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Drew

Bach to Broadway

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The seasons' final program for Atlanta Ballet was Bach to Broadway. On paper this was my favorite of the season, though in the event a mixed bag in part because of misleading advertising--or at least it seemed misleading to me. The announced program was 7 for 8 (Tomasson) to Bach, Balanchine's Who Cares? and a premier by the Mariinsky's Maxim Petrov (or Max Petrov as they said over the loudspeaker) to Tcherepnin's Concerto Armonico (ie Concerto for Harmonica).

I confess to having thought beforehand that the company might well need every last member of Atlanta Ballet II to fill the stage for Who Cares? But when the curtain went up, it was on the pas de deux to "The Man I Love"--that is, this was a four person version of Who Cares? -- no ensemble at all. Nowhere on the program or in the announcements or publicity for the program was there any indication we were going to see a reduced "highlights" Who Cares? I know the choreography for the pas de deux and solos make up the meat of the ballet which is what we got, but Who Cares? sans ensemble is not exactly the full-on Broadway celebration Who Cares? Nor does opening on a "highlight" have the same effect as when the highlight emerges later in the ballet against the backdrop, as it were, of the ensemble. If I had been warned ahead of time I might have adjusted. But I wasn't and it threw me for the whole performance. Obviously this must have the Balanchine Trust's okay and perhaps others can report to me if this is how the ballet is usually performed by smaller companies etc. But I was bummed. Petrov was in the audience for this and I kept thinking--'well I hope somebody tells HIM, this is not what Balanchine designed.' The reduction to the male lead and three ballerinas, did make the ballet more than ever seem like "Broadway Apollo" -- down to the fact that, like Apollo as it's often performed now, it's a truncated version of something that's better in its entirety.  All that said, Balanchine is Balanchine and the inventiveness and musical responsiveness of the choreography make the dancers look good. At this afternoon's performance I thought most of the dancers could still use more speed and more power but Nadia Mara in particular had a lilting flow at times that was very appealing.

7 for 8 is presumably well known to San Francisco Ballet fans. I appreciated the first and last pas de deux danced (at this performance) by Jessica Assef and Moises Martin. With their long, elegant lines they are very well matched and this was the first performance by Assef I've seen all season where I felt her dancing had real distinction and "flavor." She certainly has gorgeous legs -- probably the most beautiful in the company, at least as best I can judge. But on the whole, though tasteful work --and what else would one expect from Helgi Tomasson -- 7 for 8 is not a ballet I'd be eager to see again unless by an entire cast of dancers who could find more depths in it, as Assef and Martin did. (I did enjoy Jackie Nash's swift sequence of pique turns alternating with a sort of slowed down rond-de-jambe along  the floor.)  The ballet's black costumes against a dark grey/black background with -- you guessed it -- dim lighting did no-one any favors either.

For me the program highlight by some measure was Max Petrov's Concerto Armonico which I thought terrific. In a publicity video posted on the company's youtube channel but not played at the performance Petrov says his inspiration was America [edited to say: actually he says it's the music and the music made him think of America etc.], but I'd say it's pretty clear his inspiration was Ratmansky.  I guess one could say he seems to have looked closely at some Ratmansky ballets created in America (Concerto DSCH which the Mariinsky dances and Shostakovich Trilogy or at least a portion of it which he could have seen in St. Petersburg at Vishneva's Context festival). In any case Concerto Armonico had many elements that, to me, recalled Ratmansky: complex patterns with hyperactive, busy choreography and stage images, down to a lively, smaller solo male dancer weaving in and out of the action and an adagio for two couples  or "double" pas de deux at times merging into a quartet; classical dancing alternating with and sometimes integrating everyday movement--including what looked like a game of Rock, paper, scissors; a sense of community out of which the individuals and couples emerged--sometimes watched over by the community, sometimes simply watched by them--maybe occasionally a hint of dissonance between community and individual/couples; certainly a quiet sense of threat or anxiety occasionally overtaking the more festive joyful moments and the more intimate ones; attentive musicality and striking visual designs including a front curtain and alternating backdrops of abstract design recalling Miro crossed with...well perhaps Kandinsky? Perhaps Rothko?

But all of this was so integrated, so skillful, so effectively calibrated, that though one could see the Ratmansky "influence" the ballet still seemed a genuinely substantive work on its own account. The only huge negative was the lighting which was possibly the worse I have ever seen for a ballet I otherwise liked a lot -- not just dim, though it often was that -- but tonally weird at times and seemingly oddly cued. Actually at this afternoon's performance Petrov and the man sitting next to him in the audience got up rather noisily in a quiet portion of ballet and quickly headed (I infer) backstage.  I sincerely hope it was to complain about the lighting.

I think Concerto Armonico is my favorite of the company's season's premiers. I can't say for sure on the basis of one viewing, but I'm inclined to think this could be a keeper and not only for the Atlanta Ballet; that is, that it could be taken up by other companies. (And though it sounds cynical to say so, it might do very well for a company that can't afford to obtain a Ratmansky for its repertory. The "harmonica" hook has to be a good thing too.) Still, multiple viewings would give me a better idea.  I did feel the dancers were on the stretch -- though I enjoyed them, Jackie Nash in particular -- and I would have been happy to be able to see this a second time with the premier night cast.

Edited by Drew
Typos/spacing plus some re-ordering/clarification

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Drew said:

The seasons' final program for Atlanta Ballet was Bach to Broadway. On paper this was my favorite of the season, though in the event a mixed bag in part because of misleading advertising--or at least it seemedmisleading to me. The announced program was 7 for 8 (Tomasson) to Bach, Balanchine's Who Cares? and a premier by the Mariinsky's Maxim Petrov (or Max Petrov as they said over the loudspeaker) to Tcherepnin's Concerto Armonico (ie Concerto for Harmonica).

For me the program highlight by some measure was Max Petrov's Concerto Armonico which I thought terrific. In a publicity video posted on the company's youtube channel but not played at the performance Petrov says his inspiration was American, but I'd say it's pretty clear his inspiration was Ratmansky.  I guess one could say he seems to have looked closely at some Ratmansky ballets created in America (Concerto DSCH which the Mariinsky dances and Shostakovich Trilogy--which he could have seen in St. Petersburg at Vishneva's Context festival). In any case Concerto Armonico had many elements that, to me, recalled Ratmansky. Complex patterns with hyperactive, busy choreography and stage images, down to a lively, smaller solo male dancer weaving in and out of the action and an adagio for two couples so one had a kind of "double" pas de deux or quartet; classical dancing alternating with and sometimes integrating everyday movement--including what looked like a game of Rock, paper, scissors; a sense of community out of which the individuals and couples emerged--sometimes watched over by the community, sometimes simply watched by them--maybe occasionally a hint of dissonance between community and individual/couples; certainly a quiet sense of threat or anxiety occasionally overtaking the more festive joyful moments and the more intimate ones; attentive musicality and striking visual designs including a front curtain and alternating backdrops of abstract design recalling Miro crossed with...well perhaps Kandinsky? Perhaps Rothko? The only huge negative was the lighting which was possibly the worse I have ever seen for a good ballet -- not just dim, though it often was that -- but tonally weird at times and seemingly oddly cued. Actually at this afternoon's performance Petrov and the man sitting next to him in the audience got up rather noisily in a quiet portion of ballet and quickly headed (I infer) backstage.  I sincerely hope it was to complain about the lighting.

But all of the rest was so integrated, so skillful, so wonderfully calibrated, that though one could see the Ratmansky "influence" the ballet still seemed a genuinely fine ballet on its own account. I think my favorite of the season's premiers. I can't say for sure on the basis of one viewing but I'm inclined to think this could be a keeper not only for the Atlanta Ballet but suitable for other companies. (And though it sounds cynical to say so, it might do very well for a company that can't afford to obtain a Ratmansky for its repertory. The "harmonica" hook has to be a good thing too. Still multiple viewings would give me a better idea.)  I did feel the dancers were on the stretch -- though I enjoyed them, Jackie Nash in particualr -- and I would have been very happy to be able to see this a second time with the first night cast.

 

Did someone say -- “Maxim Petrov.”  😀

 

Thanks so much, Drew, and great to hear.  I’ll look this over much more carefully along with the rest of your review. It sounds like typical Petrov which I love. I’ll think about any past resemblances to Alexei Ratmansky, which don’t come to mind. Maxim Petrov’s works are usually a mixture of exuberance and fine artistry with a very good feel for Western entertainment. This may hopefully be the beginning of a more global career. I actually proposed the Miami City Ballet to him and wrote them but so far nothing has come of it.

 

 

Edited by Buddy

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3 hours ago, Buddy said:

Did someone say -- “Maxim Petrov.”  😀

 

Thanks so much, Drew, and great to hear.  I’ll look this over much more carefully along with the rest of your review. It sounds like typical Petrov which I love. I’ll think about any past resemblances to Alexei Ratmansky, which don’t come to mind. Maxim Petrov’s works are usually a mixture of exuberance and fine artistry with a very good feel for Western entertainment. This may hopefully be the beginning of a more global career. I actually proposed the Miami City Ballet to him and wrote them but so far nothing has come of it.

 

I remember you have been a champion of Petrov. I didn't think Concerto Armonico looked like the Petrov I've seen--and mostly enjoyed--online except in its skillfulness and exuberance. Admittedly, video is not the best way to judge. In any case, I'm all for a young choreographer trying out different things.  (I do hope he remains committed to classical ballet.)

Curious about the impressions of anyone else who saw this program too....

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Hi all,

Thank you, Drew, for this detailed report. We also found the Concerto Armonico the most compelling piece of the evening (We went for the evening performance, so we always seem to see different performances from you). The music by itself is highly compelling -- it is a very rich composition and a very interesting one, not to mention the virtuosity on the harmonica, which is a kind of rare thing to hear and witness. The ballet is very creative and intriguing. I like very much the overall visual aesthetic of it with the abstract expressionist art (yes, Miro / Rothko... exactly) and the costumes. There is a very mysterious air to the whole thing that kind of draws you in -- at times lighthearted but at times almost sinister. At one point I thought of the Handmaid's Tale for some reason! It's almost like watching a drama unfold in some strange distant future or other world. And I also felt that I would like and actually need to see this ballet one or two more times to really form a full judgment of it -- not because I don't know whether I like it or not (I do), but because it seems to have a certain depth and multiple layers to it. I certainly do not feel like I understood it at all from a first watching. I would very much like to see this be done more and taken up more by other companies.

We liked Who Cares? the least. On the surface this one should really be a crowd-pleaser with the Gershwin music and the feel-good vibe, but it fell flat for us. Probably that is down to two things -- the pared-down nature of the actual performance as you mention, and also a certain lack of energy and power in the dancing. As I mentioned in the other thread, I haven't been impressed the last few times I've seen Atlanta Ballet do Balanchine. In fact, the last two Balanchine performances have been the weakest (in my humble opinion) or among the weakest from the past two seasons. 

I did like 7 for 8, though. It is the first time I'm seeing it. Setting ballet to Bach is simply brilliant. I found it very elegant, and I liked the way the dances repeat structurally in a way that mirrors the way sections of classical music repeat (particularly music of Bach's era). I found the piece very compelling and beautifully done. The lighting did not disturb me -- it was atmospheric and seemed suited to the more restrained / baroque music and dancing. But again, the Concerto Armonico was certainly the stand-out.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Snail said:

Hi all,

Thank you, Drew, for this detailed report. We also found the Concerto Armonico the most compelling piece of the evening (We went for the evening performance, so we always seem to see different performances from you). The music by itself is highly compelling -- it is a very rich composition and a very interesting one, not to mention the virtuosity on the harmonica, which is a kind of rare thing to hear and witness. The ballet is very creative and intriguing. I like very much the overall visual aesthetic of it with the abstract expressionist art (yes, Miro / Rothko... exactly) and the costumes. There is a very mysterious air to the whole thing that kind of draws you in -- at times lighthearted but at times almost sinister. At one point I thought of the Handmaid's Tale for some reason! It's almost like watching a drama unfold in some strange distant future or other world. And I also felt that I would like and actually need to see this ballet one or two more times to really form a full judgment of it -- not because I don't know whether I like it or not (I do), but because it seems to have a certain depth and multiple layers to it. I certainly do not feel like I understood it at all from a first watching. I would very much like to see this be done more and taken up more by other companies.

But again, the Concerto Armonico was certainly the stand-out.

 

Thanks, Snail, for this added insight. Drew, maybe you could tell us how this differs from what you’ve seen on the internet, if you haven’t done it already. I would guess that it would be in line with what Snail has written. The only Ratmansky connection that I’ve really noticed in the past is in the structural brilliance of the choreography. I’ve alway considered it an independent development.

On video and several live, I’ve seen six of his works. The two I’ve liked best were unequivocally upbeat. Another with a Charlie Chaplin takeoff was delightful until the end when the girl leaves the guy (sort of Chaplinish, actually). I, being me, delight in the lightheartedness, and skip the ending. One of the totally cheerful ones could have been Saturday evening, Main Street, USA.  The men looked like that had bought their clothes at a Target store, literally. I loved it.

There is a slight sort of a brooding in several of his other works. It could be cultural to an extent, but doesn’t apply to many I know in Russia who are delightful.

Edited by Buddy
spelling correction

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Posted (edited)
On 5/12/2018 at 8:32 PM, Snail said:

But again, the Concerto Armonico was certainly the stand-out.

Thanks again, Snail and Drew.

Well I do hope to see this. I listened to the complete score (24:00). If the choreography closely followed it then I do have more insight into what you’ve written. The music is quite inventive, which goes along with Maxim Petrov’s own ability. It has more edginess than other music that he’s selected but it does end on a fairly substantial uplifting few minutes which is more typical.

I tend to like his work for its resemblance to Jerome Robbin’s more pleasant and entertaining creations.

Can you describe the costumes?

This is what I mean by a Jerome Robbins resemblance in the quieter moments.

(NYC Ballet Artists, posted by Vail International Dance Festival)

 

The important thing, though, is that Maxim Petrov's choreography is the offering of additional beautiful and highly entertaining dance. It's put together in its own way with its own distiinct individuality and invention.

Edited by Buddy
last two sentences added

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On 5/14/2018 at 5:31 PM, Buddy said:

Thanks again, Snail and Drew.

Well I do hope to see this. I listened to the complete score (24:00). If the choreography closely followed it then I do have more insight into what you’ve written. The music is quite inventive, which goes along with Maxim Petrov’s own ability. It has more edginess than other music that he’s selected but it does end on a fairly substantial uplifting few minutes which is more typical.

I tend to like his work for its resemblance to Jerome Robbin’s more pleasant and entertaining creations.

Can you describe the costumes?

This is what I mean by a Jerome Robbins resemblance in the quieter moments.

(NYC Ballet Artists, posted by Vail International Dance Festival)

 

The important thing, though, is that Maxim Petrov's choreography is the offering of additional beautiful and highly entertaining dance. It's put together in its own way with its own distiinct individuality and invention.

Hi Buddy,

It’s hard to describe the costumes so I found a picture here. It’s the top picture. You can see the dancers are in red and blue costumes. Strong primary colors. You can also see one of the backdrops. Perhaps you can see there’s something about the women’s costumes that made me think of the handmaid’s tale... I found it all very intriguing. I wish I could see it again! A fascinating piece. Our seats are second row center so we are right behind the conductor (an excellent conductor) and we could see the harmonica soloist  directly and head on. A remarkable piece of music with real wizardry in the harmonica.

 

http://artsatl.com/review-glamorous-inventive-bach-broadway-closes-atlanta-ballet-season/

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Snail said:

Hi Buddy,

It’s hard to describe the costumes so I found a picture here. It’s the top picture. You can see the dancers are in red and blue costumes. Strong primary colors. You can also see one of the backdrops. Perhaps you can see there’s something about the women’s costumes that made me think of the handmaid’s tale... I found it all very intriguing. I wish I could see it again! A fascinating piece. Our seats are second row center so we are right behind the conductor (an excellent conductor) and we could see the harmonica soloist  directly and head on. A remarkable piece of music with real wizardry in the harmonica.

 

http://artsatl.com/review-glamorous-inventive-bach-broadway-closes-atlanta-ballet-season/

Thanks very much, Snail, for your response and the link to the review.

What has impressed me over the six years or so that I’ve been seeing Maxim Petrov’s works (he will always be a “Maxim” to me, Drew) is that he’s been able to sustain his creativity. His new works are as alive, complete and fresh as his original ones. His main strength is moving big groups of dancers in very inventive and entertaining ways. I continue to sense a Jerome Robbins (at his most pleasant) feel, which I like very much.

He also has the very fine ability to work at an artistic level worthy of the exceptional Mariinsky dancers. In one new work at the Mariinsky, which was totally credited to another in-house choreographer, I really feel that Maxim Petrov was also involved. One thing that was different and probably the result of the credited choreographer was more flexibility and flow in the dancers’ bodies. If Maxim Petrov wants to do some fine tuning this might be a place. He also uses the men’s high bravura ability to keep things moving, although I find the loveliness and charm of the women are just as compelling, but not as overt. He might play with this balance somewhat and give the charming subtlety of the women’s passages some more emphasis. The way that he featured the Mariinsky’s delightful Viktoria Brilyova in one of his first works, “Cinema,” did move in this direction.

He’s also done some other less lengthy works where he’s tried different things such as solos, more classical style, slightly heavier themes and pure abstraction. His strength, for me, still lies in his large scale, large group and cheerfully inventive efforts. If he just did these I’d be fine. If he wants to try new things, I would hope that he keeps the qualities that I’ve mentioned, at least until he’s found something else equal to this.

Let’s see where he goes. He’s got the ability. Hopefully he will get the recognition.

Edited by Buddy
typo correction

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Buddy said:

What has impressed me over the six years or so that I’ve been seeing Maxim Petrov’s works (he will always be a “Maxim” to me, Drew) ...

Quite right I think. In fact, I usually stay away from nicknames for artists and prefer to call them by whatever professional name they use, but some of the Atlanta Ballet publicity on Facebook for example referred to him as Max Petrov, so I started to wonder if that was actually his preference. (By unfortunate coincidence, "Maxim Petrov" happens to be the name of a particularly notorious Russian serial killer.) But you have been following his work for years, and he is listed as Maxim Petrov in most places, so I think you must be right that he uses and wants to use his full name in professional settings. I won't change what I wrote above at this point, but will stick to Maxim Petrov in future. And I do hope to be hearing from him in future.

 

Edited by Drew

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