My review follows...but first a few general comments
The company has improved greatly, even in the two years I've been in Scotland. And I am thrilled to see them performing Balanchine - we're ready and they're ready. But, I have to admit that, in light of the company being stronger in women than men, the choice of "Apollo" and "Rubies" was intriguing.
I would have loved to see Paul Liburd as Apollo - though I certainly trust in the company to pick casting that is appropriate to the needs of the ballets and the dancers. And Erik Callavari certainly was physically perfect for the role, and did a good job. Unfortunately I think that the Playhouse setting really dampened "Apollo" - with just four dancers for most of the piece, it needs an intimate theatre with proper sightlines in order to appreciate the shapes of the choreography. It's not a ballet that works well when you're lower than the stage or at a great angle.
I think "Episodes" was the best at showing off the company - it was in this ballet that the dancers really looked cool, collected and powerful. And that was a joy to see.
"Rubies" was a better fit for the Playhouse, but was very odd to see without the accompanying set, which would probably have given it a bit more context. Yet, the contrast of the bright red, sparkly costumes against the blue backdrop brought gasps and applause from the audience. (Though I'll admit that these are probably my least favorite of Karinska's costumes - those tunics flatter almost no male physique.)
Eva Mutso was truly the MVP of the evening appearing in all three ballets - and looking more powerful with each ballet. I do hope though, that in future peformances, casting will be more varied so one dancer does not carry so much of the rep.
August 26, 2005
On Friday, the Scottish Ballet returned to the Edinburgh Festival after an absence of nearly two decades with a solid, if not spectacular, Balanchine programme. The trio of ballets, all staged by former New York City Ballet dancer Patricia Neary, represent nearly forty years of Balanchine's choreographic career, from the very early "Apollo" (1928), to "Episodes" (1959) and the later "Rubies", a part of the full length ballet "Jewels" (1967). Tackling such an ambitious programme on the International Festival stage was a daring step for the Scottish Ballet, but one that has mostly paid off.
Originally choreographed for the Ballets Russes, the neo-classical "Apollo" is one of Balanchine's earliest ballets, and his first major collaboration with the composer Igor Stravinsky. The ballet begins with the birth of the young sun god Apollo, and follows his capers with the three muses, Terpsichore, Polyhymnia & Calliope.
Spinning out of his swaddling cloth in flurry of pirouettes, Erik Cavallari was a physically appealing and kinetic Apollo, but his restrained performance suggested that he was still at the stage of focusing on the steps, and working on putting them together in a cohesive whole. Thus the powerful stage presence that Apollo needs was not present. The three muses, Eve Mutso, Soon Ja Lee and Claire Robinson, also had an unfinished quality to their dancing, with steps and shapes not fully defined. Yet, if the dancers can develop into the roles over time as well as they have with "Four Temperaments", the best is definitely yet to come.
The ballet also was not ideally suited to the vastness of the Playhouse, the intimate details and contrast of the bodies against the blue backdrop blurred in the distance between audience and dancers. Most unfortunate was the near invisibility of the famous pose of the three muses in arabesque, supported by Apollo, due both to the angle between audience & stage and the positioning of the dancers. The ballet should find more suitable settings when the company goes on tour to smaller theatres in the fall.
"Episodes", which followed, is the remaining part of a ballet that combined the choreographic talents of Balanchine and fellow dance legend, Martha Graham, and the music of Anton Webern. Today, only Balanchine's portions are performed, the first section, Symphony, Opus 21, typical of his 'leotard ballets'. The women in black, belted leotards, the men in black tights and white tops, there is nothing to draw the eye from the angular steps, and men's deft manipulations of the women. In Symphony, as well as the final two sections, Concerto and Ricercata, the company oozed confidence and power. Where there might not have been total synchronization in arms, there was a noticeable and effective unity of style and focus. Very impressive was Paul Liburd in the Ricercata, who with his years in the Rambert Dance Company seems well suited to the more neo-classical steps and accents that are typical of Balanchine's choreography
A complete contrast from the rest of the ballet, the second section, set to 5 Pieces, Opus 10, is a off-beat, wry pas de deux. The woman's white leotard stands out in the spotlight, while the man's full black unitard blends with the shadows. Balanchine plays with this contrast of light and dark, male and female, wrapping his dancers around each other, at one point the woman is flipped upside down, her bent legs sticking out above her partner's head. As the woman, Eve Mutso demonstrated the flexibility, strength and precision that made her the standout of the evening.
Though a crowd pleaser, the glittering "Rubies" was more a demonstration of where the company can go, not its current level. For reasons probably either financial and/or technical, the company chose to perform the ballet without the set - Karinska's ruby red, fake-jewel encrusted tunics and dresses a slightly odd contrast with the plain backdrop.
That oddity aside, the dancers zipped through technically challenging, but often playful choreography. Here Balanchine combines classical partnering and corps work, with giddy 'jogging' steps for the men. The standout was clearly Eve Mutso as the solo female - her long legs slicing the air in the vertical splits and her dancing crisp and spicy. Cristo Vivancos and Claire Robertson, however, were underpowered as the lead couple. A solid partner for Robertson, Vivancos lacked refinement and polish in his dancing: though his height in the jumps was impressive, the positions lacked stretch, pointed feet and crispness.
The corps was sprightly, but the men didn't look completely convincing in the jogging steps, which much be done without the slightest self consciousness so as to not look 'cutesy', nor were they always up to the technical demands. However, like the female corps, they continue to improve with every performance. It was an enjoyable finale for the evening, while it was proof the the company is ready for the challenges of Balanchine, it also reveals where there is still is much work to be done, notably in the male contigent.
Nicholas Kok conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with Simon Crawford playing the solo piano section of Stravinky's score for "Rubies".
Last edited by ksneds on Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.