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Drew

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Everything posted by Drew

  1. BIG OOPS - I wrote this before having realized there was a page 2 to this thread...Now that I have read it, I see some of my points are a little untimely, but I will leave most of it, and just ask indulgence. This is my first check-in to ballet alert in a bit, and I want to offer some support to Leight Witchel's earlier post. I understand that Alexandra's original question aimed at an understanding of audiences and taste formation (as well as "perceptions" thereof), but I think we can't limit the issue of "Balanchine-centrism" to the chance results of where one lives or local favoritism. I grew up outside of New York and was exposed to a range of classical/neo-classical choreography and modern dance at various levels of performance (local and international companies, including top ranked Soviet and British). My ballet tastes were and, to some degree remain, quite eclectic. As for Balanchine, I was taken to see Prodigal Son as a child (with Villela) and hated it, but saw some other NYCB occasionally (incl. A Midsummer Night's Dream) and got my first big dose in the early 70's with programs that included Ivesiana, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Symphony in Three Movements. I was dazzled (particularly by the latter), but didn't quite know what to make of it or say about it. But I am now completely devoted to Balanchine's work. It is over the years, seeing more and more Balanchine, and, in particular, seeing how much his ballets yield on repeated viewing and, yes, even with different companies, that has confirmed for me personally not only the more or less consensus view that Balanchine is a crucial figure for the history of ballet, but also that a case can be made -- that has nothing to do with geography -- that he is THE crucial figure for twentieth-century ballet, much as one can make a case for Petipa in the nineteenth-century. That does not mean that Bournonville and Ashton lovers can't make their own cases in return, and certainly if one were to speak about "national" schools of dance, one would configure ballet history differently, but it's not just a matter of location and exposure that inspires admiration of Balanchine. I've seen Macmillan ballets danced over and over too -- by the Royal, not just ABT. And, in that sense, "New Yorker" love of Balanchine is not finally the same as, say, Stuttgarters loving Cranko. It may "feel" the same -- I'm sure there are those out there who admire Cranko as much I do Balanchine -- but that's a different matter, and probably a different thread. Geography can affect the formation of tastes, but there is rather more at stake if we are going to make JUDGEMENTS of taste -- which is what I understand Leigh's basic point to have been. At different moments in history certain places do become energetic centers for artistic activity of one kind or another. Theater goers in London around 1600 really did get to see some of the best, if not the best, drama in the European world at that moment -- with a little competition from Spain. Their "Shakespeare-centric" view of drama may have been limited, but it wasn't merely some misbegotten quirk of English taste even if, for a century or so, several French critics liked to say it was and complained bitterly about it... [ 07-09-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  2. I think there is quite a bit of pre-teen drama training -- I have first hand experience with different types of children's drama classes aimed at children as young as nine. Some were really just improvisation exercises but others involved performances of melodramas written for children, adaptations of children's books, religious subjects, even some scenes from "serious" adult drama, etc. I think this is pretty typical, and would be very surprised if some children didn't "study" earlier than nine. What I experienced didn't involved classical drama (except what I did on my own with friends), but there are decidedly more ambitious attempts at training child actors as well. According to an (unofficial) biography, at the age of 11 Alan Rickman was playing Volumnia in Shakespeare's Coriolanus for a school production. Many professional actors date their first experiences on the stage, professional or amateur, quite early. At various times in history, child actors in serious drama were rather a vogue -- in London during in 1804 you could see an extremely popular thirteen year old actor (Master Betty) play Hamlet. I'm just noting this, not advocating... LMCtech: Trent Reznor as Rothbart? I think he would make a good Siegfried. I say this in the spirit of the thread only of course; though an interesting mime in his videos, he's not exactly a classical ballet dancer. Anyway, he does have a certain romantic/erotic obsessiveness, so perhaps he'd fit one of those souped-up contemporary productions in which Siegfried is an ultra anguished neurotic. Now, Alan Rickman might make a good Rothbart... [ 06-22-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  3. I went back to see Julie Kent with Vladimir Malakhov Tues. evening. In my opinion, this is a better pairing than Kent/Corella -- certainly for Swan Lake. Although I am a big fan of Malakhov, I was not quite as won over by his Siegfried as I was by his Albrecht or even his James. The interpretation did, though, have many lovely romantic qualities; in act II his hands seem to linger ever so slightly wherever they touched or held Odette, and the sheer length and stretch of his line seems designed to express balletic longing. He was not having a completely impeccable evening technically (some flubs a the end of his doubles tours in Act III; his spins in the coda not perfectly centered). At other moments he settled for simplicity, albeit simplicity perfectly executed; his multiple pirouettes were, for example, all doubles -- but that aspect I do NOT complain about as I really do mean perfectly executed and the result was at once beautiful and expressive. (I know we are wary of rumors on ballet alert, but my understanding is that he is coming off some sort of minor injury/surgery that caused at least one earlier performance this season to be canceled.) Withal, for my taste, the sheer quality of Malakhov's classical dancing -- underline classical -- just puts him in a different category from ABT's other male dancers, terrific as many of them are. Just one rather obvious example: in his grand jetes Malakhov describes a soaring arc in the air, so exquisitely curved, so beautifully shaped in every portion and proportion of his body, that it is as if one were seeing the step in its essence, at once idealized and intensified. With Malakhov one gets a rare chance to see the ballet vocabulary as it is supposed to look, but only rarely really does -- if you will, the way one imagines it in one's balletomaniac's mind's eye ... and it is just breathtaking.
  4. Katja -- regarding Malakhov: in addition to what has been said above by Dale and Alexandra, I believe that this particular spring season, one of Malakhov's few scheduled performances in a "prince" role (Albrecht) was canceled. I heard that this was due to a minor injury -- though I cannot say for certain. ABT has a very large "spread" of principals, and often each cast only gets one performance of a full length ballet -- especially in New York when guest artists like Malakhov are added to the roster. So if one performance is cancelled...that's often it. Malakhov is also scheduled to dance Siegfried this coming Tuesday, and I certainly intend to be there. P.S. I am delighted to hear about the response he received in Russia -- in my opinion very deserved. He did, perhaps, at one time jump a little more dazzlingly than he does now, but his leaps remain just beautiful. He's just a complete artist in a way very few male dancers today are...
  5. I gather Wendy Whelan has danced Chaconne during past seasons, but I saw her dance it for the first time at tonight's performance (6/16). Since Farrell's retirement I've seen several excellent ballerinas dance Chaconne -- excellent, but not (in my opinion) at all effective at capturing the full range of its qualities. I have always especially loved and admired the ballerina role, and simply mourned its flattening in the versions I was seeing. Well, Wendy Whelan wasn't a Suzanne Farrell -- she was entirely Wendy Whelan and as Wendy Whelan she has restored (in my eyes) a piece of Balanchine I had given up hoping to see again. With Philip Neal (also quite wonderful) she brought back the whole range of the ballet's dynamics, moods, lines, shapes, wit. I'm a pretty wordy ballet-alertnick -- but I haven't the words. I've praised a number of performances this season, so I hope it's clear that I mean this as praise of an altogether higher order. An extraordinary performance...(The evening as a whole, by the by, also included Peter Boal's equally remarkable performance in Square Dance. Should I add that up until about an hour and a half before the performance, I had pretty much decided not to go? Where's Alexandra's "Chinese gentleman" when you need him?! Fortunately, I changed my mind.) [ 06-17-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  6. I went Sat. night--I enjoyed this for one sitting. The music helped a lot (Nino Rota). The three pas de deux had some ingenious moments, and I thought all the dancers gave very lively buoyant performances. Of the men, I particularly enjoyed Jared Angle's dancing. I would be interested in hearing why AmandaNYC feels "biased" against Taylor's dancing, since I myself have been a bit puzzled by her...If sheer oomph is one's criterion for great dancing -- she's pretty terrific, plus she has that springy jump and pouty sex kitten face, but otherwise I don't quite know what to make of her ... This was my one opportunity to see Bouder in a featured role, and I enjoyed her dancing (and have hopes of someone who might really be able to take over, say, some of Ashley's old roles -- the need for which was in evidence elsewhere on the program). But, in this work, Carla Korbes was the dancer that I was most taken by -- she was the only one of the leading women whose dancing showed some refinement. This may have been an effect of Tanner's showcasing, as Korbes got the one real piece of adagio dancing in the ballet, with elaborated port de bras and gorgeous back-bending poses, but I was impressed. [ 06-17-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  7. Triple ditto -- no, quadruple ditto -- to Manhattnik's last remark about Malakhov.
  8. I also went Friday night -- I have a lot of problems with this production, but overall enjoyed myself. I have always thought, though, that there is one Rothbart (a magical nature creature) who disguises himself as a nobleman in order to enchant his victims. Personally I find all of Mckenzie's choreography for this production awkward and unflattering (and there's quite a bit of it) and the elaboration of Rothbart's "character" unpersuasive, but, hmm, I do always enjoy watching Malakhov ... I don't think Corella is without substance -- I find his dancing at times quite beautiful (as opposed to just flashy) and I thought he at least tried to make his big act III solos expressions of delight and excitement. I do think he's a little young and temperamentally boyish for this part. There are emotional notes he just doesn't have (yet?). Kent is not an ideal match for him (a little too tall for one thing) which aggravates the problem. The encounters between them definitely seemed as if between a human and an entirely otherworldly creature (more Firebird than Swan Lake), and that skimps some of the ballet's interpretive possibilities. Though I do like the Act IV image in this production in which she is standing atop the rocks and he is below her kneeling on them and looking upwards -- and Friday evening, that about summed the way Corella seemed to relate to Julie Kent throughout. This was the best I have seen Kent -- she WAS lovely -- but not terribly compelling emotionally either. She did bring a wonderful, almost patronizing allure to the final seconds of the black swan pas de deux. (I think it would be fair, though, to characterize the fouettes as determined.) The pas de trois was very interesting. Herman Cornejo was just wonderful -- he has an extraordinary spring to his jumps, but also brings a lot of attention and care to the details of his dancing. You feel he is paying attention. Xiomara Reyes danced beautifully, though she seemed a bit precious. Erica Cornejo has something like her brother's spring and the jumps were remarkably high in a woman dancer. Other qualities of her dancing were more uneven (to me) -- but the jumping, wow! I also enjoyed a number of the women in the character dancing of Act III, especially Stella Abrera and Carmen Corella in the Spanish dance. Otherwise the company dancing as a whole was pretty good, but uneven in patches (first Swan Lake of the season though, so it's likely to get better). And there were some nice details in the miming in Act I etc. -- peasants too nervous to look directly at the Prince etc. [ 06-16-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  9. Leigh Witchel -- I have found it necessary to say "no" to certain things in order to develop or embrace others, in some cases even things that in the abstract or in other contexts I might admire or find interesting...but in my life this has not really been a crucial part of my dance going. Though certainly as I came to like certain things, I found myself liking or caring about others less. I can't help but wonder if an act, like this, of clearing the ground (something more than 'I don't care for'...or 'not my cup of tea,' but NO) may be more necessary, at times, for someone who is creating or producing something -- e.g. a choreographer -- than for an interested observer or even maybe (?) a critic. In my case, the NO (one of them anyway) was in the service of getting a dissertation written. I look back on it now as partly a pragmatic decision, but at the time I didn't only think of myself as being pragmatic; I did have a touch -- only a touch -- of the absolutist. And that touch did actually benefit the work (in my opinion of course ). [ 06-12-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  10. Murphy's not an "ideal" Kitri -- I thought it was, nonetheless, a terrific debut and fun performance all round. I do think she has a somewhat "cool" persona, but as Kitri she showed real charm, using, if you will, that persona. She actually had a soubrette quality, quite distinctive, that I haven't seen in her before...As for her dancing, I did not find it the least bit cold or metronomic. I've always liked Murphy better than Manhattnik -- though there is no doubt that she is still developing as a dancer -- but my reaction to this performance wasn't merely quirky. Clearly, the matinee audience really "responded" (in a way matinee met. audiences don't always do) to Murphy and Corella both. If one wants to see a fully realized, "sensational" Kitri, Dvorovenko and Ananiashvili may well be the best ABT has to offer...(I haven't seen them -- except for Ananiashvili in the pas de deux -- but actually I don't doubt it.) But there is something to be said for the sheer pleasure of watching a gifted young ballerina growing -- and glowing -- before one's eyes. p.s. jcaguioa: I haven't seen the video you mention, but as you can see from the above discussion a number of fans complain about Murphy's "coldness." I have always enjoyed her dancing -- and found her very "watchable" not dull. I have even found a certain quiet charmisma in the "cool" way she dances. But this Kitri did give me, additionally, the first glimpse of Murphy projecting more of an acting/dancing "personality;" it also was the first full length lead I've seen her do, the first role in which she has to pantomime and react to others' pantomime, and she did very well. She's only just starting to be cast in these roles this season, and, in this role, she's starting at a very high level. Among other things, this performance made me wish ABT would revive Coppelia so she can dance Swanilda. [ 06-10-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  11. I went to the June 9th ABT matinee -- Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella in Don Quixote -- I thought this was a terrific performance, flawed in a number of ways but so high energy, so "on," that it worked very, very well. As far as I know this was Murphy's New York debut in the role (perhaps her debut plain and simple?) -- and I was delighted, actually a bit surprised, at how well she performed. She danced very well throughout and, often, really splendidly, using her somewhat cool presence to make Kitri seem sublimely self-confident, but at the same time quite funny in her little tantrums...This is not, I think, a "natural" role for Murphy, but she pulled it off. In particular, her very quick, articulate, and expansive leg movements were just wonderful in this choreography...another highlight was her solo in Act III which she seemed to just toss off with an air of almost amusing ease and authority. She and Corella were wonderfully matched -- both brought tremendous energy to the stage and each other. He just gets better and better. His bravura dancing was utterly brilliant, but he also seems to me to have new dimension and depth in the quality of his movements -- his arms are beautiful. And all the passion that he always brings to the stage was here, additionally, focused on Murphy. In the one armed lifts of Act I they were especially fun(ny), as he seemed to hold her up for ever while she, looking quite fearless, kept waving her tambourine. The audience sort of giggled and gasped at once. And when he let her down and ran across the stage and turned to her to set up the next lift, the smile on his face was just gleeful...as if to say, 'we must do that again.' In her fouettes in Act III, Murphy did single single double for the first half with perfect control and when she did the double she raised a hand holding her red fan over her head (a la couronne) and OPENED the fan as she turned. For the second half she did a series of singles very fast travelling forward in a pretty controlled way until the end when she started to travel sideways a bit, but she more or less kept things under control and finished the turns. This was by no means a perfect performance. The character quality of Act I is not Murphy's natural element. The adagio of the Act III pas de deux could have gone better (and probably will in the future). In Act III even Corella had some tiny fudges, turns that went a bit off center. It would be possible to have a more carping reaction to this performance than mine -- but in fact one of the things I loved about this performance was that Corella and Murphy danced with all out panache even through their (minor) mistakes, and kept utterly focused. Whether or not Murphy is a great Kitri, she is certainly an enjoyable one -- and, in my eyes, a real ballerina. Interestingly, the audience seemed, initially a tepid matinee crowd. Many empty seats (I was in standing room and easily found a very good seat during intermission), families, and subscribers etc. They reacted pretty mildly to Act I but by the end of Act II they were genuinely excited and at the ballet's close gave Murphy and Corella an enthusiastic ovation that continued one curtain call past the raising of the lights. As they walked out of the theater, people were notably talking about what a good performance it was. My favorite overheard discussion was between a middle aged couple (I'll guess subscribers): the wife was in the middle of saying "she was adorable" but before she had finished the word "adorable" her husband said "oh she...she was fantastic!" In this case, I think the audience's pleasure was a real gage of what Murphy and Corella brought to the stage. I don't want to exagerate -- even without seeing them, I don't doubt Ananiashvili and Dvorovenko are better Kitris, but somehow it was just a delightful afternoon. The rest of the performance was, unfortunately, a bit uneven and even ragged. The toreodors were absolutely off kilter -- individually this one or that would throw in a high jump, but they never (in Act I or III) managed to dance in sync: even when only two of them were jumping across the stage together they were on different beats. They also had no feel for the "character" quality of the dancing. The women throughout were somewhat better than the men. Though in one sequence (Act II?) four girls in a line facing the audience were doing entrechats and they also were out of sync the first go round; on the repetition they were dancing together, but not very well -- the jumps just looked a bit limp. Molina as the star bullfighter has the right look but not the arch in his upper back that would make the choreography more dashing. Carmen Corella as Mercedes was excellent, though her bourrees in the knife solo were not in themselves particularly lovely. Otherwise, I quite liked her. The Queen of the Dryads, Shelkanova was fine as was the Amor (Ann Mikelski -- I may have the name wrong, I don't have my program). The two flower girls were Michele Wiles and Anna Liceica. When I saw Wiles as one of the two Wilis in Giselle, I felt similarly to Manhattnik; she seemed unable to make her tall limbs fit into the nineteenth-century wili image -- she looked as if she were dancing a twentieth-century ballet. Obviously in Don Quixote, she doesn't have those kind of stylistic demands and yet I almost felt there was an analogous problem. Watching her do the same steps side by side with Liceica, one could see how much more musically and stylistically nuanced Liceica is. Wiles danced very well (as did Liceica), and I am very eager to watch her development, but she definitely seems to me to need honing and experience. (I only mention it, because one can see that she is being groomed for big things -- with a Theme and Variations debut coming up.) As the "gypsies" Herman Cornejo and Erica (?) Cornejo were excellent -- well, actually, he was even better than that. He just has extraordinary height and ballon in the air and the sort of high intensity Corella has. Moreover, he dances everything -- even when it's sheer character dancing -- cleanly. I thought all the mime roles (led by Barbee as Don Quixote) were done well, but I tend to lose interest during the comic schtick in this ballet; mostly I watched Murphy and Corella "reacting" on the sides of the stage...So, from the company overall, it was a good but somewaht mixed afternoon, but the performance altogether raised to something much better by the leads. For various reasons, I am unable this week to be where, as a ballet fan, I would like to be -- at the Kennedy Center seeing the Royal: Ashton repertory I hardly ever have a chance to see, new dancers, like Cojocaru, generating excitement, and one of my favorite ballerinas (whom I also hardly ever get to see), Sylvie Guillem. Well, this year it was not to be...actually I can't even attend very much ballet in New York. But I consider this afternoon a very nice consolation prize. [ 06-09-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  12. I was very interested in Jeannie's list -- do we know enough to have a sense of how Petipa developed into the Petipa of Sleeping Beauty? One comment I overheard about Lacotte's Pharoah's Daughter (putting aside, for now, the "steps" question) was that the choreography occasionally looked more French/Bournonvillesque than Petipa, and the person speaking speculated that this was because the ballet was an "early" Petipa spectacle and that was what Lacotte had in mind. This is really third hand information; I'm not kidding when I say I overheard this conversation...but I notice Doug made some analogous remarks early in this thread, and I am curious if ballet historians have a sense of when and how Petipa developed into the distinctive geometry and pointe work of his later choreography? Related question re Vivandiere; I saw the Vivandiere pas de six many, many years ago in a Joffrey II production; I vaguely thought it was St. Leon or some other French, pre-Petipa choreography and it certainly looked (to my eye) somewhat Bournonvillesque, with fleet and bouncy footwork. Is this a case, like Giselle, where the version we have is based on a Petipa revival? Or is Jeannie referring to something different? Croce (to the best of my memory) once alluded to Petipa as having developed the ballerina's adagio (and developed point work accordingly) and she specifically contrasted this to Bournonville. I'm curious what sense we have of when and where this happened in Petipa's work -- of where, when, and how his version of the French tradition diverged from Bournonville's. P.S. I'm a little nervous that I've just betrayed some appalling ignorance of well known ballet history...so apologies ahead of time. [ 06-09-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  13. I was very interested in Jeannie's list -- do we know enough to have a sense of how Petipa developed into the Petipa of Sleeping Beauty? One comment I overheard about Lacotte's Pharoah's Daughter (putting aside, for now, the "steps" question) was that the choreography occasionally looked more French/Bournonvillesque than Petipa, and the person speaking speculated that this was because the ballet was an "early" Petipa spectacle and that was what Lacotte had in mind. This is really third hand information; I'm not kidding when I say I overheard this conversation...but I notice Doug made some analogous remarks early in this thread, and I am curious if ballet historians have a sense of when and how Petipa developed into the distinctive geometry and pointe work of his later choreography? Related question re Vivandiere; I saw the Vivandiere pas de six many, many years ago in a Joffrey II production; I vaguely thought it was St. Leon or some other French, pre-Petipa choreography and it certainly looked (to my eye) somewhat Bournonvillesque, with fleet and bouncy footwork. Is this a case, like Giselle, where the version we have is based on a Petipa revival? Or is Jeannie referring to something different? Croce (to the best of my memory) once alluded to Petipa as having developed the ballerina's adagio (and developed point work accordingly) and she specifically contrasted this to Bournonville. I'm curious what sense we have of when and where this happened in Petipa's work -- of where, when, and how his version of the French tradition diverged from Bournonville's. P.S. I'm a little nervous that I've just betrayed some appalling ignorance of well known ballet history...so apologies ahead of time. [ 06-09-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  14. When I saw Kirkland fall in big story ballets she would always pick herself up "in character" -- Sometimes, I found this rather charming. Overall, I more or less have the "Balanchine" attitude. With certain dancers in particular, one can see them "going for it" and it's so thrilling that one supports and applauds them even if they fall. (Certainly, other than concern for injuries, I do not, in those cases, react negatively.) The first time I saw Elizabeth Platel, I had never heard of her, and was just delighted as she danced the Queen of the Wilis with real daring -- big expressive jumps -- but did in the end take a pretty bad fall. As I remember, the Kirov's Chestyakova fell or slipped at the company's Kennedy Center appearances quite frequently; she was usually cast in some top soloist variation and she always was doing, seemingly, the most difficult imaginable version, e.g. triple piroettes where others settled for two, extra beats during a jump etc. However, the Kirov (at that time) had such a surface quality of classical precision that I sometimes found myself wishing she would just do the simpler thing and do it smoothly and accurately. But I still admired her guts. On the other hand -- and concern for injuries aside...if I see a lackluster or problematic performance in which, for example, a dancer is quite sloppy in all of his/her landings and the whole thing culminates with a slip or a fall, I'm more inclined to view it critically. I'll think "x" wasn't in control of the movements and the slip just confirms the larger problem. I think I've even written things to this effect at ballet alert -- 'so and so having an off night and slipped out of her turns' etc. I do very much agree with what has been said above about general audiences. I think, for many of them, a fall does mean that obviously, the dancer has screwed up and that's just bad. I've noticed, too, that when I go to the ballet with someone who really knows NOTHING about dance, there is a certain insecurity factor; when they see a fall they feel at least that they know what they saw and that they know what it means -- a mistake. Although, at the risk of contradicting myself, I do think that in an inchoate way even a less educated ballet audience can occasionally tell the difference between an exciting dancer who takes a spill and a dancer who just isn't dancing well. Don't know about the Miami ballet incident -- and of course with a corps dancer one may not be noticing that dancer in particular until the fall. Occasionally, too, one gets a sympathy response -- you can hear it in the applause when the dancer who stumbled takes a bow. I am interested in Sonora's comment about the audiences lack of experience with live performance -- I bet that IS an aspect of the problem. Everybody is used to the often inhuman and usually manufactured polish of film and video...so they really don't know how to 'see' a fall EXCEPT as a blot.
  15. Lacotte's version of Pharoah's Daughter (or Paquita for that matter) may be wonderful and perhaps Kevin Mckenzie should aquire it -- I have no opinion on this -- but I don't see how it can be called a "revival" or a "classic" when the CHOREOGRAPHY is almost entirely new, albeit "in the manner of" Petipa etc. If ballet is in any respect a serious art form on its own account, the "steps" very much do matter. There was a recent thread discussing an article by Joan Accocella addressing "revivals" of Nijinsky's ballets and discussing this issue...To use Accoccella's example, what would it meant to "revive" Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the basis of some written descriptions of the premier, some records of the composer's tempi and keys, and maybe some indications of the orchestration but gee...um...er...having almost none of the NOTES. Nineteenth-century choreography may not be as "autonomous" as music (a complex question), but choreography is the substance of balletic art if the art counts for anything substantive at all. Again, this is not an opinion on the artistic merits of Lacotte's productions -- I haven't seen them, though I remember Jeannie's glowing report on Paquita! -- but how can they be thought of as revivals? I admit, though, that I personally find it pretty questionable for a performing art to try to renew itself by doing pastiche versions of its older repertory. If the occasional production works (as Lacotte's do, in the eyes of many), of course that's great. On the other hand, if actual notation exists for some lost "classics" and if an artist with enough creativity and musicality to bring notation to life were to appear on the scene to stage those works (big ifs), the possibility for genuinely enriching ballet's heritage would be greater than some pseudo-revival. I don't mean a pious attempt to make everything exactly as it was (impossible anyway and, in my opinion, not even desirable) -- but stagings that would at least try to give one more of a genuine sense of ballet's choreographic heritage.
  16. Lacotte's version of Pharoah's Daughter (or Paquita for that matter) may be wonderful and perhaps Kevin Mckenzie should aquire it -- I have no opinion on this -- but I don't see how it can be called a "revival" or a "classic" when the CHOREOGRAPHY is almost entirely new, albeit "in the manner of" Petipa etc. If ballet is in any respect a serious art form on its own account, the "steps" very much do matter. There was a recent thread discussing an article by Joan Accocella addressing "revivals" of Nijinsky's ballets and discussing this issue...To use Accoccella's example, what would it meant to "revive" Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the basis of some written descriptions of the premier, some records of the composer's tempi and keys, and maybe some indications of the orchestration but gee...um...er...having almost none of the NOTES. Nineteenth-century choreography may not be as "autonomous" as music (a complex question), but choreography is the substance of balletic art if the art counts for anything substantive at all. Again, this is not an opinion on the artistic merits of Lacotte's productions -- I haven't seen them, though I remember Jeannie's glowing report on Paquita! -- but how can they be thought of as revivals? I admit, though, that I personally find it pretty questionable for a performing art to try to renew itself by doing pastiche versions of its older repertory. If the occasional production works (as Lacotte's do, in the eyes of many), of course that's great. On the other hand, if actual notation exists for some lost "classics" and if an artist with enough creativity and musicality to bring notation to life were to appear on the scene to stage those works (big ifs), the possibility for genuinely enriching ballet's heritage would be greater than some pseudo-revival. I don't mean a pious attempt to make everything exactly as it was (impossible anyway and, in my opinion, not even desirable) -- but stagings that would at least try to give one more of a genuine sense of ballet's choreographic heritage.
  17. I don't know what kind of dancer she would be, but I've often thought that Isabel Adjani has the perfect face (and temperament) for Giselle...
  18. I haven't seen ABT's production of Onegin, but I'm not surprized people admire the ballet more than I. Many people love this ballet and the first time I saw it I did too. But after seeing it several times with the Stuttgart, I came to feel that the quality of the movement and, if you will, the "translation" of the drama into balletic terms was trivial, and the dancing just taken abstractly (as choreography) dull. At this point, I don't remember a large number of specifics, but I do remember the acrobatic pas de deux that seemed very muddy and inarticulate to me...By muddy and inarticulate, I mean, for example, that it scarcely made any difference whether I was seeing Makarova (as I did once) or Haydee (as I did several times): the movement just blurred into so many dynamically unvaried tosses and throws. Of course, this was just my reaction. I should add that, as I haven't seen the ballet recently, I strongly suspect that if I saw a great performance I would enjoy it...but I doubt I would get much from sitting through it repeatedly. (I wouldn't want to sit through Merry Widow repeatedly either!!) I wasn't part of "Ballet Alert's" earlier discussions of this ballet, but I 'm not surprised that there is quite a bit of disagreement about it. I would reiterate one comment Alexandra made. I am not oppposed to story ballets -- I have admired Neumeier's Dame aux Camelias, to say nothing of Ashton's Month in the Country. (And I was fascinated about a year ago by the Lavrosky Romeo and Juliet.) Etc. etc. But I'm one of those who is not persuaded by Cranko as a great choreographer -- I don't think he puts together ballet steps in an interesting way. [ 06-04-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  19. I also had a good time at this performance. As Colleen Boresta writes, The Merry Widow isn't a serious ballet, but I don't (in theory) mind ABT having some lightweight spectacles in their repertory. And I think Merry Widow, especially when performed as engagingly as it was Sat. afternoon, is certainly better than, say, Snow Maiden...My problem is that lightweight spectacles seem, in recent years, to dominate ABT's repertory. When that's a big proportion of what they are dancing, it starts to seem a waste of talent. (When I saw that Mckenzie had acquired Onegin I was really dismayed -- 'tragedy' it may be, but still, in my opinion, another lightweight ballet. I did think that at least it would be an excellent vehicle for Ferri, who has a limited range of principle ballerina roles she can dance, but now it turns out that Ferri probably won't be appearing in it! Still, Sat. afternoon's Merry Widow was very enjoyable. The principles were excellent, and the ballet does offer up some real dancing. I thought the big Act II pas de deux for the French lovers (Reyes and Belotserkovsky) was especially fetching, and, in addition to dancing very well, both Bocca and Dvorovenko brought a lot of charisma to their parts plus -- considering that they were not scheduled to dance this together -- handled all the tricky partnering quite nicely. [ 05-30-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  20. Without a doubt the performances by the Kirov at Wolftrap and Kennedy Center in the eighties were by far and away the most beautiful of this ballet that I have ever seen. I vaguely remember that people who saw the Kirov do it in the sixties grumped that it wasn't as good as in "the old days" -- but I found the eighties performances ravishing. It is not, I think, a coincidence that one of my absolute favorite Baryshnikov performances was his performance as the poet in this ballet -- he seemed at one with the music and at one with the whole atmosphere of the ballet in a way that (in my opinion) only occasionally characterized his other interpretations. I have always felt that it was a role which he danced as if he was drawing with real love and dedication on the great Kirov tradition in this ballet, a tradition for which it had not become a languid chestnut, but remained a really compelling distillation -- in its way, a modern(ist) image -- of the "romantic" ballet. (Exactly as Mel Johson writes "neo-romantic.") What the ballet means to today's "Maryinsky" I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to...so it's my turn to bewail "the old days." In the Kirov peformances that I saw at Kennedy Center, I specifically remember admiring Zhana Ayupova in the Prelude...But everyone was wonderful. P.S. If I'm not mistaken, ABT traditionally did the ballet as Fokine last set it; the Kirov's version is a bit different and I think (??) that as director of ABT Baryshnikov had them dance the version he knew and took some criticism for it. What I loved about the Kirov version, however, was the way they danced it, not this or that detail in the setting. If ABT were to revive it now, I think it should stick with the version that belongs to its own history, and also gives Fokine's last thoughts. [ 05-30-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  21. Thanks to everyone for reporting on this.
  22. Did Makarova not participate in the gala? No-one has mentioned her. I know Dowell's partnership with Sibley must take pride of place in Royal Ballet Fan hearts, but after Sibley's (partial) retirement he and Makarova developed a quite remarkable partnership...Did Dowell (or anyone else) at least speak about that?
  23. I saw Reyes for the first time this afternoon as the second female lead in The Merry Widow. (I've forgotten the character's name.) She was scheduled to do this later in the week, but was stepping in today for Dvorovenko who was, in turn, stepping in for Ferri as the first lead, Hannah...Anyway, I thought Reyes was excellent -- danced very well and with a certain charm. The big pas de deux in Act II (with Belotserkovsky) had an especially nice flowing quality. I look forward to seeing her dance in other roles. P.S. People purchasing tickets to see Ferri later in the season should probably double check casts, since word is that she will be out for the season.
  24. I'm joining this chorus rather late, but I wanted to say...yes, yes, yes: Mcbride was truly a sensational Swanilda. Probably the best I've seen. It doesn't hurt, of course, that she danced the production I love best! I've been restraining myself, too, from the utter predictability of mentioning Gelsey Kirkland, but will restrain myself no longer! I saw her dance this twice, at two very different times in her career, and loved both performances. The first was during her very first week of performances with Baryshnikov at the Kennedy Center (Fall '74?). I saw a Friday night Coppelia, the second one they danced together. I am being that specific because it just seemed like one of those nights when everything on stage comes together perfectly. (Clive Barnes reviewed this performance and he said exactly that.) Even the rest of the company seemed, during the ballet, to be watching Baryshnikov and Kirkland with a kind of giddy pleasure. And the two of them were absolutely sparking off each other. Kirkland -- not in my memory a consistently great balancer -- stayed on pointe in arabesque seemingly forever in the Act III pas de deux, while Baryshnikov watched her with a kind of gleam in his eye. It was fabulous. And, I guess I should add, since we're supposed to be reflecting on the ballet Coppelia, that it perfectly embodied and even enhanced the gaiety and joy of the ballet. They were having so much fun. Years later I saw Kirkland dance the ballet with Charles Ward. As I recall this performance it had more pathos and delicacy, though less dazzle, than the earlier one -- this was an older and more waif-like Kirkland albeit at a time when her technique was completely and happily intact. Ward was very tall, handsome, fair, and boyish and I thought he partnered her quite well. They had two especially beautiful overhead lifts in (I think) Act III, where he lifted her way high over his head, holding her about the waist with her leg in retire, and as he let her down, the closer she came to the ground the more slowly he moved her through the air, so she just seemed to drift like a feather to the ground -- utterly weightless. I know Swanilda is not "about" overhead lifts and weightlessness, but it was beautiful -- and I do remember finding her a terrific Swanilda all round, her Act II (a bit like Fracci's) very effective in its shifting character tones... [ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: Drew ] [ 05-28-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  25. When the Bolshoi came to the U.S. under Grigorivitch's (sp?) direction, Bessmertnova (as I remember) received reviews very much along the lines of ATM711's comments. But I really enjoyed and admired her lyricism, her dark, romantic looks, and liquid bourees in Grigorivitch's choreography. I think one of the roles I saw her do (in Ivan the Terrible), may actually have been created ON her, so I probably saw her at her best. I only saw Pavlova dance once, in the Legend of Love, and my memories are not terribly vivid, but people absolutely LOVED her. She had gorgeous hyperextended legs -- with extraordinary feet. Croce wrote (again, as best I recall) that her positions really did fulfill all the curves/diagonals of the old classical ballet handbooks. I can't express an opinion on that, but they were just stunning. She also had a rather fetching stage personality. One can see these qualities a bit in the photos. Maximova was another ballerina people just LOVED. I only saw her live very late in her career, but I was quite impressed. Although I am a video skeptic -- actually I'm often quite bored by dance on video -- I had become a bit of a fan watching her dance with Vasiliev in a video of Act I of Grigorivitch's Nutcracker. (In that video, Pavlova and Gordeyev take over in Act II.) Although this was also towards the end of Maximova's career, she really captured Clara, or so I thought. I saw her live, about ten years ago, with some Vasiliev directed pick-up troop. She must have been close to fifty (?) Both she and Vasiliev were extremely shrewd about how they presented themselves. They didn't try anything they couldn't still do rather strikingly, and they paced the whole evening, so that when they appeared and did their rather limited numbers, they still came across as the evening's big stars. I do not say this critically; on the contrary, I greatly admired the professionalism. In that regard, he deserves credit, since he was the choreographer. Anyway, at this performance Maximova did very little dancing that was unsupported by Vasiliev; he partnered her in a series of lifts and carries etc. All that said, and given the admitedly limited context, I thought she was marvelous. Not just a star, but still a great DANCER. Her movements were just beautiful -- youthful and spirited with everything taut, flowing, classical. She was being held in lifts the whole time and she looked fearless besides. (I guess she and Vasiliev had been dancing together long enough!) For this performance, I was with a friend who was not a particular ballet fan and was, therefore, without my pre-disposed respect and sympathy for older legends -- but my friend was dazzled too! To my mind, it was a great example of 'once a ballerina, always a ballerina.'
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