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YouOverThere

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  1. Since last evening's performance might be the only one that I get to, I'll throw in my impressions from that: - I loved the music. To me, it sounded both classical and Chinese at the same time. - The lead dancers were quite good. Which they had to be, because there wasn't much in the way of tricks or "wow" sections in the choreography to make them look spectacular if they had been merely adequate. - The costumes were impressive (as they tend to be in Chinese theatrical productions) - The story was difficult to follow. This has been my experience with Chinese theatrical productions - the creators don't feel the need to present a full telling of a story. Without having read the program notes beforehand, I might have been lost in trying to figure out who was who. - The choreography could have used a little more variety, especially in tempo. - the story was a tragedy, but it didn't engage me enough for me to have any emotional response to it.
  2. I managed to overcome illness and competition for tickets to attend 2 out of the 3 programs that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre presented at the Kennedy Center for their 2019 visit. I felt that this was their strongest effort in the (admittedly few) years that I've seen them dance. The highlight of their visit was the DC premier of a piece by Rennie Harris titled Lazarus. This work was supposed to be about Alvin Ailey and was created for the 60th year of the company. It turned out to not strictly be a biographical sketch but rather a series of vignettes that captured the essence of what Ailey would have experienced in his life. The work had about the widest variety of tempos of any dance work that I've ever seen - Harris has a thing for "slow motion" movements but this work (much more than the previous effort of his that I watched: Earth Tribe, created for the Colorado Ballet) contained some very fast sequences. The work was billed as the first 2 act dance work created for the Ailey company, and is definitely different than any other dance piece that I've watched. I'm confident that it will enter their main repertory, so that hopefully more people will get to see it.
  3. Did anyone else go to the Saturday evening performance? They drafted a guy from the corps, Tyler Maloney, to dance the Harlequin part, and I thought that he showed a lot of potential. I had mixed feelings about this ballet. A bit too much mime, yet there were some excellent riffs for the leads.
  4. Last night, I was dragged back to the Kennedy Center for a performance by the "Pan American Symphony Orchestra". This orchestra apparently consists of free-lance musicians organized by an Argentinian-born conductor to present Spanish/Latin American music to DC audiences . The quality of the musical performance wasn't in the same league as the major professional orchestras in the DC area, and their guest singer was good but nothing special (of course, I got to hear Renee Fleming sing on Friday, and not a whole lot of other singers are going to seem great in comparison). But they also had a flamenco dancer named Maria Juncal. I thought that her performance was close to the most intense dance performance that I've ever seen (she danced primarily to music by Manuel de Falla). Has anyone ever heard of her? This being only the third professional flamenco performance that I've attended, I know neither how to describe nor evaluate it.
  5. They put on 8 shows in DC and probably sold close to 90 percent of the tickets, so it isn't unpopular, at least in this area (and receiving a fawning review in the Washington Post). But I think that Bourne's work appeals more to people who like "Broadway" shows than to people who like ballet.
  6. I hadn't intended to attend this, but I got roped into buying a ticket for the Sunday performance. I'm not a Matthew Bourne fan, and this show did nothing to change that. When they are putting on 8 shows in 6 days and using the same cast for all 8 shows, there's obviously no way to have the performers perform virtuoso dances. What I would consider to be "dance" took up about 20 percent of the performance time, and I didn't see anything special about. I still think that the proper title for Bourne's productions should be "dancical", because to me they are like musicals except that the performers dance rather than sing.
  7. During the intermission of Thursday (12/27) evening's performance, an usher told me that she had worked inside the theater at around 375 performances of The Nutcracker!
  8. The WB has a complete cast listing for this week's "Contemporary Masters" program on their website (it's too lengthy to type in): https://www.washingtonballet.org/performance/2018-2019-season/contemporary-masters
  9. My Kennedy Center performance final grades: McIntyre Your flesh Shall Be a Great Poem: B+ There was a computer glitch in the mid-term grading ;). After re-watching this one, I found that I had WAY under-estimated its merits (in part because the most interesting - to me - choreography was in the first 10 minutes, which I missed the first time). Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for something so personal the first time. I still don't like the music. Wheeldon Bound To: A+ I absolutely loved this one. Varied choreography (with a stellar solo for a man), a coherent theme, and interesting music. I have no idea why the Washington Post reviewer called it "not Wheeldon at his best" (maybe for the same reason I initially gave a low grade to the McIntyre piece?) Dawson Anima Animus: A- A high energy, dynamic piece that had the misfortune of coming after the emotional Wheeldon piece. Maybe it would have gotten a full 'A' if scheduled differently, though I still felt that there were some instances where men had to wander about the stage to get into position for something while dancing was going on around them. Others might disagree. The costumes bothered me for some reason. The men's shirts and the women's leotards were backless except for a vertical strip that ran up their spines, which just made me feel uncomfortable - I can't explain why. Liang The Infinite Ocean: A Maybe it deserves an 'A+', but I can only give two of those and I liked the Wheeldon piece just a smidgen better. Another piece with interesting music. It was my accomplice's favorite, because in her opinion it was the work that required the most perfection from the dancers. Marston Snowblind: B I still didn't think that it did a great job of making the story clear, unless perhaps you were seated near the front and could see all the subtle gestures. And then there was the issue of having 4 men doing a simple dance in a back corner while "Mattie" was dancing the biggest solo of the entire work. Not only was impossible to watch both "Mattie" and the 4 men at the same time, but because the men were in a back corner they were out of view from at least a quarter of the seats (including the seat that I had the first time I watched it). Peck Hurry Up, We're Dreaming: C The only piece that I didn't get more out of with repeated viewings. It just didn't seem particularly original to me. San Francisco Ballet dancers: A+ They nailed EVERYTHING. Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra: A Great solos from a violinist and a cellist
  10. The Washington Post published the WB board's response to their article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-washington-ballet-is-at-the-center-of-the-areas-cultural-grande-jete/2018/10/26/16d7c032-d8a7-11e8-8384-bcc5492fef49_story.html?utm_term=.a30d80398d30 There's not a lot it in, IMHO. Basically they say that the WB is moving in the direction that the DC area is moving.
  11. I believe that Suzanne Farrell still has some sort of job with the Kennedy Center even though she no longer has a dance company (which wasn't a real company - there was only 1 program a year and most of the dancers had jobs with other companies). By "lackluster Ken Cen ballet programming", I'm assuming that you're not referring just to the Washington Ballet's schedule for this year. The Kennedy Center decided that they would take a short (maybe just 1 year) break from classical story ballets because they felt that there were too many performances of certain ballets (e.g., Giselle) in the past few years.
  12. My Kennedy Center mid-term grades: McIntyre Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem: C- This one was set to music that was reminiscent of what you'd here in the coffee shop of a bookstore. Not much for the dancers to work with. (Admission: I only saw the second half of this one due to the frustratingly slow line at the box office - only 2 agents working, and inexperienced ones at that - when they had 4 shows starting at the same time. One agent spent at least 10 minutes with a single customer). Wheeldon Bound To: A+ Beautiful and totally full of emotion. Dawson Anima Animus: A- Good overall, but there were a few rough spots, such as when a second man was required to help with some of the lifts but there wasn't much for that dancer to do in the build-up to the lift Liang The Infinite Ocean: A I'll always give Edwaard Liang an 'A'. Marston Snowblind: B I might grade this one better after I see it again. There was some good stuff in it, but I couldn't make sense of the story. Peck Hurry Up, We're Dreaming: C+ Set to apparently his favorite rock songs (none of which did much for me), with no apparent program. Not particularly original. If you find yourself in DC but with only enough money to attend one performance, I recommend Program A.
  13. It's hard to judge since none of us know what was offered and what was asked for. If Brooklyn Mack is as good as a lot of people seem to think, it may have been inevitable that he would outgrow the WB.
  14. I think that many of assumed when they brought Julie Kent in there was a plan and that the board had the expectation of funding to implement the plan. Now it isn't clear that it wasn't a spur of the moment idea to bring in a famous AD and change direction. I do have a concern that despite Julie Kent's claim to the contrary that she's running the WB as ABT South. Even her commissioned choreography has largely had some sort of ABT, or at least New York City, connection. She has even commissioned another work by Ethan Stiefel.
  15. If ticket sales are down substantially, maybe it isn't what the audience wants. It's what I want, but I represent about 0.02 percent of the ticket purchases. My impression during the Webre years was that the WB audience had only a limited overlap with the audiences for ABT, NYCB, etc., so whether they took surveys to find out whether there was a demand for different programming I don't know. That Webre received a year's salary as severance pay is interesting.
  16. The article (as I interpret it) depicts Mack's reasons for leaving as career growth rather than salary. Of course, if it really was about money it wouldn't be surprising if he wouldn't have come out and said that. I could be wrong, but I doubt if the 2 dancers who left for BalletMet are getting paid more. While the free rent surprised me, Julie Kent's salary didn't. Salaries in DC tend to be high (except for mine ). The National Symphony Orchestra is the 6th highest paying orchestra in the US, paying more than the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras despite being well below those orchestras in terms of quality. The NSO concertmaster pulls in $378k. I don't know what the current music director is making, but his predecessor was pulling in $2.7 MILLION despite his lack of conducting fundamentals.
  17. An article in the Oct. 22 Washington Post implies that Mack left primarily because Julie Kent wouldn't give him as much time off to do guest performances as Septime Webre did. Mack apparently also felt that he was pressed into substituting for injured dancers too often.
  18. The Kennedy Center hosted Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker in a presentation of Ms. Colker's most recent production, Dog Without Feathers, which apparently based on a poem by a Brazilian poet about a primitive tribe who is living in an increasingly arid region. I had mixed impressions of this production. Ms. Colker has managed to incorporate primitive tribal dance ideas into her choreography. At the start, I thought "WOW! This is going to be really interesting." But eventually I found it to be too lacking in variety, so I got bored. It didn't help that the musical accompaniment was minimalist in the extreme. And LOUD!!! WAY TOO LOUD!!! Loud as in I felt like I was physically being beaten by sound. So loud that I watched the last 2/3 on the TV screen in the lobby. The dancing was for the most part accompanied by a video displayed on basically the entire rear wall; a video of dancers acting like members of a stone age tribe living in a dry river bed. Given the scale of the video compared to the dancers, the video became the central focus and it was hard to watch the dancing. I didn't pick up what was the underlying message of the program. Were we supposed sympathetic toward some tribe that is trying to endure in incredibly harsh conditions? Were we supposed to be outraged that they have been left to fend for themselves in an impossible environment? Were we supposed to admire their stoic persistence? Were we supposed to ponder that our ancestors of a few thousand years ago might have been just like this tribe? Or was is an objective depiction of a group of people without taking any stance? Maybe if I had paid attention to the occasional recitations of parts of the poem that were shouted into my ear, but they came across as pseudo-profound, perhaps a loss of meaning in the translation from Portuguese to English.
  19. Lots of inexpensive tickets left for the Kennedy Center performances (so far, I only have a ticket for Friday).
  20. I mistakenly identified Alexandros Poppajohn as a member of the studio company when he actually is an apprentice. I saw him again in the Sunday evening finale, and he clearly showed that he should be a full member of a ballet company. But the WB is only carrying 9 men as full members (as opposed to 15 women - 16 if Katherine Barkman is added). This leads to the question of whether the roster was configured due to the slate of woman-dominated ballets (Serenade, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty) on the schedule or whether programming decisions were influenced by the larger number of women.
  21. The WB has revealed the 3 choreographers for Three World Premieres: Dana Genshaft, Ethan Steifel, and Trey McIntyre.
  22. Sarah Kaufman, in her review of TWB Welcomes for the Washington Post, reported that the WB stated that they "were unable to reach an agreement with him". I guess that, unlike the National Symphony Orchestra, the WB doesn't have unlimited financial resources.
  23. My (as usual unsophisticated) impressions after attending both TWB Welcomes programs (the 2nd performance of each): - Stella Abrera is a goddess. - Katherine Barkman and Rolando Sarabia danced the black swan pas de deux like they were experienced partners. Hopefully, Sarabia can manage to stay healthy, because on those few times that I've seen him dance he has been very, very good (IMH, and possibly incorrect, O, clearly the best male in the WB). - Maki Onuki was very good in Serenade, worthy of dancing with Marcelo Gomes. The other 2 prominent women, Brittany Stone and Kateryna Derechyna, were solid, but the lack of depth, with Francesca Dugarte and Venus Villa having left, showed a bit. - EunWon Lee seemed uncharacteristically tentative in the black swan pas de deux, dancing below the level that she has shown in the past, to the point where she alternated on the first 16 fouettes before gaining confidence and going all in on the last 16. - Andile Ndlovu was dynamic (and great fun) in his turn in Tarantella (and he wasn't even originally scheduled to dance it). - There were some puzzling pairings, in particular Stella Abrera and Tamas Krizsa seemed poorly matched in a pas de deux from Seven Sonatas. Eunwon Lee, who is tall for a female dancer, was paired with Connor Walsh, who is not tall for a male dancer. Katherine Barkman, who is a principal dancer, was paired in Tarantella with a member of the studio company (Alexandros Poppajohn, who showed that he was capable of handling the role - I wonder why he hasn't been promoted). - Attendance hasn't been great. I was able to purchase $25 tickets the day of the performance for both shows. The balcony has been mostly empty. - Will we ever see Stella Abrera and Marcelo Gomes paired again?
  24. I was just looking at the casting for the season-opening TWB Welcomes, which is the program (actually, 2 programs) with guest dancers Stella Abrera, Katherine Barkman, Marcelo Gomes, and Connor Walsh. With one exception, the guests are sprinkled in individually with WB dancers, the exception being the Saturday matinee when Abrera and Gomes are paired in the Seven Sonatas pas de deux. I imagine everyone in the DC area already knows this, but traffic getting to the Kennedy Center might be a little more congested than usual during the weekend because the Memorial Bridge will be closed.
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