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  1. Mme. Hermine, do you know if Nissinen teaches the company class? Is there such at BB?
  2. Rarely if ever has criticism influenced the choreographer or inhibited the dancer. So this is a tempest in a teacup. Yet Leigh has unveiled a chasm in judgment. Is there a chrism? Merill Ashley did stage BB’s Ballo and it’s her ballet. Balanchine left it for her. So what’s the beef? Is Balanchine’s opinion, ““You know, I try before, but no one could do, so now we will do.” an absolute and if now none can meet the criteria, shouldn’t Ballo be staged? What of Merill, the dancer’s concern that this small work can be killed by lack of technique? Well that was in 1978, we’re in a new century! As Emerson pointed out, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." So until the glorious morning of Ashley’s reincarnation, let’s stage Ballo any way we can, any way we want to. If the dancer can’t handle the speed, have the conductor slow down. It’s his job to have the ballerina look good. If the technique is sloppy, you’re too close to the stage. You’re probably a tourist who can afford the expensive seats. The codification of vocabulary of the danse d'école is inhibiting creativity. It’s old hat. Who can afford to spend 8 years learning steps, be shut up in a ballet studio, when they can be “going out and, you know, living a bit” as Matthew Bourne incisively put it. Who according to Joan Acocella is probably the most acclaimed choreographer in England today. Would you choose Marius Petipas Swan Lake over the “deconstructions” of Bourne’s all-male masterpiece? You would! Well, he set “La Sylphide in a public toilet”. Now that’s what I call ‘au currant’, that’s creativity! Let’s not quibble that it’s a bit out of context, I quote Ms. A.Tomalonis from Balletphobia,” It is, by its very nature, elitist, exclusionary, antidemocratic and (although this is very seldom stated so boldly) anti-American.” The once great American dance critic John Martin would agree. He was a most thoughtful critic since he took 20 years to see that there was something to Balanchine while he recognized the genius of Graham immediately. Thus I must sadly agree that with W, we must stage no matter what. Let quality and judgement be taken care of by the next generation. Let’s above all beware of the label “elitism”. Keep in mind, “I’m all right, you’re all right” That’s where the beef is.
  3. Quite correct Mme. Hermine, as my view was short sighted. What I tried to say was that Nissinen has indicated that Balanchine’s works would play a more prominent role in the growth of the company’s status. We might diverge in our opinion of how and whether this can be achieved. In my opinion this would require a stronger commitment to the school and teachers. To dance Balanchine requires the commitment of the AD daily teaching the company class, so that his vision of style is imprinted on the bodies of the dancers. In 50 years, approximately 4 generations of dancers if we assume a 8 year curriculum, BB school has produced but 2 principal dancers. The last quit the company just after her promotion because of the teacher continuity question. Such a history does not inspire confidence that the company can acquire the technique to dance Balanchine well.
  4. Cliff, Not to compete with erudition, I would like to add my 2 cents. Not to get personal but why do we have five fingers? Five toes? Seems that in some examples of evolution we had six even eight! But five was decided as necessary and sufficient. Same in ballet. QED.
  5. “Those of us whose local companies are Balanchine influenced (passionately so, in the case of Miami) have a stake in this debate even if we can't get to NY as often as we like.” bart, March 28 in the NYCB subforum. One of the changes that Nissinen as AD instituted in BB is a Balanchine component in the annual program mix. In ‘04-’05 Rubies and Divertimento were attempted. A choice ambitious, perhaps suicidal given the proximity of NYCB but interesting in that he seems to view such as a balancing, conservative part, to the works of Kylian, Elo, Forsythe, Morris and Childs. The ‘05-’06 season has world premieres by Mark Morris, Jorma Elo’s Carmen; and the premieres of James Kudelka’s full-length Cinderella and of Bronislava Nijinska’s rarely seen Les Noces, indicating that the changes in BB are not a single season phenomena. Returning to Balanchine’s oevre, in Lorna Feyjoo Nissinen has a ballerina with the speed and clarity to attempt an interpretation but she’s was trained in Cuba with the tendency to over-act the role. In the ‘03 season Ballo de la Regina was attempted under the direction of Merill Ashley. While the local criticism was favorable, my reaction was intense disappointment. The dance had none of the lightness, effervescence, the variation of speed in the execution of the step that I had looked for. In the spectacular Plisetskaya jeté the dancer was so intimidated that she barely got off the ground. What was apparent was the strain in executing the steps. I had previewed the work on tape where Ashley danced the role. Was such a comparison fair? In Dancing For Balanchine Ashley recounts, “You know, I try before, but no one could do, so now we will do.” A definitive statement that Balanchine was looking for something special in the role. Ashley, “But I fear little Ballo won’t stand up to such punishment. Some steps, the easier ones, will of course still look wonderful, but if the tempos are slowed to accommodate dancers unable to cope with speed, then the brilliance will be lost. If the timing is not exactly right in many of the steps, the impression of clarity, the image of the step reinforced in the mind by the sound of the music will be lost. In the ballerina role, the added element of joy – not to mention musicality – is essential. In the Ballet Talk where the program was discussed, audience is invited to ask questions and I raised the issue of the technical virtuosity necessary for the role. Ashley responded with a question, “What would you do? Not do the ballet at all? Let the work die?” I had no answer then, nor do I now. But the question is important – Isn’t it the job of the AD to preserve artistic integrity and not schedule a Balanchine work when the talent is not there? Such a question may not be pertinent for companies like San Francisco, Miami or Pacific Northwest where the Ads are former Balanchine dancers but for the regional companies it should be.
  6. “my use of the word "shill" was intended to be ironic -- I've recommended it so often I'm always afraid someone WILL think I have an interest in it!” It was successful! Since I did not buy it on ebay, your INTEREST seems benign.
  7. Hope I'm not distorting, by editing. Alexandra, you had me running for the dictionary – shill –(noun) a decoy who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate the participation of others; (verb) to be false, to be dishonest. Who are we talking about? Yes, Nancy’s book is a treasure. Had a hard time finding it. Do you know ‘Ballet Chronicle’ by B.H. Haggin (ISBN 0-8180-0402-9). Apart from the unique text, weekly, monthly, descriptions of performances, has 250 fotos, sequential of a dance movement. The Jewels sequence is superb: Verdi in Emeralds, McBride in Rubies “…’the goddamnest pas de deux ever!’… the seeming ultimate in newly imagined inflection of their body by sharp, perverse, grotesque thrusts, twist and bends, all contrived with and heightened the effect of, Stravinsky’s powerfully sculptured melody…”, Ferrell in Diamonds. An astonishing study of LeClerk and Magallanes in Le Baisér de la Fée.
  8. Thanks Ari for the correction, I’m too eager, want the whole bundle. But realistically “the varying interpretations of Balanchine's work offered by different companies?”, will be more than sufficient and welcome. I attempted to put the question in a context historic opinions and caused the confusion.
  9. In an attempt to catch up with the views expressed in the forums, I found the posts about Farrell’s company fascinating. Unfortunately I have not seen it, nor the Miami City’s Ballet. Perhaps someone who has been fortunate could comment on the differences implied in the following articles: Oct 8, 2004 by RACHEL HOWARD in Voice of Dance “We have entered an age of the Balanchine smorgasbord. You can walk down the buffet line and pick your favorite Jewels as Miami City Ballet’s, your favorite Stravinsky Violin Concerto as San Francisco Ballet’s; your favorite Serenade as Suzanne Farrell Ballet’s. You can make a case for preferring these renditions based not on uniformity of technique, but on subtle yet crucial shadings of interpretation, intention, and mood. Whatever your argument, the conditions for it remain the same: NYCB no longer holds the monopoly of authority on how these ballets should be danced. Whether it relinquished this authority or whether that authority was bound to fade during the Balanchine diaspora remains, to me, an open question.” A view that I tend to share is expressed by Joan Acoccella in the 2004-07-05 New Yorker: TRIBUTE The Balanchine centennial. “But, once the smoke cleared from the altars, it was obvious that the one tribute City Ballet owes Balanchine, that of dancing his ballets competently, is not being paid……. What they cannot manage is his pure-dance ballets—that is, the ballets that were the focus of his career and his chief contribution to twentieth-century art. Balanchine was a Platonist……Since Peter Martins took over, in 1983, the company’s technical level has steadily declined. Balanchine’s ballets are now too hard for them.” Ms. Acoccella said, “"Critics influence each other, and move in packs," she said; "that’s a whole world in itself, being a critic." To introduce a dissenting voice, a view by Paul Ben-Itzakin the 2001 The Dance Insider. “But Arlene Croce is now more or less retired, and in her stead we have Joan Acocella, a dilettante of a dance writer who is single-handedly dragging the New Yorker's one-time reputation as the leading vehicle for serious, expert dance criticism into the gutter. I might not have put it that strongly a couple of weeks ago; every time I was about to conclude that Ms. Acocella's rapier wit masked a serious deficiency in dance knowledge,”
  10. Not to disparage the academic analysis of Austen, I have read Emma about 4 times out of pure pleasure. And will probably semianualy, as I continue to find interest and satisfaction.
  11. Sorry, I did not intend to mislead. The original was readilly available and I did indicate that a section that I deemed unimportant was cut by the row of dashes. Again my appologies. -"but the basic language is that of classical ballet", answears the question that I was attempting to pose.
  12. Question for Alexandra, In the March 21 post you wrote,”I think what Marks meant by a choreographer who can "move out from it and expand it" is someone who can do what Ashton, Balanchine and Tudor did. Make something that is instantly recoognizably NEW and, at the same time, Diaghilev could look at it and say, "My God, that's Petipa!" ……. I think Christopher Wheeldon is definitely a ballet choreographer.” Since Wheeldon in your opinion is a ballet choreographer and mentioned in the same paragraph with Ashton, Balanchine, Tudor, and Petipa do you here equate ballet with classical? The inclusion of Tudor suggests that you might be making a subcategory distinction within the general category of ballet.
  13. Thank you Alexandra and carbro for taking the time. Especially for the reference ‘The King of Crossover Crosses Back’ There’s a lot to digest. Fusion is a category that has puzzled me for sometime and your comments have raised new questions. Hope that I can share these in the spirit of a debate. Long answers always most interesting.
  14. Would someone please define fusion? What distinguishes it from the genre of modern dance? The implication is that two distinct genres are merged. Is there a limit which genres are used? For a bizarre example, classic and hip hop? And a more important question: is such a distinction useful? Or are we doing the equivalent of a Phd (piling it higher and deeper)? Does the subcategory of fusion help us in determining whether a new work is good/beautiful or average/common? And is fusion as a category permit us to clarify in discussions what after all is a subjective judgement?
  15. In my opinion the State Theater at Lincoln Center is close to ideal. In the orchestra the sight lines even from the side seats do not distort and even from the back rows you do not need binoculars. The rake of the seat’s floor is very good in seeing the expression in the feet of the dancers. That the question is not simply contemporaneous, some historical perspectives: Edwin Denby, Dance Writings, April 1944 “….the Center was not built for ballet. The Metropolitant wasn’t built for ballet either. From the orchestra seats you have a hard time seeing the dancers’ feet downstage, and dance lovers know that standing room at the Met is really the best place to see from. But the Met stage itself is beautifully proportioned for dancing….The height of the proscenium, the absence of overhanging balconies in the house allow the lines of force in the dance movement to extend freely up and out into the air – and ballet, like orchestra music, needs a clear space to ‘reverberate’ in.” “The Center has not these architectural advantages. The stage is not ample enough for dancing to spread out.” I hope that the newer members would dip into Edwin Denby’s writings. He was the best critic we ever had and his comments on dancers like Markova, Spessivtseva, Alonso, Toumanova, are priceless since he was one of the last to see them dance. His reports on the early Balanchine are unique and necessary for the choreographic legacy. A stage influences both the choreographer as well as the dancers. When Balanchine moved from City Center to the new State Theater, his style changed. For the dancers of the Ballet Society, he used to the emphasis the minutiae of style, concentrating on clarity, suddenly they had to adapt to the new venue and a new perspective. Some felt unappreciated as he looked to the younger dancers for “more expansive movement able to fill the new stage.” A large stage sometimes gives a unique perspective as in Duato’s Jardi Tancat. A semi circle of poles suggested the intimacy of a village in the enormity of the Wang stage standing for the Spanish plain. Thus your perspective was intimate even when the full stage was subsequently used.
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