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"All Balanchine" Program

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What did you think of the "All Balanchine" Program?

We attended the second Saturday matinee.

I don't have the expertise to provide any kind of technical critique, but can share a few impressions:

Ballo della Regina -

I had read a great deal about the speed and technical ability required to dance this ballet, made originally on Merrill Ashley. I had not realized, however, that the corps plays a lovely part in this piece.

I was especially struck by the use of the arms.

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra -

Watching theses pieces made me feel almost as if I were viewing those original tapes of early Balanchine, in black and white. The dancers were in rehearsal clothes, and had blank expressions on their faces.

I would have very much liked to have had the chance to see more than once, because there was so much to absorb.

Prodigal Son -

This was actually my least favorite. Melanie Atkins danced the Siren, and I did not find her as alluring as I would have expected. (Was this the dancer, or the role? -- it's hard to act sexy throwing a heavy mantle around). Also, the crawling of the repentant Son struck me as theatrical, and I didn't agree with the interpretation of the son returning to his father -- his father forcing him to crawl on his hands and knees up to him, whereas both the text and the natural instinct of a parent would show the father moving forward to embrace the son.

All in all, a great program, and, I might add, extremely well attended.

P.S. For the Alexander Ritter fan -- he was not listed as dancing in any performance this weekend.

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funny, i love prodigal son, and have never felt that he was being forced to come to his father that way, rather that he couldn't bear to come to him but wanted more than anything to be with him again, that he was embarrassed at what he'd put him through, and that the agony of it was on his part; that the father was saying 'i'm here, you can come if you want, but i won't force you', his love being evident to me by the way he cradles and protectively covers his son.

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There is a very interesting essay discussing that point by Lincoln Kirstein, "A Ballet Master's Belief" from "Portrait of Mr. B". Auden and Balanchine had opposing interpretations:

. . .Auden complained that the Father should not have remained rigid, but with Christian compassion, might have advanced at least a step, in some sign of pardon. . .  

The choreographer disagreed.  He made his own point, altering Scripture for his own didactic purposes.  Christ, first of all, was a Jew, raised on the Pentateuch, which included Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  The parable embodied an older Testament's tribal ethic. . .And Balanchine slyly justified his tampering with the text.  Was not the generous gesture [as recounted by Luke] an early patristic interpretation, sweetening the rabbinical rigor in favor of propaganda for the new faith?

. . .An Anglican poet spoke by a new, but a Russian Orthodox by an older, wisdom.

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I would take issue with the idea that the passages in Luke are a "patristic" interpretation, as it is found in the earliest text of Luke (ca. 475) that we have. Patrism is the commentary on matters religious by the so-called "fathers of the Church", some of whom have turned out to be women! If the change in text (if any) were a result of early patrism, it would have to be VERY early indeed, and the commentary which informed it does not survive.

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We usually see each program twice, and especially like it when we can see different casts. We often find ourselves enjoying the second performance more than the first, even with ballets that are already familiar to us. Partly us getting into it, partly the company having that many additional peformances under their belts.

The first Sat night we saw Sarah Lamb in Ballo, and last night it was Pollyana Ribiero. Much as I like Sarah, Pollyana was much more comfortable in the role and did a really good job. The corps was also excellent. This is one of my husband's three favorite ballets, and he thought last night's performance was the best since seeing Merrill Ashley (his very favorite dancer) dance it. Better even than recent NYCB performances.

Both times we saw Movements Melanie Atkins and Jered Redick were dancing the leads, and I really enjoyed Melanie. This may be a better role for her than Siren. We were sitting close to the front and I had the feeling even her eyelids were choreographed! (Are they?)

I'm not really fond of Prodigal Son. The first night we saw Simon Ball and Karla Kovatch, and last night Yury Yanowsky and April Ball. Kovatch is a member of the corps; I was glad to see her have this opportunity and thought she did well in the role. The biggest surprise to me was an ovation for April Ball after her performance, with many flowers thrown on the stage, many bouquets delivered - one by her brother, and dancers in their street clothes coming out on stage to applaud. She had danced well but this was obviously more than congrats on a good performance. I hadn't heard that she is leaving but all this leads to that conclusion. Too bad.

With regard to Prodigal, I also found the ending cold, so I'm interested in the alternative interpretations. I'll have to keep that in mind if I see it again.

Meanwhile I'm glad to be seeing more and different Balanchine next year, and also look forward to Romeo and Juliet next month.

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I, too, am not a great fan of Prodigal Son. I've seen it twice before--NYCB and SFB--and was struck both times by the Siren --Melanie Atkins did not leave me with the same feeling (which I cannot define--I'm too tired)--I wished I'd seen April Ball (I was wondering where she was and thought perhaps she'd be doing more of the Balanchine). Paul Thrussell was the son and I thought he was excellent.

Not to speculate too much, but I am wondering where some dancers are--particularly some principals and soloists. Anybody know?

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