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Steve Keeley

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Everything posted by Steve Keeley

  1. This move can also be seen in Gamzatti's variation in the pas de deux of "La Bayadere." its proper name is grand fouetté relevé en tournant en dedans. Here is the description of the move from the "Ballet CD-ROM": And I agree with Gia that Michelle Wiles did them beautifully, with a clean stop at each attitude before launching into the next grand battement. ~Steve
  2. First of all, a plug for the home team: the ballerinas in "Being John Malkovich" were all from San Diego's California Ballet. Discovering this company is one of the joys of having moved here. The movie version of "Chicago" has just been released on DVD. The role of Hunyak (the Hungarian-speaking and only innocent member of the "Six Merry Murderesses") is played by Ekaterina Chtchelkanova (aka Ekaterina (Katya)Schelkanova or Shelkanova). She was trained at the Vaganova Institute, danced as a soloist with the Kirov before joining ABT as a corps member in 1995. Some of us have fond memories of her as a soloist with ABT. She can also be seen on film as one of the four little swans in the Swan Lake excerpt from "Center Stage." Since leaving ABT she's been a guest principal with several regional companies and the last I heard she was in the ensemble of Tharp's "Movin' Out" on Broadway. In the hyper-aggresive "Cell Block Tango" number in "Chicago" her segment stands out for being lyrical and balletic, finishing with a graceful penchee. It's interesting that among all these jazz dancers they used a ballerina to represent the innocent (and tragic) character. According to director Rob Marshall, she was also quite daring. The character gets hanged twice; once in a realistic scene and also in a vaudville representation where she dives off a platform with a noose around her waist. Katya insisted on taking both drops herself rather than using a stunt double. ~Steve
  3. My reaction is pretty much the same as Victoria's. It was a fairly painless hour and a half of television, but I'm glad I didn't go to the bother and expense of seeing this at a theater. The choregraphy was modern with just a few flourishes of ballet tacked on. At some points, such as when Iago is expressing his angst, it was so cliche'd it verged on parody. The music was portentious but largely empty of content and was forgotten as soon as it ended. The dancers were wonderful, giving the choreography far better than it deserved. Yuan Yuan Tan alone made this worth watching. ~Steve
  4. I do tend to focus most of my attention on the women... Friday night's Solor was Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Saturday afternoon's Solor was Sergei Filin. Both gave strong performances, and I couldn't say which I preferred. Friday night's Bronze Idol, Morihiro Ivata, was very impressive with strong and clean movements. Denis Medvedev on Saturday was not as precise.
  5. I was at the Friday night and Saturday afternoon performances. La Bayadere is my favorite full-length ballet and I loved both performances. The corps was sigh-inducing in it's uniformity, placement and stylistic integrity. The female leads on Friday (Galina Stepanenko as Nikiya and Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti) were the stronger of the casts, although Saturday's women (Anna Antonicheva and Maria Allash) were also quite good. The choreographic additions, I assume by Grigorovich, often verged on silly. Gamzatti is attended by a group of fan-bearing slave girls whose dance looks like it was intended for circus clowns. (These were ecstatically happy slaves.) The Golden Idol was also attended by a fan club of what seemed like teenage groupies. The choreography for these girls would have looked entirely in place if performed by the fans in a road company of "Bye Bye Birdie." Fortunately, the bulk of the familiar choreography was left intact, with none of the fussy flourishes that Nureyev threw into his production. I missed the pesky little girls in the Manu (pitcher) dance though. I was happy to see that Nikiya's second act solo included the "hootchie kootch" section; I've always been a sucker for that part. The sets are nowhere near as opulent as POB's or the Universal Ballet's. To my eyes they looked a lot like the sets for the Makarova production. The interesting aspect of this production was the LACK of scenery for the shades scene; the stage was bare and the ramp, which consisted of a straight section across and two ramps down, was all black. Nothing to see here but the dancers. As far as I was concerned, they were all I needed to see. A sort of epilogue was added after the shades scene where Solor goes to the temple alone and it collapses around him (apparently leaving him unharmed but still distraught). This part was pretty much unnecessary.
  6. What happened to all the Southern California posters here? The Bolshoi just concluded a run of "La Bayadere" at Costa Mesa and there haven't been any comments. Didn't anybody attend?
  7. Thanks, Leigh! This is happy news indeed. I'll be checking the PA Ballet board looking forward to reading news of this beautiful and exciting dancer.
  8. The first name that springs to my mind when I hear the words "dancer's dancer" is Fred Astaire. ~Steve
  9. Perhaps the piece is by Andrei Ballanchivadze, Georgi's composer brother. ~Steve
  10. Perhaps the piece is by Andrei Ballanchivadze, Georgi's composer brother. ~Steve
  11. Over the past few years, I've gone through many favorite dancers, but while others have risen to the top and later dropped back down off the list, Susan Jaffe has always remained among my top 3. I'm going to miss her. ~Steve
  12. I also found towns called Swan Lake in Idaho, Montana and Nebraska. William Byrd Park in Richmond, VA has a lake called Swan Lake. In Canada, there are lakes called Swan Lake in Manitoba and Yukon Territory. Manitoba also has a town called Swan Lake (nowhere near the lake of that name). Saskatchewan has a set of lakes called Swan Lakes. There is also a lake by that name in Victoria, Australia. ~Steve
  13. Actually, ABT was in San Diego not Orange County. This was the first time in 15 years that ABT has been here, and since I've made my home in San Diego for the last 4 years this was an exciting event for me. Usually, I have to make the 75 minute drive up to Costa Mesa to see any major company. I had feared that the terrible events of the past week would put a damper on the performances, but the opposite happened; after four days of immersion in the horror of the attacks in NYC and Arlington, the audience was immensely relieved to have the chance to turn away for a moment and revel in the beauty of ballet. The three performances were for enthusiastic and joyous crowds. Due to the company's late arrival and the lack of a conductor, Friday night's performance was to recorded music. The program was Clark Tippet's "Bruch Violin Concerto," Paul Taylor's "Black Tuesday," and Natalie Weir's "Jabula." "Bruch" is a pleasant enough piece and was nicely danced, especially considering what the dancers went through to get here. "Black Tuesday" was appropriate, since it depicted New Yorkers making the most of a bad situation. While it has darker overtones, these were lost in the mood of the crowd (and perhaps the dancers) and it came off as a fun piece. "Jabula" received an energetic performance, and although it's just a piece of faux-tribal claptrap IMO, the crowd seemed to enjoy its propulsive momentum. The glories of the visit were the two performances of "Giselle." Much appreciation is owed to PNB's Stewart Kershaw for driving down from Seattle to conduct. Both performances were absolutely gorgeous, with the corps performing remarkably together and with a convincing romantic softness. Saturday night's cast was led by Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel, with Ethan Brown as Hilarion, Gillian Murphy as Myrta and Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in the Peasant Pas de Deux. Sunday afternoon's performance starred Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky, with Ethan Brown again, Carmen Corella as Myrta and Anna Liceica and Marcelo Gomes in the Peasant Pas de Deux. I'm far too lazy to go into a comparison of the two casts and really didn't make note of the details while watching, preferring to just watch and let the performances carry me along. Both casts, in their different ways, completely transported me into "Giselle's" world, and made their characters live for me and move me. By Sunday evening, the dark mood of mingled sadness, horror, anger and hate that had taken hold of me on Tuesday morning had finally been washed away. Humanity is capable of ugliness and beauty, but in time the ugly deeds become something to read about in history books and shake our heads over; remote events. The beauty remains a living part of us and those who survive us. ~Steve [ 09-18-2001: Message edited by: Steve Keeley ]
  14. Mark Dendy also did a version of "Swan Lake" for a company in Germany that was set in the White House and, in the Siegfried role, featured a philandering president. ~Steve
  15. I assume you are speaking of the company known as "Moscow Classical Ballet". I saw their "Nutcracker" in Costa Mesa in 1997 and found it quite enjoyable and beautifully danced. If you are not ballet-saturated in your area, I'd definitely recommend going. ~Steve [ 08-13-2001: Message edited by: Steve Keeley ]
  16. I feel that a performer's obligation to me ends when the curtain comes down, and generally leave them alone. Funny you should mention Susan Jaffe; after a performance of "Suzanne Farrell Stages Balanchine" at the Kennedy Center back in the Fall of '95, I was in line behind Jaffe waiting for a taxi (she had performed in the first ballet that evening) and we wound up sharing a cab. I waited until we reached her destination and she was getting out before I said anything. ~Steve
  17. There's a short article about the Universal Ballet in Sunday's New York Times. At the end of the article, the subject of sponsorship comes up: ~Steve
  18. And they're likely to stay unaware, unless they recognize the names of Dr. & Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, listed in the program as Founders & Patrons. There is no mention anywhere in the complimentary program or the souvenir book of the Unification Church. ~Steve
  19. In another topic, a couple of posters expressed reservations about attending a performance by the Universal Ballet because it has received funding from, and was founded by, Rev. Moon. There was no suggestion that the performances were in any way colored by the philosophy of his religion; merely his sponsorship was enough to warrant shunning the company. I compared this to boycotting the Kirov and Bolshoi in the past while they were sponsored by the communist Soviet government. I was wondering how others felt about this. I'm not talking about the case where a company presents works with a blatant political or religious message, but a straightforward classical company tainted only by the beliefs (not expressed in the performances) of it's founders, sponsors, or directors. Would any of you refuse to attend the Paris Opera Ballet because you don't care for the current leadership in France? How many of you will pass on the National Ballet of Cuba because you don't like Castro? Has anyone refused to attend ABT until they no longer receive funding from Philip Morris? Under what circumstances (other than a reputation for lousy work) would you shun a ballet company? ~Steve
  20. We seem to have wandered a bit from the subject of the performance. I'll start another topic on boycotting elsewhere. Didn't any other West Coasters attend and have comments? ~Steve
  21. I guess that's a legitimate response. Were you so fastidious about attending performances by the Kirov and the Bolshoi when they were supported by the Soviet regime? I don't really know much about Moon's church, but it can't possibly be as scary as the Soviet Union was. I can assure you that nobody at the Music Center tried to hand me a pamphlet. This is a well-funded company, and neither Universal Ballet nor Rev. Moon will suffer from the loss of your ticket purchase. But you will miss a stunning display of classical dancing. ~Steve [ 07-23-2001: Message edited by: Steve Keeley ]
  22. I just returned from watching the Universal Ballet perform "La Bayadere" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. In a word: Wow. Gorgeous sets and costumes and a corps de ballet to rival any world-class company. This production is very similar to the Nureyev production for POB, but perhaps even more sumptuous, and without the silly Nureyev additions. And although the Shades act in Nureyev's version starts with 32 shades, 6 drop out after the entrance dance (at least when performed in Costa Mesa). In this production all 32 shades are used throughout. While the work by the principals and soloists was fine, especially Eun-Sun Jun as Nikia, the real star of this production was the corps. I sat through this performance completely enthralled by a company meticulously coached and drilled, yet which performed with spontaneity and joy. It bears repeating: Wow! ~Steve
  23. I attended both the Tuesday and Wednesday night performances of this program since I wanted to see as much of Viviana Durante as I could. I greatly enjoyed "Amarcord." The music was mostly from Nino Rota's score from the film, with additional pieces by A. Schnittke, Glenn Miller ("In the Mood"), and M. Schiavoni. (Felix Mendelssohn is uncredited in the program, but his Wedding March from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is also used.) I wouldn't describe "Amarcord" as a contemporary ballet. If we use the term "Contemporary Ballet" here to describe the fusion of ballet with modern dance, what term should we use for something like "Amarcord" which is a fusion of ballet with show dancing? (How would one describe Balanchine's "Union Jack?") The choreography here (by Luciano Cannito), while using mainly a ballet volcabulary, had the energy and exuberance of a musical. Whatever one calls it, I found the choreography a perfect fit to the music and the dramatic structure of the ballet, soundly and logically constructed. It was also great fun to watch. The cast of excellent dancers performed with enthusiasm and joy, fully acting as well as dancing their roles. I found both viewings to be exhilarating. (But I know one Ballet Talk member who hated it, and expect there are several of you out there who will not like it.) "Carmen" was first performed in 1949, and looks it. The choreography, especially for the leads, is very idiosyncratic and probably only really works on the original dancers. The weakness in these performances was, as Lara said, a lack of connection between the leads, similar to the lack of sizzle that one sees in the Jeanmarie-Baryshnikov video. Massimo Murro had the same detached air in this work that he had as the Nazi officer in "Amarcord." There it fit; here it's fatal. He seemed more like a disinterested observer than a man overcome by passion. But Viviana (wearing a Zizi-gamine wig) was a joy to see, anyway. (How can such a tiny gal have such long legs?) Alas, the role of Carmen in this ballet is fairly one-note, so she didn't have the opportunity to bring much of her dramatic qualities to bear. But unlike some dancers who are known as "dramatic," Viviana also has terrific technique to draw on, and got to display it here. She had trouble with that fan in both performances. In the first, it flew out of her hand at the end of her solo. After a slight pause while she thought about what to do about it, she gave a slight body motion that expressed not "oops" but a very haughty, in-character "Damn!" She then swooped to pick it up on her way to tap Don Jose with it, staying on the music throughout. The second night, as Lara reported, it split on her. The rest of the cast of "Carmen" performed beautifully, especially Beatrice Carbone. But after "Amarcord" with its propulsive momentum and dramatic continuity, The episodic "Carmen" with its spikey, mechanistic choreography was unfulfilling. The program would be improved by performing "Carmen" first. ~Steve
  24. The following was written by John Fraser in his book "Private View: Inside Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theatre": In a less eloquent vein, I'll just say that the sight of a long-legged woman in a short skirt dancing gracefully and elegantly on her toes does something for me. ~Steve
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