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Musagète


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I know someone asked part of this question before, but I'm not sure if it's been answered... Stephen Hanna, Nilas Martins and Benjamin Millepied are also in Musagete. What "role" do they portray in the ballet? Hearing of the "inferences" that Whelan is Mourka/Zorina, Ansanelli is LeClerq, Kowroski is Farrell, and Tewsley is Balanchine, I'm curious to see what people think the roles of Hanna, Martins, and Millepied are (if there are any). I have not seen the ballet (I will in Saratoga), so I do not know if these three really have a significant part in the ballet at all. Are they portraying other figures in Balanchine's life, or are they more abstract?

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The whole sentence makes me even more uncomfortable, with its stereotype of "cigarettes and cellphones" and the ugly implications that somehow the NYCB audience must remain refined and genteel and "American." Its gratuitous and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, sorry.

While I think offense can be found in the "cigarettes and cellphones" part by Gottlieb, I don't have a problem with refering to the group of Eifman followers as "the Russian Emigre audience" (although I'm sure not every Eifman fan is of Russian decent, nor is every Russian emigre a fan of Eifman). In marketing and advertising, you breakdown demographics - it's cold and sometimes cruel but it's true. The remark is no different than saying you want to appeal to housewives, men from 18-40, college graduates etc...

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There IS a Russian emigre audience for Eifman. How it is racist to mention that is beyond me. "cigarettes and cellphones" is an ethnic slur???? You could say that about the Wall Street audience, or a dozen other groups. It's what he saw, it's descriptive. While there are characterizations that would be inappropriate, IMO, there will be nothing left to write if we aren't allowed to say that an audience that is largely composed of people who have left Russia is a Russian emigre audience.

One last thing about the conservative audience -- by their nature, institutions are conservative. That's why we have institutions: to conserve. The experimentation takes place outside institutions, and always has. Not every ballet company is an institution; some just live for the season, or the decade, either by circumstance or by choice. But the institutions have to worry about preserving their repertory as well as acquiring new work (often filched from the "laboratory" of companies outside itself, rather than from workshops within) and making sure that its huge roster of dancers has something to dance.

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About Eifman's Russian emigre audience, there's one thing I've been wondering: if these people dislike Balanchine (it was mentioned upthread that that they complained about having to sit through his ballets in order to get to the Eifman), just what are they seeing in Musagete? I mean, there are all these references to Balanchine's life. When Eifman's emigre fanclub sees Ansanelli's legs give way, do they know what that's a reference to? And if not, just what are they getting out of the ballet and why do they bother? :)

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Alexandra, it's the implication, that somehow these people are the kinds of people the NYCB must defend itself against. For one, looking around te NYCB audience, "cigarettes and cellphones" seems to be a multiethnic description. He uses it as a slur, like, see, theyre low class, smoking and chatting. As if the genteel, refined NYCB audience never smokes or yammers on a cellphone. It's xenophobic. It's a veiled xenophobia, but it's there, as apparent as the politicians who use to routinely talk about preserving "American" ways of life. I'm of an immigrant background, so I've become sensitized to this sort of thing: xenophobia and a big "you're not welcome" sign disguised as musical/artistic/political platform.

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Was the character wheeling Tewsley around supposed to be just a nurse, or was there some larger symbolism that I missed?

Anthony's question got lost in the shuffle - can anyone answer it? And who was Stephen Hanna supposed to be? Some of the "characters" were quite clear, apparently, and others not. Did Lincoln Kirstein make an appearance? Stravinsky?

I've seen it, now, and I'm back.

1. The "nurse" is wearing a Nehru suit. I take this to mean that he is the little boy in Midsummer, grown up. (Oberon/Balanchine in his late years, with faithful attendant.)

2. The third character in the Mourka trio is Stravinsky. I deduce this from photographs of the three, not from the choreography. (I considered and decided it wasn't Kirstein, or Eddie Bigalow. ) I do not think there actually is a conflation of Mourka and Zorina.

I think Whelan is a wonderful cat. The ballet is meretricious claptrap, but you cannot blame the dancers, who give it their best. (Some of the novelty steps look dangerous.) If one could sue from heaven, Balanchine and all of the composers could make out like bandits. Just like Eifman.

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[board Host Beanie on]

Uh oh. We now have a thread containing BOTH Bob Gottlieb and Boris Eifman, easily two of our biggest thread inflators. (Check out the number of views on this thread when you get a chance!)

To the point, we're at 80 responses and rising already on this thread.

To prevent confusion, if you're talking about the ballet performance itself (ie, I saw it last night and here's what I thought) do it here.

If you're talking about a related issue (Bob Gottlieb as as critic, Are American Audiences conservative), please start a new thread. We don't want discussion of the performance itself to get swamped.

Thanks!

[board Host Beanie off]

To answer a question upthread - Martins and Millepied were cavaliers in the finale with no specific role beyond porteur. I have to admit I had no clue who Stephen Hanna was during the narrative portion of the ballet. And I am assuming that his role in the finale did not relate at all to it, because he danced with a completely different partner (Kowroski rather than Whelan.)

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I knew I was in for a rough night during the pauses between the first 3 ballets.

There was a woman in my row lighting matches to read her program.

As they burned down to her fingers she discarded them to the floor.

And not an usher in sight. I guess they could not stand to see what was going

to happen both on and off the stage.

Musagete is terrible. It is so poorly crafted and tasteless and completely

unworthy to be presented by this Company in this Theater.

If it had been abstract or the subject matter had been different we could

just shake our heads and say another bad ballet--another good idea gone wrong.

But we are taking this as a personal affront to everything we know about

Balanchine. He was a fulfilled and happy person. The only obstacles in

life he could not overcome were illness and old age.

The portrayal of him as this moody tortured soul cuts deep. That this was

supposed to be a tribute is mystifying. I wish I knew how the dancers,

present and past, think about this debacle. I hope they start to speak up soon.

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As I read through this thread, it boggles the mind to think that the director of NYCB actually commissioned this ballet.....what was he thinking? And yes, what were the NYCB dancers thinking while learning this ballet - a ballet that had already been set on Eifman's company! :) I am absolutely :speechless: ..........

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"I wish I knew how the dancers,

present and past, think about this debacle. I hope they start to speak up soon."

They think it's drek, as a good many others do......

But they are professionals, dance for all they're worth, and keep their opinions offline. One likes paying the bills......

Having NYCB commission a ballet for this centennial celebration, and then having the choreographer make it on his own company is insulting, at the least. He did not use the dancers' strengths, he disregarded the tradition, teachings and contributions of Balanchine to NYCB and has obviously gulled or diddled a good many of the critical establishment.

I think it is a mess. I can't even write about it without my blood pressure rising dangerously. What squandering of resources, talent, and rehearsal time.

One final image sums it for me: those immobile, big tutus surrounding a figure dressed like Gary Cooper complete with black ascot. OK, Mr. Eifman, I thought you did some research......

p.s. the costumes were badly cut, constructed of nasty wrinkly fabric (poor Ansanelli....), and about as far away from the Balanchine/NYCB aesthetic as possible. Vile and amateurish.

If it has a rolling chair, it must be Boris Eifman.......

I think I need some chocolate......

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Apologies are in order to Bach, Tchaikovsky, Balanchine and Karinska.

Yes. the costumes were awful. The Finale tutus were especially garish

and cheap looking. The dancers had at least 3 different costumes ---

I think Ansanelli had 4 changes plus the tutu --- maybe she was all 4

wives, each in a different outfit. I still don't see where Kisselgoff saw

Zorina. They must have spent a fortunes on all those costumes. Maybe

they can salvage the chair on wheels and use it in an office. One of the

grants for this piece of drek came from the New York State Council on

the Arts Dance Commissioning Program, whoever they are. Maybe the

chair cost the equivilent of the Pentagon spending $700 for a toilet seat.

I just had 2 Reeses peanut butter cups.

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Benny, both Kisselgoff's and Gottlieb's reviews were predictable. Though very knowledgeable, Anna Kisselgoff seems reluctant to express strong opinions, particularly unfavorable ones. Gottlieb, on the other hand, has a long history with NYCB and thinks the company has fallen on hard times under Peter Martins. There is also the difference, often pointed out, between a daily reviewer and one who has a week or more to think about things. All that being said, I understand the import of your question. How is it possible for two intelligent, experienced critics to disagree so drastically? I guess when all is said and done there's no accounting for taste.

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I had an interesting dinner conversation with a friend who liked Musagete. The nice thing was it was a rational discussion, and it did come down in this case to something I had mentioned before. The bottom line for her is that the thing she hates at the theater is to see something boring or dull. And for her, mediocre to lousy formalism is DULL. She saw all my points on the Eifman, but for her, the Martins ballet on the same program that I found minor but tolerable she found excruciating. And I saw her points about what she wanted, but for me, flaws in structure and logic make me crazier. You can put 10,000 elephants on stage doing chachas, reciting Ovid and randomly exploding in front of me. I still want to know why they're there. If nothing else, we were able to articulate our preferences clearly enough so each understood the other if noone's mind was changed.

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I just read Leigh Witchel's review of Musagete in DanceViewTimes, and in one perceptive, concise sentence that I wish I could have written, has summed up the piece in what is, in my opinion, its appropriate context:

Translated, this expression of artistic cowardice means, “I would like to associate myself with and exploit Balanchine’s cachet and mystique but without any responsibility for accuracy or comprehension.”
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I'm finally going to see Musagete! I just bought a ticket to the Sat., Jan 8 '05, matinee. As a long-time admirer of 'Anything Eifman' AND George Balanchine, I'm really looking forward to seeing what all the fuss (mainly negative) is all about.

If it's truly as big of a 'dud' as I've read here, then at least the afternoon will be salvaged by Ballo della Regina and Four T's!

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It got a few good reviews (importantly, Kisselgoff in the Times, who has always been a defender of Eifman) as well as several passionate thumbs-downs (mine included). I have a feeling it's a work that wouldn't convert anyone to the other camp. If you liked Eifman before, you'll probably like this one as well. If you didn't, this one isn't going to change your mind, especially as the subject is a hot button.

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Now I'm really excited about seeing this! (ha-ha) I'll be there rain, sunshine or snowstorm....and if it's a pile o'crap I'll say so. What I'll do is keep a totally open mind to the fact that this is a fictionalization of Balanchine's life...just like I didn't expect to see perfect recountings of the lives of Olga Spessivtseva or P.I. Tchaikovsky in Eifman's essays on those two great individuals of the past. But -- doggonit -- "Red Giselle" and "Tchaikovsky" are smashingly good theater. Let's see with "Musagete."

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