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Alexandra

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Everything posted by Alexandra

  1. Ripped, stuck, and otherwise entangled costumes always make for an interesting performance, but how 'bout a bomb scare? When Paris Opera Ballet brought Nureyev's "Swan Lake" to DC in the mid-1980s, there was a bomb scare that emptied the theater (all the theaters at the Kennedy Center, actually), and it struck Swan Lake right before they started to dance the white swan pas de deux. After 45 minutes outside on a pleasant summer night, watching swans sip champagne (who but the French would stop by the bar during an evacuation?) and Nureyev stride, his most princelike, even though wearing a bathrobe, up and down to the delight of two tour buses that decided to drive by at 11:00 o'clock on a Friday night, the building was declared save for swans and the performance continiued. They skipped the second act and zipped into Act III. I guess they figured we knew the story. In Act IV, Nureyev inserted a pas de deux for Odette and Siegfried, and this is where my Great Save comes in. Florence Clerc and Nureyev danced the white swan pas de deux instead. I liked this; the audience expected a white swan pas de deux and a black swan one, and darned if we weren't going to get it. But the white swan pas de deux didn't work here. It's a falling in love pas de deux, and the fourth act calls for a I know you didn't mean it but we're going to die anyway pas de deux, and seeing Clerk realize that 30 seconds in, and change, without changing a step, a falling-in-love duet into a farewell, was one of the most moving and most theatrical moments I've ever experienced, and worth every minute of the 45 we had to wait for it. alexandra
  2. Well, I was afraid if I wrote "ballerinos" people would think it's a typo! This is this week's Question of the Week, and it's the brother of last week's ballerina question (which you may feel free to answer until the shores are bare of sand.) Who are the great ballerinos of the day? Five star generals, the ones that will get in when they write the "Great Male Dancers of the 20th Century" book? My nominees? This is harder, in a way, beause we're in an age of the male dancer and there are so many good dancers. I have several favorites (Peter Boal, Alexei Fadayechev, Yuri Possokhov) that are very good, but I'm not sure are quite, quite, quite at that head table level. Maybe four-star generals. I think I'd nominate Manuel Legris. He's gt the technique and the style, and an incredible range. There are other French and Russian men that perhaps should be included, but I just haven't seen them enough to know. There are also several young dancers (Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel) who may be great, but as yet, for me, are just promising. Hmmm. Anyone more decisive out there? alexandra
  3. Thanks, Jane, for having the courage to say what I've been wanting to say! I was not a Makarova fan either. Partly because I was a Fonteyn fan, and loved the Fonteyn body and Fonteyn classicism. I saw so many dancers in ABT who could have been "after Fonteyns" change their line to be "after Makarovas." Also, she never moved me. I remember the Giselles, so beautifully danced, and I'd be all set to be swept up by the mad scene, but the same sense that she was calculating about what she was doing -- all too aware of her effect -- stopped it. The one thing I adored Makarova in was the Don Q pas de deux. In that, the playing to the audience, the snapping of the fan, the whole show, was in the right key. (Strange, in the one performance of her Kitri in the full ballet that I saw, she didn't have the same effect and seemed, of all things, rather palid.) alexandra
  4. Welcome, Margot, And don't worry about writing long. We want to courage "balletomanes" to talk about their experiences watching dance. alexandra
  5. I never saw Beriosova dance on stage, but I have seen her in a film of "Enigma Variations" and it's one of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen. The combination of restraint and warmth, vulnerability, the hint of a hidden heart -- all with impeccable technique and style, and so musical. She's one of the dancers I was so sorry to have missed. And to imagine, that the Royal had her AND Fonteyn at the same time, with Antoinette Sibley and Lynn Seymour coming up. We've lost a lot. alexandra
  6. Alexandra

    Gelsey Kirkland

    Oh, Jane, I envy you. She did one Aurora in New York when she was ill, and at her lowest weight, and a friend who went told me it was the bravest performance he'd ever seen in his (long balletgoing) life because she refused to cheat and did every step, though it was hard to watch, because of the condition she was in. I didn't know she had done so many in London. With whom did she dance and how was she received? alexandra
  7. I think that's very good advice. My problem is, I'd be afraid that if I met, say, Gelsey Kirkland, I'd be befuddled, and get it wrong, like, "I just loved you in Push Comes to Shove." One of the simplest things to say if you meet someone right after the performance is: "Thank you for tonight." That can work under almost any situations. In situations where you really aren't feeling very grateful, but feel you have to say something, a wise older friend once told me the perfect save: "You must be very proud." (Of course, that works more for the choreographer or dancer's mother than the actual dancer him or herself." When in doubt, be sincere. If it comes out as a gush, I don't think they'll mind. alexandra
  8. All of them, Dale, because that's the only way to tell. alexandra (who loves Giselle, but, then, came to it in the mid-'70s and saw at least a dozen great ones)
  9. The idea of capturing and/or kidnapping one of one's favorite dancers and forcing them to answer all of ballet's unanswered and unanswerable questions is one I'm sure we all can understand. And think how much better it would be if you had a video camera there to shoot your victim as she demonstrates. There. Presto, it's a video question. You experienced a video moment with Mme. Makarova. You just forgot your camera. alexandra
  10. I think you've just set a repertory for a whole new ballet company. Do you think you could get funding? alexandra
  11. I've never heard that one, but ABT does seem to treat the role as a soloist role -- and, at least in Van Hamel's day, seemed to think it had to be danced by a tall woman. Of course, it is a ballerina role, and when danced by a ballerina, makes the second act look even more glorious. Danilova was, by all accounts, a grandlioquent Myrtha. The best Myrtha I ever saw was Mette-Ida Kirk, in Copenhagen, back when the Danes had an extremely beautiful and poetic production of "Giselle." She's a tiny woman, but queenly and, for this role, she was a demon. She danced as though anger propelled her dancing. She also had epaulement, something we don't see much of these days, and it's the best example I'd seen of how epaulement is integral to the choreography, not just one of those silly little old-fashioned decorations. When Myrtha jumps with epaulement, she really seems as though she is flying. It's as though the shoulders, with those teeny little wings, are propelling her; the legs are incidental. alexandra
  12. Some of the most enjoyable performances I was ever privileged to see were of Martine Van Hamel in Petipa roles. "Raymonda," "Swan Lake," "Kingdom of the Shades," "Sleeping Beauty." I loved the richness and the vulnerability of her dancing, the sense of command that she had (without being in the least arrogant), and most of all the way she had of making dancing seem a private pleasure, but one that she would gladly let others share. Some days, I miss Van Hamel more than any of them. alexandra
  13. Question of the week: Please nominate your candidate(s) for the reigning ballerinas. Really, truly, top of the line, could sit at the head table with Fonteyn, Makarova, Toumanova, Farrell, et al. at the Annual All Star's Banquet? I'll kick things off by nominating Altynai Asylmuratova (Kirov) and Elisabeth Platel (Paris). [Next week: great ballerinos] alexandra
  14. I'm all for that one. The Joffrey Ballet is going to revive it this season (you'll be getting the new Ballet Alert! newsletter with the third part of the Calendar in about a week, Giannina). Problem is with Ashton revivals is the style is so foreign to most of today's dancers -- the musicality, the phrasing, the subtlety -- and, apparently most of today's stagers, that sometimes when they've been revived, I have second thoughts, and wish they hadn't been. I honored Robert Joffrey for wanting to do so many Ashton ballets, but the performances never quite lived up to the dream (not to mention "The Dream.") There is a good bit of "Monotones II" on the British TV show, "Anthony Dowell: All the Superlatives" with the original cast. And it's all about line -- three bodies that were nearly identical in line -- and silken phrasing.
  15. Before Ashton's ballets disappear from the face of the earth, I'd like to see some of them revived (while some of the dancers are still around to help). Since "Picnic at Tintagel" and "Illuminations" were choreographed for an American company, I wouldn't mind them, for starters. (I know Joffrey Ballet did "Illuminations," but -- well, I think I'd like to see a company more used to romantic ballets have a go of it.) And, since American companies are collecting "full-length" ballets at a rapid clip, why not "Sylvia" and "Ondine"? alexandra
  16. I would love to see some "old" ballet videos. There are several tapes of Russians dancing in the '40s, '50s and '60s (and some earlier), and there is one American video of clips from the Firestone Hour. I would like to take issue with something Victoria wrote (which is often said) about how technique has "improved." I have never seen a dancer turn as fast as Chabukiani; Dudinskaya tosses off five pirouettes in a Bayadere performance as if it were nothing. I've never seen anyone with as rigorously perfect a technique as Erik Bruhn. There are others. I've seen a lot of private films of Danish ballet in the '50s and '60s (mostly of Henning Kronstam with Kirsten Simone; a few other Danes, such as Bruhn, Kirsten Bundgaard, Toni Lander) in connection with a project I'm working on, and had the occasion to see many of the same excerpts (pas de deux, short scenes) danced at a special performance two years ago in Copenhagen, by some excellent young dancers, and no one came close to their elders. There are some dancers (Fonteyn is one) whose technique is simply not flashy. The Paris Opera style is like this (the only one at present that I've seen) and I think that's why so many Americans, when they first see POB, think it's not "exciting." They don't grin at you, or wipe away the sweat, or look like they're working like dogs. They don't think that's what dancing is. I'm sure technique has improved in the sense that members of the corps de ballet are stronger. But I can't see it in the stars -- and I think of it again every time I watch a Bournonville ballet, and see dancers struggle with steps made in 1840. Alexandra
  17. What's your favorite ballet video? Please tell why, as well as what, it is. alexandra
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