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  1. Lynn Trimble of the Phoenix New Times writes: "The result is the dance equivalent of a complex abstract painting, executed with passion, and open to countless interpretations. Like many fine works of art, it beckons viewers to reflect on their own experiences and ideas, while hinting at the many layers of the artist’s own perspective." Full review here: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/ballet-arizona-debuts-ib-andersens-eroica-at-desert-botanical-garden-10425446 You can still catch Eroica through June 2 2018.
  2. Finally, Ballet Arizona has released some photos by former principal ballerina Tzu Chia Huang. Samples below. Here's a link to the complete set on Facebook. Hopefully additional photos from company photographer Alexander Iziliaev soon to come... First Movement: Jillian, Ariani, Mimi, and Amber: Ariani/Alejandro, Jillian/Nayon, Amber/Helio: Final movement, full company:
  3. Here's an interview that gives you a glimpse into the mind of Artistic Director Ib Anderson, on the topic of Eroica: https://theshow.kjzz.org/content/640558/ballet-arizona-coming-desert-botanical-garden-new-performance
  4. Here are a few quick notes from opening night of Eroica. (Note that this contributor does not consider himself to be a dance reviewer, per se, so will stick to the more objective aspects of the experience, and leave the dance description and evaluation to others.) Overall experience: Sometimes I will see a ballet and say to myself ‘there’s so much that I didn’t understand; I’d like to revisit it, in order to understand it better’. While I did not get that feeling here, I did feel that ‘I sure did simply enjoy the total experience, and I would really to see it again’. I think that is one way of saying that Mr. Andersen’s choreography has risen to the occasion of illustrating a massive Beethoven score, at the very least at a ‘see the music’ level. In addition, the tasteful integration of the Garden’s landscape as part of the set was much more significant than in past years. The ‘Set’ consisted of a number of plain white columns somewhat randomly placed at the back of the stage. To a limited extent, various textures were projected onto the columns, but to a greater extent, they seemed to provide a dividing line between the human emotions being expressed on the stage and Nature – the lush desert landscape just behind the stage. The foliage was close enough to allow it to be well lit, but far enough to provide a spaciousness unachievable in any theatre. Brilliant splotchy patterns projected onto the landscape during the second movement gave the stage an unusually three-dimensional look, and oddly (for the desert) gave the appearance of snow-dusted trees. At another point in the second (funereal) movement, spotlights circled the garden, like spirits on the fly, with the dancers’ gaze following their journey. In a theatre, this would have been tacky, but at the garden, it gave a wonderful sense of the expanse of the venue. The costumes were for the most part very simple – women in pale blue leotards with a dark sash under the bust, and men in matching briefs. But the women were wearing large diaphanous black shoulder puffs with the slightest bit of glitter, which I found quite fascinating and attractive. By the way, it appears that casting is the same for every night if the run. Looking forward to others’ thoughts on the show…
  5. Back in March 2018, Ballet Arizona announced the upcoming world premiere of Ib Andersen’s site-specific Eroica – An Evening at The Garden, to be performed al fresco at the Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden. The work will be fashioned around Beethoven’s Third Symphony. The press release provided this scant information on the ballet itself: The work…challenges conventional expectations and reawakens the human spirit in an immersive tribute to the past, present, and future. Eroica promises to be one of Andersen’s most important works, pushing the boundaries of ballet and pursuing a deeper understanding of what it is to be human today. “I hope that people come out of this experience with a lot of different ideas and feelings,” Andersen said. “Eroica is going to be a very visual show, one that leaves you with an uplifting message in the end, with hope and trust in humanity.” Andersen is deeply passionate about the work, his response to the divisive influences seen in today’s world. Since then, someone at BAZ has cornered the typically taciturn Mr. Andersen, and coaxed these more candid comments out of him, published in BAZ's Blog: “It is literally about the music – Beethoven's Third Symphony is so complex. It’s easy to listen to and be moved by, but to understand the structure is not easy. I am not sure I even really understand it! But I like that element of it. When it was written, it was revolutionary. Over 52 minutes long – the emotional content and level of complexity just hadn’t been done before. “Eroica's choreography is about the past, present, and hopefully about the future. To a degree it is about our current political climate. The 1st and 2nd movements have the most meat and complexity including a funeral march. Then the 3rd and 4th movements are much more uplifting. They are a confirmation or belief that in human nature, good will survive over bad. This is not a story ballet, it’s an emotional ballet. I want to connect on an emotional level. I want you to be moved and not even understand why you are feeling that way. “I am super excited about this one. I honestly don’t understand how I did this. For me, I created this very quickly – it just sort of poured out of me. And I trusted what I did. I think it’s because I’m so damn old. (Ed: He's a very young and spry 64.) I go with my instinct now more than ever. I don’t second guess my intuition as much. Now you just have to come and see!” Mr. Andersen's past works at the Desert Botanical Garden have include Topia, performed on an 80 foot wide stage to Beethoven’s Sixth (Pastorale), and Round, performed literally ‘in the round’ on a circular stage, with audience seated on all four sides. From the seating map, Eroica appears to feature a more traditional size/shape stage. Eroica will debut on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, and will be performed Tuesday through Saturday evenings, starting at sunset, for three weeks. Both table and grandstand seats are available. Attendees can make an evening of it by arriving early, and enjoying dinner and wine at your table while watching the dancers take class onstage as the sun sets behind them. Performances usually start shortly after sunset, once the stage lighting can be effective. Attendees typically dress very casually. Here are some photos of past performances Topia at the DBG: http://balletaz.org/gallery/topia/. (BTW, some of these photos show photos of recently retired dancer, Natalia Magnicaballi. The photos are several years old.) And this page has some videos of Topia from several years back. These can provide a good idea what the DBG performances are like: http://balletaz.org/media-center/video/. (Note: Some of the video links do not work - not my fault!) And finally, a photo from Topia (dancers Jillian Barrell(?) and TBD, photo by Rosalie O'Connor):
  6. Casting has been announced for the All Balanchine program, and Natalia will be performing in EVERY performance! On Thursday (5/3) evening and Saturday (5/5) matinee, she'll be dancing the Siren in Prodigal Son, partnering with Nayon Iovino. On Friday (5/4) evening and Saturday (5/5) evening, she'll be dancing the Sleepwalker in La Sonnambula, partnering with Helio Lima as the poet. For the Sunday (5/5) matinee (her final performance with Ballet AZ) she'll dance BOTH! Here's a photo (scroll down) of Natalia rehearsing with Helio. (Also a great shot of AD Ib Andersen showing the guys how to be goons in Prodigal.) With two costumed story ballets, and one big Stravinsky ballet (Symphony in three Movements), this promises to be a whopper of a Balanchine show. Mr. Andersen has been making the point that 'you won't even see this combination of ballets in NY'...
  7. fiddleback

    Ballet Arizona's Forthcoming Today's Masters Program

    Helene, actually the Orpheum does have a pit. The problem is that it's not a very large one, and it isn't big enough to fit The Phoenix Symphony. By the way, the Orpheum offers one hour tours of the theatre, with special focus on its history and the superb refurbishment that they did. Highly recommended. Here's the link for the tour. Another Orpheum show that offered live piano was Jerome Robbins In the Night, to Chopin's piano nocturnes, which was a treat. But since the Orpheum show is typically contemporary, the opportunities for live music seem to be fewer and fewer...
  8. “Don’t miss Natalia Magnicaballi’s special farewell performance, Sun May 6th at 1 pm.” – this tucked away in Ballet Arizona’s latest program booklet. Wow! One would imagine there would be a press release or some such, but in any case the word is out!! The show will be the annual All Balanchine program, featuring Prodigal Son, Symphony in Three Movements, and La Sonnambula. Although the promo photo features Ms. Magnicaballi in the role of Prodigal Son’s Siren from several years ago, it seems more likely that she will be dancing the role of La Sonnambula’s Sleepwalker – a role which she has often professed a favorite. Natalia undoubtedly occupies an enviable position in the Balanchine diaspora. Dancing for the Suzanne Farrell Ballet since its inception in 1999 obviously offered her an opportunity to learn directly from one of Balanchine’s most legendary dancers. In addition, she has danced at Ballet Arizona since 2002 for Ib Andersen, who joined NYCB as a principal at Balanchine’s invitation late in his career. As a result, Natalia’s repertoire includes the lead roles in more than 35 Balanchine ballets, not to mention most of the classics and many contemporary ballets. You can see much of her repertoire listed on Natalia’s Bio Page at Ballet Arizona. Here’s a great video of Natalia discussing her early career and dancing for Suzanne Farrell. Here’s a photo of Natalia as the Sleepwalker. Ballet Arizona will offer five performances of the All Balanchine program at Phoenix Symphony Hall from May 3-6, 2018. Although casting isn’t generally announced until the week of the performance, it appears to be a sure thing that Natalia will dance at the Sunday (May 6) matinee. (Will update with casting when available…)
  9. Ballet Arizona’s upcoming Today’s Masters 2018 program will feature two new works (one by Artistic Director Ib Andersen, and one by dancer/choreographer Nayon Iovino), two works by Alejandro Cerrudo, and one reprise from Mr. Andersen’s Desert Botanical Garden series. About Mr. Andersen’s newest creation little is known, but its title, Pelvis, certainly provides fodder for the imagination. He refers to the music (by Danish String Quartet) as “super upbeat, you-cannot-sit-still, put-a-smile-on-your-face, celebratory music. I don’t really do heavy pieces lately – I want to do things that make me happy right now.” Perhaps we’ll get a preview at the Studio Spotlight performance on March 9. Mr. Iovino’s new work, Threads, is “about the spaces in between events and the reflection and personal evolution that happen in those quiet times”. Portions of this work were performed last September at Ballet under the Stars – one segment featuring what can only be called a bunch of zany guys in yellow tights, another featuring a sedate pas de deux. Music by Ensemble Art Sonic, Cartola, Neil Percy, Sufyvn, and Philip Glass. Mr. Andersen’s Afternoon of the Faun is excerpted from his Round, which was presented al fresco and in-the-round at the Desert Botanical Garden two years ago, at which time Alistair Macaulay (NY Times) braved the Phoenix heat to offer this review: “The “Faun,” one of the two finest sections of “Round,” is all-male; and what’s remarkable is how a dance that could so easily tip over into soft-core pornography (nine men in just their undies) stays calmly chaste and indeed classical. The men here are at ease with nature, and we see them lifted, walking on air, descending spiral staircases, climbing steps, plunging into flight. Although the focus is often on a male soloist, it sometimes shifts to a different dancer, creating a marvelous ambiguity of identity that is one of the work’s most haunting accomplishments.” Never Was by Alejandro Cerrudo, is a new piece for Ballet Arizona – a pas de deux set to music by Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. Rita Felciano, writing for danceviewtimes, describes it as “a duet about power displayed, competed for, and ultimately shared”. Last, and undoubtedly least - from a sartorial perspective - is a return of Mr. Cerrudo’s PacoPepePluto. (Let’s just say that the costume shop was not putting in any overtime on these outfits...) This piece for three men is a showpiece of male flexibility, set to the songs of Dean Martin. Given the depth of Ballet Arizona’s male bench, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Anderson fields more than one cast for this piece. Today's Masters promo video Studio Spotlight (intimate preview performance) March 9 at Ballet Arizona Studios (at $30, it's BAZ's best-kept secret) Today's Masters March 22-25, 2018 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Head’s up: The ’18-19 season will shake-up the sequence of programs, with this contemporary program leading off in September.
  10. Ballet Arizona will perform an entirely new production of The Firebird next season, in February 2019. This will be Artistic Director Ib Andersen's most spectacular new production in some time, and it will feature all new choreography by him, as well as original costumes and sets. Given Mr. Andersen's Royal Danish Ballet instilled skills in story-telling, it will be interesting to see how he interprets the not-so-well-known story for Arizona audiences. It will, of course, feature Stravinsky's legendary score, which will be performed by The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall. Ballet Arizona's press release says: "The world premiere of Andersen’s The Firebird is based on a Russian fairytale, with a singularly original twist. This unique performance tells this classic story through the lens of the present-future, exploring themes of love, fantasy, and escapism, making it perfectly in tune with Stravinsky’s modern score." Details at Broadway World
  11. fiddleback

    Orange County Gala in August

    For those Southern Californians suffering ballet withdrawal over the summer, Festival Ballet Theatre’s annual "Gala of the Stars" may satisfy your craving. Every year, Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla lures an amazing roster of principals and soloists from NYCB, SFB, ABT, Mariinsky, and other companies to Orange County. The Gala coincides with the completion of a summer intensive at Southland Ballet Academy, and apparently the invitees are also able to spend a bit of time with the students. Here’s the current lineup for the Gala on August 12, 2016: Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet Robert Fairchild, New York City Ballet Maria Kochetkova, American Ballet Theatre Daniil Simkin, American Ballet Theatre Cory Stearns, American Ballet Theatre Xander Parish, The Mariinsky Theatre Yuan Yuan Tan, San Francisco Ballet Jamie Kopit, American Ballet Theatre/SBA Alumni A few of my personal highlights from the last few gala’s: Lauren Cuthbertson (Royal Ballet) performing “Swan Lake Pas de Deux” with Xander Parish, just before intermission. This was a stunning performance in a relatively small venue, and seeing it up close was thrilling. But then, at the very end of the program, Ms. Cuthbertson returned to perform a portion of Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” with Eric Underwood (Royal Ballet). Seeing Ms. Cuthbertson’s two exceptional performances from opposite ends of the ballet spectrum in one evening was unforgettable (2015). You can’t help but love Daniil Simkin’s energy and pluckiness!“Les Bourgeois” and “Don Quixote Pas de Deux” (with Maria Kochetkova) in 2014. “Stars and Strips” and “La Pluie” (both with Isabella Boylston in 2013) See 2013 highlights from Isabella Boylston, Robert Fairchild, Mathew Golding, Maria Kochetkova, Tiler Peck, Daniil Simkin, Damian Smith, Yuan Yuan Tan, and others… This year's performance is Friday August 12th, 2016 at 6PM - at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, California. Tickets for the performance (only) are ($65/$75). There’s also an after-show dinner package with dancers for $200. (Haven’t tried the dinner package, so can’t comment on that.) P.S. If you’re travelling to the gala, as we do, you might also want to take in the New Swan Shakespeare Festival on an adjacent evening – also highly recommended. Both are conveniently located on the campus of UC Irvine.
  12. Sarasota Ballet has become the foremost company for performing a wide variety of Ashton in the US – including many that are rarely performed any more. Director Ian Webb and Assistant Director Margaret Barbieri are Ashton devotees, both having danced for Ashton. They held a remarkable four-day Ashton festival in May of 2014 during which they presented about 7 or 8 major Ashton works (including all mentioned here), as well as several divertissement. Attendees came from far and wide, many from Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed the broad exposure to Ashton, and all of the the pieces being brought to the Joyce were top notch. Here’s a review of the ‘A Knight of the British Ballet’ performance in Sarasota from a few years ago. It also included Ashton’s “Monotones 1&2”, so that might also be on the Joyce program. Sarasota Review 2012 And here are links to Alastair Macaulay’s reviews of the festival; they mention each of the works that will be presented in NY. (He is rather a fan of Sarasota.) Ashton Festival May 1, 2014 Ashton Festival May 5, 2014 All excellent and off-the-beaten path ballets, and quite diverse! As to whether or not one should trade it for one’s vacation, I guess that depends...
  13. Since your second video shows a clip from the 2015 ABT/Ratmansky production of "Sleeping Beauty", I’ll chime in… I’m no expert (not even a beginner) with regard to methods of costume construction, but I do know that ABT, Ratmansky, and costume designer Richard Hudson went to great lengths (not to mention expense) to attempt to recreate Leon Bakst’s original 1921 costume designs for ABT’s production of “Sleeping Beauty”. Here’s a quote from the Segerstrom program for the production: “Ratmansky and his wife … have pored through notes, pictures, décor, and costume designs and other materials at the Sergeyev Collection at Harvard University. … Ratmansky and Hudson have based the new ABT “Sleeping Beauty” on Serge Diaghilev’s legendary 1921 Ballets Russes production with breathtaking sets and costumes by Russian painter and designer Leon Bakst.” You can judge for yourself how well Hudson did by comparing a few of Bakst’s original designs (the first two show the “cocktail dress” for two of Princess Aurora’s costumes): Bakst 1921 Costume Designs with Richard Hudson’s recreations (scroll down for the “Rose Adagio” and “Hummingbird Fairy” costumes which mirror Bakst’s designs by using the “cocktail dress”): Hudson Costume Designs You can also find more of the 1921 Ballet Russes designs here: 1921 Sleeping Princess designs So, I guess the answer to your question is “aesthetics”. It’s pretty clear that, at least with regard to Ratmansky’s "Sleeping Beauty", the use of the “cocktail dress” was based on a desire to mirror the extravagant and bold Ballet Russes designs of the 1920’s.
  14. Ballet Arizona will premiere Artistic Director Ib Andersen’s newest site-specific work, “Round” at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden on May 17, 2016. While any work performed with the springtime Sonoran Desert as a backdrop is cause for much interest, this one promises to be unique in terms of its physical configuration – a cross-shaped stage, with seating on all four sides - more-or-less immersed in the stage. Mr. Andersen has been quoted: “This will be an experience like no other for our audiences. “Round” is a rare opportunity to see ballet performed in-the-round. It’s a great challenge to choreograph and presents a distinct perspective for each person based on where they sit. I think patrons will want to attend more than once to experience “Round” in different ways.” The ballet itself is billed as having ‘themes that explore man’s connection to nature’ - not surprising given the setting. The choreography is set to the music of Thomas Ades, J.S. Bach, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel. The promo video reveals strains of “Daphnis et Chloé”, and appropriately revealing attire. Photos and videos of Mr. Andersen’s previous work at the DBG, “Topia”, are likely to provide the best insight into the ambience of “Round”. The work is subtitled “An Evening at Desert Botanical Garden”, presumably in the hopes that audience members will show up early and make an evening of it. And it’s hard to deny that watching dancers warm up on stage before the show, with the sun setting in the background, all while having dinner and a drink, tends to put one in a very receptive mood for ballet. “Round” is scheduled to be performed outdoors at 8:00PM Tuesday through Saturday for three weeks at the Desert Botanical Garden from May 17 through June 4, 2016.
  15. A few belated comments on John Neumeier’s Liliom at Segerstrom Center for the Arts… If you’re not familiar with Liliom, here’s a good review to start with: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/38416-sunday-february-9/?hl=liliom#entry332948 It’s hard to imagine a more compelling pair of dancers to play Liliom (the tough carnival barker), and Julie (the young somewhat naïve waitress). Carsten Jung IS Liliom. With his rough-hewn features and muscular torso, you might not want to run across him late night in an alley. And yet he has a softer side too, that is sometimes evident in his relationship with Julie and often in his relationship with his son Louis (Aleix Martinez). (A liliom is apparently a tough guy, but the word also means ‘lily’.) And after having seen Alina Cojocaru in the role of Julie, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else dancing that role with such fragility, sensitivity, and strength. A key aspect of Ferenc Molnár’s original stage play was to contrast the relationships between two young couples. Marie, a waitress, and Wolf, a bellhop, seem to have a pure, simple, infatuation with one another. (Marie naively thinks that Wolf is a soldier, because he wears a uniform.) Julie, also a waitress, and Liliom, a carnival barker, have a much more difficult relationship. Liliom, coming from a rough background, finds it difficult to show his affection for Julie, and he sometimes mistreats her out of frustration at having lost his job. This is definitely not the rosy relationship that Marie and Wolf share. The poignancy of the difference in these relationships is dramatically related in a park scene. Marie (Leslie Heylmann) and Wolf (Konstantin Tselikov) perform a lovely, simple pas de deux, downstage, stage left. Enthralled with one-another, their faces are positively beaming. Upstage, Julie is seated on a park bench, holding a balloon, and watching Marie and Wolf from a distance. While seated, Ms. Cojocaru is able to express an array of emotions thorough the slightest of movements – the nervous handling of the balloon, nervous shifting of position on the park bench, casting her gaze toward and away from the couple, facial expressions. All so eloquently and subtly stated – she is simultaneously happy for Marie and Wolf, but profoundly uncomfortable that her relationship with Liliom in no way resembles theirs. I found it hard to drag my eyes away from Ms. Cojocaru’s discomfort in order to watch the dance. (This is, after all, a ballet, and I’m supposed to be watching the pas de deux, right?) Kudos to Mr. Neumeier for having conceived this heartrending scene, and to Ms. Cojocaru, Ms. Heylmann, and Mr. Tselikov for having executed it so superbly. It is one I won’t forget. Another visual that will be hard to forget is that of Sasha Riva, the Balloonman. It seems that feats of exceptional balance are normally left the ballerinas, but in Liliom, Mr. Riva takes the prize. His repeated, agonizingly slow, very high leg lifts, sur la demi-pointe – all while holding a massive bunch of helium balloons – was stunning to watch. (How can he do that???) Here is an excellent set of still photos of Liliom: http://www.danceeurope.net/gallery/liliom-ch-john-neumeier-hamburg-ballet And I cannot finish without mentioning the pre-show talk given by choreologist Sonja Tinnes. Ms. Tinnes is the person responsible for capturing Mr. Neumeier’s choeography using the Benesh Notation http://www.rad.org.uk/study/Benesh/the-benesh-institute-and-benesh-movement-notation. This super-human feat amounts to many hundreds of pages of notation for any given ballet – a mind-boggling effort. Her job puts Ms. Tinnes in the position of being intimately familiar with the ballets. She is a fascinating and riveting speaker, providing in-depth insight into the ballet in her pre-show talks. One fascinating detail: Mr. Neumeier’s initial interest in staging Liliom was kindled during the 1960’s by seeing the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, which was, of course, inspired by Molnar’s Liliom. So the story has come full circle. Bravo, Mr. Neumeier! Please come again in 2015!!!