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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2004 10:05 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
This Century’s Romeo and Juliet
Bolshoi Ballet
28 October 2004 Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Washington

by Dean Speer

The Bolshoi Ballet’s new production of Romeo and Juliet is, well, “bolshoi.” Big in every way. An over-the-top evening in the theatre. And it’s very Russian. Sincere, heart-felt, totally committed to what they’re doing.

It’s somewhat like Eifman’s productions but to better music. And it’s also like his work as it’s a production directed by a non-dancer/choreographer, Englishman Declan Donnellan and with steps set by a Moldavian dancer/choreographer Radu Poklitaru. (At least this production correctly credits the choreographer, who in some press has been titled “step-setter.” By the way, I still don’t know WHO actually choreographs Eifman’s ballets. Certainly not Eifman, as he’s not a dancer.)

There is not one ballet step or movement in the entire work. Well, okay, there WERE a couple of arabesques and one showing of grand jetés to the side by one of the men, but it’s really a foray for this old ballet company into, what is for them, contemporary modern dance. I could also tell that they were coached to move in a “naturalistic” manner and not with that same kind of inner movement strength and energetic fire dancers tend to develop if they have true technique. To not “show” their technique.

During intermission a dance teacher friend and I had a very interesting conversation with a somewhat confused gentleman and his wife, who approached us with questions and it was clear had thought they were coming to see the Bolshoi Ballet and got instead the “Bolshoi Modern Dance Company.” While we confirmed they were not seeing any traditional ballet movement or choreography, we did encourage them to think about whether they were enjoying it or not and how it made them feel. Did it work as story? Did it work as theatre? This was a new arena for the Bolshoi.

I found myself enjoying many of the scenes and thought the use of the corps de ballet to represent the two houses a good tool. Much of the movement is like Graham and as one print critic put it, some ideas seem to be lifted right out of Jooss’s Green Table. There were a few oddities such as Romeo stabbing himself in the tomb scene (he’s supposed to take poison) and a suggestion early on – all right, actually it was lots of hip-thrusting and Lady Capulet clinging to her son Tybald in an unnatural way – that the House of Capulet was an incestuous one.

As I mentioned earlier all of the cast were 100 percent into what they were doing and do it well they did. Corps member Anastasia Meskova and Leading Soloist Yan Godovsky as Romeo were terrific in their assignments as was the amazing Timofey Lavrenyuk as a gay Mercutio who prods and annoys Tybald into a fight, leading to the deaths of both.

While I did appreciate and enjoy many aspects of this new R & J production, a couple of things come to mind. One is the high irony of the company for whom Prokofiev wrote his score jettisoning the entire, original production. The other is that as much as the dancers were into it, I think it’s a waste of this great company’s resources to impose a work on it that could have been done by dance-trained actors or a good modern dance company. It would have been more exciting to have taken the ballet vocabulary and pushed it and used it in a contemporary way to effect. I’m sure it was a golden opportunity for the director and choreographer (probably commissioned by the new AD) but I don’t think it extended and advanced the art of ballet. If anything, it was a dumbing down for these great dance artists with a piece of third-generation modern dance that believes itself to be great art. Great theatre? Yes and very bolshoi.

<small>[ 29 October 2004, 12:05 PM: Message edited by: Dean Speer ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2004 12:59 pm 
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HI. Sorry I missed you, Dean. I was there, sitting in various locations with various friends and students. I agree with most of your review. I called this version, "Cabaret meets West Side Story meets Pina Bausch". Meaning, a little bit of decadence, a little bit of cross-dressing, a lot of angst-y movment. I didn't "love, love" it, but thought it provocative and interesting, just as different versions of Shakespeare evoke various reactions. It was hard to believe the dancers were, (especially Juliet) actually ballet trained; they looked very "moderne", which I think is a compliment! Oddly enough, the Prokofiev music sounded different, because the visual pictues were so different than the classical pictures we're used to. I thought the theatrical images, lighting design, and bold use of the corps were the strong points. The individual choregraphic vocabulary was not as innovative nor startling. But, all food for thought. PS. There's nothing quite like hearing the Prokofiev score played by a FULL (maybe a hundred piece?) Russian orchestra. The volume and richness of the playing was awesome!

<small>[ 29 October 2004, 03:01 PM: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2004 1:59 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Thanks for your impressions of the new Bolshoi ``R&J``, which unfortunately I missed as I was out of the country.

By and large, the UK national newspaper critics panned it, but our reviewers found things to enjoy as you did, Dean and Trina. Here is the link to the extensive coverage of the London performances of ``R&J``:

http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=35;t=000006


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2004 12:44 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Our Catherine Pawlick has a feature in the SF Chronicle:

Quote:
BOLSHOI TAKES A STRETCH

Catherine Pawlick
SF Chronicle

Moscow -- While American companies may tout Balanchine and modern choreographers for their daring and innovative styles, Russian ballet is often criticized for being stuck in the 19th century, upholding classical warhorses that seem outdated. <a href=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2004/10/31/PKGM69FJU61.DTL&type=performance target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2004 12:51 pm 
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Here's an article from the Boston Globe by way of the San Jose Mercury News:

Quote:
Bolshoi Ballet leaps into the future

STORIED COMPANY TO PLAY IN BERKELEY WITH NEW DIRECTION, PROMISING TALENT


Suzanne Sataline
Boston Globe

Over the past decade, a night at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow became a night of endurance. <a href=http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/entertainment/eye/10045346.htm target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 8:12 am 
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Our MEHunt has a say too:

Quote:
Bolshoi shakes up classic, stirs criticism

Mary Ellen Hunt
Contra Costa Times

How can a 228-year-old ballet company reinvent itself without destroying everything in its history? <a href=http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/entertainment/10062144.htm target=_blank>more</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:55 am 
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cheers MEH, loved your (p)review! :-)

<small>[ 01 November 2004, 02:55 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 2:31 pm 
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Don Quixote reviews from October 29-31, 2004.

R. M. Campbell in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/classical/197564_boloshoi01q.html

Mary Murfin Bayley in the Seattle Times:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/artsentertainment/2002078365_quixote01.html


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 2:57 pm 
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Don Q was, as put by one of PNB's ballet masters, "More like it!" It was a fun time at the ballet with lots of classical dancing by this major company. Dancers looked great and as if they were enjoying every aspect of performing. And we got all 32 fouettés from Kitri, Maria Alexandrova, who just GLOWED! Every inch of the depth of training these dancers get was on display; terrific acting and characterizations and use of their training in other idioms. It was a joy-filled experience. And to hear Russian music played by Russian musicians, oh what a treat!

Choreographically, the pieces themselves are not that interesting or "A-level" -- even the obvious Petipa -- but in the cumulative built to great effect and for one, swell night at the ballet. And for this company (as for all?) it was HOW they performed and showed the work.

As bolshoi as the experience was, I have to say that it impressed me that the dancers at PNB are better. More precision, more clarity -- just more of everything! While the Bolshoi dancers were turned out by natural facility and training, I'd say our dancers USE their turnout more. Thighs are truly open and feet placed well. And while these Russian dancers can move amazingly fast, ours have more speed, if this makes sense.

It's interesting to note the differences -- ones that have been written about before -- and as gamely as Russian companies are trying (and I'm thrilled they are!), they have over 80 years of artistic catching up to do, having missed the development of art in the West due to the Iron Curtain.

I realize that until a very short time ago, they would NEVER have been allowed to show an R & J that looks like the new production. So, I'm pleased that repertory in these once culturally-isolated countries is filling out, showing more diversity and cross fertilization with their cultural brothers and sisters globally.

Still, it would have been better, from my meager point of view, to have commissioned a NEW production for the company. Not one of R & J but a big, bold, entirely new production. R & J is hung on the coatails of the old story and music. Why not dare to dare and really make a new splash?

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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:23 pm 
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Quote:
As bolshoi as the experience was, I have to say that it impressed me that the dancers at PNB are better.
I would say PNB is my favorite company, for a variety of reasons, and it is always tricky to say who is better, ( and I think you can make a good case for PNBs choreography and staging being better ), and I know you are a much better judge of technique than I will ever be, but do we really have a dancer on the caliber of Ms. Alexandrova ( perhaps one ), and don't you get the feelng that the corps depth of talent is much deeper than ours? I wonder if it is there choreography that is limiting them, more so than their dancers. My feeling was that the Bolshoi corps dancers are the equal of our soloists. My sense is that the Bolshois principles and corps our their strength, whereas PNBs strength is in their soloists. ( Or perhaps we are just comparing apples to oranges ).

Another observation about Don Q. Isn't it interesting how well the Russians adapt to Spanish rhythm?


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 5:49 pm 
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Pardon my ignorance please. What is 'PNB'?


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 6:46 pm 
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PNB stands for Pacific Northwest Ballet. Dean and Matthew are attempting to make the comparison, since PNB performed Don Q. a year ago. I would also agree that the attempt at comparison quickly becomes apples and oranges.

<small>[ 02 November 2004, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: Francis Timlin ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 2:21 pm 
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Now I will know. Thank you, Francis.


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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 4:05 pm 
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Ah, comparisons. What I observe is actually cultural fact -- that dancers in the West move differently from Soviet bloc-trained species. It's a lot of things, not any one thing in particular. Transition steps, for example, are considered as important as the "big" ones. That a landing out of a jump might be the preparation for the next step and not merely a finish. Each step/posé has equal value, so it's not just "run, run, run; 'big thing'!"

There are the comparisons between Kirov/St. Petersburg and the Bolshoi too. One is considered to be more refined than the other. This is true even in medicine (I asked a Russian doctor friend about this, and she said, "Oh, yes, big difference.")

I would say that our dancers are stronger overall in technique. Our biggest deficit to me, is in depth and comfort with character dancing and in acting. All the former Soviet-bloc trained dancers have consistently, throughout all ranks, a high level of training in these -- and it shows in the ensembles and soloists both. And in other places as well it's adjudged that dance training has three *equal* parts: ballet technique; pointe; and character work. Ancillary to these are acting, music, exposure to the visual arts, and nowdays, modern and jazz dance techniques.

The Bolshoi is the Bolshoi and I wouldn't want them to necessarily begin to look like carbon copies of their western counterparts, stylistically.

But I still stand by what I said -- that I find the dancers here to be better technically. And as Matthew said, we have often more interesting choreography to show them off.

Don Q. is sunny and glorious and an opportunity to enjoy THE Bolshoi at its classical and traditional best.

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 Post subject: Re: Bolshoi Ballet - America Tour 2004
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:45 am 
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Quote:
Dancers showcased in "Don Q"

by MARY MURFIN BAYLEY
special to the Seattle Times

The ancient tradition comes out in attitude, however, as much as in technique: the way a male lead takes a proud, "look-at-me" pose, before launching into a series of airborne turns, or in the queenly turn of the head as a ballerina acknowledges applause. It's the kind of thing that doesn't come naturally to American dancers.
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