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Everything posted by Helene

  1. I don't think anyone has claimed that no former dancers coach at NYCB. However, most of the living dancers for whom Balanchine choreographed, re-staged, and re-choregraphed his greatest ballets are not coaching there now.
  2. I loved how in Elusive Muse Farrell told the exhausted and self-critical Paris Opera Ballet dancer she was coaching in Tzigane that there were many things about her performance that Farrell would have "stolen" had she still been dancing. It's no wonder that Farrell can take second-rank dancers and coach them to first-rate performances. (My sieve of a brain has forgotten the name of the dancer, and Google isn't helping.)
  3. Momentarily off topic, I saw three operas, and there were magnificent performances in all three: Cynthia Lawrence's nuanced Tosca was the best I've heard: every phrase -- words and music -- was imbued with meaning; Dmitri Hvorostovky's rendition of Prince Yeletsky's aria in Queen of Spades was soft, seamless, and achingly sad; and Renee Fleming sang a rich and unique Violetta -- it was like seeing the character through a prism. Ramon Vargas has a wonderful voice and easy technique: his voice bloomed in Alfredo's music; in contrast to Fleming, his interpretation sounded very traditional, which worked dramatically. Samuel Ramey was quite the Scarpia, with his combination of menace and lust and that powerful bass voice. It was a great weekend packed with music and dance.
  4. (Sorry to have taken so long to respond to a good fight -- the friend I stayed with is last week is "cookie-phobic," and I couldn't sign in until I got home.) My comment about length was in response to your comment about how unlikely it would be for an American company to fund a intellectually and emotionally challenging piece. My point is that there are Balanchine (and Tudor) works that reflect emotionally and intellectually charged messages -- including madness, repression, the viciousness of family dynamics -- and are staged across America, at a much shorter length (and lower cost). Dance, on the whole, has a smaller palate to work from than music, by virtue of being performed on a large stage. The pianissimo of a single instrument can be heard clearly in the back row of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera; small movement that might reflect the music cannot. There are entire parts of Mahler's 9th Symphony -- slow, structural development, extremely soft dynamics -- that come across as dead in a dance piece. From what I've seen of Neumeier's older choreography to Mahler, I would say that his choreography doesn't come close to matching the emotional and intellectual challenges of Mahler's music, regardless of his subject.
  5. I was visiting NYC, mainly to see the opera, and when I looked at the cast list for the only performance for which I had time (Sat, 28 Feb matinee), I almost passed. I don't boycott Borree automatically like Gottlieb does -- I save that for my least favorite Pacific Northwest Ballet ballerina -- but I wasn't jumping for joy, like I would have had Bouder been cast. However the pull of the score and the opportunity to see some of the young 'uns that the NYCB crowd has been describing all season were irresistable, and I did something uncharacteristic for a Seattle dweller: I shut myself inside a dark theater on a beautiful, sunny day. Borree played a young Aurora, a little boy crazy among the handsome riches of the suitors. In the Vision Scene, I thought she portrayed the Aurora as she would have been when she awoke. (At least the Prince knew what he was getting!) Although they were rather small-scaled, I liked each of Borree's solos. Hubbe's partnering looked expert and sensitive to me, but she seemed diminished in the pas de deux. I like the structure of the Rose Adagio, because I don't think Aurora's "coming out" party is all about young spontenaiety; the interactions with the suitors and the technical difficulty are, to me, the equivalent of the bows that debutantes practice for months on end, before the ball starts. There is a social obligation to perform as Princess, even if she is the center of attention at her debut. But I find it painful to watch dancers try not to fail in the part, because, as I was dismayed to read about Bouder's fall off pointe, it's a zero sum game, like the rest of the performance doesn't count if there's a bobble. Borree acquitted herself in the Rose Adagio, but I was glad when it was over, and not because she was the one dancing it. I had forgotten how visually stunning the costumes were, and I've always liked the transitional slides on the front scrim. The Garland Dance is a dream of ever-expanding invention; it feels perpetual, like a double helix, and it was performed beautifully, even at the end of a looooong season. I was in the last row of theater, and Hubbe's and Reichlen's mime carried to the back of the house clearly, without fuss. Ashley was a towering Carabosse, yet the unperturbable Reichlen swept her menace away with a gentle, but firm sweep. This reminded me of an example in the book Emotional Intelligence, where Bill Gates was throwing a tantrum in a meeting, and the only one who could get him to stop was a young woman who refused to be bullied, looked him in the eye, and quietly stated her case. Likewise, Carabosse's volcanic tantrum was disspelled by the quietness and merciful reason of Reichlen's Lilac Fairy. After that, she didn't even have to dance, but when she did, she was lovely, with long, articulate legs. The fairies variations are taken with such breakneck speed, and they practically push each other out the door in succession, with not a moment to breathe in what they've just offered. Dana Hanson ended her variation with an attitude pirouette to her knee that looked like she had landed on a cloud. The rest was so fast that I felt like I had just gotten a glance at Glenn Keenan and Rachel Rutherford, whom I loved as Calliope at the beginning of the season. The jewels section also went over my head, as it always has. I never had a good sense of Ruby and Emerald, and at rapid pace, I didn't "get" either Madradjieff's Ruby or Edge's Emerald. Riggins was very crisp as Diamond, which is the only variation that, to me, reflects its name; especially impressive were the sparkling jetes into perfect arabesque plie landings. Sterling Hyltin was delightful as Puss in Boots, with her clear, incisive leg work and impeccable comic timing. Isabella DeVivo was a big presence of Little Red Riding Hood; I suspect that the Wolf didn't know what hit him once he got her home and she took over his house. I thought Megan Fairchild was spectacular as Process Florine; I thought it the most defined and full performance of the afternoon, aside from Hubbe's. This was the first time I've seen the Bluebird pas de deux where it was not at all about Bluebird. When Fairchild danced with DeLuz, I didn't pay attention to him at all. When he was dancing, I was waiting for her. Even though he didn't show the starry flash that others have described in earlier performances, he was just plain sloppy: after each wonderful high brise in the opening sequence, he let his back leg collapse, and he had to regroup after all of the big effects. I didn't see any phrasing in his dancing, just photo highlights. I know that matinees are full of children, and that quiet can't be expected, but it's the parents I'm concerned about. There were times during this performance that I thought I was at the circus. We had the very tall man who got up to stretch from the cramped seats during the orchestral interludes, the full out conversations whenever there wasn't dancing onstage, and complete picnic lunches consumed during the performance, and not just to keep the kids happy. The final score was: Shushers: 2; Coughers 175; Candy/Danish/Peanut-butter Sandwich/Danish/Juice unwrappers: 0000005 (the odometer turned over).
  6. I saw Tchaikovsky's opera Queen of Spades for the first time last week, and found out that it is the source of the "masque" music in the first act of The Nutcracker; according to Kobbe's opera book, the "Mozartean" flavor of the music was deliberate. In the opera the heroine Liza, betrothed to Prince Yeletsky, is in love with and is loved by Ghermann (at least in Act I). The music used by Stowell for the Nutcracker/Mouse King/Pirlipat masque appears in Act II, as a pastoral performed at a ball in honor of the Empress. In this piece of light party entertainment the heroine is betrothed to silly, pompous rich man, but true love wins the day and she ends up with the young, romantic, poor hero. In the opera it provides a marked contrast to the wretched triangle of Liza/Ghermann/Yeletsky. In this context Stowell's use of the music in The Nutcracker parallels Tchaikovsky's use of it in the opera; and although the consequences aren't as tragic in the ballet, it is a wonderful way to foreshadow the relationship between Marie/Prince/Pasha in Act II. It does that without knowing the source, but knowing it gives the piece added piquancy.
  7. When Russell first told the story about Agon, my first thought was about Tanaquil LeClerq's comments in Striking a Balance about being a student cast as Choleric in The Four Temperaments
  8. One of the things about a lot of Balanchine and most of the classical story ballets is that you can see as little as you want in them, because there is little thrashing and hair-pulling and indicating to tell you how to think about them. Not that I have anything against thrashing and hair-pulling per se, as long it's not in figure skating It's very hard to sustain that intensity or interest for several hours, and to me it tends to look period, if not dated, pretty rapidly. I enjoyed Red Giselle quite a lot, and found a lot of the partnering pretty interesting and most of the dancing top-notch. Looking at Vienna Waltzes, more literally "walzing in Vienna on New Year's Day", you can see the evolution of the waltz in music, from Johann Strauss to Lehar to Richard Strauss, but also the psychic layers of turn-of-the-century Vienna, from the innocence of the young couple in the opening, to the feined innocence of the thespians, to the dandies and trollops of the demimonde on the border of the Vienna woods, to the jaded Merry Widow, to the neurotic woman alone in the Rosenkavalier waltzes. Or you can see a bunch of pretty dancers in a bunch of pretty costumes.
  9. I guess that because Balanchine was able to do the same in 40 minutes or less in such works as Davidsbundlertanze, Agon, Episodes, Liebeslieder Walzer (pretty perhaps, but not innocuous), Four Temperaments, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, etc. Or was this a reference to story ballets only?
  10. The 2004 Olivier Awards for best productions among members in the London Theatre Guild. They announced two dance awards: Best New Dance Production: George Piper Dances for Broken Fall Outstanding Achievement in Dance: Thomas Edur, Agnes Oaks in 2 HUMAN. The dance categories, including all nominees, are listed at the bottom of this listing of winners and nominees. Awards were announced Sunday, 22 February.
  11. Using ballerinas was standard casting when the production opened in the early '90's. IIRC according to a Dance Magazine cover story Ashley was supposed to be one of five dancers cast as Aurora. However, at that time her injuries started to make all of her appearances rarer than before. I also saw Richardson, Reyes, and Wingert dance Carabosse from 1991-1994. I think that Lourdes Lopez was also cast, but I didn't see her.
  12. In their defense, the behind-the-scenes people usually thank a whole bunch of people who work really crazy hours on the movies, and while it's tedious for us, it's their only chance to recognized their workers/collaborators (and give their families something to kvell about). At least they usually don't try to sound profound
  13. I meant the second variation, which was one of her favorite roles. (That's what I should have written.) In the premiere she danced in the corps, but later danced what she called "Mara Vinson's role." Probably everyone else in the theater would agree with you about Nadeau.
  14. A version of Balanchine's Danses Concertantes was revived again in 1989, and performed in 1993 as well. I have them listed as five movements, all coded by color. I'm sure these aren't the only casts, just the two I saw. 1989 Green: Cass, Sosenko, Frohlich Purple: Tsetsilas, White, Reeder Blue: Jackson, Z. Karz, Byars Red: Sh. Stevens, Whelan, Boos Yellow: M. Roy, Woetzel 1993 Green: Mahdaviani, Sosenko, Gold Purple: Reyes, White, Lyon Blue: Borree, Z. Karz, Byars Red: Calvert, K. Tracey, Evans Yellow: Whelan, Soto According the Choreography by Balanchine, the 1944 cast was: I. Variation: Svobodina, Talin, N. White II. Variation: Boris, Goudovitch, Etheridge III. Variation: Lanese, Bliss, Goddard IV. Variation: Tallchief, Magallanes, Moylan Pas de Deux: Danilova, Franklin. The 1972 cast was Lynda Yourth, John Clifford, 8 women, 4 men. The sections are listed as: Marche; Pas D'action; Theme Varie (4 variations); Pas de Deux; Marche. Listening to Maria Tallchief and Mary Ellen Moylan in Dancing for Mr. B describe the fourth variation that they performed made me wish I was there. Francia Russell also described Clarinade, which was the first new ballet NYCB performed at the New York State Theater, as a ballet that didn't need to be recovered. The score was by Morton Gould, and it was danced originally by Govrin/Mitchell; Farrell/Blum; and couples/corps. Also in response to a question about "lost" Balanchine ballets, Russell mentioned that there was a reconstruction of Cotillon recently. I thought she said it was done in Tulsa, but, unfortunately, I'm getting an error from the Tulsa Ballet site which I try to click their "Repertory" link, so I can't confirm. A Google search found a link to an article from Dance Magazine article by Hedy Weiss that references a Joffrey Ballet revival of the ballet in 1988.
  15. What I found remarkable about Linney's performance in Mystic River is that at the end of the movie, when she puts her cards on the table, I realized that this wasn't a "big scene," but just a verbalization of the essence of a character that had been established throughout the movie, quietly as dirac and GWTW describe. I was also impressed with both Bacon and Robbins in their roles. I think that Dave's role would be the hardest of the three men to play, because he is such a broken person, yet has to be riding the fine line between guilt and innocence and sympathy and contempt. What I liked about Hayden's performance was that she was believable as his train wreck counterpart. It was so uncomfortable when both of these nervous, unhappy people were in the same room. Couples like that are scary to be around.
  16. I attended four Q&A's after each performance of the "Balanchine Centenary" program I saw. I took notes, which I've transcribed below. On 5 Feb (Opening Night) and 13 Feb, both Russell and Stowell spoke. On 7 Feb matinee, Russell, Carrie Imler, and Jonathan Poretta, who had performed that afternoon, were the panelists, and on 15 Feb, Russell spoke alone. In my opinion the session with the dancers was less fruitful, because the audience questions weren't nearly as incisive, and at one point, it turned into a mini whine-fest when an audience member was upset because none of the dancers were outside autographing the book Eleven. (They just all happened to be dancing that afternoon.) Russell and Stowell were fascinating by themselves, and the audience tended to try to sound intelligent. Where Russell and/or Stowell said essentially the same thing in multiple sessions, I didn't list a date. Where there was a quote or something was from a particular session, I noted this. Unfortunately, the half life of my hand-writing is about three days, and I have a wonderful quote from Stowell, "it paid for the down payment on our house" but no context for it and I didn't always note who was saying what. Most of the retirement comments are in the retirement thread. Please don't yell at me if they said something differently on a night I wasn't there, but if you were there at a session and I got something wrong, I'd appreciate the correction. I've tried to break this up into topics: On the program Before she described the programs for next year, Russell said she was sometimes "taken to task for doing too much Balanchine" by some Board members. [Earth to Board: unless you're doing a steady diet of Gounod Symphony, Variations for Orchestra, and Steadfast Tin Soldier, how on Earth could there be "too much Balanchine?"] So they didn't program much Balanchine coming into the Centennial season. She said she'd tried to "starve" the audience so that we'd appreciate it. (15 Feb mat) "Balanchine's range can't be shown in one program or one season." (Russell/5 Feb) The program was presented as close to Balanchine's birthday as possible. [seattle Opera was performing Carmen in January.] (15 Feb mat) Stowell told Russell to stage what she'd like to stage. She deliberately chose a wide range of music and style, from classical to modern to romantic. Russell said after the Sunday matinee that the dancers were sad, and that it was hard to see the program end. On Stravinsky: The composer for the show "Teatro Zinzanni" (I didn't catch his name, and I can't find it on their website), a friend of Russell's and Stowell's called the ballet "music in human form." (Russell/7 Feb mat) Stravinsky said he could see "everything in his music through the dancing." (Russell/15 Feb mat) Stravinsky had started the piece years before, but had suffered a heart attack and put it aside. (5 Feb) "Stravinsky was the only person in the world [balanchine] bowed down to." (5 Feb) On Alan Dameron Russell noted that Dameron is not only a conductor, but also a rehearsal pianist for the Company. (He conducted Divertimento, Stewart Kershaw conducted Agon and Brahms-Schoenberg.) She called him a "real partner in the process," and siad that he not only understood, "the musical structure, but also the inner life of the music." (15 Feb) On staging Balanchine Russell does not think that Balanchine should be staged from video only, but that video should be used as an aid. She uses her own notes to stage, which are a mixture of diagrams, written notes, and counts. (13 Feb) Russell on why they choose the versions they do: "What Mr. B wanted when I was there." "What I saw and heard." (7 Feb mat) "I stick to what I know because I heard [balanchine] explain it." (15 Feb mat) In response to one question about using notation to preserve Balanchine's intentions, Russell said it was the quality of the movement that was important. She said that teaching the steps was this much, as she gestured "tiny" with her thumb and pointer fingers. The worry is that the steps will be remembered, but not the ideas behind them. (7 Feb mat). As a ballet mistress, she said she was fascinated by the details of what Balanchine wanted. When discussing Divertimento she mentioned that there was a place where the steps were off the music, deliberately, and she asked him about this. He told her, and then said, "Someday, dear, you'll be the only one who knows." She then said "Now our dancers know." (15 Feb mat) "I count on the dancers to remember everything I'm saying, especially these two [imler and Poretta]." (Russell/7 Feb mat) Russell said, "If I've done something that doesn't feel right, I've made a mistake," as she explained that Balanchine's choreography always "felt right." (5 Feb) When asked why there were differences in staging among contemporaries, and why some people thing that NYCB is going to seed, Russell sighed deeply and said that there were "disagreements about memories." (13 Feb) Both Russell and Stowell were clear that they had reasons to stage the versions they did -- they heard Balanchine explain what he wanted -- but they by no means were trying to say that these were the "only" or "right" versions. As Russell said, "There were other versions before, and there were other versions after." Every time she stages Balanchine Russell finds new things she's never seen before. (15 Feb mat) On philosophy of changes in the ballets Russell and Stowell were asked whether they made changes. They both said that, no, while Balanchine made changes, they did not. Russell said that Balanchine would tend to let men do the steps they wanted in many of their solos, he didn't change as much for women. (The context was in her time.) She said that she felt that if the dancer wasn't up to the steps, the dancer shouldn't be dancing the role. The only time I think I saw either of them flustered was when some guy in the back asked them why they didn't just change things, like Shakespeare was changed. I actually think I saw shock and horrow cross Russell's brow. She shut that one down quickly. Stowell smiled and said in response, "we believe in integrity." Russell even went back to really bad tapes of the original performances of Brahms-Schoenberg to see if there was anything she needed to clean up. Unfortunately, they were too dark and the figures too tiny to be much help. (That was the one ballet in the program in which she never danced.) The bottom line seemed to be when Russell said "I hope I didn't change anything" (15 Feb mat) and that the choreography was "only as correct as the performance." (7 Feb mat) On roles that they danced and staged Stowell danced the lead in Divertimento. I also have a note from 5 Feb that he also danced Theme and Variations, but Russell didn't list the role as his on 15 Feb mat. He also danced the leads in the first, second, and third movements of Brahms-Schoenberg, and one of the two men in the second pas de trois in Agon. Russell danced in the corps in the premieres of Divertimento and Agon, and later danced one of the two women in the second pas de trois of Agon and the second variation/first pas de deux in the Mozart. She also said she danced a "principal role" in Agon, but I'm not sure if she danced "Bransle Gay" in the second pas de trois, or if she was referring to being one of the two women in the first. She stages all three ballets. Russell and Agon: Russell's role in the premiere was as one of the four girls in the corps. It is in this role that she was pictured on the cover of the brochure, looking as if she was trying to listen to Balanchine, Stravinsky, and rehearsal pianist Boris Kopeikine (not shown), but she said several times that they only spoke Russian, so that she didn't understand them. But, she said, there was "electricity" in the room between the composer, choreographer, and pianist, whom she several times described as a "collaborator" in the effort, and that they "shot sparks off each other." Balanchine was unhappy with the dance for the two women in the second pas de trois, and at the first revival after the premiere, he rechoreographed it. She had just become a soloist* and was cast opposite principal dancer Jillana, who was so insulted at being the counterpart to a "lowly" soloist that she refused to come to rehearsals, and Balanchine re-choreographed it entirely on her. [*Russell repeated this story several times. Once she said that it might have been right before she was promoted to soloist, but at the last Q&A she phrased it this way.] In each Q&A, Russell and/or Stowell described the crazy sets of counts that are required to do all but the pas de deux. In one she had Poretta describe the actual counts in the male solo for the first pas de trois, and when the occasional "eight" was spoken, it almost seemed out of place in the "fives" and "nineteens." She and Stowell explained that Balanchine was very specific about the way he wanted it counted: if there was a count of "twenty," it was not the same thing as "four fives" or "five fours." Russell mentioned that the pas de deux isn't counted; instead the dancers take cues from the sounds. That is a rather scary thought, because it was not always smooth sailing for the orchestra. She said a couple of times that part of this is because the orchestra doesn't rehearse nearly as much as the dancers do. (She told a story about performing the ballet in Paris with the Paris Opera Ballet orchestra, in which the union contract stipulated that the actual musicians did not have to come to practice, only the substitutes and extras. Not surprisingly the result was a "disaster.") Russell said on Sunday that it has become easier for the dancers, but not for the musicians. Someone mentioned that s/he liked the mandolin player. Russell agreed and said that Kershaw told her that the player was "completely reliable," unlike one they had years ago, who "blew up." (15 Feb mat) On Opening Night (it was obvious), the second Thursday (she described it), and the last performance Russell noted that the orchestra got lost. She said that the dancers have to keep to their counts and keep going, or the whole thing will fall apart. She said that dancers try pull each other in when they are lost. At yesterday's performance, she said that because the orchestra lost its way during the triple pas de quatre, the places where the three groups of four go deliberately in and out of synch were not clear. When dancing her first role, Russell said that she was in Diana Adams' group, and that her group and Hayden's group could never agree on the counts (when they had the same ones.) She said wryly, but I think seriously, that her group was "always right." (She said that Adams was her hero.) Another thing Russell mentioned about counting is that the pas de quatre groups can't count out loud during rehearsals, because they are dancing on different counts! Russell and Stowell on Brahms-Schoenberg Brahms was staged when NYCB moved to NYST and there was a bigger stage to fill, and that it was Balanchine's response to a new environment and having "more resources" to fill the stage. He kept doing bigger and bigger ballets as the company grew (Stowell and Russell/13 Feb). Russell returned from Germany after staging several ballets there, and Balanchine was anxious for her to see his new ballet (B-S). She saw the second movement, which she fell in love with. Although she believes that parts are flawed and some parts are better than others, she also called it "underperformed and underappreciated," and said that only NYCB and PNB perform it. (5 Feb) Russell said of all of the parts of all three ballets, the hardest in terms of stamina is the second movement of the Brahms. (13 Feb) She also called it "rigorous," "finely tuned," and "fast for a romantic pas de deux" (5 Feb), as well as a "real jewel" and a "treasure." (15 Feb) On the third movement, Russell pointed out that what looks symmentrical in the corps is not: when the corps crosses, the mirrored dancers do not move to equivalent places, and this "keeps the eye moving." (15 Feb) Russell also noted that the only dancer in the Company who had danced Brahms-Schoenberg when it was last presented by PNB in 1988 is Patricia Barker. (15 Feb) Russell and Stowell on Divertimento No. 15: Russell quoted Balanchine several times as having said of the ballet, "I did battle with the Master, and I lost." They do not agree. Divertimento was choreographed for the opening of the Stratford Festival, after Russell had danced her first short season with NYCB and had returned from the layoff. She was in the corps of the premiere. (15 Feb) In two different sessions she said that the second movement lead was one of her favorite roles to dance. Stowell's last performance was as the male lead in the ballet. (15 Feb) After initial introductions during the Opening Night Q&A session, Stowell did something I thought was amazing. He started to speak about Erik Bruhn, whom he described as his role model for the male lead. He described Bruhn's "beautiful line and presentation," and "classic profile." He then twice said that Nureyev came and "eclipsed his career," even though, in Stowell's words, Bruhn had "more elegance" and "sophistication." (I missed his third description.) He lamented the fact that Bruhn is not as well known and remembered as much as he should be. (5 Feb) Imler on Brahms-Schoenberg When asked what her favorite role in the program was, Imler said fourth movement of Brahms, because she had "so much fun with it...it's different...I don't have to think too closely about the steps." Russell said that this was true only because Imler had such wonderful technique, and that "someone else would have to think about the steps." (7 Feb mat) Poretta on favorite roles While Imler described her costume for La Corsaire as one of her favorites because of the sparkles, Poretta said that he preferred ballets like Agon, where he wore leotards and tights, because they are "freeing on the body." He said he loves his Balanchine roles because he "feels so free." (7 Feb mat) Russell on Symphony in C In one performance she danced the first movement, and one of the demis in the third. She was cast in the lead of fourth movement for the first time in the same performance. She came huffing offstage after the third movement, and the wardrobe person stuck a tiara on her head. She stook there waiting for music to begin, and nothing happened. Finally, the conductor started and she went running out. She had never seen the fourth movement, and didn't realize that the conductor was waiting for her to take her place before he started! (5 Feb) On McCaw Hall vs. the Opera House, and Mercer Arena Merry Widow is being revived next year, because Russell thought it was a wonderful piece, and that too few people came to see it at Mercer Arena. (15 Feb mat). Russell said that there was a "more intimate relationship between the audience and the stage" in McCaw Hall, and noted that there was "electricity crossing the footlights." She noted that The Nutcracker exceeded projections by $450K, because people wanted to see it in the new house. As a side question, someone asked her if Stowell had changed the choreography. She said every year people tell them they they like the changes, but except for when it was performed at the Paramount Theater and the entire production couldn't fit, nothing's been added. She said that they got so tired of saying that nothing changed, that now they just say, "Thank you." (15 Feb mat) Someone in the audience asked if the Company was dancing better in the new hall. Russell replied that she thought the audience could see better in the new hall, and that the audience reaction was better, which made the dancers dance better. She likened the move from the Mercer Arena to McCaw Hall to NYCB's move from City Center to New York State Theater, and said that she thought, "the audience was having a great experience" in the new hall. (15 Feb mat) She rued the missing crowds at Mercer Arena, where she said "careers developed" while the hall remained empty. (15 Feb mat). On audience reaction and applause Russell and Stowell praised the audiences for responding so enthusiastically to Agon in particular. Russell said that they knew they were working on a masterpiece, immediate audience acceptance was unexpected. She described the ballet as "most influential," a "pinnacle," and "completely different from anything before or after it." Russell mentioned after the Sunday matinee that evening audiences tend to be louder than matinee audiences, and that they used to think of Friday night as the "tired night." Someone in the audience mentioned that she had just seen the Bolshoi and was taken aback by the interruptions for applause and the number of bows, even in the middle of the piece, and that this wasn't the case with PNB. [Not that the applause in controllable, but certainly the bow protocol is.] Russell said that Balanchine didn't like applause in the middle of the piece, that it should be more like a concert, and he even had a note in the program of Divertimento asking people to hold the applause to the end, which didn't work. But she did note that the dancers love the applause. She also said that someone asked her why in the Mozart the dancers start dancing before the music started; of course she replied that the applause was drowning out the soft music. Russell did say that when she staged ballets at the Kirov, the bowing and applause protocol was similar to that at the Boshoi. She said it didn't bother her there, and that while American audiences might find the Kirov/Bolshoi norm to be over-the-top, they probably think that American audiences are too uninvolved. (15 Feb mat). On TV versions of ballets Russell said that Balanchine often restaged versions of his ballets for TV, which took into account the size of the stage, camera perspectives, etc. When Russell was staging in China, she heard familiar music coming from the other room. It was a rehearsal for Allegro Brilliante, being staged from a film version, which made little sense on stage with a proscenium. [she didn't say if it was the Tallchief or the Farrell version they were pirating.] Balanchine changed the ending of Four Temperaments for television, and Russell preferred the original ending. Balanchine gave Russell permission ("That's okay, dear) and to use the long version of Apollo. She said she would not have done this without Balanchine's permission. [Tallchief tells a similar story in the documentary "Dancing for Mr. B."] (13 Feb) On choreography and Balanchine's influence The reason Stowell did all of the full-length story ballets was because the company needed them. Stowell said that when choreographing, he is on the "hunt for someone who's willing to be an instrument...in this process, they're like gold...You can't get 24 people to have that relationship." Russell then said that "Suzanne Farrell wasn't the greatest dancer in the Company, but she would do anything for [balanchine]." Stowell described his first view of Balanchine's choreography when San Francisco Ballet brought Concerto Barocco to Salt Lake City; he described the ballet as "bodies shaped by time and space." Stowell said he "learned so much from Balanchine's constraints" and architecture. He described Balanchine's use and re-use of the classical vocabulary in terms that Balanchine probably would have appreciated: "subtleties like a great chef taking the same piece of meat and giving different flavors to it." (13 Feb) On the job of being Artistic Director and running the school Russell listed the parts of the job that she loved as working with dancers and the school, especially working with "little lumps of clay." She said she meant no disrespect for the students, but that it was great to be able to work with them to turn them into dancers. She mentioned that next year they will be taking into the Company a girl who started at five in the Bellevue school, a first. (15 Feb mat) One of the things that they wanted to create after they came was to have Production shops, and gradually they did. (They had this in Germany.) She said she believed that if "the dancers feel beautiful, they'll dance beautifully." She had lots of praise for her shops, and said that many of the backstage people had been with the Company for over twenty years. (15 Feb mat) She noted several times that the original costumes for Brahms-Schoenberg were badly built and "looked like horse blankets", and after the re-design was scrapped in a budget cut, Larae Hascall [pronounced Lor RAY'] and her staff rebuilt them for relatively little cost. When asked how they found their dancers, they said that 65% of the women have come out of the school, and while Russell said that Suki Schorer recommended Jonathan Poretta when he was studying at SAB, many of the foreign-born dancers, seek them out. Batkhurel Bold took company class with them at the Kennedy Center when they were touring, Le Yin auditioned, etc. (7 Feb mat) Russell said that the school does not teach Balanchine technique, but they teach with a "Balanchine foundation" and take from lots of influences, so that the dancers can "go and do anything." (7 Feb mat) On casting Two things she listed that she didn't like: attending finance committe meetings and casting -- "if you want to find a way to make a whole group of dancers unhappy, do the casting" and that "it's hard not to get distracted by trying to make everybody happy." She explained that she needed to give dancers roles "to develop dancers for the future...to give them the role they needed in their phase of development," which is why she couldn't cast only principals in major roles. (5 Feb) She noted that she finds that there "are so many dancers who deserve opportunities." (13 Feb) She also talked about other considerations when casting: distributing roles so that any dancer wasn't overworked in one program, matching heights, matching strengths. She said that the dancers don't really get to choose their partners, but that they have to take romantic break-ups into account, and said that divorces are "very trying." She always does at least two casts and tries for three. (13 Feb) On 13 February Kylee Kitchens made her debut in the third (Adams) variation in Divertimento, a role that had been danced by long-time Principal Dancers Patricia Barker and Louise Nadeau. In Russell's words, "I have to put young dancers out there." She noted Kitchens' "regal quality," that her performance was "not finished," but "if we don't shove her out there she'll never get the opportunity." On being a Ballet Mistress Russell told the story of someone who had called the PNB box office after she and Stowell first arrived. They explained to the caller that Russell had been Ballet Mistress for Balanchine, and the woman replied, "I understand he had a lot of those." (Feb 5) On other topics Someone in the audiences noted that PNB dancers tend to be tall. While Russell said that they like long lines, they didn't set out to have a tall company, but that once tall dancers know the Company is willing to hire tall, they all want to apply, and, "if you have tall girls you need tall boys..." (15 Feb mat) Russell said that her first choice company was ABT, but that for the time, she was considered too tall. She said that too much talent is missed with a height limitation of 5'3"-5'5", and that "quality of dancing" and "personality" is more important. (15 Feb mat) Someone in the audience praised Batkhurel Bold, and said that it was nice to see him smiling. Russell noted that he is shy and replied, "you have no idea how hard I've been working to get him to start to smile" and offered to pass on the praise. She also noted that his entire name is "Bold," but that wasn't okay by INS standards, so he took his father's name and added it to his, and that his parents are both dancers in Ulan Bator. (15 Feb mat) All PNB performances are filmed; some are taped over, the rest are saved for the archives for union reasons and go to the Lincoln Center Library. According to Russell and Stowell, their camera is on its last legs, and there's no budget for another. There is no footage of Russell staging Balanchine's ballets for PNB. [she didn't mention if she's been filmed anywhere else.] During the Opening Night Q&A, there was a man who sang the premiere of Liebeslieder Walzer. [He didn't mention his name, but he had a deep, sonorous speaking voice.] He said that he had to have surgery, and his brother got to do the piece on tour with NYCB. Russell had a lot of praise for Angela Sterling [formerly a PNB soloist], the company photographer, who was also named photographer for the Dutch National Ballet. (15 Feb mat) The Company will not be touring before they leave PNB (budget issue). Russell said the main reason to tour was "to impress the audiences back home." (15 Feb mat) Russell danced with NYCB and Robbin's Ballet USA. (15 Feb mat) One audience member asked if they would ever come back to take a role. Russell laughed and said that Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers persuaded them to let them film them in Souvenirs, and that the dancers showed the film at a Company party. In Russell's words, "it wouldn't be pretty." (15 Feb mat)
  17. And standing has its own consequences: Daniele Gatti, on Tour with Royal Philharmonic, Upbraids Florida Audience Following Concert (Tim Page) (I don't see the article on The Washington Post website [yet], but you can view this on andante.com without having to register.)
  18. There is a version of Allegro Brilliante that is commercially available from VAI on VHS and DVD: A 1964 performance with Maria Tallchief and Nicholas Magallanes is available on a VHS tape entitled, "Maria Tallchief - Her Complete Bell Telephone Hour Appearances." A second VHS tape, "Maria Tallchief in Montreal," contains Balachine's Pas de Dix with Tallchief and Andre Eglevsky. Both are available on the DVD "The Art of Maria Tallchief." They are available in stores and through the VAI website: http://www.vaimusic.com/VIDEO/DVD_4234_694...Tallchief.shtml
  19. In several of the Q&A's, Stowell and Russell mentioned several things about their retirement and the search for a new Artistic Director. First, they said that after the announcement, they expected someone in the audience to ask about it on Thursday, but no one did. Friday was the first time anyone brought it up. They both said, and Russell, who did the Q&A this afternoon alone, reiterated that when they first came to PNB, they believed anything was possible and that there were no limits*. They said that they came to realize over time that there were limits, and twice said that they hadn't felt like they'd done enough. (Money is a big issue they cited repeatedly, but they also thanked the Board for its support over the years.) They said that the next AD should come in believing anything was possible. Today Russell said it should be a young person, although I don't know what age they'd consider "young." On Friday, one of them said that they believed that the person must be verbal, and must be able to articulate his/her vision. *In discussing McCaw Hall Russell told a pertinent story: while Stowell had seen the old Opera House before they moved to Seattle, Russell hadn't. Glyn Ross, the former GM of the Seattle Opera, invited them to see a performance of Madama Butterfly. During the first act Russell started to weep and when Stowell asked her what was wrong, she said "we can't build a ballet company in this house. We have to leave!" (As it turned out, it was possible to get a "new" house; it just took 25 years.) They did say that they were thinking of leaving earlier, but they didn't want to leave until the Company was in the new building. They are both part of the search committee, but didn't want to hand pick their predecessor. They tried to give the Board suggestions and guidelines in the search, but they want the Board to be bought into the choice. They really managed to keep a good secret, and from some of their comments, it sounded like the Board, at least the inner circle, knew for a while. They said they'd be available to consult, but they don't want to "hover" over the new administration. As far as what they'll be doing next, Russell said that she would continue to stage, but would "pick and choose" where she would travel to. (She mentioned St. Petersburg and Paris as places she'd be happy to go, and a couple of cities that she would prefer not to.) Russell said that at one time she spoke both German and French, and doesn't anymore, and she'd like to regain these languages. (When an audience member asked her if she used Labanotation or any other formal notation system, she said she never had the year to learn a system.) She also said that she and Stowell have friends across the world, but that the only time they saw them while they were working was when their friends travelled here. Russell said that they wanted time to reflect. Stowell said, and Russell quoted him again today as saying, that they could not have done the job had they not been raising three sons, who would bring them back to reality with their everyday needs and non-ballet interests. Russell and Stowell had a philosophy about staging Balanchine. They wanted to stage ballets in the version that was danced when they danced, or in Russell's case, also when she was Ballet Mistress for NYCB, because they heard what Balanchine wanted directly from Balanchine. They noted that this gave their dancers consistency, unlike "that other West Coast ballet company" that Stowell mentioned, where five different stagers would stage versions from different time periods. (Chaconne and Mozartiana are the only two Balanchine ballets I can think of in PNB's repertoire that were choreographed after they left NYCB.) Stowell said that one of the reasons he wanted to retire is that when he gave advice to his son, Christopher, about dancing and staging Balanchine, his son told him, oh that was then. So it's time for the next generation to take over. I think there's a very good book in their story, not to mention a documentary or two.
  20. In the Q&A Francia Russell told us what next year's programs would be. She said that the Marketing Department will announce this soon: Stowell's The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliette (set to various selections by Tchaikovsky, a verylovely version of the story, and different in tone because of the music) Balanchine Centenary program: Four Temperaments, Prodigal Son, and Symphony in C. Stowell's Nutcracker, although too many people think of this as Maurice Sendak's Nutcracker. All Stravinsky Triple Bill: Stowell's Firebird, Balanchine's Apollo (she said Friday night that they only perform the full version), and Tetley's Rite of Spring. Merry Widow. I can't remember who did the choreography -- I'm thinking an English guy, not Ashton -- but I saw the ballet at the Mercer Arena and didn't log it (argh), and it was really wonderful. American Choreographer's Program: New Paul Gibson ballet, a Christopher Stowell Ballet (I think a repeat of the one he did last year that I didn't see) and Caniparoli's Lambarena. Closing: Silver Lining. I'm disappointed, but Russell said it was an appropriate ballet with which to end, because every dancer in the Company is in it.
  21. Which performance(s) did you see? Your location says "Ohio." Was this part of your visit? Did you get to see Dance Theater of Harlem on tour or any other dance or music while you were here?
  22. The last performance of this program was this afternoon, and in many ways it was my favorite of the four I saw. There were other individual performers that I may have liked equally well or better, but, specifically in Divertimento and the first movement of Brahms-Schoenberg, it was the difference between being at a buffet and picking five favorite things with different tastes and textures that are complementary, and eating a wonderful Thai curry on the second day, after the spices have blended together. Except for the "Theme" men, the cast for Divertimento was the same as on Opening Night. Jordan Pacitti was paired with Paul Gibson; this was the first time I'd seen Gibson in the role. I think the pairing was more effective, given their relative sizes, than Pacitti with Maraval, who is quite a bit taller. Gibson and Mara Vinson were beautifully matched in the first pas de deux, and Jodie Thomas seemed much more relaxed and open in the fourth. The revelation was Pantastico. She seemed nervous on the Opening Night, but this afternoon she defined her space and had enough time, and all of the movements flowered. She was luminous in the pas de deux as well as the solo. But at the same time, her performance blended beautifully with the others, to create a whole garden, in which no color or perfume overwhelmed the others. She was magnifico and fantastico and all of the other "co's." I'm glad I got to see Gibson again in the first pas de trois of Agon, but the real treat was Mara Vinson's debut in the second pas de trois, who put an individual stamp on the "Bransle Gay" solo. I was happy to see the timing restored to the very end, where the catch and final pose was done right on the music. According to Francia Russell in the post-performance Q&A, the head touch to knee in the pas de deux was in the choreography. (She didn't mention the head behind the knee, but that's another story.) According to Russell, the pas de deux performed today by Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers "got the essence of what Mr. B wanted," and the audience rewarded the performance with a huge ovation. In other performances of Brahms-Schoenberg, the first movement second lead had been danced on a huge scale by Lallone and Imler. Stacy Lowenberg, in a debut in the role, took a very different approach, and her elegance was the perfect balance to Nakamura and Stanton's lead couple. Lowenberg was very much of the same world as the leads, and it gave unity to movement. Pantastico and Wevers in the second movement and Imler in the fourth were terrific again. So were Barker and Bold, but there was something more rich about this afternoon's performance of the movement; the transitions appeared more vivid and the movement built wonderfully until the end. Alexandra Dickson was replaced in Divertimento and Agon on Friday night, but it looked liked she danced as one of the three demis in third movement of Brahms-Schoenberg; this afternoon she was replaced in the Brahms, the only role for which she was cast. I hope everything's okay. All of the dancers may not have gotten every role they wanted or many performances of the roles that they did get, but it was a remarkable feat of casting. Of all the principals and soloists, only Oleg Gorboulev (second pas de trois, Agon) had one role; all of the rest had at least two principal or featured roles. As did Mara Vinson, Stacey Lowenberg, Kylee Kitchens, Jordan Pacitti, and Maria Chapman from the corps. It was a tough program for the men in the corps; only Brahms-Schoenberg had a males corps, with four dancers in the first and eight dancers in the fourth movement. I hope that the next time around, Karel Cruz gets a shot at the male lead in the fourth movement of Brahms-Schoenberg, partnering up with Carrie Imler.
  23. Joubert's skate was technically brilliant in parts -- he landed all of his jumps, including some beauties, including a 4T and a 4T/3T combo, and a nice 3A. His spins are fast and well-centered, but they are almost all pretty standard sit-spin variations. His footwork is Morozov, which is starting to get old, and doesn't do much for his circular sequence, but he skated the entire program with energy, concentration, conviction, and good quality throughout. Plushenko had the worst skate I've seen in three or four years from him. He just didn't have it. He popped his first 3A attempt and tripped and fell when he tried to land it. He popped the next 3A attempt, and then followed with a gorgeous 3A, to which he added a 3T/2L, and another gorgeous 3A solo jump at the end of the program. His opening 4T/3T/2L was landed tightly with a turn out, and I'm not sure all of the jumps were rotated fully. (But he's been getting full credit for that landing since '03 Worlds, so I don't think that alone would have hurt him.) His 3Z was okay, but he fell on a 3F in which he didn't have much speed or flow on the entry. His straightine footwork was brilliant. His spins were not particularly inventive, with loss of speed, travels, and some pretty sloppy positions. The real program was that he improvised much of the latter half of his program to up the technical elements, so that it was a disappointing program with a few jump elements as highlights. I like this program when he skates the choreography. Although Klimkin fell on a 4T after landing a 4T/3T, and had two flawed attempts at a 3F, the rest of his program was brilliant. He doesn't thrash out back cross-overs to or pumps to gain speed; I was astonished to see that his slow cross-overs were timed perfectly to the rather slow music ("Dr. Diesel"), and yet he flew across the ice. He had choreography, transitions -- including a bent leg spiral that covered half the ice into a 3T -- inventive and unusual spin combinations -- including camels in both directions into a 3S from no speed at all -- footwork, controlled arms movements that came from his back, and carriage. If there was a complete package at Budapest, it was he. Lambiel had great energy, a lot of pizzazz, and fabulous spins, but he really wasn't listening to the music. There's a slow, plaintive melody in the middle of his program, and he skated through it as if it were last year's Chocolat. I found his program a bit busy for the music, but he's a delightful skater to watch. Dambier opened with a stupendous 4S and he closed with a wonderful 3T, but in every other jump element, there was at least one issue with the landing. He doesn't take the natural curve of the blade into his movements, but takes a severe angle in, and he had tight landings on too many of his jumps. His spins were rather mediocre and traveled, and he stepped through his footwork instead of gliding through it. He has more dramatic arms than most skaters, and his program was nice to watch, but while he may have landed more triples than Klimkin -- he did not match Klimkin's 4T/3T and 3A/3T, however -- he doesn't have the all-around skills that Klimkin has. I would have ranked it: Joubert Klimkin Lambiel Plushenko Dambier but I don't get to vote
  24. Wevers has been stellar in the Balanchine Centenary, most notably in the second movement of the Brahms, but also as one of the "Theme" men (with Christophe Maraval) in Divertimento No. 15, and as Louise Nadeau's partner in the Agon pas de deux. If we hear about the dates out here before the casting goes up, I'll add them to the thread. BTW, Carrie Imler was also trained in the miracle garden of CPYB, but she would have left for the PNB school somewhere between '92 and '94; she graduated into the Company in '95.
  25. Myrna Kamara was given a wonderful review in the Carolina Ballet production of Prodigal Son; article is in today's Links, fourth post from the top.. (The second mention is a the end of the article.) Andrea Long did a wondeful performance of Calliope in Seattle during Dance Theater of Harlem's recent tour.
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