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The Sun Also Rises


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#1 YouOverThere

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 05:53 PM

I managed to scrape enough money out of my piggy bank to take in one performance of the TWB's production of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I really like to see ballets twice because lots of times I enjoy them more the second time, but the $89 tickets (by far the most I've ever paid for a ticket for anything that didn't involve listening to instructions on how to buckle a seat belt) precluded that.

The choreography was created by the TWB's artistic director, Septime Webre, with music from a variety of recordings and new compositions. The ballet was in 2 acts. The first act took place in Paris, so the music was standard 1920's lounge/cafe music. Not my cup of tea. This act was nearly an hour long, and IMHO contained a substantial amount of filler. The pas de deux and tres (hmmm. That looks like Spanish rather than French) contained some very athletic lifts that required tremendous strength, but I think left out grace and beauty (but maybe if I saw it again I would change my mind).

The shorter second act was livelier. It consisted mostly of the Spanish part of the novel. The music was livelier as well. They used a few guest artists, including a spectacular flamenco dancer, and, rare for the the TWB, there was live music for this act. There were some good ensemble parts with high energy dancing.

Overall, I rate the ballet as decent but not great. It was stuffy in the theater (this seems to be a common occurrence at matinees at the Kennedy Center) and I nearly fell asleep several times during the first act. But maybe if I had seen it again ...

Side note: I've found a couple of parking garages in the vicinity of 22nd and I Street that charge only half as much as the KC parking garage and are only a block and a half from the shuttle stop.

#2 Lawrence

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 05:22 AM

This ballet was just a bit disappointing for me and I had high hopes for it. There was more focus on the live entertainment elements (blues singers, video clips/multimedia, flamenco and large puppets) and less on the actual ballet dancing. In fact, this could have been a modern dance or jazz piece without the pointe shoes. I agree with YouOverThere, the first act was a sleeper. It reminded me of Webre's Great Gatsby because it had the very same live entertainment elements (no puppets) in that ballet. But I enjoyed that one more. The flamenco dancer and his musicians were terrific.

I will credit Webre for trying to think out the ballet box in trying to create new ballet content, combine ballet with other production elements to reach new balletgoers. It's good to take risks. Whether it will pay off is a different story.

#3 YouOverThere

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 12:09 PM

This ballet was just a bit disappointing for me and I had high hopes for it. There was more focus on the live entertainment elements (blues singers, video clips/multimedia, flamenco and large puppets) and less on the actual ballet dancing. In fact, this could have been a modern dance or jazz piece without the pointe shoes. I agree with YouOverThere, the first act was a sleeper. It reminded me of Webre's Great Gatsby because it had the very same live entertainment elements (no puppets) in that ballet. But I enjoyed that one more. The flamenco dancer and his musicians were terrific.

I will credit Webre for trying to think out the ballet box in trying to create new ballet content, combine ballet with other production elements to reach new balletgoers. It's good to take risks. Whether it will pay off is a different story.


I think that there was a problem with the way the video was used. I do not see it as a good idea to have a video running at the same time that important dancing is happening. The audience cannot watch both, so one needs to be the background for the other. Still photographs would have worked better IMO. I found that even the dialogue that was posted above the stage diverted my attention from the dancing.

I had some questions about whether this story was a good choice for choreographing. There were some scenes in which the dancing seemed quite out of place. I don't know how one would portray fishing through choreography, but the fishing scene in this production didn't make me think at all of fishing. Even the opening, in which Jake apparently was suffering from writer's block, seemed unnatural. It had me thinking "Why is this guy who is suffering from writer's block leaping about like, well, like a ballet dancer?"

#4 dirac

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 11:27 AM

Thanks for posting your review, YouOverThere. I think the full title of the ballet is "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises." Guess they wanted to make sure everyone know who wrote it. I too would think this story unsuited to ballet. Dance can communicate in a general way that "Jake can't make it with Brett and they're sad," "Mike is a drunk," and "Pedro Romero is too young for Brett," but there's lots more to the story than that.

It's off topic, but I'm reminded that Mikhail Baryshnikov played Romero in a non-dancing Soviet adaptation called "Fiesta."

#5 YouOverThere

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 06:34 PM

It's off topic, but I'm reminded that Mikhail Baryshnikov played Romero in a non-dancing Soviet adaptation called "Fiesta."


"Fiesta" was Hemingway's working title for the book, and the first printing in Britain used that title.

#6 Ray

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 04:44 AM

This is purely speculative, but I can't help but think that Webre was trying to capitalize on the success of the theater company Elevator Repair Service (most famous for their production of Gatz), who also staged a version of Sun Also Rises back in 2010. ERS's production, in my opinion, was innovative, and actually included movement in very interesting ways. Impeccable production values, including subtle sound design for the fiesta portion (no flamenco dancers, though).

#7 Lawrence

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 08:25 AM

I thought much of the dancing and other elements in Webre's Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises carried over from his other work, a ballet version of The Great Gatsby in 2010. Both ballets have 20s jazz music by Billy Novick, and the same blues singer (she's terrific, btw) in Gatsby was also in Hemingway: TSAR. The staging and choreo of the scenes were virtually the same, particularly the pas de deux between Jake/Brett and Gatsby/Daisy.

Ray, you may be onto something with the Webre/ERS connection, since ERS are famous for their version of the Great Gatsby! Interesting coincidences.

#8 Ray

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 08:32 AM

Well, no matter what one may think of his work, Webre is usually pretty savvy when it comes to marketing.

#9 YouOverThere

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 10:39 AM

Well, no matter what one may think of his work, Webre is usually pretty savvy when it comes to marketing.


Indeed. Despite the high prices, all the shows except for the Sunday evening show were virtually sold out, and the Sunday evening show had about 90 percent of the tickets sold.


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