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.
Last night I saw my umpteenth performance of Balanchine’s Nutcracker at New York City Ballet, and was once again impressed by the construction, power, and fluency of this version. Yes, it was a particularly tight performance, without a weak link—even the kids were especially lively. But it’s not just that. There is something in the way the choreographer paced the action, the dancing, and the music that both streamlines and enlarges it. I talk about it some more in my review for DanceTabs.
And if you just can’t get enough, here is an excellent piece by Laura Jacobs about the history of the ballet, from Vanity Fair.
What is it with Swan Lake? There don’t see to be any good ones around. The Bolshoi’s version, currently being performed as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, is no exception. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs. And a short excerpt:
“What the company hasn’t brought this time around is any new choreography. It’s rather a disappointment. Instead, we get three of its most well-worn ballets – Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Spartacus. It is even more disappointing that the troupe should open its run with a Swan Lake so lackluster that it fails to improve upon the two sub-par Swan Lakes we see here regularly, at ABT and at New York City Ballet.”
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.”
And a short excerpt: “What is clear is that every Nutcracker is a reflection of its creator. Ratmansky’s is tender and full of fantasy; Chernov and Kirkland’s is reverential and deeply considered; and Balanchine’s is diamantine, lucid, with no space for indulgence. TheNutcracker can be all these things.”
Once again, Works and Process is putting on Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. This year’s show is more elaborate than previous incarnations, with a full staging by Isaac Mizrahi, and choreography by John Heginbotham (formerly of the Mark Morris Dance Group). Mizrahi has put together quite a cast, including his friends Maira Kalman as the duck, and Gus Solomons, Jr. as the Grandfather.
“But – and here lies its lasting power – it doesn’t talk down to its audience, musically or dramatically. The harsh realities of life are not papered over with saccharine melodies or unrealistically happy endings. The duck dies as a result of her foolishness. Near the end, we are reminded of her plight as we hear her unhappy quacking in the wolf’s belly. And Peter is told, rightly, that he, too, could have died.”
Last week, I saw Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge, at the Minetta Lane Theatre, and found it to be a rather good show: sexy, imaginative, and great to look at. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt:
“I’ll bet this is not the first Nutcracker érotique, but it certainly makes a persuasive argument for the genre. This is partly due to the esthetics of the show – part Marquis de Sade, part cabaret, part drag show – , so beautifully executed by Zane Pihlstrom, the company’s resident designer. Baroque costume, with its panniers, ribbons and delicately-curved heeled shoes (for men and women), lends itself particularly well to the decadent esthetics of burlesque. The corsets are so flattering, and there are so many layers to remove, so much to reveal underneath.”
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.
Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, a Grand Divertissement, is back at New York City Ballet. And what a ballet it is: witty, intelligent, sophisticated, joyous, bubbling over with steps. If you haven’t seen it, you should. (It will be performed again on the evening of Oct. 10, and Oct. 12 at 2.)
I review it here, for DanceTabs. And here is a short excerpt from that review: “Some ballets improve with age, or, to be more accurate, our eye evolves and we learn to see them better. I remember being befudled at the New York City Ballet première of Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement in 2010. By the second viewing, I had started to warm to its oddball charm. And by the end of that season, I was smitten. Tonight, revisting this ballet for the first time in three years, it was clear that it is the best new work the company has commissioned since, well, Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH (2008).”