Tag Archives: ballet

Apollo, Moves, and Symphony in C by NYCB

A night of history at New York City Ballet with George Balanchine’s Apollo, Jerome Robbins’ Moves: A Ballet in Silence, and George Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

Apollo Andre Eglevsky with Diana Adams, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClercq. Photo by George Platt Lynes. Copyright Estate of George Platt Lynes.

Apollo at New York City Ballet with Andre Eglevsky with Diana Adams, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClercq. Photo by George Platt Lynes. Copyright Estate of George Platt Lynes.

I must admit that I am only up to the Russian/Parisian diaspora in Jennifer Homans’ Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet so I have not yet gotten to the George Balanchine part. That said, I knew that given the opportunity, I needed to see Apollo.

The ballet was created in 1928 by Balanchine for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with music by Igor Stravinsky. Sebastien Marcovici played the part of Apollo, with the muses Terpischore (Sterling Hyltin), Polyhymnia (Tiler Peck), and Calliope (Ana Sophia Scheller) who dance for his attention. Although this ballet is from 1928 it still felt very relevant in its choreography with its abstract shapes depicting the planets circling the sun and emulating the triangular form familiar to Apollo.

Jerome Robbins Moves 1959.

Merce Cunningham meets Debbie Allen in Jerome Robbins’ Moves, 1959. Although my friends seem to disagree with me, I felt this piece was extremely dated (with an NYCB premiere of 1984) even though it was the most modern piece of the evening. With the A Chorus Line costumes, silence (meaning no music), askew spacing and somewhat chance choreography, the piece felt like the “uptown” version of post-modern dance. With the attention really focused on the “moves” I felt unmoved except for the part when the ballerina lies on her stomach and arches her back almost perpendicularly to the floor. Brava.

Sara Mearns George Balanchine Symphony in C Costumes

Balachine’s Symphony in C, 1947 with music by Georges Bizet and sparkles by Swarovski. Whoah. Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins calls it the most challenging ballet for the company and I couldn’t agree more. The speed, precision, athleticism, and volume of the piece is incredible. The innumerous turns, jumps, arabesques, and holds executed at a ridiculous pace is jaw-dropping. I sat in amazement as I watched the ballerinas – from the impeccable principals to the precise corps – keep up the pace in all their glittery splendor.

All in all, I had a lovely evening at the ballet and cannot wait till I finish Apollo’s Angels…

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DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse by Christopher Wheeldon

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse by Christopher Wheeldon, performed by New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, was a wonderful exercise in extension and the juxtaposition of fluidity and rigidity. With the pacing and excitement of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Wheeldon creates shapes with his duets and corps that I have never seen. The combination of the costumes and lighting adds to the geometric feel to the choreography. Plus, the addition of the deconstructed stage designed by Jean-Marc Puissant (reminding me of work by a good friend of mine) acts as a metaphor for the transitory nature of the stage.

Here are some amazing pictures that I’ve compiled…

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

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Barcelona Ballet at New York City Center

Barcelona Ballet Palpito Photo Erin BaianoBarcelona Ballet at New York City Center was really bad and, in spite of that, I enjoyed it and found it extremely entertaining.

The Barcelona Ballet (formerly Corella Ballet) was founded by American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer Angel Corella to become the premier classical ballet company in Spain. It is a young company excepting Corella and his sister. Their technique needs some work and their grasp on the choreography was not quite there. With my absolutely perfect seats in the newly renovated City Center, it was evident that the dancers need more time to mature.

Barcelona Ballet Bruch Violin Concerto No.1The first piece, Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 with choreography by Clark Tippet, was a beautifully staged classical piece that was executed the best of three pieces. It was light and pleasant though Corrella’s sister, Carmen, was a thorn in the dancers’ side with her height and stiffness.

The second piece, For 4, was choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon for the principal male dancers at ABT known as the “Kings of Dance.” The piece was great but the dancers were not comfortable with the contemporary choreography. It seemed alien to their bodies.

The final piece, Pálpito, had its world premiere choreographed by Rojas & Rodriguez. It should have been a dream come true – to see flamenco and ballet combined – but my bewildered moments outnumbered my moments of excitement and awe. The lighting, the music, and the costuming were a saving grace to the cliched dance story in which the main character (Corella) finds himself lost and in search of his soul. The finale left me rolling my eyes with its cheesiness and bravado. It’s too bad too because the opening had so much promise with its incredible rhythm, precision and the duende spirit it exuded.

All in all, I commend Barcelona Ballet for its efforts and look forward to seeing it grow and become more refined.

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Duets, the Garden of Villandry, Seven Sonatas and In the Upper Room by American Ballet Theatre

In the Upper Room ABT

Curtain call by American Ballet Theatre for In the Upper Room

I attended an evening of mixed repertory by American Ballet Theatre at the newly renovated New York City Center and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Duets (1980) by Merce Cunningham was first on the program with the principal dancers taking on the challenging movements of Cunningham’s technique. It was interesting to watch ballet dancers perform the work which requires a strong ballet technique to execute it but only lends that as its point of departure. In addition, the choreography is performed independent of the music, John Cage’s “Improvisations III” and movements are determined by chance operations which do not lend themselves to the anticipation and preparation that ballet movements generally provide. I thought the company did a great job executing this work with impressive positions, though I felt it lacked dynamics of speed, sharpness and attack.

The Garden of Villandry (1979) by Martha Clarke, Bobby Barnett, and Felix Blaska was an exercise in the pas de trois. Dressed in turn-of-the-century garb, these dancers shared a love triangle of sweeping movements and gentle lifts, all in close proximity. A piano, violin and cello ensemble also lived on stage, adding an intimacy to this work.

Seven Sonatas (2009) by Alexei Ratmansky was a touching story in love. Three couples danced to seven sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti performed on stage by Barbara Bilach. It was noticeable that the choreography was contemporary with its dynamics from the chase to the still moments of joy, flowing through it all.

And then there was Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room (1986). I had seen this work once before (with Paloma Herrera in the lead role – incomparable) and knew that I had to see it again. The hypnotic music by Philip Glass, the smoke, the entrances from the back, the costumes (and stripping), and, of course, the movement make for a remarkable piece. The energy is so high and the music so driving that it feels like you’re stuck in this moment of elation and can’t come down. One is entranced by the exhausting and repetitive moves, the transitions, the spacing, the unique directions for ballet, and the lifts. From the tight petite allegro to the grand and elegant arabesques, one is aware of every single movement going on onstage, even if one does not realize it. The roar of the crowd confirmed my friend’s thoughts, as she sat there watching and wondering, “Is everyone enjoying this as much as I am?”

All in all, it was one of the best nights of dance I have seen all year.

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Jewels at New York City Ballet

Jewels (1967), choreographed by George Balanchine, is a visual treat. The ballet is composed of three pieces – Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds – with scores by Gabriele Faure, Igor Stravinsky, and Peter Ilyich Tschaikovsky respectively. With no narrative to convey, each piece is distinct.

Emeralds, was the most somber piece with romantic tutus and an elegant feel. The most memorable moment occurred when the shape of an emerald was created by the corps de ballet. A bit cheesy but I did, however, enjoy the pas de trois.

Rubies, was a jazzy piece that summoned the Charleston with its focus on the legs. The stage seemed to sparkle with the dazzling footwork, intricate spacing and complex timing to match the fantastical score.

Diamonds, was a spritely and enchanting exercise in classical showmanship with grand movements, a large company, and the ever-building music – not to mention Sara Mearns.

All in all, I enjoyed the abstract representation of the jewels with the diverse styles and scores.

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Black Swan

Black Swan Movie Poster

I absolutely love movies about dance (when done right: Center Stage, A Chorus Line, Dirty Dancing, Step Up / when done wrong: The Company, Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, One Last Dance) so I was thrilled to hear all the buzz about Black Swan directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman.

The film is intense, erotic, scary, dark, and haunting. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with you – the kind where you find yourself thinking about certain themes or have images flash through your head at random moments during the day. Aronofsky highlights the elegance and edginess in an art form that takes so much from its artists. The powerful imagery, the beautiful dancing, and the amazing acting make Black Swan a must see.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina striving for perfection and she has the opportunity to perform her first title role as Odette/Odile (the white and black swans respectively) in Swan Lake. She is charged with embodying Odile by the artistic director, played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel – a challenge Nina takes to the extreme. The plot is fairly simple with typical characters of a dance film, but the viewer has to decipher what is real from what is in the mind of Nina. Also, one must think, does Nina have a psychological disorder from the beginning or has she let herself be consumed by ambition which when combined with her mother’s obsession has a nasty, mutilating effect on a young girl who has been trapped in a sheltered bubble her whole life?

There were a few times where I felt like Aronofsky was showing us things that could’ve been inferred. For instance, the mother’s (Barbara Hershey) infatuation and overbearing nature was made very obvious by her room filled with drawings/paintings of Nina. The pastels of Nina’s room along with her throwing out her stuffed animals clearly showed us that she has lived a sheltered life and she is now shedding that innocence. It was clear that Lily (Mila Kunis) wasn’t a typical ballerina because she danced with her hair down. Nina’s obsession with Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) was made obviously clear with the large number of stolen items.

All in all, Black Swan is a beautiful, thought-provoking, can’t tear your eyes away, “I’m going to have nightmares” film.

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American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

Of all the traditions of the Christmas season, The Nutcracker endures as the one cultural event that stands the test of time and brings audiences to the ballet yearly. American Ballet Theatre‘s The Nutcracker took a new spin on the story while keeping the beauty and magic in the ballet form.

I decided to see American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker for a number of reasons. For one, I had never seen ABT present The Nutcracker. That would’ve been reason enough for me to go, but the new choreography by Alexei Ratmansky and new sets and costumes by Richard Hudson piqued my interest as well. It’s not everyday that a prestigious ballet company commissions a new Nutcracker. Also, ABT usually performs in uptown venues, but they were presenting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) – a venue that presents more avant-garde work and does not traditionally present ballet.

The ballet opened in a nontraditional way – instead of seeing Drosselmeyer (Victor Barbee) in his lab working on his dolls, we see the kitchen buzzing with the servants and a little [hilarious] mouse. This was a strange way to set up the ballet – no major players, no dancing, and no space as the counters were cumbersome on the half stage.

When the kitchen opened up to the party scene, there was a lot of energy and some slapstick from an “old” couple. Again, Drosselmeyer was not a major character in this scene (the butler (Alexei Agoudine) seemed to have more clout than Drosselmeyer himself). He did not enter in his majestic and mysterious way, his dolls did not have cranks on their backs, and Drosselmeyer did not make the tree grow before everyone. Drosselmeyer did, however, present the Nutcracker (Tyler Maloney) to Clara (Catherine Hurling) as a lifesize teenager and it wasn’t until the boys started fighting over it that it turned to doll size. Later, during the fight between the rats (who were adult size) and the Nutcracker and his soldiers, Clara was watching from a giant chair above, and ultimately ended the fight by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King (Thomas Forster). It’s important to note the dynamic between Clara and the Nutcracker was of young love.

The journey to the forest was truly magical. Paloma Herrera was stunning as the Princess invoking a calmness and majesty. For me, the snowflakes brought the production back to a normal place with a reliance on choreography – not the personalities that had been at the forefront of the piece from the beginning. With blue-gray romantic tutus, the snowflakes really looked like a blizzard of falling snow in a forest (except for the bizarre floorwork).

The second act was full of pink. The little fairies, the pink flowers, the Nutcracker’s sisters, and the Arabian harem all wore pink. With all that pink though, there was inconsistency within the second act. The Arabian, Russian, and Bees had huge personalities and were almost kitsch whereas the Spanish, the Chinese, and the Nutcracker’s sisters danced seriously. It was a bit disconcerting to watch the Arabian man (Sascha Radetsky) in trouble with his harem of women, as if that were something to laugh at. Also, it was absurd to see the Prince (Cory Stearns) propose to the Princess with a ring! This modern gesture did not fit at all. That said, the somberness returned to the piece with the mirroring between Clara and the Nutcracker and the Princess and Prince.

And I can’t forget to mention the little mouse! He was played wonderfully by Justin Souriau-Levine.

All in all, it was a beautifully danced, visually entertaining and joyful work.

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