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Everything posted by Drew

  1. Cargill -- lesbian or not, I think a Giselle in which the two wronged women decide, 'who needs this jerk?' and then run off together sounds just fine...Think -- Thelma and Louise on pointe.
  2. Estelle -- reading your post I was curious...Do the promotions (other than etoile) really depend entirely on the competition performance, or is a dancer's performances throughout the season also taken into account? Is anyone in the company allowed to compete? The system is unfamiliar to me, and I admit it seems a little strange... p.s. please imagine appropriate accents
  3. The great dancer I miss the most (of those I have seen) is ... Gelsey Kirkland. I guess no-one is gasping with surprise. Two others I miss almost as much -- Suzanne Farrell and Anthony Dowell. I did see Erik Bruhn twice towards the very end of his career, so I feel awkward saying I "miss" him, because I didn't see him enough to feel his absence as I do, say, Kirkland's -- but he is THE dancer I most regret not having seen more...I saw a glimpse of Maximova towards the end of her career, more or less just being carted around the stage by Vasiliev, and what can I say? just on the basis of that, I'm convinced that she would have been one of my all time favorites if I had had the chance to see her earlier in her career...Lis Jeppesen is another dancer whom I saw just a few times and would love to have seen much, much more...I saw Platel at the very beginning of her career and at the very end, but managed to miss her in the interim which makes me faintly crazy when I think about it... Of the great historical figures who pre-dated my ballet going altogether -- it's hard to put together a coherent list of the ones I would most like to have seen. Where would one begin...Camargo? Taglioni? That sounds like a joke, but it isn't (entirely). From the more recent past, I just missed Kolpakova which I regret -- especially now, since it increasingly seems that the Kirov style that she embodied has given way to something rather different.
  4. I'm quite sure that I have read a description of Kirkland as the Sugar Plum Fairy and it is fixed in my memory that I saw her as the girl in pink in Dances at a Gathering. (And yet? I don't entirely trust my memory here...) By the by, I don't begrudge Kirkland her rage, but fans should remember that she never danced anything (including the silliest nonsense) as if it were "triviality" glorified or not, and I believe the "dancer" Kirkland ultimately has more to "say" on the subject than the "writer"... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 21, 2001).]
  5. Leibling -- I saw her dance Swan Lake with Cyril Attanasoff towards the end of her career (at least I think towards the end). I don't recall much detail from the performance, but I do remember thinking that she was an elegant and distinguished ballerina. That is, however, the only role I saw her dance... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 16, 2001).]
  6. By the time I was through writing this, Leigh Witchel's post came up which I just read -- I agree w. what he wrote but at the risk of seeming cynical I actually will let what I originally wrote stand... This is a fan's impressions; professional dancers on this board could doubtless say much more, and perhaps correct me, but perhaps they might feel constrained by...um..er...political reasons. Also, I'd like to avoid turning this into gossip, so I'm sticking to abstractions for the most part...but I can't quite ignore the issue, because deep down I'm persuaded that there are dancers out there who should have had careers that they never quite had...whatever the complex of reasons: personal problems, luck, or, indeed, politics. Certainly with the big, international companies there is a minimal standard that the principal dancers must and usually do maintain. But there is surely some "politics," though much of it is a "taste" politics of the kind Leigh Witchel has already discussed: One director likes a certain look in his company's repertory and a gifted dancer with a different look may not be "pushed" or developed as her/his talent otherwise merits... (Hey, the Royal initially took a pass on DARCEY BUSSELL!!!! not for any sleazy reason, but because they thought she was more modern than classical -- sort of like Portland passing on Michael Jordan, only the Royal got to correct ITS mistake, whereas Portland paid with a lost championship.)Leigh also mentioned personality issues which are, after all, not always the same as artistic ones...but do involve issues of professionalism as well as "politics" or game playing...I've seen dancers underused at ABT (years ago) and heard about "personality conflicts" [RUMORS only] which could, after all, mean anything! Occasionally when a soloist or principal seems to be being pushed "beyond" her abilities I have also heard rumors, including rumors about rich families donating huge sums of money that helped to keep the company afloat. I have heard this about dancers at ABT and the Kirov -- in both cases, my personal, NONprofessional opinion was that the dancer in question was respectable enough to pass muster but, in one case, perhaps not to the extent of her favor with management; but I had and have NO way of knowing if the rumors were justified. I am, however, one of those fans who increasingly came to suspect that Baryshnikov was somehow undermining the opportunities of top notch male stars at ABT during his directorial tenure. (In each case, there was some reason why the contract "had" to be terminated; but the overall effect was a depletion of male principles that increasingly seemed less "necessary" than was claimed. When Andris Liepa was brought in as a guest star, he complained to someone whom I know, at how little he was being cast. My own feeling was that he was too little cast! However it's a little hard to judge to what extent this could be called "politics" ... Occasionally a truly terrific ballerina or male dancer will ALSO at least be rumored to be the director's lover etc. ... and as at all work places, the personal interactions often DERIVE from the professional ones, not the other way around: why wouldn't a choreographer/director fall for his "muse"? However, ballet is SO demanding from so many points of view -- even a less than gifted dancer in a tiny, local company has sacrificed tears and blood beyond what one can ever fully appreciate -- that I find it hard to believe that politics alone can sustain someone's career...it may take someone farther than they should have gone for a bit, or hold someone back (possibly a greater risk?)...but I don't think it can be a long term foundation for how companies are run. I apologize if this has gotten too gossipy; I'll let it stand now but edit if the moderators feel I should... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 08, 2001).]
  7. Terry -- one question about your question. I usually distinguish between "principal" dancer and "prima ballerina." Arguably, a first rate soloist -- say, a dancer like Rebecca Wright -- might have made a fine principal and the contingencies of the profession may have been what kept her from dancing more principal roles. "Ballerina" or, especially, "Prima ballerina" is something else altogether, at least for me. A prima ballerina is someone who (having gotten through the merely professional battles of company politics, good fortune etc.) really makes an individual mark on important repertory, someone whose dancing is authoritative or sets a standard, who influences other dancers and, if she's lucky, choreographers, and someone audiences feel they must watch at every second (even standing still), someone they remember. . .Informally, I think "prima" ballerina, in particular, is reserved for the ballerina who is considered the "top" ballerina of a company -- perhaps the one who most seems to embody its style or, to be pragmatic and prevent fights breaking out among fans, the top one or two. (That does mean sometimes that someone will say of a dancer that "she's the prima ballerina of xyz" when xyz is perhaps a small local company -- and in that context she may be the "prima" but not really in a larger historical context.) There is a still more "honorific" term, "Prima Ballerina Assoluta" that I hardly hear at all nowadays and that seems to mean something like mythic status has been attained -- a Fonteyn or an Ulanova. Some of the ballet history types on the board know more about the precise official meanings of these terms. Anyway, my simpler point was that the what makes a "prima ballerina" questions seems to me a different one from the question what makes someone a principal rather than a soloist...Certainly I expect a principal dancer to be able to carry a ballet, to take responsibility for making it "work" -- a soloist, after all, is often only responsible for a variation or a minor dramatic character, important but not central. "Ballerina" and "prima ballerina" are titles for which I still have a somewhat more mystical reverence. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 06, 2001).]
  8. I haven't read much in the way of sheer, unreserved praise for Darci Kistler this season. I myself hadn't seen her dance in a few seasons and have never been a particular fan (though I've enjoyed particular performances), so I went to see Duo Concertant this afternoon (2/4) not knowing quite what to expect... Well, I have nothing but sheer, unreserved praise for Kistler's performance. Every moment was danced -- lived -- in full, radiant bloom. Michael1 commented recently on the difficulty of coming up with a vocabulary of praise, and I'm afraid I don't have the vocabulary to do justice to Kistler's extraordinary presence as a dancer -- its richness, responsiveness, and joy. This was a gorgeous performance and a gorgeously danced one -- full of detail yet expansive and performed AS IF with utter spontaneity. (I want to emphasize the quality of dancing because I do NOT mean she "compensated" for other weaknesses by being beautiful Darci Kistler; I have seen this ballet before -- Mazzo, Farrell, Borree -- and this was as true a ballerina performance as I hope to see in it.) By the by, I struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me; he had never seen Kistler before and had specially come to see her. He was NOT disappointed and said repeatedly (something we all know about Kistler, but still worth valuing): "she glows." He did say that her feet may not be as sharp as some twenty year olds (and I agree), but also that it didn't matter. Still, in emphasizing the quality of her dancing, I would say, that her entire body has a sharpness -- in the sense of a quality of responsiveness and aliveness -- far in excess of dancers with sharper feet; moreover, her dancing is all of a piece...ALL of her is dancing. Leigh Witchel recently commented on his memories of her dancing the final secion of Duo Concertant and certainly her simplest gesture was memorable. I particularly liked the way she held her hand up into the spotlight with her fingers splayed apart so that it appeared like a miniature lyre; I, at least, thought of the picture, now on display in the promenade, of Balanchine holding the Orpheus "lyre," and the way in which that image can super-impose itself on the ballerina/muse image that closes this ballet...and when she drew her hand down and touched her cheek it had great delicacy and pathos -- she's a human being as well as a muse. But her performance in the earlier sections was just as wonderful -- the way her entire body seemed to swing into the opening "conductor" like moves with which the dancing opens and her large open fourth positions which seemed to just radiate outwards, the playfulness of her skips and turns, the fluidity of her arms etc. etc. etc. I'm a little embarassed at writing such an obvious fan letter -- but based on some recent remarks I've read on this board I would never have guessed I was in for such a treat, so I decided to offer a no holds barred tribute. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 04, 2001).]
  9. I saw Kirkland in Sonnambula at the Met. and thought she was extraordinary -- otherworldly, touched with madness, utterly concentrated and internally focused; her entrance on point appeared to have a supernatural quality of speed and sharpness. My memory of it is somehow of movements both flowing and abrupt. I have, however, never seen Allegra Kent in the role (or anyone else) and another fan who had seen Kent complained, in the strongest terms, that Kirkland got the role "wrong" because at the end there was a pathos in her facial expression -- as if she just barely registered the poet's death. Kent, I gather, danced the role completely impassively (no facial expressions) and the result was quite eerie and, by all reports, amazing. As I remember it, Kirkland, at the end of the ballet -- though scarcely moving a muscle on her face -- did communicate a hint of pathos. Her eyes seemed to glitter as if with unshed tears. Perhaps this was "wrong," but I found the performance just mesmerizing. Manhattnik -- I would love to hear your impressions of the film fragments of Kirkland at the Dance Collection. (Haven't seen them myself, and don't know when I will have the chance...); and ORZAK -- I, too, would be interested in reading about your career (should you ever choose to write about it). [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 21, 2001).]
  10. I have also sometimes wondered about how and whether the "hardier," more peasant Giselle works, since all of the great Giselles I have seen have been delicate and dreamy. But I do from time to time read in a critic that "so and so" (i.e. Seymour, but also -- I have a very vague memory -- Spessivitzeva [sp?]) performed it with a somewhat different edge and that the interpretation worked powerfully etc. The description of Seymour that I read indicated that she was more of a deliberate suicide, really plunging the sword etc. I'm guessing, too, (but it is only a guess) that it's not so much that such interpreters dance Giselle as if she were a farm worker out of a Millet painting, as that they give the role a fresher, more earthy and earthly quality. Anyway -- I, too, would love to hear from people who saw Seymour's Giselle... (The Links section connects to a review of a new production staged by, as well as starring, Sylvie Guillem, that seems to aim at offering a more grounded, dramatic Giselle . ...I, unfortunately, have never seen Guillem in this role...)
  11. I also thought of Kirkland as I always found her to be a wonderful and truly memorable actress/interpreter. When I looked at La Fosse's book, I found some of his complaints about working with her rather short sighted. That is, in talking about certain rehearsals he went on about how absurd it was that she worked on things the audience would never "see" and then admited that the actual performance was utterly remarkable and unique. It is as if it never occured to him that her working methods and the results she got may have been related. I saw Kirkland's Kitri three times and every second something was happening; even when she was standing on the side of the stage while others were dancing she was "alive" in the role and more interesting to watch than anyone else. I don't doubt that it was difficult for some people to work with her -- and La Fosse has a right to dislike someone personally -- but the difficulty and the artistry were, in this case, clearly part of the same package. Still, there are dancers who (unlike Kirkland) seem to make their mark in the public's mind PRIMARILY for the distinct dramatic impact they make in roles. Marcea Haydee (sp?) was, in my experience, far more actress than dancer...Lynn Seymour was a very interesting dancer certainly, but the thing that made her "Lynn Seymour" to many fans was her ability to impress a character into her dancing. When I think of dancers of this genre I often think of dancers who are willing to risk their vanity on stage, willing to bloody themselves up as it were... I never saw Seymour's Giselle, but I have read her Act I described as a hardier, more "peasant" Giselle than the delicate, dreamy creatures that one usually sees (at least nowadays). Keith Money's photos of her in The Invitation -- a Macmillan ballet, created for her, in which her character is raped in the course of a garden party -- suggest, too, that she was emotionally fearless on stage. (Others reading this board may have seen her in these roles, and I would be interested in hearing what they have to say.) One role I did see Seymour dance a couple of times was the role Ashton created for her in A Month in the Country. One of the very memorable qualities of that performance was that even within the context of balletetic stylization she came across as very real, very human. The performance also captured a whole variety of moods -- of loneliness, of passion, of loss...As a dancer, I thought her movements had a textured quality that I don't know how to describe; it was as if one had a sense of the weight of her body as she moved. This was perhaps part of what made her seem so "real." [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 19, 2001).]
  12. I only just saw Polyphonia this evening -- from one viewing, I don't have much radically new to add to what has been said but I'm balletomane enough to want to give it my spin anyway. I partly agree with several of the criticisms above and in Leigh Witchel's review, but overall still feel more like Manhattnik and Juliet...That is, I left the theater happy, intrigued, and wanting to see the ballet again. This is only the second Wheeldon ballet I've seen; the first was a rather slight pas de deux done for Darcey Bussell at the Royal -- pas de trois if you count the skirt which, in the opening of the ballet, had a rather large role to play. So first, I was happy with Polyphonia, because I finally had the chance to see for myself that the interest in Wheeldon is really justified. Also, I do think this ballet is about something -- albeit the something it is about, is just what is giving people pause. That is, it's about its quotations and allusions. The ballet even "stages" this with its theatrical lighting effects: when it opens with the four couples at the back of the stage in an allusion to and revision of Agon, the lights shine on that opening movement sequence in such a way that gigantic shadows of the couples are projected on the backdrop. The effect is repeated at the close of the ballet. It is as if Wheeldon is signaling that this is a ballet made to be a kind of shadow image or double of others. (Juliet referred to "shadow patchwork quilts.")...as if, too, he is signalling that it is a ballet overlooked by the giant shadows of Balanchine ballets past (Episodes, Agon...)Maybe that's a little fanciful, and almost certainly Wheeldon doesn't entirely pull it off, but I don't think he is working without thought -- and I do mean "thought" as refracted/embodied/suggested by the choreography, thinking through bodies, not concepts that can't be seen. I also felt that even some of the most Balanchine-esque sections had distinctive inflections and qualities: the Agon type movements of the first pas de deux for Whelan and Soto also involved some lifts that had an eerie weightless quality that seemed to me rather different than Whelan/Soto in Agon...their third pas de deux had images of Soto cradling Whelan, sometimes distored and intensified into a kind of grasping, climbing imagery. This, too, seemed to me something more than re-cooked or cutesy Stravinsky ballet left-overs. (I have to admit, though, that I don't know the City Ballet repetory "cold" the way others here do; in particular, although I've seen Forsythe and Martins ballets, I would only very rarely recognize specific quotations of their work...) One section of the ballet that many critics and people on this board have (rightly!) singled out for admiration is the material for Ansanelli -- the brief pas de deux with Craig Hall and the solo that follows. This is one of the most distinctive sections of the ballet. I don't know quite how to characterize the choreography, but one effect that Wheeldon uses (and elsewhere in the ballet, but mostly in Ansanelli's solo) is to have the dance phrases start -- and start slowly, gravely -- during a rest or pause in the music, so that the musical phrase seems to arise from soloist's movement or even her mood rather than vice-versa. Ansanelli also has a quiet, repeating step (image really) when she bourrees with her back to the audience and her arms in second, and then gives her arms the barest suggestion of a ripple; it is as if there were the barest recollection of Odette's exit at the end of Act II of Swan Lake. In my eyes, this was not an ingenious quote, but a delicate way of crystallizing the private, distant, slightly dreamy melancholy that infuses the whole solo. I would have to see the ballet again, before I would say that the whole merely fell into parts -- but I understand the criticism. (It's a risk, too, that is aggravated when one assembles a score from a group of piano pieces that were not written as a suite or grouping of any kind.) Still, the final movement drew on an energy and on imagery that clearly developed from earlier sections of the ballet. Whether it really worked to pull the ballet together, is hard (for me) to say on one viewing, but perhaps not. I did think, too, that some sections of the ballet were decidedly slighter than others -- usually those in which I also thought the Ligeti music was slighter (or at least brighter, more tonal) than the others. Most egregiously, in the closing section when the whole ensemble straighten their arms and flex their wrists, criss-crossing their arms etc., the ballet does start to look like an apprentice work or merely "external" attempt to reproduce the company's modernist style, rather than exploring it from within...but for the most part, I found Polyphonia rather better than that. Finally, it was excellently danced by everyone -- but Whelan was quite special. Part of what makes her special is that she is NOT just a rubber band or a contortionist; Her movements have weight and shape as well as stretch and flexibility. (No-one has really said otherwise, but somehow that suggestion seems to hover between the lines of how she gets described). Ansanelli, as the above already suggests, was also quite lovely. Andrew Veyette replaced Edward Liang. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 18, 2001).]
  13. Interesting -- I couldn't help but mentally applaud the OTHER side of the point, with which I strongly agree: if Martins' is going to take the heat for everything people dislike about NYCB, he certainly deserves some credit for the wonderful young ballerinas who have emerged in the company -- especially in an era a little thin in ballerina talent... (I realize I've reworded what Leigh Witchel said, but I think/hope I have it right.) [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 12, 2001).]
  14. Sort of a grim topic... Vaslav Nijinsky's mental breakdown...Tanaquil LeClerq's polio...Gelsey Kirkland's difficulties with anorexia and drugs...Yuri Soloviev's suicide...Kenneth Macmillan's premature death from a heart attack...These are among the most important dancers and choreographers of the twentieth-century. The death of so many talented dance artists from AIDS... There's something of an abyss between this type of tragedy (like the death of Emma Livry) and sleeze/corruption adventure that marked the American Ballet's problems! I gather from another thread on Ballet Alert that some of Ballet Arizona's problems stemmed from problematic management, though the company was, happily, rescued... There are, too, what one might call self-inflicted tragedies -- say, the Balanchine-Farrell relationship which resulted in tremendous upheaval for many City Ballet dancers (just read the interviews with Farrell's contemporaries!!!) as well as Farrell, Mejia, and Balanchine himself. For some, Kirkland's career would fall under this rubric as well...In the former case (but perhaps even the latter), the causes of the tragedy are all too intimately linked to the causes of the artistic accomplishments. But there are other careers where interpersonal or political problems/issues probably affected careers rather brutally and in some cases unjustly and senselessly. Some cases of which I'm thinking are really matters of gossip so I won't repeat them, but certainly on the public/political front it cannot have been good for the Panovs as dancers to spend so many years under a de facto house arrest. P.S. After reading this over, I realized that it might seem odd to some that I don't view suicide as a self-inflicted tragedy -- this is a difficult issue, but let's say only that I consider it linked to mental illness and not necessarily a choice that is under someone's control. Assessing "choice" is always enigmatic...perhaps no-one makes tragic choices consciously, but anyway I stick to my original distinction... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 07, 2001).]
  15. Drew


    I really take exception to Cygnedanois's idea that American dancers have a "mass produced" look. NYCB dancers (to stick to her example) often have a quality of attack and boldness that, to me, seems quite the opposite of mass-produced and anything BUT subdued (whatever their facial expressions). Actually, to my NYCB "trained" eyes, certain other companies (whatever their "nationality") seem subdued in the quality of their movement. I suppose that even the decision to be more interested in the expressiveness of "attack" or, conversely, facial expressions, marks a distinct stylistic "taste" or attitude towards ballet artistry. In any case, facial expressiveness of a certain kind would be largely inappropriate for much of the NYCB repertory. As for "mass produced" in general...Any unified style, especially if it is performed mechanically, can take on a mass produced look, and that includes very ornamental, dramatic styles etc. The risk-taking, off center style of much NYCB dancing is, whatever its faults, not mechanical. Actually, under Balanchine, NYCB dancers may have been allowed a little too much individual leeway in port-de-bras and the corps was occasionally sloppy. This is less true under Martins, but the result does not look any more "mass produced" than any other disciplined, major company. Obviously, too, NYCB principles and soloists have quite distinctive qualities in their dancing: think of the recent up-and-comers Ringer, Kowroski, Somogyi. And Martins has a history of favoring some genuinely quirky talents like Watts, Whelan, and Horiuchi. (For those who don't know the dancers to whom I'm referring, I'll just say that everyone I have named has a very different body type, for starters.) Perhaps to eyes used to one company or school "style," certain distinctions in other companies/schools are less visible, but it's a little quick on the draw to start musing about American "mass production!" As for the idea that Parisian training is merely "training" tout court, and every other school is somehow training+inflection of a particular kind -- I'm pretty skeptical. No-one doubts that the POB school is one of the best in the world; one can believe in its excellence without having to buy into the notion that there is such thing as a pure ballet medium OUTSIDE of particular coaching/training/emphasis -- which would be, in effect, to say outside of history. However, I could not agree more that this has little to do with "nationality" -- except perhaps insofar as nations have histories; these would include, say, the history that brought the French Didelot to Russia or the Russian/Georgian Balanchine to the U.S. That is: ballet history (as has been referred to above: choreography, coaching, schools, and even superstar performers) has the most significant bearing on these questions. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited January 04, 2001).]
  16. I only wish I could go every day!!
  17. Impressions of Sunday afternoon the 29th. An extremely full -- long and varied -- program: Prodigal Son (Stiefel/Wiles), Lilac Garden (Kent, Belotserkovsky, Hill, Fishbach-replacing Brown), Black Swan pdd (Murphy, Picone), Etudes (Dvorovenko, Malakhov, Corella). Prodigal Son still seems to be settling in with the company. Stiefel was surprisingly withdrawn, dramatically blank even, in the opening scene. It was as if his imagination was not the least bit inspired by the Prodigal's desire to break free of family etc. -- but (and here I agree with Dale) he got much better -- much more involved -- in the later scenes; I particularly liked his energy and physicality in all the male/group ensemble dancing. He seemed as if transformed, buoyant and energized. Perhaps this was the effect Stiefel was going for -- as if leaving home set (something) in the Prodigal "free." For me, though, the opening was just too low key. The two servants -- this cast, Radetsky and Kalinin -- were again excellent). Stiefel's fascination with the Siren was convincingly boyish (as was, unfortunately, some of his partnering in the trickier positions), and -- as Dale reported -- he handled the closing scenes very well also. . .Wiles (debut??) has much more the body and temperament for the Siren than Herrera, and -- despite some tentativeness and shaky spots -- seems on her way to an impressive characterization. Her movements had some of the necessary sharpness-with-impassivity and she came at least close to filling out many of the ballet's more striking images -- despite a few near flubs in the pas de deux, obvious awkwardness in undoing the cape so the Prodigal can remove it, and indeed other glitches in the production as a whole that were working against her. (As when she enters on the men's shoulders when they are shaking down the Prodigal and the spotlight didn't hit her until the sequence was pretty much over . . .) Since I complained about Herrera's hands, I should note that Wiles' were similar so I guess that's how they were told to hold them. Since Wiles' longer legged, more flexible body type (and a temperament slightly more suggestive of sexual mystery) worked for the role, the broken fingered look didn't bother me as much. When the curtain came down people in the row behind me and in front of me simultaneously opened their programs and read out loud to the person sitting next to them "Michele Wiles" -- so, she made an impression. Lilac Garden was beautifully danced -- Kent and Belotserkovsky very nicely matched, but I confess I could only admire it, as it were, from afar and I'm not sure why. (This is how I always react to Lilac Garden except for the one time I saw Kirkland as Caroline.) I would be interested in hearing from people who saw this ballet in the 40's and 50's, since my suspicion is that there's a quality of neurotic repression that today's dancer's don't know how to convey, and perhaps don't really grasp, which might make the ballet richer -- more like a Henry James novella and less like its masterpiece theater adaptation. This is not a slap at Tudor: I always find the ballet formally quite compelling, I just don't see it coming to life. The Black Swan pdd got a huge ovation -- for Murphy especially. I'm delighted with her too and this performance showed her fearlessness and, in the solo, wonderful control. She was trying out an icy, imperious persona and seemed to be enjoying it thoroughly. . . but the performance also underlined some of the ways she is still underway to being a ballerina. The icy, imperiousness -- perhaps unavoidably in an excerpt like this -- had a little bit of playacting about it. I vowed not to count fouettes, but I know she began with single/single/multiple (double, maybe triple); repeated this a few times, shifted to singles, travelling forward, and then (I wasn't counting) stopped a little early. Her position in passe is lower than I'm used to and the overall effect was nowhere near as beautiful or controlled as the rest of her dancing. . . Picone danced with largesse and seems a good partner for her -- very affectionate and gracious during the ovation that was clearly much more directed at her than him; he seemed to join the audience in adoring her. What a guy! Etudes was fun, though two performances in one week is a little much for me. (Thanks Alexandra for posting that very interesting article though.)Malakhov doesn't jump as high as he used to, but his movements are thrillingly beautiful, his footwork wonderfully sharp, and his partnering of Dvorovenko in the "romantic" pas de deux matched her dancing in elegance and delicacy. Corella was just sensational, brilliant and (until some jumps at the very, very end) completely controlled even as he seemed utterly spontaneous. Really, he dances better than ever and still with all the tear up the stage eagerness he has shown since the beginning of his career. Dvorovenko was quite as wonderful as Wed. evening -- some of her turns even sharper and more brilliant -- though she, too, towards the very end had a brief off balance moment. Fortunately she and Corella both are such pros, they sort of swept through their (very fleeting) problems. Essentially, with this cast, one hardly knew where to look. The women demi-soloists were different than Fri. and -- at least to my eyes -- slightly stronger, but it's still the men who are the most consistent. Anyway, I know these are long reports, and I am NOT a professional critic, but I have absolutely no-one with whom to discuss performances in detail or even in general, so here's where I spill it out... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 30, 2000).]
  18. I attended Wed. the 25th. (I don't know whether that should be a new thread or not, but I'll put it here and let the moderator decide.) The program was Theme and Variations, Prodigal Son, Etudes. Prodigal Son had good elements but did not work because the siren, Paloma Herrera was (beyond) badly miscast. I thought Corella was a good Prodigal -- somewhat petulant and spoiled in the first scene but with terrifically high energy and intensity -- it was a legitimate interpretation -- and the pathos (especially when he took his first fall to the ground after having been stripped of all his goods) natural and affecting. But the absence of a Siren completely kicks the guts out of the ballet. Herrera is not merely too short, she has no "siren" in her stage presence, no adult sexuality -- not even withheld or "cold" sexuality -- and the idea of her dominating the Prodigal was, to say the least, unconvincing. Her actual dancing was also inadequate to the choreography. One detail: Her hands seemed wrong -- she was cupping them or holding them too softly to achieve the sharp broken line that I have seen other ballerinas offer and that I assume Balanchine wanted. In any case, it didn't work. She also seemed to have difficulty getting her body into the shapes demanded. There's a sort of crab walk (the siren is walking on all fours, but with her body facing skyward) from which the Ballerina kicks up her leg. Herrera's hips were sagging the whole time, so that it just looked like awkward gymnastics. But the problem was not this or that step -- she was just unable to connect with the part in any way. I think this is the harshest I have ever been about a dancer on this board, so I'll add that I do think it was a bad miscalculation to cast her in the role at all. . .The company was okay, no better. Ethan Brown unpersuasive as the father, and the ensemble didn't achieve the image of the boat as effectively as I've seen it done in the past. As Michael 1 reported of the gala cast, the two servants were a rare strength in this production -- my cast (according to the program): Gennadi Saveliev and Sean Stewart. Theme and Variations with Gillian Murphy and Belotserkovsky was accomplished and enjoyable. Murphy was very impressive (no gargouillades though), and communicated calm in her upper body, with grace and detail in her port-de-bras, as her lower body was speeding through enormously difficult combinations with precision and confidence. (Her dancing was, I should add, all of a piece -- my prose divided upper and lower body, not her performance.) She could afford to look at her partner more, and -- good as she was -- once or twice (e.g. at the end of her first solo) she seemed to "relax" into the movement and suddenly become really gorgeous, really distinctive. At those moments, you were suddently aware of how much better she still can be. However, even at the level she is now, she is terrific -- well worth seeing. Belotserkovsky was fine, not 100% on top of every difficulty just yet. The program closed with Etudes which qualifies as what another thread called a "guilty pleasure." The cast was Dvorovenko, Gomes and Picone. Dvorovenko was terrific -- equally enjoyable as the image of 'classical' and the image of 'romantic' ballet. (For those who haven't seen it, the ballet has separate episodes in which the ballerina appears in different styles). She made the very pastichy "romantic" section a mezmerising episode of little flirtatious details and amazingly airy dancing. In the concluding allegro section, her jumps were as impressive as most male stars, and altogether (as far as one can judge in such an utterly thin piece of choreography) she looked like a young ballerina in bloom. For the men. Gomes looked to be having such a good time, that I hate to carp, but for this ballet to be tolerable the dancing has to be truly sensational. He was very good -- but not quite sensational. Picone is back (!), looking to my eyes at least, a little less macho than he used to -- perhaps because of his new Lizst-like hair. His long legs were effective in the big flashing jumps of the ballet's final section. I thought he handled the beats and footwork of his solos quite well, too, though presumably the role was created for a Bournonville dancer and it would be fun to see a real Bournonville dancer in the part. Mostly, I was just happy to see this tall, beautiful dancer back on stage. . . In both Theme and Variations and Etudes the ensemble was overall impressive, but the men especially. Actually, in Etudes, the women were ragged here and there, one or two of the demi-soloists etc. ran into difficulties (nothing too obvious, but if you happened to be watching that dancer at that moment . . .) The men, however, were more consistently impressive (at least to my eyes). Mckenzie's attention to male dancing is important -- but classical dancing cannot live on men alone. . . I'd like to see the women equally consistent. I will say that the energy and elegance from the company all evening (in the Balanchine and Lander) came across very nicely. (And this was the first non-gala performance, so the company as a whole is probably still settling in . . .) For me, the best part of the evening was my growing confidence that with Murphy and Dvorovenko the company has newly emerging ballerinas -- which it needs. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 27, 2000).]
  19. Alexandra: if I hadn't been laughing while I read your response, I would have found it depressing -- though not surprising.(By the by, I rushed back from ABT tonight to learn the fate of the Mets and, what do you know, the men were hitting the ball with a stick. . .)
  20. Alexandra (and other professional dance critics on the board): do you think dance criticism in magazines/newspapers suffers more than other arts -- classical music, theater, painting -- from editorial skepticism about dance as a serious art or dance writing as true "criticism". . .? I confess this is a suspicion of mine, but I don't really know the journalism "scene." I do often feel as if I am reading errors or finding lapses in dance criticism in magazines (and newspapers) that I can't help but feel might have been caught if it were not "just" dance writing. It's not so much that I think editors know more about other art forms as that at least they seem to grasp that there IS such a thing as expertise. Do you think dance is treated as a poor relation, or is this my own projection? (I do , after all, have more opinions about dance than other arts . . .) P.S. I typed this and then realized it was off topic -- I'll post anyway. Certainly, it would be interesting to hear from artists being reviewed on this issue as well. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 25, 2000).]
  21. A friend has sent me long e-mails about a British historian named Hamilton-Williams who is presently attempting to right the balance of British historiography on the subject of Napoleon -- not exactly ballet history, but meant, as it were, as thanks to Estelle for responding on the subject of Lifar (along with other reflections). I very strongly agree with what Alexandra has written about audiences developing certain "eyes." For similar reasons, seeing a great ballerina for the first time can sometimes be almost disconcerting. It can take a few performances before you "get" what she is doing. . .(I had an English, primarily RAD trained, ballet teacher who seemed to find watching Suzanne Farrell a slightly painful experience -- even when he admired what she was doing. That may be too obvious an example, since Farrell was, in some ways the antithesis of the RAD style . . . I admit -- somewhat shamefaced -- that it took me more than one performance to "get" Assymulratova, and I'm still not sure how her name is spelled.) [This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 09, 2000).]
  22. Perhaps, at one time, Lifar...(Estelle -- if you are reading this -- you might know more about his past and present reputation; I'm under the impression he has been taken more seriously in France than elsewhere...) Also, for some fans there is still a divide across Lincoln Center Plaza. I have sat next to NYCB subscribers -- during Martins' Swan Lake yet -- proudly telling me they would never go to ABT because the productions (of the classics presumably) are just a bunch of people walking around. Speaking for myself, I have always been puzzled as to why Russian ballerinas seem so fond of offering The Dying Swan as a gala piece... Sometimes -- my own examples may be evidence of this -- "cultural divides" really amount to a kind of provincialism or insularity. Denby has a hilarious passage about national styles (sorry, this is from memory) in which he says that all ballet fans the world over agree that there are two "best" most wonderful styles in ballet -- one is the Russian and the other is, well, gee, that of their own national school. Denby adds that he never argues, since -- in a manner of speaking -- that's his opinion too. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited October 07, 2000).]
  23. Cynthia Harvey also danced as a principal with the Royal Ballet for a time. When Anthony Dowell danced w. ABT he partnered her occasionally, and after he took over as director of the Royal he invited her to appear with them. I'm pretty sure she danced in a revival of Ashton's Ondine. Yeager never became a truly distinguished principal -- just an opinion of course -- but the last time I saw her, which was also one of her last performances with ABT, she gave a very well-prepared and, I thought, very nice performance in La Sylphide. (Baryshnikov danced James.) Since I had never particularly admired her, I was quite pleased and am happy to have this as my final memory of her dancing. [This message has been edited by Drew (edited August 30, 2000).]
  24. I saw Allegra Kent just a couple of times. The performance I remember was in Agon, and she was mesmerizing. She danced the pas de deux with Bart Cook. Unfortunately, I do not remember clearly enough -- or have the vocabulary -- to convey what they did technically. I do remember seeing the same roles with Farrell and Martins a day or two later and thinking that Cook and Kent were somehow warmer; their dancing had more physical tension, even more emotion, thought it was not conveyed through "acting." I also loved the Farrell-Martins performance and I'd have to say that Farrell is one of my all time favorites. If a dancer can be said to have an influence on a fan, she is one of the dancers who really influenced me. Among dancers of a slightly earlier generation, too, Violette Verdy was wonderful, with great personal charm. Just the way she glanced across the stage with her eyes could be effective. Taking a longer view, though, there are all too many Balanchine muses I haven't seen. Photographs have made me particularly curious about both Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil Leclerc. I would also love to have seen the young Tamara Toumanova in the first version of Mozartiana! Admitedly, the "I would love to have seen..." can easily get out of control, but it intrigues me that Balanchine came back to that music several times and, at the end, specifically for Farrell in a ballet in which the ballerina is surrounded by girls about the age Toumanova was in 1933. I'm not suggesting some deep connection, but I am curious about that earlier version (or vision). And whatever impression one has of Toumanova's later career, by all accounts she was a gorgeous "baby" ballerina. I think, too, that Balanchine's relation to the ideal of the ballerina-muse went even further than being inspired by great dancers. He seemed able to turn (almost) anyone into a muse if necessary. A different Balanchine-related thread on this board has mentioned some of the less innately gifted ballerinas with whom he worked including Kay Mazzo. But, of course, he created two of his greatest ballets for Mazzo -- Duo Concertante and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. And, in those ballets, he really used, brought out, or somehow invented, HER distinctive qualities. In fact, those two roles are arguably "about" a choreographer's relation to his ballerina. Karen Von Aroldingen is another example. Think of her role in Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertaenze. In that ballet, she plays, if you will, the more earthly muse figure while Farrell originated the more transcendent one, but I don't think you could say that Balanchine wasn't genuinely inspired by her. This may not be exactly what's meant by Balanchine's muses, and dancers like these aren't too many fans' favorites. But the kinds of roles he created for them are remarkable testimony to Balanchine's "internal" muse... [This message has been edited by Drew (edited August 17, 2000).]
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