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Jack Reed

May 2 - 5, 2019 "All Balanchine" Square Dance, Emeralds, Theme and Variations

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May 2 - 5  "All Balanchine" in Phoenix Symphony Hall

No posts?  Am I the only BA!-er who's going?  

I got into Balanchine watching his company supervised by him in the 70's, and with that perspective, I'm finding a lot to enjoy with these shows.  Many companies show Balanchine's steps and gestures, but few perform them with "the reasons".  As we learned from a pre-performance "chat", AD Ib Andersen may say, as he did in the case of Emeralds, "There's no story here, so make one up."  

The result of encouraging dancers to intuit from what they are trained and hearing is pretty remarkable.  For a major example, I seem to be getting as much or more out of "seeing the music" in the male solo near the end of Square Dance, from the way Helio Lima moves, as I did from Bart Cook, on whom this dance was made decades ago, when I watched him dance it. 

And in Emeralds, Arianni Martin was so effective in the variation made for the great Violette Verdy that it could go back into third place in the sequence of numbers in this ballet where it had been with Verdy.  As it is, Mimi Tompkins's rendition of the Mimi Paul variation, originally the second number, was just a little bit of a letdown - no fault of Tompkins, quite the contrary, but it's a lesser dance and originally served, not only for its own considerable beauties, which Tompkins showed us very well, but also as a build-up to the Verdy variation.

(Not that I would ever tell Ib Andersen what to do.)

This is a company premiere, and what a beautiful thing it is!  And in the right place in this well-planned three-part program.

Then a rousing finale, Theme and Variations, large cast and energetic music, with some tempos faster than I have ever heard them, too fast in places for Vladimir Jurowski's Russian National Orchestra (by recording, as is all the music in this program) but not for Ib Andersen's dancers.

There's one more performance to go at 1:00 today, and I'm off to see it.

  

Edited by Jack Reed

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Jack - I saw a performance but i don't think it was the same one you attended. I never heard that Verdy's variation was ever any place other than right after the opening section. But I believe the 2nd variation, which was originally Mimi Paul, was rechoreographed in 1976, the same time Mr. Balanchine added a second PdD for Verdy and the new ending. I think the 2nd variation we now see was done on Karin von Aroldingen. I thought the Ballet Arizona Emeralds was very well staged and beautifully coached.  

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I've seen all four performances so far, so if you don't recognize them in my description, it may be that my descriptions are worse than usual!

Agree that von Aroldingen took over Paul's variation, but that happened while Verdy was still in it.  I saw Verdy in it a lot - sometimes replaced by Christine Redpath, her alternate, a pretty redhead but not a great dancer - but I never saw Paul, who left early for ABT, I think.

But I stick to my interpretation of why Verdy came back on to dance The Spinner variation - translating Faure's title there, but you hear the spinning in the music just as you begin to see it - it was because, on her especially, it was the greater number.  You know that old show-biz phrase, "a hard act to follow"?  Verdy's Spinner was a hard number to follow, and so Balanchine put Paul ahead of it (and also gave Verdy a chance to rest).

But I really agree this beautiful ballet is getting the presentation it deserves.

Edited by Jack Reed

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Back in Chicago, I'm still enjoying these performances, glad for them to linger in memory.

Regarding Square Dance, Nayon Iovino did not move quite so smoothly and effortlessly as Lima in this, and Jillian Barrell's dancing was a little less satisfying when compared to Amber Lewis in the first cast, but both casts made this generally light, bouncy, and high-spirited ballet, an excellent opener, look like fun to dance. 

"Fun" was the word Lima used in the pre-performance chat with Alexandra Papazian, BAZ's Education and Community Engagement Manager, who promptly followed his true remark with the puzzling claim that this ballet was "technical". 

("Technical"?  I'm sorry, but these dancers are so accomplished, their technique didn't show, the fun did - the fun in the music showed.  She seemed to me to be selling them short, unless maybe she was trying to refer to the exceptionally open and clear patterns in this little ballet of fewer than twenty dancers.) 

Edited by Jack Reed

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