I can't believe this topic still has my name on it...
Hello, again...nice to be back. And this may run a little long today.
Aside from Michael Scott's review of Scheherazade, etc. in Saturday's Vancouver Sun (which never made it to their web page), there was a sidebar on his preview of the piece, located by Marie, above. This(a sort of step-by-step retelling of the plots of the ballet)bears some quoting, I thnk.
For example: "The ballet's first act tells the story of a genie who imprisons a female slave for his own pleasure. When he catches her in the arms of a young man, he kills her in a rage, but permits the man to live. He then mavoeuvres the man into meeting another woman who seduces him and eventually bears him a son. Many years later the man encounters his own son without realizing his identity and kills the younger man during an argument. The genie, gloating that his revenge is now complete, reappears to tell the man what has now transpired."
Now some quotes from Scott's review:
"Never in his years of dancemaking has Alleyne chanced upon so perfect a vehicle as his latest venture, a fluid and elusive homage to the tales of the Arabian Nights. In Scheherazade Alleyne reaches a point of perfect equilibrium between the demands of an existing story line and the challenges and opportunities of ballet choreography."
Later, admitting the ballet has "several troubling flaws," Scott singles out: "dancers playing several roles without any visual signal that they switched characters. In Alleyne's already soft-focus universe this can be confusing."
Cut to the GlobeandMail's review, at this point. And ask yourself how in the world it would be possible to work anything recognizable as the scene described above into anything less than a full-legth ballet...leaving a lot to quick elision at that. And this is supposed to be only one-quarter of Alleyne's allotted 50 minutes.
Here's my own, sort of stream-of-conscious impressions.
The first thing I noticed was that all the women (well, four out of five, anyway) were made up to look like Yvonne de Carlo. Now, I know she was Canadian and all, and I vaguely remember her Scheherazade from my distant childhood, but this, I thought, simply has to be a joke, and settled in to enjoy it.
It was really funny, though...I mean, nothing the dancers did conveyed anything but the sternest sort of seriousness: deadpan move from pose to pose, Alleyne's persistent inability to get the dancer's to interplay with each other rather than have merely one work as a prop to support the other's position (if they touched at all) [still thinking Hollywood, it occurred to me that Astaire could do much better with a chair rather than what Alleyne's partners did with each other) and grim focus on the most angular poses Alleyne could devise. All this, remember, to Rimsky-Korsakoff's immortal score which, let's face it, makes even Yvonne deCarlo look good in comparison.
Since nothing the dancers were doing seemed to have any relation to the sort of plot described above, nor to the music or the (forgive me) moods it or the tales themselves were intended to evoke, I started making up my own stories, including this variant on one of the other actual plots. "A young man meets three women: one intelligent, witty, and charming, the second sensuous, passionate and lustful, and the third shy, reserved and devoted. After enoying the charms of the first two, he realizes his true destiny can only lie with the tender devotion of the third. He marries her and she kills him for his money."
The whole thing, I decided, must have been intended as some kind of joke on Alleyn's part: mannered, excessive and interesting from any perspective for less than three minutes of the nearly one hour it ran. What I can't figure out is whether he co-opted Scott into playing the joke with him, or Scott's just that dumb.
Alleyne's solution to the last minute problems discussed in Scott's preview piece (Marie gives the URL, above) was, I guess, equally ingenious, by the way. At troubling points, the stage suddenly went black, and lit up again on a different scene a while later. Since this was the same technique earlier used to - presumably -separate the prologue and three acts from each other (with, as otherwise noted, all dancers playing all roles interchangeably in all the same costumes, and none of them doing anything that looked like it had anything to do with the alleged plots) it did get somewhat confusing.
Anyway, with that out the way, finally, we got two more pieces: the Grand-Maitre, which I mercifully absented myself from, and Kudelka's There, Below. Scott on the latter: "Alleyne has called its blurring speed and intricate steps 'unmanageable.' Sad to report, they were certainly that on opening night..."
I saw it the second night, and was pleasantly surprised at how much cleaner the company worked than it did two or three seasons ago. There were glitches, but by and large they caught enough of it to get the message across, and certainly to work as the much needed corrective to Scheherazades taste in my mouth that I had hoped for.
PS I fell down a flight of stairs a couple of weeks ago (in Italy, hah!) aggravating my already-bad back, and so attended in a wheelchair. The sweet usher who wheeled me out suggested I must know a lot about ballet to have avoided the Grand-Maitre. Then we got to talking about audiences: Thursday nights, she said, are girls, dressed to kill and impress each other, Friday is date night, all couples. And Saturday? I asked. The three of us (my wife as third) kicked that around and decided family night was the best descriptor.
Anybody else feel knowledgeable on this?
Cheers, I guess..