the danceview times
Volume 2, Number 9 March 1, 2004 The weekly online supplement to DanceView magazine
Letter from New York
in the art of directing a dance company would benefit from seeing the
Disney movie Miracle, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team—a
group of young amateurs who, coached by a genius named Herb Brooks, came
from apparently nowhere to fight their way to the top, en route beating
the “unbeatable” Soviets in the semifinals, ultimately winning
the gold medal, and thereby proving themselves heroes and agents of momentary
yet profound joy to a country demoralized by economic recession, the hostage
crisis in the Middle East, the sky-high cost of fossil fuel, and other
A Bevy of Beauties at New York City Ballet
A Veteran and a Raw Talent
by Mindy Aloff
2004 by Mindy Aloff
week, reviewing NYCB’s production of The Sleeping Beauty
on his Saturday WQXR-FM radio spot (6 p.m.), Francis Mason observed that
when Margot Fonteyn took New York by storm with her Aurora in The Royal
Ballet’s production at the Old Met in 1949, she had already been
dancing the role for ten years. It’s a point well taken. As Boris
Lermontov observes in The Red Shoes, one cannot produce a rabbit
from a hat if there is not already a rabbit in the hat. On the
other hand, Ninette de Valois was producing an Aurora who, by a number
of accounts, had the right sensibility and temperament for the role from
Heart and Soul
as Walter Pater wrote, “all art constantly aspires to the condition
of music”, then it seems that all Balanchine’s ballets aspire
to the condition of The Sleeping Beauty, so it was fitting that
the New York City Ballet performed it as the final offering of its Balanchine
Heritage season. Peter Martins’ Beauty is not perfect,
but it has many beautiful elements. However, it was set before the Kirov
revived as much of the 1890 original as they could reconstruct. Their
version, as close as this world will probably ever come to seeing the
ballet that transfixed Balanchine, has a luxurious expansiveness, a rich
variety, and a moral seriousness that later versions, however fine, lack.
Nijinsky—Lost in the Chaos
Nijinsky is a ballet icon. His ballets and life story have cemented his
place in dance history. But with iconic status sometimes comes a flattening
of character, and John Neumeier’s depiction of the famous dancer
in the evening length Nijinsky has fallen into this trap. Neumeier
devotes most of his two-and-half-hour ballet to placing Nijinsky’s
inner landscape onstage, creating a swirl of impossible-to-digest dance
that presents Nijinsky as a one-dimensional figure, lost in the swirl.
The man who created the first truly modern ballets and passed through
two complicated relationships, first with impresario Serge Diaghilev,
then later his wife Romola, appears the same throughout Neumeier’s
ballet. Though the relationships were, in fact, very different, Neumeier's
depictions are not. The
lack of subtle character development was even more striking after having
seen Norman Allen's "Nijsinky's Last Dance" at the Kennedy Center
this past fall.
Nijinsky: Madness and Metaphor
not often one gets to see identical twins take on a leading role. John
Neumeier provided just such an opportunity by casting Jirí and
Otto Bubenícek as Nijinsky in his evening-length work of that name.
In this case, curiosity was well-rewarded: there were not only differences,
but each man had contrasting strengths. (I must state that my comparison
is from viewing the two only in this one role in this season, and that
I’m trusting that each twin danced at his announced performance.
The two also alternated as Nijinsky in the Faun, each playing Faun to
his brother's Nijinsky.) J. Bubenícek, who danced the role
opening night, has a stronger technique; O. Bubenícek’s,
at the Saturday evening performance, danced with more plasticity and more
Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes
conception is sweeping. Call it symphonic or cinematic, there is cohesive
movement at the core of John Neumeier's Nijinsky. It has an effect,
it makes a splash, Act 1 more so because it never stops. Transitions are
part of the continuum. Choreography, characterizations and narrative are
An Acrobatic Showcase
like 21st Annual Choreographers Showcase are usually a good opportunity
to see a variety of companies and styles. But if I had been told that
one person had choreographed this whole show and that it was presented
by just one company, I would have believed it. There was an amazing uniformity
to the language used to create the pieces, an even keel that ran throughout
the whole evening.
Wheeldon's Rush: Fresh and Familiar
Rush, Grosse Fugue, and Valses
Poeticos, imaginal disk
Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush, the center piece of San Francisco Ballet’s third program surprised with its freshness and conventionality.
If you live in a Northern climate, you will understand the contradiction. There are days in late March or early April when Spring is just around the corner. The air has a blustery quality to it and feels fresh; breezes are almost, but not quite balmy. It’s an experience you go through year after year, and yet the experience is new every time. That’s how Rush felt.
chose for his third SFB commission a lovely little score by Bohuslav Martinu,
the Sinfonietta La Jolla for Chamber Orchestra and Piano. Even though
written relatively late in the composer’s life, it had a vernal
quality about it which no doubt contributed to Rush’s atmosphere.
Tomasson's Seven for Eight: Stainless Steel and Angelic Grace
Seven for Eight,
Carnival des Animaux
It often seems to me that we've arrived in the dance world at a stage very like that which succeeded the great age of Elizabethan drama—after Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, what follows is a generation that's hyper-aware of what's been done, and the gifted among them, the Fletchers and the Websters spend their wits making madder mad scenes, more villainous villains, elaborating self-consciously on the affective devices that made King Lear so involving, so upsetting it made grown men cry.
Similarly in the wake of the heroic generation (Balanchine, Graham, Ashton, Limon, name your favorites), we get dances that live in the suburbs of the masterpieces they created. It's nobody's fault—it's just where we are in the cycle. Today the technique has flowered to the point where the practitioners are so adept they are almost in advance of what the idea-folk can ask of them.
So you hear
that Helgi Tomasson is going to make a ballet to Bach, what do you expect?
Well, it won't have the organic, fated quality of Concerto Barocco,
the structure will not make form reveal function—but I expect that
the dancers will move o that music with a grace bordering on the angelic.
A Firebird in Portland
Oregon Ballet Theatre is in good hands. With two world premieres— Adin by new Artistic Director Christopher Stowell and Firebird by budding choreographer and San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Yuri Possokhov—and Serenade, coached by the superb Francia Russell, the twenty-two member ensemble presented an evening of refined classical dancing that promised much for the future. Six of these dancers are new this season.
In his Firebird,
which uses Stravinsky’s reduced 1945 version of the score, Possokhov
has gone back to the folk tale at the heart of the narrative. A simple
youth with a noble heart, here called Ivan, (Paul de Strooper) sets out
on a quest and encounters two magical creatures, a glittering, golden
firebird (Yuka Iino) and a beautiful girl (Tracy Taylor). After defeating
the ogre Kaschei (Kester Cotton), Ivan has to choose between enchantment
and reality. He makes the right decision, and the two live happily ever
Francisco Bay is shaped like a wasp; San Francisco is at the waist, facing
Berkeley and Oakland to the east (the Bay Bridge crosses that waist like
a belt). It is a large bay - San Jose lies at the tail of the wasp, some
50 miles south of the waist. Another bridge goes across the neck of the
wasp to San Rafael, county seat of Marin County, where Frank Lloyd Wright's
marvelous complex of civic buildings include a handsome blue and gold
auditorium where the weekend of February 21 the Moscow Festival Ballet
won the hearts of about a thousand prosperous suburbanites with a generous,
clear, satisfying production of Rostislav Zakharov's venerable Cinderella.
Batsheva: Breaking Down Walls
Naharin likes to line up his dancers across the front of the stage letting
them spout off tightly packed phrases of movement, sequentially or, to
increase the effect, all at once. This is how his Deca Dance
opens and the formation returns in different costumes with different movement
over the course of the evening. It's as if Naharin wants to break down
that invisible but necessary barrier between performer and audience. And
then he does.
Dance with Texture—and a Heart
Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
choreography displays the best of a postmodern approach—diverse
fusion of movements --while still embracing the capital letter ideals
of Modernism, Truth and Beauty. Watching Brown’s company Evidence
in their Sunday night performance at Dance Place, particularly in “Come
Ye” a work that received its Washington premiere on Thursday at
George Mason University, I felt I was watching a choreographer borne of
the postmodern generation dismiss the relativist, flat-line tendencies
that make so much of today’s choreography look the same. In Come
Ye, a celebration of singer Nina Simone, Brown and his dancers (he
performed with the company) defer to something bigger and higher than
themselves. Repeatedly, they raise their arms, hands balled into fists,
and arch their chests upward, embracing the air and at times each other
with a reverent, almost sacred quality. But, this call to something beyond
the stage does not have the dated air of the twentieth century classics
because Brown’s seamless fusion of West African, modern and club
dance solidly ties the universal to contemporary everyday life.
You Go Down To the Woods Today
such as this, which are designed for what's called the "family audience,"
are certainly best evaluated by attending with a child of the appropriate
age. This 45-minute offering by the Montreal-based troupe Cas Public seems
aimed at the eight-and-under set, and I did not have such a companion
along whose reaction to gage. The matinee audience was loaded with kids
who seemed eager and attentive, and laughed at the appropriate places.
From an adult perspective, the piece was heavy on the talk and limited
in its movement interest.
the performance proper began, a tiny toy tank attracted attention. Around
in a circle it rolled, making a whirring noise. Other paraphernalia apparent
right away were four strings suspended from the ceiling, four stools to
each of which a reproduction of a famous portrait of a woman was attached
and, standing in a niche, a statue of the Madonna and Christ child that
was a little larger than life. The floor of the space (the Kogod is a
black box theater) had a layer of brown wood chips.
© 2004 by DanceView