Modern Masterpieces program March 2013
Posted 13 March 2013 - 11:15 PM
Tisserand and Bartee dance with Cruz at the Saturday matinee and with Orza Friday and Saturday night.
The Cruz/Bold/Lin-Yee cast is still listed for twice second weekend. Fingers crossed.
Posted 14 March 2013 - 12:37 PM
I find it VERY depressing that the marvelous (in every way) Imler is apparently not going to be given the principal Barocco role.
Obviously Boal subscribes to the long/lean/Farrell-archetype view of casting this part, which is a pity because
Marie-Jeanne, who of course created the ballerina role, was not tall. She also had astounding feet, a huge jump, and tremendous strength.
The part was also far, far jazzier and more interesting then, according to virtually every account of the ballet through the years.
Not tall, great feet, great jump, jazzy, and incredibly strong sounds more like Imler than just about any other dancer in PNB or out of it.
Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:35 PM
P.S. I will certainly be excited to see Carrie in something so classic for her talents as CB..........but frankly, I am even more excited to see her as a stomper in "In The Upper Room". Seeing her and Chalnessa Eames doing stompers together the last time "In The Upper Room" was done here is one of my most cherished memories.
Posted 20 March 2013 - 12:28 PM
After reading all the press commentary about PNB’s performance of Concerto Barocco at City Center, it was a relief to actually see the work and get a sense of what’s been going on. All too often opening night winds up being a final dress rehearsal for a program, but with CB it felt that perhaps NYC served that function – the opening night performance was so clean it almost squeaked. Carrie Imler sailed out in the first movement with great zest, to be followed by Carla Korbes floating along. Imler had a great rhythmic pulse in her performance, and Korbes was very full, but it was the affect of the entire ensemble, corps and soloists, that had real gravitas. Their performances made me think about the philosophical idea of God as a clockmaker – putting the universe in motion and then standing back to watch the process. It was such a pleasure to see the structure of the work unfold along with the score. Maria Chapman and Lesley Rausch were a little closer to each other in approach during the Saturday matinee than Imler and Korbes, but these were all lovely choices. Both Batkhurel Bold and William Lin-Yee had the right combination of support and diffidence – this is not a showcase for a man, but they did make an impression when they were on stage. If there was a star, though, it was the corps – I know that this is a grueling ballet for them, with some of the most difficult material at the end, but they were great throughout.
Concerto Barocco is really a ballet for women, so it’s interesting to see it followed by Paul Gibson’s new work, Mozart Pieces. He’s got a couple of women in the cast, and has made some lovely stuff for them, but with 4 ensemble men and three main roles there are plenty of opportunities for male dancing. The work opens with walking patterns that blend into terre a terre work and petit allegro. Overall, the dancing is fleet – they cover ground, but without distortion or strain. The hyper-flexible, exaggerated shapes that fill Piano Dance are missing here – this is really danse d’ecole work. I had the chance to watch some rehearsal earlier, and thought for a while that Gibson was trying for a baroque style – there are some references in the arm gestures, and in the general sense of poise, but this isn’t a period staging. He’s using the full variety of classical technique, but he’s stressing its elegance rather than its athleticism. I only saw one cast in performance – Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz were the principal couple, and for all that they have ultra-long limbs they were very at home with the speed of the work. Most of the work feels allegro – even their duet is more andante than adagio. They can both modulate their speed so that they don’t seem rushed, even with beats in the petite allegro. Cruz is a very smooth turner, slipping from grand pirouettes in second to turns in attitude and then finishing with some pirouettes – it’s a lovely sequence. Neither of them use quickness very often, though – that’s a skill that Nakamura brings to her part of the ballet. She’s matched with James Moore and Benjamin Griffiths, and the three of them have a jolly time of it. Nakamura has the same ability that Imler does to use sharpness as a tool – she’s able to modulate phrasing in a very fast sequence with a sharp movement followed by a small pause – the precipite moment. She uses this to add a kind of flirtatious quality to the part here – it isn’t that her two partners are overtly competing for her attentions, but you could imagine that happening. The women wear ribbons around their necks – very Degas – which adds a hint of the Romantic era. Chronologically, that’s not right for Mozart, but I’m not fussing. Griffiths and Moore spend as much time with each other as they do with Nakamura – one of their duets looks like Bournonville’s Jockey Dance, (and the men’s duet in Agon, as far as that’s concerned) and they bounce right through it. The four men in the ensemble have some juicy material as well, both movement and floor patterns. Each of them gets several moments to shine on their own. Eric Hippolito and Ryan Cardea both looked very, very good, but Ezra Dickinson and Kyle Davis had the same quickness in some of their gestures that worked so well for Nakamura – Davis in particular really stepped up and danced as a complete person, rather than just the sum of his technical skills. Gibson has pulled from several Mozart symphonies for the score, and although he’s worked to find dynamic variety among the selections, there’s still a homogeneity that could make things flat if the movement wasn’t so nicely crafted. Gibson has made a truly beautiful showcase for his performers.
Peter Boal has a very powerful connection to Ulysses Dove, and continues to program his work here. Of the dances we’ve got, I think Red Angels is probably the most significant, and Serious Pleasures was interesting only as an example of Dove’s learning process. Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven is in the middle for me – it’s full of Dove’s excitement with virtuosity and ballet technique, but I’m not sure it really serves the themes he’s working with. Front Porch is “about” love and loss, and although I don’t think that always means adagio movement with significant moments of tension I’m not sure that the heightened physicality of ballet automatically reads as grief. We get the dignified character of grief – you have to work hard to make ballet look something other than fundamentally noble – but there are just a few too many multiple turns and tricky balances for me to forget the presentational style. Nevertheless, the dancers throw themselves into the work, and make much of their parts. Seth Orza is the leader here, and he takes that responsibility very seriously, but it seems to make him worry. He does such a nice job when the part he dances is supposed to be relaxed – he needs to find that sense of ease in parts that are “about” other messages. His shoulders lift a bit, his jaw gets tense – I don’t know if this is true or if I’m reading into the situation, but it looks like he’s not breathing into his back very well, and that disconnects him from the ground. Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand were matched as the Acolytes in the Maillot Romeo and Juliette, and they are paired here as well, with some of the same push-and-pull dynamic. Of the women, Leslie Rausch seemed to be the most comfortable with her part, so that she was making choices about her timing rather than striving to do just what she’d been taught. And Maria Chapman always manages to make her phrases make sense.
(Dove stager Eva Säfström was the guest at the Thursday pre-dress rehearsal lecture, and spoke in great detail about her use of Benesh notation – she’s half time rehearsal director and half time notator at the Royal Swedish)
I’ve seen In the Upper Room many times, live and on video, and I’m still seeing new things in it – that’s the nature of Tharp’s work. This time around it was the incremental changes of the crossover woman (Margaret Mullin in the cast I saw) that was most fun to trace – she begins as another “stomper,” with their slouchy, muscular vocabulary, and transforms into a hummingbird. But then in the big ensemble section at the end she returns to some of the stomper material, a weightlifter in pointe shoes. Because it comes at the end of the program, I started thinking of it as a bookend, comparing it with CB, which points up their similarities – Balanchine and Tharp are both master pattern-makers, happy to use whatever tools they can get their hands on, and transforming contemporary influences into kinetic activity. Nakamura and Poretta were great here – flashing through the space, as were the other ballet-based performers (Kitchens and Moore, Murphy and Griffiths) but it was the stompers that really anchored the work for me. They’re the ones that dip into a million different dance styles (apache and aerobics to soft shoe and swing) and weave it all together with Tharp’s fiendish patterns (lots of repetition, retrograde, mirroring – all performed at breakneck speed and then again, faster). At the end of the first section, after everyone has roiled through the space, Imler jumps into a spotlight, pulling her fist down as if she’s making a proclamation – this is what we are. The same action ends the whole work, and it fascinates me that it doesn’t lose any of its power through repetition.
PNB is marking its 40th anniversary this year, and although it hasn’t really gotten much recognition, they’ve had their company archivist Sheila Dietrich write a series of essays keyed to their performances. For some reason, they don’t include these in the program, and I cannot find them on their website – they’ve had them in the lobby during the run, along with a rotating exhibit of documents and artifacts. For this program, she’s written a lovely essay about Concerto Barocco, tracing its history and its influence on PNB. This is paired with photos from the early life of the ballet (including Frank Hobi, who was originally from the Seattle area, and Janet Reed, who was PNB’s first ballet mistress and director). Some of the photos are used in a slide show at the beginning of each performance, and it’s a pleasure to see several generations of PNB dancers in the work.
Posted 21 March 2013 - 12:54 PM
I'm looking forward to seeing this program this weekend and to seeking out Dietrich's essays.
For those thinking of going this weekend for the first time or to see it again, tickets to all four performances -- tonight (Thu), tomorrow (Fri), or Saturday night at 7:30pm and Sunday at 1pm -- PNB is offering a 20% discount on tickets:
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