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About Quiggin

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
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    San Francisco
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  1. Thrilling to hear a gospel chorus sing "Stand by Me" at St George's chapel – and Rev Curry's stirring address touching on slavery in the US. Especially so after the recent Windrush scandal and all the suffused racism of the Brexit. Wedding dress was Givenchy, great name and house from the days of Audrey Hepburn and "Love in the Afternoon" and "Funny Face."
  2. Quiggin

    UNBOUND 2018: A Festival of New Works

    Surprised too that Justin Peck's ballet was not chosen. Maybe Peck decided to pull it? My notes from the two Unbound weeks – Looking back on “Unbound,” I was pleased with the balance of the individual programs I saw (A,B, C but not D) and with a few very special things that reminded me of my dance-going days in New York. Trey McIntyre’s “Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem” (with Benjamin Freemantle’s solo) was indeed like something you’d see at PS 122, with a very clean simple vocabulary and great inventiveness within those limits. The kind of directness of Daniel Nagrin in the 1950s or Merce Cunningham or even Gene Kelly with his newspaper dance. Each new thing seemed to come organically and logically out of the previous one. If this is a trend in the big ballet companies, I do like it. I’m not a fan of ballet-theater (MacMillan, Tudor, Onegin, etc) but I did enjoy watching Cathy Marston’s “Snowblind,” and the changing relations of Ulrik Birkkjaer (whose dancing I’ve enjoyed seeing over the year beginning with the Poet in “Serenade”), Sarah Van Patten and Mathilde Froustey. But especially the movements of the corps as weather – winds and snowstorms – rolling by slowly outside the house. Their careful geometric articulations reminded me of Leonardo’s precise drawings of smoke and water. Also interesting were the men filing back and forth as they prepare to go to work way on the side of the stage, activating that area in an unusual way. I did miss Wharton’s irony at the end where Mattie virtually becomes Zeena in Ethan’s eyes. Marston seemed to leave the ending open. I wished Justin Peck’s “Keds” ballet, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” had been done with simple, all-over “Dances at a Gathering” lighting so that I could see more of it. What I especially liked the second time I saw it was the rock and roll reprise at the end of the first pas and the repeats of the dancers along with it, building up more “meaning” each time. So simple and moving. I liked the Stanton Welch piece, “Bespoke” (which made me long for “Concerto Barocco”) less than other ballets. And also less the cool, analytical David Dawson “Anima Animus” (which made me long for Wayne McGregor’s “Borderlands”). But they both fit into their programs well. At a couple of points in Myles Thatcher’s “Otherness” the choreography seemed to match the score but then its overly simple premise interfered and the dancing lost track of the music. But John Adams’ “Absolute Jest” was glorious to listen to and the orchestra played it so well. Beethoven’s austere and metaphysical string quartet #14 and his jaunty (and squeaky) quartet #16 were first played by the strings (home base) and then tossed out to the rest of the orchestra who went on to play the strings’ earlier statements against them. Especially wonderful when the horns (along with deep clanging bells) echoed back earlier phrases. Anyway I think “Unbound” seemed an important update for the company, everyone looked great, and it seemed to be popular with a larger crowd than the company usually draws from. In coffee line at the Ft Mason Farmer’s Market on Sunday, I heard someone saying that she had been to "Unbound" the night before, how great it was, and how she liked seeing the way men were being treated these days, in less traditional gender specific roles – a big surprise for her.
  3. San Francisco had Messmer for one fine season – and, since the 1890s, two Burnham and Root buildings. Both survived the earthquake and fire of 1906, except that the Chronicle building (now the de Young) lost its massive Florentine tower, and in the sixties was covered in a pseudo-modernist curtain wall which was happily removed 10 years ago. The Mills Building has a recognizably Chicagoan arch composed of acanthus leaves and a great, and a little crazy, distribution of window openings. Of Chicago, I remember the Palmer House, the Inland Steel building, Sullivan's beautifully ornamented Carson Pirie and Scott department store, and the campus Mies van der Rohe designed in the 1940s where I took classes. Chicago is the city of great American architecture, always way ahead of New York (at least until Bruce Graham of SOM retired). Celebrity is the reality of LA. Like when you see a movie star shopping late at night at a grocery store and everyone lights up and then discreetly turns to each other (who they wouldn't talk to otherwise) and says, "isn't he looking great?".
  4. Quiggin

    Discussion of UNBOUND Reviews

    My Elizabeth Cowling (who's not a Clarkist) quote disappeared above and it's important for the political point she makes – and maybe to Ochoa's case. I myself see Cubism in Picasso's work fairly strongly through The Dance (a nightmarish painting based on Picasso's experience with the Ballets Russes) and Mandolin and Guitar* of 1924 which is derived from the sets from Mercure, among his most adventurous theater work. I understand your point about Picasso's mythopoetic interests and how he was creating many of the characters and motifs of Guernica out well before he painted Guernica (such as Bullfight, 1934), but Picasso never gave up one thing for another and often worked in two styles at the same time. For instance, the conventional curtain for Parade and the Cubist costumes; the almost kitsch, Ingre-like drawings of Stravinsky and Satie and the famous Three Musicians, now handsomely sitting in the Museum of Modern Art. The very late Mosqueteros, a show of which John Richardson curated at the Gagosian gallery in 2009, seem to throw everything, all Picasso's tools and techniques, together at once. *Clark says Guitar and Mandolin (1924) is Nietzschean (not that Picasso thought of Nietzsche) "in the sense its objects are no longer solid and serviceable, least of all for our inner world... They rear up in front of us wafer thin [like Guernica?] .. They have became outsides. Outsides are all they are. ... The stars on the table are anti-night. They are pure scintillation." https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/3441
  5. Quiggin

    Discussion of UNBOUND Reviews

    I agree that the ballet did not replicate space of the painting but I'll strongly disagree that: TJ Clark devoted his six Mellon lectures to how Picasso tried to save the truth of Cubism (against Picabia-ism, Purism, Duchamp) for years and at least up to Guernica where it gave him tools to create the great painting. Elizabeth Cowling in Picasso Style and Meaning: Clark says in Farewell to An Idea "Cubism ... is the moment when modernism focused on its means and purposes with a special vengeance. The idiom that resulted became the idiom of visual art of the twentieth century ... an idiom adequate to modern experience." You could also say that Cubism is in Balanchine and Ratmansky through the Constructivist experiments of the 1920's, some of the basis of which came to the Soviet Union by way of Vladimir Tatlin and other visitors to Braque's and Picasso's studios. And in Cunningham through Black Mountain and Josef Albers and Oskar Schlemmer and Kurt Schwitters. I dwell on this because I think it's important that with all the simplifying biographies and revisiionist histories these kinds of things are remembered.
  6. Quiggin

    Discussion of UNBOUND Reviews

    Maybe it would be helpful to quote the critic, the Chronicle's Allan Ulrich, directly rather than via a secondary source. Ulrich may have thought it too schematic (pink and blue) and that the Adams' music was too complex for the ideas. Ulrich last line about identity politics is a bit simplistic and maybe what caused the reaction. Ann Murphy at the Examiner calls "Otherness" a charming ballet but that "the music overpowers this gentle equal rights ballet." Janice Berman says it doesn't go far enough: "The choreography has its moments of clever fun, but doesn’t, for the most part, advance the idea of gender stereotyping and the narrowness that drives it." I think that many social statements on gender roles in ballet have been made all along over the past five years, as we've seen more and more same sex partnering almost as a norm – in Scarlett's and Peck's works, and in smaller venues, like PS122, for decades. Look at Merce Cunningham's assignment of gender roles. "Don't make you think"? Maybe it's more don't make you stop thinking, as when you come across too many well worn ideas and cliches – all stumbling blocks and nothing there to freshen the imagination. Incidentally, the subtitle that linked cell phone use and suicide apparently has been eliminated from Christopher Wheeldon's ballet, "Bound To".
  7. Quiggin

    UNBOUND 2018: A Festival of New Works

    Good summing up. But there's a difference in incorporating the topical, which quickly dates, and the vernacular – say the certain way people walk in the streets during certain decades, as Robbins and others do. Balanchine told Ruthanna Boris to look at everything she sees in everyday life, even something like the sparkle of broken glass in the street. In the visual arts modernism has always had a strong element of classicism underpining it. You can find Palladio under early modernist architecture (Balanchine has been compared to Palladio by Deborah Gans), Brunelleschi under Mies van der Rohe, Giotto under Cubism. Post-modernism tried to reintroduce ornamentation and a gothic complexity but couldn't get the formula right. I think there's always a classical dispostion of space under good contemporary dance such as that of Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky, Merce Cunningham, etc.
  8. Quiggin

    Unbound A - Opening 4/20

    I think he meant Joseph Warton. I too liked the Justin Peck piece best. It was clean, had no false rhetoric and fit the company like a glove. I'd really like to see it again – watching three absolutely new pieces fatigues you a bit, especially for the third one. Warton was excellent but so was Blake Kessler – maybe he'll show up in Shostakovitch part one? The subtitles of Wheeldon's piece pointing out the dangers of cell phone use seemed a bit cliched, and there were some quotes from Russian Seasons I'd rather see in the original. The company seemed to be in top form for all three pieces.
  9. Quiggin

    Ballet & feminism

    I think the policy on speculation is to be fair to everybody and provide some basis for the speculation. Regarding Ringwald's coming to terms to the movie, it's a complicated matter to see things in a new light and address a wrong you might have been part of. For instance the process Britain went through to realize the relation slavery had to their wealth in the early 19c century and how to set up the mechanism to move away from that. I also think of how the characters in novels like "Portrait of a Lady" or Tolstoys "Story of a Marriage" slowly come to acknowledge the change of relation between spouses. My own evolution regarding issues like racism – micro racism – and feminism have been slow and very step by step, almost as if I were walking backwards trying to get through a forest, small clearing by clearing.
  10. I think it's difficult to compare the two companies. New York City Ballet has a school, a company style – crisp and witty – and a very specific repertory and charge. San Francisco has a generalist program, a mixture of styles and schools, a certain lovely finish to tie everything together. One San Francisco ballet student's mother described it as a bit of a "rag tag" company (her son joined City Ballet and now is at PNB). I thought it was best when it had Cuban, Russian and City Ballet dancers and was doing Balanchine regularly. But three of the principals who were in a fine Symphony in Three Movements – Mesmer, Quenedit, and Mazzo – as well as Domitro of Scotch Symphony and Four Ts – are gone.
  11. Simone Mesmer (a name out of Henry James!) will be missed in Shostakovich Trilogy next year and she was excellent in Ratmansky's Scarlatti. I think there was definitely a place for her in the company. I once watched her in rehearsal – only a few feet away, almost too close – as she was, with great passion and precision, helping a younger dancer learn a part. I always felt that Maria Kochetkova was more a free agent than a company person. I liked her this year in The Cage, with her doe-eyed, poker faced look, which put a different spin on the part of the novice, and in general in contemporary works. Sometimes in classical ballet, tiny and long waisted, with her puckish expression, she seemed a size too small to have the dramatic weight the part required. Maybe she felt it was time for her to leave San Francisco, not just the company. The city, of which I'm a native, doesn't seem to stick to people in the long run – there's something like a 50% turnover every 20 years and this has been true at least since the sixties, well before the rents got crazy. I've heard couples say it takes five years to make friends here, and just as they do, one of the couples leaves. SF has a cerebral egalitarianism to it, but not much of the social warmth of New York or even, forgive me, Los Angeles. Europe itself, not its US replica, might feel more of a home at this point for MK.
  12. Thanks for posting, well worth watching. Quite interesting history of Coppelia, and that the type of music for Frantz was originally written for a woman. I don't know if we would characterize it today as "too weak for a man" and that in general ballet and its "positive aspects" had to be "saved" from all women casts (would Serenade need to be saved?). I do remember that when the Balanchine-Danilova Coppelia was cast here in San Francisco, I was told that only the smaller men would be dancing the part. I took that as meaning the part was so detailed that it would be difficult for a bigger dancer to get all the steps in. Maybe this should also be posted at Ballet Talk for Dancers, so young students can see the demonstrations of the various styles.
  13. Quiggin

    Ballet & feminism

    I thought it was a very good essay too. And Bouder gave Ratmansky credit for many good things. I don't know why feminism causes so much angst and tip-toeing around. It seems simply an overdue balancing of accounts. Especially when you look at what's been accepted as the norm until only recently, the things everyone let slide, like the terrible misogeny of Norman Mailer and John Updike or elements of the photography of Daido Moriyama and Gary Winogrand, where women are presented simply as sexual objects or mirrors in the urban landscapes, always beckoning back. Not so many gray areas there. I disagree about "Black Lives Matter, too" That neuters the empowering message. It sort of says get in the back of the mattering line.
  14. Regarding "Pygmalion," I remember it being pointed out that because Higgins makes a strong independent woman out of Eliza, she sees through him and has to reject him. Shaw's irony is lost if she stays. That's the ending that always seemed reasonable to me. What interests me about "Carousel" is that it's an Hungarian play under the hood and has a bit of what I think of as that cultural sensibility – the tone of Sandor Marai's or Peter Nadas's novels or even of Andre Kertesz's photographs: sweet/bitter. The Cinemascope 2.3:1 movie version (what do you do with all that empty on-screen space, what could survive it?) seems pretty Americanized though. I'd also be curious if "Liliom" the play infuenced Williams a bit in writing "A Streetcar Named Desire" (Elia Kazan, the director of "Streetcar", was in the 1940 Broadway cast of "Liliom") and if there is some of the main character in other 50's tough guy roles.
  15. Thought I'd add a background note that "Carousel" was originally a 1909 Hungarian play by Frerenc Molnar called "Liliom" and had a distinguished history on its own before it became a Rodgers and Hammerstein work. Someone at Wikipedia has written a good comparison of the original to the musical: Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca" and "Mildred Pierce") began but didn't complete a film version of "Liliom" in 1919. Fritz Lang directed a version in 1934 with Charles Boyer as Liliom, reportedly one of Lang's favorite of his films. Orson Welles did a radio version. Ingrid Bergman was in the stage version in 1941, which led to the musical being commissioned by the Theatre Guild. Hamburg Ballet did a version of "Liliom" in 2011 with music by Michel Legrand and Alina Cojocaru as Julie. I wonder if "Carousel" paved the way for GB Shaw's "Pygmalion" to be adapted for "My Fair Lady". Parts of the two are very close. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liliom