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This was the former company of one of my favorite local ballet teachers... so of course she made sure we all knew it was coming and organized getting group tickets. And this show, unlike the Nilas Martins one earlier in the week, seemed to be sold out.

Wow. Talk about getting a bang for your buck. There were lots and lots and lots of dancers on stage (I can't tell you how many because I forgot to count and except for 4 dancers, not one of them got their name in the program)... and a small orchestra! This was in the new smaller theater at the Bushnell. I can't imagine what subsidized this performance, although I'm assuming the artists weren't paid per diems on par with what AGMA dancers get.... I hope someone in the community wined & dined them.

I haven't seen a character company in decades. I remember being thrilled by the broadcast of the Moiseyev in the 1970s, and tried to see them when they returned to NYC in 1986(?). I had just become engaged and my fiance and I thought it would be a nice occaision to introduce the parents-in-law (my parents loved folk dance, and his widely-travelled mother's parents had come from Minsk), but unfortunately the Jewish Defense League perpetuated one of their terrorist attacts that evening, and almost as soon as the curtain went up, they set off a smoke bomb and the Met had to be evacuated (not an auspicous sign for our engagement, but we've lasted close to 20 years anyway). I'll never forget the woman wandering around Lincoln Center afterwards trying to persuade lingering audience members to sue the theater. To this day, I wish I had been less polite (lingering parents-in-law not withstanding).

I was hoping to see something reminiscent of the Moiseyev.

I don't know my character/folk dance, but this was pretty good. As usual, the women are not given very much interesting stuff to do, although they do get to wear some beautiful costumes (I always worry about dance performances though where we think more about the costumes than the choreography). They did not, however, do what I had expected... that gliding effect of taking tiny steps in long skirts.... still, like birds, it was the men who got to show off...the women were mostly demure ornaments (though with plenty of fast footwork). Keeping their corps work spacing however was probably at least as viruostic an endeavor as the men's double tours, considering they're probably on a long tour of one-night stands on various sized stages. Mostly, though when there's a large group of people all mostly doing the same thing; it often seems to me that it's more fun to be dancing the dance than to be watching it.

The women did have one interesting piece, however: "Vyshyvalnytsi (Emboideresses)" staged by Pavlo Virsky, wherein using long streamers of what unfortunately looked like long chains of day-glo sausages they wove several interesting patterns. I wish they had chosen other colors... I can't imagine day-glo chartreuse and day-glo orange having been used in earlier times, but I do understand that it's probably true to traditional aesthetic to use as bright a color as possible.

They did an interesting dance with Tambourines, but I missed the jingles on the tambourines... it seemed kind of hokey to have the orchestra lamely simulating tambourine sounds when you could have the real thing... but perhaps with the acoustics of stage performance it would have just been too muddy. They worked quite strikingly as drums however.

Another piece of interest was "Zaporozchi (National Ukrainian Dance of Cossacks)". It begins with a long study of pikes. I was trying to explain to my six-year old the deal with the pikes... how it was about the only way to stop a calvary charge, as the horses would come on too fast to be able to stop and too close to be able to turn aside, and would be impaled on the pikes...but that everyone had to be brave enough to not to move for if one lost his nerve, the calvary would be able to break through... but unfortunately I seem to not been quite cogent because she spent a lot of the dance wondering in misery why anyone would want to do that to a horse. But, I'm hoping (knock knock, holler HOLLER) Major Mel could be prevailed upon to talk about the cossacks and the tradition of dare-devil dance in their ranks. We tend to only hear about the awful use of the Cossacks in progroms, etc. But I understand theirs was a unique society in the old Russia... that everyone else was either gentry or owned by the gentry... but that the Cossacks were a democracy of sorts... that serfs might runaway and join the cossacks (was this a mix-up in the pronunciation of circus?)... that they voted for their leaders or battles or some such thing? But that they had terrific hazing? (hence the daredevil stuff?) Or was that just to keep up their nerve? And that this different social class was one of the reasons the Tsar would use them for tasks he would not put his other regiments to? I also remember hearing once somewhere that the Turks had a recruiting dance they did to lure men into the army? Anyone know any of this? My memory is hazy and unreliable, I would welcome correction and/or elaboration here. At any rate, this was one of those pieces it's probably wise to bring young boys to, in order to encourage an interest in dance. At some point they put away their pikes and came out with scimitars(?) curved swords at any rate... at this point my daughter refused to look for fear someone was going to have their foot cut off. The program says they "partake in a soldier game before the audience". Sometimes I wish I had a DVD with footnotes for all the dances.

I'm not sure at which piece in the performance one of the guys got started in on repetive double tours... but after several in a row, I began to be amazed and wondered if I should count... I did not start at the beginning, but this guy did at least 10 double tours one right after the other. On the whole, though, even with the jumps, I still prefer elevation to extension... male dancers these days are getting to be so supple, with line we look for in women, but they seem to miss out in elevation in their jumps... I'd rather see a little meat on their bones and a high jump than hyperextension and lightweight limbs... it cuts back on the bravado... it's not the same thing to acheive height jumping by lifting your legs up beyond a perfect side-to-side split ... it doesn't soar as well as someone with less extension reaching the same elevation but without acheiving it by leg flexibility. A high kick doesn't seem to carry as much force.

On the whole, the audience roared it's approval. It's always fun to be in one of those clapping interactions with the dancers on stage.... and they'd regularly throw in a crazy ritard just in time to keep the audience clapping from getting away from tempo... and then they'd start them off clapping again. Very effective.

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