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YouOverThere

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  1. I liked it better the second time (it seems like that's always the case). Knowing who the characters were ahead of time was helpful. And sitting downstairs instead of in the nosebleed seats definitely makes for much better viewing. But I still think that there is plenty of room for improvement (and slimming down - once again, by the time the wedding Grand Pas started my attention was drifting). The story just isn't compelling. It doesn't seem to have a message, other than perhaps if you come from a rich family everything will work out.
  2. I've been wondering if perhaps because the choreographer is also a dancer in the company if he tried too hard to squeeze in as much dancing for as many dancers as he could, with the result that the stage was too cluttered at times. The jail scene is a good example of what I thought was lacking in the work. We should have had sweaty palms worrying whether the heroes would find a way out or if they were destined for the gallows. I didn't feel at all tense or nervous. I will probably go again just to see if it seems better when viewed from the orchestra. I didn't think that the show was terrible, just that it wasn't up to the standards I expect from the elite companies.
  3. Alas, the Kennedy Center has forsaken me - I haven't received discount offers like this for several years. This is unfortunate, because Paquita did not impress when watched from the nosebleed seats. I think that Xiaoyi was right on. The production is quite long (and unfortunately was extended by unusually long intermissions), yet very little time was spent on the plot. I didn't ever see sparks flying between Paquita and Andres; they really didn't spend a lot of time together. I might have enjoyed the wedding Grand Pas, which didn't start until after 10:00, more if I wasn't worried about how late I would be getting home on a work night. Perhaps watching it from a little closer, where it would have been easier to figure out who was who, might have left me with a better impression.
  4. The Kennedy Center belatedly celebrated the 100th anniversary of Merce Cunningham's birth by presenting a completely forgettable performance of 2 of Cunningham's works. The dancing, such as it was, was performed by a company called Compagnie Centre National de Danse Contemporaine - Angers, whose AD, Robert Swinston, re-created the dances. The first work was titled Beach Birds. The object here apparently was mimic birds on a sandy beach. So the piece mainly consisted of dancers standing with the arms extended and occasionally hopping around. It might look cute to see birds hopping around, but having people do it just looked silly. The piece was set to "music" that was "composed" by John Cage. The "music" was only slightly more interesting than Cage's 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds, since the pianist actually did occasionally play a note (perhaps a couple of hundred notes over the course of 25 minutes). The second piece was titled BIPED. This one actually featured dancing and was accompanied by actual music, albeit droning ambient music. The creativity in this piece was limited to the staging, since it including a scrim in front on which light patterns and computer graphics were displayed. Unfortunately, the graphics didn't obscure the fact that the choreography was pretty basic and that there didn't seem to be a point to any of it other than to fill up time, and time it did fill up - dragging on and on for about 55 minutes.
  5. Composer Christopher Rouse passed away on Saturday, September 21, four weeks before the scheduled premiere of his 6th symphony. For those not familiar with him, he won both a Grammy and a Pullitzer, served in several capacities with major symphony orchestras (including the New York Philharmonic), and taught at several top music schools (including Julliard and Eastman). He had been one of my two favorite living composers. https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwclassical/article/Composer-Christopher-Rouse-Dies-At-Age-70-20190921
  6. The Korean Cultural Center brought the Choe Contemporary Dance Company to the Kennedy Center. Fortunately, the Korean Cultural Center also footed the cost of the production so that tickets were free, because this production contained everything that I dislike about modern dance. There were 2 pieces in the performance: Chaos and Liar. Both were basically about nothing at all, consisting of a disconnected hodgepodge of ideas and lack of ideas and seeming to drag on endlessly without purpose or direction. There was way too much milling around, moving around R---E---A---L---L---Y S---L---O---W---L---Y, and, in the case of Chaos, rolling around face down on some sort of motorized skateboards (or something - I was too far back to see what they were actually rolling around the stage on). What little activity there was had a way too high proportion of gymnastic or martial arts derivation. Much of the "music" for Chaos consisted of a single note repeated over and over and over and over again. My accomplice, who in the past has defended modern dance when I've criticized it, declared that in the future she would only attend ballet.
  7. Beirut-based Caracalla Dance Theater made a stop at the Wolf Trap (near DC). OK, this stop was WAY back in June. CDT bills itself as a Middle Eastern arts organization, but a quick glance at a borrowed program (they ran out, so I didn't get one) revealed quite a few Russian-sounding names and a few names that were clearly Chinese (and even without a program it was obvious that some of the dancers were Russian). It is basically a modern dance company, though there were elements of ballet included (but not pointe dancing). The program was titled "1001 Nights", and, yes, it was inspired by that piece of literature. There were three acts. The first loosely told the story of why the Sultan becoming so enraged by women that he had all his wives executed, though it had far more dance than was needed to tell the story. This act was danced to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade". A significant portion of the dancing used a very large ensemble. The choreography was entertaining, but I kept thinking that a number of opportunities for virtuosic (sp?) dance riffs were missed. The second act was about an evening in a Middle Eastern cafe during the time period that "1001 Nights" was set. This act was danced an unusually arranged and instrumented rendition of Ravel's "Bolero". Here, the choreography was opened up and the dancers were more free to show off their skills, with fewer dancers cluttering up the stage. The final act told of a remote way station, where people from different cultures stop to take a break from their travels. This went still farther in paring down the numbers so that individual dancers could be highlighted. The music apparently was Lebanese folk songs; at least it was some type of folk music that seemed to hold a deep meaning to a segment of the audience. I found it more enjoyable than most of the other modern dance performances that I've attended. At least it consisted mainly of actual dancing. One thing no other modern dance company has come close to matching is the costumes. Actually, I've seen few ballets that could match the costumes.
  8. I wouldn't consider the documentary to be a balanced biography of Pavarotti. I think that Ron Howard was pushing a live big, go for your dreams, ignore the critics angle, and didn't want to spend too much time on the negatives. But I don't think that makes it a bad movie; I certainly enjoyed it enough to watch it more than once.
  9. I was left with a couple lingering questions: - There are 2 people who are still alive who had some importance in Pavarotti's career but did not appear in the documentary: the conductor Richard Bonynge, who was Joan Sutherland's husband, and the soprano Mirella Freni, whom Pavarotti knew as a child and who sang with Pavarotti at several important events, including his La Scala debut. Were they not interested in participating, not in good enough health, edited out for film length reasons, or did their opinions not fit with the narrative? - Pavarotti's eldest daughter played a much smaller role than his 2 other adult daughters. Again, was this to keep the film shorter or was it because she didn't fit in with the narrative?
  10. Having not known anything about Pavarotti's early years, I was massively surprised to learn that he had to choose between a singing career and being a soccer goaltender. Apparently, he was good enough as a youth that a professional soccer career was not an implausible goal.
  11. After seeing this twice, the thing that most stood out for me was that even with Pavarotti there was a bit of good fortune that might well have made a difference in how his career unfolded. When he was 30, he managed to get a gig doing a tour with Joan Sutherland, who wanted a tenor of a specific height, and it was on this tour that Sutherland taught Pavarotti about proper breath control. Pavarotti's career took off after the tour.
  12. Back to the earlier question about Seo: I thought that she was better than she had been at the Kennedy Center - smoother and more confident. Except for the fouettes - she started off with a pattern of 3 doubles, 1 single, and this was working well. Too well. She switched to all doubles and immediately starting veering to the right, finally stopping after around 26. I wasn't as pleased with Stearns. He seemed a little stiff. The rest of the cast was excellent - about as good as I've seen. Though I didn't care for some of the costumes. I thought that the women's skirts in the first act were too long so that they became a distraction when trying to watch the ballerinas' footwork. Perhaps that was a function of the large theater, which left people like me who can't afford the primo seats farther from the stage than they would be in, for example, the Kennedy Center Opera House.
  13. Since thunderstorms prevented me from hitting the swimming pool after work yesterday, I found my way to a showing of Ron Howard's recently released documentary on Pavarotti. I had read NPR's review of the film, which heavily criticized it for underplaying Pavarotti's faults and for performing more concerts and recitals and fewer operas as he grew older and for concertizing with rock musicians (he and Bono became very good friends). And, yes, it made only a brief reference to Pavarotti's short-term flings (though his 2 long-term affairs, the second of which became a marriage, were featured prominently) and his penchant for cancelling performances. Given that the film was underwritten by the Pavarotti Foundation, there was no way that the film was going to give a harsh portrayal of Pavarotti. Still, I found it gave some insight into what made Pavarotti Pavarotti, which (some might say unfortunately) included his perpetual boyish outlook as well as the trauma of, as a boy, witnessing suspected spies and resistance fighters hanged during World War II. On the other hand, I was not aware of all of the charity fundraising the Pavarotti did. Nor did I realize that Pavarotti and Placido Domingo were something of friends before the Three Tenors came into being (and the role that Zubin Mehta played in helping to make the Three Tenors happen). But forget about all that. The documentary included some incredible snippets from Pavarotti's performances. I found myself alternately wanting to stand and applaud and nearly crying from the sheer beauty of the singing. That alone made it worth paying to see.
  14. I am going, apparently on Thursday (I'd rather go on Saturday since I was really impressed by Teuscher). I would avoid Friday because Misty Copeland draws a HUGE crowd anytime she performs in the DC area. I don't know about the backstage, but there is no cooling system on the stage, as several performers (e.g., Josh Groban, Andrew Litton) have mentioned.
  15. The management of the Baltimore Symphony has cancelled all the orchestra's summer concerts, including their 4th of July concert, and apparently imposed a ~20 percent pay cut on the musicians (by shortening the contract from 52 weeks to 40 weeks). This was allegedly in response to the annual budget deficit that has averaged about $1.6 million over the past decade, but comes shortly after the Maryland state government allocated $3.2 million for the orchestra. This action was unexpected, as the orchestra had recently announced their summer schedule. The Baltimore Symphony is clearly the best symphony orchestra in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region, so it would be extremely unfortunate if these actions cause some of the top musicians to leave. It also leads to the concern as to whether symphony orchestras can continue to flourish in cities that contain few headquarters of large corporations.
  16. I thought that the dancing was excellent, competitive with what we're used to seeing with the elite companies that pass through the Kennedy Center. However, I thought that the program could have used a little more variety.
  17. P.S. There is an attempt to make a movie version of the play. Capturing the same spirit might be difficult, as the play makes you feel as if you are in the room with the negotiators.
  18. "My daughter is named Maya" said Ahmed Qurie, PLO Finance Minister, to Uri Savir, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, upon learning that Savir had a daughter named Maya. In the 2017 Tony Award-winning play Oslo, this broke the ice after the first tense secret negotiating session between the PLO and an Israeli official that eventually culminated in the Oslo Accords. I love to complain about the quality of plays, in particular about award-winning plays, but Oslo is a really truly great play (so good - and so well-acted by the Bethesda-based Roundhouse Theatre Company - that I saw it 3 times). Oslo tells the story of the Norwegian husband-and-wife team of Terje Rod-Larsen and Mona Juul, who conceived the idea of the secret negotiations and acted as facilitators. I don't know whether anyone else on this board who was alive at that time knew about them, but I did not. The play captures the spirit of what actually transpired, though it did take some liberties to make for better theater (underplaying the roles that the Norwegian Foreign Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister played so that the focus would be on Rod-Larsen and Juul, leaving one of the Palestinian negotiators out - my guess was that it would look better to the audience to have the same number of people on each side, and adding some fictional peripheral characters so that it wouldn't be a boring documentary). Though Oslo is about a deadly serious subject, it has as many laugh lines as many comedies. This actually was intended to capture the spirit of the negotiations. Rod-Larsen had a theory of negotiations that he called "gradualism": put people from the 2 sides together, have them first agree on what they agree on before moving on, and let them learn that the people on the other side are also human. This last point required that everyone involved eat meals together and drink together (even members of the Norwegian security detail). !!!Some might find the rest to be a spoiler!!! The end result was that not only did the negotiators come up with the basis for the Oslo Accords, but they became friends - a quarter of a century later, Qurie and Savir still correspond regularly, as do the 2 Mayas. The play ends with Mona Juul questioning whether what they did was right, given the number of people who died in the wake of the Accords. Rod-Larsen responds that at least they moved the sides a little closer to together, increasing the chance that some future negotiation might lead to peace.[ If this play is ever performed in your town, I heartily encourage you to see it.
  19. My employer's Employee Manual states that employees who violate their rules on sexual harassment are "subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal", so I wouldn't find it surprising that there is a range of possible actions.
  20. Companies often don't update their websites until dancers' contracts end/begin. MCB is performing at the Kennedy Center in June (Yay!), so the dancers might be under contract until then.
  21. I kind of felt the same way, though perhaps not for the same reasons. Though to be fair, I was tired due to getting home late the day before due to a rock concert in Annapolis and I was stuck high in the nosebleed seats. I thought that Ms. Reisen's piece was very impressive for an 18 year old, though the Balanchine influence was unmistakable. Unlike apparently just about everyone else, I really enjoyed Opus 19/The Dreamer. It brought me back to my childhood days when it was, in certain times and places, possible to watch the clouds and stars move through the night sky. I'm not a big fan of Symphony in C, mainly because I don't find the music to be very interesting. My accomplice complained about the ballerinas in Kammermusik No. 2 not always being in sync, but I did not notice this. I was tempted to go back and see the program again on Wednesday, but I was delayed in leaving work and the traffic was absolutely brutal, as sometimes happens when the cherry blossoms are blooming.
  22. My interpretation of Revelations is that it's about a black experience, so I think that it would look strange if the cast wasn't at least majority black. Beyond that, Revelations is so strongly identified with AAADT that any other company that performed it would run the risk of it being rated as "good, but it just wasn't Ailey". There have been some complaints, including in the Washington Post's review of AAADT's most recent visit to the Kennedy Center, that Revelations has changed a little over the years and that not everyone viewed the changes favorably. Someone brought this up (in a tactful way) when Julie Kent hosted Judith Jamieson at a Washington Ballet talk a year or 2 ago, and Ms. Jamieson's reply was something to the effect that every generation of dancers gets to make Revelations their own.
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