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  1. Colorado Ballet opened its 2021-22 season this weekend with four performances of Giselle, which had originally been planned for fall 2020. Like so much else now, they are experiencing major transitions in their personnel. I have already noted the unexpected (and much lamented) departure of principal Francisco Estevez last spring. I also note the surprise absence from the roster of Simon Cowell, a promising young African-American corps member. I have no idea what their future plans are. With the retirement last year of Chandra Kuykendall, they now have only three principals (Dana Benton, Yosvani Ramos, and Asuka Sasakai, who is on maternity leave). Giselle thus became a great opportunity for four soloists, three newly hired, to make their mark in principal roles and I am optimistic they will prove worthwhile. Production: When the company last performed Giselle in 2013, they rented sets and costumes from ABT. For this season, they came from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and were quite impressive. I did find the Wilis’ tutus unsettling, though I’m probably over-thinking this. Their skirts are a dirty gray, darker near the waist. As young women jilted at the altar, they are buried in their white wedding dresses. Do they get dirty climbing in and out of their graves every night? A little too much realism for my taste! At least Giselle was in a pure white, unadorned dress, as they try to recruit her to their ranks. EDITED TO ADD: I understand that Queen Victoria introduced the tradition of the white wedding dress in 1840, one year before Giselle. I don't know what the customs were in Paris at that time. But even if the white Wilis' tutus are merely evocations of the spirit world and not wedding dresses, the explanation for the dirty gray could be the same, viz., that they are climbing out of their graves every night. https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1840-queen-victorias-wedding-dress/ https://www.pbt.org/the-company/artistic/repertoire/giselle/I I saw all three pairs of principals this first weekend, debuts with this company for all. (As Artistic Director Gil Boggs explained on opening night, they learned the roles on Zoom last spring.) Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos are company veterans. Ramos has performed this ballet with other companies and brought the maturity of interpretation and poise he reliably delivers. He is 42 and in excellent physical condition, despite several injuries and surgeries, well-documented on his social media in recent years. They skipped the tabletop lift that is so thrilling in Act II and instead did a vertical lift. But as Ratmansky noted in interviews after his reconstruction in early 2020, the tabletop wasn’t in the original. The vertical lift is familiar from many performances at the Bolshoi and elsewhere. Sarah Tryon (who has been with the company since 2015) and Jonnathan Ramirez (one of the newcomers) offered a more youthful presence, well-coached in dramatic details. They did a version of the overhead lift that was not quite horizontal with the floor, but impressive anyway. Jennifer Grace and Mario Labrador (both newcomers to the company) were the most thrilling to my eye. Although both were born in the US, they trained at the Bolshoi Academy and Labrador performed with the Mikhailovsky for several years before returning to the US. I was stunned at the authenticity of his compelling dramatic presence throughout, which never seemed phony or artificially overwrought. Their tabletop was not horizontal and seemed awkward on the exit, the only complaint I had about their partnering. Grace's interpretation was lovely, but not with the same gravitas as her partner. Admittedly, I probably pay too much attention to some iconic moments, like the hops on pointe in Act I for Giselle. Grace was the only Giselle to do them and she travelled a fair distance. Benton and Tryon used a substitution that Kuykendall used in the past, a repeated releve to pointe on one foot with the other leg in front in attitude. Well, okay, and most probably didn’t notice the difference, but disappointing. Brises or entrechats? All three men did the brises on the diagonal so familiar from Baryshnikov’s legendary performances. Labrador was best at gobbling up the stage at high speed and seeming to run out of space. All the men in 2013 also did the brises, which I prefer, if done well. Albrecht is under Myrtha’s command at that point. The entrechats that so many men do require him to turn away from her toward the audience, breaking the spell. Hilarion: Three soloists long with the company took turns with this role (Christopher Moulton, Liam Hogan, and Nicolas Pelletier). None commanded the stage with their presence, despite quite acceptable technique in the demanding choreography. Runs off stage sometimes looked more like jogging through Central Park and stage walks were too often pedestrian strolls. Myrtha: All three brought a powerful, ominous presence to the role. Grace actually performed this twice over the weekend, despite also doing Giselle on Saturday night, something you see in smaller regional companies. Alexandra Wilson is a corps member who has been with the company since 2019. Melissa Zoebisch is a demi-soloist with the company since 2014. The two I'll be most eager to see again later in the season are Labrador and Sasaki, when she returns. The orchestra always does a fine job for this company. None of the performances was sold out, but attendance seemed quite acceptable. The company follows the policies of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (proof of vaccination and inside masking) and people seemed agreeable, although I did see a predictable flurry of complaints on Facebook. The performing arts could not survive another year of lock-down and I’m quite happy to play by these rules to help them get back to the stage. They plan four more performances of Giselle next weekend. This company has always been very stingy on advance casting announcements for reasons I've never understood, but perhaps they are loosening up a tad. This weekend they have announced casting for next weekend. Benton-Ramos are scheduled for Saturday evening 10/16, Grace-Labrador for Friday 10/15 and Sunday 10/17, with Tryon-Ramirez Saturday matinee 10/16. EDITED TO ADD: I wrote this Sunday morning and just got back from the Sunday matinee. Benton was injured this morning and Tryon was the substitute, dancing with Ramos. She was fortunate to have such a seasoned partner and it went very smoothly. They used the vertical lift that he does with Benton. I have no idea if Benton will be able to dance next weekend. Ramos is very active on social media, especially Instagram, so we might learn more there. This company uses an on-line program option. Do others? It's nice to see before getting to the theater. They do still distribute print programs when you arrive. Here's the link: https://issuu.com/pubhouse/docs/cb_fall_wrap_21_giselle_prog?promo=3959
  2. I make absolutely NO claim to expertise in this area, but with a little googling (women artists non-western) interesting sites turn up, e.g.: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/articles/10-non-western-contemporary-artists-you-should-know/
  3. My 1969 edition of Janson includes a 10-page "Postscript: the Meeting of West and East." The book title should have been The History of Western Art by Men.
  4. I totally agree with you on Elite Syncopations! I had the misfortune of seeing it on a mixed bill a few years ago at the Royal Opera House. For subsequent performances, I decided that would be a good opportunity to enjoy the ice cream and skip it. It was shown last winter again on one of their pandemic streams, if I remember correctly. Scott Joplin's music is such a treasure - I hated seeing what they were doing with it.
  5. John Martin, long-time critic at the NY Times and a great promoter of modern dance, is well-known for his early criticism of Balanchine, although he evolved later in life. E.g., https://www.nytimes.com/1983/06/12/arts/dance-view-pioneer-of-dance-criticism.html
  6. Another issue with encouraging new choreographers: in recent years, I've noticed companies around the country encouraging female choreographers with commissions for new work. This is all to the good, if a bit late in ballet history. Too many come up with work that really isn't ready for prime time and flops badly. I'd like to see more use of studio and workshop settings to nurture female choreographers (although I know there is already some of that). And if companies want to show they are reaching out to female choreographers, I wish somebody would revive some of Bronislava Nijinska's work. I saw some of it decades ago, staged by the Oakland Ballet. I assume some of them are lost forever, alas. https://www.ballet.org.uk/blog-detail/said-bronislava-nijinska/
  7. I don't want to go too far off on a tangent, but I don't know where else to post this. Kisselgoff's remarks about tributes to earlier works reminded me that I keep seeing references to Giselle in Serenade and wonder if others have. E.g., one woman does an arabesque in a rapid turning sequence which looks like the entrance move by Giselle before Myrtha in Act II. And in several places, the corps moving in lines across the stage looks like the chugs (travelling arabesques) for the Willis in Act II. Does anybody else see these? Are there more? I remember a Balanchine quote (and I'd be hard-pressed to find a source today, sorry): Asked what ballet was the greatest ever, he said: "Sleeping Beauty, except, of course, for Giselle."
  8. I'm a fan of Balanchine's Kammermusic No. 2, made rather late in his life in 1978. As Kisselgoff noted in her review of the premiere, "In many ways, the stars of “Kammermusik” are the eight men in the corps." It's also intriguing, as Kisselgoff notes, that he includes references to notable older works starring male dancers, viz., Nijinsky's Spectre and Prodigal Son, his last ballet for Diaghilev. https://www.nytimes.com/1978/01/28/archives/balanchines-kammermusik-no-2-has-its-premiere-at-the-city-ballet.html With only two women in this work, it always seemed to me that he was exploring at long last what he could do with a significant number of well-trained men. Compare that with what he had to work with for so many decades -- a few stand-out male dancers, of course, but not the depth of talent and training among the men that he could count on with the women.
  9. My mistake. I had the impression they only got to do one performance. Was Daniil in any of those performances?
  10. EDITED TO ADD: He just posted a story from the Guggenheim Works and Process -- with a masked audience, so presumably recent. Back to my original question: I haven't seen him listed for Fall for Dance or anything else this fall in NYC. Thus my wonder if he's rehearsing something for the Met next spring while he has a little break in Berlin. (He just finished their Onegin.)
  11. They're in the stories that scroll across the top. One of Central Park 18 hrs ago. No way to copy those, alas.
  12. On Instagram Daniil Simkin has been posting a lot of pictures of NYC this week. He's not cast in the fall or Nutcracker season. I am wondering if perhaps he is in town to rehearse something for the spring Met season? A new Ratmansky or perhaps the Ratmansky "Of Love and Rage" that had just one performance in Orange County before the pandemic? Fingers crossed! I'd love to see him again with ABT!
  13. I love Glass Pieces and saw all three performances this week. Thursday was a mess, including some flubs from the orchestra in the 1st movement. (This is the danger in listening to the CD of the complete score Robbins used hundreds of time!) A few stumbles by corps men. That improved greatly Friday and Saturday. One of the few perks of the pandemic was the release of recordings we never had access to before. Pieces was never released on DVD or TV, just little promo snippets. Now we have the complete Paris Opera and the Pennsylvania Ballet recordings! The walking in the first movement is so significant. It's best when it is determined, ferocious, but still dancers, as the women are doing now at NYCB. The men walked like ordinary mortals, slouched, lumbered, but were a disappointing contrast with the women this week. Perhaps they were told: just walk fast, but that doesn't cut it. The POB dancers don't get the New York vibe, but with a different problem -- they are too pristine, precise, sterile.
  14. Nureyev reportedly disliked those modesty shorts and refused to wear them, to better show off his line. Two of many sources: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/nureyev-collection/fwISGAyB_7ISIQ Rudolf Nureyev attached great importance to his own costumes and those of his productions. On stage he sought to put his body to best advantage without hampering his movement. In order to lengthen his line, he abandoned the short pants worn for modesty's sake, and wore only tights, which showed off his legwork to better advantage. Then, to free his movement even more, he shortened the line of the doublets to just above the waist. Little by little, the characteristics of his costume became clearer, and by the 1960s a model for a doublet evolved which would be the base for all his future costumes, no matter what the style of the production. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/10/08/wild-thing-2 Once, when he was dancing “Don Quixote,” the intermission was extended to almost an hour as Nureyev sat in his dressing room, refusing to put on the trunks that, for modesty, Russian male dancers wore in those days. He wanted to perform in tights (again, standard practice today), and he finally won, at which point all the other young men also insisted on discarding the trunks.
  15. The San Francisco Ballet is adopting the same policies we're seeing in New York: proof of vaccination + masking: https://www.sfballet.org/tickets/plan-your-visit/safety/ As a visitor to NYC this week, I love the rules for entry to theaters, museums, and restaurants. Nobody is perfectly safe, but all these measures do encourage tourism. On a side note: I have gotten phone calls this week from two convention bureaus in Florida looking for business from a small professional society I am affiliated with. I lectured them on the difference between NYC and what I see in the news about Florida and COVID and urged them to talk with their legislators and the Governor's office. Florida just named a Surgeon General who is an anti-vaxxer/anti-masker! Yes, all these new rules are a nuisance, but I think this is what it takes to bring back tourists with money to spend. EDITED TO ADD: Colorado Ballet has announced the same policies: https://coloradoballet.org/covidpolicy HEALTH & SAFETY POLICIES Updated 9/22: To attend a performance or event at the War Memorial Opera H ouse, all patrons aged 12 and over must present proof of full vaccination status alongside a matching photo ID. Children under 12 years of age who are not yet eligible for vaccination must present a negative COVID-19 test result (either PCR or antigen test) taken within 72 hours of the start time of the performance they are attending. Masks are required for everyone at all times, regardless of vaccination status, while inside the War Memorial Opera House.
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