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Ib Andersen’s The Firebird: Folklore Meets a Futuristic World

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When first announced, the mere mention of an all-new Firebird, choreographed by Artistic Director Ib Andersen, aroused great local interest. Indeed, Ballet Arizona fanned those flames (so to speak) by printing the most extravagant season brochure in memory, with a stunning photo of dancer Mimi Tompkins on the cover - featuring exactly what one would expect – a sumptuous flowing red feather/flame outfit.
Ballet-SeasonBrochure-Featured.jpg

Well, almost a year has gone by, and it appears that the concept for the production has, well, matured, to say the least. Now, let it be said that Mr. Andersen is a dedicated and superb story-teller, having grown up in the Royal Danish Ballet, danced many of the major story ballet roles for RDB, NYCB, and others, and that he has also choreographed a raft of superb story ballets for Ballet Arizona. At heart, he is a traditionalist. Keep all that in mind when reading the following recent quote from him:

“Fabio Toblini, our costume designer, was in town last week, and we defined many things while he was here. I have also begun choreographing. I think in 4 days I have already done 11 minutes (which is a lot). I am making The Firebird into an alien. I’m changing who the characters are. It’s sort of like Star Trek meets Lord of the Rings, maybe a little Game of Thrones, maybe a little bit of Space Odyssey 2001 (ha!). It is still undefined, but I will say they will land in a spacecraft and so you just need to use your imagination.” (from Turning Pointe Donor Report )

Ohhh. Kayyy. So it sounds like it’s shaping up to consist of 1) the Stravinsky score (for sure), 2) a more-or-less traditional story (probably), 3) more-or-less classical choreography (likely),  and 4) an out-of-this-world setting and costumes (definitely!).

With regard to aliens, BAZ has posted these photo tidbits:

Alien/Monster costume sketch, with both male and female monsters:  Fabio Toblini Monster Costume Sketch

Alien/Monster women’s costume, with high-tech insignia and rivets:

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Various futuristic swatches for alien costumes:  Swatches  (click photos to see more.)

Paired with The Firebird will be La Sylphide, with choreography by August Bournonville and staging by Mr. Andersen, who is clearly on home turf here. Odds are that this will be a spectacular evening. Hopefully BAZ will be providing more photos and info on Firebird/Sylphide once the holiday season is over.

The earliest opportunity to get a peek at The Firebird and/or La Sylphide will be at the Studio Spotlight (behind-the-scenes) show on Feb 1, 2019, at Ballet Arizona Studios. (At $33 to $38, Studio Spotlight is one of BAZ's best kept and most affordable secrets.)

The Firebird (World Premiere) and La Sylphide will be performed with the Phoenix Symphony at Phoenix Symphony Hall on February 14-17, 2019.

Edited by fiddleback
Indented quote for clarity.

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2 hours ago, fiddleback said:

  


Well, almost a year has gone by, and it appears that the concept for the production has, well, matured, to say the least. Now, let it be said that Mr. Andersen is a dedicated and superb story-teller, having grown up in the Royal Danish Ballet, danced many of the major story ballet roles for RDB, NYCB, and others, and that he has also choreographed a raft of superb story ballets for Ballet Arizona. At heart, he is a traditionalist. Keep all that in mind when reading the following recent quote from him:

“Fabio Toblini, our costume designer, was in town last week, and we defined many things while he was here. I have also begun choreographing. I think in 4 days I have already done 11 minutes (which is a lot). I am making The Firebird into an alien. I’m changing who the characters are. It’s sort of like Star Trek meets Lord of the Rings, maybe a little Game of Thrones, maybe a little bit of Space Odyssey 2001 (ha!). It is still undefined, but I will say they will land in a spacecraft and so you just need to use your imagination.” (from Turning Pointe Donor Report )

Ohhh. Kayyy. So it sounds like it’s shaping up to consist of 1) the Stravinsky score (for sure), 2) a more-or-less traditional story (probably), 3) more-or-less classical choreography (likely),  and 4) an out-of-this-world setting and costumes (definitely!).

[....]

 

 

I hope it's spectacular--though I can't say I the story sounds all that traditional to me....very curious to read about the production when it premiers.

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21 hours ago, Drew said:

I hope it's spectacular--though I can't say I the story sounds all that traditional to me....very curious to read about the production when it premiers.

Drew, let me clarify my rather vague thought of the story being "traditional". What I meant to say was that it seems likely that all of the main character groups (princesses, monsters, prince, chief monster, etc.) will be there - possibly in different garb, but likely in similar roles, and with a relatively traditional story line, albeit set in the future.  What we can glean at the moment from the costumes is that the traditional villains (monsters) are likely to be some kind of alien beings. Costumewise, this does not hurt my head in the least, since the monsters seem to traditionally be dressed as ragamuffins, neither visually appealing nor choreographically appealing. I'm thinking that these rather sleek alien outfits will be more visually appealing on stage, and will allow the choreography to not be hidden by the costumes. Personally, I think it has the potential to be quite spectacular. We'll see...

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It does sound like an intriguing way to redo the ballet. I like Ratmansky’s version (not everyone does), but I also used to enjoy seeing ABT’s revival of Fokine’s with the Goncharova designs. The latter may be harder for today’s dancers to bring to life and certainly must be very expensive to produce.

Will look forward to reading your reports on Andersen’s production. 

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I haven't see the Ratmansky, but Monsters have been the weakest and least interesting part of every production of Firebird I've ever seen.  The music is wonderful, though. 

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To me the Princess section is usually the least interesting part. I've always found Jerome Robbins' monsters, in the Balanchine version, hilarious. I think he captures the Disneyesque quality of that music perfectly. I don't find that music scary. Goofy. 

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One more production tidbit from Modern Luxury Scottsdale magazine:

‘Andersen is even hauling in a massive 120-foot-tall panoramic screen – think IMAX instead of Nijinsky - challenging the viewer to see ballet from a different perspective.  “Hopefully, it’s going to be something that is very visually striking” he says.’

This is most likely referring to the LED video wall that Arizona Opera purchased last year and has been using as a full-scale animated video backdrop at Symphony Hall. Sounds like Ballet Arizona will be borrowing it for its Space Age The Firebird. The mind reels at the possibilities...

(Note, the Opera's video wall is actually only 27’ tall (and 57’ wide). Symphony Hall would need to be demolished and rebuilt to accommodate a 120’ tall screen - probably not within BAZ's budget. Also, dancers in the gravity-defying photo at the above link are Amber Lewis, Ricardo Santos, Allejandro Mendez, Jackson Dwyer, and Alison Remmers, with an uncharacteristically zany Ib Andersen on the right.)

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