New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls.
Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review 2, 6-24: 'Rite' Ballet, Wrong Feeling
Joffrey Ballet of Chicago Mummifies Diaghilev
By Aimee Ts'ao
Copyright 2003 Aimee Ts'ao
-- Ten years after the Joffrey Ballet visited the Bay Area for the
last time, its successor, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, flew into
the area this past weekend. Unfortunately, it decamped not at the
San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, where the Joffrey Ballet
used to perform in the "good old days," but at the Flint Center
in Cupertino, 45 miles south. I say unfortunately because the last
time I saw the Joffrey Ballet at the Opera House, they danced a
Diaghilev program of Leonide Massine's "Parade" and Nijinsky's "L'Apres-midi
d'une Faune" and "Le Sacre du Printemps," with full orchestra. It
was glorious. Times changed. Ballet companies no longer tour so
frequently and when they do, they don't come as often to San Francisco,
as the Opera House is not available due to expanded opera and ballet
seasons. And there is no other theater in the environs with an adequately
large stage and backstage area to accommodate large productions
(see my recent Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet review).
While I applaud the Flint Center for bringing the Joffrey Ballet
of Chicago, and with such a powerful program of "L'Apres-midi d'une
Faune," "Le Sacre du Printemps," and Bronislava Nijinska's "Les
Noces," I am disappointed that live music could not be arranged,
especially given the historical importance of these ballets.
The evening opens with
"Les Noces," to the Stravinsky score. While the depiction of a Russian
peasant wedding should at the very least stir up some emotions --
joy, loss, fear -- instead the dancers look wooden. Any attempts
at showing feelings are mere superficial gestures. The cast needs
coaching to find the inner sources of the varied emotions as well
as demonstrating an understanding of the context, social and psychological,
of the story. Though the current production was staged by Howard
Sayette, who worked with Nijinska's daughter Irina in setting "Les
Noces" for Oakland Ballet in 1981, something is missing and there
is no way for me to know the when, where or why of it happening.
Despite this lack, the total effect of Stravinsky's music, the sets
and costumes by Nathalie Goncharova and Nijinska's choreography
is stunning. With a stronger interpretation by the dancers it could
be utterly brilliant.
Faune" suffers from the same problem of presentation. Diaghilev
had the genius for bringing together all the elements of a ballet
-- music, decor and choreography -- and this one to Claude Debussy's
composition of the same name with the Leon Bakst scenery and costumes
and Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography is a perfect example. Again,
the dancers are merely doing the steps. Domingo Rubio, as the Faune,
is naughty, but verging on the vulgar. I imagine a creature that
is half human would have a sensuality that has animal power yet
with an innocence, an unselfconsciousness. The nymphs need to show
both a curiosity about the Faune and a hint of attraction to him,
while also being frightened of his interest in them.
There is always the
question about how close is Millicent Hodson's reconstruction of
Nijinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" to the original 1913 version.
Since there is no way to answer it really, no one alive today who
knew the original to compare it with the reconstruction, I won't
delve into it. Again, the Diaghilev magic works. Stravinsky's music,
now considered one of the most important 20th-century masterpieces,
decor and costumes after Nicholas Roerich, reconstructed and supervised
by Kenneth Archer, and choreography by Nijinsky, are very intense.
And again, the dancers disappoint. They need to show a primitive
earthiness, an underlying brutality overlaid with ritualistic spirituality.
The most important role is that of the Chosen One. I can still see
Beatriz Rodriguez, now long retired from the company, in my mind's
eye, dancing with a divine desperation, an orgasmic ecstasy that
transcended her sacrificial death. But where is that kind of passion
in the current cast?
I am very grateful for
the opportunity to see these masterpieces from the early 20th century
once more, as they are certainly seminal for so much of the choreography
that followed. But there is more to them than the physical preservation
that one sees and hears. The current productions also need to capture
the spirit, the emotional content or the essence of meaning that
each ballet initially had. The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago is important
for trying to keep this legacy alive; it has done the same with
the works of Frederick Ashton. Young dancers and choreographers
of today need these lessons in the history of dance so that they
can place their own work within a greater context and not believe
unawares that they are so unique and innovative.
Go back to Flash Reviews