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Helene

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Everything posted by Helene

  1. A friend who is a member of Consolidated Works, a theater/cinema/arts space in Seattle, told me that as a semi-spoof, the org did exactly that: allowed people to sponsor the stalls. (I think it was also possible to name the fire extinguishers). On a more serious note, the drinking fountains at the Tacoma Art Museum are named. Arts organizations didn't used to have to worry about divorces and naming, because the couple was always named "Mr. and Mrs. XXX." When Anne and Sid Bass had a notorious split and he remarried, "Mr. and Mrs. Sid R. Bass" remained, and "Anne H. Bass" was added. No splitting out necessary. I finally understood the speculating that goes on in front of naming plaques in NYC arts institutions: "So when was this built and who was his wife then?"
  2. In Seattle, I would say Nicholas Ade (Pacific Northwest Ballet). He invests all of his roles, mostly corps roles, with energy and commitment, and he's even drawn my eye away from Paul Gibson I was privileged to see him perform the lead in Dumas' Scripted in the Body, a speaking/dancing role, this past March.
  3. Yesterday I borrowed a "Mommy Van" and drove with friends and their three children to Portland to see the matinee performance of Balanchine's The Nutcracker. I've seen scores of performances by NYCB, and while some of my expectations for the ballet were revived and shaken up after seeing Suzanne Farrell's company dance "Waltz of the Flowers," most were formed by several decades of watching one company perform, with few exceptions, the same version of the ballet. I thought that the only question would be whether the dancers and ensembles of OBT were up to the roles, but I had underestimated what a new production on the West Coast would mean. At NYCB nearly every dancer from the children to the principals has seen the production, often for decades, has grown up or is in the process of growing up in the ballet, and has a context for each role. That is not true for the OBT dancers, only three of whose bios list School of American Ballet, two of whom studied in the summer program. They may all have been familiar with the film version, but the way the shots were assembled doesn't give a sense of ensemble, especially during the multi-faceted first act. It was a revelation to see details that have been blurred over the years in NYCB's production and smaller parts danced as if they were jewels. I was especially impressed with the Act I party scene ensemble, from children to adults. (Especially the latter, who acted like engaged adults, albeit light-hearted ones, not like dancers on contract duty.) Artur Sultanov and Tracy Taylor played Dr. and Frau Stahbaum as charismatic, but young and lighthearted parents who had a life beyong their children. They were helped by the costumes; the men in white tie and the women in dresses that could have been transplanted from a production of The Merry Widow had they been black, the opposite of Karinska's stodgy costumes for the adults. That they were cast for their obvious dramatic gifts -- he was awarded "Best Character Dancer" upon graduation from Vagaonova Academy and her attention to detail is probably a reason she's also a Rehearsal Assistant -- was a mark of a very fine eye and a commitment to the scene as unified drama. (Usually the roles are cast as an anonymous revolving door of dancers who usually portray the parents, with varying dramatic success.) Taylor was the hostess with eyes in the back of her head, aware of all of the goings on around, and the gestures she used to summon the maid to pick up the hobby horse was reflected in the Sugarplum Fairy's gesture summoning the angels in Act II; there wasn't a gratuitous movement in her performance. Kevin Poe's Drosselmeyer was a combination of dignity and enchantment. While I like the slow, short waltz that Dr. and Frau Stahlbaum dance alone at the end of the party scene in Kent Stowell's production, I had forgotten how effective the same part is in the Balanchine version, where Frau Stahlbaum and Drosselmeyer say goodbye with a tinge of bittersweet tenderness as Marie and the Nephew also part, and in Taylor's performance, the sophistication dropped for a moment as a beloved uncle was appreciated. The Snowflakes Dance had a lot of energy and sweep. Without the dated 50's Karinska costumes, the Petipa backbone of the piece was clearer. This was remarkable, since the corps girls run the gamut of shapes and sizes and training background, yet they still managed a sense of stylistic unity and precision. The dance really cleared the palate for Act II. Conductor Niel Deponte kept the tempos brisk but musical, and never loosing the arc and sweep of the music. Concertmaster Lorely Zgonc played the Act I solo passionately. The OBT orchestra played the score as a shining orchestral suite, even in the second-to-last performance of the season, and not as a prison sentence. Ansa Deguchi as Columbine was one of the soloists who danced the role as a precious gift. Her movements were very clear and finished; her performance was very bright. Tracy Taylor also danced Hot Chocolate, a role that is usually the "warm-up" for the rest of Act II, and she transformed the dramatic impetus and detail in her mime role as Frau Stahbaum into a dancing role in the second. Gavin Larsen started well as the lead Marzipan Shepherdess, with light and clear phrasing, but she started to stumble a bit, losing articulation in her feet, and to favor one foot. Louis Phillipe Dionne in the short role as Tea was light and full, but his costumer hurt rather than helped. What set them apart from other soloists was the fullness of their movement through their performances. And the four "girl" polichinelles each looked like a little dancer, not just like a very talented student. Before Act II there was an announcement hat Kathi Martuza, who had also been listed as a snowflake, would be replaced by McKenzie Fyfe as Coffee. Fyfe, who makes Wendy Whelan look zaftig, has looooong legs, which she used to fine effect to create images, but not shapes. Her performance was more light than sensuous. She was also helped by the costume, long pink harem pants. Two of the male performances were disappointing, because both were danced small: Karl Vakili's Candy Cane, the least dynamic one I've ever seen, started out with an unusual lightness, but then just seemed to run out of steam. Paul DeStrooper invested Cavalier with fine mime moments, like his graciousness to the Sugarplum Fairy and to the children, and his landings were very light. But most of his dancing was not fully stretched and complete, and in places it almost looked marked. I have mixed feelings about Yuka Iino's performance as Dewdrop. While she has terrific technique -- for example, in her fouettes, her thigh is at a 90 degree angle and fully turned out after the "whip" -- and a light style, there wasn't much weight to her performance. She really was like a drop of dew, a little flourish sitting delicately on the flowers. My first thought was that I was just used to tall dancers in the role, but checking the list, I found Heather Watts, Lisa Hess, Melinda Roy, Kelly Cass, and Margaret Tracey among the Dewdrops I've seen, and while none of them are tall dancers, they didn't dance like small dancers. And I'm comparing her to the "stage eaters" in Suzanne Farrell's Ballet, Bonnie Pickard and Shannon Parsely. Iino seemed happy enough to be dancing the role, but she didn't seem to be taking her place as the center of the dance, and she didn't seem to "need" to be there. Alison Roper's Sugarplum Fairy started out very strong, with a beautifully articulated variation. She has superb feet, with a high arch, but since they are a bit "hoof-like" and she is very muscular, she looses a bit in length and line. (She also does supported pirouettes with her foot crossing her thigh above the knee, I position I don't like very much.) In the variation and the solo parts in the pdd coda, this wasn't an issue, because of her energy and clarity of movement. In the pas de deux and the reprise, this became more obvious. As she started the pas de deux, she could have been the poster child for presenting the foot, which never seemed to stop stretching. She also had wonderful amplitude in the supported developees that open the pdd, again always extending. But as it went on, she became more contained and she lost the sense of contraction and expansion in her phrasing. I would love to see more of Roper, though, and hopefully she'll be cast prominently in the Facade/Duo Concertante/There Where She Loves/new Julia Adam ballet program in May 2004, because her high points were very high. And my friend Peter, who sees ballet only occasionally was entranced by the pas de deux; every half hour or so on the way back, he would wonder at the emotional tug it had for him. Balanchine could use the "big" music counterintuitively, examples are when he gave the big, sweeping music from Raymonda and the second reprise of the theme in the fourth movement of Serenade to the corps couples. In the NYCB production during what I think is the most beautiful part of the score, the Nutcracker walks through the giant French doors at the back of the stage and gestures for Marie to follow, as the scenery sweeps away, the huge tree is lifted into the wings, and Marie is alone on the vast stage being moved around in her bed. When the forest appears, it seems to fill the stage quickly from all directions, a world first voided and then transformed. To me these have always been a moving images, but the scene didn't work so well at Keller Auditorium on this set. First, I don't even remember where the Nutcracker left, but it wasn't upstage center, and he wasn't the focus of attention. Second, the tree and the sets, while much more realistic-looking, weren't as dwarfing and kind of faded into the flies and wings. And at the end of the music the snow forest appears, it drops slowly from the flies. No magic at all. The sets were rather dark, but I was happy not to see Ruben Ter-Arutunian's candyland confection on the sets for Act II. For a production done on the relative cheap, except for the transformation scenes in Act I, I was happier to see the money spent on the costumes. There were a lot of ideas and energy invested in their design, and in some dances, transformed the look of the dance for the better: costumes for the adults in Act I, snow flakes, harem pants and no ankle bells for Coffee, the cotton candy blue bodices turning to cotton candy pink tulle skirts for the Flowers, a lovely contrast in green for Dewdrop, beautiful light silks for the "Parisian" Shepherdesses instead of those hideous, fabric-less pink and yellow wire "tutus" over corsets that Karinska designed, and the lovely pink tutu for the Sugarplum Fairy. The dresses for the polichinelle girls were also very lovely and detailed. On the whole, the costumes enchanced the choreography, which is why when Farmer failed, it was all the more distressing. It seems that Farmer found metalic fabric in copper -- the kind used so effectively by Karinska as underlayers for the skirts in Hot Chocolate -- and used it for the angels costumes, which were gaudy. The angels also wore wigs that I can only describe as long blond nightmare hair, tightly waved and about to frizz into Pirlipat hair at the first sign of humidity. Pretty scary. For some reason, the Candy Canes were dressed as French circus performers. Candy Cane was dressed in beige tights with rolls, and the little gymsuit-like bloomers on the corps were unfortunate: the girls were clearly in the teenage awkward stage, and they looked like they were in a local year-end dance recital. I think Farmer's biggest issue had to do with pants; the harem pants in Coffee were the exception that proved the rule. He doesn't seem to like them. While it does make some thematic sense to dress the Act I Soldier doll, the Nutcracker, the little Prince, and the Cavalier in tights, not pants, the Nutcracker/little Prince looked naked, especially during the battle and the mime scene in Act II. The stiffness of the soldier doll choreography was countered by seeing the preparation in the dancer's legs. The Candy Canes' legs needed to be covered. Unfortunately, the ones he designed for Tea -- billowing to the knee, then tapering -- obscured the dancer's line in the wonderful split jumps he does twice in the downstage right corner. But Farmer did give the mouse pants of a sort, albeit made of fur! The company, stager Elyse Borne, and children's stager Darla Hoover really earned their stripes. I really look forward to seeing more of OBT.
  4. I saw PNB's Nutcracker this past Thursday. Kaori Nakamura danced older Clara, Jeffrey Stanton danced Prince, and Olivier Wevers performed Drosselmeyer and Pasha. If Nakamura's name hadn't been in the program, I would not have recognized her. In the past I've found her movement harsh; she seemed to muscle and "punch" out her leg movements especially. On Thursday she left the forced movement behind, and, for the first time, appeared to be performing entire phrases. By doing this, her dancing looked that much stronger and authoritative, as her upper body was in balance with her footwork and her shoulders were relaxed, and the clarity of movement was enchanced by not having it be so emphatic. She was lovely. The Sendak Nutcracker is a nightmare vision, not of the wake-up screaming type, but the kind where there is a pulse of anxiety, that something isn't right, and the whole thing is going to turn out badly. In the many performances of this production I've seen, Drosselmeyer is a bit mystical, and Pasha is a bit of a bragging buffoon, albeit a whip-brandishing one. There's always a bit of posturing between Prince and Pasha, but most of the real tension comes at the end, when Clara literally misses the boat, Pasha reveals himself as Drosselmeyer, and adult Clara is alone in a panic, until child Clara realizes that she's had a bad dream and goes back to sleep. In this peformance it was clear what caused Clara's nightmares: Wevers' Drosselmeyer was the embodiment of that horrible old relative who is a bully, thinks he's funny when he's just cruel, and is mean to children, especially the quieter ones he can pick on. Once Clara backs off from him -- hard to tell if this is the first time, or this is from experience of Christmas' past with him -- he spends the rest of Act I tormenting her. He incites the boys over and over again, not as a kind joke, but as an overbearing sadist: he pushes her around, grabbing her by the wrists, stomps his feet no, and hovers over her menacingly. During the closing group dance, when Clara graciously dances with him, he manhandles her again. It's no wonder she turns him into the cruel Pasha during her dream. The Act II performance that tied into the sense of foreboding was Melanie Skinner's Peacock, performed to the Arabian music. Usually Peacock emerges from the cage on which she is brought in and dances either in a cool, detached way in constrast to the music, or sensually to the music. In this performance, Skinner portrayed Peacock as a creature dependent on Pasha as her controller and looking for direction and/or approval, with the energy of a caged animal whose been let out under strict observation. Skinner conveyed this sense in only a few minutes, and it was eerie. There were many lovely performances, played "straight": among the children, Andrea Toulouse played the child Mouse King in Clara's original dream about Princess Pirlipat, the Nutcracker, and the Mouse King, in which the Mouse King bites the Princess, and she turns ugly. Since she was wearing a mouse head, she only had her body language which which to convey the character, on a very narrow front strip of the stage, it was remarkable how much dignity and pride she managed to show in her poses, just by the way she held her chest and shoulders. In the Toy Theater there was a tall boy -- the last boy out -- who seemed to be made for ballet. Like in its counterpart in Balanchine's Mother Ginger the children in this piece do very real dancing. In Act I Stowell interpolated a piece (to Mozart I think, there are no credits I can find) which tells the Princess Pirlipat story again in a Masque provided as party entertainment. As Mouse King Kiyon Gaines had beautifully-turned out and crisp leg work; what makes the Masque so difficult is that all three dancers have to hold masks on sticks in front of their faces while performing the story and the choreography. Mara Vinson was very fine in the Ballerina's dance, Stowell's turn to be sadistic: in the movie the Ballerina performs her dance in a doll house. On stage the Ballerina has to perform, and then stand perfectly still with her arms out to the side (lower than 2nd position) through not only the Sword Dance, but the Masque, and then some stage busienss after the Masque. During this partI always think of Toni Bentley's description of dancing one of the first roles in which a new corps member is cast at NYCB: [i'm paraphrasing] she said that in the Fourth Movement of Symphony in C the dancer dances her heart out for five minutes, and then has to stand still along the sides for what seems like an eternity, as her foot throbs in pain. Carrie Imler was radiant as Flora. (I wish Suzanne Farrell's company had these flowing, tulle-filled dresses for the Waltz of the Flowers.) This was the most theatrically complete performance of the Sendak production that I've seen in the last ten seasons. I had my own interesting dreams on Thursday night! And I even got to buy a bobblehead from the gift shop.
  5. My cheerleading squad in high school called it a "Russian Jump" when it was in the air, and a "Russian Split" when it was on the ground/floor.
  6. That's so wonderful! It's very sad that Yagudin has such a bad injury, but it's great that he can still skate in professional shows and that he's helping Tarasova to coach Griazev. I've read that young Griazev was quite good in the Men's Long Program.
  7. Is that Bojesen with Thomas Lund in rehearsal?
  8. Fifth Ring is only on the sides at New York State Theater, and it's a pretty steep view to the stage. Standing Room is behind the Fourth Ring, and has central view of the stage.
  9. Did it take place in the same rink in which Euros were held last year? It is such a beautiful rink, and just the right size to see the details in the skating, even from the top rows. (Unlike the cavernous stadiums in which Worlds are usually held.) I love that all the adjoining streets are named after the great skaters from the rich heritage of Swedish skating.
  10. It took me a number of years of fuming to actually say this to anyone out loud. My reference used to be the movies; I was used to the absolutely silent audience members at the Film Forum in NYC. But since then, I've found that making out, sharing one seat, and talking throughout have become standard movie etiquette, probably because of television. My friends and I gave up the Tuesday afternoon cheap show at the art house movie theater in Scarsdale, because it was full of senior citizens, who seemed to maintain a constant chant of "WHAT? WHAT? WHAT DID SHE SAY?," even when the movie was subtitled
  11. The Royal Ballet version stars Lesley Collier, who was very lovely as Lise, Michael Coleman as Colas, and Garry Grant as an engaging Alain. Brian Shaw played the Widow Simone, who dances one of the highlights of the ballet, a clog dance. I find Coleman to be a bit cloying, but he's not really the point of the ballet anyway. It's too bad the Australian Ballet recording isn't as good as the terrific production they brought to Seattle in 1994. I saw Luncida Dunn dance Lise and Robert Marshall dance a decidedly non-cloying Colas, but I don't know who was in the other casts.
  12. My worst experience was at an evening performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker that I attended with a friend. There was a couple in front of us with a six-year-old daughter, who they sat in the very tall father's lap. I found a position where I could see around them, which was approved by the person sitting behind me, but the wife insisted on leaning her head on her husband's shoulder and playing with his hair and ears -- blocking my friend's sightlines -- and the couple talked through the entire act. In the meantime, the six-year-old didn't move or say a word throughout the entire first act. As the lights were going down for Act II, they started again. Alicia said something to them, and the wife turned around, looked back and forth at us -- two women -- and turned her glare into a patronizing, sickly sweet smile of pity. That's when I lost it and said in a stage whisper, "This is NOT television." She was shocked, but she sat still still, in her own seat, for the rest of the performance.
  13. I apologize. I just went to the PNB site to buy additional tickets, and there is only one matinee per weekend, a Saturday matinee at 2pm on 7 February and a Sunday matinee at 1pm on 15 February.
  14. Another possibility if you don't mind the sides is "Gallery Upper." "Gallery Lower" starts at orchestra level on each side of the house, and rises up, turning into "Gallery Upper" to meet the Dress Circle Center. When I saw an extra performance of Swan Lake and bought a "Gallery Upper" seat. What the ballet called Gallery Upper were about eight to ten seats toward the center, what I thought was First Tier sides. It was a great seat for ballet. My subscription seat is in the Orchestra in row Y, which is just under the Dress Circle overhang, which didn't affect the acoustics. It's a great place to be in the Orchestra, because of the rise, and you don't miss any of the footwork. If you're coming down for the weekend, there is a Saturday matinee, Saturday evening, and Sunday matinee performance. There's a new standing room section in the back of the orchestra. That may be a way to squeeze in an extra performance, without breaking the bank, and the sightlines should be fine. (Opera fans I know have been able to scoot into empty seats as soon as the lights go down. I don't know how the ushers' "see no evil" policy is holding out, but it was really important for Parsifal )
  15. Those are great lists! Since "Steadfast Tin Soldier" is a short ballet and in the US is paired with another, may I suggest moving Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux from Effy's program as the second half of the pair? The music for it was the original Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake
  16. I'm going to sound even more like an old fogey: the contract on the ticket is that management can change the cast or program at will, and that one should be happy with what one gets. As annoying as it is to look forward to a performer or ballet only to get "stuck" with a substitution -- usually one's worst nightmare, especially if one is in a bad mood -- that's the fine print, and in ballet, where injuries aren't rare, it has to be part of the contingency. (And often part of my Plan B.) I'm also more of the old NYCB watcher school: I don't expect clean lines, first performances to be fully cooked, or dancers to be quite ready for their roles. I like watching most dancers tackle roles in which they aren't quite comfortable and watching them grow into the part. (Not when they look miserable, though, which happens occasionally.) I even like casting against type, even when its not successful, and of casting younger dancers in major roles, instead of giving two performances to each of the three predictable principals. In over 30 years -- apart from a pathetic local Nutcracker I saw as an eight-year-old -- I've only seen three performances in which a dancer was so badly cast that he didn't redeem himself at some part in the ballet, and two of these were the same dancer way beyond his prime. Luckily for the third the New York Times critic was much kinder than the two women who sat in front of me on the 65th Street crosstown bus. That said, I understand why ballet company directors would be concerned about the couple-of-times-a-year ballet-goer who will not come back if a ballet opening isn't perfect, especially since the trend is away from subscriptions.
  17. She is just stunning in that red dress (first photo).
  18. In another of Arlene Croce's reviews from 1977 (21 Mar), she wrote in the context of noting "Balanchine's tinkerings" since the last performances of Serenade, Quoted from Afterimages. In the parent thread of this one the loose hair theme was much discussed. Croce suggests that for a long time, the hair stayed up.
  19. It's not the bobbleheads themselves I have a problem with. I just look at the Seattle Mariners' schedule, and there are months were almost every day there is a promotion of some sort -- MasterCard Cap Night, Ichiro Bobblehead Night, Fred Meyer Towel Night, etc. Which is great if a series of sponsors manufacture and ship at no cost, but I'd hate to see the day that the only way to get people to see ballet is by giving something away at the door, if the ballet companies have to shoulder the expense themselves. I'm glad I can buy one and subsidize the free ones (And one small child is now safe...)
  20. Is there a "kvelling" icon? I'm kvelling from reading these posts!
  21. I guess my question is really when the "old" is replaced by the "new," how much damage is done so that the "old" can't be recaptured?
  22. I think that sometimes "old" art gets replaced by "new" when the training for and dancing to the "new" art changes the technique or impetus, and the "old" art can't be danced the same way. Thinking pessimistically, I've read endless references to the change of training during MacMillan's rule at Royal Ballet, and how dancers trained to do his ballets could no longer dance Ashton properly. I also compare a lot of NYCB performances I've seen since Martins took over, where there is sharp technique, but where the movement impetus doesn't seem to be universally grounded, to the performances I recently saw of Suzanne Farrell Ballet. I wouldn't go so far as to call them a troupe of random pick-up dancers, but they gave me a sense of dancing from the root that I rarely see at NYCB, especially now when my visits to NYC are limited to 3-4 times a year, and I can't compare several performances. I'm not sure how many differences are based in conflicting approaches as well. For example, when NYCB performed Bournonville Divertissements, coached by Stanley Williams, are the dancers unable to grasp the Bournonville style and technique -- certainly RDB men have joined NYCB and picked up Balanchine technique like sponges -- or are they trained to dance it like another performance of Balanchine? I'm thinking of Arlene Croce's review from 21 Feb 77: and Croce seems to suggest "both." (These quotes are from Afterimages.) I also wonder if dancers have the technique or disinclination or direction to perform Cechetti-based ballet with the proper "square" alignment; for example, is it impossible to perform a square arabesque without opening the hip, and without the energy and attack that's standard now?
  23. In this week's The New Yorker (8 Dec 03) dance critic Joan Acocella reviews Joyce scholar Carol Loeb Shloss' book, "Lucia Joyce" To Dance in the Wake," a biography of James Joyce's daughter. Most of the dance Shloss talks about in the book is modern: studies at Dalcroze Institute and with Isadora Duncan's older brother, Raymond; professional appearances with a small troupe; the author's contention that Lucia's dancing was the inspiration for the themes in Finnegan's Wake. However, Acocella also mentions that Lucia Joyce, at the age of 22, began to study ballet seriously with Lubov Egorova, for six hours a day, and that her failure at it caused her to give up dance. It was very interesting to read Acocella's dissection of the dance history in the book. For example, the author implies that a diary entry by one of Joyce's friends was a description of one of Lucia Joyce's performances, while Acocella identifies it as a description of Balanchine's Prodigal Son ! The links to individual reviews expire each week -- this one probably on 8 Dec -- but to find the complete review, go to The New Yorker website, and from the left menu scroll over "THE CRITICS" and select "BOOKS."
  24. What would you have wished for in a Balanchine/Martins triple-bill, if you could have chosen: 1) Among what's currently in the rep? 2) Among all ballets?
  25. That's terrific that they'll be able to expand their season. It would be great if a lot more dancers were given the opportunity to learn and to perform new roles
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