Jump to content


Balanchine Celeb #1 (Joffrey is THE HIT!)


  • Please log in to reply
36 replies to this topic

#1 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,388 posts

Posted 12 September 2000 - 10:51 PM

Just raced back from the exciting opening night of the "Balanchine Celebration" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

This is written in a quick-highlights style. Just want to provide the initial scoop!

MOZARTIANA - Bolshoi Ballet

Lovely, emotional performance by Nina Ananiashvili in the opening "Preghiara" (prayer) She was not quite as effective in the 'Tema e Variazione' pdd but lovely in the phrasing of her solos. (Sorry guys--I have the film of Farrell imprinted in my brain & it's hard to erase. Farrell staged this Bolshoi production, incidentally.) The male soloists were Dmitri Belogolovtsev ('98 Jackson silver medalist) in the demi-caractere '1700s-style' Gigue; and noble Sergei Filin as the more classical danseur in the Tema e Variazione. Both Bolshoi male principals were as good as I've ever seen them. Non-acting becomes them, as both are beautiful 'lightweight' abstract dancers. Filin was a particular revelation, so light & airy in his dancing but not much of an actor, as we saw earlier this year in Romeo & Don Q. Belogolovtsev was also liberated in his style--Cast Spartacus to the Inferno, please!

Delightful ensemble of four Russian young ladies and four American little girls. Unfortunately, the port-de-bras of the latter betrayed their origin.

Costuming note (for Juliet!): Is it my imagination or does the Bolshoi version of the female lead's costume differ from that of the original NYCB version? Nina's has black glitter on the bodice, a little extra 'prima-donna razzmatazz'? As for her hair, I am certain of the difference. Nina wore a Renaissance-style upsweep-do held in place with glittery netting, not unlike the hairdo of Juliet in McMillan's "Romeo & Juliet." Where are the ringlets at the back of the neck, which are so distinctive of the Mozart-era style & which Farrell & all NYCB ballerinas have worn? That Renaissance hairstyle was out of place, IMO.

A big plus: NONE of the usual "Nina Affectations"-- the famous "Five Facial Expressions" -- were in evidence during her bows. Rather, she was very natural. Brava!

RUBIES - Miami City Ballet

Dog-gone it, the Kirov does this better. Honestly! (Just saw 'The K' in London about a couple of months ago.) I base this mainly on the two lead principals tonight, who were, IMO, totally bland & a bit too "stocky-proportioned' for my tastes. Sadly, the male is my "Favourite Jester of All Times," POB's Eric Quillere. The ballerina is Jennifer Kronenberg. No Vishneva she! (Neither is she McBride, Whelan, Watts, etc., etc.) *However, this lapse was more than compensated by the second female lead, the drop-dead-gorgeous, long-limbed & scintillating Sally Ann Isaacks.

The Miami ensemble was wonderfully synchronized & energetic...dare I say, better than those folks up north? But even Miami was not QUITE as perfectly in unison as The K! Posted Image

SQUARE DANCE - Joffrey Ballet

Heeee-hawww!!!! I think I've died & gone to heaven! I have lived to see the 1957 original version of this ballet, square-dance caller, on-stage fiddlers, and all. Yes, a caller stands on the side & recites--sometimes improvises--the most clever rhymes, perfectly matched by the solo couple and ensemble AND the lilting tunes by Vivaldi & Coralli. Amazing, eh? But it works.

NYCB regulars, you must RUN--don't walk--to DC to try to see this amazing performance during the next two nights. Otherwise, I strongly suggest that you get hold of the Joffrey Ballet-Chicago's schedule to see it for yourselves.

Loudest 'bravos' of the night went to the fabulous caller, John Oldfield, who is not quite as old as the crusty Elisha Keeler from the 1950s (a legendary performance that exists on film, in private collections).

Among the dancers, the highest accolades--not just in this ballet but for the entire night--go to a REAL FIND, the long-limbed & perfectly-musical Tracy Julias in the lead female role. Rmember her name; she is magnificent. Almost as impressive was Willy Shives, the lead male (whose slow Sarabande solo was an anachronism to this staging, as Mr. B created it in the non-caller version of 1976).

Funny aside: I shudder to think what rhymes we'll get tomorrow. It's easy to set rhymes to "Here comes Tracy - her legs look lazy" or "Look at Will - what a thrill." Tomorrow's lead cast have first names of "Leticia" & "Calvin"...will it be "Look at Cal - he's our pal"?

STARS & STRIPES - Miami City Ballet

Great ensemble & fantastic 'secondary soloists, batton-twirling Paige Fulleton, Ms. Isaacks (again) AND--especially--Cuba's Luis Serrano. Luis was the 1998 Jackson IBC bronze medalist, right behind silver-medalist Belogolovtsev of the Bolshoi, whom we saw tonight in "Mozartiana." Alas, once again the Miami lead couple was off-par. Although both are quite muscular & can be dynamic, Ileana Lopez & Franklin Gamero tonight lacked that 'extra oomph' that I've seen in the McBrides, Whelans & Ashleys (and D'Amboises, Vilellas & Woetzels) of this world. It is hard to describe but it was simply missing. Besides, the choreography was somewhat watered down for those two, missing a lift here or there, not quite spliting legs 180-degrees, timing a bit late.

I loved the loudly-sequined All-American vest of conductor Akira Endo, when he came out for his bows. On the other hand, a "boo" for the solo trumpeteer, who truly botched the fugue at the start of the Liberty Bell pdd...must be a guest from NYCB's orchestra. (Sorry--couldn't resist!)

Bummer of the evening: IT WASN'T A REAL AMERICAN FLAG THAT WAS SHOWN AT THE END OF THIS BALLET! Instead, we get a fakey projection. They can't even syncronize the red-and-white stripes with the rectangle of white stars against navy-blue! The rectangle of stars remains in-situ as the stripes continue to move. Gee wiz...get me to NY, please, where a true flag made out of cloth is dramatically unfurled at the end of this ballet!

Minor glitches aside, it was a de-lightful evening at the ballet. - Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 13, 2000).]

#2 Kevin Ng

Kevin Ng

    Bronze Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 326 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 03:08 AM

Jeannie, thanks for your wonderful report. What good programming to be able to see 3 companies - Bolshoi, Miami, and Joffrey - in one evening. I am interested to hear that the Kirov does Rubies better than Miami City Ballet, and I wish I could see the Joffrey in Square Dance. (I last saw this ballet danced by NYCB in the late 1980s led by Kyra Nichols.)

#3 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 05:50 AM

Jeannie, I'm personally very grateful for your having let us in on the opening night performance. Of course, it pleases me to find out that the Bolshoi and Miami danced well, but (old school tie and all that) the good news of Joffrey makes my heart swell and my eyes tear up! Thank you!

#4 The Bard's Ballerina

The Bard's Ballerina

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 38 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 06:20 AM

Thanks for your review, Jeannie -- I knew we could count on you for an immediate and (as always) candid evaluation! Hopefully, I will not burst before my first chance to see a performance, which won't be until tomorrow night.

#5 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,388 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 06:23 AM

In this morning's Washington Post, S. Kaufman's review also terms the Joffrey's "Square Dance" the "highlight" of the evening. As I waited in line at the taxi stand in front of the Kennedy Center, ALL the 'buzz' was about "Square Dance." A young lady beside me, who was a tourist from North Carolina & had never seen this level of ballet before but knew all about real square dancing, kept saying breathlessly, "that was genius, that was genius!"

#6 Estelle

Estelle

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,706 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 09:53 AM

Jeannie, thanks for your review. That Balanchine festival sounds really interesting.

Could someone explain to me what a square dance exactly is (who is the caller, what are the "rhymes"), and how it is used in that ballet? All what I've ever seen from that ballet is the male solo danced by Manuel Legris in the "Balanchine Celebration" video, and I think that it probably is the solo from 1976 you mentioned.

#7 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,388 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:12 AM

Estelle, I'll try my best to explain. Posted Image

Square Dancing is a North American type of folk-derived social dance, most likely stemming from Irish or Scottish social dances. (Experts, please help me!) It is taught to probably every US student in elementary school physical education classes. They are lots of fun & not-so-hard to do (but very hard to do smoothly & in unison).

It is danced usually by clusters comprised of four couples, forming a "square" & facing each other at the start. They have to listen to a "caller" to get their moves. For example, almost every square dance commences with the caller calling out "Bow to your partner. Bow to your corner." After initial bows, promenades (four couples follow each other in circular pattersn), and such, the dance becomes progressively complex, so that the four couples are forming intricate star patterns and such. [For "Square Dance" ballet, it is a great advantage to sit a bit up in the balconies, so that one can enjoy the patterns formed by the dancers. The Joffrey dancers were EXEMPLARY in their unison...such as when all of the corps ladies formed star patterns. This is unison of the very highest order.]

Toe-tapping country music plays in the background--usually a banjo and/or violin (fiddle). The caller gives instructions throughout the dance, in time to the music. The REALLY GREAT callers--such as the guys in the ballet--give instructions as a sort of funny poetry, making sentences rhyme. For example: "Allemand left, with the old left hand - spin your partner, ain't it grand?" Silly, funny stuff. But it takes real skill to give instructions & improvise. Now, imagine, in this ballet, a caller doing this relating to ballet steps (he doesn't really try to call out every step..."entrechat here - entrechat there - entrechat around the square!") Vivaldi--not American country music--in the background. WOW! You have to see & hear it to believe it. I feel truly priviledged to have been there last night to see this unique melange-work of art.

Oh-- I should note that there is no calling during the very slow parts of the ballet, the pas de deux and that 1976 solo that you have on the video. In fact, I breathed a small sigh of relief when, as the pas de deux was about to commence, I saw the caller make an exit into the wings! - Jeannie


[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 13, 2000).]

#8 Juliet

Juliet

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 720 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:27 AM

Thank you so much!!!!

I'll be there tonight and it will be great to hear others' reports as well.....

#9 Estelle

Estelle

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,706 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:35 AM

Jeannie, thanks a lot for the explanation! Posted Image

From what you wrote, it seems to have some common points with "Western symphony" (that I appreciated very much in Edinburgh): some mixture of American traditions or stereotypes and classical ballet... and it works!

#10 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,242 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 11:56 AM

I think the origins of square dancing are country dances-to-court dances-and back to country dances again. The idea of patterned dances wsa very much a part of French court ballet -- the seats were along the sides, and raked, like bleachers, so they were looking down at the dancers and jumping didn't count for much Posted Image

Estelle, a lot of the words are corruptions of French terms. I.e., "dotsey doe" is derived from dos-a-dos.

Does "allemand left, allemand right" refer to turning? Turning steps were identified with Germany for a long time (I think that's why pirouettes were considered vulgar by the French for so long), and "allemand" is close to the French word for Germany.

I think this is in Repertory in Review, but Balanchine didn't want the caller to use ballet terms -- hence "make your feet go wickety-wack" instead of "entrechat."

(I think the interpolation of the Bart Cook solo into this version is a big mistake. It sticks out like a sore thumb and breaks up the rhythm of the dance. Sorry. I couldn't resist Posted Image )

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited September 13, 2000).]

#11 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,388 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 12:09 PM

Alexandra - Perhaps the Joffrey added the 1976 solo to provide a second break to the caller (& to allow audience hearts to resume normal beating)? The two breaks seem evenly spaced. First break (the pdd) after big ensemble opening; second break (during the 1976 solo) after the "mini-group" dances & before the ensemble ending. Yeah, it did seem a bit odd, but it didn't bother me.

I'm trying hard to remember what we did when "allemanding." It begins with a hand extension; hence, "allemand with the ol' left hand" (or "ol' right hand"). I believe that the boy & girl face each other, extend & join whichever hand is called, and walk around in a circle...clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which hand is joined. OK--I remember: "Allemand left with the ol' left hand, then swing your partner." So the allemand is most likely the extension of hands prior to swinging round in a circle. [Yeah, we even did it in Puerto Rico, believe it or not, between flamenco & Filipino 'stick dancing.'] - Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 13, 2000).]

#12 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,242 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 01:34 PM

The solo works beautifully in the 1976 version, but sticking an introspective, solitary solo in the middle of such a public, social ballet just doesn't work. I would imagine that's part of the reason why Balanchine dropped the caller in 1976. (I'll bet the original caller didn't need another break Posted Image )

#13 Jack Reed

Jack Reed

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,501 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 02:36 PM

I guess it's inevitable that when different people go to the same performance, they respond differently...

For me, and the people around me, MCB stole the show. Although "Mozartiana" is one of my top favorite ballets (along with "Agon", not incidentally later in the Clebration schedule), I thought "Rubies" got a better performance overall than "Mozartiana" did, with a vitality that seemed to come naturally, although I can certainly understand Jeannie's reservations about some of the principals, having first come to this ballet by seeing its original cast several times. I do think "Mozartiana", which I have seen many times, beginning with its second performance ever, is harder to do at best effect, and that the Bolshoi contingent was very creditable.

But while Sarah Kaufman says in today's Washington Post that the Joffery's [oddly hybrid] "Square Dance" was the high point for her, for one who finds Balanchine's power in the relation of bodily expression to musical expression, the caller's distractions made it the low point. The two movements without the caller were much more enjoyable for me. And for many of my neighbors in the audience. But I was glad to learn how much the person on the taxi line got out of it! As I said at the start...

And I had some reservations about Lopez and Gamero, too. They're strong, secure dancers, but they tend to emphasise pose more than follow-through, and so I was pleasantly surprised by Lopez in the adagio for having more flow than I had expected. But overall I had a better time with the "Square Dance" at SAB this June.

Encountering Edward Villella in the foyer after the program,I offered him the opinion of many of us in my part of the audience, and he said something to the effect that "Dancing isn't all with the feet,some of it is in here" (touching his temple) "and our dancers submit to that".


I had never before experienced more than one company on one program, and considering the expense, especially of touring, I thought that less dancing from each meant that money was being wasted, and part of the reason PNB dropped out was that they didn't want the expense if they were only going to do a few ballets, but a free-lance dance writer I talked with reassured me that companies brought fewer dancers for less work so that the cost was in proportion. Does anybody have anything to add to this aspect side of the discussion?


Meanwhile, I thank Jeannie for her thoroughness and look forward to more comments on the Celebration.



[This message has been edited by Jack Reed (edited September 13, 2000).]

#14 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 05:36 PM

I get doing the 1957 version or the 1976 version, but who decided to set a combined version?

I know the company had Square Dance in the 60's set by Una Kai, but I assume this version was reset by someone from the Balanchine Trust.

------------------
Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com
[url="http://"http://members.aol.com/lwitchel"]Personal Page and Dance Writing[/url]
[url="http://"http://members.aol.com/dnceasever"]Dance as Ever[/url]

#15 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,388 posts

Posted 13 September 2000 - 07:26 PM

Indeed, Leigh. I don't have my program handy but I believe that I saw Victoria Simon's name as stager for this piece. I'll correct this, if need be, when I get home. [Missing the show so I hope that somebody out there will tell us what words rhyme with "Letitia" and "Calvin"!]


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):