According to the Itar-Tass news agency, Grigorovich’s Spartacus has just won the “Champion” title of Ballet of the 21st Century. And it was such an underdog. Apparently, the Russians didn’t get the memo from Jennifer Homans that Spartacus was “quite clearly a degraded form of art” – oh, my goodness. Oh, wait, was that Spartacus on the front of the Summer 2010Ballet Review? How can there be a degraded form of art on the cover of this ballet scholar quarterly? Oh, my goodness, again.
Haglund wishes that the Balanchinistas would stop their jihadish effort to portray all choreographers as inferior to Balanchine. It’s starting to look like the Elvis fans attacking the Beatles, and Balanchine didn’t even come close to what Elvis was. It’s truly tiresome and a turn-off.
Any Balanchinista’s quality-comparison of choreography she knows intimately as the result of performing it to choreography she knows only casually as a spectator doesn’t square. The bias can’t be controlled for. It doesn’t add up to anything but a gassy pile of digested beans.
Haglund remembers walking out on a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance in the early '80s, when the company was a marginal Balanchine franchise, because he was so offended by the women’s substitution of Balanchine cliches and faults for fundamental ballet technique. Flapping wrists, practiced overbites, splayed fingers, crotch-displaying arabesques, flailing arms – that was the aesthetic presented at that time. Thank goodness it’s dying – if all too slowly. Thank goodness NYCB women don’t dance like they used to dance. Thank goodness.
Now, for a Spartacus thrill, go here. This clip is a splicing together of performances by Vasiliev/Maximova and Mukhamedov/Bessmertnova – sixteen years apart. Thrilling. Dramatic. Passionate.
As you can see, when Haglund got home from NYCB’s Opening Night of The Nutcracker, somebody was waiting for a complete report on the mice. And he was not happy to hear that the mice, led viciously and ruthlessly by Justin Peck, nearly made off with the Nutcracker Prince on the very first night. They were only seconds away from kidnapping Marie, too, when all of a sudden, someone from the front of the 1st Tier yelped, “There’s steam coming out of the Bunny’s ears!” Indeed there was. And then miraculously, the Bunny powered toward the Mouse King, grabbed the royal rodent’s tail, and pulled it downstage, completely distracting the critter just long enough for the Nutcracker Prince to wrestle away. But it was close, way too close for comfort. No doubt this will all be reported later tonight on Fox News.
The opening performance had the feel of new gears coming together for the first time that might need to run once or twice before they mesh smoothly. But for the most part, it was a wonderfully enjoyable evening. The kids dominated the first act and were fabulous. Young Fritz was cinnamon-haired Gregor MacKenzie Gillen who was charming in his efforts to get one of the little party girls to dance with him. Fiona Brennan and Jonathan Alexander as Marie and the Nutcracker Prince drove the dream forward with aplomb and polish.
In Act II, Teresa Reichlen was a sensual Coffee while Daniel Ulbricht’s elevation in his split leaps in Tea caught the audience by surprise. Ashley Bouder was a sparkling Dewdrop surrounded by waltzing flowers led beautifully by Lauren King and Ashley Laracey. The Sugar Plum and Cavalier were Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle. Can’t say that they were a good match. Jenifer was lovely in her variations, but Jared’s feet were disinclined to point – a lot; and his legs were disinclined to stretch – a lot. The Cavalier’s white tights and white shoes made it impossible not to notice.
The choreography of Act II is over-loaded, way over-loaded with first arabesque sautes and saute de chat. The choreography for the Sugar Plum Fairy's and Cavalier's solos and PdD doesn't, in Haglund's view, compare favorably with the Baryshnikov version which is far more musical, inventive, and magical. It may have been a mistake to have watched the YouTube video of Gelsey Kirkland and Baryshnikov in the PdD several times this week before embarking on the season's first live performance. If you want to make the same mistake, go here.
Haglund thought the orchestra, conducted by Clotilde Otranto, sounded a little thin. The violin soloist, Kurt Nikkanen, didn’t produce the passionate phrasing that Nicolas Danielson did last year.
[Excuse me, somebody wants to interrupt with a question] “With all those mice racing around, why are there no cats in The Nutcracker?” Answer: In some Nutcracker production somewhere, there are cats – surely there are cats.
Haglund is happy that Nutcracker season is finally here and bestows this lovey pink flowered Pump Bump Award to the Walz of the Flowers and Dewdrop:
Found this link on the Ballet Bag today for Vogue's December article on ABT's new Nutcracker. The picture of Marcelo Gomes and Gillian Murphy taken in the Alvin Ailey studios is dreamy and reveals thoughtful detail in both dancers' costumes.
The picture is accompanied by text written by Gia Kourlas. It's mostly okay but for a few remarks like "ABT has never really been a contender in the Nutcracker game until now." Uh, for close to two decades, it was Baryshnikov's ABT Nutcracker production that played yearly on PBS with Gelsey Kirkland as a peerless Clara. Can't remember that? Go here. Gelsey's lightness, the exquisite delicacy of her tapered pointes, the articulate shape of her heels, the expressiveness of her upper body, the fantasy in her face - did Gia really miss all of that all those years? The Baryshnikov production should be required viewing for every aspiring Clara/Marie/Sugar Plum whether she has access to other live performances or not.
This picture in Vogue and the cover photo of the first Spring 2011 brochure show Gillian Murphy in understated makeup which allows us to really see her face. It is a wonderful revelation to actually be able to see Gillian through her makeup. The intense lipcolor and over-shadowed, over-lashed eyes that we're accustomed to seeing when she's on stage have always prevented us from really seeing her or the delicacy and fragileness of her characters. It's one of those less is more situations. Now, if we could just get her to put on a pair of flat, tapered, 3/4 shank Freeds...
This must be Vogue's ballet issue. Thumbing through the pages while standing in the Duane Reade after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Haglund saw a J.Crew ad that featured NYCB's lovely Janie Taylor in her glistening lime Sugar Plum costume. Turn the page, a ballet dancer in a Bulova ad. 'Tis the season.
Tomorrow NYCB opens its Nutcracker run (of course, Haglund will be there with bells on) and the Wall Street Journal, fast becoming THE place to go for newspaper dance critcism, has a charming article by Pia Catton about Jacques d'Amboise's family's total immersion in the holiday tradition:
Former NYCB principal Jacques d'Amboise and his wife, Carolyn George, both danced it. Their children—George, Christopher, Charlotte and Cate—all had roles. And now a third generation is set to take the stage: Mr. d'Amboise's granddaughters, Shelby, age 7, and Josephine, age 8, will make their "Nutcracker" debuts this season as a party guest and a toy solider, respectively.
The girls are the daughters of Charlotte d'Amboise, who's currently headlining "Chicago," and her husband Terrance Mann, starring in "The Addams Family."
Cute, right? But before you start imagining this showbiz family in a Norman Rockwell painting, considering the little issue of scheduling.
"It's a disaster—they are all onstage!" Mr. d'Amboise, now 76, said frantically. "I get these calls, 'Can you pick up the girls at rehearsal?'"
Oh, this is big – literally. The Royal Ballet is going to present three performances of MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet in the mammoth, multi-purpose, state-of-the-art O2 Arena in London on June 17, 18 and 19. Since it’s opening in 2007, the O2, which has 20,000 seats, has presented Paul McCartney, Beyonce, the Royal Philharmonic, The Boss, The Stones, Streisand, Disney on Ice, church services, film screenings, the Boston Celtics, opera stars and much more.
From the BBC report:
Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg will dance the principal roles in the production of Romeo and Juliet.
Up to 2,000 tickets for each performance will be available for £10 on a first-come-first-served basis.
The rest of the tickets will sell for £60 and £95 and will be available from 5 December.
A filmed introduction will be shown on giant screens in the venue at the beginning of each act.
Director of the ballet company, Dame Monica Mason, said she was "thrilled" about the production being shown in such a huge venue as it would "introduce our work to so many new people".
Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House added: "This opportunity fits perfectly with our commitment to ensuring that as wide an audience as possible is able to enjoy live performances by The Royal Ballet at affordable prices."
The June 17-19 performances are being staged in association with impresario Raymond Gubbay, who staged the first opera at the London arena earlier this year.
We'll be following the Ballet Bag in London as they report on this story throughout the year. Tickets go on sale December 5th.
Haglund continues to try to "process" the picture of David Hallberg in a sylph costume sitting on a bicycle in the ABT brochure. Even rebooting with a bottle of pinot noir last night did not unfreeze the processor in his old noggin.
And before you could say Schoko Pfeffer-Nüsse five times fast, the holiday season has become gingerbread-packed with delicious ballet events that will keep everyone happy until NYCB’s winter season begins in January.
Last night Haglund attended the inaugural screening of Film Nights @ Steps on Broadway. Fabrice Herrault, esteemed faculty member at Steps and The Juilliard School, is sharing his private collection of ballet films on the Loft level at Steps over the course of the next several months. Tickets are just $5.
The first presentation was the documentary “REFLETS DE LA DANSE” Reflections of Dance: Dance School of the Paris Opera – 1979. What a treat to see the fresh-faced 15-year-old Sylvie Guillem working within the realm of classical perfection in the upper levels of the school – and never once did her foot come anywhere close to her ear. The film showed the students in technique, character, and PdD classes and a final lengthy excerpt from the annual student performance.
The remaining presentations in the series are:
December 4 Great Ballerinas of the 20th Century
January 22 An Exploration of 20th Century Choreographers
February 12 Famous Ballet Couples
March 19 Great Male Dancers of the 20th Century
April 16 Behind the Scenes: Don Quixote
No small by-the-way, Fabrice has a film in this year’s Dance on Camera Festival at the Walter Reade Theatre in January. CLAUDE BESSY, LIGNES D’UNE VIE (Traces of a Life) will be screened on January 28th @ 6PM and January 29th @ 4PM. From the DFA website:
CLAUDE BESSY, LIGNES D’UNE VIE (Traces of a Life) Fabrice Herrault, 2010; USA, 54m Described as the “Golden Silhouette” by Serge Lifar, French ballerina Claude Bessy was an admired etoile of the Paris Opera Ballet and ran its prestigious school for decades. Americans know her as Gene Kelly’s partner in his “Invitation to the Dance.” Herrault’s intimate documentary, narrated by his subject, features rare vintage classroom and performance footage of the dancer in her prime, including works by Kelly, Serge Lifar, and Maurice Bejart. Intro/Q and A’s with director and star.
Followed by: LES REFLETS DE LA DANSE (Reflections of the dance) Nicolas Ribowski, 1979; France, 33m excerpt Paris Opera Ballet School classes featuring former students of Claude Bessy, including Sylvie Guillem and Elisabeth Maurin. Intro by Claude Bessy
Public Reception - 8pm-11pm
Miss this, People, and you may as well turn in your Balletomane Badges and resign.
Just a reminder about the December 19th showing of the Bolshoi's The Nutcracker, courtesy of Emerging Pictures Ballet in Cinema program. Then on January 19th, be still your hearts, a LIVE screening of The Royal Ballet's Giselle. EP's website is a slow work-in-progress. So if you have difficulty finding the information you are looking for, just call them up. Yep, if the website isn't functioning with the expected ease, call them up at 212-245-6767 and ask for Christiana, Devonna, or Barry.
Last but not least, Ovation TV is once again presenting its Battle of the Nutcrackers. Here's your chance to see a variety of productions. The Royal Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Berlin State Opera Ballet, Bejart Ballet Lausanne, and Casse Noisette Circus versions will be aired on various dates. Viewers then vote on their favorites and the winner will be announced on Christmas Eve. RB's film features Alina Cojocaru and the Bolshoi Ballet's version features – breathe deeply, breathe, breathe, breathe – Irek Mukhamedov. Please Santa, bring us our very own Mayerling soon.
NYCB: There will be a rare opportunity to see Jennie Somogyi as Sugarplum on Thurs. Dec. 2nd @ 6pm.
ABT: Some of the Washington DC casting has been posted. Lucky DCers – Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo will dance Theme and Variations on Thur. Jan. 20th. Since it's been a while since we've seen ABT's graceful and luminous version of T&V in New York, as opposed to its knock 'em dead with your spinning and not much else version, it might be worth a few bucks to Bolt your way down to DC for this event. It's easy to forget just how beautiful and spiritual this ballet can be.
Update Thur. 11/17
There's been a little shuffle in the ABT Nutcracker casting. Yuriko Kajiya (replacing Hee Seo) will now dance with Alexandre Hammoudi and Maria Riccetto will dance with Daniil Simkin. Not sure how the first pair will look, but Haglund knows that the second pair will look like a partnership. Maria and Daniil square up nicely together - it's something to do with their backs and their personalities. This is definitely one more thing to look forward to next month.
Opening night of The Nutcracker is fewer than two weeks away. Come on, People, get yourselves in the spirit. Look at that awesome cast! Awesome, indeed, but the ballet's highlights for Haglund are always the little Nutcracker Prince's mimed summation of the battle with the mice and, of course, the fearless bunny's variation. Can't wait!
SUGARPLUM: Ringer; CAVALIER: J. Angle; DEWDROP: Bouder; HERR DROSSELMEIER: La Fosse; MARZIPAN: Pereira; HOT CHOCOLATE: Muller, la Cour; COFFEE: Reichlen; TEA: Ulbricht; CANDY CANE: Suozzi; MOTHER GINGER: Scordato; FLOWERS: King, Laracey; DOLLS: Brown, Manzi; SOLDIER: Schumacher; MOUSE KING: J. Peck; DR & FRAU STAHLBAUM: Lowery, Seth.
[Very late at night. Somewhere on Lafayette Avenue. In Brooklyn.]
Reilly: Did you hear? One of the brothers was holed up back stage at the Guggenheim this week when ABT gave a preview lecture/demo on our new Nutcracker. He saw our costumes. We’re gonna be white! Can you believe it! Bed-Stuy rats in whiteface. Ha!
Reggie: Well, the neighborhood up by BAM is a little tonier now – Fort Somethingorother. We just have to accept the gentrification process without letting it push us out. People up there are comfortable with the idea of white lab mice, but not rats like us.
Reilly: It seems the Rat King is gonna have seven heads. Seven white heads.
Reggie: You know what that means, don’t you? Seven heads means seven brains. We’re gonna be brainy white rats – that’s why RATmansky gave us all that difficult choreography. The rats are finally gonna win the battle in The Nutcracker – it’s about time.
Reilly: Don’t bet on it. Come January, we'll still be shopping in the garbage cans.
Well, sort of. You have to use your imagination a little bit. But at least now we are assured that the ballerina's shoes which were stolen during a mugging last summer are back in an ABT staffer's security and will be returned to the victim ballerina – unless, of course, they are stolen again – perhaps by the blue shark.