I saw the Sunday show (Tsiskaridze dancing the teacher) at OCPAC, and I did not enjoy the show. Wheeldon's new piece, "For 4", exemplified what was wrong: the show was an empty candy shell, promising so much within its sweet shell but disappointingly empty, even bitterly soulless. Wheeldon creates such beautiful movement and arrangements, but in the end his work didn't really tell me anything new in exchange for sitting through it: I didn't gain any new insight or appreciation in the music, for example.
And so it went on like that for the rest of the show: some beautiful, and some unfortunately questionable material, but all ultimately irrelevant. The classical male variations, the core of the male ballet dancing repertoire, were given short shrift by being videotaped, danced in warm-up clothes, and edited to just the tricks. Yes, they're mostly about the tricks, but if shown incomplete, they don't show the 300+ years of male attitude and stagecraft that have grown up around those cool moves: far more compelling were the archive videos of Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Bruhn, Vasiliev, and Dowell shown in the lobby which displayed both a variety and a larger part of the classical male repertoire. There was variety and personality shown within those ostensibly highly-defined classical roles that went missing on stage. There was that classical male persona missing on stage.
This is not to say that the live dancers had no personalities: Corrella's piece by Stanton Welch lived (and it lived very well) on Corrella's stage presence and personal charm, Kobborg's mysterious feline creature in "Afternoon of a Faun" was uniquely his, as was Tsiskaridze's turn as three characters (one female) in Petit's Carmen. Christe's mind-numbingly dull movement doodle for Steifel would have successfully resisted any amount of talent to make it any good or even interesting, unfortunately.
However, it seemed the show tried too much to apologize and discount classical male dancing by offering unproven, untested alternatives, and hollowed out the classical male dancing role doing so. Except for some of the technical tricks, anything the male dancers did could have been done by a female dancer: there wasn't much that required a unique male temeperament to pull off successfully.
The few exceptions proved to be unfortunately destructive to the public perception of the male dancer: is Flindt's misogynistic "The Lesson" really a good showcase for male dancing? Is a gender-bending Carmen done with an amazingly convincing fey attititude really how we'd like the public to remember male ballet dancing? In this male-dancing niche of ballet that is so full of misconceptions already, is it bravery or stupidity to put on a show about that adds to those misconceptions?
"Kings of the Dance" is an appropriate title, as ballet was conceived and codified in the French court, and retains many of its courtly traditions. But the title, which promises so much, is the only thing in the show that has to do with royalty or the royal male temperament that naturally goes along with ballet.
edit: corrected error about Tsiskaridze's Carmen roles
Last edited by Andre Yew on Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.