Thursday, November 06, 2008

American Ballet Theatre, Sun Oct. 31st (Part II)

(This is much later than I intended. Sorry about that. Crazy week.)

The pas de deux from "Romeo and Juliet" was a tease. It's lovely and understated, and while Gennadi Savaliev didn't do anything for me, I loved the choreography and it made me sad that it seems so decidedly unlikely that we'll be seeing the full thing any time soon. Chazin-Bennahum's description of the ballet made it even more disappointing not to be able to see the whole thing. About the scene we saw, Chazin-Bennahum writes:
Romeo's farewell to Juliet in her bedroom does not occasion a grand pas de deux. Rather, Tudor emphasizes their quite determination to remain together despite what would seem their imminent destruction. In the play, Juliet's haunting thoughts predict Romeo's fate: "Methinks I see thee now, thou art so low, As one dead in the bottom of a tomb." Here we see a Juliet dancing as if drawn with every movement to Romeo's being. And then her closeness centers her. Romeo falls to the floor; Juliet goes to him.
You can see a clip of Hugh Laing and Nora Kaye on ABT's Tudor site in what I thought was the most poignant part of the pas de deux.

I found her description of what I suppose you could describe the movement motif of the ballet even more intriguing. Here Chazin-Bennahum describes one of the opening scenes:
The stage promptly fills with Montagues and Capulets jousting and battling. Tudor gives the large male corps numerous jumps and beats in curious contrapuntal rhythms, and keeps the stage alive and in motion with beating jumps to second position, often in canon. The women's dresses flow this way and that as they kick their legs from one side to the other in pointed jetes and ballottes. They wear headpieces [. . .] and swing their skirts, one arm slung weightily across the stomach; they push into the hips with gliding steps. The whole stage seems to billow like a ship. Occasionally Tudor designed pictures in which several individuals executed different movements at the same time; this activity creates a slightly syncopated atmosphere and at the same time lends definition to different groups of people. The arms and hands were never afterthoughts in Tudor's work, especially not here. He not only used them as part of every movement, but also worked them into the spatial design of the patterns. It was important to Tudor, who had studied character and period dancing, to carry across the mood of an era, in this case the Reniassance style, with its push into the hips and tilt back for the gliding women and its oppositional and erect stance for the men.
What a shame that it apparently would be prohibitively expensive to resurrect.

The most entertaining information Chazin-Bennahum provides about "Judgment of Paris" is the critical reaction:
A critic in the Daily Telegraph complained that "Renewed acquaintance with 'Judgment of Paris' increases my astonishment that a theme so degraded and so sinister should be sponsored by a philanthropic and educational institution with the Archbishop of Canterbury as Chairman--but maybe this is an old-fashioned view.
So it was perhaps more shocking then, although the other critics she quotes appreciated the nasty humor and it's "acrid undercurrent of tragedy" (Lionel Bradley, again quoted by Chazin-Bennahum) more.

Also interesting was her quote from Agnes de Mille, in 1989:
Nobody's really done that hoop dance but me. Theres the least amount of movement in that dance! Every gesture is a satire of some other kind of bad dancing and I knew what Antony was satirizing. I became Duncan, of I became some other dance artist. With each one, there was a bad odor.

I don't know enough about dance to recognize those things though.

"Pillar of Fire" seemed to me to be the most similar to "Jardin aux Lilas," except in this ballet the emotions are not repressed but acted upon. That's too simple, of course. It was my favorite ballet of the evening, not least because I thought Gillian Murphy was so fabulous in the main role. The title is biblical and Chazin-Bennahum quotes Tudor explaining the title as such:
She was wandering around in a no-man's land, wasn't she an outcast? And something brought her into civilization. And guess what it was. A man? "You've got it."
Particularly interesting to me though, was her discussion of the music, "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night"). Schoenberg, Chazin-Bennahum explains, got his narrative from a poem by German poet Richard Dehmel (She states that the poem was called "Weib und die Welt" ("Woman in the World") but in fact it is "Verklärte Nacht" and Weib und Welt is the title of the collection it is from). She writes:
The poem, which was printed at the head of the score, tells of a man and a woman walking through a wood at night. She confesses she is pregnant, but her child will not be his, and she is tormented by guilt, as it is he whom she really loves. He comforts her, telling her to cast away her fears and that beccause of his love for her the child will become his. She feels redeemed by his love and forgiveness; as they walk on, the night becomes transfigured.
Tudor's story is different, but for me learning the story of the music--and I know nothing about music--added another dimension to that. You can read the poem here. I don't think it's a good translation because I think it reads pretty horribly in English but so it goes. You can also listen to the music here.

No comments: