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Everything posted by Ari

  1. Well, I think this is actually two different things: liking it without getting it (is it possible?) and disliking it while getting it. I certainly think it's possible to like something without getting it. After all, lots of people respond positively to great art without understanding why what they're seeing/hearing/reading is great. Or is it just that they're incapable of articulating why they like it, but they actually "get it" on a deeper, subverbal level? I know that part of the thrill for me of reading great criticism is the experience of having my formerly confused feelings, pro or con, brought out into the clear by lucid explanation.
  2. The subject of this thread is dancers whose work you admire despite their having less than flawless technique. We're not here to sling mud at anyone.
  3. Perhaps Doug Fullington, who staged Jardin Anime for Pacific Northwest Ballet a year or two ago, can help us out here? Doug, you here?
  4. That's the one, but it looks a bit different on the brochure cover: the girl in the foreground, the one with her back to the camera, is in much softer focus, so the focal point of the photo is Reichlin. The picture is also cropped on the left side.
  5. If we're going to consider actors, Washington has plenty of them. We have an excellent classical company, the Shakespeare Theater, from which a number of Dons could be taken -- Ted van Griethuysen, Philip Goodwin, Andrew Long. But I also like the idea of someone with a Balanchine connection. Villella would be wonderful. He'd have to wear a gray wig, though . . .
  6. Whatever happened to the bill introduced in the NYC Council a couple of years ago to ban cell phones from theaters and to authorize the ejectment of anyone flouting the law?
  7. Unfortunately, ballet got to that point a long time ago. Look at all the stagings of Swan Lake that detour radically from Ivanov's/Petipa's outline and choreography. Someone mentioned here not too long ago that no major company nowadays has a traditional Swan Lake -- even those that keep the white acts pretty much intact smother them with clever-clever concepts and costumes/scenery. And think of all those productions set in a madhouse, etc. . . . There does seem to be a fashion for victimizing certain ballets like this. Swan Lake suffers the most. But most productions of The Sleeping Beauty are fairly conventional.
  8. While ordinary mortals may make a complete recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, "full activity" for them means something a great deal less demanding than it means for a ballerina. I miss Somogyi a great deal, too, and hope for the best, but have a niggling fear that she may never be the same as she was before the injury.
  9. I don't think a marriage that is solomnized elsewhere but not recognized in a particular jurisdiction is entitled to the same legal protections as one that is recognized. For instance, insurance benefitting a spouse would not go to a same sex partner because the partner would not be considered a spouse under the laws of (in this case) New York. If a lawsuit ensued, it would be decided by the courts, not the Attorney General.
  10. In Fille, I also like the way Ashton choreographed the bows, with each principal being hoisted up by a circle of dancers to receive their applause. Very festive.
  11. While I understand that you'll probably want to keep the collection in the SF area, Gina, you might also want to ask the Dance Collection at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center about specific items. It's possible that their collection is lacking in material from your area, and if so I think they'd be interested in those things they don't have.
  12. I also detect a salute to Barocco in the moment in Esplanade when the female soloist jumps over the bodies of a line of dancers stretched out across the floor. I've always seen it as an allusion to the moment in the Balanchine when the man lifts the ballerina over the heads of the line of corps girls.
  13. Last year, for the Balanchine centennial, Alexandra invited people to nominate their choice for the one ballet of Balanchine's that they would choose if they were told that only one of his ballets was going to survive into the next century. We got a lot of interesting answers. Since we're still in the Ashton centennial year (his 100th birthday was in September), it seems only right to play the same game with him. If you were told that 100 years from now, there would be only one ballet of Ashton's around, which would it be? You can use whatever criteria you want. You might choose your favorite ballet, or maybe the one that you think is most representative of his oeuvre, seeing as how that would be all the poor deprived balletgoers of the 22nd century will have to know him by. Or you can employ some other logic. If you haven't seen that many -- or even any -- of his works, don't let that stop you. Base your answer on what you've come to know of Ashton's work. Who's gonna start?
  14. Don Q at Wolf Trap? Wow, this is the first time a major company has performed there in years. The Bolshoi looked terrific in Don Q when they brought it here several years ago (2001?). I hope Maria Alexandrova gets to do it here.
  15. According to Taylor's memoir Private Domain, Balanchine invited him to join NYCB after working with him on Episodes. Taylor was flabbergasted and flattered, but knew he wasn't a ballet dancer or choreographer, and turned the offer down.
  16. The singing is done by both the professional singers offstage and the dancers, depending on the moment. When a dancer looks like s/he's singing, s/he is -- for instance, Riff singing "Cool" and Anita, Rosalia, and the girls singing "America." (They are miked, but then so are all singers in musicals these days. ) When the dancers don't look like they're singing -- for instance, when Tony dances to "Something's Coming" while you hear the song being sung -- the singing is being done by professional, offstage singers. Maria has very little to do in this suite of dances, so it's not fair to judge the dancer by her performance in this. She's always going to look bland.
  17. Many thanks for this review, Noreen. You have a wonderful gift for making the performance come alive. I seem to have missed your first post, so let me take this opportunity to welcome you to Ballet Talk and say that I hope we'll be reading more of you in the future!
  18. Another reason you can't compare NYCB to the big Russian companies (and POB, for that matter) is that those companies are more than twice NYCB's size. Their corps doesn't include the same dancers every night, and those dancers aren't stepping up to replace injured soloists and principals on short notice the way they are in NY. Anyway, back to the DC performances. Last night's and tonight's program was the best balanced of the three: the purely classical Divertimento #15, the modern and "edgy" Polyphonia, and the crowd-pleasing West Side Story Suite. It also treated us to a wide selection of the company's principals and soloists. I've seen better Diverts. I've also seen worse. Of all the principals, only Weese, Carla Korbes, and Arch Higgins were fully pleasing. In Old Fashioned it had occurred to me that Korbes has the most beautiful back in the company, and Divert gave her the chance to put it to glorious use. At the moment in the adagio when she bends backwards, she went ALL the way back while maintaining her line; it reminded me of a film of Fonteyn in the Act III Sleeping Beauty pas de deux. I don't know what has got into Ashley Bouder. She grinned and simpered her way through both performances, playing blatantly to the audience like I've never seen her do before. Wasn't there anyone to tell her that this is, ah, inappropriate in this ballet? (Or anywhere else, but especially here.) The corps was well rehearsed in this, but I have to say that one annoyance throughout the five performances I saw was Savannah Lowery's atrocious upper body placement. The rest of her is fine -- she has gorgeous legs -- but her upper body is nothing short of appalling. Someone more knowledgeable about technique will have to diagnose her problem, but it seemed to me that she at least wasn't keeping her shoulders down and her breast up. She looked all hunched up. She's been in almost every ballet this week, and my eye kept going to her against my will. Polyphonia was new to me, and I found it the most satisfying of the Wheeldon ballets I've seen. I still don't think he's as good as his press, and the work is structurally fragmented, but this is one ballet of his that has consistently interesting (if occasionally derivative) and mostly unforced movement ideas. WSSS may be fluff, but it's my kind of fluff. I'd rather see this any day than Thou Swell. With a few exceptions, the NYCB dancers do a remarkably fine job of acting and singing, especially Nikolaj Hubbe (making his only DC appearance ) and the sexy, witty Jenifer Ringer, who made me forget I'd ever seen Helene Alexopoulos. Faye Arthurs and James Fayette were miscast as Maria and Bernardo, but then Maria has so little to do in this suite. I think this is a good addition to the repertory not only as accessible popular fare but as a quasi story ballet. At today's matinee Megan Fairchild made a good debut in Theme and Variations. However, I have to question the use of this ballet as a training ground for ballerinas -- Abi Stafford three years ago, Fairchild now. It's one of the toughest ballerina roles in the rep, and should be built up to gradually. Just because Balanchine revived it for the sixteen-year-old Gelsey Kirkland doesn't mean it's suitable for other tyros. I was prepared to hate Joaquin de Luz in this; neither physically nor technically is he a classical danseur, and indeed he isn't right for it, but at least he restrained his inclination to brashness and was more attentive to his ballerina than I've ever seen him. In The Four Temperaments Sean Suozzi and Ask la Cour both gave deeply thought out and persuasive accounts of Melancholic and Phlegmatic, respectively. I'd expected la Cour to be reminiscent of Adam Luders, but he is a more three-dimensional dancer than his fellow Dane, and more thoughtful. This is one ballet that has looked first-rate in both performances. No apologies or excuses necessary.
  19. Actually, I think this is a great topic. I don't think Paul wants to emphasize the imperfect technique so much as highlight what a dancer does with what s/he's got. That's what artistry is, after all.
  20. Do you think so? It's hard to judge the severity of other people's reactions when you haven't seen the performances they're reviewing. In the case of NYCB, the expectations of us Ballet Talkers have been set by the reports we've read from you and others on the NY season just concluded. When I read your review of last Sunday's Stars & Stripes that says, "a strong and focused performance. The corps de ballet was wonderful in this," and then I see the tired and lifeless performance of Thursday night, I have to wonder what's going on. Of course, there's always the possibility that I'd have considered Sunday's performance drab, too. But, as you say, you get inured to a company's faults when you see them all the time. It's just that New Yorkers have nine weeks of winter repertory to choose from; if the company is off one night, they can go back a week later and hope that things will have picked up. Those of us in touring cities have no such luxury, and so expect that the dancers will try harder to be "on" every night. Oh, yes. As samba38 mentioned, many big companies seem to regard DC as a second-class venue, and withhold from us their biggest stars and choicest repertory. I don't think anyone likes reading raves about dancers and ballets that we never get to see. Disappointment and even anger are understandable in that situation. No, the reception has been generally friendly, sometimes warm, but never ecstatic. The houses are pretty well sold, despite the availability of half-price tickets, but not as well sold as last year. I wonder if the choice of repertory has anything to do with this . . . last year was all-Balanchine for the centennial, this year we're getting a lot of fluff.
  21. A performance of Ashton's Fille Mal Gardee in 1976 with Ann Jenner, David Wall, and Alexander Grant. So perfect was this cast that I didn't want to dim the memory by seeing any other casts. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was years and years before I got another chance to see the ballet again, by which time I was regretting my decision.
  22. Bouder isn't usually like this, Natalia. She's forceful, but normally relaxed and joyous, and shows a greater range of emotion than she did last night. I think she realized the company was tired and not giving its best, and was trying to make up for it. Which is touching in someone so young -- she knows that being a ballerina means taking responsibility for the success of the performance. Unfortunately it didn't come off.
  23. Half-price tickets for tonight's performance (Divertimento #15, Polyphonia, West Side Story Suite) are available for $41.55 at TICKETplace (see futher info upthread).
  24. Thanks for this report, Watermill. Sounds like a fascinating lecture. I hope that other organizations will schedule Mr. Cook for similar talks. Could you expand on what Cook said about Watermill's (the ballet!) autobiographical qualities? And how Robbins's relationship with Tanaquil le Clerq figures in it? I just can't imagine . . . I'm reading Deborah Jowitt's biography right now, but haven't yet reached the moments you described.
  25. When Stars & Stripes is the most substantial work on the program, you know it was a lightweight evening. Don't get me wrong. I love Stars. That is, when it's danced as it should be, as a grand classical ballet with the full force of a great company brought to bear on it. Tonight's performance fell well short of that ideal. Is it that the company is tired after a long New York season? In that case, schedule their Kennedy Center seasons at a different time -- before the winter or spring NY seasons. Whatever the reason for it, tonight's performance seemed tired and perfunctory. Sterling Hyltin made a good debut as leader of the Corcoran Cadets, and Damien Woetzel was his dependable self in the pas de deux, but there wasn't much else to recommend it. The men's regiment looked brittle and overextended, and no one had the joy this ballet needs in order to succeed. Perhaps Ashley Bouder sensed the company's blahs; she certainly pushed hard to liven up the proceedings. Unfortunately she pushed too hard, and came across as hard-edged in a role that needs sweetness to make it work. As the pas de deux went on her anxiety seemed to increase -- perhaps accelerated by a slip in her solo in which she almost lost her footing -- and even her jumps lacked their usual bouyancy. The audience seemed to enjoy it, though, which I credit to Balanchine. This was my first view of Thou Swell, and I liked the idea of the ballet more than the finished product. As a lover of Richard Rodgers's songs, especially those he wrote with Lorenz Hart (which formed the bulk of the selection here), I could have just closed my eyes and enjoyed Debbie Gravitte's and Jonathan Dukochitz's performance of the music, but I felt duty bound to watch the ballet. What was maddening about it was Martins's relentlessly hyperactive choreography. He's watched, and danced in, scores of Balanchine ballets, yet he's failed to absorb the fact that one of the Master's greatest gifts was simplicity. He could put a dozen girls onstage dancing to Sousa and have them do little more than strut about on pointe, and still make it musical, witty, and fun. But Martins never trusts himself to do that, it all has to be frantic flailing about. It gets tiring to watch after a while, and it all begins to look alike. From a structural standpoint, I thought the small ensemble of four couples was not only extraneous but stylistically inconsistent, since they were obviously 20s flappers (at least the girls were), whereas the four principal couples were pure 30s. Jock Soto looked very handsome and could probably have had a flourishing career in 30s movies as band leaders, Latin lovers, and the like. But the most interesting of the principals to me was Faye Arthurs. She not only looked very 30s -- kind of Myrna Loy crossed with Carole Lombard -- but danced beautifully and created a character, which the other women did not. I don't have much to say about Glass Pieces (awful name -- it always brings to mind bloody feet) beyond that it shows Robbins's talent for capturing a moment in time without adding anything of his own to it. I suppose that has a certain historical value, but not an artistic one.
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