Tag Archives: quadruple pirouette

Time for 2010

31 Dec

Seeing as how it’s time to ring in the New Year, it’s time for some kind of reflection.  Which, for perhaps the first time in my life is going to be relatively easy, because I’ve documented a great deal of the dance related significant events in this blog.  Normally, I can never remember anything, which is part of the reason why I wanted to start a blog in the first place.  It’s part of the double-edged sword when you’re the kind of person who has a lot of thoughts about a particular subject…you tend to forget a great deal of those ideas.  But no longer shall I cast them into the abyss!  So here are my thoughts on a few of things that made 2009 special for me.

1. Blogging

This was the year I started blogging.  It all began when at the beginning of the summer, I went to see the Bolshoi perform Le Corsaire and The Royal Ballet perform Manon in Washington DC.  Two major ballet companies within one week…it was a sweet deal.  Personally, although DC doesn’t have as frequent of performances as New York City, I think DC gets the better end of the arabesque because they get a much more interesting variety of companies.  Since NYC is almost monopolized by American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet, they don’t always get a lot of touring companies.  Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that…since between the two companies there’s a solid coverage of classics, contemporary works and of course nowhere else can you sate your hunger for the Balanchine repertoire to your heart’s content.  However, both ABT and NYCB make a pilgrimage to DC (I’m pretty sure they go at least once every year), and DC is virtually the only city that ever gets the Mariinsky, Bolshoi and Royal Ballet.  So while shows aren’t as frequent, I think the quality and variety say it all…blasphemous, perhaps, but I would pick DC as the best place for ballet in the US (thankfully, from DC, New York is just a hop skip and a step away anyway).

So much rambling and nothing to do with blogging…anyway, so I wanted to document the whole experience and did so.  I also joined twitter, even though at the time I really didn’t “get it,” and I figured a couple of my friends would read the blog and that would be that.  Little did I know, that would lead to the catalyst that changed everything.  Somehow, the Bag Ladies over at TheBalletBag found my post on Manon, twittered it and before I knew it, people were actually visiting, reading and more importantly enjoying the things I wrote.  I don’t know how they found my blog, although I really shouldn’t have been surprised considering they’re the oracles of the ballet world…know all, see all (and that’s not an exaggeration).  Regardless, I got a lot of fulfillment from the idea that people enjoyed my writing.  Back in high school, several teachers told me I wasn’t a very good writer and so I kind of assumed they were right.  Fast forward to college and I had professors tell me I had a gift to write.  At first I didn’t believe them, but slowly I got used to the idea and that was the moment it dawned on me why so many people say high school sucks…the majority of the things people tell you there is a load of crap.  So many thanks to the Bag Ladies for helping get my blog out there and to all my friends and readers…you have been a significant highlight for 2009!

2. Sir Frederick Ashton

This was the year I discovered Sir Frederick Ashton (for myself obviously…one doesn’t “discover” a deceased man who is already famous).   I used to think Balanchine was probably my favorite choreographer, but there’s a number of his works that I don’t dislike but don’t appeal to my nature.  Meanwhile, I have yet to meet an Ashton work I didn’t find equally (if not more) musical than Balanchine and Ashton had an amazing ability to incorporate comedy into his ballets.  I have liked all of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets thus far, with the exception of Romeo and Juliet (and I realize Ashton has done one as well) but I think MacMillan’s ballets have a certain sophistication that…eludes me?  But this doesn’t prevent me (nor should it prevent anyone else) from enjoying his work.  At any rate, I think Ashton was incredibly versatile, and what I love about some of his ballets is that they are very child friendly and yet they can also appeal to the inner child in every adult.  I love his simplicity, clever use of props…just everything about his vision of ballet.  Of course, Symphonic Variations has ascended into the upper echelon of my favorite ballets because it embodies everything I love to see in a dance (my post on Symphonic Variations was definitely one of my favorites of the year).  Heck, 2009 was worth it just for Symphonic Variations alone!  Steven McRae of the Royal Ballet said that dancing it was like a “religious experience”…well Mr. McRae, I can tell you that viewing it was just as spiritual for me (and I didn’t even see it live!).  Man I love Australians.

3. Quadruple pirouette

Hell, that speaks for itself.  Even if it ends up being a once in a lifetime experience, it was worth it.

4. Tamara Rojo

I love you.  That is all.

So what does 2010 hold in store?  Nobody knows for sure…I’m never good with long term planning and I try to allow for spontaneity as much as possible because the older I get the more I feel like planning turns people into these zombie denizens (aka “adults”) that have no sense of adventure in life.  Total buzz kill

However, I do have some exciting (well I think they’re exciting) plans for my blog next year.  I am thinking of doing interviews with dancers…professionals?  Probably not.  But I know a lot of people who dance or are involved with dance in some way and I truly believe everyone has an interesting story to tell even if they aren’t in the upper echelon of whatever it is they do.  I’d like to think that I’m just the right person for eliciting those stories and polishing it for other people to read (and if I can spin it into something funny, then everybody wins).  If I’m not that person…well, I may as well practice so that I can be.

I also will also be begging people for more guest posts.  My quasi-wife Erina, who is currently teaching in some city in France, wants to vacation in Paris when her contract is up at the end of the spring before coming home to the US (and possibly going back under a new contract…but that’s another story.  I wish I knew details, but apparently it’s difficult to get the internet in France).  It just so happens that her end date coincides perfectly with Paris Opera Ballet’s La Bayadere.  I’ve demanded that she go, that it’s an “almost once in a lifetime experience” and to write a review or response of some kind.  I’m really excited for her because she’s seen Pacific Northwest Ballet growing up, but POB is a different beast.  It should be interesting because she’s not really a dancer, or the balletomane who knows the technical jargon.  She has the opportunity to see the production through virtually unjaded eyes, which I find a fascinating prospect.  So hopefully we’ll have that to look forward to…I keep badgering her every chance I get.  I’m *this* close to buying a ticket for her to make sure she goes.

Of course I promise posts a plenty from meself and beyond that I feel so encouraged by the response to this blog, I decided to really pursue a long (but ideally short) term goal, which is to write and publish a novel.  Since I was little, I’ve always known that I wanted to write a book, got discouraged in high school but now I feel that I’m at a point in my life when I can really achieve this.  Personally I don’t think there’s enough dance related fiction out there and the novels that are out there are kind of…melodramatic or dull.  As with this blog I endeavor to write lighthearted entertainment.  Humor is the name of the game and if I can contribute to the dispelling of the image of snobbery in ballet and make it more approachable to the average person, I’d be thrilled.  So 2010…let’s make it happen.  I’m ready for you.  Almost (still lots of research to do!).

Seven Beauties: The Love Decagon

3 Dec

It’s official:  I’ve joined the quadruple pirouette club!  I was listening to Stevie Wonder and playing around the other day like I do, and noticed that my right arm kept coming forward in pirouettes, and so I said “well stop it.”  So then, my next attempt turned into this glorious quadruple pirouette that felt centered and supported and was doing everything just right.  The result wasn’t even an “almost there” quad, it was a GOOD quad.  I was so excited and tried again, which was a stupid idea because I haven’t been able to reproduce the phenomenon.  That may have been the only quadruple pirouette I ever do in my entire life, but I did it.  I SRSLY did it!  It’s funny though, how your concept of doubles and triples changes once you’ve achieved a quad.  The future is bright and the sun will surely come out tomorrow (well, maybe not in Ohio).

Anyway I’m jazzed and have a great but heinous post for today.  Great because the topic is neato, but heinous because I’m going to do a great injustice to it.  I’ve been wanting to write something on this somewhat obscure ballet that hails from Azerbaijan, however, to my chagrin there is virtually no information on the net that I could find.  Coincidentally (or not) I do not speak Azeri, so searching with the Azeri title wasn’t going to do much (although I did find a short Wikipedia entry…or as they call it Vikipediya).  I’ve been punching a few words into an Azeri-English dictionary with a little success, but it’s like lightning striking a needle in a haystack twice…I’m not making a lot of progress, although I did figure out how to Romanize some of the names, which will make things a little easier to read.  Unless you read Azeri, in which case why aren’t you writing this?

Anyway, so this ballet is Seven Beauties (Yeddi Gözəl), with the score by Gara Garayev (Qara Qarayev).  According to Garayev’s Wikipedia (no, not Vikipediya) entry, it’s a ballet that debuted with Azerbaijani Theater of Opera and Ballet in 1952, while Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union.  From what little I know, Garayev was one of the most famous composers to emerge in Azerbaijan during the Soviet era, and was a part of this explosion of classical music and the arts.  I actually found out about Garayev because I was interested in another composer at the time, Fikret Amirov, who I knew through his “symphonic mugam,” which have a really distinct Middle Eastern sound, but unlike many Western composers who might interpret a Middle Eastern feel, Amirov’s symphonic mugams are actually based on Azeri folk melodies.  Interestingly enough, Amirov also wrote music for a few ballets…but no information on those either and now I’m getting sidetracked.  Baku to Garayev, he wrote only two ballets, Seven Beauties and The Path of Thunder, the latter of which is apparently dedicated to racial conflict in South Africa.

See now this is why foreign ballets intrigue me.  I’m interested in the different myths and stories people have to tell in addition to variance in aesthetics applied to ballet technique.  Ballet could use a little (a lot of) de-westernization to make it interesting (this is not to say Azerbaijan is the only country to have done this!).  Why shouldn’t the ballet vocabulary be for use by all?  And in the case of Azerbaijani choreographers Rafiga Akhundova and Maksud Mamedov, accentuated by bent elbows, upturned palms and flexed wrists that tell the story of Nizami Genjavi’s famed poem.  Now there is a wee bit of murkiness here because Garayev’s biography says that the choreography was done by P.A Gusev, and Akhundova and Mamedov were actually leading soloists with the Azerbaijani State Opera and Ballet beginning in 1952 which is when Seven Beauties premiered (one of the highlights of their careers).  The version I watched is a film adaptation (produced thirty years after the stage debut) where they are indeed credited as the choreographers, so I don’t know if that means they restored the original and filled in the holes or made up their own choreography.  Your guess is as good as mine, but because the film version is the one I’m talking about, I’m going to maintain that they are the choreographers for the sake of simplicity.

Akhundova and Mamedov did adjust the libretto for the ballet, although the basic premise of the story is the same.  It’s centered around a Persian king, Bahram, who sees a painting of seven princesses from far off lands (the princesses are Indian/black, Roman or Turkish/yellow, from Kharazm/green, Slav/red, Moroccan/blue, Chinese/sandalwood, Iranian/white.  It’s a little inconsistent; in another version of the myth I found, the Roman princess was omitted, in another, the Chinese).  Enamored (and successfully distracted per his vizier’s plan) by their beauty, he seeks their hands and has seven domes built to each princess.  Each princess is represented by a color, a mood, and a planet (apparently Nizami wasn’t on board with Pluto being a planet either.  Seriously though, just to keep the facts straight, in the case of the astrology regarding Seven Beauties, the seven planets in question are Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus).  Bahram visits each princess on a specific day of the week and each teaches him a virtue (faith, serenity, passion, etc.).  So there is polygamy in this ballet which is treacherous territory, and especially difficult for Western audiences to digest.  Although I’m sure I’ll get slapped with arguments about misogyny (not that I disagree), I don’t think the ballet itself is in favor of polygamy, it’s just an expression of a poem that reflected the culture of the place and time.  Besides, I wonder if it’s kind of the “Scheherazade-effect” at work, where it takes a woman’s brains to mold the man.  I mean, Bahram is apparently kind of dopey and needs the wisdom of the seven princesses in order to become a worthy king (which to me says more about the faults of man then it does hatred of women).  It’s like that saying that it takes a village to make a man…except the village is unnecessary and really it just takes seven smart women.  At any rate, while Bahram is “learning things,” his vizier seizes the throne and the kingdom is thrown into disarray.  This is where Akhundova/Mamedov’s tinkering comes into play though.  They added the character of Aysha, a woman Bahram is already courting (or married to?  Who knows), and perhaps the vizier is jealous of both Bahram’s crown and his love.  When Bahram goes off on his quest, Aysha laments, but eventually Bahram realizes what he’s missing and hurries back to Aysha.  Perhaps that is Akhundova/Mamedov’s attempt at westernizing the story; rather than have the seven princesses as wives, they are almost deified into goddesses and Bahram eventually returns to his one true love.  But of course, it’s ballet and where there’s love there’s death so Aysha dies, Bahram’s kingdom doesn’t like him anymore and he kind of sulks off stage.  The end.

Anyway, it’s a miracle that this ballet is even on YouTube because it’s impossible to locate on DVD or even VHS, so be sure to check it out and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.  Do.   It seems that Les Ballets Persans, a company for which Akhundova/Mamedov are choreographers for (read their bio), presented a restaging of this in 2002.  So it is definitely in the current repertoire, but I hope that a major international company picks it up.  It’s just really unique and “exotic” (even though I hate that word) and I think could help broaden people to different ideas of classical ballet.  The ballet is in eleven parts, so I shall post the first, and then you can find the other links from there.

Seven Beauties – Part 1

If you don’t have the time (it’s over an hour), you should at the very least watch the waltz!  (part eight in the series)

And here are some of the cast details if you’re interested:

Braham………Vadim Gulyayev

Aysha………..Natalya Bolshakova

Vizier………..Gali Abaydulov

Don’t know who’s who for the beauties, but here are the names of six of them:

Vera Nekrasova, Tamilla Mamedova, Valentina Zeynalova, Svetlana Antonicheva, Irina Yelizarova, Lidiya Brodova

Oh and I forgot to add this, a clip from Les Ballets Persans more recent staging: