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Solo For Two w. Osipova and Vasiliev

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This post extends thoughts from a conversation I had with a dance critic earlier in the week.

What do and what should people expect from a program like this? The content, choreographers, and intent were listed in a press release (picked up by different newspapers) and in several preview articles before the show. Three works were commissioned, and one was said up front to be an extension of two pieces Naharin already made, and there are YouTube videos with at least excerpts of both of these works, as well as a long video of other works by Naharin. There are also excerpts of work by Pita and Cherkaoui. I'm not sure if the latter choreographed for Guillem, but his work was presented on the same program at least once.

While I don't think there's a requirement to spend a lot of time researching the choreographers -- even watching a bunch of Naharin gives me only a general sense of his Gaga technique, but none of specifics, let alone the subtleties; given a chance to see the program, it's possible I'd have been better off seeing it cold -- there was a lot of up-front information to set expectations that this wasn't going to be a program of classical works.

It makes sense to me that the choreographers would either leverage existing works or make work in a similar vein to their existing work, as that's presumably what Osipova and Vasiliev would have seen and to which they would have been attracted. Naharin studied at SAB and Juilliard, and although took a different path, he has a firm understanding of classical technique. (He's old enough to have studied with the Russian faculty at SAB.) Cherkaoui has made work for companies ranging from Cedar to Royal Danish Ballet. My expectation that both would know how ballet dancers work and which of their works might be most appropriate.

Even if Osipova and Vasiliev spent ten days with Batsheva Dance Company to immerse themselves in Naharin's Gaga technique, they obviously wouldn't be up-to-speed in that period of time. They are busy and aren't like Guillem or Baryshnikov -- and now Whelan -- who are/were trying to learn other movement styles after or at the end of their ballet careers. Baryshnikov may have been the big draw for White Oak Project, but whether he was dancing with geniuses of movement like Mark Morris and Rob Besserer -- he did a trio with those two -- or the lesser-known dancers, they all were much more idiomatic and drew my eye more compellingly, unless I wanted to concentrate deliberately on a great artist try gamely to learn something new. Guillem spends a lot of time collaborating with choreographers and trying to learn new styles and techniques in an in-depth collaborative way, and both she and Whelan are used to having many choreographers create works/sections of works on them and the various ways in which the process can work. Vasiliev and Osipova don't have the time to do that and they don't have decades of experience in the studio that way.

I didn't see the show, but if I did and didn't like it, I'd have to distinguish whether this was because the dancers couldn't do it justice, or whether the work was musically, thematically, and/or structurally below par. However, even if the experiment failed, these aren't vanity choreographers -- they are well-respected in their genres/microstyles -- and I really couldn't reasonably expect to see more than two extremely talented dancers give the new styles their best shot. (Whether going there was advised is another story, but if I were anywhere near where they were performing, I'd have to vote on that with my wallet.)

I understand why critics -- and especially why critics from London, where (especially) Cherkaoui's work is widely known -- could be positive about the program -- but I'm not clear on why audiences in London and California disagree.

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I'm having trouble posting the link, but the Aug 7, 2014 City Center press release re the coming 2014-15 season lists Solo for Two. Not sure why they were taken off sale. Is Osipova scheduled to dance with the RB during Mar 7-8, 2015.

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I'm having trouble posting the link, but the Aug 7, 2014 City Center press release re the coming 2014-15 season lists Solo for Two. Not sure why they were taken off sale. Is Osipova scheduled to dance with the RB during Mar 7-8, 2015.

On the ROH website she is currently scheduled to dance Swan Lake Feb 21st, March 13th, and March 17th. Those performances have not yet gone on sale.

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I'm having trouble posting the link, but the Aug 7, 2014 City Center press release re the coming 2014-15 season lists Solo for Two. Not sure why they were taken off sale. Is Osipova scheduled to dance with the RB during Mar 7-8, 2015.

On the ROH website she is currently scheduled to dance Swan Lake Feb 21st, March 13th, and March 17th. Those performances have not yet gone on sale.
On the casting page, to the right, it says the performances on the 13th and 17th will be filmed - perhaps we'll be getting yet another DVD of her performance!

http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/swan-lake-by-anthony-dowell

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I understand why critics -- and especially why critics from London, where (especially) Cherkaoui's work is widely known -- could be positive about the program -- but I'm not clear on why audiences in London and California disagree.

Because it was an insult to a paying audience, both in time and effort put forth by the pieces. And I didn't buy the tickets with this programming; there was a distinctly different announced program for the CA engagement--I've been to enough Ardani schlock to know what I am walking into when the program suddenly changes into modern experimentation and this was the worst of it. I also don't buy the argument that because choreographers have done good work in the past, this is probably good too for their specific vein of work. Or that dancers who have done good work in the past will probably be good too. I thought Vasiliev, especially, looked uncomfortable in the choreography and Osipova seemed to relish in looking unattractive and being extreme for extremes sake.

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Do you remember what the original program was advertised as when tickets went on sale and how long afterwards the program changed? I'm not a fan of bait-and-switch in general, even if there's a disclaimer that "Program is subject to change."

Two of the three works were based on the choreographers' previous works, all of which had been reviewed. I haven't seen much to suggest there was a substantial difference in the versions Osipova and Vasiliev danced: if the choreography was good before, it is unlikely these versions are bad. If the older versions were weak, they'd have needed work to make them better. The piece that has gotten the best reviews has been the new one. Of course, most of the pieces when reviewed earlier were danced by contemporary companies, with dancers for whom that was their style and who were versed in the technique. I think there is a distinction between bad or weak choreography and bad or weak performances if the choreography.

There is never any reason to assume that even a great dancer will be good in a new genre, especially in such a short period of time. Baryshnikov did White Oak for how many seasons? While the process was interesting to watch, if you like watching the process, even he wasn't notable in much of what he danced after dedicating a lot of time to it.

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I did not keep any records on the Segerstrom program changes, as I had no plans to attend. For a time, they announced that the Ballet San Jose was going to back them in Carmen and I vaguely remember that the change to drop that came rather late. Had some subscribers and perhaps individual tickets buyers purchased with that in mind? Long before the Carmen announcement, they were going to do an excerpt from La Bayadere, but again, I don't remember if any subscriptions or tickets were on sale at that early juncture. That's a pretty dramatic "program change" in either case, and it's understandable that people were outraged at the final program.

EDIT: Looking back through this thread, I see that Carmen with BSJ was announced on May 5 and cancelled on May 29. It seems likely that tickets were on sale by then.

Edited by California

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Many thanks for answering. I wasn't paying close enough attention and thought that these were separate events. "Carmen" is certainly a different kettle of fish.

Honestly, between the double-bookings on her part and this switch, it would take a lot to get me to buy a ticket specifically to see them.

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Can't believe this. The City Center dates for this have been changed from Mar 7-8 to Aug 7-8, 2015. They have been selling tickets for this since June. Date change now posted on the City Center website. My March tixs are definitely going back to the box office, and I will not be purchasing for the August dates. Really tired of all these schedule alterations due to Osipova's overbooking. Given what balletomanes are saying about this program, this date change is a blessing because it allows me to get a refund.

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Don't regret it for a second. What a mess. (BTW the dates were also moved from January to mid July at the performances in CA with no formal announcement; subscribers did not get a chance to return tickets though if the dates were no longer viable which seemed like a big oversight to me as many plan vacations in mid-summer).

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I already called City Center, and was told that they will refund anyone who bought tickets for the March dates, unless the purchaser requests an exchange into the August dates in lieu of a refund.

Seems illegal for the CA venue to change the event date and not honor any requests for refunds based on the date change.

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If a ticket is for a specific venue on a specific date for a specific time (and often, a specific seat), and the producer can change the program and/or casting, I don't know how it could be legal if the producer fails to produce a show on that date and does not offer a refund, even if there is a reschedule on another date. I would request a chargeback from my credit card company, if a venue refused to refund under those circumstances. I've never had that happen.

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I did not keep any records on the Segerstrom program changes, as I had no plans to attend. For a time, they announced that the Ballet San Jose was going to back them in Carmen and I vaguely remember that the change to drop that came rather late. Had some subscribers and perhaps individual tickets buyers purchased with that in mind? Long before the Carmen announcement, they were going to do an excerpt from La Bayadere, but again, I don't remember if any subscriptions or tickets were on sale at that early juncture. That's a pretty dramatic "program change" in either case, and it's understandable that people were outraged at the final program.

EDIT: Looking back through this thread, I see that Carmen with BSJ was announced on May 5 and cancelled on May 29. It seems likely that tickets were on sale by then.

The first version was le Jeune Homme et la Mort, Gomes world premier, and Kingdom of the Shades. Later the Gomes piece was gone. Then it's totally revised to Carmen with Ballet San Jose and some other pas des deux. Finally, it's Solo for 2. O/V's program changes were chronicled in this thread: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/36955-scfta-dance-season-13-14/

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The first version was le Jeune Homme et la Mort, Gomes world premier, and Kingdom of the Shades. Later the Gomes piece was gone. Then it's totally revised to Carmen with Ballet San Jose and some other pas des deux. Finally, it's Solo for 2. O/V's program changes were chronicled in this thread: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/36955-scfta-dance-season-13-14/

Thanks for the reminder! That would have been a spectacular program. I remember thinking it might be worth flying out to see it. So glad I didn't pursue that! But given the very disappointing subscription that year, that program might have enticed at least a few people to get an entire subscription.

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Egads, those are substantial changes. I'd be very unhappy had I purchased tickets based on the first program, whether they actually we going to perform "Carmen" or Solo for Two.

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Here is a clip from the O/V program, so people can decide whether this is their thing:

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Without seeing the full work, it's hard to know where this sequence comes from, but I think the theatricality of it is pretty successful. His solo reminded me a bit of the Jacobson solo that Baryshnikov brought with him to the West when he first defected -- that combination of highly technical moments and distinctive acting sequences. I can certainly understand the frustration of buying a ticket for a conventional program and having that morph into something else, but I do think that projects like this are more than worth the artist's time.

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Here's more:

The choreography does remind me a little bit of the folk/modern choreography that might have been presented in an "artistic" evening in the USSR. In those evenings I think artists were expected to drop the Don Quixotes and could choose a mixed bill of "modern" choreography.

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I don't know of any "modern" dance in the Soviet Union that required a new movement vocabulary. Were there such dance movements which ballet dancers would leverage, and, if so, what are they now?

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There has been variations of modern dance taught and performed in Russia for a number of years (remember Isadora Duncan spent time teaching there) but I think the modern/folk dance referred to here is more along the lines of the theatricalized folk work of the Moiseyev and other groups.

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Moiseyev is worlds above the choreography set forth in the above video clips.

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I thought the Soviets eventually expunged most of what we'd consider modern dance as decadent along the way. I didn't realize there were still remnants. I wonder that Russia looks so much to the West when it adds rep, rather than leveraging what was there..

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