“Please sir, I want some more”

27 Jun

It was recently announced in a French article that all of the cinematic broadcasts of the Bolshoi Ballet will eventually be released on DVD, which has triggered the talk of the town on Twitter. A number of iconic ballets have yet to make it onto film, a hindrance for ballet audiences both casual and seasoned because it deprives us of opportunities to familiarize ourselves with what’s going on in the world. Of course live performances are the lifeblood of dance, but the truth is the majority of people don’t have access and if ballet is to find a resurgence amongst today’s general populace and garner respect for its history in the process, there needs to be some kind of compromise even if the result is less than ideal. Seriously, DVD sales of Black Swan will surely outnumber any filmed ballet, and whether you liked Black Swan or not, the thought that a fantastical commentary on ballet exceeding popularity of the art itself is nonsensical (and nauseating!).

Unfortunately, the general consensus was that among the top international companies, the Americans are the worst. The Royal Ballet has been releasing quite a few in recent years, Paris Opera will do one every other year or so, and as I noted in my review of the Dutch National Ballet’s Giselle, they’re doing an amazing job of marketing themselves to new audiences. Unfortunately, the likes of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre have not stayed current; there are a number of fine films like the Choreography by Balanchine series and ABT has released a few full-length ballets, but for the most part there isn’t much that allows us to connect with the current generation of dancers, which is just as important as relating to choreography. There are some legal factors to consider, like the licensing of Balanchine’s work (which I’ve read was the monkey wrench in the gears preventing a commercial release of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Suzanne Farrell), and in ABT’s case, a contract that has something to do with their performances that are filmed for PBS (meaning, only the PBS performances can be released commercially). Certain fears, like the theft of choreography and unauthorized productions of such, plus the basic financial risk of investing into that market probably weigh heavily into the decision not to film.

Looking at the past decade for ABT reveals only two contemporary releases, Swan Lake and The Dream (although releasing the latter by itself was cheating, because it’s a one act ballet). Swan Lake was filmed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and The Dream at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in California, so it’s possible that filming in New York is problematic (even if they do tour to D.C. every year, and there used to be broadcasts live from Lincoln Center). Now consider the principal dancers in the main roles: Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella in Swan Lake, and Alessandra Ferri and Ethan Stiefel in The Dream. All four are immensely popular, and I don’t think Murphy would be quite so known nationally and internationally were it not for the DVD, and really, of those four only she is still really active as a principal dancer (Stiefel and Corella have assumed directorship and are dancing “part time,” while Ferri has been retired for a few years now). Of course even if the lead female/male roles tend to be the most dominant, DVDs are still instrumental in popularizing other dancers, and certainly Herman Cornejo’s Puck and Marcelo Gomes’s Von Rothbart have won widespread critical acclaim (from me!).

I always complain that Marcelo Gomes isn’t filmed enough (and I get to because I’m like a YouTube bloodhound with magic skills), and even the pickings on YouTube are fairly slim. Sometimes I feel like being a ballet fan really is like being a junkie because we’re constantly scrambling for even the most meager of scraps to sate our addiction (although to answer a question posed to me by DaveTriesBallet on Twitter, there is no way to “cope” with an addiction to Marcelo Gomes because there’s no such thing…I know they say admittance of a problem is the first step in curing an addiction, but this isn’t denial—you either love ballet and therefore love Marcelo’s dancing, or you don’t, and hate ballet. And maybe life.). Only within the past couple of months was a decent (as in, non-shaky) video of him and Diana Vishneva performing the bedroom pas de deux from Manon posted, and while I shall spare you my dissertation on reasons why Des Grieux is the only ballet “prince” I truly care for, I’m really grateful that Russian television acknowledged the greatness in both him and Vishneva, and some kind soul put it on the internet (whoever you are, THANK YOU!).

 

Coincidentally, yesterday I happened upon a small cache of pas de deux videos that have him in it (I already forget what I was actually looking for…there goes that blog post), from performances over ten years old, but like I said, as long as he’s still active even old videos are of interest beyond nostalgia’s sake because it allows fans to see how he’s grown as an artist and solidify his popularity amongst them. Although, I have to say that personally, I would be mortified if ten-year-old videos of me were on the internet, and would be horribly embarrassed (but I guess it’s okay if it happens to other people). I’m an ephemeral creature and can’t stand taking a retrospective view on things I’ve done—hell, I even hate to proofread my articles before posting them, but do so only because it’s a part of the writing life. My aversion for the past also manifested in a phase in high school where I hated to be photographed so even my best friends only have many fine shots of a random hand or arm blocking my face, but inevitably, this is why I respect performing artists as much as I do—they’re more courageous to put themselves out there than many people know.

Anyway, what I managed to find were three videos of him dancing the hat trick of gala grand pas de deux, the trio of Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and The Nutcracker. While two-thirds are among my least favorite ballets, I’m starvacious enough to watch anything with him in it. In the pas de deux, Marcelo is paired with Anna Liceica, a former dancer with both NYCB and ABT, achieving the rank of soloist. Admittedly, I had never heard of her before, but this is beauty of video, is it not? It seems she may be retired now, but I did enjoy her dancing—delicate but not overly fragile, with a gentle patience that isn’t schmaltzy. I liked watching her in everything, although (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I especially liked her as the Sugar Plum Fairy—I have no idea why, I just do.  She is lucky to have been partnered by Marcelo, who really makes partnering itself more interesting to watch with a lot of épaulement, truly making it an art rather than a duty (or necessity). Although his variations are omitted, it was interesting to see his bravura technique at a younger age, because there was a rawness to it that is polished away now, and yet I still found it really enjoyable. There were times where I thought he was bordering on reckless, and yet it didn’t occur to me to care, in fact, I liked it! It was uninhibited, pure dancing…my favorite kind!

And so, I invite you to partake and enjoy these clips of Anna Liceica and Marcelo Gomes. If DVD is the next best thing after a live performance, and YouTube after DVDs…I’ll still take it! I’m posting all of the clips available, because yes, my ducklings, they’re that good…her stunning balances, his entrance in the DonQ coda, his face…it’s all worth it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to ““Please sir, I want some more””

  1. robin (mahrobi) June 27, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    love that you mentioned marcelo’s épaulement because as i watched (sorry, before reading) i was thinking how nice that he always matched the ballerina’s line with his upper body 🙂 great post steve and excellent youtube sleuthing! xo

    • youdancefunny June 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      Who are you talking about? Just kidding. 😉

  2. Jo @ Jo In the Kitchen June 28, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Thank you so much for posting these videos!!
    I see why the Sugar Plum Fairy was your favorite role of Anna’s. She seems to be so much more centered and in control in that video. (She was fabulous throughout the videos, just a bit more polished in the last).

    • youdancefunny July 12, 2011 at 8:02 am #

      Exactly! Glad you enjoyed!

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