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      2018 Joint Fundraiser for Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers   02/03/2018

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  1. 2016-2017 Season

    I visited Paris very briefly this week and was lucky to see both of the current ballet programmes. Cunningham / Forsythe Walkaround Time - I loved it! It's the first Cunningham piece I have ever seen. It may also be my last as I live very far from anywhere that is likely to present his works. This piece is so different from the current trends in modern dance (like Complexions-style jazz/modern or Ohad Naharin's Gaga) that I have a hard time describing the work, what it is that appealed to me and how to situate it in the contemporary dance world. One the one hand it is just dancers each one in a different (muddy) coloured leotard and tights dancing in a space with 7 plastic transparent boxes to 'difficult' music for a long time, but on the other hand it is superior beings dancing superbly with empathy together infinitely and with continuous creative flow. I wasn't bored for a second. However these dancers are also clearly human, ideal humans perhaps, but real people, unlike for instance the dancers in Concerto Barocco who are (IMO) dancing in celestial fields. Looking at the piece that way, although it is very Classical, it is also very of its time - of the Space Age and it is dated like 2001: A Space Odyssey or the aesthetic of the Jetsons is dated. It is saying, "This is how humanity could be, if we put aside our differences and see our common humanity". Trio / Forsythe - 3 needy dancers beg for the audience's attention, by showing off unusual body parts like a wrist or the small of the back. If the aim was to show the exact opposite of Cunningham's noble dancers, the aim was achieved! Herman Schmermann - the pas de cing was beautiful. Forsythe in full 'affirming-ballet-by-way-of-subverting-it' mode. I loved it. The dancers were amazing, the music was great, the clothes (ladies in black leotards with back detailing and men in black tights and T-s with the same detailing) - and it was perfect 21st ballet. The pas de deux (which I think is familiar to American audiences) was awful. Like in the Trio, the dancers are mugging the whole time, instead of dancing, and the dance language is boring. I like Jerry Lewis as much as the next grey haired audience member at the Paris Opera, but sending a lady out wearing a short skirt and a see-through leotard and then the man changing into a matching skirt and a bare chest just isn't funny. 2/4 pieces but the two that were good were GREAT!
  2. Is Nutcracker the Greatest Ballet Ever Made?

    Nutcracker isn't the greatest ballet ever made,* but for me, like many other BT members, is inextricably connected to memories and emotions surrounding the American holiday season. I lived in the US for a number of years as an adult, and in the beginning, I was quite desperately lonely (and cold, poor and unemployed). I was lucky enough to be living in a city where Balanchine's Nutcracker is presented every year. A discounted matinee of Nutcracker was like a drink of water to a thirsty man. That was it - I became a total convert to the cult of the Nutcracker, worshipping at the shrine of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I do actually prefer my Nutcracker to include a Dewdrop, but I'll take it any way it comes. This year, I went with my husband and children to see the Israel Ballet's production of the Nutcracker, which, by the way, is edited to remove any reference to Christmas. My sweet son said afterwards that it was 'almost' as good as the Nutcracker we saw in New York. Well, no it wasn't (and I'm not sure he really remembers the one NYCB Nutcracker I took him to), but that's fine. As far as I'm concerned, the objective of the Nutcracker is to spread good cheer - and in American constitutional terms, to promote the pursuit of happiness. *Based on my current viewing experience, that's Concerto Barocco.
  3. Nutcracker Chronicles - NYTimes

    Well, David Mamet has made quite a career out of being a nasty yet witty writer. By this point in time he's perfected the genre... What makes Mamet's statement unpleasant IMO, compared to Macauley's, is the fact that he had an axe to grind with Piven, since Piven very contoversially withdrew from Mamet's play. By the same token, I thought that it was disingenuous of Ashley Bouder to comment on Alastair Macauley's critique of NYCB's 'Nut' without mentioning that she had received a not-so-glowing mention (by Bouder standards, at least) in that same review.
  4. Kristen Bell played the eponymous character in the cult series 'Veronica Mars' and I believe she is the narrator of 'Gossip Girl'. Bell is blonde, petite and perky and IMO doesn't have a huge range as an actress. She was very good in the first season or two of 'Veronica Mars' but once the role had to grow-up and become more subtle/nuanced, it fell apart for me. I'm surprised she's being cast as a mother already. She's probably in her late twenties and looks younger.
  5. Nutcracker Season at BAM

    This is super exciting - a world premiere of a ballet with music by Tchaikovsky!! I bet it's going to be a hit. I wonder how Ratmansky discovered the long-lost score and came up with such an engaging and original story. After all, he must have done that, because none of Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and ETA Hoffman nor any previous production of this ballet are mentioned anywhere in the story book.
  6. Wow, that was a rant! Good luck, Americans, with the mid-terms today... cmb, I totally agree with this, however it's an over-simplification to say that It does take a village to raise a child. Finding the balance between the individual and the collective is one of the most important - and difficult - parts of raising a child in the Western world today.
  7. jsmu, I didn't take any notes and it's been many years since I've taken ballet class, but the Q&As that I particularly remember were: - a question about heels being off the floor in plie. Ashley said that this was often misunderstood. Balanchine trained his dancers to have their weight on the balls of the feet and also to have the whole foot on the floor in plie. However, since his choreography was often very fast, there is no time to go down into a complete plie. According to Ashley, if you're well trained and your balance is forward, this shouldn't cause any injury to the tendons. - a question about spotting. The questioner noted that even in diagonales, Ashley (in the clips she showed) was spotting to the front and not in the direction she was going. Ashley answered that this was on purpose - part of the choreography. She noticed that when she coached dancers (presumably unused to Balanchine) this was particularly difficult for them, even though in her experience the difficult part had actually been to keep her body facing front when moving in a diagonal (i.e. Balanchine wanted the pique turns to start and end facing front even when moving in diagonal because that's a more aesthetic look) - and not the focus of the spot per se. - Once she understood the point shoe question, she laughed and said "Not much padding at all". She said her big toe was a lot longer than the other toes, so she put a little lambswool on top of the big toe and then more lambswool over the others to try to get to a more uniform length. Hopefully, I haven't mangled her answers...
  8. There wasn't any indication as to how the name 'To Dance' was decided. The program states that this visit was a co-production between the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center in Tel Aviv and the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim. Is the dance portion of Works & Process called 'To Dance'?
  9. I see that I wrote so much about the performance, that I'll add very briefly that the following day, I went to a talk Merril Ashley gave on dancing for Balanchine. The talk was partially a shill for her book, "Dancing For Balanchine" - and I, like many other people, were persuaded to buy her book after the talk... However, it really was a fascinating talk on how she started dancing, where she learned, how she learned and from whom she learned, relationships with other dancers (she still holds a grudge against Linda Merril ), etc. She showed quite long clips from Ballo della Regina, Act II PdD from Midsummer Night's Dream and Who Cares? After the talk, Ashley took questions and she was very generous in allowing many questions. Some of them she was fully prepared for, such as my question as to the Balanchine Trust's policy towards posting of Blanchine works on the internet and to another lady's question regarding the difference between Balanchine's NYCB and Martins' NYCB, and gave pat answers. She gave lengthier answers to the technical questions - like the ones on spotting, bent knees on pointe - and she was utterly floored when one of the youngest members of the audience asked her about the padding she used in her shoes for the hops on pointe in Ballo...
  10. I saw the second of three performances this group gave - and it was a wonderful evening! All the ballets were new to me, and the highlight was the first ballet on the bill, Apollo. I expected to enjoy it (just because I love Balanchine), but I really had no idlea what an experience it would be. Has such a Classical, un-Romantic ballet ever been choreographed? A man and three women on stage, the women compete for the man's favour - and yet they are not human and don't have human emotions and clearly are not competing for love or sex or anything remotely like that. The stylised movement was beautiful, evocative of both Ancient Greek art and Art Deco. Tyler Angle was a very beautiful Apollo, although I didn't see any particular development in his characterisation during the ballet. He was god-like and peremptory from the beginning. Very much in love (or in awe) with himself. Of course, he had no choice but to be impressed with Maria Kowroski's Terpsichore - because she was AMAZING (I'm beginning to run out of superlatives). Her physical attributes together with her warm, mature stage presence create the perfect muse. I don't know which of Amanda Hankes and Rebecca Krohn danced Calliope and Ployhymnia. They were both good, although the Ployhymnia had a problem holding her finger to her mouth during the solo, but they couldn't help but be overshadowed by Kowroski. Immediately after came Tchaikovsky PdD danced by Sterling Hyltin and Stephen Hanna. The audience loved it, but for me it was too lightweight coming immediately after Apollo - a shame there wasn't an interval between. Hyltin was enchanting - couldn't believe her hops backwards in arabesque, her leg didn't move up or down - she just glows. Hanna was less impressive - according to the program he's a 'former principal' and it shows. He could do everything, but he just didn't seem to have the technical definition and finish or the spark that Hyltin had. Hyltin was having a Bad Hair Day though. Her hairstyle was a bee-hive-y updo instead of the bun or twist that the other ladies did and it looked like some of the front hair came out while she was doing one of the turning sequences towards the end, and she stumbled; She wasn't ruffled at all.* The stage at the Suzanne Dellal Center was much too small for these dancers, and both during some of Hanna's solo and at the end with the go-for-broke flying leaps, I wasn't sure that they weren't going to fall off the stage, or at the least, end up in the wings. After interval, came dessert: First, a duet by Twyla Tharp called Known by Heart "Junk". I'm not sure whether the full ballet is "Known by Heart" or "Junk". This was a sweet, sassy, and funny duet for Tom Gold and Abi Stafford. He also looks like a "former soloist". This duet looked like a ballet version of a Jennifer Wiener novel or one of the other better chick-lit writer - nice but short Jewish boy (wearing very unflattering black vest and pleather pants. Gold looked much better in the costume for his own ballet) falls for clued-in city girl (in red dress and point shoes, no tights). City girl isn't sure but eventually teaches him that dancing as equals is better than pretending he's some kind of knight-protector. The dancers were terrific and played their parts very well. The final ballet of the evening was Tom Gold's ballet "Shanti". In my opinion (and my husband's) this was the weakest ballet of the evening, but the rest of the audience disagreed. It's a little party piece bringing everyone on stage with New Age music and orientalist / faux-Indian arm movements, more or less like the things my daughter is learning in the Folk Dances Around The World enrichment class at her kindergarten. Notwithstanding, it was an opportunity to show off the dancers and bring them all on stage. I especially liked the sections for the 4 soloists: Hankes, Krohn, Likolani Brown and Gretchen Smith - there was something more organic and less show-off about their sections. * In Shanti, Hyltin just had a ponytail instead of a bun.
  11. A group of NYCB dancers are visiting Israel towards the end of October. The programme, titled 'To Dance', will be Apollo, Tchaikovsky PdD, a duet from Known by Heart (Tharp) and Shanti (Tom Gold). Merrill Ashley is accompanying the group to give master classes, etc. Guggenheim Works & Processes seems to be involved in promoting the tour. Can anyone guestimate who the dancers are likely to be?
  12. Costume disasters

    I think of Barocco as a tribute to the Ancient Greek classic tradition, so the white tunics fit that perfectly. Then again, the audience who saw Barocco with the original costumes may have seen Barocco in a completely different way. I haven't seen that many Balanchine leotard ballets, but I certainly prefer the simplicity of black leotards and pale tights (in Four Ts, for example) to some of the multicoloured unitards / tunics one often sees in 'modern' ballets.
  13. Choreographer's Intent

    I've always thought that James Cameron is a reincarnation of Wagner.
  14. The forthcoming 'Black Swan' will have girl on girl action. However, from the trailer it looks like this behaviour is presented more as male-fantasy style 'dangerous' and 'deviant' rather than plain vanilla 'lesbian'.