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ABT 2018 Firebird / AFTERITE

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It seems like there's not a lot of excitement about this program, either from the dancers or potential audience members. Harlequinade has been getting all the PR love, so I'm worried that ABT isn't super confident in he end result of AFTERITE (admittedly, Harlequinade is easier to market and a more surefire box office success). 

I'll be going because even if it's a major disappointment, hearing Stravinsky live is never a loss. And Ferri + Cornejo = take my money. 

I also missed Firebird in its initial years but no one I've spoken with seems excited about seeing it again. Christine Schevchenko seems like a good fit for this, so I'm optimistic. 

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4 hours ago, Inge said:


I'll be going because even if it's a major disappointment, hearing Stravinsky live is never a loss. And Ferri + Cornejo = take my money. 

I also missed Firebird in its initial years but no one I've spoken with seems excited about seeing it again. Christine Schevchenko seems like a good fit for this, so I'm optimistic. 

I am unable to get to NYC for this program and not a big McGregor fan, but actually still feel much as you do, and wish I could see this.

I like the Ratmansky Firebird a lot —though it has to be said that on this board, I seem to be an outlier. It does need confident, musical dancers giving 200 percent. But in any case, as you say, hearing Stravinsky live is never a loss. And publicity-wise, I would have thought these two scores in particular on the same origram would have a certain appeal —

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On 5/20/2018 at 3:44 PM, Drew said:

I am unable to get to NYC for this program and not a big McGregor fan, but actually still feel much as you do, and wish I could see this.

I like the Ratmansky Firebird a lot —though it has to be said that on this board, I seem to be an outlier. It does need confident, musical dancers giving 200 percent. But in any case, as you say, hearing Stravinsky live is never a loss. And publicity-wise, I would have thought these two scores in particular on the same origram would have a certain appeal —

I'm with Drew in liking Ratmansky's firebird a lot! I'm looking forward to it.

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 I thought by now there would be an outpouring of comments about last night's performance.  I had to miss the first half of the show, so I only saw AfterRite.  In retrospect, I wish I had gone to the first half and skipped the second half.  AfterRite had the usual McGregor hallmarks of push me, pull me, bend me, extend my limb in the most extreme awful position choreography.  However, this was McGregor with some added grotesque twists.  

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

The set has a constructed box with clear plastic doors on the side of the stage.  At the end of the ballet, there is a little girl in the box, and white gas starts filling into the box.  In other words, the ending of the "ballet" has a little girl being gassed to death.  Oh, and did I mention that a video recording device set up on the stage in front of the glass box is recording the gassing?  Am I misinterpreting what was going on there?  I sure hope so.  Clearly McGregor was going for a grand theatrical effect.  While the work did have some interesting ideas, as a Jew I found the gassing gimmick  at the end completely offensive and inappropriate.    Thank goodness I have no tickets for any additional performances of this program. Anyone else attend?    

 

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3 minutes ago, abatt said:

The set has a constructed box with clear plastic doors on the side of the stage.  At the end of the ballet, there is a little girl in the box, and white gas starts filling into the box.  In other words, the ending of the "ballet" has a little girl being gassed to death.  Oh, and did I mention that a video recording device set up on the stage in front of the glass box is recording the gassing?  Am I misinterpreting what was going on there?  I sure hope so.  Clearly McGregor was going for a grand theatrical effect.  While the work did have some interesting ideas, as a Jew I found the gassing gimmick  at the end completely offensive and inappropriate.    Thank goodness I have no tickets for any additional performances of this program. Anyone else attend?    

 

Good grief! You don't have to be Jewish to find this appalling. Anything in the program notes? Did anybody else see this? I've never been a McGregor fan and am so glad I decided to skip this.

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26 minutes ago, California said:

Good grief! You don't have to be Jewish to find this appalling. Anything in the program notes? Did anybody else see this? I've never been a McGregor fan and am so glad I decided to skip this.

Here are the program notes:

"Inside the last colony, humanity is a fragile frontier and survival demands the fittest. As nature reclaims its rites, a mother must choose what she holds most dear, and what she can afford to lose."

I am truly grateful that I did not buy tickets for the Firebird/Afterite program as it turns out I would be seeing 2 pieces that I loath.

The Dorrance was interesting but nothing I would rush out to see again. It gave Salstein a nice solo to go out on and I'm glad he got that recognition.

The evening started with 2 excerpts from Harlequinade. The first, the Ballabille from act , featured garish costumes and my first impression of the choreography was that this was not a ballet I was going to want to see a lot of. However, after that they did "Hunt of the Larks" from the 2nd act and it was absolutely beautiful in every imaginable way. I already have 1 ticket to see the Lane/Cirio cast and I plan to buy another one tonight. 

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39 minutes ago, abatt said:

 I thought by now there would be an outpouring of comments about last night's performance.  I had to miss the first half of the show, so I only saw AfterRite.  In retrospect, I wish I had gone to the first half and skipped the second half.  AfterRite had the usual McGregor hallmarks of push me, pull me, bend me, extend my limb in the most extreme awful position choreography.  However, this was McGregor with some added grotesque twists.  

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

The set has a constructed box with clear plastic doors on the side of the stage.  At the end of the ballet, there is a little girl in the box, and white gas starts filling into the box.  In other words, the ending of the "ballet" has a little girl being gassed to death.  Oh, and did I mention that a video recording device set up on the stage in front of the glass box is recording the gassing?  Am I misinterpreting what was going on there?  I sure hope so.  Clearly McGregor was going for a grand theatrical effect.  While the work did have some interesting ideas, as a Jew I found the gassing gimmick  at the end completely offensive and inappropriate.    Thank goodness I have no tickets for any additional performances of this program. Anyone else attend?    

 

I know you did indeed see it correctly.  I have spoken to several of the dancers about the piece, and each has said the ballet is a commentary on the state of our society and world.  Perhaps thinking of Syria might give some insight?  I will see it this evening so I will be able to comment more.  What I do know is the dancers loved working with McGregor, found him inspirational, and love(d) dancing the piece. 

 

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4 minutes ago, nysusan said:

Here are the program notes:

"Inside the last colony, humanity is a fragile frontier and survival demands the fittest. As nature reclaims its rites, a mother must choose what she holds most dear, and what she can afford to lose."

Survival of the fittest? Sophie's Choice? I'll be very interested in reading more comments on this board + responses from Gottlieb, Macaulay, et al. So glad I'm not in NYC to see this!

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Posted (edited)

On the way out of the theater last night, a complete stranger on the elevator asked me if I go to the Joyce theater downtown?  I responded sometimes.  She replied that the McGregor work is something that belongs at the Joyce, not at ABT at the Met.  Her sentiment was that she doesn't go to see ABT for this type of work.  I completely agree. 

Additionally, McKenzie seems to be hypersensitive when it comes to  certain race issues, but he has completely MISSED THE BOAT that having a gas chamber killing on stage might be offensive to , say,  audience members  whose ancestors were actually murdered in gas chambers.  CLUELESS.  I guess the ABT political correctness machine only applies sometimes, but not in matters involving the gassing of millions of real people in real gas chambers.  Nothing wrong with allowing a mechanism used in an attempt to obliterate an entire race from the planet to stand in as a theatrical gimmick.

Edited by abatt

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Interesting that McGregor's Obsidian Tear ("The imaginative world of the ballet is both archaic and futuristic in its exploration of the tribal behaviour of its all-male group. From the ballet’s opening duet, tender and innocent, the dancing becomes darker and more turbulent as the group plays out a dynamic of conflict and challenge, loyalty and rejection.") and other ballets could be performed and well-received at the Royal Opera House, but his work doesn't belong at the Met.  

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Posted (edited)

We shall see what the lead critics say, but as far as selling tickets, this program has been a box office bomb.  Virtually every performance this week was previously on TDF.   Without Misty in Firebird, full priced ticket sales for this week would have been even more dismal.   I don't think McGregor sells a lot of tickets in NYC.  The one work he did for NYCB a few years ago has not been revived.  In London McGregor may be much more popular.

Edited by abatt

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Although I am not a fan of his (except for Chroma - I liked that one) I would not say that his work does not belong in ABT's Met season - I would say that this MacGregor doesn't belong there. We have discussed ad infinitum on this board that the Met audience is conservative and expects a certain type of ballet from them. While I understand the concept of educating your audience, this is never going to make ABT's audience happy. It would be a better fit during their fall season if they insist on reviving it.

I understand that dancers hunger for new material and I'm sure they all enjoyed working with McGregor but the prime directive for ABT should be giving their audience what they want. Let me also add that while the gassing of a young girl was an upsetting sight, it was far from my only objection to this piece. I don't feel that the action on the stage made his premise clear but more importantly, I didn't like his choreography. I found it ugly and unimaginative.

The dancers executed the steps well (esp Cornejo and Cirio) and it was great to get a good look at Aron Bell, but other than that this was a real loser.

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Posted (edited)

My objection to this work relates to the gas chamber element of it.  Absent that aspect, it would just be another piece of choreography I didn't much care for but had no particular reaction to one way or another.

Ask yourselves this question.  If McGregor had decided to raise his survival of the fittest theme by showing a slave beating on stage,  do you think McKenzie would have allowed that to proceed?  NO WAY.  It would have been shut down at the first rehearsal.  ABT is led by a tone deaf  hypocrite.  Allowing an instrumentality  used to murder a race of people as a ballet gimmick crossed the line in a big way and trivialized the suffering endured by people who were and are victims of gassing.

Edited by abatt

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Thanks for the warning about AfterRITE, all! As the child of a Hungarian holocaust survivor - my mom - I’ve no interest in this ballet. On the other hand, I very much look forward to Ratmansky’s Harlequinade. The “Ballabile” with the “garish costumes” described by Nysusan might be the Tarantella tune danced by a large Corps in carnival costumes...the first big Corps number in A1 of the Balanchine version - a jolly tune that I adore. Can’t wait to see and compare the Ratmansky (Petipa) and Balanchine versions.

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I am not seeing AfterRite this season (I figure, if it's successful, they'll bring it back next year). But I do believe artists have every right to respond to contemporary subject matter, including genocide or atrocities of war. However, from what I'm reading on here, it sounds as if the gas chamber was treated as a gimmicky after-thought, or at least it played that way. If you're going to take on something as monumental and horrific as the Holocaust -- you better make sure you treat it thoughtfully. If it felt as if the whole ballet were building up to that one climatic (and disturbing) moment, then I could imagine it being justified from an artistic standpoint. But from what abatt writes, it doesn't seem like that is the case.

I think another issue is the one of audience, as others have pointed out. ABT is very much an "everything is beautiful at the ballet" sort of company, with a few exceptions. I wouldn't expect to see a piece like this in the spring season, unless ABT had done a major rebrand.

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Posted (edited)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/22/arts/dance/review-abt-spring-gala.html

FYI, see attached.

While watching the McGregor work, it was never intimated during the entire ballet that this set piece would turn into a gas chamber.  It was a verdant space with plants and light.  As noted in the article, it was a space where the two little girls in the work simply stood, sometimes with Ferri. The change into a gas chamber during the final moments was, in my opinion, a way to gratuitously shock the audience.  Now it will be known as the Gas Chamber Ballet.

Edited by abatt

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I agree that artists have a right to respond to contemporary (or past) issues.  I recently read the following, and was saddened.  I doubt whether most of those polled know what is going on in Syria either.  

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holocaust-study-millennials/

This is one time I applaud McKenzie for having the guts to do something different.  I know I am in the minority, but everything isn't always beautiful at the ballet.  The Rite of Spring itself was controversial.  I think of works like The Judas Tree which I recently saw at the Royal Opera House.  

5 minutes ago, abatt said:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/22/arts/dance/review-abt-spring-gala.html

FYI, see attached.

While watching the McGregor work, it was never intimated during the entire ballet that this set piece would turn into a gas chamber.  It was a verdant space with plants and light.  As noted in the article, it was a space where the two little girls in the work simply stood, sometimes with Ferri. The change into a gas chamber during the final moments was, in my opinion, a way to gratuitously shock the audience.  Now it will be known as the Gas Chamber Ballet.

I note that Macaulay mentioned the Dorrance piece would be better served at the Joyce.

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What was the commentary in survival of fittest or holocaust?

how did it compare to that Light holocaust ballet?

excelsior had a slave whip within commentary

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I attended the entire program yesterday.

The Harlequinade excerpts were delightful and made me want to see the entire ballet later in the season.

The Michelle Dorrance piece was strikingly inventive in the way it fused tap dance and ballet into a coherent and utterly engaging piece.

Afterite was a puzzle, worth seeing for Alessandra Ferri and the unusual choreography (which I thought bore the influences of William Forsythe and Pina Bausch). The narrative, however, wasn't clear to me. What did Misty Copeland, Jeffrey Cirio, and Herman Cornejo represent, and, as discussed above, what was the gas chamber all about?

Macauley writes:

"Mr. McGregor doesn’t tell his story clearly, but its ambiguities are the point. Though I’ve given away what happens at the climax, I think its element of horror leads us back to the tragic cruelty of Stravinsky’s drama — but this time we follow it from the mother’s point of view."

Probably worth seeing again, though I can understand how the symbolism would be deeply offensive to some of the audience members.

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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, Vs1 said:

how did it compare to that Light holocaust ballet?

Although I did not see the new ABT ballet, I saw the Light ballet a few years ago when Colorado Ballet presented it. It was tasteful, beautiful, and haunting. I do remember a warning to parents that it would not be suitable for young children, and a lot of educational activities were developed around the program. It originated with Ballet Austin; these clips give you a sense of it.

 

Edited by California

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3 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

 

I think another issue is the one of audience, as others have pointed out. ABT is very much an "everything is beautiful at the ballet" sort of company, with a few exceptions. I wouldn't expect to see a piece like this in the spring season, unless ABT had done a major rebrand.

ABT has embraced works that are challenging. Ratmansky's Shostakovich  trilogy comes to mind.  It had overtones as well as specific overt references regarding the oppressive nature of the Soviet Union.  However, unlike the McGregor piece, it did not trivialize suffering and oppression for a grand theatrical effect.  

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46 minutes ago, abatt said:

ABT has embraced works that are challenging. Ratmansky's Shostakovich  trilogy comes to mind.  It had overtones as well as specific overt references regarding the oppressive nature of the Soviet Union.  However, unlike the McGregor piece, it did not trivialize suffering and oppression for a grand theatrical effect.  

1

I don't disagree. But I don't think works like this make up a big proportion of company's DNA. I don't mean this as a dig at the company -- I really love its rep. 

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6 hours ago, California said:

Although I did not see the new ABT ballet, I saw the Light ballet a few years ago when Colorado Ballet presented it. It was tasteful, beautiful, and haunting. I do remember a warning to parents that it would not be suitable for young children, and a lot of educational activities were developed around the program. It originated with Ballet Austin; these clips give you a sense of it.

 

California raises a great point about issuing a warning to parents.  Many children will be seeing this program because it starts with Firebird.  Can you imagine a little kid watching the second half of the program, and seeing a little girl be killed in a gas chamber?  As far as I know, no warnings were ever issued by ABT that the content may be inappropriate for children under a certain age.  It's irresponsible.

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What is the order of this program? Is Firebird first or last? Many young children will be going to see Copeland in Firebird, and I imagine a number of children will be going anyway, especially to the matinees. If Firebird is first I imagine the families could leave after that if they knew about AfterRite's content. But, given how poorly this program is selling (combined with Macauley's review, and many people read reviews before buying tickets) I imagine they don't want to jeopardize further sales. I didn't go last night and I don't plan on seeing this program, but it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy to say the least (I'm also no fan of that kind of exaggerated choreography with splayed legs every which way and partnering that continually manipulates the woman). I'm all for art imitating life and pushing boundaries, but I think there's a time and a place and a way to do it that isn't gratuitous or just for shock value. That's my take. Others are free to have their own opinions. I can't imagine little kids seeing this. 

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