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Interesting DVD review

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Ari posted this on Links, copied here for discussion. I found this review quite worth reading. It's nice to read a fresh (to me, at least) voice on Balanchine:

The two Dance in America DVDs of Balanchine ballets videotaped in the late 1970s are reviewed in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

They are a curious mix. Not even Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins, two of NYCB's most storied principals, can rescue "Tzigane" from overwrought Gypsy-driven mayhem. The "Divertimento" excerpt ups the ante, employing eight dancers (among them Merrill Ashley and Robert Weiss) in a presentation that's at once restrained and luminous. The remaining three selections -- capped by the always astonishing Stravinsky reinterpretation -- accelerate the pleasure further still.

Nonesuch's second DVD is even more intriguing.

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I have watched Steadfast Tin Soldier, Diamonds pdd and Stravinsky Violin Cto thus far.

I have to say that this whole thing of adapting choreography for the camera has a kind of dated look to me, just like Seventies lowered ceilings, or, indeed, the hairdos on some of the male dancers in these videos.

However seriously. The idea seems to be that the tv registration had to be art as tv rather than the registration of a wonderful work of art. Looking back one or two [?] generations later I think that's a mistake. I'd rather miss some corps dancers out in the rear corners than have everybody strangely bunched up in front of the camera, mugging for a shot, with diagonals coming out of nowhere (spliced in obviously).

I think Mr B just loved to tinker with his ballets, and these tv registrations were another opportunity for him.

That being said it's of course wonderful to see Farrell and Martins in the Diamonds pdd, or the original cast of Violin Cto. The reviewer remarks on the strange fit Barysh and Von Aroldingen make in PSon, but watching litle Mazzo and Martins pdd together I could help but think she'd fit right in his giant paw - and of course that's what happens at the end of the mvt, in the celebrated panhandling gesture.

As I said on another thread, the sound on these videos is horrible. I watched the start of Elégie, and had to take a break because of the execrable playing of this beautiful music. It doesn't look like one of Mr B's best anyway - great hair, though. :)


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Having finally gotten to these myself, I'd like to suggest turning down the treble control about half way - fine-tune to your own taste, of course. My friend and I found the sound much more listenable this way, with strings less dry; otherwise it seems nearly to cut the ear. But this won't do a lot for the performance, of course.

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That being said it's of course wonderful to see Farrell and Martins in the Diamonds pdd, or the original cast of Violin Cto.

Just as an FYI, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux was in the original cast of Aria I in Stravinsky Violin Concerto with Karin von Aroldingen. I think Bart Cook and von Aroldingen are beautifully matched in the DVD; Cook's performance in the ballet is one of my all-time favorites, live or taped.

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