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Bolshoi performance of Balanchine's "Jewels", 2012


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#1 pherank

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 03:11 PM

I was wondering if anyone else had seen the video of the Bolshoi's 2012 performance of Balanchine's "Jewels"?
It may be a fancy bootleg as I didn't recall seeing credits added at the end. The Russians have a tendency to film absolutely everything (unlike in the West), and so it can be difficult to know if a release is "official".

Online, there is a documentary with clips from the Bolshoi premiere performance of "Jewels":


And another view of "Rubies" with different cast:


In general, the cinematography and editing styles are maddening. Far too many closeups (but more about that later).

Emeralds -
with Evgenia Obraztsova, Vladislav Lantratov, Anna Tikhomirova, Alexander Volchkov

I mostly enjoyed this performance, and appreciated the fact that the Bolshoi retained the 3 danseur ending (which the Mariinsky did not). The ballerina performing the 1st woman's variation needed more training in how to do the sweeping arm ports do bras movements (I liked the 2nd variation ballerina better).

Orchestra sounded lush, and seemed to actually care about the material.

Rubies -
with Ekaterina Krysanova, Vyacheslav Lopatin, Ekaterina Shipulina

The Bolshoi orchestra actually sounds pretty odd in their arrangement of Stravinsky's Capriccio. The tempo is much too slow (undoubtedly to accommodate the dancer's needs), but it almost sounds as if the conductor is still stuck in "Emeralds" land. An excellent example of how distorting the music to accommodate the dancers - when taken too far - can ruin a performance. But it takes 2 to tango, and then there's the dancing:

Yikes! What a 'performance'. I'm beginning to wish the Russians would stop trying to perform "Rubies" - it's hard to bear really. The ballerina in the part of the 'Tall Girl' seemed entirely out of her element: completely unable to perform the angular, 'oriental' movements of the role, and, unable to perform the Broadway/vaudeville hip movements and kicks which are a big part of "Rubies" (and provide so much delight when performed well!). The expected quick and sharp movements were largely abandoned by the cast in favor of rounded, 'romantic' gestures. "Rubies" was definitely not sexy.

It is rather fascinating to see how difficult "Rubies" can be for many companies outside the US. The Paris Opera Ballet being the notable exception (but then they don't suffer from a lack of Jazz influence in their culture).

Being an abstract ballet, it never occurred to me just how 'ethnic' much of "Rubies" is. But when I watch films of the Russian companies taking on this piece, it's no different than Chinese dancers insisting that they can perform
authentic Flamenco, or Americans displaying their 'exemplary' Cossack dancing skills. OK, it takes courage to give "Rubies" a try, but it's not working. Not even close.

I definitely think there are cultural oddities in the dance choreography that are too great an obstacle for most of these Russian dancers, unless, and it's a long shot, the dancers are submerged in a 6 month course on American dance of the 1920s - 1940s. Then they might be able to pull it off.

Diamonds -
with Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin

Many lovely parts throughout, though I have to say that in the video, much of the ensemble dancing is missed due to the incredibly bad cinematography. I was just furious at how little could be seen of the finale. The director chose closeups over full-stage shots time and again, and it simply RUINED the presentation of Balanchine's work for the video audience. I have to remember this "Diamonds" video as a prime example of how not to photograph ballet. The placement of dancer's bodies in the ensemble sections is so important to the look of the ballet - why not show the arrangement of dancers on the stage?

The Pas de Deux sections went pretty well, and the penultimate (scherzo) section was enjoyable. Surprisingly, the finale seemed to deflate about 2/3rds of the way through - it didn't have quite the precision and bounce the POB dancers, for example, give the movements. But the Russian audience seemed to love "Diamonds" the best of the three pieces judging from the loud cheering throughout.

#2 trieste

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 06:52 PM

Yikes. Those Rubies clips are awkward. Such shallow plies! I saw bits of Osipova doing it, she seemed to get it.

#3 pherank

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 07:46 PM

Yikes. Those Rubies clips are awkward. Such shallow plies! I saw bits of Osipova doing it, she seemed to get it.


Diana Vishneva does a better job too, but the overall effect of the Russian performances have so far been, as you say, 'awkward'.

#4 jsmu

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 10:13 PM

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGH. such shallow plies, such careful and gutless penchees, such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) Don't know who the 'tall girl' is but she is godawful in this role--not the slightest clue.
I must disagree about Paris Opera in Rubies as well, sadly--Dupont, normally a great to very good dancer, was the WORST in Rubies I have ever seen her: coy, contrived, precious, WRONG IN EVERY WAY THERE IS. Her partner was not much better, and the corps was somewhat worse. Sigh.
I also have not been impressed by Vishneva (also coy and contrived, albeit slightly less pretentious than Dupont --ONLY SLIGHTLY). Osipova was okay. Not even Bouder, much less Whelan, MUCH less McBride.

#5 macnellie

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 07:21 AM

"...much less McBride.". Who then?

#6 pherank

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:52 AM

...I also have not been impressed by Vishneva (also coy and contrived, albeit slightly less pretentious than Dupont --ONLY SLIGHTLY). Osipova was okay. Not even Bouder, much less Whelan, MUCH less McBride.


LOL, I may be wrong, but you seem to dislike everyone in these roles. ;)
Send us a video link of a good interpretation of Rubies.

#7 Quiggin

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:55 AM

... such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) ...


That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out. Both companies present the dances smiling and beaming and slightly apologetically, as if what they were doing were a little joke between the them and the audience. Rather than a dance that unfolds behind the proscenium of its own inevitable internal logic.

Alicia Alonso in her "Theme & Variations" tutorial video makes an important distinction that holds for even that very extroverted ballet: now this part is presented for the audience and this other part is just before you two, very private.

#8 pherank

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 12:25 PM

That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out.


Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time. And it doesn't take very long. It's often mentioned that only the dancers (such as McBride) who received the original choreography and 'hands-on' attention from Mr. B. really got things right. And even though many of those same dancers tried to pass on the dances intact, the very act of communication seems to keep smoothing the edges, again and again.I remember Suzanne Farrell's description of her staging of "Scotch Symphony" in Russia, and it just sounded like a nightmare, but she wrote about it as just being part of the business. But the end result was nothing like any "Scotch Symphony" seen in the U.S.

I think we can be certain that what we THINK is Petipa, is in many ways different from the original choreography.

#9 Quiggin

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 01:14 PM

Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time.


I don't mind the loss of intricacies, it's the layer of schmaltz that's applied - knowing smiles (which I've seen even in the 4Ts) and over-reverentiality, the feeling that the dancer is doing it for her or his resume (but of course everything has that stamp on it today).

I thought Farrell Ballet was most successful with slow ballets like Somnabula, which they did quite movingly, rather than allegro works like Union Jack. Villella seems to error on the side of crispness, sharp hand movements, snazzy finish but I think that's a better bias for restaging, at least for fifties/sixties Balanchine.

Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.

#10 jsmu

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 01:59 PM

no, no, NO. I didn't realize my syntax was unclear; sorry. I elided a couple of words ('she is' after Osipova); the follwing sentence refers to what Osipova, though okay, was NOT.....
in order of brilliance Osipova was not Bouder, who's terrific in it; not Whelan, who was the abstraction of wit in it; and most definitely not McBride, who was a goddess in it.

#11 pherank

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 02:03 PM

Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.


Nichols seems to have the best approach, indeed. As you pointed out, the individual stagers each have their own predilections, and personal athletic strength's - each stager is going to be stronger with certain choreography (and so they probably tend to stick with the same approach, rather than continue to work on their own weaknesses).

One thing that doesn't seem to get mentioned much with regard to these Balanchine stagers is their ability to teach.To teach with clarity and enthusiasm, and convey information well, is a gift in itself, and I have to believe that plenty of stagers are just not good teachers. Obviously Balanchine had the gift - he could create and convey his choreography to large numbers of people many, many times over. But the average dancer, and the average soloist, is not necessarily going to be able to teach others with any genius.

#12 pherank

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 02:04 PM

no, no, NO. I didn't realize my syntax was unclear; sorry.


That's what I was wondering. No problem.

#13 jsmu

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 02:19 PM


 


... such completely neutered angles (when there even are any.) ...


That's the thing with this performance and the Paris Opera Ballet's record of "Jewels" that always drives me a bit crazy - it's Balanchine leaving all the prickly Balanchine business out. Both companies present the dances smiling and beaming and slightly apologetically, as if what they were doing were a little joke between the them and the audience. Rather than a dance that unfolds behind the proscenium of its own inevitable internal logic.

Alicia Alonso in her "Theme & Variations" tutorial video makes an important distinction that holds for even that very extroverted ballet: now this part is presented for the audience and this other part is just before you two, very private.

 



Sadly, I think it is somewhat inevitable that the original intricacies of the Balanchine technique be lost over time.


I don't mind the loss of intricacies, it's the layer of schmaltz that's applied - knowing smiles (which I've seen even in the 4Ts) and over-reverentiality, the feeling that the dancer is doing it for her or his resume (but of course everything has that stamp on it today).

I thought Farrell Ballet was most successful with slow ballets like Somnabula, which they did quite movingly, rather than allegro works like Union Jack. Villella seems to error on the side of crispness, sharp hand movements, snazzy finish but I think that's a better bias for restaging, at least for fifties/sixties Balanchine.

Kyra Nichols said that when she inherited old Balanchine roles, she stripped them - like an art restorer - of their previous interpretations, back to their bare bones and worked out from there. That might be a good way for a restaging to start.



AMEN to everything here. That's one reason Nichols was so revelatory in almost every Balanchine part--she removed the barnacles and detritus, restoring roles to their former luster.

 

The 'layer of schmaltz' indeed--it's hideous. everything is coated with goo. I also mind the loss of intricacies when it is a matter not of time and attrition (and the deaths of the dancers who really knew the choreography) but a matter of inadequate technique, as was the case for years at NYCB with Watts and Kistler. Watts and Kistler destroyed every role they touched in their latter years, and, sadly, as they were both intimates of Peter Martins, he let them both run amok for ages. They omitted whatever they could not do/could no longer do/could never do/did not feel like attempting, and developed truly awful 'personae' which they must have felt were more than enough compensation. This sort of thing is what has been killing ballets like La Sonnambula, which both the aforementioned dancers disgraced themselves in.

 

All one need to is listen to Alonso, Marie-Jeanne, Tallchief, etc ad infinitum, to realize that the rigors and brilliance of Balanchine ballets do not withstand laziness, inadequacy, or cabaret turns (except when called for, as in Slaughter, for example, lol)....and that what they run into in staging is dancers who refuse often even to try. (cf Farrell's accounts of staging Scotch in Russia, etc.) Tallchief talks about staging Ballet Imperial at ABT (where one might reasonably expect proper and adequate technique, given its illustrious past?) and telling the young ballerina that she was supposed to do double sauts de basques in the finale. The girl said 'omg, that's what John Taras said--but I thought he was joking--it's so HARD--!!!!!'

 

Sigh.



#14 pherank

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 02:52 PM

Tallchief talks about staging Ballet Imperial at ABT (where one might reasonably expect proper and adequate technique, given its illustrious past?)
and telling the young ballerina that she was supposed to do double sauts de basques in the finale. The girl said 'omg, that's what John Taras said--but I thought he was joking--it's so HARD--!!!!!'
Sigh.


Reminds me of Gelsey Kirkland going to great lengths to complain about working with Balanchine, and how she (basically) disliked dancing "Theme and Variations" because it was so demanding. But then Kirkland had a lot of 'emotional issues'. As you pointed out, there are definitely dancers who have no real work ethic unless they are forced to give a darn.

As for the schmaltz - it is, as they say, SHOW BIZ!

#15 Jayne

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 07:20 PM

LOL, I may be wrong, but you seem to dislike everyone in these roles. ;)
Send us a video link of a good interpretation of Rubies.

Forward to 0:38 to see an excerpt of the PNB version of Rubies:



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