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Ballet Arizona's Forthcoming Today's Masters Program

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Ballet Arizona’s upcoming Today’s Masters 2018 program will feature two new works (one by Artistic Director Ib Andersen, and one by dancer/choreographer Nayon Iovino), two works by Alejandro Cerrudo, and one reprise from Mr. Andersen’s Desert Botanical Garden series.

About Mr. Andersen’s newest creation little is known, but its title, Pelvis, certainly provides fodder for the imagination. He refers to the music (by Danish String Quartet) as “super upbeat, you-cannot-sit-still, put-a-smile-on-your-face, celebratory music. I don’t really do heavy pieces lately – I want to do things that make me happy right now.” Perhaps we’ll get a preview at the Studio Spotlight performance on March 9.

Mr. Iovino’s new work, Threads, is “about the spaces in between events and the reflection and personal evolution that happen in those quiet times”. Portions of this work were performed last September at Ballet under the Stars – one segment featuring what can only be called a bunch of zany guys in yellow tights, another featuring a sedate pas de deux. Music by Ensemble Art Sonic, Cartola, Neil Percy, Sufyvn, and Philip Glass.

Mr. Andersen’s Afternoon of the Faun is excerpted from his Round, which was presented al fresco and in-the-round at the Desert Botanical Garden two years ago, at which time Alistair Macaulay (NY Times) braved the Phoenix heat to offer this review:

“The “Faun,” one of the two finest sections of “Round,” is all-male; and what’s remarkable is how a dance that could so easily tip over into soft-core pornography (nine men in just their undies) stays calmly chaste and indeed classical. The men here are at ease with nature, and we see them lifted, walking on air, descending spiral staircases, climbing steps, plunging into flight. Although the focus is often on a male soloist, it sometimes shifts to a different dancer, creating a marvelous ambiguity of identity that is one of the work’s most haunting accomplishments.”

Never Was by Alejandro Cerrudo, is a new piece for Ballet Arizona – a pas de deux set to music by Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. Rita Felciano, writing for danceviewtimes, describes it as “a duet about power displayed, competed for, and ultimately shared”.

Last, and undoubtedly least - from a sartorial perspective - is a return of Mr. Cerrudo’s PacoPepePluto. (Let’s just say that the costume shop was not putting in any overtime on these outfits...) This piece for three men is a showpiece of male flexibility, set to the songs of Dean Martin.  Given the depth of Ballet Arizona’s male bench, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Anderson fields more than one cast for this piece.

Today's Masters promo video

Studio Spotlight (intimate preview performance) March 9 at Ballet Arizona Studios (at $30, it's BAZ's best-kept secret)

Today's Masters March 22-25, 2018 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

Head’s up: The ’18-19 season will shake-up the sequence of programs, with this contemporary program leading off in September.

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I attended the Today's Masters program this weekend at the Orpheum Theatre. The first section was comprised of two pieces by Alejandro Cerrudo - 'Pacopepepluto' for 3 men to songs by Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi. Solos. Unfortunately the guys were wearing only dance belts, nothing else. Nayon Iovino, Helio Lima, and Alejandro Mendez - all excellent dancers who did as much as they could with the material, but of course all you could do is gawk at their nakedness. I don't understand the point of this sort of costuming decision. Is it supposed to add an element to the solos? What? I find it distracting, as if we're intended to just ogle their bodies rather than be paying attention to what they're doing. Does anybody else feel that way about nakedness on stage? I often feel that way even about ballets where the men are topless. To me it distracts from the dancing. You don't know where to look. Anyway, the PDD was alright, if mostly the same vocabulary. It was called 'Never Was' and was very well danced by Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino.

The middle section of the evening had two pieces by Ib Andersen - Debussy's  'Afternoon of the Faun' (sic) which had 8 guys lifting Mr. Iovino - all of them wearing only very brief shorts. 'Pelvis' had 6 of the girls in dresses and Helio Lima in a gold outfit suggestive of Elvis in his Las Vegas mode with a lot of bumping and grinding.

The last section of the evening was a new ballet by Mr. Iovino to a mix of various pieces of music. This was unusual, evocative, and imaginative. Again there were no pointe shoes but the girls looked sort of wonderful - leos and tights, easy to see their movements. One of them, Arianni Martin, stood out for her beauty and sensitive dancing - but they were all good. There was a PDD for Amber Lewis and Helio Lima, and another for Jillian Barrell and Alejandro Mendez. All very well danced. The company looked good. This was a program where some of the offerings had to be played to tape, but next up is their all-Balanchine evening of three ballets that cry out for live music - Prodigal Son, Symphony in Three Movements, and La Sonnambula. Somebody, somewhere, needs to underwrite a fund to pay the Phoenix Symphony to play for Mr. Andersen's performances. I hope that person will step up to the plate. The company deserves it.  

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I started out in the dance world as a dancer, and so don't have feelings one way or the other about nudity.  Most people I know in my position are thinking logistically.  There can be difficulty sometimes with partnering (sticky/slippery) or floor work, but it does seem sometimes that people like yourself have trouble seeing the choreography when the dancers are mostly nude.  But that problem isn't reserved for nudity -- the color photos by Carl Van Vechten that were recently unearthed of 4 Temperaments in the original costumes are an example of the other side!  I just keep thinking of Balanchine prowling around backstage with a pair of scissors...

Please do come back and let us know how the Balanchine rep goes -- I envy you seeing Symphony in Three Movements.

 

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I saw their Symphony in Three Movements when first staged by Ben Huys, I think it was last May. Very well done. The audience loved it. 

I don't recall seeing a Balanchine ballet where nudity on any level was used. Do you? Not even cut-outs or see-thru. He seems to have found a way to both be practical and yet also show off the body in the most effective ways to illuminate the choreography.

 

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Well, we've been having a conversation elsewhere on this website about Bugaku -- it's not nudity, but some felt it was verging on nudity.  I'll see if I can find it and link it here.

The discussion of Bugaku starts here, but I think the whole thread, which covers a lot of different works, is worth skimming.

 

Edited by sandik

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Bugaku is rarely done anywhere. I was told that in his later years Balanchine disliked it saying "the only thing that's worse than the choreography is the music." I believe it came at a time of heightened interest in Japanese theatre, that Lincoln Kirstein was involved with bringing some of those groups to NY, etc. I rather like the ballet personally, but I'm aware it's kitsch and a bit hokey. But it's also fun and unusual. I'll go thru the discussion about it. Thanks.

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I read all of that discussion you suggested. It's sort of run its course so I think it's too late to point out to those suggesting Bugaku be attempted in practice clothes that that can only work with pure dance ballets, which Bugaku is not. There's a palpable subtext and a lot of formal, ritualistic entering and exiting and parading around - and then sections of undressing and dressing behind veils. Whatever would those dancers do without the veils and the costumes? With steps like at the end when the boys fluff the girls' capes. Also the set for that matters assuming that's removed as well. The dancers would be simply walking out on a bare stage rather than entering a ramp and walking forward down steps. And to what purpose? What would be gained? Those rituals are what they are. Or were what they were. Not all ballets age the same. Take Stars  & Stripes - you can't look at that finale with the flag going up in this political malaise. It's embarrassing. Not to say it always will be, but one might propose that those kinds of triumphant national attitudes are a thing of the past.

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I envy Arizona Ballet its upcoming all Balanchine program. 

I don’t think anyone disagrees about the value of live music at the ballet —unless the score is itself working with recordings. Unfortunately, it seems to be prohibitively expensive for many companies.

 

Edited by Drew

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The Orpheum Theatre doesn't have a pit.  I once saw Ib Andersen's "Preludes and Fugues" to live piano there, but only the first or first and second performances, as the excellent pianist became ill, and they used a recording after that.  I may have seen another piece with a trio or quartet, but, for the most part, dances performed at that theater are to recordings.

When the Phoenix Symphony plays for the company, it's at Symphony Hall.

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Helene, actually the Orpheum does have a pit. The problem is that it's not a very large one, and it isn't big enough to fit The Phoenix Symphony. By the way, the Orpheum offers one hour tours of the theatre, with special focus on its history and the superb refurbishment that they did. Highly recommended. Here's the link for the tour.

Another Orpheum show that offered live piano was Jerome Robbins In the Night, to Chopin's piano nocturnes, which was a treat. But since the Orpheum show is typically contemporary, the opportunities for live music seem to be fewer and fewer...

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The Orpheum does indeed have a pit. I walked down the aisle to check it out - quite small. The all-Balanchine performances will be at Symphony Hall so I was hoping for the Symphony, but I asked and they said no - tape. Part of the fund raising problem here seems to be that a lot of the wealthy people keep homes here that they only use periodically - 'Snowbirds' they're called - so there's very little commitment to the community. I've no idea what the company could do to improve that. 

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Thank you for the correction:  I thought they had extended the stage apron over what might have been a pit, but I was wrong.  In the 00's I saw at least a half dozen performances at the Orpheum, and the program could have anything from "The Golden Section" from "The Catherine Wheel," which would be performed, by definition, to a recording to "Raymonda" excerpts.

20 hours ago, Rock said:

I don't recall seeing a Balanchine ballet where nudity on any level was used. Do you? Not even cut-outs or see-thru. He seems to have found a way to both be practical and yet also show off the body in the most effective ways to illuminate the choreography.

When he did "The Seven Deadly Sins" he had Kent in a bra and what looks like a short slip:
https://www.google.com/search?q=allegra+kent+photo+the+seven+deadly+sins&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=1Y_KtKvqqksfmM%3A%2Cu63RyF2uBjYw_M%2C_&usg=__hD2rDq8IZf9bh3uD72hM2kyLFx0%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqgenQuYraAhUC3WMKHUO-DekQ9QEILDAB#imgrc=1Y_KtKvqqksfmM:

Similarly the woman in "Bugaku" -- also made for Kent -- during the pas de deux, after she is disrobed:

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/eaa4f7a0-7516-0133-f505-00505686d14e

 

George Platt Lines also used naked and near naked male bodies in his photo shoot(s) of stills of Balanchine works.

 

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True enough - she's wearing basically a bikini, but with tights and a covering of the mid section between. She's not "naked". I think there's a big difference. 

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10 hours ago, Rock said:

True enough - she's wearing basically a bikini, but with tights and a covering of the mid section between. She's not "naked". I think there's a big difference. 

Honestly, I think actually naked is less distracting than sort of naked.

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Sandik! You shock me! Hahaha. 

There's a visible difference between legs that have tights on them and bare legs. It's like what they call 'flesh impact' in the movies. Skin catches light in a very different way. For theatrical dancing I find it generally inappropriate - meaning it draws the eye to the wrong thing. If you're there to see the dancing it's much more clear when tights are used. Skin causes confusing shadows. At least that's how I see it. Tutus with bare legs and pointe shoes is a very confusing thing to the eye I think. The shoes are satin so they've got a sheen, most costume fabrics have a sheen, and of course tights have a sheen - so you get a unified look and it's easier to see what the dancer is doing. If that's what you want - to see exactly what's going on. The other approaches have their uses depending on the piece and what the choreographer is going for. In the case of Cerrudo's naked boys I just couldn't get what the point was. As I said they were all terrific looking guys but you noticed what they were doing a lot less than you noticed their backs, their abs, their buns, et.al. That's where your focus went. Was that what was intended? My guess was what was intended was just to shock. And of course that's tiresome. 

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14 hours ago, Rock said:

There's a visible difference between legs that have tights on them and bare legs. It's like what they call 'flesh impact' in the movies. Skin catches light in a very different way.

...

In the case of Cerrudo's naked boys I just couldn't get what the point was. As I said they were all terrific looking guys but you noticed what they were doing a lot less than you noticed their backs, their abs, their buns, et.al. That's where your focus went. Was that what was intended? My guess was what was intended was just to shock. And of course that's tiresome. 

Oh, I know exactly what you're talking about with the difference between skin and fabric, which is why I said that the sort of naked is more distracting for me.  We just had Forsythe's Slingerland duet here in Seattle, and the woman is wearing a short skirt, tights that cut off around mid-calf, and pointe shoes.  I saw Lindsi Dec, one of the tallest people in the company, with incredibly long legs, and her costume made her legs look rather short.  Forsythe has multiple moments where the performers are stretched out to the absolute edge of their flexibility, but I didn't see the long lines so much as the individual parts.

The problem with a choreographer trying to shock is that contemporary audiences have many different stress points -- as you describe them, the costumes don't seem very shocking to me, so it that was the goal, it didn't work in my situation.

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Dance belts Sandik. That's it. So nothing was covered other than their crotch. We all see plenty of nudity these days - it's everywhere. But theatrical dancing is different. These guys were jumping and lunging, squatting, you name it. Nothing like posing for a picture. More than shocking it was disconcerting. As I said, you didn't know what you were supposed to be looking at. Oh well, I'm letting it go. The program had a piece that really interested me so that's what matters isn't it?

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1 hour ago, Rock said:

The program had a piece that really interested me so that's what matters isn't it?

That's generally what gets me there and keeps me coming back.

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