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Everything posted by volcanohunter

  1. I haven't had a chance to see the show yet. I have tickets for next weekend in Edmonton and I'm looking forward to it very much, especially now that I've read your positive reaction, taoofpooh. I'm especially curious how the new Carmina Burana turned out. I really liked Emily Molnar's Portrait of A Suspended Grace to Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" from a couple of years ago, so I'm curious to see this new piece. What did you think of it? I imagine many people on this forum are familiar with Rubies. I first saw The Winter Room right after Jean Grand-Maître became artistic director in 2002. He presented it along with another one of his pieces, Celestial Themes, a gorgeous piece for eight dancers (originally four) set to Thomas Tallis' "Spem in alium," which I hope Alberta Ballet will revive also. The Winter Room is set to a piece called "Kyrie" by Canadian singer Laurel MacDonald. It's a pas de deux that I call "Adam and Eve after the Fall" whenever I try to describe it. There's a striking backdrop, a withered tree that appears to have been pulled out of the ground along with its roots. The program notes put it this way: "A man and a woman meet in a desolate, icy environment and try, in their impassioned movements, to recapture the beauty and purity of Eden." That sums up the mood pretty well. Very stark, almost blinding in its whiteness, and riveting.
  2. If anyone is still looking for information in English, there is a brief description of the National Opera and Ballet on the Ardani Artists Management web site. But it only includes information about the company's production of The Nutcracker and a handful of its soloists. www.ardani.com/ukrabout.htm
  3. Sure it's a problem, but the system hasn't collapsed completely. St. Petersburg and Moscow, forced to deal with a westward talent drain, are still recruiting dancers from opera houses in Ukraine, for one. Leonid Sarafanov, now at the Mariinsky, graduated from the ballet school in Kiev in 2000 and danced at the opera house there for two years. Denis Matvienko, who guests at the Bolshoi and danced at the Mariinsky previously, graduated from the Kiev Ballet School in 1997. The Kiev Ballet School was still functioning well enough to produce Alina Cojocaru (1998), Ivan Putrov (1997) and more recently Sergiy Polunin. I don't think the year each spent at the Royal Ballet School could have compensated for a completely debased ballet education in Kiev. And don't forget about Svetlana Zakharova, who spent six years studying in Kiev and one in St. Petersburg. Ballet companies the world over, but especially in Europe, include lots of non-Russian principals and soloists from the fSU, who received the bulk of their training in their home countries: in San Francisco - Tiit Helimets (Estonia) and Davit Karapetyan (Armenia); in Hamburg - Alexandre Riabko (Ukraine), Ivan Urban (Belarus) and Arsen Megrabian (Armenia); in Amsterdam - Ruta Jezerskyte (Lithuania) and Alexander Zhembrovskyy (Ukraine); in Vienna - Aliya Tanikpaeva (Kazakhstan), Irina Tsymbal (Belarus) and Mihail Sosnovschi (Moldova); in Stockholm - Elena Gorbatsch (Ukraine) and Andrey Leonovitch (Belarus). My sample certainly isn't comprehensive or scientific, and it doesn't take into account the dancers who are just starting their careers, but I think it illustrates a pattern in companies large and small. I predict that the number of dancers from the fSU working abroad, including non-Russians, is likely to grow. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the prospect of finding a job with a European opera house wouldn't actually encourage parents to enrol their kids in ballet school. Of course, this exodus presents a huge problem for the ballet companies back home, but I don't think the problem lies in the training itself. Quite the opposite. As for the recruitment of boys from folk dancing, this is a huge advantage eastern Europe has over North America. Many, many boys, especially in the Caucasus, enter ballet via folk dancing. North Americans may view ballet as effeminate, but the reputation of east European folk dance is certainly macho. If you've ever seen Georgian folk dancing, you know what I mean. It's just about the butchest form of dancing in all creation. For many years my mother has taught music in a public school. The music curriculum includes a modest dance component, primarily folk dances, social dancing and creative movement, which she has always augmented with the viewing of classical ballets and old movie musicals. Her school has a large population of Ukrainian children, and the vast majority of them, girls and boys, take lessons in Ukrainian folk dancing. The boys in particular love to show off their Cossack moves. Over time these kids begin doing a character barre, and if they stick with it long enough, they'll probably end up starting each lesson with a ballet barre. Perhaps they'll even take supplementary ballet classes. I'm not saying that my mother's former pupils include a bevy of professional male ballet dancers. Canada isn't exactly conducive to such a career. The same kids that take Ukrainian dance lessons also go to hockey school. (To the best of my knowledge, one of the boys did turn into a jazz bunny and spent some time dancing on a cruise line.) But you can see how it could this sort of exposure could lead to the serious study of ballet, if the necessary conditions are in place.
  4. I think drb has hit the nail on the head. The English-speaking world, at least, hasn't really had a ballet superstar, male or female, since Baryshnikov. If you were to ask the proverbial man in the street to name an active ballet dancer, I doubt he'd be able to. I don't think it's the fault of the dancers. The sad fact is that the ballet boom of the 1970s is long gone. It ended when Balanchine died, followed by Tudor and Ashton. Unfortunately, ballet companies didn't seem to realize that the golden age had passed, continued to behave as before, and by the late 1980s and early '90s many of them (very notably ABT) were in real crisis. During the 1970s and even '80s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was still in the habit of showing the National Ballet of Canada, with productions of Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, La Fille mal Gardée, Onegin, The Merry Widow, plus the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Romeo & Juliet. The NBoC toured frequently, and its stars weren't unfamiliar to the public at large. By the mid-1990s it had shrunk from a company of 70 to a company of just over 50, its dancers were no longer guests on chat shows or subjects of stories on national news programs, and ballet began to fade from the public imagination. Again, I doubt the average Canadian could name any of the National Ballet's dancers. Sonia Rodriguez is more famous for being married to figure skater Kurt Browning than for being a principal with the NBoC. I expect the situation is quite similar in the United States. When was the last time a ballet dancer graced the cover of a large-circulation news magazine? Does anyone still remember the days when A&E ("Arts and Entertainment," remember?) showed operas and ballets on Thursday nights? High art has always been a hothouse flower dependent on patronage. Forced to compete on the market, it degenerates. At its inception, Canada's Bravo network set aside Mondays for dance. Initially it featured worthy programs from the CBC and Dance in America archives. By the late 1990s there was an endless stream of Riverdance. Now you've lucky to see a B movie musical in between the cop show reruns. It's not surprising that Europe is in better shape. State pensions and exemptions from military service are still strong incentives for boys to enter ballet school. I think what ballet really needs is choreographers capable to amazing and delighting audiences. (Sorry, I don't think that Forsythe or Wheeldon, for different reasons, are capable of this.) I don't see the tendency to dumb down ballet as a solution either. Thus far poppish music and film-inspired librettos haven't spawned a new dance boom. Balanchine entertained his audience while pushing the art form forward. Okay, he was a genius and they don't come around too often, but until ballet companies give audiences something really worthwhile to see, they won't come, nor will TV networks be in any hurry to give them airtime. If the public at large doesn't have the opportunity to see ballet, that means on television, they can't discover potential dance superstars. Until the new male superstars are crowned (by the public, superstardom can't be manufactured by management), you won't have too many boys eager to follow in their footsteps.
  5. I finally saw this film on TV the other day. Not being a big Robert Altman fan, I didn't rush out to the movie theater to see it. I do prefer films with plots. I am baffled by Neve Campbell's desire to include "Blue Snake" in the film. Perhaps her personal experience clouded her thinking, but there was never going to be any way to pass off a nearly 20-year-old ballet as a sensational premiere. You may find this difficult to believe, but when it was first performed the piece did get an ecstatic reception from audiences. The National Film Board of Canada made a documentary about the ballet's creation and it included a complete film of the opening night performance. You can hear the audience laughing and cheering with delight. The National Ballet of Canada brought the piece to the Met in 1988, and while a few viewers in the front rows walked out demonstratively, most of the audience ate it up. Anna Kisselgoff didn't exactly pan it either: "Color and shape have much to do with 'Blue Snake' and its new-age music by Ahmed Hassan and John Long. Mr. Desrosiers's works are an acquired taste, but beneath the wackiness there is great imagination and seriousness. "The theme of 'Blue Snake' is spiritual rebirth. Evil reigns in the form of the huge monster face, strikingly designed by Jerrard Smith. Good triumphs through a white god, part Shiva, part unicorn, who is expelled from a blue snake, the symbol of fertility and the flow of energy familiar in yoga as kundalini. The dancers, as fantastic animal creatures or embodying geometric shapes, are purified through transformation and regeneration. "One favorite moment is bound to include the Muppet-like plants that come tumbling in. If the imagery and ideas are not always matched by the choreography (Mr. Desrosiers's most recent work has no such lapses), 'Blue Snake' is always marked by a poetic inventiveness. Sarah Green's dance as a pointy-headed creature attached to a balloon is a study in apt dynamics, the double duet between Raymond Smith's Triangle Man and his double, Mr. Ottmann, an essay in human duality while the whirling fantasy creatures tell us that a spiritual dimension may lie hidden where least expected." In fairness, the screen version of the piece was hampered by the fact that the original music wasn't used. It was a percussion score with strong Balinese elements, throat singing and the occasional didgeridoo. Instead it was replaced by some gawd-awful quasi-Caribbean Hollywood score with string-instrument overload. Still, everything about the ballet screams 1985, and there was absolutely no way the piece was going to age well. Incidentally, the bit where Neve Campbell's character falls down on stage and bangs up her arm is based on fact. As recorded in the NFB documentary, the original Balloon Head, Gretchen Newburger, fell during the dress rehearsal and sprained her wrist. She performed the part the next day anyway.
  6. Yes, I agree that the French and the Danes have the best batterie. It's enough to watch Nikolaj Hübbe or Mathieu Ganio as James to convince yourself of that. To my mind, it's not good batterie unless the upper body is completely serene. In one interview Agnès Letestu specifically identifies batterie as the hallmark of the French school, though perhaps it isn't emphasized as much as it once was: "It’s true that the French School used to be more distinctive, with an emphasis on the petite batterie, yet now I think it’s a bit of everything. Now we do everything, classical, contemporary, and because of the current cultural interchange it all gets mixed. The roots remain discernible, but there is an enrichment with elements from other schools." In another interview David Hallberg talked about the time he spent at the Paris Opera Ballet School: "Every day I would dread the petit allegro because it was almost impossible, and the kids there just pulled it off and it was amazing to watch. They have a great sense of relaxing their body and moving very, very small; the faster it gets, the smaller they dance. They don't look tense when they're doing it, because they've done it since they were in school, so it's in their body to move like that. Their upper body is so calm, but their legs are moving like lightning." I'm sure Bart is correct in saying that the Bournonville repertoire has a lot to do with Danish excellence in batterie. I had always assumed that Bournonville's choreography was shaped by the fact that the stage at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen is only slightly bigger than the proverbial postage stamp, which conditioned an extremely vertical sort of jumping with lots of zigzag floor patterns, whereas the large stage of the Mariinsky Theater lead to the development of large jumps that eat up space, usually on long diagonals. But I wonder if Bournonville's batterie isn't simply a French thing. After all, Bournonville's father was French, and he studied in Paris himself. Are there any history buffs out there that can speak to this? Incidentally, does anyone remember seeing London Festival Ballet's staging of Ashton's Romeo & Juliet? I saw it in New York in 1989. If I'm not mistaken, Ashton choreographed his version for the Royal Danish Ballet before he, or anyone else in the West, had seen the Lavrovsky version that influenced Cranko and MacMillan so strongly. For me, the most peculiar moment in the ballet came at the opening of the ballroom scene because instead of the usual weighty pavane you see to the Dance of the Knights there was a stage full of dancers performing entrechats. Obviously he was looking to emphasize the RDB's strengths.
  7. Oh, I hardly think ABT is above this sort of discussion. What do you suppose "Born to Be Wild" was all about? Those shots of José Carreño among his progeny and Ethen Stiefel riding his Harley were certainly intended to counter certain stereotypes.
  8. For those of you living in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta Ballet is currently conducting a contest on its web site for tickets to its October program, which includes Balanchine's Rubies, Jean Grand-Maitre's The Winter Room, Ali Pourfarrokh's Butterfly Dream and Emily Molnar's new Carmina Burana. Visit www.albertaballet.com to play.
  9. Thanks, mom2, I look forward to reading posts from your part of Canada too. There isn't too much ballet on Canadian TV, and our companies don't tour quite as often as they used to, so eyewitness reports become really useful in keeping up with dance in this country. And I hope mmded won't be too shy about posting opinions. I'd very much like to share impressions about Alberta Ballet performances with you. I'm also anxious to see "Dancing Joni" since I always look forward to new ballets by Jean Grand-Maitre. He hasn't disappointed me yet. I'm glad that his "Winter Room" and "Cinderella" are back. I liked Emily Molnar's "Portrait of a Suspended Grace," so I'm hopeful about her "Carmina Burana." I love "Rubies," and I'm thrilled that "Serenade" is coming. I can never get too much Balanchine. If Yukichi Hattori is still around next season, I think they ought to revive "Prodigal Son" for him. And if I'm not mistaken, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens brought Nacho Duato's "Without Words" to Edmonton a few years back. I liked it then and am looking forward to seeing it again. On paper it looks like a very good season, so I think you and I ought to inject some life into the "other Canadian companies" forum. P.S. I noticed that the Alberta Ballet is currently conducting a contest on their web site for tickets to their first show. Who knows, you could win a pair.
  10. Do you suppose CBS has something to do with the dumbing down of the award? I don't know what sort of ratings their Kennedy Center telecast gets, but I wonder if the growing tendency towards "popular" entertainers isn't an attempt to increase viewership. If that's the case, we'll see more and more representatives from film, television and mass-marketed music, and artists who work in theaters, opera houses and concert halls will be increasingly marginalized. As for the dance side of things, the awards thus far have definitely been New York-centric. To a large extent this is justified, but I wonder why so little has been done to acknowledge those who brought ballet to places like San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Houston. I'm happy that Maria Tallchief and Edward Villella were honored, among other things, for their work in Chicago and Miami, but I doubt they would have received the award if they hadn't been stars with NYCB first.
  11. What's really disheartening is that dancers seem to be honored less and less frequently. In the early days of the Kennedy Center Honors, dance was represented almost every year. But since the beginning of the new millennium, there have hardly been any: 1978 - George Balanchine, Fred Astaire 1979 - Martha Graham 1980 - Agnes de Mille 1981 - Jerome Robbins 1982 - Gene Kelly 1983 - Katherine Dunham 1984 - 1985 - Merce Cunningham 1986 - Antony Tudor 1987 - Alwin Nikolais 1988 - Alvin Ailey 1989 - Alexandra Danilova 1990 - 1991 - Nicholas Bros. 1992 - Paul Taylor, Ginger Rogers 1993 - Arthur Mitchell 1994 - 1995 - Jacques d'Amboise 1996 - Maria Tallchief 1997 - Edward Villella 1998 - 1999 - Judith Jamison 2000 - Mikhail Baryshnikov 2001 - 2002 - Chita Rivera 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - Suzanne Farrell 2006 - It's a pity Fernando Bujones didn't get the award before his passing. (Nora Kaye, Tanaquil LeClercq, Melissa Hayden...) Classical music still seems to be holding its own, but ballet is fading fast from the public imagination. Have we really run out of great American dancers?
  12. Thanks for the information, Geier. As soon as Alberta Ballet schedules a Hattori ballet, I'll be sure to post the information.
  13. Thank you, Carbo and Bart, for the warm welcome.
  14. This may be of interest to those who were surprised by the omission of the last section of Emeralds. I had already seen the DVD, so I was more than a little miffed when it was deleted unceremoniously from the PBS telecast. I wrote in to complain, and this is the reply I received: "Thank you for taking the time to write. We are sorry that you missed the final section of Emeralds. Schedules vary from station to station. To find out why the program was preempted it would be necessary for you to contact KCTS directly." This led me to believe that it was KCTS Seattle that shortened the broadcast, but judging from this thread, no one saw the last section. (Talk about passing the buck!) It's ironic that PBS chose a still from the missing last section to put on the front page of the Great Performances web site. I realize that PBS has to divert some time from each program to list their corporate and private sponsors, but I do wish they could have found an extra five minutes to show the ballet in its entirety.
  15. Thank you for the welcome, Helene. I'm hopeful I'll find other Alberta Ballet viewers on this forum. From what my very bad German allows me to understand, Yukichi Hattori went in search of new challenges, and since he and Galien Johnston are a couple, they wanted to go to a company that would take them both. Galien was born in Lethbridge, not too far from Calgary, so it's a sort of homecoming for her. If anyone comes across any additional information, I hope they'll share it here. You're right, Alberta Ballet does have a high turnover rate. Several former members are now with Boston Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, but so many others have come and gone that it's hard to keep track. If it's true that Alberta Ballet now has 27 dancers, that means it's larger than the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the first time. I'm glad Alberta's oil revenue has finally turned into something useful.
  16. Hello! I'm very happy to have discovered this forum. Though I have lived in western Canada for many years, I am a native New Yorker and consider myself fortunate to remember the days when great companies filled the stage of the Met all summer long. I'm pretty sedentary now, but my first career was as a dancer (modern, mind you). I'm still an avid dance fan, though my viewing tastes have definitely shifted back to ballet, my first love. I do my best to keep up with developments in the ballet world, watching as many DVDs as I can get my hands on and taking in performances whenever I travel, which isn't nearly as often as I'd like! If there are any Alberta Ballet subscribers out there, I'd particularly enjoy trading impressions with you.
  17. Does anyone know anything about Yukichi Hattori's decision to join Alberta Ballet? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Alberta Ballet and have the highest respect for its artistic standards, but I'm still amazed that a dancer would trade in a soloist position with the Hamburg Ballet for Calgary, especially since he was such a favourite of John Neumeier's. I see that Galien Johnston is also making the move from Hamburg to Calgary. I suppose Albertans ought to be grateful!
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