Kristen

Kennedy Center Honors 2012 - Natalia Makarova honored

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there was no scent to any of the dancing except for Kent and Hallberg in the "Romeo and Juliet" Balcony Pas de Deux, where drama is built in and the Macmillan is enhanced by being edited down to an excerpt

They were wonderfully in character. Still, while I guess a proper tribute to Makarova had to be heavy on story ballets, I generally hate to see excerpts, especially the most emotional bits, and especially when they’re danced in front of a generic backdrop. But Tiler Peck - wow!

I turned the set off after the introduction for Led Zeppelin, but I enjoyed the tribute to Buddy Guy, whom I used to see in Chicago, mostly at his own Checkerboard Lounge on the south side, during those lean, “20 years of small clubs.” It was fun to recognize the Checkerboard and Teresa’s, both long gone, and also musicians like Buddy’s longtime partner Junior Wells and the saxophonist A.C. Reed. I remember Reed freaking me out one night at Wise Fools Pub, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes on the bandstand, dragging on them down practically till they burned his lips. And the man managed to live till his late 70’s.

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I always have to temper my fan girl side ("I can't believe you guys cut away from Veronika Part to show a reaction shot!) with my practical side (It's network tv, a mainstream audience). The cameras seemed to leave the Giselle and Romeo and Juliet sections alone but I agree that Tiler Peck's dancing was the most vibrant. Maybe all of this came off much better in the theater. The general reviews actually singled out the ballet portion as excellent, so there must have been more of it. Another exercise in frustration and a wasted opportunity.

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Tiler Peck is clearly a wonderful dancer, but could she be more opposite of the kind of dancer Makarova was? There is nothing "Je ne sais quoi" about her. Why even a NYCB ballerina, anyway? (For Baryshnikov, that's understandable.) There must be hundreds of dancers who wore out their Makarova tapes, wanting to be her someday, who have some of her dramatic quality.

Why couldn't Part, a Russian-born dancer who left for America, so we have a parallel, not have danced the excerpt from "Other Dances"? (In the fouettes from Black Swan PDD, Part looked dour; that's not her strength, and Peck looked like she could have eaten them for breakfast.) In the "Giselle" Cojocaru's face was a death mask, and she looked robotic to me, which was surprising, since her Giselle got rave reviews. As Giselle, Makarova's eyes, at minimum, were always alive.

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As a practical matter, Peck had previously learned Other Dances when NYCB revived it recently. (She and Bouder alternated the role.) Maybe it would not have been practical for someone to learn the role from scratch in order to perform for 3 or 4 minutes on a TV show. Since Other Dances was created on Makarova, I thought it was a good idea to include it. I enjoyed Peck's performance more than any of the other dance performances. She dazzled. Cojocaru did look robotic,but even worse was the lack of flexibility in her back. It didn't matter much that Part is not a fouette machine, since the camera operator spent most of that portion of the performance on Makarova's face, not Part's dancing. As much as I enjoyed watching the R&J pdd w. Kent/Hallberg, I found the age difference between these dancers distracting and problematic. (Those television close ups only added to this issue.) AT this stage, the only age appropriate partner at ABT for Kent is Bolle, in my opinion.

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Tiler Peck was marvelous, easily the highlight of Makarova's segment. One didn't get to see enough of Part's fouettes to judge them properly - a really unforgivable cutaway. I agree it was important to include Other Dances, since contrary to the impression given in the show Makarova never did acquire a large repertory of roles personal to her, even after her arrival in the West.

Cojocaru did look robotic,but even worse was the lack of flexibility in her back.

I wasn't inclined to judge her that harshly on such a brief segment in front of a national television audience - both she and Corella wore Excedrin headache expressions that didn't help much - but I too wondered about her flexibility, enough to wonder if perhaps her back was bothering her?

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I wish they would have included an excerpt from On Your Toes,with Kowrowski dancing Makarova's part and Woetzel as her partner.

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That would have been a great segway into a rousing finale, and would have been user-friendly at the same time.

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I thought it was nice that they stuck to pure classical dancing and didn't dumb it down or try to goose the audience with an old pop number.

As much as I enjoyed watching the R&J pdd w. Kent/Hallberg, I found the age difference between these dancers distracting and problematic.

Not so much for this viewer. Yes, when the camera really zeroed in you could see that Kent was somewhat older, but the pairing didn't look like Romeo and Aunt Juliet.

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I thought it was nice that they stuck to pure classical dancing and didn't dumb it down or try to goose the audience with an old pop number.

As much as I enjoyed watching the R&J pdd w. Kent/Hallberg, I found the age difference between these dancers distracting and problematic.

Not so much for this viewer. Yes, when the camera really zeroed in you could see that Kent was somewhat older, but the pairing didn't look like Romeo and Aunt Juliet.

Agreed. In fact I was pleased at how good she looked. I mentioned she was an older dancer to my spouse and he was surprised.

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A Rogers and Hart musical with choreography by Balanchine isn't my definition of "pop" or "dumbing it down," and it was the most American experience of her forays and showed her versatility. I would have preferred it to a mediocre Black Swan excerpt, but I didn't get to choose.

I thought Julie Kent looked great.

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Yes, Julie Kent is a beautiful woman. Definitely. However, Hallberg is relatively young, and he looks even younger than he is. That's why their partnership in this particular ballet didn't work for me.

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I would have preferred it to a mediocre Black Swan excerpt, but I didn't get to choose.

I would have preferred one longer story ballet excerpt to three very short ones. Obviously the three excerpts allowed more dancers to appear, but it felt like a case of dumbing down, of expecting and catering to short attention spans.

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To get more people in, they could have gone somewhere that was out of Makarova's experience, as far as I know, which were the original Grand Pas de Deux which had variations for secondary characters, like "Don Quixote" and "Sleeping Beauty."

What would have been ideal for me as a ballet lover, but would have been horrible for the audience and for TV, would have been her staging of the entrance of the Shades, with a combination of students and professional dancers. (They could have used students from the Kirov Academy, for example, which wouldn't have broken the budget.)

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I think Rodgers and Hart are swell and I understand Makarova was charming in On Your Toes. But that's hardly the work for which she'll be remembered. I wouldn't care if I never saw the Black Swan pdd again for years but it's still classical ballet and I prefer to see classical dancing when the occasion is the celebration of a classical dancer and particularly when the venue is a national television broadcast. (If Makarova had done extensive work in modern dance then such an excerpt would have been perfectly appropriate, too.)

Balanchine respected Rodgers and Hart but he worked on Broadway from hunger. No doubt he benefited from the experience as Broadway benefited from his presence but he never confused it with his true vocation.

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If Balanchine felt that "On Your Toes" was simply something he did just to eat, I doubt he would have chosen to stage it for Farrell and Mitchell at NYCB.

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I think I enjoyed the classical dancing on this broadcast more than many others. It was real classical ballet with major artists. Perhaps my expectations are too low, but that was my reaction. Also, I couldn't help but wonder if cutting away from Part during the fouettes was an act of politeness. (After all it's a celebratory evening and some reaction shots were required anyway). Certainly when the camera returned to her it looked as if she had done some traveling.

But I liked all the excerpts including Cojocaru whose purity of approach quite appeals to me. More film of Makarova would have been nice, but the evening does not seem to be designed that way for any of the honorees. At least the broadcast isn't.

My one caveat was rather some aspects of the text already alluded to by Dirac. For whatever reasons, choreographers did not exactly line up to create a slew of works for Makarova. (Later in her career, she even publically complained about not having a full length ballet created for her.) So emphasizing that seemed a little...well, wishful.

On the other hand, I thought that for younger members of the (21st century) audience perhaps one or two more sentences could have been said about just what bravery it took to defect and the kind of sacrifice it involved.

But basically I found this a nice tribute. Uh...I even enjoyed the joke about the "the ballerina" from Jimmy Kimmel.

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Also, I couldn't help but wonder if cutting away from Part during the fouettes was an act of politeness.

Could be.....

If Balanchine felt that "On Your Toes" was simply something he did just to eat, I doubt he would have chosen to stage it for Farrell and Mitchell at NYCB.

I guess I don't see any contradiction. Balanchine was a professional, and as I mentioned he respected Rodgers & Hart even if at the time he wasn't doing the work he really wanted to do. And yes, he thought Slaughter was worth reviving (even if opinions differed on that).

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I suspect Farrell's presence was a major part of the inspiration for reviving Slaughter, because her natural combination of innocence and sensuality made her the best Strip Tease Girl in my experience, just as her presence seems to have been the catalyst for his finally staging a ballet based on Cervantes' Don Quixote when he recognized in her the Dulcinea he had lacked before. (He was said to be uninterested in reviving Prodigal Son until Villella came to him, too.) But I agree, he couldn't have disdain for the music, any more than he did for, let's say, Roger Kellaway (the composer of that advertising jingle, "Pan Am Makes the Going Great," remember? Or PAMTGG, for short).

I think the great choreographer of, let's say, Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial and who commissioned Paul Hindemith to write The Four Temperaments and also worked with Igor Stravinsky on Agon had genuine interest in the popular and mythical culture of his adopted country, wearing string ties and western-trimmed trousers and expressing genuine patriotism in making his Sousa ballet.

Anyway, Balanchine's attitude toward Slaughter is a matter of record (except maybe for those with issues about authorized biographies): In Bernard Taper's "Balanchine, a biography," in the chapter with the flavorful title taken from the headline of a "Variety" review of Balanchine's work, "An Ace Job on the Terp Angle," we read

... Richard Rodgers has recalled how intimidated he was at first at the prospect of collaborating with Balanchine. "I expected fiery temperament," Rogers has said. ... Did he make the steps first and have music written to fit them, or what? He answered, in the thick Russian accent he had then, 'You write. I put on.'... ... ...

[Slaughter] was his most ambitious piece of show music, and he desperately wanted Balanchine to be impressed by it. Rodgers and the show's rehearsal pianist played a two-piano arrangement of it for Balanchine at the pianist's apartment one day. Throughout their performance Rodgers kept eyeing Balanchine anxiously to see how it was going over. Balanchine listened with an expressionless countenance. When they finished, he stood up and started out of the apartment. Rodgers trailed after him, thinking wretchedly that Balanchine might at least have commented, "Better luck next time." As they waited for the elevator, Rodgers could stand the uncertainty no longer. In the primitive English he, and many of Balanchine's acquaintances employed with him in those years, when Balanchine's command of the language was limited, Rogers asked, "You don't like?"

"What you mean - I don't like?" said Balanchine.

"You don't say anything," pointed out Rodgers.

"Am too busy staging," said Balanchine, touching his forehead. "I love."

So, although ballet may have been his first love, his Broadway and, I suppose, his Hollywood work too, were more than just expedient; some of it meant much more to him.

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I think the great choreographer of, let's say, Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial and who commissioned Paul Hindemith to write The Four Temperaments and also worked with Igor Stravinsky on Agon had genuine interest in the popular and mythical culture of his adopted country, wearing string ties and western-trimmed trousers and expressing genuine patriotism in making his Sousa ballet.

I cannot say I enjoy the Hershey Kay orchestrations for Who Cares, Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony, but Balanchine treated them seriously.

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I don't think the issue is whether or not Slaughter on 10th Avenue is Balanchine worth taking seriously--let's say it definitely has a place in the repertory even if not everybody would agree on what that place should be--but whether it would have been a better choice for the Kennedy Center honoring Makarova than what we saw on television.

For myself, I was delighted to get the four classical excerpts we got since each one honored an important aspect of Makarova's career. Bits from two nineteenth-century classics didn't seem too much given the honoree: she was the Odette/Odile for me and many others growing up and, of course, was considered by many to be the Giselle of her generation too. These roles are a huge part of her legacy. Add to that: excerpts from a twentieth-century dramatic ballet --with the added frisson of including an American Romeo who now dances with a Russian compay--and the one quality ballet created on her in the west and I think we did get a miniature portrait of the most important parts of her career.

(The straight, male, sports-loving, Letterman loving, occasional ballet goer with whom l watched the telecast greatly preferred the Giselle excerpt to the others. As it happens, he didn't care a straw for Slaughter on 10th Avenue when we saw it in the theater. However, he may not be representative. Probably isn't.)

I admit, though, that the quick bit of Black Swan ended up being pretty ineffectual: I don't now how much was danced at the live performance--certainly more needed to have been for the excerpt to have much impact--but in principle ballet bravura is accessible to everyone and "black swan" now has pop cultural currency of a sort. It was not necessarily to have been predicted that Gomez/Part would turn out seeming a little lame (maybe potential problems with Part's fouettes could have been predicted). It also seems appropriate to have invited a Kirov/Mariinsky ballerina now at ABT and one who has been on Letterman no less...(I found myself wondering if Makarova had any say or influence.)

In any case, despite her success in the work, for me an excerpt from "On Your Toes" would not have had the same resonance as a way to honor Makarova. So, on the whole, I give the organizers of the tribute good marks.

I will add that just as the evening began I found myself thinking that the best way to honor Makarova would be with the opening of the Shades scene from Bayadere (though I did not come up with Helene's lovely idea of mixing students with professionals): I actually think this could have worked in the theater even for an audience of non-ballet fans, IF the producers didn't lose their nerve and included a full corps-de-ballet--but...uh...I don't think it would have worked on television at all. So...

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I don't think the issue is whether or not Slaughter on 10th Avenue is Balanchine worth taking seriously--let's say it definitely has a place in the repertory even if not everybody would agree on what that place should be--but whether it would have been a better choice for the Kennedy Center honoring Makarova than what we saw on television.

... ... ...

I will add that just as the evening began I found myself thinking that the most perfect way to honor Makarova would be with the opening of the Shades scene from Bayadere (though I did not come up with Helene's wonderful idea of mixing students with professionals): I actually think this could have worked in the theater even for an audience of non-ballet fans, IF they didn't lose their nerve and included a full corps-de-ballet--but...uh...I don't think it would have worked on television at all. So...

Agreed on both points. (I got a little OT there.) The organizers do want fast and lively, and "Shades"... slow and lovely? Questionable choice for this show, yes.

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I loved that Part was there. I just wish it had been in a role in which her lovely, individual quality was showcased. I can't believe Part wouldn't have wanted to learn an excerpt from "Other Dances."

I hadn't thought about the cultural icon part of "Black Swan." (Doh.) Maybe they could have chosen Sarah Lane, Portman's understudy, to do the Black Swan section. According to her ABT bio, she performed at the Kennedy Center as a Presidential Scholar for the Arts, and she did win a Princess Grace Award. That might have tied it all together.

I hadn't noticed that Cojocaru's back looked stiff until I rewatched it to edit the program to burn it to disk. I hope she's okay.

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I loved that Part was there. I just wish it had been in a role in which her lovely, individual quality was showcased. I can't believe Part wouldn't have wanted to learn an excerpt from "Other dances"

Part and Gomes debuted in Other Dances a few years ago and performed it several times. As much as I liked Peck, Part would have been a better choice in that role. For one, I don't know why Peck took part at all. She's a nycb dancer with seemingly no Makarova connection. And secondly, it's one of Part's best roles (in my opinion - I saw them do it during the Avery Hall season).

In addition to Peck, why did Jamison introduce Makarova? I guess they now have this thing where a previous honoree introduces the new honoree but why not Baryshnikov? Unless he was busy, or refused or there's some bad blood.

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