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Choo San Goh


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Does anyone know what companies perform works by the late Choo San Goh? I've only seen one piece by him, Configurations, which was showcased in a documentary about Baryshnikov. I loved the way Goh combined strong classical technique with his very distinct and inventive contemporary flourishes. While he was alive, he was resident choreographer of the Washington Ballet, but I don't know how often they perform his works. Thank you.

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Sadlly, even Washington Ballet, for which Goh made at least a dozen ballets, does not perform his work now. (They've done one or two in the past few years, but they've put aside what was the company's core repertory.)

There is a Goh Trust -- but I haven't looked to see if it lhas a web site -- and people who are active and able to stage his ballets. A few seasons ago, there was a mini-Goh surge; several companies performed Goh ballets in a single season, but you're right, now they're rarely seen.

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Just Googled Choo San Goh -- there's a foundation (Choo San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation) that funds choreographers, but I can't tell if it also administers Goh's artistic estate. The foundation doesn't seem to have a website, but I didn't look far.

Dance Galaxy did his "Beginnings" a couple years ago, but I don't know if it's in their current rep.

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i'm with you, brbropus39, in having loved the goh works that i have seen, and wishing that i could see more - and more often.

the works of his which i saw, were performed by hong kong ballet and singapore dance theatre (the company directed by his sister at the time...NOW - i don't know...)

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The works Goh did for Washington Ballet showed quite a range. His "Fives" was the company showpiece until it was dropped from the repertory a few years ago. He had a gift for making the company look more accomplished than it actually was -- it was a very young company (in all sense of that word) when he joined it. Fives is for ten women and five men -- all of them, when it was new, promising, but none yet at soloist level. But he makes it LOOK as though the company has soloists.

He did neoclassical ballets -- some in tutus! -- but was most known (and it was less usual back in the 1970s) for his unitard balllets. If he had a signature, it was to begin his ballets before the music, with the dancers' toe shoe sounds the only accompaniment.

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When you say, "If he had a signature, it was to begin his ballets before the music, with the dancers' toe shoe sounds the only accompaniment," do you mean that is how he bagen working on a piece in rehearsal, or that is how his actual pieces began onstage and the music joined after the dancing started?

If you mean that's how he would start rehearsals, I think thats interesting because he seems, from the Baryshnikov documentary I mentioned earlier in this topic, to be inspired mainly by the music.

If you meant the latter, I think that's also really interesting. I've thought of doing that in one of my own pieces, beginning the dance without music. I've only heard of one other choreographer doing that, and he was Jerome Robbins, but I don't know what his ballet was called. I remember hearing about it from Peter Martins on the Diamond Project on TV.

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When you say, "If he had a signature, it was to begin his ballets before the music, with the dancers' toe shoe sounds the only accompaniment," do you mean that is how he bagen working on a piece in rehearsal, or that is how his actual pieces began onstage and the music joined after the dancing started?

The latter. When the curtain went up, you saw dancers, usually dimly lit, pattering around like little horses, using as much weight as possible (and still be dellicate) so that you could hear their toe shoes. No more than a minute, probably, but that was the initial impression for most (not all) ballets.

I never saw the Romeo and Juliet, Joseph. It's wonderful that you can remember something you saw as a child!

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I've only heard of one other choreographer doing that, and he was Jerome Robbins, but I don't know what his ballet was called.

The ballet is titled "Moves." The composer, Morton Gould, had not finished the commissioned score on time, so the dancers performed it as they had learned it -- in silence. It would be interesting to experience it with the music that was finished. Must be a totally different experience!
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Yes. "Birds" was done for Washington Ballet. (The difference in the names is the Asian custom of putting what Westerners would call thle surname first. "Choo-San" was hyphenated (I think many peopl.e do this) to clarify which name was which. If he'd called himself Choo San Goh here, many people, trying to be good but not speaking Chinese, would have reversed them again, and called him San Goh Choo!

"Birds," to a Ginastera score, if I remember correctly, was a very nice ballet.

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Ginastera sounds familiar to me for some reason, and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the older ballet, Painted Birds, which was choreographed, I believe, by either Toer Van Shayk (spelling?) or Rudi Van Dantzig, but I'm not sure. Do you know if there's any connection?

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brbropus39, i'm afraid i can't remember the titles, though i could look them up, via a review i did of the performance - in fact i could post the review of the performance, one day when i have a bit more time to put into the board - hopefully some time this week...sorry that i have been away for a while.

heck - i should just look for it NOW, shouldn't i?!?

oh! i looked. and then i realised that THAT was pre-computer age. it's not on disk/on file, so i can't post it. it was one of those old TYPEWRITER pieces! sorry. :)

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Just Googled Choo San Goh -- there's a foundation (Choo San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation) that funds choreographers, but I can't tell if it also administers Goh's artistic estate.  The foundation doesn't seem to have a website, but I didn't look far.

Dance Galaxy did his "Beginnings" a couple years ago, but I don't know if it's in their current rep.

Yep. Gina Patterson from Ballet Austin won a Choo San Goh award in 2004 for her choreography of Free to Fly, inspired by themes in Freida Kahlo's life.

Are any of his works (both performance and choreography) available publicly?

Thanks in advance

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Yes. "Birds" was done for Washington Ballet. (The difference in the names is the Asian custom of putting what Westerners would call thle surname first. "Choo-San" was hyphenated (I think many peopl.e do this) to clarify which name was which. If he'd called himself Choo San Goh here, many people, trying to be good but not speaking Chinese, would have reversed them again, and called him San Goh Choo!

"Birds," to a Ginastera score, if I remember correctly, was a very nice ballet.

When Choo San first arrived at WSB in the late 70s, we called him Choo, not knowing that it was really Choo San. He was so shy that he said nothing for years, then he finally told a couple of the dancers that his name was Choo San, not Choo. We really had to work to change over, it was such a habit.

There is a nice book on his work -- http://selectbooks.com.sg/getTitle.cfm?SBNum=24977 I ordered it from Singapore and it came very quickly.

Janek Schergen stages most of Choo San's work and I think he is ballet master with Norwegian National Ballet. Or he was fairly recently. He is/was artistic director of Choo-San and Robert's foundation as well.

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When Choo San first arrived at WSB in the late 70s, we called him Choo, not knowing that it was really Choo San. He was so shy that he said nothing for years, then he finally told a couple of the dancers that his name was Choo San, not Choo.
Sweet!

I'm glad you've made your way to BalletTalk. I hope you'll take a moment to introduce yourself on our Welcome Page, Robin.

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When Choo San first arrived at WSB in the late 70s, we called him Choo, not knowing that it was really Choo San. He was so shy that he said nothing for years, then he finally told a couple of the dancers that his name was Choo San, not Choo.
Sweet!

I'm glad you've made your way to BalletTalk. I hope you'll take a moment to introduce yourself on our Welcome Page, Robin.

Thanks! I just did!

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Hello,

I have very distinct memories of the R&J Choo-San Goh did for Boston Ballet. Yes, the sets and costumes were gorgeous. And when Rudy Van Dantzig did the next version of it for them, BB kept the sets pretty much intact. Unfortunately, they have since taken those sets (and backdrops) and painted EVERYTHING black! Ugh! They turned what looked like a replica of a piazza in N. Italy (with equestrian statue--though not Leonardo's in Milan) with warm amber lighting into a modern "black-box" production any small (and poorer) company could do.

Choreographically, the biggest difference I remember was the interpolation of a "Fate" character. Danced by a female dancer (en pointe of course), she danced a solo prologue during the overtures for each act, and then interpolated herself into the big actions, or by interweaving between the principals in many of the duets--which I found terribly distracting and totally unnecessary since I always thought the music and principal choreography sh/could explain all even if one did not know the plot!

But the most distinctive and memorable use of the Fate character was at the end of Acts (or some scenes) when she would streak across the stage carrying an absolutely HUGE black banner as a kind of foreshadowing of (or commentary upon?) the tragedy to come. Choo-San Goh did explain his creation and use of a Fate character, probably in "Sightlines" BB's subscriber newsletter. If you are interested, maybe BB has archives of old issues? Or the NYPL Perf.Arts Library archives?

In conclusion, I liked almost everything he did with the ballet except making the pas de deux into pas de trois. That banner, though, still sticks in my mind and was incredibly dramatic.

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