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 Journal, 4-7: Re-awakened Dreams and Emerging Nightmares
"Midsummer" with Farrell & Co.; Bad "Signes" from Carlson and the
Paris Opera Ballet; de Soto Blows; De Keersmaeker Plays with Miles
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider
Photo copyright Icare
New! Sponsor a Flash!
Editor's Note: To
celebrate the centennial of George Balanchine, the Dance Insider
is providing international coverage of Balanchine's legacy.
PARIS -- In a pristine
color print finally found last summer after many years of searching,
Dan Eriksen and George Balanchine's 1967 film "A Midsummer Night's
Dream," based on Balanchine's 1962 ballet of the Shakespeare play,
is a breathtaking reminder of Suzanne Farrell, Arthur Mitchell,
Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, Mimi Paul, Allegra Kent, Jacques
d'Amboise and New York City Ballet in its glorious prime.
Seen Saturday at the
Palais de Chaillot theater of the Cinematheque de la Danse during
a special Balanchine weekend, the film absorbs as a time capsule
in the purest sense: Everything is preserved and revealed as if
new. Watching Farrell -- simultaneously a dance phenom and, as the
late and unparalleled City Ballet chronicler Joe Mazo might have
said (and probably did) a dewy-eyed, ivory-skinned knockout -- one
can only imagine the effect she must have had live, and envy those
(like Joe) who were there at the birth. From a technical standpoint
(be still my heart!), what astounds about Farrell's Titania is that
there is no line between virtuosity and naturalness; she's an unassuming
marvel. After she goes up on pointe, there is no break -- from ethereal
to earthbound -- when she falls off it. I don't mean that she topples
but rather that in descending as an earthling, she makes the preceding
position seem natural, too.
Villella, who created
Oberon, is more regal -- he is more mature at this point, after
all -- but equally fleet and nonchalant in his jumps and entrechats.
The only modern equivalent I've really seen is American Ballet Theatre's
Jose Manuel Carreno. It's not that he's weak or lazy or careless
or aloof, but rather, the presentation is more simple than show-off.
It's the restraint of majesty.
Mitchell created Puck,
too, and watching his performance after having seen later interpreters
(notably Albert Evans and Tom Gold), one can see that Mitchell cut
the template. He has fun here, and his feet blur -- in the good
sense -- especially on his entrance, flying by in the forest. (Typically
for France, the dance critic for Le Figaro, who introduced the film,
had to qualify Mitchell as the great "black" dancer. I probably
don't need to tell you that no such pigment was attached to Farrell
or Villella.) As the female halfs of the Puck-crossed lovers, McBride
(Hermia) and even more Paul (Helena) motor the dramatic kernel of
the story; their flickering feet bare their hearts, riding the vivid
strains of the Mendelssohn score, conducted by Robert Irving. Their
partners, Nicholas Magallanes (Lysander) and Roland Vasquez (Demetrius)
are more restrained, and indeed have been excelled in more recent
productions, notably by Nilas Martins. Richard Rapp's Bottom has
also been rendered with more unbridled foolishness.
But the real transformers
and revealers of Balanchine's intentions were Kent and d'Amboise's
second act court dancers. This is probably heresy to Balanchine
die-hards, but veering more towards the narrative than the abstract,
I've sometimes departed before part 2 of this ballet; it's seemed
to me an abstract add-on, reflecting the choreographer's desire
to offer a pure dance element. But after watching d'Amboise and
Kent, I think maybe I just haven't seen the roles properly interpreted.
For if the steps are abstract, here the relationship is not. It's
clearly a tested, complex love relationship; the money moment is
delivered when they're not even touching, but pause while ascending
the stairs and look at each other; like a seasoned couple might
do from across the room in the middle of a party. The gaze acknowledges
an unseverable connection, and thus links this act with the lovers'
triumph of the first.
The other major revelation
of seeing New York City Ballet circa 1967 is that not only are the
dancers' arms invested, but their backs actually move, and pliantly.
It's a startling reminder that the by-and-large stiff-backed dancers
coming out of the School of American Ballet last time I checked
NYCB (in 2001 or 2002) are an aberration to the intended Balanchine
technique (copyright and... copy right!)
was preceded by a tres rare gem from 1933: a seven-minute,
color excerpt of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in Balanchine's
1932 "Cotillon," starring the 14-year-old Tamara Toumanova and also
featuring the choreographer. Balanchine whirls, a tuxedoed, manic
blur in sea of tulle. The segment, furnished by the Dance Collection
of the New York Public Library, ends with Toumanova, indefatigable,
executing a series of seemingly unending fouettes, alone on the
stage and, in the end, encircled by the rest of the cast.
Of course, this piece originated on this side of the Ocean, and
when one thinks of how contemporary ballet has devolved here, from
Balanchine to "Signes," the Carolyn Carlson embarrassment I caught
April 1 at the Bastille on the Paris Opera Ballet, it's a foreboding
sign. Embarrassment because, moving to the faux New Age score of
Carlson's husband, Rene Aubrey, ducking the awkward mobile paintings
of Olivier Debre, the dancers frankly look like they don't want
to be there, with the exception, maybe, of a stand-out, transcendent
Amelie Lamoureux. Watching the classicist Herve Courtain forced
to contort his noble chest bare to the music of this piper from
dance hell, one can understand why Courtain has been passed over
for promotion to premier dancer; his gifts are evidently not valued
here these days. Even the normally sublime Marie-Agnes Gillot, who
was able to transcend Jiri Kylian's Euro-trashey "Stepping Stones" on its recent performance here, cannot
find a moment to shine, what with dodging pastel giant-sized triangles.
Gillot's recent promotion to etoile was long-overdue, but
that it was conferred after a performance of this particular work
boggles the mind. Or maybe not; on exiting this cold space, one
is met by a subscription-advertising poster featuring this elegant
ballerina unceremoniously languishing in a bidet. One can't help
but wonder if this is the direction the Paris repertory is headed
Gillot of the Paris Opera Ballet in Olivier Debre's costume
for Carolyn Carlson's "Signes." Photo copyright Icare, courtesy
Paris Opera Ballet. Set by Olivier Debre.
get me wrong! If anything, I think that the pool of probing modern
dance choreographers provides the answer to the eternal "where are
all the new ballet choreographers?" question. Take Olga de Soto,
whose new "Incorporer" I caught recently at the Pompidou Centre,
on a last-minute tip from a New York colleague. (You know who you
De Soto tests me at
first, too, as yet another dancer enters with the Paris post-modern
dance demeanor du jour, a sort of neo-pedestrianism which, to my
mind (I wasn't there) seems to misunderstand the Judson aspect.
Even pedestrians are engaged, but the dancers I've seen in this
mode simply aren't, pretending that we aren't there and not entirely
mindful that they are. Vincent Druguet, the main interpreter for
"Incorporer," starts out like this, a blase island on a vast stage.
De Soto appears too, but after the fashion of a sort of third base
coach, coaxing the player and occasionally providing equipment --
in this case balloons and water bottles -- before retreating to
the far upstage right corner of the stage where she plays a sort
of water music, turning over clear boxes that drip with the liquid.
Maintaining the disinterested
manner, Druguet blows up the balloon and plays with it a bit. In
the course of the dance, he lets the air completely out of the balloon,
then begins to play with exhale and inhale, deflation, and how they
affect the body's balance and trajectory -- as if he were the balloon.
He inflates another balloon, and we see it contains a small orange
ball. When he deflates it a bit, the ball seems to motor up and
the balloon to propel him all over the stage. Later, de Soto hands
him a balloon with water in it which he inflates and, finally, sits
on and explodes. Then, regularly looking to the choreographer for
cues, he taps out a water ballet of sorts on the wet stage under
his bare feet, before tossing a last balloon whimsically into the
air. I fear my descriptive powers have failed me and you here, but
the essence of why this ballet worked for me is that the choreographer
was really working, setting herself and her dancer a task clearly
prime for dance exploration, involving a balloon and its implications
for breath and mobility. Water balloon games may be prohibited in
public parks here -- I'm not making this up -- but they should definitely
be encouraged on the stage.
'Play' often plays into Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker's explorations,
and "Bitches Brew - Tacoma Narrows," previously reviewed here by Tara Zahra, and playing the Theatre de la Ville
- Sarah Bernhardt through Friday,
is not exception. After seeing the French premiere Monday, I have
more reservations than my colleague. Claire Diez's program notes
liken De Keersmaeker's work, involving 13 dancers, to the Miles
Davis piece, "Bitches Brew," to which its set, originating from
a session of 13 musicians. "Her style is no more one, but 13," suggests
Diez. But dancers aren't always choreographers, and the American
dance-hall moves chosen by the performers, if not quite so mocking
as was De Keersmaeker's "One" of Joan Baez, become repetitive and tiring by
the end. Still, at a time when the Ballet here seems to be veering
towards a mechanized, inorganic future and much of the post-modern
oeuvre eschews using music, it's refreshing to have a reminder from
this modern classicist of the essential connection -- after all,
it's how most of us first access dance -- between music and dance.
And that it's not only okay but occasionally even liberating to
Go back to Flash Reviews