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Balanchine Celeb #1 (Joffrey is THE HIT!)


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 08:13 PM

Victoria Simon was the stager for this "Square Dance". And Alexandra, the allemand was a turning figure "about as close as you're going to get to your partner in 18th century dancing". It is done in opposition with the partners facing one another, then simultaneously, both place one arm to the side and the other behind the back, then take hands and walk a turn about a point. You do the figure hip-to-hip, facing opposite directions. Or hip-to-pannier, depending on how your partner is dressed underneath.

English Country Dancing did indeed undergo a sea change when it crossed over to France, and became confounded with the "contra-danse" an existing form there. Newly made elegant, it crossed the channel again, and the dance of the seventeenth-century working classes became the dance of the eighteenth-century aristocrat.

A trivia question for 18th-century dance fans: What did George Washington have in common with today's dancers?

ANS: When the dancing got tough, Big George walked the figures and marked the harder steps with his hands.

#17 Lilly

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 09:24 PM

I heard that "allemand right/left" is a corruption of "a la main droite/gauche" or whatever the correct French is (it's been a long time since high school!). They also yell out "promenade", which I think is derived from French too. A lot of fun!

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:05 PM

Whether the caller cried "uncle" when confronted with advanced rhyme choices, or for another reason, the cast scheduled to dance in "Square Dance" tonight did NOT dance; first cast repeated.

I hope someone else went tonight who can provide a full report.

A NOTE TO THE KENNEDY CENTER STAGEHANDS if anyone is reading this. Yes, when you move boxes around, or play catch with the props, or whatever you were doing last night during "Square Dance," the audience CAN HEAR YOU!!!!!!

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 01:39 AM

I wonder if there's a story behind the staging. If I had to venture I guess, it would be that the Joffrey wanted the version closest to the one they did originally (the '57 version which was in their rep in the early 60's). The Balanchine trust stagers tend to set the final version of the ballets. I wonder if Simon just set the '76 version and then the company did it with a caller?

Here's one question - in the coda to the pas, when the man does a series of repeated fast "corkscrew" promenades with the woman, does she open into arabesque, or stay in sous-sus fifth? Opening into arabesque would indicate the earlier version, if I recall correctly.

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#20 Alexandra

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 09:54 AM

Leigh, the program notes give the history of the ballet and say that the Joffrey includes the man's solo from the 1976 version. (Meaning, I suppose, that it's the old version plus the solo.)

#21 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 10:02 AM

Even considering the program notes, I'd be willing to wager a dollar that Simon set the 1976 version and they added a caller to it, and that earlier source tapes etc. might not have been consulted.

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#22 Alexandra

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 10:18 AM

Well, we can bet all we want, but Glebb will know Posted Image

I only saw the old Square Dance once, with Dance Theatre of Harlem here about 10 years ago, so I couldn't tell you. My memory of Square Dance II, though (which I saw on the Ken Cen stage several times when NYCB used to come here regularly), was that it was very opened up -- the space was different; not so, well, tight and square. (The band doesn't take up that much space.)

#23 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 02:53 PM

Jeannie, I thought the flag at the end of "Square Dance" was a projection, too, and I thought, why? Is it a little cheaper? That was opening night, when I was in a box, but last night I was near the middle of row Z in the orchestra seats, from where it was pretty obvious it was a cloth backdrop, and the blue star field that comes down from the flies on the left had a hem in the lower edge with a bar or something in it to hold it straight and flat, so it was not the computer-generated video I thought I was looking at on Tuesday.

(For those not familiar with this ballet, about a minute before the end, with everybody on stage, the orchestra takes up Sousa's "Stars and Stripes" march theme again, and a backdrop the entire width of the stage, showing the red and white stripes of the American flag, starts to ascend from the stage; as the stripes reach the top of the back, a blue field with a small number of big star-shaped cut-outs descends on the left until the top of it is just even with the top of the back. In my years watching Mr. B's company in the NY State Theatre, we usually could see the stripes moving up through the cut-outs. So, it's not a "real" flag, but a representation.

I liked your observations about costume differences with the authentic version you know from video, but did you have any ideas about the back of Filin's vest? It's a dull green, versus the lavender Ib Andersen wore. I don't know about costume epochs, but that lavender always has had the effect of "unblank" versus the usually blank effect of a dancer's back compared to their front, and I miss its compensation.

I must say that more than the flag backdrop looked different to me Wednesday: The whole program seemed better, better directed toward me. Maybe it was being more central rather than not having the altitude. I was more one with what was going on on stage, even in "Square Dance", where I strained hard to hear the music through the calls.

There was the announced cast change in "Stars and Stripes", and although Mary Carmen Catoya looked less secure than LOpez had, she did more choreography I believe, and that made a better time of it! And her partner Luis Serrano was fine (Arnold Quintane having taken over his role in Third Campaign).

In defense of Quillere in Rubies, I think anyone trying to fill Villella's slippers has a thankless task on his hands -or feet- although, as I said elsewhere in connection with the SAB workshop, I think, I did once see a remarkable surprise in this role.

And while I will certainly try to see the Kirov do Rubies if I get a chance, I don't think unison corps dancing is where Balanchine is at, sorry. (More on this on one of the ballet book threads where I write about Suki Schorrer's new book on Balanchine Technique,for sale or browsing in the Kennedy Center foyer, incidentally.)

Thanks again for your post, Jeannie. It's the kind of thought-stimulating writingIlook for, even if I don't agree exactly with everything.

(Want to discuss ballet in person while I'm in Washington? Anyone else? My e-mail is jckdrd@netscape.net)

#24 Juliet

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 03:02 PM

Quick notes,probably very few on "steps"....

Square Dance: I thought the caller was annoying. Broke visual and aural concentration.
Bad miking was also annoying. You would think that a major house would be able to hang a mike without all sorts of backwash....

I didn't mind the male solo as much as I minded the caller...however, I happen to really like that solo and am always happy to see it performed.

Dancing was very, very good--male soloist was not especially interesting. I thought he looked like a trim Bob's Big Boy ad (mass appeal, but essentially dull.) Others looked very, very good--I was so happy to see Joffrey back and in good form!

Mozartiana suffered from bad/sloppy translation of essentially interesting costume design, except for the lead male dancer--I was happy to see the demise of that awful magenta New Orleans bordello vest. I was also sorry to see the rendition of the gigue costume in matte black (usually the pants are in a dull satin) so the subtlety of his leg movement was completely lost against the marley from above. (Straight on, it may have been better.)

Ananiashvili was very, very interesting to watch in this--I kept wondering how the coaching sessions between her and S. Farrell went....

I am coming to believe that a mature artist is necessary for this role...she had beautifully articulated lower body movements and it made me notice several things I'd never taken especial notice of before, choreographically. (You all know that there are many things I miss--I make no apologies as I will NEVER attain the level of knowledge of choreography that many of you have!!) I was sorry that they missed the final pose in the pdd, but.....

Filin was magnificent. Clean, clean, clean. Wonderful footwork. I haven't seen this so well danced in some time.

Wish they'd brought down SAB students for the children. Or gotten young Kirov Acad. girls, who do have beautiful port de bras, even at a young age....

Rubies:
Corps work was great, and S. Isaacks was WONDERFUL in this. I have to say that I was not impressed by the lead couple--it looked like miscasting . She was not sharply faceted enough for me and he just didn't project....anything. Technically, there was nothing wrong, just no fireworks or even a hint of sexiness.....I kept wishing for Miranda Weese (Yes, Leigh, I did!!!)

Stars and Stripes showed again the very strong female corps. Nothing against the men, but this is essentially a "puffy" role, and doesn't require a lot more than twirling in unison. (Although someone does need to coach them on marching onstage...)

Costuming had some welcome twists: Liberty Belle and El Capitan finally had matching colours (teal bodice and tights, vs. teal bodice and blue tights). Now the corps women got the royal blue skirts...and I was not at all unhappy not to see all that turquoise net take a rest...)The lead couple did not have a lot of pizzazz...I think it needs a leeeetle bit of humour in there; they danced it pretty much straight, with no edge in it.

And yes, you would think, in the nation's capital, that they could have dredged up a flag that did not have the stripes running through the stars. The side curtains looked like something from Camelot.....

I know, my idiosyncratic viewing.....but I really, really enjoyed myself last night.


[This message has been edited by Juliet (edited September 14, 2000).]

#25 Natalia

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Posted 14 September 2000 - 03:06 PM

Thanks, Jack, for your observations & the great detailed report on last night, which I missed.

Back to that flag - There was some sort of projection-play there. Didn't you notice, during the bows, that a superimposed projection of star-clusters was shining on the flag? It was like a multi-layered light show. Maybe there was some white projection cloth on which the red-and-white stripes, plus the superimposed star-cluster was shown? Whatever--it looked plain phoney from the first row of 2nd Tier.

I tried to keep my eyes on the conductor's wild vest. Now THAT was a showstopper!

- Jeannie (p.s. - Saw your quick report later, Juliet. Great stuff! This is fun, isn't it? Posted Image Toodles!)


[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 15, 2000).]

#26 The Bard's Ballerina

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 07:19 AM

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).]

#27 Jack Reed

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:40 PM

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. [I learned over the weekend that Lopez was favoring an injured knee, so that we didn't see her again through Sunday. I hope she makes a quick and complete recovery.]

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).]

#28 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 04:27 PM

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".

#29 Guest_Mcke16_*

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 07:59 PM

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 Posted Image

#30 kfw

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Posted 18 September 2000 - 09:13 AM

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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