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Ballets of Jerome Robbins?


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I may not have thought so at the time, but I was still pretty new to ballet the first time I saw Watermill. It is one of my indelible memories. Villella was -- quite literally -- mesmerizing. After it was over, I rose ever so slowly from my seat and sort of floated through intermission, slightly removed from the activity around me. I had probably gone into Alpha consciousness or something similar. I never regained that quietly euphoric feeling -- coming close a couple of times after a particularly good yoga class.

When Villella visited New York during Balanchine Fest 1, I had the opportunity to ask him about the difference between the first Watermills I saw and the ones he had then only recently performed, noting how much sadder his final ones felt to me (and wondering whether that feeling came from him on stage, me out there or somewhere in between). He replied that it was a bittersweet event for him -- a belated farewell to the company that had been his home for so many years. Didn't quite answer my question, but was a lovely response nonetheless.

Watermill (the ballet) seems to have mystical powers. Is that what inspired your BA handle, Watermill?

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The Cage??? Wow! That must've been something to see!:(

I believe that Robbins choreographed the Piano Pieces role that Maria Calegari originated on stage with Farrell in mind.

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That's right, carbro, Farrell in The Cage was something to see. But it was a long time ago (1977) and my memory of it has grown too hazy for coherent comment. In her book she says she "enjoyed dancing" it. She also says that in her first year at NYCB, she was a horn in Fanfare.

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Yes, carbro, it was the first time I'd seen the basic ballet vocabulary used in conjunction with other non-ballet movements. It was a real eye-opener. Can't say I had the mystical experience you had, but it was very inspiring.

Sometime around 1988 I saw Robbins walking toward me on Lexington Ave. The first thing that popped into my mind was to tell him how much I enjoyed Watermill. Then I noticed how sad he looked, and guessed that he was losing friends to the aids holocaust (as was I). so I didn't bother him, just walked by.

I'll bet that piece resonated even more deeply in 1990.

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Living near L.C., I saw Robbins on the street from time to time. Several times he stopped to talk to my dog, Loretta. After the first time, I realized that these encounters were much more pleasant if I respected the fact that I was merely Loretta's companion of necessity, and any assumption that I was entitled to offer as much as a generic greeting was mistaken.;) :)

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I did not see Farrell in 'The Cage', but I did see Nora Kaye--and she was absolutely frightening in the role. I can still see her astride her doomed prey--with her legs and arms shooting out. But through all this, there was an underlying vulnerability in her performance.

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I suppose people who booed Watermill had expected to see the Villella of Dances at a Gathering. Instead they got a Noh-inspired theater piece without recognizable ballet steps and very little action, over an hour long, which seemed even longer because everything was in super-slo-mo.

I loved Watermill, but its detractors were not limited to the ranks of the unsophisticated. Arlene Croce, for one, dismissed it as "tedious hokum." In contrast, Patricia Barnes called it a landmark in ballet history. Clive liked it very much too.

The images in Watermill were things of beauty -- Villella and the stalks of wheat, the gently falling snow, the Japanese lanterns and kites, the girl's long golden hair, Villella, rousing himself at last and trying to join the young men. It still gives me chills to think about. I saw it several times, and there were a few boos at the end every time. It became as unpopular with subscribers as Mr. B's Don Quixote a few years earlier. I saw it again in later years, when Villella reprised the role and was met with nothing but cheers. I also saw Jean Guizerix do it as a guest with NYCB. He was quite poignant and got an ovation.

Incidentally, many's the time I saw Robbins on East 81st Street and he always avoided making eye contact until one New Year's Day, when my wife and I saw him taking out the garbage. She wished him a happy new year and he reciprocated. We felt warm and fuzzy all day.

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During the period when Villella returned for his belated farewells, a mom and her 8- or 9-year-old daughter were seated near me. Chatting with them, I warned that Watermill may be difficult for the youngster to sit through. The mom replied that they were there to see "The Four Seasons," which completed the program.

I must say, the young girl claimed to have enjoyed Watermill! She certainly gave no indication to the contrary during the performance.

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In Japan NYCB is going to do the West Side Story Suite. I just rented the video of the movie so I could see his work. How would you classify the Suite?` Is it a "broadway musical montage" or does that become a ballet somehow. I don't know anything about I'm Old Fashioned but it is being performed in LA on the upcoming visit. I see Joe Duell appeared in the original cast. (May he rest in peace.)

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West Side Story Suite is, indeed, "a Broadway musical montage" -- not a ballet in any but the very, very broadest of definitions. One of its treats is hearing NYCB's dancers strut their vocal stuff. Robbins added a new, unremarkable dance for Tony to the Suite.

I'm Old Fashioned, on the other hand, is a ballet -- on pointe -- based on motifs in the Astaire-Hayworth number. In the original cast, Joe Duell and Judy Fugate were the tertiary couple.

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From Kurvenal: Robbins did a number of ballets for NYCB such as "Afternoon of A Faun", "Age of Anxiety", "Ballade, 'The Cage". I don't think the company has done any of these in years. Is anyone doing them?

Well Afternoon of a Faun is just now in the active NYCB repertory. I suppose it will be performed in the Winter or Spring 2005. Is it too soon to start wishing for specific casting?....

(I do like the costumes.)

Also Andantino looks interesting. There seem to be a no. of JRobbins works in there for the 2005 winter. Is there some sort of Robbins anniversary coming up?

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I am waiting for a man to dim the vision of Afshin Mofid in Faun. In my experience, he owns the role forever.  :)

I agree! Mofid danced the role the first six or eight times I saw it, and I remember wishing that I could see someone else in the role. Well, that was in the "be careful what you wish for" category, because no one else I've seen came close. (I've never seen the old filmed versions.)

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I don't see Bouder as the Nymph type...she could dance it, but she doesn't have the mystique nor the self-absorbed quality that the role needs. Ansanelli was excellent, and somewhat in a trance, with Sebastian, and Margaret Tracey surprised me with a very fine performance opposite Damian...I suppose at one time Kathleen Tracey would have been pretty interesting in this ballet. And Meunier might have brought a more lush, sensuous quality, but I don't think she ever danced it. Rachel Rutherford would be pretty good, I think...

I'd like to see Rebecca Krohn & Amar Ramasar...

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I don't see Bouder as the Nymph type... she doesn't have the mystique nor the self-absorbed quality that the role needs.

Or the innocence :innocent:. In general, I prefer younger dancers in this ballet; older ones can't help but convey a certain "knowingness" that doesn't suit the mood. Despite her relative youth, Bouder seems to "know." :angelnot:

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I hope it's kosher to cite the following short excerpt from Deborah Jowitt's biography of Jerome Robbins, which is pertinent to this discussion of Faun:

Mallarme's faun dreamed of two nymphs--one chaste, one more knowing...

Whether or not Robbins and le Clercq consciously followed this reading, they reembodied it as the play of conflicting feelings within one young woman. Le Clercq's father, a professor at Queens College and a Mallarme expert, wrote Robbins, "What you have understood so well is that the two nymphs of the original are one and the same.  The very text, obscure as it is, proves it...You have reached the core of the meaning that poor sterile Mallarme was unable to convey and that all his commentators have missed."

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