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Posts posted by Ari

  1. I also edited nycdog's post because it violated our policy, enunciated here over two weeks ago, that says that any links to videos may be only to the home page of the official website of a professional company. You can indicated in your post how to navigate the site to find the video, but you may only link to the home page itself.

    For the video that nycdog referred to, click Education Resources -> Presentations -> Seminars -> Click here for webcasts of centennial seminars -> Click HERE for Webcast of February 2, 2004, Centennial Seminar, Part 2.

  2. Perky, we had a long and fascinating thread on emploi some years ago. I don't think it's publicly available any more, but I'll look into it.

    I think Balanchine used emploi extensively -- but not mechanically or restrictively. As a balletmaster -- casting roles in existing ballets -- he had to choose those dancers who fit the part (leaving aside the matter of his adjusting steps to accomodate dancers). When Mikhail Baryshnikov joined the company, there were complaints from some quarters that Balanchine was typecasting him in demi-caractere roles (Harlequinade, Rubies -- the Villella rep -- and Apollo, which he considered a demi-caractere role), even though he also cast him in other kinds of roles.

    He also used emploi a great deal in his corps casting. Watching the progress of a new member of the company (with a girl, at least), you could see how they started, and for a long time continued, in the parts most obviously suited to them. (This analysis began most obviously with height -- small girls in Second Movement Bizet, tall girls in Third Movement, etc.) Then, as they developed and their unique qualities came to the fore, he would start to cast them in roles best suited to the kind of dancer they had become.

    But as a choreographer, he was able to extract from a dancer whatever he or she had to offer and create with it something new. That is, as a great choreographer, he was able to see beyond the obvious and bring out in a dancer facets of themselves that others might not have seen -- a kind of idealized vision of the dancer that the dancer then had to live up to. Farrell, I think, can be classified primarily as a lyrical ballerina, and if she'd landed in another company she probably would have spent her career doing Swan Lake and the like. But Balanchine's genius was able to show us so much more of her than that.

    I've got to go find that emploi thread . . .

  3. Also, the peasant dance with garlands was performed by company dancers in this production. Isn't this generally performed by children?

    It was choreographed for company dancers and children. Many companies, especially those without schools of their own, omit the children entirely.

    I think the inclusion of children in this ballet is especially appropriate and sweet, given that it's about hope and the future. (They wouldn't be right in Swan Lake, for the opposite reason.) And the sight of a full company joined by students from the school at all levels -- the youngest kids as pages and garland dancers, older children as supers and ensemble-swellers -- emphasizes the continuity of the classical tradition. I love it.

    Were there any children in this production?

  4. Remember, too, that the SFB got its start when there was little if any Balanchine being danced at the Kennedy Center. But since NYCB started having week-long seasons again last year, which have been heavily weighted towards Balanchine, things have changed. Perhaps the KC thinks that enough Balanchine is enough. :)

    The SFB program as listed is, I'm sure, incomplete. It would make a very short program. I'll guess that they're going to add another ballet to it, let's hope it's one of Balanchine's.

    As for the Royal rep, it'll be great to see Enigma Variations again -- I've only seen it once, and it struck me as the sort of ballet one needs to see several times. La Valse wouldn't have been my choice, but it's better than more MacMillan.

    Is the Faure Requiem the one MacMillan made for the Stuttgart?

  5. NYCB's spring galas have always offered "previews" of new works. Sometimes they please the gala crowd, sometimes not. I remember the audible boredom and irritation of the audience at the first performance of Davidsbundlertanze. Hardley material for casual balletgoers!

  6. Some more from Kirstein's book:

    Although the company was accompanied by a State Department employee to assist, the troupe's connection with Nelson Rockefeller's agency rendered them deeply suspect by ordinary Foreign Service diplomats. In Rio, the American ambassador liked Ballet Imperial, but "but our so-called modern works convinced him that we had been sent to subvert both his embassy and the continent in time of war." He didn't understand why they weren't doing Swan Lake and other items of the then-standard repertoire, as exemplified by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, which had toured Brazil the previous summer. Kirstein's attempt to explain how they were trying to create a distinctly American ballet repertoire fell on deaf ears; ballet, to this ambassador, was an alien concept, and as far as he was concerned should stick with its alien repertoire.

    Sao Paulo was a little more welcoming, and the company tried hard to work with Brazilian composers and painters. Candido Portinari made a backcloth for Serenade, scattering stars in the constellation of the Southern Cross a la Joan Miro. Balanchine invented a Radio City Music Hall version of supposedly native dances to music by Guarnieri. Kirstein says that the reviews were "not exactly unkind."

    He does say that "Montevideo was not much of an improvement, but the audiences were more sympathetic." (The only mention of Uraguay.)

    In Buenos Aires, all the girls under 18 were arrested and jailed, despite their work permits. The authorities thought that the company was bringing them in to be prostitutes. This happened on a weekend, when a judge (the only one capable of springing the girls) could not be raised. Balanchine insisted on being arrested, too.

    Eventually they got that straightened out, but early performances were sparsely attended. After Errante and Apollo were presented, interest rose. Victoria Ocampo, editor of the progressive literary magazine Sur, and her friend Maria Rosa Oliver were able to stir up some enthusiasm.

    A blizzard immobilized the company in Mendoza for two weeks. The Andes were impassable, and the scenery had to be routed, guarded by two dancers, up and through Bolivia. In the meantime the dancers gave daily performances in a tiny theater attached to a gambling casino.

    Eventually the company, wearing oxygen masks, was finally flown across, or rather between, the Andes. When it became clear that the amount of income allocated for the tour would be insufficient, Kirstein had to fly to Washington to renegotiate. He wasn't very skillful, but the tour was rescued when the plane carrying a "famous tenor and film star" (names not mentioned) who had also been touring South America, crashed, leaving a string of cancelled performances. The ballet company stepped into the breach.

    Kirstein says that, on the basis of contacts made during the tour, he was able to return to South America within the year to buy progressive Latin American paintings for the Museum of Modern Art.

    He concludes his account by noting,

    Back in New York, looking over newspapers from the South American journey, I was surprised to find how erudite, warm, and favorable much of the journalistic criticism had been.  It was almost too scholarly, on too respectful a level.  Perhaps it tended to keep popular audiences away by the very level of its seriousness.  Ballet was made to seem as sacred as symphonic music, but not as much fun.  Also, we had had little or no advance publicity;  our embassies had considered us a sinister nuisance.  Worse, we had no famous stars -- and worst, our ballets were not remotely Russian.
  7. The division of films between the two sets is indeed puzzling. Other than The Barkleys of Broadway, this first set includes the duo's best and most popular movies. In the second set (which I assume will contain the other five films), the biggest draws will be Roberta and The Gay Divorcee. Flying Down to Rio, Carefree and the Castles are all lesser efforts.

    No mention of any extras, although I don't know what those could be.

  8. I was first attracted to NYCB because of the Balanchine rep, but I very quickly became aware of something even more important than that:

    I N T E G R I T Y

    NYCB was founded to promote art, and it has remained faithful to that vision throughout its 50+ years. It isn't interested in being popular or fashionable or "in"; it's there to put on serious ballet, to advance the art. To that end, it spends its money on low-profile endeavors like the Choreographic Institute, artists in residence, and educational programs; it has always placed a special emphasis on having the best live music it can; it was a pioneer in having medical, therapeutic, and nutritional consultants for its dancers; it developed its own costume shop to be an integral part of the enterprise, even though NYCB's rep relies to a far lesser extent than other companies' on costumes; and it plows on with presenting new work, even when it is artistically and financially risky.

    To be sure, not all of these initiatives are always successful -- how could they be? Art involves taking chances. And we can take issue with individual actions and bemoan the problems we see in the company at any given time. But whatever they do, I'm always confident that they are motivated by ideals. In a world that seems increasingly shallow and commercial, NYCB remains a haven of integrity.

  9. La Cour has danced far fewer solo roles than most NYCB dancers who are promoted to soloist, so to that extent it's a surprise. But I was very impressed by his debut as Phlegmatic in 4Ts in Washington, so he has potential beyond his height.

    As for Korbes, well, that's almost as big a surprise, given the fact that she's been languishing in the corps for so long. Here's hoping that from now on we'll see her in the leading roles she deserves.

  10. I have to say I have some sympathy for Dunning. In a hair-down ballet I find it hard to pay attention to the dancing with all that long hair whipping around. It's bad enough when it's just the soloists, but a whole mass of them -- :)

  11. as for "sneaker-dancing":  her broadway show "movin' on" (starring two former abt dancers, john selya and ashley tuttle, and which i have seen many times) exhibits some breathtaking examples of it:  daring slides ending in sudden, dangerous stops with the sneakers grabbing the floor just before disaster can strike -- macho, macho guys and all, but v. balletic

    please, nycb -- bring her back, and soon

    she has heart and soul, which to me, anyway, is lacking in nycb's "new" talent

    Tharp and Robbins collaborated very successfully on Brahms/Handel (which is, strangely, seldom performed), but in 2000 she made a Beethoven ballet that flopped and which has never been seen again. Perhaps the experience was an unhappy one for her and/or the company.

    (And it's Movin' Out, btw.)

  12. Very amusing moment when Hanna, lounging against the proscenium, gives an off-handed assist to Sara Mearns who is doing a pencee in his corner. Was it Damian who instituted this priceless little moment?

    Is this a regular feature of Stars nowadays? I didn't notice it in Washington. If it's being done occasionally as a tradition, it was started by Peter Martins back in the 70s, when he held out an arm to steady Colleen Neary in the final movement.

  13. On the Balanchine's Ballets -- Has Performance Quality Dropped?" thread, Bart raised a very interesting question:

    t's clear from the large number of fervent fans who post on this site, that NYCB still has the power to demand the same high level of adoration that it always had. Much of this is thanks to the enthusiasm generated by individual dancers. The question is: what exactly is being adored? and is it the same thing that was being adored a generation ago?

    All right, fervent NYCB fans: what makes you so passionate about the company? And, for those of you who are upset about the company's current state, has this state of affairs cooled your ardor?

  14. This was -- gasp! -- my first-ever performance of Giselle.  Oh, my, what a delight!  a story ballet that actually tells a story without diverging into weird national dances and other artifices.  A wonderful, haunting story, so beautifully told and so beautifully danced that I almost had tears in my eyes.  Choreography that abounds with apparently "simple" steps linked in astounding complexity.  Stunning and emotional visual tableaux.

    I had no idea the mad scene would be so tender.  Nor so heart-wrenching.

    As a jaded balletomane who has almost sworn off of Giselle after too many unsatisfying performances, I was touched by your neophyte's reaction, Treefrog. It brings me back to the time when ballet was new to me, too, and thrilling in a way that it can't be now.

    I wish more of our ballet newcomers would post their reactions, too!

  15. And I'm sure a number of years and a fair degree of artistic growth passed between the time of the cited anecdote and Mason's O/O debut.

    She did indeed dance the role a number of times and it was a very clean, technically strong and sincere performance she gave. However, I do recall hearing one critic (now dead) who was I think generally held to be extremely fair in his opinions muttering about "swans who can break a man's arm with their wings".

    I saw Mason dance Odette/Odile in 1976 and while I thought she had the makings of a very good Swan Queen, I felt that she was hampered by having to dance it in the Royal Ballet style. Mason was, as the above-mentioned critic rather unkindly implies, a dancer of power and presence, but these qualities were too strong for the Royal's gentle, lyrical style. As a result, it looked like Mason was trying to fit her square body into a round peg, as it were. It would have been rewarding to see her dance the role in a way that suited her.

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