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canbelto

Winter 2018

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11 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

Yes, but hopefully the new AD will have the sense to replace Martins' awful full-lengths with more palatable versions.

Let's face it -- if all of Martins' works were effaced from NYCB's repertoire, almost no one would miss them. 

 

I'd miss Martins' works.  What a shame that you detest his choreography so much.  While he is not Balanchine,  I think he’s done especially well with his full length ballets.  I find myself already missing his La Sylphide, which only ran for a short time.  As far as his one act ballets, those are more hit and miss, but there are a number which I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years.  Unless you can choreograph better yourself, best not to throw such hateful stones at an entire body of work.

I’ve seen many performances of R&J over the past thirty years.  Most were MacMillan’s version at ABT and Royal Ballet,  which continues to be my favorite version.   Having said that, I feel there’s always room for new versions of any ballet, just like there’s room for new flavors of ice cream. 

I found Saturdays’ matinee of R&J with Hyltin and Coll to be the better of the two casts I saw this week.   Sterling and Harrison had wonderful chemistry, which seemed to grow even more by the second act.  Both danced with technical precision and intense passion.  Their death scene left me drained and in tears.  As always, Ulbricht’s Mercutio was spectacular, as was the rest of the cast.  Apparently the audience loved the performance as well, as they gave a much deserved standing ovation.  The house appeared to be sold out or close to it, with people even sitting in the fifth ring.  

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31 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

I'd miss Martins' works.  What a shame that you detest his choreography so much.  While he is not Balanchine,  I think he’s done especially well with his full length ballets.  I find myself already missing his La Sylphide, which only ran for a short time.  As far as his one act ballets, those are more hit and miss, but there are a number which I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years.  Unless you can choreograph better yourself, best not to throw such hateful stones at an entire body of work.

3

If being a competent choreographer or dancer were a prerequisite for offering criticism, then I wouldn't have a right to say much of anything.

I, too, enjoyed La Sylphide, but part of what made it successful was that Martins didn't try to put his own stamp on the Bournonville choreography. He said as much himself in the ballet's program notes, quoted in this article from DanceTabs:

"In the program notes, Martins points out that he didn’t make any changes to Bournonville’s version of the ballet: 'There is virtually nothing of me in the production. I simply went back to the essential La Sylphide. This is the Romantic ballet that I was brought up on; this is Bournonville as I know it,' adding that his only change was the elimination of the intermission between the first and second acts."

While I don't enjoy the fast pacing and cuts of his Sleeping Beauty, that's another one where he's mostly stuck with traditional choreography (with the added bonus of the Balanchine Garland Waltz).

I don't mean to be hateful toward an entire body of work; I just sincerely believe that most dance critics and audience members wouldn't miss Martins' works if they were removed from the rep., provided that R&J and Swan Lake were replaced with new versions. (I don't count Sleeping Beauty and Sylphide among the full-lengths that should be replaced; they have so little of Martins' own original choreography in them, especially La Sylphide.)

Edited by fondoffouettes

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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

If being a competent choreographer or dancer were a prerequisite for offering criticism, then I wouldn't have a right to say much of anything.

I, too, enjoyed La Sylphide, but part of what made it successful was that Martins didn't try to put his own stamp on the Bournonville choreography. He said as much himself in the ballet's program notes, quoted in this article from DanceTabs:

"In the program notes, Martins points out that he didn’t make any changes to Bournonville’s version of the ballet: 'There is virtually nothing of me in the production. I simply went back to the essential La Sylphide. This is the Romantic ballet that I was brought up on; this is Bournonville as I know it,' adding that his only change was the elimination of the intermission between the first and second acts."

While I don't enjoy the fast pacing and cuts of his Sleeping Beauty, that's another one where he's mostly stuck with traditional choreography (with the added bonus of the Balanchine Garland Waltz).

I don't mean to be hateful toward an entire body of work; I just sincerely believe that most dance critics and audience members wouldn't miss Martins' works if they were removed from the rep., provided that R&J and Swan Lake were replaced with new versions. (I don't count Sleeping Beauty and Sylphide among the full-lengths that should be replaced; they have so little of Martins' own original choreography in them, especially La Sylphide.)

You have every right to offer criticism.  One does not need be a choreographer or dancer to be a critic, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.  What I was really commenting on was that you feel all of his work should be removed, and thus presumed just about everyone agrees with you.  And since I am quite happy with Martins’ versions, I am just voicing that I am one of those people who does not want his ballets removed from the rep.  Interestingly your recent response implies that you now don’t include Sleeping Beauty and La Sylphide for removal because he mostly stuck with traditional choreography? 

Thank you for the interesting link on La Sylphide.  The article also says  “Martins not only removes the intermission, thus shortening the performance time, he also accelerates the pace of the events. It feels as if the story rushes at you with a kind of animated vigor, acquiring a comic spirit in the process. In fact, in this production, a chain of misfortunes that occur to the young James feels less like a drama and more like a comedy, albeit with an unfortunate, tragic end. As such, the production, danced to perfection on both nights I attended, is stimulating and utterly entertaining but devoid of any sense of Romantic poetry, nuance and nostalgia.”   

While the above changes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are indeed changes to the production.  And quite honestly, I prefer the original more Romantic version, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy Martins’ as well.  Ditto on Sleeping Beauty, which as you mentioned earlier, has similar cuts and fast pacing.   I personally like the fast pacing, but not the cuts.  But it still doesn’t stop me from enjoying it.  I see other versions elsewhere.  I can never get enough ballet, and I don’t have to settle for just the one version. 

I understand you wanting to see different versions of Swan Lake and R&J at NYCB, just as I’d like to see ABT replace their Swan Lake.  But what you seem to forget is that NYCB had no full length Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, or Romeo & Juliet until Martins added them.  Give the man some credit.

Edited by NinaFan

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12 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

I understand you wanting to see different versions of Swan Lake and R&J at NYCB, just as I’d like to see ABT replace their Swan Lake.  But what you seem to forget is that NYCB had no full length Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, or Romeo & Juliet until Martins added them.  Give the man some credit.

2

You make an important point, NinaFan, and I agree. And I can only imagine it's been more artistically satisfying for some of the dancers to be able to dance the full-lengths, in addition to all the plotless works. The recent NYT article with Indiana Woodward about R&J really drove home that point for me.

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I'll bite -- I enjoy Martins' one act works much more than that of the new "star" choreographers (from what I've seen). I've enjoyed Ash, Infernal Machine, and Hallelujah Junction. They were fast paced and fun. I also loved his Swan Lake Pas de Quatre.

Ninafan, which other R&J did you see this week? I'm out of NY for the year and it's ballet starvation out here.

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I understand the financial exigencies, but I very much wish New York City Ballet had not opted, or not had to opt, for giving over so much of its season to full length works. (I admit I am a wee bit more open to those with Balanchine’s imprimatur.) 

That said, Martins’ interest in bringing an artist of international renown to the NYCB stage in his productions seems to me to have been a serious gesture in the spirit of the company’s traditions. It is too bad the results were not more succesful, though I kind of like Kirkeby’s designs for the Lake scenes and the court scene and they seem to me to cohere with Martins grim vision of Swan Lake if not exactly Tchaikovsky’s more transcendent one. But say they are a bust and I’m an outlier...Still, my desire to see NYCB compete in the traditional Swan Lake sweepstakes with medievalizing fantasy is almost zero. The company’s greatness and importance lie elsewhere, and I hope it always will.

P.S. I do not much care for Mckenzie’s production, which I find trivializing.

Edited by Drew

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That said, Martins’ interest in bringing an artist of international renown to the NYCB stage in his productions seems to me to have been a serious gesture in the spirit of the company’s traditions. It is too bad the results were not more succesful, though I kind of like Kirkeby’s designs for the Lake scenes and the court scene and they seem to me to cohere with Martins grim vision of Swan Lake... 

I agree. I will never get used to some of the costuming, but when I saw the television broadcast a second time the designs made much better sense within the production as conceived, and it was right for Martins to take the risk. 

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Emma - That must be rough missing an entire year of ballet!   Peck/Catazaro were the other lead cast and they danced beautifully.  I think Catazaro is really coming into his own.  He was also marvelous in The Four Seasons last week. 

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6 hours ago, NinaFan said:

Unless you can choreograph better yourself, best not to throw such hateful stones at an entire body of work.

To quote Arlene Croce about Martha Graham: "When I first saw her I fell in love with everything: with the company, with her, with the gestalt. And then of course it all began to sift down, and ultimately some pieces seemed a lot less worthy than others."

With Martins gone (and assuming he doesn't get asked back), that "sifting down" process for him and his body of work has begun. All we know at this juncture is that not a single piece of his holds a steady place in the international ballet repertory despite 40 years of effort. It may be that some portion of the Martins repertory survives and becomes like a hothouse flower which only blooms at the New York City Ballet. Or (as I believe to be more likely) it will suffer the same fate that Gerald Arpino's work suffered at the Joffrey. But we'll soon see.

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I think Martins' La Sylphide and Sleeping Beauty are fairly inoffensive versions of the classics. I dislike his Swan Lake less every time I see it. But his one-acters: I've seen many and other than Hallelujah Junction, Fearful Symetries and Barber Violin Concerto I can't think of one I've wanted to revisit. This isn't a slam on him. Many, many people do not know how to choreograph but that doesn't stop them from trying. 

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52 minutes ago, miliosr said:

All we know at this juncture is that not a single piece of his holds a steady place in the international ballet repertory despite 40 years of effort

What effort, though?  Aside from a few one acts being performed elsewhere, do we know if Martins tried to get his works into a steady place in the international rep?  

Running NYCB was his main occupation.

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3 minutes ago, Helene said:

What effort, though?  Aside from a few one acts being performed elsewhere, do we know if Martins tried to get his works into a steady place in the international rep?  

Running NYCB was his main occupation.

All I meant by "effort" was 40 years of making pieces.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

Running NYCB was his main occupation.

Running NYCB and choreographing. And I hold him in mostly high esteem for the former and mostly low esteem for the latter.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

What effort, though?  Aside from a few one acts being performed elsewhere, do we know if Martins tried to get his works into a steady place in the international rep?  

Running NYCB was his main occupation.

Peck, Ratmansky and others are mainly tied to one company but are free to accept commissions from other companies. Martins didn't have that freedom. 

I think Martin's La Sylphide is a keeper, as well as his Sleeping Beauty (personally I like it better than the Kirkland SB that ABT did for a time and the Ratmansky SB they now do).  I wish they'd bring Martins' Magic Flute back, I think it's delightful. Swan Lake has it's moments and a replacement could be costly and worse.

I don't like Romeo + Juliet, but if it fills the house do it. 

The fact is most ballets do not survive. It's too soon to tell what works, if any, by Peck or Ratmansky will last.

Balanchine's full lengths were mostly money makers - Nutcracker, Mid-Summer Night's Dream and Jewels. Don Q, sold when it was done but was of it's moment.

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2 hours ago, canbelto said:

I think Martins' La Sylphide and Sleeping Beauty are fairly inoffensive versions of the classics. I dislike his Swan Lake less every time I see it. But his one-acters: I've seen many and other than Hallelujah Junction, Fearful Symetries and Barber Violin Concerto I can't think of one I've wanted to revisit. This isn't a slam on him. Many, many people do not know how to choreograph but that doesn't stop them from trying. 

I completely agree. If that's all that's left when you separate the wheat from the chaff, then it's a pretty paltry choreographic legacy to be leaving the company, considering how many pieces he's churned out. And he's only credited with staging Sylphide, not choreographing it, unlike the other story ballets.

I don't give Kevin McKenzie credit for all that much, but at least it's pretty clear he has realized he's not a choreographer. (Of course, I wish he had realized that before he created his Swan Lake.)

Edited by fondoffouettes

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The works that house choreographers make for their own companies, whether they be resident choreographers or AD/choreographers, are rarely performed elsewhere.  That any Martins work was performed outside of NYCB is unusual.   The only work that Ib Andersen made for Ballet Arizona that I know has been performed elsewhere is his "Romeo and Juliet," I don't know any other companies that perform Tomasson's work for San Francisco Ballet. I'm not sure any other companies besides PNB performed Christopher Stowell's work for OBT, Kent Stowell's work for PNB hasn't traveled, as far as I know; sandi will know if I"m wrong.  Robert Barnett, Robert Weiss, Septime Webre, Gen Horiuchi, Victoria Morgan, and John Clifford all make/made ballets for their companies, and I don't think those works traveled.  I'm not even sure if Todd Bolender's works for Kansas City Ballet made it far.

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10 hours ago, vipa said:

Peck, Ratmansky and others are mainly tied to one company but are free to accept commissions from other companies. Martins didn't have that freedom.

I don't agree that the absence of any Martins work in the international repertory is due to an inability to accept commissions. In 40 years time, if he had made works of unparalleled quality, someone would have come knocking on his door to have him stage them. If he wasn't available, there were plenty of people who were familiar with the works who could have.

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Well being "ballet master" of NYCB certainly didn't stop Balanchine ballets from traveling during his lifetime, just sayin' ... In fact Balanchine was famous for refusing to take a salary at NYCB because he made a comfortable living from the commissions of his ballets around the world.

Same goes for Jerome Robbins, Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan ...

As I said I admire Peter Martins for a lot of things. Certainly his eye for talent has been great. But his limitations as a choreographer IMO don't take away from the good work he's done for NYCB since he's joined the company in 1967. And I have a hunch he would agree: in the past few years there has been a drastic scaling back of Martins ballets, except for the full-lengths.

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7 hours ago, canbelto said:

As I said I admire Peter Martins for a lot of things. Certainly his eye for talent has been great. But his limitations as a choreographer IMO don't take away from the good work he's done for NYCB since he's joined the company in 1967. And I have a hunch he would agree: in the past few years there has been a drastic scaling back of Martins ballets, except for the full-lengths.

I feel the same way.

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With that being said I recently attended a performance that included Martins' Red Violin and the work was so overlong and boring that there was barely any applause afterwards. A similar thing happened with Jeux de Cartes (revived last spring). Crickets from the audience. It's nothing like the response the audiences have for Balanchine, Robbins, etc.

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And of course a ballet can be better or worse depending on the cast.  To compare in a way to figure skating…. it's also about the moment.   Still, how sad that the dancers didn’t get a respectable amount of applause.   But I have to admit,  I’m more tepid with applause after an uninspiring program.

Edited by NinaFan

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1 hour ago, NinaFan said:

Still, how sad that the dancers didn’t get a respectable amount of applause.

Yes, that's too bad. One should really applaud the dancers at least, if not the piece.

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7 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Yes, that's too bad. One should really applaud the dancers at least, if not the piece.

I second that.  I always applaud the dancers even if I dislike the ballet.  I don't think  sending a message to the choreographer really works.

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