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Winter Season, Week Three and Four


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#16 sneds

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 04:37 PM

Hi!
Kammermusik was very uneven. The women were fine, but Neal & Askegard got very out of synchfor a long stretch in their duo, and Antonio Carmena, very uncharacteristically, missed a split leap while dancing alongside Craig Hall.

Whelan and Tewsley were individually solid in Ballade, but their was almost no connection. Tewsley has a wonderful attention to detail, but doesn't seem to have adjusted to the speed of Balanchine's choreography yet.

I actually enjoyed Symphony in C, except for the third movement. Antonio Carmena was a late substitution for Ben Millepied, and it seemed like he was getting very little "help" from Taylor (I don't think he's done the role this season, and not sure whether he did it before with Taylor). Given, Carmena was probably a little off the music, but it seemed like Taylor was dancing to her own beat, almost being kicked by Carmena a few times and never seeming to try to work with him. Also, in the ending section, Taylor was slighly, but distinctly off in timing from the other three ballerinas. I hope this is not an indication of illness or injury :D(
Kudos to Carmena for doing a good job in a difficult role, and for smiling through out! He's been used a lot recently, and it's not an easy role.
I thought the corps looked stellar in the finale-and the ballet well performed.
Kate

#17 sneds

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 07:06 PM

I just wanted to add that, as Taylor is a native of Houston, TX, the events of today may well have affected her performance....
Kate

#18 Juliet

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 07:41 PM

I feel that the events of today have affected everyone's performance.

#19 Dale

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 07:59 PM

I don't feel comfortable speculating on what was Taylor's state of mind today. It wouldn't be fair.

#20 sneds

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 06:11 AM

Hi!
I wasn't trying to speculate. Just, that given the events and the number of uncharacteristic performances, I wanted to make sure that my comments were read with the events of the day in mind-for Taylor and other dancers.

I did not intend to indicate anything further-just a point to keep in mind when reading the review.

Kate

#21 bobbi

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 06:16 AM

A few more thoughts on Saturday matinee: The musical selections -- Hindemith, Faure, Cage and then Bizet -- made for a good contrast and compare afternoon.

On the Ballade: I enjoyed the rapid directional changes which Wendy handled expertly. As I remember (or don't remember it), the premiere of this work seemed to me very, very difficult. Then Merrill got injured and when it reappeared, it was "watered" down a bit. But in any event, it seems to be a very tricky ballet to dance.

I'm on board with all the other comments on Haiku. I hope that Albert Evans gets the chance to show us what he can invent for groups of dancers, not just pairings.

On the Bizet, I'm with Sneds on this one: I very much enjoyed the performance. Wendy and Philip Neal were outstanding, and what a good partner Neal is!! As others commented, Janie Taylor was unusually grim yesterday and there was a disconnect between her and the music. In fact, my reading was that Antonio Carmena handled it with aplomb and kept her on the music. Arch Higgins also handled himself very well in the fourth movement. Maybe what Carbro noticed was that about one third of the corps girls who were listed were not those who actually were dancing, so maybe these last-minute shuffles didn't result in the smoothest of Bizets, but, boy, it was very well received by the audience.

#22 Michael

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 06:34 AM

I actually thought Taylor was fine and that hers was one of the better performances in a generally under-rehearsed and slightly ragged Symphony in C. (1st of the Season -- Eric and others rightly note that the company is using 1st performances of Balanchine as, in effect, dress rehearsals). And in fact Taylor made a great deal of eye contact with Carmena and with the audience. It is not an easy role for her, though, it is a little against type. (Taylor in 1st movement and Somogyi in 3d would work better maybe on balance).

Sylve and Kowroski were interestng together in Kammermusik. What one notices about Sylve's training, what differentiates her most from NYCB dancers (her gorgeous upper body aside) is the development and use of the pliee -- She is very muscular in her legs and a subtle but powerful pliee motion shapes and informs all of her steps. You see it in the inherent spring in her pas de chats and pas de chevals, even in those little sexy, trotting runs Balanchine uses to move the dancers around in transitions. As a whole -- what with that and her upper body -- the contrast between La Sylve and La Kowroski (and the other NYCB women) is how much more volume Sofiane seems to inhabit on the stage, how she occupies and displaces space in a fundamentally different manner than Maria or anyone else in the company. I hope she stays beyond the winter. My biggest criticism of Sylve yesterday would iinvolve facial expression as I thought she could have been more neutral in that department in Kammermusik. And Maria K was very very very good yesterday, I think it does her good to have some competition. Indeed, the addition of Sylve and the return of Weese have restored a balance to the company's female principal situation. (Although gosh does the corps look to be in disarray at the moment).

#23 Michael

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 10:12 AM

Since Bobbi posted simultaneously with me and I didn't see hers when I wrote, a point of clarification.

I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy Symphony in C. In fact, I enjoyed it very much. It is just that I did find all of the principal performances a bit sloppy and I thought Taylor's, in fact, far from the worst, where one couldn't distinguish La Stafford in 4th Movement from the rest of the corps (so little did she hold the stage); where Somogyi fell out of 2 of her turns and 1 series of pirouettes in 1st movement; and where what can we say at all about Nilas Martins, who, as a friend of a friend aptly noticed, even used the wrong arms in one of the ensembles. And Wendy, who, as the same viewer remarked, had danced so brilliantly and passionately in Friday Night's Chaconne, that she seemed a bit tired Saturday, in both Balldade and Symphony in C, particulary in her jumps in Ballade which were nearly marked instead of fully performed.

As for Taylor -- She is a dancer who really seems to need rehearsal and a number of efforts at a role to make it her own. One often sees her searching for something in the phrasing and both Sneds and Bobbi are right that you could see that yesterday, for instance in the phrasing and timing of the repeated step where, on a musical climax, she is spun in a pirouette into arabesque penchee with a big extension, on the music. But what I really appreciate about Taylor is that she tries so hard to get it right, she doesn't just bail and mark the step, create the effect and forget about it. And as we saw in Serenade, when she does get the musicality and the phrasing and finally make it her own, the result is extraordinary.

#24 sneds

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 12:04 PM

Hi!
Actually from my seat in the orchestra, it didn't appear that Taylor was making any eye contact with Carmena at all.
Kate

#25 carbro

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 12:52 PM

Originally posted by sneds
Whelan and Tewsley were individually solid in Ballade, but their was almost no connection.

Ah, so you were seated in the orchestra and saw "almost no connection." Interesting, Sneds, because from my perch in the Fourth Ring, I saw a connection. Not continuous nor in mutual measure, but I felt a sweet rapport between them. Maybe we should note our seat locations when posting, to account for some of our different perspectives (both literal and figurative) of the performances!

Also, with Michael, I noticed how Nilas was marking much of his dancing and even left out a step or two. It could be due to the sadness of the day, but this was unusual for Nilas only as a matter of degree. (Wasn't this also characteristic of Heather's post-Balanchine career?) Is it a fault of management that we are left these days to discuss the appearance of widespread fatigue among the dancers?

#26 rkoretzky

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 11:27 AM

I was there too! There was quite a contingent of Ballet Alerters there on Saturday afternoon.

Kammermusik: I don't care much for the music or the choreography. It just isn't a favorite of mine. I will agree enthusiastically with the poster who said it has lost its edge, though. It was too soft, there was none of the sharpness and attack that I expect with the Balanchine/Hindemith pairing. I will be sorry though, to see Sofiane Sylve go back to Europe. Is there really a possibility that she would stay on?

Ballade: Contrary to another poster, I sensed a wonderful connection between Whelan and Tewsley. I found them completely convincing as a couple. I am also here to tell you that I am a Tewsley fan!! Prior, I had only seen him do the Nutcracker cavalier--not much of a part, and I wasn't really taken with him. But, oh boy! He has a gorgeous classical line, he is handsome and tall, and I want to see more, more, more of him! One small criticism--I could hear some landings, both his and Wendy's--and I don't want to.

Haiku: It has all been said, some of it by me, last summer. It is a keeper with some of the most inventive choreography in a very long time. Of particular interest to me is the courage to choreograph (and dance) during the long silences in the score.

Bizet: It was a Wendy afternoon for me--all the way. The second movement adagio may be the most exquisite piece of choreography ever. I loved the way that she took her time with every movement--very carefully showing each position before she moved to the next one. Jennie Somogyi in the first movement was like a piece of crystal herself. I could see every facet and edge, every position of her feet, every movement of her head. Nilas was terrible. I cannot believe that he gets away with such limp, lusterless work when the demi-soloists on either side of him are showing such effort and such promise. In the third movement, my eyes didn't leave Carmena. Joyful, elegant, elevated, light--everything that was missing from the first movement principal was there in spades for the third.

Should also mention that the Bizet began with another horrible screeching "solo" from the french horn section. I don't know how this guy gets away with this kind of playing.

#27 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 01:37 PM

Hey Dale -

On your next check-in with the press office, could you (or anyone else) find out how tall Tewsley is? I think it's really interesting that he keeps being described as tall. He may be tall, but it may just be his proportions. I could be wrong, but I don't think he's in reality that tall, he does third movement Symphony in C with Jennie Somogyi and he was paired before with Weese, which suggests to me that he's a "medium" - whatever that means!

#28 rkoretzky

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 02:09 PM

A very good point, Leigh. As I was typing that, I was thinking: "Is he tall? He IS tall, isn't he? Is he or isn't he? He must be."

And perhaps he isn't that tall after all. But he dances "tall". His bearing yells "danseur noble".

#29 Manhattnik

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 03:04 PM

Well, it's hard for me to add much to what's been said about the matinee, but that's never stopped me before.

In Kammermusik, Sylve looked like she'd been dancing this sort of angular, faceted, fractured Balanchine forever. I just wish she'd been dancing Kowroski's role. I just adore Sylve's speed and magnificent jump. And, yes, it's been observed a few times that she can turn. I just want more, more, more. They're doing PC No. 2 in the Spring. Well, one can dream, can't one?

It's interesting that at a time when it seems like most of the ballerinas and almost all of the corps are doing their best to turn themselves into the Cheshire Cat (I swear, in Bizet Janie Taylor looked thin as a reed -- next to Wendy Whelan!), Sylve has heftier shoulders and more muscular thighs than most of the principal men, it seems. What a tank she is! I can't help but observe that after misusing Monique Meunier so badly that she bolted the company last year, the most exciting thing in the Winter Season (well, after Kyra Nichols' astonishing visitations) has been Martins' engagement of a ballerina who has the physique of Meunier on steroids.

There's a lesson to be learned here, well, several. It's not for nothing that one of the most common phrases I've heard to describe Sylve (well, by me, anyway) is that she's a "big, strong, healthy girl." At one time that might've been a polite euphemism for the f-word (no, not that one!), but I am rather enjoying Sylve's very modern blend of athletic power and feminine grace. She's not decorous, as ballerinas of ages past have been, yet she's also not an India-rubber sideshow freak, as are too many of today's "ballerinas." And, while, in admiration, I just called her a tank, that athletic femininity of hers sets her apart, at least in my mind, from some of the more celebrated warhorse ballerinas of decades past. (You know who I mean.)

Sylve's joy, power and speed (I'll never forget how she just gobbled up the stage with her pas de chats and pique turns in the coda of her two Nutcracker pas de deuxs), stands out even more than it might because it's in such sharp contrast to what I've been seeing in the corps. If many, if not most, of these girls are dancing like exhausted, malnourished waifs, well, perhaps that's because they ARE exhausted, malnourished waifs.

It's no secret that Martins is rather forceful about sitting down women who are heavier than he'd like, and it appears that the lesson of Meunier has not been lost on the rank and file. (Ringer is a bit of an exception, but it's clear she's become a niche dancer, much as Violette Verdy was decades ago.)

I think Kowroski looked better, and danced better, a couple of years ago when she wasn't as reedlike as she's become lately. It seems no sooner did she develop the core strength to hold together her gorgeous hyperextensions (and seemed to me to be well on her way to becoming an extraordinary dancer), she threw it away when she lost five or so pounds over the past year or so. Was it worth it?

Is it worth it for the women in the corps to look so emaciated? There are some dancers who can be extremely thin, yet dance divinely (the obvious example is Wendy Whelan), but most dancers have not been so blessed. And if the corps today would dance with the energy and elan I recall from only a few years ago, I wouldn't be caviling so about their apparent state of semi-starvation. (And perhaps girls in the corps would stick around for longer than the two or three years that now seems to be standard -- is there anything left now of NYCB's institutional memory?)

But the weak and parsimonious, energy-conserving dancing I've been seeing at the State Theater (of course, there are glorious exceptions) both depresses and frightens me, even more when set against the shining example of Sylve's power and joy. I'm not suggesting that NYCB change overnight into a company of Sylves (although I can imagine worse fates), but that for both the health of the dancers, and the repertory, the company step back from the precipice upon which it seems to be poised. Is it any wonder that so many dancers are out every night, and that the corps is always being fleshed out with ranks of apprentices?

I spent much of Haiku admiring Carla Korbes' beautiful, and quite curvy, physique, not the least of which were her gorgeously muscled, strong yet very feminine thighs (I don't know why bare-legs-in-toe-shoes ballets get such a bad rap!). Although Korbes isn't a powerhouse like Sylve (whom I expect to see on a box of Wheaties any day now), she does show that the range of balletic beauty need not be divided between Beanpoles and Amazons (after all, Balanchine liked the occasional Gloria Govrin-esque woman, and in later years, Farrell herself had quite lovely hips and thighs).

What is going on at City Ballet that there seems to be such an overpowering preoccupation with thinness? I have never had much patience with people who deride ballet for putting a premium on "abnormal" thinness to the detriment of dancers' health, etc., etc. I used to say, "Well, ballet isn't yoga -- you don't do it for your health." Yet, how can I defend the art form I love when too many of NYCB's dancers look like they're starving themselves, if not to death, then past the point where they can function optimally, or even acceptably, as vehicles for the art to which they've so admirably and selflessly dedicated their lives?

Hmm. I see by the clock on the clubhouse wall that I should've left my cozy cubicle ages ago. And I haven't even gotten to Ballade, Haiku or Bizet (much). I have a unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach that Tewsley will become the next Nilas Martins. But that's another post.

#30 BW

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 03:43 PM

Just an aside here - I really have to disagree with the view of the corps dancers as being, on the whole, thin, very thin or emaciated. My dancing daughter and I both feel strongly that the corps does not look thin. In our views, there are two - one in particular who is also quite tall - who are quite thin...but frankly, I was commenting the other night that I found them on the whole to be quite "healthy" looking. Several of the corps members, in my opinion, have rather atypical ballet bodies...certainly they are not the stereotypical Balanchine bodies to be sure.

It's odd how different people see the same things and see them so differently, isn't it? To me, the corps looks quite healthy and actually quite happy too. To my eyes, there are many more smiles this season.


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