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Week 8 Casting and Reviews


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Not that I want to flaunt my age or self-title myself as a "senior balletomane", but I started attending the NYCB since the early 70's, so I too have seen the whole of Kistler's career. I couldn't have more respect for her as a ballet dancer. The way people talk about, especially in reviews in the paper, are so disappointing and quite insulting. Believe it or not at some point she was one of the leading ballerinas not only in the country, but the whole world, and with that I think she deserves some respect. Have her capabilites as a dancer wane? Of course, but most peoples' do! Not everybody can be like Merrill Ashley and be doing Ballo della Regina at the end of her career. I doubt Margot Fonteyn was that great when she retired. Even across the plaza, Nina Ananiashvili is ending her career and compared to the younger principals she's nothing great, however she is still a special individual.

Darci has always been one of my favorite technician's in the company, always stuck close to small details. But what was greater was the presence she brought/brings on stage. I could feel the love of dance from her. Hence why I was shocked when people tore her apart about her Last Waltz from Vienna this year. Sure she wasn't the most "flowy" waltzer but I could tell she was in the moment and I cared for it. As for her Titania, I admit that I came to see it purposely (as well as Reichlen's performance). Besides Farrell, she has been my favorite interpretor of the role. I find her regal but youthful. As for this pain and shakiness that has been mentioned, I saw none of it. Her arabesque hasn't been at it's best for awhile now, but then again it never was that extreme. It was usually always a clean 90 degree arabesque. And she was never a true jumper, though true it has gotten worse. But I can forgive all of that for the joy she brings and has brought to the audience for the past 30 years.

Which brings me to another issue. People always say "when is she going to leave? she should've left years ago!" It has been known for the longest time that she was going to hold out for 30 years, so no surprise people! She wasn't going to leave early.

Now I believe it was Beatrice who commented on Darci's Titania, saying "How old is Titania? She can't even get her leg up." Though her arabesque lacks, her front and side extension are still very high (and turned out). That's why I have no qualms about her doing Slaughter at SPAC. She'll handle those front kicks perfectly well.

I don't mean to be the one attacking everybody who attacks Darci, but I'm just saying I feel that there are some prejudices and that a lot of her good qualities are being overlooked. I understand the appeal of the younger dancers, such as Tiler Peck or Ashley Bouder or Teresa Reichlen, but they still not the same as Darci Kistler. It's hard for me to believe that a younger viewer who comes to see a performance and sees her dance would be turned-off and never come back. With intelligence, one can figure that one dancer doesn't represent the capabilities for the whole company. Also most younger viewers who come tend to only come once anyhow. For them, it's just a special "fancy" event. I no this doesn't apply for all, but I'm referring to those who are educated in the theater or dance. For those who are, they form there own opinions and learn to work around casting. Trust me it's easy.

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Thank you, Welsely for your wonderful post. There's no question that Ms. Kistler's farewell program (either winter or spring 2010) will be packed with 3,000 people with tears in their eyes, and a lump in their throat. I'll be one of them; it sounds like you will be too.

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Welsely, I wish I could agree with you, but that's not the way I've seen it. Kistler WAS a great jumper and HAD a huge arabesque - before her terrible early injury and subsequent difficulties. Does anyone remember her in one of the Raymonda Variations, in the Scherzo of Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, as Dew Drop? As the power and range of her lower body diminished, she compensated more and more by playing up the loveliness of her upper body and arms and her general charm. Her performance of Monumentum pro Gesualdo, for example, turned the ballet into a sweet, pitiful shadow of what it had been with Suzanne Farrell. The last time I saw Darci, which was a few seasons ago, she showed some still-reliable turns and lots of arm-waving; it was painful to recall what had been lost. I hope her farewell performance is a wonderful event, but I consider her career a tragedy overall.

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Darci has always been one of my favorite technician's in the company, always stuck close to small details. But what was greater was the presence she brought/brings on stage. I could feel the love of dance from her. Hence why I was shocked when people tore her apart about her Last Waltz from Vienna this year. Sure she wasn't the most "flowy" waltzer but I could tell she was in the moment and I cared for it. As for her Titania, I admit that I came to see it purposely (as well as Reichlen's performance). Besides Farrell, she has been my favorite interpretor of the role. I find her regal but youthful. As for this pain and shakiness that has been mentioned, I saw none of it. Her arabesque hasn't been at it's best for awhile now, but then again it never was that extreme. It was usually always a clean 90 degree arabesque. And she was never a true jumper, though true it has gotten worse. But I can forgive all of that for the joy she brings and has brought to the audience for the past 30 years.

I will agree with you that I thought people were harsh about her performance in Vienna Waltzes. I saw it twice, and both times I also could sense how much she cared for the role. She wasn't one of the people who I chose to follow with my eyes. But I saw no reason for her to have not been there.

As for Titania, may I ask you which performance you saw? I am certainly open to the idea that if you weren't there the same night that I was, you saw a vastly better rendition and I just happened to catch it on a particularly rocky night. However, with all due respect, the night I saw it, the pain and shakiness WAS there. As I mentioned before, I really wanted to see her succeed in this role. I didn't go in hoping to watch her fail and seeking out every tiny flaw.

Now I believe it was Beatrice who commented on Darci's Titania, saying "How old is Titania? She can't even get her leg up." Though her arabesque lacks, her front and side extension are still very high (and turned out). That's why I have no qualms about her doing Slaughter at SPAC. She'll handle those front kicks perfectly well.

I actually quoted my friend as having said that. And on this point, I will agree with you. I definitely noted that her front kicks were significantly higher and cleaner than her arabesque (though I wouldn't agree that the arabesques that I saw on Fri were either clean or 90 degrees).

It's hard for me to believe that a younger viewer who comes to see a performance and sees her dance would be turned-off and never come back. With intelligence, one can figure that one dancer doesn't represent the capabilities for the whole company. Also most younger viewers who come tend to only come once anyhow. For them, it's just a special "fancy" event. I no this doesn't apply for all, but I'm referring to those who are educated in the theater or dance. For those who are, they form there own opinions and learn to work around casting. Trust me it's easy.

I agree that a first time audience member who comes to a performance and "sees her dance" would not be turned off and never come back. But I definitely believe that a first time audience member who comes to a performance and "sees her dance Titania" may be. An intelligent person can obviously recognize that one dancer doesn't reflect an entire company. However an intelligent person can also question why someone who can't handle the part is dancing the lead. It raises questions about the production quality in general and it makes a person question what the standards are for principals in the company. I'd go so far as to guess that this is even more true for followers of New York theatre, who are so completely bored and fed up over "stunt casting" right now.

As for "working around casting", of course it's easy. For people who live in Manhattan, it's easy. For people with flexibility in their professional or family lives, it's easy. For people who are internet savvy, it's easy. But I don't think that it's fair to assume that everyone fits into those categories.

Over and over in this thread I've read the same sentiment: it's about drawing a line. I fully admit that I do not know enough about the general population to gauge their feelings, but based on the sample on this board I'd guess that there is a small minority who wants to throw her to the wolves. There's a small minority who thinks that she should be given free reign to dance anything she pleases. And there's a substantial majority who wants to give her her dues, allow her to dance, watch her finish her career in triumph, and believe the path to that is to cast her in roles that she can more realistically handle. DeborahB mentioned that her final performance would be a sell-out affair filled with emotion. And rightfully so. I'd also wager to say that a great many of Ms Kister's alledged "attackers" would be amongst that crowd. This isn't about trying to knock her down or sell her short. It's about watching her go out in the most positive way possible

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One of the differences that I noticed between the audiences who saw the late Nureyev and the long-time audiences who see Kistler is that Nureyev-watching was an event and almost obligatory to see. From my not-so-scientific eavesdropping at late Nureyev performances, there was a certain watching-a-train-wreck aspect to it. Certainly not from all of the audience, but from lively and vocal sub-groups. The sense I get from many long-term NYCB-goers is that regarding Kistler, it's more a matter of averting one's eyes.

The last Kistler performance I saw was the Balanchine Centennial gala that was broadcast over PBS, in which she performed in "Liebeslieder Walzer" excerpts. I liked her very much, and I remember being ??? about comments about how weak she was at that time, which was a decade after I had last seen her live regularly.

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Over and over in this thread I've read the same sentiment: it's about drawing a line. [ . . . ] based on the sample on this board I'd guess that there is a small minority who wants to throw her to the wolves.

Thrown to the wolves? Her farewell performance will obviously be an emotional affair for everyone, and she should dance whatever her heart desires. In the meantime, I'd like her to respect her art and her audience. In the meantime, in other words, it's not about her. It's about the ballet.

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Over and over in this thread I've read the same sentiment: it's about drawing a line. [ . . . ] based on the sample on this board I'd guess that there is a small minority who wants to throw her to the wolves.

Thrown to the wolves? Her farewell performance will obviously be an emotional affair for everyone, and she should dance whatever her heart desires. In the meantime, I'd like her to respect her art and her audience. In the meantime, in other words, it's not about her. It's about the ballet.

Agreed. Not sure what point you're commenting on. I never said that you, specifically, wanted to throw her to the wolves.

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In the meantime, in other words, it's not about her.

Well, it is about her in a way. Balanchine’s last ballerina and a keystone of the company is taking her leave of the stage, and that’s a significant event in ballet as well as for Kistler personally.

The last Kistler performance I saw was the Balanchine Centennial gala that was broadcast over PBS, in which she performed in "Liebeslieder Walzer" excerpts. I liked her very much, and I remember being ??? about comments about how weak she was at that time, which was a decade after I had last seen her live regularly.

She looked very good in that broadcast, I thought. When it’s very late in the game dancers have major ups and downs, of course – there’ll be encouraging nights when everything seems okay and others that come apart at the seams.

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I understand that "throwing to the wolves" is a metaphor. But it's an extreme one. I've read all the posts on this thread, and find nothing that justifies this sort of charge. In fact, I'm quite impressed about how measured and thoughtful the posts have been on both sides, and how respectful of other people's rights to differing opinions. I hope this will continue.

This is one of those things that people disagree about. None of it reflects on Kistler's earlier career or the sadness of seeing (whenever it occurs) the departure from the stage of Balanchine's last Chosen One.

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I understand that "throwing to the wolves" is a metaphor. But it's an extreme one. I've read all the posts on this thread, and find nothing that justifies this sort of charge. In fact, I'm quite impressed about how measured and thoughtful the posts have been on both sides, and how respectful of other people's rights to differing opinions. I hope this will continue.

Sorry if the metaphor came across as over the top. It was not meant to be an accusation of anyone and wasn't directed specifically towards this thread. I think I said "board" rather than "thread" and that was intentional. I don't think anyone has posted any extremely harsh criticism in this thread, but I do think I've read harsher comments in other threads - a more hostile "she should have been gone ages ago" approach is what I was referring to.

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Beatrice, thanks for clarifying. :)

In the meantime, in other words, it's not about her.

Well, it is about her in a way. Balanchine’s last ballerina and a keystone of the company is taking her leave of the stage, and that’s a significant event in ballet as well as for Kistler personally.

You have a point, of course. It's the degree that matters, and that's where people have differed.

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One of the differences that I noticed between the audiences who saw the late Nureyev and the long-time audiences who see Kistler is that Nureyev-watching was an event and almost obligatory to see. From my not-so-scientific eavesdropping at late Nureyev performances, there was a certain watching-a-train-wreck aspect to it. Certainly not from all of the audience, but from lively and vocal sub-groups. The sense I get from many long-term NYCB-goers is that regarding Kistler, it's more a matter of averting one's eyes.

The last Kistler performance I saw was the Balanchine Centennial gala that was broadcast over PBS, in which she performed in "Liebeslieder Walzer" excerpts. I liked her very much, and I remember being ??? about comments about how weak she was at that time, which was a decade after I had last seen her live regularly.

The difference also has to do with the emotions each dancer elicits from the audience. Darci projected innocence and vulnerability, two qualities Rudolf never showed, even when his technical chops were embarrassing. He had SUPERSTAR written all over him, Darci had a more modest aura, and we wanted to protect her. He needed no protection.

Even though technique was never her stock in trade, the same season as the televised Dinner with Balanchine Gala, Darci did a beautiful Theme and Variations with (as I recall) no cheating. It was not the most brilliant I'd ever seen, but she burnished it with her characteristic musicality, luminosity and unique grace. Moments of it remain vivid in my memory.

I adored Darci, but I resolved a while back to not see her dance any more. If she was in a program, I would simply sit out her ballet or avert my eyes (as in Vienna Waltzes last season).

A couple of years ago, there was a photo on the NYST wall that showed Darci as a student in mid-jump. She showed such joy and freedom in that still photo that I visited it often to impress it on my memory, so that that would be my last experience of Darci in that theater. Things didn't quite work out that way, but the one performance I've seen of her since (Papillons, out of curiosity to see her castmates JAngle and TAngle together) was less memorable than that lively, frozen image.

I will not be at Darci's farewell. I'm sad about it, but it's a decision I made years ago out of respect for her past artistry and my abiding affection.

Martins might have given Kistler a ballet or two to help her close out her career with the grace and sweetness that she still has in abundance.

Unfortunately, Martins' stock in trade has not been choreographing for sweetness and grace. The closest things I saw to these qualities in his work were very early ballets, like "The Magic Flute" for Kistler and Killian (for SAB), and he did a fine piece d'occasion for Farrell in "Sophisticated Lady". Post hip replacement, Farrell was physically limited and Martins was sensitive to that, but that's not really Kistler's style, either.

Martins made Valse Triste for McBride near the end of her career. Kistler took that into her rep several years ago. It had so little substance that it reminded me of the scene in The Turning Point when Danny Levans's character, prevailed upon to cast Anne Bancroft's character in his new ballet, has the dancer strike a fourth position. She says, "Double pirouette," indicating how boringly predictable his choreography is. He replies, "You can do a single." She snarls, "I can do a double!"

Sorry it's such a lengthy post, and I was reluctant to add to the unfortunate "piling on" tone of this thread, but I thought it was important to argue that those who believe Darci is retiring too late are not necessarily haters. My own feeling comes from the same desire to protect her that I noted in response to Helene's Rudolf-Darci comparison.

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