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Suzanne Farrell Ballet

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Dirac posted this on Links, but I thought I'd put it here, too, to make this thread more complete. Jean Battey Lewis (who is not a Moonie, please, before anyone starts) in the Washington Times:


(Note: Lewis only gets to do one piece a week, on Saturday, either a preview or a review. This is, I thought, an extremely clever way of doing both!)

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I can remember thinking, after the first few performances, that although they were not evenly achieved, there was a lot that was good and that they looked like they were headed in the right direction, so that it looked promising; and it was very pleasing to see how quickly the promise was kept, not only on stage but also in the pit, where the orchestra produced clearer and more robust performances. By the time they end their tour, this troupe must really be going to look like something!

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Thanks for all of the reviews...especially you, Jack, who seem to have catched all of the DC performances of the Farrell troupe. I intended to write a short review about Program A (Scotch, Faun, Duo & Apollo), which I viewed a couple of times last weekend, but have simply been flooded in the office with Afghani-refugee-related work...making it seem as if Farrell Ballet took place a century ago. Nonetheless, I think it proper to at least echo the above-cited sentiments that the Farrell venture is indeed promising. I was very impressed with Scotch Symphony (Goh & Boal were divine as the lead pair last Friday evening!) and noticed the particular 'Farrellisms' that were also evident in her Kirov staging 10+ years ago, e.g., certain risks taken by the ballerina in the central pdd; certain mannerisms & glances by the corps; etc. Judging by both programs, Farrell has obviously invested a lot of time in teaching facial nuances and mannerisms to all dancers, including corps. This makes for a far more interesting ballet than simply watching neat techical dancing from the waist-down.

Among the soloists, Goh & Magnicaballi were real 'finds' for me, during this run. Among the men, this run only heightened my long-standing admiration of Boal.

Oh...and it was very nice to see audience attendance pick up during the weekend (compared to Tuesday night, when I saw Program B).

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Thanks for the post, Jeannie, and I look forward to your review. Alexandra, of course you're quite right that we judge performances based on others we've seen. I guess for once I'm glad I haven't seen as much as you have. I couldn't have attended the Wednesday Apollo, but there was at least one ecstatic guy in the audience Sunday. (And to think she planned on doing Bolero instead).

To what can we attribute the change in Boal's style between the two performances of that last ballet? Must be Farrell's direction, no?

Also, rereading the Post piece on Farrell (9/26), I noted this quote about Somnambula: "Most productions are already too dark in terms of drama, too macabre, too premeditated." So it'll be interesting to see if she makes changes in response to the criticism that her production lacked a couple of those qualities.

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Hi all. I made the long trek out to Long Island from Manhattan Friday night to see the company at the Tilles Center. Despite a cold and some rather unreliable cabbies :) , I enjoyed the performance. The house was pretty full, though again with lots of people who didn't seem to have a clue about ballet. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a shame that more real ballet fans in NYC won't get to see the company this time around.

The program was Scotch Symphony (Du and Fagundes), Momentum/Movements (Du and Fournier), Duo Concertant (Huys and Magnicaballi), and Apollo (Huys, Magnicaballi, Fournier, and Goh). My impressions were very similar to those of others here. I was particularly impressed with the corps, especially in Monumentum/Movements -- lots of detail, energy, clarity of line, rhythmic sensitivity. A beautiful performance of those two pieces. Huys and Magnicaballi got off to a rather hurried start in Duo, but their trust and sense of fun grew immensely as it went on. I liked Magnicaballi's flirty shoulders at the beginning!

As for Apollo, the restored parts at the beginning and end are magnificent. Huys was a very refined Apollo, very light and clear. The three women looked slightly jittery; though her dancing was fine, Goh never quite got hold of her character. Fournier was very careful as Polyhymnia; her reserve was not as noticeable a problem here as in Monumentum/Movements, but it still dragged things down a bit. She is technically quite strong, but she needs to learn the confidence to take some risks.

On the whole I thought the confidence level among the dancers was not too high -- someone here called it a lack of star power. Or maybe they are just exhausted -- after the show I saw them filing out to their bus, looking completely drained. Incidentally, on Friday the music was taped, except for in Duo. Dancing to taped music is in itself somewhat stressful!

That said, there's no disputing the magic of Farrell's coaching and staging. In this performance, these ballets were brighter and fresher than I've ever seen them.

[ 10-16-2001: Message edited by: Alla ]

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I believe that the company is going to be at the NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark.....it is easily accessible by train.(17 minutes from Manhattan via Penn Station, and the theatre is right nearby.)

Cannot recall exact schedule but I believe they have a website....

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I saw the final performance of the tour Tuesday at McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ. Sorry if my post seems a bit muddled, but writing reviews is not my strength...

Anyway, the program included La Sonnambula, Duo Concertant, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra and Scotch Sympony. Though the variety was nice, IMHO, the program could have done with one less ballet, both to make it shorter (it was almost 2.5 hours) and to cut down on the constant, somewhat jarring shifts from one ballet to the next in the "leotard ballet" section.

I won't comment much on La Sonnambula since my feelings are very much colored by the stunning performace of the ballet by NYCB that I saw last spring (Whelan, Ringer, Hubbe and Soto, all ON!). "La Sonnambula" was not a good choice for McCarter because the stage is very small, and with much of the space taken up by the set, the dancing seemed very cramped. The jester couldn't jump offstage properly and from my seats you couldn't see the sleepwalker carrying the poet offstage at all. Also, I'm not fond of dancing to taped music since it does not allow for tempos that match the individual dancers.

I tend to agree with other "reviewers" that while there appears to be great potential, it seemed like all the dancers could have used with more rehearsal time. Mario Hernandez's jester had sparks of brilliance, but maybe because of the small stage, a bit flat. Goh and Huys did an excellent job individually, but to me the pas de deux lacked the flow that comes with much practice together. Momchil Mladenov's baron was the only bit of poor casting-his mime does not seem up to the role and lacked the "weight" needed to convey the emotion of the story.

The "leotard" ballets were well done and I liked the obvious attention to detail. My only gripe was that some of the men didn't point their feet when it was appropriate. It's not a major flaw, but one my pet peeves-I like a finished dancer!

"Scotch Symphony" with Du and Fagundes was my favorite ballet of the night. The female corps was excellent and I like the attention paid to hand positions that are elegant, but not the "claws" sometimes seen at NYCB.

All in all, a pleasant evening. My impression is that Farrell has a great idea, and is well on her way to doing something wonderful. With more time and more talent (maybe more "star power" and a slightly stronger male corps) she will have a real treasure. My only real gripe were the costumes....I just wasn't fond of them. For instance, the guy's jackets (tails) in La Sonnambula, especially on the tallet men, seemed too short. Also, I could see the seems and waistbands of the women's tights through the white leotards at one point and also could see the "bustles" underneath the long tutus in Scotch Symphony. It could just be different lighting, or closer seats... Oh, and the color and cut of Ben Huy's shirt in Duo Concertant was strange...a rather feminine lavender with a low chest and 3/4 sleeves that seemd out of place on a guy (and IMHO, his tights were rolled down to far, blurring his body lines).

OK...maybe I'm getting to picky at the advanced age of 24 redface.gif )


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Thank you for that, Kate! (Picky can be a good thing, even at 24 smile.gif ) It sounds pretty much the way it looked down here. Venue does make a big difference, though. I know I saw Paul Taylor for 15 years in Lisner Auditorium and even HIS dancers didn't look their best there; the company "improved" dramatically when it moved into the Eisenhower. I've thought the same thing about Washington Ballet, too.

[ October 26, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I caught the group at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, an excellent place for dance (if only one of the groups would bring an orchestra).

I'd have to agree with much of the sentiment in the previous posts. This is just the beginning for Farrell's endeavor and it's sure to grow. Some of the sets were dinky and the costumes have that designer knockoff look. But these faults could not take away from the integrity of the performances. As a whole, the group and many of the principals dance in a lighter style than Farrell did or the NYCB does. This could have been a liability but I think it worked well in Scotch Symphony.

I also came away that Chan Hon Goh was a true artist and I'm happy that she so obviously enjoys working with Farrell. She brought me chills during Scotch Symphony and was chilling herself as the Sleepwalker.

Adding to my pleasure during the Mendlssohn is that I happen to like the way Farrell approaches and coaches the work. Over the last 3-4 seasons at NYCB, the part has become too perky. I prefer the mysterious, dance under moon light approach that I remember from the past and in Farrell's setting of the work with Elena Pankova in the lead. It also appears to be supported by a TV performance I saw (in the mueseum of broadcasting) of Tallchief from the Bell Telephone Hour.

My only complaint with SS was the Scottish lass, Kristen Stevens, who didn't have the briskness, beats, or charm the role requires.

I also was unimpressed with Jennifer Fournier. She has a beautiful face (sort of Darcey Bussell-like) but she is just so stiff. Wisely, Farrell put her in Monumentum/Movements, the former ballet requiring classical purity. While satisfying, the corp was not in unison during the famous diagonal where they flex their feet. A tiny blip. Runqiao Du partner well in both ballets and did well with his solo in the latter ballet.

I agree with Kate about Huys' shirt in the Duo Concertant. I don't know why they chose the alter (slightly) the costumes here as I would think they would be inexpensive. Natalia Magnicaballi was good but did not show off "Balanchine" style technique. However, she did the moment when she stand in the spotlight very well. The part where she pushes her face out of the light was very well done, almost as if they hand belonged to someone else, who was taking her away from Huys.

Even though it was very uneven, I'm glad Farrell programed La Sonnambula. It seems to be a ballet that will allow her company, I'm speaking about the corp and the demi soloists, to grow. Mario Hernandez wasn't quite up to the Harlequin, especially after seeing the role done with a lot of flash elsewhere, but it gives himself to work on. Stevens, Brian Palmer and Stephen Straub did the Pastorale as a trio, as has been pointed out. Balanchine himself dropped the hoop dance but was the Pastoral a trio before a quartet. This ballet has changed since it premiered with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. I believe the Harlequin was once danced by a female.

Bonnie Pickard and Dimitri Fateev danced the divertissement pas de deux were dressed more like playing card characters rather than exotica and the choreography was a bit different than what I see now. For example, when the female does an extention, instead of leaning on his back while he bends over, she is supported while he is kneeling. I don't know if this is an older version or what. (Other changes were the corps wearing flippers not heeled shoes and the performers not coming out with loose hair after the Poet is stabbed).

Christina Fagundes was the coquette and played her alluring but not heartless. Huys made a fine poet but did not bring out his sinister qualities during the group dances.

But Goh was magnificently creepy as the sleepwalker. As Kate said, we've seen some wonderful performances of this ballet recently. Whelen was terrific, as was Kyra Nichols a few years back. Goh did two things that really struck me -- she kept her eyes open and unfocused the entire time (something that Whelen did when she first debut in the role a few years ago but not this past season) and had the character appear to melt inside, but stay unreachable on the outside. Especially touching was the way she walked out of Huys' outstretched arms after the backbend. Her whole body seemed to be overcome with tiny shivers. Well, I can talk about this ballet forever, it's one of my favorites to analyze.

Some people didn't like the costumes in this ballet but I found them attractive, especially the dresses of the Coquette and guests, which had a whiff of the surealism in them that pays homage to the Dorathea Tanning originals.

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