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  1. Farrell's dancing deserves the effusive compliments, unlike some of the celebrated "Balanchine" (or should I just say "NYCB") ballerinas I can think of today (or even of the past ...). But yes, she has lots of lovely things to say.
  2. Thanks for mentioning this, I've just ordered it for summer fun reading! (It's even appalling cheap on Amazon in whatever format you'd like, which is rare for an Oxford book!). I know a lot of China scholars who have studied 'cultural exchanges,' but only in the theatre realm, so I'm excited to read more about ballet, even if it's 'only' focused on Soviet/US exchanges.
  3. I remember that Russell was staging T&V during the same trip; interesting about her being diverted to China. Less so because of China, more so because I thought the Balanchine Trust zealously controls all performances of Balanchine (but what are you going to do when it's being "illegally" performed in Shanghai or Beijing, I guess). Anyways, this is one reason I'd love to hear more about stagers ... staging things! Ballet in China has, I suspect (not knowing anything about figure skating in the PRC), a much longer history than competitive figure skating - ballet had "been there" long before videotapes. I'm mostly interested in Balanchine in China because if it was largely hard for the Soviets to wrap their heads around his neo-classicism on multiple levels, I'm DESPERATELY curious to know what the dancers, company heads, and audiences thought of the first Balanchine performed in China - which had basically absorbed its entire ballet tradition from Russia & then the Soviet Union, and there hadn't been some tradition of "classical ballet" developing somewhat independently during the teens & 20s. But, we're far off topic! Thanks for the note on Russell in the PRC, though. I'd love to see a fuller recounting of what that looked like.
  4. Swans of the Kremlin is quite good & I think any balletomane interested in ballet under the Soviets would find it interesting reading. It's academic, but not overly so. I read it mostly for pleasure, but I always read academic books with an eye towards "is this accessible for an interested lay audience or undergraduates in a course?" (I'm a professor) and would say yes on both counts. My only quibble would be that Ezrahi - like most cultural historians of the Soviet Union, at least in my (relatively limited) reading - discounts the idea that any of the people she's writing about (with a few notable exceptions) could've been "true believers" in socialism. But, that's a historian-on-historian squabble. She also marshaled some great photographs (my favorite is of a bunch of surprised-looking workers in the gilded jewel box of the theatre of the Marinsky in the early '20s. It makes the point rather dramatically that this has been an art confined to the upper echelons of society prior that that). When I dream of projects I'll do in the future, I'd love to do a study of Balanchine in China. Ballet in the PRC has such an interesting, understudied history already. I loved Suzanne Farrell's description of staging Scotch Symphony in 1988 in the Soviet Union for a couple of reasons, but certainly (at least in her telling) it highlighted some of those "gaps in understanding and judgment" - I wish we had more of those kinds of reminiscences, or at least an easier time finding out who-staged-what-where-when.
  5. Again, no. What really defined a samurai, beside his flat-out birth right of class, which is admittedly hard to depict in ballet? The sword on his hip. Don't remember Villalla wearing one when he performed this with McBride. I do remember the flowered bikini. The ballet loses nothing without its psuedo-shunga trappings. "Tea" also can stand on its own without its pseudo-Asian, frankly racist & ultimately stupid caricatures of Asian art. Such things make me sad, because I imagine if Balanchine had ever had serious exposure to East Asian performance traditions, he probably would've found a lot of interesting, beautiful, and fascinating things to take inspiration from in a much less ham-fisted manner. I see the beautiful, slow & deliberate arm movements of kunqu huadan sometimes in the opening of Serenade, even though it was of course not anything Mr B. was drawing from.
  6. Uh, no. At least on the issue of 'cultural appropriation.' The idea that this piece, costumes & all, somehow represents 'Asian' culture (which is a laughable idea in & of itself) if it's performed by Asian dancers is utterly absurd. Bugaku is Balanchine imagining Asia (Japan). Period. Doesn't matter who's performing it, it is still appropriation to the max (I have perhaps misremembered, but I seem to recall seeing something about the premier of the ballet & the Japanese ambassador being offended & leaving early? I can't blame the man if it's true). I'd love to see the ballet in leotard fashion, as I think it would be much less offensive (pretty as the tutus are), but even so - marshaling Asian dancers into the roles will not make it any less "cultural appropriation" than it currently is,. I say that as someone who (a) has spent a hell of a lot of time studying "traditional" Chinese theatre & published a book on the subject with a reputable academic press and (b) is trained in the history of and also teaches the REST of East Asia (Japan and Korea). Also, why in god's name would any Asian company pick THIS Balanchine piece to present, out of the many others available? Yes, it's of interest to those of us who have an interest in Balanchine. But - AFAIK - Balanchine isn't quite so popular in East Asia, ergo, performing one of the REAL Balanchine greats (Serenade, Barocco, Apollo, the like) would be of much more interest to the dancers & the audiences, versus this head-scratching (in many respects) take on Japanese shunga. Balanchine's 'Tea' with the original finger pointing stuff is just gross, wigs or not. Chinese opera (ALL of them, and there are many) is absolutely stunning to watch in motion - to borrow from THAT theatrical tradition, one doesn't need to be reduced to 'index fingers pointing in the air while wearing silly wigs.'
  7. As the occasional resident "Hi hey hello, I'm a fan but I do this as a profession [I am a professional historian & my first book was on mid-century Chinese opera]" person in these conversations, I really would love to see Bugaku staged as a leotard ballet. I have said so to well-respected, long-standing members of this board. I don't think there's any reason to revive it in its current form (original form?) as pretty as the tutus are (and they are pretty. Last time I was at the V&A - a number of years ago - I got to see Susanne Farrell's Bugaku tutu, and it was gorgeous). It would be an interesting ballet to watch as a leotard ballet. With all the Orientalist nonsense (which I don't fault Balanchine for, per se), it's ... much less interesting. Strip it down to its bones, then let people decide its worth.
  8. Of course many facets of identity are culturally constructed. The IDEA of what a man or woman SHOULD be (you know, "gender") is a cultural construct, which is what I was saying (and I'm not saying you have to pick one or the other, though in functional point of fact, in many places you actually DO have to pick). I wasn't debating the fact that people can feel "in between" (to say the least); I was objecting to the idea that gender - as a construct - is somehow inherent in human existence or linked to what genitals you're born with (it's not). The reason people feel that "people with penises should be like THIS" or "people with vaginas should be like THAT" is a CULTURAL construct. It's not inherent in biology.
  9. First of all, gender is not "an identity," it's a cultural construct. Second, a "dan" is a ROLE, it has nothing to do with the sex or gender of the performer. You can have a dan who has identified as male since birth (like Mei Lanfang), or a dan who has identified as female since birth (like a great many dan in the modern era). Women were, from the 18th century on (until the 20th century), BANNED from Chinese stages, so you had no choice BUT to have men playing "women's" roles until the mid-20th century (when women started playing dan roles again). Yes, Mei Lanfang was one of the "great four dan," he also had a lot of reasons for throwing about his masculinity (if interested, please look at Joshua Goldstein's fabulous monograph, _Drama Kings_, published by UC Press). And please don't conflate "Chinese opera" with "Peking opera." Peking opera itself (never mind its status as "the" Chinese opera) is a relatively recent invention. If we're going to bow our heads to anything as "Chinese opera," it should be kunqu, or as it's often called in Chinese - "Mother of a hundred [styles of] opera."
  10. Realize I'm several weeks late, but no, I still don't understand what Balanchine's obsession with Farrell with was "bizarre." Bizarre in what way? Balanchine had fallen in love with young ballerinas before, that was nothing new; he'd done a lot of choreography for them, too. Farrell wasn't the first. I'd just like to know why the Farrell/Balanchine affair was "bizarre," when his others - with LeClerq, Tallchief, etc - weren't.
  11. This is all assuming he WANTED (or felt like he could) write about all that (or "as told to" all that). I agree it's a shame he never published anything, but perhaps it's the historian in me - we simply can't expect such riches from our sources. OTOH, if his archive is safely with Columbia, suffice to say, scholars will pull out of it things Mitchell never would've dreamed of speaking about. The autobiographical archive is fetishized in the field of history & generally overvalued, though it is of course valuable.
  12. Why "bizarre"? There's a reason the documentary made of her is called Elusive Muse - I actually think that captures Balanchine's presentation of Dulcinea in Don Q to a 't,' from what I've seen/read of the ballet. I can appreciate the fact that Balanchine's Don Q wasn't the bravura-fest that most versions of the ballet are (even if I think its potential of being revived handily are slim to none).
  13. I feel this way about the Peony Pavilion (a famous Chinese opera, which is a supreme & beloved achievement as a work of literature & as excerpts in traditional Chinese opera), which the National Ballet of China made into a ballet. As highly stylized as Chinese opera is, it's still not ballet (and I've been horrified by what parts of the ballet I've seen, insofar as "telling the story") - it is a glorious piece of literature that is "undanceable."
  14. I'm an East Asian specialist, and have never read Don Quixote in its entirety, though I think we were forced to read excerpts in HS. Regardless, I appreciate you highlighting that Balanchine had his particular twist/emphasis, just as Petipa has his .... Much like many of the sprawling works I read, it seems well-nigh impossible to distill the "entirety" into an evening's ballet, so you have to pick some angle. One reason I'm such a Balanchine devotee: one doesn't have to have these conversations watching Concerto Barocco or Serenade.
  15. I'm not surprised. Here's a quote from one of the critics I study, re: 16th century drama, which is often incredibly long, dense, and stupidly complex (seriously, the "origin" play I l study has 34 acts. Thirty four. That's a lot! We're talking 18 hours at a minimum to get through the whole thing!): I mean, isn't Don Q read against Balanchine's maxim that "there are no mothers-in-law in ballet"? Don Q (the novel) wasn't MEANT to be a ballet (I have the same issue with things like Mayerling - you're seriously making a ballet about THAT? Well, godspeed ...). I appreciate that Mr B. gave Farrell this love letter, but I don't think Balanchine's focus on the Don & Dulcinea is any more admirable than Petipa picking out the parts he was interested in. They're just artistic decisions about what to focus on in a work that was never intended to be presented to audiences in such a manner.
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