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 Volume 3, Number 40  October 31, 2005     The weekly online supplement to DanceView magazine

Madam and her Boys

“Checkmate”, “Lady and the Fool”, “Solitaire”
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
October 25 & 26, 2005
by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival
Birmingham Royal Ballet began with the transfer to England’s second city of the former Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, which in turn began as an offshoot of Ninette de Valois’s original Sadler’s Wells Ballet.  So what better way to start the season which contains the 75th anniversary of ballet at Sadler’s Wells than this commemorative triple bill assembling creations (too long neglected) by Dame Ninette, who started it all, and two of her chief discoveries, John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan?  All three works, each with a plot or at least a theme conveyed entirely in dance terms, can appeal equally to first-time viewers or long term ballet-goers. This bill is being given in tandem with BRB director David Bintley’s own three-act comedy “Hobson’s Choice”, which he dedicated to Dame Ninette as “an English ballet”, honouring her wish for a distinctively national  repertoire. So only Frederick Ashton among the Royal Ballet’s principal creators is omitted, and we already celebrated his centenary last season.
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Roots, Squabbles, and Making It Warm

“Ballet Russes”
A Film by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine
Film Forum
New York, NY
October 26, 2006

by Dale Brauner
copyright ©2005 by John Percival

Look into the history of many of the ballet companies in the United States and you’ll find roots in the Ballets Russes (and therefore, Russian ballet). Serge Diaghilev’s groundbreaking troupe might have died along with the impresario in 1929, but it found new life over the next 50 years in two homage companies—the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe—that toured the country, as well as South America and Australia, often bringing ballet to towns that had never seen the art. 

The filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine give an excellent survey into the influences, artistry, choreographers, dancers, financiers, power struggles and legacies in a new nearly two-hour release, narrated by stage actress (and former American Ballet Theater corps de ballet) Marian Seldes.
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Visual Flair

The Chocolate Box
Kate Mitchell and Dancers
ODC Theater
San Francisco, California
October 30, 2005

By Rita Felciano
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

Maybe it’s appropriate, for a Halloween weekend program, to have the costumes steal the show. While Kate Mitchell’s choreography for her four-part The Chocolate Box was adequate and competently danced by her six women and two men ensemble, it’s what’s often dismissively called the trappings that drew the attention. Yet there is nothing wrong in having simple ingredients dressed up and beautifully presented. This was an honest show by an artist whose talents veer more towards the visual than the kinetic.
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Ancienne & Nouvelle Cuisine

"Experience India"
Mallika Sarabhai and the Darpana Dance Company
presented by Dakshina / Daniel Phoenix Singh & Company
Tawes Theater, The University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland, USA
Saturday, October 29, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

So rich a feast is Bharata Natyam, the ancient form of dance from South India, that the wise chef serves it in discreet portions. Impulsive, it can probe space by bounding forward, yielding alternately to earth's demands and skyward aspirations. Controlled, it can convey desire subtly, with fingers that articulate in whispers and glances that beckon and stab. Vulnerable, it opens the body frontally to the beholder. Demanding, its drumming footwork leaves no rhythmic doubts. In trying to describe such a cornucopia of movement there is the temptation to compare it to classical ballet.  

In both forms, the Indian and the Western, the body is turned out, although the un-turned 6th position (both feet forward) occurs with some frequency in Bharata Natyam. Ballet posture is normally stretched, pulled up and out, whereas in Bharata Natyam the standing dancer often seems about to sit down. Both forms indulge in angling the joints, but each has its own predilections for body parts. There's more heel in India's footwork, as there is in character ballet compared to classical, and the purposeful use of foot sounds is more constant than the light tapping, the taquete, that can be so exciting when it signals exceptional impatience in the pointe work of ballet. Much of Bharata Natyam's bounty was in evidence during "Nataraja Vandanam", the 20 minute suite which opened the program. No choreographer was listed, but presumably Mallika Sarabhai was the chef who apportioned serving sizes of the different courses suited to the digestion of an up-to-date audience of Westerners and India expatriates.

read review

American Ballet Theatre
at City Center

Twyla's New Testament

"Les Sylphides," "Dark Elegies," "In the Upper Room,"
American Ballet Theatre
Fall Season
City Center
New York
October 26, 2005
by Nancy Dalva

copyright ©2005 by Nancy Dalva

"He shall show you a large upper room furnished." (Luke, xxii, 12)
"In  the Upper Room" came roaring back to life at American Ballet Theatre this week after a decade's absence, and after forty minutes of Twyla Tharp's glorious, break-neck invention, the audience roared back. What a fabulous ride! Stoked by Philip Glass's score, enveloped in Jennifer Tipton's smoke and light, shedding layers of Norma Kamali costumes every time they hit the wings, the company preached Tharp's American gospel. She choreographed " Upper Room" for her own company in 1986, and brought it with her when she merged with ABT in 1988. "Upper Room" posited then, and posits now, a utopian vision—not about the afterlife, but about the here and now. Twyla's  large upper room is the stage. Her stated belief—as you can read it in this dance—is that if we work hard enough, we can reinvent ourselves. Tharp is the most American of choreographers—hers is a democracy of movement. Not a peaceable kingdom, where lion and lamb lie down together, but a kingdom where the lion and the lamb mate.
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Gods, Cowpokes and Lots of Fouettés

“Apollo”, “Le Corsaire pas de deux”, “Paquita pas de deux”, “Rodeo”
American Ballet Theater
New York City Center
New York, New York
October 27, 2005

by Mary Cargill
copyright ©2005 by Mary Cargill

Apollo, Maxim Beloserkovsky, had his choice of a slew of new muses on Thursday night: Veronika Part debuted as Terpsichore, Michele Wiles as Polyhymnia, and Melanie Hamrick as Calliope. ABT dances Balanchine’s original version, with its expressionistic birth scene and exalted staircase ending. Despite the somewhat dated and occasionally awkward movements of the first scene (the twitchy birth, the swaddling clothes, the difficult climb down the stairs in pitch dark) this version is, I think, more interesting than the stripped down, more classical version Balanchine switched to. It is like watching a choreographer develop, along with his hero, from the first literal tentative steps to the complete mastery of movement.
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Where There's Smoke.....

"Les Sylphides," "Afternoon of a Faun," "Le Corsaire" Pas de Deux, "In the Upper Room"
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
Saturday October 29, 2005 (evening)

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

The shorthand recap of her ballet that Twyla Tharp embeds within the exhilarating race-to-the-finish final section of "In the Upper Room" (what she refers to in her autobiography as re-stating the proceedings in "Reader's Digest form") served a different purpose at Saturday evening's performance. During the first two sections of the ballet, the stage had been so enveloped in excessive smoke that most of the action was nearly invisible, so the recap gave the audience some idea of what it had missed.

Lengthy intermissions preceded the ballet both times I saw it last week, as the necessary smoke-plus-lighting effects were being set up. On Saturday, smoke was billowing out into the house during the intermission, and clearly someone had set the smoke machine on overdrive. The opening moments are supposed to feature a haze through which the dancers appear, but the two powerful, iconic women whose grounded movements open the ballet and set the tone were barely visible, and one could not see the brief entrance of the three "stomper" men who appear briefly and withdraw. This created an uneasy feeling, but that was nothing compared to having the entire, extended second section, which introduces the ballet contingent of the cast, proceed while thick smoke continued to fill the stage. Two downstage couples were visible, albeit mostly in silhouette, but the two mirror-image pairs of upstage women, whose churning, purposeful sequences form a kind of visual ground bass to the ballet dancers' melody, were completely lost in the fog.
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Conformity and Corruption

“Forgotten Consciousness: Meeting Apart”
Conceived and Directed by Ludovic Jolivet
Dance Place presents CityDance Ensemble
Dance Place
Washington, D.C.
October 16, 2005

by Naima Prevots
copyright©2005 by Naima Prevots

“Forgotten Consciousness: Meeting Apart” was an hour long presentation focused on images designed to portray contemporary life corrupted by capitalistic consumerism, along with conformity to external ideals of success. Jolivet created continuous video sequences and  choreography for two people,  juxtaposing  live and filmed material. In the beginning video section we saw urban images of cars in heavy traffic, and business attired people with briefcases, while words flashed across the screen, such as “evil”, “masturbation”, “judgement”, “confusion”, “conformity”. The woman of the duet began moving first, as if chained to her work and routine, represented by square papers clipped to a clothesline. The man was next, moving in a cage, confined and limited while trying to reach beyond his situation with sharp arm movements and torso folding and expanding. As the piece progressed, the video featured both dancers, with increasing emphasis on briefcases, business suits, and lack of  connecting while coming and going on elevators, trains, park benches, airports and sidewalks. Live choreography mirrored the video, as the duet progressed with even more sense of oppression in a spiritually bereft environment. Unfortunately,  video and movements became didactic and not illuminating. Constant repetition, albeit with variations, did not produce greater insight into society or the human condition, but reinforced the sense that images probed with more depth and subtlety would produce greater meaning and artistic satisfaction.
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Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Christopher Correa
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
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