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Let's talk about the 2012-2013 season


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#31 Jack Reed

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:10 PM


....
Personally, I like better the Balanchine distillation of the ballet than the whole thing; ....


I love it too, Jack...but with the traditional 'look' of Balanchine's original conception, e.g., the hunters participating on the sidelines during the pdd-adagio of the leads...and with traditional white swan tutus (unlike NYCB's current corps of all-black tutus except for the lead).

Natalia, do you know when NYCB changed to the all-black swan corps? Was it under Balanchine? Balanchine was, to me, usually a barometer of good taste, so it would perplex me that this would happen under his watch.


Not only did the swans become black but they increased in number after Balanchine's departure, and with these changes came Vaes's dusky lighting; all of this diminished the effectiveness of the production by diminishing the visibility of the dancers: Black is less visible than white, and with more on stage, they're more crowded togther, forming more of a clotted mass instead of the previous clarity of pattern, which has always been to me one of Balanchine's many virtures: You get more!, to repeat his frequent exclamation, when you see more. (There was certainly more to his esthetic than bigger!, higher!, faster!, but that was an element.)

And not the least of this was the moment - I don't rmember the number - when the swans circle the stage and then run out, and side lights, about waist high, came on in the wings, so that the girls running down on one side of the stage would cast their shadows on the girls running up on the other side (and vice versa), the illusion of increased speed thus making their movement even more exciting but without obscuring anything, because no bodies were added or anything. Either this lighting effect was eliminated - it was missing from the generally excellent MCB revival - or you just couldn't see it at NYCB because of the black costumes.

Overall, Ronald Bates's original lighting in this ballet achieved the effect that in-the-forest-at-night scenes require: That the swans or wilis or sylphs or whatever night creatures are supposed to be on view actually be visible and yet the audience has the sense of deep night. We've seen it many times, many places, I think, but not in NYCB's revision.

I may be able to dig out some dates of when I first saw the revised version, but the main thing for me is the reduction in effectiveness of the new production, and it's one of the times I was especially grateful to Villella for making the right choice.

There are many, many ways watching NYCB fails to do anything for me any more - since the mid-80's, actually - and so I rarely do. This is yet another example.

(I'm not so sure the online NYCB history is perfectly reliable, by the way.)

#32 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:18 PM

From the MCB staging I do remember the knights on the stage sides with a couple of girls leaning on their shoulders a la Chopiniana. There were all white swans...no blacks in sight, and a rather funny mechanical swan sliding across the stage in the very start. It looked very mid-century to me.

#33 Jack Reed

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:39 PM

Here's that swan, in the background on the right, partly obscured by the choreographer, downstage, rehearsing our friend Edward Villella, around 1962.

#34 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:06 PM

Ah...that swan !.Posted Image That could have been another reminiscence of Balanchine from his time with the Imperial Ballet.

#35 Quiggin

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:23 PM

I don't know too much about Farrell and McBride and all those ballerinas who were able to survive and become internationally known without the essentials...Graham and Merce and some others were also something new, and they too had dancers that were lucky to be there at the right time and the right place to show the novelty to the world, but that was it...


McBride and Farrell attended classes given by Balanchine, Danilova, Felia Doubrovska and Pierre Vladimirov, all of whom trained and danced with the Imperial Ballet in Russia before 1920 in the classics and in their newly revised forms. Eglevsky trained with Lagat. Many of the Cunningham dancers had in-depth classical training.

Picasso could paint like Ingres, but he chose to paint in the manner of the period in which he lived - as was the case with Cunningham and his contemporaries. If Picasso and Matisse hadn't developed their own idioms, there would have been none of the great (non-Duchamp) New York school works of the 1950s and 1960s. Ballet's fascination with, and distraction by, its Ingres period, and not finding new idioms and a philosophy in which to base them, is resulting in the few, often stilted, contemporary productions it does manage to come up with.

The fact that classical ballet has survived at all is in part a result of the Cold War competition between the USSR and the US (and Cuba) and the Ford Foundation grants that helped keep it going. All that's fine. But MCB cannot possibly afford to maintain a school and production facilities for productions of brilliant and expensive shows that reflected ideas of Empire in the 19th century - as carried over through the Cold War.

#36 Helene

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:41 PM

The majority of Petipa-based classics that are performed by American ballet companies are danced by American-trained dancers, very few of whom have purely classical advanced training and are primarily neo-classically or eclectically trained. That hasn't stopped many of the companies, even the ones founded and/or headed by former Balanchine dancers from staging them successfully and to audience acclaim, even those companies, like Ballet Arizona and Oregon Ballet Theatre, that are smaller.

#37 bart

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 06:10 PM

Picasso could paint like Ingres, but he chose to paint in the manner of the period in which he lived - as was the case with Cunningham and his contemporaries. If Picasso and Matisse hadn't developed their own idioms, there would have been none of the great (non-Duchamp) New York school works of the 1950s and 1960s. Ballet's fascination with, and distraction by, its Ingres period, and not finding new idioms and a philosophy in which to base them, is resulting in the few, often stilted, contemporary productions it does manage to come up with.

I take your point, Quiggan. The idea that ballet "is" the 19th-century classics is, to me, as unsatisfactory as the idea that idea that opera "is" the the the tradition of Verdi, of Wagner, or of any other of the 19th century greats.

MCB cannot possibly afford to maintain a school and production facilities for productions of brilliant and expensive shows that reflected ideas of Empire in the 19th century - as carried over through the Cold War.

Companies like MCB and the others mentioned in this thread can and should give their dancers the opportunity to dance in some of the great 19th century works. These can be done credibly, as last season's MCB Coppelia and the Balanchine Act II/IV Swan Lake (2003 and 2008 in full performance and 2011 at Open Barre). All were creditable. As Cristian mentions, Deanna Seay's Odette was much more than that.


Let us imagine, for the fun of it, that MCB were to redirect its energies in the direction of something like a full-length Swan Lake. And let us imagine that they want to do it right, and that they invest in reinventing how classes are run, who coaches and how they do it, and a long, intense course of rehearsal. Dancers or former dancers who grew up in a culture of the classics could be hired to recreate something like the culture which has existed at Ballet Nacional de Cuba -- in class, perhaps as teachers of style, movement, and steps, perhaps as guest artists

It could be done, for one ballet at least. But there is the problem of costs. Every project that one chooses to invest time and money in -- and a full-length Swan Lake would take years to mount creditbly at MCB -- means something else that cannot be done. When compiling "wish lists" for the future, it's essential to keep in mind what you are willing to give up.

#38 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 09:07 PM

I don't know too much about how classes and technique are directed and infused into dancers, but I always assumed that a ballet dancer, and more, Principal dancers, are already in full knowledge on how to perform the classic steps. Style is something different, and yes, I agree that proper coaching is essential. And again, I bring the subject on how excellent Cuban ballerinas from the golden era of the Cuban ballet are being totally ignored by our main ballet company, their talent and experience completely wasted around here, not ONE of them ever been part of the company staff, not ONE of them ever been brought to coach any of the few classics the company has staged, whereas Farrell, McBride and Verdy were brought in a more costly way to stage Jewels. That is a tragic reality, and is something that has always been voiced, in whispering, by balletomanes here. I don't think the company would have to make a huge, drastic change of direction, but rather an organic, healthy integration long overdue. And yes, if the company would have had a better vision, they would have better invested in a full length Swan Lake instead of the ultra costly, live band onstage, uber embarrassment Nightspot. And I don't think it would take years to stage it. The white acts are here already, and they did a great job. About the ballroom act, they have proven already via Coppelia that they can dance a Mazurka like the best Europeans. About the so seemed essential display of costly props and costumes, well...I grew up with old and less than luxurious productions, but hey...the joy of the wonderful dancing feast always made up for it. But perhaps this is a point that belongs to a completely different animal.

MCB cannot possibly afford to maintain a school and production facilities for productions of brilliant and expensive shows that reflected ideas of Empire in the 19th century - as carried over through the Cold War.


Are we talking of the absolute necessity of costly productions to be able to see the classics, (in which that case Cuban ballet would be non existent) or are we implying that the classics have no reason to exist in some people's eyes due to politics...?

Edited to add: Meanwhile, let's take a look at the two threads currently with more responses and excitement on this board: the Mariinsky tour and the ABT season . Both of them are being daily discussed, and ironicaly, the main recurrent subject on both have to do with the classics. Coincidence or fact...?

#39 Jayne

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 09:51 PM

As to costs, consider that sets and costumes can be rented. This is not free, but last season Los Angeles Ballet rented the Oregon Ballet Theatre sets and costumes for Swan Lake.

One consideration for MBC is the expense of showing Swan Lake in 4 locations. The set must be installed and then torn down on 4 separate weekends. In comparison, Oregon Ballet Theatre will only install their set for Swan Lake once at their venue and keep it there for the full run. Installing sets requires union staff, there are insurance costs, transportation, lighting to be set up, etc. This is not a cheap venture. I really don't understand the doubt in MBC's dancers to pull off a lovely SL. Perhaps a bad staging / set / costumes would do it in, but the dancers would / should be just fine.

I am surprised that MBC can only attract audiences for just 3 performances in metropolitan Miami itself. I don't know the audiences well enough to know why this would be the case. But it is rather unusual.

#40 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:55 PM

I am surprised that MBC can only attract audiences for just 3 performances in metropolitan Miami itself. I don't know the audiences well enough to know why this would be the case. But it is rather unusual.


Everything in this town is rather unusual.

#41 Quiggin

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 12:45 AM

... not ONE of them ever been part of the company staff, not ONE of them ever been brought to coach any of the few classics the company has staged, whereas Farrell, McBride and Verdy were brought in a more costly way to stage Jewels.

Are we talking of the absolute necessity of costly productions to be able to see the classics, (in which that case Cuban ballet would be non existent) or are we implying that the classics have no reason to exist in some people's eyes due to politics...?


Farrell, McBride and Verdy are sort of national treasures (even Verdy because she did some of her best work here) and for Villella to have brought them to coach Miami City Ballet was considered a great stroke of genius and has been acknowledged in the ballet press - not just here at BA - as a very postive thing. I do enjoy watching Viengsay Valdes a lot, but should she have been brought to the US instead of one of them (if that could have been arranged)? On the other hand should Magaly Suarez be a member of the MCB teaching staff? Yes, that would be a very good choice, just as Stanley Williams was when he was invited to teach at School of American Ballet.

The current Cuban government supports the ballet - relative to the GNP - in a very substantial way, with a school, a broad recruitment plan, performing facilities and regular tours to Paris, Canada, the US, etc, far beyond what Batista government ever gave. There might not be a BNC at all without Castro. Some of its success is the result of international good will and a bumper crop of great teachers, such as Josefina Mendez, whose death according to one former BNC dancer has resulted in significant changes in the company.

Likewise ballet in the United States got a huge boost as a result of our cultural inferiority complex during the 1950s, the US "seeing the Soviets’ cultural wealth as a threat," according to one commentator. Nureyev's leap to independence - as he would rephrase it - did for ballet something like what the launch of Sputnik did for physics and the sciences.

There is nothing wrong with producing the dozen or so great Petipa and Ivanov ballets over and over (and I did see the current traveling and much discussed Mariinsky Swan Lake, which seemed a bit threadbare and less thrilling than Don Q or Sleeping Beauty of a few years ago). But that shouldn't be at the expense of new works and the development of truly new and honest idioms and forms of expressions. MCB is a small regional company that has done brilliant Balanchine, better than City Ballet even, which is a very rare thing. It has limited resources and can't suddenly fill a void that doesn't really exist with complicated 19th century productions. It took San Francisco Ballet fifteen or so years after its financial crises and firing of its AD in the eighties to stabilize and move forward again - and even now is doing so very cautiously. It may take several years for Miami to find itself again.

Also Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine were great choreographers here in the States, just as Marius Petipa was abroad. There is no need really to set them against each other.

#42 Birdsall

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 05:59 AM

I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone is saying that MCB should throw out its Balanchine focus or put on 4 full length Petipa ballets per year without any Balanchine in the mix.

I think Cristian is just saying that there are resources of great Cuban dancers living in Miami whose knowledge and expertise are not being used who could help with style issues when MCB does the classics (maybe once a year). MCB could probably do a Swan Lake one day (with the rest of the season devoted to Balanchine and other contemporary works) if it wanted to using coaches who have danced it dozens of times. It simply takes the desire to actually do it, I suspect. I do think the audience attendance would be high at a Swan Lake. I would personally love to see the Black Swan coda danced the Cuban way with the backward hops on pointe and then a balanced cambre at the end (not sure if there is an exact term). That would make my day!

However, I do think lavish sets are what Americans want, but someone mentioned above that they (semi-lavish) can be rented instead of created from scratch which does save money.

#43 Natalia

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 06:14 AM

Putting all into context, I understand your pain (about NYCB foibles), Jack Reed! One may ask, "How on earth can the company of Balanchine 'f--- up' his Swan Lake?" They did.

#44 bart

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 08:38 AM

On the whole, I'm with Quiggin and checkwriter on this matter of Swan Lake. The question boils down to: where do you want to invest your time, money and effort? A full-length Swan Lake would take years to mount creditably at MCB. Is there a real demand for it? Is it really so essential to a ballet company, or to the ballerinas of MCB? I don't know.

What I do know is that any large-scale project means that something else cannot be done. All of us have wish lists. When compiling those lists, we have to keep in mind what we are willing to give up. I am not willing to surrender the Villella repertoire (including as it already does the superb and superbly danced Balanchine white acts of Swan Lake) and the intriguing promise of what Lopez might do, for an attempt to create a world-class Swan Lake. For a full-length, given the nature of the company and the audience it serves, I'd prefer the Balanchine Midsummer Night's Dream.

Having said that, I think that working with Cuban-trained dancers when appropriate is an idea worth exploring.. A starting point might be the Black Swan pdd, which appears now and then on MCB's programs. I've seen several MCB principals do this over the year, at at least one Corps member (at an Open Barre). These have been honorable efforts, but not at the level (style, technical brilliance, etc.) any fan can find on YouTube or on dvd. The distinctive MCB energy -- when poured into that particular bottle -- lost its fizz. If there is time, money, and support for this kind of effort -- why not give it a try?

OFF TOPIC. Am I wrong in thinking that many Cuban defectors came to the U.S. precisely to have the chance to experience a range of works and styles not available at home? In Cuba, it seems to me, the price of great classical training -- and numerous performance opportunities -- is that dancers have also had to dance quite a lot of truly dreadful "contemporary" work. (One can see clips on YouTube alongside the classics.) The chance to dance the top-tier 20th-century and early 21-st century work that Lopez has been talking about is something most (not all) classical artists, from all the great ballet traditions, have embraced.

P.S. Someone above posted about the flash dance that MCB's dancers performed in downtown Miami a short while ago. This is the kind of attention-getter that other companies are doing, so it's good to see MCB joining in with so much joie de vivre. Lots of attractive, talented young men and women dancing up a storm -- and clearly loving what they do -- what's not to like?

Random Act of Culture at Wynwood Art Walk

Posted Image Posted Image

#45 Natalia

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 08:46 AM

Brokenwing wrote earlier (post #7, above), about Lopez' plans for the following season (2013/14):

There is a new article on the upcoming season in the Miami Herald today. It hints at some of the casting, including Renan Cerdeiro and Carlos Guerra as Apollo. It also features some ideas for next season which include Robbins' 'West Side Story Suite', Wheeldon's 'Polyphonia' a piece by Nacho Duato,.....



From Balanchine to Duato? Poor MCB.

I don't 'get' the universal fixation with Duato. Bores me to death. Sorry, it is not ballet. Not remotely. Dark, quasi-intellectual CHEAP-looking 'barefooted' romping is all I see. At least Twyla puts pointe shoes on some of the ballerinas & presents exciting movement to beautiful music!


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