"Rubies" (Balanchine/Stravinsky) members of Ballet Arizona
Sharp, clear and neat, if not quite as vital as Ballet Chicago's rendition in the Harris Theater in May, or so it seemed; I was in the center of row W for this, the best seats (right in front of me) being held for donors to the Festival. (Fair enough, but sitting in row M in the Harris could only have helped make the goings-on more "present" there.) Well coached, it seemed to ask mainly for more energy.
Regardless of some remoteness, I can be sure that the principals, Jillian Barrel and Nayon Iovino, were well matched but that Iovino was no match for Matthew Renko's amplitude nor Barrell for Elisabeth Holowchuk's animation in the BC performances. Kenna Draxton, with Renko and Holowchuk a sometime member of TSFB, was effective in the demi-soloist or "tall girl" role.
Part of the overall problem, such as it was in this very creditable performance, was some slackness of tempo in the second movement, as well as a spot or two where either some events were simply left out or I blanked for a moment.
On the other hand, one little event usually made blank in "Rubies" today nearly re-emerged: In the second part of the first pas de cinq, where the demi-soloist is manipulated by her four partners while facing upstage late in the first movement, she leans downstage from the waist and looks out at us with her face upside-down, a startling instant when it happens, as it did (but too briefly) here. Often now, we just get the dancer's back and the back of her head here, to no effect at all.
The program lists the corps of twelve (eight girls and four boys) in unisex fashion; the Auditorium sound system distorted loud passages, as it did all evening.
Two Became Three (Alexander Ekman/?) Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia from Giordano Dance Chicago
Descent (Brian Brooks/Adam Crystal) Brian Brooks Moving Company
Both these items seemed to me pretty minor matters because of the incorporation - which looked like intrusion - of extrinsic themes or reference, the everyday, especially the gaggy first one, with one dancer wired so we could hear his scripted commentary on the action, and commonplace clothing and dim "contemporary" lighting, as though nothing specially worth our attention were going on, though the second, a New York import, was distinguished by some finesse in production values which said "Downtown" to me. Sometimes less is less.
Sleeping Beauty pas de deux Sofiane Sylve and Vito Mazzeo of San Francisco Ballet
Another high point (in spite of some more roughness from the sound system), and much better than just pretty - some real grandeur here, and in spite of carefulness possibly owing to what early on appeared to be a slippery spot awkwardly placed upstage audience right - right where a lot of diagonals got underway.
Then, after intermission,
Afternoon of a Faun (Robbins/Debussy) Lesley Rausch and Seth Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet
Whether the distance sapped some power from this or some was lacking at the source, but a good, creditable if not really memorable performance. Also some favorite moments of coordination between the music and the dance didn't eventuate, though in all fairness I can't say for sure where the problem lay.
For example, part way through, he holds her horizontally, crosswise of the stage, and she changes her pose slightly, abruptly, on a triangle note, a soft sound; but I couldn't even hear the triangle, and Rausch's movement lacked that percussive sudden-ness it can get.
(I wish performances of this ballet would include among the credits in the program the line we always got at NYCB in the old days: "The Place: A Room with a Mirror". Omitting that denies at least some of the audience the pleasure of discovering, part way through, where that mirror is.)
Chronicle (Graham/Riegger) a dozen women of the Martha Graham Dance Company
This half-hour dance, in three parts, "was Martha Graham's response to the menace of fascism in Europe during the early 1930's," according to the note in the program.
I didn't get that from the stage; and while I wondered sometimes whether the performance might be being given by dancers who began their training in ballet, owing to a certain lightness much of the time which seemed not entirely in keeping with some deliberateness of the sculptural, even monumental, movement, posing, and formations. (One of the exceptions, where the corps, in black, had more of the weight and impact I felt it needed, came early in Section II, Steps in the Street, possibly the subsection called Devastation, and again in III, Prelude to Action.)
But leaving quibbles behind, and taking in this dance more as design, made with bodily movement to rhythmic sound, I enjoyed it as varying but consistent spectacle, less "about" anything extrinsic, and helped along too by Graham's somber dresses and an uncredited construction, like a stylized, wide stump, center stage, for solo movement.
As it happened, I didn't get the half-hour duration of this from the stage either; from there, it seemed more like it made its way along in twenty minutes (but my watch said otherwise). So, a long, drawn-out ending for the well-constructed program? Not at all, a satisfying finale, very effective, making a sustained impression not least in its scale and ambition. With some weight, but without ever becoming heavy.
And as it happened, this program illustrated what makes something "great": It needs to be worth returning to, long after its first appearance, achieving this way a kind of existence outside its time, for those willing to journey outside theirs for a while and visit its world. As though to make the point, the dates the dances were made were given in the program: 1967 (Rubies), 2011 (Two Became Three), not actually listed in the program but Google found out for me, 2011 (Descent), 1890 (Sleeping Beauty), 1953 (Afternoon of a Faun), and 1936 (Chronicle).
Another view, along with some images, and some credits I've incorporated above, is posted in the Rogue Ballerina blog.
Considering the great dances on view for the money - none! - one has to add that the Festival represents excellent value. (The Festival's founders and artistic directors, Lar Lubovitch and Jay Franke, did appear very briefly to make a joke about their captive audience and to remind us - or it - that some must contribute that others may attend without charge.)
Edited by Jack Reed, 01 September 2012 - 03:42 PM.