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Jack Reed

Ballet Chicago (May 5, 2018) (Duell, Seymour, Balanchine) with Simone Messmer (MCB)

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Posted (edited)

The performances, by the Ballet Chicago Studio Company, consisting of the best dancers from the Balanchine-oriented school which Ballet Chicago is, are at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm on Saturday May 5:

https://www.harristheaterchicago.org/tickets/2017-2018-season/ht-17-18-ballet-chic

(The Ballet Chicago Studio Company is the only non-professional - I'd say, pre-professional - company to appear at the Harris Theater.)

This linked page doesn't say much at all about the repertory, and I'm not sure I can say for sure the gorgeous Swan Lake costume at the top of the page is actually one of theirs, but I'd bet on it:  They've had a very capable and devoted army of volunteer seamstresses producing costumes for them over the years, and those of you who have seen their Nutcracker know how good they can be.

But I'd say that repertory is more important, not to mention quality of dancing, and I was impressed by what I saw at the previews last weekend.

Hansel and Gretel sets the familiar story to Wagnerian music by Engelbert Humperdinck (the original, a contemporary of Wagner, not the contemporary pop singer, Hansel and Gretel's choreographer, and artistic director of B.C., Dan Duell, told us with a grin at the previews).  His ballet features two pairs of principals, the title pair of youngsters who are supposed to work at broom-making to help support the family, but who, as kids do, really like to play - shown in playful dancing - and their parents, who scold them when they discover them - told in emphatic gestures worked into their dancing, as well as a witch, whose movement also sometimes supports her (evil) character, as when she exults over the trouble she whips up, and a corps.   

The Creatures of Prometheus may be the novelty of the season:  As far as its choreographer, Ted Seymour, knows (as he told us at the preview), Beethoven's music doesn't seem to have been choreographed since 1801, when he wrote it.  (Seymour said he reduced the music from the original 66 minutes, rarely heard nowadays, to 27, placing the Overture, which has become part of the concert repertory, as the conclusion.)  The plot here is that Prometheus empowers creatures to become more human by giving them fire, not only for basic warmth and cooking, but, in the symbolic sense, for passion, and light:  They develop culture; he enlightens them.  But Zeus, the ruler of the gods, takes issue with Prometheus's initiative, and some trouble ensues between them.  (Although we didn't see this choreography, placing the Overture at the end makes good musical sense to me, as it previews the themes in the score, and it can just as well summarize them, too.) 

Swan Lake is the half-hour Balanchine distillation of the hour-and-a-half traditional version, with the plot clearly shown in the first and last numbers; the rest is, mostly, beautiful dancing to beautiful music, although you can see romance when Odette (the Swan Queen) and Prince Siegfried dance together.  Odette will be danced by the superb Simone Messmer, currently a principal dancer with Miami City Ballet. 

What I saw, like I usually see from the Studio Company, was dancing expressive of what the choreographers hear:  Some of it carries the plot they're working with, more or less strongly implied by their music, and much of it implies dance movement largely for its own sake.  Or rather, for the sake of each other, the music and the dance.  To me, this is how the people who run the school, Dan Duell and his wife, Patricia Blair, honor the Balanchine tradition they find congenial.  It's the one this spectator finds most congenial, too.

(B.C. being a school making the most of limited resources, I should probably say that the music will be recorded; but having heard some of it already, as a classical-music lover, I can say that the performances seem to be well chosen, as they usually are.) 

Edited by Jack Reed

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There will also be a pre-performance lecture with Daniel Duell in the Donor's Room of the Harris Theater at 1:00 pm on May 5th.  I think mainly ticket holders to the matinee will be admitted.  These things are usually informative and pretty small and informal, so if you want, bring some questions to ask.

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I haven't seen any of Duell's choreography for a very long time, but I remember a piece he brought to Jacob's Pillow in the '80's or early '90's with a small troupe, I think of young NYCB dancers, so maybe he was still with the Company in some capacity: it was a black and white neoclassical ballet set to Webern, and I remember loving it.

(ETA: Or maybe it was Berg.)

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, Jack Reed said:

Odette will be danced by the superb Simone Messmer, currently a principal dancer with Miami City Ballet. 

 

I think that the more freedom that she's given the more she shines. This is where that could show. When she's through with all her activities, Jack, could you please send her out to California for the rest of the summer.

Edited by Buddy

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Posted (edited)

I sympathize - and empathize, too - but here's another post of mine:

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/43726-simone-messmer-in-chicago-may-5-2018-and-over-the-summer/

So, we'll see how many of her fans come from Florida and California to see her! 

Why here?  I'm not really privy, but I gather she is very interested in Balanchine's choreography, stopping off here in 2012 on her way from New York to San Francisco to dance Balanchine's "Sugar Plum" with Ted Seymour in BC's The Nutcracker four times, and Ballet Chicago's curriculum is constructed largely from it - a few years ago, I managed to see one of their end-of-summer-session shows, where we got his Tchaikovsky pas de Deux five times with five casts, interspersed with fragments and excerpts from other ballets, mostly his, and - true to his way, I think - all five were pretty accurate and true but each was a little different in level of accomplishment and "flavor," and so, fresh and entertaining - and she wants to dance a considerable amount of it - his way - herself. 

How much of this will be on view I don't know, although there was a program late last summer, not just advanced students, but members of the Studio Company, some of whom teach, as well.

Edited by Jack Reed

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Posted (edited)
On 4/27/2018 at 3:38 PM, Jack Reed said:

The performances, by the Ballet Chicago Studio Company, consisting of the best dancers from the Balanchine-oriented school which Ballet Chicago is, are at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm on Saturday May 5:

https://www.harristheaterchicago.org/tickets/2017-2018-season/ht-17-18-ballet-chic

(The Ballet Chicago Studio Company is the only non-professional - I'd say, pre-professional - company to appear at the Harris Theater.)

[…]

The Creatures of Prometheus may be the novelty of the season:  As far as its choreographer, Ted Seymour, knows (as he told us at the preview), Beethoven's music doesn't seem to have been choreographed since 1801, when he wrote it.  

I recently started reading Charle Joseph’s Stravinsky and Balanchine: A Journey of Invention and he mentions a commission to choreograph The Creatures of Prometheus given to Balanchine by the Paris Opera after Diaghilev’s death...Due to Balanchine’s ill health the ballet was completed by Lifar (who —as you know—then nabbed the POB ballet Director position). I think I have seen other references to this ballet ....

Edited by Drew
Typo

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