Posted in Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre, ballet, balletic, dance, dance making, dancing, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Uncategorized

Modern ballet

Dance evolves with the times as do all things, artistic or run-of-the-mill. It is what we need to keep in perspective as we watch young choreographers take on the creation of the next new ballet. They will be influenced by what has been termed modern dance, a genre dating back to Isadora Duncan’s day and represented prominently today by, among others, Paul Taylor (and his) American Modern Dance.

Modern dance is meant to be less formal, to eschew the stodgy. Not that Jerome Robbins, or George Balanchine, for that matter, can be thought of as stodgy. The ballets that are stepping, best foot forward, these days, tend to –not exactly relax, since many are as frenetic as they are innovative– be freer in mixing the metaphors of dance forms.

Lauren Lovett and Peter Walker, two of the more recently minted NYCB dance-makers, have emerged as rising stars of ballet. Lovett tends towards a romantic view of the classical. Walker is a bit of a renegade, although his second work, the 2018 dance odyssey, moves to a more traditional line.

The older guard is equally willng to mix things up. At 40, and after many years dancing as a principal with New York City Ballet, and working with his own troupe and as head of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is an elder statesman in the world of choreography. Millepied, whose Neverwhere was a lovely revelation at a recent NYCB performance, is a case in point. His work uses classical style married to contemporary scores–Neverwhere is set to music by Nico Muhly– and refreshing ideas about movement. Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre since 2008,  has given NYCB some delightful novelties, as well. His Odessa and Songs of Bukovina are works that join diverse styles of folk and ballet in beautiful complexity.

All of the action described here- ABT, NYCB, PTAMD– takes its place at Lincoln Center.
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance is in the midst of their spring season through the end of March. The New York City Ballet returns to the David H. Koch stage in April for their spring season. American Ballet Theatre begins its Metropolitan Opera House season in mid May.

Posted in dance, dance making, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet

Jerome Robbins at 100

Jerome Robbins was a man who knew how to put on a show. His ballets has as much pomp and circumstance, flair and flavor as any of his Broadway show.

At 30-40 minutes, they constitute something like a one-act on every program on which they are featured. Like many another dance-maker, Robbins covered a range of styles and subjects. There’s NY Export: Opus Jazz, the West Side Story Suite, and I’m Old Fashioned with their modern and pop culture motifs.

The Four Seasons, set to ballet interludes by Verdi from a number of his operas, is an exhilirating and very classical entertainment. In it he creates not just a mise en scène that takes us from winter through spring to summer and fall but also hearkens to Shakespeare. A Puck-like figure (puckishly danced by Preston Chamblee at the performance we attended) gambols through the final chapter of the ballet.

The Four Seasons with its processions representing the times and temperatures that progress through the year is at once majestic and light-hearted. Robbins, a much lauded stage choreographer contributed greatly to the NYCB repertoire in his long association with the company. He joined George Balanchine as Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet in 1949.

This spring, the NYCB will dance in tribute to Jerome Robbins on his centennial for three weeks beginning on May 3rd.

Posted in #Tschaikovsky, dance, dance making, dancing with the stars, George Balanchine, Glazounov, Mr. B, New York City Ballet

George’s house of dance

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Chase Finlay in Apollo with Sterling Hyltin as Terpsichore, Tiler Peck as Polyhymnia, and Ana Sophia Scheller as Calliope. Photo © Paul Kolnik

It’s George Balanchine’s birthday and the NYCB is celebrating it. The season continues amidst a backdrop of allegations of physical and sexual misconduct against Peter Martins, who has stepped down as Ballet Master in Chief. The company is under the collective management of an interim artistic team and a group of Ballet Masters. The backdrop is one I would like to ignore, as it seems likely NYCB boards may have been these many years. The scandal persists, and an email in which NYCB’s board thanks Martins for his service and leadership, and says they are independently investigating seems more problem than solution.

At any rate, New York City Ballet was only under his stewardship; the NYCB always belonged to Mr. B.

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Tyler Angle, Maria Kowroski, and Daniel Ulbricht with students from The School of American Ballet in Mozartiana, Tschaikovsky’s tribute to Mozart interpreted by Balanchine for the NYCB in 1981. Photo © Paul Kolnik. At the Saturday matinée, Sara Mearns was in the lead.

Even the dancers who never had a chance to work with Balanchine honor him when they dance. This Saturday was all Balanchine, including Apollo (from 1928) and Cortège Hongrois (1973) as well as Mozartiana from 1981.

As Jared Angle and Megan Fairchild said in introducing the January 27th 2pm program, it covered over 50 years of Balanchine’s interpretations of  music. The choreography was brilliant, of course.

Apollo, Balanchine’s first internationally recognized triumph, created when he was just 24 years old, is a collaboration with his friend Igor Stravinsky. The latter provides the music for an idyllic god of prophecy and art  and his hand-maidens to captivate. On Saturday, Adrian Danching-Waring was the jazzed-up god as Tiler Peck took on the role as his dancing muse, Terpsichore. Indiana Woodward carried Calliope’s pad and pen, while Ashly Isaacs was Polyhymnia. This dance has never before been a favorite of ours; at Saturday’s performance we had a decided change of heart. Looking forward to a reprise this afternoon!

In Mozartiana, where Tschaikovsky pays homage to Mozart, we have the dual authorship of two outstanding composers, as it were. It is a soothing, elegant work, and the elegant Sara Mearns was joined by Chase Finlay as her leading man, and Troy Schumacher as well as an able corps, and students from the School of American Ballet.

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The ensemble in Cortège Hongrois. Photo © Paul Kolnik.

Cortège Hongrois, on the other hand, mesmerized us when last we saw it. Yesterday. it was an agreeable dance-piece. Balanchine set it to Alexander Glazounov’s Raymonda, music that is varied and stirring. Cortège Hongrois opens with a grand processional, and has a rousing Finale. The frantic and gorgeous activity of the Czardas and its Variations is followed by the relatively restorative Pas de Deux, performed by Ashley Bouder and Russell Janzen on Saturday afternoon. One the dance regains its composure we witness a full cast frolic that is typical Balanchine, and therefore a perfect end.

Winter 2018 season the New York City Ballet is on now through March 4th. Visit http://www.nycballet.com/ for schedules and ticket information.

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.

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.

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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.

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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

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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 dance, dance making, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet

Fire and passion

The passion in the Tango exucdes a sexual energy fuelled by an undercurrent of violence. That is inherent to the dance, and as interpreted by Alexei Ratmasky in “Odessa” (part of the @nycballet repertory) the culturally condoned thuggishness has a distinct and distinguishing beauty.

The slaps exchanged, the hair dragged in Ratmansky’s ballet is par for the Tango’s course. The preening posture of the men in the dance and the domestic disturbances on stage in no way undermines the elegance of the piece.

Costumed by Keso Dekker, the male dancers exhibit a kind of gangster chic, while the women bear an haute peasant look.  Leonid Desyatnikov;s score evokes a Russian moment in which the underworld is exotic.

Justin Peck, NYCB principal and Choreographer in Residence, exhibits the youthful exuberance appropriate to his generation. This exuberance is brilliantly on display in “The Times Are Racing.”

Am I reading a political statement into the piece? Do the dancers wear T-shirts that say
DEFY, SHOUT, PROTEST, ACT? The music by Dan Deacon, not familiar to my years, is energizing. Standing out among the 20 brilliant dancers is Indiana Woodward, but the entire cast are wonderful.