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Farrell Ballet at Joyce Theater This Fall

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....The hoped-for Ogden, as my casting just above shows, is not to appear, nor Renko either...

Thanks for the report, Jack. I hope to see this program on Saturday afternoon, straight from the Megabus (!). The above news on casting is disappointing, as Renko was far-and-above the finest male soloist on view in DC last weekend. He must now be with his permanent company in Seattle.

Two very different questions:

1. When will TSFB employ a full-time, year-round company?

2. Which tutu was worn in the Diamonds pdd at the Joyce: the 'dirty-yellow' (seen in DC this past weekend) or the 'bright flashlight' (seen in earlier seasons when only the pdd was performed, with the shiny mirrors on the skirt)?

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....The hoped-for Ogden, as my casting just above shows, is not to appear, nor Renko either...

Thanks for the report, Jack. I hope to see this program on Saturday afternoon, straight from the Megabus (!). The above news on casting is disappointing, as Renko was far-and-above the finest male soloist on view in DC last weekend. He must now be with his permanent company in Seattle.

Two very different questions:

1. When will TSFB employ a full-time, year-round company?

2. Which tutu was worn in the Diamonds pdd at the Joyce: the 'dirty-yellow' (seen in DC this past weekend) or the 'bright flashlight' (seen in earlier seasons when only the pdd was performed, with the shiny mirrors on the skirt)?

Natalia, I can't speak to your first question but we got the flashlight tutu for Diamonds. And that was the least of its problems.

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When will TSFB employ a full-time, year-round company?

I'm not sure whether this is just a question, maybe even a rhetorical one, or a plea, or even a prayer. (In this last connection, I wonder whether God pays more attention to those She doesn't hear from very often.) But as a question, I believe it's all about the m-word. If lots more money were available from all sources - I am myself a medium-size contributor; there are a lot of smaller ones, and, thank God, some larger ones - then, as you know, things could be different. (There are so many companies which manage a four-program-plus-Nut calendar, plus a little touring, there ought to be a name for that.)

I don't know the whole story, and probably couldn't reveal it here if I did, because I am not a credentialed journalist to whom people can speak on the record, but as far as I know, some money comes in ear-marked, some comes in from the Kennedy Center in other ways as long as Suzanne's activity conforms to general requirements, and there may be some unrestricted funds from there too. Some comes in from a tour, of which this may be regarded as the first stop. It's a patchwork, but it all adds up, but not to enough in my opinion, considering the quality of what Farrell and her dancers put on stage at their best, in proportion to their comparatively slim means. As I say, I don't know everything, and couldn't say it all if I did, but let's just say that some company budgets are only two or three times more than some company deficits.

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Thanks, Jack. Of course you're on the right track. I asked the question thinking, "When will a major Kennedy Center sponsor -- or the Kennedy Center itself -- put its money where its mouth is and cough-up the cash to TRULY support a full-time resident ballet troupe?" They seem to have plenty of CA$H around for Mary Poppins and other KC-sponsored musical ventures, ad nauseum.

That TSFB has achieved what it has on such limited resources is a miracle in & of itself.

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Thanks, Jack. Of course you're on the right track. I asked the question thinking, "When will a major Kennedy Center sponsor -- or the Kennedy Center itself -- put its money where its mouth is and cough-up the cash to TRULY support a full-time resident ballet troupe?" They seem to have plenty of CA$H around for Mary Poppins and other KC-sponsored musical ventures, ad nauseum.

That TSFB has achieved what it has on such limited resources is a miracle in & of itself.

Just a quick word in defense of the Kennedy Center (not that I often feel protective of it). Mary Poppins, and the vast majority of musical theater that passes through building, rented(rents) the theater space and the Kennedy Center had no role as a producer; Disney and whoever were responsible. The Kennedy Center did produce the Follies revival that's currently playing on Broadway. I just wanted to point out that the Kennedy Center doesn't lay out the money for everything that is presented on it's stages.

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People want to see those productions (Mary Poppins, Guys & Dolls, etc) and I see no reason why the KC should not bring that form of musical theatre art into its buildings. Note that they are not supporting a full time musical theatre company at the expense of Farrell's troupe. KC has a broad mandate, after all.

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The Kennedy Center does have a broad mandate and there's no reason why it shouldn't accommodate the occasional musical. However, as you also point out, Jayne, these shows are popular successes - they don't necessarily need the Kennedy Center's aid as producer, or need it as a home, to prosper.

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... we got the flashlight tutu for Diamonds. And that was the least of its problems.

I have to agree with nysusan's implication. Three of the ballets came off very well, especially Haieff and Meditation; and Agon's greatness was apparent once again.

Sorry for the "snark & run" comment, let me explain.

I was so excited when I heard that TSFB would be at the Joyce and after seeing them in DC last weekend I could hardly wait for opening night.

That lasted until I got to my seat, opened the program and saw that NONE of my favorite dancers from the DC engagement were with the company in NY. Most disappointing of all was Ogden's absence but there was also no Audra Johnson, no Kara Genevieve Cooper, no Matthew Renko.

So I was somewhat out of sorts at the start, but hoping for the best. I enjoyed the Haieff Variations as an opener, a "Balanchine appetizer" but then the main course started with a Diamonds pas de deux that I found so appalling that my mind simply recoiled in horror.

It was so wrong on so many levels even before the very obvious & disconcerting technical flubs from both principals in the 2nd half of the pdd. And trying to analyze and write about it would have required that I go through it again in my mind - something that I have no desire to do.

I really was unable to focus on the rest of the program and since I'll be seeing it again on Friday night I figured I'd give the company another shot before writing about it.

Now that I'm prepared for the not-ready-for -prime-time Diamonds pdd we'll see how it goes tomorrow night.

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I just realized that I, too, will be getting (tomorrow, 2pm) the same pair of Diamonds pdd dancers as nysusan saw at the opener -- Angelova and Mladenov. Hmmm...well, we'll see. Here's hoping for the best! Angelova did impress me in other ballets in DC & Mladenov is usually a steady partner. :)

Edited to add the following -

In his Oct. 20, 2011, review for the NY Times, Macaulay writes about 'Diamonds' pdd:

In the “Diamonds” pas de deux Ms. Angelova had three minor mishaps: a tiara insecurely fastened, an off-balance pirouette that misfired, and a slight error of footwork, but these registered all the more sharply because of the stage’s proximity...

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Okay, actual virtual casting. We all know casting is subject to change without notice, etc., right? There was a sub already this evening. But, based on the printed program, here it is:

Haieff Divertimento: Elisabeth Holowchuk (Oct. 19-21, 22 eve., 23 eve), Courtney Anderson (Oct. 22 mat., 23 mat.), Kirk Henning

Diamonds Pas de Deux from Jewels Violeta Angelova, Momchil Mladenov (Oct. 19-21, 22 mat., 23 mat), Michael Cook (Oct. 22 eve., 23 eve)

Meditation Courtney Anderson (Oct. 19-21, 22 eve, 23 eve), Momchil Mladenov (Oct. 19-21, 22 eve., 23 eve)

Elisabeth Holowchuk (Oct. [19], 22 mat., 23 mat), Michael Cook (Oct. [19], 22 mat., 23 mat)

Agon Elisabeth Holowchuk, Momchil Mladenov

Violeta Angelova, Michael Cook

Haieff Divertimento, a strange little ballet to Stravinsky-like music, got a crystalline performance, needing only the same bright white light for the quirky principal parts as for the ensembles, but instead the lighting was dimmed for those, in what seems to be the contemporary manner; I am annoyed by it many places, not just with TSFB. But after an intermission, the Diamonds pas got a performance which respected the technique (mostly, except an effortful moment when Angelova's failed her) but not the ballet, to paraphrase an expert friend's summary. (The hoped-for Ogden, as my casting just above shows, is not to appear, nor Renko either.) A disappointment nicely followed by a beautiful performance of Meditation; and then after another intermission, Agon, lead by Holowchuk and Mladenov: I don't find her an entirely satisfactory replacement for Magnicaballi, to say the least, but she has virtues, and stamina must be one of them, for it didn't show that this was her third ballet of the evening, which it brought to a pretty strong close. The little theater was about full; the audience, more enthusiastic than the ones I sit in in the Kennedy Center (or the Broward County CPA in Ft. Lauderdale, where MCB performs, for that matter).

For admirers of the dancer-formerly-known-as-Courtney-Wright when she was with San Francisco Ballet, she's now dancing under her married name of Courtney Anderson. Here's her bio from the TSFB website. She and her husband were real losses to SFB when they left; it's good to see she's landed 'on her feet', so to speak.

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Let's start with Ms. Angelova. Here's a link to Macaulay's review. "What a difference a day makes" is trite, but Thursday the 20th Angelova got herself together, or something, and she and Mladenov gave a luminous and flowing performance of the Diamonds pas de deux, revealing the largeness, if I may use the term, and realizing the splendor of this dance. Right through the end moment, where she registered slight surprise at her kneeling cavalier's taking her extended hand to kiss it.

(What happened? Others who had been there Wednesday and also noticed the loose, swinging back part of her headdress thought it may have rattled her. A little thing like that? Who knows? I can't shake my basic conviction that what they do is impossible - yes, I know what really goes into it - and "explanations" don't work normally in their extraordinary world.)

Meditation, by contrast, with Holowchuk and Cook again, had some agitated, "intense" moments, and so, it seemed to me, became a bit less effective by that, less a reverie, more a present encounter. Not invalidated by this more down-to-earth approach, though. But the light and curtain fall a bit early at the end, so we really don't get to take in the man's transformation as he rises from his crouch and walks out, head raised, and this "point" is blunted.

So the substitution remained in place here, and Courtney Anderson has not appeared either to dance in this with Mladenov nor in Haieff Divertimento. Worrying is one of my useless talents, and I hope she is able to perform, and will. But speaking of casting, or worrying or even lamenting about it, as some have here, let's remember that old line about "subject to change" : It can go the other way, too, and unlisted dancers appear, "without notice". Stay tuned.

(Thanks for the background on Courtney Anderson, PeggyR.)

This Agon has been distinguished by a liveliness, an element of bounce in the men's feet for example, right from the start, and it was further enlarged as soon as we saw her tonight by a certain seriousness or determination in Holowchuk, not merely in her face but in her body, phrasing within the time for greater weight of effect.

I was trying to keep in the back of my mind my continuing complaints about the lighting - these dancers, this dancing, deserves better - echoing another complaint in another connection on the thread about their Washington, DC run last week - when it happened: just in time for the "Bransle Double" - a kind of coda to the second pas de trois - the lights came up and the stage became flooded with beautiful white light, not too warm, not too cool, lots of it, everywhere on stage, magnifying the dance. Light makes the place for the dance, and Agon had its rightful place at last, and the future of ballet, as I still tend to think of it, remained before us in this light, until the curtain.

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After Thursday's performance, Farrell and someone with the Joyce sat downstage for a half-hour Dance Chat, and here are a few fragments of that from my notes:

Q: Your company came out of your educational experience at the Kennedy Center.

F: I thought I'd never get old. I don't know where my mind was. (laughter) Teaching extends my dancing life... I teach class to achieve united individuality, not uniformity. It's to find out who each one is. Mr. B. had descriptions for us - I was a cross between a cheetah and a dolphin, some were horses... Class was different every day. Mr. B. didn't mind if you made a mistake, but he didn't want the same mistake every day. Like in Meditation, they have to find their own story; there's a story built in to the ballet, it has to be alive today, not a memory in the past. [so maybe my criticism above is all wrong.]

Mr. B. didn't tell us what he was going to do, so I don't get too intellectual - that might not work for some people.

The Balanchine Preservation initiative are pieces only my company does, no one else. They're like finding pieces of the Dead Sea scrolls or something by Mozart, each opens up a new world. It's like Mr. B. coming back and doing ballets on these dancers. Haieff Divertimento got lost. It's a nice little ballet, where Mr. B. was in the '40s. It was done before I was born! (laughs with us)

Audience Q: Contemporary dance is moving away from Balanchine's classical way.

F: I don't know, if you're painter you take your easel into a museum and imitate what you see there until you find your own way. Balanchine was very generous and ahead of his time. He gave us a lot to continue to see.

Audience Q: How was Haieff Divertimento resurrected?

F: I can't take all the credit. Todd Bolender had a company in Kansas City and did it. It wasn't done after that, but it was filmed.

Pithoprakta [just performed on Program B at the Kennedy Center last week, revived from 2007] was done nine months after Diamonds. When it was filmed, Arthur Mitchell was absent but the crew and everything were rented, so we went ahead. But there's no man in the film. I asked the Balanchine Trust if I could do it without a man, and they said, yes, but with a man; I put the man back in. There are places where no one does anything, I thought that's where he was. I had to re-choreograph his part. I think, Mr. B., if you don't like what I do, tell me.

Audience Q: How do you stage Agon?

F: I was in it since I was 17. We [i?] mostly danced Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and it always made sense... Nobody broke up time like Stravinsky and Mr. B., to the millimeter - millisecond.

Audience Q: How complex were Mr. B.'s classes compared to yours?

F: Mr. B. wanted to pass on those things he taught but sometimes we did a hundred tendus. He gave us what we needed or what he wanted to explore or make on us. At the New York State Theater [with its larger stage] we had to move farther without adding steps so we had to move faster instead, which saved us using up our instrument [our bodies].

Class was always fun. He learned about us and we about him.

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What a difference a couple of days & a casting change can make. The big news - Heather Ogden & Michael Cook subbed for Angelova and Momchil Mladenov in the Diamonds pdd. My prayers were answered! But lets start at the beginning...

Courtney Anderson & Kirk Henning were the principals in Haieff Divertimento tonight. It was very enjoyable, charming actually, and it was great to see an early example of Balanchine's inventiveness.

Then came Diamonds, followed by Meditation. I had never seen Meditation before this engagement. Many of my friends consider Duo Concertante and Elegie examples of 3rd rate Balanchine too soppy & sentimental to merit serious attention. Anyone who feels that way should skip Meditation. I do not,and I loved it. Holowchuck danced in both performances I saw, partnered by Cook on Tues and by Mladenov tonight. There were subtle differences, but this was pure fantasy romance - Romantic writ large. A remembrance? An impossible affair? A great artist in thrall to his muse? Pick your interpretation, they all work and I LOVE the romantic Balanchine.

Agon still really has the rush of the new. There's no way around the fact that we here in NY are used to better individual performances but this was a fine effort, filled with bright, pulsating rhythm and honest performances. Violeta Angelova danced the soloist role - the Bransle Gay - and it suited her very well, showcasing her long limbs and cool persona. Cook tackled the Saraband and Holowchuck & Mladenov danced the iconic pdd.

And now lets talk about the Diamonds pdd. I was so horrified by what I saw Tues night that despite my best efforts I kept dwelling on what went wrong. I think there were several factors in play.

For starters, the Joyce is too small for it. I hadn't really thought about that while I was watching it on Tues night, but Macauley talked about it in his review and upon reflection I think he has a point. It may only be a pdd, but it is a majestic pdd and at its best it conjures a world of imagination. The small stage space makes that difficult and the close proximity of the audience to the stage takes away some of the grandeur and magnifies any mistakes - which really did no favors to he opening nght cast.

Further, with all due respect to Ms. Angelova I think she was simply all wrong for the ballerina role. I saw her as the lead ballerina in Concerto Barocco in DC and while I had reservations about her use of the upper body I thought her extensions and musicality in CB were beautiful. They were also shown to great advantage in Agon, but in Diamonds she looked all wrong

The tutu made her legs look short, her arms looked limp and were unable to describe the beautiful sculptural elements of Diamonds, her unsecured tiara bobbled distractingly throughout, her technique failed her, but the worst part was that she seemed (understandably) just intent on getting through it. There was no world of imagination here, and what is Diamonds with a ballerina who can't create a world out of her imagination and draw you into it?

Fortunately the cavalry was called in, and all was right with Balanchine's world tonight. The size of the stage, the lousy recorded music, the blindingly white tutu - all faded into oblivion with Ogden weaving her magic. Technically secure, presenting a multi faceted wonderfully evocative Czarina - she is a true Diamonds Ballerina. This was my last performance of the run, but - for all my friends sake, and for Ms Farrell's sake - I hope Ms Ogden is cast in Diamonds for all the remaining performances.

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It would be nice to join in all the accolades for Heather Ogden's 'Diamonds'- but I find I cannot. She was much too energetic--if anything, the ballerina should be calm and regal. The program stated that she would be replacing Angelova in all the performances. Since I am not familiar with either dancer. I am assuming I saw Ogden. Perhaps seeing Maria Korowski two weeks ago, and with images of Lopatkina in the recent Mariinsky release in my head---nothing short of seeing Farrell again would please me.

The Haieff Divertimento is a gem and was beautifully performed by the corps of dancers.

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The $2.50 total spent on a round-trip DC-NY-DC Megabus ticket yesterday more than paid off: the Oct 22 matinee at the Joyce was a total delight! I had originally planned this day trip as a chance to see the Balanchine rarity Haieff Divertimento, which I missed at its Kennedy Center outing last year due to overseas work commitments. Haieff, a delicious 14-minute gem of a ballet, harkening to descriptions of Balanchine's La Chatte from the Diaghilev era, was well worth the trip...but there was so much more to admire at the Joyce yesterday afternoon.

Haieff Divertimento - Courtney Anderson was a mysteriously beautiful little 'kitten' of a ballerina to Kirk Henning's leading danseur, in a gem of a Balanchine rarity from 1947. The leads were backed-up by an amazing group of 'soloist corps' of 4 couples, all of whom get 'solo moments.' Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review does absolutely no justice in describing this ballet, which most defintiely is not about a bunch of high-energy youngsters. No, this ballet is about a gent looking for his elusive girl-kitten -- as in La Chatte. The 'kitten' is the only dancer in the cast of 10 who does not take part in the courtly, mannerly first movement. She appears for the gorgeous pdd-adagio of the 2nd movement...full of inventive, cat-like movements by the girl. The eight corps-soloists perform the 3rd movement, in which the 4 men often have the stage to themselves, lining up in a very Raymonda Pas de Quatre manner (!)...all of the soloist men are superb but I was totally bowled over by the elegance and expansive, magnificent dancing of Andrew Shore Kaminski. WOW - just wow! Peter Boal Junior was in Da House...with a bit of the countenance of Ethan Stiefel mixed in!!! The tiny 4th movement is the female lead (the girl-kitten?) solo, so elegantly rendered by Ms Anderson; it's almost a prolonged 'class reverence.' All dancers take part in the 5th and final movement...but the kitten 'purrs' skittles away from the leading gent at the last moment...leaving the rest of the dancers registering surprise for a few seconds before the lights go out. Bravi Tutti!

Diamonds pdd w/ Ogden/Cook - Imagine my delight and surprise when I read the little insert on the replacement! For me, it was a chance to see this stellar duo 'up close and personal,' as could never happen at the large Kennedy Center. Yesterday was simply a reaffirmation of the greatness that I saw last weekend in DC...and, even though NY got the 'flashlight' costumes with the crystals...the lighting was adjusted (or perhaps half of the crystals taken off?) because the entire effect was tasteful and much-toned-down from a few years ago, when the tutu would almost blind the audience in DC.

Meditation w/ Howlachuk & Mladenov - Another WOW moment...I'd seen this lovely romantic pdd in DC a few years ago...but only in the intimate setting of the Joyce did it become the powerful 'image' that Farrell had described in her book -- we were voyeurs peeking at the story of Balanchine & Farrell...and, my goodness, does Momchil Mladenov possess the profile of Balanchine or what??? Eerily beautiful. Haunting. Gasps from most in the audience as the ballet ended and 'Balanchine' walks into the wings, having lost his beauty. [The incredible fact is that this ballet was choreographed years before Balanchine 'lost' Farrell.]

Agon - It was SO much fun to see and feel the energy of this A#1 Balanchine masterwork, up-close-and-personal. There was amazing dancing by all but I most loved the Pas de Trois with the solo girl and two guys...again, Andrew Shore Kaminski the male standout but I also heap laurels on the gorgeous, expressive Violetta Angelova, who garnered some of the loudest bravos of the afternoon.

Happiness = TSFB at the Joyce Theater. The audience around me was in awe; my neighbors included a senior couple who used to subscribe to City Ballet "back in the day" who literally had tears in their eyes at the end of yesterday's matinee, the lady telling me, "THIS is how Balanchine must be danced!"

p.s. It was so nice catching up with you, Jack, during first intermission. What an event!

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On Saturday the 22nd this cast - the one nysusan and Natalia describe above - continued to give the best performances, right through the program. Ogden's Diamonds pas de deux with Cook was quite beautiful, and even the dancer sitting next to me could scarcely fault Cook's partnering. (Dancers, I've learned, are much sharper-eyed than I am, for technical details, anyway.) And in the matinee Meditation became vivid and present - "memorable, not a memory," as Ms. Farrell likes to say sometimes, and quite developed from the earlier performances. Mladenov's presence may have been a factor here.

Agon benefitted from being well lit, i.e. strongly lit, from the beginning, in the matinee and again in the evening; but my experience of Meditation was diminished some in the evening because the music was a little too loud. Or was the performance itself a little subdued, compared to the matinee? And for the record, there were a number of minor slips by several dancers this evening, as though the stage may have become slippery, speaking of technical support matters. So these last three performances were the best of the run so far for me, and the matinee was the best of these.

Yes, with this ensemble, Agon has the rush of the new. Thanks for that phrase, nysusan. A similar concept came to me in some fantasy dialogue: "What's Agon about?" "It's about the future of ballet."

atm711, which of Ogden's performances did you see? And, could you compare the video Farrell Diamonds pas with Ogden? Some energy there, too, no? (Not arguing, but I'd like some elaboration; the Saturday matinee looked more energetic all around, but this can be me, too. Which reminds me of other, better observers: We'll see if Macaulay has anything to say about the new cast.)

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Puppytreats, I know that the whole Megabus (or Bolt bus or similar ventures) thing has been discussed in detail elsewhere on BA, so I don't want to muddy the Farrell-Joyce discussions. Suffice to say that the key is in the planning. To nab the $1-per-leg seats one has to PLAN months in advance & log onto the bus' website the morning that seats for a particular day begin to be sold. For ex., if you know that you'd like to travel from NYC to DC for the Mariinsky Ballet in mid-January, I believe that you should be tracking the schedules now. My round trip yesterday costs $2.50 because, in addition to the $1 each way, I paid the 50-cent service charge per order. The $1 seats to attend the July Mariinsky season at Lincoln Center were bought in late March/early April (used by my niece, as I was ill). The seats for yesterday's trip were bought in early August.

atm777, how close were you sitting yesterday? I was in the orch-mid section, 7th or 8th row back. Ogden's face seemed to 'emote' more than at the KennCen simply because I was quite close but that somehow didn't bother me. The emotional nuances worked, IMO. I can see how it might be a negative to some.

Question: So where does Andrew Shore Kaminski dance the rest of the year, when he is not performing with TSFB troupe? Second question: Does Megabus go there? (ha-ha)

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