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"The Balanchine Couple," SUNY Buffalo & Purchase campuses

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(from Buffalo, NY) I haven't had a chance to write much yet, but some brief highlights of this evening's performance would have to begin with Elisabeth Holowchuk in Meditation with Michael Cook and, after only an intermission, Don Quixote "Pas de Mauresque" with Andrew Shore Kaminski. Momchil Mladenov, maybe the most canny and most present man in the troupe at the moment, was quite splendid in the Stars and Stripes pas de deux, getting the satirical edge in this just right; his partner, Violeta Angelova plays it a bit straight. The same pair were fine in an Agon pas de deux I thought just a little tame.

Kaminski's dancing was distinguished both times but especially in The Unanswered Question for its cumulative continuity as well as its sculptural largeness and legibility; the same quality of large legibility distinguished Amy Brandt's dancing in the La Valse pas de deux even if it didn't embody the eeriness that MCB's Deanna Seay had or Brandt's partner tonight, Ted Seymour, did in his role, making large surreal effect with his strong line and plastique and head farther up than is typical in this part.

These were the standouts; but although the opening Apollo pas de deux had some insecurity in the "swimming section" near the end and was performed to a leisurely tempo, Angelova and Cook made use of these tempos to spin out beautiful movement that recalled to my mind Stravinsky's remark that his Apollo "is about versification."

(Natalia Magnicaballi was conspicuous by her absence; check out the Ballet Arizona forum regarding their Midsummer.)

Meanwhile, there have been thirteen additions to the roster, for a total of twenty-three:


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(from Buffalo, NY) They didn't look much the worse for wear, Juliet! Possibly excepting that little "swimming" business.

I passed over the pas de deux from La Sonnambula and from Chaconne (substituted in the printed program for the Diamonds one previously announced in some publicity), with Kendra Mitchell and Kirk Henning and Ian Grosh, respectively; no real complaints here, but they seemed outshone by the rest of this program.

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(from New York, NY)

A post-performance panel, consisting of Amy Brandt, Matthew Renko, and another male dancer, the theatre director, and, later, Suzanne Farrell, took questions from the remaining audience:

Question: Do you dance with other companies? Amy Brandt: Yes, two or three smaller groups. I try to dance as much as I can. Matthew Renko: I teach, I'm guesting some, I don't like to dance except for Suzanne.

Q: Why doesn't NYCB tour nationally, as well as internationally? Don't know.

Q: How much do pointe shoes cost? Amy Brandt: $65-$100, and they last one show to one week. [sounds of surprise in the audience] They're made all over the world.

Q: How long did it take you to learn? Answers: [We started at ages five through eight.]

[audience applause for Farrell entering with a wrapped bouquet of white flowers]

Amy Brandt, continuing: I took summer intensives for 3-6 weeks when I was younger.

SF: There were none when I grew up. I worked in my basement. We have always to work, for our bodies' sake. You can work alone. Every moment is valuable.

Q: You said [in your introduction] Agon changed ["revolutionized'] ballet forever. How did it do that? SF: There are now many dances like that, people make copies, with the speed and stretch. Balanchine was trying to make a visual counterpart to the music, which is not what you put into your iPod and relax to.

Male Q: Thank you for your brilliant explanation of the pas de deux. My daughter has danced for forty years and I shard her enthusiasm but she never explained it.

Female Q: Which ballerinas influenced you? SF: We rarely saw ballet. It was important to work by yourself. I thought I'd be too tall, and hearing you grew at night I slept in a ball but then i saw Diana Adams who was tall and beautiful, so then I knew I could sleep stretched out.

Q: Staging ballets? SF: I never realized how many people there were on stage before until I see them all come together, like a video game... I don't call them ballets. I call them worlds - they're each so different.

Balanchine hid preparations - he didn't emphasize poses downstage, everything was to look good. How a man took a woman's hand mattered.

He changed the way we dance so we wouldn't have so many injuries.

Q: When you came back from Europe, did you just take up where you left off? SF: I did and I didn't... You only have one life and I didn't know if I was coming back. I live in the moment. I worked by myself to keep what I learned from Mr. B.

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(from New York, NY) Holowchuk's dancing deserves a better word than virtuosic. The one I put next to her name in my program in Buffalo was "wow!" but that also gives the wrong impression, because she's not flashy or showy; with large, flowing movements and small details not ornamenting the flow as though stuck onto it but rather growing out of it, her dancing gives a sense of completeness and wholeness, of finish, but still a sense of vitality, of happening, immediacy, now. Even when she's stationary, she doesn't stop. (At Purchase, a choreographer in our group, who I assume sees more and better than I, agreed with that way of putting it.)

Her Meditation had the greater depth and variety of dimension of the two dances she did; and if she didn't erase my memory of Goh in Mauresque, that's okay, and, especially now that Goh is retired, I'm looking forward to seeing what Holowchuk adds to that. Both she and Kaminski deserved to be seen better (and more often); this dance has been better lit than it was in Buffalo, and fortunately it got somewhat better lighting in Purchase, along with less effective dancing, I thought, from Matthew Renko. (Kaminski is getting to be a hard act to follow.)

The Unanswered Question got better lighting today in Purchase too; we could see the girl aloft (Kara Genevieve Cooper) pretty well the whole time, and Kaminski was well lit on his entrance but then the lighting got a little dimmer. (I realize a touring troupe hasn't much time to work on difficult technical problems with each new crew they encounter.)

The Apollo pas went better in Purchase, too. I don't mean to make much of that minor bobble in Buffalo; it's just that everything else is at such a level of beauty that the rare lapse is the more noticeable! My companions especially liked this performance, which I gather is Angelova's second one. "Versification," yes.

I'm always interested in audience responses, and today the fancy-dressed woman next to me told me at the second intermission that her favorite so far was the "black and white one," which was of course the Agon pas. Balanchine's black and white ballets include particular favorites of mine but are sometimes said to be "hard to sell," or so I remember Edward Villella telling us during one of his pre-performance talks. Well, this is suburban New York, not south Florida, and as it turned out, the woman I was talking to had danced for a few years in ABT's corps in the '40s, she said. Probably not typical.

Michael Cook stepped back into an old role in the Stars and Stripes pas, to replace Momchil Mladenov, who limited himself today to the Agon pas and who I gather will return to the company in the Kennedy Center run 17th-21st November, along with Natalia Magnicaballi.

I didn't like the new costumes for this dance by Holly Hynes. Hynes has retained only the royal blue tights and black boots for the male dancer from Karinska's designs. He now wears a white coat with four red stripes across it and a gold sash around his waist; except for the sash, he looks like an ice-cream truck driver to me. His partner's majorette cap is gone, along with its yellow feather; she wears a little tiara now, and a white tutu with a navy bodice ornamented with eight big, glittering stars. With vertical strips of narrow red-and-white stripes applied here and there, her costume reminded me of a movie-theatre pop-corn box. (Nothing cardboard about her dancing, though.)

What else can I add? Oh. Farrell wore a black pants suit with a long coat and draped pants which nicely contrasted her reddish-brown bangs and shoulder length hair; the suit material alternated glossy and matte squares turned on their corners - thus, black diamonds.

Edited by Jack Reed
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