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ABT "Art of Adaptation" Event at Guggenheim

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The Guggenehim NY has an ABT event on Sunday, October 11 and Monday, October 12:

"American Ballet Theatre: The Art of Adaptation

American Ballet Theatre dancers will perform excerpts to illustrate the challenges of creating and presenting ballet for nontraditional dance spaces. Discussions will highlight ABT’s first ever performances on the stage of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, and ABT ballet masters and mistresses will talk about the role they play in helping choreographers and dancers adapt to different spaces."



Participating dancers are not specified. Tickets are quite reasonable at $10-30. Series subscriptions are now available, but there is only one ABT program included (the Sunday and Monday performances are presumably the same).

Single tickets on sale September 4, at 1 pm NY time.

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I attended the second evening of the above event.

American Ballet Theatre: The Art of Adaptation

Oct 12, 2009

Guggenheim Museum

Panelists for Various Discussions:

Wes Chapman, ABT II artistic director

Raymond Lukens, Artistic Associate, ABT/NYU Masters Program

Franco Devita, Principal, Jacuqeline Kennedy Onassis School

Jamie Whitehall, ABT director of production

Susan Jones, ABT Ballet Mistress

Performers included:

From ABT: Y Kajiya, C Lopez and J Matthews (soloists)

ABT II: April Giangeruso, Brian Waldrep

Various dancers from Jacky O school (they seemed like relatively junior dancers)

A. Historical Perspective and Bouronville Technique Demonstration

Lukens and Devita discussed various techniques used when a piece normally prepared to a large scale stage has to be adapted for use in a smaller venue. Samples were provided how a diagonal and a circular set of movements on a larger stage can be adapted to a small stage. The Jackie O students demonstrated various techniques individually described by Devita, and then there was a slightly longer piece involving all the dancers. The steps were less advanced than what one would expect from, say, ABT II. Bouronville was discussed because he was considered a person who effectively adapted pieces to smaller stages.

B. Swan Lake, Act II, Pas de Deux

By ABT II dancers

Then, Jamie Whitehall, ABT director of production, interacted with Chapman to discuss production in different venues. He used an effective set of photos shown on a large screen on the stage. One of the most engaging portions of the discussion was from Whitehall. He discussed how (1) the Kennedy Center is a sort of second home to the ABT, and how adjustments were made to Romeo & Juliet when produced there (he also discussed differences between the Metropolitan Opera and the Kennedy Center), (2) how the entire scenery, props and stage visual effects were developed from start to finish for Sleeping Beauty (mostly, the castle backdrop), (3) how Tokyo and the London Colliseum are smaller venues that involved changes to the Swan Lake backderop, and (4) how, at one Athens outdoor venue some time ago, rain once soaked all the costumes of the dancers and they had to try and dry them with tissues and hairdryers. Very interesting.

C. Excerpt from "One of Three"

By Jared Matthews

Matthews was the soloist who started the second portion of the "One of Three" work on Wednesday when I saw it. This is the second of three pieces, with two danseurs (including Matthews) and one ballerina (Misty Copeland). Only the Jared portion of the beginning of this second portion was shown.

Susan Jones provided this portion of the discussion. Sometimes ABT II is used as a trial effort, or source of thinking, for potential new ABT choreographers. Kevin M saw "Barbara" by A Barton created for ABT II, and Kevin then decided to commission from Azure the work that became "One of Three". The discussion confirmed that Bard was effectively used as a preparatory venue for Avery Fisher for this fall's performances. Avery Fisher had a lot of logistical difficulties -- includng a stepped walk from one side of the stage backstage to another. During one of the "Everything Doesn't Happen at Once" rehearsals, corps member Mary Thomas got a bit lost and missed her intended entrance.

D. Excerpt from "Seven Sonatas"

Performed by Kajiya and Lopez

They danced quite well. Lopez conveyed a younger look than Saveliev did as part of the first team in the second of the pas de deux's in "Seven Sonatas". This is a replication nof the Saveliev/Abrera pas de deux I saw on Wednesday. Kajiya performed the Abrera role with more of a fragile feel, and slightly less fluidity than Abrera (at least to me). Kajiya danced with a sort of slightly pained/trying-too-hard facial expression much of the time. I preferred the Saveliev/Abrera version, but Kajiya and Lopez danced well.

The program lasted about 90 minutes. This event was a bargain at $30 for an undiscounted adult ticket. After the event, there was a short reception with a small amount of wine in plastic cups available for sampling, and some cookies and chips.

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I attended the Sunday evening performance of this venue. I had sort of hoped that at least one of the recent choreographers from the Avery Fisher venue would have spoken and elaborated on how he/she decided to use the space in any specific way. Alas, not to be. While the professional dancers were quite effective and some of the information regarding sets for various theaters was interesting, this for me, was one of the least interesting of the programs that ABT has put on. Some of the student stuff we've sort of seen before to some degree, although perhaps not specific to Bouroneville. Anyway, the evening seemed a bit dry. The Barton work excerpted from the piece presented at Avery Fisher made no sense without some input from the choreographer. The pas from "Seven Sonatas" was lovely, even without the other sections of the ballet. I miss the terrific finger sandwiches they used to serve at the receptions (economic tough times, I guess), but the cookies were pretty good!

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I was there on Sunday, too, mimsyb, and compared to past ABT Works & Process evenings, this was mildly disappointing.

To begin, I expected the program to address the process (as in "Works and ... ") of mounting the three works commissioned for the Avery Fisher Hall season, as the publicity materials suggested. Also, with due respect to Wes Chapman, I really miss John Meehan as the moderator of these evenings. Under his direction, the programs flowed better, plus he had that irresistible Irish-Aussie charm.

That said, I enjoyed the chance to see the advanced JKO students perform exercises from the Bournonville syllabus. As Chapman explained, Bournonville had come from the Paris Opera, with its huge stage, to the tiny one in the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, and he needed to find a whole new language to make dance for the restricted space. His adaptations included the use of steps that barely travel, and combinations that move backwards or in reversing arcs. I hadn't realized, though, the importance of the head in Bournonville -- often turned against the movement to minimize movement in the direction the body is going. Especially noteworthy was the young Shu Kinouchi -- probably no more than 16 years old -- who danced the man's variation from Flower Festival in Genzano. In addition to his fine technical execution (double air turns in both directions), his body was infused with the same joy that showed on his smiling face. I look forward to following his progress as, I hope, he enters ABT II in the not-too-distant future.

Following this, present ABT II dancer Brian Waldrep partnered April Giangerosa in the adagio from Swan Lake Act II. The adaptations in this sections were necessary to prevent Ms. Giangerosa's head from hitting the lights, so they moved the lifts all the way downstage, where there was much more headroom. The dancers, ages 19 and 18, gave an impressive, generally fluid rendition of the pas.

The next two dance sections were as Ambonnay and mimsyb described, and ABT ballet mistress Susan Jones' recollectons of performance disasters, which didn't strike me as completely disastrous.

The reception refreshmanets were also something of a disappointment. With the Guggenheim's kitchen undergoing renovation, we didn't get the customary tea sandwiches or focaccia. (Apparently, this was reflected in the somewhat reduced price of the tickets.) Too bad, because I'd let myself get quite hungry in anticipation of the usual, more generous spread. :wink:

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