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Natalia

Balanchine Celeb #1 (Joffrey is THE HIT!)

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Last night was my first introduction to any of these ballets, on video or otherwise (except for Manuel Legris in the male solo variation from Square Dance on the Balanchine Celebration Part I video), so my comments are a "newbie"'s impressions.

First, I have to say that the Joffrey looked great. I think they definitely need to come back to the Ken Cen for a full program (I did see them last time they were here, which was three(?) years ago). Nothing flashy or "virtuoso" in their dancing. They just made everything look so beautiful and easy; their musicality was noteworthy as well. And they proved that women with a variety of body types can look great performing Balanchine choreography. I was less than impressed with the caller, however. I didn't have a problem with the IDEA of the caller, but he could have been more with the music (he did get better as he went along). Also, the music could have been louder.

As for Mozartiana, I liked Ananiashvili much better in the Theme and Variations section than in the Preghiera. In the Preghiera, I kept imagining what Suzanne Farrell must have looked like, which was distracting. In the T&V section, however, Nina A. seemed much more at home, sort of a "Kitri does Balanchine" interpretation. She danced beautifully throughout, though, and the male dancers, with their rapid footwork, were impressive also.

Miami City Ballet was sort of a letdown for me. Particularly in Stars and Stripes, they didn't have the precision and crispness I was expecting. The BIG, BIG exception was Sally Ann Isaacs, who was absolutely FABULOUS in Rubies. Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, on the other hand, were almost bland as Liberty Bell and El Capitan.

All in all, it was a satisfying evening. A good variety of Balanchine choreography, and definitely performed very, very well, even though in spots I wanted even more.

[This message has been edited by The Bard's Ballerina (edited September 15, 2000).]

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Further thoughts, after the Wednesday night performance:

Square Dance: I disagree with our generally admirable and always industrious hostess that the male solo doesn't work in this production - It finally seems to me that it and the pas de deux are on a more exalted level, and form a welcome addition to the ballet in that dimension. Neither are at the margins (the very beginning or the very end) of it, but are set off by the energetic ensemble with its (sometimes) witty and certainly novel caller. (I still would like to do without this particular novelty.) Indeed, these two dances make the whole thing not only bearable but even worthwhile. And while I would like to have seen Leticia Oliveira at least once, I didn't tire of seeing Tracy Julias. She was fine, clear and flowing, without the tendency to clipped phrasing Mr. B often gets. (At the end of the pas de deux coda, she did not open out into arabesque from the "corkscrew" turns.)

Stars and Stripes: In the last half minute, I tore my gaze away from the dancers to see just what was going on with the backdrop(s), projections, and so on: The dark blue backdrop before which most of the ballet was danced goes up as the red-and-white striped one rises behind it and the blue star field with 25 star cutouts either drops down in between (i.e. in front of the stripes but behind the solid blue drop) or is already in position, as it was Wednesday night. Wednesday there was a lot of red and white material lying on the stage that never got pulled up since at Kennedy Center it stops going up when the area is filled, whereas in Mr. B's days at the NY State Theatre, it kept going. I sometimes wondered why I couldn't see any of this material during the earlier part of the ballet, and now, thanks to the challenge of your remarks and complaints, I think I know: The solid blue backdrop conceals it.

Lopez looked underpowered compared to her opening-night performance, but I take back what I said about Catoya danced more choreography - my memory isn't reliable enough, I guess; she did too what I thought Catoya added.

MCB: I wonder if the crispness and precision some of you want is the clipped quality I think is alien to Balanchine.

Cost effectiveness: Is MCB, which is covering the big-cast ballets versus about 15 dancers here from Bolshoi and 20 or so Joffrey, getting paid as much to tour up here for two balets an evening as they would if they were doing three or four? I didn't put the matter quite as sharpely to Villella when I ran into him again, but I still wonder if this type of festival is the best way to go in these constrained times. Here's a thought: Maybe this sort of thing can make up on ticket sales what it loses on cost efficiency. (All I know on sales at this point is that they had 30 unsold seats on opening night, in a house of just under 2500.)

[This message has been edited by Jack Reed (edited September 19, 2000).]

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Thoughts of a non-witness to the Bolshoi "Mozartiana" - it has always seemed to me that the childrens' work, especially with regard to port de bras in this ballet is curiously disconnected from the adults they support. I saw it before Balanchine's death and some times after, and there has always been, at least to this observer, an odd mismatch, even when the kids came from the company's own School of American Ballet. Conservators call it "inherent vice".

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I just wanted to comment on the performance..I thought it was spectacular! I saw it on Tuesday night. I especially liked Mozartina and Stars and Stripes.

~Mckenzie smile.gif

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I saw this program Thursday night. It was only my 3rd viewing of Mozartiana and the first time I’d seen Ananiashvili, and I'll cherish the memory of her performance. The corps was strong and lovely too,and it was moving to reflect on what this dance might have meant to Balanchine. I do wonder what the Gigue is doing in the ballet though. Does it make intuitive sense there to everyone else? The first time I saw the ballet was when Farrell staged it here in '95 with Susan Jaffe and Peter Boal in the leads and a Washington Ballet dancer whose name escapes me dancing the Gigue. Both ballet and performances were everything I’d expected and more. A few longtime balletomanes in the seats behind us were less than impressed by Jaffe’s performance, and I know she had an ice princess reputation for quite a while. I’m wondering if any Ballet Alert members saw this performance and what you thought. For me it was a very beautiful introduction to that ballet, and the ballet itself would be a strong contender for my desert island list, no matter how short the list.

The wit in Rubies, in both music and choreography , was the perfect chaser for the gravity and joy of Mozartiana. It’s a laugh out loud (quietly) ballet for me, right from the opening tableau, and thanks to the fine folks who took time to review it here, my expectations for the lead couple were relatively low and easily exceeded. And Isaacs ... wow! Blink once and it’s “how’d that leg get up there?!”

Except for the male solo on the NYCB Balanchine Celebration video, this was the first time I’d seen Square Dance. I’m glad this was more or less the original staging, and maybe it would have grown on me with repeated viewings, but I found the calling distracting. I probably expected too much from the caller, especially since this was probably new to the ballet. But his timing didn’t seem especially sharp or musical, and for my taste the calls tended towards the cutesy. I took square dance lessons years ago and had a lot of fun, but I like my Balanchine straight. “Election return” rhymed with “intern” does NOT improve it. On the other hand, the Joffrey was impresive, and while the male solo may not be of a piece with the rest of the ballet, it is to my taste the most beautiful piece of choreography for a man I know of.

It was sad to see Franklin Gamero and Illiana Lopez struggling a bit in Stars and Stripes, they’ve always made such a wonderful couple. The rest of the company made up for them though, especially Paige Fullerton. Saturday night in the Sanguinic section of the Four T’s, Gamero was in better form. I’d only seen the whole of Stars and Stripes once before, and was happily unprepared for the baton flying out of the wings in the First Campaign and the goofy 90 degree pivots the men make marching offstage in the 3rd. And as in Rubies, the Miami City Ballet dancers looked like they were having a whale of a time.

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Originally posted by kfw:

It was sad to see Franklin Gamero and Illiana Lopez struggling a bit in Stars and Stripes, they’ve always made such a wonderful couple.

Don't be sad about that performance...feel blessed to have witnessed one of those performances that illustrates perfectly the spirit with which people approach their art, and the "show must go on" mentality that is to be applauded and at the same time avoided for the safety of the dancers. A potentially frightening injury was incurred during the performance, and yet, the performance was completed.

Go see them again, they'll be wonderful again.

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In regard to what the Gigue is doing where it is: It makes sense to me because Tchaikovsky put it there, and while Balanchine might occasionally play with the order of a musical suite, or even a symphony, he usually left well enough alone!

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Barb, thanks for that information. And I'll go see them as long as they perform, they have a wonderful spirit smile.gif

Mel, I wouldn't seriously think to critique Pyotr Tchaikovsky or George Balanchine, no siree! But your comments are ironic because of course Balanchine did rearrange the order of movements in Mozartiana. In the suite as written, the Preghiera is 3rd. In any case, it isn't the music for the Gigue that jars me, it's the choreography. Maybe I should go back and read and think about Croce on this, she has some explanation for who that guy is and what his relation to the other principals is. But I don't! Thanks for your thoughts though.

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OK, but at least he didn't drop it the way he did with the first movement of "Scotch Symphony".

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The Bolshoi Giguer was a bit more....emphatic than the original. I don't think the different people are actually "characters" -- it's more like a poem -- but as I remember Croce's interpretation (and this probably wasn't just a stab in the dark) it was that the Man in Black was/symbolized/suggested the playful, childlike nature of Mozart (which is why he dances with the children), while the Man in White was/symbolized/suggested the celestial talent (he certainly was celestial when Andersen danced it. It was just pure lightness, speed and flow.)

I missed the lavender/purple vest (I didn't rememger it as magenta). I thought the colors -- the careful arrangement of black, white, black-over-white was intentional, and a part of the ballet, and so the purple fit in, not only as the one flash of color, but also perhaps the same significance that purple has in the liturgical character (it's one step under mourning, the color of Lent).

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It's magenta, all right, in its current incarnation. I could understand purple.

There is an excellent book, by Robert Maiorano, on Mozartiana. It is quite detailed, as it was written during the creation of the ballet. Highly recommended reading; should be readily available through your libraries (interlibrary loan, if not owned in their collections.) I don't believe it's still in print.

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Thanks to alexandra for the color-coding of "Mozartiana". That really added something for me!

Jeannie, there were some projections onto the drops in "Stars and Stripes" I omitted mention of in my haste: With the forecurtain up, there was some light with cross-hatch shadows on the right side of the red-and-white backdrop, and a few white light stars, I think, on the left; and when the forecurtain came down, we saw a few white-light stars on it for a moment. All this projected stuff is new and, to my mind, extraneous, as was starting "Rubies" in near-darkness; showing the audience the dancers in full light as the curtain went up got "oohs" in the old days, too. Anyway, the backdrops for "Stars and Stripes" are all cloth, as far as I could see, as I say above.

Changing the order, omitting, editing the music is, for me, the choreographer's prerogative: They're making a new thing out of old materials, and it must succeed or fail on the qualities of the new thing. In politics, the end may not justify the means, but in art, it's the only justification!

[This message has been edited by Jack Reed (edited September 27, 2000).]

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