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Leigh Witchel

Notes on Wednesday May 15

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I hope others who were there will also chime in!

Serenade was given a very tight performance that night, the cast was the same as opening night (Ringer, Taylor, Tracey, Lyon, Fayette) and they've all honed their performances. Taylor's wildness suits the Russian Girl part, and Tracey is learning to find the Dark in the Dark Angel (on opening night, she danced well, but was a positively sunny Dark Angel).

Vienna Waltzes had a wonderful, vivid cast, all women who can hold the stage. Meunier made a great deal out of the first waltz in gowns and heeled slippers but the gown made her look blocky (the puff sleeves need to be set lower on her shoulders and the waist of her dress needs to be lowered) Yes, it's picky, and no I don't care. You don't send someone in a principal role out on stage in a costume that doesn't flatter them.

Ansanelli and Boal did Voices of Spring. The fact that Ansanelli has to fight for turnout is possibly going to dog her entire career. It's something that's evident if you look for it, but easy to overlook in her performance. Well, she might turn out to be this generation's great turned-in ballerina; there is always one. She is quite special onstage, and pairs well with Boal (and also with Hubbe in Violin Concerto) A very fine performance from Boal as well.

Kathleen Tracey really did explode in the Explosions Polka for the first time in a long while. It's a part most people do self-consciously; she roared onstage like she was having the time of her life.

Alexopoulos played a dusky, regal widow while Askegard surprised me in the "Danilo" role - he didn't play it European at all. His swagger and cocksure attitude was pure Rhett Butler. The pairing was quite unexpected.

I've never enjoyed the Rosenkavalier section as much as I did on this viewing. Kistler performed wonderfully; you could see every thought that flickered through as she waltzed with her partner who was either imaginary or corporeal. Was Philip Neal actually there, or was she only imagining him for us? Or was she thinking of someone else entirely. Kistler's sense of fantasy makes me love her in that role. But it was not specifically Kistler's performance - for the first time at that viewing I felt like I "got" the section a bit better than I had. There's a wonderful sense of history in the return of each of the characters, we move through an entire century of social dances and couples and Balanchine sweeps and revolves his dancing space.

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I loved Vienna Waltzes that night, almost to the point of tears. It strikes me as a very subtle masterpiece, very modest in a way. It's all "Before the Flood." A glimpse at an innocent world. It would be interesting to see it performed next to La Valse or Sonnambula.

Regarding Ansanelli's lack of turn out, I always think of what a good friend and mentor once told me discussing this (I can only paraphrase) --

Viz: That there was a great (Soviet?) ballerina who had no turn out and no line and who was told: "You must never let them see you standing still!"

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Thank you for your "notes" Leigh.

On the lack of turnout, I think this is related to genre and employ again. Once, demicaractere dancers weren't expected to have turnout, line or perfect placement. Michael, I've heard the line you quoted, but heard it attributed as Vestris to his pupil Perrot. It's usually been interpreted that this was said because Perrot was ugly -- as in, not a pretty face. But I think that's an error. It's because he had no lines and (possibly) poor turnout. If you stand still a lot, people will notice that. If you're a winged zephyr or a whiplash turner, no one will care.

More NYCB reviews, please! I'm very cheered to hear all the good reports of "Vienna Waltzes." I was afraid that, like "Union Jack," might not survive its Balanchine era cast.

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I ran into liebs at NYCB, and she made the astute observation that Ansanelli does a lot of McBride's repertory, looks good in it and has a similar build (including the turnout issue) - also, Balanchine employ runs across what I think are some of the traditional lines. She's definitely doing the right repertory, she just has to compensate a little more in certain areas.

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interesting to interpret what I. Guest says A.Vestris called "the Perrot style" with reference to Jules Perrot's physique rather than his visage. All one knows from Guest, according to his own observations, is that Perrot was an "ugly boy" in comparison to the dancers he'd be up against at the Opéra - the author names Antoine Paul and (F. Decombe) Albert as models of the kind of "beauty" Perrot didn't possess. A. Bournonville, as i'm sure AT can elaborate better than i can, wrote that Perrot "belonged to the realm of gnomes" and that "Vestris capitalised his ugliness by forbidding him to take up picturesque attitudes" quoting the famed teacher on his eventually famous pupil thus: "Keep jumping from one spot to another, turn and sway, never give the public time to observe you closely." ["JULES PERROT, Master of the Romantic Ballet" Dance Horizons: New York 1984, p. 12]

(perhaps then, the unsightliness by early 19th c. terms was a combined lack of both facial and physical comliness.)

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Different interpretations of the same passages, I think :) I see the key to Vestris's sentence as the "forbidding him to take up picturesque attitudes." Perrot probably did not have a face appropriate for hero roles -- by Danish employ, a noble or classique dancer has a straight nose -- more a demicaractere one a "peasant face" with a turned up nose. But while today a gnome can dance anything, and often does, that wasn't the case then. I'd read gnome as a body reference, too, as gnomes are short, with short legs, and lumpy muscles. Bournonville choreographed several roles for them :)

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This may be better off in its own thread, (and I am certain we've touched on it before) but it's fascinating how much more clear employ in repertory seems for men, even in Balanchine. You can name the princes and the poets; but the issue is much more blurred for women. Any guesses as to why?

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A, more women than men; larger sample!

B, I think there were genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres that vanished long ago. Part of the smoothing out (in the same way there were once over 400 Types -- the Woman in the Ball Dress, the Woman in the Apron, etc. that are now just Ingenue, Juvenile Male Lead, Villain, Maid) that's been happening in ballet and, to a lesser extent (guessing here) theater.

Back to Ansanelli :) -- I thought Leigh's comment about her dancing McBride's repertory was interesting. I don't believe that McBride was noted for her turnout, either. (I honestly don't remember, as the period when I saw McBride the most was my first few years of ballet going when I wouldn't have thought to check.)

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