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Everything posted by Quiggin

  1. Thanks, Ashton Fan for the background and how the Royal did not want to repeat the mistakes they made with Stretton's prolonged departure. Also with Scarlett the favors for favors aspect.
  2. In the best of outcomes, I think there might be a problem reviving such works as Sweet Violets (jack the Ripper), Hansel & Gretel, Die Toteninsel and even Frankenstein neutrally and without reading something of the situation into them. The subjects are pretty dark and depend on the integrity and "genius" of the choreographer to sell them. Also who would rehearse and edit them?
  3. Casting like that of City Ballet's When We Fell might be what SFB could aim for. The New York City art world has remade and opened itself over the past two years – it's really shouldn't be so difficult and so painful as all that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8A9xFs31rg
  4. I kept thinking this. It must have been something of an open secret and I wondered why someone didn't take him aside and explain how intimidating his behavior would be to young dancers, no matter how playful he may have thought it was. Perhaps with Frankenstein he was sending some sort of a message. Not sure if a ballet like Hansel and Gretel from what I've seen and read of it, with its sadism and creepiness, can ever be revived not matter how forgiving an audience may be. Anyway, thank you Drew for your carefully reasoning. And I'm sorry, so sorry, canbelto, for what happened to you.
  5. In the Cuban experience – and Villella's in New York – boys do take a keen interest in ballet when they see the complexity of the jumps and partnering. I was thinking of an open door after school program, like the Warriors do with basketball clinics. The Fillmore is right outside, so there's not a problem of getting there. I once showed a middle school in the Mission a tape of Stravinsky Violin Concerto and the boys who had been very restless and roudy suddenly became transfixed by the dancing. They wanted to see more when we left. As with the San Francisco Museum, the outreach has been half- and quarter- hearted. The problem with San Francisco's Nutcracker is the scenario, not the casting.
  6. Of course. I've always thought it was ironic that the opera rear stages of the Opera House, as well as the school, open onto the Fillmore District which has been an important Black community at least since the forties. Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk played at the nearby clubs. Yet there apparently has little if any outreach to that community. How difficult would it have been to have offered free afterschool "walk-in" classes (since the walk would have been short one) and a few scholarships to go with that. Also SFB's Nutcracker could have been an opportunity to represent the diversity of the city – the Fillmore, Chinatown, the Mission – but instead exclusively mirrors its Victorian-entranced white audience.
  7. The first time I watched When We Fell, I kept thinking of Merce Cunningham, at least in the opening section set to Morton Feldman's 1957 Piece for Four Pianos, but in a very smooth legato mode. (Feldman had done the music for Cunningham's 1958 Summerspace which City Ballet recently revived.) Feldman's tempo marking on the Four Pianos score says "Durations are free. Slow. Soft as possible." The notes seem to come out of nowhere, one by one, footprints for the dancers to step around and occasionally onto. I thought less of Cunningham in the second and third sections. The mood is cool but not cold, the grays of 16mm motion picture film are long and softly gradated, and the dancers all seemed finely atuned to the choreography.
  8. Merrill Brockway's ideas for filming Stravinsky Violin Concerto and The Four Temperaments at Opryland for WNET in 1977 might be a good point of reference. They also flesh out some of Daniel Nagrin's thoughts on "the eye of a camera" while contradicting others. (Re Nagrin: I once saw him do a wonderful and very intimate performance at Cal State Long Beach consisting of a log dance, hopping on and off and dancing about, while giving a lecture on what he was doing, and later a ballroom dance with an invisible partner, again narrating a patchwork of thoughts.) Brockway in his program notes for "Choreography by Balanchine" said he was apprehensive about the "densely populated" finale of Violin Concerto and being able to fit everyone onto the television screen, which was 21" or 23" inches in those days and often cropped away some of the edges of the image. So the clue that filmic space is triangular might be a helpful clue for a filmmaker. But also that you don't have to capture everything. John Clifford has a clip on his YouTube channel of Violette Verdy in Emeralds. It was taken from a high angle and is only a detail, as you say of a painting, but it captures Verdy's movements and the counterpoint of the dancers behind her, especially the crisp placement of their hands. The angle is the one that Degas would sometimes use for his ballet pastels. It also establishes a relationship between the dancer and the viewer rather than being anonymous and neutral. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOUnusN1dF0
  9. "Back in the day, there were many misunderstandings about homosexuality. It was often equated with pedophilia.." Back in the day homosexualy was associated with a weakness of character, a personality flaw. Novelists such as John O'Hara and Raymond Chandler regularly used it as a character type, somewhat undependable, in contrast with the narrator's virility. With Levine, what is incredible is how when he would bring an entourage of children to rehearsals, everyone accepted it as a tolerable eccentricity. Regarding the perfection of Levine's art that many people seem ready to make the necessary sacrifices for, I'm wondering if it was not just conventional music playing with a very attractive sheen. Disclaimer: I don't really listen to opera, my taste runs to the uneven lieder singing of Elisabeth Schumann and the rousing Mozart recordings done at La Scala in the 1950s and 1960s. But the Guardian does hint at a different take on Levine's esthetic from non-American, non-perfectionist perspective:
  10. I haven't made a great effort to follow everything but I thought the Royal Danish Ballet's performance of Ballo della Regina from beginning to end was among the best I saw, absolutely delightful. The RDBs training has some affinities with Balanchine's aesthetic and Merrill Ashley did a stellar job of coaching. I liked NYCB's new works (Justin Peck and all) but thought the Balanchine repertory uneven and the video capture inconsistent so that you couldn't get a coherent overview of what the company looks like today – compared to say the 2004 Balanchine Celebration. I do get the impression that the company looks best in the Peck and Ratmansky works because they're contemporary with the sensiblities of the dancers, Peck and Ratmansky or Nancy Raffa are around to fine-tune them, and I think the existential moment that produced the Balanchine ballets is perhaps becoming more and more difficult for younger dancers to understand and to place themselves within.
  11. Quiggin

    Simone Messmer

    And so Messmer was in San Francisco in first year of Ratmansky's Shostakovich Trilogy – with the original cast – compelling and unshowy, as Drew puts it.
  12. And Gordon's phrasing is so complete and organic and begins and ends in the right places. Something that's often missing when dancers try to get in all the details and speed through their delivery rather than concentrating on each phrase. You can see the loss by comparing the 2016 NYCB video of "Divertimento #15" on Youtube with the 1986 performance that John Clifford has posted on his channel with Maria Calegari, Kyra Nichols et al. There was a tutorial of T&V with Alicia Alonso, now seemingly only available through Alexander Street, where AA talks about the intimacy and tone of the partnership – about which parts the couple keeps between themselves and which ones they present to the audience. Kirkland's performance seems very much out of character with Alonso's described one.
  13. Gonzalo Garcia did return for Tina LeBlanc's farewell performance but things did look a little strained during final bows when everyone was on stage at once. Gonzalo Garcia in a sense grew up in the company and his leaving was a big thing both for the company and as a topic of discussion of whether it was appropriate for one major company to "poach" principal dancers from another company of its stature. Audience members did feel the loss during the following year or two – in comments among themselves and at at least one q&a with Helgi Tomasson. In a way I felt that Taras Domitro was hired to take Garcia's place as a very dynamic, firecrackery, slightly rough-edged dancer and take up some of his repertoire like The Four Temperaments, Symphony in C and Don Quixote. And after Domitro left, that "chair" seems to have gone to Joseph Walsh and with it roles like the lead in The Swimmer.
  14. When Gonzalo Garcia left the company for City Ballet, it caused a bit of a break or schism – which might be difficult to mend (as it has with other mid-career dancers who've left SFB and then had second thoughts, though that Iron Rule seems to have been relaxed in recent years). Christopher Stowell seemed to have left abruptly and there may have been some conflict between his vision and Helgi Tomasson's. Which I was a bit saddened by since I have a feeling I would have been sympathetic to his programming. Of the listed names Sofiane Sylve seems the most interesting choice to me, but would she want to return to San Francisco which seems like a bit of Europe only at first (and always seems to be in seach of what kind of paradise it really wants to be)? One of the big things about the SFB directorship means having to charm the San Francisco 400 (actually 90 or so souls) and sell them on what you're doing and make them feel a part of the decision-making process with sponsorships of programs, etc and make yourself part of their lives, their adoptee. That would seem to be at least fifty per cent of the job. Another significant per cent might be being psychologist-in-chief for dancer/dancer conflicts of which from reports Tomasson was a master. And being able to program mid-point between ABT and City Ballet would be important. Which might mean someone like Damian Woetzl and his kind of directorship at Vail. But would she or he end up being like Pamela Rosenberg at the SF Opera who introduced too many breaths of fresh air all at once, too many cross breezes?
  15. In her memoir America's Prima Ballerina, Maria Tallchief affectionately recounts her five year course of study with Bronislava Nijinska in Los Angeles before Tallchief joined one of the American ballet Russe companies. Also her part in a Nijinska ballet that featured Cyd Charisse. Camilla Gray's pathbreaking Russian Experiment in Art 1863-1922 (1962), an inexpensive Thames & Hudson paperback, is a great source book for the Russian artistic & cultural background that Nijinksa, Balachine, Diaghilev and Natalia Goncharova came out of, which is often given scant mention in US biographies. Stravinsky in the Kriegsman Washington Post article California links to says You can see the "blocks and masses" and lines of force in some of the Soviet avant garde theater productions featured in Camilla Gray's book. Goncharova's – and likely some of Nijinska's – sources were Russian icons and children's books. Nice page on Goncharova at the Tate in the link below along with several of her paintings, most notably regarding Nijinska, Peasants Picking Apples. https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/natalia-goncharova
  16. As a gay white male (and a one time member of New York Act Up) I would say that the greater social inequity would be the lack of Black leading men in Amercian ballet companies than the lack of gender-fluid members. In the art world, with the exception of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Black artists were not shown at galleries until around 2010 (for which see Stanley Whitney's interviews at Brooklyn Rail and elsewhere; Whitney was part of a distinguished class at Yale, white members of which got a 20 year head start). Ballet is more conservative than the rest of the arts and it would seem that now would be the time to make some honest amends, without blurring the issue as at PNB. Drag is meaningful if considered within a particular context. In American comedy (British music hall is a different tradition) men dressing up like women is incongruous and nutty, but it also shows men parodying women's work and occupying the domain of women. There were very few examples of the reverse – Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus and Morocco, Veronica Lake in Sullivan's Travels. Drag in Hollywood is both self-parody and a cat-and-mouse coming out game – with Dietrich, Jack Benny and Danny Kaye it was a nod to their bisexuality. Joe E. Brown's role in Some Like It Hot is an intregal part of the Billy Wilder/IAL Diamond script, not a throw away act or line. With Flip Wilson as Geraldine, drag was indeed a way of neutralizing his effectiveness as a Black male and making him acceptable, lovable and "beloved" to white middle class audiences. Drag opens the door for Black males to middle class acceptance, like a kind of fraternity hazing, but one that white males don't have to go through and whose afterimages follow them all career long. [Was writing this as the same time as dirac so there may be overlaps.]
  17. Thanks for the link, canbelto, to the Gottlieb review in the Atlantic. I followed it to the Nolan and Marmorstein biographies and found this reminiscence by Leonard Spigelgass about the world Lorenz Hart moved in – Gottlieb says that R&H songs were "not as jazzy as the Gershwin songs." But they did indeed become the basis of many great jazz standards. Frank Sinatra first, then Chet Baker and Miles Davis recorded famous versions of My Funny Valentine (Baker 100 times). Bix Beiderbecke started the ball rolling in 1928 with Thou Swell in double time, followed by Lester Young, Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald. Miles Davis recorded It Never Entered My Mind, as has Anita O'day, in a wonderfully slurred version. There's Blue Moon by Coleman Hawkins (1935) and Mel Tormé (Words & Music above). So there are at least 20 core R&H jazz standards, whereas the biggest Rodgers and Hammerstein jazz hit I can think of has been the treacly My Favorite Things which John Coltrane had made (exorcised?) into a jazz masterpiece. Chet Baker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SGAcP7Zh6U&feature=emb_title Bix Beiderbecke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1AXUNrz6YA
  18. Nice story, dirac. about the Cole Porter bio – sort of like the Lorenz Hart lyric about marriage being the short interval between divorces. Great photo of Balanchine and Hart. I think Hart's long-lived sister-in-law and biographer Dorothy kept the lid on any speculation about his sexuality. I remember hearing there were a pair of twins Hart was mad about, so maybe the twins in Words & Music are something of an in-joke. Of the W&M clips on YT, I especially liked June Allysion in the Vivienne Segal Thou Swell role and Ann Sothern in Where's the Rainbow. Some of the biting irony of the original On Your Toes and Lady is a Trump that you hear in the classic Goddard Lieberson revival recordings seemed missing. But Hart's intricate, self-critiquing lyrics are sometimes more complex than many singers can completely convey. Re Sothern, kept thinking of this yellow dress which was here at the San Francisco modern museum two or three years ago: https://focusonmatisse.com/product/the-yellow-dress/ Also: once at a production of Eugene Onegin or Queen of Spades at the Met, I struck up a conversation with a woman who had been a dancer in the original On Your Toes in 1936. I asked her about Hart and she remembered him as being very much in love a woman who he always was with (!). When I asked her afterwards what she thought of the Pushkin opera, she put her hands to her ears and said, "too much shooting!" But what about Slaughter on Tenth Avenue I thought later on the way home.
  19. Yes, the City Ballet dancers look slightly like columns in a temple (even though they were supposed to look like "one of those orange groves you see in California"). I do like the sculptural simplicity black and white photography brings to dance, the way it eliminates distractions and bores down to forms. My favorite Serenade part (too?) is where the man enters and the three of them make a little vehicle together to move around the stage and then he turns one of the dancers while lying on the floor, like slowly turning pages in a book (my memory may be a little untrustworthy since I haven't seen the ballet for a while). Also came across this earlier costumed Orpheus: https://www.ebay.com/itm/1936-NYC-Ballet-GEORGE-PLATT-LYNES-Drama-Dance-ORPHEUS-EURYDICE-Photo-Art-16X20-/193487612350
  20. Came across the Museum of Performance and Design's images of Serenade from San Francisco Ballet performances of 1952, 1960 and 1962 with Sally Bailey, Janet Sasson, Richard Carter and Roderick Drew. Less streamlined costumes than City Ballet's productions, but interesting peek at past versions. https://mpdsfdance.omeka.net/items/show/2997 https://mpdsfdance.omeka.net/items/show/283 Complete list of images: https://mpdsfdance.omeka.net/search?query=serenade&query_type=keyword&record_types[]=Item&record_types[]=File&record_types[]=Collection&submit_search=Search
  21. Thanks for that. According to your Wikipedia link, he worked with both Merce Cunningham and James Waring and contributed to Ballet Review and the Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet. Not a stringer! Here's an excerpt from Miami Ballet's Bugaku, only 10 years old. But in 10 years things have changed an awful lot. If the "Chinese" variation in Nutcracker is controversial, what would a general audience today think of the seemingly coyly obsequeous way in which the women hold themselves on stage (– and their orientalizing makeup)? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QomyCafiWhM OT: Regarding the sexual line from Prodigal Son's Siren to Agon (which you can project to Bagaku), I began thinking of the talk Joan Acocella gave here in the Bay Area about 15 years ago called "Balanchine and Sex." She originally proposed it as "Ballet and the Crouch," but pulled back at last minute. I assume she might today change parts of it – her harsh criticism of first gen feminisim and being apologetic for the arts of the 80s. But it's interesting how she changed her idea of Balanchine as a Greenbergian abstractionist to something else. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB8KQCPqWkc
  22. miliosr, who was the writer of the 1984 Dance mag article? A staff member? a stringer? pherank: Respectful or playful references are ok – like the ones Degas, Van Gogh and the Nabis (Vallotton, Bonnard, Denis) painters made to Japanese woodblock prints. Which became major innovations in European painting, lessons on flattening the surface plane and activitating the edges of the picture. Or the give and take among filmmakers; for example between the 1960 Magnificent Seven and Kurosawa's Seven Samarai and before that between Kurosawa and John Ford. Bugaku doesn't seem to be an homage but an inadvertent caricature of a serious Japanese genre. Balanchine's mind probably was on expanding the vocabulary of Agon – almost to the breaking point – making sexually explicit what was implicit the first time around. He doesn't seem to have been focused on subtle connotations of his source material. For reference, according to Wikipedia, bugaku "is marked by its slow, precise and regal movements ... Its descriptions often use natural metaphors to describe how their movement should be. For example, the dancers might be encouraged to be like a tree swaying in a cool breeze. ... Bugaku court dance draws heavily from the Buddhist imported culture, but also incorporates many traditional Shinto aspects. These influences eventually mixed together and over the years were refined into something uniquely Japanese, bugaku."
  23. Thanks for posting Ratmansky's Winter Season. Intriguing to watch several times over. I didn't know the composer was Glazunov at first and kept thinking it was Tchaikovsky when it was strongest, as during the section where the gnomes are starting fires and playing with flames. Ratmansky's choreography seemed such a strange take on traditional ballet, a little like Ikebana seems to a traditional western flower arranger, with bits of this and that, shorts stems and fat colored leaves or like the mixture of things birds build nests out of. Sometimes Winter looked like Serenade, sometimes Symphony Concertante, which was written for ABT, with one male partnering two or more principal women and a large corps. Ratmansky seems to roughen up traditional classicism by finishing choreographic figures with dancers facing outwards instead of tucked inward, a kind of sawtoothy centrifugal visuality – which refreshens the genre. (Not quite sure how to really characterize and detail it.) Came across this letter from Tchaikovsky in Florence to Glanunov, in which Tchaikovsky tells G how his trip to Italy hasn't revived his spirits as it usually does, and then in the second part (the whole letter is worth reading) says something that we want more of but which we're never privileged to hear: http://en.tchaikovsky-research.net/pages/Letter_4018
  24. Film writers seem to want to project a lot of cliched ideas onto non-verbal art practices – the sadism they depict perhaps is their own at a remove. Before Black Swan there were also Ballerina (Yvette Chauviré, Mia Slavenska) and the Red Shoes. The real life anxieties of dancers – dancing too little, dancing too much, who is getting what parts – are probably too mundane to dramatize in a film. (Megan Fairchild's interview with Jock Soto touched on all sort of interesting details – like the boys bowing and the girls curtseying in the hallways whenever Balanchine would pass by – but were the kind of things that could only be appreciated by a special ballet audience.) Regarding the visual arts, I think Pollock the movie pretty faithfully followed the trajectory of Jackson Pollock's messy life with Lee Krasner, Clement Greenberg and Ruth Klingman. Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan and Wilhelm deKooning were also not easy characters to deal with, Mitchell especially. (The abstract-expressionists started out in the late forties discussing ideas in West Village coffee shops but later graduated to the Cedar Tavern.) I can't think of any of them that you could say were joyful. Many I've met or read about have been, most of the time, pretty dead serious about their work – Donald Judd, Barbara Kruger, Richard Serra, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Or concerned with their relationships to their dealers or their patrons (anxiety about paintings that were being resold too early or for too little). It's a completely demanding life – and the art you make never seems finished and always raises more questions than it answers.
  25. I like the part where Doubrovska reenacts her part as the Siren in Prodigal Son in the small space to the side of her coffee table, standing straight up and then folding herself up on a small patch of floor. The film was made by Virginia Brooks whose name only appears in the tail end credits – and lost as these things are on YouTube to those who post them. According to her bio at Dance Films Association, Brooks has written reviews for Ballet Review and other dance periodicals, was coordinator of Robbins Film Archive at New York Public Library and has been video editor for the Balanchine Interpreters Archive. In addition to directing the Doubrovska film she made another one called Nutcracker Family.
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