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Paul W

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  1. SPAC's setting and the ability to be closer and more comfortable watching ballet makes this summer staple always a treat!! NYCB has seemed much more enjoyable and enticing to me at SPAC than in NYC, but you have to understand that I'm still evolving in my Balanchine appreciation quest. rkoretzky has already indicated beautifully many of the details of the Friday evening and Saturday matinee performances. Just to re-enforce her perspective, Evans is pure JOY to watch!! His movement is what I think of in picturing perfection of human movement. Such a contrast in his emotional involvement and his own obvious enjoyment in his movement and his expression of feeling compared to Nilas. "Dream" was a pleasure to watch, the Mendelssohn perfect for a dream-like summer's evening in Saratoga, and the dancers adding on the spectacular layer of beauty for the eye. Evans's Puck was definitely out of this world, Damian was ok as Oberon (in my opinion), but there is always some detachment (?, can't find the right word) I sense in his perfomances, though I like his "pyrotechnical" dancing generally. I also agree that Meunier danced Hippolyta to perfection. I have never been a big fan of Wendy Whelan, and I am a big fan of Kowroski so was not too disappointed in the Titania role on Friday. For the first time seeing "Dream" it's a bit of work to keep couples and dancers straight in the opening parts of the first Act, particularly not knowing NYCB dancers by sight that well. But I guess that's what Shakespeare had in mind. Unfortunate I didn't get to see Whelan however, since I think I need to watch her dancing from a different mind-set than I have in the past, and I was gearing up to be more attentive to her. Corps was lovely in everything over the weekend. Re: "Polyphonia", it's too bad again that this was not done at Sat. matinee, I was interested in broadening my experience of choreographers. But 4T's was not at all difficult to accept in substitution. This really must have been greeted with amazement in 1946!! Particularly liked Evans again in Phlegmatic !!, Somogyi and Askegard worked very well for me, and I always like Meunier's dancing (Choleric). 4T's, for what it represented at the time it was made and for how it still resonates, will surely be in repertory forever. "Brandenburg" makes me a Robbins admirer (not real familiar with his work)!! In particular, I am first drawn in to real appreciation of this ballet by the Bach music, especially the tempo, the allegro sections are really enjoyable and the flow of dancers was spectacular. Hubbe and Weese in the Concerto 2 Andante were my favorite duo in this. Agree again too that the third part "Menuetto - Polacca" was very beautifully danced by the ensemble group, all of whom are lovely young dancers. This one held my undivided attention throughout. Saratoga in summer is a GREAT place to see GREAT ballet!!
  2. I was at the June 16 final U.S. performance of the Royal's "Swan Lake". I can't confirm there was a quadruple fouette with absolute confidence, but it sure seemed like it to me! I thought I saw one at the end of an amazing string of several triples. Rojo's performance in these was definitely "astounding", and wonderful to behold. I don't think this came off so much as another pushing of the envelope in technique so much as an example of passionate expression of ballet's bravado element. It fit smoothly into the performance for most I would venture to guess. The applause was immediate and sustained. I agree just about 100% with everything Kisselgoff said in her review. The performances of Rojo and Acosta were spectacular!!!, artistically and technically. The corps was MAGNIFICENT !!! This was again a different Swan Lake than I have seen previously. I liked the Russian setting. My reaction to the sets and "unconventional decor" was initially somewhat confused. At first I looked with disappointment for the lake and swans (to me that was a very positive aspect of opening scene in the NBoC "Swan Lake"), then, as the performance progressed, I felt that the Art Nouveau decor enhanced the interpretation. This was a wonderful "Swan Lake" in my opinion, and I couldn't imagine better performances for the principals or the corps dancers. It was my all time favorite portrayal based on the several "Swan Lake" performances I've seen live.
  3. I'm not a fan of everything JFK did, but I would never have concluded that he considered "culture" as window dressing. Is there some factual trail of evidence to support this assertion Dirac? I can't think of any other President since I've been alive who supported and "seemed to" appreciate the arts more in the context of U.S. culture.
  4. Thanks Paquita, for a very nice synopsis of recent performances by NBoC. I'm interested in seeing the "Madame Butterfly" sometime, but probably will have to wait until Boston 2002 (May 2-19). I have not read much about this ballet; would like to hear views about the ballet and the choreographer. If you have a chance, please write some of your thoughts on the NBoC production you indicated you would be seeing. Your description of the Balanchine "Theme and Variation" gave me another ballet that I've put on my "must see" list also.
  5. In the two major productions of Giselle that I have seen, I never got the impression that Giselle actually killed herself with Albrecht's sword. She plays with it menacingly (while insanity fully replaces her broken-hearted remembrances), but to kill herself with such a long sword would have been obvious, and I don't recall that at all. I remember that Irma Nioradze, as Giselle, swung the sword in large circles along the ground (not in the air) before finally dying. On another point brought up here, It doesn't seem completely unthinkable that the Wilis could be "associated with", "hanging out at", or um..."living" in a graveyard, one where Christian graves are almost all topped with crosses. Heinrich Heine's concept of the Wili does not appear to imply that these poor maidens were sinners and condemned to be buried apart from other Christian church-goers. That has been mentioned here, but where did that idea come from? They are clearly pitiable maidens who, like Giselle, probably died of broken hearts. Wouldn't they likely be buried in the church graveyard? The traditional place for "ghosts" is certainly the graveyard, eg. when you were a child (or perhaps even now) did you not "whistle by the graveyard" to keep the ghosts of the dead buried there from intercepting you unexpectedly as you walked past? The placing of the Wilis in the forest is confusing, to be sure. This does take place is Germany, notable for its great forests close upon its towns! Perhaps this is a more interesting place to dance in the moonlight than around the gravestones. Also, are the Wilis generally portrayed as spirits with a desire to capture, through dancing to death, those (particularly young men) who happen to encounter them in their nightly release? That seems an obvious follow-on to their deprivation in life. This was clearly the implication in the Kirov production as well as the Hartford production I saw. Are they not somewhat like Yeats's Sidhe, "...if any gaze on our rushing band, We come between him and the deed of his hand, We come between him and the hope of his heart...." So their objective is not simply to dance.... Actually, during the performances I was blithely unaware of these subtleties, its usually only when I read this board that I wonder that I may have missed something. Is it possible the original creators Gautier et. al. didn't really think through all the details completely?
  6. Thanks for some very interesting discussion about young dancers promoted to "star" status. While I agree 100% with the view that competitions are not what should define a dancer's potential or actual artistic talent, I think a lot of the statements about how dancers reacte to competition are broad generalizations and cannot be considered applicable to most if even a relative minority of competitors. With respect to winning them, there certainly is ample evidence that this indeed is the case and certainly what many competitors want to result from their participation in the competition. It doesn't seem fair to me to blame competitions for what companies and company directors expect of a dancer they hire based on competitions. I think Victoria's point, expresses this exactly. Young dancers need to be nurtured no matter how they arrive on the company's doorstep. [ 04-14-2001: Message edited by: Paul W ]
  7. One thing that should be said about program notes, is that if you don't WANT to read them you don't have to. As for me, I like all the notes I can get, both to pass the time while bobbing up and down in my seat while others arrive, and to have some basis for placing the art in context. I think it is absolutely necessary for people who are seeing a story ballet for the first time, to have some historical notes and synopsis. For abstract ballets, I would like some background information about the dancers and choreographer at least, but I agree with others that I don't want it overly "interpreted" for me prior to seeing it. I can't say that I've ever read anything in the program that I wished I hadn't read prior to seeing a ballet however. Often I've wished for more. As with all art though, I think its the PROCESS of experiencing it that is most rewarding, not that you arrive at the same interpretation of its meaning as someone (or everyone) else does.
  8. My feelings parallel those of Lewis Segal. Having seen pictures of Duncan, I can't imagine her having different feelings about this. I haven't seen any of the movies mentioned nor have I any direct knowledge about Balanchine's preferences for how his dancers should have looked, but indirect evidence of its holdover to ballet of today seems obvious in many of today's NYCB dancers (in particular). It continues to strike me as odd that female dancers should be considered (by whom, by the way?) more aesthetically beautiful if super-thin. I quess there must be "taste" involved in being able to see this "line" that is apparently very important to experienced afficionados. I agree, it does seem important for outstretched movements and poses commonly taken by corps members in unison. I think "line" must be more related to overall body type (build) rather than being related to how thin that body is however. What Segal seems to be talking about is a "thinness" requirement in today's (classical) ballet world that comes from the ballet-master's standards rather than demands of the audience. Or is it the critical reviews that drive this more? Do these in charge of saying "thou shalt be thin" take audience response to classical ballet performances into account? How are they informed of any preferences audiences have? Though apparently mostly white, I don't think this establishment is primarily male by the way; perhaps most ballet-masters are male, but are most critics and reviewers male? Also, in my opinion, the super-thin look certainly doesn't seem very common in South American companies which are dancing classical repertoire. Well, someone is sure to point out that there are none listed in the "establishment's" top 10..... I have experienced watching some of the most artistically perfect dancers, yet felt there was something less than aesthetically pleasing about their performance because of the distraction of their thin-ness seen in the features of the face and the protruding bones of Balanchine's aesthetic. It's the total package that leaves a lasting impression on me I guess. I hope Segal is correct in his predictions for the future.
  9. Moscow Festival Ballet company performed Swan Lake in Burlington, Vermont's Flynn Theatre last Thursday (3/22). I assume it was part of a larger tour in the states and perhaps Canada. It appears this group has toured widely (England, U.S., rest of Europe) in the last five years. I thought it was a very fine production. First time I had seen the Jester given such prominence. In Kudelka's Swan Lake I don't recall the Jester at all, and likewise for the NYCB Swan Lake performances I've seen. Though once or twice his presence distracted a bit from parallel activity going on, I found this role added to understanding of the story through his mime. I think this performance must have been following a very traditional Russian approach, as the ending was much more "romantic" than Kudelka's also. This company was founded and is directed by Sergei Radchenko, whom I gather is a very well known former principal dancer with the Bolshoi. It was well presented and excellent for the circumstances (small stage, touring venue). My only complaint was that it was not clear who was dancing each role from the program list. I did discover that Odette/Odile was danced by Irina Kovaleva who was quite good dramatically but technically not quit up to Chan Hon Goh (NBoC) whom I've seen in the same role. She was so different from Odette, as Odile, that I at first thought it was a different dancer. Beautiful scenery and the dancing was so wonderfully "Russian". Small stage meant they had to work hard to fit it all in without major injuries. There were only 16 Swans in the Corps group, but they were exceptionally "together", and very good lighting with the white tutus creating an amazing impression. In Act II the four little swans were superb!! I noticed that the role of Rothbart was completely different than in other productions I've seen (Kudelka's, NYCB). Especially in Kudelka's version, I recall actual physical battle represented between Siegfried and Rothbart. In this production there was never any eye contact between Siegfried and Rothbart, only a hovering presence of Rothbart. Rothbart was not a major player, only occasionally coming forward in his menacing and powerfully controlling essence, who appeared to be beyond the pale of physical existence and not noticed specifically by anyone. Only his affect on Siegfried or Odette was clear. I found this production mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyable. Even though there was only recorded music (generally the sound and timing were very good) Tchaikovsky's great score and the well staged production brought out that lovely magical feeling. This was a different Moscow ballet company than I had seen a couple years ago here in Vermont when I saw Moscow City Ballet perform "Cinderella", which I also found to be very good. But I liked Radchenko's "Swan Lake" better than "Cinderella" (directed by Smirnow-Golovanov), maybe just because of the particular ballet itself.
  10. Estelle, Definitely Nijinska's "Early Memoirs" !! Many of the others may be excellent, I can't comment on them, and perhaps your interests and focus may be more toward the making of dance choreography. But "Early Memoirs" was sentimental, touching, enjoyable to read, and gave me a better understanding of an amazing artistic period at the turn of the century in Russia and Europe.
  11. Manhattnik said: "most BA readers would know that those "fluttery" jumps in Bluebird are brise volees. Right?" Well, most probably do, but I for one liked the reference to fluttery jumps to get the picture and then would really also appreciate seeing the term "brise volee" right beside it.... just for the next time I see it used without the 'fluttery' part.
  12. Thanks Veronika, for pointing out the (rather significant ) distinction in the reference to "soul" in what is attributed to Ms. Jaffe ("...it didn't call for my soul"). I agree, she doesn't imply that Balanchine's work doesn't have soul. So my apologies to Ms. Jaffe. Alexandra, you mention your surprise that new ballet-goers might be shocked to find out how much it takes to understand ballet, "...comments about how much there is to learn. I've always puzzled, though, over why this is such a shock...". It isn't really a shock so much as an enlightenment to the rich history behind ballets produced today, and how important this history remains in the minds of true afficionados... It IS a really WONDERFUL challenge!! I didn't mean to imply that I wish it were different, only that it definitely does take a major long term effort, which does require more frequent, regular ballet viewing (not painful by any means, but expensive if you live in the boonies ). Alexandra and Intuviel , I don't disagree with your views that Balanchine ballets have stories associated with them; But, I think the similarities and differences in meaning as we use the terms "abstract", "plotless", "story-ballet", and "dramatic" are all a bit fluid in this discussion. Words are getting in the way a bit. I respectfully submit that one can't really say that Balanchine ballets have stories to the same extent that Swan Lake, Giselle, Fille, Onegin etc... do. I am not in disagreement that individuals are led to perceive a story by skill of the choreographer and the artists in dancing the ballet, and agree with the perspective you expressed about these stories: "a different story for each person, or each season of life, or from one performance to another" This is what I would term abstract, its not concrete, its not absolute but ambiguous. And that "ambiguity" supports what I was trying to say initially, that it does require time and effort to fully understand and appreciate Balanchine's work, ie. to get to this elevated level of appreciation; as I said before I do find the dance movements and physicality of the dancers quite beautiful in his ballets. But, to date I have not come home from a Balanchine ballet with the same awe & reverence for the work that I sense being expressed by Manhattnik or Leigh in posts of recent days. I might be absolutely blown away by the beauty, but I am also often a bit puzzled.... For some reason, it never puzzles me at all that swans become beautiful women, dead unwed maidens haunt primeval forests, a princess and all her associates fall asleep for 100 years without consequence, and mice turn into armies to fight against toy soldiers.
  13. Dale, you've definitely initiated a very significant and interesting discussion!! I don't think from my point of interest its so much "long vs short", or "evening length vs one-act". It gets more to the premise and the question posed in your quote from Roca's article. I take the premise to be that Roca sees a dichotomy between the critical dance community (critics) viewpoint on the merit of narrative vs abstract ballet and the public (audience) view of the same. Add to the premise the quotes from McKenzie and Jaffe and this is sure to generate some sparks here. I agree with Roca's premise. This is something I have struggled with from the beginning of my heightened interest in ballet. The current thread(s) on Emploi have been very interesting, but have been a bit depressing and frustrating because of the realization that there is so much more behind this art form that is forever beyond the scope of discovery for an infrequent ballet-goer. The issue you've raised once more is also related to how frequently one is able to go to ballets. I disagree with Jaffe in general (can't contest her emotional and interpretive perspective as a dancer) because I can sense the incredible "soul" that is present in Balanchine's "abstract" ballets, even having only seen a few only once. I can understand McKenzie's statement about wanting more of a role (dramatic in the sense of filling out a narrative, I presume) than just a "meaty" (technically ?) part. Narrative ballets allow a dancer to develop more depth of interpretation I think. From the perspective of a critic, or of one of the many articulate participants on this site who write from NYC, I can see that the abstract ballets become a very intense experience. Manhattnik, Leigh, you yourself Dale, and many others are able to see Balanchine night after night. You interpret from a different database than I do. You can explore the nuances of the different casts and grow to have a keen understanding of the "intent" behind the abstractness. For me, and others who can see but one performance or so a year (and even can miss a particularly desired performance such as Mozartiana because it was canceled during the one opportunity ), growing to appreciate Balanchine's art is not so easy as absorbing the narrative ballets. To infrequent ballet-goers a single performance of Swan Lake or Giselle or Fille is much more easily appreciated (even if it might be a bit below par or less than authentic to the classic original). I guess my point is that the general public (non critics like me) loves the narrative ballets more because it takes a great deal more exposure to abstract ballets to make contact with their "artistic essence". Balanchine's ballets are definitely beautiful and the dancers are joy to watch even once, but the meaning is frequently elusive and only grasped through seeing multiple performances. As to Roca's question of whether dramatic ballets are only a "guilty pleasure" or the "highest achievements of an art form", that too can't be answered by one who has not seen repeated performances. I'll take the guilty pleasure and run at this point. But I also feel that way about Balanchine's work! [This message has been edited by Paul W (edited February 27, 2000).]
  14. My opinion on this issue, is based not so much on having seen performances of a particular dancer when not used in her/his best "emploi", but more on a sense of what has changed for companies over the years (based on discussions on this board). I'm still somewhat ignorant of what specific emploi leading parts demand in most ballets. In general, I agree with Alexandra (stars get what they want) and with Bard's Ballerina (tickets will be sold if a star dances, even if out of her/his best emploi). I'm interpreting that the concern over "emploi" is directed mostly at the leading roles in well-known ballets. I would think that occasionally a company has to experiment and give a new dancer a few different roles to discover "who she/he is, or can be". It seems that in the contemporary world the "star" performer is more important than the "team" so to speak. This has happened on most professional sports teams. I suspect it is happening with most ballet companies. I've an impression that in the past the really world class ballet companies were more concerned with and dedicated to the artistic purity of the ballet being danced (vs giving emerging stars almost continuous exposure) and employed an entire company to support this ideal. In the go-go climate of today, individual dancers (just as high priced position players in sports determine strategies) seem to have more overall influence on how a ballet is cast, perhaps because the companies rely heavily (as do certain sports teams) on these star individuals to carry them financially.
  15. I'll answer Mel's leading question , because, everyone reading this board should know that the six issue per year publication "BalletAlert" published by the WebMistress of this site and her cadre of top writers is the most informative and interesting newsletter I receive in the mail. I too found the article on page 5 of the January 2000 issue , "Fanny Elssler in America" , a wonderful piece. I've now started Guest's book on Elssler to get a full picture of the fascinating life of this Romantic era ballerina!! I'd recommend "BalletAlert" to everyone who posts here!!
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