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Posts posted by Quiggin


    23 hours ago, dirac said:

    Neither man is known for his lightness of touch ...

    I left out "these days" to reflect my own thinking on Spielberg.  I imagine Justin Peck's choreography getting lost in all the restless production values – hot colors, big sets, camera movements, etc. Translating the stage musical and choreography to the screen is always problematic in that film basically a realistic medium. Its tendency is to document everything, major and minor, with a ruthless eye that gives every element an equivalent value, whereas on stage you only notice the magic, not the clunkiness of the sets and furniture and the awkwardness of physical space.  

    Directors who might have been interesing choices: 1) small scale - someone like the Chantal Ackerman or Jacques Demy who in different ways would have separated the everday actions from the songs and dance, foregrounded Peck's choreography against simple backgrounds, thus making them discrete elements – two films checkerboarded or running in parallel. Or 2) big scale - Martin Scorsese, who has a subtler sense of the craft and better understanding of cinematic values than Speilberg.  Even Julian Schnabel would have been a more sober choice and would have cooled everything down a couple of notches. 

  2. 12 hours ago, pherank said:

    The problem with a lot of opera glasses and binoculars is that they don't have a wide field of view - they're great for looking at a PDD, but not for taking in the entire stage.

    I have a big pair of classic 7x35 binoculars which do allow a fairly wide view – 4 or 5 dancers worth from the rear of orchestra with a fairly natural amount of 3D. But switching between my single lens distance glasses and binoculars is always a bit of a comedy routine with me. And then deciding between the intimacy of a close up vs the overall view – have I missed someone entering and exiting?

  3. A closer look at the order list shows there may be some duplications, so  that number should perhaps be readjusted to 30-40-50 copies? But there are also three electronic resource vendors providing online copies – Alexander Street, Axis and Overdrive.



  4. I'm number 32 of 40 on the waiting list for Swan Dive at the San Francisco Public Library. It turns out it might not such a long wait as I originally thought since, digging deeper into the record, I see that the library has ordered something like 83 copies! In comparison they purchased/leased 10 copies of Rachel Cusk's Second Place and only two of Susan Bernofsky's well-reviewed (except by Joy Williams in Bookforum) biography of Robert Walser, the last two books I've requested. Anyway I look forward to reading Swan Dive, at least from the intriguing excerpts. 

  5. 16 hours ago, pherank said:

    I've always wondered what happened to the rest of the Cotillon footage - all we ever see are some brief shots, played back at the wrong frame speed. Film cameras were heavy and cumbersome in that era, so I can't believe someone was running about taking "snapshots" with the film camera. There had to have been a long sequence of the ballet filmed, originally. Perhaps now in someone's attic?

    Was probably filmed with a Cine-Kodak, a small popular 16mm camera that could take 50 or 100 foot loads that allowed for about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes worth of shooting before having to be reloaded. It featured  a waist-level viewfinder which helped the cameraperson escape notice by ushers, though the sound of the gears grinding away might have limited filming to scenes when the full orchestra was playing. The 16 frames per second recording rate looks speeded up when played at 24 fps but may partially be corrected by double printing every other frame.

    I originally thought Ann Barzel might have filmed Cotillon but according the the NYC Public Library Performing Arts catalogue, it was Laird Goldsborough, and features members of the Monte Carlo Ballet Russe, including Tamara Toumanova, Olga Morosova, Tatiana Riabouchinska, and David Lichine. 7 minutes in total exists.

    Barzel did preserve intriguing glimpses of many other ballets including, Ballet Imperial with Mary Anne Moylan, Interplay, Union Pacific, etc.  


  6. Thanks for the Bently background. Karinska's costumes are definitely brilliant and players in the drama but I thought the seed may have been planted by the stagecraft of the earlier version. 

    Adrian Stokes gives a nicely detailed act by act description of the 1933 Cotillon in Tonight the Ballet, where he refers to Bérard's costumes as "prismatic-colored." 

    per Cartier-Bresson:


  7. You might begin at its source, Cotillion, a Kodachrome clip (by Anne Barzel?) of which is here:


    Christian (Bebè) Berard did the costumes which most likely determined Karinska's lovely purple and black layered ones for La Valse – and which I prefer to the newer white ones. Berard also did the sets and the first version of the black dresses – and set the tone – for Mozartiana in 1933. Kirstein describes the colors of Cotillon as "pistache, purples, gilt and black" and the ballet "full of migraine and nervous ennui, the desperate gaiety of insecure adolescence" in a enthusiastic 11/01/1933 Vogue article, which leads with this photo:


    (I'm a bit of a Berard fan – so therefore all the linkages.)

  8. Thanks for posting that comparison, very helpful. Agree with pherank about Peck – it's is too fast for my eyes, nothing there for them to catch on – maybe in person it's different. There seems to be a tendency of City Ballet dancers in the past 20 years, who were always speedy, to put the locus of that speed at the elbows and wrists without it coming from the body and along whole arm. It seems like a kind of rococo ornamentation of the choreography, the lacy finish of a splash of water. Maybe it was always there in the Balanchine works, maybe it comes from Verdy rather than Farrell, but seems to have become emphasised in recent years by the more virtuosic dancers. Hallberg may want something freer, but not as staccato. 

  9. Meanwhile across Grove Street at the San Francisco Symphony:


    David Kim ... felt his white colleagues in San Francisco, who make up 83 percent of the orchestra, did not share his urgency about building a culture more welcoming to Asian, Black and Latino players.

    Feeling isolated and angry, Kim, 40, began to question his career. In March he resigned as the sole musician of color on an orchestra committee focused on equity and inclusion. And after the ensemble resumed live performances in May, he took time off, feeling on several occasions too distraught to play.


    In a way this plays into the longtime criticism of San Francisco being politically progressive but culturally conservative and protective of the status quo, at least in the visual arts, architecture and opera.

  10. I look forward to revivals of Shadows of Transparence (Sibelius/Tudor), 13, rue de Fleurus - pas de Deux (V. Thomson/H. Ross) and Tra La La with costumes by Nikki de Sainte-Phalle. 

    The recent biography of Gorey, Born to Be Posthumous by Mark Dery is reviewed in a recent issue of the LRB.


    He loved in particular the work of the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine who in 1974 he considered ‘the great genius in the arts today’. Balanchine was as laconic as Gorey, who liked quoting the choreographer’s frequent advice in rehearsal, ‘Better don’t do.’

    Ballet, untranslatable and ephemeral, is the opposite of James [Henry, to whom he preferred Jane Austen]. Motive and character development are irrelevant, no two performances are identical. Gorey went to every performance. His balletomania partook of the same rigid routine as the rest of his life and after the Lincoln Centre’s theatre opened in 1964 it became ‘for all practical purposes’ his home for five months of the year. During the interval he would take up his position in the Grand Promenade ‘leaning in his full-length fur coat, in his full-length beard’ against one of Elie Nadelman’s massive statues of voluptuous female nudes, apparently just as much of a fixture. ‘You can often hear me bitching about somebody’s performance,’ he confessed, ‘but I’m bitching on a terribly high level.’ ‘Ballet in a Nutshell’, an illustration for Dance Magazine from 1974, shows a silhouetted figure comparing notes on the performance during the intermission. She remarks: ‘her feet are like baked potatoes wrapped in foil.’


    Born to be Posthumous I just realized has a history here at Ballet Alert with Dery's Author's Call in 2012 asking us all for Edward Gorey anecdotes.



  11. Mitchum and Russell were also in Macao, clips of which seem unwatchable today, though I may have thought differently when I saw it years ago in a good print von Sternberg showed in a class he once (or twice) gave. I guess Sternberg got the Macao job because of Shanghai Express and Shanghai Gesture. (Interestingly parts of Shanghai Express were filmed in a little alleyway that the Santa Fe RR tracks go, or then went, through, not far from original Trader Joe's in Pasadena). William Wellman also gave – or rather spoke at – a class, Albert Johnson's, and told a story (which I may have posted before) about seeing Robert Mitchum for the first time. Mitchum was hitchhiking, walking forward along the side of the road with his thumb out, maybe somewhere between Palm Springs and LA, I'm not sure. Wellman said he knew immediately that Mitchum would become a big star from the way he moved his ass. In effect his swagger was his screen test.  I remember thinking how amazing it was that someone of Wellman's generation would comment, and rather glowingly at that, on the sensuality of another male. It was struggled with but just not talked about.

  12. 1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

    Whenever you have a he said-she said situation,  an eyewitness statement is helpful in assessing credibility.  Or other victims coming forth - if AR did it to her he probably did it to others.  But this isn't a Weinstein,  Moonves or Lauer situation.  A woman who can take on the entire ballet world with an anti-racism campaign,  screams at her boss and calls herself the Rogue Ballerina seems to me to have the strength and self-possession to put a two-bit harasser in his place.

    I've been in bullying situations in grade school and football practice and at summer camp. Someone picks on you everyday and no one in the group notices or wants to notice. For the bully repetition is part of the game. When I complained to a friend of my summer camp situation, he said for me to take care of it myself, we were all on our own now.

    AR did not necessarily do it to anyone else – often only one victim needs to be chosen. 

    And how many battles on how many fronts was Pazcoguin going to conduct at once. Maybe the AR one was the least of them then.

    As far as HR or administrators, they're stucturally on the side of management and the status quo. Read the comments section of the NYT on workplace issues for many eye-opening stories on HR fumbles.

  13. I think On Pointe's comments on getting a two-for or three-for-one hire make sense. PNB seems overly playful with its answer to a serious problem, blurring the issues.

    Perhaps all hierarchy should be done away with in ballet and, as in small repertory companies that do Shaw or Shakespeare, every night of a run everyone plays a different part. Peck's and Ratmansky's tend to be built on a non-hierarchical, egalitarian basis, so why not an ever-changing "Sleeping Beauty"?

    Interesting that weight lifting is mentioned above as a masculine-identified activity since that's a relatively recent thing. My father's generation would do a set of push ups and sit ups in the morning – no gym work, maybe an occasional basketball game. Weight lifting was considered a niche activity limited to muscle beaches, and a bit suspect at that. And as I remember it was the gay community in the late 70s who cut their hair short and that took to weight lifting and made it a trend, while heterosexual men hestitatingly followed. 

    But regarding gender fluidity and the general public imagination, I wonder what sort of a metaphor it makes outside the righting of social discrimination. (And why does it sometimes trump the righting of social discimination involving a greater number of individuals?)  Is it a potential demonstration of free will or Americans' standing right to be able to remake themselves at any moment from scratch – a promise of personal happiness in a restless, never resting, country? 

  14. Jenny Gilbert had this to say in a recent ENB review at the Arts Desk about the changes there in a nine year period (excerpt orginally posted in our Links section):


    Today, ENB is a very different beast from its first, 1950s incarnation in one very striking respect: it’s no longer predominantly white. Although classical dance has a better record on racial diversity than some other performance disciplines, over the nine years of Tamara Rojo’s reign at ENB, it has made enormous strides. No company, with the exception of Ballet Black, has done more to change the look of ballet in Britain, alongside a noticeable raising of technical standards among the men. Whether or not one has led directly to the other (and it's distinctly possible), it’s all to the good. The result is a more exciting presentation all round.

    Putting together the comments at SF_Ballet202, it seems that the middle mangagement, like many HR departments at corporations, is most concerned with the comfort level of the board members and the  and big sponsors who don't seem to like changes to the traditional look of the ballet. (The recent negative reaction to the Peter Sellars/John Adams very multi-cultural "Girls of the Golden West" perhaps provides an example of what is feared at the Opera House.)  

    The in-house solutions to the problems at SF Ballet seem at best half-hearted. Tomasson in the recent panel discussion linked above thought that offering $10 tickets to the ballet, an otherwise fine idea, would help with diversity – but that would only seem to show a new audience that what was on stage was not diverse.  There also seemed to be a bit of finger-crossing faith that brilliant art form of ballet, if kept pure, would heal itself on its own of its social inequities.

    The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a bit more progressive than the ballet, but also tone deaf in lots of ways, at least until a recent shakeup. Its expanded galleries opened a few years ago to reveal an entire floor entirely devoted solely to big-scale German male artists who were popular in New York in the 1990s when the collection was formed. The Abstract-Expressionist floor below it featured only two women artists, Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner, in a section some people referred to  as "the women's room." The problem with both the ballet and museum is that San Francisco is not big enough to engender competing narratives and cross-institution critiques – ABT vs NYCB, downtown vs uptown, MoMA vs the Whitney or the Guggenheim, etc – that would help sharpen our eyes.

    It would seem that someone like Tamara Rojo has to come in and, with great charm and style, change the long-standing culture, all the fussy little fall-backs of "we can't do this because," "we've never done that," "I have some issues with that"/"what issues"/"I can't say right now, just issues" ...

  15. And I would think that doing makeup for black and white movies would be fairly straight forward compared to preparing for Technicolor – for the high heat, high intensity lighting that three-strip photography required.

    But also the subject matter of the 1940s was shifting towards shadowy film noir, the small studios perhaps leading the large ones on this. Val Lewton (at RKO) and Fritz Lang, Welles with "Citizen Kane" and "Magnicent Ambersons," the films of Max Ophuls. All requiring a different kind of actress/actor, smaller scaled, slightly flawed, with some sort of worrisome past. MGM fell in with "Laura" and Crawford with the upscale film noir "Mildred Pierce," directed by Michael Curtiz. Even Lubitsch's tone shifts with "To Be or Not to Be." (Interesting as I put this down is how much of Hollywood has a European basis – on one hand John Ford, Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht, Preston Sturges but on the other von Sternberg, Billy Wilder, etc.)

  16. This could also be, with some reservations, the cheerful video of the day. Kunstmuseum Basel has used the puppets of Sophie Taeuber-Arp's King Stag Dance, a work of "sharp, bright pointed gestures" (Hugo Ball) to create a new piece by Anita Hugi and Patrick Lindenmaier for the Taeuber-Arp exhibition. King Stag Dance originally premiered at the Gallerie Dada in 1917 and had only three performances, in part due to Spanish flu restrictions, making it in a way a double lockdown video.

    Taeuber-Arp studied dance with Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman, and dance notations seem to run through her sparking graphic work. Today's NYTimes article, from which these links are borrowed, notes that "Many of the objects in the Basel exhibition were intended to 'dance' — or at least serve a function — and the curators have brought life to the works."

    The dance figures could perhaps be compared to those of Oscar Schlemmer later at the Bauhaus. Taeuber-Arp's kind of hard edged abstraction is something we seem to be reclaiming a taste for with the revivals of works by Carmen Herrera and the Brazilian Neo-Concrete group (Willys de Castro, Hércules Barsotti) in recent shows at the Musuem of Modern Art. 

    Lockdown Dada dance:

    Great virtual tour of the museum show with a major stop at the puppet display.



    Sophie Taeuber-Arp



  17. I too liked Rotunda – at least in video form. One of the differences between the more conservative Picasso and advanced Matisse is that Matisse, at least in work until 1917, then after 1937, uses a kind of centrifugal dispersal of objects (Red Room, Moorish Cafe, Piano Lesson)  where what is happening at the edges is as exciting as the middle. This strategy was a big influence on the painters of New York School of the 1950s.

    To me Justin Peck uses space, and combinations of dancers, in a constantly refreshing and non-hierarchial way. As did Ratmansky in his recent ABT Bernstein Divertimento and Trisha Brown in her 2002 Geometry of Quiet, just streamed in the Joyce spring series. With some of these works it's as if each section of the stage – like an Excel grid – has a different operational value assigned to it. This is what distinguishes Cubism and modernism from the work of the 19th century and can make contemporary dance so thrilling.

    Also re Rotunda, Gonzalo Garcia's solo was both dramatically satisfying, as well as, with its twists and turns, sculpturally (:Jessica Stockholder, Helio Oiticica) exciting to watch.

    Better to see works like these rather than the self-assignments Balanchine did to pay the bills?

  18. Wasn't sure where to place this recent program of a Trisha Brown Dance Company / Joyce Virtual Broadcast. Hers, along with Cunningham's, seems to be a lexicon that many contemporary choreographers borrow from, so it's good to see it firsthand from time to time.

    What's interesting to me is how the dancers seem to continually clear the space that a highly codified choreography could have occupied. And that the forms are part of a logical system which never arrives at a total. 

    A few quiet minutes of a Geometry of Quiet trailer. Lovely dancing.


    Available through May 12, 2021.


  19. One night a few years at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House during intermission of a SFB program that included an excellent performance of Symphony in Three Movements, crazy counts and all, I thought I saw Jacques d'Amboise in the distance getting up from an orchestra seat. I was in the standing section and didn't want to stare and anyway I might have made a mistake anyway, so I turned away. A few minutes later I heard immediately behind me a distinctive and very lively voice, a type that you never hear in San Franciso, talking into a cell phone. "It's Jacques. I'm in San Francisco, at the ballet. So am I going to see you next week at Maria's memorial service?" After he had moved a little further away, I turned to the people next to me, and later to some friends, and said what you'd say in a ballet crowd, "Do you know who that was?" But no one, even devoted regular ballet audience members, indeed knew who that was nor seemed to care. For a moment it was like being in a dream and losing your voice. But now thinking back on it, I wonder who is phoning someone and saying, "am I going to see you next week at Jacques's memorial service."

  20. After I watched the delightful ABT Ratmansky Divertimento/Bubble, I started looking back at old Bernstein musicals. Here's a scene from Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell who covers a lot of ground in high heels. This still seems fun and cheerful to me – not sure if it's too dated. (I once did a lip-sync scene from the same musical in a required acting class – Pass that Football. Our teacher was Dorothy Adams Foulger who played the maid that drops the tray in Laura when Laura comes back from the dead. She was very amused with my fumbling about.)


  21. I was thinking of the Sugar Boycott and the role some of the British religious organizations played in it, Quakers and Baptists. I was painting with a broad brush. I always liked Tolstoy's almost Jamesean Family Happiness and the slow analysis of a change in a relationship. My Anna Karenina unfortunately has long faded, superseded by a few childhood memories of Greta Garbo walking fatefully ahead. But situations in 19th century novels, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Stifter, Chekhov, T L Peacock, comic and sad, still do speak to us today.

  22. I'm more of an absolutist and think that slavery was always wrong and people knew it and did some fancy footwork to justify it. The English clergy worked hard and long during the early nineteenth century to remind Caribbean sugar plantation owners of that fact. So moral justice is pretty much the same in each period – otherwise Balzac's, Tolstoy's and Dostoevsky's novels wouldn't make sense to us today.

    I think we're losing track of the power dynamic here – the power that an older leader has over a group of much younger dancers who depend on his good judgment for their advancement as artists. This isn't about peers slipping into each other's hotel rooms on tours as some of the Macaulay IG and SD commenters have tried to contextualize it. An abuse of authority appears to be what Scarlett's dismissal was about.

    Macaulay has some other comments that I was going to quote in earlier post I made about the work and its author: 


    An immediately curious fact during his lifetime becomes far more poignant now: three of his works took their titles from the various mythological realms of the dead - “Asphodel Meadows” (2010, the work that immediately made his name with the Royal Ballet ... His “Sweet Violets” (2014, Royal Ballet) addressed the sexual murders of Jack the Ripper’s London.

    Scarlett himself retained cherubic looks: rosy cheeks, curly hair, boyish demeanour. Yet his mind kept turning to death even in the titles of admired plotless ballets.

    Which helps give us an overview of the ethos and world view of Scarlett's body of work. There was a kind of dialectic of wholesomeness of the choreographer ("cherubic ... wide-eyed, with a touch of puckishness:" Macaulay in 2014) against the darkness and hardness (Hansel and Gretel) of the subject matter. You reached for one and got the other.

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