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The Best & Worst of 2012


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#16 Cygnet

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 11:06 AM

My Best of 2012 short list:

  • POB's "Giselle" run.

  • Long overdue & deserving promotions to Principal Dancer that finally happened - specifically, Kondaurova at the Mariinsky, Obraztsova's (to) the Bolshoi, and Ould-Braham to Etoile at POB.

  • Nina Ukhova - for her continued stellar coaching of the Mariinsky's corps de ballet.

  • The Bolshoi's Semyon Chudin and his interpretation of Siegfried and Apollo.

  • Kondaurova's Odette/Odile

  • Olga Smirnova going from strength to strength

  • Daria Pavlenko for her fortitude and courage; and for her uber romantic "Cinderella" at Kennedy with her husband Sasha Sergeev during the Mariinsky's Fall U.S. tour.

The Worst ([size=3]fill in the blank here[/size]) of 2012. I nominate:

  • Alastair Macaulay

  • Kevin MacKenzie

  • Yuri Fateev

  • Maestro Valery Gergiev



#17 Shirabyoshi

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 03:15 PM

If I were to mention all the marvelous things I saw for the very first time in this, my first year of ballet addiction, the result would probably be a list of my Top 100 Margot Moments, followed by my nomination of Violette Verdy for Best Person Ever.

Instead, off the top of the head of a person who has been relying only upon recordings rather than live performances, three favourite things which actually happened in 2012:

* Yulia Stepanova's promotion to coryphée and her debut as the Lilac Fairy.

* Ekaterina Kondaurova in Nikiya's death scene (which may not have been from this year, but I'm pretending it was, because I want to list it almost as badly as I want to see more of her).

* The third recording I saw of Olga Smirnova in the "Diamonds" PDD. (That is, the one from the Bolshoi Ballet television competition. It rose somehow above the other two, or at least I think it did. I'm not the most informed or impartial observer.)

My favourite new releases from 2012 -- all from ICA Classics, tireless purveyors of the Good Stuff.

* The 1962 "La Fille mal gardée" with the original 1960 cast of Nadia Nerina, David Blair, and Stanley Holden. Arrived in the post on my birthday. What more can I say?

* "Tchaikovsky Ballet Masterpieces" with Dame Margot and Michael Somes in selections from "The Sleeping Beauty", "Swan Lake", and "The Nutcracker". Admittedly I've only seen five or six other Nuts, but for me this second-act recording is without question the most magical. I hadn't understood how beautiful the Sugar Plum Fairy's choreography could be -- now I only have to hear the first few notes of the PDD and I start sniffling embarrassingly.

* The one with Nerina's "Coppélia" and "Les Sylphides", and, more importantly, eighteen glorious consecutive minutes of Dame Margot and that Russian chap of hers in the second act of "Giselle", filmed in 1962 at the very beginning of their partnership. I'd seen parts of this recording in a documentary (and some enterprising YouTuber excerpted the bits shown therein into a single video), but seeing it all I feel as though I've stolen fire from heaven.

I don't like to say "worst", but in my opinion the most senseless and redundant recordings of the year -- all courtesy of Bel Air Classiques.

* Svetlana Zakharova's Aspicia has already been released on DVD and Blu-ray, so... we needed a new version from Ballet in Cinema? When they could have given us, say, Maria Alexandrova?

* Svetlana Zakharova (yes, again) flings her legs about everywhere and doesn't understand Petipa, so... we needed her Aurora on disc? When they could have given us, say, Evgenia Obraztsova?

* Yet another "Giselle", a ballet recorded possibly even more frequently than "Swan Lake", and this one no great addition to the genre. When one thinks of the things they've filmed for cinema release which have *never* been available commercially, one could scream.

Villain of 2012 (and quite a lot of other years actually): Yuri Fateyev.

Heroine of 2012: Daria Pavlenko.

Why, God, why? of 2012: Oxana Skorik.

Little ray of sunshine of 2012: Ksenia Zhiganshina.

Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.

#18 sandik

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 03:37 PM

this, my first year of ballet addiction


Welcome to our world.

When one thinks of the things they've filmed for cinema release which have *never* been available commercially, one could scream.


I find this applicable in many places, in all dance -- we lose bits and piece of our heritage every day.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:24 AM

Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.


Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

#20 California

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:26 AM

. . .
Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.

Ouch! I think most of us value their work in preserving the Balanchine legacy, as with sending out dancers with Balanchine experience to stage his works around the world. The frustration is the narrow-mindedness in releasing his work digitally for the many dance lovers who have no realistic way to see his work in the theater.

We understand that releasing the extensive archival material is difficult, because they would have to go back and get permission from every artist and union involved. But why not use the new technologies at the Koch theater to start now going forward? Get the necessary permissions for future releases and start taping and releasing the Balanchine repertory as it is performed. Every artist should get fair compensation of some kind, of course. If physical media such as DVDs are cost-prohibitive, then look into digital downloads on iTunes, etc.

I'm not saying this would be easy, but why not start trying to make this a priority?

I fell in love with ballet in the 50s because (1) Balanchine was generous in showing his work on live television and (2) the Soviet Union was generous in circulating films of the Bolshoi Ballet across American movie theaters as part of the earliest cultural exchanges. It was many years before I had the opportunity (and the financial resources) to see Balanchine ballets in the theater. How many other little girls around the world find themselves now in the same situation? NYCB is making a huge effort to market to younger audiences. Can the Trust get on-board with this?

#21 Mashinka

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 03:29 PM

London Ballet scene hasn´t had a good year, but Kevin O´Hare may yet prove to be the new lease of life the RB so desperately needs.

No touring companies of note because of the wretched Olympics.

The sacking of Wayne Eagling was a disgrace and those involved should hang their heads in shame.

#22 bart

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:59 PM

About the Balanchine Trust -- What California said. Posted Image
__________________________________________________________________

Most of my live ballet viewing is with MCB nowadays. It is only with MCB that I get to see and compare multiple performances of the same program. This this is reflected in my "Best" choices.

Best News Story of 2012. Miami City Ballet's triumph in at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris; 3 weeks of performing 12 challenging ballets -- heavy on Balanchine.

Saddest News Story of 2012. The infighting that led to Edward Villella's resignation as MCB Artistic Director, on his 25th anniversary..

Most Gracious Public Statement of 2012: Villella's resignation letter, which paved the way for Loudes Lopez to take complete charge a year earlier than anticipated..

Happiest Ending of 2012. The grace, confidence, and sheer competence with which Lourdes Lopez has moved into her new role as MCB Artistic Director. This has had a most positive impact on dancers, staff, audience, donors We can breathe -- and hope -- once more.

Best performances by a female dancer: Mary Carmen Catoya in Ballet Imperial , Coppelia, and Apollo..

Best performances by a male dancer: Renato Penteado in everything he did, from Balanchine to Tharp and Taylor.

Most fun in 2012:: Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado, Mambo-ing their hearts out in "Almendra" from Mambo No. 2am.

American Dancers I've seen only on video and would most like to see live, preferably in Balanchine: Tiler Peck. Sarah Mearns.

Best writing about ballet in a major newspaper or magazine: Alistair Macaulay.

Best on-going resource in ballet history: DanceView's series of reports about the taping sessions of the Balanchine Foundation's Interpreter's Archive series. (Most recent review, Leigh Witchell: Suki Schorer Coaching La Source; Jillana and Conrad Ludlow Coaching Liebeslieder Walzer. Winter 2012.). Honorable mention: Ballet Review.

P.S. I'd like to second Shirabyoshi's nomination of Violette Verdy as "Best Person Ever." Long may she flourish.

#23 Shirabyoshi

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 07:57 AM


. . .
Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.


Ouch!


Yes, that was a harsh way to put it; I'm sorry. Perhaps "a revolution in the Balanchine Trust" would have been better. Ascribe it please to my crankiness over being a new ballet fan who is having a hard time learning about Balanchine. This is the 21st century; there are so many ways in which Mr B could be out there in the world, fostering the love of ballet among people who will never see the inside of the Lincoln Center, ensuring his works and his reputation will last a thousand years, but they won't LET him...

Recordings are an inadequate substitute for live performances, I agree, but they do better than anything to create an audience for live performances. Not many people have the time and the wherewithal to travel to another city or another country to see a thirty-minute ballet they've only read about.

#24 bart

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 08:16 AM

Perhaps "a revolution in the Balanchine Trust" would have been better. Ascribe it please to my crankiness over being a new ballet fan who is having a hard time learning about Balanchine. This is the 21st century; there are so many ways in which Mr B could be out there in the world, fostering the love of ballet among people who will never see the inside of the Lincoln Center, ensuring his works and his reputation will last a thousand years, but they won't LET him...

Nicely put, Shiraboyshi. The original mission of the Trust was to protect the work, and those in charge were vigilant about what they did. The world has changed since then, and this includes technology and the nature of the global "audience." Just about everyone else in the world has managed to find ways to settle conflicts over "rights," fees, permissions, union contracts, and that sort of thing. Alll the evidence shows that making the work available, far from harming a legacy, tends to enhance it.

#25 Shirabyoshi

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 08:28 AM

Nicely put, Shiraboyshi.


Thank you. Posted Image

The original mission of the Trust was to protect the work, and those in charge were vigilant about what they did. The world has changed since then, and this includes technology and the nature of the global "audience." Just about everyone else in the world has managed to find ways to settle conflicts over "rights," fees, permissions, union contracts, and that sort of thing. Alll the evidence shows that making the work available, far from harming a legacy, tends to enhance it.


One of the many modern concepts which should be explained to them is: redundant data storage. The best way to protect information, if you're truly concerned about its survival rather than its secrecy, is not to keep it in one place with a great big lock on it, but to put as many copies as possible in as many places as possible.

If Balanchine's choreography was in the mind and heart of every ballet fan in the world -- not to mention constantly creating new ballet fans, as it surely would -- keeping his legacy alive would not be a problem. You couldn't even kill it if you wanted to.

#26 California

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 09:33 AM

Recordings are an inadequate substitute for live performances, I agree, but they do better than anything to create an audience for live performances. Not many people have the time and the wherewithal to travel to another city or another country to see a thirty-minute ballet they've only read about.


Jerome Robbins reportedly said after some of his work aired on TV (e.g., "Live from Studio 8H" in about 1980) that nothing can replace the experience of live theater and he was not agreeable to future broadcasts on TV (live or otherwise) of his work. I agree with him, but as others note here, for a great many people, getting to a theater to see a work live is just not an option. Seeing something on TV or on a DVD gives many people an incentive to find a way to see something live in the theater, but for most people that's just not an option.

It is worth remembering that in the 1970s, the film and TV industries were in a panic about the advent of VHS recording, which they thought would destroy their industries. Instead, the film industry discovered a new revenue stream, as has TV with VHS, then DVD, now digital streaming. Those industries change, but they have surely not been destroyed.

We see the same evolution in visual art. Color reproductions of great art are easy to obtain, and art museum web sites and Google-museums are readily accessible - but people still flock to museums to see the "real thing." They realize how much they miss by only seeing the reproductions. Yet for the millions who can never get to those museums, it's wonderful that they can see something.

I might add that with dance, another huge benefit of accessible work on DVD (or digital streams) is education. Wouldn't it be great to be able to study a work before and after seeing the performance, the way students in music and theater can study recordings and scores? I have so enjoyed reading Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations and More Balanchine Variations, but I am endlessly frustrated that for almost all the works she discusses, I have no way to pop in a DVD and study her insights by looking at the actual work. I have purchased just about everything commercially available of Balanchine (and scoured YouTube for unauthorized recordings as well), but so many important works in her books are simply not available anywhere.

(I hope somebody from the Trust reads our discussions from time to time...)

#27 bart

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 09:51 AM

I might add that with dance, another huge benefit of accessible work on DVD (or digital streams) is education. Wouldn't it be great to be able to study a work before and after seeing the performance, the way students in music and theater can study recordings and scores? I have so enjoyed reading Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations and More Balanchine Variations, but I am endlessly frustrated that for almost all the works she discusses, I have no way to pop in a DVD and study her insights by looking at the actual work. I have purchased just about everything commercially available of Balanchine (and scoured YouTube for unauthorized recordings as well), but so many important works in her books are simply not available anywhere.

I do exactly the same, most recently for several works -- Ballet Imperial and Concerto Barocco especially -- which I had not seen in years. Nancy Goldner's two books are essential for anyone planning to look carefully at the Balanchine works covered. Her second in the series was published in 2011. But I read it in 2012. So -- in the interest of keeping this thread "on topic" -- my nomination for

Best Ballet Book of 2012 -- Nancy Goldner, More Balanchine Variations (University of Florida Press).

Goldner -- like Macaulay, imo -- is at the top of the heap when it comes to writing about ballets and dancers in a way that allows you to visualize and experience something you may not actually have seen.

(I hope somebody from the Trust reads our discussions from time to time...)

Absolutely.

#28 sandik

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 09:48 PM

I've meant to respond to this prompt, but other tasks have been getting in the way. In sort of chronological order

: Olivier Wevers' smartypants version of the Bournonville Flower Festival pas de deux, for Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postelwaite. It sits close enough to the original choreography to be all the more sharp in its transposition of gender.

: David Dawson's A Million Kisses to My Skin, at Pacific Northwest Ballet. It was an incredible physical challenge, and the casts all danced brilliantly. Dawson stretches the rules all over the place, but it remains a neo-classical ballet -- I saw something new with each viewing.

: Doug Fullington is usually the host for PNBs education events, and does a phenomenal job, but last spring Peter Boal and Francia Russell stepped up for their "Balanchine Then and Now" program, which was full of great commentary (particularly Boal's aside that the costume of Apollo kept getting "nakeder") and fascinating stories.

: Mark Morris is from Seattle, and so we've had multiple chances to follow along with his work, but as he's become more established he's been appearing in bigger, more formal theaters. This autumn, though, he brought the company back to his original presenter in Seattle, and we got to see them in an intimate, black-box theater. I've always loved his work, but this was particularly sweet. Yes, Baryshnikov was performing with the company, and it was great to see him embrace being part of the group, but just being that close to a work like Grand Duo was fabulous.

: I finally got to see Akram Khan, after years of reading about him and his approach to contemporary dance, and he was indeed everything the press has said. Vertical Road was astonishing, and the final image knocked me flat.

: I've been watching flamenco artists Rubina and Marcos Carmona for many years (their son used to be a little guy that ran around backstage -- he's now all grown up and performs with them as a percussionist) and it's been a privilege to see their development. Rubina was a beautiful dancer, but with age has become an even more impressive singer, while Marcos has continued to grow as a guitarist. Ana Montes has been dancing with them for the last several years, and I think has absorbed some of Rubina's gravitas as well as finding her own style. They keep talking about retiring, so I've been trying to get to their monthly cabaret shows as often as I can. I love watching artists as they find their own identity and develop it over time.

: Crystal Pite's The Tempest Replica wasn't to everyone's taste (I liked big chunks of it, but several colleagues felt that her narrative was wonky) but I think everyone agreed that her dancers were just phenomenal. Her work is so challenging (I think she's very influenced by her experiences with William Forsythe) in its extension/amalgamation of ballet and contemporary dance) but they fulfill every inside-out, upside-over and down moment.

: Apollo -- both the complete version at Oregon Ballet Theater, and the shortened one at PNB. It's such a wonderful ballet, and is always full of great affect, but this time around my favorite moments were in rehearsals. OBT leaves the curtain up at the beginning of their shows for schoolkids, so you see dancers marking phrases and generally working things out. Lucas Threefoot was dancing Apollo, and was running through the sequence at the end of his second solo (before Terpsichore comes out for the duet) -- he did the sinking turn that leads down to the floor like it was no trouble at all, but as I watched him I realized it looked just like breakdancing, which made me think I'd love to see Lil Buck in this ballet. But the really sweet moment was at PNB, during their dress rehearsal (which is open to the public). They had four Apollos cast for the run, but they don't have the budget for every cast to get a full on-stage orchestra rehearsal. Someone from the first weekend cast usually gets the dress, but you often see other dancers shadowing along upstage, so there was Bakthurel Bold downstage, with Lucien Postelwaite and Seth Orza upstage. When they got to the sequence towards the end, where Apollo gestures as if following the trajectory of the sun across the sky, they each had a slightly different interpretation, but it was Postelwaite who seemed to bring the most emotion to the moment. He left PNB at the end of the season to dance with the Monte Carlo company, and though I wish him well (and I know I'll see him from time to time) I will miss watching his development. That moment is probably my favorite from the year.

#29 Mashinka

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 02:09 AM

: I finally got to see Akram Khan, after years of reading about him and his approach to contemporary dance, and he was indeed everything the press has said. Vertical Road was astonishing, and the final image knocked me flat.


Yes, he really is wonderful and with no competition from the classical side I can comfirm he is the finest dancer the UK currently has to offer. Really pleased you enjoyed his performance so much and by the way, if you get the chance to see him dance in traditional Indian style you will enjoy it just as much.

#30 sandik

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:44 AM

if you get the chance to see him dance in traditional Indian style you will enjoy it just as much.


Oh, I hope so -- for some reason he hasn't come to Seattle (my hometown). The company was in Portland, OR on this tour, so I could play hooky from my local dance community and see them down there.


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