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Farrell Fan

BalletTech brochure

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I received a brochure for the BalletTech season at the Joyce Theater (April 2 to May 3) illustrated with photos of phosphorescent dancers who seem to have emerged from a pool of radioactive pyrite. Extraordinary as these pictures are, they seem tame compared to the copy:

Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times called Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech a post-classical ballet company. What's that mean? It's a rethinking of ballet that's uniquely American and very New York -- fast, sassy, multi-racial, and exuberant. This season is your chance to sample Feld's long and prolific career -- from 1967 'til now. This season's repertory will include a long-awaited revival of his second ballet, At Midnight, not seen in New York in a decade, and four premieres -- the most recent of which is his 112th ballet. The new ballets are: Skandia danced to the haunting Swedish Nyckelharpa Orchestra, Behold the Man starring Nickemil Concepcion to the music of David Lang and Brian Eno, Pianola danced by four independent 21st century women to Conlon Nancarrow's revolutionary Studies for Player Piano, and Lincoln Portrait, whose cast of 57 includes Speaker SAM WATERSTON (4/2 and 4/6), CARMEN DE LAVALLADE (4/9, 4/19, 4/24, 5/3), 13 dancers and, as the American populace, 43 performers of every description. Programs include the sexy, concupiscent new Pacific Dances for eleven long-legged unleied ladies, to luscious Hawaiian slack key guitar music, the dazzling male duet Yo Johann, and revivals of Feld Classics Theatre, Ah Scarlatti, and Jukebox to rock and roll classics by the Coasters. Swans? Sylphs? Princes? Forget about it. Ballet Tech is ballet for nowadays.

Any comments? Myself, I'm speechless.

[ March 12, 2002, 05:52 PM: Message edited by: Farrell Fan ]

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what is it that porky pig said at the end of the warner bros' cartoons? well so am i. maybe the thing to do would be to tell them?

Yikes! i've used a capital letter...

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I will never understand why the same people who secretly (and some not so secretly) scorn ballet are so eager to appropriate its name.

Be sure to go, Farrell Fan, and report. Feld has made some very interesting work in the past.

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If he has the dancers to perform it, I'd like to see At Midnight again. I remember it being a lovely ballet. And Christine Sarry gave a wonderful performance. But the last time, I saw Ballet Tech I didn't see anyone capable of dancing a ballet that used classical technique as At Midnight does. Am I the only one who remembers that once upon a time Feld was considered a possible heir to Robbins?

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Well, you've got to be suspect of a company that's announcing auditins every six months. Why aren't they retaining dancers? Hmmm....

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I remember when the seasons of the Eliot Feld Ballet were eagerly awaited. At Midnight was lovely, and I remember some other works of his from that time fondly, like A Footstep of Air, or Sarry's signature work, Excursions. Those were the days. I don't think Feld's works today are entirely without merit, but God knows he's turned out enough stinkers. Organon, for NYCB, and Felix, for Ballet Tech, are both pretty unendurable.

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Sorry Manhattnik, I endure them just fine. I love Felix, it is playful, and it is fun. As far as dancers go, I think that Patricia Tuttle is a wonderful ballerina. I find her a joy to watch. That being said, I admit I don't know much about classical technique but I find her a delight with wonderful stage presence. I also love Organon. In what I think is a precursor to it, he had Woetzel weaving his way though bars in a raised plastic cube while Tuttle danced around and below it eventually being raised up on his toes under her arms.

As far as the turnover goes, I don't have any inside knowledge, but what I recall is that a few years ago he basically disbanded Felds Ballet and created Ballet Tech with only his own students, with no outsiders in the company. It appears that in the past year or so he has decided to attract other dancers as well. I don't know why, but if I see him at the theater, I will ask him about it. He is very approachable.

Also, I am not sure if this group has talked about his school. I think he is possibly doing more for dance in NY than anyone with the possible exception of SAB. He has tryouts at hundreds (really hundreds) of elementary schools in NYC during the year. I think starting in the 3rd grade or so. He is very selective (my wife is a teacher and he has recruited in her school). The kids are then bused once or twice a week to his school for training. As the kids get older the frequency increases and eventually they go to his school full time. It is a part of the NYC Board of Ed and included both academic subjects as well as dance. All this is free for the students. I believe the school is at 890 Broadway in the "ballet" building along with ABT et.al. Many of the students graduate into the company and many are given substantial exposure in his kids dance. He also uses some of the kids in his ballets as does NYCB with SAB students.

I was tempted to include him in the greatest living choreographers... but since I have seen very little of Bejart and Petite I decided not to go that way. Personally he is a favorite and we usually catch Ballet Tech 5,6 or more times a year.

A note for anyone looking for tickets on the cheap, they will often (but not always) take TDF vouchers at the Joyce. You need to check on the day of performance. We have used them many times there. At $7 a pop its much cheaper than a movie. You can also save 40% by buying 4 different companies in the Joyce membership program.

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I very much liked the work Hal refers to as perhaps a precursor to Organon. It was called Mending and had music by Michael Gordon, most of which sounded like sirens going off. Damian Woetzel, attired only in his dance belt, very slowly worked his way down the rungs inside a plastic box. It seemed he was trying to exit. But when he got to the opening at the bottom, under which Patricia Tuthill was waiting, he couldn't get out. He ultimately had to settle for lifting her up toward his vicinity with his feet. I found the piece quite moving. The person I saw it with regarded Woetzel as a Christ figure. To me he seemed more like Everyman with Superman's body. Woetzel's performance was an extraordinary example of muscular control, on a par with Edward Villella's in Watermill.

After seeing Organon, I thought back on Mending as a prime example of "less is more." In Organon, Feld had Woetzel taking his pants off while negotiating the elevated jungle gym, which made it seem more of a stunt than anything else. And I didn't think all those other elements in Organon jelled into a satisfactory whole.

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The quote in the first post from Jennifer Dunning -- Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times called Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech a post-classical ballet company. What's that mean? It's a rethinking of ballet that's uniquely American and very New York -- fast, sassy, multi-racial, and exuberant.

Is this a joke? How can anything be "post-classical?" Come on, think up your own name, like, oh, Romantic. And why can't classical ballet be fast, sassy, multi-racial and exuberant? "Post-classical" sounds like some Madison Avenue spin game name. Oh, it's that bad? Gosh. He's my pal. Better say it's good. No, better yet -- it's post-classical.

This sounds like one of those trial balloons politicians float at parties, so that a rumor will start but they don't have to commit themselves. "The rumor is that to balance the budget the Senate is considering ditching Social Security." Then they wait to see how many people howl. If no one catches it, they'll go ahead with it.

I sure hope somebody howls at this one.

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Well, it's all PR people who come up with this jargon, most of them without knowing a darn thing about the company they are making materials for, be it a dance company or a pharmaceutical company.

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To begin, I should note that the first work Feld ever staged was named "Harbinger." The man does not lack for nerve. I strongly suspect that the text quoted by Farrell Fan is Feld's own prose, pure and unedited.

Feld's current "Ballet Tech" is composed entirely of teen-aged students at his school, which is indeed recognized and partly funded by the New York City Board of Education. His effort to attract and train kids from widely divergent social and ethnic backgrounds is admirable. Whether it produces a good dance company is another matter entirely. The Feld Ballet, which he disbanded, did not include "outsiders," only experienced and gifted professional dancers, whom he chose to dismiss.

As I noted elsewhere, some of Feld's best work depends on his dancers' ability to draw on life experience -- which is unavailable to a youngster of 15. "At Midnight" is set to songs of Mahler full of late-Romantic weltschmerz, a sensation as remote from hip-hop as palm trees are from snowmen.

At the same time, some dances, created for this technically gifted if emotionally shallow group, can be sensational. As for "Organon," if I want to see a hunk in a jock strap, I'll rent a porn tape. The "dance" is not worth the time or the money it took to produce.

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Hi, Morris Neighbor :) I think your point about emotional maturity in Feld's earlier works is a good one.

I admire what he's done in education tremendously, even if I don't particularly care for his current repertory. He's had about three major changes in direction, though, so there may well be a fourth -- back to weltschmerz, perhaps :)

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Thank you, Alexandra, for reminding me of Feld's protean past. Given his remarkable talents, he may well make another provocative turn at any time.

Re-reading the string, I suddenly remembered why Feld was once compared to Robbins: "Intermezzo," a "piano ballet" (to Brahms) clearly inspired by "Dances at a Gathering" and "In the Night" (and, of course, "Liebeslieder Waelzer.") I've always liked the piece, which I saw several times over the years, for its effortlessly witty charm, a choreographic Viennese pastry.

Then I encountered Peter Anastos' "Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet," one of the funniest dance parodies ever. So now I see these pieces with a certain duality, a sensation that does not decrease my pleasure.

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