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Herman Stevens

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Everything posted by Herman Stevens

  1. He has been The New Yorker's editor since 1998. It's remarkable he took time off to research and write this Bolshoi piece.
  2. "He could now face jail and possibly the end of his dance career." Possibly? Who would hire a man like that?
  3. And how would they do this? Dancers typically put their 'slippers' (pointe shoes?) on in their dressing room. And most dancers make sure everything is just so with their shoes. This has a distinct Black Swan sound.
  4. I'm not sure about territorial broadcasting technicalities, but perhaps you can watch the tv-registration here: http://ntrpodium.ntr.nl/page/archief/aflevering/15144648/ntr-podium-het-nationale-ballet-danst-cinderella
  5. It's the most successful story ballet I have seen this century. Here's my take: http://www.hermanstevens.nl/result_weblog.asp?Id=173
  6. Unfortunately the Raymonda broadcast was taken off the internet after a day. What I find rather puzzling is this discussion about the way Raymonda's story is un-PC. Of course it is. Virtually all 19th century ballets entail stereotypes we would like to believe are gone. What are you going to do about it? And on the other hand Alexandrova's facial features are discussed here with a judgmental frankness that does not seem to take into account that her cheekbones and close-set eyes are ethnic features, and I doubt we would talk this way if it concerned an American company and an, let's say, African-American dancer. I'm not casting aspersion; I'm just saying there's a little disconnect here IMO. Raymonda is definitely supposed to feel some attraction to the Saracen; it's in Bessmertnova's face and in Semenyaka's, too. Part of the triumph in Act III is that she's managed to shake this thrill. That's what makes Raymonda such a fascinating ballet: not just killing the weird guy, but confronting and mastering the weirdness in ourselves.
  7. Well, all I can say is it is possible to look at it in a different way. I think her clapping variation is terrific, conveying this sense she's looking back and realizes she has the power to destroy men just like that. And she is okay with that. She's that kind of princess. Not the Aurora type. Next, in the galop, the way she stops the music and then revs it up again, with this exuberant shake of her head. This De Brienne is going to have to be very careful around her. Another detail that struck me in the exotic dance with the Saracen (I'm trying to avoid typos), the way she puts the back of her hand over her mouth, as if she's trying to stop herself. I have to say though that Bessmertnova conveyed more fascination with this exotic intruder than Alexandrova does. I would like to watch this video one more time, but there's a note saying their pulling it after 24 hours.
  8. I'm intrigued by Bessmertnova being regarded as pretty much the gold standard in Raymonda. She's a wonderful dancer, obviously, but by the time her Raymonda was filmed she was well past her prime and in the 3d Act she looks very tired and, occasionally, bored. Saying Alexandrova, in comparison, looks like a "Soviet apparatchik" is a really weird counterhistorical joke (?), since the Grigorovitches were just about the consummate USSR ballet power couple. Alexandrova was 11 years old when the Berlin Wall came down. Maybe Alexandrova doesn't do "passive suffering" as convincingly as Bessmertnova. Over the years I have gotten the feeling Bessmertnova didn't do anything else, but that may be the distortion of what's been recorded on video. However I'm not sure "passive suffering" is what Raymonda is about. From what I've seen Alexandrova does a splendid 3d Act.
  9. ...like what's the purpose of the over detailed descriptions of the sex activities going on on sexpots, clubs or bath houses..even if that was part of Rudik's life...? It made me feel like she didn't know what else to add. Sometimes they would be just pernicious descriptions of situations and places in which Rudolf wasn't even being mentioned, so what's up with that...? I certainly don't find that all those details reveal anything of significance to the narrative, other than adding some cheap thrill . I found it vulgar, strange, driven by morbid curiosity and totally out of place. At the end, the places still exist, personalities still frequent them, and that doesn't really make any news...at least to me... (Edited to add: I just noticed that somebody mentioned all this already , but i didn't see the post 'till now, and still, i wanted to express my own feelings.) It's called contextualizing. Kavananagh actually does a pretty brilliant job at this. The problem is, if one thinks descriptions of non-romantic sexual activity are "pernicious", even though these activities were a substantial part of RN's life, this is not a book to read.
  10. Peter Wright’s version of Sleeping Beauty has been in the Dutch National Ballet’s repertory for such a long time (since 1981) few people can remember seeing another version. Four years ago the previous run of Sleeping Beauty was the occasion of a dvd-shoot with Sofiane Sylve as Aurora - one of the few cases of a dancer winding up on a dvd in the prime of her / his career. Sylve was at the height of her powers in her December 2003 Sleeping Beauty, and yet one cannot help but wonder whether that much power should be visible in an Aurora. For purists Sylve’s Aurora was too athletic, too much Petipa via Balanchine. In spite of many imaginative details - the loving way Sylve glances at her feet like a girl discovering her body - the real flaw in her performance is however of a structural nature. The challenge in Sleeping Beauty is presenting three different sixteen-year old princesses in three Acts, and Sylve doesn’t really do this. Her Aurora is firmly present in the first Act; after that the picture gets blurry. The most exciting Aurora in the 2007 run was new to the role. Siberia-born, Bolshoi-trained, 28-year old Anna Tsygankova joined the Amsterdam company by way of the Hungarian State Ballet, where she’s still dancing. I had seen Tsygankova in 2004 in a Hungarian Coppelía, in an unappealing tour set. Her Swanhilda had not quite prepared me for the revelatory Julia in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo and Julia earlier this year. In the intervening years Tsygankova had apparently discovered the magic of restraint. In R & J a performance of shattering power was only enhanced by her classical poise. I read Van Dantzig called her the finest Julia in years afterwards. Aurora and Julia are both young girls, but they are light years apart. Van Dantzig’s Julia is a dramatic role; in Aurora’s case dance is the alpha and omega. Again Tsygankova was very impressive. A performance to remember. It turns out she is a richly imaginative dancer who - in her first Beauty run ever - has a clear picture of what Aurora is about. In her Sleeping Beauty every Act is part of an unfolding portrait. Unlike Sylve she didn’t put all her cards on the table in the first Act. At her coming-out party she is fleet-footed and occasionally a little coquettish. At no point did you get the feeling one of the great technical challenges in the repertoire was imminent. On the contrary, just as she was getting on point for the final turns en attitude Tsygankova cast a playful glance over her shoulder - not something you want to do a lot, but it served to remind us that there’s more to Beauty than the Rose Adagio. I should add I’ve rarely seen an Aurora with such a rock-solid point technique. There were shades of Swan Lake in her Vision Scene, the part of Wright’s version that really outshines most other versions. Again Tsygankova’s classical restraint worked wonders. In the variation with the plaintive oboe solo most Auroras, coming through the middle, throw up their legs straight away. Tsygankova started at ninety degrees, building up dramatic tension slowly. In the Rose Adagio she had changed the traditional script, handing the queen her second bunch of roses nicely, rather than tossing it on the floor. In the Kiss Scene there was more evidence of this dancer re-imagining Aurora, when she touched her lips after awakening, as if she was wondering if it had all been a dream. Other Amsterdam Auroras have been incorporating this in their performance, I noticed later. Finally Tsygankova danced a third Act that was dramatically connected to the previous Acts. In her pdd variation her blissful smile showed that the princess had taken the Lilac Fairy as her model, embracing and radiating harmony. I wasn’t too thrilled with the ensemble work at Tsygankova’s December 16 matinee. This was the 4th show in the run and I got the feeling things still hadn’t quite gelled. There has been a lot of turnover in the corps the past two years, and perhaps this shows. A later performance showed much better corps work, but there were still problems with some Fairies in the Prologue. Natasja Lucassen was a wonderful new Lilac Fairy. For those who want (and can) read my entire story on Sleeping Beauty here’s a link: http://www.hermanstevens.nl/result_non-fictie.asp?Id=71
  11. I’ve seen complaints in the reviews and comments that Kavanagh made too much of his sex life, but as far as I can tell without dipping into the book she doesn’t ignore the artist. Certainly a biography with any claims to comprehensiveness does. It's just prudery. People want to read about it, but they want to complain about it, too. Nureyev was a sex symbol, just like Nijinsky was - only in another era. It would have not made any sense to have ignored or glossed over his sex life. I couldn't help but notice in the National Review piece discussed here that the reviewer would not have minded less of Nureyev's "multifarious homosexual encounters" (I'm quoting from memory here). With that kind of language it's pretty clear what territory we're in. The parts I thought were most intriguing were the quiet parts: Nureyev and these two London friends he spent a lot of time with, just sitting in the kitchen; Nureyev playing the Bach at night to himself. This was something I could not have imagined. It's not sexy or provocative, and so no one talks about it. And yet it is among the most illuminating stuff in the book.
  12. So did I. If you consider that John Martin had previously been the NYCB's nemesis, it's doubly outrageous. BTW as far as I'm concerned Kavanagh's biggest blooper occurs early on when she mentions Yakov Flier and misidentifies him as a violinist who won the Tchaikovsky Competition. Flier was, obviously, a pianist.
  13. Do you think Kavanagh does a good job alerting us to this? In other words, is the collusion disconcerting in itself, or because JK can't "unpack" it? Do say more--yes, it certainly might be disconcerting on a local level (or for other reasons? say more if you can), but culturally it's a fascinating reflection of mid-century critical practices. Well, I think Kavanagh does a good job in that she isn't "unpacking" it too much. At first it looks as if she thinks nothing out of the ordinary is going on (which is probably true, considering the era we're talking about). Only later in the biography does she explicitly say something about this critic / intimate friend collusion. Perhaps you would like the other way around, and have her raise the red flag immediately; however often it works far better if the writer hands the reader the material and lets him / her draw the conclusions first. This is a rather thankless strategy, since a significant number of readers will think they're smarter than the writer. BTW returning to the TMS discussion ("is there Too Much Sex in the book?"), I couldn't help but notice there is yet another thing Richard Buckle's Nijinski and Kavanagh's Nureyev have in common, in that both books inform us about the size of the subject's genitalia at some point. All on hearsay, of course. I wonder if this is a standard issue in bankers' of politicians' biographies, too. http://www.hermanstevens.nl/result_non-fictie.asp?Id=62
  14. I cannot help but think Acocella somehow falls into the trap of not liking a biography because she would not want to be its subject's friend. This is a link to my review of Kavanagh's Nureyev biography: http://www.hermanstevens.nl/result_non-fictie.asp?Id=62 One aspect of the book I didn't have any space for is the disconcerting collusion of journalist / critics and the dancer / company at the time. One cannot help but hope things have gotten a little better in the intervening decades There's the strange case of Nigel Gosling, one of Nureyev closest London friends, who also happened to be a critic writing under the nom de plume Alexander Bland. Even Kavanagh has a hard time at some points in the book telling the two personae apart. In the USA there's the critic John Martin writing virtual love letters to Kirstein (of all people!), and a minor case is a Viennese critic who's sure she is the woman who can save Nureyev's life.
  15. As far as I can tell halfway in, the Nureyev biography is much better than the Ashton book - especially in balancing the intimacy stuff. The book is, like all biographies these days, way too long, but Kavanagh will set the standard in RN biography, I suspect. I'll post a link when I write the review.
  16. On eBay there's a store called Nice Records Shop, based in Russia, with a US affiliate, that sells the Fedotov Swan Lake. They have a rather interesting inventory, all-Russian, and their service is excellent, in my experience. http://cgi.ebay.com/Fedotov-cond-Mar-Th-so...7QQcmdZViewItem
  17. Thank you for your responses all. I feel the same way. Maybe I'll give it another shot next time S.S. is in Amsterdam, though getting through to her via the company takes (at my last try) about 25 times as long as the interview itself. Maybe I'll post an English version of the Hans van Manen interview next?
  18. Row 6 to 10 parterre, and your seat needs to be single digits, meaning close to the center. See y'around Herman
  19. Sylve was eventually partnered by Ivan Gil Ortega.
  20. I did see two performances of La Bayadere, unfortunately with the same soloists. Due to Marcelo Gomes' injury I did not get to see him and Sofiane Sylve. Instead I saw Igone de Jongh, Inaki Urlezaga and Marisa Lopez twice. This was the first time in years I saw De Jongh in a full-length Petipa ballet, and she has clearly matured since. Particularly on the first night performance she was really good, never making the mistake of overacting, making sure the drama came from the dancing first. Why the company shells out to fly Urlezaga over frankly beats me. Admittedly he was better than in his dismal Swan Lake, last year, but still you're looking at a kind of McDonalds dancing. All night you're thinking he's saving himself for something big, but the big thing never happens. (Of course his solo variations do get a big hand, but even there he never lets his hair down.) I'm sorry to say Marisa Lopez is not a dancer I like in classical rep. She's a Balanchine dancer. In addition I think the company is investing more in her than is warranted. That being said she was entirely satisfactory, especially in the acting parts, her having such big features that even the bat of an eyelash registers in the last row. The Entrance of the Shades is obviously the big banana in this ballet. Well, let's just say there's evidence there are only two ways to do this: too fast or too slow. I've never seen it this fast. Of course the dancers can't help this; it's got to be Makarova requiring this pace. Also the flow is taken out of the choreography by making the plie just a little dip, so that there's really a full stop in the movement rather than a plie out of which the pointed right foot emerges to continue the mvt. Thirdly, with Makarova the entrance of the shades comes right after the opium smoking scene. The dance with the lights has been moved to the last act, heaven knows why. By making the scene with the pipe, the couch and Solor's emotional devastation this brief, the entrance of the shades becomes just a set piece, rather than the hallucination of a man in despair. The rather prosaic pace of the entrance completes the picture. And yet the power of this piece is such that one's affected nonetheless. And the same goes for the entire show. I was quite satisfied the first night. Igone de Jongh did what a big girl is expected to do: she was the balletic and dramatic centre of the entire night, ably abetted by Lopez. I would have loved to have seen another good soloist couple, but alas it didn't happen. Apart from Gomes, Ruta Jezerskyte was also injured. I had wanted to see her and Cedryc Ignace performing Nikya & Solor. On the first night the three shade soloists were in great shape, particularly Emanouela Merdjanova, one of those 100% reliable dancers in the middle ranks, an impeccably elegant dancer and a beautiful woman to boot. On the second night, Sarah Fontaine did the third solo. (On the first night Fontaine, one of my favorite dancers, did the charactere drum dance, which had been cut the second time around; an indication, perhaps, that La Bayadere really exhausts the company's ranks.) Mimi, I cannot believe you missed Julie Gardette previously. She's a delightful dancer; very pretty, with an unique comical gift. She would be a great Swanhilda, except that this company doesn't do Coppelia, never has in 50 years of HNB. She was, for instance, very good in Symphony in C, 3d mvt, in its most recent run. Finally I cannot help mentioning Anu Viheriaranta, the bitesize redhead from Finland. It doesn't matter if she's dancing in a ensemble of six, with a soloist doing fouettes right in front of her. You're bound to watch Anu just the same, because she's so musical.
  21. I'd like to post a link to an extended interview I had with Sofiane Sylve. http://www.hermanstevens.nl/result_non-fictie.asp?Id=42 Comments are obviously welcomed. There are other ballet interviews on the same site, such as with Hans van Manen, but unfortunately they're not in English (yet). Herman
  22. Decades? Leonid, I have virtually no auditory familiarity with rock music, but I do know from reading the arts pages in the papers that the White Stripes are a rather young band; I checked and their first album dates from 1999. Of course the whole idea that an art work would be good or bad on the basis of the age of the audience is rather silly.
  23. I would suggest the purpose is marketing-oriented rather than artistic. Gergiev is not a great ballet conductor. It doesn't matter if V.G. gets the rehearsal time or not - he won't use it, because he won't be there. His usual MO is to let an assistant do the rehearsals and arrive a couple of minutes before the show. If he shows at all. That's why his performances have been steadily getting worse during the nineties. He's good for box office because people love the excitement and his weird technique. It's come to the point where audiences give him a big hand just for showing up. Like many conductors who are great to watch, he's not really very helpful for the orchestra (not to mention the dancers). Incidentally, I once heard him conduct an exquisite Apollo. However I've also heard him conduct a wretchedly bad Agon - a score that obviously needs some rehearsal time.
  24. Sorry, you're mistaken. The queen is a beneficiary of the Civil List. The Civil List is funded by taxpayers' money. This information is available everywhere. The amount of arts council funding the Royal Ballet receives is also annually published; it is also no secret that the Royal Ballet's finances have been fairly perilous over time, in spite of being granted the Royal Charter, which does not entail major funding. The same goes for the claim that ballet companies in all old world monarchies are being funded by the local royal house. The claim is unfounded - though there may be exceptions.
  25. Sorry, I have a very hard time believing this romanticized picture. This is 2006; not pre-rev Russia. I live in the Netherlands, another country where people forgot to say goodbye to monarchy, and the dancers of the Dutch National Ballet do not get a penny out of the Queen's purse - apart from the fact that her purse is replenished annually by the taxpayers.
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