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Balanchine Celebration Program #3


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 01:31 PM

What? No reports?

I'll just say briefly that I thought San Francisco Ballet's "Bugaku" was extraordinarily good. I missed Kent (who coached this version, according to the progrram) and first saw the ballet with Heatehr Watts, in an advanced stage of pretzelitis. By that time, the ballet had become lewd (and has gotten worse. DTH's version, the last I've seen, a few seasons back, was hideously vulgar.)

SFB danced it was, one reads, it was meant to be danced. This isn't Western Romantic love, but a Japanese marriage ceremony. Cyril Pierre was the husband; a fierce warrior. Yuan Yuan Tan was the bride: Dignified, fragile without being timid. It was a very internal performance; she managed to express feelings while keeping an impassive face, leaving the impression of an independent young woman who had already completely adapted to her society's restrictions. She brought out dozens of nuances, especially in the hands, that I'd never seen before. Different casts tonight and tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if this was just a matter of having a dancer made for a role, or if the other two casts are at the same level.

While "Bugaku" (like the company's performance, with Lacarra, of Robbins' "The Cage") was as good as you could find in any company in the world, "Symphony in C" was quite a let down. I don't think this was an off-night (although, again, we shall see) but because the dancers, especially the female corps, aren't up to it. The dancing was both heavy and weak, and, despite some good performances from some of the leads (none remotely outstanding), the corps just plain underdanced it (I thought the male demisoloists were fine). The company seemed more uniform in body and style several years ago, when it first did "The Sleeping Beauty" and when SFB brought the Bizet here a few years ago, I had admired it very much, thinking they were just about to break out of the regional level.

Pennsylvania Ballet, long a Balanchine company (and still one, despite several changes in direction) opened the program with a perfectly respectable "Serenade." Lovely in parts, but a bit on the light side.

I wonder if last week was the off-subscription week? I forgot to check. While last week one got the sense of many people being new to the ballets, last night's audience seemed to know exactly what it was getting. They greeted the Pennsylvania Ballet warmly, gave "Bugaku" about five curtain calls, and did not seem to be caught up in "Symphony in C."

#2 The Bard's Ballerina

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 01:54 PM

Just a comment on your "off-subscription week" musing. No, both weeks are part of the subscription. Then nothing until April. (ABT's Nutcracker and Alvin Ailey are optional selections for subscribers.)

#3 samba38

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 03:06 PM

In your notes on the various first program, Alexandra, i think you said the real star is Balanchine. you are still right. The 3rd program didn't have the snap/crackle/pop of the first week, yet there was much to relish in looking at structure, costume and, with the dancing, at nuances his work allows/encourages. I've never seen such exquisite hands as Yuan Yuan Tan's

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 03:22 PM

I agree, Samba. This has also been a lesson, for me, in programming. Last week's programs, on paper, didn't work at all. Program #1 (Mozartiana, Rubies, Square Dance with caller, and Stars and Stripes) was like a menu of caviar, cheetos, hot dogs and cotton candy. But on stage, it worked. Program #2 (Divertimento No. 15, Agon, Tarantella, Four Temperaments) was unbalanced (I don't think Agon and Four Ts should be on the same program unless you're doing a Black and White program). It didn't quite work as well, as #1, but it was more theatrically valid, I thought, than it had seemed.

#3 is a great program. Serenade, Bugaku, Symphony in C. And maybe if Symphony in C had gotten a sizzling performance, it would have worked. But....

It's also interesting, looking back, that Miami City Ballet could get by with non-Balanchine bodies (lots of shorties) and no stars. (When I said their performance of Four Ts was the best I'd ever seen, I've seen a lot of soloists who were better than these soloists; I meant the ballet as a whole.) They have the fabled old "no stars, the ballets are the star" look down pat.

In contrast, SFB has some very interesting individual dancers, but the overall impression was not, for me, as strong.

I also wanted to say -- and this will probably jinx it -- but I'm very happy that we got through one whole entire week without dragging out the NYCB/Martins-as-Balanchine conservator controversy but focused on the companies before us.

Side note: Bruce Sansom was in the audience. He must have already started his SFB stint. And if anyone came early and thought that all the TV crews and cops and cordoned off roadways had anything to do with Balanchine, it didn't. There was a Kennedy Bash in the Eisenhower Theater at the same time. I don't have the details. A friend told me that it had something to do with Caroline Kennedy's new book on human rights?

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 03:32 PM

"Light" was the right word for this "Serenade", or at least the last two movements, all I saw of it. Easy tempos, little agitation in the fourth movement.

As for Bugaku, not one of my favorites, it was pretty good, not too vulgar, Tan's filling out of her role some compensation for Pierre's not bringing the power and force some used to give this role up to the level of menace we sometimes got. But it strikes me as a little preposterous overall, and makes me feel again there are a few too many "novelty" ballets available for this type of celebration and too few leotard and tee-shirt ones.

And, yes, "Symphony in C" didn't really get up there and fly.

Program 2, especially "Divertimento No. 15", remains my favorite so far.

[This message has been edited by Jack Reed (edited September 20, 2000).]

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 10:05 PM

Just got in from Wednesday night. Both "Serenade" and "Symphony in C" look more relaxed tonight, I thought. In addition to being light, "Serenade" lacks mystery, or any sense that there's a secret story there.

In "Symphony in C," there were some minor casting adjustments (better pairings of demi-soloists, some shifting about of the corps) that made the production look more uniform, although still somehow bare. Lacarra (again, in second movement) was lovely. She's not a killer technician, but she's still a ballerina, in my book. She's only 23, and has both authority and perfume. In addition to her incredible predatory insect in "The Cage," second movement in "Symphony in C" shows her vulnerable side. Tonight, she reminded me of Audrey Hepburn -- dewy and coltish.

Muriel Mafre danced the woman's role in "Bugaku" very well. Her long, long limbs make the role more grotesque than Tan -- not good or bad, just different.

I've asked several colleagues who saw last night's "Bugaku," and who have been watching that ballet since it was created how the Tan/Pierre cast--and the ballet generally--compared to past performances (I'm always wary when I think a cast is extraordinary if I haven't seen the original) and all said some variant of "this is as good as any cast I've ever seen." Also, that many nuances, small touches, in the ballet that had dropped away had been restored, particularly in the woman's role. With all the attention given to Farrell as a Balanchine stager, it seems only fair to note that Allegra Kent is credited for "additional coaching" in this production.

#7 kfw

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 01:10 AM

Alexandra, I was suprised program #1 worked so well too. Ditto for Agon and the Four T's together. But is Rubies supposed to be the Cheetos in that analogy? Posted Image I'm not sure what I'd compare it to offhand, but it would something invigorating. A tonic.

I saw #3 tonight, and to my relatively untrained eye the overall level of technique was lower than last week, and the number of especially interesting dance personalities was considerably lower. Still I loved it all.

Serenade is a ballet that I'm never too excited about seeing one more time beforehand, and that bowls me over every time. No, it didn't have the mystery it sometimes does, but it still moved me. I'm really sorry I missed Yuan Yuan Tan in Bugaku. I could see that, as you say, the principals didn't oversell this one, but I'm wondering what those hand nuances and restored details were. It was amusing -- it's always amusing during that ballet -- to hear the murmurs from people seeing it for the first time.

In Symphony in C, the men impressed me more than the women overall, but I found Feijoo and Lacarra most interesting among the women. That ballet is always the evening's closer, of course, and it's so full of steps it's always more than I can take in! I suppose that's true for most anyone, that's one of it's glories, but I find my attention coming and going. I get satiated and have to force myself to focus instead of just letting it all wash over me. I love the way it builds and builds.

#8 Natalia

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 08:52 AM

Saw the program last night.

SERENADE (Pa. Ballet)

"Serenade" was the highlight for me, by far. The feather-light touch is just what I've always envisaged for this ballet; NYCB is too earthy; Kirov is lighter, but too tentative with the steps.

SYMPHONY IN C (San Fco Ballet)

"Symphony in C" has long been one of my favourite 'Balanchine-Abstract' ballets, along with "Ballet Imperial" and "Theme & Variation". Alas, my good vibes couldn't save the evening! With the huge exception of the ravishing Lucia Lacarra, "Symphony in C" was a let-down tonight. It came nowhere close to the magnificent performance that I saw by this same troupe at Wolf Trap two years ago. The current corps are simply too disparate in body types to make this work. And I was sitting way up in 2nd tier...its still noticeable.

[And for whomever on this Board wrote, a few days ago, "Jeannie--uniformity has nothing to do with Balanchine..." I respectfully answer: "CRAP! It does count in works where a corps de ballet is supposed to be dancing the same steps, side-by-side." That having been whispered Posted Image ...I can state with some degree of first-hand knowledge that no company can touch the Kirov with this work...and I've seen NYCB, Bolshoi, Royal Ballet & POB (the latter two via video) dance it within the past 18 months. Would love to someday see POB dance it "live" as, like the Kirov, the French dancers seem to have a crisp uniformity...not to mention a certain 'majestic-regal hauteur' that, IMO, should come through in the faces of the corps when performing these sorts of Balanchine ballets that pay homage to the Mariinsky.]

BUGAKU (San Fco Ballet)

As for "Bugaku," I couldn't stand it before...can't stand it now. 'Grotesque' is the only word that comes to mind. I'm sorry that I missed Tan in the role of the Bride because Maffre was as vulgar-looking in the role as was Heather Watts or whoever I saw years ago with Dance Theater of Harlem.

IN SUM

Program #1 remains the undisputed winner among programs in this Balanchine Celebration...by far. I'll be seeing Program #4 tomorrow (opening night) with great hope for a repetition of the sparkle from Program #1. - Jeannie

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 21, 2000).]

#9 Estelle

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 09:46 AM

Jeannie, may I ask which was the POB video of "Palais de Cristal" you saw? I didn't even know that such a video existed... Who were dancing the main roles?

I saw the SFB in "Bugaku" in Paris, with Muriel Maffre in the main role. I have a good memory of it, but not very precise, as it was in 1994 and I was almost a newcomer then.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 09:46 AM

Jeannie, is there *anything* the Kirov doesn't do better than everybody else Posted Image

There's always been a weight to "Serenade" at NYCB, and some of Balanchine's earthiest dancers have been cast in it (Von Aroldingen did the Girl Who Falls Down for years).

I don't mean that it's "wrong" to want it to be light (or faster, slower, etc.), but just didn't want anyone to get the impression that NYCB is wrong for dancing it the way it has/does. Balanchine wasn't very fond of prettiness. He liked strength (if anyone has seen the photos of the first "Serenade" cast, those earnest women in shorts that Balanchine confronted in 1934 look like a shot put team).

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited September 21, 2000).]

#11 Natalia

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 09:50 AM

There's quite a bit, Alexandra. I detest--absolutely DETEST--the Kirov's APOLLO with those "prima-donna-smiley" muses. Especially the toothy-grinned Assylmuratova (in 1992) &, more recently, Svetlana Zakharova primping & smiling at the audience.

Estelle, this was a 'private video' that I saw at the house of a European acquaintance, last year. Posted Image Several etoiles & premieres danseuses from ca-1998 (I recall Arbo, Guerin & Letestu among female solistes). Mind-boggling perfection among the corps.
- Jeannie


[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 21, 2000).]

#12 Estelle

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 10:15 AM

Jeannie, I'm feeling a bit jealous. Posted Image
As far as I know, they last danced it in Paris around 1994, but they might have danced it on tour a bit later. I really regret they don't dance it more often...

#13 Natalia

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 10:20 AM

Yep...I don't know where & exactly when this version was made. A while back I also saw a version with -- hold onto your hat -- Monique Loudieres in the second movement. I believe that that one was made ca-1994, during the period to which you refer. I'm REALLY jealous of the people with that video!

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited September 21, 2000).]

#14 Estelle

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 10:44 AM

I know Monique Loudieres danced it in 1994 (I had seen another cast then, with Francoise Legree in that movement), so it probably was filmed then... Pity there are so few available videos of Loudieres (what did you think of her?)

But we're getting a bit off-topic now...

Alexandra wrote:

Lacarra (again, in second movement) was lovely. She's not a killer technician, but she's still a ballerina, in my book. She's only 23, and has both authority and perfume.


It's a pity for Marseille that she didn't stay here (Petit had hired her at the beginning of her career), but surely she has a more rewarding repertory in San Francisco (and also I suspect that Pietragalla might not like to share the stage with another ballerina...)

#15 Kevin Ng

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Posted 21 September 2000 - 11:11 AM

I agree with Jeannie's observation that the Kirov presently dances "Symphony in C" the best. They didn't do this work in London this summer, but I still remember the Kirov's performances of Bizet in London in 1997, especially with Uliana Lopatkina in the second movement. Then I saw "Symphony in C" again in early 1998 danced by NYCB in the "Balanchine Black and White Week". Somehow there was far more exhilaration and radiance in the Kirov performances. (I remember however NYCB dancing this ballet far better in the late 1980s.)


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