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G.Kirkland's assessment of B's "Coppelia"


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#16 dirac

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:58 PM

The view of Balanchine expressed in her memoirs seems to me wrong-headed historically as well as critically and converges with an understanding of Balanchine I have sometimes read in some hostile (and as I remember usually European) reviews and that I also believe is a caricature at best.


I recall particularly one passage in her book where she dismisses a list of roles that other ballerinas would kill to dance in one or two sentences. With her taste for dance drama NYCB would probably never have been right for her, but on the other hand if she had risen to prominence during a time when Balanchine was in a better frame of mind maybe things might have been different. Melissa Hayden observed that Kirkland "got too much too soon without the right kind of support" and Kirkland remarks rather poignantly in her book that "I never knew what to do with my love for him (Balanchine)." A pity there's not more of her dancing on commercial video.

#17 carbro

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:37 PM

I didn't attend Ballet Theatre as often as you did, carbro. But I do recall some cancellations and at least one very weird Giselle, with poor Baryshnikov. I stayed for these performances, on the theory that there's always SOMETHING to watch in ballet. I admit that I am having a hard time recalling the names of her substitute(s), in the cases of cancellation. Susan Jaffee, of course, after Kirkland was fired. But does anyone remember others who subbed for Kirkland earlier on?

Rebecca Wright once danced Act II of Nutcracker when Gelsey withdrew after Act I. I guess she was already in the house ready to do one of the divertissements. The regular go-to backup was Marianna Tcherkassky, whose career trajectory was no doubt hastened by those unexpected opportunities.

Susan Jaffe was a first-year corps dancer when she was tapped for the Pas d'Esclave at the Kennedy Center after the Kirkland-Bissell firing. Besides that, I don't think she did much subbing for Kirkland who was, after all, away from ABT while Susan was shooting up through the ranks.

#18 bingham

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 02:33 PM

Yoko Ichino replaced her in 2 Don Q's, one w/ R Nureyev and the other w/ Anthony Dowell. Yoko did very well but i always wanted to see Gelsey as Kitri and was very disappointed with her cancellations.

#19 carbro

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 02:55 PM

A bit Posted Image :
I remember Yoko Ichino doing a Kitri with a different Basilio for each act. One was Bujones, I believe one was Peter Fonseca, and I Posted Image can't remember the third. A friend phoned her florist between acts, because Yoko's aplomb deserved, at the very least, a nice presentation bouquet. :flowers:

#20 bingham

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 03:20 PM

A bit Posted Image :
I remember Yoko Ichino doing a Kitri with a different Basilio for each act. One was Bujones, I believe one was Peter Fonseca, and I Posted Image can't remember the third. A friend phoned her florist between acts, because Yoko's aplomb deserved, at the very least, a nice presentation bouquet. Posted Image

She also did one Don Q when Basilio (A Dowell ?) was not able to complete the PDD and she pulled P Fonseca ( who was in the background) to complete the coda.

#21 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:41 PM

I've been digging a bit on different approaches to the ballet before tonight's opening, so I went back to some of the biographies i own that have something to say on the subject. Alonso, Danilova and Kirkland are some of them. Particularly interesting are the scarce words of the latter on Balanchine's version. This is what she has to say:

[size=5]"I also knew that Balanchine would adapt the concept to his vision of pure dance. The story and the characters would be encased in plastic. I made a plan with myself; I would leave the company before dancing in this production. Danilova's somewhat old-fashioned approach was to be wed to Balanchine's modern sensibility. I knew the inevitable outcome of such a marriage would be a stylistic travesty, a waltz of dolls. I had had enough of glorified triviality. His Coppelia was a major hit that summer without me. I had no regrets about not appearing in that one..."[/size]

Any thoughts from those familiar with this staging...?


I'd have more patience for Kirkland's scorn for "glorified triviality" if her and her husband's version of "Sleeping Beauty" weren't such a godawful, wrongheaded mess.

#22 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 08:41 PM


I've been digging a bit on different approaches to the ballet before tonight's opening, so I went back to some of the biographies i own that have something to say on the subject. Alonso, Danilova and Kirkland are some of them. Particularly interesting are the scarce words of the latter on Balanchine's version. This is what she has to say:

[size=5]"I also knew that Balanchine would adapt the concept to his vision of pure dance. The story and the characters would be encased in plastic. I made a plan with myself; I would leave the company before dancing in this production. Danilova's somewhat old-fashioned approach was to be wed to Balanchine's modern sensibility. I knew the inevitable outcome of such a marriage would be a stylistic travesty, a waltz of dolls. I had had enough of glorified triviality. His Coppelia was a major hit that summer without me. I had no regrets about not appearing in that one..."[/size]

Any thoughts from those familiar with this staging...?


I'd have more patience for Kirkland's scorn for "glorified triviality" if her and her husband's version of "Sleeping Beauty" weren't such a godawful, wrongheaded mess.


I guess we have to take it as it is. Just another choreographic assessment, probably one that's not very popular, although also probably with a few followers here and there.
Just as our own opinions. BT's "Favorite variation" and "Least favorite variation" have its good share of pieces that belong to both threads.

#23 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 01:29 PM



I've been digging a bit on different approaches to the ballet before tonight's opening, so I went back to some of the biographies i own that have something to say on the subject. Alonso, Danilova and Kirkland are some of them. Particularly interesting are the scarce words of the latter on Balanchine's version. This is what she has to say:

[size=5]"I also knew that Balanchine would adapt the concept to his vision of pure dance. The story and the characters would be encased in plastic. I made a plan with myself; I would leave the company before dancing in this production. Danilova's somewhat old-fashioned approach was to be wed to Balanchine's modern sensibility. I knew the inevitable outcome of such a marriage would be a stylistic travesty, a waltz of dolls. I had had enough of glorified triviality. His Coppelia was a major hit that summer without me. I had no regrets about not appearing in that one..."[/size]

Any thoughts from those familiar with this staging...?


I'd have more patience for Kirkland's scorn for "glorified triviality" if her and her husband's version of "Sleeping Beauty" weren't such a godawful, wrongheaded mess.


I guess we have to take it as it is. Just another choreographic assessment, probably one that's not very popular, although also probably with a few followers here and there.
Just as our own opinions. BT's "Favorite variation" and "Least favorite variation" have its good share of pieces that belong to both threads.


I don't think it's as simple as "I [do / don't] like [abc] variation because there's [so much / not enough] [xyz] in it." Kirkland's comment irks me because her version of "Sleeping Beauty" is in my opinion flawed in much the way that she claims NYCB's "Coppelia" is -- i.e., it's a "stylistic travesty." Example: Act II opens with Prince Florestan and his pals jumping around like jesters. It makes no dramatic sense -- Florestan is supposed to be a melancholy man apart searching for the ideal -- but Kirkland and her collaborators decided that the curtain must go up on some male pyrotechnics, and so it does. Many of the fairytale divertissements have been replaced by fairies doing what looks like "pure dance" to me.

I'm not annoyed that she found Balanchine wanting -- there are times when I find him wanting, too, and some of those times happen to be in Act III of NYCB's "Coppelia -- I'm annoyed because she's in a glass house throwing stones.

Man, that production (ABT's "Beauty") makes me intemperate ... grrr ... but enough.

#24 Drew

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:02 PM

Example: Act II opens with Prince Florestan and his pals jumping around like jesters. It makes no dramatic sense -- Florestan is supposed to be a melancholy man apart searching for the ideal -- but Kirkland and her collaborators decided that the curtain must go up on some male pyrotechnics, and so it does.


When I saw the added male dancing I vaguely assumed it was Mckenzie's idea (based on some of his other productions where he adds male pyrotechnics inappropriately--and he is partly credited for the ABT Sleeping Beauty)--but there is no way of knowing...or, at any rate, I don't know. It was not a successful outing for Kirkland/Chernov or Mckenzie...but the elements that I remember being most criticized when the ballet premiered were the added layers of psychological/allegorical interpretation (plus the visuals), something Balanchine did not go in for...at least not in such explicit, literary fashion.

I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.

When Makarova did a Sleeping Beauty for the Royal that lasted one season, some reviews suggested that the real problem was not the production per se, though no-one liked her little "cupid" figure, but the imposition of a Russian/Soviet Sleeping Beauty tradition on a British company that had its own very distinguished British Sleeping Beauty traditions. I cannot claim to have a trained eye for these different qualities or to know how to describe them, but in a general way I get the idea. And I have always wondered if Makarova's SB would not have worked better, for example, at ABT ... which has never really "owned" the ballet the way the Royal has...

#25 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:58 PM



I've been digging a bit on different approaches to the ballet before tonight's opening, so I went back to some of the biographies i own that have something to say on the subject. Alonso, Danilova and Kirkland are some of them. Particularly interesting are the scarce words of the latter on Balanchine's version. This is what she has to say:

[size=5]"I also knew that Balanchine would adapt the concept to his vision of pure dance. The story and the characters would be encased in plastic. I made a plan with myself; I would leave the company before dancing in this production. Danilova's somewhat old-fashioned approach was to be wed to Balanchine's modern sensibility. I knew the inevitable outcome of such a marriage would be a stylistic travesty, a waltz of dolls. I had had enough of glorified triviality. His Coppelia was a major hit that summer without me. I had no regrets about not appearing in that one..."[/size]

Any thoughts from those familiar with this staging...?


I'd have more patience for Kirkland's scorn for "glorified triviality" if her and her husband's version of "Sleeping Beauty" weren't such a godawful, wrongheaded mess.


I guess we have to take it as it is. Just another choreographic assessment, probably one that's not very popular, although also probably with a few followers here and there.
Just as our own opinions. BT's "Favorite variation" and "Least favorite variation" have its good share of pieces that belong to both threads.


I think that Kirkland's chip on her shoulder about Mr. B. obscured her judgement about nearly everything else.

#26 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 07:59 AM

I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.


And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?

#27 Ray

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:10 AM


I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.


And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?


Well, symphonies and opera companies also have to act as these kinds of "efficient" venues for stars, but the ensembles/productions in which they appear are usually (yes, with some glaring excpetions in opera) excellent. They've managed to make it work. And wouldn't it be great if ABT did take a year or two to do something so thoughtful and interesting? (Even Cirque du Soleil does that.) It's just sad to see, again and again, both contemporary and classical productions in big, mainstream ballet companies that are so often artistically impoverished: champagne budgets with beer tastes.

#28 sandik

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:42 AM

And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)


When PNB staged the Balanchine/Danilova Coppelia a couple of years ago, they started working with the kids almost a full year before the premiere. Since they'd decided to commission new sets and costumes for the production, they were on a long-term planning schedule anyway, but even if the rest of the project was borrowed ready-made, the kids would still have taken a long time to stage.

And yes, I imagine that the addition of a regular school to ABT's umbrella will have many long-term affects. But their touring schedule makes some things impractical. When PNB toured to London with their production of the Balanchine Midsummer, in part to make a film for the BBC, they took their own kids for the bugs. It was a one-stop tour and took an incredible amount of work. The kind of long run, multiple stop tours that ABT does make working with kids pretty much impossible.

One of the things I appreciated about all the recent Ballet Russe discussions were the "I was an extra for the Ballet Russe" stories -- all the young dancers who milled around in the crowds of Petroushka or held a spear in Scheherezade.

#29 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:58 PM



I think that in staging these ballets companies should take account of their own histories and traditions. A Bolshoi style reconstruction of Coppelia would probably not work at NYCB, which does not preclude NYCB having a successful, and still quite traditional, Coppelia that does work (I think) and that the company has often danced very successfully.


And in fairness, they also have to take into account the kind of company that they actually are. ABT tours regularly, and its productions have to accommodate that fact. For instance, there are about a bazillion kids in the Garland Dance from NYCB's "Beauty" but only two in ABT's, where they look kind of lonely, frankly. I assume that that difference is at least partly driven by the reality of taking a show on the road: you can find and rehearse two stage-worthy local students wherever you go, but a dozen or more might be a tall order. NYCB, however, has a school full of kids it both wants and needs to get on stage. (Yes, ABT has a school now too -- and it will be interesting to see how that shapes future productions.)

Whether one likes it or not, ABT's story ballets are also vehicles to get international stars in front of an American public. They have to be constructed in a way that allows guest principals to bungee in for a performance or two with maximum efficiency. Could it put on the kind of "Let's spend a year going back to the original notation!" Giselle that PNB recently did?


Well, symphonies and opera companies also have to act as these kinds of "efficient" venues for stars, but the ensembles/productions in which they appear are usually (yes, with some glaring excpetions in opera) excellent. They've managed to make it work. And wouldn't it be great if ABT did take a year or two to do something so thoughtful and interesting? (Even Cirque du Soleil does that.) It's just sad to see, again and again, both contemporary and classical productions in big, mainstream ballet companies that are so often artistically impoverished: champagne budgets with beer tastes.


I agree -- there's absolutely NO reason why a bungee-ready production can't be good. It might be harder for that kind of production to serve as an exemplar of a particular style, however, since one of its goals has to be to make sure that it looks good on everyone who is likely to dance in it. A popular gripe among a certain class of opera fanatic is that there's no such thing as a "national" or "house" style anymore since everyone sings everywhere and major stars don't make a home with any one company any more like they did in the good old days. (With the possible exception of some of the small European regional theaters, I don't think there are many -- if any -- opera houses that work the way many major ballet companies do -- i.e., with a roster of artists who build their entire careers there and who are cast in the majority of the leading roles. They're pick up companies, in essence.)

As for doing something thoughtful and interesting, that's why they hired Ratmansky, no? Let's hope good things lie ahead.

#30 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:23 PM

One of the things I appreciated about all the recent Ballet Russe discussions were the "I was an extra for the Ballet Russe" stories -- all the young dancers who milled around in the crowds of Petroushka or held a spear in Scheherezade.


Getting way OT here -- one of the interesting things I learned reading "Chance and Circumstance," Carolyn Brown's memoir of her years with Merce Cunningham, was the fact that she supered for the Royal Ballet when it came to NY on tour. She did stints at the Metropolitan Opera and Radio City Music Hall too, and apparently came pretty close to dancing a supporting role in Tudor's Pillar of Fire for ABT. In the early days, at least, dancing for Merce didn't put a lot of food on the table.


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