Balanchine Celebration Program #4
Posted 22 September 2000 - 09:40 PM
SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS (San Fco Ballet) - Quick -- Pass the No-Doz! The evening began with an fizzle in the form of this minor Balanchine work, danced by a ragged corps. I swear, my Saturday-morning aerobics class can jog in greater unison than do these gals. As with the previous program's SYMPHONY IN C, this ballet was somewhat-salvaged by the brilliance and beauty of Lucia Lacarra in the central role of the girl in 'light pink' displaying great fluidity & expressive feet. What a fascinating dancer! Among the three soloist men, the classy slinkiness of Parrish Maynard stood out.
PRODIGAL SON (San Fco Ballet) - Spectacular! Muriel Maffre was a Vamp with a capital "V" and Gennadi Nedviguine brought compelling acting to the title role. They were electric in the Seduction pas de deux. High-flying Michael Easton was most impressive as one of two demi-solo 'friends' at the banquet.
WESTERN SYMPHONY (Pa Ballet) - Hard to believe that this two-week homage to the great Balanchine ends on this amateurish ballet. [Could it be that I really adored this ballet years ago? Hard to believe.] The soloists--especially in the first movement--were embarrasingly weak. Nonetheless, the corps gave it its all in the rousing finale...waking me up for the final applause.
Good night, ladies (and gents). Z-Z-Z-Z-Z....
Posted 22 September 2000 - 10:15 PM
I've always liked "Symphony in 3 Movements" (Stravinsky) and I thought it looked terrific, with all the snap and verve and LIFE that "Symphony in C" had lacked. Balanchine always discouraged drill team unison, especially in works like this. I agree that Lacarra was the standout, but the whole company looked good. This is one of the ballets that Balanchine crafted from pop materials, one reads--hence the girls' pony tails, the waves, and the way the dancers hop around at times; they're post-War teenagers.
I thought "Prodigal Son" was a misfire. It needs stars, and Nedviguine and Mafre were a bit palid, although Mafre had some interesting moments. There were parts where my Danish friends would say "it looks as though the dancers didn't have the right information" (meaning things hadn't been explained properly). Mafre seemed so unsure with the cape, and some of the props, that it may be new to them--SFB did this ballet in the early 1980s, but haven't done it recently. But I have so many strong memories of ABT, NYCB and DTH in this ballet that SFB's was a disappointment--as much as "Bugaku" and "Symphony in 3 Movements" were wonderful surprises.
"Western Symphony" has never been one of my favorites, but I liked Pennsylvania Ballet's take on it. The opening was flat, partly, I think, because there was only a pause between "Prodigal" and "Western." The audience needs a break, too. Intermissions aren't just for the convenience of the stage hands, and the moods of these two ballets are so different that I think an intermission would have helped. But the second movement (Valerie Amiss and David Krensing), where Balanchine has fun with many Romantic ballet conventions -- the mooning partner who has to be coaxed into a pas de deux, who constantly loses his partner, and who is, ultimately, easily consolable when she leaves, was in just the right key. The great thing about Pennsylvania Ballet's performance is that the dancers look as though they like it; they don't condescend to it. Jeffrey Gribler has been on stage as long as I've been watching ballet, I think--this is his last season--so his jump isn't what it once was, but he was the one who convinced the audience it was OK to laugh. Gribler was paired in the fourth movement with a very elegant Arantxa Ochoa (hope these spellings are right; I'm squinting at my program in a dim light ). The finale -- one of Balanchine's most dazzling, especially here, with four squadrons of dancers in different colors--was crisp, deft, and plain good fun.
Posted 23 September 2000 - 07:52 AM
Well, I thought that, this morning, after a good night's sleep, my feelings for last night's program--and for the entire season--would change. No -- I feel stronger that I was, in essence, gipped of my $31 (2nd tier sides - cheapest seat). A great PRODIGAL alone does not constitute a MAJESTIC evening of supposedly first-class ballet at the opera house in the capital city of the (supposedly) most powerful country on earth. Plain & simple.
If opera-lovers can demand spectacular sets & costumes and a general feeling of REGAL MAJESTY when they plop money to see an opera, then why can't the ballet produce the same effect? Ballet, to me, is La Scala's EXCELSIOR, NYCB's COPPELIA, ABT's MERRY WIDOW, Eifman's RED GISELLE, Kirov's SLEEPING BEAUTY-1890, POB's RAYMONDA...and the opening program of this Balanchine Celebration...the only one worth the price of my ticket, IMO. There alone, I felt like a Tsarina seeing a majestic production before me. Not what I saw last night. I realize that some folks prefer the simpler stuff...I simply want to chime in for that segment of the audience that prefers spectacles & luxury. [And I was not alone - after the first ballet last night, the ENTIRE 2nd-tier, left side front row had left. LOTS of empty seats at the Kennedy Center last night.]
Have a great week-end, nonetheless. I will--watching my EXCELSIORS & RAYMONDAS on video. - Jeannie
Posted 23 September 2000 - 12:26 PM
First, a digression. I think there were empty seats after Sym.C., because there's a segment of audience that thinks it's "above" seeing Pennsylvania B, and that others have seen about as much of Prodigal Son as they think they need. I can always entertain myself with a ballet I've seen before by looking at how it's danced, by getting to know new performers or enjoying favorites I've seen before such as Lucia and Muriel. Now, I was disappointed in Maffre's siren because I've seen her bring more personal power to work and because she seemed very uncomfortable with her scarf. Kiddo was not knocked out by the program either but it was most instructive for analyzing. Of course, if we want to see precision corps, we can buy tix to the Rockettes. Winding up the Balanchine feast with Western Sym. was a bit like concluding a gourmet meal with cupcakes but, heck, a few cupcakes -- with toped with colored sprinkles like these saloon gals -- never killed anyone in this sorbet world.
Posted 23 September 2000 - 06:54 PM
I feel stronger that I was, in essence, gipped of my $31 (2nd tier sides - cheapest seat). ...
If opera-lovers can demand spectacular sets & costumes and a general feeling of REGAL MAJESTY when they plop money to see an opera, then why can't the ballet produce the same effect?
...I realize that some folks prefer the simpler stuff...I simply want to chime in for that segment of the audience that prefers spectacles & luxury.
Jeannie, I wonder why every ballet should have to produce that feeling when it can produce many others instead. And when you posit a choice between spectacles and luxury or “simpler stuff,” I hope and assume you mean simple costumes and sets. In response to that I’m reminded of Balanchine’s paring away and finally dropping altogether Kurt Seligman’s costumes for the Four T’s – surely we can see that wonderful choreography better now, and surely choreography is the basis of ballet, not sets and costumes. And I don’t know what a magnificient set would do for either that work or Agon or Symphony in 3 Movements. The simple blue is appropriate for the black and white ballets, and I personally find the whole effect ‘simply’ gorgeous.
In an ideal world we would have seen a somewhat different selection of ballets, yes. But the Kennedy Center didn’t advertise “first-class ballet,” they advertised “six companies that represent the Balanchine legacy.” They gave us just that, and they gave us exactly the works they’d said they would. There isn’t any shortage of spectacles and luxury in the arts. Far from gipping anyone, the Reinharts gave us something much harder to find down D.C. way, and they gave it to us in a format that made it all the more special.
Posted 24 September 2000 - 11:45 AM
The Kennedy Center statistics are that the first week sold at 95% (which is essentially sold out, as there are always seats held back for press and other invited guests). They don't have the numbers in yet for the second week. They think it will be less--somewhere in the 80s--but won't know until Monday. I'll call and report, since this seems to be a matter of some controversy.
I had some comments on the Saturday matinee, too, but will make that a separate post.
I hope everyone who has comments on the season as a whole will chime in on Michael's overview thread, posted a couple of days ago.
[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited September 25, 2000).]
Posted 24 September 2000 - 12:09 PM
I like Tan very much, but didn't think she'd be an ideal Siren; she's not physically majestic, like Govrin (who coached this production) or Farrell or Von Aroldingen, three great Sirens, and she's not, well, very sexy. But she did a beautiful job with the role, I thought. She was imperial, and, seductive through her power.
Garcia, who looks very young, did this role at least as well as I've ever seen it. He's short and muscular, full of energy and fiery--a born Prodigal. He's one of those rare dancers who seems to live the role on stage, and the impetus for everything he did was simply that he was a creature of impulse, totally lacking in judgment. He has an explosive jump. The big technical weakness is his turns (he's a tilt-a-whirl) but the extremely difficult ending, the crawl home, was beautifully done. He looked like a modern dancer--appropriate here, as there's a lot of 1920s German expressionism and modern dance in this ballet. He began by lying in a twisted knot on the stage, and his awakening--the struggle to regain consciousness and merely walk, after such debauchery, his realization that he had not only been robbed and betrayed, but he had been wrong was done completely through the body's movements, not by surface acting. As he began his crawl, it was clear that every movement required enormous effort (on the part of the Prodigal, not the dancer), yet when he first saw his father's gate, he crawled toward is almost greedily before falling unconscious again from the effort. Ashley Wheater as the father was also very fine, as were the two Servants (Kester Cotton and Ikolo Griffin).
"Sympony in Three Movements" (staged by Richard Tanner, who's never on the short list of Great Balanchine stagers) was again brilliantly danced--Lucia Lacarra, Lorena Feijoo, Vanessa Zakhorian, Yuri Possokhov, Parrish Maynard, and Someone Else (the program,, listing all possible cast members, is impossible to decipher). Of all the ballets presented, this is the one that, to me, looked the freshest, as though it had just been created. It pulsed with life (and received sustained applause).
Pennsylvania Ballet was, again, very appealing in "Western Sympony," although they threw away a lot of the jokes. They also weren't quite up to the dancing; it wasn't crisp enough, and looked like a technical stretch for them. One of the problems with ballet today is that the companies only have a chance to dance a ballet five or six times a season, and then must rest it for at least three seasons; they never get to really master the ballets.
Posted 24 September 2000 - 09:04 PM
Posted 24 September 2000 - 10:36 PM
Posted 25 September 2000 - 12:44 AM
Posted 25 September 2000 - 06:15 AM
I did think this was, overall, the weakest program of the four.
SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS -- I thought the corps looked much better than they had in Symphony in C, as did Julie Diana. Still, I didn't think she really grasped the wit in the PDD with Pierr-Francois Vilanoba (whom I thought very, very good); she was just doing movements without thinking about what they meant. Among the other Sunday principals, I liked Julia Adam's flair for movement the best. One quibble -- some of the dancers had seamed tights, while others didn't; this seems like a minor point, but it does distract from uniformity where I think uniformity is required.
PRODIGAL SON -- Definitely the high point of the program. I thought Yuan Yuan Tan was magnetic and handled that obstacle course of cape choreography very well. Gonzalo Garcia was fabulous as the son, with his rebellious teen rock star looks and an utterly believable expression of naive fascination at the attentions of the wily Siren.
WESTERN SYMPHONY -- I'm not sure WHY this ballet was chosen to end two wonderful weeks of Balanchine. For the first five minutes, all I could think about was how much I hate cowboy boots, hats, and western attire in general (this, despite having lived 4 years in Oklahoma). After that, however, I picked up on the fact that Balanchine was poking fun at all that's deemed holy in classical ballet, from the costumes to the emotions to the standard steps in the grand PDD, and then I started to relax and enjoy the piece, but still. . . .
On the whole, I would have to say that last weekend's program (Div. #15, Agon, Tarantella, and 4Ts) was my favorite, although one of the women in my ballet class complained about having to see both Agon and 4Ts in the same night -- a dream come true for me!
Posted 19 October 2000 - 03:50 PM
Posted 19 October 2000 - 04:24 PM
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