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canbelto

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Everything posted by canbelto

  1. Any collection of Chekhov short stories. Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby Cervantes - Don Quixote. Read it ALL. Reading some of it will make you think it's a joke/satire, which it certainly is not. It's not until you read all of it that you realize Cervantes' own intense identification with the Don. Jane Austen - any book, but Emma is probably the book to begin with. Dickens - Great Expectations Edith Wharton - Age of Innocence, House of Mirth, Ethan Frome Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn Henry James - Turn of the Screw Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights And this is a purely personal opinion, but Sylvia Plath poems are a must-read too.
  2. My guilty pleasure is definitely the hyper-flexible, "vulgar" ballerinas like Irina Dvorovenko, Sylvie Guillem, Allegra Kent, Svetlana Zakharova, even Alina Cojacaru and Alessandra Ferri. Although Ferri and Cojacaru are not "vulgar", just extremely flexible. Yes I admit it: the higher up the leg goes and the more the head can touch the butt, the happier I am.
  3. I saw Ferri and Corella, and I'll just say that the image of Corella carrying Ferri's lifeless body in the tomb was unforgettable. Ferri was enchanting. Those feet! Corella was a wonderful Romeo -- his natural sunniness and charm work really well in this role, as, of course, do his leaps. And I know this might be "show" but I loved how Corella had his arm around Ferri during the curtain calls -- they both looked exhausted but they also looked like good friends. I always think its sweet when the male and female lead dont just seem like coworkers.
  4. You know, this conversation is funny. I'm a big opera fan, and any opera student will tell you that very often the most famous singers make the rottenest teachers. Some are clearly resentful of younger talent, others are abusive, and still others had no idea how their voices worked. Titta Ruffo was famous for refusing to teach, because he said he had no idea how his voice worked, and he couldnt ruin other voices by proclaiming to teach something he had no actual knowledge about. So therefore, if a corps dancer says "X was a really crappy teacher" I tend to believe the corps dancer. I mean, being a fan is one thing, but I think we have to accept that being a famous ballerina does not equate with being a great teacher. I think seething that so-and-so isnt teaching at the School of American Ballet or whatnot is useless -- maybe they dont want to teach. Maybe theyve moved on, and would prefer to do other things. Maybe even if Mr. B were alive they'd refuse to teach. Its easy to blame Peter Martins, but I tend to think it takes two to tango. For instance, the part in Suzanne Farrell's book that always chills me is when she talks about Diana Adams pressuring her to lose weight. Adams naturally had a super-long, thin physique. Farrell obviously had enchanting baby-fat cheeks and a curvier figure. Given what we now know about eating disorders, I find a famous ballerina like Adams pressuring a very thin, very young Farrell to lose weight or else chilling. The point? That dancers are human and they bring their own baggage to the classroom, especially famous ones. OTOH, I find it interesting that at the ABT, the complaint is hardly ever about lack of talent. It's always that extremely talented dancers like Veronika Part or Herman Cornejo don't dance *enough*.
  5. I think Jenifer Ringer. I know she's not a "stereotypical" Balanchine ballerina (not that there is that sort of thing). She's also married to another member of the company, and Mr. B would not like that either. (Paul Mejia and Suzanne Farrell, anyone?). But she's so bubbly, girlish, and vulnerable. She has the kind of all-American charm that Mr. B liked. She's enchanting. I love her. I also think Sofiane Sylve.
  6. I saw Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes. I loved the production, the dancing, the choreography. Murphy used what are normally "weaknesses" (and I put quotations around that because she is really remarkable) and turned them into strengths. Her occasionally stiff upper body became doll-like, her fierce attack and crystalline precision gave Swanilda much-needed spunkiness. You dont want to mess with her! Marcelo Gomes is not ABT's showiest dancer, but he is perhaps the finest. He is of course strikingly handsome.
  7. Past: Peter Martins Present: Marcelo Gomes (cant believe no one's mentioned him) and Carreno
  8. Alexandra, it's the implication, that somehow these people are the kinds of people the NYCB must defend itself against. For one, looking around te NYCB audience, "cigarettes and cellphones" seems to be a multiethnic description. He uses it as a slur, like, see, theyre low class, smoking and chatting. As if the genteel, refined NYCB audience never smokes or yammers on a cellphone. It's xenophobic. It's a veiled xenophobia, but it's there, as apparent as the politicians who use to routinely talk about preserving "American" ways of life. I'm of an immigrant background, so I've become sensitized to this sort of thing: xenophobia and a big "you're not welcome" sign disguised as musical/artistic/political platform.
  9. The whole sentence makes me even more uncomfortable, with its stereotype of "cigarettes and cellphones" and the ugly implications that somehow the NYCB audience must remain refined and genteel and "American." Its gratuitous and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, sorry. As for American arts audiences being conservative, I'd say that's true, artistically. I would not say American arts audiences are politically conservative. In fact, for awhile one of the pet causes of the Republicans was to cut arts funding, which they called supporting "degenerate" art. Arts in the US has a rep at least today of being for the cultured, intellectual, left-leaning elite.
  10. I think the review is sort of racist, personally. "Russian emigre" audience sounds like the sort of shrill jingoism that used to pass as criticism in the bad old days when writers could routinely call perfomers "that Jew" or "the colored girl."
  11. Alexandra, Those are interesting points you make. The first one, regarding onceshunned/nowworshipped, while I agree that this is due in large part to different audiences, I do think that as time passes, people grow. What was once shocking tends to lose its shock value over time. For instance, when the Vietnam Memorial "winning" plan was announced, there was an incredible amount of vitriol directed at Maya Lin's design. This can be seen in the documentary abour her life. At the time, this was because the design was by an Asian American woman, because had none of the features of a traditional memorial, and well, because the wounds of Vietnam were so strong that ANY design was bound to seem inadequate. Today, I'd guess that even the original protesters acknowledge the incredible simplicity and profundity of Lin;s design. Sometimes, you need time to appreciate (or unappreciate) a work. I mean, the films of the 1930s MGM were praised for their lushness, production values, and "wholesomeness." Today, while some of the MGM films of the 1930s are still revered, many of them seem dated. I am by no means defending Eifman's work or saying that 20 years from now we'll all think its a masterpiece. Just that the NYCB is probably in "transition" and the newer ballets need time and perspective before we can judge them properly. As for preserving the ideals of a company such as the NYCB, this is a hard question. But I do think companies evolve, and this would be true even if Martins brought back Farrell, McBride, Villela, Ambroise, and declared that from now on, the NYCB would only dance Robbins and Balanchine works. I mean, even when Balanchine was alive the company constantly evolved. It just happens. The Metropolitan Opera of the prewar years, with its familiar "paired" casts and emphasis on Wagner (Flagstad/Melchior/Schorr/Lawrence) or Mozart (Pinza/Baccaloni/Rethberg/Novotna) became very different when Bing took over, and the emphasis veered towards Italian-rep and powerhouse artists (Tebaldi/Milanov/Tucker/Corelli/Warren/delMonaco). I know Farrell, Tallchief, and other Balanchine ballerinas have been very outspoken about how they think Balanchine wanted his ballets danced, but with today's artists, would we even want carbon copies of those old performances? Is it even desirable for Maria Kowrowski to dance exactly like Suzanne Farrell? (the 'pairing' happened AGAIN in the Eifman ballet).
  12. I'm not saying every Balanchine ballet is one of elegance, style, refinement, and idealism. Rubies, for instance, is sexy and jazzy. But just as I associate Petipa with the full-length imperial works of Czarist Russia I do associate Balanchine with making dance beautiful. In fact, that's what I love about Balanchine -- he seemed to believe so much in the ideal that what would be corny in any other context seems so right with him. For instance, the music-hall scene from Union Jack, replete with donkey. It's easy to snicker but its choreographed with so much sincerity that I just became squishy from the adorableness of it all. Balanchine was not by any means British, but he managed to capture England not as it is but as it should be -- with kilts, bagpipes, patriotism, and music halls. In Midsummer's Night Dream a scene that in staged versions of the play is often for laughs (Titania and Bottom) with Balanchine absolutely bubbles over with surreal beauty and sweetness. Audiences of course change. The audiences that signed up for NYCB at its inception are not the audiences of today, just as the very people who lapped up jazz in the 1920s revolted against rocknroll. Lovers of soul and R&B now are disgusted with hiphop. All I'm saying is that as its been roughly 20 years since Balanchine's death, it's a bit unrealistic to expect all new commissioned ballets to adhere to something Mr. B would have approved of. I guess this happens with every company that is founded on the strength of one vision -- Alvin Ailey company, for instance, also has had to do "soul searching" after Ailey's death. After Cosima Wagner's death the Bayreuth festival also made controversial changes -- the minimalist post-war productions of Wieland Wagner differed radically from Cosi's express wishes. New productions at Bayreuth are still routinely booed.
  13. Nanatchka, as I said, this has nothing to do with political leanings. I simply think that Balanchine ballets, which are refined, aloof, even mystical celebrations of feminine beauty and grace, tends to produce an audience that does not like to be "shocked". Raw emoting in itself is not "liberal" but I do think "liberal" peope *in the arts* tend to be more accepting or open to "new" music, maybe unorthodox styles. This was found in many forms -- for instance, the Nazis repeatedly banned conductors who insisted on performing "degenerate" music: music that was atonal, or where the composer was non-Aryan. In the 1920s, the "hipper" younger crowd loved jazz, while the older crowd frowned. Same thing with rock'n'roll in the 1950s. In figure skating boards, it's an acknowledged fact that some skaters (like Gordeeva and Grinkov, with their fairytale romance and very classical, female-oriented skating style) tend to attract fans that are more conservative. I am not, repeat, NOT, saying NYCB fans are old-fashioned or narrowminded personally. As I said, 99% of the dance fans I've met seem decidedly politically liberal. But just the Balanchine aesthetic is naturally one of refinement, elegance, chivalry, and perhaps rigid male/female roles. He once said the man's duty is to present the woman. Thus, scenes of female dancers straddling "Mr. B" or Jock Soto tugging on a prone Miranda Weese's arm really dont fit into the Balanchine aesthetic. I mean, I wonder if, say, the Joffrey ballet came to town and danced Wheeldon's Shambards, whether anyone would raise eyebrows. But eyebrows are raised when the NYCB dancers do it. Of course, this raises ???'s about the NYCBs future: I mean, if theyre to be known as an innovative company, there are going to be works which dont adhere to the Balanchine style. if they are to really "respect" Mr. B and hire only "tame" choreographers then they risk becoming either a museum or the new works will be derided as poor-man's Balanchine. If they start to dance more classical full-length ballets like Giselle or La Bayadere then where does that leave dancers like Wendy Whelan who may not be good fits for those types of ballets?
  14. You know, I'm wondering (not to generalize) whether NYCB audiences naturally tend to be conservative. I'm not talking politically (most dance fans I've met veer decidedly towards the left, but I'm sure dance and politics are not connected in any way). But NYCB fans, it seems, often are very protective of Balanchine's legacy and Balanchine's ideals. And although I have no idea what Balanchine's political leanings were (other than he pressured Suzanne Farrell to vote for Hubert Humphrey) his dances do seem extremely "conservative." We all know "ballet is woman" but more than that, his choreographic style is very refined, with no raw emoting. His female muses seem just that -- unattainable ideals of womanhood, and the relationship between the man and the woman in his ballets always seems a little aloof, even chivalrous. It's not surprising to me that Mr. B's Nutcracker is by far the most family-friendly version -- again, it seems to conjure up an absolute ideal of warm fires, happy families, dreamy little girls, and lots of candy. I saw the Eifman ballet, and thought it entertaining, if vulgar. I also saw Shambards, and that I really enjoyed. But these ballets are definitely not ballets which idealize feminine beauty and mystique the way Balanchine's ballets did. I'm an opera fan and I see this in opera too: Wagner fans I've found often to be very conservative. The stories, with their stark black/white, good/evil, redemption/suffering motifs, seem to appeal to them. I love Wagner myself but the stern morality of his operas is what bothers me the most.
  15. Ok, how about the Bush White House? This would of course have to be at a company where the males dominate (say, ABT). There could be a pas-de-trois between Bush, Cheney, and Powell, with Powell "losing." A very romantic pas-de-deux between Karl Rove and Bush, a "dream" sequence in Bush's head with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat, the Iranian mullahs, and the N. Korean prez all dancing together. It would be the "white" act. Jenna and Barbara Bush are the soubrette roles (Xiomara Reyes and Michelle Wiles?). Condoleeza Rice of course has a solo. Really, the ballet has potential.
  16. I saw Irina D last night -- she rocked! Her arms are completely boneless, it seems. During intermission I saw girls trying and failing to imitate that boneless wing flap. She of course has great extension, some might think extreme. She's probably a better Odile than Odette, but her Odette also had this mysteriousness that was enchanting. She could express so much by a flick of the hand. For the fouette count, yes she did them all, and managed not to travel much. She threw in a couple triples and doubles too, and the cool thing was she threw them in towards the end. The corps was having a very off night, I must say.
  17. In all fairness, there's some remarkable people at the ballet too. I once saw a mother and a daugher rattling off Balanchine ballets at an ABT performance. The daughter (maybe 7) was asking her mom "Can we see Symphony in C again?" Isnt that precious?
  18. I saw the Nikya of Zakharova when she came to NY, and I recently saw the Asylmuratova video of Bayadere. Zakharova reminded me a lot of Asylmuratova. It wasnt just the physical resemblance, although both are tall and have dark features and look a lot alike. It wasnt the obvious training either, although both have wonderful long extensions, and that arched, arched back. But it was more like their persona -- how they seem mysterious, cold, icy, exotic, yet passionate at the same time. Am I the only one who sees the similarity between the two wonderful dancers?
  19. A few ideas: 1. Midsummer's Night Dream - they already do "The Dream." Dancers who are often criticized here might actually shine in MND -- for instance, Paloma Herrera might be good for the second act. 2. Vienna Waltzes - a real crowdpleaser. 3. Who Cares? - another "digestible" Balanchine piece
  20. Ok, here's a theory. I have no idea if it's right. It seems as if perhaps I (and a few other people on the thread) are puzzled by Mezentseva's reputation because she is atypical of what we usually expect from Russian prima ballerinas. She is not particularly quick, athletic, flexible, or emotive. But maybe that's precisely the reason she's so revered in Russia: because she offers something different? I dont know, it's just a theory. Maybe it's what made her stand out among the light, quick, elegant, Kirov corps: she's stately, deliberate, aloof. I have no idea if this is true, it's just a theory.
  21. Jose Manuel, First of all, let me ask you, other than her being a "divinity" what is so great about her? I',m not trying to be rude and insult you (although you havent exactly been very polite) but here is what I see: 1. stiff limbs. This is most unusual for a Kirov dancer. Even though she's very thin, her legs seem very "heavy" -- theyre slow, they dont seem to fly easily. Every step seems deliberate and carefully placed. 2. lack of flexibility. Again, for a Kirov dancer, this is most unusual. I'm not saying this is bad, but just something I note. 3. A kind of inorganic disconnect when she dances. For instance, in the White pas de deux of the Swan Lake sometimes I feel as if she's flapping her arms while rather stiffly arabesqueing. Ive seen this with Paloma Herrera too. With the best ballerinas I always feel as if it's not just their feet or their hands or their face dancing -- everything is in sync. With Mezentseva I just don't see that, sorry. 4. Slowness and lack of power. Again, this is not bad, but just another thing that I observe. 5. A rather cold, forbidding, expressionless face. Lack of beauty is fine -- Natalia Makarova was nothing to look at either. But Mezentseva's face never seems to change -- her Odette has a big frown from her very first entrance. To me, what is a Swan Lake is Odette doesnt also show a sign of joy or rapture, that makes her fate that much more poignant? When Siegfried dances with her, he has to see not only what she is but what she was and what she could be. I mean basically this is just what I see. And I love Lezhnina, Zakharova, other Vaganova-trained dancers. I even thought Natalia Bessmertova was enchanting in Giselle.
  22. I've never seen Mezentseva live, but from the videos I have seen I must admit she's one ballerina whose enormous reputation baffles me. She has a good classical technique (pure lines, very "Kirov"), but she's not a particularly fast or athletic ballerina. Her leaps and spins all at least on video seem slow and deliberate. But most of all, she just seems to exude iciness. Her face, hands, back, they all seem stiff, icy, and unexpressive. This is good, I suppose, for a role like Odile, but then again, her total lack of sexiness and her aforementioned deliberateness are kind of a wet blanket even in the Black Pas de deux. I dont know whether she was a different ballerina in person, but at least on video Mesentseva seems rather, well, ordinary to me.
  23. I saw La Sonnambula last night, and am I the only person who thought it was a gentle satire of Romantic ballet? The jester who blows out his back, the mysterious "dark lady," the aloof, otherworldly "white" sleepwalker, the entire solo en pointe, the melodramatic death, and finally the twist on the traditional sight of a male sweeping a female off-stage ... It all seemed to be George Balanchine poking fun (goodnaturedly) at Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, La Bayadere ... In other news I am in love with Jennifer Ringer, who was adorable in La Source. And i loved Shambards. I thought the way Wheeldon designed the corps and the soloists was very striking. I found the rather violent relationship between Jock Soto and Miranda Weese to be one of the more memorable duets I've seen this year.
  24. I think of a ballerina in the 18th century as roughly akin to the Japanese geisha. Geisha are very vehement that they are NOT prostitutes -- they are instead highly trained dancers and singeers, and also are taught to be charming hostesses to rich men at the all-male banquets. (In Japan, proper men and women simply didnt attend parties together.) Geisha did, however, often have "protectors" -- men whose identities were secret, but who discreetly supported them. I'd say female ballerinas had the same arrangement -- I go out and dance and look beautiful, and you give me the monthly check. I doubt these relationships were very romantic, but they did probably provide a lot of comfort and security to the ballerinas.
  25. Guy, I'm talking about having a flexible arabesque. Like in the Shades scene -- I noticed most of the female corps kept a very straight back and held their leg to exactly 90 degrees. Whereas when, say, Veronica Part does an arabesque, her whole body, including her back, seems to stretch. That's the look I like.
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