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 Post subject: Suzanne Farrell Ballet @ Edinburgh Int Festival 2006
PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 6:13 am 
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A passionate love letter re-opened
by ISMENE BROWN foe the Daily Telegraph

On her 15th birthday, this ballet-crazy Cincinnati girl auditioned in New York for Balanchine, the world-famous choreographer-director 41 years her senior. He fell in love with her, making her a legend of the century's stage, and divorced his crippled ex-ballerina wife in the hope of making his young muse the fifth Mrs B.

But instead she married a boy of her age, and the raging choreographer threw them out.

So far, so tabloid. But this is the story out of which grew Balanchine's Don Quixote, the ballet that Suzanne Farrell's company will perform at the Edinburgh International Festival this summer, and the ballet in which the ageing Balanchine personally enacted his adoration for her.

published: July 22, 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:46 am 
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Think you'd measure up as a slave in top Festival ballet?
by ANDY MILNE for the Edinburgh Evening news

The job advertisement might read: "Wanted: slaves, to toil for two and a half hours a night in extreme heat. Pay: nothing."

published: August 2, 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:47 am 
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'Love letter' tells the tale like no other
by LYNDSEY WINSHIP for the Independent

... Forty years on, Farrell has revived Balanchine's so-called "love letter" for her own company and is bringing it to Edinburgh for its first-ever UK performance.

The choreographer is better known for short abstract ballets in a neo-classical style, rather than full-length narratives, but the content of Don Quixote is pure Balanchine. "There are steps there that you don't see anywhere else," says Farrell. "They couldn't be anyone other than Balanchine and yet they don't look like other Balanchine [pieces]."

published: August 24, 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 7:17 pm 
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My review, with an apology for any mistakes made by a sleep-muddled mind:


“Balanchine’s Don Quixote”
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Edinburgh Playhouse

To see “Balanchine’s Don Quixote” is to view Balanchine and “Don Quixote” in an entirely new perspective. Restaged by Suzanne Farrell, for whom it was created, “Balanchine’s Don Quixote” eschews the high-flying bravura pas de deuxs and comic humour of previous balletic versions, instead focusing on the Don himself. It is a finely crafted, touching story of a dying man’s final journey – real and imagined – in pursuit of his ideal woman. Brought back by Farrell’s superb company, including dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, after more then twenty years off stage, this performance marked the international debut of “Don Quixote”, a rare treat for all in attendance.

Balanchine began work on his “Don Quixote” in 1965, with Suzanne Farrell as his newfound muse both balletically and personally. The parallels on and offstage became even clearer when Balanchine himself danced the role of the Don in the preview performance. The ballet, last performed in 1978, was bequeathed to Farrell by Balanchine upon his death a half decade later. It would be nearly thirty years before “Balanchine’s Don Quixote” would grace the stage again. When Farrell re-staged the ballet as a joint production for her own company and the National Ballet of Canada, her guidance came from a un-notated score, two films – one pirated, the other incomplete – and her own memory. The result is a moving production of what is perhaps not the finest of Balanchine’s creations, but a fascinating look at a mostly hidden side of Balanchine.

This premiere performance was not without its hitches – a long delay was followed by another after the appearance of the conductor, apparently due to a medical problem backstage. A snagged backdrop corner, audible yelling during a changeover and an unintended blackout suggested that another tech rehearsal might have been advisable, but it did not mar what was otherwise a memorable evening.

It is fair to say that “Balanchine’s Don Quixote” is not one of the choreographer’s better works, but it stands out even among his limited repertoire of full-length ballets. Most unexpectedly for a man who generally shunned storyline, the ballet contains as much acting as dancing.

The story begins in Don Quixote’s study, where the aging Alonso Quixano the Good slips into the fantasy world of his books, his servant girl becoming the lady of his dreams, the woman he must glorify by bettering the world with his chivalrous deeds. While Don Quixote may be portrayed as a buffoon in other balletic versions, Balanchine’s genius is in his gentle, moving portrayal of a man of pure heart, but failing mind. We do not laugh, but ache for this Don as he proceeds on his futile journey.

He creates Dulcinea out of the stories he reads in his book, and Balanchine has her first appear dressed and posed as a Madonna, stepping down a flight of stairs, enclosed in a giant book. She is, quite literally, stepping out of a storybook. It is this vision that draws the Don out on his adventures - she is his inspiration and his devotion. And in the end, she is his salvation.


The sets, recreated by Zack Brown, as well as the commissioned score, written for the ballet by Nicolas Nabokov, cousin to Vladimir of “Lolita” fame, both subtly hint to the precarious tragic humour of the ballet. The sets are relatively simple – a few pieces creatively, but effectively used to illustrate each location. The soaring size of the earlier pieces – a massive stairway and the Don’s bed, nestled between the pages of an oversize book, give the scenes gravitas, but hint at the Don’s departure from reality. Nabokov’s spare score can reach to the upbeat, but is generally melancholic, wreathing the ballet in a sense of gently impending doom.

In the role that Balanchine originated, Momchil Mladenov was superb as the aged Don Quixote. His slender legs the only sign of youth, Mladenov created a believable, sympathetic character down to the final gasps of breath. Farrell is lucky to have such a character dancer in her “stable”. Opposite him as Dulcinea was the sweetly delicate Heather Ogden, a principal with the National Ballet of Canada. She moves with the lightness that Balanchine’s choreography demands, making the role her own without losing the essence of Farrell’s original.

The ballet meat of “Balanchine’s Don Quixote” encompasses a few group sections and a series of quirky divertissements. Farrell’s corps, a collection of Balanchine trained dancers from various North American companies is wonderfully cohesive, though not immune from slight deviations in arm or leg position. Nonetheless, it is impressive for a company that is comprised of such a wide variety of dancers. In the choreography, inspired by Farrell’s abilities, Balanchine explores the off-centre, off balance.

Both in the group sections and the solos for the women, there is a great deal of work on point with the leg in attitude and hopping changes of position. This motif is seen in the series of divertissements in the palace where Don Quixote finds himself, as well as in the sumptuous, though simply costumed corps section for the Maidens in the Palace gardens. The divertissements are very quirky, full of virtuosity that is hidden to the inexperienced eye. Bonnie Pickard, Shannon Parsely and Jared Redick, long time Suzanne Farrell Ballet members shone in their Palace Garden variations.

The opening corps section is in La Mancha, though it is a very stylized Spanish dance, more Balanchine then Spain, with few set details to create an authentic location, and costumes that though colorful, were neither here nor there. (Holly Hynes recreated Karinska’s original. The lively dances were brightly performed, and the Don's arrival and departure was on a real, live horse. Kudos to Neil Marshall, I believe, who led the horse through its paces.

The most unusual section comes in the Palace where the Don is invited by the Duke and Duchess after they stumble upon the Don. By this time the Don has tried to rescue a boy from being beaten, slaves from their chain, and a puppet Dulcinea from ‘her fate’ in a puppet show, only to be humiliated each time he tries to be chivalrous. He believes his fate to have changed in the Palace, but humiliation is soon to follow.

The courtiers are attired in full skirted, velvet dresses and suits, their legs for all intents and purposes hidden by the fabrics. In the beginning, in the slow, stylized court dances, the courtiers seem to float across the stage. Then Balanchine begins to use the arms to replace the missing legs, creating a precise, angled choreography done in complete synchronization, hands & arms changing position in series of exact movements. Hands flick back and forth, wrists jutting out; arms go up and down. This jutting wrist motif is seen elsewhere in the ballet.

Balachine's triumphs in his choreography for the 16 Maidens, two couples and Dulcinea in the garden. The weaving, alternating patterns are pure Balanchine, highlighted by a breathtaking sequence where Dulcinea and the two demi soloist women on either side of her are, each supported by a ring of corps dancers, go through a series of arabesques in perfect synchrony.

Also apparent in “Don Quixote” is Balanchine’s love for children. A number of impeccably rehearsed local children appear in two key sequences, the first being a recreation ‘in miniature’ of the Don’s dream, complete with knights and his beloved Dulcinea. We also see the children as living puppets, lifted up and down by the hidden puppeteer.

Religion is a constant presence in symbol and symbolism whether it be the maid using her hair to dry the Don’s feet or the cross carried by penitents by the Don’s deathbed. And a deathbed it was, for Balanchine does not allow it to end happily ever after. By the time he arrives back in his study, the Don is dying. Yet, because Balanchine never allows his ballet to dip to simple or bawdy humour, the Don retains his sad, but poignant dignity. A bit of a fool perhaps, but his pursuit of the ideal (woman) retains a sense of chivalry and piety that makes him a sympathetic character.

The final scene finds the Don returned to his bed, awaiting his death. There is no dancing, just a steady stream of priests, penitents, cross bearers and acolytes. Behind this slow march of impending death, the Don goes through his death agonies. Just before he finally succumbs, the figure of his maid, still to him the earthly embodiment of his Dulcinea appears on the great stairs dressed as the Madonna. As she stretches out her arms, the Don is lifted up above his bed on a hidden lift - the bond between them so strong the eye can almost see it. Then, she releases him to earth and his date, and the Don quickly tumbles down and takes his last breath. Returning in her earthly form, the maid is taken with such grief at his death, that one wonders if the Don’s imagination was not so far from reality. The curtain drops on the grieving Dulcinea, her head laid across her beloved Don, dignified to the end.

It is a fascinating and intriguing new look at a well-known choreographer. Balanchine sprinkles the ballet with stunning choreography, though he stretches out the thin story nearly too far, with transitions that can seem tedious. Thus “Balanchine’s’ Don Quixote” is best experienced as unique look at an old warhorse, flavored with superb choreography and story both universal and personal.


Last edited by ksneds on Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:05 pm 
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Greetings

Pretty much the same cast tonight, and while the dancing was sparkling, the set changes and lighting cues were really not up to par. There were no major problems - except perhaps the wing that took two attempts to come down after a set change - but there was so many little glitches that it took away a bit from the flow of the production.

I'm guessing that the route cause of these glitches is a combination of a poor location - the Playhouse is a terrible stage for dance - and a very limited window for the company to set up the stage and rehearse. I think the new director of the International Festival needs to take a serious look at scheduling, and be brave enough to put dance in the Festival Theatre where it belongs and schedule enough time between shows. There may be more dead time, but if they are creative with the use of their various venues, there could be plenty going on each day. And there's really no excuse to invite world class companies, but then make them play second fiddle to theatre and opera by putting them in the acoustically and layout-wise inappropriate Playhouse.

What saved the day was the dancing - Momchil Mladenov and Heather Ogden again stole the show as the pathetic, but ever noble Don Quixote and his delicate, beautiful Dulcinea.

Tonight my eye was also drawn to Alexei Agoudine, a member of the American Ballet Theatre corps, who did various corps roles. His mime, as the puppeteer was excellent - a sign of his Russian training? - and his pas de chats in the pas de six were high and crisp.

One other intriguing note was that in the 3rd act male solo, all the turns were done with the passe leg not in second, but pointing foward as in a jazz turn. This may be intentional, but I wonder if perhaps the dancer on whom the role was created had less than ideal turnout. The 60s, were of course, still very much the era of 'ballet is woman', and the general level of male technique was not what it is today.

Kate


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:13 am 
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Quote:
Balanchine's Don Quixote
by ALICE BAIN for the Guardian

It's hard to believe this dull ballet was made by the genius who gave us the smart, pared-down neoclassicism of modern works such as Agon and The Four Temperaments.

published: August 28, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:52 am 
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Quote:
International Festival: Balanchine’s Don Quixote, Playhouse
by MARY BRENNAN for the Scotland Herald

The puzzlement was obvious: "Why is it so old-fashioned?" And no, it wasn't a twentysomething voicing disbelief, but a woman in her fifties.

published: August 28, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:01 am 
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Quote:
Doddery blunders and tenderness of Balanchine's daring confessional
by ISMENE BROWN for the Daily Telegraph

I found the emotion in this blundering ballet, the distress, hope and love in it, a genuine redemption. It is uncomfortable to watch a doddery old man grovelling for a nubile child who can be the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and his dream date all at once. But it's daring, and those parts where emotion is highest are the most tenderly handled: she washing his feet, or blessing him gently. Still, I'm not sure this curious ballet could ever be pulled off convincingly, not even with more feathery feet, plastic torsos, enticing arms and responsive souls than Farrell's troops possess.

published: August 28, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:15 am 
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Quote:
Too many costumes, not enough dancing
in the Scotsman

Down in the pit, a technical fault saw the orchestra plunged into darkness on more than one occasion. The relief on the musicians' faces as the lights flickered back into life had more characterisation than acts one and two put together.

published: August 28, 2006
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Balanchine's Don Quixote
by THOM DIBDIN for the Edinburgh Evening News

With brilliant scenery - the windmill is particularly good - and sumptuous costumes which help create the setting of 17th century Spain, this is great to watch.

published: August 28, 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 3:03 am 
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Don Quixote, Edinburgh Playhouse
by CLEMENT CRISP for the Financial Times

In 2005, Suzanne Farrell decided to resuscitate the ballet from her memories of the dances made on her phenomenal style and technique, and from inadequate film records of the original staging.

Editing the text, using her troupe (The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, which was formed under the aegis of the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC), she has brought the piece to Edinburgh’s temple of darkness, The

Playhouse, with Scottish Opera’s orchestra fighting a path through the score.

And it is a frightful bore.

published: August 29, 2006
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Balanchine's Don Quixote, Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

The details are enchanting, but Nabokov's grinding dullness makes it hard to care. It isn't all the composer's fault. Balanchine has a dismayingly gloomy idea of his hero. This Don Quixote isn't an enthusiast,

misunderstanding the world and tilting at windmills. Cervantes's hero comes to grief because he wants the world to follow the conventions of chivalric romance.

published: August 30, 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:23 am 
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Quote:
My darling Balanchine
by LUKE JENNINGS for the Observer

... something darkly powerful still glowers about this work. Balanchine awards Dulcinea two defining solos. The first, a masterpiece of fantasy-bizarre, is the shepherdess dance in Act II, composed of surreal struts and poses. The second, in the final act, is an unbroken stream of movement, all reaching arms, flyaway turns and oblique, off-centre balances.

published: September 3, 2006
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