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Drew

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Everything posted by Drew

  1. 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 ]
  2. Thanks to everyone for reporting on this.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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 ]
  6. 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.'
  7. Tragedies having an "even" number of acts seems odd to me, because in French drama, (neoclassical and romantic) tragedies do have five acts -- i.e. an odd number -- as do Moliere comedies. Phedre has five acts and so does The Misanthrope. In the romantic era, Lorenzaccio has five acts etc. and this is all pretty much par for the course...The source Alexandra is remembering may have been referring to some particular context or rhetorical handbook (?) -- I don't know much about this.
  8. I would agree that one of the problems with Dvorovenko's Act II is that it tends to fall into a series of gorgeous bits, though I find more to admire than Manhattnik. But I would defend the arabesque penche -- with the arm extended towards Albrecht -- at the ballet's end. It did not seem like a trick to me, but an image that suggested Giselle's divided being at that moment. She yearns earthward towards Albrecht and the pull of gravity, but is drawn skyward towards heaven and the world of spirit. (I did think that, as she's on a ramp and has to anchor herself on the cross while she performs the arabesque, she should work on disguising the dependence on the cross more completely. She almost had it, but not quite...)
  9. Mussel -- what a great story! Though one has to admit (and perhaps gen-xers should be warned) that the rest of Bayadere is not much like the Shades scene! Still, they might like Act II of Swan Lake... P.S. Looks like I will have to take a pass on Pied Piper, but I can't say these reports are causing me much regret...other than Corella.
  10. Drew

    Wheat or corn?

    Cargill -- I don't know if you meant to imply this, but I've sometimes wondered if St. Leon didn't even intend the sheaf of wheat to be a distant echo of Giselle's daisy. Coppelia often seems like a comic replay of romantic ballet themes...
  11. I saw Fracci when I was a little girl and remember loving her in it -- especially the Act II, in which (as I remember) she utterly transformed herself from dance to dance. I don't know if this would be my "grown up" opinion...and this is not one of the roles that people typically mention when they mention Fracci...but my memories of Act II are still sort of alive, so I'll stand by it!
  12. I came to the Coppelia discussion a few days late and didn't read this thread until after writing about Coppelius and Croce's writing on the ballet under the 'do you take the ballet seriously' question. I won't repeat what I said there, but strongly agree with views that take a more complex,'dark' view of C's character. I don't think it has to be played that way in any and every production, but I think the story and the music totally support that interpretation. He is, after all, a kind of would be Pygmalion...I saw Niels Bjorn Larsen and thought he was very intense, very dark -- I didn't pick up the connotations Alexandra mentions, but from what I remember it seems very likely to have been part of his thinking if not literally his actual interpretation. (Larsen was effective and, to my eyes, not "offensive," but given what I've written elswhere at Ballet Alert! people may not be surprized if I say, it hardly seems to me an interpretation that needs to be developed or underlined in modern productions...)
  13. Drew

    Coppelia Act III

    I've always found the Balanchine Act III quite sensational...the Wagner parody all the richer when you consider the date (1870) and the finale just thrilling. I even like the little girls. I thought that (in most traditional productions) celebrating the bell IS mentioned in Act I. The mayor (or whoever) announces it and the gift for anyone who marries on that day and then asks Swanilda and Frants if they will marry; that leads Swanilda to dance with the sheaf of wheat etc. The production I'm probably remembering is Franklin's for the National Ballet (which I think is very close to what he did for ABT), but I don't think this is unusual; it may even be in NYCB's -- I just don't remember.
  14. Presumably Frants falling in love with a doll is meant to be a parody (or comic demystification) of all those silly ballet heros who fall in love with sylphs and naiads and dryads -- i.e. the unreal and untouchable -- literally, the girl on point (i.e. with mechanical accoutrements) instead of the girl in soft slippers. (I know Swanilda is on point, but she does do character dancing, and plot-wise she's an Effie who fights back.) The Barbie doll is a kind of popular version of this type of (sometimes obsessive) idealization. Just listen to people who collect Barbie dolls!
  15. I strongly agree that the score plays a role in Coppelia's being a major ballet -- but also the story, which is loosely (admitedly, very loosely) based on a Hoffman story that has generated volumes of interpretation including a very famous essay by Freud. Just the human/mechanical opposition gives the ballet a deeply resonant theme, and one it shares with other major art works; it's a theme that also allows for metaphors that reflect on ballet itself as an art -- e.g. anxiety about the mechanical, heartless quality of ballet technique. (The whole ballet plays character dancing off against classical pointe technique etc. -- presumably lots of bad nineteenth-century ballets did that, too, but in this case it gets thematized or reflected on in Swanilda's Act II transformations. It's a ballet 'about' forgiveness etc., but also a ballet about ballet. Maybe that's why Balanchine wanted to stage it.) Taking a somewhat different emphasis, and one that would relate Coppelia to earlier romantic ballets, Croce describes Swanilda as a Shavian heroine who has to bring the dreaming/fantasizing hero down to earth and back to real life -- with Coppelius a kind of failed artist who never did entirely return from his dreams back to the everyday. (I'm paraphrasing Croce based on memory and may be elaborating a bit.) In a sense Coppelius is a belated version of Pygmalion -- Pygmalion in the age of mechanical reproduction. Even the Wagner parodies that the Balanchine/Danilova version include partly underline the way this is a ballet about ballet (or theater more broadly), as well as a ballet about the undoing of romantic myth. No more unattainable dream women (Sylphs or Valkyries) -- or, rather, a robot instead. None of this would be able to take theatrical effect, if there weren't the choreography to sustain the sheer dance interest. That's why it's a ballet and not a Hoffman story! But the evidence of the various productions I've seen is that enough remains of the "original" -- steps/structure/atmosphere -- to say that there is a choreographic template and it works. I agree, too, with Luka's comment that the ballet's rich history counts for something in this discussion. It's an important work if for no other reason than that it has been the scene of important performances. That alone might not be reason enough to keep staging Coppelia, but it is a part of the larger picture. I guess it's clear by now how I would answer the question. Yes, indeed, I do take Coppelia seriously as a major ballet! [ 05-21-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  16. I was actually quite dazzled by whole sections of Dvorovenko's Act II -- she has such an extraordinary jump. At moments she really looked (to me) as if she were flying and floating weightlessly. And at the most exciting moments, the dance seemed to compel her rather than the other way around. Like Manhattnik, though, I thought Act II was certainly the stronger Act.
  17. I thought Gelsey Kirkland gave a more thrilling and really unforgetable performance in Baryshnikov's Nutcracker than Marianna Tcherkassky. (Tcherkassky was lovely though.) I never saw Makarova in Other Dances, but Kirkland also gave some performances of the ballet in D.C. that were absolutely remarkable. Bejart was once quoted as saying that when he created his Romeo and Juliet he never dreamed he would have a ballerina as wonderful as Farrell to dance it...
  18. Jimmy Carter was a supporter of the arts -- he not only sponsored televised performances at the White House -- but often attended performances in Washington, not necessarily gala events either. I saw him myself at a performance of _Amadeus_. As for ballet specifically, I always understood that Kissinger liked ballet...I know I saw him at at least one performance (not a gala), and in an interview, Farrell mentioned meeting him after a performance, and commented that he seemed to really know something about dance. (Of course, she may have been being polite, and Kissinger's attendance at ballet performances would have had little or no bearing on arts policy!) But I remain pretty indifferent to the personal tastes of these figures, though -- up to a point -- I do appreciate public policy that supports the arts. However, I very strongly agree with Dirac's comments about the Kennedys. I have been quite appalled by the uncritical tone of many intellectuals and artists on the subject of the Kennedy administration. From a specifically "arts" perspective, one might invoke Salzberg's question -- are the arts better off? -- but actually I don't think it's always easy to know if the answer is a straightforward "yes." I also think that it does matter that the arts and intellectuals generally were supported during the Kennedy administration in large part because American artistic and intellectual institutions, including the New York City Ballet, were seen as weapons in the propaganda wing of the cold war. If you want references, a somewhat sloppy book recently came out about this: Frances Stonor Saunders _The Cultural Cold War_. It's full of silly mistakes, but the overarching argument and research that went into it remains worth attention. One might respond, "who cares" if public and even some private funding (Ford Foundation) that spurred the dance boom can ultimately be traced to the CIA? Didn't the arts benefit? (See Saunders book if you want references...) And I would add that ALL arts support is likely to be 'tainted' in some way or another, if not politically then commercially, socially etc. But in a larger perspective, I don't think the supporters of the arts should be indifferent to what is going on -- or WHY it's going on -- partly because there are situations where independence can be compromised, but also for more pragmatic reasons. It may, for example, account for patterns of public support AND their withdrawal. Today's arguments against public funding of the arts rarely mention, for example, the end of the cold war and, in the meanwhile, people look back (in my opinion over idealistically) to the Kennedy adminstration, as a time whe the arts were "understood." But if in fact federal support for the arts has often been motivated by other, seemingly alien issues, like foreign policy -- then a great deal of this debate, however sincere on all sides, simply misses what is really happening.
  19. I saw the new Wheeldon at the Sat. matinee -- for those who don't know, it's a "backstage" ballet. When the curtain rises, it's as if we are watching from the wings while a company rehearses and then premiers some sort of romantic 'fairy' ballet. (The set, by Ian Falconer is very striking at creating the effect of watching 'from the side' -- and Wheeldon's choreography sort of plays with this odd perspective.) When the ballet opens, Ansanelli as the "young dancer" comes out and, thinking no-one is watching, peforms a solo facing the curtain-in-the-set -- as if she is imagining herself dancing the lead at a performance when that curtain will go up. I was really enchanted. (Remembering Ansanelli's solo in Polyphonia -- it seems she brings out something in Wheeldon and Wheeldon something in her that's quite wonderful.) Anyway, for a few minutes, I thought this was going to be a ballet about the magic of the theater -- perhaps comic, certainly naive, but a valentine. But actually, as it unfolds it's much more of a farce -- with some pretty and even some pretty dazzling dancing -- and lots of gags. For example, at the "premier," the male lead leaps about the fictional stage in his solo and as he enters the 'wings' he collapses in exhaustion; from the point of view of the real stage, our point of view, he collapses downstage. The plot, such as it is, is back stage kitch (though I kept thinking, All About Eve if Eve were the heroine): a self-involved and affected prima ballerina (Maria Kowroski) gets her comeuppance, an injury, during a partnering mishap with a member of the male corps, and the sweet and talented young dancer (Ansanelli) dances the premier in her place with an admiring and sympathetic premier danseur, (Damian Woetzel). It made me a little queasy to laugh at a dancer getting injured -- Kowroski lies on the floor sticking up a horribly turned in foot while Woetzel runs to get her an ice pack -- but the gags throughout were more or less amusing. I agree with Manhattnik that it's hard to know how they will age. The pastiche choreography of the ballet within the ballet and the other "backstage" choreography had some charming passages and the virtuoso choreography for the "premier danseur," in particular, was appropriately showy and fun. Ansanelli was lovely throughout and it turns out Kowroski can do low parody as well as high elegance. Still, the ballet never seemed to return to the delicacy of the opening solo. Perhaps if I had known what the genre was beforehand, I wouldn't have been disappointed. One of the later comic sections did hint at that earlier quality -- a dance for the backstage crew, mopping the floor while the stage manager (a girl in overalls) joins them, at one point actually standing on their linked mops and being swept across the stage with a beautific smile on her face. It seemed to me like a comic parallel to Ansanelli imagining herself as the ballerina. For a moment, the ballet seemed to say: everybody wants to dance, everybody dreams of being the ballerina. But the ballet as a whole settled for less. That said, I did enjoy it and I think it's a great addition to the repertory -- partly because it's like nothing else they have. [ 05-12-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  20. I don't read that much ballet criticism so it's hard to comment, but I'm jumping in because one thing Alexandra wrote surprized me very much -- that anyone would say they are uninterested in writing about ballet because 'everything has been said.' For a major art form (even for an important 'type' within a larger art form -- dance) ballet has attracted comparatively little great writing. And the critics whose names are usually given out as great are decidedly quirky even eccentric both as observers and writers. That's not a knock on those writers, but if someone new is knowledgeable and passionate about ballet, there's plenty left to say...The other issues raised seemed somewhat more plausible to me... As a reader, I do make a big distinction between dance writing in newspapers and dance writing in weekly/monthly general interest magazines and another somewhat smaller distinction between the latter and specialized dance publications. The attempt to make the writing livelier for a newspaper audience when transferred to, say, the New Yorker or The New Republic or the Nation or National Review (I'm trying to be politically ecumenical) sometimes just makes it seem as if the critic in question scarcely takes the art seriously him or herself. I am also pretty skeptical about critical writing that sounds like fan gushing or, for that matter, internet chat. One example: I read what I considered was justified praise for Stepanenko's Shades Scene in Bayadere in a (highly thought of) general interest journal. The critic made the point that one hardly ever saw a ballerina who could handle every one of the ballet's challenges, but then went off into some excursus about this "girl" dancing "like a miracle" -- that was not (in my opinion) poetic or evocative, but just plain condescending and even undermined the excellent point that had just been made. Stepanenko is not a "girl" she's a senior ballerina (in her thirties surely) with a major ballet company, and her dancing isn't a miracle -- she's an extremely well-trained, well-coached, and accomplished ballet dancer. I myself have been known to gush here at ballet alert! but I'm not a professional critic writing for publication in a prestigious magazine. One doesn't have to be puritanical -- genuine wit is fine -- but ballet fans must often lament the fact that somehow their favorite art form isn't taken as seriously as, say, symphonic music or dramatic literature; well, part of a critic's job should be to show people that it is. The same critic writing about a particularly good season Wendy Whelan was having (several seasons back) speculated that a new boyfriend might be making the difference. I later saw, elsewhere that Whelan herself commented publically on her personal life that season, but the critic didn't cite Whelan, but just threw the remark out there (wink! wink!); well, if the top critics don't take ballet dancing seriously as a craft and an art, who will? It's not a Herbert Ross movie in which love affairs and miracles are the real points of interest...and in relatively serious journals/magazines I don't think that's a productive way to develop a ballet audience. (I would cut a lot more slack to newspaper writers who have huge editorial limitations and a much more amorphous audience to face.) P.S. I thought it was quite gracious of Rachel Howard to respond to the comments she saw posted here... [ 05-08-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  21. Thanks Manhattnik -- I never saw the Baryshnikov cast in Four Seasons, only Farrell and Martins. As far as silly goes, though, I'd say the whole ballet is "pretty silly" -- nowhere more so than in the "Fall" section -- but when it's high spirited and terrifically danced silliness (which I thought it was Sunday) it works...
  22. I strongly agree that there are ballets and productions in which the super high extensions are just 'wrong.' But I also find that the overall quality of the extension matters. When Sylvie Guillem uses a super high extension as, say, Odile it looks "natural" -- in the performance I saw, at least, she didn't strain or distort her upper body, her placement/line (other than the height of the leg) was classical, she danced securely and musically. The use of the legs was integrated into the whole dance performance. Also, she didn't use the extension indiscriminately, at every opportunity, though certainly more often than other ballerinas might have. I've seen other dancers who were so busy getting their leg way, way up and then down that they fell behind the music and their extensions were, likewise, accompanied with distorted upper bodies etc. So, even in a ballet where perhaps the high extensions are not, in my opinion, exactly right, I might find a Guillem (or Bussell) persuasive or, at any rate, be able to enjoy their interpretation...while with another dancer I would just feel, 'no, this is not the way it's supposed to look...'
  23. After the actual quote from Neumeier "about a human being the center of everything," I couldn't quite tell from A.M.'s original entry whether or not the rest was also a a paraphrase of Neumeier, or, rather a quotation or paraphrase of the author of the newspaper article (or even perhaps A.M.'s own thoughts about the ballet) so it seems a little hard to judge, especially since we're dealing with multiple translations (Neumeier into Russian? Russian into English?) [ [ 05-07-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  24. Attended a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon performance. It opened with an all round excellent performance of Four Temperaments -- the dancing (everyone) seemed focused, energized, musical, precise. At the end when the ensemble forms parallel lines and the women are lifted and carried between those lines, their legs and arms extended wide, they all had a kind of expansive springy energy in the air, as if they could have continued the ballet, dancing beyond the stage and upwards. From an individual point of view, not everyone was the very "best" in their role that I've seen, but everyone was just "on." A terrific performance. The Garland/Lafosse ballet Tributary was new to me. I gather this was originally done w. the Dance Theater of Harlem, but this afternoon was just NYCB...Anyway, the ballet didn't make much of an impression on me, and there was some peculiar mishap with a couple in the corps who, I guess, missed an entrance, so that some of the formations that were presumably meant to be symmetrical were not symmetrical. But for one viewing it was pleasant, and the leads Nicolaj Hubbe and Jennifer Ringer were excellent. She has such a beautiful epaulement, she makes every shift in pose and position a rich dance event, and she's just always dancing, even when she's still or in a pose...She also always manages to have a connection with her partner. Wonderful! An unexpected pleasure of the program (unexpected for me) was The Four Seasons -- I saw this last season with a largely different cast and was more or less bored silly. (I was even more bored at the one other post-Farrell performance I have seen of this ballet and had more or less given up on it.) This afternoon it was a joy to watch, a sheer pleasure; top to bottom everyone was dancing beautifully -- a few really exceptionally. Winter was Riggins/Ritter (really high, soft jumps)/and Jeroen Hofmans...Spring Philip Neal and Ringer. She was absolutely gorgeous in this. She dances as if dancing -- BALLET dancing -- were her native element. Neal was an appreciative partner and offered some particularly strong, beautiful chaine turns. Summer was Helene Alexopoulos and James Fayette; she is always gorgeously sensual in this, but what was particularly fun about this performance is that he just about matched her in lush intensity. In Fall all three principals were terrific -- Whelan had real ballerina flash: she didn't just dance the role beautifully, but really put over its absurd splashiness. Woetzel was as engaged as I've ever seen him -- it wasn't so much that he was jumpig and turning brilliantly (he was, though not quite the best I've seen him) as that he was performing the life out of it, which is exactly what this ballet needs; he was even preening at times, to which the audience decidedly responded. One thing I don't remember seeing before was a series of turns with leg extended a la seconde which he punctuated by periodically jumping from and landing on the turning leg [sic] and immediately resuming his turns all the while keeping his working leg a la seconde. Millepied, as the faun, was both funny and spectacular and in a jump or two genuinely hovered in the air. The whole ensemble danced wonderfully -- even the four pantomime figures symbolizing the seasons seemed galvanized. Altogether a happy afternoon. [ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
  25. I went Friday night which, overall, I thought was a very fine evening. (I don't have the program so apologies for any spelling errors in dancers' names.) The middle section of the program was fabulous -- great ballets, great performances (from principles and ensembles alike): Monumentum pro Gesualdo with Charles Askegard and Maria Kowroski, Movments for Piano and Orchestra with Askegard and Helene Alexapolous, Duo Concertante with Darci Kistler and Hubbe. Although these three are all 'modernist' Balanchine set to Stravinsky, and Monumentum and Movements are traditionally paired as if one ballet, I was happily struck with how distinct each one is. In Monumentum Kowroski seemed to embody the whole spirit of the ballet; she danced with purity, austerity, and perfect control -- the whole ensemble seemed at once courtly yet very strange, because so very abstracted. The more self-consciously modern -- distorted, disjuntive -- look of Movements actually seemed less abstracted, partly because Alexapoulos and Askegard were very intensely connected -- constantly making real eye contact with each other etc. I would not say that they "acted" but that was almost the effect of the way they danced, as if straining to establish some kind of relationship through the unbalanced, extreme movements. Alexapoulos was as exciting as I've ever seen her -- daring, forceful, charismatic. In both ballets, I really enjoyed just watching the way the ensemble is used to reshape the stage perspective -- it's as if, in each movement, when they regroup, the stage is being 'turned' to a slightly different angle. Duo Concertante has a more tender, intimate quality than either of these works, almost a kind of fragrance. I've raved about Kistler in this before and I greatly enjoyed this performance with Hubbe. (I confess, though, that a crying child next to me and a hyperactive adult in front of me, meant that I was slightly distracted for part of it.) The evening opened with a somewhat uneven performance of Divertimento no. 15. The ensemble was sloppy in the first movement though a little better later, and the five ballerinas were decidedly uneven. The principles were Martins/Angle/Higgins...M. Tracy, K. Tracy, Yvonne Borree, Jennifer Ringer and Jenny Somogyi. This is a beautiful ballet and after the first movement the cast did succeed in putting it over. Still, it was less than an ideal performance -- with one happy exception, Jenny Somogyi. She was ravishing throughout. Her dancing was utterly simple, articulate, elegant and, in the adagio even melting in a way I hadn't seen from her before. All of the solos were reasonably poised, but there is so much in each one, and most of the principles only succeeded in showing a rather small proportion. Margaret Tracy as the "central" ballerina had some of the speed and clear footwork to make that role work, but (I'm not sure if this is the right "technical" analysis) she doesn't seem to have the kind of open, turned out look to really expose the choreography. By the end of the solo she had gotten smaller. Ringer was, as one might expect, quite strong and lovely. When she first came out in the opening movement she looked a hint underpowered and has noticeably gained weight. However, she phrased her solo beautifully and looked lovely as well in the adagio...in the adagio she dances the moment when the ballerina extends her leg forward and arches backward (in Ringer's case, way backward) towards the man who holds her lightly under her upper arms; the way Ringer lets herself all but fall backward, it looks quite daring. A special word, too, for the "secondary" men, Higgins and Angle, who brought a kind of loving energy to their parts that really helped lift the performance (especially in the lackluster opening) -- notable in a ballet where the men sometimes just go through the motions. The evening closed with an energetic and well danced performance of the Concert (led by Miranda Weese who looks great in hats)...but for me, it couldn't help but feel a bit of a let down after the other works. I've only seen it once before though (many, many years ago) and I'm not sorry to have seen it again. The dancers, too, seemed to have a good time. I may go one more time this week and I will try to post on that...One final thought, though: I was a little more than 2/3 back in the orchestra center, and many seats in the rows in back of me were empty as well as some scattered seats on the sides. I thought this a surprisingly disappointing showing for an excellent and varied program. [ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]
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