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NYCB Fall Gala, or gobble X 3

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Well, someone has to get this started, and it might as well be me.

(Did you know that in the computer-geek world it's become a mark of status to be the "first poster" on a particular subject? My beloved thinkgeek.com even sells a "first poster" t-shirt, but that's getting off-topic.)

Here's what I wrote in the "shoes" thread, inspired by the Manolos the women wear briefly in Martins' piece, in case anyone missed it. I'll try to bring myself into going into more excruciating detail later:

If you blinked you missed the shoes. Would that the same could be said about the entire evening, except for the happy surprise of an unannounced visit by Bernadette Peters to sing the final number of Martins' ballet, which made me doubly happy it was finally over.

Aside from the gorgeous dress for Darci Kistler (which made it look as if she actually has a curvy figure), the rest were nice, but not spectacular, except for Yvonne Borree's red-splotched number (what was that around her torso -- surely they weren't wearing corsets on the outside in the thirties?), which was kind of ugly, I thought.

As for the rest, only Wheeldon seemed to have a clue what Rodgers was all about, with his occasionally poignant boy-meets-girl story in Carousel, but he should've bought a few more vowels (at least we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a carousel does indeed move in a circle). The kindest thing to say about LaFosse's embarrassment would be a discreet silence (I'll dish the gory details later). The kindest thing to say about Martins' is that, given the elaborate sets it will probably be the last number on the nights its performed, so once again he will have succeeded in his apparent desire to get audiences out of the State Theater as early as possible. Well, at least this audience.

While it is indeed the season for (forgive me) turkeys, that NYCB could spend so much money and deliver such an oven-busting Butterball is beyond contemptible.

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I was one of the few people who liked the La Fosse, I think. It was a 1950's dream movie ballet, where life in a circus is more real than life--the kind of role Leslie Caron did so many times. La Fosse was the clown/vaguely menacing ring master, who starts out by trying to capture a star, and he brings his dream girl (Megan Fairchild) to life as a pink tutued trapese artist. (That was the best costume of the whole evening, I think.) She in turn leaves him for a stage hand turned circus performer. There are lots of circus folks, dancing very much like they would in a dream musical, but it suited the music very well. I though Fairchild was wonderful, very young and sweet, but very much a character and reacting to the story, not just dancing steps. The ending was a bit weak, I thought, but for me La Fosse had an idea that fit the fairly obvious and not profound music, and he can choreograph for individual talents.

I liked the Wheeldon, too, he got some of the dark, bittersweet tone of the Carosel waltz.

As for the Martins, I have never seen such unflattering costumes in my life. The opening (with the famous shoes) isn't too bad, the four women come in wearing black and white coats looking vaguely Erte, if he was crosseyed with a bad hangover. Then they put on point shoes and take the coats off and swoon endlessly to Rodgers. The men, with the exception of Askegard, who was lucky enough to draw the white vest, wear high black cummerbunds, and all looked like they had a few tires to spare. And the women's dresses! Truly the most unflattering cuts of anything I have seen. Kistler wore a white mummy's outfit with a black blob (it looked like a trantula) stuck to her side, which turned into a very full and unflattering skirt, slit up to her crotch. Ringer was supposed to be the vamp, I guess, which doesn't fit her lyrical style AT ALL, and she was stuck with a black slinky dress with cut outs at the side, unflatteringly tight over the hips, slit up to her crotch and lined in the most vulgar red I have seen. She also had to wear black tights and black point shoes and shimmy occassionally. Kowroski had a cream dress on that looked like cheap polyester, badly fitted, with some bright red accents, and slit up to her crotch. The skirt looked very uncomfortable to dance in, and kept getting in her way. Boree had a red and white number, which looked like something Carmen Miranda's cat threw up on.

As for the choreography, the best was for the four perky waitresses, because they were doing Who Cares.

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I have to admit, I went in with the jaded, they spent $80k on costumes for one piece, attitude.

The Wheeldon piece was harmless, nothing really to write home about though. Aptly cast, and I was reminded that yes, this was Rodgers tribute.

The LaFosse piece, Fairchild was the best thing about it, but I'm not a LaFosse fan, so I felt as though I was watching a bad Union Jack intermission.

And the Martins... I can't believe they spent any money on those costumes. I am all for fashion and ballet going hand in hand, but when the costumes play a more significant role than the choreography, well, maybe that wasn't so bad. I can't even add to the perfect color commentary from cargill.

I had more fun watching the audience sashay than the dancers. I'm starting to wonder why I go to these gala performances.

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The printed program for the Gala was inside a gray and black piece of cardboard folded in thirds, on the cover of which were NYCB's Sweethearts in Residence, Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette. The rest of the piece was devoted to listing, all in lower case, honorary chairmen, chairmen, centennial benefactors, silver benefactors, benefactors, etc. I'm going into all this uncessary detail because that cardboard is all I have left. When I got home, the program that had been inside, wasn't. I've reached the stage in life where I must make lists and write notes to myself in order to function, so not having the program to consult is an insurmountable handicap in trying to reconstruct last night.

Some things that haven't been mentioned: The songs in the Peter Martins ballet, mostly by Rodgers and Hart, with a few Rodgers and Hammerstein ones interspersed, were well-sung

(I wish I could tell you by whom) and well-played by an onstage trio and the NYCB orchestra led by Paul Gemignani. At one point, that other well-known composer, Nilas Martins, seated himself at the onstage piano and delivered himself of a few riffs. The set looked like the 1930's Hollywood idea of a night club, and the huge tilted mirror at the back of the stage provided interesting angles for the audience to look at. It seemed to cry out for Busby Berkeley or the June Taylor Dancers. And it added poignancy to the exit of the dancers and Bernadette Peters. Martins's choreography reminded me of the "glamour-girl" pas de deux he did for Suzanne Farrell and himself, "Sophisticated Lady." Not much depth, but enjoyable. I can't say I cared for the first two pieces.

Mayor Bloomberg made some inoffensive introductory remarks. One gets the impression that, unlike his predecessors, he actually knows something about NYCB.

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I'd be happy to see the La Fosse again if only to see Megan Fairchild's performance one more time --- a wonderfully confident and accomplished performance in her first big role. And on such a prominent, opening night occasion. Her dancing was (as always) very clear, flowing and well placed. She is a mover, no doubt, and I also thought she projected extremely well, every beat appearing clearly finished and well articulated even at the back of the Third Ring. She also showed a richer, more fully realized porte-de-bras than I remember.

But above all, it was good to see her appear so radiantly happy and confident again, something she always was at school, where she dominated her compeers, but which she appeared to lose for a time last spring. (Though all of last year's crop of apprentices seemed a very angst ridden bunch, dieting themselves down to nothing, about the time of the 2002 spring gala).

So without caution did she appear last night, launching herself to be caught by Marcovici in a series of fish dives towards the end of the piece, that when she actualy appeared to fall briefly during the very final passage, I wasn't sure that the fall was not part of the choreography.

I agree that the Gala overall was Schmaltz and Fluff, particularly the last piece. It did, however, seem to please the Gala audience for whom it was made. What a social juggernaut this company is. The board appears to have expanded and to have several interesting new members. I have to respectfully disagree with Farrell Fan on the quality of the singing. It made me cringe several times. My thought on PM's piece was that, after this, Martins could choreograph a few Bar Mitzvahs. Martins set out to evoke some sort of gilded art deco age, and ended up evoking Leonards of Great Neck, circa 1970, instead. Also, can he possibly have Kowroski do anything besides extend those killer legs on every other note? The theory seems to be that, "If she's got it, He will flaunt it." The audience loved it. In the La Fosse, I loved the pin head costumes (except for the pin head-dresses themselves), which had the long legged, tall girls corps (Ashley Knapp, Tess Reichlen, Rebecca Krohn, etc.), dancing in leggings with their bodies in crepe de chine multi colored puff/marshmellows.

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Thank you to Letterman, the top five things about NYCB's opening night gala:(in no particular order)

1.Great intermission! We had the chance to chat (too briefly) with FarrellFan and meet some friends of his, and then meet Cargill for the first time. That was great, and FF and Cargill--I look forward to many more opportunities to meet and talk about (please) better performances.

2. Bernadette Peters. After the curtain came down (for the first time) and I thought nothing could save that evening or make it memorable, at least in a positive way, she saved it. Thanks Bernadette. And now to the dancing....

3. Everlasting thanks to Michael for advising me to take a notice of Faye Arthurs during the summer. This girl is a stunner. She is definitely going places, and for me, she was the best thing about the LaFosse and the one I couldn't take my eyes off.

4. The chance, albeit too briefly, to see Pascale van Kipnis and Rachel Rutherford, finally being cast and both looking exquisite.

5. The chemistry between Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette and the electricity that lights up the stage, and my life, every time I see them dance together. What a wonderful couple, onstage and off. and thanks to them for being gracious to the Saratoga contigent afterwards.

So those are the positives. At $24 for my pair of fourth ring tickets, $4.80 per positive aspect. Not too bad I guess. On the other hand, there were people outside trying to buy tickets. I could have sold mine and dashed across the plaza to hear Alicica Delarocca or down to Carnegie Hall to hear HIllary Hahn play her debut recital--both of which were magnificent performances. The NYCB gala was not. it was, in fact, the worst night of ballet I have ever seen in my life, and I am including kiddie perfs of Nutcracker and all that type of stuff.

All I will say about the LaFosse is: what was Peter Martins thinking to let his company open their season with such a horrible mess? Megan Fairchild is a lovely dancer, I am pretty sure that the fall was NOT a part of the choreography, the forward fishdives yes were breaktaking and a total rip-off of Raymonda Variations, and what a thing to have in your resume as your first big role. Ugh.

Chris Wheeldon is the nicest guy and he always makes a point of greetimg me in Saratoga, so it pains me to say that Carousel was far better choreographed on Broadway--by whom? I'll have to look that up because I don't think it was deMille. I don't really see the point of doing it again. I thought the bit with the poles was really, really hokey, but the choreography was pretty at least,a nd it was well danced.

FF and I agreed at intermission that we were (gasp) really looking forward to Martins' piece. As my daughter said, she was hoping that Peter would save the night. Sadly not so. Boring! Repetitive! The one thing I will say is that some of the dancers mentioned to me that they enjoyed performing it. So that's something I guess. I didn't enjoy watching it!

How's this for a novel idea? If NYCB wanted to pay tribute to Richard Rogers, how about a performance of Slaughter? I know it's in the winter season, but so what? it's fun, it's good and they do it really really well. And it would be nice to have Balanchine represented at opening night.

I was on vacation for ABT's fall season, but my daughter saw "Smile with my Heart". She really liked it, so much better than anything on the NYCB program and I am asking her to post about it, now that she is on Thanksgiving break.

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Agnes de Mille did the choreography for the 1945 stage productions. The 1956 film version was choreographed by Charles G. Clarke, but the de Mille's work for "Louise's Ballet" was used in the film. A connection to NYCB and the film ballet was that Jacque D'Amboise danced the lead in "Louise's Ballet." It's lovely and pops up on AMC or TMC every once and a while.

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Originally posted by Dale

Agnes de Mille did the choreography for the 1945 stage productions.  The 1956 film version was choreographed by Charles G. Clarke, but the de Mille's work for "Louise's Ballet" was used in the film.  A connection to NYCB and the film ballet was that Jacque D'Amboise danced the lead in "Louise's Ballet."  It's lovely and pops up on AMC or TMC every once and a while.

The dancing of Jacque D'Amboise has great ballon and ease. His series of double tours is amazing by todays standards.

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