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Posts posted by Quiggin

  1. 1 hour ago, pherank said:

    I guess the question is: what is the difference between a life that includes social media time, and the way in which artists previously spent their time (at cafes, readings, protests, love affairs, working service jobs, whatever - depending on the era)? 

    You make good points about how artists have spent their time in the past. But also in the past artists have left New York City because of publicity and those kinds of distractions. Agnes Martin and Donald Judd retreated to New Mexico and Texas to concentrate on making artworks. Judd also said that at some point he could feel the resentment of his peers in New York at his moderate success while they were felt they were stuck in place and that was another reason for leaving. Interesting what Holland Carter says in today's Times about Judd, referencing the social media present:


    He still isn’t on any center stage. As a model for young artists now — in an art world that acknowledges multiple histories and has zero interest in “isms” — he seems locked in another time, as do many of his contemporaries who came of age more than a half-century ago. Simply put, they lived on a smaller art planet, one small enough to have faith in a Next Big Step. In the market-managed present, it’s hard to imagine ever thinking that way.

    Writers too have said that the pull of social media, especially Twitter, breaks their concentration and causes them to stray from that magical place where writing originates. 

    Again I was wondering if limiting photography in class and rehearsal was about the disruption it would pose and if it makes other dancers feel uncomfortable. What are the policies of other companies? City Ballet posts a variety of documentary photos which are well done, catch the flavor of the studio, and seem more than adequate for promotional purposes.

  2. I'm curious too if it's a legal workplace issue. But does one have complete freedom of speech at her/his job? Say could you do a videocast from your cubicle on your breaks about what you do at your job? 

    And maybe some dancers don't want to appear in the backgrounds of other dancers' IGs. Or maybe they aren't as Instagram presentable and feel a little left a little out of the loop. Maybe Instagram cheeriness is a bit depressing to the cyberspace have nots.

    And of course from my age perspective the question would be: if you're so geared to Instagram, what's left over for your art.

  3. It is the Opera House – War Memorial Opera House – and the ballet was originally called the San Francisco Opera Ballet, so the Opera gets to call the shots.

    San Francisco also has its odd seasons and migration patterns that might affect scheduling for both companies. People come up from the inner valley – from Fresno and Modesto – on weekends to escape the heat and San Franciscans go to Sonoma and Napa to escape the summer cold and everyone schedules their opera dates accordingly.

    I like having the ballet season solidly pinned down in winter and in a substantial sequence where each program helps to inform the next – what's missing in one is there in the one to come. With City Ballet the audience seems to go to programs based on their loyalty to or curiosity about certain Balanchine and Robbins works, while at San Francisco Ballet people seem to go to follow the dancers (Leigh Witchel once commented here how Helgi Tomasson's ballets were designed primarily to show off the company's dancers). So breaking up the calendar might someway diminish that effect of wanting to see everything one particular dancer is in and also wanting to immerse yourself completely in the thick of ballet season. This in answer to:

    10 hours ago, sandik said:

    I wonder, though, about the audience -- as someone points out earlier in this thread, the density of the performance schedule affects the people in the audience as well as the people on stage.

    Do the companies make money on tours – or is it for a psychological lift and public relations?

    Added: posted this before I saw the last two comments. Do remember hearing though the the Ballet was exploring the idea of having a split season a couple of years ago.



  4. BalanchineFan:


    I just read another take on the production. 


    Yes, it written by Carina del Valle Schorske from San Juan. It's in the Opinion rather than Dance section. She says "these continuous revivals [only] reinforce America’s colonizing power to determine who Puerto Ricans get to be." Also what I tried to summarize before:


    The show’s creators didn’t know, or didn’t seem to care to know, much about their own material. The lyricist Stephen Sondheim at first expressed doubts about his fitness for the project: “I’ve never been that poor and I’ve never even met a Puerto Rican.” The initial concept, an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” recast with teenage street gangs, didn’t involve Puerto Ricans at all. The artists toyed with a number of ethnic possibilities — Jewish people? Mexicans? — before settling on the version we know now.

    On another note Gia Koulas cites Marc Crousillat, who danced with Trisha Brown, as a particularly effective dancer in the musical. Nice video of him in Locus Solo.



  5. 20 hours ago, pherank said:

    I'll be disappointed if they use plastic in the construction, but given costs, that may happen.

    Don't know what material is best but I wonder if the change will affect the acoustics of the room, the reverberation time and the "patina" of decay. Because of the high ceiling the sound at the SF Opera House is supposed to be better in the balcony than the orchestra section. What part the pillowy orchestra seats play in the mix would be a question for the acoustic engineers. Quicker reverb time is supposed to be better for voice and early music whereas slower better for romantic music and Mahler. And shoes? 

    I just came across this paper in the Journal of the Acoustical Society which has some comments on upholstery and concert sound among all the calculations. Interesting comparision also between the acoustics of Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher and on Berlin Philharmonie's "vineyard" seating.


  6. Quote

    The new seats, designed to reflect the aesthetics of the Opera House, will be wider, have greater leg room, be positioned at a more comfortable height, and will reflect the latest in ergonomic support. 

    Sightlines to the stage from the Orchestra section will be improved by the new seat design and a subtle staggering of seats along the center aisle of the theater.

    I always I tend to sink and feel enveloped in the orchestra seats and find them a bit sleep inducing, so I usually sit (way) upstairs or stand. The plush red of the old seats does match the 1920s theater decor of the house. Sometimes though you do feel in the Opera House as if you've slipped back in time – is it still the protective well-cushioned nineteen fifties you sometimes think.


  7. "Nobody in theatre thought that brown face was "miserable" when WSS debuted.  It was just the way things were."

    Back in the day the makeup in West Side Story seemed phoney. almost like a simulated sun tan, at least in the movie version. I saw it when it first came out. I was going to college in Chicago and my close friend at the time was a Puerto Rican architecture student from Brooklyn. We both made jokes about the film.

    Max Factor brownface always seemed artifical and affected – the most bizarre case being Marlene Dietrich (as well as Charleton Heston) in Touch of Evil. I guess George Stevens tried to address some of that by casting Sal Mineo in Giant.

    Anyway the socially unjust aspects of brownface were apparent then.

    Perhaps on the stage it all came off differently. 


  8. From the Wikipedia entry on Etudes, Harald Lander: 

    "The order of the various sections of the ballet, as recorded by the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky in 1997."

    An order not necessarily that of the current SFB production. According to Horst Koegler, its dates are 1948, revised in 1951: "The whole ballet is propelled by an irresistible escalation of technical difficulties, with a pas de deux a la La Sylphide interrrupting its drive."

     Overture (exercises at the barre)
    Tendus, Grands battements, fondus and frappes
    Ronds de jambe
    Silhouetter-au milieu
    Port de Bras et pas de badin
    Mirror Dance
    Romantic Pas de deux
    Piques et grands pirouettes
    Solo for the Prima Ballerina
    Small Leaps
    Broad Leaps (Finale) 

  9. Enjoyed Program Three, the Harald Lander Etudes much more than I thought I would and Misa Kuranaga especially whom I now look forward to seeing in everything. Etudes seems to be a ballet exercise book like one of Bach's where two or more "rounds" of a particular exercise work in counterpoint with each other and make the other more complex. It's never-ending but in a wonderful way. And though not as highly developed as Symphony in C and with more dry wit, the finale (“broad leaps”) with all the dancers assembled on stage was quite thrilling. Esteban Hernandez and Max Cauthorn were the two sweetly self-effacing ringleaders acting as demi / locus points for everything else to pivot around.

    The new Trey McIntyre piece The Big Hunger was an odd mixture of American plain-spokeness and European expressionism. The story of the characters in sharp pink blunt-cut wigs seemed to be a follow-up report on the lives of the goons from The Prodigal Son. Diaghilev himself was quite taken with the earlier version of Prokofiev's Concerto #2 and wanted to use it as a basis of a ballet, with a Pan-like character who was "gently grotesque and mocking." But in the end it turned out too difficult to match a story to. I liked McIntyre's third pas with Cavan Conley and Lonnie Weeks best and could have seen more variations. It was the most direct and satisfying of the three and where the expressionist dressings were least important. The partners were like the two minor characters who often appear in the backgrounds of Kafka novels.

    The Edwaard Liang work Infinite Ocean was an audience favorite, but I couldn't find my way to a basic structure underneath and to a clear vocabulary of building blocks. It seemed overly ornamented, with too much "spinach" as German modernist architects used to  say, bits of generic this and that and not enough air between.

    My own bias I suppose is for “arte povera” ballets of simple movements in more and more complex combinations – like the plain-spoken parts of McIntyre works or the basic floor plan of the witty Etudes. 

  10. Looks like a wonderful anthology. SK notes that it is arranged alphabetically by author rather than chronologically, so it's less than a trudge through a "progress" and as a result there are many accidental and happy juxtaposition of texts. Yes, maybe John Martin is missing, perhaps one of his light and clever reviews alongside his true believer Agon review would have been the thing. Also I'd love to see Elliott Carter's keen observations on Balanchine's work in the early thirties kept in print somewhere.

    Am intrigued in Dance in America by the Paul Taylor's Black Mountain, Hell's Kitchen and Broadway, Marcia B. Siegel on Cunningham, and Claudia Roth Pierpont on Balanchine's Temperaments.  The piece I read on Amazon "look inside" of Whitney Balliett, once the New Yorker's jazz critic, on Baby Laurence seemed to convey both the immediacy of the inner detail of Laurence's dancing as well as its overall effect –


    He was a strange little man. His arms and legs were pipes, his face was scarred, and he had eye. Orphaned at 13 and later hemmed in by drugs and alcohol and financial troubles, he tended to be devious and self-pitying. Yet his dancing belied all that. In many ways, he was more a drummer than a dancer. He did little with the top half of his torso; holding his head upright, he either let his arms flap at his sides or crooked them as if he were a begging dog. But his legs and feet were speed and thunder and surprise. Unlike many tap diners, who rely on certain changeless patterns, Laurence constantly improvised. His sound was not the serene clickety-tick-tick of Bill Robinson or Chuck Green; it was a succession of explosions, machine-gun rattles, and jarring thumps. There were no frills to his dancing ...



  11. 15 hours ago, canbelto said:

    However I do think the cultural expectations for girls to play nice even when they're angry is at force here. Think about all the hoopla about Nancy Pelosi rather angrily tearing up Trump's SOTU address yet Trump's daily twitter rants don't even merit a mention on CNN anymore. 

    A brilliant moment of theater, in quiet counterpoint to all the big action (Ralph Edwards, Dale Carnegie etc) happening in front – like an actor who does so much with so little. A brief intrusion of the real.

  12. I (too) was once taken aback when talking to a Russian woman in New York, I referred to Joseph Brodsky as a Russian poet and she said that he wasn't Russian at all, he was Jewish. She seemed very pleased with the point she had made.

    In the "Shostakovich: A Life," Elizabeth Wilson's oral biography, Shostakovich does what he can to protest against Stalin's post-WWII campaign against "rootless individuals," and the "Doctors Plot" where a group of Jewish doctors were accused of belonging to a terrorist group. Ironically at the same time the Soviet Union was first to recognize Israel as a nation.

    Natalia Vovsi-Mikhoels:


    At eight o’clock precisely, Dimitri Dmitriyevich announced that we were to go into his study where we were to hear a new work of his. The impact of the poems of those simple Jewish songs at that particular time was simply shattering for me and my husband Moisei Weinberg. After all, not a day passed without those “rootless cosmopolitans” (who all bore Jewish surnames) being slandered and abused in the press. This cycle voiced what we dared not ever express in conversations. It was an open protest by Shostakovich against the hounding of the Jews in this last five-year plan of Stalin's.


  13. 15 hours ago, Helene said:

    Who is posting that?  Who is defending blackface?  Who is saying that everything Copeland has accomplished or said is wiped out by this mistake?  

    I felt that in the discussion a minor point had eclipsed a major one. And the issue of blackface, the persistence of it in the ballet world in the 21th century, was the major subject. As pointed out by Tapfan (if I'm quoting intent correctly):

    2 hours ago, Tapfan said:


    Bullying is wrong.... BUT  the issue of blackface WAS pushed aside.


  14. I just wanted come in and say that I think it's false equivalency to say that Copeland's failure to delete the names of the original posters is anywhere as wrong as making up in blackface today, no matter where you are in today's interconnected world. And Instagram and Twitter accounts are deleted all the time due to one faux pas or another – as I observed when following Brexit prior to the election of Boris Johnson – it's not a big thing.

    For some reason I thought that after the civil rights movements of the sixties there would never again be another blackface image posted anywhere. And if countries are on a twenty year gap in regards to influencing each other's moral values, 1990 would have been the cut off date for Russia.

    The blackface image from the Bolshoi is very powerful and has extremely degrading connotations – I felt like I had to avert my eyes or somehow become complicit with it.

    I also think yellow face is pretty bad (for which see RaKu), as well as Nutcracker orientalizing mannerisms – though nowhere as lethal.

    How many decades more of all this?

  15. Here is a report on the Mariinsky production of La Bayadere in Berkeley this past November –

    Berkeley Ballet says dancers disinvited from performing in show after concerns about brownface



    Dr. Letha Ch’ien, an assistant professor of art history at Sonoma State and a ballet devotee, came to Berkeley for two performances of “La Bayadère.” While she says she did not see bindis on the dancers in the “Dance Manu” scene, she says she did notice what looked like skin-darkening makeup on the company dancers ...

    “They’re insisting on a purported originality for only this racial aspect, for possibly the most problematic aspect of the ballet, when they don’t insist on that for other aspects of the ballet,” she told SFGATE. “It’s conflating authenticity and originality for a racist representation. I think that has no place on stages. It’s very disturbing to see Cal Performances give their tacit approval. I don’t think art has to be politically correct, but this is not a controversial subject. I don’t think it should be done.”

    Cal Performances did not confirm the use of brownface on Zellerbach stage, but noted it would be out of their control if it did happen.


  16. I can see both sides on the issue, but am biased towards the new rule. Video-ing may disrupt classes and rehearsals and dancers' concentration. It might make nearby dancers, who don't want to be filmed in the background, uncomfortable. Whose workplace is it might be the question.

    Also not sure that the quality of many of the videos would fit into a resume and be able to be cut together and make sense. Portrait format, which most seemed to be captured in, seems too confining, while landscape, which is more natural, is harder to control as a far as extraneous details and empty space etc.

    And maybe everyone wants to take a tech breather for a while.

  17. Would like to see a Guggenheim-like discussion and demonstration of early 20's Ballet Suedois works, including Honneger/Leger Skating Rink and Satie/Picabia Relâche. I especially like the in-character walking/skating bows in Skating Rink. Did this influence Ashton Les Patineurs and even Balanchine Cotillon? The Leger costumes are especially fine.




    Another reconstruction of a lost ballet, lost before it was first constructed, for a magician repetiteur. Came across this letter to Balanchine yesterday in the Noguchi archives:


    [November 1967]

    Dear George,

    As we spoke over the telephone I can not see how I can find time to do the sets for a ballet at this time, much as I would like to work with you again. I listen to the BERG music which I brought along with me to Japan but still find the problem unresolvable.

    I wanted to let you know this as soon as possible.

    With best regards
    Ever sincerely

    Isamu Noguchi



  18. I should have said greatest novelist which are what Platonov and Grossman were, though Grossman was also a great journalist who covered the second world war in the Soviet Union.  

    I read Speak Memory many years ago and found it charming. I wonder though if Rimbaud (whom Nabokov wittily wrote about in "The Forgotten Poet") got it better and more succinctly in the poem that begins "A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue ..." Nabokov seems to be doing an extended riff on Rimbaud – overwhelming him in homage, as he did Pushkin with translation footnotes.

  19. My dance going was minimal this year but best was the Maryinsky's Bayadere at Cal Performances in Berkeley, namely the Kingdom of the Shades scene. How different it is to see it in the (ghostly) flesh as opposed to in videos which tend to flatten it into a kind of wallpaper. How nicely the Maryinsky dancers' solos and trios played against the shivery white corps-mass behind them, popping out in twitchy staccato steps, like figures half carved out of marble in a Rodin sculpture.

    Disappointment: Shostakovich Trilogy this third time around at San Francisco Ballet. It wasn't the performances which didn't work (though Karapetyan as the poet, Quenedit & Van Patten as a couple, and Domitro in Cornejo's role were key for me the first time around). It was the fine clockwork that this time was off – the sharp sequences of moves, one escapement against the other. At the dress rehearsal it looked as though Trilogy had been directed in-house rather than with someone like Nancy Raffa around to set the beats and fine-tune the interactions, get the sourish idiomatic flavor just right. What was interesting though was Ulrik Birkkjaer's take on the poet in the second section (Chamber Symphony/Quartet #8), much lighter than Karapetyan's or Robison's, as if he were outside the role and curious about it, kicking the tires, seeing where it was deep and where it was shallow.


    Other arts:

    John Beasely Greene's beautifully printed mid-19th century photographs of Egypt and Algeria at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (recently reviewed in the Times). Like Atget's photographs of the empty streets of Paris but here of the empty deserts around a surviving pharaoh or sphinx sentry. Egypt of our most austere dreams.

    Museum of Modern Art reopened, at least the online version. Reports are that the new bricks and mortar iteration is much less airporty than the last one of 15 years ago. Happy to see that so many artists are out of the storeroom and have taken their rightful places on the walls – Pat Passloff, Carmen Hernandez, Grace Hartigan (Shinnecock Canal), the great Brazilians Helio Oiticica, Wilys de Castro, Lygia Pape, etc.



    The new Susan Sontag biography follows the trend of calling the subject by first name (which gets confusing in Ninth Street Women: now which Joan is this? which Bob?). Doesn't really come to grips with Sontag's ideas but has lots of gossipy gossip. For example, of the difficulties of a particular relationship: Lucinda Childs articulating only one tenth of what she was thinking and Sontag articulating 10 times her thoughts. Not enough about Alfred Chester who was a big influence on Sontag (as well as on Cynthia Ozick). And not disclosed: Chester's abandoned memoir was to be titled "I, etcetera" which SS used later for her own book of stories.

    Richard Serra interviewed by Hal Foster. Fascinating following Serra from UC Santa Barbara where his teachers were Diego Rivera and David Sequeiros influenced muralists to Yale where he ended up teaching just retired Joseph Albers' course on color. Serra says that Judson dancers influenced his placement of big metal plates in his sixties sculptures, that it was Tricia Brown's dancers leaning against each other shoulder to shoulder to hold each other up that gave him the idea for his House of Cards.


    All of Natalia Ginzburg's novels which are being republished. Early ones – Voices in the Evening and All our Yesterdays – are set in the small village where she and her husband were sequestered during the second world war and are constructed out of a kind of cubist dialogue of the familiar things people repeat to each other and then just as quickly contradict. The late stories – Happiness, as Such and The City and the House – take place in series of letters among family members drifting apart, each one of which has a tenacious grasp on only a bit of the whole.

    Sonnallah Ibrahim's recently translated Notes from Prison and earlier Stealth, the novel of his 1950's Egyptian childhood, both in bare-boned but very evocative prose.


    And thanks to Ballet Alerters for all the reviews this year of performances that I and many others here don't have the means to see, especially of New York City Ballet, Miami Ballet, and whatever Alexei Ratmansky is working on.



  20. Quote

    Quoting the character Humbert Humbert in the novel, Nabakov described Lyon as “the perfect nymphet.”

    : Nabokov's seal of approval. As time goes on, Lolita the novel seems to wear badly, serving mostly to whitewash one-sided Woody Allenish "may/december" relationships. Everyone always winks and then says HH got his comeuppance at the end, plus there's all the humiliating American vulgarity he has to tolerate, so it all works out. Also for me much of Nabokov's humor – his descriptions of some male's "mincing steps" and his general homophobia - quickly becomes tedious. Is Nabokov really a greater writer – or even an equal – of his Russian contemporaries, Andrei Platonov and Vassily Grossman?

    Sue Lyon on the role via the Rolling Stone notice dirac linked above:


    Although Lolita was Lyon’s most enduring role, the actress seemed to regret her casting in the ensuing decades: In a rare statement, following the 1997 release of a Lolita remake starring Jeremy Irons, Lyon told Reuters, “I am appalled they should revive the film that caused my destruction as a person.”


  21. I was thinking Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito and The World of Apu), being a kind of homecoming movie, might be worth watching again during the holiday season.

    There's the lyrical new wavish, and very moving, Russian film I am Twenty (or Ilyich's Gate) by Marlen Khutsiev – a big social panorama and three or four young men trying to find their places in it. The restored three hour version which was recently shown at the Pacific Film Archive (as one of Tom Luddy's favorites) didn't seem to have a dull moment in it.

    Also Claude Jutra's Mon Oncle Antoine, and Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander as FPF recommended last year.

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