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"Born to Be Wild"

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I enjoyed watching it from the lay-person's perspective...educated audience I guess! I adore Corella...he is amazing to watch. I don’t know about that Mark Morris "ballet". That was a bit of fluff that somehow felt like something was missing even with the 4 great dancers. There was so much more he could have done with those 4 virtuoso dancers that he didn't. I almost felt like they had to hold back when they danced it. Of course it could have just been the filming. I don't think anyone has invented the right way to film dance. They always seem to focus on the wrong thing at the wrong time and forget to show the tableau!

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More comments...

I didn't think Stiefel came across very well on tape-he's definately interviewed better than that before. And, IMHO, it's not manly to ride without a helmet, it's just plain stupid.

Very striking to note the difference in the segment on Corella-no ballet school, no ballet teacher. He mentions his Cuban teacher, but other than that we just see the front door of Victor Ullate's school/company building. And how he talks about ballet being nothing in Spain, and having danced for the President of the US & the Queen of England, but not the King & Queen of Spain. I also noted how American Corella sounds-probably because he spends more time in the US than the other two foreign-born men, and came to the US at a much younger age.

I found the segment on Malakhov the most interesting, with the train ride and his description of growing up at the Bolshoi school.

BTW, does anyone know when & where the performance of the Morris Ballet took place, and who the audience was (was it advertised to the public).

Was I imagining things or were there a few other dancers present, marking the steps in the background, perhaps a "second" cast?


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Well, it was a piece of fluff, but at least it didn't try to be anything else, and the 4 dancers came across as ones people would like to see, I expect, if I hadn't seen any dance before. It sure beat the intermission features of Corsaire, going on and on and on and on about how stupid the story is. I loved the films of the dancers as children, but of course I would have loved much more on their training. I thought the shots of the kids at Stiefel's old studio looking at him with such unaffected awe were very moving. And I thought McKenzie's throw away comment on Baryshnikov being a great dancer because you watched him when he stood still, not only when he did his tricks, was encouraging. But of course McKenzie doesn't let Conrad or Siegfried stand still!

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sneds, the Morris piece was performed at SUNY Purchase about a year ago. I did get a notice about it...think I even posted about it, but couldn't attend. Agreed about the helmetless riding being very stupid.

I, too, enjoyed seeing a bit of their nondance lives...especially the childhood part but also wished there'd been more on their training. I will say that they do all seem to be very likeable fellows - no airs of superiority, which was a plus!

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Of course, this was the cliffnotes version of their lives, but with regards to Corella's early ballet education, he still seems pretty angry about the way he was used at Ullate's company, at least from the interview he did about a year ago on Charlie Rose. The people behind this show might not have wanted to go there.

And the program kind of didn't delve into the harder parts of being a dancer, although Malakhov's section did a little bit. His trip back to Moscow was very interesting, especially how he was considered a foreigner from Ukraine at the Bolshoi. Yet, many of the Russians I interview in sports consider Ukraine, Belarus and even Georgia and Uzbekistan part of "Russia." But they also told me about how if you're not from Moscow or St. Petersburg, you got descriminated against. So Malakhov's segment showed a peak at something that is very interesting to me. And I loved him telling Grigorivich, "Too late." Other dancers during that time - Ananiashvilli is one - has spoken of slights she received because she was Georgian.

And seeing those Cuban boys with their tattered shoes was heartbreaking.

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I enjoyed the show very much, despite its "Born to be Wild" title. The four mini-portraits were well done (I, too, particularly liked the one of Malakhov), and I was annoyed whenever they were interrupted for those silly Mark Morris rehearsal scenes. The four young men came across as extremely likable and talented, and, Anna Kisselgoff to the contrary notwithstanding, I never felt the "regular guy" aspect was overdone. I appreciated the avuncular comments of Jacques d'Amboise, and liked seeing Alicia Alonzo, despite her somewhat odd appearance. The completed Morris piece was anti-climactic, but, overall, the show made me eager to see all four of these guys again -- live.

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I'd have to echo most of the comments here. The best parts of the show were the profiles of the four men. Although I didn't like the Morris dance much -- or the cutaways to rehearsals -- I thought all of the dancing, including the clips, displayed these guys to good affect.

Yet I don't think the whole Morris thing worked on a number of different levels. Was it just me, or didn't anyone else think the comments from Morris' dance mistress were hostile to ballet? She basically said Morris doesn't like to choreograph ballet because it's basically "tricks" and he's grounded in the music. But these dancers are so superior, he will deign to choregraph on them and create a musical piece! I was really put off by that comment and found myself scratching my head as to why that was included in the program.

Plus, I thought the entire injection of Baryshnikov was gratuitous, to say the least. It really had no relation to anything on the program. It seemed like they added mention of him to say "hey folks, you've all heard of a ballet dancer, his name was Mikhail Baryshnikov. These guys are like him." Well, sadly, maybe they needed to say that.

Still, I was glad to see something about ballet on PBS.

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Did anyone else consider the looks exchanged between the dancers while Morris was setting the work on them with his usual ebullience to be priceless? To my jaded eyes it was as if they were saying "Well, the check cleared."

And am I perhaps reading too much between the lines in the comment by Malakhov, where he describes his attitude in working with a choreographer by emphatically squeezing his lips shut with his fingertips, or the one shown immediately after, by Corella, where he says (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) that even if his choreography doesn't look good, his job is to make it look good?

I couldn't help but think they were making not-very-veiled comments about their experience of Morris, and the ballet he was making.

I loved the reviewer quoted in Ari's links thread for today about McKenzie's displaying his chest rug. I kept asking the TV, "Could you have that shirt unbuttoned any lower?" And the topless photo shoot was just plain embarassing.

Will "Babes of the Ballet" be far behind? "They're not just artists, they're wild, bohemian sex goddesses!" I don't think so! At least I hope not. Unless I could pick the babes.

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Didn't Wisconsin look green?

Surely the program erred on the side of heterosexual display if you're from the coasts, but non troppo. Here in Wisconsin the most common response to "I'm a ballet dancer" is still "That Roodolf Brishnakov, din't he die of......" so I appreciated it. They were clearly playing to the diverse PBS audience. Partnering ballerinas would have expressed this more eloquently than the locker room asides, however.

I admit I cringed when I saw Ethan without a helmet too, but then I used to work in an E.R. This is Harley country, remember. A cultural thing. Brett Favre would play without a helmet if they'd let him. Besides which a big dome would have ruined the shot. We're in the eye candy business after all.

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Did anybody have any particular feelings about the costumes on the Morris piece? I had the thought that, when trying to convince a tv audience that men in ballet are not all about foofing around, it's best to leave the see-through ruffle-trimmed purple 3/4 sleeved tops at home (and that goes for the hot-orange blouses as well)..................if you didn't see the closeup photos in Pointe magazine, possibly it was not as obvious from the video.

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I had much the same thoughts as pumukau and NancyHJohnson. I was drowsy and didn't catch everything, but it did seem odd to follow up all of that heteroprop with a piece in which the boys partner each other in pretty blouses, and not a girl in sight.

I would agree, however, that the Real Men stuff is geared toward all potential audience members and not us degenerates in NY and the SF/Bay Area. What may seem like Too Much to us may be worth repeating elsewhere. (This is not intended as a knock on the heartland, I should note.)

I must say, however, that you'd think public television, at least, would be enlightened enough to avoid certain kinds of crude gender stereotyping. I rather doubt a profile of four ballerinas would be called "Born to Be Wild" and feature a dancer saying something like, "I just love being handled by all these strange men."

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I agree with you regarding the costumes NancyHJohnson.

As I watched the program I tried to consider how some of my male friends who have stereotyped opinions of male ballet dancers would have responded. Unfortunately, IMO, no matter how much they tried to emphasize the masculinity theme, much of what was presented underscored all of the stereotypes. First, Mark Morris seemed to support the stereotypes. Then, I was so disappointed that with all of the fantastic choreography that could have been part of the program that men partnering men was selected. (For the record, I love ballet and don't find men partnering men objectionable.) Why couldn't it have been something more balanced, more representative of ballet?

And Mahattnik, your post about Malakhov's technicolor nightmare had me laughing out loud . Thanks for the chuckle.

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This was PBS, after all, and not the Fox channel. I found the effort to disprove people's stereotypes -- which amounted to pandering to those stereotypes -- offensive. The Three Tenors managed to garner a very large PBS following just by singing. I think PBS would have done far more to build an audience for ballet by showing the men's humanity -- instead of the corny chest hair and macho wisecracks -- and filling the home screen with more spectacular ballet dancing. They came close to the mark, in my view, in the portrayal of Malakhov, letting him tell the story of his childhood and coming of age as a dancer, not making him take off his Riot of Color (thank you, Manhattnik!), and showing some beautiful leaps.

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Manhattnik, I'm assuming that the dancers had much more say about the practice clothes they were filmed in than about the costumes they wore in performance. I consider that the sartorial wound you mention (and I agree it was pretty raw) was basically self-inflicted.

However, forcing those four great-looking men to appear in outfits reminiscent of (at best) members of the Brady Bunch, or (at worst) our mothers-in-law, is eminently deserving of a visit from the fashion police.

If the writers of this special wanted to show the world something hot, chic, and 100% appealing as a man, the final performance should have featured any or all of the four dressed in a classical tunic and a pair of tights.

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Yes, Juliet, can't wait until you have a chance to see this film - please get back to us eith your professional opinion about the "costumes" in question.

NancyHJohnson, your second paragraph is so perfect! And I agree with the other comments you made as well.

Although I am still glad it aired, and that I saw it... I still don't understand why Mark Morris was chosen as the choreographer for a documentary about any ballet dancers.:)

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I share SusanB's sentiments about how the stereotypes were, ultimately, maintained despite the program title and the attempted "aw shucks, we're just regular guys" image.

I wonder, though, if this mixed message was intentional. In fact, I don't see how it couldn't have been. If I were trying to present male ballet dancers to the general public as heterosexual "regular guys", as was, on the surface anyhow, the intent, I wouldn't choose Morris as their choreographer. I bet he enjoyed a hearty chuckle over this program - the irony is just too sweet - it made me laugh too. I happen to love Mark Morris but he's by no stretch of the imagination an icon of heterosexuality.

Greedy for any ballet bones thrown at me, I still liked the program. For me, the highlights were the clips of these men as dancing children. I also agreed with the others who were the most intrigued by Malakhov's comments about his childhood and his famous encounters with Grigorovich. Others have stated that one had to be purely Russian - no Ukrainian or Georgian, etc. - but it still was surprising to hear that even someone with Malakhov's impressive gifts received the same treatment. We owe Grigorovich a big thank you.

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:P Let's hear it for the 4 dancers!

In spite of ill-advised artistic choices and heavy-handed scripting designed to play up points which basically do not matter, IMO the 4 leading men of ABT prevail over the decision-makers who produced this show. Let me give them the applause which they so richly deserve.

Nobody can show us the value of the American work ethic, applied generously and strongly, than Ethan Stiefel. Nobody loves his mother or respects his teachers more than Vladimir Malakhov. Nobody is more at home in his skin as a man than Jose Carreno, and he does not need to show us a hairy chest or talk about handling girls to prove it. Most of all, Angel Corella shows us emotions: his childhood not-fitting-in, his early job frustration, his wisdom about the business of living and ultimately his spirituality itself, and he shares these things as freely as he shares his double tours.

As role models, these guys are not bad. If we look between the lines, we see the system that they work (successfully) every day........all that and, good grief, can they dance!!!! Bravo.

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Since Mark Morris moved his company to my neighborhood and I've borrowed his name, I feel obliged to offer a bit of a defense.

First of all, there is no evidence that he is hostile to classical ballet. He has, in fact, been commissioned to do works for several ballet companies, including ABT and NYCB. While he joked on film about reading the score, it's worth noting that he can read music while Peter Martins can't, tying Morris more closely to the Balanchine heritage than NYCB's present director. (Unlike Mr. B, however, Morris does not write his own piano reductions of a score for rehearsals. The parallel is far from perfect.) Having seen many of his works, I can assure you that Mortris blends classical and modern techniques (dancers do appear en pointe), creates with a wonderful musicality, and hires, almost exclusively, dancers with classical training.

Second, he was asked to create a 7-minute piece d'occasion, not the new Sleeping Beauty. Rehearsal time was limited, performance conditions (from the filmmakers point of view) far from ideal. So Morris made a noble effort. I doubt that he or anyone involved in the program mourns the fact that Non Troppo is unlikely to get a second performance.

In addition, I would like to echo the many tributes to the background sections of the mini-bios. The astonishing Alonso, for example, is worth a whole evening of PBS programming, and the way she created world-class dancers in the less-than-promising atmosphere of Castor's Cuba is worth longer study.

Similarly, Malakhov's tale reminded me of Alexendra Danilova's memoir of her life before and after the Russian Revolution -- going from the pampered darlings of the Tsar to gifted kids struggling to find food, while rehearsing in unheated studios.

An opportunity missed, alas, but like everyone else, I'm delighted that something about dance reached a national audience.

Finally, I am distressed to learn that tolerance is viewed exclusively as a concern of "coasters." I had hoped that Matthew Shepherd did not die in vain.

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MN -

I'm sure Mark Morris isn't hostile to classical ballet. But he's not furthering the tradition either, and that's what people here are hoping for and talking about when they voice reservations. Morris can read music, certainly, but Martins knows the vocabulary of ballet, and though Morris knows choreography (and yes his dancers take a ballet class which he teaches, blah blah blah) he doesn't know ballet. I've seen his choreography for ballet companies - though I have not seen this documentary. He's not in the tradition; it isn't his base idiom. He doesn't intimately know how pointe shoes work (I'm glad this wasn't about ABT's women.) or what classical port de bras are. He's not a ballet choreographer. It doesn't make him a bad choreographer, and being a ballet choreographer doesn't make Martins either better or worse. It just makes him a ballet choreographer. But if you were hoping for the next great Yiddish writer to come along and someone said that the only Yiddish publishing house in town would be doing yet another great English novel translated into Yiddish, you'd feel cheated. Sure, it's a great novel. It's even in Yiddish. But if you try and tell me it's a Yiddish novel, I'm going to tell you every single time that it ain't.

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I like the Yiddish novel example, Leigh . Apt in several ways -- good new ballets are probably as plentiful as good new Yiddish novels! (And I agree with what you wrote, obviously.)

I do wish we could get away from thinking that "he's not a ballet choreographer" means "he is not a good choreographer." Apples and melons.

Morris Neighbor, I think there are quite a few modern dance choreographers who hire dancers with classical training because, as Tharp once said, "I want the best technique I can get." And they use that technique, but in a different way than a ballet choreographer would use it. The concern isn't with stylistic niceties, linking steps. I don't think Morris would claim that he's from the Balanchine heritage, though.

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I can't wait for this to be aired on Mezzo - th eEuropean arts channel. Oh, but then it will have a French voice-over (This week, there was a documentary on Merce cunningham. Merce was honoured with subtitles but everyone else had a French voice-over!!!) and I won't be able to understand anything.:(

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