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Posts posted by Ari

  1. [p.s. - I could swear that the unannounced Jennifer Tinsley danced among those four ladies. Abergel, Beskow, & Hanson were supposed to be the other three but none of them really looks like Tinsley & I know Tinsley's face & 'All-American smile' well. :) ]

    You're right, Natalia. Bescow and Hanson weren't there. Tinsley replaced one of them, but I don't know who the other replacement was. Anyone?

  2. Opening program of the company's 2005 season was designed to fit into the Kennedy Center's 1940s theme: two ballets from that period (Theme & Variations and The Four Temperaments) and one from the 80s that was inspired by a film from the 40s (I'm Old Fashioned).

    When I saw that Andrea Quinn was down to conduct T&V and 4Ts, I was apprehensive, but both scores were taken at a very reasonable pace. (The third theme in Four Ts was actually too slow.) This, for me, is one of Quinn's most maddening qualities -- her unpredictabilty. The chances are she'll conduct at a teeth-chattering clip, but then again, she may not. How are the dancers to know what to expect? Some surprise is healthy, it keeps dancers alert and responsive, but Quinn takes it to extremes.

    I was happy to see T&V shorn of the first three movements of Tchaikovsky's third orchestral suite, which Balanchine added in 1969 to the ballet he originally made for Ballet Theater in 1947. Unlike many people, I find these first three movements a self-indulgent (on Balanchine's part) bore, and so radically different from T&V as to make them and the final movement two separate ballets. (Yes, I'm aware of a theory that would reconcile this contrast, but sorry, I don't buy it. :shake: )

    T&V came across pretty well -- a bit stolid and lacking in zip, but a respectable performance. Miranda Weese is now back to full ballerina form; when I saw her do this at Saratoga last summer she was still shaky. I can't think of another ballerina today who can match her in this killer role. She gives every step its full power while shaping them, musically and intelligently, into nuanced sentences that make sense and create illusion.

    I am a very critical watcher of Four Ts, that Balanchine ballet supremo, and for better or worse I have a memory bank loaded with bits and pieces that are very hard to improve on. Nonetheless, Peter Boal is the only Melancholic I've ever seen who can make me forget Bart Cook. They're different -- Boal doesn't have Cook's elasticity, but he brings a sculptural quality to the movement that Cook didn't have. According to the program, this was Boal's farewell to Washington; he is not scheduled for the rest of the week. Although I hate to see him retire, I'm glad this is the last memory of him that Washington will have.

    Owing to injury, Sofiane Sylve was replaced in Sanguinic by Alexandra Ansanelli. Although she danced it well, she was forced to dance with Sylve's scheduled partner, Charles Askegard, and the pairing almost sank their performance. It was a mismatch not so much of height as of weight. The Sanguinic ballerina is supposed to be the dominant partner in this duet, but when she looks as though the man could slip her into his pocket, it doesn't work. The low lifts, for instance, are supposed to look weighty, just barely skimming the ground, but Ansanelli looked instead like a sparrow whom Askegard could have picked up with one hand and let loose to fly about the theater. I was rather puzzled by the casting of Glenn Keenan in the second theme. The choreography's emphasis on long legs and arms usually results in the casting of a tall girl, but Keenan is short. She danced it well, but would probably have been more appropriately cast in the first or third theme. Jennifer Tinsley's ropy line and lack of strength (compared to others who have danced this) were disappointing. I wasn't too impressed with Albert Evans as Phlegmatic, and was surprised when he got more cheers during the curtain calls than Boal. Teresa Reichlen continues to gain in authority as Choleric.

    I don't have much to say about I'm Old Fashioned. It's not one of Robbins's better or more substantial works, although the cast looked charming.

  3. Leigh, you've touched on a problem I've had with Giselle for years now. The trouble, I think, is that ballerinas I've been seeing in the role have no conception of innocence. They confuse it with naivete, which is NOT the same thing.

    It's been some time since I've seen a Russian dance this role, but at least in Soviet times they could be depended upon to understand innocence. I remember especially Nina Ananiashvili's performance of the role in the mid/late 80s, when she must have been in her early twenties. She had a lovely unspoiled quality that I've never seen in a Westerner. I ascribed it to her having been "protected" from cynical, commercial Western culture. I have no idea if today's Russians have been "ruined" by their exposure to same, but somehow I suspect they haven't been. Whether we have coaching to thank for this (if it's true) or an artistic culture that trumps whatever's available commercially, I don't know. But I wish we had some of it.

  4. Half-price tickets are available for tomorrow night's (Wednesday's) performance at TICKETplace, 407 Seventh Street, NW (between D and E Streets), which is located between the Gallery Place (Red Line) and Archives (Green/Yellow Lines) metro stations. Hours are 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, and only credit, debit, and ATM cards are accepted. The tickets are $35.35.

  5. This is Croce's comment about baldness & split hairs in context (from "Makarova on Broadway," a 1980 review of Makarova & Company, reprinted in Going to the Dance):

    Not long ago, the Dance Theater of Harlem gave us a Paquita divertissement that was a triumph.  But Alexandra Danilova's staging is so different from Makarova's as to amount to a different work.  Two Russian ballerinas from the same school forty years apart teach two different Paquitas.  The conflict isn't between student and professional levels of performance [Makarova's company was composed largely of students]; it's between Petrograd and Leningrad.  The way American dancers understand Russian classicism—"Petipa" for short—is the way the St. Petersburg-Petrograd generation of émigré Russians has taught it to them.  With these Russians, it has always been the rule that the teachings of the academy are shaped by the findings of choreography.  Of all the numberless differences between our local accent in Petipa and the current native one, I should say the greatest derives from the Russian academy's loss of its choreographers—first Fokine, then Balanchine—to the West.  When the choreographer succession was weakened, the academy fell under the rule of the pedagogues.  The most immediately striking discrepancy between the post-Imperial-style Paquita set by Danilova and the latter-day, Kirov-style one set by Makarova is that Makarova's has a great many more complicated and difficult steps (further complicated by difficult tempos).  Danilova's version has dance architecture; Makarova's has none.  Danilova's has buoyancy; Makarova's has drive.  Danilova's looks choreographically bald; in Makarova's, the dancers split hairs.
  6. Wheeldon's already done Broadway, although the show didn't last long. It was a musical version of The Sweet Smell of Success, based on the film. It got very mixed reviews (that includes the choreography), although everyone raved about John Lithgow's performance.

    Incidentally, I wouldn't assume that Wheeldon's choreography for An American in Paris will be "Broadway," just jazzy, as carbro said.

  7. Among one-act ballets, I think nothing could be more grueling for the ballerina than Ballet Imperial/Tchaik Piano Concerto 2. And, although I'd never have guessed it myself, Meredith Daneman says in her Fonteyn biography of Symphonic Variations, "[T]he twenty-minute ballet, in which no one leaves the stage, is such a test of stamina that I have seen dancers vomit in the wings at the end from sheer exhaustion."

  8. The new winter issue of Ballet Review is out now. (It's Volume 32 #4 but dated Winter 2004, though, which is surely a mistake.) Here's what in it:

    2003–04 Washington, DC Ballet Season, George Jackson

    RDB Balanchine Program, Kevin Ng

    Fonteyn Exhibit in NY, Ivor Guest

    A Conversation with Brigitte Lefèvre, Daniel Jacobson

    Terpsichore's Secret, Matthew Brookoff (T's variation)

    Ashton at the Center, Marilyn Hunt (Lincoln Center Ashton Festival)

    A Magic Not Our Own, Don Daniels

    Next Wave Dance, Sandra Genter

    Remembering P.W. Manchester, Janet Light

    London, Paris, Birmingham, Clement Crisp

    Massine, Leland Windreich

    Music on Disc, George Dorris

  9. But it just goes to show that there is more than one way to dance Balanchine.

    I have to disagree here. When I saw the Kirov (with Vishneva) dance Rubies a few weeks ago, I thought the soft, rounded arms were jarringly out of keeping with the rest of the style that the company has worked to acquire in the last several years, and detracted from the ballet.

    We had a thread once on this very topic -- to what extent a company taking on the work of a choreographer whose style is different from its own is obliged to acquire that style, or to let some of its own style show through -- but I couldn't find it.

  10. This is an interesting question, Leigh, and it's one I've been asking myself as long as I've been watching NYCB because, as carbro says, there have always been de facto demi-soloists in the company. But while it might clarify the state of things for new viewers, in the end I think an offical coryphée or demi-soloist rank would be contrary to the company's ethos. NYCB has always been the least hierarchical of the major companies — when I first started going, the company was listed in strict alphabetical order, without regard to rank — and the whole concept of movement within the company (upward mobility, so to speak) has always been central to it.

    I remember an interview with Peter Martins during Balanchine's time in which he talked about how the company struck him when he first joined. It was such a contrast to the European companies, which were so stratified. Over there, he said, a dancer trained and rehearsed in private and when he was deemed ready was promoted. Then he began to get roles. Over here, dancers' development was much more public, with solo roles being given to corps members and principal roles to soloists, who then had to prove their worthiness to dance them. If they did so, they were promoted.

    And then there's the other side to this fluidity: downward mobility. It's not something you see regularly, but there have been times when dancers who have been rising have begun to sink in the casting, and if they're soloists (or official demi-soloists), you wind up with a lot of deadwood. That, I think, was another reason Balanchine waited so long before promoting dancers — he wanted to be absolutely certain that they had what it took.

    Of course, dancer development practices at NYCB have changed since Balanchine's time, but the company still uses its corps as a fund of soloist material, and I think that's part of its appeal for dancers (and audiences). The idea that anyone can suddenly be plucked out of the corps and given a demi-solo or solo or principal role is part of the company's special excitement, and adding another rank would diminish that.

  11. I couldn't access this site from the office, but I can at home. I used Mozilla Firefox both times. But I've found that there are a number of sites I can access at the office using MS Explorer that are unavailable to me with Firefox -- I don't know why. So it might be worth trying another browser if you're really interested.

    It's a lovely site, Clara. Thanks for the link.

  12. Yes, Haggin was a music critic in the days when mainstream publications assigned music critics to review ballet performances, if they reviewed them at all. Haggin was more interested in dance than most of the others, and made an effort to educate himself, but he could never be called a real ballet critic. He has to be read with that in mind, and also the fact that he was bristly and unafraid about venting his personal prejudices, pro and con. His main interest — unsurprisingly for a music critic — was Balanchine, although he wrote about pretty much everything that came his way.

  13. This afternoon's Swan Lake was my first chance to catch up with this five-year old production. Having heard so many negative things about it, I was expecting the worst, but it's actually far from the worst I've seen. (Parlor game: rank your worst Swan Lakes. Nah, too depressing. And it would take too long.) But it's far from what I want out of SL, either.

    First, let me just say that the principals were wonderful. Veronika Part has slimmed down and looks fabulous, and to judge from this performance she has technique to spare. You don't often see legs as bowed as hers in a ballerina with a major company (let alone one who was trained at the Vaganova Academy), but I don't think it hurts her dancing at all. I especially liked the way she integrated her acting as Odette into her dancing: in contrast to many ballerinas, I never got the sense that she was just layering some tragedy onto her dancing. Her characterization of Odile does need work, however. I saw no seductiveness or animation, just a fixed smile. Marcello Gomes danced well and partnered attentively, but as a character he came off rather blandly.

    Now, that production. Well, I liked the single intermission. :P Beyond that, there wasn't a lot I did like.

    Choreography: the replacement of Ivanov's great fourth act with McKenzie's strange, unsatisfying one is baffling. Why bother to do Swan Lake without, well, Swan Lake? Do they think that people come just for the music? Because in the last act that's all there was of SL. Why not stage The Marriage of Figaro with a new score by the Met's resident conductor? It would be novel. The second act was left pretty much unmolested, but the entree of the swans -- one of the most exciting moments in all ballet -- looked thin with only 18 dancers instead of the usual 24.

    Drama: I dislike SLs with a prologue. Tchaikovsky's superb overture sets the mood so brilliantly, immersing us instantly in the world of SL, and having to watch a mime scene during it takes away from that luxurious experience. And with the inclusion of Odette's mime scene in Act II, it's redundant. I like the mime (even if it wasn't entirely clear this afternoon). The bifurcation of von Rothbart is unnecessary and strikes me as the kind of gimmick that stagers of familiar 19th century works sometimes resort to just to be different (like Odile wearing a white tutu, in Baryshnikov's version). The only justification for it is the quick transformation necessary at the end of the third act, but that could easily be accomplished by a double (as the vision of Odette we've just seen is always done by a double). His lengthy dancing scene before the Black Swan pas de deux almost makes the later anticlimatic. And why is he dancing with the princesses? He's a gatecrasher. Any guest, invited or not, who sat on the throne next to the queen would be thrown out on his ear, perhaps to the dungeon. McKenzie also doesn't seem to understand that peasants should not be dancing with aristos, as they do in Act I.

    Physical production: the non-swan costumes are far too elaborate. It was hard to see the dancing in Act I with all those full skirts. The poor Queen is got up to look like Elizabeth I in the third act. The scenery, strangely, was spare, making an odd contrast.

    So why do I say that it's far from the worst SL I've ever seen? Well, it's not unmusical (although Ormsby Wilkins conducted the first two acts very sluggishly, and in the second I suspected he was following Part). It doesn't layer any clever-clever concepts onto the story. It follows Tchaikovsky and Ivanov/Petipa enough to make it recognizable as SL (but please, bring back Act IV). These days, I'm afraid, that's pretty high praise.

  14. This is getting a bit :P , but there are those who argue that the white acts of Swan Lake were indeed Petipa's work, not Ivanov's as the Russians have insisted for years. Several years ago Dance View published an article by, I think, George Jackson (? correct me if I'm wrong, Alexandra) that made the case for that. Unfortunately it's not in the online archives.

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