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Balanchine Jewels in London, Berlin and Vienna ?


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There is a comment online (not on this forum) to the effect that the recent production of Jewels at the Vienna Staatsoper seemed less successful than the performances by the Royal Ballet in London in 2017. Further there has been criticism by others of the recent Jewels in Berlin. 

So I was wondering if someone could explain these variations in quality, given how seriously the Balanchine Trust supervises everything? Are some authorised coaches more reliable than others? Or is this more about variable standards across different companies (such as the three listed above)? Or just the luck of the draw, subjective opinion meeting the vagaries of rehearsal and production?

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12 hours ago, Sebastian said:

There is a comment online (not on this forum) to the effect that the recent production of Jewels at the Vienna Staatsoper seemed less successful than the performances by the Royal Ballet in London in 2017. Further there has been criticism by others of the recent Jewels in Berlin. 

So I was wondering if someone could explain these variations in quality, given how seriously the Balanchine Trust supervises everything? Are some authorised coaches more reliable than others? Or is this more about variable standards across different companies (such as the three listed above)? Or just the luck of the draw, subjective opinion meeting the vagaries of rehearsal and production?

One theory would be that the Trust has gotten too worldwide in trying to mount so many productions of Balanchine's work every year and quality has become uneven as a result. Another would be that too many company directors are programming Balanchine regardless of whether or not their companies have any stylistic or technical affinity for his work.

And then there's this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_danc/who-really-controls-balanchines-ballets-the-dance-world-deserves-to-know/2019/03/28/3e8bca96-5017-11e9-af35-1fb9615010d7_story.html

 

Edited by miliosr
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San Francisco Ballet has done some good Jewels productions in the past, especially with the clean and speedy Cuban dancers who used to be in the company – and they will be doing Jewels again this upcoming season. I very much liked the Jewels that the Mariinsky did here almost twenty years ago, somewhat midpoint between Balanchine and their company style. And Miami City Ballet of course always did Balanchine with great clarity and immediacy.

It must be difficult to pick up on Balanchine though without doing it all the time. Balanchine, like all modernists, tended to reduce ornament and dancers in non-B companies sometimes seem to want to put the ornament back in. The basic choreography is clean and bare-boned, some of it like throw-away lines, and one (d--n) thing follows another without pause.  John Clifford somewhere says that when he restages the ballets, he conducts some basic Balanchine company classes first and that helps prepare the dancers for later rehearsals.

Edited by Quiggin
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Sylve was wonderful in Diamonds, and Tina Le Blanc's Rubies lead is still one of my all-time favorites. I haven't seen SFB dance Jewels since then.

It's such a mixed bag, and it depends not only on the stager, and who coached/taught/trained them, but also what kind of training the dancers have had, and whether Balanchine was checking a box or whether it really resonates. (It's hard to find large and mid-sized US companies where a majority of the dancers didn't at least dip their toes into SAB's summer program.) Is the company (still) committed to Balanchine, or has it shifted?  Has the Balanchine rep shifted?  Does the Artistic Director has special relationships with particular stagers?

Depending on the company outside the US, if it has an international roster of dancers who have different training, from what I've seen, more dancers dance Balanchine idiomatically.  Companies with elite schools like the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, all of the Vaganova satellites throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, and, for the Bolshoi, Brazil, and Paris Opera are more likely to inprint their style on Balanchine.

Jewels is great because you can see when specific dancers get it.

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On 11/29/2019 at 4:29 PM, miliosr said:

Another would be that too many company directors are programming Balanchine regardless of whether or not their companies have any stylistic or technical affinity for his work.

Yep. Having a répétiteur from the Balanchine Trust come to coach the dancers doesn't magically transform a company into a 'Balanchine company' with the Balanchine technique and aesthetics absorbed into everyone's muscle tissue.  ;)
I have to agree with Quiggin and Helene that learning Balanchine choreography is a complicated affair that requires persistence and commitment from all artistic staff and dancers. The Balanchine aesthetic may be particularly difficult to grasp when you consider the range of works: being good at Phlegmatic in The Four Temperaments doesn't guarantee good results for Tarantella, or Square Dance. Concerto Barocco isn't necessarily 'good preparation' for dancing solo roles in Rubies.

Dance and the dancers are ever changing. If NYCB doesn't dance Balanchine in exactly the same way as when he died, then no one else is going to either. But at least NYCB makes it their daily task to maintain the Balanchine and Robbins repertoire. Most other companies offer Balanchine ballets only sporadically. It's no accident that the companies who manage the most believable performances of Balanchine works  tend to be the ones in a direct line of succession from NYCB (their artistic directors (and some ballet masters) were former NYCB dancers).

Edited by pherank
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