CriticalDance Forum

Bytom, 6th July 2006: Ballet Met
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:39 am ]
Post subject:  Bytom, 6th July 2006: Ballet Met

Ballet Met

Like figures ice-skating

The pieces presented by Ballet Met undoubtedly gained the biggest acclaim and appreciation of Bytom’s audience during the last couple of days. unfortunately, in my opinion this performance was nothing more than a technique presentation: perfect jumps and lifts showed what the Americans can do.

The music, typical for Broadway shows was faithfully illustrated by the dancers. Every accent and the beginning of each phrase was visible in their movement. In some parts the sections could be associated with ice-skating – particularly with the lifts.

The choreography suggested once again that dance theater in the United States is a revue theater, created for the public’s entertainment. We saw simple plots in all the pieces: abandoned men, lovers’ fight, a rendezvous at a club presented in the most grotesque way. At times the gestures used by the dancers reminded me of [19]18th century ballet, with hands crossed on the chest or near the face. This might have been the only theatrical element apart from the monologues delivered at machine-gun speed.

I perceived every part of this performance as artificial and without expression. Even a duo showing a love-game presented nothing but a display of the dancers' technical skills. The male partner did not make any contact with his female partner as her only goal was to make a suitable preparation to be picked up.

It is a real pity that the Ballet Met has not shown the theater which had been present on the stage during the preceding performance by the Welsh artists. [sentence about the Welsh performance]What the former displayed was nothing but some fun and dancers’ skills. Before this kind of show the consumption of beer and chips is recommended

Łukasz Zalewski
Translated by Aleksandra Stojek


Jazda figurowa na lodzie

Etiudy zaprezentowane przez Ballet Met wywołały niewątpliwie największy aplauz i uznanie bytomskiej publiczności w przeciągu ostatnich dni. Niestety występ był dla mnie jedynie prezentacją technicznych możliwości tancerzy. Perfekcyjnie wykonywane skoki, podnoszenia, czy izolacje ciała, pokazały, do czego na scenie zdolni są Amerykanie.

Typowa dla broadwayowskich show muzyka była wiernie ilustrowana przez tancerzy. Każdy akcent i początek frazy widoczny był w ich ruchu. Fragmentami etiudy kojarzyły się z jazdą figurową na lodzie. Najbardziej przypominały ją podnoszenia partnerek.

Na bytomskiej scenie Amerykanie nie pokazali nic poza techniką. Dowiedli po raz kolejny, że teatr tańca w Ameryce jest teatrem rewiowym, pod publikę – teatrem rozrywki. Błahe fabuły poszczególnych etiud: porzucony mężczyzna, kłótnia kochanków, spotkanie w lokalu, przedstawiane były w iście groteskowy sposób. Fragmentami używane przez tancerzy gesty przypominały osiemnastowieczny balet - złożone na klatce piersiowej dłonie czy dłonie przy twarzy. To chyba jedyny element teatralny poza monologami wygłaszanymi w tempie karabinu maszynowego.
Każdą część spektaklu odebrałem jako sztuczną i bez jakiegokolwiek wyrazu. Nawet duet przedstawiający miłosna grę nie prezentował nic, poza popisami technicznych możliwości. Partner nawet na moment nie nawiązał kontaktu z partnerką, której głównym celem przez kilkanaście minut były odpowiednie wejścia do podniesień.

Szkoda, że Balet Met nie pokazał teatru, jaki prezentowali przed nim Walijczycy. Pokazali jedynie zabawę i umiejętności tancerzy. Przed takimi show powinno się zezwalać na wnoszenie piwa i chipsów na sale.

Łukasz Zalewski

Author:  ksneds [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:06 am ]
Post subject: 

I have to say that it's a bit presumptous to base one's view of "American" "dance theater" on one (or two) company's performance(s), especially a company that is very much mid-level. If you want to see real dance theatre as it's done by the best US ballet companies, one should see ABT or San Francisco Ballet doing "Rodeo" or NYCB doing "Slaughter on 8th Ave" or "West Side Story Suite". These are masterpieces which entertain, but are also full of feeling, phrasing and great choreography.

Perhaps the difference here is that BalletMet Columbus is a ballet company, while most (all?) of the other companies that are performing at Bytom are modern or contemporary based. Thus there's a very different focus and approach to technique, and perhaps it's not really correct to refer to it as dance theatre. It's ballet to jazz (which by the way, not the same as Broadway music, though musicals have certainly been done to jazz). And the gestures may well have been balletic mime.

That would not excuse a lack of musicality or feeling in the dancing - and I could certainly believe that this was not particularly fine choreography and that BalletMet gave a very flat performance, but I think to compare it to modern/contmeporary performances in expectation or style is not fair for sensical. Bad performances are bad performances, but ballet is not bad because it's designed to entertain or because it's focused on technique.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:12 am ]
Post subject: 

I agree, Kate, that the comment is far too sweeping and it's good that you question it. It is a pity that two of the US companies performing this year: BalletMet and City Dance Ensemble (a modern dance company using quite a lot of ballet vocab), have both chosen to present populist work. Also, a couple of the US presenters here have pointed out that the financial pressures on the US companies, outside of the majors, means that the work is becoming more decorative.

The Bytom audience is made of three groups: relatively young Polish dance students, slightly older dance writers and an international faculty. As the author, Łukasz Zalewski, states, the audience loved the jazz ballet of BalletMet, whereas the the other two groups found it banal. Also, most of the work here is contemporary/modern and as George Jackson, one of the US dance writers here told us: "If ballet is about beauty, modern dance is about truth." Thus modern dance themes are usually more cerebral than ballet, so ballet-lite themes can look very simple to sophisticated viewers.

Author:  JaneH [ Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

Forgive the late reply to this thread, but I did want to note that the reviewer may have actually stumbled upon some very interesting truths in her review. I'm very familiar with BalletMet's work, and the reviewer's instinct that the performance emphasized elements of dance theater and 18th-century mime actually does mirror the direction that a lot of the company's repertoire has gone in the last several years. In order to keep revenues up and appeal to a broader audience here in the Midwest (at least this is my opinion), the new choreography that the company has performed, particularly that by its AD Gerard Charles, has become very "musical theaterish." His Nutcracker, for example, is pure musical theater in Act I, but then nearly all classical ballet in Act II. He is RBS-trained and also seems to have an affection for old story ballets like Giselle (perhaps hence the gestures seen in this work). There is a bit of schizophrenia going on, but they're keeping their heads above water, financially, so I guess that's what's most important nowadays.

I am kind of surprised, though, to hear that the performers came across so flat. It was a very, very small group that went over but nearly all of them are best known here for being very personality-driven performers. Ms. Benz and Mr. Ward are, to be sure, very technically proficient, but even they tend to exude personality on stage, and the other three -- Hundt, Clark and Omardien -- are pure personality, IMO.

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