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Ballet and dance reviews from New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.


 Volume 1, Number 11   December 8, 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine


Starting Over

Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Eisenhower Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

December 2-7, 2003

by Alexandra Tomalonis
copyright © 2003 by Alexandra Tomalonis

Watching the Suzanne Farrell Ballet this past week, I kept thinking that what Farrell is doing goes beyond starting a ballet company from scratch. She's reminding us of why Balanchine's New York City Ballet was so treasured and so important. I don't mean to say that she's doing this deliberately. It's more likely she's merely trying to produce dance as though the aesthetic atmosphere Balanchine built were still in place.  For her, it clearly is. But the rest of us have lived through two decades during which not only his ballets, but also many of Balanchine's precepts, have become misunderstood or distorted. "Just dance it, dear," for example, once an instruction to resist layering artificial acting onto movement whose meaning was built in, now seems to mean, "just do the steps; nothing else matters," and is applied religiously to ballets that, indeed, contain nothing but steps. Everything is so overhyped that Balanchine's, and Farrell's, modest way of simply doing and letting the rest of the world figure out what they're doing—or not—can seem naive. It's hard enough to be heard when you're whispering. It's impossible when everyone around you is screaming.
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Letter from New York

8 December 2003.
Copyright ©2003 by Mindy Aloff

The Dance Theatre of Dušan Týnek—a 30 year-old native of Czechoslovakia who studied with Aileen Pasloff at Bard, was a scholarship student at the Cunningham Studio, and has performed for many choreographers, including Lucinda Childs—put on several concerts this week at The Kitchen. The program featured three works, all from 2002 and 2003. Charge, being given its world première, is a Childs-like setting for a soloist and a corps of six to Philip Glass’s 1987 violin concerto: costumed like party crackers by A. Christina Giannini in shades of pale blue, the dancers elaborate a complicated architectural analysis of the music while dutifully acknowledging the steady pulse-patter that drives it. One sees wonderful images—as when the soloist (Eden Mazer) runs backward toward a line of bodies that breaks in half just as she reaches its center. The dance means to be spellbinding, though, and is merely hypnotic. If the only works on the program had been Charge and the 2002 Wardrobe Spectre—a dance-theater satire to Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, for the veteran soloist Richard Daniels and six invitees, whom he loads up with mismatched garments that he plucks from a laundry pile in order to hammer home a point about, as I understood it, the erotic equation between layers of clothing and layers of fantasy—I’d have left thinking Týnek a talent to watch and waited to see more before telling you about him.
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past Letters from New York

Two Musicals Where The Dancing Matters

Music by Jerome Kern; Lyrics by Dorothy Fields and others; Book by Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Michael Greif; Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Broadhurst Theater
New York, NY
December 3, 2003

Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green; Book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov
Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall
Al Hirschfeld Theater
New York, NY
December 4, 2003

By Susan Reiter
copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

On Broadway these days you can find recent musicals celebrating the gaudy excesses of the 1980s (Taboo, The Boy from Oz) or bouncing on the exuberant beat of pre-Beatles rock & roll (Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors). But if you want a show where dance really provides the highlights, you need to travel back to the 1930s, where the action of these two new arrivals takes place.

Set in 1936, Never Gonna Dance is based on the Astaire-Rogers film Swing Time, and has two dancers as its central characters, as well as scenes set at a dancing school and an "amateur" dance competition. Its two leading performers, both veterans of Broadway dance ensembles, were cast for their dancing strengths. All of its music is by Jerome Kern: the score includes five of the six songs heard in Swing Time, plus 12 additional songs from other shows and films. This approach, of creating a "new" period musical from existing songs, is similar to that used for the two Gershwin-scored musicals My One and Only and Crazy for You.

While it is set in 1935, Wonderful Town has a score that was written—during a now-legendary month-long creative whirlwind—in late 1952 by three fun-loving collaborators looking back fondly at a period when they were in their late teens. It has a great Leonard Bernstein score that bridges the youthful ingenuity and sass of On the Town (1944) and the deeper and bolder innovations of West Side Story (1957).
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Deconstructing the Balanchine Couple

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Eisenhower Theater
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
December 5, 2003

by Clare Croft
copyright © 2003 by Clare Croft

The fledgling Suzanne Farrell Ballet has spent the last seven weeks touring the U.S., but it saved its Balanchine Couple program for Washington audiences. On Friday night, the troupe performed a series of nine pas de deux, all introduced by Farrell herself. Although the crafting of the program was somewhat unusual, there were several moments of quality dancing as well as insight into Balanchine’s proces. There wasn't an obvious thematic link among the selections, and it might have helped if Farrell had explicitly stated that the duets were presented in (nearly) chronological order. Without this explanation, one might wonder why Meditation ,with its contemporary dress and hint of story, followed the stripped down, black and white Agon, for example? Each may be a gem in its own right, but what do they have to do with each other? How do the nine chosen duets (also Chaconne and excerpts from Apollo, La Sonnambula, La Valse, Don Quixote and Stars and Stripes) fit within the Balanchine repertory? Normally, these are questions left for post-performance discussion, program notes, critics or historians, but the inclusion of Farrell’s mini-lessons shifts the responsibility to provide context and cohesion onto the performance itself..
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reprinted from last week's Midweek Extra

Dancing to Tchaikovsky

All Tchaikovsky Evening
Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Eisenhower Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

[December 2-7, 2003]
December 2, 2003

by Alexandra Tomalonis
copyright © 2003 by Alexandra Tomalonis

“For dancing, always Tchaikovsky,” Balanchine is said to have said once, and Tchaikovsky’s music certainly figures prominently in his work. From Serenade, the first ballet he choreographed in America, to Mozartiana, which received its premiere at the New York City Ballet’s Tchaikovsky Festival in 1981, Tchaikovsky’s music inspired some of Balanchine’s most beautiful ballets.

Both these works, as well as the Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and “Tempo di Valse,” a/k/a The Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, made up the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's opening night program. The company is part of the Kennedy Center’s own Tchaikovsky Festival that will include the Kirov Ballet and Opera at the end of the month. Washington has been privileged to watch Farrell’s small company grow. This year is the first time we’ve seen it at the end, rather than the beginning, of its season (it's just come home from a tour) and, in Serenade especially, Farrell’s group of in-between-jobs and off-season dancers really looked like a company and not a workshop group.
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Tudor, Forsythe and New Works at the New Skirball

ABT Studio Company
Skirball Center
New York, NY
December 5, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

In recent seasons, attending a performance by American Ballet Theatre's 12-member "second" troupe has provided (among many other pleasures) an early glimpse of the next generation of brilliant, memorable ABT male dancers. Within the past few years, one could discover the very young Herman Cornejo, Craig Salstein and Danny Tidwell—all of whom moved swiftly, and authoritatively, into the ABT ranks.

The Studio Company's most recent New York season—its first at the attractive, recently opened Skirball Center on the NYU campus—showcased an engaging ensemble rather than drawing attention to any individual dancer in quite the same way. Ten of the twelve are new since the troupe last performed in New York in April; several of them came through ABT's thriving Summer Intensive program, and several of them had made a notable impression at its culminating performance in July.
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This weeks' articles


Mindy  Aloff's Letter from New York

The Balanchine Celebration
New York City Ballet:
A Veteran and a Raw Recruit
by Mindy Aloff

Heart and Soul
by Mary Cargill

Kid Stuff
Cas Public's If You Go Down To the Woods Today
by Susan Reiter

San Francisco Ballet:
New Wheeldon (Rush)
by Rita Felciano

New Tomasson (7 For Eight)
by Paul Parish

Possokhov's New Firebird for OBT
by Rita Felciano

Moscow Festival Ballet and Scott Wells
by Paul Parish

Hamburg Ballet's Nijinsky:
Nijinsky—Lost in the Chaos
by Clare Croft

NijinskyMadness and Metaphor
by Alexandra Tomalonis

Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes
by George Jackson

Batsheva: Breaking Down Walls
by Lisa Traiger

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
by Clare Croft

Choreographers Showcase
by Tehreema Mitha

Zoltan Nagy
by George Jackson






Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Lynn Garafola
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Jean Battey Lewis
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Leigh Witchel


The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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