Natalia

Ballet Across America III @ Kenn.Center

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Single tix went on sale last week. Quite a bargain at $15 a seat (2nd tier-sides, weekday nights).

http://www.kennedy-c...ts/?event=BNBSJ

Nine companies, each performing one ballets, over the course of three programs. All programs looks solid but I am particularly excited about Program B, which includes Les Patineurs, Agon and a real gem from Washington Ballet that, I think, will be a big eye-opener for many folks: Edwaard Liang's Wunderland.

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Just one week to go before Ballet Across America III opens. Folks traveling to DC to attend this may want to see the big Diaghilev exhibit at the National Gallery of Art...making the trip a 'total ballet experience'!

http://balletalert.i...-12-sep-2-2013/

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I went to the opening performance, and found it disappointing. Afterwards, I was thinking that it was like seeing the freshman team, the junior varsity team, and then the varsity team. This probably had less to do with the abilities of the dancers than the abilities, or lack thereof, of the choreographers.

The Richmond Ballet opened with a work titled Ershter Vals by Ma Cong, who has choreographed several forgettable works for the dance company formerly known as Ballet Nouveau Colorado. This work consisted of 4 parts, each set to some bland allegedly Klezmer music (until I read the program notes, I thought it was Paris cafe-style music). Each of the parts was, to both me and to my companion for the event, a work unto itself since there was no obvious common theme to the 4 parts. Nor did it in any way resemble the description in the program notes. I categorized it as modern dance rather than ballet, and I saw nothing innovative nor particularly challenging for the dancers.

They were followed by the Oregon Ballet Theatre, which performed a work titled Almost Mozart by James Kudelka. While the work was advertised as being accompanied by Mozart and silence, almost all the dancing was done without accompaniment. This work also contained 4 parts. There was a musical introduction and part of the 3rd movement was accompanied by music but the rest was unaccompanied. I felt like I was watching a ballet class rather than a performance, though my companion said that she liked it. Again, I didn't notice anything particularly innovative or challenging (other than the lack of music). At the post-performance discussion, the artistic director said that she asked Kudelka why he had done the work with so little accompaniment, and his response was that he had been commissioned to create a work using Mozart but he didn't like Mozart as dance music. Seriously! I didn't care at all for the costumes. I don't understand why so many costume designers like to put men in short shorts. They look ridiculous in them.

Finally we got the Boston Ballet doing Balanchine's well-known Symphony in Three Movements. What a relief that was! I did think that it seemed a little under-rehearsed, as they were occasionally off on their timing.

I went to the opening performance so that I could go to the second performance if I wanted, but I don't think that I will. It's too much of a hassle to get to the Kennedy Center on a weeknight (it took us half an hour to go the last 2 miles) just to see 1 out of 3 works that I enjoyed.

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I agree with much of what YouOverThere wrote, with the big exception of Richmond Ballet's Ershter Vals by Ma Cong, which I loved.

Richmond Ballet: Ershter Vals is a romantic, flowing piece, set to gorgeous, tuneful cafe-style love songs -- think Paris in the spring, an accordionist by the Seine. Yes, the ladies do not wear pointe shoes and a bit of the choreography seems to be crafted by Kylian or Duato...but it is so much more fluid and 'pretty' than anything by Duato or Kylian that I have seen. The lovely light-pastel, ankle-length dresses for the four ladies added a lot to the brightness of the piece -- I loved when, in parts, the men grabbed and 'wiggled' the hems in a playful manner. To think - a playful, light and upifting ballet set to songs/lyrics written by Holocaust victims ('poems of hope'). The few moments that hint at the truth -- women suddenly covering their faces with their hands -- have added pathos because of the cheerfulness of all that is preceding.

Ma Cong is a great choreographer in the making. He can create beauty and positiveness, even within a bleak theme. [Take note, Ratmansky.] Ma is definitely on my shortlist of new-choreographers-to-follow. Like Wheeldon, someone who seems to have romanticism and lightness in his heart.

Oregon Ballet Theatre: ITA with YouOverThere on the middle work of the night - Kudelka's gawd-awful conceit, Almost Mozart, which should have been titled Barely Mozart. Granted, a few segments would make a great advertisement for Gold's Gym...or can be used in those late-night infomercials selling The Ronco Bow-flex Body Sculptor. Oh, those tiny little black-brief costumes, which can easily be bought in '3-packs for $15' at Target! Not only was a Costume Designer (Mark Zappone) credited...but also "Costumes Constructed by Oregon Ballet Theatre Costume Shop." Gee, I wonder how long it took to "construct" them? The sad thing about this is that five beautiful, talented & uber-buffed dancers could not be admired in a better ballet.

Boston Ballet: The largest and best-known company of the night lived up to its great reputation, presenting a major Balanchine/Stravinsky work that is seldom seen in DC: Symphony in Three Movements. Gorgeous unified corps; the opening line of 16 tall, pony-tailed ladies in white leotards always garners big applause as the curtain goes up. The three leading couples all danced impressively...but I was totally bowled over by the ballon and gutsy manner of the initial 'leaping pair' in the 1st movement, Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio - top dancing honorees of the night for me. [How nice to see, after many years, these two gold medalists from competitions that I attended in Moscow and Jackson, so long ago. Bravi, Misa and Jeffrey!] Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili were fine in the central pas de deux, although I wish that Lia would not constantly smile, even through serious quiet moments (a-la Jeannette Delgado of Miami City Ballet). The five demi-solo couples in black were all impressively energetic, with wondrous Whitney Jensen being singled-out by friends who were with me. I cannot wait to see all of these fine Boston dancers again next season at the KC.

I stayed for the post-performance Q&A with the three A.D.s. They explained why the ballets-on-view were selected. Nissinen (Boston) felt that he wanted to pay tribute to Balanchine and felt strongly that Symph in 3 Mvts needs to be shown more often. Richmond apparently had a 'big hit' in London last year with the Ma Cong piece. Oregon also claims a hit with the Kudelka, although the AD spoke about their one international tour (so far) to Seoul, Korea, where the 'hit' was MrB's Nutcracker...so Oregon is not just an 'edgy' troupe. Maybe DC will see them in something truly classical in the future?

I'm looking forward to attending Program B on June 6 (Thurs night - no Mariinsky 3-D for me, ha!) and Program C on Friday night, June 7.

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The performance was poorly attended. I sat in the 2nd tier because my co-worker who decided at almost the last minute that she would enjoy seeing this if I would take her along didn't want to spend much $, and I don't think that there were even 100 people up there.

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The performance was poorly attended. I sat in the 2nd tier because my co-worker who decided at almost the last minute that she would enjoy seeing this if I would take her along didn't want to spend much $, and I don't think that there were even 100 people up there.

I was in 2nd Tier too and you are right about the 1st and 2nd tiers...but the Orchestra seemed packed (full?), as were all but two of the loges in Box Tier. Almost everyone who bought the $15 2nd-Tier-Side tix was able to move to the more expensive seats in the center of 2nd-Tier when lights dimmed. Then again, I've seen this happen on most mixed-bill weekday nights, even when ABT and NYCB are playing (yes, even ABT with Ratmansky's Shostakovich 'masterpiece' played to near-empty 2nd and 1st Tiers). Mixed-bill nights seem to fill up only when the Mariinsky comes to town (in recent memory); it would probably be the same for the Bolshoi but they never bring mixed bills to DC, do they?

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The performance was poorly attended. I sat in the 2nd tier because my co-worker who decided at almost the last minute that she would enjoy seeing this if I would take her along didn't want to spend much $, and I don't think that there were even 100 people up there.

I was in 2nd Tier too and you are right about the 1st and 2nd tiers...but the Orchestra seemed packed (full?), as were all but two of the loges in Box Tier. Almost everyone who bought the $15 2nd-Tier-Side tix was able to move to the more expensive seats in the center of 2nd-Tier when lights dimmed. Then again, I've seen this happen on most mixed-bill weekday nights, even when ABT and NYCB are playing (yes, even ABT with Ratmansky's Shostakovich 'masterpiece' played to near-empty 2nd and 1st Tiers). Mixed-bill nights seem to fill up only when the Mariinsky comes to town (in recent memory); it would probably be the same for the Bolshoi but they never bring mixed bills to DC, do they?

A bit off the subject, but we ran up to the box office at the last moment (it was literally 7:29) and they told us that they couldn't seat us next to each other. But one of the tickets that they sold us was in an otherwise empty row!

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Very odd, YOT. There was a big group (about 200) of Richmond Ballet fans/supporters at a pre-performance reception in an area near the entrance to the 2nd Tier. Maybe they had originally purchased those 2nd-Tier tix, then were offered 'empty' seats in Orchestra? Musical chairs.

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Very odd, YOT. There was a big group (about 200) of Richmond Ballet fans/supporters at a pre-performance reception in an area near the entrance to the 2nd Tier. Maybe they had originally purchased those 2nd-Tier tix, then were offered 'empty' seats in Orchestra? Musical chairs.

Or maybe the volunteered to fill empty seats in the orchestra during the first intermission? I squeezed past 4 or 5 people during the usual pre-performance announcements. As soon as the lights were turned down, they discreetly moved to better seats across the aisle. I never saw them after the 1st intermission.

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Did anybody attend the repeat of Program A, last night? Program B -- Sarasota's Les Patineurs, Washington's Wunderland and PaBallet's Four Ts -- opens tonight. This is the program that I've been anticipating for a long time.

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Program B was as fantastic - if not more so - than anticipated.

Cutting to the quick: Ashton wins! Nothing beats a well-performed Ashton ballet with luxurious realistic designs and gorgeous classical music, well danced. Les Patineurs performed by Sarasota Ballet was the hit of the night, garnering a standing-o even though it was the first ballet in the program. The caretakers of Ashton down in Florida seem to be doing a splendid job, as the ballet was performed without recent cuts or alterations seen elsewhere. For example, the correct ending was employed: the curtain went back up to reveal the Blue Skater -- magnificent Logan Learned...shades of Mark Goldweber! -- still spinning quickly, as the snow continued to fall. I am so looking forward to Sarasota Ballet's Ashton Festival, to hopefully see more lovingly (and correctly) staged works. (Les Rendezvous, please.)

Also most felicitous was the 2nd ballet of the evening - Edwaard Liang's Wunderland, for/by The Washington Ballet to movements from various Phillip Glass String Quartets and Metamorphosis II. This is 'modern' as I love it - romantic, haunting, easy to understand. (Think Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour...similar haunting pean to romanticism, with a new look.) The 10 terrific dancers displayed both strength and pliancy. I loved both of the central couples -- Maki Onuki with Luis Torres, then Sona Kharatian with Jared Nelson. Ms Onuki, in particular, drew huge applause during the bows. She is Washington's 'Secret Gem.'

Interestingly, the first two ballets ended with snow cascading onto the stage. (Someone sitting near me murmured, 'Nutcracker in June!') It made me wonder if the snow might be falling yet again during the finale of the 3rd and final ballet of the night - Four Ts? Let's hope not....

The evening ended with Balanchine/Hindemith's The Four Temperaments, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet. It's always a treat to see this work but, alas, tonight's tentative and lackluster rendition did little justice to what is one of America's finest regional troupes. Among the soloists who truly stood out were Lillian Di Piazza/Lorin Mathis in the Third Theme, and the powerful Jermel Johnson in Phlegmatic. In the end, I kept wanting to see the superior renditions of this work by Miami City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet (from my recent memories). So maybe some snow at the end may have helped?

Tonight: Program C premieres with N.Car. Dance Th's Rhapsodic Dances, Ballet Austin's Hush, and the long-awaited 'come-back' of Dance Th. Harlem in the appropriately-titled ballet Return.

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I enjoyed Program B better than Program A. There were no weak productions in this program. For me, Les Patineurs was the weakest (least excellent?) of the works. The costumes were downright ugly; brown and maroon don't go with teal. It dragged on a bit, and there were a few stumbles by the dancers. I'm predisposed to love everything by Edwaard Liang, so of course i loved Wonderbound, though I was thinking that I would hate to have to listen to the droning, repetitive music without dancers. I also have a bias towards music by Hindemith, so there was little chance that I wouldn't like The Four Temperaments.

At the post-performance discussion, Septime Webre made a comment that I found interesting. In response to a question about how the ADs choose their dancers, Webre said that he looks for dancers who really "go for it" and are "fearless", One of the criticisms of the Washington Ballet that I've heard is that the dancers seem to hold back.

I let my co-worker who I've gone to A and B with talk me into buying a ticket for Program C tonight. I'm more than a little bit worried about getting there, given how difficult the drive is even in good weather.

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.... I also have a bias towards music by Hindemith, so there was little chance that I wouldn't like The Four Temperaments.

Oh, I also love it, YOT. I just felt that the PaBallet dancers weren't quite as sharp as other companies' versions that I've seen recently. The corps, in general, seemed a bit out of unison. I saw little errors & tentative moments in the main pdd and, especially, in the final female solo (Choleric), e.g., slow chaine turns when really great female soloists make them go on forever, very quickly. One of the demi-solo ladies in the group portions of Choleric fell, although she got back up quickly. I was also disappointed by the 'carry-lifts' during the finale, when one of the men barely got his lady off the ground and other men were tentative. Those carry-lifts should explode; here, they fizzled. It's a shame because, overall, this was a great night at the ballet.

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I originally was leaning against going to Program C, but my co-worker talked me into it (without knowing that I had attended enough performances at the Kennedy Center to earn a discount - $29/seat near the rear of the orchestra - way cool!). It turned out to be a gem among gems.

Opening up was the North Carolina Dance Theatre, performing a piece titled Rhapsodic Dances which was set to everyone's favorite (or almost favorite) Rach piece, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This piece, choreographed by former NCDT dancer Sasha James, was for 5 couples and was in the neo-Balanchine style. Very stylish and elegant, with beautiful costumes. I'll let Natalia fill in the details. The dancers seemed a little mechanical, which was about the only thing that kept this one from really taking off.

The middle work was Stephen Mills' Hush, from his Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project. The work was set to Philip Glass' Tirol Concerto, one of Glass' least droning compositions. He used 4 couples from his company, Ballet Austin. This one gets my vote as the most outstanding production of the festival. Beautiful, creative, athletic, moving, innovative, beautiful, moving. This one was in the modern ballet genre.

Last up was the Dance Theatre of Harlem, dancing to soul music by the likes of Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Simply the most improbable use of neo-classical ballet techniques, mixed in with black disco sensibilities. Extremely innovative.

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Natalia,

I am glad you enjoyed SB. I work there and wish I could be in DC!

balletgirl22sk - Indeed, they were pretty much THE highlight of the run, even though there was much to admire in all nine companies. (My report of Program C is below.) I'm looking forward to SB's November, April and May (festival) programs next season. This is Nirvana for Ashton-lovers and Ballet Traditionalists, in general.

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.....Opening up was the North Carolina Dance Theatre, performing a piece titled Rhapsodic Dances ..... I'll let Natalia fill in the details. The dancers seemed a little mechanical, which was about the only thing that kept this one from really taking off.

.......

Thanks for getting the ball rolling on this one, YOT. We're mostly in agreement, yet again. I'm preparing for a biz trip so, alas, won't have many details but I'll try to offer quick general thoughts on each work.

Before the evening began, I was most looking forward to North Carolina Dance Theatre's Rhapsodic Dances by Sasha Janes, as early publicity shots showed that this would be a neoclassical 'tutus and tiaras' piece. It was indeed the most traditional work of the night, mostly-well performed by the five couples, each garbed in a different bright color, with lovely lighting effects and about 20 luxurious-looking brass chandeliers overhead. Yes, some of the moves seemed mechanically quirky, such as the 'booty shimmy' by the five gals with the backs turned to us. (Imagine a 'booty shimmy' in a tutu!) Nonetheless it was mainly traditional classical ballet...well, except for 'the big rip.'

To explain my one major qualm with the piece: Everything was going along splendidly in a serious neoclassical manner. For example, the famous adagio theme that all of us know from Rach's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was gorgeously delivered by the stately couple in Violet, Sarah Hayes Watson and David Morse. The Cobalt Blue pair, Anna Gerberich and Pete Walker II, showed-off their crisp allegro technique to an earlier brisk variation. Then the lights dimmed and the Crimson Red Girl (Jamie Dee) took center stage, a single spotlight on her, and....we hear the sound of peeling velcro...and - presto! - she rips the tutu off her bodice, revealing the neoclassical costume of Balanchine's Rubies soloist (with rectangular-panel petals)! There was embarrasing, inadvertent chuckling among the audience in 2nd Tier - not sure if this was the case elsewhere. After a few solo moves using the tutu skirt as a fan (a-la Sally Rand years ago), the Red Man moved towards her and sweeps her off her feet, the tutu falling to the ground. It was odd. For the final variations, the rest of the ladies also discarded their tutus (thankfully, backstage).

It's a shame that the tutu-ripping "Sally Rand Fan Dance" portion took away from what would have been a perfect little neoclassical ballet. Nonetheless, I am grateful that a few choreographers today still pay attention to tutus-and-tiaras, so I'm more than willing to declare Sasha Janes a 'choreographer to watch' in the future. smile.png

Ballet Austin's Hush (by A.D. Stephen Mills, to Philip Glass' Tirol Concerto): I'm in total agreement with YOT here. Hush was, to me, an unexpected surprise of the run. All of the elements of production - hauntingly romantic-soft music, costumes (lovely blue chiffon 'Allegro Brillante-style' shifts for the ladies and blue tights for men), flowing movements perfectly aligned to the music, eight extraordinarily pliant and musical dancers. This ballet's 'look,' composition, style reminded me a lot of Antony Tudor's Continuo, even though the music of the latter is Pachelbel's Canon: six or eight similarly-garbed couples, each pdd melting into the next. Fluid beauty. I definitely want to see more of Stephen Mills' choreography after this!

Dance Theater of Harlem's Return (by Robert Garland, to five famous swing/pop tunes by James Brown and Aretha Franklin) was another huge surprise for me. The twelve beautiful dancers drove the KC audience to a feever-pitched frenzy. A tour group of Chinese citizens, for example, sitting directly in front of us in Row A, stood up and clapped-and-jumped in time to the final piece of music, Brown's song Superbad. DTH's male soloist in this movement, Da'Von Doane, was fantastic...but it's that line of happy Chinese tourists that I'll forever remember about this piece.

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I had the opportunity to attend last nights performance (Program C) and agree with most of Natalia's review, finding Mr. Mill's choreography quite complex with nice partnering and live music. Following that was Dance Theater of Harlem, which was returning to the stage after a long hiatus. The piece of choreography, by comparison, appeared to be more like a competition dance piece with lots of crowd-pleasing tricks, movements that were unconnected, and a poor audio recording. I listened to the discussion after the performance by the artistic director, Virginia Johnson, articulate the difference between her vision for the company and that of the Alvin Ailey company and (having seen AA perform many times) thought that she must not be seeing what I saw. The dancers were competent, though how much so was difficult to discern from the piece. I hope that they choose better in the future, it would be sad to see the company fail again.

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I've posted a review of Program B on danceviewtimes:

Snow Time!

Paintings are luckier than ballets. If a museum wants to have an exhibition of art works that have been in storage for a few centuries, the paintings can be retrieved, hung in a gallery, rediscovered and pronounced lost masterpieces. In contrast, ballets without a company to take care of them can vanish in a season, and reviving dead ballets is an almost hopeless task. Unless, it seems, a ballet is lucky enough to wander into Florida, where the Sarasota Ballet has not only been building a repertory of ballets by Frederick Ashton but making them look extraordinarily fresh.

I wasn't able to see Program C, unfortunately. Thanks for the comments so far, and if others saw it, or any other program, I hope you'll chime in!

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I listened to the discussion after the performance by the artistic director, Virginia Johnson, articulate the difference between her vision for the company and that of the Alvin Ailey company and (having seen AA perform many times) thought that she must not be seeing what I saw.

In what sense? What I took from her responses is that DTH will always (as long as she is in charge) be a neo-classical ballet company (communicates by rising up from the Earth by, among other things, dancing en pointe) while Ailey's company is, by her standards, a modern dance ensemble (communicates by working into the Earth)..

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Judging from the reviews, including Alastair Macauley's, it seems as if the only people who thought that Hush was good are posters in this forum. But I didn't get the impression that any of the reviewers understood the meaning of the ballet, which came from a larger Holocaust-inspired ballet and is about hope, beauty, and love rising out of devastation and despair.

I am pondering the irony that, given the summertime 3-hour time difference between D.C, and Arizona, I would have been watching a ballet about hope rising from despair at the time that my mother was eating what turned out to be her last meal.

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Judging from the reviews, including Alastair Macauley's, it seems as if the only people who thought that Hush was good are posters in this forum. But I didn't get the impression that any of the reviewers understood the meaning of the ballet, which came from a larger Holocaust-inspired ballet and is about hope, beauty, and love rising out of devastation and despair.

I saw the complete "Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project" (choreographed by Stephen Mills of Ballet Austin) last spring, performed by the Colorado Ballet. It is emotionally draining and exhausting. The last segment, "Hush," is a lovely and very welcome denouement from the 90-minute ballet, quite different from all that came before. I loved the Philip Glass music for that segment so much, I ordered it as soon as I got home from the theater. More information is here: http://www.txnp.org/Article/?ArticleID=15714

But let me hasten to add that overall it is an enormously important ballet. In Denver, it was linked to a wide range of community events. But "Hush" is not typical of the overall ballet.

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