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Jack Reed

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  1. Jack Reed

    Kyra Nichols to retire in June

    The old link above didn't work for me, but this one does: https://www.timeout.com/newyork/dance/not-a-kyra-in-the-world
  2. This looks like I wrote it at the time - May 2017 - but forgot to post it. Sorry to be so tardy, but in light of the nice comments above, I can hope that it's of some interest even this late: Watching further performances, very few of my early dissatisfactions have even scarcely returned - Saturday evening's Square Dance pas de deux, with Barrell and Lima again, did seem just a bit slow, but their plastic continuity and luminous sculpturing redeemed it, and then some; and the effect of all the dancing seems pretty large now. (But rendering some of the gags in Western Symphony effectively still seems a little beyond some of the boys' reach, unfamiliar movement that it is, especially the "tricks;" these they often whip off, not realizing that they can move quicker than we can see. Remember the magician's method, "The hand is quicker than the eye"?) (I don't want to be misunderstood. We often say "plastic" to refer to something cheap and disposable; typically something made cheaply in industrial quantities by forcing material into molds. It's this molding I refer to, this molding of poses into shaped phrase after sculptured phrase, that, far from being cheap and industrial, shows art growing and diminishing seemingly of itself, organically - like an organism - with its roots in what we hear: Balanchine's choreographies especially make this possible; only dancers like these realize his possibilities.) As for being disposable, ballet itself is art which disappears before it's finished; and if you're like me, and you've come to feel something's missing from your life if you don't get a good dose of good dance once in a while, you need to return to it. It's indispensable, but continually slipping away. So we need to look at dancers dancing. As the BA casts have rotated through the repertory this weekend, this company has shown its strengths. (That's beyond impressive, it's reassuring. One major retirement, Kenna Draxton's, took place this weekend; another, Natalia Magnicaballi's, may come in the near future. My concern is that, as dancers who realize Balanchine's and others' art retire, and as those who can coach them die off, will those works disappear? Will we just be left with their steps?) Without listing specific roles, and running the risk of accidentally leaving out some names I would rather include (and possibly misidentifying one or two), besides Kenna Draxton, Jillian Barrell and Helio Lima, I do want to mention Amber Lewis, Mimi Tompkins, Chelsea Teel, Arianni Martin, and Natalia Magnicaballi's partner in Agon, Randy Pacheco. Magnicaballi herself has always been special to me. Last but not least I was not bothered by the lighting in any of the ballets in the program. It's been a long time since I thought I could count on that. There seems to be a new fashion among this generation of lighting designers to re-interpret the dancing, rather than just to make a place for it to happen, a place where we can see it happen; when the stage is full of dancers, they turn up the lights, but when there are, let's say, just two dancers, pas de deux, the lights go down. Dance fans know the pas de deux couple are selected for their developed abilities to show us the most nuanced dances in the whole ballet, and so deserve to be seen at least as well as the ensemble; but, no, their space is often shaded now - as though they're doing something embarrassing that needs concealment? Or do these designers need to show us their "sensitivity," as the dancing becomes "intimate," or something? I want them to show us the dancers dancing - showing us their dance - intimate or bold or whatever it is. If we can't see them so well, they don't affect us so much. Dim light diminishes the dance. (I think George Balanchine was famous for asking for more light.) Ballet Chicago's show earlier in the month (in the Harris Theater there) suffered from this now-common problem, but one of the things that made watching Ballet Arizona an exceptional pleasure was that this show was free of it. We could see the dancing! Undistracted by changing lighting, unimpeded by dim light. Thanks to Michael Korsch, credited with the lighting for all three ballets, and, ultimately, I suppose, as with everything else here, to Ib Andersen, for having Korsch work for him. Speaking of Andersen, we've commented elsewhere about listing the dancers alphabetically, as they are here. In this program, for example, Randy Pacheco was Natalia Magnicaballi's very able partner in the Agon pas de deux, and in the "Rondo" of Western Symphony, he's just one of the four boys. So how would you rank him, in a listing by rank? I was a math major, but I can't figure that out. And I've gathered over the years that alphabetical listing, without regard to rank, may remind the dancers that they have mobility - they're not hopelessly stuck in the corps and they're not complacently secure among the principals - and they will stay focused on what they're in now, give what they've got, and ascend to more prominent roles (maybe to descend again) according to the AD's judgement.
  3. Just a footnote - Messmer did come and is teaching here but will not perform. (Aw, shucks.) But evidently, she's finally got a home - a place she's happy with - in MCB. I'm glad for her.
  4. Jack Reed

    Seating Advice at the Met

    I'm in some agreement with kbarber, though I've had delicious cous-cous and lobster risotto in Boulud Sud in years past; but Kathleen O'Connell was talking about Bar Boulud, which I haven't tried (yet). Likewise, I also like Le Pain Quotidien, for a leisurely breakfast or quick lunch. My friend from Beijing says there are too many regions represented on the menu at Shun Lee West for them all to be authentic, but that doesn't mean they can't be good. Quality ingredients carefully handled, not your downscale Chinese restaurant, but maybe less ambitious than Kathleen's beautiful-looking choices (which I must try next visit, thank you, Kathleen). Visiting for Workshop ten days ago, I revisited some old faves at SLW, like Soupy Dumplings - there's hot soup inside each one, so close your lips over it in your mouth and bite it open - and aptly named and very delicate Heavenly Fish Filets. For stronger flavors, Twice-Cooked Pork, Crispy Whole Sea Bass.
  5. One of the benefits of reading here is to see the programs through others' eyes and minds. Maybe what impressed my friend and I as smoothness in Hong's performance was dull watering down to CharlieH. But we missed parts of La Source, too, an adagio, two variations, and - we think - an ensemble. These may well add up to the missing PDD CharlieH speaks of. And speaking of omissions, just for the record, Western Symphony had a "Scherzo" third movement at one time, though IIRC it's been only Villella's MCB that's performed it in recent years. (Earlier in his career, Villella danced in it, I think.) I'm not complaining about this, though. As to Circus Polka's place on the program, it's hardly one of my favorites, and thinking about this school program as though it were a professional company's is not out of place, considering the level some of the dancing; still, it is a school showcase. I'm sorry I don't remember 2 & 3 Part Inventions. Would that have displayed the youngest students so well for their parents to see? They did get a good hand or two.
  6. Agree that Workshop is not to be overlooked - I've been watching a few years longer - the first place I saw Tiler Peck, for instance - and the vitality onstage made this old man feel younger. Yes, Corti was a delight for the reasons cobweb gives, and a great introduction to the entire program, though I enjoyed Mia Domini, the pas de deux girl in the matinee even more. The rondo of Western Symphony has been traditionally cast for laughs - the tallest girl with the shortest boy available - for many years, although not originally, when Tanaquil Leclercq had Jaques d'Amboise for a partner; he was taller than she. (Not that there aren't plenty of laughs built into the choreography.) In the evening, La Source was led by the amazing Amarra Hong, who made her part seem to flow continuously, elegantly and smoothly around the stage and often appearing lighter than air - there were moments when I thought she would sit up there above the stage before she gently came down. (Lincoln Kirstein's phrase characterizing ballet dancing as the "aria of the aerial" came to mind.)
  7. "Older Nutcracker"? The 1993 Warner Brothers production was well-liked for Darci Kistler's "Sugar Plum", Kyra Nichols's "Dewdrop" (worth the price in the day, just in itself; the most authentic dancing in the whole show, IMHO) and Emil Ardolino's sensitive and sympathetic direction. The relatively recent 2011 PBS production was put to shame, in my experience, just a week later, by Villella's MCB's version, in Ft. Lauderdale. (When you could get a good idea of the dancing at all, what with the interfering camera-work in the later one.) Older than that? (Any with Balanchine's "Drosselmeier"? Just for kicks. It's things like Villella's "Candy Canes" in one from the '50s deserves to be seen.)
  8. Danced by whom, and when?
  9. One thing to keep in mind is that the City Center stage is smaller than some, e.g. the one at the former New York State Theater. I don't have accurate dimensions handy, but performing ballets made to be performed there makes sense to me from that angle. I remember seeing the Joffrey perform the original version of Square Dance several times in the City Center in the '70s. I found that the caller's voice, amplified as it was, made it harder to follow the Corelli and Vivaldi numbers Balanchine had selected (the string playing was on a higher, more conventional concert-style level than "hill-billy" might imply), and so I tried an experiment: I put in some earplugs, and they cut down the amplified sound more than the live acoustical sound of the violins, and I was happy. My own preference is for the later version of Square Dance, not only because I can hear the music better and see the dancing better in the new costumes (with the musicians in the pit, too), but especially for the majestic new male solo, especially when it was danced by the dancer who inspired it, Bart Cook. That week in the '70s exemplified Robert Joffrey's interests in historic revivals as well as an already accomplished newcomer. If I remember correctly, Petrushka was also on the program, which was rounded out by, again IIRC, a remarkable piece of work called As Time Goes By, choreographed by someone with the taking name of Twyla Tharp.
  10. I think she doesn't merely want to teach, but has work lined up, not least at the Ballet Arizona school in Phoenix. And in her remarks - there was another "Chat" this afternoon, post-performance and scarcely announced, for example - she mentions Andersen together with Farrell as her Balanchinian mentors
  11. I attended both pre-performance "Chats," just to see what might turn up: On Thursday (May 3rd), Magnicaballi told us she has been dancing since age 9, in school in 1986. Since 1999, she's danced with Suzanne Farrell, and since 2002 with Ib Andersen as well. She wants to teach and coach. What inspires you about Balanchine? I love him. I feel at home. Also, he's so fulfilling. Good, makes sense. Is Balanchine unpopular? Balanchine was ahead of his time. Not now, no one is ahead. In Balanchine, your pose is deeper (demonstrates). You try to project to the last row. "Siren" is an opportunity to be a woman, to be seductive. Saturday will be different from tonight. Why "Sleepwalker"? Sonnambula was my first role here. Where are you going from here? I have some special projects with Suzanne. In Arizona, summer classes. On Friday (the 4th), Martin told us about her background in Cuba, dancing in the National Ballet of Cuba, founded by Alicia Alonso, among other things. What's your favorite role? I like the Coquette in Sonnambula - Martin started to giggle - because she's a seductive woman. Martin was so overcome with the giggles she couldn't say more about this question. (Frankly, I think my notes on these "Chats" are too skimpy, and if any other BA!-ers were there and can add some details, as always, feel free.)
  12. As it happened, the revised order of the program was the one we got: Friday, May 4 Evening. In brief: Either Symphony in Three Movements has changed in performance since opening night or I've adjusted, watching it - an effect I've noticed before, watching BA - but I found myself thinking tonight that about all it needs is a little more snap in the dancing and less shrillness in the sound. Tonight's audience went for it more loudly than last night's, too. Watching it tonight, I remembered Magnicaballi's remark in the pre-performance "Chat" last night that Balanchine was ahead of his time but today, nobody is: In the '70s, we used to kick around some ideas about the ballets we knew, and one of my friends asked me if "Symphony Three" was not about the Second World War, as Stravinsky said it was not, then what was it about, and I said, it's about the Twenty-First Century. Mimi Tompkins came into the Siren role in Prodigal Son, and if she was more lovely she was less sinister and domineering than Natalia Magnicaballi had been last night, which may derive partly from Magnicaballi's seniority in the role and in her career - she has about ten years or more on Tompkins, so enjoyable as Tompkins was, Magnicaballi had brought more appropriate power to the role; and Alejandro Mendez brought a little more strength and weight to the role of the Prodigal tonight than Nayon Iovino had. And Arianni Martin was delightfully animated in the Pas de Deux divertissement with Eric Hipolito Jr. Then in the Sonnambula pas de deux, the later sequence where the Sleepwalker's progress across downstage brought some chuckles around me because of the humor some see in the Poet's frustrated attempts to interfere with her progress, I wanted intensity; I wanted the dance to get us closer to the edge of a cliff, and it happened in the following sequence where the Sleepwalker bourrees upstage away from the Poet who has propelled her that way, and so on. Magnicaballi with Helio Lima this evening did make the movement intensify in speed and sharpness of direction, and the superficial audience around me fell silent, finally absorbed, showing the power of the art visible onstage to draw people into this mystery.
  13. Nice going, especaily for the link to the cast list, fiddleback; I missed that by just hours. Did you notice it showed a different order than what is implied on the "All-Balanchine" page? The older page had the program open with Prodigal Son and then Symphony in Three Movements, which would have lent some interesting variety and contrast, not to mention giving Magnicaballi a chance to rest! Speaking of that, if she can do all this, why is she retiring? I'll confess there's some projection of my own wishes in this question - I'd rather she wouldn't quit! I want to see more of her performances! What I like to see in dancing is a dancer exploring the role - never changing the steps and the moves but continually exploring how the moves fit the sounds - but Magnicaballi is one of those who goes farther with a role sometimes, exploring different approaches, especially if there is some characterization there. For example, her two "Terpsichore"s a year ago: The whole ballet, Apollo, shows us some gods from Greek mythology, and her first approach reflected, I thought, their pure, remote life on high; but there's a little plot in it too - the three muses are, like, auditioning for Apollo, who watches their solo dances from the side of the stage - and Terpsichore is the one he judges the best, the one he soon rewards and dances with. Magnicaballi's second performance had some of the earthly exuberance, I thought, of someone who could feel, Hey, I got the gig! So this time she will show us her take - or takes - on two roles, the dominating, seductive "Siren" in Prodigal Son and the remote, unreachable - almost unreachable - "Sleepwalker" in La Sonnambula. But as to the program - I've picked up from talking with newbies in the theater over the years that some of them are afraid of watching a story ballet and missing something early and not getting the rest of it as a result. Prodigal Son tells most of its story so clearly, you don't even have had to run across it in the centuries it's been around, and so it would not have been a problem to start with it. And some ballet audience I've encountered think a ballet company does mainly one style, so following Prodigal with Symphony Three would have the advantage of demonstrating quickly the range a program devoted to one choreographer can have if it's George Balanchine. (Not that I think proving a point like that is what a program should do. It should provide a satisfying experience. I'm not the only one who compares attending a performance to having a good meal: I can't quote chapter and verse exactly, but I remember reading Mr. B himself remarking, in this context, that people like beef but "they don't want to eat beef three times; some people like oysters". People like different things that go together.) So we'll see what the order actually is. But with two ballets offering Magnicaballi good opportunites to involve her considerable talents, as well as something completely different - but comparably powerful - this program looks like fun for everybody. And as for seeing more of Magnicaballi's kind of dancing, the remark dirac picked up on is a hopeful hint. (More about that I wish I could say, as a once and maybe future supporter of TSFB, but I can't.) As for tracking her own future performances, she does have that web site...
  14. I sympathize - and empathize, too - but here's another post of mine: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/43726-simone-messmer-in-chicago-may-5-2018-and-over-the-summer/ So, we'll see how many of her fans come from Florida and California to see her! Why here? I'm not really privy, but I gather she is very interested in Balanchine's choreography, stopping off here in 2012 on her way from New York to San Francisco to dance Balanchine's "Sugar Plum" with Ted Seymour in BC's The Nutcracker four times, and Ballet Chicago's curriculum is constructed largely from it - a few years ago, I managed to see one of their end-of-summer-session shows, where we got his Tchaikovsky pas de Deux five times with five casts, interspersed with fragments and excerpts from other ballets, mostly his, and - true to his way, I think - all five were pretty accurate and true but each was a little different in level of accomplishment and "flavor," and so, fresh and entertaining - and she wants to dance a considerable amount of it - his way - herself. How much of this will be on view I don't know, although there was a program late last summer, not just advanced students, but members of the Studio Company, some of whom teach, as well.
  15. I've lately posted a HeadsUp! regarding Ballet Chicago Studio Company's annual Spring show in the Harris Theater: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/43723-ballet-chicago-may-5-2018-duell-seymour-balanchine-with-simone-messmer-mcb/?tab=comments#comment-399253 It's not been announced, but I expect her Siegfried to be Ted Seymour, who danced with TSFB and who teaches at Ballet Chicago - where, incidentally, I gather Messmer herself will be teaching (and, we hope, maybe dancing?) over the summer. Let's see how many of her fans are rabid enough to make the trip from Florida! (Only two performances, though, but if late Nineteenth-Century and Mid-Century modern architecture are of any interest, there's still some of that in the Chicago area.)