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Jack Reed

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    aficianado
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    Chicago, Illinois, USA

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  1. I'm encouraged to see music mentioned by someone who intends to market dance, when I've too often noticed its omission from that context - we're commonly supposed to relate to the dancers' physical effort, although they're normally so good that effort is invisible, or to the ordinariness of their personal lives, or to their choreographer's biography. No, it's important to listen as you watch, to see how the movement connects with the music, as she says. And what's it all for? Watching dance, liking the experience of other art, takes us out of ourselves, it takes us up, to somewhere beyond, at least for a time, but sometimes, to change us permanently. I'd say Tweeddale is on the right track, and I wish her good luck too - especially with finding staff who embrace her enlightened view and do not talk down to the people they bring in.
  2. I realized that I hadn't read a lot by Kourlas, unlike others here, so I went searching, and found that she edited the dance department at TimeOut for twenty years, maybe the period Macaulay refers to, so I'll try to catch up there. But in the meantime, I'll hope her work has some measure of the virtues I've found in that of Denby, Croce, and Macaulay himself, and others to a lesser degree, writing that enables us to see what they saw through their eyes, that enables us to follow their thinking along to their judgements and conclusions, and, regardless whether we agree with them or not, that enables us better to draw our own conclusions and to deepen our own experiences of the performances we see - even of ballets these writers didn't write about. "Just like being there," yes, great exercise for strengthening our seeing minds.
  3. And BAZ itself doesn't always have an orchestra. This Chicagoan prefers their Balanchine weekend, in May, performed in Phoenix Symphony Hall, when their music has been played from recordings for several years. Yes, no reason to exaggerate; but Turner's little bio in the BAZ program presents her as a marketer, so true to that role, she may feel exaggeration to promote her company comes naturally. Actually, my long experience watching MCB in Florida taught me that recorded sound can be quite satisfactory: Part way through my career in the audience there, there was such a dramatic improvement in the quality of the sound I heard over the previous season (in the Au-Rene Theater in Ft. Lauderdale) that I had to look in the pit at intermission to see whether there were any players in it, but there was no sign of any. (I had already noticed different loud-speakers set up at the sides of the stage, and inquiry brought out that they were responsible. Indeed, if I remember correctly, I was told that the rest of the equipment was the same as before.) So, with all due respect to hard-working musicians looking for long contracts, "live" vs. "recorded" is a little irrelevant to me. Agreed, though, BAZ, a company of 30 or so, has a lot to brag about, without exaggeration.
  4. Indeed, seen in 2017 and 2018, the view from the Compass (300' up) is pretty dramatic when the sun is out, if maybe less so than from the Space Needle in Seattle (600') - when it's not fogged in! But I have another question about accommodations in Phoenix: When that wonderful oasis of a bed and breakfast, Maricopa Manor, is booked, what's second best? BAZ's Napoli weekend in October has already been booked there for a while - what I'm thinking of as a "snowbird" phenomenon - so I'm seeking more advice from the wise people here who sent me there in the first place years ago.
  5. I think it's an elitist attitude to which we can all aspire!
  6. I agree with you about Bourree Fantasque, which has a lot of jokes to stretch the range of the classically well-trained SAB students, but if you look again, I think you'll see that in the passage you quote I was writing about the Agon pas de deux Durham danced with Brown.
  7. Cyril Beaumont's books, by a spectator rather than a participant, are focused on Europe, and the last supplement to The Complete Book of Ballet - a four volume series in all, if I remember correctly - appeared in 1945 or so. Very detailed accounts of the ballets. For some of the dancers themselves, or their companies, he published separate volumes (some listed on Amazon) which I haven't seen. The question is, which are available outside libraries. Andre Levinson is an author whose name I know only by reputation - that he was one of Beaumont's co-authors adds to it - but he wrote about the period and location you're interested in.
  8. I went to Saturday evening's performance too, and in view of the apparent error in the Broadway World review of that one linked to by our indefatigable dirac, I can testify that a change slip in my program identified Ross Allen's substitution for Jonah Glickman in the last movement, "Fete Polonaise", of Bourree Fantasque.
  9. I went: Here are the leads in Monday evening's Workshop, in case they haven't been published elsewhere yet: Concerto Barocco: Magnussen, Lepson, Tomasini (the same as the Saturday matinee) "Garland Dance" (the same as Saturday's casts, unless I missed somebody in the huge corps list...) (Intermission) Agon pas de deux: Savannah Durham and Lajeromeny Brown (The Agon pas de deux, staged by Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle, was listed second after Intermission in the printed program, after the New Sleep pas de deux, but performed before it.) New Sleep pas de deux: Quinn Starner and Cainan Weber Bourree Fantasque: Edwards and Takahashi; Domini and Clark; Hong and Allen (same as the Saturday matinee) I thought Durham's performance was large, clear, and strong - she is a tall girl to begin with - perhaps lacking only a little in energy and attack compared to some I have seen over the years; but she's "only" 19. We learned from the pre-performance announcements she had been accepted as an apprentice into NYCB three days before. (Good for them!) Durham looked like her partner gave her everything she needed - she was completely secure - but I have a few reservations about Brown otherwise: He's a bit short - as a friend pointed out, we've usually seen men standing head and shoulders over the pas de deux woman in the past - and his movements would also have made more effect had he been able to give them more apparent weight or emphasis. Still, "loyalty" to your lady goes a long way with me - we've seen some men over the years who look as though they care less for them than for their own dancing. (I say "look as though" because I think I've picked up accurately over those years that partnering, when the boys encounter it, is almost a whole new game. Still...) And having criticized the "Workshop Orchestra's" playing in the Chabrier in fast tempos previously, I should add that Monday evening's musical performance was clearer and even more fun.
  10. A few of us saw both Saturday shows, and we thought the superb matinee casts were somewhat bettered by the excellent evening ones. Concerto Barocco had two completely different casts. I was particularly pleased to visit the "world" Suki Schorer's staging of it set before us; not taking anything away from what I said abut the fine, but bolder, staging I saw in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, but early on here I was aware of "seeing" more notes, more of the music, than I had there, even if these performances were a little subdued in energy both onstage and in the orchestra pit by comparison. I'm not complaining; I'm just noting some differences. This was the finest Balanchine I've seen in some time: Clearly, richly detailed within supple phrasing, never a "demonstration", but a vital and satisfying realization of what I heard. Well worth the trip. The Garland Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty is a very different dance from most of what we see in that there's little "upper body" in the choreography (the dancers' arms are occupied with holding the garlands); but it's not all stage-filling patterns arranged and rearranged according to the near-repetitions of the waltz rhythm, and I found much to enjoy merely watching the clear eloquence of the older girls' feet when they were visible downstage - compensation enough for me for the reduced activity up above. Both performances of a pas de deux from William Forsythe's New Sleep seemed highly accomplished and technically secure; neither did much for me. The movement generally looked coordinated with the noisy sounds we heard, but they never looked necessitated by this accompaniment, disappointingly unlike the Balanchine on the program. (I gather this fragment was presented partly because some Forsythe choreography is included in the SAB curriculum.) Our favorite of all the leads in Bourree Fantasque was Savannah Durham in Bourree Fantasque, the first danced number after the brief Marche joyeux which introduces the ballet, for the way she inhabited her role and in particular the flirtatious relationship of her persona with her partner Dylan Callahan. I was a little disappointed that the conductor, Daniel Capps, didn't get the "Workshop Orchestra" to play the faster movements of the Chabrier score for Bouree Fantasque in clearer texture. There was nothing muzzy about the dancing! Credit to Susan Pilarre, who staged it.
  11. What we hear here of Engelbert Humperdinck's music for Hansel and Gretel turns out to have pretty good substance - he seems to have picked up from his teacher Richard Wagner some of Wagner's prodigious musical powers while leaving behind Wagner's habit of unendurable bombastic proclamation - so that this score is quite listenable. Dan Duell, Ballet Chicago's AD, told us from the stage that we were not only going to hear a shortened version, about 35 minutes, of the 85-minute orchestration of Humperdinck's opera commissioned by Ballet Chicago in 1993, we would hear it played by an orchestra of members of the Chicago Symphony and the Lyric Opera orchestras hired and recorded by Ballet Chicago. Ballet Chicago's standards of musical performance have always been high; I gather Duell is a musician himself. In Duell's choreography, Humperdinck's music sometimes advances the plot line but more often expands on the mood or tone of a situation, whether lighter or lyrical, as when the two siblings give up their work of making brooms and play - or dance, this being ballet - or heavy and threatening, as when Hansel confronts the Wolf in defense of his sister, or when Gretel picks up the Witch's broom, which we have seen is the instrument of the Witch's power, and turns it on the Witch herself, triumphing over the evil woman and altering the mood and character of the whole forest population, celebrated in dances by creatures large and small. Something happened between the matinee and evening performances which made more vivid and clear the menacing role of the Witch at the later performance - it's part balletic and part dramatic: With her upper body Katherine Alvarado was sinister or exultant meanwhile stepping boldly about on her pointes with great clarity and maintaining strong line, making her bizarre role more formidable and hair-raising than she had in the earlier one, and with that, the whole scene, including the other roles surrounding and following hers, had more point. With Vivaldi and Bach both represented on the program, you might think this company was leaning Baroque-Classical oriented. Think again. Partly to a Vivaldi oboe concerto, the second dance, Ted Seymour's LongLivingLine, tells you it's another world far from Balanchine's famous Concerto Barocco - itself concluding the program - when it begins, allegro, with the female cast extending across the stage in a double line, you know where you are, not just because the girls are all facing upstage, some supporting themselves a little casually on their right leg with their left foot to the side, but because a few also have their right forearms draped over the tops of their heads. Some "found" casual elements, like those arms, recur; at one point, two girls bend out of formation to look into each others' grinning faces as though to share some secret amusement. In the second movement, to Vivaldi's adagio, the line - or most of it - moves upstage into dimmer light to form a corps backing downstage solo dancing. In the third movement, to Aphex Twin, the double line dissolves and reforms into groups and reforms again across the stage. Originally, there were half as many in the cast, when the ballet premiered on the smaller stage of the Athenaeum Theater, which I saw in a publicity-video montage, and I'd say it benefits by the greater numbers and space and new costumes. Seymour's Danzon! opens with the small cast - three girls and two boys - spread across the stage space, seen in profile against a sunset backdrop. The lights come up, and we see some social interaction as though in the street or a plaza, in rapidly changing groups or solos; a girl may dance with two boys for a few moments, then put both of them away from her and dance alone. Credit to Dana Coons, Nina Montalbano, Emma Wittig, Paris Stigger and Elliott Nunez populating the large stage with movement. With Seymour's perceptive choreography, Arturo Marquez's "Danzon No. 2," plainly intended for dancing, or at least inspired by it, seems to intend these passing developments, these associations and separations, with its many passages for solo instruments. Very listenable, this music is said in Wikipedia to be among the most popular contemporary classical compositions in Mexico. I wasn't surprised by that. In Concerto Barocco, what made guest artist Simone Messmer's performance powerful and gave it great effect is not any showy exaggeration but on the contrary its greater fullness within phrase shape; Nina Montalbano's phrasing is only a little simpler, and only a little diminished by that, but of the same essentially modest kind; a close pair, these two, as suits this ballet. (Messmer is credited in the program as Principal with Miami City Ballet as well as summer faculty with Ballet Chicago.) In the great adagio, guest and Ballet Chicago alum Jordan Nelson, Messmer's partner, continued to provide everything she needed, as he had in the preview. (Nelson is credited with St. Louis Ballet.) And the eight girls were as lively, sharp and luminous as required. Staged by Patricia Blair, Dan Duell's wife, an alumna of SAB and of the Eglevsky Ballet when the AD was Edward Villella, among other distinctions. Superb performances: After the evening show, a man behind me asked, "Is this intermission?" "Do you want more?" I asked. He nodded, smiling, saying, "I want more!"
  12. Back in Chicago, I'm still enjoying these performances, glad for them to linger in memory. Regarding Square Dance, Nayon Iovino did not move quite so smoothly and effortlessly as Lima in this, and Jillian Barrell's dancing was a little less satisfying when compared to Amber Lewis in the first cast, but both casts made this generally light, bouncy, and high-spirited ballet, an excellent opener, look like fun to dance. "Fun" was the word Lima used in the pre-performance chat with Alexandra Papazian, BAZ's Education and Community Engagement Manager, who promptly followed his true remark with the puzzling claim that this ballet was "technical". ("Technical"? I'm sorry, but these dancers are so accomplished, their technique didn't show, the fun did - the fun in the music showed. She seemed to me to be selling them short, unless maybe she was trying to refer to the exceptionally open and clear patterns in this little ballet of fewer than twenty dancers.)
  13. Jack Reed

    Simone Messmer

    Messmer-trackers may like to know she is to appear in Ballet Chicago 's (actually, Ballet Chicago Studio Company's) May 11 mixed-repertory performances in the Harris Theater in Chicago, where she will reprise her recent performance in Concerto Barocco with MCB in that theater, but this time partnered by B.C. alum Jordan Nelson of St. Louis Ballet*. She already has participated in the April "Sneak Preview" performances I talk about on the linked page. *I had this as "Ballet St.Louis" originally; I regret the error.
  14. I've seen all four performances so far, so if you don't recognize them in my description, it may be that my descriptions are worse than usual! Agree that von Aroldingen took over Paul's variation, but that happened while Verdy was still in it. I saw Verdy in it a lot - sometimes replaced by Christine Redpath, her alternate, a pretty redhead but not a great dancer - but I never saw Paul, who left early for ABT, I think. But I stick to my interpretation of why Verdy came back on to dance The Spinner variation - translating Faure's title there, but you hear the spinning in the music just as you begin to see it - it was because, on her especially, it was the greater number. You know that old show-biz phrase, "a hard act to follow"? Verdy's Spinner was a hard number to follow, and so Balanchine put Paul ahead of it (and also gave Verdy a chance to rest). But I really agree this beautiful ballet is getting the presentation it deserves.
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