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Ballet Across America III @ Kenn.CenterJune 4-9, 2013


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 08:57 AM

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.

#2 Natalia

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 04:22 AM

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/

#3 YouOverThere

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 08:19 PM

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.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 04:25 AM

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.

#5 YouOverThere

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 05:21 AM

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.

#6 Natalia

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 05:24 AM

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?

#7 YouOverThere

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 06:04 AM


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!

#8 Natalia

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 06:21 AM

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.

#9 YouOverThere

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 07:00 AM

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.

#10 Natalia

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 05:05 AM

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.

#11 Natalia

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 03:38 AM

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.

#12 YouOverThere

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 05:47 AM

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.

#13 Natalia

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 11:37 AM

.... 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.

#14 balletgirl22sk

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 01:16 PM

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

#15 YouOverThere

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 08:00 PM

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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