Balanchine is in the Air…

A Ballet Education’s Covergirl, Mimi Tompkins will be taking on Ballet Arizona’s All Balanchine program this month. The program runs May 11-14 at Symphony Hall. I will definitely be going. I will let you all know what show I will be going to! I am just waiting for casting to be announced. The program will consist of three of my top ten Balanchine Ballets: Photo courtesy of Arizona Dances, photographed by Ashley Baker.

Western Symphony– a ballet that is all-American, funny, light-hearted and exciting. It is broken into movements. Notably, the second movement or the Adagio Waltz is known for the playfulness of pas de deux. The final movement (fourth movement, Rondo) is the most famous as it ends with the entire cast doing consecutive pirouettes from fifth as the curtain closes. The below video is the first video I had ever seen of Wester Symphony, well I think it was most everyone’s in my generation… I remember watching Susan Jaffe, now the dean at NCSA and being in awe. It wasn’t because of the high legs but just how charismatic she was, how musical she was, how fun she was. Watching Nikolaj Hübbe, artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet, was insane. So energetic, so fun. Then, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with him for our run of Nutcracker and I felt like I was in a dream. But, I can watch this video on VHS over and over again and it doesn’t get old. It will probably rip soon, but thankfully someone has illegally uploaded it to youtube and we can all watch it before the trust takes it down.

Square Dance, the fast, country, do-si-do, juxtaposed ballet … but really the ballet is centered around ridiculously hard footwork, and extremely fast, fun steps… when the orchestra isn’t slowed down… this ballet is invigorating. The ballet also has a really great solo for male dancers that isn’t just jumping and turning… Taylor Stanley of NYCB on Square Dance.

Lastly,  Agon; the epitome of Balanchine’s black and white collaborations. With music by Stravinsky, Agon is the provocative tale of music and choreography. Every dancer who dances the pas de deux brings something different, every dancer in the corps is tested to find their story, and every night is different. Definitely excited just to see how the dancers at BAZ take on this ballet.

Tickets are available here: http://balletaz.org/performance/all-balanchine-2017/

 

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When dancers fail to do their job…

As we all I know, that I get restless at ballet performances and that unfortunately because of this blog, it is rare to just go enjoy a ballet performance. You don’t know if you should just be enjoying it or I should be reviewing it… This year Arizona was forced into the battle of Winter Performances as Arizona not only has a professional company, but now has arguably one of the best schools in the country performing two blocks away from each other. Needless to say Masters did not disappoint. It was everything you would expect from Masters… tons of tricks and energy with the audience roaring. This was my first time watching Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker… and it started off really well. Gorgeous sets and a ton of digital work, their set and lighting designer did a mighty good job. As party scene progressed I dozed off… Not gunna lie… The dolls borderline looked racist and looked like they had black face on… this was due to the large black lacquer masks they had on…. I fell asleep during battle scene and woke up for snow pas de deux which was super random… Like it starts with the Nutcracker and Clara getting into the sleigh… but at the end the sleigh comes back out and they are not in it but instead walking towards it… Snow was full of energy, so I had high hopes for ACT 2…

The digital effects were gorgeous… Prologue literally looked like heaven and I had such high high hopes… But then the most random things happen…. like Sugarplum has two servants that take up the scene music… and then the rats appear instead of the pantomime… Then instead of a throne or table they were sitting on a clear plastic bench and instead of being the land of sweets it was a beautifully painted starry backdrop… It was like they had died or something… who knows… But then the slew of variations happened… Spanish was entertaining… Chinese was borderline racist with super offensive choreography… Mirlitons was the battle of principal elite women… like it was awkward to watch but GORGEOUS costumes… Russian looked like 80’s couches… Mother Ginger and her bon bon was a trip… like… the costume for mother ginger was beyond fantastic and two stories high…. the poor bonbons in this version wear all green and basically look like little t-rex dinosaurs emboite-ing around.

Flowers was beyond underwhelming in white tutus which was awkward… actually none of their color palettes for the divertissements matched but oh well…  DEW DROP was FEROCIOUS in a costume to die for, she literally was the best part of the Nutcracker… But this is not what this post is about…. This post is going to center around the pas de deux which I will not name names…

BUT… the Sugar and Cav basically threw away their performance when a lift didn’t go as planned. Literally, their expressions on their face for the remainder of the pas was lack luster. His variation he lost all his energy and was underwhelming. Then sugar started her variation and it started off beautifully… (Ballet Arizona’s female aesthetic is long, super-super thin, and gorgeous feet and turnout) But then, it looked like her shank died and she kind of just fudged through her variation… But that wasn’t the worst part… in the coda of the grand pas… they just gave up and she threw away fouettes, pique turns and other steps. It was just lackluster and ended on a really sour note.

Which brings me to my post… We are taught from a young age to not throw away combinations when we mess up, to pretend it never happened if we fall on stage, or mask whatever goes wrong… And in this performance… Ballet Arizona failed in performance quality. I didn’t even hate the choreography that much… But no joke… It was the most disappointing thing I have seen in a long time… I expect at student showcases that if something goes wrong the performance gets thrown away… but at a professional performance… I just don’t think it is excusable.

I get that you were tired, that during Nutcracker you have way too many shows, with way too many parts, and are way too tired… But throwing away the magical show that will inspire thousands of girls every year to be a dancer… I don’t know… Like it was so bad… Everyone around me became so uncomfortable during the performance… Like adjusting their bodies and trying not to look at the train wreck that was happening on stage (at this performance it seemed like there were a lot of ballet dancers, former pros, current students, and more) … it was just extremely painful to watch.

It also didn’t help that for being a professional company there was no live music… so that CD life seemed to be intense.

Always- I just don’t know… it was extremely disappointing… For a company that i have loved watching grow and expand this season has been incredibly painful to watch… like I didn’t even post my review about La Bayadere because I was trying to make nice… but this I felt like was just… unacceptable… I really don’t know how a dancer can just throw away a performance. :/ It makes me question if I want to keep purchasing tickets to see Ballet Arizona. Not to mention seats were kind of ridiculously overpriced for not having an orchestra.

Ballet Under The Stars: Ballet Arizona

a-ballet-education-ballet-arizona

Ballet Arizona, a company I named to watch two years ago, performed under the stars last night in Goodyear at a lakeside park. It was gorgeous. It rained that morning, so it was pretty cool in the evening, which was a nice break from the skin burning heat. Their program was the ACT II of IB Andersen’s La Bayadere, Alejandro Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO, an outreach performance, and Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements. It promised to be beautiful evening… Plus there were food trucks… Who doesn’t love a loaded waffle? What is better than a loaded waffle? Watching Ballet and eating a loaded waffle. So, let us just dive right in… The evening started off to numerous technical difficulties… Which didn’t bother me, with the exception of all the crazy preschoolers getting wild on the grassy hill. The MC for the night was kind of annoying, and I feel like she didn’t know a lot about the ballet performances… It just was not very good, nor exciting… It didn’t help the mic kept cutting out… Anyways… onto the good stuff and bad stuff—

Bayadere: Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino took on Gamzatti and Solor… They were absolutely everything… which unfortunately is the only thing nice I can say about Bayadere. Because of the moisture or something there were a couple of minor slips. During the coda there was a slip/drop of a girl, and so on… Unfortunately, during the Italian fouettés Ms. Barrell didn’t get them in all the way… But she recovered ferociously… She was actually really nice to watch… They did this Indian dance…. it was awful… Bayadere is set in India but the costuming and choreography echoed Native American/African/Showboat… It was just not very well thought out and borderline came off as offensive— but the male corps was ferocious. The female corps of Gamzatti’s friends were turned out with beautiful feet but missing that special something of classical ballet. That elegance, or that refinement of Royal Ballet, the effortless joy of ABT or something… It is just missing the polishing… Alejandro Mendez performed Golden Idol which was nice. But the real standout was Nayon Iovino’s Solor variation. It was beast while the rest of the Bayadere was just… not entertaining. Which is funny because Bayadere is one of the only full length ballets I genuinely enjoy.

PACOPEPEPLUTO: Originally done on Hubbard street this contemporary ballet showcases three men set to Music by Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi. Paco was danced by Nayon Iovino and was nice but lacked quirkiness and seduction. Helio Lima danced Pepe which was beyond fantastic, mesmerizing to be exact: Body Articulation for days…. Alejandro Mendez danced Pluto and was wonderfully quirky, technically brilliant but seemed to lack wanting more. The piece is so short and usually, short contemporary pieces feel too short and you want more dancing… It just needed something else, I just can’t put my finger on it. Though, it was nice because they didn’t look like ballet dancers trying to do contemporary… They had gorgeous articulation and ambitious attack… Just didn’t leave me wanting more.

symphony 2.jpg

They ended the evening with Symphony in Three Movements… Which scared me… Because after Bayadere I was dreading seeing another company botch a Balanchine Ballet… Buuut Arianna Martin and Helio Lima blew it out of the water. Mimi Tompkins was BEYOND GORGEOUS and was everything. She was partnered by Jackson Dwyer. Lauren Flower and Roman Zavarov were pretty spectacular as well. The black leotard couples though were the real stand out. Everything about these ten dancers was spot on. It was absolutely stunning. The corps of long-legged dancers in white leotards was gorgeous as well. It was extremely well danced, technically clean, and musicality was ferocious. Downside… Their company lacks ethnicity among their women… The women and men are extremely thin… Not just ballet thin, but it seems that Ib Andersen like extremely narrow/flat torsos. The company is extremely on the narrow side, and lacked the diversity of body types that you see in other companies. Everyone was extremely hypermobile with beautiful feet, not complaining… Just lacked diversity.

Overall, the performance was nice enough. The setting helped a lot and it was nice to have a night off. Ballet Arizona will be performing the full-length La Bayadere 27-30 with the Phoenix Symphony ad Symphony hall.

On the Rise… 5 Ballet Companies to look out for… (US 2014-2015 season)

ballet companies on the rise

Ballet is super fickle, and so is the audience. Audiences nowadays get bored quicker, because we are offering exposure to ballet at an instantaneous rate. We now can watch full length ballets being broadcast in theaters across America, and can easily youtube performances. While ABT has revamped versions of their classics like Corsaire and Sleeping Beauty, NYCB has truly invested in new choreographers, specifically now Justin Peck. It isn’t just these huge names we look out for now, we are always looking for something new and fresh. Ten years ago we had the emergence of Ballet Austin taking it’s place as a major American ballet company, along with Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and Los Angeles Ballet. I think for years the companies below have always been great regional companies, or in their territories of the US, but recently I feel like they have gained a lot of national exposures offering a great new look and contributing to the evolution of ballet.

ballet arizona

Ballet Arizona is headed by Ib Anderson, Ballet Arizona hires 31 dancers according to their new 2014-2015 edition of their site and operates on a budget of $6,690,217. The funding is the most important part of a ballet company, yes the dancers are super important, and the choreography has to be exciting, but without the funding there are no jobs. Two years ago I had the opportunity of seeing their Balanchine bill, and was quite impressed. Everything seemed to work, come natural and they had that attack Balanchine dancers have. This upcoming season they are doing seven programs and their school is doing quite well, especially since they have the David Hallberg scholarship. (http://balletaz.org)

atlanta ballet 2014

Atlanta Ballet. Artistic Director: John McFall employs 22 dancers, which is quite small, but makes sense with the economy. Ballet companies have to survive, and one of the ways of surviving is maintaining a small quality number of dancers, and saving up in bank accounts, so when there comes government cuts, or a slow sponsorship year, dancers still will be able to survive, get a small pay increase etc. Atlanta Ballet additionally offers a choreographer in residence. Atlanta ballet operates on a $9,118,753 yearly budget. (http://www.atlantaballet.com)

milwaukeeballet

Milwaukee Ballet. Michael Pink sits as Artistic Director for this midwest company and employs 22 dancers, but additionally has Milwaukee Ballet II. They also hold a very cool choreography competition and the prize runs $3,000 and a commission to set another work for the following season. Operating on a budget that runs around $6,294,842 their 5 program season (2014-2015) is dominated by the classics offering Don Q, Cinderella, Giselle, the Nutcracker, and the choreographic competition. (http://www.milwaukeeballet.org)

carolina ballet

Carolina Ballet. Offering seven programs this season, they too are closing the season off with Cinderella, like Milwaukee, Carolina Ballet is headed by Robert Weiss. With a budget of $5,676,255 they employ 34 dancers. (https://www.carolinaballet.com)

nevada ballet theatre

Nevada Ballet Theatre. With a budget of only $2,815,005, artistic director James Canfield should be given way more funding. How can you have all those casinos, and all of those shows, and not support the classical arts? Employing 19 dancers on a very tight budget, I hope Nevada Ballet Theatre keeps thriving and makes an appearance on the international stage soon. (http://nevadaballet.com)

New York City Ballet operates on a budget of $66,244,814 while Los Angeles Ballet operates on a budget of $2,210,304

Honorable mention: Colorado Ballet.

*earnings based on the 2011-2012 season 2012 fiscal year.  Non profit or not for profit companies must publish their fiscal year budgets. Information gathered from company websites, requesting fiscal earnings, and the Dance/USA initiative.