Jump to content


Senior Member
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by miliosr

  1. Benjamin Millepied has posted on his Instagram account that Andy de Groat has died: And an excerpt from his "Fan Dance":
  2. I didn't see this mentioned elsewhere . . . Dancing Times in the UK has been discussing dance in Mexico in recent issues. The December 2018 issue devotes space to Ballet de Monterrey (BDM), which is now directed by Jose Manuel Carreno. The magazine quotes Carreno: "I think Monterrey has very traditional tastes, and the classics fill the theatre, so we are bringing them back, despite the fact that we also have contemporary works in the repertoire." The current season includes Phantom of the Opera (by Cuban Alberto Mendez), The Nutcracker, La Fille mal Gardee (Alicia Alonso version) and Don Quixote. http://www.balletdemonterrey.com/directorartistico/
  3. Female on the Beach with Natalie 'Lovey Howell' Schafer pimping out Jeff Chandler is definitely tasty! It's interesting to compare Female on the Beach (with Joan Crawford and Jeff Chandler) to Daddy Long Legs (with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron) given that they both came out in the same year (1955) and revolve around May-December relationships. Daddy Long Legs presents its older man-(much) younger woman relationship as a fairy tale with singing and dancing. Meanwhile, Female on the Beach presents its older woman-(somewhat) younger man relationship as a sordid tale of desperation, prostitution and murder. Even the age gap is telling: 32 years separated Astaire and Caron while Crawford and Chandler were only 15 years apart.
  4. Oh God - Torch Song! That really kicked off Joan Crawford's 1950s camp phase which included other overripe specimens such as Johnny Guitar (1954), Female on the Beach (1955) and Queen Bee (1955). Worst of all, she would be reduced to taking a supporting role in 1959 with The Best of Everything. (She's great in it, though.) The big comeback in 1962 still lay in the future!
  5. I love researching things like this! During the life of Leslie Caron's seven year contract with M-G-M in the 1950s, she made nine pictures. What follows are the pictures. release dates, male co-star(s) and their ages, and Leslie Caron's (LC) ages at the time: 10/04/51 - An American in Paris - Gene Kelly (39) - LC (20) 11/27/51 - The Man with a Cloak - Joseph Cotten (46) - LC (20) 06/06/52 - Glory Alley - Ralph Meeker (31) - LC (20) 03/26/53 - The Story of Three Loves - Farley Granger (26) - LC (21) 07/10/53 - Lili - Mel Ferrer (35)/Jean-Pierre Aumont (42) - LC (21) 03/21/55 - The Glass Slipper - Michael Wilding (42) - LC (23) 05/04/55 - Daddy Long Legs - Fred Astaire (55) - LC (23) [Note: LC loaned out to Fox.] 05/09/56 - Gaby - John Kerr (24) - LC (24) 05/15/58 - Gigi - Louis Jourdan (36) - LC (26) Average of LC's male co-stars: 35 LC's average age: 22 Your useless Hollywood factoids for the day!
  6. This Christmas I managed to secure a copy of Film Score Monthly's 2005 2-CD treatment of Bronislau Kaper's score for M-G-M's 1955 release, The Glass Slipper, featuring Leslie Caron as Cinderella and Michael Wilding as The Prince. (Age gap between Caron and Wilding: 19 years) Roland Petit and his Ballet de Paris were also on hand. Petit & co. appear to have been based in Hollywood at this time as they would travel with Caron to the Fox lot in the fall of 1954 to contribute to her next picture, Daddy Long Legs with Fred Astaire. In any event, Kaper's score for The Glass Slipper, like his score for Caron's 1953 vehicle, Lili, is so beautiful and tuneful. It's been described as a musical that only lacks lyrics and now I believe it. Best of all is the movie's theme, "Take My Love," which repeats in many different treatments throughout the score. Disc 1 contains all of the music from the original movie soundtrack. Disc 2 contains many alternate versions/outtakes of the same music. Over two hours of music! I would highly recommend this but beware: This release is long out-of-print and listings on Ebay are pricey. I got "lucky" with a "cheap" buy of $50.
  7. I think it was recently-named etoile, Valentine Colasante, who referred to Paquette as the gold standard of partners. I always think Ganio should be nearing retirement age and then I realize that he's not that old. Madame Lefevre nominated him as etoile when he was 20!
  8. Best: In best Ruby Keeler fashion, Matthew Ball replacing the injured David Hallberg in the second act of Giselle after getting a call at home to get to the theater.
  9. Farewell videos with Karl Paquette, who retires tomorrow night:
  10. Well, sometimes they were trapped in a director's conceit, as in the fashion show sequence from Lovely to Look at: Mervyn LeRoy directed the main portion of Lovely to Look at but Vincente Minnelli was drafted to direct (or overdirect, as the case may be) the climactic fashion show sequence. The liner notes to the Lovely to Look at CD reveal that Minnelli was supposed to film the fashion show in three days but ended up taking three weeks. The Champions' second big dance in Give a Girl a Break comes close to the expansive feel of their "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" dance in Lovely to Look at in that they're taking full advantage of the soundstage. It's the third of three dream sequences in the following clip and starts around 6:55:
  11. This Christmas season, I've been listening to the soundtrack of Lovely to Look at, which Rhino Handmade put out in 2003 in a limited edition of 2005 copies. Lovely to Look at was M-G-M's 1952 remake of Roberta featuring Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Marge and Gower Champion and Ann Miller, and was the second of three musicals the studio made in the early 1950s with the singing team of Grayson and Keel. (The other two being Show Boat [1951] and Kiss Me Kate [1953].) The Jerome Kern songs are so tuneful and Rhino did a superb job with the remastering of the entire soundtrack. My favorites on the CD and in the film are Marge and Gower Champion dancing to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes": And a little bit later in the film, Kathryn Grayson singing the same song:
  12. Even by M-G-M standards, the plot for Give a Girl a Break is slight. At only 80 minutes, it takes a while to get going and it ends abruptly. But, the movie justifies itself if you stick with it until the middle section arrives: At roughly the 35 minute mark, there's a dialogue scene between Bob Fosse and Debbie Reynolds as they walk along the East River with the United Nations headquarters and the Chrysler building in the background. (Actually, it's all a painted backdrop.) The Fosse/Reynolds theme, "In Our United State," plays as an underscore. Fosse then sings "In Our United State" and he and Reynolds dance to it. This is followed by a brief vocal reprise by Fosse of "In Our United State" after he walks Reynolds back to her apartment. The action shifts to Marge Champion's penthouse apartment where Gower Champion pays her a visit. The scene moves to the penthouse courtyard (how is Marge Champion's character affording all this?) and the Champions launch into the exciting rooftop "Challenge Dance". (The dancing/singing scenes with the Champions, Fosse and Reynolds takes about 10-15 minutes.) At the 55 minute mark, there are three successive dream sequences featuring Bob Fosse, Kurt Kaznar and Gower Champion: In the first sequence, Fosse and Reynolds perform the "Balloon Dance" to their theme, "In Our United State". In the third sequence, Gower Champion "sings" "It Happens Ev'ry Time". (In reality, Bill Lee - the male Hollywood counterpart to Marni Nixon -- dubbed for Champion. The dub is noticeable because Bill Lee had a much more robust voice than Gower Champion,) The Champions then perform a beautiful duet, which is -- in my opinion -- the second best thing they did at M-G-M after their "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" duet in Lovely to Look at. All told, there's about 25 minutes of really stellar dancing surrounded by much more modest material.
  13. Does Valley of the Dolls count as a Christmas film? After all, Fox did release it in December of 1967. And it does have snow in it . . .
  14. I rewatched Give a Girl a Break this weekend, which was first released in December 1953. I last watched it two years ago when Debbie Reynolds died. Here's what I wrote then: "In honor of Debbie Reynolds, I rewatched Give a Girl a Break today. It's no classic but it's better than its reputation. It takes forever to get going but it hits its stride about a third of the way in with the very catchy song, "In Our United State". The first version is sung by Bob Fosse and danced by Fosse and Reynolds. The second version is a vocal reprise by Fosse. The third version is an instrumental version that under pins the "Balloon Dance" with Fosse and Reynolds. (It's a pity Film Score Monthly has never done a full release of the score since, in addition to these three versions, there are various orchestral and piano versions that are threaded throughout the movie.) Also, quite good are the "Challenge Dance" sequence with Marge and Gower Champion and the lavish "It Happens Every Time" (again with the Champions). Less good is "Nothing Is Impossible," a comic number for Gower Champion, Fosse and Kurt Kaznar, which strains for comedy and never gets there. (It's also the only number in the movie with Gower Champion and Fosse dancing -- too briefly -- together.) The "Puppet Master Dance" with Kaznar is just cruel as poor Kaznar has to stuff his ample physique into a pair of lavender-colored tights and pink ballet slippers. Cruel, I say! The finale -- "Applause, Applause" -- with Gower Champion and Reynolds is OK in a garish 50s way but it would have been better if it had been reconceived to include Marge Champion and Fosse as well. Like I said -- no classic. But the tuneful score and the dancing of the Champions, Reynolds and Fosse make for an agreeable enough time. It's also offers an interesting glimpse of what the next generation of movie music performers at MGM would have looked like if the studio system hadn't crumbled so rapidly at MGM between 1953-55." I stand by what I wrote then although I must admit that the score has grown on me with each viewing. (Watching the movie while wearing headphones really helps with appreciating the score.) There are so many wonderful treatments of "In Our United State," "Give a Girl a Break" and "It Happens Every Time". Truly, this is a neglected film score that deserves the full release treatment. The Ira Gershwin estate would appear to agree with me: http://gershwin.com/publications/give-a-girl-a-break/
  15. miliosr

    Simone Messmer

    Messmer mentions Froustey in the Ballet Review interview: BR: Do you want to discuss why things soured in San Francisco? You've stated that Helgi promised you Choleric in Four T's, but then you were never cast for their engagement in Paris. Messmer: I wasn't the only upper echelon dancer that was hired that year. They hired Mathilde Froustey from the Paris Opera. We knew each other. I felt that I asked the necessary questions in my first meeting with Helgi about how the season might go if I joined and what my trajectory might be and I think some things were conveniently left out of that conversation. I have mixed feelings about Messmer after reading the interview. She's definitely a "good read" and it's refreshing to not have to read the typical BS that dancers regurgitate about how "I love all my co-workers" and "we're a company united" and "my artistic director is like a father to me". On the other hand, she's opinionated in the extreme, which doesn't make for the easiest of co-workers.
  16. Allister Madin discusses his plans with Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/culture/2018/12/06/03004-20181206ARTFIG00001-de-paris-a-wellington-le-grand-saut-du-danseur-allister-madin.php He mentions Alexander Ekman's Play: "À ce moment-là, je dansais Play d'Ekmanque, je vivais mal l'impression d'être au service d'une mise en scène, expérience dont il ne me resterait rien." Which Google translates -- nonsensically -- as: "At that moment, I danced Play of Ekmanque, I did not live the impression of being in the service of a staging, experience of which I would not have anything left." Can any of our French correspondents provide a better sense of his meaning?
  17. Allister Madin has announced that he's heading to Royal New Zealand Ballet as a principal: Interesting reading about the Rudyard Kipling poem "If" and how Madin felt he was living it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If—
  18. If by "creative staff" you mean the technical staff at the Opera, I can say that they worked technical marvels with the use of projections and lighting. Set pieces like the desolate winter, the dark forest and the night sky with the meteor hurtling toward Earth (and obliterating it!) were wonders of technical design.
  19. miliosr

    Simone Messmer

    For anyone interested in Messmer, I would direct your attention to the Fall 2018 issue of Ballet Review. It contains a very long interview with her which, unfortunately, isn't available online. Messmer certainly lets it fly over the course of the interview. Kevin McKenzie detractors might be disappointed because she has some positive things to say about him ("I was used to Kevin, who had always been very honest with me, . . . ") (Ballet Review, p. 84) The person Messmer really criticizes is Helgi Tomasson. She talks about how she wasn't given certain roles and, when she confronted Tomasson about it, he couldn't explain his reasons. She also has plenty to say about the company culture: "His [Tomasson's] son was also really involved. Dating girls in the company and stuff like that. And that's also a game I don't play. A choreographer came and a lot of dancers took him out to dinner and that ended up being the casting. That happens more and more these days. I do not do that." (Ballet Review, p. 84) Definitely an interesting read!
  20. Iolanta/The Nutcracker - Final Thoughts What then to make of the dance portion of this hybrid production? I can say that Marion Barbeau gives a star-making (etoile-making?) performance as Marie; one that requires her to be on-stage for the entirety of the performance. I can say that Stephane Bullion is subtly wonderful as the social wallflower Vaudemont and partners Barbeau exquisitely. I can say that the production is a scenic marvel (the winter, the dark forest, the meteor). Most of all I can say that the Paris Opera Ballet dancers perform this material with all their collective might (much as they did with Alexander Ekman's Play.) But so what? It's collective might applied to a director's vision rather than a choreographer's vision. Dmitri Tcherniakov is a director and scenarist and not a dancemaker. As such, he makes the mistake of asking the dance to do things it cannot do; namely, conveying complicated scenarios and complex interior states. In his notes for the DVD, Tcherniakov writes, "Marie realizes that everything that happened to her does not exist in reality. But we already see Marie in a completely different way." But that's precisely what we don't see at the end because the dances (what there are of them) and the mime cannot tell us how Marie has changed because of her experiences (either real or imagined.) All we see at the end is her curled up on the floor. Is this because she found Vaudemont and then lost him twice? Or is she reduced to the fetal position because she just experienced an epic hallucination? Impossible to know what -- if any -- self-discovery Marie has achieved from what we see on-stage. I can't add much more to what I already wrote regarding the three choreographer debacle other than to say that Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui fares the best and Edouard Lock fares the worst. Probably the one true "winner" in all this was Benjamin Millepied, who may have understood that this production was a no-win one in terms of dance and wisely removed himself from it. (See -- I can say something nice about Millepied!) In any event, this production will be back for nine performances in May.
  21. Iolanta/The Nutcracker - Disc 2 Recap: When last we left our beleaguered heroine Marie (Marion Barbeau), she had witnessed the "death" of her true love, Vaudemont (Stephane Bullion). She had also proven herself impervious to the baneful effects of nuclear winter in France while looking rather chic in so doing. (What this has to do with Dmitri Tcherniakov's incomprehensible scenario is anyone's guess. I prefer to think of it as a ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet making the statement that nuclear winter is no excuse for dressing poorly and looking unkempt.) Into the dark forest (Lock) Playing with dolls (Lock) The action shifts to a dark forest. (Again, this is another scenic triumph by the Opera's production staff.) Here, Marie engages in a solo of sorts consisting of Lock's trademark walking and chopping hand gestures. (Lock relieves the monotony slightly by having Marie scratch herself as if beset by forest fleas.) Suddenly, five danseurs appear sporting the same caramel-colored suit and orange hair/wig that the real Vaudemont sported earlier. (Vaudemont's orange wig was meant to replicate the hair color of Arnold Rutkowski, who sang the part of Vaudemont in the opera.) Truly, I haven't seen so many bad wigs since Valley of the Dolls! Lock's choreography for Marie and the five danseurs is intrinsically uninteresting and dramatically flat. We don't want to see Marie with five faux Vaudemonts who are either real or figments of her imagination. Still, in the beautifully lit gloom of the forest, there is some interest to be had in trying to identify the five danseurs (who are never seen in close-up) by their physiques and movement qualities. Some, like Adrien Couvez and Simon Le Borgne are readily identifiable. The action shifts again to a cube-like space filled with life-sized and mobile toys and dolls. (The best one being a furry pink teddy bear who effortlessly steals every shot he/she/it is in. To the old showbiz maxim of never work with children and animals, you can add furry pink teddy bears.) In any event, Marie wanders vacantly in this sinister toy land while the danseuses of the company (now dressed as Marie) come-and-go for an interminable 12 minutes. Poor Alice Renavand gets the worst of it. As if performing Lock's repetitive minimalist choreography isn't bad enough, he inserts completely gratuitous fouettes into the mix and makes Renavand perform them in high heels. Waltz of the flowers (Cherkaoui) Marie and Vaudemont's Pas de deux (Cherkaoui) Mercifully, just when things have hit rock bottom, the two best parts of this Nutcracker arrive. Marie now finds herself in a rectangular space that appears to be suspended in black space. In succession, four group of "Maries" and "Vaudemonts" arrive to waltz to Tchaikovsky's lilting music: in the first blush of youth, in early middle age (with children), in late middle age and, finally, in old age. Marie only dances in the first segment and, even then, she dances with Le Borgne-Vaudemont and not Bullion-Vaudemont. But after all the doom and gloom of the preceding segments, Cherkaoui's Waltz of the flowers is like manna from heaven. Beautiful waltzing set to beautiful music! A harmonica player arrives on stage playing a mournful version of Tchaikovsky's theme and then, at long last, the real Vaudemont reappears. While marred by the occasional bit of ugly floor work, this is a lovely pas which allows Barbeau to display her lyrical side and Bullion to show what an attentive, solid partner he is. Finale (Cherkaoui) Alas, the happy ending is not to be as Vaudemont "dies" again and Marie is left alone to dance a dance of mourning. She collapses into a fit of Bauschesque shrieks as the scene changes again into a starlit night sky. Suddenly, a meteor comes hurtling toward Earth (!) Marie beckons to it as if life isn't worth living without Vaudemont. The meteor obliterates everything but doesn't oblige Marie, who finds herself back in her parents' darkened home without Vaudemont (was she ever really with him?) and crouched in the fetal position on the floor. The end! Coming soon: miliosr's final thoughts!
  22. The pressure's on now! Setting Iolanta in a tightly compressed space with bare white walls robs the opera of all romantic flavor. Given that the singers wear costumes evoking the period of early-1890s Russia, the setting is more reminiscent of a Tsarist-era hospital for someone dying of tuberculosis rather than the enchanted garden called for in the original scenario. But the simplicity of the Iolanta set does allow for the quick transition to The Nutcracker portion of the evening.
  23. On the evening of December 18th, 1892 (December 6th O.S.), the Mariinsky Theatre premiered a Tchaikovsky double bill consisting of the one-act opera Iolanta and the ballet The Nutcracker. Of the two, Iolanta was the greater success on the night. But with the passage of time, The Nutcracker's success would come to dwarf that of Iolanta. For the 2015-16 season at the Opera, director Stephane Lissner announced that Russian opera and theater director Dmitri Tcherniakov would be staging Iolanta and The Nutcracker as one linked production rather than two distinct productions. The original conception for the ballet portion of the evening involved five choreographers: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Edouard Lock, Arthur Pita, Liam Scarlett and then-artistic director Benjamin Millipied. In the event, only Cherkaoui, Lock and Pita would contribute to the finished version of The Nutcracker. Filmed in March 2016, Tcherniakov's hybrid Iolanta-The Nutcracker is spread across two discs. I'll review each disc in separate posts in order to avoid one endless post. Disc 1: I won't dwell on Iolanta's actual plot. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iolanta Instead of setting the opera's action in a "beautiful enclosed garden," Tcherniakov stages all of the action in a tightly compressed white room. In so doing, the opera loses the romantic setting of the garden. But the change allows Tcherniakov to transition the action seamlessly from the opera to the ballet. With the conclusion of Iolanta, the room "opens up" to reveal that the opera was really an amateur theatrical put on by guests at a birthday party for the party's other guests. This is a clever theatrical trick which Tcherniakov amplifies by having the opera performers take their bows and exit stage left and right. When they return for another bow, the ballet dancers -- wearing the exact same costumes from the theatrical -- take the bows in their place. They then doff their theatrical costumes, reveal their party attire and join the party. At this point, The Nutcracker commences. Disc 1 contains four sequences, which feature the heroine Marie (Marion Barbeau) and her interaction with Vaudemont; both a character in the opera and a shy young man (Stephane Bullion) attending the party. A family party (Pita) The Nutcracker starts out well enough with Arthur Pita's contribution. Set at a 1930s-era birthday party for the heroine, Pita stages entertaining social dances for both the dancers from the Opera and the other adults and children attending the party. By and large, the Opera dancers are very good mimes and there are numerous, wonderful bits of business (i.e. Adrien Couvez stroking Alice Renavand's fur stole). Pita also establishes the basic storyline -- Drosselmeyer (Nicolas Paul) pushing the shy Vaudemont toward Marie while Marie's mother (Renavand) pushes her elsewhere -- with a maximum of clarity. The threatening guests (Lock) Alas, the abyss opens up under this production with the next sequence. The party ends and the guests depart, Marie is alone in the semi-darkness when Vaudemont returns to retrieve the jacket he left behind. There is a brief flirtation and then a kiss. Suddenly, the formerly convivial guests return in more threatening form. Why? You've got me. There's nothing in Tcherniakov's scenario to explain what is happening. Why has Marie's mother become a malevolent force? What has happened to Drosselmeyer? Is all of this really happening or is Marie dreaming it? Lock's choreography only compounds the unintelligibility of the scene. His means are extremely limited -- walking to-and-fro and choppy hand gestures -- and grow old fast. All of this goes nowhere for 7 1/2 minutes until an explosion (!) destroys the house. (The Opera's production staff realize an impressive stage effect here. But again -- why?) The devastation - Marie and Vaudemont (Cherkaoui) Waltz of snowflakes (Cherkaoui) Marie finds her self in a desolate, wintry landscape (which evoked nuclear winter in France to me - Joyeux Noel!!!) She encounters the wounded Vaudemont and they dance a lovely little pas. (Cherkaoui, of the three choreographers, has the most substantial means at his disposal.) Vaudemont "dies" and the stage goes black. When light returns, Marie finds herself surrounded by a desolate community desperately trying to ward off the frightful cold (to which Marie remains impervious.) All of this is straight out of Pina Bausch but Cherkaoui manages to extract some moments of true beauty from an otherwise baffling scenario. (Marie's journey is like a more sinister version of Dorothy's journey in The Wizard of Oz. It grows ever darker and more surrealistic.) In any event, the community dies and Marie finds herself standing alone and without Vaudemont. End of Disc 1. Coming soon: Disc 2, in which a meteorite strikes Earth (really!)
  24. We'll have to agree to disagree on that point. I think it's possible to find fault with Balanchine for pushing someone who was so young and inexperienced in certain directions regardless of the actual ability. The push need not be seen as malicious -- merely that Balanchine contributed to inflated expectations on the part of the recipient of his attentions.
  • Create New...