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October 31, 2019

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Always sad to hear how politics effect the arts and pray that all are ok at Hong Kong Ballet :( hope they can recover from all this as with everyone in Hong Kong.

Despite constant bookings with companies around the world, Lopez Ochoa still has near zero traction getting work with the top tier companies. But make rubbish derivative contemporary pieces like Millepied and you'll never wear out your welcome.

I'll see one if not both casts of Streetcar, and will report back. Based on the choreography and music I've gotten to see and hear, it's going to be a winner.

I also read--or perhaps re-read because it gave me a strange sense of deja vu--the play in prep; what an absolutely brutal, pitch-perfect masterpiece.

As for HK, I'm all for peaceful assembly and protest. But disrupting ballet is an act of spiritual violence!

Andrewnybbod,

Lopez Ochoa has had a couple of showings in New York. BalletX presented her The Little Prince, and NYCB premiered her piece entitled Unframed. Neither of these dances won much in the way of praise.

Perhaps what has made Streetcar stand out so much is that the choreographer engaged the prominent theater & film director, Nancy Meckler, as the Director of the ballet. In fact, Meckler's name appears right along with the choreographer's right above the name of the ballet, indicating a 50/50 shared credit. A theater director's eyes can see the overall production, what's weak about it, what doesn't work, what needs more; and unlike a choreographer, the director doesn't fall in love with a particular 4-count combination of steps that really has no value in the overall picture.

Some day maybe artistic directors will manage choreographers the way theater directors & producers manage the creative team. Think how much more productive it would be if a choreographer had to actually show the AD what he accomplished in the rehearsal studio at the end of every single day and take honest feedback. We might see a lot less slop thrown on the stage, and of course, there would be fewer choreographers who could withstand the pressure of actually having to deliver quality product every day.

So much of the new choreography looks like what I call garage ballet where amateurs make up dances in the garage, like a garage band makes up rock 'n roll. It should usually stay in the garage rather than ending up on Lincoln Center's stages.

I ended up seeing the "A" cast and wishing that I had made it to a second performance. It was a considerable accomplishment for the company, and entirely fitting that this story was told so authentically in the south.

The ballet adds a prologue, which depicts Blanche's life at Belle Reve, Alan's suicide, Stella's departure, the dying off of their family (one of the more arresting scenes), and Blanche's descent into sexual degeneracy. The prologue, coupled with the haunting scenes of Blanche's reminiscences, which recur throughout, put Blanche even more at the center of the story than does the play. This is entirely appropriate, in my view, because she's the most interesting character.

Julia Eisen played Blanche, and delivered an emotionally-rich performance, with southern-belle affectation and a mature enactment of trauma. She's a dynamic dancer who had the featured role in last season's epic Carmina Burana. I'm not especially qualified to talk about technique, but I can add that she has probably world-class jumps. She has hang time!

The best dance choreography was surely the steamy makeup sex scene between Stanley and Stella. Not sure how it could have been any better. And, as you suggested above, Haglund, Nancy Meckler's direction added a Broadway level of polish.

Back to the point about authenticity, I was thrilled that the ballet was so true to the story. If anything, it's even more brutal, e.g., Blanche's rape is fully acted out. (There's a "trigger warning" in the program/advertising).

In contrast, last season the company premiered Lucy Negro Redux, an exceedingly woke, racially-essentialist, spoken-word debacle that of course received critical acclaim. I was worried that this could be more of the same, along the lines of the new, woke My Fair Lady where Eliza dumps Henry in the end.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/my-fair-lady-finally-gets-its-metoo-ending-somewhere-george-bernard-shaw-is-applauding

(And if your readers will indulge me: Blanche overhears Stanley crack a hetero-cis-normative joke with his poker buddies; she tromps down to his factory and gets him cancelled; the sisters raise the baby to be gender fluid; and in the finale, Stanley stands outside on the tracks yelling "Stella" to no avail before a streetcar named Desire puts him out of his misery.)

Shawn,

Thanks so much for this review. It sounds like this production has once again lived up to its outstanding reputation. It has now been to Nashville, New Orleans, LA, and Washington DC to rave reviews.

Hopefully we'll someday hear about yet another collaboration between Meckler and Lopez Ochoa.

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