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  1. I saw Friday night's performance, and it was interesting to see ABT's "take" on a ballet I saw danced by its original company, the Royal, last November. On the whole I thought ABT did extremely well -- better, in some respects, than the Royal. (For instance, Carmen Corella managed to make Diana forceful without seeming shrewish, which neither RB Diana had, and Gillian Murphy's technique and reading of the scene in Orion's cave were much better than either Darcey Bussell's or Marianela Nunez's.) On the other hand, I preferred both RB Eroses (Martin Harvey and Joshua Tuifua) to Herman Cornejo, who never looked like a statue. (In London, I was convinced that the Eroses were props at both performances, even after they began to move -- I thought they'd sneakily replaced the prop with the dancer when I wasn't looking .) Sylvia is a role that makes unaccustomed demands on today's ballerinas. It doesn't call for acting in the sense that, say, Manon does. It doesn't need mime in the way that, for instance, Swanilda needs mime. And it's not a pure dance role. It calls for the ballerina to be herself, but that self has to be an interesting and multi-faceted woman, and that is what the present generation of ballerinas has not be raised to be. Murphy worked hard, but at this point in her career she lacks the stage experience to hold and keep the audience's attention independent of the choreography. Her best scene was the one in Orion's cave. Unlike Bussell and Nunez, she showed sorrow and grief for what had happened and a wiliness in getting the better of her captor. Murphy, for all her thinnness and straight up-and-down classicism, has a full bust and round hips, and in this scene she used them to project a sensuality and womanliness that I hope will carry over to her other roles. She showed signs here of being the fascinating creature that Sylvia ought to be. Marcelo Gomes played Orion less brutishly than his RB counterparts, with a hint of Raymonda's Abderakhman's dangerous appeal. I'm not sure how Ashton would have liked this, but it sure was more fun than a one-note, fire-breathing heavy. Unlike Michael, I didn't think the corps looked messy at all. In fact I was thinking how much better they looked than they had in Washington. Sylvia is the only Ashton ballet I know of that contains hints of homoeroticism. I'm thinking of the treatment of Eros and the scene of Endymion being worshipped by Diana -- I doubt that a straight man would have treated them in this way. Ashton brings out the best in ABT. He tames the beast in them. If only they were bringing this to Washington next year instead of yet another week of R&J.
  2. This is the photo Oberon referred to: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/arts/dance/07boal.html
  3. Just a reminder . . . clicking on the Amazon link in the upper right-hand corner of this page will give Ballettalk a portion of the profits of any Amazon purchase.
  4. The British critic Norman Lebrecht is always interesting, even when he's off base. In today's Scotsman, he argues that the Broadway musical, which by general agreement has been dead for some time, is undergoing a rebirth. It's a matter of debate as to whether embracing a tone of ironic detachment is enough to ensure new life to the musical as a form. But Lebrecht doesn't stop there. He goes on to argue that the seeds of this happy development can be found, in its earliest form, in Guys and Dolls, which opened in 1950. Now, I love Guys and Dolls as much as Lebrecht, but when he writes that "Runyon sanitised and humanised his petty hoods, Loesser disinvested them of character, building his musical around situation alone," I have to wonder what productions he's been seeing. While I've never read the Damon Runyon stories on which the show is based, I would say that it was Loesser, not Runyon, who "sanitised and humanised" the characters, and that this was something the musical as a form was notorious for doing. I have no problem with it, since it helped produce glorious shows, but for Lebrecht to rewrite history to support his thesis is going a bit far. Anyone want to comment on this?
  5. The National Critics Conference, which prompted the article in the LA Times that kfw cited above, is over. And it's stimulated more discussion of the role of critics in today's society: Christopher Reynolds in the LA Times Dominic P. Papatola in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune
  6. That moment is part of the ballet, Stanley. It's in the choreography.
  7. A couple of people have said that Bouder is too small for Emeralds, but the role she is dancing was made on Violette Verdy, who was quite small -- probably smaller than Bouder. I wonder if those who found Bouder too short would explain why they thought a taller dancer was called for.
  8. Contents: Marc Haegeman, A Conversation with Alexei Ratmansky, AD of the Bolshoi Ballet Leigh Witchel, Notes on Merrill Ashley Coaching Ballo della Regina Carol Pardo, The NYCB's Winter Season Mary Cargill, Golden Mean: The Paul Taylor Dance Company at Fifty Mary Cargill, An Interview with Francisco Graciano & A Look at the Taylor 2 Company Gay Morris, New York Report: The Martha Grahm Dance Co. and Matthew Bourne's A Play Without Words Jane Simpson, London Report: Richard Alston, Henri Oguike & the Royal Ballet Rita Felciano, Bay Area Report: San Francisco Ballet, Chitresh Dance Co., Circo Zero & Dance Brigade, Hip Hop Dance Fest, Joanna Haigood, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Robert Moses' Kin, and Masters of Kathakali
  9. Interesting topic, Marga. Thanks for starting it. I think there's little doubt that most Russian dancers and teachers consider their tradition to be not only superior to all others, but the Only True Classical Style. But they're not the only ones who have felt this way about themselves. Back in the days when the Royal Ballet was the Royal Ballet, many of its supporters felt that the company was single-handedly preserving the pure classical style. I don't believe the Danes ever felt this way -- those who are more familiar with them, please correct me if I'm wrong -- and I don't know about the French. The Russians claim that their style is directly descended from the golden age of Petipa, but in fact it has undergone some major changes since then. (Reference here our recent discussion as to whether Vaganova's system simply codified the Petipa-era style or departed from it.) Who can blame them for wanting to be proud of their achievement? But history has shown that ballet is constantly developing. It isn't possible to dance, for instance, Balanchine's ballets -- dance them properly -- with nothing but pre-Balanchine training. And Ashton's ballets were built on a foundation of Cecchetti training. It may or may not be true that Russian training (is this synonymous with Vaganova, or is there a school of non-Vaganova Russian training?) is the best preparation for dancing the Russian classics. But no company does nothing but that. In addition to performing the work of 20th century choreographers like Balanchine and Ashton, most companies regularly produce new ballets. And today's choreographers, like Jorma Elo (who is cited in the Globe article as a choreographer who is working with the BB), make demands on dancers that Russian training doesn't envision. So I guess what I'm saying is that, from a practical standpoint, reliance on nothing but Russian training is impractical.
  10. Injuries are, sadly, an ever-present reality in a dancer's life. It's rare for a dancer to be 100% healthy. I've heard dancers say that if they wake up in the morning feeling completely well, something's wrong! I think it's interesting for us as audience members to understand more about this. Those who know, please chime in. Is there, as fandeballet asked, a particular kind of injury that is the worst of all, or does it depend on the dancer? Regarding weight lifting, I remember reading in Peter Martins's autobiography that he embarked on a course of weight lifting as a very young corps member when his partner complained (he used a stronger word ) that he couldn't lift and support her properly.
  11. The viability of having an AD and a Principal Choreographer who works mainly for the company will be the extent to which the vision of these two people mesh. There will probably always be conflicts between them as to how many company resources can be devoted to the PC -- choreographers, naturally, will want as much as they can get, and ADs have to think about the whole picture. But if they both have the same vision for the company, if their esthetic is harmonious, then there's hope. The relationship between Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton is an example of a successful collaboration.
  12. Thanks for the explanation, Art. I guess it's another example of technology replacing humans. I suppose the argument could be made that since many if not most ballet companies now perform to taped music, this is not much worse, but the alarm bells sound when a company like ABT that has always used a live orchestra considers it. It's a relief to know that that's not in the cards, at least for three more years at the Met.
  13. It's never too late to tell us about a performance, Memo! The more views, the greater variety of opinions, the merrier. Thanks for the post, and please hang around here more often!
  14. Before anyone rushes out to buy these DVDs/videos, they should remember that they will probably not be playable on U.S. machines. Unless the DVD is specifically coded "All Regions," you will need a DVD player that can play Japanese DVDs. A multiregion DVD player with an NTSC/PAL adapter will be able to play a DVD coded for Japan. With videocassettes, the situation is even less flexible, so unless you have both a PAL VCR and TV (or get the tape professionally converted to NTSC), you're out of luck.
  15. I saw Hecuba on Saturday night at the Kennedy Center. Never having seen the play before, or even read it, I'm at something of a disadvantage in evaluating the strength of this production and Redgrave's performance. Still, you didn't have to be a scholar of Greek drama to notice the very pointed contemporary emphasis of this production. Tony Harrison (who bills himself in the program as "Britain's leading theatre and film poet") has jazzed up Euripides not only with questionable vernacular (i.e., "croak" for "die") but with repeated references to the victorious "coalition" forces. In case we still don't get it, some of the tents and supply containers of Es Devlin's striking set have labels like "UK 389794" and "US Lot 892179." Redgrave's approach to the title character was to make her revenge, usually seen as an act of madness or out-of-control venom, into a calm, deliberate decision. This could be a justifiable artistic choice if the tone of the play didn't militate against it. Everyone onstage is escalating into hysterics while Redgrave stands there quietly with a sly, smug smile on her face. It didn't work for me. I've seen her do luminous theater work before, so I can only attribute her lack of impact to her approach. The highlight of the evening was Alan Dobie's long speech about the death of Hecuba's daughter. Peter Marks, the Washington Post's drama critic, hasn't reviewed the production yet, but he has an interview with Redgrave in today's paper.
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