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Final Kennedy Center Performance

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It is a terrific interview, and a reunion of colleagues who once danced at Miami City Ballet.

From her answers, it's meant to be kept close to the chest until the company makes it known, and I don't see any early leaks on dancers' social media, at least yet.

I hope there will be lots of former dancers in the audience.

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This program will also be performed at 3pm on Sunday (December 3) at SUNY Purchase.  It’s very surprising to me that this performance isn’t being more widely noted, especially in the New York press.  When I checked a couple days ago, some seats were still available.

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On 12/1/2017 at 8:19 AM, Peg said:

This program will also be performed at 3pm on Sunday (December 3) at SUNY Purchase.  It’s very surprising to me that this performance isn’t being more widely noted, especially in the New York press.  When I checked a couple days ago, some seats were still available.

I agree peg. I had plans to go to D.C. next weekend but have changed my plans and will go to Purchase instead. I just learned about this by accident a week ago and luckily was able to cancel hotel and Amtrak. So much closer and easier. 

There is also a talkback after the performance. I wish this had been advertised more widely. Hope to see some of you there! 

(Or actually advertised at all. I stumbled on it while looking for tickets for Ken Cen. 

Edited by rkoretzky
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FWIW, the class was rather milder than the one I saw at the KC a few years ago.  It wasn't company class anyway.   Afterward, we met a dancer from NYCB in the 60's through the early 70's there, who pointed out how different it was from Balanchine's class - Suzanne got her dancers thinking, used a variety of music, and difficult counts; Balanchine's classes were generally without music, repetitive, and went for speed and elevation.

Farrell's music was eclectic, to say the least.  A fair amount of Tchaikovsky, but some syncopated jazzy numbers, and one familiar tune to whose rhythms I heard words, including "seid umshlungen, Millionen - Tochter aus Elysium!", although in a slightly different harmonization from Beethoven's use of them at the end of his choral symphony! 

There were about 60-80 dancers, including over a dozen of the NYCB dancer's students; during the barre, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook were downstage center, she, in wine tights, finishing everything with her beautiful understated elegance, but during the center, she transformed herself into a more casually-styled, not to say abandoned, dancer, and changed into scarlet above a short royal blue skirt as well.   (I was reminded of her two rather different Terpsichores in Phoenix last May - both were well heard, and both valid.)  

Edited by Jack Reed
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Purchase College Performing Arts Center, Sunday, December 3, 2017, at 3::00 PM

(This is going here after some of the other events we're posting about.  Sorry for any confusion.)

The program opened with a beautifully clear rendition of Gounod Symphony - or three movements of it, the third, Scherzo, movement of Balanchine's original being lost by now (although back in the day Peter Martins made a replacement that Arlene Croce thought was passable).  But the involved slow movement, with its beginning fugue, flanked by flowing fast ones, made a fine presentation, made even better by the crystal-clear dancing.  "A band-box performance," a friend who writes on dance called it, referring to its freshness, like something you just brought home from the store, but I was reminded of another critic's phrase I'd run across years and years ago:  "As fresh and glistening as creation itself."  (She thought my phrase was even more apt! Out of our common experience, that's for sure.)
There are a lot of dancers in this one, 32 counting the principals - Allynne Noelle and Thomas Garrett, the two in the publicity shot - and in the big shot, with all of them, which hints - just hints - at the clarity of the patterns.  I say, hints, because these patterns whirl and change, lines and geometric figures appearing and disappearing, when the fast movements are under way, but never blurring.  You always have a sense that you see everything.  

And not only the dancing - the mostly black-and-white costumes Farrell has introduced this time (by her frequent designer, Holly Hynes), versus the pink and yellow from the SAB production years ago, we're told in the post-performance discussion, as well as J. Russell Sandifer's lighting, for the most part, etch the effect.  

Their care with the details is wonderful:  Just one instance to illustrate, early in the slow movement, Noelle stands upstage center with Garrett in half-light - there is a darker lane across the back of the bright space - and her measured changes of head and feet (if you see them - she doesn't draw attention) look for all the world as though she is not just waiting there, outside the action, but watching the fugue lines weave together and apart - participating in her mind, and perfectly naturally, not as though danced.

(This is "careful" in the best sense, large, clear, focused, sharp, vital - not "careful" in the lesser sense of held in, subdued.)

After intermission, Tzigane, led by Natalia Magnicaballi (with Michael Cook), who, this time, gave a rather more danced performance, rather than as genuine realization of the role as I was anticipating - in Phoenix, last May, for example, she had given us two Terpsichores in subsequent performances (in Balanchine's Apollo), each different, both true.  And one of us faulted her penche's in this; but Cook was fine, and enjoying his gypsy romp.

Then, after a pause,  Elisabeth Holowchuk, whom we haven't been seeing for few years, with Kirk Henning, in Meditation; her effect was a little weak, compared, say, to Magnicaballi's in the same role in Chicago on the 12th, but it had the right tone; and Henning was very good.

After second intermission, Serenade.  At NYU's Skirball Center, Ms. Farrell had remarked, "It's not, we come down to you.  We invite you to come up into our world."  World?  The world of Serenade her dancers set before us was a universe, flowing and swirling, energy rising and subsiding, light and dark and light again.

This time the cast was led, to the extent one ballerina leads Serenade, by Heather Ogden, with modest clarity and just a little vulnerability.  (Not inappropriate here.)  We haven't seen her in too long a time, either.   Natalia Magnicaballi's supple richness looked native to this rich ballet, and Violeta Angelova, someone else we've missed - she wasn't on view last year - brought warmth and point in comparison and some contrast to the girl she was paired with (a blonde whose name I haven't learned) and we benefited from  watching these two show symmetrical moves in their individual ways.  Individuals, hearing their music, not optical reflections, not copies.  (What wonderful creatures inhabit Farrell's universe!)

After the performance, there was a short panel:  Toward the end, Farrell was asked something about how final these performances were, and she replied, "I've retired three times and I'm looking forward to the fourth…  I'm always with Mr. B."     

Edited by Jack Reed
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Discounted tix available for tonight and both shows on Saturday!!!

They want bodies in the seats.

The Kennedy Center is offering tickets at the special price of $25.00 for all remaining orchestra seats for the performances of  Suzanne Farrell Ballet on Thursday, December, 7, 2017 at 7:30pm and Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 1:30pm & 7:30pm in the Opera House Theater.

You can click the link below and your discount will appear automatically. If you call or stop by the Box Office for the discount, be sure to mention Offer Number "280398." Suzanne Farrell Ballet Discount

Forever Balanchine: Farewell Performances

Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. & Dec. 9 at 1:30 p.m.  (Program Timing: Approximately 2 hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.) 
Chaconne (Gluck/Balanchine)
Tzigane (Ravel/Balanchine)
Meditation (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)
Gounod Symphony (Gounod/Balanchine) 
Special treat for Thursday, Dec. 7 attendees: Ms. Farrell will be presented with the Pola Narenska Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. 

Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.  (Program Timing: Approximately 2 hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.)
Gounod Symphony (Gounod/Balanchine) 
Tzigane (Ravel/Balanchine)
Meditation (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)
Serenade (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)

Program subject to change.

"The wit is Balanchine's, but still nobody communicates it better than Ms. Farrell… she understands rare secrets of time and space."--The New York Times
This season, we celebrate the culmination of our own ballet company led by the beloved muse of choreographer George Balanchine. Throughout her career as a dancer, Suzanne Farrell created and redefined many of the great roles of the Balanchine canon. Since 2001, her company has revealed unique insights into "Mr. B's" works, drawing out their musicality and nuance as no one else can.
The farewell program is a pageant of favorites, all handpicked for their special meaning to Ms. Farrell. Staged last year by the company with new costumes to accentuate the revelatory choreography, Gounod Symphony intertwines one delightful pattern after another. Two short works on the program were specifically created for Ms. Farrell: the pas de deux Meditation, the first ballet Balanchine made on her; and the gypsy fantasy Tzigane, which begins with a mesmerizing five-minute solo.
Finally, two large-scale ballets will alternate programs, showcasing the range of Ms. Farrell's deep connection to Balanchine's ballets. The 27-dancer Chaconne is a sublime suite of dances from his stagings of Orfeo ed Euridice, featuring an expansive main ballerina role that was created for her. And the seminal 26-dancer Serenade is the first ballet Balanchine made in America, which includes the "Dark Angel" role that, years later, became Ms. Farrell's first solo as a dancer.

(202) 467-4600 | Toll-free (800) 444-1324 TTY (202) 416-8524 |

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Kennedy Center Opera House, December 7, 2017, Thursday, 7:30 PM

In the context of having seen this troupe last Sunday (December 3rd) in the Purchase College Performing Arts Center, Purchase, New York (see above), more astonishments - watching this Chaconne I felt that I could more clearly see what I heard in this ballet - always for me a source a great pleasure in watching dance - than I had for some time.  "See the music, hear the dance" a friend said, but I object to slogans because of the danger they will stop or take the place of actual engagement in the present - but beyond this great pleasure there was more - the delicacy of performance of this loosely-knit suite of numbers, to essentially opera-ballet music, led this way by Heather Ogden and Thomas Garrett and danced this way by everyone there.

My friend also thought that Chaconne, a loose suite of numbers (and made essentially to opera-ballet music at that), was a lesser ballet than Gounod Symphony to one of that opera composer's two symphonies; but I'm not so sure, given the greater firmness of tonight's performance of Gounod at the end, that the delicious delicacy of this one makes it less valuable at the beginning - different in substance, to be sure, but that different in value?  Maybe for Mr. B. it was reason enough to have that famous flute melody in our ears, when it finally comes.  (He was quoted, I think, about the pleasure of hearing it in the studio every day when he was making the ballet.)    

Natalia Magnicaballi's performance of Tzigane was huge tonight - compared to the one in Purchase, all the blood had flowed back into it.

And Elisabeth Holowchuk's performance in Meditation was stronger, larger in geometric shapes and so on, than in Purchase; and Kirk Henning again gave the man's character much vital presence.

Then, Gounod Symphony, more seasoned tonight, not to say mellow, rather than the glistening one we saw at Purchase; deeper, wonderfully realized now in another of Magnicaballi's performances Farrell told us about from the stage at Purchase last Sunday:  By the end of this run, Magnicaballi will have danced in all six ballets on the schedule.

Watching Noelle and the others in the large cast at Purchase, I heard more Gounod's luminous spirit, animated in recreation (after the failure of one of his operas) with music of other composers he enjoyed; watching Magnicaballi explore, listening, how her moves fit her music tonight, I heard through Gounod to the rhetorical force and classical wit in that other music, the music of Beethoven and Haydn.

With the bright freshness of Noelle's dancing highlighting the newness of it, Gounod Symphony was the right opener in Purchase; with a little more Germanic weight, if you will, though no loss of luminosity, Gounod Symphony was the right finale tonight in the Kennedy Center.  (Among the many pleasures of watching this troupe is the quality of the program arrangements, the sequence of repertory and the placement of cast in that sequence.)           

Edited by Jack Reed
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I made it to the opening night at the Kennedy Center. The company handled this fairly difficult program pretty solidly, without their usual raggedness (the Kennedy Center has never provided enough funding for a sufficient number of rehearsals), though somehow I didn't feel moved. Maybe I'll get to the Saturday evening performance when I won't be stressed out by another day of putting out fires at work.

Before the performance, Washington Performing Arts gave her some sort of award, the "Pola Nirenska Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance". Unfortunately, the 2 presenters apparently just hastily scribbled their speeches, so the award ceremony was far less impressive than Suzanne Farrell deserved.

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Agree with YouOverThere that TSFB deserved more money and Farrell deserves better recognition.  As time goes by, the Kennedy Center seems more and more like a provincial operation where some great performers pass through.

Tonight's performances seemed to me and some friends pretty strong for the run so far:  Most considered Allyn Noelle, who led the opening Gounod Symphony to be becoming "a real ballerina"; I don't disagree, though I think Natalia Magnicaballi, who danced this last night, already is one.  Her Tzigane tonight was not a copy of last night's, but also involved and involving, and the ballet also benefitted from the right degree of flamboyance Kirk Henning brought to her partner's role.  Even better was Meditation, with Heather Ogden's poignancy, Michael Cook again in the man's role.  And then Serenade, which an experienced and acute professional ballet-watcher thought the best performance of it he'd ever seen.  (This was the cast I was so taken with - stunned, really - in Purchase, which he had not seen.)  Many long-time ballet-watchers, whom I sometimes call the published and unpublished critics I pay attention to, were well pleased with this program.

Edited by Jack Reed
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I also attended the Friday evening performance.  Gounod was easy, especially the effortlessness of Allyne Noelle's dancing. I remember being more wowed by the piece overall when it was performed last year, the patterns  of the corps are so different-- but Noelle was the standout.

Tzigane was such a departure from the rest of the program,  very glad I was prepared with some experience with Ravel's score. I found Natalia Magnicaballi's beginning solo compelling at some moments, and then underdone in others. I do wonder if another dancer who had better extension etc would have hit the piece a little better. I thought more could have been made out of the flippancy of the choreography's trimmings. 

Meditation was, for me, a complete revelation. The sadness, devotion, and regret conveyed by Heather Ogden and Michael Cook permeated the entire Opera House. This piece has been the highlight of my balletomane carerer, and I am still awed by the emotional rollercoaster of the 10-minute piece (a full day later). The moment it ended I began mourning for the likely few opportunities I will have to see it again (if any). I was near tears for that sadness and the enjoyment of the piece during bows  

Finally of course was Seranade. Always the crowd pleaser, it's not the best performance I had seen, but certain musical aspects I've never noticed became apparent. I think that's what I appreciate so deeply about Suzanne Farrell Ballet, there is always something new to see. I am terribly sad the company is folding, but I holdout hope that something better will come along for her genius.

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I made it to the finale. The company, not surprisingly, was a little crisper than on opening night. Their rendition of Serenade was the best performance that I've seen from this company (despite 1 ballerina adding an extra fall to Mr. B's choreography) - I dare say that I was moved.

There was a short farewell ceremony after the show, with all the current (and apparently some former) dancers bringing her a rose. It must have been a bit of an emotional moment for the dancers, since I'm guessing that the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's programs were the highlight of the year for many of them.

I think that Farrell did a good job of programming dances that displayed different facets of Mr. B's creativity. Meditation is one of the most thought-provoking ballets, and I wonder what will become of it. Farrell kept it under wraps for a number of years, and now the question is whether she will allow other companies to perform it.

Edited by YouOverThere
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I've been a fan of the company since 1999 and saw it every year at the Kennedy Center (except for missing one year, which I now regret--oh well!).  These farewell performances were bittersweet and and now it feels like something so valuable has vanished.  Many thanks to Suzanne Farrell and all her dancers!

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Rebecca Ritzel's report on Suzanne Farrell Ballet's farewell:

A Final Serenade
Farewell performance of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet

"Near the very end of his life, Balanchine asked Farrell to forgive him for amorous, and then vindictive, behaviour. “I was an old man and you were young. I should not have thought of you that way,” she records in her autobiography. She forgave him, and she preserved his legacy, celebrating the man without whitewashing the ugly quandaries.

The question for ballet going forward is how to continue fostering the work of creative artists—male and female—while respecting every individual in the studio on the stage. There must be a way. There has to be. We need arts administrators with the resilience of a very strong partner. And we need many more dancers to rise on the support of another, and find the strength to walk forward in the spotlight, just as Farrell did so gracefully at the Kennedy Center, to take her final bows."

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I've never seen Balanchine's Gounod Symphony, but I've wanted to ever since reading about the work Suzanne Farrell was doing to revive the ballet. The funny thing is, it seems to be one of those ballets that people have widely differing views of:

'Gounod Symphony was done for Maria Tallchief and me. Balanchine hated it. It was stock work, thrown together. It was the only time I ever saw him in a fury at rehearsal. He had to do something for France with a French composer, and he had to do something for Maria. He hated "had to's".'
—Jacques d'Amboise

"Gounod was one of his most important ballets. Vida Brown really knew the ballet and has staged it recently in revival [1985]. This was the first ballet I wanted to stage when I sent to the Paris Opera. When I saw Nureyev after he was hijacked into the directorship of the Paris Opera, too, the first thing he wanted to stage was Gounod Symphony. But the French don't understand or appreciate or wish to retain such hommages".
—Violette Verdy

"I loved watching Balanchine wheel and deal, and do all his things with all the dancers. Screw people he obviously did, right and left, in all kinds of ways. I remember when Maria [Tallchief] had been funny and wanted a ballet. Balanchine did Gounod Symphony for her, but this time he did not glorify his ballerina. He put her on pointe in plié all the time, which was not Maria's best position. When Tanny or Diana did it, it was really quite lovely, but Maria did not have that kind of physical look and it was perverse of Balanchine to use her that way. Andre Eglevsky saw that Maria didn't look good in this pretty awful ballet and he stepped out."
—Richard Thomas

But all this talk just makes me want to see it more.  ;)

Edited by pherank
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