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Posts posted by Hans

  1. I saw both ballets. Don't have time to write about them now, but the short version of my opinion is this:

    1. A Folk Tale didn't bother me too much, probably because I'd never seen it before, but I did have some serious problems with it. Liked some of the designs, especially Act 1.

    2. Napoli Act 1 - interesting idea, works pretty well for the most part. Act 2 - utterly outrageous--trendy, trashy, and tasteless. I nearly walked out when I heard the cheesy movie soundtrack music, and when I saw the Martins-esque choreography, I wished I had. Act 3 - mostly very nice, but why not stick with the Fellini concept from Act 1? It goes from 1960's funeral (which the music doesn't support) to happy 1840's costumes/dancing in the space of two seconds, then we're in the 1840's through to the end until Gennaro and Teresina, still in breeches and tulle, show up on a motorcycle. Put the 3 acts together, and this must be one of the most bizarre, ill-conceived productions of any ballet, ever.

  2. Taking your argument to its logical conclusion, the answer is yes. While I would theoretically love to alter some of Balanchine's choreography that I find particularly grating, in reality I would not do so because it is not mine to alter. Same with Petipa, Bournonville, Tudor, Ashton, &c, regardless of how reliably it's recorded. For a dancer to change choreography without the blessing of its creator is nothing more than self-indulgence, and it is a sign of a dancer who has not bothered to educate him- or herself about the style of the ballet s/he is dancing. Many dancers today could learn from the example of Carla Fracci, who danced modern ballets the modern way, and older ballets in the appropriate style, rather than taking a mindless, one-size-fits-all approach and applying a single aesthetic to every ballet.

  3. There's also the strategy that if you can't win by the rules, change the game.

    In this vein, it's been my experience that dancers who embellish variations typically pay less attention to how they do the steps, with the result that the variation loses its particular quality and is reduced to a competition piece. There are exceptions, of course, but it is the rare artist who is able to use his/her embroidery of the steps to enhance the poetry of the variation.

  4. Welcome to Ballet Talk, GNicholls! It is always wonderful to hear from someone wanting to learn more about ballet. If you are in a city that is home to a major ballet company, the best thing you can do is attend some performances. Youtube also has plenty of ballet, and DVD's of complete ballets are readily available. Our forum includes a section called Ballets in Detail, which you might find interesting. Please feel free to write about the performances you see and ask any questions you have.

  5. When I mentioned appreciation of the art, I was responding to the dancer's comment that she is so hyper trained to look for flaws in modern day expectations of technique, that she struggles to simply enjoy watching Margot Fonteyn's artistry. It is so difficult to turn off that "critical voice" in her head that judges so harshly based on 21st century standards of turn out, good feet, posture, etc.

    It sounds to me as if this dancer has been trained to look at ballet as a series of textbook pictures and not as movement. Dancers trained this way are typically robotic and boring in performance, and unfortunately I am seeing more and more people dance this way.

  6. As far as I know, the little coda at the end of Siegfried's Act III variation was not used by Petipa. Same with the end of the Act II pas d'action, I believe to provide a more poetic ending.

    The first male variation in the "Paysan" pas de deux from Giselle often has its coda omitted, and I cannot say I'm ever entirely sorry to see it go, as that pas de deux is quite exhausting to dance!

  7. That is interesting; my memories of Serrano as a teacher are quite different--she was warm and humorous, but very direct. Of course she had high standards, but she was the sort of teacher one wants to please because one enjoys her classes, not because one is afraid of her. It is not uncommon, though, for there to be a difference between a public persona vs. teaching persona.

    As I recall, my first live Giselle was Julie Kent, and while she was not an artist on the level of, say, Amanda McKerrow, she was a convincing actress and very beautiful technically. There are certain things she did in that performance that I have not seen anyone else do as well--especially in Act II she and Carreno worked together to achieve the most ethereal, subtle effects. For example, during a series of supported arabesques voyagés, Carreno simply carried her across the stage so that she appeared to magically float without ever coming down. And during her series of entrechat-quatre, relevé retiré, she substituted retiré sauté for the relevés, making the entire sequence airborne and using her épaulement to make it all look effortlessly angelic.

  8. Are the MCB dancers really capable of performing the 19C classics? Is the company large enough to do them justice?

    Ballets such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, &c require an enormous cast and a very large budget in order to be performed properly. They also need dancers who are familiar with Petipa's stately style, who are strong actors, and who can mime at least competently. A significant number of MCB's dancers comes from SAB, where they are not taught any of that--witness NYCB's attempts to take on evening-length productions of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.

    That said, it would be an interesting exercise for MCB to perform excerpts from these ballets on a mixed bill. That could provide an opportunity to gauge the dancers' affinity for the style as well as audience reaction and receptiveness toward seeing the full ballet.

  9. MJ, the reason Balanchine interpolated that piece in his Nutcracker is that the same theme was already in the Nutcracker score--during the music for the transformation of the living room and the growing Christmas tree. Thus, when he was choreographing his Nutcracker for NYCB and found he needed more music in Act I, he added the previously unused entr'acte from Sleeping Beauty.

  10. Le Corsaire and La Bayadère immediately come to mind as being absolutely stuffed with props. In the case of Bayadère, we have scarves attached to ankles, fans, parrots, garlands, parrots ON garlands, Nikiya's water jug, the Manou water jug, &c. Le Corsaire's 'Jardin Animé' features so many garlands and flowers you need a weed whacker, little parterre hedges with topiaries dragged onstage for the dancers to jump over, a watering can, and an enormous Easter basket at the end.

    And I love it all. :wink:

  11. I must add Altynai Asylmuratova to the list: she had a way of holding balances solidly, often amazingly, without interrupting the flow of the choreography and musicality. It was a very skilled, subtle way of including a technical embellishment that really added something to the performance without hitting the audience over the head with it. I really miss that sort of artistry, which I don't think one often sees anymore.

  12. Regarding the supporting foot not always being perfectly flat on the floor--the technique for this sort of turn is for the dancer to place all of her weight on the ball of her foot and pivot her heel around it. It is similar to the movement used for a tour lent (aka promenade) only much faster. So the speed of the turn combined with the lack of weight on the heel means the heel may sometimes lift.

    As for multiple pirouettes on pointe in attitude in a Romantic ballet, I think that falls into the category of "Just because you can do it doesn't mean you must."

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