“Honestly, I just can’t stand seeing productions of the classics any more, because I know how far it is from Petipa’s intentions,” Alexei Ratmansky told me a few months back, when we began discussing preparations for his new Sleeping Beauty, based largely on his interpretation of historical sources. He said many other things too. You’ll find them here, in this extensive q&a.
When I was preparing for an article for Dance Magazine, Doug Fullington, who runs the audience education programming at Pacific Northwest ballet, and I talked about the recent renewal of interest in the use of nineteenth and early twentieth-century ballet notations. Some excerpts of that conversation are here, on DanceTabs.
On Nov. 18-19, the Mikhailovsky performed a triple bill, consisting of Petipa’s 1896 one-act La Halte de Cavalerie, Asaf Messerer’s Class Concert, and Nacho Duato’s Prelude. I reviewed the program for DanceTabs. Here’s a short excerpt:
“The idea behind the triptych is to show three aspects of the company’s style: the classicism and character dance of Petipa; the technical pizzazz of mid-twentieth-century Soviet dance, the eccentricities and atmospherics of contemporary movement. None of the pieces is a masterpiece. However, Petipa’s Halte de Cavalerie, made in 1896, is certainly a charmer, a brainless little farce set to forgettable but lively music by the specialist composer Ivan Ivanovich Armsheimer, with lots of pretty dancing and even more clowning around.”
Dance Theatre of Harlem is currently wrapping up its second season since its return under the steady leadership of Virginia Johnson. (You can read more about here here, in this long and wide-ranging interview from last year.)
Like last year, the dancers’ warmth and directness are a pleasure. Ashley Murphy is a knockout. Chrystyn Fentroy radiates joy. But the dancing is still uneven, and especially in the more classical works, it shows some strain, some sloppiness. Then there is the question of repertory, which Johnson is molding with an eye to the company’s history and identity. It’s a difficult job. You can read more about the season here, in my review for DanceTabs. Here’s a short excerpt:
“The opening and closing of Gloria are explosions of joy, in which toe-heel taps and shimmying shoulders feel organic, like part of a misa criolla. Several passages leave vivid after-images, as when Ashley Murphy hovers in profile, her strong feet shimmering like hummingbird wings. As she bends forward or arches toward the sky, she alternates between atonement and elation.”
At the Saturday matinee, ABT presented a program consisting of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Stanton Welch’s Clear, and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. The most interesting aspect was seeing the contrast between Sylphides and Theme. Two sumptuous works about the nature of ballet itself. I reviewed the show here.
A short excerpt: “In many ways these two works illustrate what we think about when we think about ballet. The first is a vaporous homage to the aura of mid-nineteenth century works like La Sylphide and Giselle. The latter, a luminous affirmation of the classical style, specifically the high classicism of the Russian Silver Age and its exemplary ballet, Sleeping Beauty.”
With Sleeping Beauty, Bourne completes his Tchaikovsky Trilogy. Not satisfied to delve into its plot, he has reconstructed the story and added some rather surprising supernatural elements. Does it work? Not really. Sleeping Beauty is not an easy work to stage–even ballet companies, following Petipa’s libretto, often fail. But by going hors-piste, Bourne is forced to make increasingly outlandish choices to keep the story on-track. The first act more or less works, but the second goes off the rails. Meanwhil, Tchaikovsky’s music (played in an overloud recording) is more or less trampled. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.