Posted in Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre, Balanchine, ballet

The Provinces

Bukovina and Odessa seem like such exotic locales. Actually, I think you would call them provincial.

Alexei Ratmansky has set dances at both places, to the music of his fellow Russian and frequent collaborator, Leonid Disyatnikov. The simply named Odessa is on the NYCB repertory this year.

Songs of Bukovina was introduced by ABT (@ABTballet) in a world premiere on October 18th as part of their short fall season at the David H. Koch Theater.

The steps in Ratmansky’s choreography for Songs of Bukovina are delightfully complex (à la Balanchine) and inventive. The costume design by Moritz Junge is as beautiful as anything else in this ballet. The muted costumes of the eight corps members are as soothing as the score with the principals’ outfits offering pops of bright color. The dancing is spectacular.

I consider NYCB to be our home-grown company, and ABT to be a much more Russian inflected troupe. The choreographer Ratmansky is their Artist in Residence. Many of their dancers have hailed from the Bolshoi and other such dance companies. In truth, their current crop of Principal Dancers is a diverse crew, mostly of American origins.
The ABT troupe all have a solid and gorgeous attack in their way of dancing. Precision, beauty, lyricism are their stock in trade.

As if to prove my point, Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns delivered an intensely Russian style in Other Dances, a piece Jerome Robbins made especially for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova for a 1976 gala. These two ABT dancers were superb.

The ABT specializes in the full-length story ballet, a genre that just is not a favorite with me. For this 2-week fall Lincoln Center season, this year from October 18-29, they showcase the short-form dances which I find more enjoyable.

For more information and tickets, please visit ABT’s website.

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Posted in based on a Shakespeare play, comedy, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, drama, Shakespeare

Idyll

1William_Shakespeare.
A portrait of William Shakespeare,

This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.

Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy.  Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.

In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.

The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.

For more information and tickets, please visit Arden/Everywhere.

 

Posted in #Roundabout, domestic drama, drama, family drama, philosophy, Roundabout Theatre Company

Time, space, continuum

Our lives, no matter how long their time spans, are all just one continuous moment.

If this premise had been posited before the party that is the first scene of Time and the Conways, at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre through November 26th, how much more endurable the charades the family played would have been!

Time and the Conways rattles on, not unagreeably because as it does it gains depth and perspective. J.B. Priestley’s play, written in 1937 has a timelessness. It endures for us under the direction of Rebecca Taichman, who might have given it a brisker flow.

Gabriel Ebert, Anna Baryshnikov, and Anna Camp were standouts in an excellent ensemble. Paloma Young’s lovely costumes are as true for 1919 as for 1937. The set design, by Neil Patel, is both solid and ethereal in keeping with the tone of Priestley’s story.

Please pardon the spoilers unspooled in our description and review below. 

Alan Conway (Gabriel Ebert) is the soul of this family. His sister Kay (Charlotte Parry) is its brittle intelligence.Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) carries the family’s heart. Hazel (Anna Camp), in contrast to her brothers Alan, and Robin (Matthew James Thomas), the family’s ambition. Robin, Mrs. Conway’s (Elizabeth McGovern) favorite child, is a self-destructive wastrel. The giggly girl who marries him, Joan Helford (Cara Ricketts) is deceived into thinking there is more to him by his swagger.

The self-important tyrant Hazel marries, Ernest Beevers (Steven Boyer) is obscenely mean-spirited. Madge Conway (Brooke Bloom) is the polemical sister, idealistic and down-to-earth at once. Her thwarted interest in Gerald Thornton (Alfredo Narcisco) may have soured her and etched her practical preferences.

For tickets to Time and the Conways, please visit the Roundabout website.

Posted in ballet, dance, dance making, favorites, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Partiality

RedShoesPage_facing_218_of_Andersen's_fairy_tales_(Robinson)
By Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944 (illustrator) – Copy at New York Public Library, scanned by nicole deyo, obtained from http://www.archive.org/details/hansandersensfai00andeCrop, little or no corrections, needs it., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16274672

Playing favorites gets a bad rep. In fact, it’s a parental rule that moms love all their children equally. Every mother knows that this is hooey; there is always one who stands a little closer to the heart.

My connection to New York City Ballet (@nycballet) goes back many years to the company’s residency at City Center. Over the half-century plus that I have been partial to NYCB, I have had many favorite dancers.

Among the current crop of primas, Sara Mearns is a stand-out favorite. This in no way diminishes the rest of the NYCB troupe who all delight and dazzle. I often find myself loving best the one who is near, as Ado Annie might; I like the NYCballet.

Nonetheless, on my Mearns watch, I find myself fortunate enough to have tickets for one of her performances of the new Bourne (music by Bernard Hermann) ballet, The Red Shoes at City Center starting October 26th. (This time, we will not be sitting in that very last row from which I saw so many of Balanchine’s dancers dance his dances long ago.)

Matthew Bourne has come out of his career catnap to produce his first dance in four years. The Red Shoes, based on the movie that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, is the ultimate dancers’ story. It is also a caveat against overreaching. I can’t wait to see La Mearns in the title role of Victoria Page.

In March, as has been mentioned in these pages, Sara Mearns channels Isadora Duncan for the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance company. There’s something else to look forward to seeing.


George Balanchine, like Paul Taylor, was a catholic balletmaker, finding the arcane in the ordinary. An “All Balanchine” program at NYCB can range over a wide field, landing here in an utterly classical mode, there in the folkloric.

The one we just witnessed included La Valse, in which Sara Mearns was seduced by death (Amar Ramasar, another beloved NYCB Principal) while her original partner, Tyler Angle, is dejected and dismayed.

Robert Fairchild, in his penultimate performance with NYCB, danced Duo Concertant with Sterling Hyltin. The dance is one of Balanchine’s so-called black and white ballets, set to music for piano and violin written by his friend Igor Stravinsky. It is a sad and luxurious work.

Two of the pieces on the program blended classical with the quotidienne. Square Dance is elegant, and forthright, a very striking and simple ballet, with a hint of the folk dance of its title. Cortege Hongrois, on the other hand, is elaborate. It uses a populist vernacular, blending the czardas with processionals.


La Valse and Duo Concertant are over for now, as is of course the opportunity to catch Robert Fairchild as a New York City Ballet Principal Dancer.

You will be able to catch Cortege Hongrois again on a program this winter. Square Dance will be on another one as well.


New and upcoming favorites in the NYCBallet Company appear with each new season. Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette are dancer-choreographers who are classically trained with next gen sensibilities. We are the witnesses to a company that is full of life, and movement, and is always moving forward. Lucky us.


Posted in actors, ballet, balletic, circus, circus. vaudeville, dancers life, Lincoln Center

Personable

My intro to the NYCB Working Rehearsal included a docent telling us that one of the things she enjoyed about watching the dancers rehearse was that they reveal their personalities in the banter on the stage. In thinking about this, I realized that what I like to see on stage is a persona, not a personality.

DuffySq_fromSteps.jpg
Duffy Square, NYC. Photo © Tamara Beck

In this case, I witnessed, among other things, Robert Fairchild‘s easy charm (and of course those matinée idol looks I have often mentioned before) which has landed him on Broadway in the past. (And also in Paris and London where An American In Paris had its try-outs, as it were, pre-Palace Theatre in New York.) Fairchild is funny and always
very polite, which belies his perfectionism. He is completely professional and engaged in his dancing. His patter with Sterling Hyltin while waiting for the violinist, Arturo Delmoni was an agreeable look at his more private side, but what I expect to see in his penultimate performance as a Principal Dancer for NYCB at the Saturday matinée tomorrow is his absorption into the role in Duo Concertante. In other words, I will be mesmerized by the persona he projects, not the witty personality he clearly possesses. (Note, he reprises this role at the Sunday matinée.)

 


Not so hasty. We’re still here.

Marlise and JuliaT26H_008
Photo © Tamara Beck

Rumors that the Big Apple Circus had folded its tent for good appear to have been premature.

It may be that the demise of the multi-tent Barnum + Bailey makes this a winning holiday destination, and the only circus in town.

The Big Apple’s one ring approach was always a more kid-friendly way to present the events on this kind of stage anyway. Who can keep up with all the action in three rings?

On Thursday, The Big Apple was setting up for a late October opening at L.C. Its wagon were in the familiar place by Damrosch Park.


Note to the  storekeeper

Romeo_and_Juliet_(detail)_by_Frank_Dicksee
Frank Dicksee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The poster in the window says “Love Always Wins” and the posterboard is covered in post-its meant to prove this point.

The question I want to pose is have you considered how dire the ending is for Romeo and for Juliet, for instance? They are not the only star-crossed lovers in history– or in theater, but they set the tone for all those who have been failed by your all-encompassing motto.

“Love Sometimes Wins” might be a more apt if less emphatic statement.  Given the realities in many romances, the equivocal is a better way of expressing the hope that love carries and sometimes delivers.


Chick flicks

While on the subject of romance, I want to submit my favorite type of commentary– the list. In this case, it is a list of films in which women are powerful and empowered. Some of them are romantic in the traditional sense. Some take a right or left turn around the central proposition. Other lists I have shared include those in which ballets are interconnected, and have been meant as a year-end salute.

Here’s today’s list:

A League Of Their Own, sports and girls! 
Thelma and Louise
, girls in cars
Bull Durham, a girl–well, a woman and some ball players
Moonstruck, a love affair with two brothers and a woman, a full moon, etc etc etc
Alice, a woman on the edge of dementia
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a woman finds herself

 

Posted in Daily Prompt, long running Broadway musical, musical theater, musical theatre, religion

Faith-based

via Daily Prompt: Believe

Scientology gets more dissing and distancing than Mormonism– well, except from Broadway’s The Book of Mormon. This long-running musical gives the Mormon Church a bit of a beating.

In truth, we are afraid to disparage the beliefs of others, and religion is in general off-limits in polite company. Mormons are particularly lucky that this is so since the antics of the Church of the Latter Day Saints range from deplorable to laughable. For instance, it is appalling that they claim the ancestors of those in no way affiliated with their practice as their own.

Their mythologies, like those of L. Ron Hubbard and his ilk, many of whom have chosen acting as their metiers, are over the top. Hubbard was a writer of science fiction, another arena, like the theater, in which a suspension of disbelief is helpful.

Sorting out the Mormon backstory of their religion, and their history of the United States is a neat trick that boggles a logical mind.

 

Posted in Daily Prompt, theater, theater about theater, ttheater etiquette

Have faith

Gustav_Klimt_012
By Gustav Klimt – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153429

via Daily Prompt: Believe

In the theater, it’s about creating make-believe worlds that mimic and explain the real spheres in which we live and love.

We call it, in the tradition of Aristotle, suspension of disbelief when the drama transports us to a new and magical sphere.

Theater is about a special kind of faith.