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Last night I watched Heinz Spoerli's La Fille Mal Gardee, filmed in the WDR studios in Cologne in 1986. It was performed by Valentina Kozlova (Lise), Chris Jensen (Colas), Otto Ris (Lise's Mother), Heinz Spoerli (Alain's Father), and Martin Schläpfer (Alain), with the Basler Ballet of Basel. John Lanchberry conducted the Wiener Symphoniker.

I'm of two minds on this ballet: on the one hand, I'm happy that Spoerli created a ballet without gimmick, and one that has some very skilled choreography, including a lovely moment where Lisa tosses a ribbon in the air and Colas catches it mid jete, but on the other hand, I found it alternately dozeworthy and annoying. In this ballet, Lise is a hormone-addled young girl, unwilling to help with the most basic task, and relentlessly pursuing Colas. This gets old after about the fifth time. (I almost felt sorry for the Mother, which I never do in the Ashton.) Despite Kozlova's best efforts, I found nothing at all charming about Lise, not even when she, not having known that Colas was in the room, mimed (briefly) her planned future for them, and realized that he's seen this. Several seconds of embarrassment, and easily forgotten.

By contrast the actual dancing between Lise and Colas was a model of propriety, even when they were alone. I'm not sure if the choreography was too contained, or if it was the size of the studio, and a sense of shallowness of the stage made it appear this way, but Kozlova looked like she was bristling against constraints. I also think it's tricky to stage a lighthearted ballet about airheads with dancers who look like thirty-somethings. (I had the same objection to Michael Coleman in the Royal Ballet video.) I know names are needed to sell DVD's, and it might have worked on stage, but not as much with the studio lighting and the cameras that could be planted up front and center. I would love to have seen a DVD where Kozlova and Jensen dance a grown-up ballet.

Normally I'd just put this in the "miss" category and in the donation box for the semi-yearly library sales, but this DVD has proven to be the most expensive DVD I've purchased for, I clicked on the "Bonus" link, which consisted of advertisement for more DGG DVD's. Again normally I would have skipped this section, but I was desperate for some dancing meat, and thought there might be some Fonteyn and Nureyev on the "DGG on DVD" trailer. Instead, it was a montage of about 15 opera DVD's, and I now have a list of all music purchases for the rest of the year. Sneaky devils.

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