Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Balanchine-Tchaikovsky Spectacular

I meant to write about this last week but I was wrapped up in packing for a camping/hiking trip and then I was actually on the trip and time just got away from me. Of course now I'm trying to get in shape for four days of backpacking with my sister the hiking machine next month. I actually went for a run today, which I can tell you is nowhere near a regular occurrence. But anyway, on to talking about people who are far more fit than I'll ever be . . .

This seemed to me like a program put together with marketing in mind as opposed to audience enjoyment. Which isn't to say that each of the ballets isn't a pleasure in and of themselves, but that there was a certain sameness to them and I was longing for a bit more variety. There were two ballets I'd seen before ("Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" and "Theme and Variations") and two I hadn't ("Allegro Brillante" and "Mozartiana") and perhaps my preference for the two I'd seen previously had something to do with a greater level of familiarity. But I think it also had to do with the performances. 

I normally like Gillian Murphy a great deal but in "Allegro Brillante" she and Ethan Stiefel left me a bit cold. It's so fast and the architecture of the dance is interesting, but it didn't seem like much fun somehow. There they were, doing the steps with their usual proficiency and looking a little bit like they were ticking off boxes on a form. It was refreshing then, to see Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes look like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. They brought a spontaneity and sense of fun to "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" that fit well with its flash and showoff-y quality. Also the first time I saw this ballet I whined about the costume for the man, so I guess I should say that I dislike ABT's costume far less. (Granted, they make up for  that with "Theme and Variations," but more on that later.)

I'm conflicted about "Mozartiana" though. I think Veronika Part is an absolutely gorgeous dancer: She has beautiful lines and is so musical. And it's nice to see such a womanly looking ballerina. But I think I need to see the ballet again because the first time around it didn't make much of an impression but at the same time I think it's a ballet I could work my way into as a viewer. 

My favorite ballet of the night though, was "Theme and Variations." I'd never particularly enjoyed Michelle Wiles's dancing, so I'm very glad that I did this time around (although I do feel like she'd benefit from dancing with someone who doesn't look like he could be her twin--a little contrast would be nice). And David Hallberg was wonderful, but that won't be news to anyone who has seen him dance. This looked so much nicer and more expansive and impressive on the big Met stage than it did at City Center.

What I don't understand though is why the ballet world feels the need to dress men up so they look like like, for example, a watermelon that's been attacked by a bedazzler. As in the pictures below.
David Hallberg, etc. from this New York Times slideshow
Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane from this New York Times slideshow

Now, I'm not saying there's something wrong with a man being dressed up in a tacky, glittery outfit per se. But when the role is that of a noble cavalier I don't think it particularly works; at the very least it isn't in keeping with modern sensibilities. And as such it only serves to emphasize the museum piece quality that so much ballet has. Isn't this a problem? Is it really so hard to manage costumes that aren't silly?

Oh well. The next ABT performance I'm going to is the All-Prokofiev evening, which I'm very much looking forward to. 

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