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"Born to Be Wild"


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#31 Farrell Fan

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 09:10 AM

I enjoyed the show very much, despite its "Born to be Wild" title. The four mini-portraits were well done (I, too, particularly liked the one of Malakhov), and I was annoyed whenever they were interrupted for those silly Mark Morris rehearsal scenes. The four young men came across as extremely likable and talented, and, Anna Kisselgoff to the contrary notwithstanding, I never felt the "regular guy" aspect was overdone. I appreciated the avuncular comments of Jacques d'Amboise, and liked seeing Alicia Alonzo, despite her somewhat odd appearance. The completed Morris piece was anti-climactic, but, overall, the show made me eager to see all four of these guys again -- live.

#32 justafan

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 10:50 AM

I'd have to echo most of the comments here. The best parts of the show were the profiles of the four men. Although I didn't like the Morris dance much -- or the cutaways to rehearsals -- I thought all of the dancing, including the clips, displayed these guys to good affect.

Yet I don't think the whole Morris thing worked on a number of different levels. Was it just me, or didn't anyone else think the comments from Morris' dance mistress were hostile to ballet? She basically said Morris doesn't like to choreograph ballet because it's basically "tricks" and he's grounded in the music. But these dancers are so superior, he will deign to choregraph on them and create a musical piece! I was really put off by that comment and found myself scratching my head as to why that was included in the program.

Plus, I thought the entire injection of Baryshnikov was gratuitous, to say the least. It really had no relation to anything on the program. It seemed like they added mention of him to say "hey folks, you've all heard of a ballet dancer, his name was Mikhail Baryshnikov. These guys are like him." Well, sadly, maybe they needed to say that.

Still, I was glad to see something about ballet on PBS.

#33 Manhattnik

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 11:13 AM

Did anyone else consider the looks exchanged between the dancers while Morris was setting the work on them with his usual ebullience to be priceless? To my jaded eyes it was as if they were saying "Well, the check cleared."

And am I perhaps reading too much between the lines in the comment by Malakhov, where he describes his attitude in working with a choreographer by emphatically squeezing his lips shut with his fingertips, or the one shown immediately after, by Corella, where he says (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) that even if his choreography doesn't look good, his job is to make it look good?

I couldn't help but think they were making not-very-veiled comments about their experience of Morris, and the ballet he was making.

I loved the reviewer quoted in Ari's links thread for today about McKenzie's displaying his chest rug. I kept asking the TV, "Could you have that shirt unbuttoned any lower?" And the topless photo shoot was just plain embarassing.

Will "Babes of the Ballet" be far behind? "They're not just artists, they're wild, bohemian sex goddesses!" I don't think so! At least I hope not. Unless I could pick the babes.

#34 pumukau

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 11:54 AM

Didn't Wisconsin look green?

Surely the program erred on the side of heterosexual display if you're from the coasts, but non troppo. Here in Wisconsin the most common response to "I'm a ballet dancer" is still "That Roodolf Brishnakov, din't he die of......" so I appreciated it. They were clearly playing to the diverse PBS audience. Partnering ballerinas would have expressed this more eloquently than the locker room asides, however.

I admit I cringed when I saw Ethan without a helmet too, but then I used to work in an E.R. This is Harley country, remember. A cultural thing. Brett Favre would play without a helmet if they'd let him. Besides which a big dome would have ruined the shot. We're in the eye candy business after all.

#35 NancyHJohnson

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 01:33 PM

Did anybody have any particular feelings about the costumes on the Morris piece? I had the thought that, when trying to convince a tv audience that men in ballet are not all about foofing around, it's best to leave the see-through ruffle-trimmed purple 3/4 sleeved tops at home (and that goes for the hot-orange blouses as well)..................if you didn't see the closeup photos in Pointe magazine, possibly it was not as obvious from the video.

#36 Juliet

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 01:58 PM

Well, now I *really* can't wait to see it!!:)

#37 Manhattnik

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 02:46 PM

Let's not forget the Technicolor nightmare that was Malakhov's practice ensemble. A veritable one-man Riot of Color so extreme I could practically smell the tear gas.

#38 dirac

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 03:16 PM

I had much the same thoughts as pumukau and NancyHJohnson. I was drowsy and didn't catch everything, but it did seem odd to follow up all of that heteroprop with a piece in which the boys partner each other in pretty blouses, and not a girl in sight.


I would agree, however, that the Real Men stuff is geared toward all potential audience members and not us degenerates in NY and the SF/Bay Area. What may seem like Too Much to us may be worth repeating elsewhere. (This is not intended as a knock on the heartland, I should note.)


I must say, however, that you'd think public television, at least, would be enlightened enough to avoid certain kinds of crude gender stereotyping. I rather doubt a profile of four ballerinas would be called "Born to Be Wild" and feature a dancer saying something like, "I just love being handled by all these strange men."

#39 SusanB

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 03:31 PM

I agree with you regarding the costumes NancyHJohnson.

As I watched the program I tried to consider how some of my male friends who have stereotyped opinions of male ballet dancers would have responded. Unfortunately, IMO, no matter how much they tried to emphasize the masculinity theme, much of what was presented underscored all of the stereotypes. First, Mark Morris seemed to support the stereotypes. Then, I was so disappointed that with all of the fantastic choreography that could have been part of the program that men partnering men was selected. (For the record, I love ballet and don't find men partnering men objectionable.) Why couldn't it have been something more balanced, more representative of ballet?


And Mahattnik, your post about Malakhov's technicolor nightmare had me laughing out loud . Thanks for the chuckle.

#40 balletmama

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 04:20 PM

This was PBS, after all, and not the Fox channel. I found the effort to disprove people's stereotypes -- which amounted to pandering to those stereotypes -- offensive. The Three Tenors managed to garner a very large PBS following just by singing. I think PBS would have done far more to build an audience for ballet by showing the men's humanity -- instead of the corny chest hair and macho wisecracks -- and filling the home screen with more spectacular ballet dancing. They came close to the mark, in my view, in the portrayal of Malakhov, letting him tell the story of his childhood and coming of age as a dancer, not making him take off his Riot of Color (thank you, Manhattnik!), and showing some beautiful leaps.

#41 NancyHJohnson

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 04:25 PM

Manhattnik, I'm assuming that the dancers had much more say about the practice clothes they were filmed in than about the costumes they wore in performance. I consider that the sartorial wound you mention (and I agree it was pretty raw) was basically self-inflicted.

However, forcing those four great-looking men to appear in outfits reminiscent of (at best) members of the Brady Bunch, or (at worst) our mothers-in-law, is eminently deserving of a visit from the fashion police.

If the writers of this special wanted to show the world something hot, chic, and 100% appealing as a man, the final performance should have featured any or all of the four dressed in a classical tunic and a pair of tights.

#42 BW

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 07:32 PM

Yes, Juliet, can't wait until you have a chance to see this film - please get back to us eith your professional opinion about the "costumes" in question.

NancyHJohnson, your second paragraph is so perfect! And I agree with the other comments you made as well.

Although I am still glad it aired, and that I saw it... I still don't understand why Mark Morris was chosen as the choreographer for a documentary about any ballet dancers.:)

#43 vagansmom

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 08:40 PM

I share SusanB's sentiments about how the stereotypes were, ultimately, maintained despite the program title and the attempted "aw shucks, we're just regular guys" image.

I wonder, though, if this mixed message was intentional. In fact, I don't see how it couldn't have been. If I were trying to present male ballet dancers to the general public as heterosexual "regular guys", as was, on the surface anyhow, the intent, I wouldn't choose Morris as their choreographer. I bet he enjoyed a hearty chuckle over this program - the irony is just too sweet - it made me laugh too. I happen to love Mark Morris but he's by no stretch of the imagination an icon of heterosexuality.

Greedy for any ballet bones thrown at me, I still liked the program. For me, the highlights were the clips of these men as dancing children. I also agreed with the others who were the most intrigued by Malakhov's comments about his childhood and his famous encounters with Grigorovich. Others have stated that one had to be purely Russian - no Ukrainian or Georgian, etc. - but it still was surprising to hear that even someone with Malakhov's impressive gifts received the same treatment. We owe Grigorovich a big thank you.

#44 NancyHJohnson

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 05:07 AM

:P Let's hear it for the 4 dancers!

In spite of ill-advised artistic choices and heavy-handed scripting designed to play up points which basically do not matter, IMO the 4 leading men of ABT prevail over the decision-makers who produced this show. Let me give them the applause which they so richly deserve.

Nobody can show us the value of the American work ethic, applied generously and strongly, than Ethan Stiefel. Nobody loves his mother or respects his teachers more than Vladimir Malakhov. Nobody is more at home in his skin as a man than Jose Carreno, and he does not need to show us a hairy chest or talk about handling girls to prove it. Most of all, Angel Corella shows us emotions: his childhood not-fitting-in, his early job frustration, his wisdom about the business of living and ultimately his spirituality itself, and he shares these things as freely as he shares his double tours.

As role models, these guys are not bad. If we look between the lines, we see the system that they work (successfully) every day........all that and, good grief, can they dance!!!! Bravo.

#45 atm711

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 11:52 AM

I received very positive feedback from people who are not ballet-goers. They want to see these fellows LIVE!---and I know they will, this Spring.


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