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some questions from my ny ballet weekend


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I had a great ballet weekend -- skimmed several books on ballet at the NYPL, watched Ferri in "Manon" at NYPL, and watched "NY Export: Opus Jazz" on PBS. My questions follow.

1. Opus Jazz:

I enjoyed the little details that referred to George Ballanchine - the "B" on the basketball court, the variation on "Apollo"; can anyone point out any others?

I thought the dancing was good, but (sorry) boring. I did not find much emotion in this piece. Many complain that classical ballet is too stylized, but I find this ballet, like "West Side Story" and musicals generally, to fit that description.

2. Manon:

I was mesmerized by the tape of the ABT performance in June 2007. Ferri is remarkable. Her flexible back really stunned me. Did she have any Russian type of training?

I was surprised by her failure to perform a traditional form of reverence at the end. Was that a defiant response to the treatment of women in the plot, or was she just exhausted, or is it her signature?

The leaps, lifts, and balances were incredible. The choreography communicated clearly. The emotional impact was powerful. I was really surprised by the criticism of this ballet, much of which I read on this website.

I have seen clips of the final scene on YT of a Ferri/Bolle performance at La Scala in 2004. I may have missed it, but were some lifts cut out of the ABT version in 2007?

3. Books:

S. Farrell and T. Bentley both spoke about their hip injuries ending their careers. Is this due to turnout? I had presumed that back, leg, and foot injuries were more common causes of retirement.

I am baffled by the shelving system at the NYPL. I will have to return to figure it out.

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There was a serious disconnect between this video treatment of "New York Export: Opus Jazz" and what is seen on stage. Onstage, the work is full of playfulness and frolic, interspersed with moments of harshness, and even depravity. The video has little sportiveness, and the hard moments seem blended out (where was the girl thrown off the roof?), leaving the piece, for all its activity, a brooding, selfconsciously portentous document, suggesting that the participants had just seen a performance of West Side Story all the way through to the end, and were still brooding about it. An inappropriate gravity haunted the show. It was like watching the Moscow Art Theatre of the 1920s doing You Can't Take it With You. (Talk about the Dead Hand of History!) The "bones" of the work were still there, at least most of them, but I was unsatisfied with the product as a whole. Jean-Pierre Frohlich may believe that a work can be interpreted in various ways, but this production interprets the spiritual life out of the ballet, leaving it a poor record of the original.

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indeed the dancers who "conceived, created" etc. Robbins' ballet for film have marketed it as: "Shot on location in New York City and starring an ensemble cast of New York City Ballet dancers, NY Export: Opus Jazz takes Jerome Robbins‘ 1958 “ballet in sneakers” and reimagines it for a new generation in this scripted adaptation."

the result's title is "Jerome Robbins's New York Export Opus Jazz: The Film."

all of this implies of course it that this is something rather different from the ballet itself.

in the end, it's unwise to think one has seen Robbins's ballet until one has experienced the work in the theater as it was shaped by the choreographer. otherwise it's a bit like thinking one knows Balanchine's NUTCRACKER from the commercially released film version. it's pointless to try to second guess what Robbins would have made of the result of this reimagining of his dance, but the project is a work based on his work and not his work, in fact.

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