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Everything posted by Quiggin

  1. Hal Foster in Conversations About Sculpture with Richard Serra (Yale 2018) talks about how the modern, at least in sculpture and architecture, doesn't date. "You know how modern architecture still looks modern, while everything else – the people, the clothes, the cars – don't," he says. You could say the modern – Luis Barragan, Mies van der Rohe, Serra's sculpture, and Balanchine and Agon – doesn't date because it's all structure and essence, whereas postmodernism was about skin and coverings. It feels to me that Pam Tanowitz is trying to burrow down to the bone and structure of movement. Richard Serra interestingly points out that his House of Cards, four plates of steel leaning on each other, was directly inspired by Trisha Brown's Leaning Duets which he saw at Judson Dance in 1970. It'd be interesting to see how Justin Peck's work looks in ten or twenty years.
  2. Balanchine's work went through an iffy period in the 1990's when it was thought that the repertory might be lost due to bad management and deteriorating quality of performances – maybe Helene and others remember. There was lots of press and soul-searching from Arlene Croce at the New Yorker and elsewhere. Balanchine's success in America – and ballet's – was in part a result of the cold war, when the US and the Soviet Union were competing in the arts. There was money from the Ford Foundation for ballet (as there was from the Rockefeller Brothers (&CIA) fund for MoMA to send abstract expression paintings on tours of Europe). LIncoln Center was built as a showcase for the performing arts and City Ballet became the resident dance company. All of that was a big boost to establishing the Balanchine company. Plus there was Lincoln Kirstein as a full time advocate. Ashton may have had the devoted dancers to carry on his legacy but there was no institutional backup. Drew's point about Macmillan eclipsing Ashton in the way Robbins works may have overtaken Balanchine's is a good one. [I was typing this as Helene was posting her response.]
  3. What worked for me photographically in "Thank you, New York" is that the backgrounds were "ordinary" and visually calm and the camera moved slowly and in parallel with the dancer. The equivalent of small stage and proscenium was created most of the time (Mearns' scene in Chinatown was handheld and had a different value). They were all one-shot take scenes which seems to make a big difference in immediacy. Reminded me slightly of Fred Aistaire's solo in the original Penn Station, "I'll Go my Way" in the Bandwagon or one of many Gene Kellys.
  4. I liked the key shot but I'm less and less into montage – cutting – effects and side shots these days. But I was quite taken with Ana Turazashvili's Emeralds, posted a few years back, the quiet lassitude of it. A little like when a fisherman lets out a line. There was also a tutorial with her in it on a World Ballet Day past. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsAO05roO6M
  5. I shouldn't have put that in – though Symphony in C in parts is something of a decadent layered cake – because it detracts for the other things I was trying to say – about Balanchine being boxed in and there being no path to the present through him from his Soviet past. Like that which Robert Rauschenberg made from Kurt Schwitters, Cunningham from Oscar Schlemmer, and the orthodox Minimalists like Andre and Flavin and "down and dirty minimalists" like Richard Serra and Eva Hesse made from Vladimir Tatlin's Constructivism. To open up the ideas of Balanchine and reattach them to their sources which could give contemporary correographers a way of building on him. To go back to the Meyerhold exercises and Constructivist "planes of action" which show up in The Four Temperaments and Symphony in Three Movements. I always thought this summary from Andrea Harris's Making Ballet American on how Kirstein initially introduced Balanchine to America was a bit of an eye opener: I was also trying to open up the discussion to what Digital Season formats could best serve dance and ballet, since it's becoming more and more the way we experience them. (My own idea would be to try a locked two camera-on tripod-technique on a small plain stage where the cameras would be at a 20-30 degree angle, one slightly forward, on slightly back and cuts between triggered by some half-arbitrary mechanism.)
  6. For what it's worth, Balanchine's choreography in the Soviet Union pre-1924 was considered very experimental (parts of his New Ballets survive in opening and the "writhing" on the floor of The Four Temperaments}. It also shares some of the same roots with Cunningham's work which in turns comes from Constructivist and Bauhaus ideas via Black Mountain College. Cunningham apparently kept an eye on Balanchine (enough to comment on his use of time), and Balanchine in his late abstract ballets must have been aware of what was happening downtown. The problem is how long can you just maintain a purist Balanchine repertory and not much else, all dessert and no spinach, all past and no present? And Balanchine seems to get more and more boxed into certain ideas of his work: as pure American neoclassical ballet at the same time as being Petipa's heir etc, and he as a charming uncle dispensing witty aphorisms – maybe akin to how Freud got boxed in by his disciples in America. Pam Tanowitz's work, with its sliding temporality and abrupt changes of locus might have appealed to Balanchine. Justin Peck says he respects Andrea Miller's work a lot. Maybe the problem with the digital season new works is that the problems weren't strictly laid out – like the givens for Conceptualist art – limiting the number of sites (which all began to look like the same site to the viewer and had different meanings for the dancers than to an outsider), the number of cuts and crane movements, the number of dancers (five?), etc. I did enjoy the discussions afterwards which reminded me of people sitting around and talking after performances at PS122 in the old days.
  7. Doing "New Song" (Andrea Miller) in one take lent it a coherence the other films didn't have, and not having the escape valve of a cut or dissolve gave a bit of the excitement of a live performance. You were in on the whole arc of the performance. Also you could watch things happening close to the camera while other things were developing in the distance, almost "off stage."
  8. I enjoyed, as always, Pam Tanowitz's choreography, and Russell Janzen's dancing was fascinating to watch. I was distracted by it being filmed on location with all the big statement architecture behind. I wished I were seeing it on a small dark stage with a simple set where there would just be the steps and nothing else. I think the "flaws" that Tanowtiz was interested in and the side angles could have been approximated there just as well. I hope she continues to work on it and extends it for City Ballet when they return to State Theater. The conversation afterwards was interesting and I guess I'm contradicting much of the intent of the piece as discussed.
  9. The first and the Diana Adams parts of Figure in the Carpet held up the best for me (perhaps as a whole the ballet remembers better than plays). The inner sections seem as if they would be very problematic to present today. There is a good account of the ballet's genesis in Gottlieb's Reading Dance by Rosanne Klass who originally suggested a ballet based on the esthetics of Persian carpet art to coincide with a Congress of Iranian visual art. Kirstein gave it its title after a Henry James story about a secret shared, never to be revealed, by a married couple. Except for the Sands of the Desert section, the ballet turned out less abstract than Klass and Kirstein had envisoned. She also remembers that Balanchine Klass's letter, which was received by the Performing Arts Library in 1986 and one of their few reference materials on the ballet, is worth reading in its entirety. Was that young Alistair Cooke introducing the ballet?
  10. Thanks for the clips, miliosr, and the original notice, volcanohunter. In the Funny Girl version of Swan Lake, Rall seems to carry himself like Eglevsky in Balanchine's Ivanov version. The widescreen overhead crane shot struggles a bit to take everything in, but it's interesting to watch especially if you can filter Streisand out. From Playbill: He also danced with Bob Fosse in a movie adaptation of My Sister Eileen, with Betty Garrett as Ruth, and on stage in Milk and Honey, with Molly Picon. From IMDB trivia: https://www.playbill.com/article/broadway-veteran-and-movie-musical-regular-tommy-rall-dies-at-90
  11. Balanchine left out some of Emeralds (Violet Verdy's solo?) from the Dance in America broadcast but on the other hand he did create an additional ending which retroactively gave the piece a different, graver, tone. I wouldn't mind any well-curated group of excerpts. I always wondered what a City Ballet at St Marks Church evening would look like, with excerpts from Violin Concerto or a reduced Symphony in Three Movements with a diagonal line of dozen dancers sweeping across the room and giving way to one of the pas de deux. A dance or two from Liebeslieder alternating with ones from Agon. Soupir variations. Danses Concertantes (coached by Suzanne Farrell) alongside the similar Cunningham/Satie Septet. All with a small group accompaniment.
  12. My first glimpse of nudity in performance was at an event that featured a Surrealist program many years ago at Schoenberg Hall at UCLA. A group of 12 nude men and women quietly bicycled out onto the stage, circled about, and then bicyled off, all with the upmost gravity. It was shocking and bracing at the same time. And that's kind of where I associate nudity on stage – with the sixties, with Dionysus 69 and the Living Theater, where it meant something politically and culturally. Now in ballet and in theater I don't think it has much meaning, other than perhaps a kind of stand-in for personal freedom or as a symbol of perceived societal hypocracy. But it would be one-note, it couldn't be developed choreographically (or at least without being at the expense of all the other elements). Also in dance, let alone ballet, I think it would be distracting because of the different ways the newly freed parts of dancers' bodies would behave. Clothes do focus one's attention on the choreography. In a certain way practice clothes are more nude than nakedness is nude. There's also the fact that our bodies age differently and older dancers would have more lines and different contours than younger ones. Would dancers then be separated by what their bodies were doing in time, older dancers in the corps, etc? Added: Dancers wear warmers and layers to protect them from chills in the auditorium. Working without clothes would make them even more vulnerable to colds, pulled muscles, etc
  13. If City Ballet has changed, it's perhaps because society has also changed. How people enter a room, how they walk on the street is different than it was 50 years ago. My general impression about how Balanchine interpretations have shifted at City Ballet is that they seem to be cleaner and more finely detailed – due to greater technical proficiency of the dancers and the biases of different coaches or simply the mechanics of coaching and trying to carry certain remembered details over the years. Your eye is drawn more to a dancer's periphery, to fingers, forearms and feet, to their quickness and speed rather than how the dancer as a character is possessing space. Villella I thought was able to coach in an older way of being present. But music has changed too. Pianists don't play in big architectural contours like Sviatislav Richter but foreground more of the inner details and transparency – or so it seems from listening to the current Chopin Institute Festival in Warsaw, as I have been this week: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSTXol20Q01Uj-U5Yp3IqFg
  14. Didn't know it was the Vertigo score at first and thought the composer was quoting from it – and, at a few moments, from Mahler! It has the feeling of being the music of transitions, the equivalent of a slow lap dissolve. I thought San Francisco Art Institute was an effective setting for Justin Peck's incisive choreography for Joseph Walsh. The plaza and cafe have some of the greatest views of the north bay (the architect, Paffard Keatinge-Clay, was student of Le Corbusier and had a difficult time practicing here in San Francisco). Photography seemed smooth and well done. Must have been difficult to figure out and weave together. Well worth watching.
  15. Last day – hours – to watch the Ratmansky/Boccherini Fandango rechoreographed for Roman Mejia. At 1:10:30 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCgq_e-1O84
  16. Les Enfants du Paradis may be more a critic's pick than a director's choice. It was often on best lists in journals like Film Quarterly when Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris were reviewing there. You can also understand why Truffaut liked it when you think of films like Jules and Jim. But cinematically Les Enfants du Paradis is fairly conventional and more of a filmed stage play when compared to say Jean Renoir's films like Rules of the Game and A Day in the Country (with Sylvia Bataille) with their long takes and surprising camera moves and clever ways of compressing the story. Or Antonioni's La Notte with the marvelous scene with Jean Moreau in the passenger seat involved in an animated conversation with the driver of the car (her only happy scene in the movie) that the camera follows alongside, a little behind, then a little forward of. You don't ever hear a word of the conversation, only the sound of the rain and the windshield wipers. It's the kind of thing you could do in a film but not in a novel or on the stage. But it's amazing how strong the list is – Tarkovski's Andrei Rublev with the long scene of casting the church bell, Rohmer's quirky and melancholic Rayon Vert, the delightful Band Wagon, and yes Cleo from 5 to 7 with its bizarre cafe scene and the piano lesson with young Michel Legrand. It's the list that young filmmakers like George Lucas and Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader used to have on their "must see" lists – perhaps missing Lady from Shanhai, a Jean Rouch film like Chronicle of a Summer, and something by Shirley Clark. It might also stand as a kind of cultural record of the 20th century.
  17. What a fascinating list! Somewhat like the annual top tens that Sight & Sound and Film Comment used to publish – though Rossellini, Ophuls, Vigo, and Keaton are no longer in the upper ten or fiften. And only four women directors: Jane Campion for Janet Frame's An Angel at My Table, Claire Denis (with Agnes Godard's camerawork) for Beau Travail, Barbara Loden for Wanda, and Agnes Varda for Cleo from Five to Seven. It's a director's directors list and so most of the films are solidly constructed, with few false passages. And being made before the introduction of Steadicam photography meant that each tracking shot, which involved physically laying tracks and clearing the right of way (as in the beginning shot of Contempt), had to be carefully considered and dramatically justified. Robert Bresson used only one in Les Femmes du Bois de Bologne, when when the main characters are introduced to each other in the park, and it's quite startling in effect. Top thirty: Sunrise – Murnau Vertigo – Hitchcock Tokyo Story – Ozu Rules of the Game (still highly rated) – Jean Renoir 400 Blows – Truffaut Night of the Hunter – Charles Laughton (James Agee screenplay) 2001 – Kubrick Taxi Driver – Scorsese Citizen Kane – Welles Ugetsu – Mizoguchi Ordet – Dreyer Barry Lyndon (out of circulation?) – Kubrick 8 1/2 – Fellini (Ennio Flaiano screenplay) The Mother and the Whore – Eustache Pickpocket – Robert Bresson (I believe there was an American version with Richard Gere) Close-up – Kiarostami Au hasard Balthazar – Robert Bresson A Woman under the Influence – Cassavetes Playtime – Jacques Tati Andre Roublev – Tarkovksi Touch of Evil – Welles Singing in the Rain ("Cantons sous la pluie") – Donen L'argent – Robert Bresson The Searchers – John Ford Contempt – Jean Luc Godard The Leopard – Visconti La Dolce Vita – Fellini (Flaiano screenplay) The Conversation – Coppola M – Fritz Lang Godfather part 2 – Coppola shortcut to full unnumbered list (100?): https://www.lacinetek.com/top-des-listes
  18. Thank you, Sebastian, for your detailed response, especially for the note about Carabosse being integrated back into the social order in the 1890 production. The reason I referred to anti-Seminism in Russia and Paris is that I've recently been reading about the New Odessa Colony, an important commune in Oregon that was set up by some of the many Russian Jews who emigrated during the 1880s. One of the projects of the New Odessans was to build ships that would enable them to rescue prisoners in Siberia – maybe a subject for a Shostakovich opera! I was attracted to Lopukhov's writings because they were indeed cranky and colorful, and while in parts they may be unrealistic, should they be totally disregarded as the review you linked suggests? Wiley is quite dismissive and spends many pages undoing Lopukhov when one page would seem to do. Sally Banes and Elizabeth Souritz on the other hand give him a quite respectful hearing. Lopukhov's observation that the reduction of music to two violins impacted Tchaikovsky's music to a much greater degree than it did that of composers like Minkus or Pugni who wrote simpler musical lines that were later orchestrated doesn't sound unreasonable. And his opinions on The Sleeping Beauty cuts are interesting. After all Lopukhov was born in 1886 and grew up in the St Petersburg world of theater and ballet, and so, while a kind of "unreliable narrator," he was a witness to the "hum" of the time. Apparently he was an important influence on Balanchine (you can see similar choreographic lines in The Four Temperaments to those in The Magnificence of the Universe) and a colleague of Fokine. Perhaps his writings should be treated like Kandinsky's or Paul Klee's on art? Thanks too for the link to the Tchaikovsky page. It was fun reading the other side of the Chekhov correspondence – and the ranking of Tolstoy/Tchaikovsky/Repin.
  19. Might it also be tweeked to be an awakening to something other than a repressive regime? Both France and Russia had in common anti-semitic campaigns going on in the 1880s and 1890s. What was happening in the streets impacts in some way what is happening on stage, so "The Sleeping Beauty" may have been a dream of a return to a past where complicated social questions disappeared. Fyodor Lopukhov in the "Ballet Master and the Score" criticizes some of the cuts Petipa made to Tchaikovsky's score for "The Sleeping Beauty," as if he were a lesser composer like Minkus or Pugni. And that for rehearsals Petipa was relying on a reduction for two violins which emphasized the melody but none of the full dynamic compexity of the score. On a happier though off-topic note (which is often the case with happiness these days), I recently came across this letter of Anton Chekhov: According to the letters' editor, Avrahm Yarmolinksy, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky were planning to collaborate on an opera version of "A Hero of Our Time." In a subsequent letter Chekhov tells Modest Tchaikovsky that he is dedicating his latest book to his brother titled, characteristically, "Gloomy People."
  20. Thanks, Jack, it's concise and has some good observations, such as about the three-voiced writing for the Gigue. Also about Andersen's beats off his Bounonville drum-stick legs. I see that AG has just amended the "sunny version" Franklin/Davilova pas turtorial from the Balanchine Foundation to it.
  21. Another factor that I don't see being discussed much is how effective a vaccine will be. The CDC says that initially it should be 50%. From the Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/06/30/coronavirus-vaccine-approval-fda/
  22. Mozart, in turn, based his variations on some phrases from Gluck's "The Pilgrims of Mekka," traces of which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MYX_fqERn4 The Mozartiana I know is Kyra Nichols'. She succeed Farrell in the role, partnered first by Ib Andersen and later by Damian Woetzel. In interview here in San Francisco she said that she had to strip away all of Farrell's ornamentation and start from scratch. Her interpretation as I remember it had fewer of Farrell's startling transitions and upbeats and was clearer, yet seemed as complex. Croce says of Farrell’s varied timings that it looked like a tape of herself run backwards – which doesn’t necessarily sound bad, but maybe that's something of what Nichols meant. Fascinating to watch this and try to figure out its structure. Its "heavenlyness" is very complex. With respect to Croce’s comment, sometimes it seems as if it's both weaving and unweaving itself, writing and unwriting itself at the same time. Farrell and Andersen do such curious and clunky and "thingy" movements, on the verge of not being within the ballet vocabulary. They scratch the floor and pop up off it, tip like pitchers and straighten up, quote each other and the Castelli character as well. And everyone is dressed in black as if out of a Manet painting.
  23. Thanks for the video. Apollo was brilliant – sort of reverse-engineered. What was the name of Balanchine's cat? Mouska?
  24. Wasn't there a big influx of Cuban ballet dancers into US and Canadian companies 10 or 20 years ago? It seemed as if Cuba produced a brilliant generation of dancers all at once, a legacy of the government's support of ballet and ballet schools after 1957. The ballet here had a little "parliament" of them for a while. San Francisco did do some interesting afternoon school programs in the 70s in the Lower Potrero Hill area which were very successful but then they ran out of federal funds. If reparations are finally made, African American school and after-school programs would seem to be a great place to invest them in. If SF Ballet had opened its doors to something like afternoon programs for kids in the nearby Fillmore District – maybe combination basketball clinics and ballet classes (there was for a while a connection between Taras Domitro and Steph Curry), there might have been an exciting pool of black dancers to chose from now. Silas Farley on why he feels he can leave City Ballet with a good conscience: Holland Carter in today's Times, in an excellent piece on the removal of statues, says "We’re at an inflection point in this country, potentially the most significant one in generations. Black Lives Matter brought us here." The art world is reexamining many of its practices. Ballet might do so too. I somehow don't think that the old combinations of programs and players are going to work anymore.
  25. It's funny because just outside the War Memorial Opera House the African American community of the Fillmore District begins. San Francisco Ballet would only have to open its doors non-metaphorically to have classes of black students in attendance. There could be drop-in classes in the public courtyard and garden off the north entrance. Villella and other male dancers have said that seeing running and jumping of exercises of ballet are what attracted him to ballet and so something like that could be a draw. San Francisco's African American community is currently 5%, down from 15% only a few years ago. A "negro removal" program in the Fillmore in 1960s, overseen by Justin Herman, who filled a kind of Robert Moses role here for many years, is part of the reason. There were also other African-American communities in South Park and Dogpatch, which have vanished due to various combinations of gentrifying pressures. But also a reluctance on the part of San Francisco as a whole to embrace its cultural diversity and reflect it in its workforce compared to New York, a city San Francisco has traditionally has compared itself to. To me, a native of the city, it seems in part due to an outsized nostalgia for its white Edwardian past (which its Nutcracker totally reflects) and its devotion to kind of spotless perfectionism. I would love to see ballet finally integrated. And I think it would remove an anxiety all of us feel, if only on a subconscious level. For me there's too much of a fortress mentality about ballet, about being a refuge from the world rather than a participant in it. Balanchine's works constantly refer to real world activities, from his early Soviet experients and 1920 jazz references and so on throughout his whole career. * The "race game" seems like a rather loaded term to me however you use it. It seems associated somewhere with "the race card."
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