Wednesday, November 23
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:17 AM
Lustig is responsible for the most welcome recent addition to the Bay Area's "Nutcracker" landscape. The English-born choreographer spent much of his dance career in the U.K. and Holland (realms where "Nutcracker" mania is far less pervasive), which explains how he retired from the stage without ever performing in a "Nutcracker" production. He brought a fresh eye to his beautiful version of the ballet, which hews closely to the original plot.
His re-imagined "Nutcracker" premiered in 2000 at New Jersey's American Repertory Ballet, and he brought the brilliantly staged production with him when he took over the Oakland Ballet last year. Harking back to his Austrian roots, Lustig set the ballet in late 19th-century Vienna, when it was the culturally vibrant capital of a vast empire. Working with set designer Zack Brown, he drew inspiration from the paintings and graphics of Viennese master Gustav Klimt.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:19 AM
While executive director Linda Drezdzon and artistic director Jeanette Makaroff were thrilled to learn the small nonprofit received a $2,500 grant, they weren't prepared for what happened moments later. Thanks to diligent online voters, the ballet school also was one of five organizations to win a $25,000 endowment grant.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:20 AM
Jessika Anspach, who has danced in the PNB production since she was 11, is pretty blunt about it. "Nutcracker is a gateway drug—you start there, and it pulls you into everything else." Even with 14 productions behind her, Anspach enthuses, "The corps is central to the show. There's so much dancing for us. It feels great to dance that much—we get so much stage time."
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:24 AM
The anecdote about Mission National Ballet, contained in Bishop-Gwyn’s riveting biography Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca, reveals much about the British import who was recruited in 1950, at age 29, to come to Toronto the next year and help create a national ballet troupe.
Franca was demanding and would stop at nothing to achieve her goals. She bullied the ballet company’s board to finance her dreams. She reduced her dancers to tears, if that’s what they needed to shape up. She had little time for family and, for some unclear reason, was even reluctant to acknowledge her Jewish ancestry. Husbands — she had three of them — were dropped if they interfered with her ambitions. Friends were also discarded when they were no longer of use to her.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:30 AM
Guests then headed into the Au-Rene Theater to be the first to experience "Program l." The performance included George Balanchine's breezy and exuberant American classic, "Square Dance"; Jerome Robbins' "Afternoon of a Faun," a riveting duet between a young man in a dance studio absorbed by his reflection in a mirror and a young woman who interrupts his reverie; Christopher Wheeldon's "Liturgy," an intense and haunting pas de deux, set to the contemporary sounds of composer Arvo Pärt; and "In The Upper Room," Twyla Tharp's explosive, signature masterwork, leaving the audience breathless.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:33 AM
Former San Francisco Ballet star Muriel Maffre and Aurora artistic director Tom Ross mash up dance, puppetry and music in an intriguing 80-minute reverie that has great promise but lacks cohesion. All of the elements are there but they don't quite coalesce in this uneven fable. Although it's shot through with lovely moments, this fanciful puppet parable about time, temptation and regret never quite pulls the heartstrings.
It's a pity, because L. Peter Callender enchants as the Narrator, leaping from king to pauper and delivering the thoughts of our hapless hero, Joseph. He's got the elegance and authority to make the narration seem seamless, even when it's a little clunky.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:35 AM
"Every year, I ask, 'What's in the worst shape? What has to be replaced?'" Marks added. "They get starched, and they're dry-cleaned. We do some 30 shows every year, and dancers work hard. They sweat. And sweat is the hardest thing on silk."
The perfectionism with which Robert Joffrey approached this production — his last before his 1988 death — infinitely complicates the task. "I can't think of another company that has 12 individual flowers," Marks said. "Every petal was originally hand-painted and made of silk. The number of petals varies per skirt. The rose has 20 petals. The clematis has 9 or 10. Every petal has between 5 and 15 tiny darts to make the right shape, and every bodice is different."
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:37 AM
Most impressively, Ratmansky’s characterization of Juliet spurns the delicate prettiness that comes with most ballerina roles: in Ratmansky’s version, she’s a heroine to root for. First soloist Elena Lobsanova, one of five dancers taking up the role, is radiant in her first scene with the Nurse. With a sprightly panache, she flits across the stage, all giggles and nervous energy. After the couple is separated, there’s an eerie dream sequence added by Ratmansky in which Juliet starts to lose her grip, followed by a soap opera–worthy confrontation with her parents that highlights her youthful petulance and unflinching stubbornness. Ratmansky’s done something rare: he’s created a ballet where the drama is as thrilling as the dancing.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:44 AM
After Thomas conceived the illusions for the show, Bill Smith of Magic Ventures in Las Vegas built them. Carolina Ballet Artistic Director Robert Weiss, and Jeff A.R. Jones, resident scenery designer, along with the two dancers who play the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, Marin Boieru and Dameon Nagel, spent a week with Thomas to learn the secrets. (Full disclosure: WRAL-TV is sponsoring the magic).
The Carolina Ballet also is giving the production a general face lift with some new scenery. But, with all the changes, the storyline and choreography have not been changed.
Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:47 AM
Goodman, this time with the gracious and stalwart Luke Manley, was also utterly engaging in the de Mille work, set to a song by Franz Schubert. This was choreographed for ABT in 1992, the year before she died, and years after she had suffered a terrible stroke, but the pas de deux is youthful, vibrant, and winning. Goodman, coached by Amanda McKerrow (the original young girl), caught much of that wonderful dancer's precision and delicacy. If the rest of the work is anywhere near this standard, it seems call for a revival, and Ballet NY deserves a salute for bringing it back.
Posted 24 November 2011 - 11:01 PM
The New York Times
The costume designed by Anja Mlakar for Jorma Elo’s “One Overture” is a half-and-half affair — literally: the dancer in the solo has a tutu encircling half of her waist and a jagged line bisecting her bicolored leotard. It’s a rather obvious visual metaphor for Mr. Elo’s brand of slice-and-dice choreography, but it could also be the poster for many a ballet company these days: half-classical, half-contemporary, stuck together with no real sense of a governing vision or even personality.
The Faster Times
The question whenever a new dance ensemble is formed is always: why? What does it hope to achieve? Of course it makes sense when a choreographer decides to form a troupe, a laboratory in which to develop his or her ideas (à la the original Morphoses). There, the reasoning is clear: artistic freedom, space to experiment, a group of dancers familiar with the choreographer’s style willing to go along for the ride. But when two dancers decide to come together and start something new, exciting as the prospect may be, one can’t help but wonder: what is need that they are filling, other than their own?
Posted 28 November 2011 - 12:36 PM
"This summer we retooled the organization," says Smith. "We basically created a business model that focuses on our core revenue streams." Those are the ballet's six-year-old dance school and The Nutcracker, which is the only show in its 2011-12 season.
The line of credit, once $120,000, as of last week has been paid down to $70,000. Even better, the ballet's preliminary audited net loss now stands at $31,000 — a stunning turnaround. The company has also brought in a variety of other arts groups to share its space and associated expenses, including the Madison Youth Choirs.
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