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 Volume 3, Number 38  October 17, 2005     The weekly online supplement to DanceView magazine

The Sylph in London

“La Sylphide”, “The Lesson”, “Les Rendezvous”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
London, U.K.
6 October – 9 November 2005

by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival   

My generation grew up, all those years ago, thinking that The Old Classics surviving comprised the five that Ninette de Valois had presciently obtained for her company: the three Tchaikovskys plus “Giselle” and “Coppelia”. And she showed good judgment: those have remained the ones most likely to reach a wide public. But in the subsequent 50 or 60 years it has been possible with assiduity to observe some three or four times as many golden oldies, and it was “La Sylphide” that led the way, starting (unlikely as it might seem) with a production by Victor Gsovsky to the original Schneitzhoeffer music for Roland Petit’s progressive Ballets des Champs-Elysées—not claiming historical authenticity, but blessed with such ballerinas as Nina Vyroubova and Tatiana Riabouchinska in the title part.
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In Another Tradition

“La Sylphide”, “The Lesson”, “Les Rendezvous”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
London, U.K.
6 October – 9 November 2005

by Eva Kistrup
copyright ©2005 by Eva Kistrup   

The two glorious European royal ballets, The Royal Ballet in London and The Royal Danish Ballet in Copehnagen, have never had strong ties nor exchanged many productions during the years—strangely enough, as they share a common factor in Vera Volkova, the ground breaking teacher, so central a coach for the leading stars in both companies from Margot Fonteyn to Henning Kronstam and Kirsten Simone. Save for Ashton's "Romeo & Juliet" and "La Fille Mal Gardee," MacMillan's "Manon" and a few short works, British ballets have never held a place in the Danish repertory. And in UK it has much more been National Ballet, or Festival Ballet as it was previously known, who carried the torch by presenting Harald Landers' "Etudes" and Bournonville ballets, although mostly in Peter Schaufuss's vulgar and stretched productions. It is therefore a great initiative for the Royal Ballet to produce an evening consisting of Flemming Flindt's "The Lesson" and, much more importantly, Bournonville's "La Sylphide".
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"Sleeping Beauty's" Riches

“The Sleeping Beauty”
Kirov Ballet
presented by Cal Performances
Zellerbach Hall
October 29, 2005

by Rita Felciano
copyright ©2005 by Rita Felciano

After a two year hiatus, the Kirov Ballet returned with a great performance of “Sleeping Beauty” in a problematic production by Konstantin Sergeyev. First performed in 1952, the ballet’s use of who knows how many dancers recalled more an imperial richness than Soviet scarcity.

The Kirov dances magnificently—very much still the product of a single perspective no matter how modernized and athletic it has become. But too often the quality of the production—particularly sets and costumes—did not come up to the level of the dancing. The discrepancy often was almost painful.
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New Moves for Miller

Bebe Miller Company
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
October 12, 2005

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter  

My experience with Bebe Miller's work over the years has made me willing—and eager—to follow wherever she has decided next to focus her keen intelligence and deeply humane spirit. For this new work, she has moved into a more technological realm, adding video projections and animation. The extensive list of credits in the program includes a digital consultant and a dramaturg. But although she has expanded the landscape of her work—and made inventive use of DTW's space, thanks to the use of scrims and the virtuoso lighting design by Michael Mazzola—movement is still very much at the heart of it. And she has five strong, personable ready-for-anything dancers who extract all the layers of inquisitiveness, ambiguity and elegance from the material.
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Dancers Needed?

Ed Tyler's "Sanctuary"
A Washington Performing Arts Society Commission
Gala Theatre at the Tivoli
Washington, DC, USA
Friday, October 14, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

To do a painting of Ed Tyler's sanctuary, I'd commission an impressionist. What Tyler created on stage is a definite place, a box shaped space, but mutable in feeling and shifting in outline like a structure seen through fog, gray fog. Recent telecasts of hurricane shelters undoubtedly influenced what we saw, but so did notions of mental asylums and religious sanctity. The seven inhabitants of Tyler's sanctuary have individual feelings for the place as well as rudimentary communal ones. Some of these people, initially outside the structure, want to get in. Some on the inside want to get out, or at least they throw themselves at the walls in order to penetrate through or push them back. That doesn't happen, of course, so the colliders rebound or fall to the floor. For selected inmates it is clothing, including shoes, that functions as a sanctuary. These items are flimsy safe-havens, so changes of apparel go on almost constantly. One individual even seeks asylum inside a small travel bag, trying to pull the zipper shut. Time stands still much of the time. Only at the very end of the duration is there a sense of conclusion, a temporary coda—a calm in which drinks are poured. It is almost a cocktail party but of the melancholy sort with Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" on piano and violin wafting in, the lights going out and a telephone ringing unanswered. On stage throughout "Sanctuary" there's lots of atmosphere. Is there, though, any dance?
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The Kennedy Center
Festival of China

Sublime Challenge

"Female Generals of the Yang Family"
China National Peking Opera Company
Eisenhower Theater
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC
October 13, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

Immersion in Peking Opera is a challenge to the ears, eyes and the moral sense of contemporary Westerners. At least at first. With the singing sounding so off key that it sets nerves on edge, and with stage pictures so saturated by colors, textures and detailed contours that they incite visual overload, it isn't just the sensual content to which one must adjust. The motivations and causes that drive the drama make one check ones own values to make sure they are still intact. So gripping, though, was "Female Generals" on opening night that after a few minutes into the action all sense of discomfort disappeared. Instead one sat in awe, often at the edge of one's seat, as a sublime form of theater unfolded.
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China: Passion for Freedom and Change

Beijing Modern  Dance Company
Guangdong Modern Dance Company
City Contemporary  Dance Company
Terrace Theater
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
October 9, 2005 

by Naima Prevots
copyright©2005 by Naima Prevots

Three modern dance companies from China at the Kennedy Center sent a message:  artists are in the forefront of change in a society still characterized by repressive elements and strong attachment to tradition. We had a chance to view the only three groups with contemporary voices in dance, companies from Beijing, Guangdong, and Hong Kong. The evening was a revelation of brilliant and original choreography, extraordinary technique integrated with sensitive artistry, and passionate commentaries on breaking the bonds of conformity. My only regret is that we did not get to see a whole evening of each company, and that the Kennedy Center management chose the smallest venue for this showcase. There is indeed an important tension between the old and the new in China, and the balance in the Festival of China was unequal, and weighted more towards  conventional expectations. Modern dance in China has had an uphill fight for recognition and acceptance, and this evening showed groups equal to any of the best in the world.
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A la francaise

“Push”, “Solo”, “Shift”, “Two”
Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant
30 September – 3 October 2005
Lyon Opera Ballet
6 & 7 October 2005
“Le Parc”
Paris Opera Ballet
14 – 16 October 2005
all at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival   

We do get some dance from France fairly often in London, but not enough when you consider how much is happening there in both classical and contemporary modes. So it’s gratifying that this year our annual Dance Umbrella festival is collaborating with AFAA (Association francaise d’action artistique) to present eleven companies spread over five venues and four weeks under the title France Moves. Actually they are cheating slightly since the first offering was not a French company, but it did involve France’s greatest dancer active today: Sylvie Guillem in two premieres with British choreographer Russell Maliphant.
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Daring Dancing from San Francisco

ODC/San Francisco
Joyce Theater
New York, NY
October 13, 2005

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter  

Terror and beauty are hauntingly blended in KT Nelson's "RingRoundRozi," the opening work on the impressive program the 35-year-old company offered at the Joyce last week. Nelson weaves her nine dancers in and out of riveting encounters that seem to flow spontaneously from the exchange of energy between the dancers' bodies. Wearing soft, simple pants, shorts and tops (most of the men wear no shirts) and inhabiting a gloomily lit stage that hints at secrets and deception, they tumble and grapple within the fluid continuum created by Linda Bouchard's intriguing score.
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Diligent Beauty

"Raise the Red Lantern"
National Ballet of China
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn, NY
October 11, 2005

by Lisa Rinehart
copyright ©2005 by Lisa Rinehart   

Ballet purists can rest easy, the modern story ballet isn't moving its factory to China—yet. But if the National Ballet of China's slogan, "Struggle arduously, keep united and down to earth " is interpreted as a call to balletic arms, it will simply be a matter of time. "Raise the Red Lantern," the newest offering from this 80 member strong company, is a tale of doomed love with all the right ingredients: young lovers, a jealous rival, elaborate sets, sumptuous costumes and an extra twist—bits of Peking Opera and a smattering of the martial arts. What's missing is emotional complexity. The heroine (the exquisite Zhu Yan) begins sad (she's sold as a concubine), stays sad (she must visit her lover on the sly) and dies sad (she's betrayed by a fellow concubine). This emotional flat-lining of the heroine weakens the clout of a balletic melodrama. Believe it or not, scrape the surface of a good story ballet and what's revealed is a broad spectrum of conflicted feeling. There's satisfying emotional release when those sylphs, swans, and wilis begin their sagas as one thing and evolve into something else. Aristotle called it catharsis, I call it a valid reason for watching stylized spectacle about imaginary creatures doing unlikely things.
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Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
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Clare Croft
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Rita Felciano
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Eva Kistrup
Gia Kourlas
Alan M. Kriegsman
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexander Meinertz
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
John Percival
Tom Phillips
Naima Prevots
Susan Reiter
Lisa Rinehart
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Kathrine Sorley Walker
Leigh Witchel
David Vaughan


The Summer Issue of DanceView is OUT!
(our subscription link is once again functional, so it's easy to subscribe on line)


ABT's Spring Season, reviewed by Mary Cargill

"On Frederick Ashton's Brand of Classicism," by Michael Popkin

NYCB's Spring Season, reviewed by Tom Phillips

Miami City Ballet's spring season, reviewed by Carol Pardo

National Ballet of Canada's 2005-2006 season, reviewed by Denise Sum

Reports from London (Jane Simpson), New York (Gay Morris) and San Francisco (Rita Felciano)

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last updated on October 17, 2005