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Alexandra

Winter Season, Week Two

27 posts in this topic

The corps looked particularly flat in Tombeau, which is indeed a beautiful ballet. What's surprising is that it wan't the new apprentices and younger dancers at all, but instead the Women in their mid-20s who made up the corps that day (Pauline Golbin, Dena Abergel, etc.). There was a particular moment when everyone does pliee on the supporting leg with tendu front, brushing down with the hands as a pose (whatever it's called) -- and I couldn't help remembering what the Kirov Corps looked like last July in that just that pose. No one on Saturday Afternoon seemed to have any "passion" for that movement, seemed to want to show me anything about it. When I read in today's Times one of Nureyev's old dancers saying that Rudi didn't just teach him "how to dance", he taught him how to "be a dancer" -- I also thought of last Saturday and how lacking in "being", in any inner radical quality the company seemed. What is curious is how the same dancers who would perform that pose with passion and shape for Kay Mazzo or Suki Schorer at school, seem to forget about it once they're in the company. I thought it was supposed to work the other way around.

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While I did not see the Tombeau being discussed here, as a long-time fan of City Ballet I can appreciate the difficulty of encouraging young dancers with amazing technical skills -- young women and men who have won contracts with a world-class company because of those skills -- to look beyond technique to interpretation.

To a certain extent, the change is inevitable. I remember a forum in which Alexandra Danilova took questions from the public. I alluded to the many roles in which Madame D. won acclaim for her style and interpretation, rather than physical technique, and asked if she felt the shift to technical skills was undermining the art of dance. She responded with an elaborate Slavic shrug. "The girls today," she said, "they can do things I would never imagine. But if we do not PROgress, we RETROgress."

True enough, but somewhere along the line, NYCB really should get dancers to look beyond the steps. I recall another forum in which Kyra Nichols described her experience in learning the title role in Firebird. At an early studio rehearsal, she noticed Maria Tallchief standing in the door. She arranged to meet with Tallchief the following day for detailed coaching, and felt her dancing was immeasurably improved.

To be sure, many superb Balanchine dancers are available to the young tyros at SAB and NYCB -- Kay Mazzo, Sean Lavery, Suki Schorer, Victor Casteli and Merrill Ashley in particular -- though the absence of Farrell is clearly felt. Hand-holding sounds demeaning, but Farrell, in her biography, pays enormous tribute to Diana Adams, as a mentor and role model. I can't help wondering how much support these gifted young dancers feel from their elders.

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