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Don Quixote, Kennedy Center, June 22-26th

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I'm sorry to have missed everyone, but not sorry that I went to various performances of this....I saw and learned a great deal....

A highlight for me was Heather Ogden on Saturday night---her third act variations were thrilling--well done!!!! I don't find the role particularly affecting, although I did her performance.....all heart, emotion, and exciting, expansive dancing in the vision scene....

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Juliet, I'm sorry I missed you, too, but, with a little luck, there'll be other productions, of other ballets. But it was nice to meet carbro, and renew some other acquaintances. I agree about Ogden, her performances were very rich, although I found the dances to be too, after a while; lots of unexpected but flowing sequences make them virtuoso. (I couldn't help trying to imagine Farrell doing them.) I thought she was even better this afternoon.

Alexandra, I think there's a lot more Tarantella than Allegro Brillante in the Courante Sicilienne (among the Act II Divertissements), especially in the ensembles the dance (for six, for those who didn't go) opens and closes with. Some of the duets have material that reminds me of A. B., though. Thanks for posting those ideas; I like anything that gets me to see more deeply into something I'm watching. I think the T. stuff is what makes it Sicilienne.

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I've been rereading "Repertory in Review" on "Don Quixote" and found it interesting that there was exactly the same divide, at least among critics, in 1965 as there was this week. Some people thought it dull, some though it fascinating. Some thought the score sounded like "movie music", some simply ugly and unmelodic, some thought it very fine. Some found the ballet so dark as to be depressing and distasteful, others thought it mystical and life affirming. Everything I read in "Rep in Review" I heard in the Kennedy Center lobby or read on this board -- and that, in itself, is interesting, I think.

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I, too, gave this ballet a second look at the Saturday matinee. It was a thousand-times more enjoyable on Saturday because:

* there was no 25-minute Capezio Award ceremony at the start [boy, did Capezio do a huge disservice to the Farrell Company at the opening, in retrospect!]

* Farrell has tightened the mime portions (e.g., the initial episode of Don Q saving the little girl from the dragon is about half the length as opening night...it no longer resembles the 'Nutcracker' battle scene with the Mouse King & lots of kiddies on horseback)

* the soloists were stronger...esp. Lise-Marie Jourdain in the second, brisk solo of the Dream Scene

I'm still not convinced that this is a great work or a 'major Balanchine' oeuvre but at least it does not resemble the 'bomb' of last Wednesday night.


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But one of the problems with B's Don Q is that neither of these women have Farrell's power to carry it. 

If it's any solace to the ballerinas alternating the role of Dulcinea I would like to tell them that Suzanne Farrell wasn't all that affecting in the role at the first performance---and she had Balanchine. :wacko:

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This is my first chance to be at a computer since I saw the Wednesday night performance, and I am writing without having read the other posts...I wanted to do this before I was influenced by other people's comments. It was an interesting evening...although what stands out in my mind really are the sets, costumes and the music. As much as I have heard about how people did not like the original score, I really enjoyed it. I found the music very descriptive- telling the story better than the choreography did. The sets and lighting effects often made me think of Salvador Dali, and many of the costumes- particularly in the palace scene, were just beautiful- at least from my view in the first tier.

That being said, I also feel that the amount of work Suzanne had put into this was particularly apparent in the ensemble sections and in some of the soloist parts. The opening village scene was lively and well staged, I thought... for the most part everybody seemed to be engaged by the actions centerstage. The dancing in the village scene by the corps was full of spirit- not the most technically adept spirit, but energetic, nonetheless. Later on, in the Palace scene, Bonnie Pickard's intensely detailed parformance in the fourth variation also seemed to display what I thought might be a bit of what Suzanne tries to pull from some of her dancers. Also- the characters in the Palace scene carried themselves in a manner that was completely appropriate- their regal smugness providing more evidence of the attention to detail. The dream scene at the beginning of act 3 seemed to be more typical of Balanchine- with solo couples weaving in and out of the corps. Here, Shannon Parsley's quick, musical and energetic footwork impressed me the most, despite some awkward choreography. Also, the images created by Erin Mahoney's entrance- dressed entirely in black- stick in my mind. She brought something more powerful onstage here than she had in her earlier variation.

It was the performance of the Principals, though, that seemed to be the most lacking, I am afraid. From the very first entrance of Dulcinea, where she bends over to dry the Don's feet with her hair- I wished for something more imaginative- more sensuous. I found myself trying to imagine what Suzanne's own performance might have been like in this role. I can imagine the particular way she may have pricked the floor with her toes in the village scene variation as Marcela, and I can imagine the abandon with which she would have thrown herself into the later variations. The quote in the program talked about how Dulcinea was an off-balance character, and that there was nothing about her that was straight up and down. For me, Sonia Rodriguez's beautifully centered, balanced dancing didn't add anything to the character- perhaps actually subtracting from whatever power might lie in the choreography. As Don Quixote, Momchil Mladenov improved as the evening went by, but there seemed to be very little chemistry between the two of them, and there were too few moments when he seemed to exist right there, in that moment.

I suppose this could have been the effects of opening night- I unfortunately did not have the chance to see another performance or other casts. In terms of the ballet itself.... well, knowing that Suzanne was the only Dulcinea to appear during it's time in the NYCB rep says alot. I am not sure that the ballet can exist on its own merits without a dancer such as Suzanne in the leading role. Maybe her current Dulcinea's will find their own way over time- who knows.

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Mazzo and Leland also took on the part of Dulcinea during the early 70s.

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Yes, Clare Croft's review in the Washington Post mentioned that Farrell was the only one who had danced the role, but "Repertory in Review" lists Mazzo and Leland (presumably after Farrell had left the company). I wondered how off-center they were?

And good to read you, leibling!

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I am wrong about the Dulcinea's- sorry. However- isn't Suzanne quoted somewhere as saying that she "never even had an understudy?"

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I think I've read that, too. Perhaps that was true when the ballet was created, but when Farrell left the company, Balanchine wanted to keep the ballet and so cast Kay Mazzo and Sara Leland in it. (That's merely an educated guess, of course.)

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I think as a general rule Farrell did not have understudies for any of her roles in the Sixties. If she could not dance it, another ballet would be substituted.

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Well, I'm just back from Washington. Yes, BW, I was there and saw five of the seven performances. While there, I stayed away from computers, and a good thing, too, judging from some of what I've been reading here. I generally agreed with what John Rockwell and Alexandra had to say. As for the rest, yes, some of Don Q is boring, particularly in the first act, but audience members who leave at the end of the first act of a three-act ballet are not people you want to cite in a thoughtful review. Some of the music in the first scene of Act III, in the garden of the palace, IS gorgeous, there's no other word for it. The carping comments pointing out flaws in the production and performances fail to take into account the significance of the occasion. To think that the whole thing was pulled together in five weeks is truly amazing.

On the whole, I'd give Heather Ogden the edge over Sonia Rodriguez -- the risk-taking was clearer. And I was delighted to see her in yesterday's matinee after being dropped by the Merlin character toward the end of Saturday night's performance. I think Mladenov's Don grew in grandeur over the course of the week, and I liked Eric Ragan's Sancho Panza, particularly after sitting next to his mother on Saturday night. I can report that Sancho's mom is a nice woman from Texas. Anyhow, I had a great time. In the interests of full disclosure, I will reveal that apart from the ballet, the highlight of my week was at Suzanne's book signing on Saturday afternoon, when she blew me a kiss. :clapping:

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Oh Farrell Fan, thank you sooooooo much for posting here. I've been awaiting your word on the production and the performances! :beg::wub: I'm sorry I wasn't there with you to experience it and see a couple of other dancers whose parents I know thanks to Ballet Talk. :clapping: Your point about it all being put together in 5 weeks is a good one.

I'm touched by the blown kiss and very glad that you enjoyed yourself so much.

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Looking back over the run from Monday's viewpoint with the help of some of the latest posts - leibling's especially, and Farrell Fan's - I'm moved all over again. It was a phenomenal week - the production's strengths were many and powerful.

Someone should mention Zack Brown's name - he's the scenic designer - because, thanks to a discussion with a friend from New York who came down for the weekend and who helped me remember more of the first setting than the few black-and-white pictures do, I think his work in this is really better than Esteban Frances's orginals. For example, there was a staircase at the left before, just hidden by a curtain; Brown's stair is enclosed in a giant book, which Marcela opens very early in the ballet - Sancho Panza makes his entrance down it - and, very late, when Don Quixote is on his deathbed, she slowly closes it: The Don's reading is over. Considering the role the Don's reading plays in the plot, this is wonderful, compared to a mere curtain.

And my friend recalled for us how dead Frances's Act II was, but while Brown and Holly Hynes have retained the dominent color scheme - black trimmed in gold - the scene doesn't look dead to me - the light fixtures overhead, the metal details in the grand staircase (on the right in this scene) down which the guests arrive at the ball, indeed little glints of light play off the gold trim on the costumes of the aristocrats like echoes of the handsome fixtures above. (I could quibble about the tapestry behind the Duchess's throne, which is so "busy" the Don disappers into it when he stands motionless in front of it, but as my friend pointed out, the aristos pay him no attention either, until it suits them to taunt him, so it fits.) Anyway, for me, the ballet takes off when this scene begins - it's very attractive when we first see it, and the dancing is mostly better than in Act I, and there's more of it.

Not that Act I is nothing. It establishes the characters and the situation and it entertains, too, intermittently: I was delighted by the puppet show, richly imagined by someone who knew what children couldn't do, and didn't force that issue, and how much they could do, and exploited that, in the best sense of the word.

But what prodigious dancing there was last week! leibling's examples are really good ones - post more often, leibling! - because they show the individuality Balanchine encouraged and Farrell encourages, not merely among dancers but among each dancer's dances. Mahoney's two dances were so very differently done that when I first saw them I experienced a kind of cognitive disconnect between what I had seen and what the program book told me - that it was the same dancer in both, at the same performance. And so I think you're right, leibling, Pickard's highly detailed dancing is what Farrell tries to draw from her dancers in the sense that, in my experience anyway, this way of detailing what she shows us is uniquely Pickard's way among Farrell's dancers (like the dancing of Deanna Seay among the others in MCB, my other favorite company). Or was this what you meant?

And Ogden's last Dulcinea was the most marvelous - in the Dream Ballet in Act III she seemed to be pressing onward into risky new territory from the strong, clear verticality that has been hers so far in this production. Do you think so also, Farrell Fan? Or did you see this sooner in the run?

If I had to choose between Mauresque women, I would still prefer Magnicaballi by a small margin over Sladkin - Magnicaballi seemed to me more creamy-clear, large and flowing, showing greater mastery, although Sladkin was often sharper, some details slipped away from her. But Magnicaballi is an established principal, and Sladkin, as Mike points out, is listed in the corps! Both showed us what a great little gem this is, and it's one of those times I'm lucky I didn't have to choose - thanks to the three women - the two dancers and Ms. Farrell - I got both.

Sladkin's third performance in Mauresque Sunday afternoon was even better than her eye-popping one on Saturday's matinee, and was preceeded by a few minutes by another corps girl, Lisa Reneau, in her one performance of Rigaudon Flamenco, with Runqiao Du. If it was a debut, it didn't look like one; it was clear and assured.

But to return to leibling's post, I also wanted a little more drama here and there. For example, when I wash my feet, I lift each one and put it down. And at the end, Marcela is rather dutiful about closing the book and crouching to pick up the sticks to make the cross she lays on Don Quixote. Does she realize what finality closing the book signifies? Maybe she could caress wistfully the edge of the book as she slowly crouches, with her head at a bit of an angle against it too? Or is this sentimental? Just an idea. So much of this production is at such a high level - mainly the ensembles, variations, divertissements and the designs, but not entirely - that when a lapse or blank spot appears, it shows, by contrast.

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Juliet and dirac, the folks who expected Petipa’s Don Q. have my most ironic sympathy, as the one time I tried watching that ballet I quickly lost interest. Some day in a good faith attempt to renounce heresy I’ll try again. Anyhow, Balanchine’s version of the story fascinated me even when it didn’t fully engage me.

Farrell Fan, I'm really glad you could see the ballet this time!

The rapid shifts between the tragic (which I felt in whenever Dulcinea was onstage or she and/or Marcela and the Don were onstage together) and the farcial (recurring in the Don's battles with Disneyesque phanthoms) still jarred yesterday afternoon, but I was thrilled by Ogden's abandon, and, as I believe someone else commented, each solo and pas and ensemble set piece had fleeting delicious moments that cried out to be seen again.

I too experienced Ogden and Rodriguez and dancers merely portraying rather than fully inhabiting the character of Dulcinea, but for me this was as much a result of their relatively pinched acting as their relatively upright dancing. As leibling said, they lacked sensuality. Give them time. I have a framed photo in my study that I bought in a Russian restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. years ago (they were going out of business): a grainy black and white closeup of of Balanchine in a suitcoat (?) clasping Farrell's arm and leading her on. Or so I read it. It must be from a Don Quixote rehearsal. Both partners have a depth of feeling and understanding on their faces that make last week's couples look shallow by comparison. That said, I'm filled with gratitude to and admiration for Farrell and the whole company for their efforts and the beauty of their accomplishments, and for letting latecomers like me see this historical and remarkable ballet.

Jack, it's been great to read your thoughts night after night.

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I saw both Sunday performances. Count me among the ambivalent. I have less problems with the choreography (the ballet gets better as it goes on) than I do with its viewpoint and atmosphere. I didn't expect to find it so masochistic and self-pitying, and there are hints of this in other ballets by Balanchine (Davidsbundlertanze, for instance) but I've never gotten three acts of it before.

I had little problem with the music other than finding it not top-drawer. The level of Farrell's company is also still very inconsistent. She's going to have to come to terms with the fact that some of her dancers are not at the level she needs.

I've seen most of the Canadian dancers a few times in Toronto, so a few comments. Ogden danced well, but can't fill the role. Rodriguez danced even better (I really liked her Sunday night Act III, and she tries to give a build to the Act I Marcela variation), but she's at this point too mature for the role. It isn't as if Rodriguez is old, but that role needs to read innocent and naive.

In subsidiary roles, Lise Marie Jourdain looked very good in the corps as well as in an Act III variation, but that was also a problem - that's what the level of the corps ought to be, and it isn't. Kevin Bowles was distinguished in character parts - I saw him as Beaujoulais in Toronto, is that his specialty?

Lastly a big compliment to Zack Brown and Holly Hynes - Farrell's productions have always looked impoverished. This one finally didn't, so also a compliment to whomever got her the budget she needed.

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From the very first entrance of Dulcinea, where she bends over to dry the Don's feet with her hair- I wished for something more imaginative- more sensuous. I found myself trying to imagine what Suzanne's own performance might have been like in this role.
I recall Farrell's performing this with solemnity, certainly not sensuality, at least not for me. Some may have found it sensuous, I suppose.

I remember it quite clearly: her long hair swung over her head and down, held in her hand, one hand lifting each of Balanchine's feet in turn -- it was more a nurturing motion, as a gentle nurse would do it, or even reverential, as Mary Magdalene to Jesus! Slow and deliberate, intently focused on the task -- one of the most memorable parts of the ballet!

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Marga's recollection of the hair wash-and-dry scene is the way I remember it as well -- reverential, not sensual, and one of the most memorable parts of the ballet. In contrast, the scene in this production faded into the background, perhaps because neither Rodriquez nor Ogden has long-enough hair.

Jack, I saw all three of Heather Ogden's performances and agree that the last one on Sunday afternoon was by far the best. It was also the best I saw all week, but I only saw two of Rodriguez's four performances -- opening night and Friday. I think the ballet came together as a whole very well at the Friday night performance. I saw Robert Gottlieb in the audience for Ogden's first performance on Thursday night and can't wait to find out what he thought of it and the ballet as a whole. My reaction at the end of the week is much like yours -- it was a great achievement -- not quite an unqualified success, but a brilliant restoration of an essential part of the Balanchine legacy. And the score has been going through my head for a couple of days now -- no kidding.

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Is there anywhere online that lists the dancers in SF's company? I am interested in corps, soloists and principles. It's interesting to see who dances for her!

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Unfortunately, Suzanne Farrell Ballet doesn't have a dedicated official website, but a few pages for the Company, Farrell, and several performers are hosted on the Kennedy Center site.


There are miminal listings of company members in the upper right corner (currently only Farrell herself, Principals Chan Hon Goh, Natalia Magnicaballi, and Runquio Du, and Soloist Sonia Rodriguez, with links to bios.)

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Farrell Fan, I also find bits of the music running through my head. Now, ordinarily, when a tune gets stuck in my head, I can listen to other music for relief from it, but when I let this music play, I can see the dancing! So, my dilemma is, will I ever be able to listen to other music again?

kiki, the soloists listed on the front page of the program number 12 and corps 29 but I think many members of the NBoC are included. The answer to this question might be more complicated than it appears at first. But check back in a day or two; after all, this is Ballet Talk!

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kiki, after I slept on your question, I realized you didn't ask who's in NBoC and who's in Farrell's usual troupe. You just want to know who's dancing for her this time, right? That's not so hard to answer. Here's the list from my program, including the principals again for completeness:


Chan Han Goh (On leave of absence)

Natalia Magnacaballi

Sonia Rodriguez

Runqiao Du


Erin Mahoney

Heather Ogden

Shannon Parsley

Bonnie Pickard

Jean-Sebastien Colau

Keiichi Hirano

Nehemiah Kish

Momchil Mladenov

Jared Redick

Eric Ragan

Alexander Ritter

Avinoam Silverman


Erin Ackert

Gina Artese

Amy Brandt

Kristen Gallagher

Celeste Gucanac

Elizabeth Holowchuk

Sara Ivan

Lise-Marie Jourdain

Alejandra Perez-Gomez

Katelyn Prominski

Lisa Reneau

Erin Richardson

Mariaelena Ruiz

Parise Sellitti

Cheryl Sladkin

Lydia Walker

Ilona Wall

Amanda Weingarten

Bill Biondolino

Kevin Bowles

James Leja

Benjamin Lester

Daisuke Ohno

Stephen Straub

Alfiero Supan

Adam Toth

Edward Tracz

Joseph Welbes

Aarik Welles


Megan-Marie Carlo

Gwendolyn Duffy

Lauren Fitzpatrick

Oriana Kacicek

Claire Roseland

Dallas Blagg

Joseph Bunn

Ken Guan

James Reed Hague

Andrew Kaminski


Katie Gilmartin

Gabriel Hearn-Desautels

Kiva McGhee

Courtney Milton

Marissa Ann Rocco

Tiffany Terlizzi

Timothee Courlouble

Aaron Hilton

Robert Stanley

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Thanks for posting that list, Jack, thereby keeping this thread alive. Not that I'm in danger of forgetting that glorious week anytime soon. What I have forgotten are the particulars of the class Suzanne was to teach for "adult non-dancers." I remember a couple of people posting in anticipation of the event and I'd like to know if it lived up to expectations. (In other words, just how wonderful was it?)

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