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Saratoga second week

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Well, I have given up on finding the time to post about "Midsummer", other than to resoundingly echo Manhattnik's comments about the perfection of that ballet in the SPAC setting. I love it, I love it. The music is divine, too, and the orchestra sounded GREAT.

So on to Swan Lake. Some cast shuffling last night, my hope is that Wendy isn't too injured, but that she is saving herself for the gala, where Liturgy will have its only Saratoga perf. Certainly trying to get through Odette/Odile is grueling indeed.

This production of Swan has to be the most unattractive ever. Those green and orange costumes in the first act--ugh! Those green and brown peasant dresses-ugh again. The courtiers' get-ups--ick. The red lines on the black swan tutu--very ick. The abstract backdrop--well you get the idea, as my good pal Farrell Fan would say: "So how do you really feel about it?".

Nothing can harm that exquisite music, and it was beautifully played, with special mention for sensitive solo playing from the violin, cello and harp. Truly lovely.

As for the dancing...Maria Kowroski handled the white swan sections quite well. She has lovely fluidity in her port de bras. Her super-high extension is a detriment though. It is just too high. She doesn't need to fling her leg over her head so that her penchee is at a 200 degree angle. In the Agon pas de deux, that is appropriate--not so for Odette. Her Odile did not convince me at all--I tried, I wanted to believe her, but I could not.

And Philip Neal, with such beautiful light landings and such ease of movement, was totally ineffective as Seigfried. From him, I got either no emotion, or such overdone pathos that it was almost laughable. Lovely clean dancing--not much else in this performance.

I have figured out what offends me most about the planned Balanchine centennial at NYCB. It is the placement of this Martins work in a season that should be devoted to the memory of Mr B. Balanchine never wanted this company to do a full-length Swan. His own one-act takes the very best music, the very best sections of choreogrpahy and the essence of the story, and distills it beautifully. I receive more emotional satisfaction from a well done performance of the Balanchine Swan than I do from this Martins thing, ever, and including it in this Balanchine tribute season is a insult to his memory and his expressed desires.

Not to say that the four act Swan doesn't have a wonderful place in the ballet canon. Of course it does, and I love to see a well-done and well-designed four act. Maybe sometime I will. But not this week, I fear.

Got to go to work at SPAC now, for the matinee, of....Swan Lake.

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THis is a huge change for SPAC. In the past 7 years that I have been atttending SPAC performances of NYCB they have only ever done one full length a season. This is the first year that they have done this many. Personally I think it's a let down, because I have always enjoyed seeing the shorter ones since I haven't seen some still. I've seen every full length that they do and get a bit sick of them. Especially since Peter has done Midsummer and Swan Lake for the past like 4 years or so, either one or the other. I'm just glad at least they are doing Coppelia, they haven't done that since my first year attending 7 years ago. Thats a good thing.

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There were a lot of full lengths in the Spring Season in the city too, and there are also a lot in the "Balanchine Celebration." Martins' letter to subscribers mentioned this fact and said that it was not meant to represent a change in programming philosophy. We won't know if that's true for quite some time.

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I think there is definitely a sea change in programming at NYCB. At first I thought it was just for SPAC. Last year there were no story ballets at SPAC, and the word was that there were "complaints", that people love the stories and that SPAC will be rewarded with ticket sales if they are programmed. Well--true, but not completely. Yes, the story ballets have done markedly better at the box office this year than the repertory programs. But that can be partially attributed to the fact that the stories are being done for all six matinees--Thursday mats get the biggest crowds at SPAC because the tickets are heavily discounted for students and seniors. We get busloads of both. However, neither Thursday has been a sell-out this far. The evening crowds are bigger too on the story evenings, but not even close to full. And for every patron who has cheered the abundance of story ballets, two diehard fans have bemoaned the dearth of rep.

So what does NYCB do? Darned if I know the answer....but I'll say that I only attended one spring season program at the State Theater because the season was so heavily story ballets. Instead I went to ABT, where I expect an emphasis on story ballet, and even there I only saw two full lengths.

And looking ahead to winter and spring seasons...there is again, a strong slant to full length ballets. There are subscriptions that are almost entirely full lengths. If that is happening in this, the year of celebrating Balanchine--with his well-known preferences, what does the future hold? My guess is more and more story ballets, more and more full length programs.

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