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A question about Jewels


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#1 Nora

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 03:31 PM

The recent performance of Miami City Ballet's Jewels sent me back to my videotapes of New York City Ballet. As I watched Elusive Muse, a documentary on Suzanne Farrell, again, I was reminded that she left NYCB in 1969 for several years. Does anyone know if Diamonds was danced by anyone else in her absence? I know that she returned sometime in the 70's, but does anyone recall seeing anyone else in that part during that time period? Just curious.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 03:55 PM

Kay Mazzo danced "Diamonds" while Farrell was away, and continued to dance it (alternating with her) after her return.

#3 Yvonne

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 05:27 PM

Was anyone on this board lucky enough to see Allegra Kent in the role? I've read that her interpretation was very "interesting" (in a positive way).

As we all know, sometimes, when people use the word "interesting", what they really mean is "awful"!! (although, it seems that they are usually talking about someone's latest outfit or hairstyle!) ;)

Sorry to be off topic, it's Monday....... :mad:

#4 dirac

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 07:15 PM

In the late Robert Garis' "Following Balanchine," he discusses Kent in the role. He liked her distinctive effect but thought that her strength and stamina were not quite up to the demands of the part.

Merrill Ashley began dancing the role not long before Farrell came back to the company and also alternated in it later, I think.

[ 06-04-2001: Message edited by: dirac ]

#5 Dale

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 11:41 PM

I believe that Diamonds was one of the roles that once Farrell returned, the other dancers were slowly taken out of it and through most of the late 70s, Farrell danced it exclusively. After that period, Ashley and others performed it as Farrell became injured.

Don Q was another role Mazzo did once Farrell left but when SF came back and the ballet was revived, Farrell danced every performance.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 11:56 PM

I saw Mazzo in Diamonds after Farrell returned. I believe she was left in it for more than a token number of performances.

#7 Dale

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 03:30 AM

How was Mazzo in the role?

Some people thought Farrell danced the role as an extension of the white act of Swan Lake but I never thought she did. To me, it was more about off balance vs. balanced, supported vs. non-supported. Plus the hunt motif and the posible connection to unicorns (Balanchine had shown SF the unicorns at the Clunny Museum and wanted to do a ballet about them for her). I found that, beautiful as their performances were that Kyra Nichols, Ashley and Kistler danced the role a little more straight forward.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 02:35 PM

Dale, I like your "balance-off-balance, supported v. nonsupported" comment, which makes it NOT look like "Swan Lake," in Farrell's performances. I only saw Mazzo in my first two or three seasons watching NYCB, so I certainly wasn't seeing all the subtleties, but I remember her as being surprisingly large. I didn't realize how short she was until the calls. She really spread out in her dancing, and so the off-balance steps were very off-balance, but I don't remember this seemed daring, but natural. My memory can't do better than that, I'm afraid. Did anyone else see her in this part?

#9 Dale

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Posted 06 June 2001 - 03:32 AM

Thanks Alexandra,

I never got to see Mazzo in that role but one of my first Nutcracker's was with her in it and I found her charming. But, hey, I was, like, three or four and I was charmed by everyone. Kirkland was my first Sugar Plum and I was hooked on ballet from then on.

I think Mazzo's big problem early on was that she was not Farrell. Taking over many of SF's roles, she was naturally compared to Farrell. But they had much different gifts. Obviously, Farrell (my personal favorite of all-time) is considered one of the greatest dancers but I think Mazzo had qualities that have been very hard to find now when casting her roles.

The casting of her role in Stravinsky Violin Concerto has been rather tricky over the last few seasons at NYCB. Borree looks like her physically, but dances very small and lacks Mazzo's projection. Guerin guested in the part, but I think she was too authoritative. Balanchine's choreography for Mazzo was very interesting. The way he had Martins put his hand over her face and eyes put her in a subserviant position that Balanchine would never do with Farrell. Yet she wasn't especially pliable, like Kent.

But back to Diamonds, it's pas de deux is such a wonderful thing for a ballerina. It still works as a "swan lake" like moment and I've seen some dancers do it as a "Grand Pas de Deux" and it still works. It has so many climaxes to it too, and is quite long. However, I've never seen any other dancer have quite the daring as Farrell -- the way she leaned and swooned in her partner's arms, it was as if she didn't care if he was there to catch her, she was going to do it anyway. Now, the dancers seem a little nervous. Although I've seen Lopez with Miami, I'd like to see some of the other ballerinas coached by Farrell in this part (Cincinnati and Canada) to see if they throw caution into the winds.

#10 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 June 2001 - 07:55 PM

I saw Victoria Hall dance "Diamonds" in Cincinnati, and she did bring a large, somewhat risk-taking approach to it, not to the extent that Farrell had, though; and when I went up to Farrell in the theatre and thanked her for staging "Jewels", she replied that she hadn't had much to do with it, so I don't know what role she played in the staging. Hall, indeed, was the only dancer on stage the whole evening who was really legible from the first row of the balcony in Procter and Gamble Hall, the rest of them tending to coalesce into a mass. Hers was also the only name in the program I recognised from Balanchine's days at NYCB, and I thought at the time that having danced for him (although never in that role) was the key. (The brilliant scarlet sheath she wore leaving the building later was worth seeing, too.)

But I came to "Jewels" when Mazzo was regularly in "Diamonds" and, never having seen Farrell dance, it puzzled me that "Diamonds" was something of an anti-climax after "Rubies", with its high-energy cast of McBride and Villella: There were the Tchaikovsky music, white costumes, big cast compared to "Emeralds" and "Rubies"; it clearly was supposed to be the grand finale, but it didn't quite come off, and I couldn't understand how Balanchine missed the mark. Then when Farrell returned, "Diamonds" was the first thing I saw her in, and I understood! "Diamonds" WAS a grand finale! Nor was that her best night: Either she fell, or D'Amboise dropped her, for she was momentarily on her hands and knees, while he improvised a gesture and an expression of astonishment over her; she then got up by herself and produced the immense performance of that role that made it appropriate after "Rubies", and I went out thinking, "If that's what she can do on a bad night, what can she do on a good one?" But it turned out that the accident hadn't bothered her, and subsequent performances were in their unique ways (she never seemed to be perfecting a performance of a role like other dancers did) immense too.

I have certainly enjoyed Mazzo in roles made for her, especially "Stravinsky Violin Concerto". Dale's comment about the bit where Martins "blinds" Mazzo at the end of Aria II is one of those interesting speculations that gets you thinking about things freshly. Hmm... Balanchine had Farrell roll on the floor during the parts of "Variations" where the music is in eleven voices. She's alone there, of course, not being subservient to anyone. But she's Suzanne Farrell, and there she is, rolling on the floor. Hmm...

[ 06-15-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]


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