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  1. ralphsf


    I don't think it's all a matter of technique. Quite simply, I don't like that generation of English dancers that Fonteyn belonged to. I've always felt the English have tried to lionize artists like Helpman and Soames who were just not great artists. She's never appealed to me because she just plain doesn't seem like a very expressive dancer. Even dancing with Rudy, I find her to be a cold fish and have always been perplexed by her stardom. Did she have an exciting stage presense? (in fairness, I've never seen her on stage, only in videos, including some from earlier in her career). I don't expect a woman dancing in her 40's to have knockout technique (although dancers like Plisetskaya and Hightower certainly did) but I do expect her to use what she's got and have some panache and I really have never seen it. This is not a putdown, I just don't see what other people do. Looking at her Corsaire, other than Rudy's dynamism, it seems completely flat to me. I think Alicia Alonso was a better Giselle at an advanced age than Fonteyn was. And I've always preferred Moira Shearer to Margot. Perhaps that sound stupid to some, but I'll stand by it.
  2. Kolpakova had a rep of being a brilliant technician but not a very expressive dancer. In the four or five videos I've seen of her, she seems like a very cold dancer and not someone who put much character into her steps. I suspect Fonteyn (not my favorite dancer either) was intimidated by Russian dancers. From what I've seen, I think Sizova and Shelest were hands down better than Kolpakova.
  3. To me, a much bigger issue than whether someone can toss off turns is... how to they use the movement to express what the character is going through, and how they phrase and dance through the music. I can't stand watching technicians do turns with blank faces or looking like they're grunting, not really hitting the beats of the music and generally looking like an elementary school gymnastics show. I want artistry, movement and performance, not classroom pyrotechnics. For pure technical turning, I don't think anyone could match Yoko Ichino for speed and holding her spot when she was younger. Do I think that makes her the very best Odile? Not by a long shot.
  4. Sorry, I don't buy that Plisetskaya couldn't do the 32 turns. Look at her in the Little Humpbacked Horse video, and you'll see that she tosses them off without so much as a drop of perspiration. Where do you get this idea she couldn't do them? I think this idea was spread in Makarova's book in the 70's. If anything, Makarova had a hard time doing them... she was a magnificent dancer but not the strongest technician. Correct me if I'm wrong but, as I understand it, the version of Swan Lake Plisetskaya danced was the version by Gorsky from the 1920's which didn't use the 32 fouettés and that this had nothing to do with Plisetskaya.
  5. I (unfortunately) bought the Ananiashvi/Fedayachev Perm ballet video. Didn't like it. The dancing by the Perm ballet performers is fine. Of course, they have the stupid Jester, who is danced well in this production but, as always, superfluous and annoying. Alexei Fedayachev is not bad but I've always found him and his father not especially interesting. Father and son were both great partners but added little of themselves to the role and lacked excitment or drama. And as for Nina... well, I found her so-so. Her dancing can be so gawky and her limbs flapping all over that dispite her formidable technique, I just don't believe her in roles. She has a gorgeous body, I think she's adorable, she's a real athlete, but I just don't think she's much of an artist. Given the choice, I would have Makarova as Odette (I saw her dance it in San Francisco with Rudy substituting for Dowell) and Plisetskaya as Odile. I don't think there's anyone who can touch Maya in that role.
  6. Lack of attack when it's needed. I don't like mushy dancing. Sloppy work in the arms and especially the torso. I don't like dancers who are tight in the torso and shoulders. Related to lack of musicality (a big problem) is sloppy phrasing. Dancers who don't know how to punctuate a phrase. Dancers who don't hold their beats long enough. Dancers who look like they're counting onstage, not dancing and experiencing the music and/or performing a breathing character. General lack of stage sense and projection. I see many dancers who just look lost onstage. Ballet is a performance, not just an extension of class. A lot of dancers just don't know how to deliver when the time comes.
  7. She also had a part in Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes", where she is also very white skinned with intense red lipstick.
  8. I am also a big fan of the Bessmertnova/Lavrovsky Giselle from the 70's. Lavrovsky is the best Albrecht, period. While I don't think Bessmertnova is quite up to the level of Fracci, she's still very good. And the Myrtha, production, filming and mood of video are the best of all the one's I've seen. The Bruhn-Fracci Giselle has wonderful dancing (Toni Lander) but terrible camera work. Ted Kivitt's performance in the peasant dance is all but ruined by moronic cutaways and shot selection. Bruhn is wonderful, but I still find him to be somewhat of a cold fish (have you ever seen him in a performance where you really thought he loved the ballerina?) The Nureyev/Seymour Giselle is good, but I think Seymour is just too contemporary a dancer to be a good Giselle. She's a wonderful dancing actress, but lacks the romantic magic. And let's face it, the ballet is not called "Albrecht". The Misha/Makarova Giselle has wonderful performances (though I don't think Albrecht is an especially good role for Misha), but I don't like the production values, and it doesn't have nearly the mood of the romantic era that 1970's Bolshoi video has. I know there are many Grigorovich detractors out there, but I think this production (even with its cuts) is a jewel.
  9. Saw the Sunday matinee of this program. Pacific: Not a big fan of this piece. Not one of Morris' best for my money. I think it really should have been choreographed on a modern dance company... the ballet moves seemed pieced onto it. But it was well danced, especially by Kristin Long and Guennadi Nedviguine. Magrittomania: A great addition to the repertory. Yuri Possokhov might have limited choreography experience, but he certainly emerged full-blown with this piece. I love the way he linkes phrases in this work and uses focus and minimalism where needed to let the audience digest the movement (most beginners slop one movement on another until it the dance no shape or structure). The sets have some of the most imaginative use of projections I've ever seen in ballet. I thought the one shortcoming was Benjamin Pierce in the lead. I've seen Roman Rykine do this role last year, and thought he was much better suited for it. Pierce is an excellent dancer, but is too young and powerful looking to do this role. He doesn't have an everyman look about him and sometimes, just looks too much like he's just stepped out of a Bob Fosse musical. I don't think SFB has really figured out what to do with him. Muriel Maffre was excellent doing her slinky moves and Jason Davis' solo was superb. Why isn't he a soloist yet? Symphony In C: SF Ballet always does a good job with this warhouse. To me the standouts were Nedviguine, Lacarra and Sherri LeBlanc, who is always outstanding dancing Balanchine. The Corps could have been a little more crisp (that's been a problem so far this season) but the level of talent through the ranks of this company is impressive. I just wish there could be a little more attack in the dancing. All in all, better than Symphony in Three Movements from the last program. Anybody else see this program?
  10. Here's info about the 2002 season at SFB: [san Francisco Ballet's 2001-2002 season will include the company's first-ever productions of George Balanchine's "Jewels" and Jerome Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering" as well as world premieres by Julia Adam, Christopher Wheeldon and Yuri Possokhov. The season, to be announced today by artistic director Helgi Tomasson, also will include revivals of what many consider the company's two most successful full-length productions, Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" and Tomasson's "Giselle." San Francisco Ballet is dancing the European premiere of "Othello" in Paris in May as part of its 2001 tour, so "we should already have it ready and beautiful for our own home season," said Tomasson, who next year also will create his 30th ballet for the company. Ballets returning from the current season will include Hans van Manen's "Black Cake," Roland Petit's "L'Arlesienne," Nacho Duato's "Without Words," Mark Morris' "A Garden," Val Caniparoli's "Death of a Moth" and Tomasson's "Prism." Tomasson's "Silver Ladders" and Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet" will be among the revivals. San Francisco Ballet has danced the "Rubies" section of Balanchine's "Jewels" before, but next season will be the company's first staging of the "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" that complete this unusual abstract three-act ballet. "Dances at a Gathering," one of the masterpieces of 20th century dance, was a staple of Tomasson's own repertory at New York City Ballet, where he danced the leading role of the Man in Brown. "It was always such a joy for me to perform in Jerry's ballet," said Tomasson, who was considered one of the supreme interpreters of the Robbins style. "It will be very special for me personally to be close to it again." In addition to New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet Covent Garden and now San Francisco Ballet are the only other companies given the rights to "Dances at a Gathering." It will be danced at the Opera House as part of an all-Robbins evening, alongside his "Fanfare" and "Glass Pieces." After a December run of 35 performances of "The Nutcracker," the company will dance a gala performance Jan. 30, 2002. The 69th San Francisco Ballet repertory season will begin officially with the all-Robbins celebration Feb. 5, 2002, and close with a run of "Giselle" May 3-12, 2002. Tomasson's new production of "The Nutcracker," which had been expected for next season, "won't happen right now because we have been too busy to plan for that," he said. "Wonderfully busy, in fact, with our forthcoming appearances at the Paris Opera, Covent Garden in London and the Liceo in Barcelona. That is a lot of touring." A rumored new production of the classic "Coppelia" is, according to Tomasson, "still down the line."] It doesn't sound like a lot of new stuff, but it will be good to see some seasoning. I'm looking forward to see what the company members come up with, since Adam and Possokhov have some real talent at choreography. Othello, to me, is the big news. The Robbins evening sounds great, but I really wish they were doing something other than Fanfare, which I think is lightweight Robbins. I see Ikolo Griffin is leaving for DTH. It's too bad. He was stuck in the corps for 7 years. ------------------ cheers, Ralph
  11. I don't think she's like a regular Balanchine prototypical American dancer (who mostly dance from the waist down), but she doesn't seem unually like a Russian one either. I always think most good Russian dancers have unusually expressive torsos, arms and backs and very clean line and phrasing. They are very well finished. That doesn't mean they're always better at dancing or better technicians. I think Zahorian has a bright future ahead of her. I would love to see her as Juliet. But there are a lot of good dancers among SFB's soloists and corp. It's a company that's really packed with talent. ------------------ cheers, Ralph
  12. Does anyone who lives outside the US (or inside) have any information about the western European or US translation of Maya Plisetskaya's autobiography "I, Maya Plisetskaya." I speak a little Russian, but not well enough to read it (it's about 500 pages). I have seen the book selling in Russian book stores in San Francisco, and in online Russian bookstores like kniga.com. A russian teacher of mine read the book and says its incredible and was a huge best seller in Russia. It's a real tell-all about soviet ballet from the late 40's to the present. She goes into all the conflicts at the Bolshoi, political interference and even anti-semitism towards Jewish dancers. I would love to read it. Does anyone know if it's been published in France or England.
  13. The sets and costumes were pretty (well, NOT the ugly wig they stuck on the Prince), but they weren't really matched by the style of the performing. Russian ballet is full of demi-character moves. Some of the most famous solos have a lot of folk dance in them. The fairy dances of the prologue should be brimming with personality and spice. I just didn't see any of this. I think SFB actually has plenty of dough for their productions. Their Nutcracker is fairly lavish, just the choreography and staging are flat. What I find less than satisfying about Helgi's tenture is that his productions are of a very middlebrow taste, in the city that has a lot of good dance. I think he's a good administrator, great at hiring talent, just not a good choreographer or stage director. With the roster of dancers they have, SFB could be even better with less Helgi. ------------------ cheers, Ralph
  14. Dancers I wish I could have seen in person: Yuri Soloviev - Not a great performer, but an unmatched technician. Mikhail Lavrovsky - I've seen him in a tape of Giselle, Spartacus and dancing the variation from Don Quixote, and I think he's just amazing. He creates long phrases in his dancing like no one else I've seen. Alla Sizova - Her Aurora from the 1965 Kirov Sleeping Beauty (mentioned earlier on this thread) is one of my favorite performances in any video. As I understand it, she injured her back when she was in her late 20's and was never quite the same. An magical dancer. Carla Fracci - Every time I see videos of her (Giselle, La Syphide) it's hard to imagine anyone better in those roles. One dancer I did see later on in her career (in the mid-seventies) was Maya Plisetskaya. Let's face it, you see Maya dance something, and every other performer attempting that role might as well get a job at MacDonalds. I really wish someone would come out with a video of her complete Don Quixote, she is an unmatchable Kitri. The fragments I've seen of it make Harvey, Gregory and Kirland look like pale imitators. What I especially love about Plisetskaya is that someone with her body (not thin, short legs, long torso) would have a hard time getting noticed with most companies today, but her stage presence and explosive technique was such that she made the Bolshoi stage look small. I've never seen a sexier performance than her as Carmen when she was already over 50. Every prospective dancer, please watch the video "Plisetskaya Dances" and watch how it's really done. To continue the discussion of Cynthia Gregory, who I saw live a half-dozen times, I think she was a powerful technical dancer, had beautiful line, but little expressiveness. She always held back on stage, and struck me as being very insecure (how's that for pop psychology). I saw her in Swan Lake and Don Q and didn't think she had a great classical style, even though she could balance and turn with the best of them. I'm glad I saw her, but I never felt her performances were really etched into my memory or especially moved me. ------------------ cheers, Ralph
  15. I've seen two performances of SFB's Sleeping Beauty and have very mixed views of it. My big problem with it is the choreography and staging. I don't think much of Helgi Tomasson's choreography and stage craft, even though I think he's done a wonderful job putting together excellent talent in SFB. There are several key areas where I think this production has shortcomings: 1) Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, but this staging has little fantasy, little whimsy, no drama and not much magic 2)he's made the fairies all but meaningless... he's added cavaliers to the fairies in the prologue (a bad move that removes focus from them and takes away their dancing time), he's added "little lilacs" which again, remove focus and dance time from the main fairies to the point that the fairies have little dance time and no personality. 3) His solo for Desiree in the second act is lame. He uses the peasant dance music for the prince, and gives him a solo that does nothing. Unfortunately, Tomasson just doesn't know how to link steps together, phrase dances, put whimsey, flash or character into his dances or add drama to steps. His dances always lack attack (I feel the same way about his Nutcracker, La Sylphide and Romeo and Juliet). These are all things Petipa was so brilliant at. When I look at an amazing choreographer like Nacho Duarto, I wish SFB could just dump their Helgi dances and globally replace them with his. (Even Michael Smuin had good stagecraft, showbiz flair and knew how to put steps together) 4) He doesn't know what to do with crowd scenes. Look at the scenes with Carabosse (called the Dark Fairy here). Nobody reacts. Everyone stands around just looking dumbfounded. The Dark Fairy's attendants(they look like crows) look like something out of a high school dance performance and, yes, completely remove focus away from this pivotal moment in the ballet. His treament of the Prince-Aurora kiss is leathal. No magic, no sex, no drama leading up to it, no magic resulting from it. Come on Helgi, this is supposed to be the moment the audience is waiting for. Okay, SFB has wonderful, wonderful dancers. I just didn't feel they were coached very well in the classical style. Tomasson makes a big deal about how Russian this ballet is, but his principal dancers (especially the women) have little of the Russian style, nuance and flair needed to pull off these dances. Case in point, I saw both Vanessa Zahorian and Tina LeBlanc dancing Aurora. Neither dancer phrased the role very well. Neither finishes phrases before going into the next step. No puntuation to phrases. Zahorian was more charming in the role since she's so young, and it's her big break. I can see her growing into the role but I didn't think she was good in the first act. She got better as the performance wore on. LeBlanc, I don't feel, is well suited to Aurora. She's a very modern dancer, and while a strong technician, she's not terribly expressive. There was no chemistry between her and Parrish Maynard (definately one of the best dancers in the company... who looked silly in his white wig... they should dump it) I wish I could have seen Lacarra who is their best female principal. I suggest everyone watch the video of the Kirov version with Alla Sizova from 1965 to see how Aurora can be danced--she's incredible technically and can make your heart break. The big difference in quality comes the level of coaching. The SFB just didn't put in a very refined performance. And I say that even though I've loved them in many of the non-Helgi pieces I've seen them in this year. They have incredible talent in the soloists and corps. Perhaps they have too many casts, and not enough time to really grow into the work and polish it. Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite ballets, I just wish SFB could get a great version of it. I'm curious about other opinions out there of Tomasson's work like Prism and Turning Game. Did you think these are good ballets? Can't say I did. ------------------ cheers, Ralph
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