Tag Archives: angel corella

Rapture over ‘Rhapsody’ – Part Two

1 Feb

Be sure to read “Rapture over ‘Rhapsody’ – Part One” first!

For the past year or so I’ve been on a mission to hunt down some recording of Ashton’s Rhapsody, and sometimes being a locomotive pays off because I managed to find it! Only, I didn’t even know it was Rhapsody until close inspection of the choreography because the design of the production was completely different. In 1995 English artist Patrick Caulfield overhauled Rhapsody with new costumes and sets that were rather odd. In a way, I can see where he was coming from because Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini does have a certain quirk and mischief to it that wasn’t quite captured in Ashton’s pink and gold pastel-topia, but Caulfield seemed to have some kind of “art-deco-Alice-in-Wonderland” in mind, complete with playing card-like shapes on the costumes. I’m not fond of the designs or the color scheme (okay, I hate it), and the Paris Opera Ballet didn’t seem to be either. According to a review written by John Percival, POB wanted to commission a new design for Rhapsody when they staged it in 1996, but weren’t allowed to, and the Caulfield designs apparently lasted for one season (in which case, video of it is a treasure indeed!).

Successful or not, I like that The Royal Ballet has made a habit of injecting contemporary ideas into older works to see if it invokes new perspective on it. There are of course many instances of directors/choreographers staging their own versions of the warhorse classics, but they still revolve around a certain set of standards that make drastic changes rare, and significant makeovers for abstract ballets even more scarce. Many symphonic ballets don’t require highly specific costumes so colors, beadwork, ornamentation etc. will vary from company to company, but what Caulfield did to Rhapsody is pretty extreme. While alterations may be questionable, it’s still refreshing to see works being performed in new ways, and there’s bound to be audience members who may enjoy something more as a result. There are of course times when sets and costumes are far too crucial to a work to, but experimentation has to be just as important as authenticity. Oddly enough, Rhapsody has since gone under another transformation; in 2005 Jessica Curtis washed the work in a golden sunset, and her simpler vision remains the current production of The Royal Ballet. I can’t comment on it since I’ve only seen photos of Curtis’s designs, but I wonder if the Caulfield designs were perhaps so controversial there was a conscious effort to go with something rather neutral. Still, sometimes it’s a better decision to dress the dancers in something that doesn’t draw attention away from the choreography.

Steven McRae and artists of The Royal Ballet in their current production of Rhapsody, with costume and set designs by Jessica Curtis (photo ©Tristram Kenton)

Edited to Add (4/30/12) Miyako Yoshida and Yohei Sasaki perform the pas de deux, in the costumes by Jessica Curtis:

 

Ah, the choreography! It’s definitely some of Ashton’s most wicked work, and despite the plethora of bravura steps, it’s actually the quick changes of direction that are likely the trickiest aspect of Rhapsody. Though it’s hard to imagine anything being tricky for Baryshnikov (considering how easy he made everything look), it’s still quite a test for the primer danseur, almost as if to goad one into mastering it. I actually find Rhapsody rather funny and charming in a cheeky sort of way, as the choreography seems to play with the audience too. There’s a section where six male dancers line up in a row and one by one alternate between double tours and entrechat sixes, and when the last dancer finishes and the sequence starts over again, dancers who did double tours switch to entrechats and vice versa—it’s the kind of understated comedy that makes you smirk just a little bit. It’s so damn clever and I absolutely love it, and there are many such moments all throughout Rhapsody (especially just before the end, where all I can say is that fourth position has never made me laugh out loud before). I invite you to see for yourself:

Rhapsody (designs by Patrick Caulfield) Part 1 of 2:

 

Rhapsody Part 2 of 2:

 

According to the user who posted the videos above (and many thanks to you, friend!) Carole Arvo and José Martinez danced the principal roles. The dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet comprise the rest of the chamber ensemble, and while all performers have impeccable technique, Martinez is flawless—literally, perfect. I can imagine a performance from other dancers that are perhaps more sly and witty, but elegance tends to prevail in Paris and Martinez is a pleasure to watch in this one. Arvo is also a beautiful dancer with a cool demeanor, though having watched the central pas de deux with Lesley Collier/Baryshnikov, I missed many of the skyward glances Collier did, as Arvo’s upper body presentation was mostly focused forward towards the audience. Ultimately, it’s a fine and beautiful performance, hindered by the costumes and sets perhaps, with my only criticism being that when the ‘Virtuoso’ makes his second entrance (at about 5:30 in the first video), I think the tempo is too slow. Given, I was notorious for being a bit of a speed demon as a musician, but that’s a section of the music that needs to have a little fury, and not fall victim to the tendency in ballet to slow music down to allow for bigger jumps. Martinez was even ahead of the accent just a little bit on the sissonnes in the manège, so I think they could have pushed the tempo to something musically appropriate.

In the end, I’m just plain happy that I’ve finally gotten to watch Rhapsody! Even as a rather humorous ballet, there’s still an austerity to it that sates that speck of darkness on my soul. I think it’s safe to say that Ashton’s Rhapsody is probably the definitive Rachmaninoff ballet for the time being, having enjoyed its fair share of performances over the past three decades, though perhaps not enough outside of Covent Garden (I don’t know if Paris Opera has revived it in recent years, and the only other company I could find that has it in their repertory is K-Ballet of Tokyo). Besides selfishly wanting a more feasible opportunity to see Rhapsody live, on a serious note I do think it would do well in the repertory of ABT and/or Corella Ballet. Angel Corella has often been compared to Baryshnikov, and I can imagine him performing the role exceptionally well. We know he has the technical brilliance, and he really has the personality for it, and I don’t mean this to be presumptuous, what a treat it would be if Baryshnikov could coach him in the role!

While the future of Rhapsody appears steady, to bring this series of posts full circle back to the idea of ballet and Rachmaninoff in general, it’s worth noting that there are of course choreographers who are trying. It’s funny that Ashton’s first choreography to Rachmaninoff appeared in a film because it just so happens that another English choreographer has followed suit—surely, you can picture in your head Jonathan Reeves’s ballet to Rachmaninoff’s ‘Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor’ in everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure, Center Stage? Well, the real choreographer behind that was Christopher Wheeldon, who has also created a piece entitled Rhapsody Fantaisie, to selections by Rachmaninoff. However, the bread and butter may be revealed this spring when two hot ticket choreographers will debut world premiere works to Rachmaninoff, one being none other than Alexei Ratmansky, who is probably the most well known (and busiest!) ballet choreographer in the world right now, and the other is Liam Scarlett, who is regarded as the most promising up and coming talent. Ratmansky is setting his work on Miami City Ballet to Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, a piece intended to be a ballet which initially never happened because Fokine died amidst collaborative efforts between the two to make it happen and although Ratmansky isn’t the first to do a Symphonic Dances (Peter Martins’s ballet to the music remains current in the New York City Ballet repertory), he is the man with the “golden touch” so this could be big. Scarlett’s untitled work will debut a month later on The Royal Ballet, and while information about it is currently being kept under wraps, considering the success of his Asphodel Meadows, this could be huge too. Let’s hope they join the ranks of Rhapsody and help to establish a more prominent place for Rachmaninoff in the world of ballet!

Corella Ballet in Seattle: Sunshine on a Rainy Day

23 May

I need to move to New York.  Watching Corella Ballet made me come to a sad realization that I may never know the extent of what I can accomplish as a dance writer living in a city that is not New York (or London…but expatriation is a headache for another day, even if I’ve convinced myself that I have a European sense of humor…whatever that means).  If I aspire to be a classicist than I need a more continual source from which to spark discussion, and while I adore Pacific Northwest Ballet, the truth is there isn’t enough ballet in Seattle for me and six repertory programs a year has me emotionally starved.  For example, consider the fact that the number of full length, story ballets I’ve seen is still in the single digits…that means there are far too many I haven’t seen and it’s rather embarrassing that I have to remind myself (and you) that I’ve never seen the likes of Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, and yes, even Swan Lake live.  DVDs are great tools and I’ve certainly watched my fair share but they’re never a replacement for live performance, and I find a live performance easier to sell to other people.  On the occasions that I’ve had a plus one complementary press ticket, my friends have found the live performance very enriching, and these are people who have not once been interested in borrowing from my…er, less than extensive library of DVDs.

I’m quite fond of Seattle and I have a far from romantic idea of New York because an astronomical cost of living in a concrete jungle doesn’t exactly sound like paradise to me, but it’s where the opportunities are…even if those opportunities are incredibly rare and fiercely competitive for sure.  Quite frankly, I am tired of sitting on the sidelines while incredible performances that are also chances for me to learn and find an even greater purpose for my writing, simply go on without me.  I’m no Alastair Macaulay, but maybe what I do is something great and worthwhile too, and the fact that I don’t stand a chance anywhere else is starting to drive me crazy.  I am one of the worst long-term planners in the world (hello, impulsive Aries) and thus have no idea how I’m going to get to New York, what I would do once I got there, or how I can make this work but I just know it’s the right decision, and that’s all I have to work with for the time being.  To be honest it’s frightening to think about as well because we want to believe that determination and desire is a recipe for success, when of all people, those who know a thing or two about ballet know that reality is more challenging than that.

At any rate, back to Corella Ballet…I had a fantastic time!  Unfortunately there wasn’t a live orchestra (though I don’t think the venue was able to house one), but it’s also nice for an audience to be able to sit closer to the stage and maybe have a more profound connection with the ballets that way—a lot changes when you see pointe work up close!  I attended the pre-performance lecture with Matthew Bledsoe, general manager of Corella Ballet (who oddly enough pronounced ‘Corella’ with an ‘l’ sound but later pronounced Victor ‘Ullate’ with a ‘y’) and he gave some delightful anecdotes about Ángel and the company’s history.  For instance, when he went to his first (and I think only) competition in Paris, they actually had a costume made by the same people who made costumes for bullfighters, and they use gold thread and other embellishments which are quite heavy (not that it seemed to hinder his jumping at all). Natalia Makarova was the president of the jury at the competition, and in addition to awarding him the grand prize, she also arranged for him to audition for Kevin McKenzie.  McKenzie gave him a first soloist contract, and Ángel was made principal at just nineteen, the youngest ever in addition to Paloma Herrera.

Fast forward through many dazzling performances in New York and guest appearances worldwide, and Ángel set up a foundation to create a classical company for Spain and establish a school with residence for students.  When it came time to audition dancers for the company, dancers were not asked for names or nationalities because Ángel was looking for ability, but in the end sixty percent were Spaniards.  Spanish pride is a big deal (and Bledsoe made a joke because he’s married to a Spaniard and I know it was funny but I can’t remember it), and the story goes that Spaniards don’t leave Spain to dance for other companies, they leave because they have no opportunities to do the classical repertory in their own country.  So it was a pretty big deal when Corella Ballet did La Bayadère, calling upon Natalia Makarova who was initially reluctant to let them stage her version because they had a time frame of about, oh three months, but she knew if anyone was capable of pulling it together it was Ángel.  I mentioned in my SeatteDances review the talent of the company (read here) and I really can’t express enough how impressed I was by each dancer.  Thirty-five doesn’t make for a particularly big company and puts some limitations on the repertory they can do, and normally a company of thirty-five is going to have clear disparity in ability, but there was very little (if any) of that apparent with Corella Ballet.

The ballets selected for their quadruple bill were very good, having two “big” ballets sandwiching two small-scale ones, well paced with two intermissions and building chronologically from the most classical to the most modern.  I loved Bruch Violin Concerto, which truly is like a bouquet of mountain wildflowers…simple, colorful, lush, and easily appreciated by all—even the clueless people who are the worst romantics ever know that pretty flowers are pleasing to the eye.  I must admit, however that I made an egregious error in my review (which I will only reveal here) in that I said there were “subtle neoclassical influences” and I don’t know what I was thinking because the neoclassical elements are not subtle at all.  Oops.  Anyway, my first experience with this ballet was watching it on tape (I believe from one of my first ballet class a few years ago), as a part of ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity.  I remember it being musical and beautiful, though part of me thinks it might not be the most powerful work, and because I am so starved for classical ballet, I was just voraciously soaking it in.  However, Variety and Virtuosity features only the third movement, so it was gratifying to finally see the work in its entirety.  Corella Ballet has posted a video with lot of nice excerpts, though I noticed the ballerina in pink did slightly different choreography, because the manége starting at 6:22 is missing the Italian pas de chat (or depending on where you are in the world, saut de chat, grand pas de chat russe, or Violette jump) that Momoko Hirata did so well, with razor precision and great amplitude.

Compare to the filmed performance by ABT, where you can see Ashley Tuttle include the Italian pas de chat at 2:30.  Understandably, they are a fiendish nightmare to do at that speed!

As for the two middle pieces, Christopher Wheeldon’s For 4 was pleasant, virtuosic, but not necessarily sensational. I relished the opportunity to see a ballet to music by Schubert, and Wheeldon has some nice choreography in it, shading each of the four dancers with emphasis on a different style of movement, but there were also many, many, turns a la seconde (seriously, a lot).  Anybody who has seen it with either Corella Ballet or Kings of the Dance know that this is no exaggeration!  The ballet is all about a clean, academic approach, and with the muted colors it kind of reminded me of hieroglyphics—very upright posture (for the most part) and a lot of squareness, which I guess you could say is something of a masculine aesthetic.  It’s important to note that not all art is going to reduce us to tears or induce some kind of an emotional episode, so having a merely amiable reaction isn’t a bad thing.  Of course, then you have Soleá, which I won’t rehash the finer details of, and will only say that Ángel has to be the fastest dancer alive, and just fearless.  Which is of course, why I think he excels at the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and it hurt my feelings that they didn’t do it but Soleá had some similar bravura steps.  It was fun to see Ángel dance with his sister Carmen as well, who is taller than him (apparently he says she got the beauty genes) and despite being such seasoned performers, during curtain call they were just brother and sister, as Carmen messed up his hair in a way only a big sister can get away with.

Then there was Wheeldon’s DGV…oh, DGV.  I’m just going to say it—the music drove me nuts.  I understood its purpose, sounding mechanical like a train, but the reviewer Gram Milano, who in reviewing the Royal Ballet (who happened to be performing it at around the same time!) called the score “brain-deadening” and he was right. However, it is in line with the intent of the piece and despite liking For 4 better, I thought DGV was the stronger of the two Wheeldon ballets on the program.  Yes friends, it is possible to hold something in higher esteem than something else that you actually enjoy more.  It’s murky territory but when it comes to DGV, I understand its popularity even if I’m not dying to see it again (but you know I would).  What was kind of interesting about that night though was that every time I think I have the Seattle audience pegged, they surprise me. Based on the health of the modern dance community and audience reaction that I’ve seen with mixed bills at PNB, I would have bet money that DGV would be the most popular, but it was in fact Soleá that got the most applause and the standing ovation for DGV was a little forced, perhaps a gesture of appreciation for the evening as a whole rather than DGV.

And this is why I should never gamble (said the man who wants to move to New York…).

Seven Swans a Swimming

30 Nov

And here we are, at the end of an incredibly arduous journey that shall go down in history as Swan Lake Month, ending with ABT’s production starring Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella.  I don’t know why this one ended up being last, and I wouldn’t say it was my favorite one, though it is certainly popular.  Still, after viewing six Swan Lake productions from European companies I definitely felt that a great many characteristics made this Swan Lake distinctly American (and not because it’s American Ballet Theater, with an American ballerina in the lead role).

Have you seen that Eddie Izzard special where he talks about how nobody knows the lyrics to the Twelve Days of Christmas? Ten pygmies...farming...

The choreography was done by artistic director of ABT, Kevin McKenzie and as usual with the “after Petipa and Ivanov” tag.  Unfortunately, I had some issues with what seemed to be an incessant need to pummel the audience with perspicuous dance, meaning the art of subtlety was completely lost throughout the entire ballet.  He resorted to having the corps de ballet do the undulating swan arms at every available moment, as if to remind us that they were in fact swans (something we might never have guessed when attending Swan Lake) and the expressivity of the characters seemed to be on par with that philosophy.  I found Corella to be almost luminously bright with that megawatt smile of his (I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone so happy to receive a crossbow) and I didn’t feel that Murphy was the subtlest of dancers either.  Perhaps it’s the sort of “reach for the balcony” mentality that McKenzie prefers to see in dancers that encourages a Corella con brio or a Murphy a la mode and I suppose this means I prefer more tempered portrayals.  Even the miming McKenzie includes I felt was far too obvious and even excessive, like when Odette initially met Siegfried and told him of her plight with Von Rothbart, the gestures were straightforward and literal, rather than blending with any kind of dance language.  The nature of ballet reveals problems when the story isn’t told through the steps.

One addition I found interesting was the prologue (clearly filmed ahead of time so I’d be curious if ABT includes a similar prologue in live performances), where we see Von Rothbart transform into a man and lure Odette into a hollow tree and transform her into a swan.  While it is yet another statement of the obvious, I enjoyed it because no other production gives any thought to Odette’s origins and for this particular one, we are made to understand that she was a woman before she was a swan, which can change how we view her understanding and desire for love, and in this case her willingness to die for it (which is perhaps more human than animal).  The other bonus with this prologue is that because we see Von Rothbart seduce Odette as a man, he becomes a sexualized character…and with Marcelo Gomes as Von Rothbart in his human form, he becomes a sexy sexualized character indeed.  It was actually weird, after the onslaught of odd but villainous Von Rothbarts I’ve been watching to find one attractive and I kept wondering to myself if that was inappropriate.  However, great art makes us ask ourselves questions and considering how his solo during the ball seduces many of the attendees and that he even flirts with the Queen a bit, we are most definitely allowed to ogle.  It’s quite the virtuosic solo and my favorite moment is when he stands on relevé in fifth, slowly lifting one leg halfway to arabesque, then extending it fully which has a sort of mysterious quality that then bewitches the audience too.  Observe, Sexy Von Rothbart:

Given the scope of Gomes’s acting abilities, I almost feel like there needs to be a Swan Lake where he can perform both Von Rothbart and Siegfried…after all, duality is one of the central themes of every Swan Lake, so why not explore more types, in new imaginations?  Why should Odette/Odile or in ABT’s production, the weird, algae-ridden, fake abs demon-satyr Von Rothbart (a horrific costume) and Sexy Von Rothbart be the only dual roles?  I suppose there could be some logistical issues with trying to stage a Swan Lake where the same dancer has to be both Siegfried and Von Rothbart because they both appear at the same time in the ball and there’s the question of how a Siegfried/Von Rothbart role could be rationalized…but it’s ballet; ideas first, logic later.

Von Rothbart stole the show for me, despite Murphy’s athletic prowess.  Sure, she threw in triple pirouettes into her fouetté series (and in fact, of all seven Swan Lake DVDs I watched, she was the only dancer to do anything more than single fouettés, which is another detail I felt made this performance so American) but given how sinisterly seductive Sexy Von Rothbart was, the perfect prelude to an even more sinisterly seductive Odile may have hindered her because that Odile just never came to fruition.  Still, I would hate for anyone to get the sense that Gillian Murphy is just fouttés because she does have other wonderful qualities and I think she’s very expressive with her feet and has beautiful arms, among other things.  Her partnership with Corella is a bit of an odd one because she is quite tall and he looked as though he were hiding behind her in some of the partnering.  I wasn’t so devastated at the end of the ballet so I can’t say that I felt the chemistry between them, though it’s possible I was distracted by the dramatic leaps of death at the end (which looked fun too), which were of course followed by the image of Siegfried and Odette in the afterlife…and in case you didn’t get that Swan Lake is about duality; black and white, night and day…McKenzie has that image of the happy couple in the middle of a giant rising sun.

So what about all that feminine mystique business I had postulated about initially, wondering why women in particular love this ballet so much?  After much thoughtful deliberation…I have no idea.  All the various productions of Swan Lake are so different, trying to figure this all out would be like trying to survey every person on Earth and figuring out why they liked their favorite flavors (I’m a mint chocolate chip myself).  I would be buried in work for eternity and watching seven Swan Lakes was enough for me as it is.  Or maybe I found this whole experience so exhausting it doesn’t matter to me which Swan Lake anyone likes anymore, as long as they like one (or more) of them.  If you’re interested in discussing that further, you may as well head on over to The Ballet Bag, and enter their contest to win exclusive Black Swan movie posters while you’re at it!  Only a few days remain to enter, so check it out here!

Born to be NOT wild

19 Feb

How are you, world?  Good?  I don’t know about you, but it has been a long winter (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  Spring is finally showing signs of life with the slightest rise in temperatures and more sun these days.  So right now I’m feeling like people could use a little encouragement, which I often find from one of my idols, Coach Valorie Kondos-Field (aka “Miss Val”) the head coach of UCLA’s women’s gymnastics programs.  I admire her for many reasons, including the fact that she was a professional dancer and yet she finds herself in a somewhat unrelated career field.  It’s a testament that you never know where your skills and knowledge can be valuable and that people don’t have to be defined by one career.  I think she has a wonderful outlook on life and on teaching and I thought I’d share a couple of quotes from a recently published interview where she discusses women’s issues but also touches on her experiences as a dancer and coach. (read the full interview here)

CC!: You were diagnosed with scoliosis when you were 12. That’s a challenging age for girls without that added burden. How did you get through that troubling time?

Kondos Field: I danced classical ballet for 17 years. I didn’t have a dancer’s body, including the curve in my upper spine. However, I loved dancing so much that I never felt I had to be technically perfect to be a good dancer. My scoliosis was just a part of my body.

I’d also been told by ballet instructors that “Your neck’s too short,” “Your feet are too small,” “You don’t have natural turn-out,” and “You’re not flexible.” Okay… but I could dance! Because I didn’t let those disabilities bother me, I believed – and made everyone else believe – I was an amazing dancer.

CC!: What advice would you give other teacher-coaches to inspire and motivate young women to become the best they can be?

Kondos Field: Always recognize her weakness and then tell her the opposite. When I was growing up, I was the artistic one and my brother was the great student. He went on to become a rocket scientist. Literally. When I was 10, my mom told me I was just as smart as my brother, but I just didn’t care about school as much because I’d rather be playing the piano or dancing. I’ll never forget when she told me that. It hit me – I’m smart? Mom says I’m smart? I guess I am smart. From then on, I got good grades and graduated from UCLA with honors. My brother’s still a rocket scientist, and I’m still smart.

So when a student-athlete is struggling academically, I tell her she’s smart but just needs to learn how to study more effectively. When a student-athlete is struggling with her weight, I tell her she’s beautiful and can become anything she wants to be. If a student-athlete doesn’t compete well, I remind her that she has a very strong mind – so strong that she allows it to get in her way negatively. If she would take that same strength and think positively, she’d have different results.

I discuss this a lot with them: Your perception becomes your reality. When my perception shifted to realizing I was smart, I became a better student. When I danced, my perception was that I was an amazingly beautiful ballerina. Consequently, I got cast in many wonderful roles.

Agreed and agreed!  Nothing much else to say, except I hope that inspires some other people out there to keep chipping away at their weaknesses or maybe compliment someone out there (a student, friend, whatever) who is struggling.

But this really has little to do what I had planned for this entry, so I’m about to ambush you with a DVD review.  Surprise!

I’ve been distracted with the Olympics (hence the infrequent blogging, not to mention an overabundance of posts last week…I needed a little break) but yesterday I did squeeze in watching Born to be Wild: The Leading Men of American Ballet Theater.  A PBS special that was originally broadcast in 2002, it features ABT principals Ethan Stiefel, Vladimir Malakhov, Jose Manuel Carreño and Angel Corella.  I put off watching this DVD for a while because honestly, judging by the title I was prepared to be horrified.  Displays of machismo always fail to impress me and often make the subject of such a display look foolish, in my opinion.  Not to mention the fact that Born to be Wild recalls heinous sixth grade band concerts and marching band tunes that I did not care for.  My fears were somewhat actualized when the documentary opened with Ethan Stiefel, with a creature growing on his lower lip (a “soul patch?”), a bandana tied around his head, talking about how the best part of being a ballet dancer was getting to manhandle beautiful women.  I’m pretty sure (and hope to Billy Elliot) that the comment was tongue-in-cheek (he seemed to be getting a good laugh out of it), but I couldn’t help but feel the urge to “facepalm” and think “well that was two steps back for mankind.”

Once you get past that little calamity, it’s actually a really neat (albeit brief, less than an hour) documentary.  All four dancers come from different countries with different training backgrounds so it’s interesting to see all of that in action.  You get to see old competition footage, performance clips and rehearsal video for a piece entitled Non Troppo choreographed by Mark Morris, which is shown in full at the very end.  The documentary was anything but wild, which leads me to believe that the title given to it might very well be the worst title in the history of documentary title bestowing.  I don’t know who thought it would be some kind of effective marketing ploy, but really, such elegant and virtuosic dancing, insightful interviews, footage in the makeup chairs and a whimsical Mark Morris piece to a Schumann piano quintet aren’t going to convince the general populace that ballet is wild.  The only remotely wild element was the fact that Stiefel rides a motorcycle.  And maybe the part when the men were jumping on a trampoline and striking incredible aerial poses for a photo shoot.  I’m all for unconventional definitions of terms like “wild” and there are certainly wild ballets and dancers but this was not the way to do it.  Marketing FAIL.

My favorite profiles were on Corella and Malakhov, because of course I think they had the funniest anecdotes to tell, like how Corella found ballet because he wasn’t good at soccer and at karate some kid had kicked another one in the mouth so there was blood and screaming.  Or how one dance he performed, a Russian dance, included things he couldn’t do now (probably the move where he lands in a center split), not to mention Madrid is such a beautiful city.  Malakhov is far different, with the typical tragic Russian (Ukrainian) story of having to leave his family and also having to deal with politics that kept him out of the Bolshoi Ballet, which he decided on his own he didn’t want to be in anyway.  Through it all, he has a healthy sense of humor, a decidedly human appetite for junk food and of all the men, the loudest wardrobe.  You have to love that he’s daring with color in his dancewear.  While the other men are in black clothes, Malakhov doesn’t shy away from full body red or purple ensembles.  And why shouldn’t he?  He looks great in those colors!

Non Troppo rehearsals are interspersed throughout and Morris himself is quite an entertaining choreographer.  It was just fun to watch his process and see a choreographer who doesn’t take himself too seriously and yet he creates this beautiful work that is incredibly musical.  I love that he always carries the mini-score of the music he’s using (I love mini-scores…cute and useful) and his understanding of the music itself shows in the details of the choreography.  He’ll repeat certain phrases but change them the second time around to reflect differences in the dynamics of the music.  It’s capricious and very satisfying to watch.  It’s organized (again, anything but wild) and while there is no specific narrative there are moments of sensitivity like holding hands or the way they support each other in arabesque and spin their partners ’round in a promenade.  There is of course a “cross leaping” moment, which is signature Mark Morris, where dancers will leap downstage on diagonals crossing in front of each other.  Susan Hadley, a professor with OSU danced for Mark Morris and I remember when she choreographed a piece for BalletMet a few years ago, she too, had a cross leaping moment.  A good idea is a good idea.

While most parts of the documentary are indeed on YouTube, I definitely recommend a viewing of Non Troppo.  It’s seven and a half minutes that are entirely worth your time and you can really see the individual styles of each dancer.  Malakhov in particular (who you can easily identify because he’s the puma in the red shirt that is all limbs) tosses his head back in a way that is so distinctly Russian…you gotta love it.

MacMillan makes it a little better

10 Oct

Autumn weather is settling in and I decided to avoid the chill, bunker down and have an English themed day.  I’m in the mood because I also baked a fruitcake yesterday, from an English recipe friends of our family gave us, and it is divine.  Americans typically have a bad impression of fruitcake, even though most have never eaten it, and those that do eat these nasty bricks of candied fruit and Billy knows what else.  It has to be done right (with minimal candied fruit, by the way), and there’s just no tradition here.  It takes a fair amount of effort to make, and there’s a lot of waiting involved because certain ingredients have to be cooked and then cooled to room temperature while covered, then the cake is baked for a couple of hours, and then that has to be cooled while wrapped in aluminum foil (which ironically, keeps heat in) until the final step, which is splashing the cake with spiced rum for added flavor.  Care has to be taken to cover the ingredients while cooling in order to preserve the moistness of the cake.  It’s a drawn out process, but it’s worth it, and even though I started yesterday it wasn’t ready until TO-DAY!!!  Isn’t it lovely, and harvest festive in its coloring?

And all for me...

And all for me...I can still smell the spiced rum.

So in continuance with the theme, I decided to make myself try and find something to like about Romeo and Juliet…after all, what could be more English than Shakespeare and Elizabethan times?  As I’ve said before, I am not a fan of this ballet…score is creepy, libretto grates on my nerves.  I saw BalletMet stage this a couple of years ago as my first full length classical ballet, although it was a newer staging by a David Nixon.  I don’t remember too many specifics about the production as a whole, but it followed the typical formula for an R&J and I remember thinking it was pretty good, despite my misgivings about the plot and music.  I did have one gripe though, which was a little trio of jesters danced by children.  The weird thing was that they would appear in what felt to me as inappropriate scenes, and I remember one did some gymnastics which was just out of place.  The worst part was that they were dressed in these phosphorescent neon-checkered eye sores.  That one scarred me for life.

But what is it about this story/ballet that makes people go gaga?  And why does it inspire so many choreographers?  There are stagings by contemporary choreographers like the one I saw, but then you have so many influential figures who have done it too like Lavrovsky, Grigorovich, MacMillan, Ashton, Tudor, Nureyev, Cranko to name a few…on the one hand it’s amazing that one story inspired so many legendaries, but on the other it’s a little overwhelming.  I don’t think any of those choreographers are ever going to get me to be able to “get it” in the way that most people do, but most people also drink coffee and I don’t, so I think it’s just my brain that has a loose wire (or several) that render me Shakespeare deficient (I read the play too, and didn’t like that either).  Regardless, I wanted to make the effort since life isn’t just about liking the things we like but learning to deal with the things we don’t.  So I got a Lavrovsky with Ekaterina Maximova and Vladdy-V performing with the Bolshoi, and a MacMillan with Alessandra Ferri and Angel Corella performing with La Scala.  That’s a lot of Prokofiev for one day, but I was determined to get through it.

The Bolshoi production was the manifestation of my worst fears.  I loved Maximova as Juliet and her connection with Vladdy-V as Romeo was wonderful.  They were married at the time, so it would’ve been kind of hard not to have the right romantic chemistry.  Unfortunately, the rest of the production felt like a two hour quagmire that set up to a decent third act that I had kind of lost interest in.  There seemed to be very little dancing and a lot (I mean a LOT) of theatrics…expensive theatrics at that, with lavish sets and opulent costumes.  The excessive theatrics really took away from the production feeling like a ballet, and there was this nagging hierarchical separation between the stars and everyone else.  Only the stars really got to dance, with selected divertissements for others, but then the rest was a lot of people standing around or doing folk dancish stuff.  And you know Bolshoi…they can fit five hundred people on stage, so that’s a lot of people not dancing.  I hate to be critical, but it was rather slow and painful, and Mercutio’s death was taking so long I thought I was going to die first.  Plus, there was you guesed it, a jester scene.

La Scala on the other hand…they may not have had the money and the sizable corps, but MacMillan’s choreography made it tolerable (and a tolerable R&J to me should be considered a superb staging for the normal folk).  I should have known MacMillan could save it for me, and the more I see of his work the less I think of him as a choreographer, and more as a storyteller who speaks the language of dance.  He kept the theatrics to a minimum because the story was told through the movement.  He gave corps members a lot of difficult movement as well, which really brought the production together because every character was speaking dance, not just the principals and soloists like with the Bolshoi (in fact, Tybalt seemed to have very little dancing and although Mercutio’s death was slow, it felt like it made more sense).  It made the character interaction much more believable.  And no clowns!  A divertissement with mandolin players, but no clowns!  Overall, the production felt more reflective of human interaction than staged dance.  Corella was fantastic, and very clean in some of the exceptionally challenging MacMillan choreography, like some seriously sick pirouette combinations, but I was in love with Ferri (who has extraordinary feet).  Sweet little impish dove that she is, and yet inconsolable and capable of showing such disgust for Paris in their final pas de deux.  There were times when she gave me chills, and when she resigned herself to suicide, the cameras were able to zoom in on her face and it appeared there were tears in her eyes.  She was an incredibly invested and believable Juliet, and it’s interesting that there is another video of her dancing Juliet with the Royal Ballet some fifteen years earlier.  That would be an interesting comparison…if I could actually stomach watching R&J again.

There are plenty of clips on YouTube of Ferri/Corella and Maximova/Vasiliev, but I wasn’t moved enough to warrant posting them here.  That’ll be the day!  I know I should open myself to the possibility of watching Fonteyn/Nureyev, but not even my love for Tamara Rojo makes me want to get her and Acosta on DVD, so I’m afraid I might be a lost cause.  I’d have to be seriously coerced, or ambushed.

DANGER! DANGER! Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux!

30 Sep

Initially, when I watched The Turning Point, Lucette Aldous’ cameo as the Black Swan  was my favorite little performance snippet, but I’ve since had a change of heart, to Suzanne Farrell in Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.  I think I didn’t know enough about the Tchaik to really appreciate it, but in the past I have really liked Balanchine’s more classically styled works, like Theme and Variations (still trying to find a way to see this on video again…harrumph!) and Diamonds being my favorite of the Jewels (coincidentally, also me birthstone).  The weird Stravinsky stuff is ok…just not my favorite, because I prefer the classical vocabulary.  I do like Apollo, and Balanchine’s ability to create different styles in his Stravinskian ballets compared to the vastly different Tchaikovskian ones speaks greatly of his much heralded musicality.  However, I still find a lot of Stravinsky music to be too atonal and downright creepy.  Like horror movie soundtrack, and as much as I used to enjoy horror movies, or rather, taking my friends to horror movies so I could laugh at them being scared, it turns out I’m a scaredy cat too.

Anyway, I was really fascinated by the story of the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, as the mysteriously lost music from Act III of Swan Lake, and written for Anna Sobeshchanskaya, who didn’t like the original music (apparently because someone else used it…Billy forbid!).  She had Petipa choreograph a new pas de deux to music by Minkus, but Tchaikovsky himself was all “oh no he didn’t!” and refused to let someone else’s music tarnish his masterpiece score.  So he wrote new music to correspond with the choreography Petipa had already done for Sobeshchanskaya, and everyone was muy happy.  It was later dropped and because ballet is ballet the score was “lost.”  Thirty years later it’s found in the Bolshoi Theatre’s music library, and Vladimir Bourmeister used it in his staging of Swan Lake for the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre Ballet in 1953.  It was then brought to the attention of Balanchine, made its debut in 1960 and has since taken on its own identity as a Balanchine ballet.  Balanchine redid or did his own version of a lot of classical ballets, but I think the ones before him still stand as the dominantly known versions, while the Tchaik is rarely associated with Swan Lake now and it’s Balanchine’s choreography that takes the cake.  Although Bourmiester’s production is still done, like La Scala here with Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle here:

Although I’m a little confused here because the music for the pas de deux and male variation are the same between Swan Lake and Tchaik, but the female variation and coda are different. AwKWaRd!  It’s a nice pas de deux for Swan Lake though, but there are a few reasons why I prefer Balanchine’s plotless Tchaik.  One being how the codas aren’t so formulaic.  You can’t go wrong with “man jump jump pose, bravura step, a manège of some kind, enter woman 32-fouettes, man turns a la seconde, woman manège, end with finger turn/grandiose lift.”  It’s a proven formula that has worked time and time again, but there are always other ways to express movement and musicality, and Balanchine doesn’t stick to a particular structure…the woman might run in and do a little something, then the man, maybe a partner assisted something, maybe a something else in a “your turn, my turn” kind of deal, so it allows for more variety and to some people, it adheres better to musical phrases rather than chopping things up into chunks.  He also throws in some spice by taking things and doing them in new ways like fouettes which are in Tchaik, but instead of 32 straight there’s a series of a fouette into two little piques with a half turn (or as I like to call them, “fouette steppy-steps”), and then ending with a few regular fouettes.  What I like about it is how the fouette steppy-steps are peanut butter and jelly with the pizzicato of the violins.  It just makes more sense.

However, the BEST part of the choreography is the “death drop fish dive of doom.”  Instead of the run-of-the-mill fish dive where the ballerina is dropped from a lift and the man bends forward with her, sinking on the back leg into a plié, the Tchaik version has the woman leap into the air where the man catches her at the apex of the jump, and then drops her forward while mostly staying upright, and she ends with her face just inches from the floor.  So the action in a regular fish dive is more of a “drop and then lower,” while the fish dive of doom is a “launch and then swing,” kind of like those swinging pirate ship rides at amusement parks.  Pas de deux can be generally categorized into three types:  an expression of love, someone is either dying or already dead, or a celebration.  Tchaik would be a celebration, and I love how the fish dive of doom adds an element of danger.  If I ever meet a six and a half foot sasquatch, I’m definitely going to ask if we can try this out, because it looks like fun so it must be a good idea.  I can’t post a video, because of legal reasons having to do with the movie, but here is an animation.

fishdiveshort

Anyway, because it is Balanchine, of course videos are almost impossible to come by thanks to the Balanchine Trust.  I know, I complain about them all the time, but I do get what they’re trying to do.  They want to make sure Balanchine ballets are reproduced with authenticity, and I don’t dispute that.  But honestly, who in the world is going to try and stage a Balanchine ballet from a YouTube video?  I don’t think any artistic director would really stage a ballet that they couldn’t coach, so of course they’d bring someone in, and it’s kind of a slap in the face to them to make it seem like they wouldn’t have the wits to do just that.  Not to mention anyone could rent a Balanchine Nutcracker, copy choreography out of it and there’s no way the Trust has spies that attend every Nutcracker in the world during Christmas (or do they?).  Plus the advertising…if you think about it, I never would have even known about Tchaik had I not taken the time to go to the library, rent a movie that was made before I was born, with no prior knowledge of the fact that it even contained Tchaik.  That’s a considerable amount of effort just to see a MINUTE of ONE ballet.  If I want to see the entire thing, these are the opportunities available to me:

  1. Fly somewhere to see it live.
  2. Fly to New York and go the Library of the Performing Arts
  3. Purchase a DVD of Pas de Deux or Dancing for Mr. B for $26.99
  4. Track down an out of print VHS of Peter Martins: A Dancer

I would really love to see Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins dance the whole thing since The Turning Point only shows a minute of the coda, but it’s only availabe in Peter Martins: A Dancer and nothing spells accessibility like “out of print VHS.”  Were it not for The Turning Point, chances are I’d never do any of the above, unless I happened to be in town when a company was performing Tchaik, and only the alignment of the stars can tell us when that would happen!

The key word though, is “almost” because I scoured YouTube and succeeded!  I won’t post links because I don’t want to get anyone into trouble, but I was able to download a clip and edit it so that only an excerpt of the ballet is shown, and the Trust seems to be okay with small excerpts.  I saw mostly variations and the coda from a few different performances, and it’s interesting that the Trust is so concerned with authenticity when each interpretation was vastly different.  For example, Darcey Bussell is immaculate, typical clean lines and articulate feet that you can expect of a dancer of Royal Ballet caliber, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.  The tempo was rather slow, and although the clarity in her fouette steppy-steps was amazing, it was just too dreamy for my tastes.  And the fish dive of doom was much different, with Zoltan Solymosi catching her like a feather, without much of a swing to it.  So there just wasn’t enough speed and danger.  Also, they chose to do the more common position with one leg in retiré, and the man in a wide plié while Farrell/Martins were in a straight position, with legs together as you saw above.  Ballet is meant to evolve from performer to performer, and with such changes I’m left a little confused as to why the Trust would claim ensuring authenticity as a defense for having videos removed.  I mean, if you want to get really picky, contemporary performances of Tchaik have some notable differences, like the woman’s entrance before the fouette steppy-steps, where women now do an Italian pas de chat, with an added tour jeté before bourée into the prep, while Farrell did a regular pas de chat, degagé into sous-sus fifth, bourée into prep, no tour jeté.  There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s pretty clear nobody’s trying to do it like one of Balanchine’s muses!

Anyway, the clip I selected isn’t the best quality (and I’m hoping it doesn’t get my YouTube account suspended…eek!), but the dancing is wonderful with Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella.  The Cubans are always so jubilant and effervescent which makes Reyes a great pick for this (although even she lags behind just a hair on the steppy-steps!  Farrell does it best from what I’ve seen), and I thought this was a perfect role for Corella.  I’ve seen clips and he was “wow” in Corsaire, “HOLY SMOKES!” in Don Q, but I loved him in this the most.  He has a really infectious smile, and is just really buoyant and plain old happy throughout (and I like his little hoppy tours…whatever they’re called).  The reason why I selected this is because their fish dive of doom is by far the most exciting one out there.  I like the purity of line with Farrell/Martins straight body positions, but Reyes has some MAJOR air time and Corella dips her so close to the floor it’s cramazing.  Enjoy!

By the way, last night when I was downloading this video and editing it, it disappeared and was “unavailable” for a few minutes and I was totally creeped out and was almost convinced that the Balanchine Trust was after me.  It was totally Jennifer Garner in Alias.

Also, I should mention that it seems Miami City Ballet is doing it this season, so here’s an excerpt from them, and the Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse has some more substantial excerpts from the pas deux and variations for a better picture of what the entire pas de deux looks like.  It’ll have to do!

Unpleasantry in the dance world?

28 Sep

I’m really into these search terms that bring people to my blog.  One of them being, “microscopic eyebrow bugs.”  But here’s one that not only made me laugh, but is actually relevant:

Why are people in the dance world so unpleasant?

Why indeed!  Dear friend, this is something that I largely attribute to three things, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe it’s jealousy that fuels negative behavior in the world of dance.  After all, I tend to live by the philosophy that jealousy is really just misguided admiration.  I say misguided, because I think those people simply refuse to admit to themselves that they do indeed admire someone else, and it’s their choice to be resentful that is regrettable.  I say I’m jealous of people all the time, out loud and to their faces, and nobody thinks that it’s out of spite.  So here we go, the three things that make SOME dance people so mean.

Competition breeds crazy

Competitions in general are a breeding ground for hostility, because some people never learn to live, learn and LET GO.  Not surprisingly, dance competitions are the same, but it extends into studios and companies where people are constantly trying to get noticed by teachers to get bumped up into the next level, auditioners to make it into the company, and artistic directors to get promoted in the hierarchy to soloist or principal.  Accordingly, a lot of dancers end up in a constant state of evaluation of themselves and others, which like all things in life is fine in moderation.  A lot of people see competition as good motivation to push themselves, and a fraction of those people cross a line when the fool themselves into thinking sizing up the competition and putting them down is going to make them a better dancer.  WRONG.  These are the kind of people that need to be shaken silly and reminded that dance is first and foremost an art.  Competition is just an aspect of dance, like salt in a cookie…it should be there, but it’s not the dominant flavor you taste.  That’s one thing I really took away from my limited experiences in modern dance, and I’m not talking lyrical…like actual modern dance.  People are much more supportive of each other, with no egos (or at the very least suppressed egos), no hierarchy and it makes for a more productive environment.  It’s an attitude that can be applied to any dance form, but I do suggest for people who can feel their mental fortresses buckling to try a modern class, see the difference in how people act, and take that with you to whatever it is you prefer to dance.

Opinions…MY opinion

We all have a desperate and human need to have our opinions be heard.  Why do you think I write this blog?  People are always talking, but with the advent of the internet, anonymity came into play which turns people into little demons (the YouTube piranhas for example).  Suddenly, people feel more courage to talk when they know they can say whatever they want and not be responsible for it.  This is why I personally, try to always write and comment on things in a way that I would not be afraid to say to that person’s face.  Just because it’s the internet, it doesn’t mean I’m excused from being responsible for my words, and it’s the jerks who take that for granted we all have to watch out for.  I mean, heck yeah if I had the opportunity I might tell Angel Corella he pirouettes like a tornado…but I’d say in a way that ensures he shouldn’t take my opinion seriously.  That’s a problem with the internet…there’s no intonation or context to frame some comments with, so they come across as abrasive when many times people are trying to be constructive.  But on the flipside, people should consider exercising restraint in some of the technical advice they give, because they forget the context with which to frame the situation…most dancers do have teachers after all!

Not being what you are

The last and my favorite is addressing the issue of being yourself.  Being the dancer you are, not the one you were, wish to be, or even the one you “think” you are, because that becomes extremely problematic.  People who overestimate their abilities are setting themselves up as hyena bait, and people who constantly say “I suck” get really old, really fast.  So if you feel pressure and negativity from people around you, make sure you’re not making yourself a victim.  I should know, because I’m pretty prone to self-deprecation, and still struggle with it to some degree.  Unsurprisingly, on days when I think I’m worse than I actually am, I dance worse, and feel cranky.  Not being yourself makes anyone and everyone cranky, so don’t put yourself in a bad mood by doing so.  It’s important to note too that it’s not just a matter of a dancer affirming who they are, but the audience as well.  So many YouTube sharks are attacking people who post videos all the time, and it’s like “dude, you just harpooned some poor adult beginner’s recital.”  Again, a lack of information has caused some hot-tempered moron to lambast something they didn’t understand.  Even with professional dancers and companies, you can’t expect Royal Ballet quality from say, a local company.  Royal Ballet has more money and resources to create more elaborate sets or hire more acclaimed dancers.  It’s downright shameful that some people criticize some production out of the whazoo just because they know what major companies and internationally acclaimed dancers are like.  It’s evil, and an irresponsible use of knowledge.

So there you have it…my theories as to why SOME dance people are unpleasant.  And again, I say some because there are many wonderful people in the world of dance, and it’s a matter of conditioning ourselves to identify with positive rather than negative behavior.  It’s like that saying about how one bad apple can ruin a barrel, or if you watch the Deadliest Catch, you would know that if one Alaskan king crab dies while in storage, its carcass releases a toxin that will kill all of the other crabs.  Fortunately, we as humans have a greater capacity than apples and crabs, and can reverse the trend with good vibes and a genuine smile.  So my fellow dance fans, ducklings and such, we kind of have a sucky reputation right now…let’s do our best to fix it, shall we?

Ok, that's actually a Japanese spider crab, but I don't have any pictures of an Alaskan King Crab (same order, but different family).  Just be impressed that I picture of a large crab at all.  Oh, and the human is my friend Liz.

Ok, that's actually a Japanese spider crab, but I don't have any pictures of an Alaskan King Crab (same order, but different family). Just be impressed that I even have a picture of a large crab on hand. Oh, and the human is my friend Liz.

Juicy pliés and tornado pirouettes

24 Sep

I have added some new linkage, the first being The Ballet Bag, a blog by the two “bag ladies” who know all, see all, and are constantly updating their twitter feed with the best tidbits about what’s going on in the world of ballet (with a special affinity for everyone’s favorite Royal Ballet).  Forget being in the loop…they ARE the loop, so be sure to read up on their blog for super-informative posts and follow them on twitter or you’ll be left in the orchestra pit (they never know what’s going on).  The second link I’ve added is for Libby Costello’s blog, and she is an expert in alien language labanotation and dance educator extraordinaire among many other things.  Currently a member of the Faculty of Education at the illustrious Royal Academy of Dance, she writes reviews and reports on the London dance scene and we can be sure to expect some personal contemplations soon (she just started bloggin’).  She too, be on twitter, so follow her feeds like you do.  Say what you will about New York or maybe even Amsterdam, but I’m on board with London being the capital of dance.  So much so that should the wallet stop being such a jackass, I’d seriously consider a move (although citizenship and naturalization laws in the UK are pretty daunting).  And by the way, if the 3.5 other people who read this blog ever have suggestions for links (doesn’t even have to be a blog, about ballet, or even dance related, provided it’s your link to share) please lemme know!

Anyway, on the topic of blogs, WordPress users like yours truly have a dashboard, where there’s a little section that tells me some statistics like how many visits I’m getting, which entries are being read and how people are getting here.  It’s really good for my vanity, but on occasion there will be some interesting topics people are searching that somehow bring them to this blog (including a number of inquiries as to how tall Kristin Chenoweth is.  For the record, she’s 4’11”).  One in particular, was a curious soul wanting to know if the degree of turnout affects the speed of a pirouette.  This interests me, so I shall indulge.  I’m going to say, “no.”  For one thing, jazz pirouettes are done in parallel, but they can still be quite fast.  As far as ballet is concerned, certainly, more turnout equates to a more open retiré, and one might think that allows for more room to “throw the knee.”  But all pirouettes come from a turned out position of the feet, so even though we open the leg to the side, it doesn’t actually slingshot to that position.  Rather it starts in a turned out plié and goes up into retiré maintaining the turnout the whole time.  In my experience, speed comes from starting with a robust (and in the words of former teacher Daniela, “juicy”) plié, arriving in retiré as quickly and efficiently as possible, and is probably most dependent on the speed of the spot.  I actually used to have a problem with overcooking the plié (maybe I still do), and using enough force for like ten pirouettes when my brain was intending to do a double.  So if aforementioned inquisitor should return, I hope this is a suitable answer in your quest.  Personally speaking though, speed in a pirouette should not be thought of as a technique, but rather a tool to express musicality.  It’s the slow pirouettes that are really hard anyway.  It’s one thing to do a triple pirouette to fast music and shoot your leg back into fourth or fifth, and it’s a totally different beast to do a triple and actually have to slow down to stop, and then place your foot into fourth or fifth.  My flute teacher would probably find this hysterical because she always yelled at me for playing too fast, and that slower and cleaner is always better…but she doesn’t have to know that she was right.

Meanwhile, I went to the library today to pick up a book I had reserved, and decided to look for ballets.  A long time ago when I searched the database, all that came up was the Nutcracker, a bunch of DVD’s to teach ballet, the movie Ballet Shoes and Angelina Ballerina stuff.  Needless to say I didn’t think Columbus libraries had a decent selection, but it turns out I was the fool because all of the good stuff was located deeper in the results.  After paging through, I fond a treasure trove of goodies, reserved a ton of things and walked away with Royal Ballet’s La Fille mal gardée (1981, Leslie Collier and Michael Coleman), Paris Opera’s La Sylphide (2004, Aurélie Dupont and Mathieu Ganio) and against my better judgment, La Scala’s Romeo and Juliet (2000, Angel Corella and Alessandra Ferri).  Nothing against La Scala, Corella, or Ferri…in fact they were the reasons I borrowed it.  It’s just that Romes & Jules is not my favorite ballet.  How I decide I like a ballet is largely based on a triangular system, with score, libretto and choreography at the points.  When it comes to Romes & Jules, I hate two of the three…the score and libretto.  Like the Montagues et Capulets theme drives me crazy, and conjures images of seasickness and ancient ships with rows of slaves manning the oars, a ruthless captain with a whip to “motivate” them.   As for the libretto…some people find the story a romantic tragedy, but all I can think about is how annoying I find it when young teenagers think their puppy love is the real deal, and for Romeo and Juliet, was worth dying for.  It reeks of teen hormones and stupidity…get a grip.  It bothers me now when twelve year olds think their “dating” is legit.  Juliet was thirteen, and I suppose she at least she had the excuse of a shorter life expectancy and the culture of Shakespearian times.  Oh well…I am at least looking forward to watching Ferri and some of Corella’s freaky tornado pirouettes.  You know, how his pirouettes are lightning fast but he adjusts his torso the entire time and it creates this illusion that he’s wobbling, but somehow he manages to never fall over.

Speaking of things we don’t like in ballet, I shall close with a laugh worthy moment that happened on twitter when friend Hilary with one L, who likes full length classical ballets and especially the Russian tradition, but is not a fan of enchanted forests (or gardens) and ghosts, told me she’s going to see the Washington Ballet’s production of Don Q in a couple of weeks.  So she asked me what the “enchanted forest forecast” was and I had to break it to her that Act III would be when Don Q has his dream of Dulcinea in an enchanted forest surrounded by nymphs.  Maybe next time.