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 Volume 1, Number 12   December 15, 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

Letter from New York

15 December 2003.
Copyright ©2003 by Mindy Aloff

Mansaku Nomura, the John Gielgud of classical Japanese theater, performed with his son Mansai and his four or five year-old grandson Yuuki at Japan Society this week in what, for me, was the finest example of the actor’s art to be seen in New York since January 1982, when I last saw Nomura at Asia House. Mansaku Nomura is a master of kyogen (“crazy word”) drama: a six century-old, dialogue-based theater, comic in nature, that developed contemporaneously with noh and is often performed as an interlude between tragic or mystical noh plays. In this little season presented by the Nomura family, the nightly programs of two 45-minute plays were kyogen all the way—although, the night I attended, one of the two, Kawakami (translated as Kawakami Headwaters), evoked smiles through tears, and the other, Utsubozaru (The Monkey Skin Quiver), evoked laughter through horror. Kawakami is about an elderly blind man (Mansaku Nomura), who, to regain his sight, must promise to divorce his beloved wife (played by Yukio Ishida, a former student of Mansaku’s and now the head of his own noh/kyogen company). Utsubozaru concerns a samurai (Mansai Nomura) who, about to go hunting, insists on wresting a trained baby monkey from its trainer in order to skin it for its fur to cover the quiver for his arrows. The baby monkey, played by Yuuki Nomura, thinks that the stick being raised to brain it is actually a cue for it to dance. The samurai, astonished at the monkey’s skill, relents and keeps his quiver as it was.
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past Letters from New York

Letter from Bangkok

15 December 2003.
Copyright ©2003 by George Jackson

Dancing is ubiquitous in Bangkok, taking place on land and aboard river boats. Gaining access to a particular performance, however, can be difficult for visitors. An article in one of the city's English language newspapers announced free seats for a Tibetan folk troupe, Xigase, at the National Stadium's Nimibutr Hall. Finding the location wasn't a problem since a terminal stop on one of the city's two skytrain lines is called National Stadium and every map of Bangkok shows it prominently. Entry into the hall, though, was a hurdle. Despite this being a free performance, tickets were required and the paper hadn't mentioned that. All tickets had already been handed out well before the day of the first performance, December 5. With two other ticketless Americans, I was being turned away brusquely by the ushers when some people with whom we'd been standing in line took pity on us and 3 tickets appeared as if by magic or, rather, by civility since the Thais are among the world's most hospitable people.
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A celebration of George Balanchine:
Selected Television Work

Let’s Take a Trip and Playhouse 90: The Nutcracker
The Museum of Television & Radio
New York and Los Angeles
December 5-28

By Dale Brauner
copyright © 2003 by Dale Brauner

George Balanchine, born in the early years of the 20th century, was one of the great forward-thinking artists. As new technology emerged, he was quick to incorporate or use it. His works, such as Episodes and Agon, reflected an influence of the mechanical age. In the early years of the information age, Balanchine though originally skeptical saw the New York City Ballet perform his works regularly on television during the 1950s through the 1960s on the variety shows popular at the time.

Although invaluable as lasting records, the performances on The Bell Telephone Hour, The Ed Sullivan Show and the Voice of Firestone were often filmed in less than ideal circumstances—cement floors, limited space, and last minute casting changes. In addition, the early recording equipment made the dancers’ noses appear long and their legs look short.

Balanchine, who advanced the art of ballet in films in the 1930s, developed a strong relationship with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and was pleased with the results produced and aired between 1956 and 1979. His decision to have a large amount of his ballets filmed in Germany soured him to the filming experience. Director Hugo Niebeling made strange camera angle and editing choices. Balanchine derided the 1978 Live at Lincoln Center broadcast of Coppèlia, which featured too many long-range shots, for making his ballet look like “dancing matchsticks." It was only after he worked with the Dance in America crew for the “Choreography by Balanchine” series that Balanchine truly felt comfortable to re-envision his work on television.

Balanchine’s work on television and film is the subject of a series held by the Museum of Television & Radio in New York and Los Angeles in honor of the great choreographer’s centennial. Nine sets of screenings are scheduled from December to March, as well as a seminar in January featuring Suzanne Farrell, Edward Villella, Live at Lincoln Center executive producer John Goberman.
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Balanchine at the New York Public Library

“The Enduring Legacy of George Balanchine”
Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Dorothy and Lwis B. Cullman Center
Through 24 April 2004

“Dear Lincoln,
. . .I want to know what is the matter with our organization and why we cannot do something like that [a fundraising campaign for Ballet Theatre]. Maybe it is my presence that all the Americans object to. . . .I said that we could organize very fast a good company but we need lots of money. Actually, I believe we could show here what good dancing means and represent America in artistic way better than ice boxes or electric bathtubs can. . . .”

This poignant passage from a 1947 letter, handwritten in Paris by George Balanchine to Lincoln Kirstein, is one of the extraordinary artifacts on view in “The Enduring Legacy of George Balanchine,” a most thoughtful exhibition, sensitively installed on the ground floor of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center through 24 April. Some of the letters, photographs, publications, remarkable oral histories, and other items will be familiar to Balanchine fans; however, quite a few—such as the unusually vulnerable letter, quoted above—may be revelations. Ballerinas important to the School of American Ballet (such as Alexandra Danilova and Felia Doubrovska) are also separately honored.
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Lyrical, Witty and Nutty as a Fruitcake: The Hard Nut Swings Into Town

The Hard Nut
Mark Morris Dance Group
[presented by Cal Performances]
Zellerbach Hall
Berkeley, California
[December 10-28, 2003]
December 12, 2003

by Paul Parish
copyright © 2003 by Paul Parish

Berkeley likes to think that Mark Morris belongs here. THe director of Cal Performances, Robert Cole, not only books Morris 's company several times a year, and has set up a semi-official residency for the company at Zellerbach Auditorium, but when Christmas rolls around, Cole actually conducts the orchestra for Morris's brilliant burlesque of the Nutcracker, the really big show called The Hard Nut, which opened last Friday night once again to a delighted audience, many of whom see it every year instead of the "regular" Nutcracker.

I've myself seen it every year since it first opened here in 1996—it's played with a few breaks, almost every year since—and I find it to be, like a great comic opera, mysteriously intricate and deep, and that the more I see it, the more satisfying it becomes. This year I was shocked to realize how romantic The Hard Nut is—despite all its overt ironies, and the manifold gay references, the pas de deux for Marie (Lauren Grant) and the Nutcracker (David Leventhal) made me cry, it was so beautiful, so touching, so delicate and poignant and fresh and musical, and so beautifully danced. It has I think become more classical, more mythic, more universal over the years, as this couple has taken over the roles—rather as Apollo evolved with Farrell and Martins in the roles, except that in the case of the Hard Nut, Leventhal and Grant are musical, generous, classical in their way of moving, and WARM. This is how our parents should have fallen in love.
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Ailey's Feast of Dancing and Premieres

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
City Center
New York, NY
December 13, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

The premieres just keep on coming each year during the Ailey season, and certainly choreographers must be lining up to get a chance to work with these gorgeous, tireless, dedicated dancers. Many of the choreographers seem to cram as many of the company's A-list dancers into their works as possible—there's no official hierarchy, and artistic director Judith Jamison really spreads the roles around, but certain members are clearly the unofficial soloists—as though they've been presented with a feast and want to sample everything available.

The new works tend to come and go; among the recent ones, Ronald K. Brown's are among the few to find an ongoing place in the Ailey repertory. Too many of the premieres are in suite form, consisting of assembled musical selections and offering a rich display of dancing that does not cohere or add up to much. Some tend toward the harsh and edgy; other are more showbiz and display-oriented.
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Strangers On a Train

D.C. 9th International Improvisation Plus+ Festival
December 13, "Redline Revisited," Union Station to Friendship Heights
December 13, Jack Guidone Theatre, Joy of Motion Dance Center
Washington, D.C.

By Lisa Traiger
copyright © 2003 by Lisa Traiger

"Come ride the Red line with us … we're CatScratch Theatre," whispered a woman after slithering across a cement bench in Union Station. She handed me a business-sized card and snuck up to the next unsuspecting customer. Sometimes riding along with the unexpected makes for a serendipitous hour or two, as it did on Saturday. The CatScratch dancers and a small cohort of assistants—a flag carrier and one or two who lugged bags of cold weather layers—began stealthily, hard to spot in their wool caps and winter coats. But soon slight, ponytailed Stephen Clapp instructed us to board the next Red Line train bound for Shady Grove. Along the way we disembarked at pre-planned stops at Gallery Place, Metro Center and Dupont Circle before finishing up with a game of follow the leader at Friendship Heights that took us to the door of the Jack Guidone Theater.
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Classical Showcase

The Winter Performance
Universal Ballet Academy
4301 Harewood Road NE
Washington, DC
Saturday, December 13, 200

by George Jackson
copyright © 2003 George Jackson

Recitals by the Universal (formerly Kirov; originally Universal) Ballet Academy have gained a reputation for classical purity and professional polish that is matched by few other schools around the world. These showcases occur two or three times a year just before breaks in the academic schedule and they are long, lasting sometimes three hours or more. This year's winter performance was relatively brief, just two and a half hours. Often the starting number is a demonstration class but this time it was Classical Composition by Nadig to Glinka music that served as a classroom based entrée for six young women. There followed 32 other numbers, 18 of them by (or after) Marius Petipa. All the Petipa selections were classical, not from his character dances, for arguably even Raymonda's solo is upper class at its core with the folk ingredients elegantly, imperially transformed (An Na Yung had the requisite authority). Among the dancers lit up by Petipa were Ian Lindeman (in the Paquita trio), Emily Bicks (in a Don Quixote Act 3 solo, and very finished for someone so young), long limbed Sae Hyun Kwon (in the Vestalka solo to music presumably by Gasparo Spontini and not Sposini; although M. Ivanov is listed as composer for Petipa's ballet on the Vestal Virgin topic, this could have been from the Spontini opera), Kenya Nakamura (in the Giselle Peasant Boy variation), Brooklyn Mack (powerful in a Le Corsaire solo and partnering lyrical Sofia Dahlgren in the duo), Sasha De Sola (another Corsaire variation), Mikayla Williams (simple, fresh and elegant in a Sleeping Beauty Prologue solo) as well as Mara Thompson, Emily Drexler, April Giangeruso and Hee Kyung Bae. The dancers in Petipa ensembles struck the right balance between individuality and uniformity.
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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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