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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

Well, while we're talking about whiteness, I found the Bolshoi's costumes blindingly white. I mean, obviously it's perfectly valid to go with bright white for a ballet called Diamonds, but the ivory tops in Karinska's costumes provide a bit of a relief for the eyes, while also making the dancers' white-tight-clad legs stand out. And Smirnova's bodice was so encrusted with crystals that I had to force myself to not focus on it as she began the PDD. The Karinska bibs are heavily decorated, as well, but a variety of materials are employed so that it doesn't become overwhelmingly blingy. The Bolshoi bodices also seem to have virtually no heft to them; they read like stretchy gymnast/figure skater tops. I guess the idea is to make the dancers look as thin as possible. The upside: the corps women wear perfectly fitted opera-length gloves, complete with fingers, in the final movement -- no cut-outs for the fingers, like in the Karinska costumes, which I always think looks sort of odd.

 

We need to remember that the Bolshoi's costumes were made with a different background in mind. In the videos from the Bolshoi's performances, Diamonds are performed against a deep sky blue background with a constellation of diamond-like stars. Which makes the dancers and their white costumes stand out a lot more. By comparison, the NYCB's background I found dated, a bit tacky, and distracting from the dancers. The background for Rubies, however, was right on target.

 

As for the white gloves, I found them god-awful, would have much rather preferred to see the beautiful long expressive arms of the Russian ballerinas. The Bolshoi did not always have these gloves, if I recall correctly, where have they come from here? 

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Diamonds:  I'm not sure where to begin. I thought the performance was breathtaking, stunning, despite a few problems.  Visually, the company is gorgeous. I agree with many posts about their look, their uniformity of height, their long legs, arms and necks, etc. They are so beautiful!    I really liked the tutus, especially the gorgeous bodices with capped sleeves.  They were very white, but it didn't bother me.  Karinska's original costumes are the best, but since this was a Russian company, they were dressed in their Imperial Russian ballet finery. I seem to remember the style of the tutu skirts to be similar or maybe even the same style as the tutus in the dream scene of their Don Quixote. 

 

I didn't have a problem with the tempo and I am usually sensitive to tempos that are too slow for a particular ballet (I'm thinking of some Russian Sugar Plum Fairy or Swan Lake Act II PDD videos where the tempo is agonizingly slow). The company danced quite beautifully and classically with amazing and solid technique, they just don't look like Balanchine and I don't think they can, despite the coaching by Merrill Ashley (and Paul Boos, whom I don't know).  This is where Kovaleva, who was both physically and technically gorgeous, had some issues, I think.   I agree with Kaysta's comments about her dramatic presence. I'm sure she will grow into this role, but for now, I think she lacks a kind of aloof and impassive grandeur, a you-can-look-but-you-cannot-possess me quality that the role demands. Some key moments were too soft and lacked the drama associated with the music.  First, the moment in the PDD where she bourees and then pirouettes(?) into the cavalier's arms and almost looks trapped and she must get away - it's a single unbelievable pose wherein she establishes she can't be there (in his arms). (On the YouTube video with Farrell and Martins it starts at 8:02 for those who may want to see what I'm talking about).   The other underwhelming moment yesterday happened when the ballerina sort of marches forward on point with her arms over her head, his arm protectively around her waist.   Both of these moments, at least from my seat, which was very good, seemed under-expressed.  These are iconic Balanchine choreographic moments. There is such tension in this PDD.  The  cavalier pursues her, they walk as if in love, they dance, but it's fleeting because she is ultimately  unattainable, regardless that there is something in her that wants to be possessed.  Those two moments, I believe,  help to establish that unattainability. 

 

Tissi was lovely, but the hand kiss was, IMO, not properly executed. For me, that kiss is the cavalier's resignation and acceptance that he cannot posses  her, and he bows down in reverence and kisses her hand   Tissi's seemed to me a stolen kiss. 

 

I have often thought - did Balanchine have Diana the Huntress in the back of his mind when he choreographed this PDD?   Those port de bras, iconic and beautiful, where her arms are over her head, one bent behind, the other outstretched above and forward, doesn't she looks like a statue of Artemis, imaginary bow in her exquisite hands?.

 

 

 

Edited by KarenAG
grammar

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29 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

 

We need to remember that the Bolshoi's costumes were made with a different background in mind. In the videos from the Bolshoi's performances, Diamonds are performed against a deep sky blue background with a constellation of diamond-like stars. Which makes the dancers and their white costumes stand out a lot more. By comparison, the NYCB's background I found dated, a bit tacky, and distracting from the dancers. The background for Rubies, however, was right on target.

 

As for the white gloves, I found them god-awful, would have much rather preferred to see the beautiful long expressive arms of the Russian ballerinas. The Bolshoi did not always have these gloves, if I recall correctly, where have they come from here? 

I agree about the gloves- I really dislike them.  If the women were wearing tea-length tutus (like in La Valse), they would work.  But this is a classical, imperial ballet.

Edited by KarenAG
typographic error

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I have a video from 2014 and 2016 of the Bolshoi and the gloves were not there in either performance. So it appears they are a brand new addition.

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3 hours ago, nanushka said:

 

Thank you, but again I was not talking about depth and background; I was commenting on a visual phenomenon.

 

 

I suppose you must be referring to me, since as far as I recall I'm the only one who has commented here about my visual perception that the Bolshoi ensemble yesterday was overwhelmingly white. So much for "leaving it at that."

 

I'll simply repeat that my comment was not meant to suggest that the Bolshoi should look as racially diverse as a U.S. company nor that they should strive to do so or had failed to reach some standard.

 

(Interestingly, your last sentence above suggests to me that you think the company has made an attempt at racial diversity –– though I readily admit I may be misinterpreting you. It's easy to do that in an online forum such as this.)

 

 I think that Eric and Bruna were selected to the Bolshoi because of their merit and ability. To think that this may have been because of someone's attempt at racial diversity would be an insult to these wonderful dancers, and I certainly will have no part of that.

 

I am glad that people are finally agreeing that there is nothing wrong with the composition a Russian company being predominantly Russian + the various ethnicities that inhabit Russia.

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4 hours ago, canbelto said:

 

Karen, thanks for your thoughts! I'm so happy you got to see this Superjewels! I think maybe in retrospect I'm being too hard on the POB's Emeralds. In recent years NYCB has had Tiler Peck do the Violette Verdy role and dancers like Ashley Laracey and Sara Mearns the Mimi Paul role. But I do remember when Peter Martins himself seemed to have trouble casting this ballet in a way that he never did for Rubies and Diamonds. I remember some real miscasts as well. 

 

I was thinking that some of the oddities of the Bolshois' Rubies seemed to come from a place of being overly scrupulous. It's as if they wanted to avoid ANY accusation that they were overacting, hamming it up, distorting the music or steps, so it was as if they were afraid to actually dance. But risk-taking is part of Rubies' DNA -- it's not supposed to look tasteful.

Thank you, Canbelto. These are good points!  Rubies is not a 'polite' ballet .   

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17 minutes ago, KarenAG said:

First, the moment in the PDD where she bourees and then pirouettes(?) into the cavalier's arms and almost looks trapped and she must get away - it's a single unbelievable pose wherein she establishes she can't be there (in his arms). (On the YouTube video with Farrell andThe ballerina's bodice especially seems almost champagne rather than ivory. Martins it starts at 8:02 for those who may want to see what I'm talking about). 

3

This element was also an issue for Smirnova and Chudin, but I believe it was due to a partnering glitch. It wasn't that it was de-emphasized; it just came off awkwardly because of some sort of lack of coordination between the two. That said, I've never seen anyone able to pull it off as swiftly and with such impact as Farrell. I've been disappointed at NYCB, as well, that the ballerina doesn't do it with nearly as much snap.

 

And yes, I'd prefer no gloves if at all possible, but if we have to have them, at least not the fingerless ones, please! Maybe the Bolshoi added them as a nod to Karinska's designs. I agree that NYCB's scenery for Diamonds is by far the weakest of the three acts. The netting that holds up the chandelier-like jewel clusters is so thick and clunky that it ruins any illusion of them floating in space. 

 

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26 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

 

I am glad that people are finally agreeing that there is nothing wrong with the composition a Russian company being predominantly Russian + the various ethnicities that inhabit Russia.

 

I honestly don't think anyone was ever suggesting that it should be otherwise. 

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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

 

I agree, the Smirnova/Chudin interpretation is rather chilly. I do, however, think that's one quite valid take on the PDD. It worked for me –– but it's certainly not the only way I'd ever want to see it.

 

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the Farrell/Martins video, if you've seen that one.

Thank you for sending me to the Farrell Martins video of the Diamonds pas de deux, which I just watched. I didn't think Farrell was as good in the role as Smirnova. For one thing, she is tall, and that is accentuated in the lifts, which although smooth, made her look outsized. Her performance looked not as fluid as Smirnova, more stately. I know she was Mr. B's muse, and he mounted many ballets created especially to suit her talents and height, in which she was superb. However, I thought Martins was wonderful--dramatic, manly, and elegant. In fact I couldn't take my eyes off him. This video reminds me of my early ballet watching years, when NYCB was graced with the great dancers of this era--Villella, D'Amboise, and especially my favorite, Allegra Kent. Those were the days!

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19 minutes ago, CTballetfan said:

I know she was Mr. B's muse, and he mounted many ballets created especially to suit her talents and height, in which she was superb.

 

One of those he created for her was in fact this one, with d'Amboise.

 

I'll definitely rewatch soon myself with your observations in mind. Thanks!

Edited by nanushka

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Hmm I don't think Smirnova is short. And at CB the ballet continues to be cast with tall women -- Maria Kowroski, Tess Reichlen, and Sara Mearns (the three active Diamonds) are all tall. 

 

And I don't think Suzanne was actually that tall. I think her very long feet made her tall on pointe. I think in actual height Suzanne might be closer to Smirnova than Kowroski or Reichlen.

 

IMG_3445.jpg

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Farrell was reported to be 5'8".

 

 

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I find that my perception of a dancer's height, especially on video, is often strongly determined by body proportions, nearly as much as by height itself.

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1 hour ago, KarenAG said:

The company danced quite beautifully and classically with amazing and solid technique, they just don't look like Balanchine and I don't think they can,

 

 

 

Apologies, but I'm going to take this comment out of context -- it feels to me that we're in a transitional moment when it comes to the Balanchine repertory, and this "SuperJewels" production points this out.  Do you think that it's possible to stage a production of a Balanchine work that can be seen as a viable alternative to the standard reading?  That is to ask, can we have versions of this repertory as we have versions of the classical and romantic era rep?  Or are we still too close to the original productions to feel comfortable with that kind of directorial discretion?

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17 minutes ago, sandik said:

 

Apologies, but I'm going to take this comment out of context -- it feels to me that we're in a transitional moment when it comes to the Balanchine repertory, and this "SuperJewels" production points this out.  Do you think that it's possible to stage a production of a Balanchine work that can be seen as a viable alternative to the standard reading?  That is to ask, can we have versions of this repertory as we have versions of the classical and romantic era rep?  Or are we still too close to the original productions to feel comfortable with that kind of directorial discretion?

 

Great question. I agree we're in a transitional period, and I suspect we won't fully enter that next phase until those who remember having seen these works in the Balanchine era are more vastly outnumbered among the ballet-going population, and among the population of teachers/coaches, critics, etc.

 

Edited to add:

I don't think it would be that way with the work of just any choreographer, or even major choreographer. I think there are a number of reasons that this is particularly the case when it comes to Balanchine.

 

Edited by nanushka

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I saw the moment you're talking about and think that in this case it's more of an accent being different rather than an outright distortion/deletion of steps (the way the first night POB did not do the staccato arabesques in the walking pas de deux). 

 

Also (and I think this is important) many of the dancers who made those 1970's films have spoken about the tiny cramped TV studios being very difficult to dance in and Balanchine being unhappy with the results of most of those films. As much as I adore the Farrell/Martins video the tininess of their dancing space is very apparent and this pas de deux really needs a large stage to breathe. I appreciate this video but I am sure their real-life performances in a theater were very different and had a different impact.

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5 hours ago, canbelto said:

Farrell/Martins at least in the video are also very remote and chilly.

 

Actually Mearns' take on Diamonds isn't even the orthodox NYCB take on Diamonds. Wendy Whelan, Teresa Reichlen, Maria Kowroski also all less emotive than Mearns.

Mearns emotes in anything she does.  Some feel that she over-emotes where it is not even appropriate.  In Diamonds, however, it works. 

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12 minutes ago, abatt said:

 

Thanks, abatt. I strongly recommend Nancy Goldner's long analysis in Balanchine Variations and, somewhat less strongly, Laura Jacobs' essay "Balanchine's Castle."

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1 hour ago, sandik said:

 

Apologies, but I'm going to take this comment out of context -- it feels to me that we're in a transitional moment when it comes to the Balanchine repertory, and this "SuperJewels" production points this out.  Do you think that it's possible to stage a production of a Balanchine work that can be seen as a viable alternative to the standard reading?  That is to ask, can we have versions of this repertory as we have versions of the classical and romantic era rep?  Or are we still too close to the original productions to feel comfortable with that kind of directorial discretion?

 

I ask this question about Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham's works all the time. To me, so long as the choreographer's company is still in existence and is still actively engaged in conserving his or her essential style, its reading remains the touchstone. Note that in the case of Balanchine, I would include among companies 'still actively engaged in conserving his or her essential style" those headed by one of his dancers - e.g., PNB, MCB, etc. 

 

In the case of Cunningham, I would probably include Compagnie CNDC-Angers, which is headed by Robert Swinston, a long-time Merce dancer and disciple.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

I ask this question about Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham's works all the time. To me, so long as the choreographer's company is still in existence and is still actively engaged in conserving his or her essential style, its reading remains the touchstone. Note that in the case of Balanchine, I would include among companies 'still actively engaged in conserving his or her essential style" those headed by one of his dancers - e.g., PNB, MCB, etc. 

 

In the case of Cunningham, I would probably include Compagnie CNDC-Angers, which is headed by Robert Swinston, a long-time Merce dancer and disciple.

 

 

 

Interesting. That would suggest a (potentially -- assuming such companies outlive those who were around to see the Balanchine era) significantly longer-lasting period of general discomfort with discretion and variation.

 

Edited to add:

And of course it needn't be one or the other. There may well be some degree of change in the years corresponding with the loss of personal legacy and some additional degree with the loss of institutional legacy.

Edited by nanushka

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Anyone see the different Rubies cast this afternoon with Lopatin?

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27 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Anyone see the different Rubies cast this afternoon with Lopatin?

 

Lopatin/Marchenkova were WAY better than Ovcharenko/ Grebenshchinkova. It still looked like the Bolshoi was dancing in a foreign language, but Lopatin got the vernacular whereas Ovchareno just looked lost - like Siegfried wandered into the wrong ballet.

 

Marchenkova's approach to the Tall Girl role was a little too sexy/sultry for me but she certainly had presence & was assertive.

 

I'll try to write more tomorrow

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Marchenkova was the raunchiest Tall Girl I have ever seen.  Subtlety? Nyet!   I'm not really sure what I thought about it, except that it wasn't boring.  Her legs were like pistols, and she looked the audience straight in the eye: never letting them out of her grasp.  She did make an effort at the style and certainly should be credited with dancing extremely big.  Not even a particularly tall dancer, she certainly did everything to look like one.

 

Krysanova/Lopatin looked like they had walked onstage in the wrong ballet.  There were no technical disasters, and Krysanova in particular is very strong, but there was no sense of dare, verve, jazz....everything was very turned out, prim and proper.  There wasn't the integrity of the off-balance partnering nor the turned in emphasis on many of the steps.  The speed was better maintained than I was expecting though.  Lopatin was perhaps an improvement over Ovcharenko in that he wasn't a prince (this is my guess, I didn't see Friday), but he was visibly pushing just to get through the ballet.  The saut de basque in the men's dance were under rotated and effortful,  and the consecutive traveling jumps from stage left to right had no force.  Krysanova was slightly better, but overall didn't look sure of herself and phrased everything in a kind of metronomic manner.

 

Diamonds is fascinating because for whatever reason it is the most consistently staged of the three gems.  Now this is not to say that each company's rendition isn't unique. The NYCB and Bolshoi approaches to Diamonds could not be more different: if Diamonds is considered "After Petipa," NYCB emphasizes the "After" and Bolshoi the "Petipa." There is nothing in-between, but the steps are basically the same. 

 

In Emeralds there are often different port de bras, and the original (gorgeous) promenade section in the first pas created on Verdy/Ludlow has since been cut in most (all?) subsequent stagings.  There are also two movements today which weren't in the premiere, and the Mariinsky doesn't even dance the Death movement.  The Sandra Jennings/Patricia Neary staging for Bolshoi Rubies was so altered from NYCB's it looked like a different ballet.  I assume Neary's would be closest to the original, while NYCB dances the most recent version of Balanchine's before he died?   However, Diamonds is very consistent from company to company,  and presumably to the original.  The principal solos in the Scherzo do tend to have variations, but they are mostly the same steps.

 

I will write more about Mearns/Angle and NYCB later.

Edited by MRR

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