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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:12 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Andre, I would agree that Ashton's "Fille" is light in tone and one of the funniest ballets around. But I wouldn't describe it as ballet-lite (or light), which seems to imply something thin and not interesting, as there is plenty of rich dancing in the work.

Ashton's "Sylvia" struggles with the plot, on the same level of silliness as "Le Corsaire" and a myriad of characters and the corps in a host of guises, thus the ensemble work is less effective than "Le Corsaire".

I guess the plot of "Sylvia" can be described as:

- boy meets girl
- girl kills boy then falls in love with him
- boy is brought back to life
- boy loses girl to baddie
- boy gets girl back and baddie gets his

Ibsen it ain't.

It was one of Ashton's least favourites and he fiddled about with it several times. It is saved from oblivion by fine solos and duets.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:28 am 
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I agree with, and stand corrected by, djb regarding the grammar point...probably a proofing error. Thank you all for the chance to discuss/debate/respond to art...I love this.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:33 am 
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I'm going to see it for the first time Saturday afternoon so I guess I will make my own judgment. A coworker decided she wants to go as well. So now I am nervous, if it is boring I will feel responsible since I am taking her. My contact at SFB ticket office said it is great, although she is not really an unbiased source.
Where is Toba Singer? I always wait for her reviews.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:11 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
crandc wrote:
Where is Toba Singer? I always wait for her reviews.


LOL! I think Toba may be giving this one a wide berth too... But I think Becca is writing something up, right MEHunt?

Sorry for the grammatical error. It was probably one of the posts I drafted in the air on the way back from NYC -- maybe they didn't pressurize the cabin enough? :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:12 pm 
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Azlan wrote:
It was probably one of the posts I drafted in the air on the way back from NYC -- maybe they didn't pressurize the cabin enough? :wink:


That's what you get for flying with a lite airline carrier. :)

--Andre


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:16 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
I'll be posting my review tonight! But I'll say one thing right now: casting really makes a difference. Maybe aim for Liz Miner or Vanessa Zahorian (even Megan Low if she ever reappears) as Sylvia.

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So two dancers walked into a barre...


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:58 pm 
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A hint of New York critical response can be found in Joan Acocella's review of "Sylvia" in the May 24, 2005 issue of the New Yorker. She argues that one of its striking features is the amount of ballet it includes! She also provides a rather intellectual analysis of the choreography as it relates to the literary history of the story. It's an interesting and well-informed take, but didn't convince me to change my mind about the ballet.

Most surprising is that she mentions the actual SFB dancing only at the very conclusion of the two full pages of essay. And she names only one dancer, Vilanoba, and that for being "a smolderer" in his role. It's as though the dance existed only in Morris's mind, not on the stage! The more I think about her coverage, the more insulting it is to the dancers who brought his ideas into form. They must have danced well for her to be so gushing, so why didn't she name them?

Also, can we drop the grammar critique? I expect some typos/unedited work in chat discussions. We aren't writing for publication. I'm a college professor who is always correcting students' writing. But they are expected to have reviewed, edited, and doublechecked their work. That's not the case here. This is an <i>informal discussion</i> about dance, not a writing class.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:58 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
A Slight Error in Eros
San Francisco Ballet’s “Sylvia”
Saturday, April 22, 2006, 8PM


Last year when I heard that Mark Morris’ “Sylvia” wouldn’t be presented during San Francisco Ballet’s 2004-2005 Season, I was bummed. Was it the orgy in the woods, the confusion of nymphs with potential nymphos, or the drunken topless slaves that did “Sylvia” in? After 30 seconds of debate, I came up empty and moved on with life as I knew it. But luckily a year later, SF Ballet decided to bring the shirtless minions and story of female empowerment back to the stage.

I enjoyed “Sylvia” the first time I saw it. With Megan Low as a charismatic and youthful Sylvia, she easily convinced everyone to root for her, and had we been at a baseball game, there would have been foot stomping, drum beats, and the wave. Morris’ version spotlighted the story; it served as the primary focus, with the choreography more about imagery and ideas as opposed to superfluous sautés and promenades. (The choreography itself seems much debated, with several saying that Morris’ ballet knowledge is flimsy at best, but I disagree. Maybe they haven’t seen “A Garden,” “Sandpaper Ballet,” or “Later,” but trust me, Morris knows ballet, and it seems in “Sylvia” he decided to take a more organic, au natural approach to the majority of the movement vocabulary.) In short, your heroine needs to be believable in addition to a superb technician, and that is where this past Saturday night’s production failed.

Yuan Yuan Tan is no doubt an amazing dancer, with steady balance, a lofty presence, and extensions that reach beyond the pillars. Way back when, in Lar Lubovitch‘s (also modern-based and highly debated) “Othello,” she played the naïve card, with batting eyelashes and a big grin, and it worked, but this persona hasn’t been seen since. More recently she’s been known for her cool demeanor on stage, and not her girly, likeable personality. It’s tough to want Sylvia to find love when she literally looks like she wants to kill Aminta, who was played boyishly yet fully by Gonzalo Garcia. Now here’s someone whose performance quality speaks leaps and bounds -- he can perform technical feats with unabashed maturity yet exhibit the look and feel of a young boy in love with just a simple développé.

The supporting dancers proved willing and able, and while much of the movement is more modern based, there are still lovely attitude turns, arabesques, and piqués that remind us this is a top-notch ballet company. Jaime Garcia Castilla, as a last-minute substitution, served as our golden boy Eros. While not as warm as James Sofranko, he appeared ethereal and a good match to the goddess in silver, Muriel Maffre’s omnipotent Diana. (And did you know that Eros and Diana have the same tailor?) Brooke Taylor Moore, whose technique continues to evoke crispness, performed admirably as Sylvia’s friend, and several corps/soloist members stood out as ones to watch, namely Lily Rogers, Courtney Elizabeth, and Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun. Yuri Possokov, whose dancing career is on its last legs with retirement in sight, played the sketchy yet lonely Orion, and I couldn’t tell which he was grasping for more: his performing career or Sylvia. Martin West led the ballet's orchestra in a rousing and lustuous performance of Léo Delibes' score.

“Syliva,” while very true to the original story, varies from the traditional ballet in many ways, but as always, the success lies in all the pieces coming together, including the featured dancers. It’s not just about the dance, but also the theater, the dramatics, and the emotion, all combined into one big event that you hope will leave you elated but could just leave you hanging. The big picture is there, though, along with hope that other casts will succeed where this once didn’t quite gel.

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So two dancers walked into a barre...


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 11:33 am 
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Quote:
Also, can we drop the grammar critique?


And while we're at it can we start using the "F" word in ever other sentence (as is the case at televisionwithouthpity) and using instant/text messaging short cuts to convey our feelings?

There has to be at least ONE site on the internet that can encourage well informed thought with proper grammar and no profanity.

Just a thought. Silly me. :roll:


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:49 pm 
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Posts: 407
Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
Azlan, as you know I've only given birth (sic) once, to rather good effect, and I think at this stage of the game I don't want to press my luck.

And David, by "f" word, do you mean to suggest that we should overuse such words as fouette, fabulous, fantastic, fly-by-night, fortuitous, frappe, or for-profit, francais(e), Francis, Fokine, fol de rol (my fave), fondu, failli, or femme fatale (c'est moi--assez bien connue)?

Thank you, Crandc, and may I return the compliment by saying that I look forward to your comments! :D


Last edited by Toba Singer on Thu Apr 27, 2006 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:42 pm 
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Location: California
Toba -
Many thanks for bringing your refreshing style of levity to the boards. I only wish that's the kind of "f" I was referring too.

Best!


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 11:05 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
I finally figured it out! It wasn't the "lite airline carrier" (nice try, Andre!) I should have blamed for my inexplicable abuse of English grammar. Maybe this had something to do with it:

WAX and WAXworks in NYC

:D

One thing I'd like to underline about this "Sylvia" is that there are many people, mostly non-balletomanes I suppose, who enjoy its lavish production and theatricality. As a business decision, maybe it works. SFB is a company that can afford to do something like that. I remember being involved in a discussion in which the AD of another major company commented on how the decision to put on a "theatrical production," referring to this "Sylvia" I believe, instead of a "high-art work" can damage the reputation of a company unless that company has a bankable reputation to fall back on but if it is pulled off successfully, the "theatrical production" can be a lucrative cash cow.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 11:32 pm 
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA USA
Mark Morris's Sylvia isn't ballet lite. It's ballet bad. I can't believe any professional company with a reputation would dance or be associated with this dog. I don't think it had any interesting dancing until the 3rd act pas: I remember thinking about 5 minutes in, on the Saturday night performance, "Is this it?" when the woodland creatures started repeating the same thing again. The weak story doesn't help, nor does the episodic music which needs a strong guiding hand to help keep the action focused, but there were so many times when the choreography just failed. For example, the so-called "bacchanale" at the beginning of the 3rd act was anything but a big party. It was more like two or three bodies failing to fill the huge space they were given, and then running away in defeat. Compare this to the 3rd act promenade in Sleeping Beauty, or the wedding march in Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream, or the picnic scenes in Ashton's La Fille, all of which are similar in intent, and it's pretty obvious how badly Sylvia fails.

And was this ballet supposed to be funny? It was witless: the only time I heard the audience laugh were a few people when the dancers shook their behinds. After an interminable 1st act, I was counting my lucky stars that acts 2 and 3 are pretty short. This ballet is a huge disappointment, and should be shelved never to be seen again.

--Andre


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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 1:46 am 
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Andre Yew wrote:
And was this ballet supposed to be funny?
Well, there was one part in the first act that I thought was intentionally funny. It's when the waltz begins and Sylvia's part in it is to sit in a swing and swing across the stage. When I saw it before (I didn't see it this season), I laughed out loud, sure that Mark Morris intended it to be funny, but I seemed to be alone in my opinion.

I didn't like the ballet last time, but I was planning to see it just once this season, to see Vanessa Zahorian and Guennadi Nedviguine since they are new to the roles of Sylvia and Aminta. However, at the last minute, seeing dancers I really like was not enough to make me sit through 3 acts of choreography I don't like.


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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 9:57 am 
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Having seen Sylvia, I can see where a lot of the comments are coming from. I can see how it can be called ballet lite, compared to Le Corsaire and the statement that people who are not ballet afficionados enjoy it. By the way, my coworker loved it.
And the plot is odd; Sylvia at first scorns Aminta's pleas for mercy. He kisses the hem of her dress and she jerks it away in contempt. Then two minutes later she is in love with him! Unlikely, but in Greek mythology that is exactly how the arrows of Cupid/Eros work.
The choreography is OK where it exists; there are, however, stretches where everyone is just standing around. Come on, dance!
But none of that means it is bad. True, it is not a world classic. But it is the kind of ballet where people leave smiling. No one cries after Sylvia. No one deeply ponders philosophical questions about personal responsibility, class differences, the effect of family feuds on ensuing generations, the disasters of arranged marriages, et al. There are no shades of gray. There is a likeable young couple who are clearly the "good guys" to root for, a clear villain to hiss, Eros acting as a kind of Greek chorus moving the action along, a denoument that promises happy ever after. Even a steamy, albeit brief, sex scene. What's not to like?
Actually I think Le Corsaire (at least the ABT version, the only one I've seen) has better overall dancing. There are sections in my Le Corsaire video that I watch over and over. But in Le Corsaire while Conrad and Medora are rescued, everyone else, including Medora's friend and Conrad's faithful slave, drown. Sylvia is purely joyful.
I also strongly agree that casting is critical. A dour or sober Sylvia would be a disaster. Fortunately, I saw Elizabeth Miner who is anything but dour. Pascal Molat was a handsome hunk and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba a most threatening villain. And while Diana was a secondary character, Muriel Maffre carried it off with her usual aplomb. She did not look like someone I'd want to have mad at me! But she got a bit of comeuppance, as Eros showed she was not quite as virginal as she claimed.
Something no one else has mentioned but that certainly struck me (and I hope I don't get slammed for saying it) is that while the main couple are male/female, there are definite hints of homoeroticism in Sylvia. Men - in skirts! - dance hand in hand. Women loll about unpinning each other's hair. Scantily clad slaves drunkenly cavort. In fact, in my admittedly limited reading of Greek mythology I have wondered about the relationship between Diana and her nymphs. Male-male relations were celebrated in ancient Greece. So I don't think this is accidental and I don't think I was just imagining it.
On the whole, Sylvia is a pleasant afternoon of ballet. It's not a feast, more like an ice cream cone. Sweet and enjoyable while it lasts.


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