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Alexandra

Turkeys

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When I did a weekly quiz, Ballet Turkeys was the Thanksgiving offering. I thought I'd revive the thought this year.

What ballets have you seen that would qualify as gen-u-ine ballet turkeys? No pardons possible, gobble gobble?

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ABT's Nuts and Martin's Swan Lake frown.gif There are, unfortunately lots of others whose titles I don't even remember because the ballets were not worth remembering, but these two are the biggest disasters I have ever seen.

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i would nominate kent stowell's carmina burana. now there is a work that stuffs itself full of grandur and self-importance, but it comes out leaving a bad taste in your mouth...not to mention heartburn.

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Just a question from a non-native speaker: does it just mean an especially bad ballet, or does it have to have other characteristics?

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how could i forget! the biggest turkey i ever saw. no disrespect to ruth page, but it came from her (she did quite a respectable nutcracker and a lot of others that were okay too).

but*****

her 'alice in wonderland' takes the cake.

let's see what do i remember:

in the first act it was basically the right story except:

alice looks at the looking glass and says (there were actors in the pit) "i look so funny! i look so fat! i'm not fat!" and goes to another mirror and says "i like this one much better, i look soooo slender!".

alice goes to the garden. the flowers dance to the 'voices of spring' waltz. at the salient points in the waltz, operatic singers in the pit chime in.

after the flowers have danced alice says "oh how pretty you all are and how sweet you smell! i wish flowers could talk!" whereupon the flowers get up and chase alice away, all the while twittering "we CAN talk!"

the flowers are all sorts but the lead dancer is (appropriately costumed) the 'pink petunia'.

the red queen and white queen do 'battle' to the strains of the jazzed-up version of beethoven's 5th symphony. (this is not in order)

the duchess with the cook that puts pepper over everything has a cook who wears pointe shoes (and is a man). they dance to the strains of a scott joplin rag.

tweedledum and tweedledee dance to the song 'pretty baby' and do a soft-shoe.

somewhere in the scene with the lobster quadrille and a bunch of other things there is the music (i don't recall its real name) of the theme song from 'the lone ranger'.

then in the second act! (i'm not recalling everything you understand)

alice goes into outer space and meets the signs of the zodiac, has a romantic pas de deux with an astronaut to the strains of the 'melody in f' !

how many composers is that so far? and that's all i can remember (this was 25 years ago).

******

how's that?

[ November 22, 2001: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

[ November 22, 2001: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

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Estelle, in American show business slang, a "turkey" is a bad show, and preferably one that's big, overblown, and pretentious. Isn't there a farce entitled Georges Dindon? I think the French equivalent of the word in slang is "four".

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"The Merry Widow" (Ruth Page version).......(I'll award it 8 "turkeys" out of a possible 10) rolleyes.gif

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Amen to Martins' Swan Lake, whose costumes and scenery are turkey enough without even taking the choreography into consideration. eek.gif

Helgi Tomasson's choreography for SFB's Romeo and Juliet is another turkey worth mentioning.

Can't leave out Mayerling, which includes everything, it seems, except dancing.

[ November 23, 2001: Message edited by: BalletNut ]

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1971 ballet by balanchine named after a commercial jingle ("Pan Am Makes The Going Great").

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Turkeys? There are so many to choose from.

Eliot Feld's Organon at NYC is certainly monumental enough to qualify, and heads my list right now. But his Felix, a nightmare to Mendelsohn, really defies description. What can you say about a ballet in which a major part of the choreography is enacted by an enormous octopus' tentacle?

I would frankly put both the recent Swan Lakes, both Martins' and McKenzie's, on the turkey list. I can even picture the Swamp-Thing Von Rothbart from McKenzie's SL holding an "Odette-turned-into-a-turkey" instead of the usual goose, in honor of the season.What, that's supposed to be a swan he's holding?

Oh, yeah, and McK's Nutcracker. What was he thinking?

I'm sorry I missed Pied Piper, although not very sorry.

If I had to only pick one MacMillan work, it would be hard to top his Isadora! Don't think we'll see that one revived anytime soon.

Balanchine stinkers? Well, PAMTGG. I'd like to see it revived just for the sheer perversity of it all. And I don't think we'll see Gaspard de la Nuit again, either. I don't know if either really qualifies as a turkey, as neither was a monumental effort.

David Bintley's Edward II will have a special place of honor in the list of turkeys for its many innovations, particularly the subtle use of urination, the novel pas de trois for a man, a woman, and a severed head, and its presentation of an unusual, although highly effective, cure for constipation.

Bejart? Like shooting fish in a barrel. Although this wasn't a big-budget turkey, I would elevate his own Isadora to the turkey list simply because of its sheer waste of a great resource. I'm not sure whether you'd consider his use of Maya Plisetskaya as Isadora to be either horrible casting or wretched misuse of emploi (or both), but you do have to admire his chutzpah for having the famous, unfettered, barefoot modern dancer portrayed by a ballerina who never removes her ballet slippers. I'd have given him extra points had he had the nerve to put her in pointe shoes!

Eifman? Well, I know some people are fond of him. I will just say that his Tchaikovsky and Red Giselle are both very special.

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Dang, Autumn, you beat me to it. That one gets my vote, although if I get to vote more than once, I'll also vote for Victoria's choices -- both "Swan Lake" and "Nutcracker" were unfortunate for ABT, which generally has solid productions of "the classics."

I remember MacMillan's "Isadora" which died a sudden and quiet death with some fondness and wouldn't mind seeing it again. It was considered a turkey in its time, but you never know.....

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All this talk about PAMTGG has got me started thinking about Balanchine's "Electronics" (with Verdy & Villela - I think....)

I've never seen Electronics (WHO has??), but always got the impression from eveything I've read about it, that the costumes alone almost certainly quailfy it as a "Turkey".

Has anyone here EVER seen it........and is is a turkey??? eek.gif

[ November 23, 2001: Message edited by: Yvonne ]

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It's going back a long way, but once seen, never forgotten....Helpmann's Elektra.

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I saw "Electronics" when I was a little kid, before I started dancing. All I remember is really hating the electronic music. Even before that, I saw "Opus 34", Balanchine's sort of 50s Horror Movie ballet. It scared the bejeezus out of me. One turkey for "Opus 34"!

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Organon, the Duate (sp?)piece to Bach that I saw this summer at NYST, and McKenzie's Nutcracker.

I rather liked Mayerling and Isadora, for me McMillan's turkey is Manon, especially as danced by Guillem (this girl was never a virgin).

I would also add most or all ballets by Richard Tanner. Gobble, Gobble.

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A belated answer to Estelle's question (and perhaps a ;reminder for the rest of us): a turkey means a big, expensive, usually over-hyped and unexpected, flop. Not just something I don't like, or that critics panned, but something that books a house for a month and sells 10 tickets, it's that bad.

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leave it to the ever-innocent and INTELLIGENT estelle to put a sane and sober question into a mix.

i don't know what the dictionary of slang (or at least of theater slang) says about 'turkey' officially. but if it's a box-office flop then almost to a one no 'swanlake' can be so classed, as in g.balanchine's wise words: "all ballets should be called 'swanlake' because 'people would come'."

so it probably is a personal definition being used here.

i think, for ex. that PAMTGG is a convenient thing to poke fun at. to be sure, it was hardly top drawer balanchine, but it was balanchine and he was no slouch/idiot theatrically. i saw it. it was puzzling, i suppose, but it offered victor castelli, for example, a splendid turn as very young dancer (i still remember a circuit of coupe/jetes he had), it was probably more slight than awful.

i know in nyc theater lore something called 'moose murders' was said to have been so bad that its audiences were laughing uproariously, at supposedly not intentionally funny moments, so that's a way i suppose to see a turkey in legit theater.

if it's just a personal judgement, such as when an audience is having a good, or at least okay, time at a ballet and one is not necessarily having the same experience, then it's a candidate for one's own dud list, but as for this list's being the same as a roster of all-time turkeys, i guess the call is tricky.

someone mentioned 'gaspard de la nuit' which had very few perfs. and which incidentally was just named to me last week in a conversation w/ a colleague as one balanchine's lost major works, so one person's turkey is another's ....

also, some works i suppose are so surprising and 'out there' they might initially seem duds, when in fact they might just demand more careful viewing, which in cases like 'gaspard' and 'pamtagg' wasn't really possible. any number of people for example also would damn balanchine's 'don quixote' but i'm not sure 'turkey' is an apt description.

in somecases today's 'turkey' might just become tomorrow's lost masterpiece.

[ November 24, 2001: Message edited by: rg ]

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rg, I've been dying for someone who actually saw PAMTGG to post something -- THANK YOU!

Back to the turkey question, I didn't see "Pied Piper," but it meets my definition of a turkey. It was very much hyped, it was calculated to be a hit, both critics and audiences disliked it -- one might say saw it for what it was -- and I don't believe it's in repertory this season. In New York, anyway.

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How about some of Nureyevs contributions when he was in his Paris Opera days? His Nutcracker was quite "something" as I recall.

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