, staying in character as the Pearly King, gets the animal calmed down.

Part III is a tribute to the Royal Navy. All the dancers enter into the spirit of high flying hijinks. Maria Kowroski is the leader of the Wrens, the sexy pin-up girls who perform to the “Colonel Bogey March” (the theme from the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai). Unfortunately, Kowroski fell during her variation, but she recovered quickly. (After seeing two principal dancers fall during Union Jack, some audience members wondered if the stage was slippery.)

My favorite part of Union Jack is the second section of the Royal Navy salute. In my mind’s eye, I still see former NYCB principal, Damian Woetzel, performing the solo. He always made the endless leaps and turns look so light and effortless. And it was all done with such a happy swagger! Charles Askegard, an elegant dancer and wonderful partner, is miscast in the Damian Woetzel role. I would love to see Joaquin DeLuz in this part. He has the charisma and technical brilliance to carry it off beautifully.

As always, Union Jack ends on a happy note. As the orchestra plays “Rule Britannia”, the cast uses hand flags to signal “God Save the Queen” and the Union Jack flag rolls down the backdrop of the stage at the David Koch Theatre. All is well with the New York City Ballet.

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Too much of a coincidence that they both fell. My thought was they both slipped in puddles

left behind from Ocean's Kingdom!

I had attended the Gala last week and was disappointed that Union Jack had been cancelled

so I went on Sunday also. It was one of Askegard's last performances and I am going to miss

him. There was a flower mishap also. Megan's flower fell off her lapel and plopped center stage

taunting the sailors until Wendy's hornpipe when she delightedly picked it, sniffed it and saved

the day. Nothing like Union Jack to cheer everyone up. I think Sir Paul would have loved it too.

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