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Posts posted by drb

  1. Tarasina Masi, 19, from USA Ballet Academy, Bloomington, Minn.

    From the Varna site:


    July 15th Opening ceremony

    Beginning of the First Round

    July, 15th,

    16th, 17th,

    18th and 19th First Round

    Classical choreography from the obligatory programme

    July 20th Meeting with the art of famous names of the Competition

    Annotations and films

    July 21st, 22nd,

    23rd and 24th Second Round

    Classical and contemporary choreography

    July 25th Super - gala concert of former laureates

    July 26th

    and 27th Third Round

    Contemporary and classical choreography

    July 28th International symposium

    July 29th Awarding of prizes, Gala concert of laureates and closing

    of the Competition

    July 30th Super Gala Concert „Meeting of Generations“ with the participation

    also of laureates of previous issues of the Competition

  2. My most joyful moment was my first [ABT] Swan Lake, May 22, 1993.

    ...and so it will be as Odette/Odile that Ms. Ananiashvili will retire from ABT next summer, according to Nina Alovert in today's issue of Russian Bazaar. (Unfortunately it won't be in the Blair production that had returned to ABT in 1993.) Nina's partner in her first ABT Swan Lake was Jeremy Collins. Her second, four days later, marked the beginning of the partnership with Julio Bocca.

  3. In her review (Russian Bazaar, this Thursday) of Nina Ananiashvili's Monday performance of Giselle, Nina Alovert reported that

    "Diana Vishneva twisted her leg in rehearsal" and would be replaced by Nina on Friday. Urging her readers to attend on Friday, Ms. Alovert said

    This will be the last time she [Ananiashvili] will dance Giselle in America.

    I saw her performance on Monday in this ballet, and it will remain one of the most vivid memories in my life as a ballet spectator.

  4. After the excellent performances of Angel, Ethan, Herman ,Marcelo and Jose(with Max to follow and David in the wings) as Albrecht, can anybody think of any ballet company with a better group of Albrechts than ABT at present?

    Has there ever been a better crop than ABT's in recent decades?! Thinking back to Malakhov, Bocca, Bujones, Dowell, Baryshnikov, Nagy, Nureyev, Bruhn... Especially thinking of Bruhn, perhaps ABT will have gone full circle when Hallberg joins the club.

  5. Friday, July 11, 2008

    Ananiashvili II: Submission

    How extraordinarily different from Monday's was Nina's Giselle tonight. From the start one could see apprehension often cross her face, even though she was also eager for the dashing Jose Manuel Carreno's attention. He was more to the cad side of Albrecht, compared to others I've seen this season. After he'd betrayed her and she was at her mother's feet having her hair loosened, she did take a quick glance toward the audience, but not with the look of horror at "seeing" her Wili fate that she showed Monday (this may be seen on the 14-photo Times* set of that performance, number 7), and even early in her mad scene she had a look of resignation, already moving like a Wili.

    How powerful is Gillian Murphy as Myrta (and how rich this company is in casting that role). She and the wonderful Corps had me ready to root for them, until...

    Nina entered, seemingly prepared for Wilidom, her Wili spin more freely taken than on Monday, dancing with real force. But then came the moment when Giselle led Jose Manuel to her grave's cross, and stood before him as shield. From some sacred place of mystery within her broken heart then came dancing so sublime.... She was simply Love.

    Diana Vishneva was in the audience, radiantly beautiful. I wonder if Nina chose to give such radically different interpretations out of respect for Diana, who is famous for such variety?

    * http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/07/0...SHOW_index.html

  6. Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Two Innocents

    Tonight Herman Cornejo seemed to play Albrecht as a young innocent, caught up in a new experience, romantic love, with someone of the wrong social class. The two were so alike that as they danced 'round a circle, Albrecht following Giselle, their jetes were perfectly in time, of the same height, legs making the same angle. Bravo to Herman, sacrificing a chance to show off in favor of artistry, as of course one would have expected of him. Later, as Xiomara Reyes' mad scene developed, she came to the part where she recalls the "he loves me, he loves me not" flower petal scene. He comes to his dying love, contrite, as if to apologize, in great sorrow. She does not repel him. Later, in that leap to him where she crumbles off him and collapses, to her death, one feels she still loves him. As she lies dead it as if he cannot leave her, repeatedly crying at her feet. The villain is more the social rules of the time, rather than some young Count on some last spree before his arranged marriage.

    Act II begins by showing that the Church is no better than the Social Order. Hillarion, Isaac Stappas, has to fashion a cross of wood for her unmarked grave, the Church not allowing such a young woman to be buried in the church cemetery, walled "safely" away rear stage left. Somehow Ms. Reyes' entrance from the grave, the positioning of her hands and head, recalls a very old memory of Alicia Alonso. Would she have possibly studied this role with Mme.? In this Act Mr. Cornejo of course gets to turn on the virtuosity. What glorious elevation combined with formal purity! Almost as rewarding as what seemed to me to be very impressive partnering by him. While his double sequence of brises voles did not quite have the thrill (nor audience reaction) of Mr. Corella's on Monday, Cornejo's leaning towards Michele Wiles' Myrta really caught the sense that she was pulling him on some invisible string. All in all, a very auspicious second performance. Naturally the full house sprung to its feet as one at the end, and we stayed there a considerable while.

    Yuriko Kajiya, with a certain soft yet expressive and expansive grace, and Craig Salstein, who really can nail the end of a variation, danced the PPdD. Zhong-Jing Fang repeated her success as Zulma, a virtual bonus of extra Giselle-like dancing!

  7. Why not call it the Balanchine Theatre. After all, his company did such a great deal for Lincoln Center. Now that would show class, and give a bow to the man whose works invigorated and reconfigured American ballet in the 20th century!


    ...and naming it for its real creator would bring far greater honor to Mr. Koch, who now faces a future of either confusion with an ex-mayor, or worse, a soft drink or a drug. Think of a certain other man whose name is so frequently misplaced on city theaters, that when you google it looking for what used to be the Juilliard Theater it is like searching through a maze.

  8. Nina Ananiashvili's Giselle is in the Soviet era ballerina tradition that sees this ballet as Holy, spiritual over material, defying the State values of that time by exemplifying the power of redemptive love. Last night we saw not an old Ananiashvili but, defying time, a new Ananiashvili. Her capacitiy to convey the power of love has deepened from past years, and I wonder if it might just reflect her own life, enriched by her little Elena, now two years old.

    The production was not just the ballerina of course. It had a fresh look, and some good and some not so good casting. The PPdD was miscast: grace and ballon were missing in one dancer; and, especially early on, one feared for the other's landings. Yet some casting was perfect: like Haglund's, I also admired Roman Zhurbin's joy at carrying Giselle from the cart and around the stage on his shoulder. His smile lit up the stage, and for minutes after his light was not turned off! After all, he'd just carried his village's Harvest Queen around the village square, or perhaps he'd just carried an historic ballerina around the stage. Whichever, a very enlivening performance by the young dancer. In Act II Melissa Thomas' Moyna was danced with grace and power, a type of Myrta, while Zhong-Jing Fang's Zulma shown more fragile, innocence, a type of Giselle. Beautiful dance-acting. Gillian Murphy gave her Myrta a kind of spiritual stillness, of course a strong, determined leader, locked into her prison of Vengeance, but one happy to be freed by redemption in the end. Her leaps were big and with ballon, and her face glowed a stoic yet pure beauty: there was a soul inside (perhaps all that recent dancing in St. Petersburg and Moscow is paying dividends?). Angel Corella has been a fine Albrecht for Nina in recent years and tonight his two diagonals of brisees volees were thrilling and his partnering was strong: he supported her Act II hops in arabesques so effectively that you could really believe that is was she who was supporting him, keeping him alive just a little longer, till dawn's saving light could rise.

    Nina Ananiashvili can project to the biggest of theaters, yet never at the cost of any detail, any nuance. While she lies on the stage, her mother freeing her hair for the forthcoming mad scene, Giselle sneaks a look at the fourth wall, and her head recoils in horror, as if she's just seen time, her future. From then her eyes are fixed on her mother as she rises and moves toward center stage. Her back faces us. Slowly, meekly, but with courage, her head turns to face us, the terrifying fourth wall. Time has reversed, she sees her past. And her lucid madness begins.

    Act II was en thrall of her spiritual force. Her Wili spin had not quite the force we've seen from Diana Vishneva, but this was right: for Nina was less a vengeful wili than the others, her love could not be overruled. The corps, too, rose to the level of the occasion with form and spirit. Early in Act I Angel had given Nina ballet's traditional arm-extended upward, two-finger pledge of love, but almost lightly. In Act II, as victory approaches, Nina raises a wraith-like hand, fingers loosely floating into position, and pledges her love to him, but to the wilis too, for this is the love of redemption, universal. The Holy ballet. Nina is Bolshoi. And so was the ovation. And so, the endless curtain calls.

    Friday's tickets, as she subs for beloved Diana Vishneva, are Gold.

  9. This is disappointing news and I hope Diana makes a speedy recovery. At least I'll get to see Nina dance live for the first time.

    Ms. Vishneva is my favorite Giselle too. But you may not be disappointed to see Nina in this, given her Giselle excerpt at ABT's Gala! (Or, for that matter, her Giselles over the last two decades.) It may seem surprising that the former Bolshoi Prima would sub for each of Diana's full-length ballets, but now that we understand her love and respect for ABT (on her retirement thread), perhaps no surprise at all.

    Thank you, Nina Ballerina!

  10. Nina's Izvestia interview: ABT: retirement, evaluation, major moments, 2009 farewell; Georgia ballet; husband & politics; indispensable cities.

    Last week Nina Ananiashvili granted an extensive interview* to Izvestia writer Svetlana Naborschikova. A summary with some quotations follows. (Background: It should be noted that, being Izvestia, and given the war-like talk between the Russian Federation and Georgia, interest is not only in the ballerina but also her husband Grigory Vashadze, who early in his career was on the Soviet SALT negotiations team and who is currently Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia.)

    1. The Times report of her ABT retirement led to some confusion in Russia as to whether her husband had ordered her retirement from ABT. She explained that this was not the case at all. It seems the Times wanted more information from ABT than just that given in their press release. A person from ABT tried to contact her, but she was on a plane at the moment, so they instead contacted her husband--hence the statement from him, rather than from her.

    2. Asked to give strengths and weaknesses of ABT, Ms. Ananaiashvili enumerated:

    Strengths: the company's cohesion, the civilized relations between the dancers and administration. A family-like atmosphere, the feeling of belonging to an exclusive club. The company is eternally ready to mobilize itself to give a great performance, whatever the circumstances. It has the opportunity to acquire that dancer who is necessary, here and now. An immense repertoire, with knowledge of most of the Classics and the best examples of modernist styles. Weaknesses: not having its own theatrical stage and school. That is however, more than compensated for by its advantages.

    3. Asked about her most joyful and sad moments at ABT, and about her farewell in 2009, Nina answered:

    My most joyful moment was my first [ABT] Swan Lake, May 22, 1993. The most sad was 6 May, 1995, when the company's physiotherapist told me my season would not be, as two ligaments in my left knee were torn. Then the operation, followed by seven months of "hell." ... However, the compelled idle time gave my husband and me seven "honeymoons." We saw hundreds of performances and travelled all over America. Every cloud has a silver lining!

    ...[regarding a farewell performance in NYC] And how! At the end of the 2009 season at the Metropolitan Opera House, all will be as custom dictates: tears, flowers, and champagne!

    4. She will be guesting with companies after her ABT retirement, but felt it inappropriate to speak in advance, before companies make announcements and arrangements are complete: there are already more offers than needed, and she will select those that are most interesting. She will continue dancing with her Georgian Ballet, but "As soon as I see that the troupe becomes interesting to producers without me, I shall then cease." When asked if she would dance with The Bolshoi, as Ratmansky had offered, she said "I don't know, Alexei leaves, so to work with him there is already impossible, and simply to dance another Swan Lake, to tell the truth, there is no time." Also, she does not find the New Stage appealing. But, she announced that Mr. Ratmansky has begun working actively with her Company. The reporter said this was joyful news, but wondered about the Company's finances, whether it had acquired influential sponsors. Nina said not yet, nor likely in the foreseeable future. But she has complete support from the Government, for it "understands that without culture, theater, the country would be doomed to provincial vegetation." The four next seasons, with 35 ballets, are planned.

    5. Politics.

    Q: Your husband, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, is responsible for relations with Russia. Does he ask you for advice?

    A: At once it is obvious that you were never married to a Georgian!

    Q: It is true. Russian men sometimes accept advice from their wives. Nevertheless, with your female insights what is necessary to improve relations between our countries?

    A: To remember our beliefs, our history, the rivers of blood that we've, friend for friend, spilled for each other, our relationships and friendships. If suddenly, inadvertently-contrary to national characters-we make such a step that shows to the world an unprecedented example of our reasonable behavior, it will be easier than it seems today.

    Q: Is your two-year-old daughter learning the Russian language?

    A: Russian for my Elena will be as a native language.

    6. The discussion shifted to time, and Nina said it had not stopped for her. But that she is saying goodbye to favorite roles, that she had recently danced her last Don Quixote. That she has left the Bolshoi, will soon leave ABT. She has "no desire to fight with time ... such memories are with me that money could not buy. Such families and friends, too. It is terrible to come back to an empty house lined with only photographs of yourself. But every evening I go to a home that is full of joy."

    7. Cities.

    Q: In an interview you said it is difficult for you to not live in New York. Are there other cities that for you are also difficult "not to live in"?

    A: About New York, possibly it is necessary, and also for Moscow, even if it is somehow inconvenient. I dream of it

    at night: Moscow, a part of me, most. As well, Tbilisi.

    Q: In Moscow lots of people wish to see your Georgian Ballet. When could that be?

    A: I go to Moscow very often (since not to dance, the impression is that I do not). Sergei Filin is actively working to bring us to Moscow next Spring.

    Q: ... and so wished by Moscow fans ...

    A: Why just fans? To all Muscovites, enormous happiness to you, my dears!

    * http://www.izvestia.ru/person/article3118017/?print

  11. Here are a couple hundred photos of Ms. Baronova from the Australian National Library collection. You can see her sewing, cooking etc but there are also nearly 200 ballet photos, including many of her in such works as Balanchine's La Concurrence and Cotillon, Lichine's Prodigal Son, Massine's Symphonie Fantastique, ... .


    You first click the little picture to get to a little picture with descriptive material. Click it again to make it large.

  12. Does anyone have any news regarding Vishneva's chances of actually performing in Giselle on July 11? After what happened with Don Quixote, I am hesitant to buy Giselle tickets until I know that she has fully recovered from her injury.

    From her site* today:

    †I have started rehearsals cautiously. Whether I will dance Giselle will be found out in 2-3 days. If I will not be, I will clean this performance on the site.

    * http://www.vishneva.ru/eng/index.htm

  13. What is strange is that I can't find any prior thread under Modern Dance about this new production of R + J. So if I may switch to that part of the topic, here are some resources on the production:


    The video link is part of a Times Talk interview of Mr. Morris. He discusses the newly discovered Prokofiev score and some of the differences we'll see in his production. For example, Tybalt and Mercutio will be women. And, of course, the lead couple will live and dance happily ever after, but lots of others die. The dancing is "rough", not balletic. On the audio link at the bottom of the page we learn why Prokofiev has them live forever (it is based on his religion).

    If you find the video of interest, you might like to see the full 76 minutes (including dance footage of the middle piece of his Mozart Dances). Unfortunately the only link for this that I could find requires you to watch a 16 second invitation to join the army. You can click to make the video large.


  14. The first Dancers' Emergency Fund program was held on February 24, 1985. There were a total of ten, held annually, the last in 1994. In his speech, the Ballet Master in Chief said they'd been money-losers. I don't quite understand the full meaning of this, but would assume that it did NOT mean that each resulted in a DROP in funds available for dancers.

    In 1995 the benefit was replaced by a program in which new dancers assumed roles in the Company's rep. In a few subsequent years the NYCB Volunteers apparently held some functions to help the Fund.

    The above information was obtained by a search in the archives of the newspaper of record, the NY Times, that carefully gave the number in its report on each program.

    I could not find a mention in the archives for a Dancers' Emergency Fund for ABT, but seem to recall writing a check for same just a few years ago. Does anyone know more re ABT in this regard? I would imagine it might be harder, for a company without its own theater.

    Added 12:53 AM:

    A web search led to finding the following statement in a Columbia University report on Dancers' Career Transition:

    ABT dancers also have access to their own

    Dancers Emergency Fund, which was created in 1984.

    The fund is an account supervised by an elected commit-

    tee of ABT dancers. Although the fund does not provide

    specific grants for career transition, it is available to ABT

    dancers facing hardships, including those that may lead

    to accelerated career transition, such as a serious injury.

    The annual sale of dancers’ autographed pointe shoes is

    the primary source of funding for the fund.

    This report may be of interest in itself:


  15. I'm guessing that part of the reason that Jon Stafford was asked to choose from the NYCB rep -- besides the major cost of paying for the rights

    to use an "outside" ballet, was because practice time was limited. Most of our dancers have some familiarity with the NYCB ballets, and so they could jump right in (pun intended).

    But it's a good point, Klavier, about the idea of a dancer wishing to do an another ballet outside of NYCB's.

    It would be fun to find out what non-NYCB dances are are most coveted by our company.

    One is Giselle, of course, as Ms. Bouder has stated in more than one published interview. I'm not sure to whom one would pay for rights to perform a PdD, but your point about limited practice time (and even more the need for serious expert coaching) would probably apply to that role! I really don't mind the restriction to NYCB's rep, there is enough there for a century's programming, but was puzzled that their most prized choreographer of late, Alexei Ratmansky, was not included. Still, the event was so wonderful that I'm not about to gripe: what is important is that this time the tradition isn't interrupted for another two decades.

  16. One thing also that surprised me was what at what a fast clip the ABT Shades now do their descent/arabesque. Traditionally the Russians do it faster, but this time it seems as if the ABT Shades were faster than the Kirov (when I saw them in January at least).

    Many of us have been especially impressed by ABT's Corps de Ballet in this run of Bayadere. Nina Alovert, in her review of Monday's performance that appeared in Thursday's issue of the Russian-language weekly Russian Bazaar, gives a reason for this:

    ... Natalia Makarova rehearsed with the troupe before the performances. First of all, Makarova rehearsed Shades. You can not believe that we are seeing the same corps de ballet, who danced the swans so poorly in Swan Lake. The overall high level of the production is the result of the quality of the work of Makarova with the performers...

    Please do not allow the imprecision of my translation to deceive. Ms. Alovert is praising the corps' ability, the remark regarding their swans may refer to their preparation. Interestingly, regarding Veronika Part's Monday Nikiya, Ms. Alovert recommended seeing the Saturday performance, expecting more dramatic depth and confidence then, as if Monday's was something of a general rehearsal (her term) for Saturday. After the fact, although I enjoyed Monday, I cannot disagree with Nina Alovert.

  17. ...

    I am at a loss for words to adequately express my admiration for Veronika Part. She is the epitome of everything I go to the ballet to see...

    ... Veronika. I'm still applauding.

    Now that they're back together (Monday showed just a bit of atypical partnering rust) and in harmony, this afternoon Ms. Part and Marcelo Gomes returned to last year's performance level in Bayadere, the epitome of pure classical dancing, with full doses of Russian (and Brazilian!) Soul. My hands are still sore, too, Christine. Agree about her grand jetes, also: they have neither Bouder's upward propulsion nor that anti-gravity cloud that seems to float above Osipova's, yet there is a majesty to Veronika's... and as she soars off-stage before the kingdom disintegrates, those final four are those of royalty beyond any queen's.

    I enjoyed the Gamzatti of Michele Wiles this afternoon as well. Gone were those strange head bobbles in her Act I PdD on Monday, and there was more flow to her jetes. In Makarova's (is this her choreography?) Act III variation, I found her classicism breathtaking, at least partially because of the way she presented the tension between her remorse and her regal (and obviously spoiled) upbringing, and how she turned this tension into a helpless sense of guilt. Overall, this was more the Wiles of Michael Popkin's rave review (of Tuesday's performance) in DVT (Wednesday's Links), than much I've been reading in this forum.

    The Corps was especially perfect in Shades today, no need to take a back seat to what the Mariinsky showed us this Spring. Bravi! What a magical first Shade by Renata Pavam, her limbs soaring within the musical surges so intimately, surely this is what musicality is, driving the audience into nearly a roar, and I'd throw in a bravo to conductor Charles Barker too. He's one that you can see has his eyes on the ballerina. It is a bit strange that we've had to wait a year to see Leann Underwood solo ('tho could have missed her in something last year), but her third Shade was worth the wait. So different from Melissa Thomas on Monday, who left me yearning to see her in larger Petipa roles. Ms. Underwood danced with a "melting" quality, as if in a trance. Very moving, and with her, I long for a greater Romantic role, even a Giselle...

  18. ...But you are bringing in "artistic merit" -- which opens the door to the dread elements: "subjectivity" and "taste."

    It seems to me that people who really get involved in sports statistics do so partly out of a suspicion of subjective judgment. They pursue the quest of objectivity and quantifiability They tend to be concrete thinkers rather than interpreters.

    In the good old days, taking baseball as an example, stats were simple summaries of things that interested fans, number of Home Runs, Batting Average, being among those for hitters, for example. For the last few decades a field called sabermetrics (check out by google or wicki) has taken over, by trying to find measures that give an objective quantification of a player's offensive (for example) contribution, so that true comparisons of player performance (attempting to take out the luck factor of team mate performance) can be made. In recent years the Boston Red Sox brought in the prime exponent of these modern stats, Bill James, to help guide trades and contract decisions. Seems to have made for better baseball in Boston... If we were to try to use stats in ballet in the way they are now used in sports--to make comparisons of performance merits--then, since ballet is an art, how to avoid artistry?

    Do scores based on subjective evaluations by individual judges (or -- worse! -- instant voting by the audience) really meet the needs of this population? They would have to start looking at whether, for instance, the pirouettes were done well :o -- or, as drb mentions, elusive issues of "musicality" :blink: and the ability to create goose-bumps :dunno: .

    But in evaluating a performance, in practice these things seem to matter more than "number" of pirouettes, and if I sometimes "count" rotations during the fouettees, I wonder if that is not some disease on my part, caught from years of baseball fandom, for what actually matters is the perfection of them, the beauty and the "thrill". And Balanchine (and the likes of Farrell) have made musicality something impossible to ignore, even if I can't define it. The ineffable, after all, matters. And of course your point then implies that modern sports-like stats would not do much for an art like ballet; in fact "performing to the stats" as must be done in arty sports like skating and gymnastics inevitably drain these activities of their art. Much as "teaching to the test" has taken art (and indeed learning) out of American education. So, as a statistician, I'm against bringing the field into ballet.

    But I'd enjoy the kind of stats Amy Reusch brings up, those non-evaluative sorts. How many Swan Lakes did Maya dance, which lead ballerina role has the most arabesques (or attitudes)?

  19. ...How many of you are going to "Dancers Choice" on Friday night?

    I can't wait to go! It should be so much fun!

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Dancers' Choice

    ... and most of it really was so much fun! One might have questioned starting off with the Company's top two virtuosi, Ashley Bouder and Daniel Ulbricht, as the lead couple in Rubies, a sort of "shock and awe" strategy, but NYCB is deep enough to get away with it! Certainly Mr. Ulbricht showed he can out-cast those who make such decisions, and as he spun off stage right, he started so slowly, because of course he built to perhaps the fastest crescendo to exit that I can recall! Ellen Bar was the solo girl, and continued apace with her success earlier this week in B-S Q's first movement.

    Then came the only unfortunate part of the evening. Out came a familiar figure who id'd himself as Ballet Master in Chief. He talked of the history of Dancer's Emergency Fund Benefits, how they'd all cost so much to do that they invariably lost money. Yet implied that would not be the case this time. I didn't quite understand this point, in that the prior ones were priced same as rep performances, yet for some baffling reason tonight (sold out) was virtually half-price. He then introduced Jon Stafford, who had an endless thank-you list for each of whom we were to give a hand... One could really begin to feel the humid air in the theater until, a quarter hour later, the show came back on with Janie Taylor and Craig Hall, a pairing made in heaven, dancing Martins' Purple. Again, the dancers knew better who should dance together. Would that it had been Robbins' Faun...

    Andrew Veyette showed excellent control in a lyric Square Dance solo, followed by Tess Reichlen, in what may not have been only this dancer's choice, as Merrill Ashley wanted her to do it, as reported in the NYTimes Reichlen feature (Jan 3, and still available free on their site). She was beautiful, meriting her curtain calls. Then Robbins' Interplay (Free Play), featuring Giovanni Villalobos, received a lively performance, and was followed by another Robbins excerpt, from Dances at a Gathering, in which Rachel Rutherford positively glowed. The first half ended dramatically with lots of dancers thrilling the crowd with Glass Pieces (3. Akhnaten).

    A film of composer Aaron Severini and choreographer Adam Hendrickson preparing and discussing (with lots of happy giggles) the evening's debut piece Flit of Fury - The Monarch. The score itself seemed much at home following the prior Glass composition. Four boys (Robert Fairchild, Sean Suozzi, Allen Peiffer, David Prottas) seemed locked in step, always dancing the same steps, a sense of comfort in being part of a group, until a young lady, Gretchen Smith, appeared. Eventually one boy (Suozzi) broke from the group and a relationship began. Mr. Hendrickson traced the development of the relationship most effectively (the other boys stayed together, motionless on the rear part of the stage). Then suddenly, as he moved forward towards her she ducked into the wings and he fell to the stage. The others came back, dancing (the same) in concern for him. After considerable effort on their part he seemed to rejoin the group. But she returned, and she won him back. There seemed an endless sequence of curtain calls, including the very happy pair of tie-and-suited creators.

    This was followed by Martins' Beethoven Romance, a duet for Sara A. Mearns and Stephen Hanna, who brought great romance to the piece. Then Union Jack's MacDonald of Sleat, led by Savannah Lowery, who captured much of the leader's daring with bold lunges to unbalance, left and right. Balanchine excitement continued with the men's section of Stars and Stripes, Troy Schumacher the brilliant leader, bringing the crowd to fevered cheers. Next, a real change of pace, another romantic PdD, but this time with choreography of true intensity, that seems now better than ever: Wheeldon's Mercurial Manoeuvres. Abi Stafford was wonderful, with true expressive changes throughout, and Tyler Angle showed why he may well become the Company's next leading man, combining some of the nobility of Peter Boal with his own charisma: and did his own attention to Ms. Stafford ever focus our eyes on his ballerina! A fabulous partner! This, for me, was the heart of beauty for this evening.

    Then came a glorious surprise, a collection of films/videos of company dancers as children. Ashley Bouder at 7 clearly was ready to be an apprentice! Both the Staffords and the Fairchilds were joys, and it was interesting to see that Sara Mearns and Christian Tworzyanski have been dancing together since virtually infancy! So many others, ... I hope this somehow finds its way to YouTube.

    The program concluded with the last movement of Symphony in C, the movements casted by the dancers (in order) as Sterling Hyltin/Jared Angle; Rebecca Krohn/Ask la Cour; Megan Fairchild/Antonio Carmena; Tiler Peck/Jason Fowler. Ms. Hyltin, especially, brought such joy, that has been so (comparatively) lacking in the opening movement. In future, in fairness to Mr. Balanchine, how can she not been cast in this?

    A terrific show, let's do it again!

    We were given a magazine-sized gift of truly remarkable photos by Kyle Froman, including many rows of tutu'd ballerinas lying across rows of the orchestra, levels of jete'ing ballerinas in the Promenade, and many more of dancers having fun throughout the State Theater. Wonderful--Thank you!

  20. To approach this seriously (my academic specialty is/was statistical decision theory) one might begin (thinking of gymnastics and figure skating for clues) with some simple ideas. One ought to count both technical skill (T) and artistic merit (A). Sticking with ballerinas (male dancing places different emphases on what's important, I suspect), one would need to consider the relative importance of, e.g., spinning and jumping for T, while to come up with a score for A, balancing such things as musicality and goose-bump-creating would be important. Oddly, in ladies gymnastics back when the balletic sirens were being replaced by those little bouncing balls, when the "sport" seemed most popular, it was on TV enough so I could pretty much intuit a score to with a tenth or so (on the 10 point scale). So also perhaps some experienced BT'ers could intuitively come up with scores on similar lines. There is a way (called utility theory) to combine A and T into a single score. One would have to (and in theory could) scale T and A so that a dancer with (T, A) = (10, 8) would be just as good as one with (T, A) = (9, 9) (18 for each).

    But, just as figure skating was somewhat ruined by the hyper-complicated "math" they use now (of course there is a handful of BT figure skating fans who comprehend this, but the "fun" of scoring for the lay TV watcher has been destroyed--not to mention artistry), we could let the experts go this way for ballet too, so that we fans could spend our time missing everything by keeping a complicated score--at least those long intermissions could then be spent on exciting arithmetic combining all the numbers we'd "seen", rather than lining up for a drink (of water).

    Of course all this work would be for naught if Bouder and Osipova and Reichlen and Vishneva and Mearns (put in your own Big Five) didn't "win"... Getting back to Mme. Hermine's reference to Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, "Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Bouder wins!"

    My Theorem on this says scoring dancers is stupid. What they give us is a gift. It would be like spending your honeymoon evaluating each wedding present.

  21. NYCB's latest Annual Report (to June 24, 2007) seemed to arrive to their site much later than prior ones, but may now be seen here:


    There are two good reasons to check this out each year:

    1. Awesome, often quite large, photos, as well as a record of key performances and complete roster details. In the new 2006-7 report, among the many full-screen photos are one of Balanchine playing Herr Drosselmeier in 1958, debuts by Sterling Hyltin (SPF), Sara A. Mearns (Lilac Fairy)....

    2. The financial state of the Company. Of course balance sheets are not exactly "straightforward", but it would appear the Company's securities investments were rather well-managed that fiscal year, the primary cause of a more than 10% increase (a gain of $20,431,000) in NYCB's net assets. In the fine details I did note that Guild membership and activity revenue did dip about 1%. While ticket sales did not cover the expense budget, when public contributions are added in things look very solid.

    Board Chair Barry S. Friedberg gave a quite optimistic report, including

    During this year, we grew the enterprise value

    of our business by some $15 million while

    selling over 335,000 tickets in New York alone.

    Of course exactly a full year has already passed. Hopefully the next report will not be so delayed, as one cannot help but wonder about the effect of so many tickets being given away to motivate subscriptions and renewals for the current Robbins season.

  22. Abandon

    Since my god daughter has gone on pointe she's had her annual NY ballet visit as soon as school lets out, and we alternate daily performances at ABT and NYCB. Last night's NYCB was her finale for this year. And Sara A. Mearns virtually annihilated all that had come the days before.

    Sara first danced B-S Q's Rondo alla Zingarese not long after her triumphant Odette/Odiles; it was, perhaps, her first significant Balanchine role, and even then her play with the rapid changes in tempo gave indication of her very unique musicality. Three months later, in May, 2006, she first partnered Amar Ramasar in this concluding movement. So in this role, as in real life, this is an experienced partnership, and Mr. Ramasar is obviously a partner in whom she must have exceptional trust. For Ms. Mearns threw herself into the music with the most reckless abandon, seeming to yield all control to it, like Farrell at her most daring and free. Surely she was doing Balanchine's steps, for only he could have guided a dancer this wild through such a whirlwind performance. Not that I could see the steps, there was only music, and swimming and swirling and slashing and burning and bursting through it was Balanchine's Dance, so vivid as if one was granted a sight of the master's mind itself.

    Thank you, Sara A. Mearns, for last night you gave to me one of the supreme joys of my life. And even more, such inspiration to a young dancer.

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