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ABT 2018 Firebird / AFTERITE

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5 minutes ago, maps said:

Have you seen the Mariinsky's Rite?  I saw it multiple times.  The Chosen One dances to death.  12+ in St Petersburg. Pavlenko as the Chosen One and Gergiev conducting.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvVKWapctX4

 

I've seen recordings. I've seen, however, the Joffrey version when they started doing it, and it was profound and horrifying (I love it).

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2 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

Ummm help a ballet newbie out, I was going to take my 11 year old (will be 12) to Agon next season.  Will it not be appropriate?  I haven't seen it.

Yes, Agon will be fine. I wouldn't have appreciated it when I was 11 (I love it now), because of its formal, abstract qualities, but there's nothing inappropriate about it. (I think the person who mentioned it was probably referring to whatever other ballet was on the program with it.)

Edited by cobweb

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My only problem is if this ballet condoned or made gassing a child humorous. I have not seen it, so I should not comment, but I wonder if it was trying to show that we have not changed since primitive times. Children continue to be the victims in our world (Syria, for example). Maybe the overall message was, "Let's wake up! It's still happening! We think only primitive people killed off children! Have we really changed? Are we any different?"  If that is how this ballet can be interpreted I would actually be inclined to go see it one day.

If the ballet means to show the image as truly horrifying and not something to take lightly, then I think it might have a good underlying meaning. Often shocking images will cause us to want to change.

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8 minutes ago, abatt said:

Watching an adult woman dance herself to death by jumping around and up and down seems far less terrifying for a child than watching an actual little girl be placed in a gas chamber and gassed to death. 

Also, people have been referring to kids who read Lord of the Flies and the Lottery.  When you read a book you use your imagination.  That's a completely different experience from a child sitting in a theater and seeing a little girl on stage placed into a sealed box and gassed.

I mentioned both books.  I did also see as a young person a performance of The Lottery.  What is your opinion of The Hunger Games, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Maze Runner, or The Divergent Series?  I would venture to say that young people today would not find the ballet shocking since many watch these types of movies.  To be clear, I am not opposed to ABT mentioning it in their literature.

I never saw Tetley's Rite.  I am sure there are those here who saw it.  I read from the Playbill, "Unlike the original, Tetley cast a man in the leading role of the Chosen One, or victim of the rite. In a harrowing, inexorable progression, the work built to the sacrifice of the chosen youth, and in a final coup de théâtre, he was drawn aloft in an explosion of energy."  Not exactly sure what "drawn aloft in an explosion of energy" means.  Can anyone shed light on that?

 

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.....and if it is a reference to Nazi Germany maybe it is a "Never Forget" moment. I feel many fringe people in America and even the world have forgotten and need to be shown how horrifying it was.

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7 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

My only problem is if this ballet condoned or made gassing a child humorous. I have not seen it, so I should not comment, but I wonder if it was trying to show that we have not changed since primitive times. Children continue to be the victims in our world (Syria, for example). Maybe the overall message was, "Let's wake up! It's still happening! We think only primitive people killed off children! Have we really changed? Are we any different?"  If that is how this ballet can be interpreted I would actually be inclined to go see it one day.

If the ballet means to show the image as truly horrifying and not something to take lightly, then I think it might have a good underlying meaning. Often shocking images will cause us to want to change.

That's exactly what I took away from it.  It was not humorous at all.  Like many of these works (i.e., The Lottery, Lord of the Flies, as I mentioned above), it is a comment on our inhumanity (at least in my opinion.)

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15 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

My only problem is if this ballet condoned or made gassing a child humorous. I have not seen it, so I should not comment, but I wonder if it was trying to show that we have not changed since primitive times. Children continue to be the victims in our world (Syria, for example). Maybe the overall message was, "Let's wake up! It's still happening! We think only primitive people killed off children! Have we really changed? Are we any different?"  If that is how this ballet can be interpreted I would actually be inclined to go see it one day.

If the ballet means to show the image as truly horrifying and not something to take lightly, then I think it might have a good underlying meaning. Often shocking images will cause us to want to change.

I agree. I haven't seen it, and won't this year at least. I understand the concerns about the lack of a content warning — and including something like that in the promotional materials and in the program would seem an easy fix. What I don't understand are the suggestions (by no means coming from everyone who has expressed objections — but the various objections have at times seemed to me to get conflated in this discussion) that the mere portrayal of the gassing death of a child (or any other person) is in and of itself objectionable and inappropriate, that it does not belong in a ballet, that it does not belong on the Met stage, etc. Because that means of death was prominently used in one of history's worst slaughters, does that render it out-of-bounds in dramatic representations?

That's intended as a genuine question, not rhetorical. I'm curious to know how that case would be made.

Edited by nanushka

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1 hour ago, its the mom said:

 

I never saw Tetley's Rite.  I am sure there are those here who saw it.  I read from the Playbill, "Unlike the original, Tetley cast a man in the leading role of the Chosen One, or victim of the rite. In a harrowing, inexorable progression, the work built to the sacrifice of the chosen youth, and in a final coup de théâtre, he was drawn aloft in an explosion of energy."  Not exactly sure what "drawn aloft in an explosion of energy" means.  Can anyone shed light on that?

 

My memory is that "drawn aloft" was pretty literal--the Chosen One was strung up above the stage in a way that also looked like a Crucifixion.  I remember the strung-up figure sort of being flung downstage as he went into the air, and being kind of shocked (or at least struck) the first time I saw it. It was definitely a high-impact theatrical moment. I wondered if my memory was correct, but the moment is also described in a Pointe feature on a PNB revival of the ballet in 2001:

“'There is so much going on in the score, and then it ends very abruptly,'” Tetley says.  'I didn’t know how to end the ballet, until I remembered a line I had once read in a poem: ‘Man is really a monkey who wants to fly.’ The line gave him the idea to have The Chosen One fly (lifted by a rig) and hover above the ground, his arms outstretched as if on a crucifix.  The stage goes black just as the music ends, bringing the ballet to a dramatic climax..."

Here is the link:

https://www.pointemagazine.com/best-ballet-trailers-2571130799.html

 

Edited by Drew

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I thought it might be helpful to see some of the comments from the dancers:

 

Edited by its the mom

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It almost goes without saying the dancers will be excited about participating in a premier by such a major choreographer.  And however one judges his works, McGregor's eminence today is self-evident.

I think pairing Firebird with Rite of Spring -- in this case AfterRite -- makes plenty of sense; they are linked historically and musically even as Rite also marks a historical, musical (and also conceptual) departure from Firebird.  That actually makes the pairing all the more interesting. Add to that, "new" 21st-century choreography to both scores by central figures in the ballet world today and the program at least has a claim to serious attention. Whether it lives up to that claim is a matter for individual judgment of course--McGregor divides opinions to say the least, as does Ratmansky's Firebird. But the idea that the Metropolitan Opera House can't be expected to feature work that isn't familiar or daring in any way seems unnecessarily limiting to me.  And to the Met I should think. 

It's probably unrealistic though to expect people nowadays to know what the Rite of Spring is or to be that informed about its background when they go to the ballet. Not everyone will know the history of these scores and it's maybe not a bad idea to have some kind of notice on the website or some such indicating something about "challenging" content for children...at least in this day and age.

[Edited to add: Perhaps too obvious to say this but offending the audience belongs to the history--even the mythology--of Rite of Spring as a work of art. That doesn't mean that all ways of offending are equally valuable, but sometimes it takes a while to know what is an artistic challenge and what is a trivial shocker. And sometimes they overlap in uncomfortable ways.]

None of the above is an endorsement or criticism of McGregor's ballet which I haven't seen.  From the descriptions, I would at least like to see it. Haven't the faintest how I would respond.

 

Edited by Drew

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Gassing Children, truly awful. Nobody in the audience liked it. Woman next to me from Austria said she was trying to get rid of her tickets. Not the way to end a Gala.

Edited by MJ

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I agree with those who said that the McGregor piece should have come with a warning. Back in the day, I was one of those ignorant moms who would have taken my daughter (beginning at 6 or 7 on up) to any ballet performance, particularly one that included Firebird. But children that young, and even up to age 12 (some a bit higher) are not developmentally able to handle that gassing scene. Well, my 6 year old wouldn't have gotten the context and I probably could have fooled her if she was even paying any attention at all, but not the same child at age 8. This is not the age group that is reading The Lottery or Lord of the Flies, but this IS an age group that attends ballet performances. 

This performance should come with an advanced warning to ticket buyers. 

Edited by vagansmom

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One other dance I've seen that directly references the Holocaust is Robert Battle's "No Longer Silent" which the Ailey company dances. At the end of the dance people are clawing to get out of the gas chambers. It was disturbing but came with no warning and was followed up with Revelations which of course had people dancing out of their seats.

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1 hour ago, cobweb said:

Yes, Agon will be fine. I wouldn't have appreciated it when I was 11 (I love it now), because of its formal, abstract qualities, but there's nothing inappropriate about it. (I think the person who mentioned it was probably referring to whatever other ballet was on the program with it.)

Thank you.  She's been wanting to see it for 2 years.  She watched some of it online and tells me it's her favorite ballet and that she could listen to the music all day.  Her words!

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I will be seeing both casts of AfteRite since I am going again tomorrow.

I wasn't shocked or horrified, nor did I find the ending in bad taste.  I saw the references to "Sophie's Choice" and the holocaust but wasn't really offended.  I expect "The Rite of Spring" or a derivative ballet to have some violence and to depict ritualized murder.  My main reaction is that the choreography didn't really relate well to the story nor did it clarify the characters, their position in this dystopian post-apocalyptic society or what their reaction was to the planned sacrifice.

Basically Alessandra Ferri was the Mother of the two little girls.  She is brought on alone and then has a black bag thrown over her head while she is pushed around the stage.  She then has the bag removed and goes into the death chamber where her two little girls are being kept prisoner.  She chose one girl ("the fair-haired girl") to live on while the other remains in the greenhouse/gas chamber.  Ferri then emerges from the greenhouse/death chamber and dances a bunch of twisty, turning pas de deux with Herman Cornejo.  Who is Herman?  At first he seems to be Ferri's husband or partner - then he turns into her tormentor.  And who is the seemingly sympathetic Blaine Hoven?  The child's father?  He expresses desperation and grief and then just fades away.  The choreography looks the same full of contorted lifts and splits with rotating limbs.  The "love" duet and the "torture" duet look the same.  And Ferri just keeps dancing around with men while her little girl is sitting in that death chamber for what seems like an eternity.  Kick Herman in the balls and then tear the door open and run off with the kid, Alex!!!   Everyone in the first section spends a lot of time in various pas de deux, pas de trois, pas de quatre, etc. but we don't know who they are or what their relationship is.  Usually, "Rite of Spring" deals with a group mentality so you have a corps of dancers vs. one soloist as the "Chosen One".  Here everyone is fragmented into various subgroups but the choreography looks the same with the women being manipulated into extreme positions by the men.  But the men dance with the men the same way with the same partnering.  There is a lot of talent on that stage (notably Cassandra Trenary has returned from injury but her role has no salient characteristics or arc).  

The costumes are also just the usual modern ballet tank tops, bare chest and beige pants/leggings for the men and camisole and athletic shorts for the girls.  It all looks very generic with no identifiable place or time.

I felt that Macauley in his NY Times review really reached out to meet McGregor more than halfway but still felt the piece came up short.  The narrative just didn't gel and for me no characters were created that you could care about except that Ferri as always creates a real human being on that stage.  But she was working in a void and you never knew whether she wanted to save her child or was just passive and crushed by societal pressure.  Her motivations and actions seemed unclear and incongruous with the situation of having her child there in danger a few feet away.  The general feeling was of total alienation from the situation and humanity.  But then there was Ferri who was electric, alive and vulnerable onstage but what she was given to do didn't make sense.  I was too bewildered to be offended - I couldn't connect anything I saw to any reality.

By the way, Ratmansky's "Firebird" will never be my favorite choreography of this ballet but he has kept working on it.  It is no longer the muddle it was the first year it played in 2012.  It is full of amusing quirky moments of oddball humor that Ratmansky specializes in.  There are headscratcher moments - wouldn't the corps of Firebirds and their male partners attack Prince Ivan in Act I?  He has his hands full with the one Firebird?  

The cast last night was incredible.  Christine Schevchenko looked like a ballet superstar with incredible elevation in jumps, high extensions, speed in turns and electrifying energy onstage.  The choreography looked more interesting and exciting than I had ever seen it (even with Osipova who was dancing steps designed for Misty Copeland who had actually been around when Ratmansky set the ballet - two very different dancers - terre a terre vs. ballon).  Thomas Forster as Prince Ivan had remarkable veracity and detail in his acting and mime and danced superbly.  This is the best thing I have seen him do.  Bring on the leading roles for him.  Catherine Hurlin as the Beautiful Princess (who spends most of the ballet in a scraggly green wig acting like a half-wit) was stunning in mime and dance totally committing to every odd gesture and quirky reaction.   Duncan Lyle as Kaschei was another discovery (Ratmansky loves to mine the corps for untapped talent) with wonderfully amusing and creepy gestures and he ruled the stage whether dancing or acting.  Even if you hated this ballet in the past, you will be pleasantly surprised by this "Firebird" with last night's sensational cast.

Edited by FauxPas

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43 minutes ago, FauxPas said:

The narrative just didn't gel and for me no characters were created that you could care about except that Ferri as always creates a real human being on that stage.  ...  But then there was Ferri who was electric, alive and vulnerable onstage but what she was given to do didn't make sense.

I'll be curious to hear how Teuscher does in the role. I've liked her a lot in some things, but I don't know that she has anything near Ferri's strengths in these particular aspects of her work.

I appreciated your very detailed and illuminating report, FauxPas, and will be curious to read if you have any further thoughts on second viewing.

Edited by nanushka

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2 hours ago, FauxPas said:

I will be seeing both casts of AfteRite since I am going again tomorrow.

I wasn't shocked or horrified, nor did I find the ending in bad taste.  I saw the references to "Sophie's Choice" and the holocaust but wasn't really offended.  I expect "The Rite of Spring" or a derivative ballet to have some violence and to depict ritualized murder.  My main reaction is that the choreography didn't really relate well to the story nor did it clarify the characters, their position in this dystopian post-apocalyptic society or what their reaction was to the planned sacrifice.

Basically Alessandra Ferri was the Mother of the two little girls.  She is brought on alone and then has a black bag thrown over her head while she is pushed around the stage.  She then has the bag removed and goes into the death chamber where her two little girls are being kept prisoner.  She chose one girl ("the fair-haired girl") to live on while the other remains in the greenhouse/gas chamber.  Ferri then emerges from the greenhouse/death chamber and dances a bunch of twisty, turning pas de deux with Herman Cornejo.  Who is Herman?  At first he seems to be Ferri's husband or partner - then he turns into her tormentor.  And who is the seemingly sympathetic Blaine Hoven?  The child's father?  He expresses desperation and grief and then just fades away.  The choreography looks the same full of contorted lifts and splits with rotating limbs.  The "love" duet and the "torture" duet look the same.  And Ferri just keeps dancing around with men while her little girl is sitting in that death chamber for what seems like an eternity.  Kick Herman in the balls and then tear the door open and run off with the kid, Alex!!!   Everyone in the first section spends a lot of time in various pas de deux, pas de trois, pas de quatre, etc. but we don't know who they are or what their relationship is.  Usually, "Rite of Spring" deals with a group mentality so you have a corps of dancers vs. one soloist as the "Chosen One".  Here everyone is fragmented into various subgroups but the choreography looks the same with the women being manipulated into extreme positions by the men.  But the men dance with the men the same way with the same partnering.  There is a lot of talent on that stage (notably Cassandra Trenary has returned from injury but her role has no salient characteristics or arc).  

The costumes are also just the usual modern ballet tank tops, bare chest and beige pants/leggings for the men and camisole and athletic shorts for the girls.  It all looks very generic with no identifiable place or time.

I felt that Macauley in his NY Times review really reached out to meet McGregor more than halfway but still felt the piece came up short.  The narrative just didn't gel and for me no characters were created that you could care about except that Ferri as always creates a real human being on that stage.  But she was working in a void and you never knew whether she wanted to save her child or was just passive and crushed by societal pressure.  Her motivations and actions seemed unclear and incongruous with the situation of having her child there in danger a few feet away.  The general feeling was of total alienation from the situation and humanity.  But then there was Ferri who was electric, alive and vulnerable onstage but what she was given to do didn't make sense.  I was too bewildered to be offended - I couldn't connect anything I saw to any reality.

 

 

Edited by cargill

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Or the Green Table.  I didn't expect anything not serious from a Rite of Spring commentary.  I don't understand the pairing of ballets at the gala.

I keep thinking of Alessandra and Herman saying they don't like to watch dance.

I don't get the smiles, either.

I watched the Holocaust tv show as a kid and was horrified, with parental guidance.  But even South Park commented on The Lottery.

Are gala folks asking for insulation from reality or bubbles? I would think McKenzie would give it to them.

Edited by Vs1

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3 hours ago, nanushka said:

I agree. I haven't seen it, and won't this year at least. I understand the concerns about the lack of a content warning — and including something like that in the promotional materials and in the program would seem an easy fix. What I don't understand are the suggestions (by no means coming from everyone who has expressed objections — but the various objections have at times seemed to me to get conflated in this discussion) that the mere portrayal of the gassing death of a child (or any other person) is in and of itself objectionable and inappropriate, that it does not belong in a ballet, that it does not belong on the Met stage, etc. Because that means of death was prominently used in one of history's worst slaughters, does that render it out-of-bounds in dramatic representations?

That's intended as a genuine question, not rhetorical. I'm curious to know how that case would be made.

The fact that the gas chamber was the means used to exterminate an entire race means that any depiction of the use of a gas chamber on stage, in film or in other contexts should be undertaken with sensitivity and thought.  I've seen scenes in films like Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful where gas chambers were depicted, but those films were addressing the Holocaust.  In those instances, it seemed appropriate as part of the story being told. 

In contrast, the McGregor chamber appears to be a terrarium or greenhouse throughout the entire work, until the very end when it suddenly becomes a gas chamber.  If Howard Stern is the shock jock, I guess Wayne McGregor is the shock choreographer   With ABT's apparent blessing, McGregor decided that a device that killed millions could  be used to serve his desire for  a coup de theatre.

Edited by abatt

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10 hours ago, Anthony_NYC said:

Murder is common enough on stage (especially in opera), but I’m trying to think of any other theater piece where a young child is killed in front of the audience.

Medea would be the original infanticidal play. It has had many musical and choreographic incarnations. Exactly how the murders are depicted will vary a great deal, but obviously they are central to the plot in each instance.

3 hours ago, maps said:

Have you seen the Mariinsky's Rite?  I saw it multiple times.  The Chosen One dances to death.  12+ in St Petersburg

Ashton's Marguerite and Armand is also rated 12+, and it's a rather different ballet of wax. The Mariinsky's age ratings are more lax than the Bolshoi's, where La Bayadere, Giselle, Swan Lake and even The Pharaoh's Daughter are rated 12+, but in any case, the criteria used are opaque, and I'm not sure the ratings are all that helpful, especially if Simonov's gawd-awful Nutcracker, with its chorus of dead children, is rated 6+.

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Well, certainly Graham addressed Medea

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4 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

I completely agree, Abatt. As a lifelong sympathizer to the Jewish race cause to merely exist in this world, I am completely appalled by your report. But it has been widely documented that, lately, political correctness doesn't go in every way. It is selected. I am going tonight, and just as I started the Happy Birthday on Natasha and David from the top of my lungs, I might be inclined to boo said section. I don't care. Won't be the first or last time .

Just remember that booing is probably the biggest compliment a 'Rite of Spring' choreographer can receive. 

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I find the ending more gratuitous than shocking.  I would feel the same way about the piece if Ferri and Cornejo and the two little girls walked off into the sunset petting bunnies.  For the me choreography was so unmusical,  jerky, and overwrought, making the dancers look ugly for no apparent reason than to signify "this is not your mother's ballet", like a boy writing naughty words on a wall, just to feel important.

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6 minutes ago, cargill said:

I find the ending more gratuitous than shocking.  I would feel the same way about the piece if Ferri and Cornejo and the two little girls walked off into the sunset petting bunnies.  For the me choreography was so unmusical,  jerky, and overwrought, making the dancers look ugly for no apparent reason than to signify "this is not your mother's ballet", like a boy writing naughty words on a wall, just to feel important.

I thought the choreography looked like most of the other McGregor works I've seen in  the past.  He uses the same jerky overwrought  movement style, but the bells and whistles change - the set design, the lighting, the "concept".

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