Tag Archives: carlos acosta

No rabbits, no olives. What’s the journey of the pelvis?

16 Sep

Last week I said I was reading Carlos Acosta’s biography, and it was true.  But I was on page six.  However, last night I felt compelled to read much more and got through about a third of the book.  I have to say he’s actually quite funny, although I wasn’t entirely sure whether he was intending to be or not.  Maybe I have a sick sense of humor, but stories like the one of his dad teaching him how to ride a bike by putting him on it and giving him a hearty push so that he would run into a lamppost each time until he would eventually figure out how to avoid the lamppost…so much funny.  But he was so traumatized by the event, I feel guilty for being amused.  Or how traumatized he was by his parents cooking his pet rabbits for dinner, which at first, I gasped out loud because I was horrified by the thought, but then I kind of chuckled out of pity for little Carlitos and the bunnies (to this day, he has never eaten rabbit meat since).  I guess I relate to his childhood traumas in a comical way because humor is how I deal with mine.  I’m still terrified of and can’t watch The Goonies or E.T., and I’m okay with and might even enjoy the fact that people get a kick out of that.  Or how I could not reason with myself into eating black olives because when I was little, my parents took me to Pizza Hut and I completely freaked out when I was sure I saw an olive move.  They looked like the little beetle guys from Super Mario.

For the record, I have as an adult learned to eat and appreciate black olives.  Sometimes I still balk when it comes to pizza, but I think I've conquered it.

For the record, I have as an adult learned to eat and appreciate black olives. Sometimes I still balk when it comes to pizza, but I think I've conquered it.

He also has some good, what can now be termed “FML” moments (acronym for “f my life” for the blissfully unaware), like one time when he was playing hooky from ballet school (at one point he said he made a “compromise” with himself and would only skip school one week every month, instead of all the time), fell asleep on a pile of leaves by a lake and woke up to find that a bird had shat on his head.  Or a childhood game he and his friends invented, where one would throw a stick in the mud, the goal of which was to throw it in such a way that it would be standing up straight, and if one managed to achieve such a feat, the loser would have to eat a ball of mud.  It got better when he was also playing this while skipping a performance, and because his friend wasn’t convinced that Carlos had won, started wrestling with him in the mud.  The good part was when his teachers came by in a black car, abducted the muddy little Carlos and dragged his behind back to the school for the show (in which he was to do a mazurka with a girl he had a bit of a crush on), reprimanding him the whole time and literally flinging him into his costume and throwing him onstage.  I live for this kind of stuff.  There are definitely a lot of raw, gritty and difficult moments so far (where I am in the book he hasn’t even left Cuba yet), but it’s proving to be a really entertaining read.

Any whozoozle, as you can probably tell, I haven’t been to a dance class for a few weeks now, and it is slowly killing me on the inside.  It’s not there aren’t options, it’s just that I’m at a point where so many things in my life are up in the air and as a result I can’t squander the remains of my funds.  I might have to start going at least once a week though, because my soul is withering away, but while it does I survive on late-night dancing by myself like no one’s watching and memories of good times.  In fact, yesterday while YT-surfing, I found in a “related video” a dance by Adriana Durant, who now teaches at Ohio University.  SMALL WORLD.  She was one of the teachers I had at OSU, and…well, this is difficult for me to say, but I took hip hop with her.  I will rarely, if ever discuss hip hop in this blog, and not because of any ideas of it not being “legitimate dance” or anything like that I assure you.  It’s just that the thought of me and hip hop is pretty horrifying because that’s how bad I am at it.  My brain isn’t wired to understand it very well, and I’m not exactly into that kind of music either (Off topic, but Acosta started as a little break dancing kid.  Who knew?).  But it is fun to try every now and then, although for me, I’d be happy if I could take a hip hop class maybe…three times a decade.

The dance of hers I found was Jane and Wayne, a piece I actually got to see live while she was at OSU (although I don’t know if that’s where it was originally choreographed) and it was really cool to see it restaged for OU.  (For the record, people outsiders get Ohio State University and Ohio University confused all the time.  In fact, a lady I edit translations for intended to go to Ohio State, went through the whole application process and everything, and it wasn’t until after the unexpectedly long bus ride from the airport that she arrived in Athens, Ohio and thought to herself “I don’t think I’m in Columbus” and was welcomed by the orientation staff as one of Ohio University’s newest bobcats.  True story.)  I don’t think Jane and Wayne had a plot, and she typically does plotless dances to music, oftentimes incorporating an element of humor, which of course I loves.  In Jane and Wayne the audience always laughs at the end, but unfortunately you can’t see why in this particular video (priceless facial expressions).  It’s just a really fun piece that maintains the audience’s attention.  Unspoiled by messages or storylines, it serves as a conglomeration of peculiar movement that draws in the eyes and asks the brain no questions, takes no prisoners.

I did have a chance to take a modern class with her at the beginning of the summer when she did a workshop type thing at Columbus Dance Theater, which was a lot of fun, albeit painful.  First, I hadn’t done modern in a long time and modern is not my forte.  In fact, every time I’ve taken a modern class I always seem to hurt myself.  Hers in particular had some inversions and my elbow cracked, which it does a lot but on rare occasions it’s the kind of popping that hurts.  It didn’t feel good the next day and my sides were so sore it hurt when I laughed.  Second, her choreography is just plain hard.  But she’s so creative, supportive and non-judgmental it really is a pleasure to work with her.  She’ll say things like “I’m all about the journey right now, like the journey of the pelvis from here to there.  What is that?” to which I can only shrug my shoulders and say “I dunno” while internally thinking “let’s find out.”  I miss her, and her stories…like one where she told us about choreographing a dance in high school that included her, her sister and a group of friends and at the very end they were supposed to all jump up with jazz hands or something like that, except before the actual performance she told everyone except her sister to stay down instead.  It was mean, but so damn funny.

In other, completely unrelated news, last night I happened upon a video of 12 year old Derek Dunn, who I’m sure many ballet people are already familiar with.  He won the 2008 Youth America Grand Prix junior division with a Flames of Paris variation that was ridiculously good.  There’s a video of him doing it another competition too, and I like the commenter who wrote “12 my ass.”  It’s clear though, that at twelve he already knows how to connect with an audience, has wonderful eye contact and some extra gas in the tank that has a dusting of Soviet.  Companies must be salivating at the prospect of snapping this one up, with his enormous talent and Baryshnikovian head tossing.

The Beast Fouette

7 Aug

I’m writing this entry as I watch TV, because one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, Clue is on.  Of course I own the DVD and could pop it in and watch it sans commercials, but it’s exciting to me that someone decided to broadcast it.  Just goes to show that a true classic never dies…and how can anyone forget one of the most memorable moments in the history of tap dance:

Anyway, do other dancers out there have a certain move that they’ve always wanted to learn?  I always say that there’s the big two that ballet dancers aspire to, which is thirty-two-fouettes and a six o’clock penchée (maybe two and a half…temps ciseaux is a popular one too).  Incidentally, I am not one of those people.  As much as I would love to have those things and I still aspire for bigger and better, but I don’t obsess over numbers like thirty-two, six o’clock, triple, etc. because it’s more important to me how a movement feels and how it’s executed.  This is one of the reasons why competitive swimming was such a bore for me as a young lad…shaving off milliseconds gave me no fulfillment in life (which is a pretty depressing conclusion for a ten year old.  Dark times).  Not to mention swimming is sooooo repetitive…can you imagine just doing tendus for eternity just so you could say you had the best tendu of all time?  Thankfully, ballet has much to offer and satisfies the appetites of those of us who can’t stand monotony.

People who get too caught up in quantities and big tricks can’t truly enjoy being in the present, and to me, the best way to improve technique is to really live in the present.  But I’m about to sell out because I have found my MOVE.  I have never, in my entire life wanted to be able to do something as badly as I want to do this:

The extraordinary, the unthinkable, fouette en relevé/pointe.  I’m crazy about it.  It’s beautiful to me how lifted and supported Viengsay is through her back and torso, and how free her leg is and lifted from underneath to rond de jambe and fouette around.  It has this unbound and soaring quality to it that has me all starry eyed and wistful.  The effect is subtle since the only thing that really changes is the omission of the plié but the result is like cheesecake.  Smooth, yet firm and holds its shape.

I have played around with this fouette, and not surprisingly it’s not going well.  For one thing, my body is a hot mess.  I am a lefty, and normally I do turns a la seconde to the left, because my right leg is the stronger supporting leg and can get a solid plié.  However, my right leg is also the more articulate, so it’s better at the fouette motion.  The drawback is, it has a weaker supporting leg to work with, and if I tried to do them to the left my left leg can’t seem to repeat the rond de jambe multiple times without folding into parallel.  So I do turns in second to the left, fouettes to the right.  One could call it ambidextrous, but it’s more like survival of the fittest.  So I work fouettes to the right but it’s not as comfortable so I can only get maybe between eight to twelve or so on a good day, which tells you that I shouldn’t be trying them on relevé, but there’s no harm in playing around.  But playing has resulted only in failure.  I can almost get it from a regular preparation and not from a series of fouettes since the opportunity for a bigger push presents itself, but still the result is the leg flails about as it wants to and takes you down with the ship.  As Jessica said, it’s a beast…and you’d be a fool not to believe it, but in regards to the beast fouette, I have only this to say:

Meanwhile, here’s a video of everyone’s favorite Carlos Acosta and Viengsay Valdes doing the entire Le Corsaire pas de deux, because you (I) can never get enough of his dancing and she also does the beast fouette again here (Jessica too said Carlos made her gasp, and she doesn’t gasp for Corsaire anymore).  Unfortunately the orchestra is kind of sort of heinously not good, but the dancing is of course sublime.  Viengsay also does some nifty double (and a triple) soutenous at the very end.  She’s just a cool ballerina.

So I shall conclude today’s entry with a Karen-ism to help you with your piques:

You inherently know how long your leg is…I just have to remind you to go to it.”

“Diana was no slut” – Mythology and Ballet

5 Aug

Today an odd series of coincidences happened…first, I went to OSU’s new Thompson Library, which is massive and sparkly with lots of windows and new computers and such, to borrow a book that contained an essay I was looking for (Toeing the Line: In Search of the Gay Male Image in Contemporary Classical Ballet).  I figured I might as well look for other materials, and checked the library catalog and also found Peter Stoneley’s A Queer History of the Ballet.  When I located that book, nearby was this wonderful photography book published by the Royal Opera House, on Sir Frederick Ashton (who is pictured on the back doing a jig as the hedgehog “Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle” from his The Tales of Beatrix Potter ballet.  I have a feeling Sir Ashton and I are going to get along nicely).  When leaving the library, several books in tow I happened upon five (yes FIVE) four leaf clovers and a five leaf clover, all in this little patch that was less than a square foot.  It made me recall that I had a fortune cookie just two days ago that said “an unexpected event will bring you riches.”  Maybe the cookie meant the Ashton book, or maybe it meant the clovers…but I hope my luck continues. (and finds me a JOB or a position with Americorps!)

Part of me thinks the fortune cookie should have said "He who has all the luck in the world will never find job."  Maybe there is something to what that Siamese cat in Disney's Aristocats said..."Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg fu yung, fortune cookie always wrong."

Part of me thinks the fortune cookie should have said "He who has all the luck in the world will never find job." Maybe there is something to what that Siamese cat in Disney's Aristocats said..."Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg fu yung, fortune cookie always wrong."

Oh, and if you’re wondering “why the queer ballet reading?” That’s independent research for a SEKRET project that’s going to take light years to finish, but know that I fully intend to make it known to the world.

Back to Ashton, I had been meaning to get more into his work because I’m mostly intrigued by his ballet Ondine.  I became enamored with the myth of Undine thanks to a positively divine flute sonata by the German composer Carl Reinecke (although some might argue The Little Mermaid was my first exposure to an Undine-influenced story, but with a Disney-fied ending since Prince Eric doesn’t die).  The second movement of the sonata is this tornado of sixteenth notes in a key with 2 sharps, and a swarm of additional sharps, double sharps and naturals.  It also has a nice little key change to FIVE sharps and is a complete nightmare to read.  I do fancy fast music, but ironically it’s the slow melody in this Intermezzo that captivates me the most; in fact, it’s probably my favorite melody ever written for the flute.  I actually wish Reinecke’s Undine was turned into a short ballet of some kind…Hans Werner Henze’s score for Ondine is a’ight, but Reinecke’s sonata will always be my first love.  Plus, his sonata is romantic era so it’s a little more conducive to storytelling (although Reinecke didn’t have a Margot Fonteyn).  Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’m switching between Undine/Ondine, Ondine is the anglicized version of Undine…so blame the Germans and Brits if you must, not me.  Anyway, I have a request for the world…someone out there, for the love of Billy Elliot, PLEASE choreograph a ballet to Reinecke’s Undine!  Just listen to virtuoso Emanuel Pahud play it (the aforementioned favorite melody begins at the 1:50 mark…le sigh.  The other 3 movements are also available from the same user.  It listens to the first movement too):

For whatever reason, I’m in a “myth-based ballet” phase these days.  Hence, my interest in Ashton’s Sylvia too, which I didn’t even know was based on a myth until flipping through the book quickly just today.  I’ve also been watching a lot of Diana and Acteon on YT, and I dig the coda.  It’s a catchy little number (well, I guess they all are…but I’m ranking it no.2 in my favorite codas list) and I finally located an mp3 of it to listen to while vacuuming (you’d be surprised how much more fun average chores are when you listen to ballet codas on your ipod as you do them.  I’m serious).  Although it’s conducted by Richard Bonynge, who I’m thinking hasn’t conducted this ballet live because he takes the Diana variation at light speed, and I can’t even imagine some poor ballerina trying to dance at his tempo, and he has a history of this because his Le Corsaire recording is monstrously fast too.  Terrence Kern did a recording of Le Corsaire too, and his was worse if you can believe it.

Anyway, Diana and Acteon is kind of like the leftover sesame chicken of the ballet world.  It’s well known, but doesn’t stand alone because it’s 12 minutes of leftovers from Petipa’s Le Roi Candaule, and Vaganova-ized (microwaved) for consumption today.  I continue this metaphor by pointing out that sesame chicken isn’t even authentic Chinese food (and before I get angry e-mails from Jews up in arms, nobody orders sesame chicken more than I do, this isn’t an insult), and likewise Diana and Acteon the ballet doesn’t follow the myth at all.  First of all, according to wikipedia, in Le Roi Candaule Petipa originally had it as Diana and Endymion, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because Endymion is associated with Selene, although sometimes Selene and Diana were mixed up so I suppose it’s a reasonable mistake.  However, when Vaganova herself changed the character to Acteon, any argument for authenticity flies out the window because the myth between Diana and Acteon doesn’t have a happy ending.  It goes that Acteon, a strapping young hunter sees her bathing in the nude.  Now Diana was no slut…she was mad as a hornet and forbade him to speak of that indecency, and if he did he would turn into stag.  Long story short, he calls out to his hunting party, turns into a stag, and is killed and eaten by his own hunting dogs.  Somehow, I think a flirtatious exchange with Acteon was the last thing on iron-chaste Diana’s mind.

But we all know the point of ballet isn’t to stick to the story…although there is that one little reference to the stag when at the very end the male dancer does a stag leap offstage while Diana is doing an arabesque onstage (shooting an arrow at him?).  Besides, Diana is the one who is supposed to be nekkid and yet it’s always the male dancer in this variation that’s showing a lot more skin (we’re talkin dance belt + loincloth.  A large loincloth if they’re lucky).  I’m perfectly fine with adaptations of stories and artistic liberties for the purposes of ballet movement (I have to be for the SEKRET project).  Plus Diana and Acteon is fun to watch because it includes a lot of witchy goodies that requires hefty technique.  My favorite Acteon (and this should come as no surprise) is Carlos Acosta.  He just has that “hunter machismo” which can especially be seen in Alicia Alonso’s version (after Petipa) because it includes this gargantuan lift where he sets down the ballerina just using one arm.  She also gave the ballerina even more fouettes to do, doing them on a diagonal with a flourish of the arms in a double pirouette, changing the spot later on mid-fouette to be en face and the whole shebang ends with a partner assisted pirouette where the guy then just lets go and she’s supposed to keep going.  Crazy and amazing (henceforth “cramazing?”) is the only way to describe it.

Now the following video features Carlos and Viengsay Valdes, and it’s neither of their best performances.  This performance is known though because Viengsay was sick and the poor thing is practically dying by the end.  But the show must go on, and I also include it for this inhuman leap Carlos does, which I’m not sure exactly what it is…it could be called a cabriole of some kind or a grand jeté battu…whatever it is, it’s a mystical leap that will take your breath away, and you’ll know it when you see it (not to mention he also does a revoltade, or as I like to call it, “the deathwish”):

And just to show that Viengsay is a more than capable and wonderful dancer; check out her Diana coda here:

This was a better performance for Carlos too:

More on Manon

19 Jul

It’s been almost a month since I saw the Royal Ballet do Manon in DC, but I’m still kind of basking in the afterglow.  This is encouraged by the fact that the RB just wrapped up a historic stint in Cuba, as that was their maiden voyage to Cuba and they are the first major ballet company to perform there since the Bolshoi, which was 30ish years ago.  Oh and there is that guy…Carlos whatshisface who’s only making his debut in his home country where ballet is somewhat respected.  And what I really mean by that is according to theballetbag on twitter, the Cubans are crazier than the Japanese fans.  And trust me when I say the Japanese put the fan in fanatic.  They love their girly-girl princess stuff like ballet and figure skating, and I actually went to the figure skating world championships when they were in Tokyo in 2007 (I was living in Tokyo at the time) and can confirm that the fans were certifiably nuts.  But mainstream popularity is good (NHK, one of their major networks regularly shows ballet competitions and documentaries…can you imagine if NBC did the same?) so long as the stars are safe.  In fact, Marcelo Gomes of ABT fame has a Japanese stalker who travels to see him perform, but he seems to appreciate that he was able to touch her with his dancing.  Meanwhile, I read about Marcelo in “The Advocate” and if I know Japan like I do, stalker lady has a blissful relationship with that river in Egypt if you know what I’m sayin.

Anyway, RB did Manon in Havana, of course starring Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta (by the way, what is it with the weird nicknames fans give him?  The ‘Flying Cuban’, the ‘Beast of Ballet’ and my personal favorite the ‘Cuban Sex Missile’), and I reflect fondly upon my experiences as an audience member.  I didn’t realize at the time how much I loved the score, and now that I do, I can’t get over how exquisite it is.  I was kind of biased when I saw it because I was confusing Jules Massenet with Jules Mouquet; both composers with the latter having written a piece I once played entitled “La Flute de Pan,” which quite frankly is kind of sheety.  This is why I so often second guess myself though, because half the time I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Jules Massenet on the other hand, does happen to be the composer of one of my favorite pieces of music, Meditation from his opera Thais.  This is a part of my “relaxing music” playlist that soothes the inner beast.  It’s also known in the ballet world for a pas de deux choreographed to it by Roland Petit, as well as track 16 on the CD “Ballet Technique.”  Have I digressed?  Anyway, Massenet is massively fabulous and I am now dying to get my hands on a CD of the score.

In other news, does anyone even know how “Manon” is actually pronounced?  Is it MA-non or ma-NON?  Every time I talk about it with people it seems like they say the opposite of what I say, and I end up feeing stupid, but even Tamara and Carlos don’t seem to agree, as seen in this studio footage and interview released by Royal Opera House:

I really loved hearing what Tamara had to say about Manon…I find her insightful in such a way that tells me this kind of ballet is right for her, as opposed to the flashy classics.  A lot of youtube commenters complain about her being a little stone-faced as a Kitri, and maybe Don Q isn’t the best role for her, but every dancer has their niche (although if you watch her do Don Q, there’s one video where she does triple fouettes while manipulating a fan.  MAD skills people…MAD skills).  The following was broadcasted on NHK (told you the Japanese love their ballet!) and she tells us more with an oh so subtle dig at the Soviets. (the brief statement in Japanese in the middle I can translate for you…the narrator just says “Act I: The Bedroom Pas de Deux.  Des Grieux and Manon express their deep, burning love for each other)

So I’ve been on this youtube kick to find as much footage from Manon as I can, and I already posted the bedroom pas de deux in my initial review (in “The Royal Ballet kicks royal Boo-tay“), and have now found a video of Carlos performing one of the “mandagges” I was talking about in addition to the pas de deux they’re rehearsing from the footage I posted above.  I think that one might be my favorite, and certainly the music is choice as that’s probably my favorite melody in the ballet.  Meanwhile, if you read my review, you may also recall that Tamara has the most freakishly flexible feet, and if you would like to see for yourself, pause the following video at 3:52 and take a moment…and consider what it is you’re really looking at.  Take another moment if you must…it’s a lot to process.  But she sure knows how to use them.

And now…a video of the SWAMP pas de deux.  The climactic, tragedrama ending, which still gives me goose bumps, unlike the person who left a comment on this youtube video.  (By the way, why is it that people who comment on ballet videos are some of the most toxic, vicious and overly critical people out there?  To call Tamara boring is just nasty.  Not even my dad, who knows zilch about ballet was bored, and tell the woman 2 seats down from me who was sobbing hysterically that Tamara was boring.  Mm hmm!)

There’s also a part 2 to the above clip, but it’s just the curtain call.

So, my little chicken pot pies, Manon was truly an epiphanous revelatory “eureka!” moment for me, because it completely changed the way I look at ballet.  I’m actually kind of mad at myself for having initially been more excited to see the Bolshoi do Le Corsaire, but aren’t the best moments in life the unexpected ones?  I mean hello, I still can’t stop thinking about the whole experience, and am dying for it to be released on DVD soon.  So to close, I give you a trailerish clip, where you can see more of the RB’s fabulous corps, lots of comedic moments (including a lot of slapping), and a bit from the “drunken variation.”  Not to mention the third act when Manon is sold into prostitution…reminds me of the little girl in the audience who after reading the program asked her parents “what’s a prostitute?” (or “prostie” for short, for anyone who happens to be a trendy Australian)  And there goes the prize for the most awkward question ever…bet they wished they were at the Nutcracker instead.  Oh the scandalosity! 

It’s a renversé day so MAKE PLIÉ!

6 Jul

So summer classes are normally taught by Karen Eliot (if that’s her real name) but she’s been sick so graduate student Courtney has been subbing for her.  She is a perky, delicate and gentle teacher who does a lot of barre work that is rather kind to the body.  She also had us close her eyes for one exercise to see if we could maintain our balance without using our eyes, and I’ll say it…I cheated.  I couldn’t help it!  When I was facing away from the mirror I was fine, but when facing the mirror my eyes kept peeling open.  It’s not like I even needed to, it’s just a bad habit.  The mirror and I have a special, but dirty relationship. Something else she had us do in class that I haven’t done in a while is a renversé.  Spirally, fun, indulgent…it’s a good step, but for Billy Elliot knows what reason it reminds me of those dryers with the clear doors so you can see the clothes tumbling inside…anyway, yay for renversé! (and laundry?)  She also told me she likes to watch little old me dance, because I’m very expressive…teehee!  That is literally, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me…so thanks Courtney!

After class I chattified with her, and she told me about her time dancing with Houston Ballet, and she danced with guess who…Carlos Acosta!  She didn’t have any gossip, because she confirmed that he is indeed the nicest guy.  According to her, he’s incredibly down to earth, humble and will talk to anyone, even the janitor.  It’s probably a huge contributor to what makes him a great dancer and a generous partner.  She said when partnering with him she felt like she didn’t have to do anything, and that he has a great sense of timing, in addition to a pair of huge bear paws that I would imagine would make a dancer he was lifting feel quite secure.  It’s funny though because even with his talent, apparently he would have days where he was frustrated too and sat down one day and said something to the effect of “Oh Courtney…I think I want to do pursue music instead…”  Can you imagine?  She said she was supportive, but I told her I’d shake him silly and tell him “NOOOOOOOO!!!”  (I jest…even though that would be my knee jerk reaction, nobody believes that it’s more important to pursue your passions, regardless of how good you are at something else, more than I do!)

She also told me that he wrote a book (how did I not know this?!) so that’s a must read, after I finish Wicked.  So there you have it…he really is the nicest guy and the best dancer in the world.  Shucks.  Who wouldn’t want to be him?

Moving on, my dear friend and little treasure Svetlana also showed up to class today, and no, Svetlana is NOT her real name, but her Russian alter ego.  She developed this for a modern dance piece she was in, where she played a Russian nurse (I have no idea what the piece was like, so no questions).  Anyway, Sveta and I like to speak with Russian accents and be all Euro-ish by doing kisses on the cheeks because it makes us cool, and seeing her again reminded me of my Russian alter ego, Nikolai “Kolya” Alexander Vladimirovicherov, a cranky, old school Russian ballet teacher who will slap your wrists with a ruler and yell at you to “RELEASE BARRE!” or my personal favorite, “MAKE PLIÉ!”  He also believes that only Russians can be good ballerinas and will rename you with a Russian name because even if you aren’t Russian, having a Russian name as well as a diminutive form like Sveta or Kolya just might bring you a step closer to semi-greatness as a non-Russian.  You might be surprised what you can achieve under the tutelage of Nikolai Alexander Vladimirovicherov.  But mispronounce his name and you’ll be sorry…

So I had a really great time in class today for many reasons, although today’s “youdancefunny” moment of true patheticness happened before class when I saw this picture in the paper this morning:

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

Johan Santana attempts a renversé but needs to turn out his supporting leg and open the thigh of his free leg in order to maintain the integrity of the connecting line through his back and foot.

For a split second,  I automatically thought “turn out your supporting leg” before remembering that there is no ballet in baseball (although if there were a “t” there would be! Ha…ha…).  Perhaps “balletball” could be the sport of the future.  But seriously folks, when you start seeing every movement of the human body in terms of dance, you know your life has been tainted.  If you saw “renversé” in the picture above, your eyes, like mine have been skewed in the name of dance and we shall never regain our innocence.

Meanwhile, I don’t want it anyway…HA!

The Royal Ballet kicks Royal Boo-tay

26 Jun

The conclusion of Balletfest 2009 has come down to my attendance of the Royal Ballet production of Manon, at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  The principal characters Manon and Des Grieux were danced by Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta (respectively).  I purposely chose this night to see Carlos instead of Alina Cojocaru on Friday night, as ever since I became a fan of ballet and saw videos of him performing it became one of my life goals to see him live.  Definitely one of the best of his generation (maybe the best) and those familiar with his story know it’s one for the ages, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed a performance by him.  One life goal down, approximately 87 left to go…(most of which, I haven’t even decided what they are yet, but I figure 87 is a good number).

Starting with the lead character Manon, Tamara Rojo has the most amazing feet (actually, dancers with the Royal Ballet do a much better job of using their feet than the Bolshoi ballerinas overall).  I was very impressed, and occasionally freaked out by how mobile her feet were.  There were a couple times when she’d sit on her shins and her feet were so lengthened her toes were like 3 inches off the floor.  I noticed that she didn’t have the huge extensions and massive turnout that the Russians often do, but she was so much more square in her hips and she used the turnout she had so effectively I found her very pleasing to watch.  Looking back, it’s almost as if the Bolshoi dancers would force their feet open, but then moments en pointe where they weren’t 180 turned out became more obvious and made them seem turned in as a result.  Let that be a lesson to those crazies who care not for their knees…smoke and mirrors turnout doesn’t do you any good on relevé/en pointe!  Tamara is a pint sized ballerina, but awfully playful and exquisite regardless.  Sign me up as a fan!

Obviously, I was already a fan of Carlos, and he too has amazing feet. They are just incredibly strong, and allow him to do pirouettes with such ease, and aplenty he did.  I noticed that Manon has a lot of slower almost adagge work for Des Grieux…a “mandagge” if you will, and they were crazy hard!  There were all kinds of pirouettes that would open to arabesque or developpé a la seconde and they just had to stop.  I’m not even sure most professional male ballet dancers could even do these mandagges without a little hopping around.  But Carlos is just so clean with his technique that it was like buttah.  I’ve seen clips of him doing the usual Basilio from Don Q, the Le Corsaire pas de deux, etc. but I think he shines in these narrative ballets where his generosity in his technique, maturity and expression really come through, instead of “cheap” tricks like a la seconde turns that will make any audience happy (although he is no slouch there…HUGE jumps and wheeled off 6 pirouetter for tonight’s performance, finishing in a perfect sous-sous before closing to fifth).  I’m seriously in love with his dancing and Billy Elliot I wish I had his quads.

Together, they had really good chemistry (and I should hope so, considering some of the death-defying lifts they did…EGADS!) and lucky for you here’s a little taste of what I got to see tonight:

Just lovely.

I forgot to mention that I brought my dad to this performance, and let me tell you I was worried about it.  He’s the kind of guy who always falls asleep during movies, and I was prepared to be embarrassed, but he actually stayed awake!  Unfortunately, the fact that he was CHEWING GUM during Act I somehow went unnoticed by my radar, and someone in the row in front of us turned around during intermission and asked him to stop.  Utter humiliation.  Lucky for me, there are always other weird audience members to make one incident less noticeable.  Like the people in the row in front of me who were cheering like it was a baseball game (one lady of which was showing way too much cleavage and the other who said “Kenneth McMillan choreographed his ass off!”), or the people who despite the fact that their seats were closest to an aisle went the long way to get to their seats, making us all stand up in the process.  There was also a couple who brought seat cushions…SEAT CUSHIONS…to a ballet!  Which of course annoyed the people behind them, and so they were told to stop using them.  Also the guy directly in front of me who I’m pretty sure was planning on stalking Carlos after the show (even I’m not that crazy), and the people in front of him who were leaning on the edge of the balcony, making it difficult for him to see, and he kept doing this side to side shifty game to see what was going on.  There was also some family that brought a little girl, approximately 5-6 years in age, which given Manon’s…debaucheristic (is that a word?) and risqué content, comes as a bit of a surprise.  And at the end, during the swamp pas de deux, some woman two seats over was crying hysterically, which is understandable because it’s quite a tragic scene for suresies, but she kept crying through the applause, the reverence, and even after the show was over.  Is it just me, or are audiences REALLY distracting sometimes?  There are days though, that I despise having a detail oriented mind.

So back to the dancing…I can’t think of more to comment on right now (plus my brain is exhausted), and Manon is a difficult ballet to really qualify.  Other then the aforementioned swamp pas de deux, it doesn’t have variations and such that you see in competitions with moves that you expect.  But that’s also the beauty of it…there were so many intricacies it’s a constant visual feast.  Even my dad, who knows nothing about ballet (as we were walking towards the shuttle after the show, he stretched his hand like a pointed foot and said to me “they walk like this!”) appreciated the seamlessness of it all, hence the glorious occasion in which he did not fall asleep (And on an unrelated note, he also said that ballet is definitely something you have to see live to appreciate…I’m actually proud of him for coming to that conclusion!).

As for everything else?  Set design?  Loved.  Costumes?  Loved.  Music?  Gorgeous.  And by the way, I love that it’s called the “swamp pas de deux”…it just sounds funny (and during that scene the fog machines were producing so much fog was rolling into the orchestra and some of the orchestra members were swatting at it so they could see their music.  Teehee)

Oh, and beautiful venue that Kennedy Center Opera House…for inspiration I’ll leave you with an image of its Austrian crystal ceiling (which according to the postcard I bought is comprised of over 130 crystal elements and 2000 light bulbs, and was made by Lobmeyr as a gift from Austria) and pictures of some of Suzanne Farrell’s costumes that are on display just outside the theater (costumes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “La Sonnambula” and the tutu from the Diamonds pas de deux of “Jewels” fame)

Austrian Crystal Chandelier in the Opera House

Austrian Crystal Chandelier in the Opera House

Costumes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and La Sonnambula

Costumes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and La Sonnambula

Tutu from Diamonds Pas de Deux

Tutu from Diamonds Pas de Deux

Hope that inspired you for the day! (or life)