Tag Archives: corella 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…).

A Heart to Heart

13 May

I’m ashamed to admit it’s been quite a while since my last entry, and that for the past couple of months the writing has been sparse.  I don’t like sob stories—but even I have to admit defeat and say that I had my reasons.  I do like to put my personality into my writing, but not my drama (unless it’s funny) and to say that things have been an emotional roller coaster is merely scratching the surface (unless that roller coaster went to the moon) because I constantly found myself scrambling to accomplish something, and yet I could never discern what the goals were, or worse, what the purpose was.  There were times when I succumbed to what I believe would be deemed depression, which I thought that at this point in my life I was mostly invulnerable to.  Every day I still found things to smile about, but covering up isn’t coping and I had become very good at fooling myself.  Though I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a comedian, I think I understand that stereotype of comedians being the saddest people.  Of course, a stereotype is just that, a blanket generalization that never describes everyone who identifies with a particular label, but for a time, I was having a sad phase and gained some perspective.

What happened?  Well, months ago I was unemployed and had been for a while, and the floodgates opened at some point in my mind, because I became increasingly stressed with concerns about my future.  Then all of a sudden I was offered a job working at a grocery store, starting as a “service clerk” at the bottom of the food chain (which by the way, bagging groceries is beneath no one) and receiving minimum wage.  It wasn’t long after that I was offered a second job at a quick service restaurant, with promises of better pay and number of hours.  I was incredibly relieved, not to mention amazed that for once, I had options!  I decided to go with the latter and began planning my life around that choice, but things got off to a rocky start, because the number of hours was not what I was initially told, and after a month I was laid off.  Well, technically I’m still “employed,” just “on call” now…unfortunately, rent and bills are not “on call” and I was thrown into the pit of despair again.  Let me tell you, it is hard to have a sense of security dangled in front of you, to have a taste, and then have it snatched away in such a short period of time.  It is also hard to return to the idea of sending out resumes and filling out job applications, because rejection by the majority of them can make one feel rather inadequate and worse, incapable.

On top of that, I didn’t get the Dance Critics Association scholarship I applied for, to attend this year’s conference (which is coincidentally being held in Seattle), discussing ballet reconstruction in tandem with PNB’s new production of Giselle.  More recently, I also came down with a really nasty sinus infection and was rendered incapable of doing just about anything (though like a zombie, I dragged myself to an open job interview at Chipotle…I felt really pretty).  I’ve also been dealing with dyshidrotic eczema on my right hand, which is often stress induced for me.  It’s been a vicious cycle with no end in sight, with people sending me their best wishes and encouragement, which I am so grateful for.  However, it was virtually impossible to find any inspiration to write because I had so many things weighing heavily on my heart (and my sinuses…good grief, it felt like a watermelon was growing in my forehead. Thankfully, I’m much less congested now!).

Despite utter misery, today I think I’ve found clarity, and feel a familiar glimmer inside, a little beacon of hope that’s telling me I’m coming home to myself.  A month ago I applied for a job at ABT, a complete long shot to be a Press Associate and while I’m consumed with oscillating between optimism and pessimism, I am getting something out of the process.  Reading the criteria, I realized that it is my dream job…something I haven’t said or felt since elementary school when I wanted to be a baker/marine biologist (yes, both at the same time—I have yet to achieve such ambitiousness since).  The skills and duties of the position were just one after another striking a chord with me and even my mother, who is probably the biggest skeptic I know (given, she also knows how many times I changed majors in college) said “this sounds perfect for you.”  She’s right—ballet is all I think about and it doesn’t matter that I discovered it at twenty-four instead of four…it’s where my soul belongs and I need to be a professional in the field.  Karena even mentioned to her husband that I’m a bigger classical ballet nerd than she is, and this is coming from a former professional ballet dancer, who has done everything from dancing Serenade, performed Dark Elegies as a part of receiving her Masters degree, and was so distraught by Lacotte’s La Sylphide she simply turned it off.  To me, it is a complement of the highest praise.

Writing about dance, selling it to new audiences, connecting with people via social media…it’s exactly what I need to be doing and finding out that it’s possible to have a career doing this is exactly what I needed to know.  I’m convinced there is no greater gift than to know that there is something in the world for you to do, something that you can be passionate about and say those rare but beautiful words: “I love my job.”  I don’t know how I’m going to get there just yet, but I’m sinking my pit-bull teeth into this dream of mine.  For the time being, I am simply going to do what I do best, which is continue to write about dance, discuss it with all of you, and keep it relevant to the world because even in my not so spectacular hour, the arts uplift my spirits.  I always say that I hate moping, and I’m done with it myself…sure, my finances are a catastrophe but I also have things to look forward to, like writing a SeattleDances review of Corella Ballet next week.  I’ve been so dreadfully gloomy for so long I almost forgot that was coming up and it’s almost here!  I’ve also got some DVD reviews in queue and who knows what else…I go where the wind takes me, and I’m just glad to feel creativity in my veins again.

I’m getting there…I’ve missed you, readers!