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Balanchine, Broadway & BeyondMonday, 10/7 8:00 - St. Lukes Theater - 308 W 46 Street, NYC

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#16 Amy Reusch

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 09:40 AM

It seems to almost sort of a club designed to help dancers stay connected and realize they are still valued... not entirely sure... To some extent the events are public with videos made public... In other cases it seems they make some attempt to keep some slight privacy so that candid remarks come freely... It seems the full videos of the panel discussion will be available over youtube to members rather than general public, but maybe the intention is just to create some revenue so that the organization can self by getting people to join [thereby joining the financial effort] rather than giving it all away for free at a loss to the organiation? There was some sound of a slight drsperation about the thousands interested in their efforts with so few joining and adding the membership fee. Sounds to me like a good candidate for a kickstarter campaign or some other form of crowd source fundraising.

I first became aware of the organization because they an interesting panel of dancers from the ballet company originally resident at Radio City. They also bought together the original West Side Story cast (i believe I have the right organization). It is a good thing someone is doing this, even if it isn't the most organized... Perhaps as they find funding, their organization will improve... In the meantime I'm glad they are doing it. Balanchine is perhaps better covered than most by oher organizations, but still, there are dancers with stories to add.

It was a fascinating evening, quite long (it concluded around midnight I believe) with many Balanchine dancers in the audience as well as on stage. I tried to take notes, but the iPad was not congenial... (anyone like to volunteer what I meant by "Ctbuimg!"?). (and the three hour drive home induced lack of sleep has not enhanced my memory abilities...)

First up were clips from On Your Toes and Louisiana Purchase... Slaughter on 10th Avenue... Followed by anecdotes from Barbara Milberg Fisher, Vida Brown, Barbara Walczak, Gene Gavin, Patricia Wilde and Marge Champion, moderated by Candice Agree & Robert Greskovic.

Marge Champion talked about how, in the midst of all this broadway choreography, Balanchine took them all to see John Cage perform ... that the midst of everything he was always curating/encouraging sophistication their outlook on art... If I've got that right...

Balanchine the guide, the teacher, was often the theme of the evening... With Allegra Kent almost tearing up at the thought of how Balanchine brought her out as someone special, not just a blend in to anonymity of the crowd, that he was the first to encourage her to find herself as an individual. I am sure I am not quite saying this right... Perhaps someone who was there could relate her intended message better.

I thought the use of close ups both choreographically and cinematographically was adept... Someone reAlly understood the possibilities of the constrained space of the camera frame. The wider shots didn't work as beautifully for me, just a little too safe to come as much to life as the close-ups and I found myself wondering how many takes had been allowed and whether Balanchine would have worked the camera framing differently with more takes. Also, the music sometimes seemed added on top of the dance, as if someone had looked at the footaged and decided to add musical sound effects to the movement... Less effectively than it would have been had Balachine decided to choreograph something to those notes... I wonder what music he originally had to work with and whether it was different than the final sound track. The choreography certainly looked more sophisticated in minute structure than the music. Not sure which footage had it, but there was a charming sequence where the ballerina did chassÚ tour and her partner would catch her at the height of the tour...

I can't tell from the fypos in my notes, who said what when but... If wait until I make sense of my notes, I'll never get to it.

Here goes...

John Clifford talked about how he was first brought in as a choreographer, then later asked to be a dancer... (I had always assumed it was the reverse order)

There was a lot of amusement about Balanchine's concept of adding jazz steps into his work... perhaps ball change not much different from a loose balancÚ... Balanchine would announce it was time for jazz step and the balancÚ would appear... But then later there was talk about how much jazzier the original Concerto Barocco had been, that the slower tempo had allowed for a bigger jazzier dynamic than todays tempo... But the moderator, (Nancy Goldner? Robert Greskovic?) mentioned that some of the original interpreters of the rolls claimed their tempos had been much faster than today's). Seemed that tempo observed and tempo felt by the interpretter were perhaps two different things... (even if in fact they were the same)...

Was it Gene Gavin talking about his audition for Balanchine after touring Nutcracker with Savenska Franklin company? He was convinced he was about 3 down from the top there and inagined given the technique of his competitors that he would not be chosen... And yet he was the one taken... Balanchine saw something in him ge liked above the virtuosity of the others. Of course, we don't know what actually took place... But it got me wondering about Balanchine's taste in danseurs... Have we had a discussion of the Balanchine Dansuer? I would perhaps venture that movement personality (as opposed to in your face show biz personality) was very important to Balanchine.

Another running theme running through the evening was suddenly being pushed onstage with minimal or no rehearsal because an injury required sudden cast change... Vida Brown had a charming story of being suddenly chosen over higher up dancers because she was the superior quick study. It's better to hear the stories than my lame summary though...

There was an interesting story about Stravinsky changing to 12 tone music after previously being against it... and there is a particular silence in Agon where this moment takes place.... Also, there was a comment about Balanchine having diagram notes on a sheet for Agon, which was a total anomaly... The only instance ever mentioned? There were some comments about a piece (not Agon) which was supposedly all new because it had been forgotten but the dancer on the panel remembered it as being essentially the same as an earlier piece of which no film exists! (annoyed at my worthless notes here)... Still, some scholars might want to watch the gootage. The participants were all miked so as long as tape was running the material is there...

Allegra. Well. I adore every time anyone catches Allegra kent speaking. If she didn't exist, Gorey would have had to invent her. She had some memories to share in her unique manner.. Just catching her voice saying "dippity doo" is an incredible artifact of the era. She had a lovely quote near the end of how Balanchine seeing the person in the dancer ' saw novels in us, in some cases short stories... even sequels... '

Loved the evening. The footage was stunning. In addition to those mentioned above, Bettijane Sills, Carol Sumner, Merrill Ashley, Frank Ohman had a lot to contribute.

The personality on stage was very different from what we think of now in Balanchine performances.

#17 rg


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Posted 10 October 2012 - 09:56 AM

an individual close to DO40 has noted in an email the following about making footage of the recent Balanchine event available:


have to wait for the DVD to be transferred from the mini tapes. It should
be less than a week. .... The upload to the www site will take longer though.

when further information is passed along to me, i'll post it w/ the permission of DO40.

#18 dirac


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Posted 10 October 2012 - 04:27 PM

abatt has now posted as well, with a link; a friend in NYC e-mailed me in between these two posts. From Chicago, this looks to be a less-publicized event, but as the theater seats 161, it may be no accident. Anybody pick up hints of live web coverage, or even radio? Am I envious? Who, me? Were I a New Yorker, I'd sure try to be there, prepared to take notes! Go, people!

An item was also posted in Monday's links.

#19 Jack Reed

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 07:56 PM

Deborah Wingert posted a brief account of the event at Eye on the Arts, NY (scroll down until you see DANCERS OVER 40, as more recent accounts continually get added to the top of the page, apparently).

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