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Viva Vivaldi! (and Gerald Arpino, in general)recent Ame. Repertory Ballet revivals


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 05:25 AM

I was lucky enough to have caught this past Saturday's Jersey Moves program at the NJPAC in Newark. Of particular interest was ARB's revival of Arpino's Viva Vivaldi! about which I'd heard and read so much but had not seen. 'VV' was a Joffrey signature piece in the mid-60s/late-70s. I had often wondered why it was not performed so often since then. Well, now I know (for good and not-so-good reasons). It is extremely demanding, technically...and it is also a rather quirky Spanish-flavored ballet, to Italian baroque music. I loved the execution (ARB is blessed with first-class dancers!). Loved the Vivaldi score (P. 151: Concerto for Violin, Cembalo & Orch, arranged for Guitar & Orch). Totally LOVED the costumes, with adorable multi-tier Spanish skirts for the gals & white blousons/black tights for the guys. Loved some of the moves, such as the famous quick 'passe-frappes' in unison by the female corps in the 2nd movement. The two slow movements (1st and 3rd), each with a 'pas de deux-a-cinq,' were hauntingly lovely. The 4th movement/finale -- part of which can be seen in the Ed Sullivan Ballets DVD -- features amazing pyrotechnics from two solo men and a corps of 4 couples.

That's the good news -- and there is a lot of good news. However...I thought that some of the moves were a bit contrived and odd looking, such as the long splits-to-the-ground with ever-shifting directions by the three corps guys who accompanied the initial pas de deux...or the male in the 3rd pdd shuffling about on his knees. Also, the two allegro movements (2nd and 4th) were so chock-full of quick technical highlights, one after the other, that the viewer is left gasping (two high-leaping ladies....one diagonal of high pas-de-chats, in which the girl pauses in mid-diagonal to perform Italian-style high sautees with bent legs). I would have preferred something that builds up to one or two great highlights, rather than bang!bang!bang! all of the time. This bang!bang! effect works better in last year's ARB revival of Arpino's Confetti, which is a much briefer (one-movement, for only six solo-level dancers) bon-bon to a Rossini overture.

Am I being too harsh on the late Mr. Arpino? I've certainly enjoyed some of his other (non-ban!bang!) works, such as Light Rain.

Here's a YT clip of the finale of Viva Vivaldi!, as seen on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 60s. Amazing dancers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1egey7fFUoA

p.s. I now have a secret guilty wish to see ABT's current slew of Hot Shots dancing this crazy work...or in Confetti. Think Osipova, Lane, Boylston, Simkin, Vasiliev, Matthews, Radetsky, et. al!

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 05:59 AM

Sadly the only film of Bobby Blankshine out there.

#3 sandik

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 08:26 AM

Oh thank you for this clip -- it's been ages since I've seen this work. Indeed, it's much more of a technical challenge than I remember -- it would be a excellent addition to anyone's rep.

Arpino was learning to make dances as the company was touring and touring, often in front of relatively neophyte audiences. I think one of the early lessons he learned was to keep things moving all the time.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 08:41 AM

.....Arpino was learning to make dances as the company was touring and touring, often in front of relatively neophyte audiences. I think one of the early lessons he learned was to keep things moving all the time.


Thanks, sandik. So true. At least two of the four movements of VV are to slow music, so we can catch our breaths; even in the slow movements, though, there's an inventive movement every 10 seconds.

I should have mentioned earlier that it seems that Arpino (like everyone else) was a great admirer and 'borrower' of Balanchine. For example, the 1st movement (pdd-a-cinq) ends with two of the corps guys lifting the lone ballerina high (straight up, holding her seemingly by the ankles, her feet above their heads), then slowly carrying her off into the wing, as the two remaining men follow. Serenade, anyone?

#5 dirac

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 10:34 AM

True, Natalia. I thought of "Square Dance," myself.


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