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Balanchine’s Square Dance – Streaming Sunday, May 17, 2020 only


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Posted (edited)

Ballet Arizona is streaming its production of Square Dance for 24 hours only, starting 9AM PDT, Sunday May 17, 2020.

Staged by Ben Huys

Lighting Design Michael Korsch

This was the lead off of the 2019 All Balanchine program; it was accompanied by Emeralds and Theme and Variations.

Casting (all Company members; no Studio Company members):

Amber Lewis, Nayon Iovino

Rochelle Anvik, Colleen Buckley,  Kaelyn Magee, Abby Philips Maginity, Alison Remmers, Ana Maria Spear

Serafin Castro, Adrian Durham, Jackson Dwyer, Erick Garnica, Alberto Penalver, Ricardo Santos.

Sadly, Square Dance was Amber, Jackson, and and Mimi Tompkins (not in this particular performance) final mainstage show for BAZ, although they all did subsequently appear in Ib Andersen’s Eroica at the Desert Botanical Garden. Amber and Jackson left for Hong Kong Ballet, and Mimi left to continue her academic career.

Also upcoming:

Topia: Desert Dance (A Documentary) – May 24, 2020

Danced on a custom-crafted, 80-foot-wide panoramic stage with the Desert Botanical Garden serving as the ultimate backdrop, Ballet Arizona performed Topia to sold-out crowds and became the most presented work from Ballet Arizona at the Garden. Don’t miss ‘Topia: Desert Dance‘ – a documentary on the creation of this innovative outdoor ballet, choreographed specifically for the Garden and inspired by the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert landscape.

Symphony in Three Movements – May 31, 2020

Edited by fiddleback
Corrected the cast list.
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Thank you so much for posting the casting information @fiddleback.

I don't think I'd seen Amber Lewis in the main lead of a ballet during my intermittent visits to Phoenix, but she danced Square Dance with such ease and assurance and a gorgeous passe position throughout.  What a beautiful performance and what a great main stage exit!

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

I don't think I'd seen Amber Lewis in the main lead of a ballet during my intermittent visits to Phoenix, but she danced Square Dance with such ease and assurance and a gorgeous passe position throughout.  What a beautiful performance and what a great main stage exit!

Helene, Amber is truly talented and amazingly versatile, with a big personality that simply exudes onto the stage. I remember after seeing Square Dance, remarking to others (and to her) that she simply knocked the ball out of the park with that performance.

Other lead roles while she was at BAZ included The Sylph, Polyhymnia, and Lilac Fairy. And her Gamzatti, to my mind, set the standard for portraying a woman’s wrath. Amber is sorely missed!

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Has anyone ever watched (or perhaps even seen) the original version of Square Dance, with the “Caller” calling out the dance? It’s pretty fascinating, because you can see that the dancers really appear to be following the directions of the Caller (Elisha Keeler). In the video, the camera is in a raised position, looking down a bit on the dancers, and it’s quite fascinating to see the movements as they’re being called. Watching the modern version, it’s not clear to me that they’re actually doing a square dance, but watching the original, it’s perfectly obvious! Hat’s off to Mr. B and his obsession with all things Western!

I’m trying a (probably hopeless) experiment of trying to watch the BAZ video alongside the old NYCB version. I suspect it will be a learning experience…

 

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8 minutes ago, fiddleback said:

Has anyone ever watched (or perhaps even seen) the original version of Square Dance, with the “Caller” calling out the dance? It’s pretty fascinating, because you can see that the dancers really appear to be following the directions of the Caller (Elisha Keeler). In the video, the camera is in a raised position, looking down a bit on the dancers, and it’s quite fascinating to see the movements as they’re being called. Watching the modern version, it’s not clear to me that they’re actually doing a square dance, but watching the original, it’s perfectly obvious! Hat’s off to Mr. B and his obsession with all things Western!

 

I’m trying a (probably hopeless) experiment of trying to watch the BAZ video alongside the old NYCB version. I suspect it will be a learning experience…

 

 

 

I'm old enough to remember the Joffrey Ballet as a NYC institution and they did Square Dance with a caller. It's interesting that companies doing Square Dance don't try it. It may be a hard thing to add and I don't know how the Balanchine Trust feels about it. It makes me think of Apollo with/without the birth scene.

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I remember well the NYCB version with the caller.  Saw it many times.  I'll never forget "Come on Nick, Come on Pat.  Make those feet go wickety wack."  Quote it to my friends from time to time -  they have no idea what I'm talking about.

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If I remember correctly, Kennedy Center had a tribute to Balanchine, around 2000?, in which many companies across the country participated. The Joffrey Ballet performed Square Dance (as well as Tarantella), and I believe Elisha Keeler's words, spoken by someone else, was part of the performance. Not sure about this (use of a caller), but during this event, Nina Ananiashvili and Serge Filin, along with members of Suzanne Farrell Ballet, danced Mozartiana.

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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, jerryb said:

I remember well the NYCB version with the caller.  Saw it many times.  I'll never forget "Come on Nick, Come on Pat.  Make those feet go wickety wack."  Quote it to my friends from time to time -  they have no idea what I'm talking about.

jerryb, I did hear it, and the line is priceless! Thanks - now I'll remember it!!

1 hour ago, vipa said:

I'm old enough to remember the Joffrey Ballet as a NYC institution and they did Square Dance with a caller. It's interesting that companies doing Square Dance don't try it.

vipa, I can only imagine that some of the lyrics might be a tad controversial, especially to today’s audiences. For example, after the girls are dancing by themselves, they run back to their partners to the lyrics “Fly back to your sanctuary”. Personally, I think it’s quaint and a endearing part of the milieu, but I’m sure some today would be offended (if not up in arms!).

On an ever-so-slightly-related topic, I’m reminded of an interview with John Neumeier, who as a youngster growing up in Milwaukee, professes to have - from the beginning - loved movement and hated dialog - at first in movies...

 

“It became, in a sense, crystalized because in Milwaukee (I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), there was no major ballet company, there was no major school at the time, but there were touring companies, which came through. Interestingly enough, one of the first ballet companies I ever saw in my life was the National Ballet of Canada, because in the late ‘50’s, they did do some tours in America, and did, in fact, pass through Milwaukee. So it was then, seeing ballet, that I finally understood what it was, and I remember very well seeing my first ballet. I didn’t know what it was, what it would be like, and I was way up in the balcony, looking from a great distance down from the stage. The curtain went up - it was Coppélia. A dancer came out in a pink tutu, she started to move, and it was absolutely glorious, and I was just praying, ‘Please..., PLEASE, God, don’t let her talk’. It’s true!”

-          John Neumeier, Podcast from CBC radio program Ideas, Feb 2017

It's clear that should Hamburg Ballet choose to present Square Dance, there will be NO caller! LOL!

I always find it wonderfully ironic that Mr. Neumeier, who must be one of the most articulate AD’s in all of ballet, should express such sentiments!!

Edited by fiddleback
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I remember being impressed by the concept the first time I saw this footage. The later expansion and simplification of the stage area, and the addition of the danseur's solo in the middle of the ballet really changed the feel of the piece. The politesse of the choreography is now made so obvious. I would be happy to see something in the middle ground between the two approaches: a smaller setting, but much less vocalization - perhaps the caller could shout out key changes in the choreography rather than stick to a constant patter. I like the intimacy of the old "fenced" stage though.

These days it is obvious that there is nothing about the caller and stagings that must be there to have a successful ballet.

 

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43 minutes ago, fiddleback said:

I always find it wonderfully ironic that Mr. Neumeier, who must be one of the most articulate AD’s in all of ballet, should express such sentiments!!

Especially since his majors in university were English literature and theater studies.

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3 hours ago, pherank said:

The later expansion and simplification of the stage area, and the addition of the danseur's solo in the middle of the ballet really changed the feel of the piece.

I think when the work was first made, the caller and the designs were a help for audience members who didn't feel really confident about ballet by itself.  A colleague of mine here in Seattle made a similar observation about a local choreographer who was working at a nightclub -- the audience thought they were there for the naughty bits, but they wound up seeing really significant choreography as well.

And I do love this male solo -- if I have to trade out all the hay bales for that solo, I'll take the deal.

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This was my first experience of Ballet Arizona--though I have occasionally read about them and their performances--

It was a pleasure!

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Many thanks to Fiddleback for alerting us to this and the other Arizona streams! Wonderful to see, and to learn about the company.

 

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