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Quiggin

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    balletgoer
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    San Francisco
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    California

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  1. Quiggin

    What is "Musicality" in a Dancer?

    Cyclingmartin: The Royal Ballet's version is fun – I always think of RB style as having a bit of music hall insolence, plus that perfect grace and a little quirkiness of Margot Fonteyn to it. Like an English version of a Watteau fete (by way of Hogarth?) in tone. But I prefer the Cornejo-led pas de trois cohesiveness and balance and brilliance. The Kirov Zelensky SL is another thing altogether, there's so much presence and spaciousness and everything done with the right pauses and accents, albeit "low contrast" ones. But – disclosure – 19th century ballet is not my thing, so I'm always missing many of the subtleties of the art of it. Regarding conducting/conducting for ballet/tempos, I came across this interview that George Balanchine did in Los Angeles in the 1940s comparing the two (Balanchine at one point wanted to be a conductor and took conducting classes in St Petersburg with Yevgeny Mravinsky): And in the spirit of the season, here are two recordings of Arabian from Nutcracker. The first is by Mravinsky recorded in the late forties. Mravinsky always plays the textures and inner details at a little expense of the forward drive. The second is by Sergiu Celibidache. In both you can hear the emphatic jcha-jcha-jcha of Russian version of maracas that you hardly hear in other recordings. Also note that Mravinky's time is 3:39 and Celibidache's is a full 5:25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trgXIgK99wQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbkD1TpWxCA And here at a mere 2:47 is Wendy Whelan in Arabian (Coffee when Arthur Mitchell did it) from Balanchine's Nutcracker – full of, if not musicality, wonderful cubo-futurist architecture. And thanks for selecting and posting all those definitive Swan Lakes – would never have come across them otherwise.
  2. Quiggin

    What is "Musicality" in a Dancer?

    I don't know how Herman Cornejo would have been able to get in his brilliant leaps without the orchestra slowing down. (And of course this may not have been the original choreography the music was intended for, as we have seen from Ratmansky's reconstructions.) But don't orchestra conductors always make changes in tempos for different dancers? Danilova talks about John Barbirolli asking her what tempos she wanted that evening (and she not knowing who he was, thinking he was flirting with her, snubbed him). And what are the right tempos? Shostakovich's musicians would always ask him to slow down some of his impossible tempos and he would often agree, saying he that when he wrote the piece was afraid of boring the audience or that he had an old metronome at home that sometimes was off tempo. Furtwangler's sense of time was quite different from Toscanini's, so why not a dancer's?
  3. The old Waltz flowers always looked like Zinnias to me, both in offset petal form and colors – orange, salmon and chrome yellow – as opposed to City Ballet's (Karinska's?) which are lavender and pink in three even tiers. They seemed like a nice wintry reference to Southern California or Mexico. The new flowers look more like single poppies (crinkled icelandic?) in form with a similar color palette. Look forward to seeing them in movement.
  4. Actually before Salonen there was an equally refined music director of the LA Phil – Carlo Maria Giulini, from 1978 to 1984, who did a great Don Carlo, Brahms Requiem and Mahler 9th. And way before Giulini there was Otto Klemperer. And of course, Stravinsky and Schoenberg were around and there was the long lived "Evenings on the Roof" series which featured their work. RedCat at Disney Hall, which they're trying to duplicate here in San Francisco, is a kind of successor to that. When I worked in a tiny record shop in Hollywood, Mel Torme once came in and surprised us – we had a big stock of rare jazz LP's (Blue Notes with two digit, pre-zip zone codes on the back) – by buying a box set of Quartetto Italiano playing the Schumann string quartets. Stayed for a long discussion on classical music with my boss.
  5. Esa-Pekka Salonen becoming head of the San Francisco Symphony is really one of the best things to happen here in the arts in years. I heard Salonen conduct the Symphony a few years ago in Ravel Mother Goose, Stravinsky Firebird and his own Nyx, the orchestra playing with great (coolish) color and transparency and delicately tensioned detailing. Very thrilling performance. Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times assess the challenges ahead: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-esa-pekka-salonen-san-francisco-20181205-story.html Alex Ross in The New Yorker:
  6. Quiggin

    Simone Messmer

    I did watch Messmer in rehearsal at SFB and she was showing two younger dancers a part she knew – just a few feet away from me – with great verve. I don't know who initiated it but the person next to me pointed it out to me approvingly. Also I remember someone who had once been at Smuin Ballet told me he never dated fellow dancers – you're together all day and do you really want to make it a 24 hour thing he said. He had lots of other non-dance interests to pursue with other friends. Anyway Kochetkova apparently was no paragon of fellow-citizen socialbility. Does everyone have to be? – perhaps we have emphasized togetherness and keeping in touch a bit too much, along with other cute things like dog and cat pictures.
  7. Quiggin

    Simone Messmer

    Tomasson does do good work, but it's the official work – or "word" – of the company. As far as the press, it would be a little like Alaistair Macaulay using the company's news releases to write his reviews. The Chronicle surely has access to stringers who work for very little. Not doing so it might have to do with SFB company policy and control. Also many professional photographers on other assignments pass through San Francisco all the time whose points of view on the company would complement Tomasson's. We need more strong voices in the world, not weaker and fewer. Again think of all the great oblique and spontaneous views of companies making work that we have had from Henri Cartier-Bresson (Boshoi & City Ballet), Martine Franck (Paris Opera and Marseilles), Walker Evans (Ballet Theatre 1940), Inge Morath (Bolshoi); Eve Arnold, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Christopher Anderson, etc etc. Here's Magnum's ballet catalogue, full of images to treasure: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/CS.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&VBID=2K1HZO4A25KZN9&SMLS=1&RW=2258&RH=1134
  8. Quiggin

    Simone Messmer

    I enjoyed watching Simone Messmer dance with San Francisco Ballet. She was an unusual type – like Carol Lombard was among 1930s actresses – and gave a light but unusual color or tone to a ballet. She was especially good in the first section of the Shostakovich Trilogy, in the part that had been set on her at ABT, and I can't imagine anyone else doing it. The dust-up with Kochetkova I believe was about labor issues at the ballet which is something that happen in New York among actors about work condition negotiations, so it didn't seem out of the ordinary. The culture of the ballet here seems to be an insular one, much more so than in New York where you have alternative companies – there is no ABT / NYCB rivalry and cross fertilization and supra-company overview. So I can understand about the intimate dinner where casting was determined. And I've always thought it highly unusual that all San Francisco Ballet's photography – the whole visual archive of the company's work – was the solely the work of the son of the artistic director, Erik Tomasson. Even the San Francisco Chronicle's images in reviews are credited to him. Can't think of any other situation like that – City Ballet had Martha Swope but there were many others including Cartier-Bresson and New York Times photographers, etc, leaving a much more varied visual history behind.
  9. Quiggin

    Job posting for artistic director

    I don't know if it's been mentioned before, but Clifford choreographed at least six works for New York City Ballet between 1969 and 1972, five of which are still listed on the repertory page (one was for the Stravinky Festival). He seems to have gotten lots of press in the Times and Clive Barnes called him "the boy most likely" among the young City Ballet choreographers – though Barnes did have some reservations about an element of "unwelcome brashness" to his dance style. Reading the reviews it could seem that Clifford had done as much as he could there as a choreographer – and as a perennially fresh and youthful dancer. Robert Garis, always a useful reference to City Ballet in the 60s and 70s, says that misunderstandings between Balanchine and his dancers, especially during the intense early Farrell period, resulted in some of them leaving the company. This includes Mimi Paul (who left for a less successful career at ABT), Suki Schorer (who retired early to teach), Marnee Morris, Gloria Govrin and Patricia Neary (who left to lead Geneva Ballet). added:
  10. Quiggin

    Job posting for artistic director

    I agree with Helene that what's in a videotaped coaching session isn't the same as what would be presented in leisurely coaching session. The Balanchine foundation repetiteurs all have their idiosyncracies, not just Clifford – Maria Tallchief seems self absorbed and distractedly watches herself in the mirror as she coaches, Alicia Alsonso tells great stories but can't see anything that's going on with the dancers and has to be diplomatically cued in by Josefina Mendez standing at her side, etc. Clifford is a kind of unreliable narrator, yes, but he is the narrator and 1) has directly watched Balanchine choreographing works and 2) knows how to watch for the common affectations and distortions that have drifted in over the years. Some of what he says is similar to what Croce and others were saying in the 90s, he just says it louder and more in your face. Many of the other dancers, such as Jacques d'Amboise and Edward Villella, also talk about Balanchine as if they had a special relation to him and know things that no one else knows. Is Suki Schorer the last word on Balanchine technique? Francia Russell or Patricia McBride or Villella who came earlier might have other ideas. Clifford makes a comment somewhere that Balanchine's knowledge of Petipa was pre-Vaganova school, and that his Petipa was actually closer to Bournonville. Maybe there's also a pre-1970 Balanchine idiom that's less focused on getting the details nailed in place and more about the whole body dramatically possessing space. Not that it should supersede what is taught now but can help inform it. I think that's what Clifford wants to draw attention to through his comments and generous anthology of YouTube videos. And that the next artistic director would be open to all that.
  11. Quiggin

    What is "Musicality" in a Dancer?

    I wonder if the performances in which the dancer takes the most liberties with a role are not the most memorable ones for us. At least when the dancer draws out and develops implications in the choreography we've always felt were there, as in the Gelsey Kirkland Giselle clip. So the progession might be – 1) standard fine performance technically perfect, 2) "musical" performance, and 3) performances where the dancer takes greater liberties, like Suzanne Farrell with Mozartiana, adjusting time and angles, almost falling off point, or Mikhail Baryshnikov in Fancy Free who seemed to be inventing new things for the in-between moments. (Though of course Mozartiana was set on Farrell and Kyra Nichols' later performances were the more orthodox ones, but quite musical.) Regarding the second point if you mean the present era, I don't think you'd be able to borrow (and repay) time with Phillip Glass's compositions, which sound to me like an endless series of hard arpeggios, nor with Wayne McGregor (or if so, how could you tell), but with the solos in The Four Temperaments you might have some leeway.
  12. But "Don Quixote" is not "Timon on Athens" in regards to the rest of Balanchine's work, or another "Pan Am Makes the Going Great." It's a rather central piece. It might be like "Orpheus" in the way "Orpheus" doesn't quite work (and really doesn't relate to "Apollo" and "Agon" as was once the programming intent) but is important to see once in a while as an example of a surrealist influenced ballet. The recent revival of "Danses Concertantes" showed some interesting ideas and geometries Balanchine was working on in 1944 and looked (at least from the clips) like a nice companion to Justin Peck's and Alexei Ratmansky's angular and brightly costumed works. The other thing is that Balanchine's "Don Quixote" is much closer to Cervantes than the very light Petipa/Gorsky Don Q, which is based on a few incidental chapters and in which Don Quixote appears only as a minor character. I don't really worry about a revival taking away other resources – and there would probably be a lot of extra interest to bring in a few extra ticket buyers. Perhaps doing a whole act rather than a series of excerpts might work. But a good theater director, like whoever helped Christopher Wheeldon with "Winter's Tale" (Nicholas Hytner?), would be essential.
  13. The accompanying exhibit of dance notations, programs and photographs goes on through December 18. Interesting that the advertisement poster uses a mild version (no red colors) of 1920s post-Petipa Constructivist graphics as its design basis.
  14. There's also a crazy set of variations by Marnee Morris - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueQe78uYntE The music is definitely a problem, like watered down Stravinsky in parts (and Nabokov had the gall to write terrible reviews of Shostakovich's musc and treat him badly on his US tour). But the contemporary reviews, even Denby's, show problems with the structure which Balanchine kept fiddling with, righting one section at the expense of another. There was also the discomfort it gave the City Ballet audience to see Balanchine himself, or the Balanchine character, humiliated on stage. Croce ("Visions" March 6, 1978) calls it an indispensible Balanchine work, especially with Farrell, but a wildly uneven work. "Its lows (which includes most of Nicolas Nakokov's score) can be very low, but its highs stratospheric." She says it derives less from Cervantes than from Orpheus, Fairy's Kiss, and Sonnambula, its bleak tone Chaplinesque (perhaps like Limelight's). Maric B. Siegel also did a long probing peice on its "weird theatricality" and the differences between the younger and older risk-taking Farrell in it, and how that shifted the earlier too-close-for-comfort worshipping pupil to master relationship for her. All in all it sounds exceedingly difficult to revive, except with a master theater director who could carefully rebalance the parts to whole, and a great cast. (Croce thought Luders was the best Don Quixote after Balanchine.) And who is there who could do the Farrell role today? [Added: I posted this at the same time as canbelto so there's a bit of overlap in our responses.]
  15. Quiggin

    Arthur Mitchell has died

    Shostakovich said several times that he would one day write his autobiography and explain everything but never did, perhaps never really intending to. Mitchell, Ashton and Cunningham may have felt they really didn't have anything to say or any talent for making anything they had to say about themselves interesting. Isn't it terribly difficult to find some way to grab hold of your past and overcome all its resistances? The most interesting memoirs I've read have been minor or narrow ones, like Calvino's "Road to San Giovanni", or Tolstoi's "Boyhood," or that of Penelope Fitzgerald by way of her short novels. Coetzee's "Boyhood" was also good because it was so direct and simple. I did like this opening by Jack Robinson, whose "Robinson" [Crusoe] was just reviewed on a Times podcast. It may offer a method of sorts.
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