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Arizona Native

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Everything posted by Arizona Native

  1. Loved nearly every minute of it, and my adult daughter, who has also seen a lot of dance and other theater, did, too. We had an interesting discussion, as I would describe it ballet-influenced “modern dance,” while my much-younger daughter saw it as still “ballet.” The cinematic music, written for it, was quite wonderful and appropriately dramatic . We enjoyed the various theatrical devices employed, not commonly used in ballet (Rochester’s “horse” and his aggressive riding style, for instance, were depicted by dancers). All the acting and dancing were excellent. The evocative scenery and drab costuming, while furthering the mood and story line, no doubt contributed to the feeling of “squinting” mentioned above, in the further rows. Especially in a house that large, lightening up the stage would probably have been a good idea, though we were looking through the haze of dream and memory. Stella Abrera’s flirtations to get the attention of Rochester were definitely ballet, appropriately charming, but a bit incongruous in style, as a result. Zimmi Coker had a lot of fun playing Rochester’s young, playful ward. Looking forward to seeing more of her. it was fun to see Aron Bell, whom we had known as a mischievous, athletic, little boy, successfully appear to be 40, not 20, and exhibiting lovely classicism and line. We also enjoyed seeing Julie Kent in the aisles, chatting. As we were leaving, we heard several people say, “That was the best thing I’ve ever seen.” So, there you go.
  2. Haha! Good one, Sandik. Mere human error, this time. The program is incorrect. As Nicolc said, Clara was not in the PNB program. Though I don't doubt that many dancers would love that Hermoine Granger time device, allowing them to be in two places at once!
  3. Wonderful descriptions and review, Jack! Had hoped to go, but have ended up out of town. Looking forward to your next installment.
  4. Ballet Arizona has announced in an email today and in an April 28 Facebook post that long-time fan favorite Kenna Draxton will be retiring in June. The email states a special performance to celebrate her contributions to Ballet Arizona will be Sunday, May 14, at 1 p.m.
  5. He was beautiful. Everyone always goes on about his feet, but for me, it is is port-de-bras that knocks me out. He was having a bit of an "off" turn day, sometimes beginning a little off-kilter, and managed to make even those impressive -- pulling them together, nonetheless, without fail. Jumps, yes. Everything. The stage sometimes seemed a bit too small to contain him. PS. In the Jones review, she's a bit harsh regarding Amber Scott. That wasn't what I saw in the Friday performance. Ms. Scott was impeccable. Wonderful actress dancer who gave a smashing performance.
  6. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for tonight's performance. It is a charming, energetic, and beautiful production. David Hallberg displayed his characteristic immersion and depth, regarding character. There isn't a moment he is anything but fully present as Franz. The Australian Ballet rose fully to the challenge, showing their classical chops. The orchestra was divine. A lovely, lovely evening in one of the world's great theaters. And the best part? Seeing David Hallberg so full of joy. Wishing him all the best.
  7. Today's newspaper adds Michelle Mahwald Vagi to the list of retirees, and notes that there will be a video montage honoring Ms. Hartley and Mr. Zejnati. Ms. Vagi is a graduate of Indiana University, with a major in English, if I remember correctly. She was an especially lovely Dewdrop, with her small frame and delicate, lovely presentation. The Ballet Arizona website has not yet been updated to reflect additions.
  8. Casting link: http://balletaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BAZ0358-Balanchine-Casting-Insert-2015-4.pdf We locals are happy to see the Chelsea Teel is back with the company, after an absence of a couple years, during which she was performing as an aerialist for Cavalia. Previously known as Chelsea Wilcox, Ms. Teel originally came to Ballet Arizona from Kansas City Ballet.
  9. Ballet Arizona sent a mass email dated April 27, 2015, which states the following: Casting has been announced. All Balanchine Last chance to see your favorite retiring dancers perform at Symphony Hall. Join us to celebrate the careers of Paola Hartley, Tzu-Chia Huang, Ilir Shtylla and Astrit Zejnati. Previous emails have referrred only to Ms. Hartley and Mr. Zejnati. With regard to the discussion above -- Ballet Arizona's practice has been to present flowers and make an announcement at the bows for the dancer's final performance, which was quite upsetting to a lot of the lot of the audience. The only exception within my memory, in the Ib Anderson era, was for Yen-Li Chen, many years ago - the 2004 performance referred to in a post above. There was a special retirement performance, with a packed house for it. Ballet Arizona does have a new Executive Director, as well as new folks in other key administrative positions. As Helene notes above, retirement announcements can lead to sell-out performances. It is quite possible that the announcements reflect changes on the business side.
  10. Another reason to come to this performance, the last of the season -- there are dancers you will not see again, at least not with this company. Ballet Arizona has broken with tradition to officially announce that Paula Hartley and Astrit Zejanti are retiring. Often paired, they will be missed. Anyone who saw their "Sinactra Stories" would not forget it. The two have both a satisfying physical match and a strong emotional chemistry. Thoughout her career with Ballet Arizona, Ms. Hartley has been a "go-to" dancer, performing any and every part, with technique you could take for granted and energy that seemed to increase with the demands of the role and the schedule. Her musicality is such that she can make an audience hear a piece in a new way. We have also appreciated her comedic talents, which put to good use her expressive eyes and her impecable timing. Mr. Zejanti, with his acting skills and beautiful proportions, has been a superb partner, as well as Ballet Arizona's male star -- very much a performer in the dansuer noble tradition. He gives attention to every detail, yet manages to appear spontaneous. While there are others to enjoy for their own reasons, to date there have been no other male dancers to take on that mantle. Wishing all the best to them.
  11. It looks like Ballet Alert folks didn't make it to see "Napoli," which is a shame, as it was *splendid.* The company did an excellent job with the mime. Frankly, Ib Anderson's own mime choreo is reptitive, in the extreme, with slow pacing. This mime was a big improvement (except Act II, which I think was his; it had his feel, in any event; happily, there wasn't much of it, there). The production was absolutely beautiful, with lovely, colorful costumes and operatic scenery and staging. The Third act was breathtaking -- the tarentellas were relentless, fast-paced, and clean. They pulled us right to our feet. I missed Donald Dadey, a former Ballet AZ dancer who filled character roles for them until a couple years ago. His sense of humor is contageous, and he would have been great as the macaroni seller. The parts were well played, but Ballet AZ has always been particularly good at comedy, so "just fine" didn't quite measure up. Such demands! There are many - so many - numerous fast and ground-eating glissades to the side, for instance. Kudos to Ballet AZ dancers, who handled these quite well. It was interesting to see this performance, in all aspects, not excluding its place in ballet history.
  12. Yes, Chris Bianco has both Pizza Bianco, downtown, and Panne Bianco, further north, towards "Central Phoenix," and an easy walk from that B&B. Next door is the hipster cafe, Lux. Bianca's claim to fame is topping one of those serious "best pizza" lists. With all others on the top 10 in NYC. The sandwiches are delicious. They do a great job with fresh mozerella. The menu is quite limited, which is how its fans like it. it is a bit of the proverbial "hole in the wall," with picnic tables out front. The very best brucheta is at Postino. Especially the salmon with capers and pesto. Good question, regarding the overhang. I'll have to pay more attention. Since I tend to avoid that whole section, I'll not hazard a guess. And yes, some dancing, but I'm just lucky to have good knees.
  13. Hi Jack! Hope you'll come to Phoenix. The B&B you have selected is very well placed -- there are several restaurants pretty much right there, on Central: Postino Central, Windsor, and Joy Ride. Just south a couple blocks are several more, and there is one in each direction on Camelback: St. Francis and Southern Rail. All have nice patios, when the weather and the sun are right. Though it is near some main streets, it should be quiet enough. Traffic is already lessened, as our snowbirds fly north, Spring Training ends, and our vacations begin. The colors on the Symphony Hall selection map also represent price - Gold, Silver, and Bronze, so that might be what is throwing you off. As for seats, I'm fond of the last row on the floor, in the center (I think it is 14), but I am able to sit on my legs above heads, if need be. Those who qualify for the handicapped row, just behind, have great seats! I also like the balcony -- any of the first few rows, as the rake is pretty good. On the main floor, I dislike the rows after the break -- probably just a "me" thing, but they feel claustrophobic to me. I would rather be on the sides of the main floor, on an aisle, if possible. If you select the seat you want, it will change color, so it should be clear that you've chosen it. Good luck!
  14. I'll bite, Jack! ; ) Jahna Franziskonis in "Rubies" on Friday night was uncontainable, captivating, and utterly charming. She gave us the speed and smoothness of a cheetah, managing to be both fun and sexy. Yes, we also saw a huge personality -- as befits Rubies' New York City. While such strong individuals can be lacking as partners, not so, here - she proved herself a very nice partner, relatable -- and as quoted above, she fueled him with energy. Her musicality -- love a dancer whose relationship with the music is such that I hear it more clearly, or more fully. She made the jump rope and running sequences, which can be quite awkward and look just plain weird -- fit right in, still dancy. Huge, gorgeous jetes. Petitie, she "dances big," helped by felicitous proportions. It looked as though her part had been choreographed just for her, she danced with ease, and there was not a fraction of a moment that was careless, thrown away or unattended. Did I mention she is just a second year corps member? Bravo, Peter Boal, for casting her. She demonstrated she is ready for prime time.
  15. Agree! He is a luscious mover, who also does well in more contemporary pieces. He was gorgeous in "Off Screen" in the spring. He also has a great flair for comedy. So glad he perservered.
  16. We'll miss him, but are happy he is going to perform the contemporary, edgy works he loves. The piece he refers to, performed in a mixed bill last spring, was "Offscreen." It was magical, and a great crowd pleaser. We would LOVE more in that vein. Phoenix is more than ready. Are you listening, Ballet Arizona management? Hello? : )
  17. Beautiful performances this weekend! And, it is now official -- the retirement of three dancers was announced tonight and in an e-newsletter: Ginger Smith is leaving for Columbia University, as is corps member Jennifer Ham. Michelle Mahowald, Indiana University grad, is also leaving. Flowers were presented to the dancers this afternoon in honor of their retirement -- Ms. Smith's by her mother, Ms. Ham's by her boyfriend, and Ms. Mahowald's by her husband. Best wishes to all three! They have brought much to their audiences and will be missed.
  18. You're in good company, CubanMiamiBoy. When I was a student at the University of Arizona, I took class from Mr. Zoritch, so when doing some ballet history research, his name naturally caught my eye. While he was dancing he was called "The Most Beautiful Man in the World."
  19. I should also have mentioned that local product Chelsea Saari was bumped up to Lilac Fairy this year. The company does not recognize levels or promotions, but this would seem to indicate that we can expect to see Ms. Saari in higher-profile roles, going forward. In any event, it's always nice to see dancers' progress and have addtional opportunities.
  20. Post removed by Arizona Native to conform with Board rules.
  21. Helene, you crack me up! "I wouldn't miss [Paula Hartley] if her partner were a professional wrestler." Well, her performances did live up to your expectations. Don Q is a great vehicle for her sparkle and wit, not to mention her physicality, daring, and endurance. She and Astrit Zejnati continue to be an eminantly watchable pair. His sense of fun, flirtatiousness, and competitiveness come to the fore in this piece, as well. They have wonderful chemistry and timing, both comedic and physical. This role does sometimes demonstrably tax Mr. Zejnati, however, whose endurance over a run or through a long ballet has never been his strong suit. He handled it better than usual,this time. His turns were crisp and controlled, his jumps strong and energetic. He modified the iconic series of overhead, one-handed lifts (which the partner enters with a kind of cartwheel; a heroic feat of timing and gymnastic athleticism) cleverly -- each time doing just two, rather than the customary three, with the second extended through the time of the usual third. The audience loved it! This year the portions that are danced by a male ensemble hit me with new impact. There's something about all those men, in unison, in long lines, that is exciting. Even in a crowd of talent, Russell Clarke stands out, he's just so handsome and has great stage presence. The charecter parts were very funny and a big favorite with the crowd, as with the previous performances. Comedy is such a strenghth for this company; it would be wonderful to see them perform in sophisticated contemporary works calling on their skills in this area. Roman Zavarov showed a flair for comedy that was somewhat surprising, joining others we are more accustomed to seeing in these roles. Donald Dadey, now director of the Scottsdale School of Ballet and a retired Ballet Arizona and Zurich Ballet dancer, was hilarious as Lorenzo, with stage presence and personality to burn. Daniel Baudendistal, former Joffrey dancer, reprising his role as the Don, brought just the right amount of pathos. Not quite of this world, he helps round out the ballet by providing a counterpoint to the more earthy charecters. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the alternative cast, featuring Ginger Smith and Shea Johnson.
  22. Definately, I have been remiss, ignoring Ballet Talk in favor of life administration! These performances continue to linger in my mind, so I'll write, though Nut season is long gone. This was a fine production, as ever, which continues to hold up after several years of repeated viewings. A strength of the dancers is that they don't dial it in, "Ho hum, another Nutcracker." Rather, it is done full out, with charecter and involvement, in every role. The exception was a certain new dancer who did not seem to get the memo on this, unfortunately, bringing no charecter to her Sugar Plum, but I'll not mention her name -- perhaps she was just getting acclimated, and had other distactions. We welcome her to Phoenix, and look forward to future performances. Impressed on my memory, these months later, was the take-no-prisioners, Sugar-Plum-Smackdown, Natalia-is-in-the-building performance of Natalia Magnicaballi. Perhaps tired of the attention paid to fresh faces, Ms. Magnicaballi gave notice -- she can do it all. In her series one-footed-releves (foundu croise front, pirouette, attitude turn, if memory serves) followed by a series of chaines, she was titanium -- light, strong,creating beautiful shapes, and with a shimmer all her own. My favorite moment was actually a mistake: in a series of fouettes, she went off her leg, then pulled right back into alignment, seemingly through sheer force of will. A lesser personality, or one with less command of her body, would have been forced to fall out and cover as best she could. She remains fascinating, no matter what role, with a depth of interest and involvement that few can match. The production continues to stand up to several years of repeated viewing. The costumes are sumptious, the scenery beautiful, and the choreography is tight,though imitative of Balanchine. The Claras and Princes do their parts justice, and are darling and charming as they should be. Their choreography, however, is a notable weakness of the production. Every year, I hope Mr. Andersen will fix this, yet he does not. During the ballroom scenes, the chasses and simple moves of the children are fine for moving the plot along and providing visual interest. Apart from the ballroom scene -- the battle scene, the scene where they ride the sled through the starry skies, and the retelling of the story to the Sugar Plum, the choreography is more blocking than dancing. For instance, in the battle scene, Clara spends most of her time running in a big circle, with her hands over her head or just crying in the corner. In the meeting of the two and getting on the sleigh, there is no dancing at all. The Prince bows and presents her with her crown, then they pretty much just wait for the sleigh. This is a nifty bit, as the sleigh is apparantly magic, self-propelled and directed, with no horses or helpers, but would be no less nifty if preceeded by some dancing. Ballet Arizona does have good news to share -- finally, finally, years after the voters approved the City of Phoenix bond for a new facility, a building has been purchased, near the airport. There is hope that they will be in the new space within 2 years.
  23. Yes, I have seen it twice, so far, and plan to go again tonight. I will try to get on Santa's "nice" list by writing about it, soon.
  24. A.M. will be at the Ballet Arizona production this weekend. It is a beautiful production, and I can't wait to see what he writes about it. Unfortunately, I will not be able to go see the same performances -- duty calls me elsewhere.
  25. A positive review from the "Arizona Republic": http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/stage/articles/2010/11/05/20101105midsummer-nights-dream-ballet-arizona-review.html.
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