the danceview times
Volume 1, Number 3 October 13 , 2003 An online supplement to DanceView magazine
The Ballet Season Opens
Paris Opera Ballet Pays Tribute to Balanchine
Opera Ballet doesn’t conceal its admiration for George Balanchine.
The company also takes pride in the choreographer’s frequent stints
at the Paris Opera to rehearse his ballets and hasn’t forgotten
it was Balanchine who contributed to regain its shattered self-confidence
during the difficult post-war years.
The Kirov Ballet's Fokine Program
Ballet—or at least that segment which started an American tour this
past week at Zellerbach Hall as part of Cal Performances dance season—has
been dancing gloriously, and that should have been enough. But to see
these dancers, so beautifully and totally engaged in three classic Mikhail
Fokine works was extraordinary. The pieces, choreographed within two years,
1908-1910, could not be more different from each other.
Kirov Ballet's Jewels
continued its Berkeley run, presented by Cal Performances, with four showings
of George Balanchine's Jewels. If it hadn’t been for ‘Diamonds’,
as pure and as exhilarating a performance as I would ever hope to see,
Jewels would have been a major disappointment. Even though a
colleague pointed out that you don’t go to see Balanchine for the
sets, as long as you choose to perform with them, they should be more
than these drab, shaped out of mud tie-backs, a spattered drop cloth and
poorly lit plastic baubles.
Suzanne Farrell Ballet in New York
What a difference
a day makes! After seeing the Suzanne Farrell Ballet perform Saturday
night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ, if someone
had asked me: is Suzanne Farrell were truly the inspired coach and Keeper
of the Balanchine Flame she's often been made out to be, my answer would
have been, probably not.
Letter from New York
Suzanne Farrell Ballet performed twice in the New York area this weekend.
Much to my regret, work prevented me from attending the Sunday performance
at Brooklyn College. It was a thrill and an honor, though, to be part
of the audience for the all-Balanchine evening on Saturday at the New
Jersey Center for the Performing Arts. A cherished honor, since the rich
variety of dynamic texture, the stylistic refinement, and the musicality
of the dancing in Divertimento No. 15 and in Apollo
(presented in the original New York City Ballet staging, which includes
the birth and childhood of the god, as well as Igor Stravinsky’s
complete score) are now superb and may be peerless. Even the costumes,
credited to Holly Hynes—the current Director of Costumes for NYCB
and the costume consultant for the George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
trusts, as well as the resident designer for the Farrell Ballet since
the company’s inception in 1999—look as if they’ve been
slightly rethought since I last saw them.
By Ann Murphy
things can put arts funding in the U.S. into perspective more than an
evening at the Kirov with full orchestra. And fewer things still point
to the mess we're in in the performing arts than the now rickety state
of Oakland Ballet, which last week postponed and shortened the run of
Program 2 due to poor ticket sales. Had the company gone on with the show,
the cash shortfall it would have suffered, company insiders say, could
have flattened it.
By Mindy Aloff
1979, Donald O’Connor visited Portland, Oregon, as the guest star
in a lavish high-school production of The Music Man. It was my
understanding at the time that he was beginning to ease his way back into
stage performing after a hiatus of many years. As the dance critic for
Fresh Weekly, the arts and entertainment section of Portland’s
Willamette Week, I asked to interview him. I knew nothing whatsoever about
his personal life then, and I know now only what I’ve read in the
various obits that were published following his death last month, on September
27th. What I knew, partially, were his movies and his television work.
I considered him then, and I still do, one of the finest all-around dancers
ever to perform in front of a Hollywood camera. He had style, speed, lightness,
elegance, rhythmic wit; he partnered his female co-stars with respect
and charm; his line readings were understated and droll; and, unusual
for many male Hollywood dancers apart from Fred Astaire, O’Connor
learned to care about port de bras: during the 1940s and ‘50s, he
visualized his entire dancing figure in the frame and paid attention to
how his entire body would read on the screen. Gene Kelly, his collaborator
and erstwhile nemesis, also cared about port de bras; however, despite
Kelly’s many sterling qualities, he couldn’t surpass O’Connor
in terms of allegro facility, offhanded elegance, or precision of stylistic
detail in complex footwork. (For anyone who would like to check this evaluation,
I’ve provided the O’Connor filmography that was published
with the interview.)
Breathtaking Virtuosity, Unabashedly Itself
Ballet of Cuba
It's a rare delight in these days of bland and blurry International-style ballet to see a company which is so unabashedly itself as the National Ballet of Cuba. The Cubans dance with a rare attention to detail and homogeneity, and revel, unapologetically, in their muscularity, even among the women. No reed-thin waifs here! At least, none were in evidence at City Center Thursday night.
The evening began with artistic director Alicia Alonso's staging of bits
of the second act of Swan Lake, a last-minute substitution for Les Sylphides,
caused by an amazing fit of peevishness by the Fokine estate and American
Ballet Theatre (who had purchased a three-year "exclusive" license
for the ballet from said estate). After the unfortunate beginning, where
the curtain rises (and mercifully falls) on the corps of swan-girls glaring
at the audience and all-but-hissing, this is a fairly traditional production,
and one which showed off the great strength of the Cuban women. Perhaps
the corps of the Kirov, Paris Opera Ballet or even ABT are as strong--perhaps--but
where these companies, indeed, most companies, these days work to mask
this strength behind a carefully cultivated appearance of lightness and
ease, the Cubans, while never graceless, don't take particular pains to
hide their strength.
Tharp Talks Tough (& Tender)
Tharp came to town was her new book, The Creative Habit: How to Learn
It, How to Trust It, How to Use It. The visit, part of a book tour,
was handled with typical Tharpian efficiency.
Morris Dance Company
as many emerging choreographers turn to rock music for inspiration and
dance companies turn to rock to excite young audiences, Mark Morris’
s Gloria, done to Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria in D, proves
that classical music can inspire the best in the young artist and thrill
the young audience member. Morris made his lush masterpiece at 25, only
a year after founding the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) in 1980. Even
though the George Mason University Chamber Orchestra and Chorus bumbled
through some of Vivaldi’s score on Friday night, the combination
of Morris’ choreography with Vivaldi’s music still brought
many of the college-aged audience members to their feet.
Colker's Casa, which came to the Kennedy Center two years earlier, used architecture—a two-story shell of a house on stage—to limn the inner workings of a community of people who moved through the rooms in a seemingly metaphorical quest for knowledge or enlightenment of a sort. This time, little of the prosaic found its way into Colker's work. 4 Por 4 is all surface gloss, painting a veneer atop a weakly realized concept.
Cirque du MOMIX
Artistic Director of MOMIX, is no minimalist. His 75-miniute long
set to Peter Gabriel’s score for Martin Scorsese’s film The
Last Temptation of Christ, exploded in a video, music, costume and
prop extravaganza. From behind a gauze-like screen that hung for the entire
production, Pendleton’s acrobatic dancers performed twenty-one pieces,
each corresponding to Gabriel’s expansive and mostly wordless songs.
Constantly changing images on the ever-present screen made it torturous
to decipher the dancers’ movements. We saw that they often wore
sleek unitards, over-sized capes or diaphanous cloths, and sometimes went
barely-clad, but most details were lost behind the dimly lit screen and
varying projected images, designed by Pendleton himself.
©2003 by DanceView