Posts Tagged ‘Jerome Robbins’

Deal – half price tickets for Mariinsky’s Balanchine/Robbins program at Royal Opera House

July 21, 2011

Their Swan Lake has sold out, but the Mariinsky Ballet can still be enjoyed – at half price! – with a great deal from Lastminute.com on their Balanchine/Robbins program. It’s the same awesome dancers doing work by two of the best choreographers of the 20th Century – well, THE best choreographer and then another top one. Show details (from the Royal Opera House website) are as follows: Scotch Symphony and Ballet Imperial, Balanchine: Into the Night, Robbins. Dancers include Evgenia Obraztsova and Uliana Lopatkina on Thursday and Anastasia Matvienko on Friday. Now, LastMinute is ONLY selling the “top price” tickets (at £49 and £46) … but when they’re as cheap as the balcony seats were, how can you say no? Anyway, go to Lastminute.com to buy, and remember, when they sell out, they will be sold out!

Review – Carlos Acosta – Apollo and Other Works (Faun, New Apollo, Suite of Dances, Apollo) – Sadler’s Wells

December 3, 2009

Last night’s Carlos Acosta show was the weakest solo outing this Royal Ballet star has had to date. I can understand that over the course of the three years since I have been watching him that his body might be changing and he might no longer be capable of the spectacular leaps and spins of the Spartacus solos; but this show even avoided the imaginative programming that was the saving grace of his similarly sold-out summer Coliseum performance, leaving us with cold leftovers for dinner.

What we did get was an “Apollo” he performed as part of another Acosta highlights evening some three years ago that showed off his strengths (his incredible partnering skills make him the ideal Balanchine male lead) as well as his torso (in a skimpy toga). We also got a perfectly danced Robbin’s “Afternoon of a Faun,” in which he stretched gorgeously and, as near as I can tell, identically to the way he did this piece with Royal Ballet two years ago. Do these ballets show him as a sexy guy? Yes. Did they push him as a dancer? I think not.

The third work*, Robbin’s “Suite of Dances,” just seemed, again, a lazy choice. It was performed to a butchered Bach’s cello suite in which the playing got so insufferably bad at the end my friend thought the cellist had snapped a string: please fire Natalie Chen now. The first of the suites was joyful and an incredible chance to see musical perfection expressed by the human body; but as the piece wore on, with time filled by skipping and booty-shaking, I began to wonder just what this was doing in the middle of what I was expecting to be a male dance spectacular. Surrounded by two fiery works, it would have been fine; but given that most of what he did was pose, lift, and stretch in both of the other pieces, “Dances” was an utter letdown and basically represented what was wrong with the evening.

Look at this great dancer with his spectacular form, unusual background, and remarkable ability to pack a house. I would expect choreographers would be fighting to create original work for him, but I saw nothing of the sort** in this extremely short program (finished at about 9:15PM), and he didn’t even give us the pleasure of pulling from his Ballet Nacional de Cuba experiences to round out the show and broaden our horizons. Carlos, if you can’t do Spartacus or the “Dance of the Golden Idol” anymore – and based on your summer show I think that’s not yet true – can you at least spare some effort show us something new***?

*Performed in the middle of the show, mind you, but certainly third in terms of quality.

**Yes, there was one original work but Adam Hougland’s “Young Apollo” wasn’t even danced by Acosta. I don’t mind him not dancing in everything but I’d think he’d take on the new piece for himself.

***Rather than just showing off your body. Yeah, you’re built, I get it, but seriously, it’s getting to be a bit of a joke that I go to see a Carlos Acosta show and it’s like Chippendales with classical music.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009. The show is sold out but it’s not really worth getting bothered about if you can’t get a ticket – if you’ve been before, you’ve already seen it all.)

Review – West Side Story – Sadler’s Wells (New Victoria Theatre, Milton Keynes Theatre, The Lowry, The New Wimbledon Theatre, etc.)

August 18, 2008

(Note: this show has now moved to New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Tuesday 2 through Saturday 13 September 2008, from whence it will be at Milton Keynes, The Lowry in Salford and then The New Wimbledon Theatre – even Glasgow and Cardiff.)

As a big fan of the American musical, I was determined to add West Side Story to my “seen” list – and not a cheesy high school production or a remount of the movie, but something very much like the version that’s at Sadler’s Wells right now (and through August 31st, after which it’s touring, including a two week visit to the New Wimbledon Theatre starting October 14th). It’s billed as the 50th anniversary version and “very true to the original choreography,” so I figured it was going to really to give me an opportunity to judge this show in its purest form. Does it deserve to rank with the best of the best, or was it just a 50s flash in the pan that people cling on to because of the Romeo and Juliet connection? Old chestnut or classic? There was only one way to find out … and on Friday, Katie and J and I headed out to Get Experienced.

As it turns out, this show is rather painfully popular and nearing the end of its run, so, as a blogger, I don’t consider it worth my while to spend a thousand words talking about it. You’ve either got tickets or you weren’t going to go (though perhaps you’ll go see it in New Wimbledon). I found it … well, fun, really! Jerome Robbins is a great choreographer, and the initial fight choreography was high energy and a blast to watch. The dancers were totally on form, and I had to think actually better than they would have been in the 50s – although (I think) there were way many performers to choose from back then, technique has really moved forward, and I felt like Joey McKneely’s version had a likely better execution than the original might have had. (Not that one can replace Chita Rivera, but …)

So … the music. Wow, the music was really dated, in a way I found occasionally painful. Xylophones, bizarre not-quite-melodic songs … West Side Story‘s score sounded like it was blended from some record of 50s exotica and more experimental opera of the era. Only a few of the songs were hummable, and “Tonight” was not! This left “America” and “I Feel Pretty” as the only songs I could remember after the show. The other songs were interesting and moved the narrative forward, but weren’t … well, let’s say I won’t be buying the soundtrack and singing them to myself (or an audience of amused strangers).

The set: good, very flexible, nice use of projections (shock!), kept the attention focused on the actors but still did a good job of creating the different “scenes” (the balcony scene, with “Romeo” climbing up the fire escape ladder, was especially cute).

The accents: for once, they were GOOD. Maria had an honest, fresh from a Spanish-speaking homeland young woman, and didn’t sound forced, but rather very much real. This was a huge relief to me (and based on her name I think she was probably not pushing herself too much to get it right). The rest of the performers – not once did I have my “Good God, why can’t English actors do American accents?” button pushed. Were they all Americans? I didn’t read the program (too busy watching the show), so who knows, but what they were was competent and believably American or Puerto Rican.

What does this leave? The acting and the story. Who would think that by coming to London I would have suddenly been put into a frame of mind where young toughs getting into a knife fight would become much more poignant rather than quaint (in America, we just expect street toughs to shoot each other). So when we got to the climactic knife fight, which seemed like a bit of a throwaway in Romeo and Juliet, it became so much more – young kids throwing their lives away for a stupid sense of pride in a way that meant more than it did in R&J (rich fools duelling, not very sympathetic) and very much seemed like “look, nothing’s changed.” And Tony’s role is very different – he’s a nice guy trying to break things up, he’s a completely sympathetic character. Maybe it’s a bit unrealistic that he would fall in love with a girl he only just saw at a dance, but once the fight happens, far more so than in a tale of star cross’d lovers, Tony and Maria really and truly to seemed to have no chance in the world of keeping their relationship together in a world where no one, really, wants to see them succeed.

How was the acting, though? I think it all comes down to this: we all knew how it was going to end, right? And yet way up there in the second balcony, the second balcony, mind you (where I could afford seats), I could here scores of people sniffling at the end – reserved old English people having a cry about the tragic end of what could have been a beautiful romance. And me, uh, I had some dust in my eyes and my contacts were dry, okay?

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, August 15th, 2008. Performances continue through the 31st of August though it’s mostly sold out, but, hey, if you just want a single, you can always call the day of and get a return ticket. More information on the official “West Side Story 50th Anniversary Production website. This show will be touring for a while so you have many chances to catch it still!)

Review of “Dances at a Gathering” (Jerome Robbins) – Royal Ballet – Royal Opera House

June 10, 2008

Last night while J was in his French class, W and I headed to the Royal Opera House to see Jerome Robbin’s “Dances at a Gathering.” Both of us were pretty worn out from a long day at work, but with 6 quid day seats, we thought we’d give it a go and just see the first part of the show (the second half, a Midsummer Night’s Dream-based ballet by Frederick Ashton, just didn’t interest me much). We met first for dinner at Inn Noodle, then walked over to Covent Garden in the lovely summer evening.

The ballet was lovely, full of the humor that I expect from Robbins, and the music, by Chopin, was a treat to listen to. While I expected Marianela Nunez (as “Pink”) was going to be the be the star of the evening, it was in fact Tamara Rojo (as “Mauve”) whose performance I enjoyed the most. In one scene, late in the ballet, three men, backs to the audience, are holding three women, facing forward, on their shoulders and Ms. Rojo’s leg arched up just so, an absolutely perfect curving line the other women seemed a bit too tired to emulate. But, really, each of the dancers was a pleasure: “Brown” (Johan Kobborg) and “Brick” (I think – Sergei Polunin if it was) had a great duel (and Brown’s solo near the end of the evening was spectacular), and “Green” (Lauren Cuthbertson) had a wonderful bit as an ignored dance partner, fluttering and flailing and just hamming it up like you think ballerinas could never do.

Part of what I enjoy so much about Robbins is the way each dancer seems to have a personality and character – the dancers aren’t bodies on stage, they are performers with relationships to each other. They flirt, they are shy, they show off, they challenge each other, they are irritated. Watching this show was so fun that I couldn’t help compare it to some of the shows I’d seen earlier in the Linbury this year. It’s probably not fair to compare the dancers of the Royal Ballet, performing choreography by Robbins, to about anything else, but, well, they were great and at the top of the pack, surely a standard by which to judge others. It was a good evening, though I was grateful to have decided to leave early as I was just plain worn out and wanted to get to bed before 11:30.

A special callout to Paul Stobart, who filled in as the piano soloist at the last minute. How he was ever able to figure out the proper timing of the pieces on such short notice is beyond me, but he very much deserved the applause he got at the end of the evening!

(This review is for a performance that took place on June 10th, 2008.)

Royal Ballet Mixed Rep: Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” Balanchine’s “Zigane” and … something by Wheeldon

March 26, 2008

Last night I went to Covent Garden with Josela and Mabel_Morgan to see the mixed bill on offer. I hadn’t initially been too tempted, as I have yet to see a dance incorporating video that I’ve liked; but when I read that Carlos Acosta was going to be strutting his stuff AND there would be a Jerome Robbins piece, I was sold – especially when I realized I could get Ye Olde 5 quid day of show tickets. Color me shallow, not in the least because I decided I could leave without seeing the last performance (by Ashton, who’s still very “whatever” in my book) and then have some much needed time to pack. Oh well, I guess they wouldn’t have two intermissions if they didn’t want to let us leave without disturbing everyone else.

So, the Wheeldon – “Electric Counterpoint,” brand new and all, only on its fifth performance. Can I mention the night started extremely well, thanks to getting a free, bad-work-memory-erasing, second round of margaritas at Wahaca? Anyway, music credited to Bach and Reich – I was happy about that. But. Oh, the but. The dancers each came on stage for little solos, accompanied by some Bach and their own voices speaking about how they felt about dance and while dancing, while a video of him/her performed behind on a screen, sometimes mirroring them, sometimes illustrating what they were saying. It wasn’t bad, the dance and the video, but the movement was uninteresting (sadly on both parts) and the voiceovers were vapid. I mean, gosh, I’m sure the dancers are nice people, but all of it was a distraction from the dance, and the dance wasn’t good. Mabel said the whole thing reminded her of “Creature Comforts,” a TV show (I was told) in which normal people answer questions and their answers are then reproduced as claymation. Horribly, I think she was right.

The second half of the piece benefited from having nothing but the live Reich to listen to, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t have a lot of energy or excitement – a quality sadly shared by the action on stage. I’ve seen Wheeldon do good couple work, and there were some moments when I got lost watching two people just dancing with each other, but mostly I just had no response to the performance at all. The videos weren’t always aggravating and I was mostly able to ignore them, but … it just seemed like a big failure to me, one of those pieces that will get revived one more time and then fall out of rep. So it goes.

Next up was Jerome Robbins “Afternoon of a Faun,” which, to my surprise, I realized I had seen before the one time we’d seen City Ballet in New York. It’s a clever play on the traditional story, with a sexy dancer lounging about in a studio, but to be honest what I really want to see is the original choreography. I aslo wanted it to be longer. And I wanted a pony.

Finally it was time for “Zigane,” a Balanchine piece I’d not seen before. It was kind of fun and certainly better than the Martins I’d seen the night before, but in no way mindblowing – fun, well-executed filler that he probably crapped out at a nickle for the dozen back in the day. We all left together; if I’m going to be convinced of the genius of Ashton, it’s far more likely to happen at Sylvia than during a short work.

(This review was for a performance that took place Wednesday, March 19th, 2007.)

Spring Dance at the Coliseum – City Ballet’s “Four Voices: Wheeldon, Martins, Bigonzetti, Ratmansky” Program – London Coliseum

March 19, 2008

Last night’s performance of City Ballet was a great chance to sample the work of several newer choreographers. The first piece was by Christopher Wheeldon, formerly in residence at City Ballet and now working with his own company and the Ballet Boyz to keep ballet relevant for modern audiences. His “Carousel” was a homage to the great musical of the same name, but, when stripped down to a few themes and clumsily illustrated with dancers carrying poles and moving in circles, it just seemed … watery. The girl was lonely, the man was arrogant, there were overtones of can-can girls and seediness in some of the group scenes … but it was hard to care. It made me briefly think that a danced “Lear” would be nice, then I remembered his “Elsinore” and I thought, nah, Wheeldon just doesn’t seem to get emotional connection and the kind of stuff that makes you invest in a story. Oh well. Maybe Matthew Bourne will give it a try.

Next up was a little frippery of a Russian piece, Peter Martin’s “Zakousi,” a duet complete with big boots and sparkly “Ballet Imperiale” glitz (for the woman). But that was the end of the glittery and wow. Instead of stylish pyrotechnics on stage and the showy, over the top style I’ve come to love from the Bolshoi, this was watered down and whingy. It was like some horrible fusion cuisine that eliminated all of the spices “to better suit the locale palate.” Fortunately it was short.

The highlight of the evening was next; a piece by Mauro Bigonzetti, an Italian choreographer who counts Balanchine and Forsythe among his influences. “In Vento,” it was called, which while it might mean “in the wind” (I think), to me also seemed appropriately misheard as “inventive”. I could see it, too, in the harsh poses of the women (with arms over their heads, like birds of prey, and their costumes, very Forsythe) and the very complex and yet smooth twining of a pas de quatre a la Balanchine. But his four were men, and he had them rolling onto each others’ arms, then being picked up and carried backwards with the combined strength of their numbers; and both sexes posed, angular and angrily, in a way I somehow found very Italian. It was a great showcase for the athletic skills of the troupe, and even found time to be tender and vulnerable. I’ll be looking for his work again.

The final bit was “Russian Seasons” by Alexie Ratmansky. The funny turban hats made this look more ethnically Russian, but what was very cool was the singing (by Irina Rindzuner) – the kind of strange, rising up at the end female vocals I associate with the Hungarian women’s choirs. This dancing was much more … I don’t know, unselfconsciously Russian than the Martins piece. It really seemed to tell different stories, with the people (five couples?) taking care of each other, ignoring each other, falling apart … it was enjoyable to watch but I think somewhere around the last fifteen minutes or so I just got worn out and gave up the ghost. It was fine, it just wasn’t … energetic enough. And it was too long.

So for a balletomane like me, this was a good night out, as I’m always hoping to find a good new choreographer and they are few and far between. Seeing this backed right up against the Jerome Robbins night like I did really reminded me of how there’s really a special something that makes a choreographer great – and while a lot of people might spend time with dancers, very few of these people will ever really achieve greatness.

(This review was for a performance the night of Tuesday, March 18th, 2008. Casting was as follows: TUESDAY EVENING, MARCH 18, 7:30 P.M.
(Conductor: Karoui)
CAROUSEL (A DANCE): Peck, Woetzel
pause
ZAKOUSKI: Borree, Hübbe+
IN VENTO: *Reichlen, Millepied, Fowler
RUSSIAN SEASONS: Krohn, Whelan, Rutherford, Evans)

Spring Dance at the Coliseum – City Ballet’s Jerome Robbins Program – London Coliseum

March 13, 2008

Tonight was an evening I’ve been anticipating since August (yes, I am that much of a geek), when I first heard that City Ballet was coming to London as a part of the Spring Dance at the Coliseum program (which is 85% City Ballet). It’s part of the reason I didn’t go to New York for Easter – I couldn’t see them while I was there, so why bother leaving town when I could just sit on my duff and see them here?

Anyway, tonight was the all Jerome Robbins program, and it was GREAT. The first piece was … oh man, it was like that first time you heard an album you’d been listening to on your grungy old boom box for years, and then suddenly you’re getting to experience it on a CD on a good stereo, and you’re all amazed because it’s ten times better and you’d never noticed there were strings and stuff in the background, and you can hear the singer breathing? Yeah, that was the first piece, “The Four Seasons,” with an utterly fantastic faun in the Autumn scene. I actually got caught up in the movement of fabric in the spring bit because it so vibrantly captured the energy of the dancer. And the winter scene was clever and funny! Who would think it would take Americans to bring wit to ballet? It sure seemed to shake up the night.

The second piece (Moves) was done without music, and I think it kind of freaked the audience out a bit (the woman behind me asked, “Where’s the conductor?”). It was basically a piece about performing, very self-reflexive in a kind of 1970s way, with moves I associated more with William Forsythe than something so much older. A scene in the couples section reminded me of Monet’s multiple studies of cathedrals and haystacks – showing how having different people interact changes the movement that is possible. The third piece, “The Concert,” was pure comedy of the “Look behind you!” variety and the audience laughed their heads off (ballet does lend itself to being made fun of, really) – a real crowd pleaser after the more strenuous piece that proceeded it.

Now I am so excited that I want to go see them again on Sunday even though I’m already going to see them on Tuesday. I just hope I can get someone to go with me (and that I can afford tickets). Sure, it’s Balanchine, and I’ve seen all those pieces again, but THIS time it will be perfect. Aaaaaaah. I love it.

(This was a review for a show on Thursday, March 13th, 2008. Casting was as follows: THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 13, 7:30 P.M.
Conductor: Kaplow
THE FOUR SEASONS: JANUS: Fowler; WINTER: J. Peck, M. Fairchild, Hendrickson, Carmena; SPRING: Gilliland, Mearns, J. Angle;
SUMMER: Shepherd, Rutherford, Hanna; FALL: Seth, Bouder, Millepied, Ulbricht
MOVES: Krohn, J. Angle
THE CONCERT: Hyltin, Higgins, Piskin, Laracey, Pazcoguin, Veyette, Muller, Laurent, Peiffer, J. Peck )

Reviews – Ramayana (Lyric Hammersmith) and American Ballet Theater mixed rep (La Bayadere, Drink to Me Only, Fancy Free – Sadler’s Wells)

February 15, 2007

Last night we went to see The Ramayana at the Hammersmith Lyric. J thought it was much more “on” as a high-fairy-tale show than His Dark Materials and hit the notes right. I liked its imaginative set and use of theatrical devices to convey literal impossibilities (i.e. someone jumping across an ocean). It seemed a bit dry, though; the costumes seemed a bit on the cheap or something. And, to tell the truth, in this age in which religious intolerance is running so high, I found the constant slamming of “them dirty godless (Buddhist) materialists down south” grating, and was pretty well mortified when Sita immolated herself at the end to prove to her heartless husband her love for him stayed true no matter what had happened to her body. Thinking of all the women burned on pyres in the practice of “suttee” just depressed me. That said, overall a very good show, and since first week’s tickets were £9, also a great deal if you like watching these kind of stylized stories on stage.

Tonight was what was supposed to be our Valentine’s day date, a trip to see American Ballet Theater at Sadler’s Wells. (I got the dates wrong so I wound up seeing two shows instead – naughty me, huh?) It was a three-part show, with La Bayadere (guy goes to the land of the shades to dance with his girlfriend – very 1870, pretty with white tutus), a Mark Morris piece (“Drink to me Only,” lighter with better movement) and Jerome Robbin’s classic Fancy Free, a typical end-the-show-hoot with boys in sailor suits flirting with saucy 40s girls, complete with high kicks and purse fights. We enjoyed the evening but someone’s still got some jet lag and, er, someone else can feel the long day at work and previous late night slowing her down.

(The Ramayana was seen February 14th, 2007 and the American Ballet was seen February 15th, 2007.)