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2002 Dubious Achievement Awards


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#1 Manhattnik

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Posted 25 December 2002 - 10:39 AM

Yes, it's that time of year again, when we get to look back fondly on the year that's just ended, and look forward to the year that's about to begin. And take a few moments to contemplate some of the more, well, special moments of 2002. As usual, I'm stealing the name and format from Esquire Magazine's fondly remembered Dubious Achievement Awards. So, without further ado:

Dubious Achievemnt Awards, 2002.

The Vacant Chair

NYCB's Fall Gala was a tribute to Richard Rodgers on his centennial year. One would think that this would have been a great occasion to celebrate the fertile collaboration between George Balanchine and Rodgers by presenting Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the ballet from On Your Toes, which is still extant in the repertory and will, in fact, be presented in January. One would be wrong. The fact that we were presented with three premieres of dubious value simply illustrates, yet again, the value the management places on the Balanchine repertory.

Most Historically Interesting Idea for a Tribute to Richard Rodgers

In his choreography for the Richard Rodgers show Babes in Arms, Balanchine created what is considered to be the first "dream ballet." So one must admire aptness of Robert LaFosse's decision to create "The Land of Nod," an evocation of this, and the many, many, many dream ballets which followed. Which brings us to:

Worst New Flavor of the Year

LaFosse's "The Land of Nod" also evoked the sort of dream from which one awakes in a cold sweat, grateful for the light of day.

What were you thinking?

At the dinner following the fall gala, LaFosse made some injudicious comments to a New York Post reporter about the state of NYCB (which had just spent more money than one would care to imagine presenting LaFosse's ballet), and his reason for his retirement.

Blink and you missed it

In his new, and one suspects short-lived, career as a "guest artist" with NYCB, Robert LaFosse had been cast to perform Drosselmeyer during the first week of Nutcracker. Oddly, after the gala, his name disappeared from the online casting.

Richard Rodgers Ballets We'll Never See

"Sing for Your Supper" with, oh, I can't. It would be too evil. I'm trying to be good. Really I am. Anyway, email me for details. As Dorothy Parker said, "If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, sit next to me."

"If you don't have anything coherent to say, write for me!"

A tie. The New York Review of Books gave us Jennifer Homans' rather painful explication of style-as-bifucation, with the difference between Petipa and Balanchine reduced to the angle at which they choose to cut their dancers. "...In a Petipa variation, the body is divided horizontally, tutu style, between 'cut and slice' legs and lyrical arms and torso. What matters is the contrast between the two. But Balanchine created movement that made dancers split the body vertically, down the spine, the right side moving with or against the left." Ouch! Can you say "contraposto"? I thought you could.

Meanwhile, The Nation was a vehicle for Diane Rafferty's interesting observation that Twyla Tharp's "mentors" were Balanchine and Robbims. And that, with one exception, Tharp has "stuck to ballet." Can you say "Paul Taylor?" I thought you could.

Huh?

James Fayette was promoted to principal at NYCB.

Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine for 1970.

As part of his ongoing effort to turn ABT into the old Joffrey (at least at City Center), Kevin McKenzie announced his plan to appeal to younger audiences by presenting a hippie-flower-power tribute to George Harrison. Perhaps McKenzie was just being retro. Nah. He's already used the Joffrey's sets and costumes for "Offenbach in the Underworld." Will "Astarte" be far behind?

The Iron-Fist-In-a-Velvet-Glove-Covered-with-Frou-Frou-Lace-and-Holding-a-Really-Big-Mallet

Irina Dvorovenko's unforgettable recension of Violette Verdy in "Sylvia pas de Deux."

Name the Demon and You Will Summon It

To me. For idly speculating out loud, two years ago, after seeing Boris Eifman's special depiction of the life of Tchaikovsky, about the sort of ballet he would make on the life of Balanchine. This year, we learned that Eifman is going to be making a ballet for NYCB, rumored to be about, yes, Balanchine.

June is Busting Out All Over

Those who flocked to City Center this fall for Veronika Part's debut with ABT were amply rewarded for their troubles with with a generous, full-bodied performance which thrillingly stretched the choreography's envelope, without actually threatening to break through its restraints. Well, not often.

You may groan, but you're writing this down on your napkins

To our own cargill, for the most memorable bon mot of 2002, describing a certain expensive costume as "something Carmen Miranda's cat threw up on," which constant readers will recognize as a subtle hommage to Dorothy Parker's immortal review of Winnie the Pooh.

There'll Always Be an England...

but not, apparently, for Ross Stretton and Robert Tewsley, who must have broken all records for the shortest tenure at the Royal Ballet for an Artistic Director and Principal Dancer, respectively.

Don't stand next to her in a thunderstorm

Thwarting many ballet fans' eagerness for the most-anticipated debut of the season, the oft-injured Monique Meunier did not appear at ABT's City Center season, being replaced at the season's final performance moments before the curtain went up.

All in the Family

With Ask la Cour's joining NYCB's corps, we must ask, are there any relatives of Peter Martins who aren't members of NYCB?

Walking on a Wire

For their thrilling ability to look as if they're flirting with disaster at every perfomance, this award is shared between Janie Taylor and Yvonne Borree.

Wigstock, here we come!

To Steven Hanna and the other NYCB Mother Gingers for their wildly inventive interpretations of Mother Ginger, which went way beyond the call of duty. And the choreography, but who's watching?

A word about Darci Kistler:

Darci Kistler is a truly fine ballerina and I would never dream of sullying her name by mentioning it such a context as this.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 25 December 2002 - 02:23 PM

I gather Robert La Fosse is your Man of the Year, then? :)

Thanks for these, Manhattnik! Others, please feel free to make your own nominations!

#3 Dale

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Posted 25 December 2002 - 03:09 PM

Fabulous, Manhattnik. Thanks for the laughs.

#4 grace

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Posted 26 December 2002 - 01:06 AM

There'll Always Be an England...

but not, apparently, for Ross Stretton and Robert Tewsley, who must have broken all records for the shortest tenure at the Royal Ballet for an Artistic Director and Principal Dancer, respectively.

:LOL

#5 carbro

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 07:19 PM

Xiomara Reyes for insisting on double sauts de basque in Symphony in C, 3rd Mvt., despite her obvious difficulty with them and their violation of the music. Her "achievement" was doing so many without injuring her ankle.

#6 carbro

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Posted 30 December 2002 - 07:22 PM

Of larger significance, how about the Board of NYCB for allowing the continuation of an artistic team bent on removing all signs of life from the Balanchine rep?


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