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Digital Spring Season

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I've never liked a single Wheeldon ballet that I've seen. (I haven't seen too many, as I quickly learned to avoid them.) So I was quite surprised by how much I liked Liturgy. So many nice steps, so visually engaging. Kowroski looked great.

Then Carousel (A Dance) reminded me of why I'd disliked all the others.

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The Wheeldon ballets were quite pleasant...until Skycam and Wingcam came back with a vengeance!

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I'd never seen Lovette dance before, I thought she was a lovely Julie.  Tyler Angle had that necessary undertone of menace as Bill Bigelow, and I loved him in the role.  Gerrity was wonderful as a demi.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Helene said:

I'd never seen Lovette dance before, I thought she was a lovely Julie.

There’s not a lot of footage of Lovette online I don’t think, unfortunately. But she’s in the NYCB Paris Walpurgisnacht, which is overall a very enjoyable video.

Edited by nanushka

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On 5/21/2020 at 5:28 AM, cobweb said:

This is a very interesting discussion, allowing me to appreciate some nuances that totally escaped me otherwise. Pherank - could you elaborate about your comment here, what do you see Mearns trying to bring clarity to, and how do you discern that, along with her discomfort? Thanks for any further illumination!

My inference regarding her discomfort is simply based on her expressions and ability to articulate the steps as the ballet goes on (I watch these videos on a large screen TV so it's much easier to read faces than looking at the videos on the computer). If ever a dancer telegraphed her feelings directly, without resorting to a "game face", that dancer would be Sara Mearns. There's a point after the Scherzo where it strikes me that she was getting tired in the legs (go figure), and has trouble with some of the pirouettes (but not all).

I compared the tempo of this PDD with the POB's Letestu & Bart DVD version, and there's a lot of variation in the tempo and accents. In the first couple of minutes of the PDD, Mearns & Janzen move a little faster in many parts with the exception of the long back bends and deep arabesques. Those get drawn out in the Mearns & Janzen version, as do the various intimate pauses,  and the pauses at the ends of the diagonal. But eventually Letestu & Bart seem to pick up the pace and out race Mearns & Janzen to the end. At 16:47 when Mearns pushes outward with her hands while Janzen is holding her waist, and he then lifts her gently up and carries her back a couple steps - those steps have been slowed down in this version. Some partners choose to emphasize the upward thrust of the lift (with a quicker burst). I wouldn't say M&J were luxuriating in the moment, however; it all feels very pensive to me. This performance definitely strikes me as having Suzanne Farrell's touch all over it. Whether the moods and movements are suited to the dancers is another matter. But for me, Mearns and Janzen inhabit the roles well enough.

'...while during a series of promenades in the polonaise, she advised the couple to pause briefly in between each new position. "That had gotten blurred over the years, probably because someone wanted to keep getting around, and then that's what we were taught," says Mearns. "But she's right—there's so much going on during the finale and we're right there in front. You have to bring focus to something."'

The iconic "Eastern/Asian" Diamonds pose at 18:20 [back arched; head up; left arm bent at the elbow and held behind the head; right arm held aloft; wrists dropped) is very carefully delineated by Mearns, but in Letestu's version there's less clarity and emphasis at the same point of the PDD. (Letestu also has a tendency to round the arm movements and drop the left arm quickly in her version.) This arm movement returns in the Scherzo where additionally Mearns sweeps the left hand over her head [23:55 to 24:00].

At 18:53 - while walking backwards on pointe Mearns adds petit battement(?) of 2 beats to the walk, but Letestu (and Lopatkina) ignores this detail entirely, and it does not appear in Farrell and Martin's version for television. If someone can tell me the correct terminology for this step I would be grateful.

Letestu and Bart are lighter and playfully at ease. Mearns and Janzen are full of smooth deliberation. Aside from the one mentioned above, I don't see little inflections and embellishments in the NYCB PDD performance - it's very distilled looking. Things get turned up a notch in the Scherzo in both versions. The tempo of the finale looks to be slightly slower in the NYCB version.

During the Finale's partnered dancing, Mearns wears a smile - for, I think, the first time. It may be one of those, "we're going to get through this!" smiles, or she may be starting to have fun. She looks genuinely enthusiastic until she gets off her line in the pirouettes at 31:35 and then we see the serious look again. The POB is all smiles during the Finale, but the NYCB dancers keep to a more restrained demeanor. That strikes me as having to do with Farrell's recommendations. I wonder: did Farrell ever smile much while performing? Maybe in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

On a side note: Janzen is taller and lankier than Jean-Guillaume Bart and that certainly affects how he performs some movements. Janzen's leaps are not nearly as impressive as Bart's - he doesn't achieve the same attack, sustained clarity, and height in his grand jetés. But he is an equally attentive and capable partner.

I can remember people saying that the Mariinsky should understand Diamonds better than anyone, but that really wasn't true for about 30 years. Of course it depends on what one thinks Diamonds is really "about", or trying to accomplish. If, as Nancy Goldner stated, Diamonds is "Balanchine working in the 19th century, not off of it", then no company is going to be expert in this approach. The Mariinsky of today is something quite different from the Mariinsky of 1921 (the year Balanchine graduated from the school). This ballet suites Ulyana Lopatkina well, I agree (but even Lopatkina added affections that I sometimes like, or sometimes don't at all). Alexandra Danilova was trained by the Russian Imperial Ballet School - does Lopatkina dance anything like Danilova? Things change, and so do people's expectations.

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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

I've never liked a single Wheeldon ballet that I've seen. (I haven't seen too many, as I quickly learned to avoid them.) So I was quite surprised by how much I liked Liturgy. So many nice steps, so visually engaging. Kowroski looked great.

Then Carousel (A Dance) reminded me of why I'd disliked all the others.

LOL - thanks, Nanushka I needed that laugh. Ever seen Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland?
 

1 hour ago, Roberta said:

The Wheeldon ballets were quite pleasant...until Skycam and Wingcam came back with a vengeance!

Maybe it's too much of an in-joke, but I really think there needs to be a ballet named "Skycam and Wingcam".  😉

 

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2 minutes ago, pherank said:

LOL - thanks, Nanushka I needed that laugh. Ever seen Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland?

Luckily (I'm guessing) no. His Winter's Tale at the Lincoln Center Festival was my personal low point.

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19 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Luckily (I'm guessing) no. His Winter's Tale at the Lincoln Center Festival was my personal low point.

I remember seeing most of WT, but it didn't stick with me. The AiW choreography seemed stunningly uninteresting and repetitive. My internal monologue was something like: "Why do that there? What, again? And you're going to repeat that some more? Going for a record? How about some dance that actually develops the character, or even the story?" Anyway, you get the idea.

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For me, Christopher Wheeldon’s greatest strength has always been his inventive, somewhat demanding, but mesmerising duets. Here, though not as inventive as Liturgy, I find his Carousel duet (starting at 19:40) to be absolutely charming.

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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, Buddy said:

For me, Christopher Wheeldon’s greatest strength has always been his inventive, somewhat demanding, but mesmerising duets. Here, though not as inventive as Liturgy, I find his Carousel duet (starting at 19:40) to be absolutely charming.

I don't know if you watched SFB's performance of Wheeldon's Bound To yet, but that certainly includes some inventive lifts. I'm not sure if all of them are appropriate though - there's an element of 'difficulty for its own sake' that I could do without. But, Tomasson did direct the choreographers of the Unbound Festival to try things that were new for them (and this is one of those ballets). The dancers look great as usual (and they always go the extra mile for Wheeldon as he is well liked by the SFB staff) so for me, that's the main reason to watch.

Edited by pherank

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

I don't know if you watched SFB's performance of Wheeldon's Bound To yet, but that certainly includes some inventive lifts. I'm not sure if all of them are appropriate though - there's an element of 'difficulty for its own sake' that I could do without. But, Tomasson did direct the choreographers of the Unbound Festival to try things that were new for them (and this is one of those ballets). The dancers look great as usual (and they always go the extra mile for Wheeldon as he is well liked by the SFB staff) so for me, that's the main reason to watch.

I have watched about half of it, Pherank, and, for me once again, it's the main duet near the beginning that is the highlight.

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19 minutes ago, Buddy said:

I have watched about half of it, Pherank, and, for me once again, it's the main duet near the beginning that is the highlight.

Ah, then you haven't gotten to the Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno 'difficult lifts' segment. I didn't envy him his job.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, pherank said:

Ah, then you haven't gotten to the Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno 'difficult lifts' segment. I didn't envy him his job.

I did go and watch this part. It’s another duet and I like Christopher Wheeldon’s duets. Yes, there’s difficulty as usual and I do prefer non-difficulty, but I still like it. There’s a lot of invention and embracing beauty as well. I also liked the male solo that followed. It’s possibly more contemporary than ballet, which he does well.

 

Edited by Buddy
I deleted the last sentence that was meant for another topic

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Buddy said:

For me, Christopher Wheeldon’s greatest strength has always been his inventive, somewhat demanding, but mesmerising duets. Here, though not as inventive as Liturgy, I find his Carousel duet (starting at 19:40) to be absolutely charming.

I also like Wheeldon's DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse. Lauren Lovette has been dancing the lead in that, including the pdd with Andy Veyette, recently. It may have been too long to fit in with this Digital Spring Season. Though Carousel is not among my favorites, there's no other ballet remotely like it in the NYCB repertory and it shows another facet of what they can do.

It's kind of part of the Digital Spring Season, I suppose, are people aware that A Part of Together, a new six minute ballet choreographed during the pandemic by Tiler Peck, Troy Schumacher, Lauren Lovette, Ashley Bouder and Peter Walker is now on the nycballet.com front page? I found it quite charming. It's a series of solos to Bach's Brandenburg #6. Each of the dancers appears outside in their own location.

Edited by BalanchineFan

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Pherank, thank you very much for taking the time to write out such detailed thoughts and analysis. I am learning so much from this discussion of Diamonds and the various performances that have been linked to and referenced. Next time I see it, there is much more nuance that I can look for and absorb. 

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7 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I also like Wheeldon's DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse. Lauren Lovette has been dancing the lead in that, including the pdd with Andy Veyette, recently. It may have been too long to fit in with this Digital Spring Season. Though Carousel is not among my favorites, there's no other ballet remotely like it in the NYCB repertory and it shows another facet of what they can do.

It's kind of part of the Digital Spring Season, I suppose, are people aware that A Part of Together, a new six minute ballet choreographed during the pandemic by Tiler Peck, Troy Schumacher, Lauren Lovette, Ashley Bouder and Peter Walker is now on the nycballet.com front page? I found it quite charming. It's a series of solos to Bach's Brandenburg #6. Each of the dancers appears outside in their own location.

I enjoyed A Part of Together. I liked Peck's used of the pool, and Walker's use of the stairs, especially. I couldn't help but notice that this was 'quarantine for dancers whose families live in beautiful places and/or have money'.   ;)

 

4 hours ago, cobweb said:

Pherank, thank you very much for taking the time to write out such detailed thoughts and analysis. I am learning so much from this discussion of Diamonds and the various performances that have been linked to and referenced. Next time I see it, there is much more nuance that I can look for and absorb. 

My thoughts were a bit random, I know. I would have spent more time looking at the Scherzo variations but I got sidelined with a migraine yesterday, so no more electronics and videos for a couple of days. Argh.
It's one my dreams to one day create a split screen comparison of 2 or 3 dancers dancing a well known variation. How to deal with the audio is the really difficult part - probably needs to be silent, but each individual window would need to display the tempo used, and show the beats as they fall in each measure for that particular performance (since different conductors use different tempos for a piece, and performance).

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20 hours ago, nanushka said:

I've never liked a single Wheeldon ballet that I've seen. 

Okay,  so it's not just me.  I found this program more tedious than entertaining or uplifting.  While Wheeldon employs a lot of steps,  there is,  to my eye,  very little dance in his ballets.  I was always acutely aware of the academic names for the steps in the Carousel piece,  even though Richard Rodgers' glorious waltz does half the choreographer 's work for him.  Sometimes the phrases seemed to grind to a halt while the dancers waited for the next downbeat.  Wheeldon's approach to music seems very "European" to me.  I can't imagine why he was chosen to choreograph Michael Jackson's music,  or why he accepted the job.  Rhythm doesn't seem to speak to him.

I thought that Maria Kowroski looked spectacular in Liturgy,  but while Lauren Lovette is strikingly pretty and delicate as Julie,  her dancing seemed too small for the role.  I like her in Walpurgisnacht.  She is perhaps undercut by the bland busyness of the material.

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21 hours ago, nanushka said:

I've never liked a single Wheeldon ballet that I've seen. (I haven't seen too many, as I quickly learned to avoid them.) So I was quite surprised by how much I liked Liturgy. So many nice steps, so visually engaging. Kowroski looked great.

Then Carousel (A Dance) reminded me of why I'd disliked all the others.

I enjoyed Liturgy, and actually was surprised how much I enjoyed The Winter's Tale (which I watched through The ROH's #OurHometoYours).  For that matter, I enjoyed Pulcinella Variations much more on re-watch.  I supposed it took a second viewing to get over the "OMG! The costumes!" reaction.

Carousel (A Dance) unfortunately mostly prompted me to look up the glorious Prologue from the Hytner/MacMillan production of Carousel from the early 1990s.  It just didn't seem very well thought through.  Wheeldon's commentary that it was choreographed for the Rodgers Centenary Gala explained a lot, in that it felt like something that had been meant for a one-time presentation and was never meant to live on.  Homage to DeMille?  Inspired by MacMillan's version of the Beach Ballet?  I really couldn't figure it out.

 

 

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Lauren Lovette is a lovely dancer whose dancing does tend to be on the bland side, partly because she doesn't have the technical security to really play with the steps or music. I've seen her in many things and I like her but there are some nights where a basic double pirouette is beyond her reach.

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

I enjoyed A Part of Together. I liked Peck's used of the pool, and Walker's use of the stairs, especially. I couldn't help but notice that this was 'quarantine for dancers whose families live in beautiful places and/or have money'.   😉

 Outside of New York people of modest means have large houses, and some dancers seem to be filming in public parks. Maybe they went to the house of a donor to make their films (though my guess is that Tiler Peck is dancing in her family's backyard). Many of my clients have empty vacation homes. We just don't know where the dancers are or how they happened to be there.

If you were making a film, wouldn't you choose a beautiful location? I was impressed that Peter Walker got someone to follow him with the camera. That was some tricky camera work.

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Posted (edited)
51 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Lauren Lovette is a lovely dancer whose dancing does tend to be on the bland side, partly because she doesn't have the technical security to really play with the steps or music. I've seen her in many things and I like her but there are some nights where a basic double pirouette is beyond her reach.

I like her, too. I thought she sparkled in Sonatine; it seemed like an ideal vehicle for her. I also really enjoyed her second run of Waltz Girl in Serenade, which I felt had a lot more depth than her debut run in the role. 

I've really disliked nearly all Wheeldon I've seen, so I was suprised to find that I enjoyed Liturgy. Kowroski looked incredible in it. I hope the forced time off is allowing her to recover from injury. What I wouldn't give to see her in Agon or Mozartiana or just about anything...

I loved seeing Mearns and Janzen in Diamonds, and agree there was more delicacy in Mearns' dancing. And I always love her attack and speed in the Scherzo. I felt there was a greater intimacy between her and her partner in the PDD, which is the same thing I felt when I saw Kowroski and Angle after Farrell's coaching. 

Edited by fondoffouettes

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1 hour ago, BalanchineFan said:

 Outside of New York people of modest means have large houses....

A statement that perhaps bears a few caveats...or a lot of them...:wink:.  (Not doubting New York real estate is insanely expensive.)

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2 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

 I was impressed that Peter Walker got someone to follow him with the camera. That was some tricky camera work.

Maybe Emily Kikta filmed it?

https://observer.com/2020/05/new-york-city-ballet-spring-season-online/

'Kikta is sticking to a regimented at-home exercise schedule, posting photos of her cat Lupin to Instagram, and making video content for the company with fellow dancer and fiancee Peter Walker, with whom she is quarantined.' 

 

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38 minutes ago, Drew said:

A statement that perhaps bears a few caveats...or a lot of them...:wink:.  (Not doubting New York real estate is insanely expensive.)

 

39 minutes ago, Drew said:
  2 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

 Outside of New York people of modest means have large houses....

I should have said larger houses, as in larger than the places people of modest means have in NYC.

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