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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    Director Choreographer Instructor, ex-dancer
  • City**
    Flint Hill, VA
  1. I think we need to be careful when referencing "classical ballet". I think properly, when generally attributing to the art form, most people these days simply say, "ballet". This is because most people do not analyze it enough to cognize the proliferations of sub genre that have risen out of the -classical- tradition. Classical ballet is a very specific aesthetic...and technque. For example, most people consider Cecchetti to be a a classicist. Indeed, it wasn't until after he left Russia, eventually becoming ballet master of Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, that he began his work on what we now know as "Cecchetti" technique. And heres the kicker, according to what we -truly- conside classical ballet tob, Cechetti's work is really only "demi-classical": only in part actually, "classical". The maestro introduced his modern ideas for a modern ballet company, and a Europe entering a modern era: - Flexed feet in battement frappé and petite battement. - Totally different uses of positions de bras and ports de bras. - His protègés later began to experiment with neutral and internal rotation as part of the class, many codifying a "sixth position" as feet together neutral rotation. - Chassé glissé (gliding from fifth position to fourth or second position in plié was a Cecchetti invention, that was impossible to perform on many of the stage floors of that and previous eras.) All of these ideas flew in the face of what we -still- know as "Classical ballet." Modernism, Therapeutics (Johanna Kneeland and David Howard), Neo-Classical Ballet (Balanchine) Contemporary Ballet (Forsyth, Kylian, McIntyre and countless others) - all of these either were either reactions against, or evolutionary movements from Balletic Classicism. There are tons of definitions of classicism. I have mine...and so sorry, it is a bit long winded! "Classicism is an engaged form and design, that has maintained a mathematically pure structure and/or 'rules of practice' over generations of time, without deterioration of its form, regardless of improvements made to it. The specificities of criteria, structure and rules of practice are aligned with the classical ideals of purity of form, particularly structures of imagined space within and without the body. These structures include, but are not limited to, the golden ratio, the Platonic solids, Newtonian physics and Pythagorean mathematics. These structures then are combined to support a classical aesthetic of purity and communication, so that abstract and literal information is passed to witnesses, the audience, according to the axioms of traditions of post-helenistic classicism. The resulting classical tradition must be maintained by 1) holding and maintaining the criteria and rule of method, 2) adapting and increasing the form to current eras and 3) promoting its import as a 'pure' and 'balanced' form throughout successive generations, applying the use of lineage of pedagogues, decorum and functional ritual as tools for communal cohesion." There is, of course, much more to this. To the original point of your thread begun so many months ago, "kinetic impressions": I think we need to think a little more broadly than the two fold aesthetics or athletics you mention. To identify merely athleticism from aesthetics, and visa versa, I think, misses the point. Kinetics are witnessed by the mover with "intra-haptics", meaning felt-sense or embodied. They "feel" the movement, space, flow in time within themselves. (This is regardless of whether or not they are an athlete or an "artist-aesthetician" ...aka, dancer). Or, they are witnessed by an observer; (You, a balletomane / fan watching Swan Lake, Four Temperaments, or a fancy dance at a Pow-Wow...or a fat guy guzzling his beer watching a football game on tv!) I think Kinetic impressions are personal. We can express them verbally or in writing. Or, an impression can be expressed through other art forms. As an observer of the art form, unlike dancers or ex-dancer pedagogues (like me), you may have a much more objective view. Conversely, possibly, you may attempt to put yourself in the dancers' place and feel the dance while you watch it. (I don't know what it does for other, but it does work for me!) Either way, maybe it has less to do with the type of movement making the impression, rather with what the observer is witnessing (self, other...or....?) and -then- what impression they are left with. So glad you posted this to this forum. Good subject! -Philip
  2. So sorry to read this. Does anyone know how he died? I remember some ballet he did, tour second, and decended into grapnde plié with two more in the middle and returned to straight stsnding leg to finish with two more. Someone mentioned that he had been an ice skater when he was young, that explained it. I always wondered what had happened to him after he retired. Philip
  3. As most folks probably know here, Martin Fredmann is no longer the Kirov Academy AD. The new director, Adrienne Dellas Thorton ,has taught there for years. However, I am trying to find out where Martin has landed. No. I don't want gossip, hearsay or slander. I just want to know where he is so I can contact him and stay in touch, as we are colleagues. And, yes, in the meantime, it would be nice to know more of what is going on at Kirov Academy, including have they been able to stabilize funding. How many teachers, who and where from are at the school etc. Here is Thorton's bio from the KAB website... http://kirovacademydc.org/explore-kirov/leadership/ -Thanks, Philip.
  4. I was hired by his partner, Cincinnati Ballet AD, David McClain who died in 1986. I danced at CBC until 1989. If there is a word I could describe David Blackburn, it would be "Jolly". Even when things weren't going well, David was Jolly. He allowed me to substitute for his classes. The Pre-Ballet (what they called ballet 1 thru 3) at the CCM were the 8 through 10 year olds. They loved him. You could tell. They reacted to every command. As a associate director, David didn't do much in the way of coaching or staging. But, he did create a livelier atmosphere when times were rough - even for the short while after his partner our boss, died. He will be missed by those who knew and loved him. I hope some more CBC alum from the late 60s through 80s respond to this. It would be good to read their thoughts. Philip.
  5. The National Ballet of Cuba Kennedy Center Opera House Saturday, June 4th, 2011 There is something expectant about a production that is familiar, as a standard by which to compare dancers and other productions. But, this can make life a bit too comfortable. Every now and then, something fresh and culturally removed needs to shake things up a bit. National Ballet of Cuba director and founder, Alicia Alonzo, with the choreographic assistance of Marta García and María Elena Llorente, has given us a gem. This 1988 re-staging of the Petipa/Minkus' ballet “Don Quixote” isn't simply Spanish: it is Latin. It leaves little cultural context to compare to standard versions, but much to contrast. Though, the scenic and costume designs directly reflect Spain, this production betrays a Latino sensibility that seems more authentic for Cuban dancers. The story takes place in a town on the plains of La Mancha, but it could just as easily be Havana. The hysterical Javier Sánchez as Sancho Panza could have entered stage whilst smoking a cigar, without much surprise! Though, it would have been wonderful to witness the mastery of Viengsay Valdés, extremely pleasing was the sharp Sadaise Arencibia as Kitri. Though, I was hoping for cleaner fifth position plie's preparing her tour en dehor, her turns and balances were amazing. Her acting and musicality spoke the abbreviated story with clarity. Arencibia's partner, Alejandro Virelles is one of those classicists who seem to come from the tradition of retired Cuban Ballet principal Jorge Esquivel; a strong dancer who reserves the light for his ballerina. Also in his variations, there was a sense of withholding, not doing too much to distract, even though “Basilo” must be a bit of a showoff, attempting to retain Kirtri's affections. Particularly notable was José Losada as the lead Toreador, Espada, who's shocking grande allegro and multiple turns looked improbable with such a lean body. If the Cubans were simply to mount the same Gorsrsky/Fadechev production that much of the world knows and loves, they may risk wearing a Russian garment that does not fit. Thus, this “Don Q” works for them, and they should be quite proud of it. © Philip S. Rosemond 2011 Re posted here in delay, from a closed blog.
  6. This is wonderful! Martin is an old collegue (and employer) of mine back in Colorado and NYC. I'd love to hear how he is faring at KAB. Philip S. Rosemond.
  7. Please forgive the length of this post. Responding to the inteview of Kathryn Bennetts at: http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws/mediatheek/nieuws/cultuurenmedia/1.890921?ref=nf On one hand, I agree with Bennetts: the dusty old European Stattsoper system needs to be chucked. Indeed, Opera companies tend to dominate because 1) the system is based upon a worn out 18th and 19th century Euro-centric caste system that is long over due for replacement 2) Opera companies are, by nature, much bigger. Staging a Verdi Opera will always require much more funding than staging a Swan Lake or even less, an evening of short ballets: its the nature of the beast. Ergo, it is imperitive for Ballet And Opera companies to be separated, except for smaller opera company-based units to cover the dance needs many operas require. Sadly, Opera often treats ballet personnel like garbage. In my view, this is inequitable, and must be stopped by ligitative force. Some of this has been done in the US, where AGMA covers both Ballet and Opera performers - but Europe has a long way to go in creating said equity. When dancers' sole education is high school and a studio with $5000 worth of mirrors in front of them, the only thing that gets educated is their fragile under socialized egos. All too often, promoting them to AD, is the Peter Principal at work. When Bennetts referred to herself as one of the "experts", my eyes rolled deeply into my skull. I thought, "Yes, Virginia, she's just like a 23 year old dancer crying about the role she thought she should get but didn't." Please. I witnessed and did this myself when I was a dancer. Thank goodness I grew up. Listening yet another A.D. continuing this overly emotional tirade makes me wince; sister, its time to grow up! Fact is, the Euro -is- getting weaker -REALLY weak- and if countries are to be fiscally responsible, state support of the arts needs to follow suit. Bennetts believes her budget should be increasing by 2 million, when EU countries like Greece, Iceland and Spain are going belly-up. This is entirely ludicrous. (Particularly when she left-blank the assumption that -she- would be in charge of the budget!) Fact is directors like Bennetts may know ballet. But, all too often they don't know a) proper personnel management skills (IE: Dancers, the public, government officials and business partners) and b) how to operate and fiscally manage an organization: they simply have not had the education to do so. Her interview quite blatantly betrayed this problem, and likely a complete misunderstanding of fiscal management. I haven't seen RBF in decades.. I'm sure they are wonderful and she has done a good job. But, maybe what is needed here is a more conciliatory voice running this company. Working under stattsoper conditions is a pain in the tush, but for the time being when -EVERYONE- is cutting back, it may keep this company from going under. Particularly in Europe where, for now, this system may keep the arts surviving. Maybe later when times are better, the entire system can be overhauled, giving regional companies the benefit of autonomy. But perhaps now is not the time. Too bad Bennetts doesn't seem to understand this. From the videos above, Flanders looks exponentially better than it did when I was a young dancer. I pray it continues so under the new directorship. I'm interested to find out if the selections will be internally or externally politically motivated or not. All too often it is. That will be another issue to discuss on this forum when interviews begin.
  8. And from washingtonballet.org: "!Please note that TWB's Saturday, December 19 7 PM evening performance of The Nutcracker is canceled due to the inclement weather. All patrons with tickets to this performance are encouraged to exchange their tickets for another upcoming Nutcracker performance. Refunds are also available, and patrons must contact their point of purchase for either an exchange or a refund. The Saturday, December 19th 2 PM matinee performance will go on as planned, but patrons who cannot attend this performance due to the inclement weather are also entitled to refunds or exchanges, available by contacting their point of purchase. For more information on donating your tickets for a tax deduction, please contact Steven Kirkpatrick at skirkpatrick@washingtonballet.org. All Sunday, December 20 performances will take place as scheduled." Finally, a wise decision. Bravo. I applaud TWB management coming to its senses! Hopefully there will be marvelous performances (or at least an evening performance) tomorrow. " Merde" (meaning "Bonne Chance" - not the vernacular) for a great rest of the "Nutz" season, folks. -P
  9. This is the note from TWB website: "!Please note: TWB's Saturday, December 19th performances of Septime Webre's The Nutcracker are currently scheduled to go on as planned. Any patrons who cannot attend these performances due to the inclement weather conditions will be entitled to refunds or exchanges into other 2009 Nutcracker performances. In order to facilitate an exchange or a refund, please contact your point of purchase. Thank you." and from their Facebook page... "The show will go on! Despite the threat of inclement weather on Saturday, December 19, all Nutcracker performances will take place as scheduled. Don't have tickets yet? Great seats are available, but hurry, they're going fast!" Here are my Facebook responses: Hmm? As a founding member of the company, it is this exact kind of decision making that makes me continually question the wisdom of the current reigning management. Considerations of justifying payroll for dancers, orchestra (if they used one), staff, theatre and crew, along with facing the necessity of refunding or reticketing the audience are usually the reason for not canceling - and a quite understandable and necessary single determinant. Indeed, the prospect of loss of income is harrowing. But, the question I have is, should not such considerations be trumped for the safety of the same, not to mention any audience that wishes to brave such a trip? Isn't just getting to the theatre "harrowing"? Yes, there is Metro and most major roads are clear. (Nope! They are canceling both train and bus service as of 1pm.) But, we are talking about around a hundred personnel working on site. We are talking about a weather situation where even the sidewalks are dangerous, the roads perilous and transportation unreliable. Things have changed at WB, but weather is weather. Money or safety? Hmmm?" & "This seems to be a finanacial decision. Revenues, payroll, and contracts that demand payment. Warner Theatre isn't about to "call" the show closed. If they did, they lose the rent TWB pays them. So, danged if the company is gonna call it, because if they do, they don't get the tax loss even as a 501c3! Ergo: finance trumps safety. As an ex-director, I understand the predicament. But, erring on the side of care for stakeholders always pays off in the long run. I pray that in the next couple of hours that they realize this, particularly when literally -no- other event in DC is ongoing."
  10. This may not be a typical ballet event, but it is news. John Goding, the beloved ballet master of WB, and original company member, (along with yours-truly) died of a pulmonary embolism in early August. The memorial service was needed, as one of the dancers stated, as a sense of closure. Having danced with John in his earliest years, I noted his willingness to be kind to others. A trait not always shared by dancers competing with each other and themselves for parts. Personally, I was not close to him. These were the beginnings of a fledgling company and the Choo San Goh years. Hungry years. There was little pay check and income supplementation was absolutely necessary for all of us. Many received help from parents; others worked moonlighting and odd jobs to make ends meet. The Porter Street Dorm was a helpful as a residence for many of us - for a time, including myself, even though I was raised in that neighborhood. John was immediately spotted by Choo San and inserted into Double Contrasts for its premere. I'd been dancing for longer, but could not match his ability to move even at that stage. He was dropped into a principal role next to James Canfield and Pat Miller (I don't remember his partner - Lynn Cote?) It was a fun ballet to dance. Then there was "Birds of Paradise", "Introducing..." and many others, most I was not there to dance or see, as I'd moved on to positions in companies that more appreciated my dancing. But, I always came home to watch John and the other dancers. The Memorial was sort of like a low key 65th reunion for many dancers and now us old fogies who were there in the pioneering stages of the company. Many of the more recent years - 90s to present, who didn't know who all the straight backed-duck-walking old folks with expanding bellies and crows feet were milling about. I am sad for these young dancers, for John was a mentor to them. Now they have to shed the tears many of us shed in the 1980s as our friends and colleagues passed on at -far- too young an age. For them and the rest of us on back to 1944, (if any are still around), I started a Facebook group..."The Washington Ballet Alumnae" page...along with one for the school. We of the original company posed for photos, that I will post on that page. Present were Patricia Berrend, Lynn Cote, Jon Jackson, Christine Matthews, Julie Miles, Helen Sumerwell and several ex-directors and board members. Missing mostly because they couldn't make it, were Berrend, Madelyn Berdes, James Canfield, Sharon Caplan, Robin Conrad, Robin Hardy, and Allison Zusi. However, alarming is the fact that Ricardo Mercado, Brian Jameson, & Terry Lacy all died many years ago... a good 1/3rd to a 1/2 of the male dancers from my generation who i knew are dead. Further sadly...we have to add John to their ranks. Please post your memories, and talk about the memorial if you were there.
  11. Well, there are names for some of the steps and others not. One must remember that classical ballet vocabulary is -mostly- orally transmitted while the student watches and/or listens to the teacher state them. Top this off with around 9 differing codifications of the names of steps, depending upon the era, country and method of origin. Lastly, top that off with choreographic license, kinetic syntax to drive a reference, and the grammar used when presenting the referencing. Balanchine used many. If you read Suki Shorer's "Balanchine Technique" book, you will see that he drew from the French, Cecchetti, some Bournonville and his own pre-Vaganova Maryinsky schools of balletic linguists. (I'm not going to get into the perennial argument "Is Balanchine style a technique"...not an argument that is win or losable. ) So, take for example, the sissonne at the beginning of the video of "...Dream" you posted. From my Vaganova background, I would call it a "Grande Sissonne en double attitude, failli." But others, such as French school progenitors might say "Sissonne de Chat" or an "Grande Sissonne Italienne" due to its execution with two bent legs without straightening when Pat landed. But, who knows; its Balanchine!? I agree with the posters who recommended doing research and coming with your idea. One of my masters thesis proposals and drafts was on balletic linguistics. It is not studied because as soon as it is codified, it is reinterpreted and redefined. It is a pet topic of mine and I love to learn more as the languages we use help it to evolve. Philip.
  12. Philip


    IMHO, critiques of "vulgar" I believe -are- personal in taste. Because one person's "vulgar" is another person's "pristine", I would extend this question further. To what end does a dancer display their "rough edges" of their personal life onstage as a performer? Those of us posting on this site who are ex-dancers, staff and or behind-the-scenes stakeholders in ballet know all too well how much an illusion of perfection as little girl's view of her first Nutcracker. How many dancers you know don't glide off stage, pull their bloody feet out of their shoes, pop open a beer and snatch a smoke? There are many. And crudity is also "common" in the off-stage life of many of us. In fact, it virtually comes with the territory. There are relatively few dancers who are as pure in reality as the fantasies and fairy tales they portray on stage. "Common" could be an interesting term to use for Somova. Obviously, the speaker was referring to an overt display that betrays the intention of the artist to create art versus the intention to "wow" or display ability. Somova's extensions are -not- common in the literal context, but may be "socially common", due to the relatifvely young Somova's seeming desire to show off her unusual rather uncommon talents. Maybe such displays should be left to Cirq du Soliel's contortionists, versus "La Bayadere. So, rhetorically asked, does a dancer's ability or talent often get in the way of their ability to communicate artistry? Does their maturity and age? I think it true that traditional antagonists like Madge, Coppelius, and Carabos may actually be staged and/or interpreted to be vulgar. Without the vulgarities, the character may not help drive the plot in a specific staging or production. However, there are those stagings and performances that are -not- overtly vulgar of the same roles. For example, The late John Goding's performances (Washington Ballet) of Coppelius lacked the crotchety quality most (including my own) interpretations use to carry off the role. His had almost an undertone of elegance. Instead of a mad curmudgeon quasi-Einsteinian tinkerer, his was more of a studious inventor working out his issues of self-imposed reclusive loneliness with a doll. (ehem...please don't carry this further into most our artistic imaginations than I intended it too, .) So, I think most often, their vulgarities are a choice first of the performer and choreographer/regiseurre/ballet master's staging. Its no news to most of us that use or belief in such determinations as vulgar and "common" are a personal reference to taste and beliefs based upon one's own experiences. Indeed, (as stated) Kevin McKenzie's Rothbart could be viewed as "vulgar", but is he not intended to be so? In this, cannot such a performance of a vulgar character be brilliant? IMHO, Marcelo Gomez' performance is breath-taking, to me, the best part of the production. But, maybe folks prefer the traditional acting dominant version of the antagonist, hmm. In short, I think vulgar vs. elegant or decent, common versus rare or coarse are adjectives left to those of us with opinions based on experience - (which means just about everyone in a free society, LOL!) For example, I think there is likely a strong contingent who agree that Tom Delay was just as vulgar a politician as his is attempting to be a "dancer". For me, I find the competition scene worse than vulgar; I believe it to be corrupt and unethical. But, this is another discussion. -Philip
  13. Hierarchy is an issue which of course, transcends the microcosm of ballet companies, but could be argued that is the cause for politics itself. Certainly every organization and social structure has its heirarchies. One of my non-dance mentors often spoke about natural heirarchies. First one can refer to the natural world where heirarchy is determined by survival and who gest to eat who, LOL! But, in so-called civil societies, heirarchy is either determined by a social pecking order and appointment or the natural ability for leaders to arise. Ballet companies of course, leadership is determined by the heirarchy of management. Corps soloist principle, in most companies do not influence hiring nor promotion. When I was jobbing at a company in NY (that shall go nameless) in the early 80s, I noticed that though hardly any of the dancers spoke to each other (particularly me - but I was not a full company member), it was a distinct social level of each rank. First, the men's corps dressing room was divided between gender preference. There was a straight dressing room and a "not-straight" dressing room. Regardless, you could hear a pin drop in those rooms before a show. This compared to some of the regional companies I danced for where the men's room was almost rockus. Women's rooms in many of the companies I danced for were always completely quiet! Back to the NY NY company, the soloists would rarely interact at all with lower levels until they began to move up the ranks. I noticed that the more rank, the more influence upon artistic staff and some of the decision makers there was. I'll speak more about how I think this effects performance in a later post. (I have to go). Philip.
  14. HA! That's great to know. The next time I use this as a discussion with my students, I'll mention that! BTW: I agree that the ballet was overkill, as I recall it. I agree. I can be said that breaking the bounds of ballet has its limits similar to a rhetorical question I hinted at on the "Balanchine" post a day or two ago: Where does ballet end when 'pioneering" & "experimentation" move passed familiar territory? Is it ballet if we dance naked in the dark without pointe shoes, using mostly contemporary techniques? Or is it simply contemporary self-indulgence, neglecting the necessity or not of audience? (Semantics? Yes? But, it -is- as important not only to referential linguistics, but also to the kinetic syntax and language of ballet.) Oh, I remember the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and the Maplethorp conundrum that lead Bella Lewistsky to refuse NEA funding, all to well. The sculptures of dissenting politicians using "poop" as a medium, were amusing but serious attempts a squashing "federally controlled financial censorship." --------------------------------------------- But I have a question about the nude duet: was the cockroach wearing clothes? Now -that- would have been a statement!!! ;@) (As far as crushing cockroaches goes, I think the PETA attempt to make an issue of President Obama swatting flies, deconstructs such arguments, discrediting such otherwise well -meaning institutions, simply through its mere stating!) -Philip.
  15. Are you referring to "Bella Figura" by Kylian? (which was a catalyst for this discussion.) I actually liked that ballet because he used nudity to create a "genderless" effect, not of androgyny, rather of level ground for dance with both men and women without attempting the idea of interplay other than of simply 2 to several humans dancing together. Yet, I found that the sections of the ballet that were "clothed" to be intentionally sexually charged. ----- I remember reading an article on nudist camps were those interviewed said that after a few days, the whole sexual component became null. The idea of "you've seen one human body, you've seen 'em all". From the point of view of dance, I know that some human bodies can cause arousal to some, repulsion to another; we all have our own internal filters. Certainly, viewing dancers nude might be more currently acceptable than viewing a Botero-esque figure in real life - ("in the flesh", so to speak). Are these attractions and rejections actually veils for our prejudices or preferences? Do these views reflect the causes and conditions which bring us to such views, or simply some flaw in the human psyche. I personally don't think it a flaw. But, I do think it a challenge to our view as a whole. Nudity is the ultimate intimate exposure of the physical. Possibly, we who view it could be just as exposed in our reactions to it, as those standing/dancing naked in front of us. -Philip
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