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nanushka

POB dancing Balanchine

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I'd be curious to hear what opinions there are of the POB dancing Balanchine. (I don't know the company well but know they have a lot in their rep and have seen a few things on video.) His works are so varied — are there certain ones that are felt to be better fits for the company than others? What does their approach tend to be? Any other thoughts? Thanks!

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I've seen it once live (Emeralds) and many video clips (I don't want the channel to get shut down but there is a tireless chronicler of the POB and it includes them dancing Balanchine on YT). My opinion: they dance it well, but sort of anemically. When I saw their Emeralds I saw their beautiful feet, their exquisite port de bras. What I did NOT see the kind of fast footwork, sudden ability to switch center of gravity and go for broke attack that IMO Balanchine requires. They also have a tendency to airbrush the thornier parts of Balanchine choreography. During the Emeralds i saw one couple deleted the stacccato "clock" arabesques of the walking pas de deux. I saw a video of their Four Temperaments and the Choleric is a fine dancer but she doesn't do those fast gargouillades that IMO are an iconic part of the choreography. 

On the other hand I do think they can do some Balanchine very well. For instance this Tchaikovsky pas de deux has maybe the most exciting dancing I've ever seen from Dupont. I mean I didn't even know she could do a quintuple pirouette: 

 

Edited by canbelto

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I don't dislike POB performances of Balanchine to the degree some do. I'm mostly entertained by watching how the French School approaches neo-classical works by Balanchine and Robbins.

I basically agree with Canbelto's statements above - what the POB dancers often lack (in Balanchine works) is the requisite 'attack', musical timing (they tend to accent musical phrases differently from NYCB dancers, while the best NYCB dancers appear to 'get inside' the music and play with it), and don't always pay enough attention to the movement and flow between positions (but better than the Russians do in these ballets). The POB dancers don't "eat space" in the same manner that a Tiler Peck, Mearns, Reichlen, Hyltin etc. can do - I think the French dancers just have a different approach to stage presentation, and that's OK with me. But the best performances of Balanchine roles are still happening in the U.S., imo.

The changing and deletion of choreographic steps (presumably to make things 'easier' for the dancers) is just wrong-headed. What does it mean to say that a dancer has learned a role, for example the Mimi Paul role in Emeralds,  but doesn't perform the same steps normally associated with the role? And it's not a case of learning an older Balanchine version, rather than the last/final version. If a company is going to take on a Balanchine ballet, they should be willing to train the necessary amount of time to learn the choreography. Otherwise it looks like the ballet isn't being taken seriously, or the dancers don't have what it takes. But the issue is rarely one of talent, but of proper training in Balanchine techniques and steps. I don't think people get that as much time as it takes to prepare for dancing Odile/Odette or Aurora roles, it takes a lot of time to get comfortable with many iconic Balanchine roles. If Tiler Peck still has roles she hasn't quite figured out, then no one else should be assuming there's a fast track to learning these parts.


 

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I agree. For me, POB dancing Balanchine doesn't look like Balanchine. The choreography is still interesting (because Balanchine was so creative) but in general, POB dancers lack the speed, attack and stretch that defines the Balanchine style. They also seem to make (or try to make) everything look "pretty," but Balanchine loved unusual positions and odd angles. 

Tschai Pas has been a good vehicle for some of the POB dancers (like Dupont and Gilbert) but I can't stand the way POB dancers do the dives at the end! They're so tentative and lacking in fluidity that they completely ruin the performance for me.

I thought La Valse last(?) season was quite respectable. But that is one of Balanchine's more classical ballets. Personally, I think POB performs Robbins better than it does Balanchine.

 

 

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There are a couple of older threads about Paris Opera Ballet and "Jewels":

On the DVD, which was released in 2006:

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/23182-paris-opera-ballet-which-jewel-did-you-like-best/?tab=comments#comment-189179

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/22418-jewels-dvd-and-pbs-great-performances-broadcast/

 

When they shared "Jewels" with NYCB and the Bolshoi Ballet at last year's Lincoln Center Festival:

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/41974-lincoln-center-festival-2017/

 

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