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Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet

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I looked at the website and was bemused to realize that you had to click several times to find the actual location of the school. I assumed that it was in NYC, but that isn't really mentioned except on the contact page.

I subscribe to several dance listservs and have noticed that, even when it's obvious that the readership is an international one, people have a tendency to forget to mention the city/state/country where some event is taking place. I've received elaborate instructions about what subway stop to get off at and which bell to ring at the door, but no information on the city where the subway and the bell are found!

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I looked at the website and was bemused to realize that you had to click several times to find the actual location of the school. I assumed that it was in NYC, but that isn't really mentioned except on the contact page.

I subscribe to several dance listservs and have noticed that, even when it's obvious that the readership is an international one, people have a tendency to forget to mention the city/state/country where some event is taking place. I've received elaborate instructions about what subway stop to get off at and which bell to ring at the door, but no information on the city where the subway and the bell are found!

You are a better clicker than I. I couldn't find the location. Where is it?

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It also seeks in-kind donations from contractors, so their permanent space isn't open yet. However, the first summer intensive will be at LaGuardia High School, according to the website "across the road" from Lincoln Center. ("Road?" This is Manhattan. We have Streets and Avenues, Drives, Ways and a Boulevard or two but "road"?) Here's an office address near neither LaGuardia High (which is across Amsterdam Ave. from Lincoln Center) nor the Tribeca neighborhood. Probably temporary.

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No discussion of this company for about five years. Is there another page? This is the working website:


The reason I am posting is that they have scheduled a fascinating double bill at the Peter Norton Space at Symphony Space at 2537 Broadway at 86th Street in NYC on March 27 and 28th at 8 p.m.. There are doing two short Petipa ballets - "The Cavalry Halt" and "Harlequinade" (not the Balanchine!!!). These ballets have been kept in the repertory of the secondary Russian companies like the Mikhailovsky/Stanislavsky/etc. I want to see these! Two performances only.

Discounted tickets available on Goldstar (free to join).

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More info on the Cavalry Halt/Harlequinade double bill:

Cavalry Halt -- choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Johann Armsheirmer
Harlequinade -- choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Riccardo Drigo

Rarely seen one-act ballet Cavalry Halt is staged by by Nikolai Levitsky and Vera Solovyeva, both formerly of the Leningrad State Ballet Company. This little gem of a one-act ballet was created in 1896 while Petipa was the First Ballet Master of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theater. He created it for his own daughter, Marie, and Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani. It is a comical story about Cavalry Troop sweeping into town, turning the flirtations of mischievous village girls into shenanigans! The officers clamor in competing for the village belle, all culminating in a joyous wedding.

Two-act ballet Harlequinade was first presented at the Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage by the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1900. In 1965 George Balanchine staged a revival of the work for the New York City Ballet. The story is based on the characters of Commedia Del'Arte. Set in the gay atmosphere of a Venetian carnival, it is the timeless tale of the father who locks up his daughter, Columbine to prevent her marrying the penniless Harlequin. All hell breaks loose when the lovers break free and wreak havoc on the household. All the favorite romantic comedy elements become hilariously revealed, from the serenade under the window, to the mock death, to the marriage of the lovers.

(edited to change the word "reek" to "wreak" - I am not the author of this copy but merely pasted it here from an online blurb)

Edited by FauxPas
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Last night I went to the opening performance of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet production of "The Nutcracker".  Some explanatory stuff:  The permanent space for the Gelsey Kirkland Academy is on 29 Jay Street way downtown in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn right by the East River.  From the outside it is an entirely nondescript commercial warehouse space but it has been renovated inside with studios, offices and a theater.  The Academy performs "The Nutcracker" in their theater which is a large space with a corrugated metal roof that has been sectioned off from the rest of the space with heavy black fabric panels such as are used for leggings in regular theaters.  The stage is low to the floor and there are high risers set up with seating in folding chairs - sight lines are good. The music is recorded and played over speakers.  The staging of the ballet is credited to Michael Chernov with Gelsey Kirkland, co-directors of the Academy assisted by ballet mistress Alexandra Lawler.  However the major classical set pieces are cherry picked from classic 19th and 20th century St. Petersburg Kirov-Mariinsky versions.   The Snow Flakes and Waltz of the Flowers is credited to Vassili Vainonen who choreographed the work for the Kirov in 1934 and that version remained in their repertory for over 60 years.  The Grand Pas de Deux (here danced by Marie and the Nutcracker Prince and not the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier who are MIA) is credited to Petipa though Lev Ivanov was the original "Nutcracker" choreographer.  This choreography for the pas de deux is similar to versions danced by the Royal Ballet and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.  These sections are credited as being staged by Vera Solovyeva and Nikolai Levitsky who also contributed excellent versions of the second act national dances - the Chinese Dance is not racially condescending and without clichés as are the rest.  Ms, Kirkland contributed a charming "Dance of the Flutes" (Marzipan) pas de trois for three female soloists.  


The scenery is modest painted drops and the flies and technical capacities of this adapted theater are pretty basic.  The first act party scene looks kind of pasteboard and faded but the second act "Above the Clouds" is a very pretty blue skies and clouds drop with a small inset proscenium that is lovely.  Costumes are generally very nice with no real clunkers.   Michael Chernov provided the concept for the whole show and the overall blocking into which the various choreographic gems were inserted - despite the patchwork choreography it holds together pretty seamlessly.  There are a lot of lovely details.  A lot is gotten right:  The battle of the Mice and Toy Soldiers is clearly blocked and a real battle with lots of funny details.  The Russian Dolls tempt the mice into the line of cannon fire with hunks of cheese suspended on poles dangled in front of their noses.  The battle plan is clearly worked out with sallies and retreats.  However it seems that the Nutcracker Prince is killed by the Mouse King but is magically brought to life - however this wasn't clear and it seemed to me that he fainted and the Nutcracker spell was broken when Marie kills the Mouse King with her shoe.  


The second act is set "Above the Clouds" and Marie is given a key to the Nutcracker Prince's Kingdom.  There she is ushered into the "Theater of Life" which is just a pretty stage within a stage where dancers from all over the world entertain her with national dances.  No "Land of Sweets" and Sugarplum Fairy is sprinkling her sugar elsewhere - that Cavalier she picked up in some candy shop is probably running around with some twinkie.  Drosselmeyer (Johnny Almeida) is a dashing young blade in a red cummerbund and necktie and multicolored silk cape to swish around in.  His relationship with Marie is strictly avuncular and he is present throughout the fight scene and appear in Act II and presides over the finale when Marie is whisked back home.  (I always really insist that Marie come home and not remain in Candyland - even in the Balanchine I hate that we see her fly off in that aerial sleigh not knowing where she is going.  Those parents don't deserve that after that nice Christmas party - it really celebrates kidnapping and giving children candy so that they can be lured away from their homes.  That element is not in this version - Marie is seen in her parlor in front of the tree but she still has the huge silk scarf from the Nutcracker Prince so she knows it was not a dream.)  It is a rather grown up "Nutcracker" but the lack of saccharine kiddie stuff is refreshing and it isn't weighted down with dark or psychological elements as Chernov is wont to do.  The intimacy of the space allows one to take in all these little details and increases the charm.


Not a lot of kids in the audience but those who were there enjoyed it - probably mostly friends and parents of cast members.  The dancers were clearly very carefully and precisely coached with lots of attention to small details and style.  The role of Marie was the petite Nerea Barrondo who has very good balance and pointe work in the adagio of the grand pas though all the quick batterie in the celesta solo taxed her technique.  Barrondo is small enough with a wide face and big eyes that she could play a child but is quite a good classical ballerina.  She is Basque and was trained at the Bolshoi Academy and also participated at the Prix de Lausanne in 2015.  Her Prince was Keisuke Nishigawa who has been trained at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg - his technique is quite impressive with powerful tours a la seconde and barrel turns and clean landings.  His jump is high and controlled.  His partnering looked tentative but will improve with experience.  Several talented men - there were a lot of Asian dancers and many of them were physically tiny.  There were several children who were all well-drilled and charming.

This version can be recommended for its taste, imagination, clear storytelling and intimacy.  More performances are schedules tonight the 9th and with matinees and evening shows on the 10th and 11th.  Next weekend they are performing on the 15th through the 18th.  
Company Website: http://gelseykirklandballet.org/
Purchase Tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2666504


Edited by FauxPas
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BWW has this review of the Gelsey Kirkland production.




I was struck by the extremely harsh tone of the review. I saw this production and reviewed it here and while I don't disagree with the reviewer's assessments I think it's an extremely hostile review for a ballet company that's not really a full-fledged company.  

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[Edited since now I have the program]

This weekend the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet is presenting a program entitled "Eternal Spring- The Arrows and Errors of Eros" which opened last night and will be playing through Sunday.  I thoroughly enjoyed this program which was a fascinating look at 20th Century Soviet choreography - kind of like your Russian grandma's attic trunk filled with ballet transported from Russia and unpacked in DUMBO.  Choreography by Leonid Yakobson, Kasyan Goleizovsky, Leonid Lavrovsky, Arthur St. Leon and Rostislav Zakharov!  These are all gems that were brought over here by Vera Solovyeva and Nikolai Levitsky who were members of Leonid Yakobson's State Ballet Theatre and directed the company after his death in 1975.  


Trailer for show:  

1) "Vivandière Pas de Six" (St. Leon) The "La Vivandière" pas de six is the restaging from the notations of Arthur St. Léon by Ann Hutchinson-Guest and Pierre Lacotte set on the company by Liudmila Polonskaya.  It was very charmingly danced by Nerea Barrondo and Koki Yamaguchi.  This choreography manages to give you a kind of moving silhouette of how Fanny Cerrito actually danced - lots of old-fashioned "taqueté" quick petit allegro steps.  Cerrito was petite and short-waisted (much like Barrondo is) with somewhat shorter legs that were very strong and quick and suited for turning.  You see a different kind of épaulement - very much opening from the center and swaying the torso with the arms curved and low like in Bournonville.  Barrondo seems to be working from the feet up whereas you get the sense that the choreography requires the dancer to open from the torso.  Yamaguchi did some wonderful assemblé turns and pirouettes which got the audience excited. 

"Vivandière" pas de six - Kirov with Elena Pankova and Sergei Vikharev:

2) "Gopak" (Choreo Rotislav Zakharov, Music Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi)  A crowd pleasing Moiseyev style Ukrainian acrobatic peasant dance mixed with Soviet ballet bravura for solo male.  Kaito Yamamoto had the bravura split jumps and revoltades to put this showpiece over.  


3) "A Village Don Juan" (Yakobson) Thin and dated comedic character dance for a couple impersonating Russian bumpkins.  He sports the peasant shirt, cap and baggy pants and is a bravado low-life lothario, she has braids that stand up on her head and a mini-skirted peasant ensemble and character shoes.  They stumble around, kiss, fight, she socks him and walks off all to balalaika music.  The large numbers of older Russians in the audience enjoyed the kitsch.  I wanted it over.  Chieh-hung Hsueh and Georgia Brinkman were very well coached and high energy as the rambunctious pair.


Some taped Rodion Schedrin music provided a set change interlude and then we got:


4)  "Melodiya" (Goleizovsky) Music by Dvorak ("Songs my Mother Taught Me" in an orchestral transcription)  This is a lovely pas de deux that I wouldn't mind seeing Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes add to their repertory if they ever wanted to do an evening of ballet.  Haruka Yamada had lovely long lines and a flexible back and Johnny Almeida was a very romantic partner.  Nice lighting and scenic arrangement.

[Here is Bessmertnova & Aleksandr Lavrenyuk in this ballet]

5)  "Eternal Spring" (choreo Yakobson from his "Rodin Collection of Miniatures" music Debussy) Somewhat silly and cliched piece evoking the old trope of sculpture coming to life.  A male-female couple in white leotards evoke the famous pose of Rodin's "Eternal Spring" then they come to life.  They skip and run about embracing and doing some kissy face coy stuff.  The girl is on pointe.  Then they run back and freeze back into statuary.  Very silly and precious but Nina Yoshida and Koki Yamaguchi threw themselves into it like it was a masterpiece with convincing innocence and ardor.  Like the other pieces in the first part of the program it is blessedly short, so if you don't like it - it is over quickly.


6) "Jewish Wedding" (Yakobson) Music by Shostakovich.  This is really quite an interesting though somewhat odd piece.  It is character dancing with strong folk inflections but also kind of eccentric with grotesque movements with bent knees and elbows and comedic exaggerations.   I was reminded of Jerome Robbins - specifically "Les Noces" and also his Fruma Sarah dream ballet and wedding dances in "Fiddler on the Roof".  Basically poor Jewish girl (well danced by Katerina Schweizer) loves poor Jewish boy (Johnny Almeida) but the girl's mother wants her to marry Rich Boy (strutting, clueless Miguel Solano).  The community and family encircle the lovers who keep running away into each other's arms and divide them.  The wedding takes place and the poor boy in despair drinks poison or something and ends up in a contorted position on the floor with his head resting on his lifted bent leg (is he dead in that position?).  The tone is kind of confusing - the girl seems deadly serious and the parents, rabbi and townspeople seem sort of comic cartoon types.  The Poor Boy keeps flailing around with bent arms and hands to the forehead gestures like a romantic ninny that you want to laugh at but the finale suggests a tragic figure.  Probably this was clearer when the original company did it.  I heard several audience members praising this as they left.  This ballet got Yakobson in a lot of trouble with the Soviet censors.

Trailer here:  



7) "Walpurgisnacht Ballet" (Leonid Lavrovsky, music by Gounod).  Fairly elaborate neo-classical cum diabolical scenery and fun Greco-Roman costumes.  Nina Yoshida danced very well as the lead Nymph until some pirouette variations at the end nearly got away from her.  Cristian Laverde-Koenig as her Bacchanal partner did a fine job and rocked the toga.  Koki Yamaguchi as the lead Satyr stopped the show again and again with his high jumps and revolving turns in the best old Russian bravura style.  Nicely drilled corps de ballet.


The whole program showed a loving attention to detail and careful coaching and rehearsing that are a trademark of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy Ballet.   Whatever the level of basic talent everyone was on the same page, had been given the style and knew what they were supposed to be doing every moment.  A lot of this choreography is from another culture, another time and another aesthetic but these dancers threw themselves into it with total commitment.  Lots of discounts can be found for this program but here is the official ticket seller:  http://gelseykirklandballeteternalspring.brownpapertickets.com/


I know there are some Soviet ballet aficionados on here who have never seen these ballets except on video as I had.  Here is a lovely chance to see them live in an intimate space.

Here are some video treasures from the past:

Yakobson documentary in Russian with clips:  

Nadezhda Pavlova and Vyacheslav Gordeev perform "Melodiya" in 1977:

"A Village Don Juan" by Yakobson

Incomplete "Jewish Wedding"

"Walpurgisnacht Ballet" with Maximova, Yagudin and Vlasov, Bolshoi 1974

Alla Sizova and Boris Blankov in "La Vivandière" ("Markitenka") Pas de Six (1982)


Edited by FauxPas
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I'm so glad to see Jakobson's work getting some stage-time -- for ages all we knew were rumors.  He did indeed work in a different style and direction than his contemporaries in the West -- it's fascinating to see the possibilities that he felt were in the art form.

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