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Reports on the new ballets, please?

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Alright, I'll say it. The Harrison ballet wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There were bits that were pleasant in a sort of dreamy wake-up-and-smell-the-hashish mode. It would help if I had my program handy. The weakest part by far was the Parsons, which was just uninspired and utterly conventional balleto-modern flouncing around. I'll have more later when I have a program in front of me.

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I went to last night's performance.

Within You Without Your: A Tribute to George Harrison

Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra (Robert Hill)

Fancy Free

I had no expectations for the Harrison piece and was pleasantly suprised. Although overall, I felt like I was watching a Gap advertisement.

The music was not instrumental, it was the actual songs. For some reason, I thought it would be instrumental. It opened with Joaquin De Luz dancing Stanton Welch's section. Dressed in what looked like maroon levi's and a darker maroon tight fitting tshirt, Joaquin held his own with Gillian Murphy (back to the audience) as his muse. Very quirky choreography. Lots of running and rolling around on stage.

Next was Natalie Weir's tribute. To the song "I Dig Love" Julie Kent, Ethan Stiefel and Herman Cornejo were appropriately coy. By far my favorite part. Kent was on point, lots of crazy, lazy turning. A very youthful, fun, sassy segment. The audience seemed to like it best. Again, maroon was the costumed color. Kent in a short tunic.

Ann Reinking's piece was set to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" "danced" by Sandra Brown and Jose Carreno. I put danced in quotes b/c it seemed more like a Pilates meets Cirque de Soleil section. Again, lots of rolling around each other, through and on top of each other. Not much in way of dancing, some of it was definitely Pilates. Even the costumes. Brown had white cropped top with tank shorts and Carreno shirtless in white tights.

"Isn't it a Pity" had the largest cast, Welch's second movement. All corps dancers. dancers walking to the beat of the music, randomly stopping to a solo, then the women coming together with small skats, then the men. A bit "west side story"-ish (or a Gap ad). Though someone needs to teach the women how to run. They looked quite awkward doing so.

"With You Without You" was Weir's second and very different from her first offering. An Tibetan influence in the song, featured Murphy (the only person in the entire piece not in maroon, she had a lilac long flowy skirt) who had zero dancing, and Stiefel who danced within the overhead light. His movements reminded me of "The Cage".

And lastly "My Sweet Lord" Parsons homage. All the dancers parade out one at a time in front of the scrim, skipping, turning and then come out in groups. I felt like I was at a Godspell performance. It felt the most like a celebration of Harrison's music.

A fun ballet, better than I expected and nicely danced, with the exception of Murphy, who was given no steps really.

Next was Hill's premiere of Concerto.

Opened with Angel Corella to an orange backdrop in an orange unitard. (I'm not a fan at all of orange). The piece sounded and looked much like a Balanchine/Stravinsky piece, just in orange. Music was by Lowell Liebermann. It's obvious Hill's command of partnering and understanding it and his dancers. Kent and Marcelo Gomes had the pdd. It was a piece I'd need to see again in order to determine if I liked it. I didn't not like it, I'd just need to see it again. It reminded me of the 5 paragraph essay you learn to write. First paragraph is the intro what you're going to cover, next 3 paragraphs are your point, and the last paragraph is the summary. The piece followed the same structure. Michele Wiles is fast becoming one of my favorites to watch, she was in the "corps" section.

Program ended with "Fancy Free" JDe Luz, Stietel and Carreno were the sailors, Sandra Brown, Murphy and Alina Faye the damsels. I haven't seen the piece in a long time and while "fun" it seems quite dated.

I've decided to forgo my Sunday ticket to a friend who loved the Harrison piece. So that ends my ABT City Center season. I have to say, it's nice to see the dancers so close up. At the Met their faces get lost. I look forward to the City Center season to become acquainted with them. And they look like a different company here, comfortable with their rep.

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Actually, "With You, Without You" was influenced by Harrison's explorations into Indian music. Harrison studied sitar with Ravi Shankar, and the song is very reminiscent of traditional Indian music (I just got back from a trip to India, and it reminded me very much of some of the music I heard there).

I also feel like I need to see Robert Hill's piece again to figure out how I feel about it. Unfortunately, tonight is my last performances, so I won't have the chance. In general, I like the choreography, but thought that the costumes did not flatter the body types of most of the dancers. Angel Corella was wonderful in his major solo, but collided with front-most wing when he exited the stage. I think it was just his arm, but I'm sure he has a good bruise to remember the premiere by!


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I saw the Oct. 20 evening show, which included the complete George Harrison ballet.

I thought the two Georges were a surprisingly good match. Balanchine and Harrison were both men who never sought the spotlight even at the height of their celebrity. They both demonstrated to the American public that sexual love and the love of beauty on the one hand and the love of God on the other were not as incompatible as the Puritans lead us to believe. Ballet is the perfect vehicle for depicting this refinement of the flesh. Within You Without You is a balletic examination of five aspects of love and spirituality that I found both enjoyable and thought provoking.

In "Something" I liked the irony of Angel Corella dancing all the 360 degrees of infatuation while the object of his affection stood inert facing upstage. "Guitar" was deliciously sexy. In "Within you without you" a bright overhead spotlight and a black backdrop made Mr. Cornejo's striking physique dematerialize onstage. The line "With our love, we could change the world" is as succinct an expression of a dancer's role as I can think of. Divorcing this lyric from the heavy handed Lennon-McCartney counterpoint "when I get older" that it's been glued to there on the album for thirty years is a revelation in itself.

It was an evening I will never forget.

That said, I did not find myself sharing Ms Kisselgoff's enchantment with the finale, "My Sweet Lord". I felt it snatched tepidity from the jaws of triumph. Seeing the choice of music I anticipated a rousing crowd mover, a sort of hippie "Wade in the Water". Instead, the composition seemed to owe a great deal to the influence of those news banners that crawl along the sides of buildings in Times Square or the stage treadmill used to imply travel to Padua in "Kiss Me Kate".

And then there was the fleeting blurry projection of George Harrison's face. To me the image created was 30% Big Brother 20% Heere's Mickey! and 50% Shroud of Turin. Am I way off base here?

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[copied over from Links today]

Robert Greskovic writes about ABT's City Center season for the Wall Street Journal. It's not available on line, unless you're a paid subscriber, but here are the first two paragraphs:

The kindest thing to be said about "Within You Without You: Tribute to George Harrison," the clumsily titled new ballet for American Ballet Theatre's current season playing at City Center (through Sunday), is that it should go directly back to the drawing board. A more sober assessment, on behalf of audiences being drawn to the event as a ballet showcase and in sympathy with the company, particularly its female dancers, would be to ban the four dubiously equipped choreographers responsible for the six-part suite from ever working again with classically schooled dancers: They are, in order of their efforts here, Stanton Welch, Natalie Weir, Ann Reinking and David Parsons. For related, lackluster results, primarily in the form of dull jeans and tops in muddy russets on both the male and female dancers, a similar restraint might be put on the costume designer, Catherine Zuber.

The much-publicized event, overseen by ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie, came into being with notable sentiment on its side (Harrison died last year), as well as a hoped-for pop-culture dimension to coax audiences in who might see ballet as musty or hidebound. The sorry result is a non-ballet pieced together by individuals whose touch betrays as little sensitivity to the integrity of ballet-schooled dancers as it does to the tone and lyrics of the Harrison songs used for inspiration. As for the cheers given the work's premiere performance, I suppose they were essentially offered in admiration for how valiantly all the dancers worked to make some physical sense of the variously athletic, cliche and foolish material they were given, and of course to celebrate Harrison, whose portrait appears as a white-light projection in the background just before the curtain falls.

The review discusses the ballet in some depth, as well as the new Kudelka piece and Tudor's "Offenbach in the Underworld."

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I saw 'Clear' and 'Concerto #1' on a program that ended with the Offenbach. For me, having 'Clear' and 'Concerto' follow one another was unfortunate. The two ballets seemed to meld into each other, and if not for the music I might not have known where one started and the other one ended. I welcomed Tudor's wicked parody of 'Gaite Parisienne' I found myself watching two ballets at the same time--one in my mind and the other before me. When I heard the familiar strains of the waltz that Danilova and Franklin danced in such a romantic way in 'Gaite', I found Tudor at his best in depicting his couple as just a fling and only out for what they could get. Tudor really showed us the underbelly of Parisien cafe life with the can-can. While Massine had a 'GiGi-esque' version of the can-can, Tudor's girls looked like escapees from the current New York production of 'Cabaret'. All it needed was Alan Cumming to complete it. The can-can girls were hilarious and each one had their characters nailed down. I can only hope it stays in the repertory for a while and that more Tudor is on the way.

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I agree wholeheartedly ATM711, I very much enjoyed Offenbach in the Underworld, to the point of going back to see it again today. For the D.C. contingent who "adopted" her during her schooling, one has to note how wonderfully appealing Maria Bystrova was in particular among the can-can girls, cutting loose entirely, having a grand time, dancing very big. I didn't know she had it in her. No shrinking violet there.

Sitting at their feet in the second row, the can-can was quite suggestive, even lewd, and that's one of Tudor's points, I think. But it's funny. We've seen much more abstract displays of sexuality or fleeting glimpses of splayed bodies at City Ballet during certain Peter Martins pieces in the last year (the Infernal Machine or some of the other stuff for Janie Taylor) which, despite the stylization of movement, have seemed to me somehow indecent. While Ananiashvili explicitly hiking up the front of her dress to flash at the Crown Prince, on the other hand, a most suggestive gesture, never approached indecency. You were never embarassed to be there watching it.

Nina A. was just superb in the Offenbach at yesterday's matinee. She is a wonderful comedienne. If I didn't already know it from Fille Mal Gardee last spring, I would have learned it yesterday. She gave every "moue" and flirtatious roll of the shoulders just the proper timing and weight, and her facial expressions were perfectly wonderful. It was a most complete characterization by a great dramatic dancer. Ananiashvili has generally not been looking her best these past two weeks -- she has seemed perhaps a little out of shape or fatigued. But yesterday -- when, with the events in Moscow, I would think it would have been particularly difficult for her to dance -- What a performance.

Offenbach in the Underworld utilizes some of the same music as Balanchine employs for Western Symphony and at times approaches similar comic values and comic weight, but from a totally different angle.

I also note that the Richard Rogers piece was much better than I had expected. Sandra Brown and Marcello Gomes in particular were superb.

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I saw the Offenbach twice in a week, both times with Nina A.

For those who have never seen Alexandra Danilova dance, I can only say that Nina A. is her perfect heir in these light-hearted ballets. Although Tudor's ballet called for her to be broad in her comedy, a little bit toning down would put her beautifully into two of Danilova's greatest roles, 'Gaite Parisienne' and 'LeBeau Danube'.

I would also like to add how impressive I found David Hallberg this season. His 'Symphony in C' lst movement with Gillian Murphy, his Grand pas Classique with Michelle Wiles were smashing performances. I also felt he was the best thing in 'Clear'. His duet with Ricardo Torres showed off his beautiful lyricism.

There were two other stand-outs this season---Sandra Brown and Marcelo Gomes in the 'My Funny Valentine' section of "...smile with my heart" and Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes in the 'Sylvia PDD". I don't know when I have seen Herrera give a better performance.

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