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Royal Blue

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  1. Should a spectator who views a ballet for the first time be concerned whether it was created in 1994, 1998, 2006 or 2017? Or if it was choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Peter Martins, Jorma Elo or Justin Peck? Like other contemporary ballets Chiaroscuro contains sequences which seem strange or peculiar. Set to attractive Baroque music, it is nonetheless an appealing, riveting work. Seeing Ashley Laracey and Brittany Pollack (both looking positively gorgeous) in this piece alone was worth the price of admission to program No. 8 of the Festival. These two were well-complemented by Lauren King and the three men in the cast, particularly Andrew Veyette, who had an effective part. This is the sort of ballet with a vague narrative that intrigues you. Conversely, the Baroque music chosen for Slice to Sharp is less engaging, despite being mostly by Vivaldi. Elo’s reaction on first listening to the latter’s composition, as described in the program note, is worth noting: “he felt ‘It was extreme playing on the edge of madness’ “. This explains somewhat what transpires onstage; but I find neither the baroque melodies nor the accompanying “modern movement” in this ballet especially beautiful. Watching the four(!) principal women—Ashley Bouder, Maria Kowroski, Rebecca Krohn and Teresa Reichlen—cast here dancing, however, has its own rewards. Artists should never consider any subject—no matter how difficult or controversial—as off-limits for treatment in their work. Things are not so simple in practice, however—particularly one would suppose for choreographers. That Martins’ Stabat Mater served as a tribute to a much-loved ballet teacher who had recently passed away is certainly laudable. Yet is it proper or easy to create a ballet in any way connected to the crucifixion of Christ and Mary’s suffering? A convincing, powerful effort would manage to be at the same time undeniably beautiful (the main function of ballet) and absolutely shattering. Stabat Mater is only the former. Would it be palatable fare to NYCB audiences if it were somehow also the latter? Inevitably, one wonders how the words being sung are reflected in the movement displayed onstage while watching this. Pergolesi’s justly famous opus may not be the most solemn musical treatment of the Catholic hymn, but it is wonderful and moving. (A couple or so sections are mildly jaunty enough to afford the dancers an opportunity to smile.) While it is a score best heard outside the confines of Koch Theater, the fact remains that it is the best music of the program and one of the chief reasons—along with the lighting, the background setting, the colorful costumes and (yes!) the choreography—why the ballet is so beautiful. Lauren Lovette, Ashly Isaacs and naturally Sterling Hyltin (who soared upwards toward the sky when lifted by Jared Angle) appeared and danced like angels. (To have seen Isaacs, incidentally, in both The Times Are Racing and Stabat Mater during the same week was fascinating.) Chase Finlay and Joseph Gordon completed what turned out to be a winsome cast. It is highly improbable to put Sara Mearns and Rebecca Krohn on the stage, have them execute various common balletic steps and motions and not come up with anything beautiful. So, of course, there is beauty to be found in The Decalogue! But what makes this particular work so original, so different from numerous others? Presumably, it is linked to the Ten Commandments; but how so other than the number of dancers it utilizes? More importantly, after hearing the score a second time on Sunday afternoon I find it merely acceptable; and for a ballet to be truly inspiring and touching its music must be arresting! Everywhere We Go and its composition have been much criticized in this forum, but as of now, I find nothing as compelling, as alluring in the new work as the segments assigned to Maria Kowroski (exquisitely also danced by Krohn) in the earlier one.
  2. I beg forgiveness from Kristen Segin and Rebecca Krohn if during the premiere of The Decalogue they fell down intentionally. To Drew: “You could not step twice into the same river.” Perhaps we should view a work of art as being, in a way, like a river? It seems best to me to be and remain as open-minded as possible about any artwork. None of us sees, thinks, feels or understands--and can therefore judge--perfectly.
  3. It would be hard to imagine that anyone who views askance the artistic collaboration between Sufjan Stevens and Justin Peck will find much to enjoy in The Decalogue. On first hearing the music sounded soporific. One almost feels sorry for the choreographer that he had to come up with a ballet set to this material. There was some interesting movement towards the end of the piece but otherwise the choreography seemed uninspired and unoriginal. To add to this there were two falls during the premiere, one by a likable member of the corps (Kristen Segin) and another by a principal I think very highly of (Rebecca Krohn). Yet wild horses couldn’t prevent me from going to see program No. 8 of the Here/Now Festival again. All of the other works in it—Chiaroscuro, Slice to Sharp, and Stabat Mater—are new to me also, and as a matter of principle I regard my first reaction to artworks as provisional. Unless one just does not like the dancers in the current roster of NYCB, the casting for this program is furthermore simply incredible! Amazingly, it does not even include Tiler Peck, who had a remarkable week and whose work in general—not surprisingly—continues to enrapture me.
  4. Wednesday evening at NYCB was simply magnificent --both in terms of the choreography and the dancing on display. Balanchine's ballets are so rich that they demand to be seen many, many times and from multiple perspectives. It is just impossible to fully appreciate everything that is going on stage at any single viewing, especially if one is as inclined as I am to concentrate on what the soloists are doing. I particularly liked Abi Stafford, Ashly Isaacs, Rebecca Krohn, Ashley Laracey and Brittany Pollack; but many other dancers (male and female) were excellent also. At the center of each ballet fittingly stood the respective performance of each of the leading ladies from Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2: Sara Mearns' in Episodes; Teresa Reichlen's in Agon; and Tiler Peck's in The Four Temperaments. All three women were superlative.
  5. This is one of the nation's top ballet companies and you bring it to New York City Center for a meager four performances at a time during which the winter season of NYCB is still on and the Vienna Philharmonic is performing right next door at Carnegie Hall? Is it really that complicated to bring PNB to New York for at least a week's worth of performances at a moment when NYCB and ABT are inactive in the city? New York City this time around in late February apparently offers a genuine embarrassment of riches! I see that the Mariinsky is at BAM right now too!
  6. Ballet Alert! Mission: "To be a place for civilized discussion about classical ballet"
  7. That's what I was trying to find out --whether size matters in this ballet. The reference to the hair is silly but someone above suggested that only blondes were cast in certain roles.
  8. I am not at all interested in who is "the best ballerina in the company in the Tschaik Concerto". (The three women who danced the part this season are all stellar ballerinas.) I am very interested in the issue of size (and hair color, I guess). It was a great honor and a privilege to have witnessed last night's performance of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Another lead part, another triumph.
  9. You should not feel uneducated and unqualified to post! I feel bad for what you experienced in January and hope that you will soon get another opportunity to watch NYCB live. Coming from someone who is a young member of the corps and was not even scheduled to dance this part, Indiana Woodward's performance in La Sylphide last night simply stunned me. Not only did she dance superbly, but even more impressively she showed great dramatic sensibilities! She was totally enchanting! Anthony Huxley as James was also great. Sara Mearns' debut in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 on Saturday afternoon was not quite as successful as when I saw her first dance Mozartiana. But I consider her a remarkable ballerina so it came as no surprise to me to see her settle down and give an excellent performance in this piece last evening. I was especially glad that this was so after what reportedly happened on Sunday afternoon. Last time NYCB did Piano Concerto I enjoyed it very much but still did not quite appreciate how marvelous and wondrous a work it is! Balanchine and Tchaikovsky were tremendous artists! Every one in the female corps seems beautiful to me when they dance in the Concerto. Last night at one point one of them lost her balance and fell out of position. I wish that this young lady one day acquires the strength, the courage, the imagination, the authority, the artistry, the grandeur --whatever is required-- to dance all the "queenly" roles in the Balanchine repertoire!
  10. Last night at NYCB I saw a deeply moving performance of La Sylphide; and a magisterial, awe-inspiring one of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Kudos to two very special ladies of NYCB!
  11. It was clearly not my intention to offend any human beings --or for that matter any animals and plants! But I edited the sentence. As far as a consideration of historical context is concerned I am all for it (in due course); but in this particular instance I offered my opinion and I'm finished with the issue. My latest post was in response to the one Drew wrote, not to Kathleen O'Connell's observations and opinions. Also, I am to blame for how this discussion came about, not Kathleen O'Connell. I apologize.
  12. I'm not really disagreeing with you either. Nothing in this world can be taken entirely out of context. If you take a kangaroo and a potted cactus flower to a performance of The Sleeping Beauty neither of them will make any sense of what is going on onstage. So, yes you have to be a human being; and a member of the civilized community. You need (for example) to have a basic understanding of what a King, a Queen, a Prince, a Princess, a royal court and an aristocracy all are. But once we take that for granted-- The Sleeping Beauty is a celebration of life, humanity and --love! It suggests that we never truly come alive, never truly become aware of the endless possibilities this world presents us with or the dangers that confront us until-- we truly fall in love with someone. And that the only thing that ever has a chance to vanquish the everpresent darker forces in this world is the power of human love. Is this idealistic nonsense? Each of us has to decide for themselves. But it is worth remembering in the midst of all the celebratory dancing that we see and music that we hear that nothing comes about easily in this tale: how many years does Princess Aurora have to lie asleep? what internal and external struggles does Prince Desire have to undergo before he finds her? And there is nothing in Tchaikovsky's majestic music at the end to suggest anything otherwise than that being a Queen is no simple matter, and that Princess Aurora --now a Queen-- will give birth to a new Aurora ....The struggle between good and evil here is implicitly everlasting. You do not need to be a member --or be fond-- of the nineteenth century Russian landed aristocracy to grasp any of this. Nor do you have to be an expert in Russian socio-economic history, a Westerner, a One Percenter in the United States of 2016 .... And you don't really need to know all that much about choreography and music either. Deep down this is why people of all kinds flock to see this ballet. Its themes and messages are universal and have the potential to resonate within every one of us. It will continue to be so for as long as we retain our humanity. This is an example of an artwork that transcends the time that produced it. To say about something like The Sleeping Beauty that it is "an idealized depiction of the mating rituals of the landed aristocracy and is rooted in reality only to the extent that such a class existed" (my emphasis) does such a masterwork --I feel-- no justice.
  13. Despite the distinction between classes that you draw, your words "idealized depiction..." reminded me of Austen's work and that is why I brought it up. I will say no more other than that if everything depicted in it was true it wouldn't be called "fiction". To me the phrase "is rooted in reality only to the extent that such a class existed" respecting classical ballet sounds very unequivocal. Great art deals with timeless themes and either transcends the time that produced it or it is not great, period.
  14. Would you consider the novels of Jane Austen as "idealized depiction of the mating rituals of the landed aristocracy"? Are ballets like Giselle, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty included in these swaths? In your view should Jane Austen's novels and the works of the classic ballet repertoire be considered as great art? Isn't all great art --one way or another-- "rooted in reality"? Interesting information. I did not realize that this had been going on for a decade. I was surprised that quite a few people in the front rows of the orchestra did not stand up when she was feted at her farewell performance. Very illuminating post, thanks; and the photo of Somogyi is absolutely gorgeous. I have to add though that I find Tiler Peck equally superb in "adagio work". Veronika Part, I presume, is a Taglioni-type ballerina? And what about the tall blondes at NYCB? I guess this is an interesting differentiation --but by no means is anything set in stone.
  15. I'm not as convinced as I appear. It is difficult enough to look into one's own mind, heart and soul --let alone another person's. A lifetime, it seems, is not time enough to get to "know thyself". But that is because the human mind, the human heart, the human soul are all by nature complex. My assumptions were that human grandeur is genuine and real, if elusive and mysterious; that it has something to do with all humanity and not just royalty; and that it has some connection with an individual's mind, heart and soul, and not just their physical appearance. Surely an artist --a ballerina-- who attempts to evoke it cannot be entirely mindless, heartless and soulless and yet successfully do so? Let's see, "exquisite proportions", "authority", "imagination", "grandeur", the various ballerinas, the fans of each one, the duty to do right by the choreographer and the composer of the ballet, the need to bring in a large audience to the theater and fill the company's coffers... --an Artistic Director's job must be an absolute nightmare trying to sort all this out! In the end it's all very subjective though: viewers will never agree on who has the most "exquisite proportions" etc. This "idealized... conception" has some bearing to the real world? This "emulation" is not a totally empty, meaningless exercise? And we do not all share the same "conception of what royalty is like" ? (Yours appears very set and vivid though.) It sounds that from your perspective the company is not in a position right now to present a truly first-rate performance of Theme and Variations. The ones who look more regal can't dance the part very well? Do you believe that Ms. Peck dances it flawlessly? I told you I was slow and proved it instantaneously. Well, they chose her to do Little Dancer for a reason. And she will not always look so young? This also has to do with her range. Last fall I saw her within a few hours in both Bill Irwin and Tiler Peck at City Center and Theme and Variations with NYCB; and I had no trouble enjoying each performance. I guess I must be biased after all. Did Somogyi ever do the lead part in Theme and did you enjoy her performance more than Ms. Peck's? Why did you pick Somogyi for the comparison? Was she a favorite ballerina of yours?
  16. Are human grandeur and its evocation dependent then on a set of physical characteristics alone? Doesn't what is in a human being's mind, heart and soul have anything to do with it? At the end of the day, mustn't a dancer --no matter what she looks like-- show us evidence of the "fire of life" burning inside her to ever truly impress us? I stand corrected: I have no clue what the ideal physique and set of proportions are either in life or (especially) ballet. All I can say is that Tiler Peck strikes me as being a beautiful woman and that that in conjunction with her exquisite dancing --I see the "fire of life" in her-- and her evident commitment to excellence makes it a genuine pleasure for me to watch her work on stage. Ms. Peck, I believe, has shown "considerable artistry" and plenty of "authority" already-- though she should by no means, of course, rest on her laurels. Kathleen O'Connell, while I'm enjoying greatly what I see, I'm not sure how much I should trust my eyes, given that they are not as observant as yours and those of other posters! For example, I never really noticed that Ms. Peck had "a relatively large head and face" and "shortish limbs". Nor did I ever draw the connection between such features and lack of queenliness. But if we were to examine her closely enough, wouldn't we discover something unqueenly in just about every woman? In the immortal words of a character from a classic movie: "nobody's perfect!" There is nothing "subtle" about the difference you are pointing to in the wonderful images of Jennie Somogyi and Tiler Peck you provided us. I can see it clearly. In fairness, however, Somogyi is in an introspective, serious mode in the photo, while Ms. Peck --though still quite beautiful-- is in a playful, seemingly puckish one. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see much of Somogyi before she retired, and there is no way for me to judge from such images whether her dancing would have provided me anywhere near as much pleasure as Ms. Peck's does. And I confess that I totally failed to grasp your point in the juxtaposed Little Dancer photos. The creature on the left seems to me a very, very lovely one; the statue on the right has me scratching my head! Why shouldn't the height and proportion of a dancer determine how they are cast given the drift of your remarks? Here I'm not being critical of you: I am simply curious and want to understand your point of view. Your post actually gave me plenty of food for thought. (How does our perception of the way various dancers look affect our response to what we see them do --the steps they execute; the movements they carry out; the poses they assume-- on stage?) As did your other wonderful one (#104) --to which I couldn't timely respond to. You and other posters on BA are hares; I am a tortoise.
  17. That's interesting, regarding the hair. Blondes --and certainly the tall blondes in this company-- are awesome. But I think that this seems a bit shallow. Brunettes are awesome too! And I believe that Ms. Peck's physique is ideal for ballet. It's the reason why she is able to dance so well and make such a strong impression on the viewer in the first place.
  18. All the more reason then to enjoy her performance in Theme and Variations at every opportunity! I was afraid of that, abatt. If height is the reason why such criticisms as lack of grandeur and queenliness are levied against her, then no ...she's never going to grow any taller. How tall was Wendy Whelan? Before she was injured I saw her cast in Diamonds. And if she was so good in the second movement of Symphony in C, and if Hyltin is also now doing it ...? I don't want to be misunderstood: I find all the tall ballerinas being given these roles simply magnificent! But I'm just wondering.... Is Ballo della Regina usually performed by shorter dancers? The casting for the upcoming Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 is fascinating! Mearns, Reichlen, and Tiler Peck all doing the same part??? So, then, in that ballet height is never an issue. It is clear that Ms. Peck has a talent for comedy and is being cast in soubrettish roles frequently. On the other hand, we shouldn't underestimate her abilities to portray serious depth and emotion. We just saw her, for example, in Liebeslieder Walzer. Then there's her work in Romeo + Juliet, La Sylphide, her supreme rendition of Columbine's haunting solo in the second Act of (oddly enough) Harlequinade....Someone please explain to me why, given her extraordinary gracefulness, she would not --with the proper training and coaching-- have made a remarkable Giselle over at ABT. Thanks to the MTA I was unable to catch Saturday afternoon's performance, but I would be totally shocked if your description, abatt, of Tiler Peck's debut in Ballo was in any way misleading or inaccurate. It's not that we are biased. It's that we see with our own eyes how splendid this woman really is!
  19. Ballet just does not and cannot get any better than something like Theme and Variations with Tiler Peck in it-- "as" good, yes; "better"... no. I believe that as Ms. Peck becomes more conscious of the realities of the world and life's inherent bittersweetness --to wit, as she grows older-- she will display more grandeur and queenliness in the part than she currently does. But by golly, in that section of the work where the ballerina is supported by a line of corps members on pointe she exhibits tons of these characteristics already! Her dancing throughout is, of course, superlative. This is a great performance which I expect will become in a certain sense greater in the future! I saw this program three times and enjoyed Megan Fairchild in Ballo della Regina very much; but I also thought that on Sunday afternoon she was clearly struggling with the role a bit (she seemed at times to be trying to catch up to the music). In point of fact, she was by no means the only one struggling on Sunday. Abi Stafford and Rebecca Krohn were very uneven in Kammermusik No. 2. The former is unquestionably the weakest dancer in the principal ranks of NYCB, but I always end up (for the most part) enjoying watching her dance anyway. I cannot recollect though ever feeling more pleased by a spotty performance in a ballet than that of Rebecca Krohn in Kammermusik! It seemed to me that she was really making a heroic effort to master this part, and was actually quite superb in several sequences. I, for one, was very appreciative of her efforts. In the previous nights I had seen this program, I should point out, Krohn was outstanding in the "Elegie" section of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3. Besides the obvious one, the one other performance I thought was flawless on Sunday afternoon was that of Ashley Laracey in the "Waltz" section of the Suite. Of the first three movements in this ballet the second is the one that most requires an excellent performance by the female lead, and on this occasion it got one from Laracey. Like all great dancers do, she was giving you the distinct impression that she was putting her entire body and soul into this. I wasn't at all surprised, because Laracey has always struck me as being one of the most artistic members of this company. To me this lady is a principal. When Kammermusik is danced by two such brilliant female dancers as those in the first cast it is a treat to watch. During last Wednesday's performance one of them tumbled early on, got up, and proceeded along with her extremely talented colleague to give a magnificent rendition of this somewhat strange work. I applaud the lady who fell especially not only for her exceptional work that evening (those spectacular grand jetes were breathtakingly awesome!) but for that on all the many occasions I have been fortunate enough to see her.
  20. Negative feedback is inevitable both in and outside of the world of ballet, so you just have to brace yourself for it. You need to check out some of the reviews about dancers on BA and consider how you would feel if you were in their pointe shoes. But in general this is how you handle negative feedback. You look into the mirror and ask yourself whether what is being said about you is true. If it is, then you must accept it and try --if at all possible-- to improve yourself. If it is not, then you have absolutely no reason or excuse to allow it to rattle you. Personally, if I were a dancer I would consider any negative feedback I got more as a reason for remaining in the world of ballet rather than leaving it. Why else would anyone leave, you ask? For as many reasons as there are grains of sand at the beach, blades of grass and flowers in the countryside, books in all the libraries and bookstores of the world, fish in the sea, stars in the universe ....Ballet is very beautiful and rewarding, but we must always keep things in perspective: ballet is part of the world; the world is not part of ballet. A ballerina who never, ever wants to leave the world of ballet is like a Princess Odette who never wants to leave the lake or a Princess Aurora who wishes to never, ever wake up!
  21. For anyone in the audience who saw Verdy and McBride (or any other great performer) in Emeralds and Who Cares? respectively this may very well be true --although I note the comments by Drew and Kathleen O'Connell. But surely a good chunk of the contemporary audience is not really seeking reinvention, reimagination or revivification of works it has barely experienced or done so with lesser dancers. And there is most assuredly nothing more vivifying that you can see at today's NYCB than Tiler Peck dancing in Who Cares?! (Personally, I find all her performances inspiring in part because I cannot imagine how anyone can do such stellar work day in day out without being exceptionally devoted to her craft.)
  22. No matter what Balanchine may have felt, what counts is that all of us here like his "butterflies" and want to see them survive. The only difference is which portion of the glass we are going to focus our gaze on, and whether we have any cause to be optimistic going forward. jsmu, I knew beforehand that my questions have no quick and easy answers, but the information and opinions expressed in your posts and the one by Drew enable those of us who are relatively new to the world of Balanchine and NYCB to enlarge our perspective and broaden our horizons. Since I have been familiarizing myself with his works only in recent years, I particularly wanted to hear your views about today's dancers. You probably have never seen Don Quixote. I would certainly like to see that and as many others of Balanchine's ballets as possible. The conversation about Mozartiana and the different ways it has been interpreted mystifies me, I must confess. I just throw up my hands and simply just want to see it! There isn't the slightest doubt in my mind that Verdy was a great artist and technician, especially since in recent months I had the opportunity to see her on DVD in a couple of works --Orpheus and Agon. So your observations about Sonatine were very useful and made perfect sense to me. However, I would rather see this ballet with anyone currently dancing at NYCB than not see it at all. To say nothing about the fact that I consider Tiler Peck to be phenomenal! Did I like watching her do those "bent knee piques and pointe steps"? Absolutely!!! Strength which is formidable and (particularly) invisible in a woman awes, I think. I would have loved to have been there yesterday; but I am also very, very happy to be here today.
  23. I have a question about Glass Pieces for anyone in a position to know. All the movement that we witness in the first section of the ballet and the positioning of each member of the corps at all times are carefully laid out, right? There is no "Musical chairs" sort of thing going on here, correct? Because I think I detected someone ending up on opposite sides of the stage at two performances.
  24. To be clear, which roles other than those in (presumably) Apollo and the second movement of Symphony in C did Balanchine create for "goddesses"? And who in NYCB's current roster has the "goods" to do these roles justice?
  25. So, then, it would appear that Sonatine is an extremely esoteric work. Are some ballets so inextricably linked to the original artists that performed them that they are doomed to be quickly forgotten? Violette Verdy was evidently in her early 40s when this ballet was created. How can an American ballerina still in her twenties --forty years or so later-- be expected to grasp its "indescribable subtlety", and come across to the audience as being "insouciant/perfumed/sophisticated/piquant in that inimitable Gallic only-Verdy way"? And how, indeed, is a 21st century American audience without the slightest clue about any of this --those like jsmu in it excepted, of course-- supposed to realize what it is missing when viewing such a piece? I saw Sonatine for the first time this past week and was again --as always-- overpowered by Tiler Peck's "elegance". And what about the strength she evinced? Moving around the stage on pointe with the knees bent??? Ashley Bouder appears to be strong, and is very strong. (How can anybody in the company, let alone Erica Pereira, be expected to fill Ms. Bouder's shoes in the third movement of Symphony in C is beyond me.) Tiler Peck does not seem to be particularly strong, but she is very strong anyway. I thought that Joaquin De Luz was typically excellent in Sonatine.
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