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Nutcracker Reviews, 2006


sz

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Papeetepatrick,

I'm so glad you saw that cast for Nuts yesterday. Overall a very fresh, very ready to grow in their careers group... especially Scheller and T. Angle.

>Act II--a whiff of automaton about it....

Yes, that's exactly what the dancing looks like when the tempi is too fast. You described it perfectly.

I can't even imagine how Mearns could manage Dewdrop at a speedy tempi. She's a big girl and likes to move big.... She's also not very fast in her movements as Reichlen is or, of course, the shorter soloist/principals in the company who excel at speediness.

You're right, the Waltz of Flowers should always be a *real* waltz..... and it suffers the most from a silly tempi.

Btw, tempi-wise, Maripan, Dewdrop and the Grand Pas are the most difficult to pull off (for the dancers) when the tempi is too fast (or too slow....). Those speedy performances seem to be the norm lately at NYCB and esp this Nutcracker season. It's been horribly shocking actually and inexcusable.

Only that one matinee, I saw with Scheller and the numerous debuts, was noticably slower overall.... That I think sort of caught some of the dancers off guard having rehearsed and gotten accustomed to hearing the super-fast version.

I think that's what happened with T. Angle in the Grand Pas the other day. Because the Grand Pas was much slower than usual, Tyler had to work harder than he had probably rehearsed to sustain the lifts and other partnerings... so by the time it was his turn to dance (immediately after the Pas) he was more tired than he had probably expected to be. He did a fine job that day, but he probably was even better at the performance you saw.

How was Tyler's solo at the coda of the Grand Pas? He has beautiful jumps, but did his turns go well this time?

>It's beautiful and enchanting in the NYCB production when it opens

>up into the Snowflakes.

The bed flowing into the Snowflake scene is truly one of the most beautiful ballet/Nuts scenes ever with its full heart, the gentle white flakes, and that gorgeously, lovingly rich music!!!

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Thank you so much, sz, I really appreciate such a thoughtful response. I've thought a good bit more about it since writing up while it was fresh. But it does seem that everybody is noticing this cranked-up tempi and people like you who see many performances would know for sure that it is happening regularly. It occurred to me that 'Waltz of the Flowers' can still be a real waltz at a somewhat more relaxed tempo than what Karoui was forcing yesterday, even though it's obviously not the kind of waltz like a Strauss Waltz with Viennese lilt to it and would never be supposed to contain that going from the 2nd and 3rd beat bending that conductors will work a lifetime to make natural. In other words, 'Waltz of the Flowers' has to have a lot of smooth flow to it, but there's no reason it can't be an easy flow. What I heard was just like beating time for each 4 bars--the lightness of the 3 in each bar was just rushed through from start to finish! I just don't get it at all. It was as though he could not slow down. And Mearns and the Flowers were so lovely and you were just so annoyed that you had this feeling that the piece was over almost after it had just started, it was that mechanical. None of them seemed out of breath and they even managed to conceal that they literally had little choice in the matter--which meant, that they all knew that they had so much more that would have been so naturally expressed had they been allowed some time.

I thought Tyler was very commanding and strong (jumps were indeed beautiful) and that his turns were good, but that they started a little more energetically than they finished (but then I think the Grand Pas was too fast too, which I suppose could affect energy level too, but I'm not sure, this sounds like it should be the opposite of what you saw in the slower performance, but maybe the same thing can sometimes result, I don't know). But I am glad to have read a lot about him as he's been making his way into real visilibility in the company in the last season and now into this one. I saw him in 'Liebeslieder Walzer' in May, but thought he had far more presence here. But again--Karoui had got going with the Waltz so that my impression (I wish there was somebody who saw yesterday's performance because I'm just getting familiar with all of the work) was that he still couldn't slow down, including with the Grand Pas and finale.

I still think I saw a beautiful 'Nutcracker' because I couldn't believe how Mearns and her Flowers were such good sports about having to do their jobs no matter what--they refused not to be radiant despite this grinding-out of their music.

The bed flowing into the Snowflake scene is truly one of the most beautiful ballet/Nuts scenes ever with its full heart, the gentle white flakes, and that gorgeously, lovingly rich music!!!

And you describe that so perfectly. I think that not using the teenage dancers as in Royal Ballet makes the 'advent' of the Snowflakes all that much more effective and deeply affecting in the gentleness of it. The perfect little Marie ('Clara' is her real name as Carbro told me) and the little boy (whose name I missed) were also delightful throughout. What a wonderful thing to get to do as a child, to be in the Nutcracker like that, and as you begin to enter into the spell, Act I does begin to mean just as much to you as does the much more showy Act II. I look forward to seeing it many more times, now that I have finally gotten started. But I really do hope that enough people are hearing these tempi, which sometimes could even be described as 'anxious', that something can be done about it.

EDITED TO ADD: One other thing bothered me. The theater was nowhere near full! I have always been during the regular winter and spring seasons, but I had thought Nutcracker always packed the houses. I talked to an usher who had been there since 1994, and she said that attendance had not been good this season, or at least at not at all like it had been when she started working there

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Somebody mentioned the “hard-sell” in a recent Nutcracker review, and I thought of that phrase several times at tonight’s (12/21/06) performance. It seems to me that Balanchine’s choreography is rewarding and demanding enough without anyone trying to add anything to it. Just mind the music and do the steps, full out – it’s all there. But a few of the featured dancers seemed to think that their job was to “push the envelope,” alternately speeding up and stretching out the choreography so that it bent the musical phrasing nearly to the breaking point. This used to be the property of second-rate club singers trying to put their personal stamp on standards. Ashley Bouder has impressed lots of people with such tricks – and alarmingly, one of them may have been the teenage Tiler Peck, who marred an otherwise brilliant performance as Dew Drop by being too self-consciously lightning-quick with those straight-leg crossover steps, and later too lengthy with the preparation for her tour jetes. Peck is too good a dancer for this, she doesn’t need it. I must add that her arabesque exits were luxurious, her fouettes were relaxed and full, and her slow turns in the finale were absolutely carved in the air.

Likewise, Candy Cane Daniel Ulbricht didn’t need to jerk himself around so fast in those twisting turns inside the hoop. Tchaikovsky had the rhythm right. Teresa Reichlen as Coffee also looked like she was overdoing it. This is the most feline piece of choreography Balanchine ever did, and cats don’t strain themselves.

That’s the downside, and I led with it because I’m afraid that hot-dog aesthetics are gaining strength by default in the present-day cultural vacuum of NYCB. Having said it, let me now praise those who just gave us the steps, and made the sublime world of Balanchine’s Nutcracker come to life again.

Ana Sophia Scheller can do anything, but doesn’t seem to feel the need to overdo it. She looked as if she was actually having fun with the fussy choreography of Marzipan, frisky as a lamb in her gargouillades.

Giovanni Villalobos did all the jumps as Tea, but the best part of his performance was the funny little mincing steps and finger-gestures of his Chinaman.

Glen Keenan and Ashley Laracey were in full bloom, leading a corps of luxuriant flowers.

But setting the tone for all of act two was a regal Sugar Plum Fairy. Maria Kowroski’s arabesques are so expansive that a magic wand seems to fit naturally at the top. Everything she did in this performance seemed extra-large and sure, e.g. the flying leaps onto Charles Askegard’s shoulder, rarely done with such abandon.

The kids were also classy, in the best tradition of this show. Harrison Coll danced like a perfect little prince, but with the aggression of a fighter when he needed it. And little Fritz was the first to show me exactly what’s wrong with this kid: In Jonathan Alexander’s interpretation, it’s a clear case of ADHD. When he runs across the set to yank his sister’s hair, we see that he just can’t help it.

Maurice Kaplow conducted. The horns were unpredictable, as always, but the tempi were unassailable.

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One other thing bothered me. The theater was nowhere near full! I have always been during the regular winter and spring seasons, but I had thought Nutcracker always packed the houses. I talked to an usher who had been there since 1994, and she said that attendance had not been good this season, or at least at not at all like it had been when she started working there

It could be the ticket prices--the highest ever this season. $75 for third ring seats at a kiddie matinee is really pushing it.

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NYCB is certainly not the same company it was in its hey days. Without Balanchine around.... how could it be as great and as exciting as it once was?.... Mr. B directed so masterfully every aspect of his company. Not just creating amazing choreography and creating great dancers... but also directing the musicians, controlling the conductors, and still finding time to teach classes, work in rehearsals, assist the costume makers, set designers, lighting people. Mr. B was the genius master of it all - and NYCB was his life....

I don't think we'll see that kind of genius and commitment at NYCB for a very long time again, if ever....

Also, you know, the dancers of yester-years, the hey days of NYCB, were attractions of their own. Huge stars... Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell, Allegra Kent, Verdy, Velella, Tomasson.... to name only a few.... I could name dozens in the soloist and corps as well that were stars you wanted to watch again and again... Balanchine's garden of flowers were definitely in full bloom during the 60's and through the 70's. Today's world is not filled with such ballet "stars" who attract full houses every night... and that includes NYCB. It's a different place, the ballet world today... very different.

There are many places on this Board that discuss NYCB now and then.... I'm not going to go on and on about my opinions re that....There are many here at BT that have a longer and more thorough history with ballet than do I...

But without Balanchine's genius and the people the company attracted in its hey day.... tickets are not going to sell out as they once did on a regular basis.... NYCB is not as satisfying an experience as it once was....

That's not to say there isn't wonderful choreography and wonderfully talented dancers to be enjoyed. I can't imagine this City without, this world(!), without NYCB in some form.... It may not be the diamond it once was but it's still a fine jewel, a one of a kind...

Now if only the critics would hammer away on a constant basis about the terribly too-fast tempi -- It could help.... A season of all Martins ballets would be a disaster at the box office... and that's partly thanks to the critics.

And speaking of zippy dancing to zippy music....

It is strenuous to dance ballet well, period. Tempi too fast presents its problems. Too slow creates another set of problems. Depends what ballet, what choreography of course... Think of Tyler in the Nuts Grand Pas (with a too fast tempi) having to lift Scheller above his head as quickly as all hell.... That's a killer on his body. Just as it would be unnecessarily strenuous on Tyler's body to keep Scheller up there above his head for too long if the tempi was (ever) too slow....

Same with unpartnered dancing... Sort of like running a race with those hurdles to jump (but now do it with music!!!). Too fast and you may break something if your aim isn't perfect because you rushed into it. Too slow and you may get injured trying to force the jump to stay in the air too long.... Good tempi is critical for a dancer's best performance, oh most definitely!!! I won't even get started with pirouettes!!!

Yes, those City Ballet dancers are very, very good sports! The hunger to dance all those most heavenly Balanchine ballets is so strong --

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Flipsy,

Thank you so much for such a fine review. You have an excellent eye for so many details of the performance.

I had forgotten, that Kaplow conducted opening night of Nuts and also a couple of other nights early in the Nuts season. You're right, he is reliably sane!! And Sofiane Sylve greatly benefitted in her Dewdrop and Sugarplum because of his understanding and experience with the ballet, the music, and dare I say dancers(??!!) (Ringer and Whelan benefitted as well...).

Interesting... reading your thoughts about the effects of that over-selling stuff. I agree 200%... It might be eye catching at first, but then it gets ugly in its distortions. Each dancer already has their own style, call it soul, that ought to be plenty enough to light up, individualize, any role....

Remember Ansanelli?.... She was so alive, a real risk taker, a firecracker, so passionate about whatever role she was dancing. But she never had to butcher the music or steps to make an audience love her.

Let's see what happens in the Winter season ahead. Maybe this punchy approach will be a brief phase that gets tired out.... It definitely needs editing....

Oh, and also Kowroski's long, long lines. Definitely some of the most strikingly beautiful arabesques ever on the planet. Thanks for mentioning her. I haven't seen Kowroski's Sugarplum in awhile, but have heard that she is dancing with much confidence in the Grand pas.

>>Maurice Kaplow conducted. The horns were unpredictable, as

>> always, but the tempi were unassailable.

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Flipsy and sz--Thanks so much for the tip on Kaplow. There's no way I'll forget that, and it will determine my next sojourn into 'the Nutcracker'--whether next week or next year. I'd usually want to choose by the cast, but at least the very next time, I want to see and hear what you've both described as what Kaplow helps bring about.

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Flipsy and sz--Thanks so much for the tip on Kaplow. There's no way I'll forget that, and it will determine my next sojourn into 'the Nutcracker'--whether next week or next year. I'd usually want to choose by the cast, but at least the very next time, I want to see and hear what you've both described as what Kaplow helps bring about.

In reading this discussion as well as some others concerning the present state of NYCB, I can't help thinking that to some here:

1) The conductors are unmusical speed freaks. "However, the newest guest conductor, Arturo Delmoni, at last night's perf..... should be spanked!!! Talk about hyper speed, hyper insanity! The entire ballet was conducted as if there was a fire quickly approaching... Much, much too fast, the entire night. Peter Martins, that's just cruel to your dancers and a painful strain on the musicians and audience. " "Karoui...ugh. Too fast, too fast, too punchy. " "And what a difference a day made.... partly because the conductor, Fletcher, who was an out of control speed freak the night before, was obviously told by somebody to tone it down so the dancers this afternoon could actually dance their parts instead of chasing after some run away train." (But why should a conductor of a major ballet company need to be told this at all?)

2) Some of the dancers aren't all that hot either: "But a few of the featured dancers seemed to think that their job was to “push the envelope,” alternately speeding up and stretching out the choreography so that it bent the musical phrasing nearly to the breaking point. This used to be the property of second-rate club singers trying to put their personal stamp on standards." "The level of a Student Performance is what I'd compare it to. I thought I was suddenly back at the Youth America Grand Prix and not watching the winning couple either."

3) Balanchine is no longer alive, which leads directly to 2) and probably to 1) as well. "NYCB is certainly not the same company it was in its hey days. Without Balanchine around.... how could it be as great and as exciting as it once was?.... "

Of course, this could just be the reactions of a few posters and not all. But before you all gang up on me for exaggerating, is the present state of the company that bad? Or is some of this in the eye of the beholder? Compare:

"Candy Cane Daniel Ulbricht didn’t need to jerk himself around so fast in those twisting turns inside the hoop. Tchaikovsky had the rhythm right" [implying a hard-sell approach without musicality, as I read the comment]

"Daniel Ulbricht was also extremely impressive in Hoops on 11/29/06. He's toned down his hard-sell style, and what remains is the incredible talent, joy, musicality and charming youthful style with which he handles any challenging choreography."

Well, it's one or the other, unless the dancer's behavior was radically different on two nights.

As for the conductor issue, on which there seems even greater agreement than the state of the dancing, why are problems like this even tolerated in a company of this reputation? Are the dancers totally at the mercy of the speed demon du jour in the pit? Is there no overall control? I raised this issue on the Valery Gergiev thread, but received no direct answer to any of these questions:

But I'm sure there have been discussions of conductors and tempos in the past on the forum, and I have to keep wondering why NYCB conductors keep taking tempos that are considered absurdly fast. Don't the dancers have any say as to what tempo they can keep up with, don't the artistic directors - former dancers themselves - take steps to ensure the dancers are not being overtaxed, and shouldn't a conductor for ballet have a sixth sense as to what speeds are going to keep the dancers moving comfortably along without busting their guts?

Comments, anyone? (as if there won't be :angel_not: )

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The idea occurred to me after reading this well informed thread that wouldn't the conductors and so be "checking in" on a site like BT? I am not suggesting that the NYCB movers and shakers respond directly to the critiques so well articulated on the site, or even register and participate, but one would think with the reputation of BT that they might see what the buzz is out there on the other side of the proscenium.

Do you feel that these discussions have any impact at all on a company such as NYCB? Do you feel they should? Aren't they seeing the same things as some BT brilliant posters see? (hat tip to sz, Michael, Patrick , Klavier and others)

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Klavier,

>But why should a conductor of a major ballet company need to be told this at all?

Orchestras and NYCB's management of them isn't something I can or want to write much about here...Peter Martins directs his company and its orchestra's director(s).... write him a letter and ask him what's going on there. But when a ballet's tempi changes dramatically overnight from evening to the matinee, I'm assuming Peter or another directing person said something to the conductor (as it happened last weekend).

I'm speculating only, that during Nuts, with all the many debuts (dancers and guest conductors) there isn't a lot of time for full orchestra rehearsals. Guest conductors may see a performance or two, and mentally think they know what the performance requires... Fletcher perhaps watched a performance conducted by (zippy) Karoui before his (Fletcher's) debut. Fletcher got that (zippy) tempi in his head, and with the excitment of his debut, Fletcher added a bit more zip (intentionally or not). No, I don't think most of the guest conductors have much dancer experience..... It might be nice to read about a guest conductor of the performance in the program.... I'd be very curious to read about their backgrounds...

As for style, musicality of the dancers:

>"Candy Cane Daniel Ulbricht didn’t need to jerk himself around so fast

>in those twisting turns inside the hoop. Tchaikovsky had the rhythm

>right" [implying a hard-sell approach without musicality, as I read the

>comment]

>"Daniel Ulbricht was also extremely impressive in Hoops on 11/29/06.

>He's toned down his hard-sell style, and what remains is the incredible

> talent, joy, musicality and charming youthful style with which he

>handles any challenging choreography."

Dancers do behave differently, but not radically different, from performance to performance, you are correct. And it is of course a case of beauty in the eye of the beholder always.

I like some punch and big smiles in the very bright, allegro role of Hoops/Candy Canes. Too much is awful, but Danny was not as extreme this year as he had been in seasons past. So I liked him in Hoops this year. Whereas Flipsy thought Danny was still too exaggerated for one section of Hoops. It wasn't a role killer, but... perhaps Flipsy would have preferred that section with even less distortion of the music. It's a personal preference. Some people like short dancers, I don't. I like long lines, big luxurious movements, but I can still always appreciate a short dancer who dances with great style and technique.

>But I'm sure there have been discussions of conductors and tempos in

>the past on the forum, and I have to keep wondering why NYCB

>conductors keep taking tempos that are considered absurdly fast.

>Don't the dancers have any say.....

I've only seen one dancer (I'll not name), a principal of course, during an orchestra rehearsal, have the nerve to say a tempo was not working, it was not going to work for a performance. No, the other dancers do not say anything.... When Balanchine was around, he choose well, and it was unnecessary to say anything. Now is a different story, but dancers still do not tell directors how to direct.... It seems to be Peter Martins who likes the faster tempi... He didn't dance that way when he was performing at NYCB, but he seems to prefer the short, very fast dancers now too. He hires lots of them, and conductor Quinn who was the beginning of the fast, too fast, tempi craze.... I wish I could put the taller Peter Martins out there and make him dance a Nuts role to the insanely fast tempi, that would be fun...

As for BT having any effect on NYCB..... As Leigh said, no way..... It's all for fun!! Fans want more than just the tiny bits that are said/written in the newspapers, and that's how BT attracted many. Some of the dancers read and post on BT too, I'm sure, but I doubt any of the directors at NYCB or ABT care one bit what any of us have to say via BT. We don't affect ticket sales the way the major newpapers and magazines can...

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Leigh,

If it IS true that NYCB people are monitoring a site like BT, if there is a consensus about some "defect" such as tempi being too fast for a certain dance, I would think that it might find it's way to the conductor.

Whomever is making artistic decisions is not doing it in a vacuum. While I don't expect them to poll anyone for their decisions, reviews and critiques do surface up in future productions, not always, but they do.

I would like to think that some of the brilliant posters here, such as yourself, DO have an impact on the "industry" as you put it. The comments certainly inform the way we see the performances, which is why this is such a valuable resource. I don't expect any artist to admit it if and when they do change something as a result of a review. But to think that they ignore "us" seems contrary to why they perform on stage.

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Sander - seriously, they just don't.

Maybe it's possible that some aggregate information makes it to someone who makes decisions, but really, this site is meant for audience discussion. We're not on artistic staff, and those who are tend to be zealous about their autonomy. It's the same as published reviews. They're usually read, but also usually disagreed with.

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Returning, if only briefly, to a less vexing subject:

Thanks to Paul Parish for his comparison of Act One to Joyce’s story “The Dead.”(12/3.) It made me take a new look at the party scene. After many viewings, I think I am finally starting to see the threads that connect it all. As Paul noted, Dr. Stahlbaum is a crucial character: the host, the master of ceremonies, the dance leader, the disciplinarian, even the good son – e.g. when he takes grandma’s hand for one figure in the grandfather dance, so she won’t be left without a partner. The party is the kind of multi-generational event that occurs only around Christmas and such festivals, and it serves as a kind of wide-shot of civilization, a metaphor for continuity.

What makes Balanchine’s and Joyce’s party scenes so extraordinary is that they don’t just show the wide-shot but the close-up details, illuminating not just the well-known story of civilization but all the conflicts within it. Everybody may be at the same party, but they all have their own agendas, from Drosselmeier’s peculiar mission to Fritz’s need to make chaos out of order. Even the maids can be fascinating. What are they thinking as they come and go?

I’ve seen other companies do the party scene, but none like NYCB. These parts were created here, and are part of the culture. It’s funny that grandma is often played by a teenage apprentice – such as Kathryn Morgan today (12/23/06) – but it might also be an important rite of initiation.

At both performances I saw this week, the grandpas were played by young men better known for their leaping -- Troy Schumacher and Giovanni Villalobos. Both of them were just right: creaking but not doddering, ancient but still able to dance.

On the other hand, Adam Hendrickson as Drosselmeier showed way too much youthful athleticism. Young Drosselmeiers need to watch the old masters, Andrei Kramarevsky and Robert La Fosse. Krammy has always been my favorite; his cape swirls are very Bolshoi. But I am coming to like the way La Fosse plays Drosselmeier as a roué. It’s as though you can smell the gin on his breath.

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I saw the 12/22 pm performance. As this was my very first NYCB performance, I have very little to add to the discussion, however:

1. Ashley Bouder's Dewdrop. What a superheroine of dance - I had tears in my eyes by the end of the Waltz. I have never seen technique or charisma in any way comparable to hers. I feel so privileged to have seen this performance.

2. Karoui's conducting is outrageous. I was the one who booed him. Not everyone is Bouder who can control time and slow down the music :angel_not: the dancers (and especially the children) deserve better - there is no reason they can't be given enough time to articulate their feet properly.

3. Coffee, the 'slow' divertissement, wasn't great - The costume is very bizarre and the dancing wasn't slinky or langorous enough. (I'm not sure who the dancer was).

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I saw two Nuts this season, and in both, the Drosslemeyers (first LaFosse, second Froman in a debut). Somewhere someone mentioned that the creepiness that had crept into the characterization in recent years seemed to be gone. I hope so. After all, Marie clearly loves Dross. But he needs an element of mystery, which in my '06 Nuts has been sorely missing. Froman can be forgiven for his lack of experience in character roles in general. LaFosse, on the other hand, was more of a jolly old St. Nick. He might as well have been dressed in red and white, instead of black.

So belatedly, here is my post on the multi-debut Dec. 17 matinee, with thanks to bobbi and sz for their reports, with which I largely agree.

Many of the dancers had to contend with conducting that was -- perhaps for the only time in the run -- not only sluggish in parts, but erratic. Mearns, however, bringing unusual regal bearing to Dewdrop, managed to draw out some exquisite phrasing. I had not been won over by her dancing until now, but I may well have been converted.

Georgina Pazcoguin must be one of the most stylish dancers on the scene today. Her Coffee was playful, sexy and utterly delightful.

Young Mr. Suehara's Candy Cane -- well, John Martin's 1934 review of Vecheslova and Chabukiani pretty well covered this one, too. However, just as Daniel Ulbricht is on his way to understanding that technique is there to serve art, I have hope that maturity will bring the same realization to him. What do we know about this young man? He is listed as a guest, but no company is given credit for his appearances, as is usually the case.

Tyler Angle's problems in the coda have been noted, perhaps out of proportion. However, I've been wrestling with his partnering of Scheller. His romantic ardor was completely irresistible. However, isn't this a courtly pas? He's not supposed to be falling in love with her. Still, I could not help falling a bit in love with him. I feel terrible criticizing him, because this is a quality we rarely see at NYCB. I am so ambivalent about it. :mellow:

Hi, GWTW. Unless there was a change, your Coffee was Gwyneth Muller. A wholesome personality, don't you think? And miscast for this role -- or maybe needing more time to feel her way into it. She's still pretty new at the role.

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Could you imagine if they ran focus groups on ballets the way they do on movies? :angel_not:

The new system of having the "pre-packaged" programs WAS indeed developed though focus groups. NYCB did surveys and focus groups last year. They wanted to see what would appeal to a younger audience. One of the conclusions was that younger audiences wanted more full length story ballets. Hence the upcoming "Romeo and Juliet."

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Young Mr. Suehara's Candy Cane -- well, John Martin's 1934 review of Vecheslova and Chabukiani pretty well covered this one, too. However, just as Daniel Ulbricht is on his way to understanding that technique is there to serve art, I have hope that maturity will bring the same realization to him. What do we know about this young man? He is listed as a guest, but no company is given credit for his appearances, as is usually the case.

Mr. Suehara is an SAB student.

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Could you imagine if they ran focus groups on ballets the way they do on movies? :angel_not:

The new system of having the "pre-packaged" programs WAS indeed developed though focus groups. NYCB did surveys and focus groups last year. They wanted to see what would appeal to a younger audience. One of the conclusions was that younger audiences wanted more full length story ballets. Hence the upcoming "Romeo and Juliet."

Jesus Murphy. If they found out that younger audiences wanted to see more stuff with Barney the Purple Dinosaur, would they have done that as well? I'm more and more disturbed about the R&J because to me it screams "Billboards" - a company abandoning its core audience and worse, its own identity, to chase tickets sales from a fickle and possibly mythical new audience. I just hope it isn't as bad as I am worried it may be.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The children in the cast were great.

The tempi certainly did seem too fast. In fact, I thought that some of the ballerinas almost couldn't keep up. I wanted the slower dances slowed down too... Whomever made the decision to "beat the clock" made a poor one... it made the dancing more athletic and less balletic. Too bad because, the dancers were lovely. At times it really seemed like you were seeing the ballet run on fast forward. That was unfortunate. The whole thing slowed down would have been so much better.

The only thing that bothered me about Reichlin was her expression. Her perpetual smile seemed forced... her skin was a perfect pink but her ears were like red lights on the side of her pretty face. She's a joy to watch move.

Saskia Beskow in the first act as Frau Stalhbaum has a lovely presence on stage. I'd like to see her dance some more challenging parts.

I have no frame of reference, but having seen it this one time I would love to see it again. It's a real fun ballet to watch. Mr. B... you did good, very good.

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>But I'm sure there have been discussions of conductors and tempos in

>the past on the forum, and I have to keep wondering why NYCB

>conductors keep taking tempos that are considered absurdly fast.

>Don't the dancers have any say.....

I've only seen one dancer (I'll not name), a principal of course, during an orchestra rehearsal, have the nerve to say a tempo was not working, it was not going to work for a performance. No, the other dancers do not say anything.... When Balanchine was around, he choose well, and it was unnecessary to say anything. Now is a different story, but dancers still do not tell directors how to direct.... It seems to be Peter Martins who likes the faster tempi... He didn't dance that way when he was performing at NYCB, but he seems to prefer the short, very fast dancers now too. He hires lots of them, and conductor Quinn who was the beginning of the fast, too fast, tempi craze.... I wish I could put the taller Peter Martins out there and make him dance a Nuts role to the insanely fast tempi, that would be fun...

SZ,

Thanks for your detailed and interesting reply. If indeed Martins favors conductors who move things along like a high-speed train and has hired MDs like Quinn and Karoui on such a basis, and if the rank-and-file dancers feel (understandably) unwilling to challenge the speeds set by these directors, this goes a long way towards explaining the current situation. I don't know enough about the internal politics at NYCB to know whether the dancers as a group have much say in artistic matters such as tempo; perhaps they do not. But some organizations are ruled more autocratically than others, and some organizations function more by consensus. From everything I've heard Balanchine was a benevolent dictator who generally made good artistic choices, and perhaps the company even today adheres more to the former of these two models whether or not good artistic choices are still being made.

Is there, however, a correlation between a dancer's height and the speed at which he or she moves? I gather you prefer the taller dancer of the David Hallberg or Damian Woetzel type, but I take it from your post that you would not dismiss an artist of the caliber of Herman Cornejo. And yet not every dancer at NYCB is short; to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "some dancers are tall, some dancers are not tall. That is a matter that surely a dancer may be allowed to decide for him or herself." In fact I remember being amused last year at seeing young Ulbricht in the corps for Union Jack and thinking, he's so tiny compared to all the other guys. So the presence or not of short dancers per se in the company does not seem to me to explain or justify the prevalence of fast tempos. Wasn't the original Apollo, Serge Lifar, on the short side too, and wasn't Baryshnikov only about 5'7"? If Martins is indeed behind the tendency to hyperfast tempos, that would seem to relate more to some artistic insensitivity on his part than to a tendency to use shorter dancers.

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NYCB did surveys and focus groups last year. They wanted to see what would appeal to a younger audience.

In another context, Leigh Witchel found an article in The New York Times about NYCB apprentices Kathryn Morgan and David Prottas. Unfortunately it has expired except for those have Times Select (paid), but I managed to find the full article in our Public Library database. Speaking of Prottas, the article says,

He planned to hostel-hop around Europe with a friend and then relax. For once, he'd have a summer typical of normal suburban kids, who seem barely aware of Mr. Prottas's rarefied world. Robert Daniels, City Ballet's managing director for marketing and communications, recalled asking college students at a focus group if they had heard of Balanchine or Jerome Robbins. No one raised a hand.

The link to the abstract is:

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.htm...DAB0994DE404482

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