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Everything posted by pherank

  1. Edward Villella quoting Balanchine: "The floor upon which we dance is the music."
  2. If anyone else watched today's Jewels discussion on Zoom (with Mimi Paul, Edward Villella, Kay Mazzo, and Helgi Tomasson) it would be great to hear from you. I was not able to listen to the entire discussion - I missed the first 20 minutes or so. My favorite line was Villella quoting Balanchine: "The floor upon which we dance is the music." As the Zen masters like to say, "you should study and investigate this thoroughly." ;) Helgi mentioned that the phrasing is important and easily gets lost from one generation to the next. Mimi Paul mentioned that over time the sense of épaulement is lost in Emeralds and it becomes "flat". "It's become quite flat over time". "The positions have to be clear and épaulement essential in that piece, particularly". Villella on coaching Rubies and other roles: "Be guided by me, don't imitate me -- it's your internal understanding of this role." "[Balanchine's] stuff is not academic. Let go and show yourself - a lot of people are a little reluctant to show themselves." "Imitation is not the answer."
  3. Thanks Canbelto! Any idea about the "handmaidens"? (Castings pretty much never list their names.)
  4. In the Corps, only Kimberly Marie Olivier identifies herself as "Black". However she seems to be taking a year off for rehab and recovery reasons. But I do think there's a good chance we will see her again. She is still listed on the website as of today. Note that Jasmine Jimison has just been promoted to soloist. SFB has long been diverse in terms of Asian and Latin-American/Hispanic dancers, but they have seemingly struggled to recruit Black dancers.
  5. Actually California may have forgotten about Nutcracker "season" (December): we say season because there's something like 31 or 32 performances of Nutcracker (normally). And the dancers are rehearsing in the Fall prior to that. Short tours happen in May - June and sometimes around October - November. Contracts are for the year, I believe.
  6. His name is pronounced: Teet Hell-i-mets You're at an exciting moment, Cobweb - it's always great to happen upon a new obsession. ;) With SFB, their most impressive attribute is the great diversity in repertoire they are able to pull off - mostly at a high level. But like any company, particular dancers have their strengths and are most convincing in the certain types of dance/choreography. I have to put in a plug for PNB as well - the other excellent West Coast company. They are worth a look too.
  7. Thanks for the comments, Quiggin. I wondered if anyone had seen Nagrin's dancing.
  8. A bit off-topic, but Pennsylvania Ballet is apparently using a camera-style perhaps more to your liking: '"It's going to be something totally unusual that is going to blow people's minds," promises Artistic Director, Angel Corella. Corella says he wanted to kick things off by pushing the envelope both physically, "show the dancers and show their strength and technique right away," and digitally, with multi-camera angles designed to make audience members feel like they're a part of the performance. "We had a drone going over the dancers and recording them over the top," Corella says.'
  9. It is certainly possible to find articles on cinematography and videography for theater productions. But to find anything relevant to dance, that is depressingly difficult. Depressing because it gives an indication of how little thought is being paid to the subject. However, back in the 1980s, Daniel Nagrin wrote an article on the subject - hoping for a kind of renaissance of dance on TV/video to take place (similar to the success of MTV music videos). The dance on TV resurgence didn't really materialize, but I find Nagrin's opening statements to be very astute, so I will post them here: "The camera is enmeshed in a mess of contradictions. The camera eye is round but the picture it produces is a rectangle; a shape which has no relation to what the human eye sees. If its focus is sharpened it receives less light. If the film is faster, the resultant picture is grainier. The faster the exposure time, the less light enters. Music and dance compliment each other, one being essentially audible and the other visible. Camera and dance are competitive. Both are visible arts with profoundly different structures. Videotape, like film, flattens the dynamic of dance, the frame cripples the spatial adventures of dance and the sweating, exultant, imminence of the living dancer is lost. Further, videotape has considerably less impact than film since its picture is smaller and poorer in quality. Whatever weaknesses there are in video picture are amplified by big screen television: blurred and vitiated color. Compared with the development of audio technology, video is primitive, something like the ten inch ’78 recordings. There is no question that dance seen on a television monitor is a giant step down from the real thing. And yet, for all of its obvious limitations, the technology has been embraced by the dance community and with good reason. Unlike film, it’s affordable and that has made all the difference. It can perform four distinct and different functions. Archival. It is the quickest way to record everything from the Spring Concert the neighborhood school of dance to the premier of a major dance company. Coaching and teaching repertoire. A marketing tool, directed towards committees giving grants and potential sponsors. Creating a new art form by translating the poem of the living dance into a new poem to be seen in the shadows dancing on the flat screen. This fourth function contains a seed that might alter the future shape of dance. Between millions of TV sets and the millions of video cassettes, there exists a potential new stage and a new medium for dance–if the two artists, the choreographer and the videographer can come together in this work. Rock musicians formed a symbiosis with videographers that set them on a new course and a new stage – Music TV. Is Dance TV next?" The Art Of Videotaping Dance Translating the Poetry of Living Dance to a Poem on Videotape By Daniel Nagrin https://nagrin.org/the-art-of-videotaping-dance/
  10. Mathilde Froustey is pregnant. After a few miscarriages (reported by Mathilde on IG), this pregnancy seems to be A-OK. Congratulations! https://www.instagram.com/p/CNYD6hzBvPM/
  11. Well that's interesting. Can anyone identify all the dancers? There's an introductory video on the subject here (in German): https://www.ndr.de/orchester_chor/elbphilharmonieorchester/audio_video/Strawinsky-probt-Apollon-musagete,strawinsky166.html Could that be Karin von Aroldingen as Leto?
  12. Yep. The tallness is all relative of course. The participating men will make the women look taller or smaller, depending. In the ballets with Ulrik Birkkjaer, for example, he tends to tower over the others. I don't know if you watched the ColorForms ballet shot at SF MOMA, but Birkkjaer does all the heavy lifting (literally) in that ballet. He's one of the superior partners though, and very strong, so it made sense - why watch anyone else working hard when Ulrik can look effortless? Same with Tiit Helimets, though I don't think he's really any more than 6 feet tall, and probably a bit less (I've stood next to him on the street corner and he didn't look to be as tall as me - I'm 6'). Aaron Robison is one of the taller men (so he gets paired with Mukhamedov).
  13. Zhao is tall in relation to the other SFB women. But it's true that she's not actually a tall person. SFB has lots of tiny women to choose from, but only a couple - like Jen Stahl and Mukhamedov - that might actually appear normal height, or "tall". Mukhamedov appeared earlier in the digital season in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but I think that was the only other time. Sorry - she was in Morris' Sandpaper Ballet as well.
  14. On YouTube, SFB has posted a Zoom conversation about Jewels with SF Ballet Principal Dancers Sasha De Sola, Tiit Helimets, Soloist Sasha Mukhamedov, and SF Ballet Faculty Member and Former Principal Dancer Pascal Molat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NLmJpycuXw I recommend this video to anyone who has watched Program 4.
  15. "I don't think that being a professional in a company other than NYCB is an excuse to forgive the qualities necessary to execute them as authentically as possible" I tend to agree with you here. Dancers should, ideally, do the research, and put in the time it takes to learn a role thoroughly. But of course life happens and there isn't always time. Both the Froustey and De Sola performances were role debuts (or close to it). De Sola was likely dreaming about the Diamonds role for a number of years before getting a chance to do it. I seriously doubt Mathilde was dreaming of dancing Rubies - it wasn't likely to be on her radar. Ideally, SFB dancers would train for roles in the European manner - spending the month before performances rehearsing constantly. At SFB, all the learning happens the previous summer. There's no time during the season to create or learn new roles. That's all due to the sharing of the opera house with the SF Opera, and other events. 'I feel that to say that "Most companies don't even have that" is perhaps not completely true' What I meant there was that few companies have a dancer that created roles under Balanchine on staff. SFB had Elyse Borne around as well (originally as Ballet Master), though once she became a répétiteur, not consistently. Whether or not the dancers made use of this resource is another matter. 😉
  16. I agree with your "put more air in the frame" observation. Really tight framing may seem dynamic, but it changes the whole atmosphere of a piece. Emeralds would be the ballet most effected by tight framing/cropping - it loses its atmospherics. I think they were trying to find a happy medium (but I'm not sure that exists since the audience preferences run the gamut).
  17. Yes, at SFB if you don't love one dancer, look to their right or left - you'll probably see something very different. We're not supposed to be linking to professional reviews here, but to quote Howard: 'The performance of “Diamonds” capping this cobbled-across-time “Jewels” is really special. I say that personally because I remember being at the 2017 Sunday matinee when Sasha De Sola made her debut opposite Tiit Helimets.' (The date of this archived performance was Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 2pm)
  18. When I first started paying attention to ballet, and specific ballets, Rubies was naturally one that made a big impression on me. Emeralds probably the least of the three. But as time has gone on Emeralds and Diamonds have risen in my estimation. Mathilde would be the first person to say that she's not a Balanchine dancer (and worry about having to perform in a Balanchine work). But she's been a standout in Serenade, for example, because she has the artistic ability and enthusiasm. It's just a matter of proper training and rehearsal - or the lack of - for dancers at this level. It's never going to be easy for a company (other than NYCB) to just turn on the Balanchine technique for a single program and then go back to the myriad other choreographies in the repertoire. SFB is lucky to have Tomasson around to poke his head in and say, "that's not quite right, it was meant to be done this way...". Most companies don't even have that. I'm giving SFB high marks on this program partly based on their ability to dance so many different kinds of choreography convincingly, in the same season. I read Rachel Howard's review of this program yesterday, and she seemed to imply that this matinee performance was Sasha De Sola's debut in the role. That's one impressive debut. P.S. - I felt like I should have said more about WanTing in the Tall Girl role, but TG doesn't really involve a lot of dancing - it's more about presentation. Either the presentation has the right look and character or it doesn't, I suppose. The various male roles in these ballets need more mention but I ran out of steam. 😉
  19. My general impressions of Jewels... Emeralds looked very well rehearsed. It was interesting to see an Emeralds cast with so many smiling faces - normally I would think of that as "un-Balanchine" but I can forgive the dancers their joy at being able to dance together on stage in the middle of a pandemic - sans masks. Wona Park and Julia Rowe both wear big smiles throughout their TDD and look lovely doing it. Kuranaga and Greco continue to be an ideal partnership. Greco had some uncharacteristic trouble with his pirouettes during the solo variation, but Angelo is good at laughing it off and quickly moving on. The group dance that followed was wonderful. No quibbles there. Kuranaga always looks extraordinarily well rehearsed - there's nothing left to chance here. For me, Sasha Mukhamedov's solo variation was a standout in this production. Loved her upper body movements and hands. A minor thing that caught my attention - Mukhamedov and Robison's PDD "clock" movements were a bit too stiff for me - I would like to feel a wisp of mystery and metaphor about these motions. References to clocks ticking are references to time and time past. Nostalgia and sentiment are what's important here. Otherwise, I thought they looked good together. The final ensemble dances looked wonderful - as much as I could see. At one point the shot framing crops out too much of the Corps in favor of the soloists. We all know why there are closeups of the soloists, but these are Balanchine ballets and the choreography for the Corps dancers is well thought out and weaves its own spell on the audience. Over relying on closeups cuts various dancers out of the picture. Do they deserve that? When we lose sight of the Corps dancers it's diminishing the effect of the choreography. This was the happiest Emeralds I think I've ever seen. But that seemed to deprive the 'elegiac' ending of its haunting quality (for me). I realized that the crowd noises at the end must have been taken from the ballet that proceeded Rubies in the original program (I'm too lazy to figure out what that was). Rubies: For sassy and sensual dancing, it's hard to beat Mathilde Froustey. Froustey mentioned online that "it was my first show ever of this ballet" so I can't be too critical. I wish we could have seen how this role developed for her with more rehearsing and coaching. Alas, the 2020 season disappeared on us all. Her foil/partner Pascal Molat radiated the appropriate amount of charisma, energy and enthusiasm. All the playful prancing about felt genuine and unforced. WanTing Zhao was elegant and commanding in the Tall Girl role. In Rubies, Mathilde tended to eschew angular movements for luxurious, "feline" gestures. I do love her ultra pliable, curving upper body movements. Not being an SAB trained dancer though, she doesn't have the speed and articulation in the legs that I would normally want to see in this role. But she radiates charm here and connects well with her partner - that's important here. Lot's of great eye contact and believable chemistry. Speaking of eye contact and chemistry, we come to Diamonds... I wouldn't actually have thought of De Sola and Helimets as an ideal partnership, but this was certainly a great pairing on that day. Like the Emeralds performance, Diamonds was really solid throughout. It was great to see Lauren Strongin and Koto Ishihara dance again, and in choreography that suited them both. Sasha De Sola needed to be entrancing in the lead role, and that is exactly what we got. As with Emeralds, there was arguably more expression employed than we are used to with these roles, but really, who cares? Sasha danced with much feeling, and her expressions appeared to be genuine. Eye contact between the leads was handled well throughout the PDD's. I've seen a few Diamonds performances in which the leads appeared so serious and focused that the performance was just about nailing the steps. Others have written about the gravitas inherent in the Diamond PDD roles, but there is also a kind of courtship taking place - it just happens to be a mannered, aristocratic courtship. It may be mild, but it's there. Diamonds works best when the 'romantic' chemistry between the leads has an organic, unforced quality. I think we get that here. The ever reliable Tiit Helimets presented another master class in partnering. The lifts and assists all looked so effortless and the positions perfect. If I had a quibble it was with his solo variations - they struck me as standard fare - I would have liked to have seen more energy and sparkle in those jumps and pirouettes, making them truly 'virtuoso'. While watching the first section of Diamonds I found myself thinking what an excellent 'archive film' this was from a cinematography standpoint. But I kind of jinxed myself because the framing choices used in the last portion of the Finale were disappointing - the camera stays tight on Sasha And Tiit for the final section and we miss out on the larger patterns being created by the Corps. Also, the head-on camera positioning tends to foreshorten the images so we just don't see the depth of the Corps configurations. A few changes in camera perspective normally wouldn't hurt. In Diamonds, SFB's camera operators do use full shots (entire body visible) throughout for the soloists, but in the last portion of the finale the Corps dancers on the sides of the stage tend to get cropped out of the frame. Not really the best choice for a stage filling finale. It's an archival film capture however - it comes with obligatory "guy's head that pops up in front of the camera during curtain call" - and the reason for this film's existence is different from the need to capture Emeralds for an online digital audience. It normally would serve a different purpose.
  20. My basic rule (as a viewer) is pretty simple - any camerawork or editing that obscures the choreography or dancers is a fail. The fact that the techniques employed might be more 'cinematic' don't really excuse the obfuscation of the art form known as dance. The fact is, if I'm sitting in seat D-102 in the opera house my view IS static. If I'm in the balcony my view is still static. That's life in the theatre audience. The choreography of the camera could be made to be really complex, but that's not the choreography of Balanchine. And that's not anything that the dancers are bringing to the stage. The viewer might get to see some interesting new things from an overhead camera shot, for instance - that could enhance our appreciation of the choreography in small doses. I just wouldn't want to see lots of that happening - my normal preference would be to view dancers from the front. The "you are on the stage" quality is a whole different deal. More film experimentation that likely does not provide a good view of the overall performance. I haven't watched the RSB video so I can't say for sure what worked and what didn't.
  21. I agree - a very nice film, and the dancing is solid throughout. The only oddity that I recall was Angelo Greco, master of pirouettes, muffing a couple of his pirouettes. But I guess there was no good way to re-shoot that portion since it leads directly into a Corps dance. The camerawork was mostly excellent, but I think there was a few points where the Corps dancers were disappearing out of the frame. I need a chance to rewatch Jewels tomorrow so that I can write up my impressions...
  22. You may have had the bad luck of trying to purchase when many other people got the exact same idea. ;) Definitely clear your browser cache and restart the browser - you may want to wait 15 minutes to see if things clear up. I had issues with the PNB website when I tried to purchase a ticket there, so no one's immune.
  23. pherank

    Maria Kochetkova

    I have to think this has a lot to do with her inability to freelance during quarantine - I give her a year or two.
  24. Wow - 2 casts of all four Program 1 ballets? I was just thinking how nice it would be to see multiple casts for some of the ballet I've been streaming.
  25. From the NYT - the Pam Tanowitz quarantine diary is fun reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/31/arts/dance/pam-tanowitz-quarantine-diary.html At 9 a.m., I open my door to two police, two border force guys and a hotel guard. I say, “Wow, I need five guards to check out?” And they laugh and say, “We heard you were trouble.”
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