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  1. Hi, yes -- the Ben Stevenson version. I am not sure that Cleopatra will be in my budget. Perhaps I can get someone else to report ....
  2. I have just returned from Fort Worth to see the Texas Ballet Theater’s Swan Lake. This is just a little report. As some may know the company nearly went under last fall and has been scrapping towards its survival with all manner of of fundraising, an unfortunate but seemingly necessary temporary cut in live music, a shortening of the dancers season – and – at the same time - progressive steps towards implementing a plan for stabilizing towards the future. From my perspective, turning out performances that can make the city (the donors, the Board, everyone) proud is, of course, the best fundraiser of all – and so they did. The Swan Lake run was a good success with four performance in Dallas and five in Ft Worth. The company’s already strong level of dance continues to rise – a combination of in-migration, and the gradual (painstaking, of course) maturing of the once “younger” dancers, evident in Swan Lake in both the corps and many secondary roles that were swapped back and forth in different combinations, from performance to performance. Depending on the performance, the Prince and Odette/Odile were danced by – Andre Silva and Leticia Oliveira; Carl Coomer and Carolyn Judson; Lucas Priola and Carolyn Judson; Peter Zweifel and Lisa Kaczmarck. It was a simply beautiful production. The local reviewers and the audience agreed.
  3. These photos are beautiful! I was not able to see this production -- so thank you for giving me a glimpse of it!
  4. I was in the audience Saturday evening and Sunday night, and I wish I had a richer background in ballet to "do it justice" in the recounting. The Le Corsaire pas de deux danced by Carlos Acosta and Zhang Jian was incredible. My mom was with me, and she does have the background - pretty much saw all there was in ballet in the New York area from the late 30's to the late 60's and said she thought Acosta was the greatest she had seen in this role - including Nureyev. To me he was panther-like .... huge strength, agility, grace, beauty, althletism and brilliance that took over the stage. Zhang Jian - it was like watching air dance. Together and separately they were quite beautiful -- and I hope someone else in the audience will come on to describe it to you with greater detail. Peter Zweifel's piece (new choreography by a young dancer in the company) to music by Vivaldi and Chopin, was very well received by both the audience and local critics. If a moderator wants to edit this by linking to the reviews in dfw.com (the star telegram) or dallasnews.com (the dallas morning news), at least one of them describes it in some detail. Ben Stevenson's, Image, ("Adagio" from Mahler Symphony #10)was danced by Julie Gumbiner and introduced in the program with a quotation from Marilyn Monroe, "If you are nobody, to be somebody, you have to be somebody else." I thought is was stunning, chilling, terribly sad, well done by Miss Gumbiner, with an ending that allowed the audience a bittersweet release from the overall despair of the piece. For audience and reviewers, this was a love it or hate it piece. Very dark. I had fairly recently seen a biography of Judy Garland on public t.v. and although the dance had direct representation of Marilyn Monroe, I kept thinking of Judy Garland, and the more general theme of fragile, creative, brilliant women, who were destroyed by studio/network people/systems that should have cherished them. The performance ended with Love Thing, choreographed by Assistant to the Artistic Director, Tim O'Keefe, to seven songs from Tina Turner recordings, ending with Proud Mary. This was exuberantly and sharply danced, interesting and dynamic throughout, spiced with sass and humor, and darned fun to watch. As one of the crowd, you won't find me complaining about a crowd pleaser. Lots of outstanding bits by various dancers with some special sizzle by Andre Silva at the end. Couple of other notes .... I chatted during intermission just for a couple of minutes with a gentleman who is making a documentary on National Ballet of Cuba that is coming out in fall '06, so watch for that. Carlos Acosta and Zhang Jian will be back guesting with TBT in April for one night at the Majestic Theater in Dallas - so if you are in the area and missed this performance, there's another chance to seem them.
  5. Thanks, Helene - I will be visiting that area with some of my family in a couple of weeks, and we will have time for a couple more special outings while we are there. I appreciate this info! - "syr"
  6. I enjoyed reading that first hand answer. Just as any fyi, one evening I did a search on the "links" forum ..... perhaps typed in "texas ballet" (can't remember now - maybe it was "Fort Worth") - found a lot of articles about both companies over the last two years that were very informative. I was also curious about MBC.
  7. Thank you for creating this cyber community / info-sharing resource. I hope you will enjoy your "retirement!"
  8. Just a reminder to all who like to watch this show that is it being aired Tuesday 12/21.
  9. A young dancer I know, who is aware that I am a Ballet Alertnik, recently asked me when I was planning to post something about Texas Ballet Theater. How could I until I saw them perform? But now I have, and so I have posted my report on the “Ballet Companies; Recent Performances; Nutcracker Reports" thread. As general info didn’t belong in a Nutcracker report I’m adding a few comments and news here. A summary of the recent history of the company including the joining of Fort Worth and Dallas based organizations into a new Texas Ballet Theater, and the hiring, two years ago of Ben Stevenson, O.B.E. as artistic director can all be found on the company’s website (so I will not repeat it here). But additional info gleaned from the Nutcracker program is that Anna Donovan has continued as company Ballet Master, while Tim O’Keefe, former principal dancer with Houston Ballet is in his third season as Assistant to the Artistic Director, and Li Anlin, a former Houston Ballet principal dancer then Ballet Master, is now the Principal of the TBT School, and also company Ballet Master. The company, as listed in the program, is comprised of 26 members, 5 apprentices and 2 trainees. There is no listed division of dancers into principal, soloist, etc. Reading the bios, it’s an interesting mix of Texas Ballet Theater veterans, new members from the wide range of the training grounds/geographic locations/companies that dancers would come from, with a healthy dollop of recently graduating Houston Ballet Academy (renamed Ben Stevenson Ballet Academy, upon Mr. Stevenson’s departure form Houston after 27+ years) students, all of whom either began or ended their formal training under Mr. Stevenson’s tenure or influence. Plus at least two former Houston Ballet Company dancers who joined TBT this season. So it is a re-formed and growing young company – a mix of experienced dancers and emerging talent - led by a highly experienced and respected artistic team, seemingly supported by a board and administration with a clear vision and plan for putting/keeping it all on solid financial ground and expanding eventually into an new studio, etc. As a “civilian” (non dancer) brushing up against it all for just a bit, I felt a marvelous sense of excitement, intent, opportunities being turned to best advantage, and bonds of camaraderie and care. The Dallas and Fort Worth dailies’ reviews for Cleopatra and Nutcracker were both laudatory … which is happy news, of course, for a company on the rise.
  10. “But let's compare notes. Whose are you seeing, what did you like about it, what did you think was distinctive about it, what do you think it could be doing differently?” O.k. – I will take the challenge here and write what I will call a “report from the audience” about Ben Stevenson’s Nutcracker under the direction of ….. Ben Stevenson. Therefore this is a report on the performances of Texas Ballet Theatre. The company is mid-run now at Bass Hall in Fort Worth, moving to Dallas after Dec 19, though the Christmas Eve matinee. I have a special fondness for the group of young dancers that graduated in recent years from the Houston (now “Ben Stevenson”) Ballet Academy, so that is my bias and also why I’ll give some special mention of them, ignoring other TBT dancers of whom I hope to become equally fond in future years! My other disclosure is that – alas – I generally find the first act of Nutcracker boring and the second act a bagful of tricks that after seeing it enough times, I thought enough was enough. However – I actually love the Stevenson version, and it allows me to understand why other people look forward to seeing Nutcracker year after year – even if I don’t quite understand why they look forward to those other versions year after year. The dancers that I chatted with after one evening’s performance were unanimous that Ben Stevenson’s Party Scene is the Number #1 Party Scene out there. And I have to agree that it is pretty terrific. The ballet as a whole has the feel of a beloved children’s book, gorgeously illustrated (loved those lush and intricate backdrops – (is that what they are called?)) with a fantastic tale moving through the pages, and some of the “pages” – like the party scene, having so many other fascinating and funny bits happening to the side, and the back, and across the stage, that there is always more to look at, and a sense that you may have missed something really good (and you probably have). The party scene is more theatrical and comedic than the usual, and is chocobloc full of characters that one would imagine convening in a storybook Christma: elders who have been carrying on with a spot of mischief for generations, young parents always slightly behind the ball in containing the high spirits and hijinks of their children, and scads of girl and boy cousins, who in the face of such gaiety and anticipation cannot behave too well for too long. It is a rich and inviting tableau in constant motion (intricately blocked out as much as it is choreographed), full bits and business, characters and comedy. The rotation through seven casting combinations adds to the fun for an audience member with any familiarity with the dancers. The company’s assistant artistic director, Tim O’Keefe can be seen as the scene stealing grandfather, various company members turn in bravo death scenes as the King Rat, and Carolyn Judson, for example, who shone in one performance as the Sugar Plum fairy, had appeared the day before as the party scene “Fat Girl” who, possessed of a rambunctious and jealous character, is always on the move to thwart the pretty interactions of others. Andre Silva made a marvelously naughty and oft-chastised Fritz, the day before he brought cheers from the audience doing the Russian “Gopak.” And so on. The transition from Party Scene to the Land of Snow was particularly beautiful. I have always thought the “rising of the Christmas tree” to be the showcase effect of Act 1, but, this scene change was the visual highpoint for me. From colorful and lively interior scene, to absolutely serene blue and white beauty. And then, to our delight, as the act closed, those techies were generous enough to make it snow on the whole audience, which seemed to delight children and their grown-ups equally. And was a first for me. Now, after being so long winded I will skip over the second act (leaving something for someone else to write about. “Skip over to WHAT????” you might ask. Well how about the orchestra and the hall – if we are going to comment about things that are a little different and that we liked? Not being the “real musician” in my family – the one who gets paid to write music reviews, I can’t tell you why – but I can say that somehow the orchestra was just right and especially pleasing. My impression was confirmed by the very warm round of applause for conductor Jack Buckhannan from the company (they brought him on stage the first evening I attended) and audience alike. This is clearly a company and community that is aware they have someone special wielding that baton (and as company rehearsal pianist) and they like to show their appreciation. Bass Hall: Seats with leg room! Gracious and welcoming ushers! More ladies room stalls per audience member than in other theater in Americal (o.k – I haven’t done and actual study, but) – and how’s this?? – a music staff painted all the way down across the front of all those ladies room stalls with the treble clef. I just had to wonder whether the men’s room is decorated with the bass clef. Having followed the dance lives of some of the Houston students entering their professional careers, it was a particular pleasure for me to see Carolyn Judson as Sugar Plum Fairy, Peter Zweifel as Nutcracker Prince, Jayme Autrey Griffiths as Snow Queen, Robin Bangert as Clara, Justin Urso in Chinese, Andre Silva as Gopak – not to speak of former Houston Principal dancer, Julie Gumbinner as Sugar Plum Fairy and Lukas Priola as Arabian and King Rat. Well, I bet you can guess by now that I could go on and on, but I won’t. Except to give my apologies to any cast members I failed to mention (which is most. How far could I push that nepotism-like slant to this report, after all?). And apologies to all you dancer/readers for not making one comment about technique – but what do I know? Ultimately this Nutcracker is an ensemble piece. It absolutely succeeds in the those featured highlight solos, but in my opinion, what sets this version apart is how well it succeeds as a fantastical story and an entrancing, entertaining, often comedic, colorful, lively, very special, holiday ensemble production.
  11. Well, I'm in the middle of "Under the Banner of Heaven" about Mormon fundamentailists, and have five shiny New Releases, fiction, from the library waiting for me on my kitchen table, too. All picked based on title, jacket, inside flap description, first paragraph. Never heard of ANY of the tiltles or authors! My sister just finished "God's Secretaries" about the writing of the King James version of the bible - she said it is fascinating history and I love the title so much I have put that on my "soon" list. I am wishing someone would send me Georgette Heyer books I have never read nor found because those are my cozy late night and insomnia reading.
  12. Houston Ballet II, also known as Level 8 of the Ben Stevenson Academy, held their spring graduation performance Friday night, including Excerpts from Don Quixote, Act III Music by Alois Louis Minkus Grand Pas de Deus, Brides Maids, Fandango - Choreography by Ben Stevenson Captive/Support - choreography by Priscilla Nathan Murphy (music by Ibuki - Kodo drummers) Swan Lane, Excerpts from Act III, choreography by Ben Stevenson after Marius Patipa and Lev Ivanov Grand Pas de Deus, and Waltzes Inspirations of the Soul - Three movements Music by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach Choreography, Peter Zweifel (student) A Time to Dance Music by Antonin Dvorak Choreography by Stanton Welch A varied and exhilerating program - a great showcase of talent, excellence in training, artistry, lots of hard work! My personal faves were the three more contemporary pieces, but my seatmates were equally appreciative of the quality of dance in the others. Loved Stanton Welch's piece, and student Peter Zweifel's was incredible. :rolleyes:
  13. My daughter is a student there so I just like to read the posts about the company. I'd certainly join the fray if I could add anything to it. :shrug:
  14. that sword sounded like a simple, yet elegantly effective fashion statement!
  15. Wondering how others deal with situations when you are in the audience, and those seated next to you conspire to spoil your enjoyment. Once in the throes of the situation, right and wrong have little relevance; it becomes a tactical question about whether the situation can be improved, and whether saying anything will make things better or worse. Some recent examples in my life: At a recent professional Nutcracker, we found ourselves seated next to a family including a baby-on-lap whose new vocabulary included the words "juice!" "crackers!" "up!" "down!" and "no!" all of which were proclaimed with regularity throughout the performance to the dismay of my adult daughter seated next to her. Additionally the mother would cover the baby's ears whenever my daughter applauded and glare at her. At a recent musical theater production, -- great gift seats in the orchestra --- just before curtain, the people next to us arrive and ...... the woman next to me seemingly has bathed in perfume before leaving the house. I'm not exactly allergic, just sensitive enough to become nauseous and have a pins and needles sensation progress around my nose and lips ...... Seemingly nothing to do here but shallow-breathe through Act I and swap seats with my husband for Act II. People who talk during over the overture or during the performance. This is the only one that seems to have an effective fix - the simple "how-dare-you glare." The one where I surprised myself was when I attended a NYCB performance of Sleeping Beauty with my daughter and a friend some years ago. I was shocked when the much older woman seated next to me starting humming softly along with the score. However, I gave it a few minutes, and the fact was, that given that she was in tune AND she was obviously having such a darn good time, I thought - what the heck - and let her enjoyment be part of my enjoyment. So - how do you deal with bad luck with your seat mates?
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