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cranedragon

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About cranedragon

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    avid balletgoer
  • City**
    Austin
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**
    Texas
  1. This is the second year of Ballet Austin's new Nutcracker, with Stephen Mills' choreography and an entirely new production and sets. This is a classic Nutcracker, with no startling innovations or radical departures -- there is the party, and Herr Drosselmeyer with nephew in tow, the fight of the Nutcracker and Clara with the rat king, and the kingdom of the Sweets. The prologue of families walking through the neighborhood on their way to the evening's festivities is omitted and the overture is played through by the orchestra. The standout dancers at the 12/31 evening performance were Brittany Strickland and James Fuller as Spanish (they sizzled in their roles), and Ian Bethany, Donald Davison, and Kevin Murdock-Waters as Russian. The corps of snow flakes at the end of Act I were suitably graceful and "snowy". Paul Michael Bloodgood, on the other hand, seemed distinctly uncomfortable in a white wig in the French dance, although he was fine as the pater familias in the party scene of Act I. I am feeling increasingly conflicted about Ballet Austin. While they do some interesting things (Light, for one; the Magic Flute, for another), I can't help but think as I watch the choreography that Mills is putting together pieces that allow his dancers to look competent in their roles, knowing that at present he has no dancers capable of a bravura performance. The dancing of the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act II, for example, lacked a great deal in both grace and strength (and it seems that even if you can't have both, you should be able to manage one or the other). As I think I mentioned in my earlier review of Agon, the best that can be said for most of the performances is that they are "serviceable".
  2. Agon/Firebird

    Yes, I know the music and have seen the ballet before. It wouldn't be a ballet that I would choose on its own, but I do like the Firebird, and particularly the recent SF Ballet version. My problem with the Ballet Austin production had to do with the dancers' level of energy and engagement, which seemed to me to be lacking.
  3. Agon/Firebird

    Stephen Mills did the choreography for the Firebird, with lighting by Tony Tucci and designs by Alun Jones.
  4. Agon/Firebird

    We say the double bill of Agon and Firebird yesterday evening at Ballet Austin. I was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. Agon was, as the program noted front and center, "presented by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style and Balanchine Technique Service Standards established by the Trust." Really? When did the Balanchine Style become synonymous with boring? There's not a lot you can do with the T-shirts and black tights of the "workout" type ballets, but put a bit more energy in it! And then there was the Firebird. Here the scenery and costumes are courtesy of the Louisville Ballet, so it was someone else's vision originally. But can someone point out to the costumer that Russian peasant shirts on the men are incongruous when they're marrying a long line of Russian princesses? The princesses were wearing tiaras that evoked the Russian kokoshnik headdresses and the boys were in peasant shirts -- white, but peasant shirts. There are more interesting ways to evoke a feeling of old Russia than the hackneyed trope of the peasant shirt, and there are any number of versions to be found on the Internet to demonstrate that. Tsk-tsk. Nor was the lack of vision overcome by the energy and enthusiasm of the dancers who were, at best, competent. The sole exception was Edward Carr as Kastchei the Immortal, whose costume and dancing were quite the best part of the evening. "Serviceable" is the best adjective for the performance -- you could leave and say that you had seen the Firebird, without having really experienced anything of what the Firebird can do.
  5. From Houston to The World

    I saw the performance of From Houston to the World this afternoon. It had three parts: ONE/end/ONE, choreographed by Jorma Elø to Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 in D. This had classic staging and costumes, with the ladies in short black tutus with gold embroidery and the men in black tunics and tights. The choreography, however, was much more modern, with a lot of circular movements of the arms, lifts done by the men from behind with rigid arms under the ballerinas' armpits, and repetitive motifs. It was very good; all of the dancers were sharp and Aaron Robinson, in particular, was really good with great height in his leaps and Yuriko Kajiya was just brilliant. The second element was Murmuration, choreographed by Edward Liang to the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Ezio Bosso. The ladies wore blue-grey bodysuits with smoke-tone ombré over panels and the men wore long grey flowing trousers, no tunic or shirt. Let me preface this by saying that I've been in the grip of a migraine headache for over 18 hours and my pain meds wore off somewhere between ONE/end/ONE and the beginning of Murmuration -- and that my general preference is toward classical and away from modern music and choreography. That being said this was quite simply brilliant. To call it marvelous would not convey the clarity of the movements, the precision of the pairing, or the sheer intelligence that I saw in the tension and intensity of the dancers. This was glorious, every dancer was great, and the work both solo and together was tight and beautifully done. At times it reminded me of Glass Pieces at the SF Ballet; and that's high praise from me. As I was watching this I thought -- this will go down with me as one of the best performances I have ever seen, and one of the few where my lingering regret is that I couldn't turn around and see it again immediately to capture the nuances I missed on my first viewing. The last piece was Paquita, and it was extraordinary -- clearly one of the best performances of this piece that I've seen. I know that most of us have seen this before, some of us many times, but I will still say that this was a brilliant performance. Every dancer was on the top of his/her game today; they were sharp, focused, and precise in all of the parts, whether it was the opening and closing parts or the individual variations. I will single out the pas de trios, where Derek Dunn, Christopher Gray, and Hayden Stark managed to achieved a level of unison in their dancing that I have given up expecting even at companies like the SF Ballet. Karina Gonzalez, as the principal ballerina, was spectacular, throwing off two series of fouettés en tournant with a brilliant smile, as if to say -- see how wonderful! She was marvelously paired with Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, who was wonderful in his solo passages as well. There was joy and verve in their dancing, and each one projected real energy and enjoyment, and the audience really reciprocated -- many of the individual variations were met with "bravos" and there was sustained, on their feet applause at the end. For a matinee -- in my experience it takes a lot to bring a matinee crowd to its feet, and this performance managed it.
  6. Swan Lake

    We saw the matinee on Saturday, June 7th. It was our first visit to the Houston Ballet and we're already considering a subscription for next year. Sara Webb played Odette/Odile and Connor Walsh was Prince Siegfried, with James Gotesky as Rothbart. The choreography was quite traditional, and listed as being by Stanton Welch "after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov". The structure included the transformation scene in the prologue that shows Odette being caught and cursed by von Rothbart. This ballet also included a final assembly of the swan maidens, restored to their human form after the defeat of Rothbart, moving hesitantly as if slowly recognizing that the loss of Odette has resulted in their freedom. I confess to a preference for the ending in the recent San Francisco Ballet staging, which shows two swans -- implied to be the lovers -- flying past the moon at the end. However, showing a resolution for the other captured girls was a nice touch. It took me several minutes of the beginning of the ballet to stop kicking myself, though -- walking in we saw that Hugh Laurie was playing that evening with his band. Had we only known we could have enjoyed both.
  7. Sleeping Beauty

    We saw the final program of the 2013/14 season, The Sleeping Beauty, last Friday evening, May 9th. The costumes and scenery were courtesy of the Cincinnati Ballet and it appeared to be a faithful staging of the Tchaikovsky/Petipa Sleeping Beauty. The artistic director, Stephen Mills, played Catalabutte and his assistant, Michelle Martin, did a dramatic turn as Carabosse in a fiery red wig. Of the dancers, I would single out Ashley Lynn Sherman, as Aurora; Jaime Lynn Witts, as the Lilac Fairy; Jordan Moser, in the Jewels divertissement in Act III; Michael Burfield and Grace Morton, as Puss 'n' Boots and the White Cat, in Act III; and Rebecca Johnson, as Princess Florine, as the standouts of the evening.
  8. SFB Cinderella 2014

    I am devastated that I missed Cinderella this year. I had tickets to last weekend [saturday evening 3/15 and Sunday matinee 3/16] but a seriously ill cat kept me home. Oh, what we give up for our children, even the furry, four-legged kind. I saw Cinderella in its debut year [was that just 2013?] and loved it.
  9. SFB 2014 Giselle

    I was fortunate to see Giselle on two consecutive days. The cast for Saturday evening was Yuan Yuan Tan as Giselle, Davit Karapetyan as Albrecht, and Ruben Martin Cintas as Hilarion. The next afternoon had Mathilde Froustey, Tiit Helimets as Albrecht, and Pascal Molat as Hilarion. It was an amazing experience. Both Tan and Froustey were marvelous, but the different approach of the gentlemen made it two entirely different ballets, for me. Karapetyan seemed more like a "player" -- he knew from the outset that he was just dallying with Giselle and his future was with Bathilde, daughter to the Duke of Courland [oh, lovely borzois for the hunting party!] Martin Cintas seemed genuinely attached to Giselle and heartbroken over her fate. The next day, by comparison, Helimets seemed genuinely attached to Giselle and "hoping against hope" that somehow, somehow he could have a future with Giselle, while Molat left me feeling that he was just a spoiler with his nose out of joint because Giselle, whom he'd taken for granted, had shown a preference for a younger, more ardent swain. It was a good thing for me that I had such a great experience in the first act of both performances, because the second act, calling for the supremely matched dancing of the corps, just fell short both times. For a company that prides itself on its high standing in the US, if not the world, to be unable to put 24 ballerinas on stage who could move in unison was embarrassing.
  10. Good morning from Austin

    So, it's early morning in Austin, TX, and I've just stumbled across the wonderful site. I've been a dedicated follower of [not fashion] ballet for many years and have had a season subscription to the SF Ballet since the late 1980s. I enjoy seeing other ballets when I travel, and had a great experience over Christmas when I could see ballets in both London and Zurich the same week. Such different approaches to ballet, and astonishing how different the venues were.
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