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Free films with Suzanne Farrell at the Kennedy Center 1-3 October 2011A Midsummer Night's Dream, Elusive Muse, Don Quixote


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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:44 AM

On three successive evenings at 6, the Kennedy Center is presenting free showings of films with and about Suzanne Farrell in its ongoing Millennium Stage project. (Unlike the great majority of Millennium Stage presentations, these will not be webcast.)

First, tonight, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a beautiful color film of more of Balanchine's ballet - to all the music Mendelssohn wrote for the play, plus music from some of his overtures and, in Act II, an early string symphony - more than was ever seen in the theater: There's a fountain scene near the end which was staged only in the film studio. From 1966, it shows us Balanchine's great company, not just the "stars" at the top of the roster - Farrell herself as Titania, Edward Villella as Oberon, Arthur Mitchell as Puck - but down to the least little fairy, this "starless" company will give you a huge treat, and a rare one: This well-done recording had some broadcast currency overseas but not here, and so it's rarely seen. Here's a link to the leading cast (where Gloria Govrin's name is mis-spelled); we also see more, much more, of NYCB and children from the School of American Ballet.

On Sunday the 2nd, there's Anne Bell's biographical documentary Elusive Muse - "autobiographical" wouldn't be much of a stretch, because so much of it is in Farrell's own words - which extends the version shown on PBS. Whether the lady herself will add a few more of her own words at the showing remains to be seen. (Somebody, go and take notes!) Here's a link to a page on the New York Public Library Dance Collection's site with a list of contents.

Then on Monday evening the 3rd, the 1965 pre-premiere preview performance of Balanchine's Don Quixote in a rough black-and-white film which gets better as it goes along: There's a strong buzz in the sound for Act I (and again after the first, powerful scene of Act III, the dream ballet) which I got used to at the film's premiere in 2007 because it was so steady, and then in Act II, when the buzz stops, there is less pageantry and pantomime and more dancing, which may be more easily enjoyed. Not the least of its pleasures, here again is Balanchine's great company of those years! Here's some of New Yorker critic Joan Acocella's observations about this film, and George Jackson's too. And here's the original program (each word a separate link there), with useful synopses of the action.

#2 sandik

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:32 AM

I'm very sorry to be missing this film series, but this description

"pre-premiere preview performance"

really made me giggle.

#3 Jack Reed

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 02:59 PM

You may not get anything out of the announced showings, sandik, but at least you got something out of the announcement! Was my language redundant? Or was the alliteration fun even in silence on the screen? Clicking the wrong button and losing what you've just written will do things to you.

Yeah, I'm sorry to miss it, too, as I am in Chicago, but I do hope others will take advantage of their opportunity, especially in the case of the performance films. Not that there's nothing to move you in the biography - I think of the late Maurice Bejart saying in it, I could see the music in that body... I knew she was from Balanchine and would go to Balanchine..., or something to those effects, but while she was there he was inspired to make Romeo et Juliette - to the Berlioz, no less! - as well as other things, I suppose. (Easy to see why in this clip.)


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