Grace Hoffman sings Brahms' ALTO RHAPSODY.
Above: from Claudia Schreier's ballet HARMONIC; photo by Lindsay Perry
Claudia Schreier's award-winning ballet HARMONIC is now on YouTube. Watch it here.
Originally created for Columbia Ballet Collaborative and later staged for Craig Salstein's Intermezzo Dance Company's performances at Vassar, HARMONIC comes to us in this video from the 2014 Breaking Glass competition for female choreographers. Nicole Graniero (ABT), Edward Spots, Nadia Vostrikov and Amber Neff are seen dancing to a magical score: "Motion" by Douwe Eisenga.
HARMONIC won the 2014 Breaking Glass award which provides Claudia with an opportunity to create/present a full evening of dance, to take place in Summer 2015; details of that performance will be forthcoming.
More of Lindsay Perry's images from HARMONIC as performed at the 2014 Breaking Glass Project:
Nicole Graniero in the ballet's opening moments
Edward Spots and Nicole Graniero
September 29, 2014 | Permalink
Above: clarinet soloist Kari Kriikku
Saturday September 27th, 2014 - The first subscription concert of the New York Philharmonic's 2014-2015 season featured a new clarinet concerto by the Korean composer Unsuk Chin and Mahler's symphony #1. The Mahler evoked one of the most vociferous audience responses I've experienced since I started going to the Philharmonic frequently.
A pre-concert mini-lecture-demo by Maestro Gilbert - with Mr. Kriikku giving some examples of the techniques called for by Unsuk Chin in the clarinet concerto - was somewhat spoilt by the distraction of late seating. Once the concerto proper started, all was well and the audience showed great attentiveness as this new sonic experience unfolded.
Mr. Kriikku's mastery of his instrument was beyond impressive; the clarinet truly became an extension of the artist. He showed an ability to sustain two tones at the same time, to make the ebony resonate at the faintest of volume levels, to wheeze and to squwak, and even to sustain long phrases seemingly without drawing breath.
Ms. Chin draws from aspects of Asian folk music, overlain by textures of sound that are beyond contemporary. These layers are dense but drawn out by the Philharmonic musicians with sterling clarity. A vast array of percussion instruments are called into play, including a wine glass, a washboard, and two fishing reels. The soundscape veers from eerie near-silence to outbursts of intense shreiking from Mr. Kriikku.
Overall, I felt the work (which seemed a bit too long at times) was more impressive than actually pleasing or meaningful. Surely it affords the player an opportunity to extend his range far beyond what might be considered to be in the realm of possibility. But, like much new music these days, neither the heart nor the soul were engaged.
The Mahler 1st, which premiered in Budapest in 1889, is classically referred to as "the Titan"; and while a programme note admonishes the listener from attaching that label to it, surely the final movement is a titanic experience.
Back in 1889, the symphony had five movements instead of the four which we experience today. The composer deleted the original second movement - Blumine ('Bouquet of Flowers') - after the premiere, leaving us with the first movement in which Mahler represents "the waking of Nature after a long Winter" followed by a Scherzo ("The wind in my sails"). In the slow movement that comes next, solo double-bass sets forth the theme based on the French nursery song 'Frère Jacques' (hearing it caused a rustle of appreciation among the audience): the movement depicts "The Hunter's Funeral" with its vision of a hunter's last cortege, the coffin drawn by animals. And at last we reach the epic graudeur of the finale which Mahler called "Dall'Inferno" - From Hell": an outpouring of despair coming from a deeply wounded heart.
These programmatic references in the end seem only to reflect Mahler's desire to connect with the more conservative elements of his audience. The symphony is pure music, from start to finish, whatever allusions one might draw on hearing it. The orchestra gave a huge, glistening performance of the work, with the final movement being particularly magnificent. As the final chord resounded, the audience rose their feet in unison and commenced a long, loud ovation which Maestro Gilbert and the players truly deserved.
September 28, 2014 | Permalink
Above: from Pontus Lidberg's FAUNE; photo by Nir Arieli
Photographer Nir Arieli has sent me some images from Pontus Lidberg Dance's recent performance at Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate at Pocantico, NY. The Company danced there on August 8th, 2014, in beautiful outdoor setting.
September 26, 2014 | Permalink
Above: at a New York City Ballet rehearsal; photo by Craig Hall
Wednesday September 24th, 2014 - An impressive line-up of favorite dancers in familiar roles, the music of Tchaikovsky, the choreography of Balanchine: what better way for me to start a new season at New York City Ballet?
Under Clothilde Otranto's baton, the four Tchaikovsky scores were nicely served up by the NYC Ballet's intrepid musicians. Tonight was probably considered an 'easy' night for these players: scores they have played dozens of times. They always deserve their spot-lighted 'curtain call' at the end of the evening, and it was good to hear a warm swelling of applause for them tonight.
Ms. Otranto seemed to be favoring fast tempi in SERENADE tonight; the musicians assured that the emotional colours of the music came thru, and the dancers took it all in glorious stride. From curtain-rise, the corps provided an endless panorama of beautiful faces, forms, and personalities. It's funny that I still find myself looking for people like Amanda Edge and Pauline Golbin among these ice-blue-gowned angels: and where's Amanda Hankes tonight? Ah, well, they have danced into other phases of their lives - gone from this stage but never forgotten.
For present loveliness, we have a delectable quartet of demi-solistes: Faye Arthurs, Alina Dronova, Meagan Mann, and Mary Elizabeth Sell. And Gwyneth Muller always moves me as the consoling maternal figure at the end of the ballet.
This was a blonde SERENADE: Sara Mearns, Sterling Hyltin, and Teresa Reichlen all looked sumptuous, especially when their hair came down for the final movement. Sara's luxuriant dancing was given noble grounding by Jared Angle, ever the ideal cavalier. Sterling - her lingering balances spot-on - found just the right mixture of elegance and vivacity, catching the many musical moods in which her 'character' finds herself. Tess was divine lyricism personified, and Adrian Danchig-Waring seemed to have come down from Mount Olympus. The sight of Adrian and Tess crossing the stage together, raising Sara from her dream, and Tess's marvelous slow-turning supported arabesque summed up everything that is SERENADE. The audience responded with a deeply resonant ovation; I am sure there were people in the audience seeing SERENADE for the first time, and I'm sure they will want to see it again.
The quiet radiance of Maria Kowroski's Preghiera in MOZARTIANA showed the great ballerina at her most communicative: the lovely passage with her hands in prayerful attitude was especially evocative tonight, as was the gentle silence of her pin-point bourrées. Later, as the ballet's mood becomes more expansive, Maria's swirling turns and trademark extension were woven into the music with queenly assurance. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Tyler Angle was on fine form, his dancing marking the first of three displays of male virtuosity which had the audience cheering this evening. Maria and Tyler have formed an impressive partnership and I look forward to their future endeavors. The ever-excellent Daniel Ulbricht maintained the elegance of the ballet with his stylish dancing - his Gigue has become a signature role - and the Menuet was graciously performed by Marika Anderson, Megan Johnson, Emily Kikta, and Gwyneth Muller.
A rousing rendition of the TCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX caused the audience to shed any trace of decorum and yell lustily as Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia traded technical fireworks in a vivid and smile-inducing performance. After a graciously musical adagio, Gonzalo gave an astonishing performance of his solo - some of the best dancing he's ever done - nailing the myriad turns at the end before a final brilliant combination to the knee, expertly timed. The crowd went wild. Ashley then swept thru her own dazzling display of danced coloratura, tossing in spicy little pauses and teasing us with her technical savoir faire. Another roar went up as her solo's final fantastical turns stopped on the proverbial dime. Now with the audience squarely in the palms of their hands, these two magicians of dance swept thru a blazing coda - Ashley's deluxe fouettés yet another savorable moment - and brought down the house.
In the haunted ballroom setting for the Élégie of TCHAIKOVSKY SUITE #3, Rebecca Krohn and Ask LaCour brought tears to my eyes with their poetic evocation of an ideal found...and lost. Rebecca's restless, almost feral allure was captivating to behold. And Ask is so perfect here: covering the space with questing leaps in pursuit of his elusive muse. Their performance moved me deeply, their parting and Ask's sinking back into a reverie of heartache drawing up so many emotions.
Abi Stafford and Justin Peck sustained a mood of mystery in the Valse Mélancolique, Justin's innate sense of drama nearly drawing the coolly captivating Abi into his world. Yet it is she who prevails: at the end he backs away from her, completely under her spell. Abi and Justin are among my favorite dancers to watch; having them cast together here was a very nice gift.
In the Valse, a particularly appealing trio of diverse beauties - Olivia Boisson, Lara Tong, and Claire Kretzschmar - looked fetching in one of the ballet's many featured corps passages.
In a bewitching performance, Erica Pereira spun marvelously thru the plentitude of pirouettes Balanchine demands of her in the Scherzo; her lustrous black hair and shimmering silver-white tulle flowing as she traced a comet-like trajectory around the stage. Antonio Carmena matched Erica's spinning flourishes with his airy leaps; they fly off in opposite directions at the end.
And now we come to the grand finale: Theme and Variations. The recently refurbished costumes for this ballet seem to glow as Tiler Peck and Joaquin de Luz set forth the elegant opening Theme. Moments later, in her first solo variation, Tiler displayed her epic perfection as a classical ballerina with some truly glorious dancing. The audience showered her with a torrent of applause. The ballet progressed - with excellent suppport from the corps - as Tiler and Joaquin moved continually from one peak of perfection to another. Joaquin's marziale variation was thrillingly executed, the devilishly handsome dancer basking in another avalanche of cheers, the iconic de Luz smile justifiably lighting up. The ballet swept forward, buoyed not only by the two spectacular principals but by a very impressive quartet of demi-solistes: Lauren King, Brittany Pollack, Mary Elizabeth Sell, and Lydia Wellington. Their cavaliers in the finale were Daniel Applebaum, Allen Peiffer, David Prottas and Andrew Scordato.
As Ms. Otranto guided the evening to its triumphant close, the audience burst yet again into a passionate ovation: Tiler and Joaquin - and indeed the entire Company - were saluted at the end of a great evening...a great evening for dance, for Tchaikovsky, and for the enduring magnificence of Mr. B.
September 25, 2014 | Permalink
Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 - After a touch-and-go Summer of contract negotiations where - at one point - it seemed inevitable that there would be a lock-out at the Metropolitan Opera, the shut-down was miraculously averted and The Met opened last night with a new production of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. The casting of the three major female roles in the Mozart opera didn't appeal to me, so I skipped it and started my season on the second night.
The house seemed fuller than on most evenings last season, perhaps an indication that New York City opera-goers prefer traditional productions. And yes, curtain-rise on Franco Zeffirelli's Cafe Momus still evokes a big round of applause.
Admittedly tonight's cast, on paper, didn't have much allure. The Met seem to be putting all their eggs in one basket this first week: the singers aligned for MACBETH (Netrebko, Lucic, Calleja, Pape) are about the closest you can come to an all-star cast in this day and age. Friends asked me why I bothered with this BOHEME and as the curtain fell on the Cafe Momus scene I in fact asked myself why I was there.
Bryan Hymel in the role of Rodolfo was the main attraction for me tonight; his impressive performances in LES TROYENS and MADAMA BUTTERFLY drew me back to hear him in this, his second Puccini role at The Met. He did not seem at his best tonight though there were many appealing moments in his singing of the role. He was not much helped by conductor Riccardo Frizza who tended to unleash too much orchestral volume at key moments. Hymel's account of the famous aria "Che gelida manina" was nice, and he sustained the high-C to fine effect despite the conductor's overdrive of volume. At the end of the big Cafe Momus ensemble, the two sopranos were perched none-too-sweetly on their high-B when Hymel chimed in on the same note and gave the climax the necessary zest.
Neither of the women were very pleasing to the ear. Ekaterina Scherbachenko (Mimi) lacked a persuasive feeling for the Italian style and didn't bring a lot of nuance or colour to Mimi's Act I narrative. When she ventured to the upper register, an uncomfortable feeling set in. Oddly, she did not attempt the written high-C at the end of the love duet; instead she sang an E-natural whilst Mr. Hymel sustained a high-C. This put me in mind of the 1968 Met broadcast of BUTTERFLY where Teresa Stratas ducked the final high-C of Act I, leaving her tenor Barry Morell to finish on his own.
Myrto Papatanasiu revealed a dime-a-dozen overly-vibrant lyric soprano as Musetta, snatching at her interjectory phrases until she got to the Waltz which was reasonably well-sung despite rather shallow tone. I don't suppose we'll ever again experience a Musetta the likes of Carol Neblett or Johanna Meier: big voices and big personalities.
The evening's most impressive singing came from baritone Quinn Kelsey (above, in a Ken Howard headshot) as Marcello. This is a Met-sized voice for sure and I got a vast amount of pleasure listening to him nail Marcello's music, phrase after phrase. I would have liked to have heard him in the third and fourth acts where the character has so much great music to sing, but the overall lack of magic in the evening sent me home after Momus. I hope The Met will give Quinn Kelsey more opportunities.
Of the remaining members of the cast, no one managed to make a special impression. The children's chorus deserve a note of praise.
There's nothing wrong with taking curtain calls after each act provided the audience is displaying sufficient enthusiasm to summon the singers out before the gold curtain. After both of the first two acts tonight, the applause had completely stopped but the bow lights came on and the singers came out, forcing people to clap for them out of a sense of obligation. I understand that the bows are 'scripted' into the performance but someone needs to determine whether there is any applause happening before sending the singers out.
Metropolitan Opera House
September 23, 2014
Musetta.................Myrtò Papatananasiu [Debut]
Parpignol...............Daniel Clark Smith
September 24, 2014 | Permalink
Sunday September 21st, 2014 - Yin Yue Dance Company and students from China's Jiangxi Zhongshan Dance School shared the stage at Peridance this afternoon in a programme that combined the contemporary with the classical in an East-Meets-West cultural dialogue.
Yin Yue is an award-winning Shanghai-born choreographer who graduated from Tisch, New York University. For this event, she summoned a contingent of dancers from the Jiangxi Zhongshan Dance School, a private professional dance school located in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, who have arrived in New York City, bringing traditional Chinese classical/contemporary and folk dance as they meet the New York audience for the first time.
The programme was well-devised to contrast the two styles: the young women from Nanchang performed in colourful, elaborate costumes while Yin Yue's dancers appeared in stark settings and casual contemporary streetwear. The two companies alternated throughout the afternoon.
The student company opened the show with a brilliant and festive piece Gan Yun You You in which elements of Chinese opera were featured. Later - in Spring Ballet - the girls danced on pointe in long pink tutus to the voice of a pop-oriented coloratura soprano. A quartet of solos - each dancer in red-highlighted costumes - went on a bit too long. Then Qinghua Rhyme was danced on pointe to a pop beat, while an Arabian Nights atmosphere pervaded Blossom: the girls all wearing red harem-style costumes and each carrying a red rose. Nuo Dance, the afternoon's concluding work, featured the dancers wearing masks. At the end, a baby was delivered and he started to cry. Throughout their peformance, the dancers from the Jiangxi Zhongshan School showed surprising maturity of presentation and seemed thoroughly at home on the stage.
Yin Yue and her fellow dancers - Liane Aung, Grace Whitworth, and Luke Bermingham - performed five works, ranging from quartets to a solo by Mr. Bermingham. Yin Yue's choreography is strong and sure; she makes excellent use of space and lighting and she persuasively employs partnering and passages of dancing in-sync. Her strongest work was the solo for Mr. Bermingham - One Step Before The Exit - which seemed to express the loneliness of contemporary life and a (thwarted) desire to connect.
Yin Yue's undoubted gift for impressive dramatic movement is somewhat compromised by a lack of variety in her choice of music. Everything seems to be danced to a beat overlain in darkly throbbing industrial noise and/or static. The vaguely ominous atmosphere created by this type of music - so favored by many of today's younger choreographers - becomes a cliché after a while. A bit of Chopin, alluded to in the playbill, never materialized. In taking a wider view of musical possibilities, I believe the choreographer will find ever-expanding avenues of expression.
September 22, 2014 | Permalink
Above: New Chamber Ballet company class; photo by Amber Neff
Friday September 19th, 2014 - Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet have inaugurated their tenth anniversary season with a programme featuring three Miro Magloire premieres and a work by NCB resident choreographer Constantine Baecher's "Happy Dance Of The Wild Skeletons" (to music of John Cage), as well as Miro's intriguing "Tilting and Leaning", set to piano music by Pierre Boulez.
Over the past decade, New Chamber Ballet have carved out a special niche for themselves in the Gotham dance world. Their "up-close-and-personal" concerts - always danced to live music - have drawn ever-expanding audiences, and tonight they played to a standing-room-only crowd.
Much praise is due pianist Melody Fader and violinist Doori Na who perform the often complex scores that Miro likes to use with a high level of musicality. Exceptional tonight was their performance of Mauricio Kagel's 'Klangwölfe' for the ballet RAW.
In recent seasons Miro has presented narrative works: domestic dramas about ghosts, sibling rivalries, or mysterious letters. This evening's three new works are more abstract though of course certain themes might be implied. The first ballet is aptly titled FAST FORWARD; danced to Beethoven's 'Rondo for Violin and Piano', the work has three ballerinas - Sarah Atkins, Holly Curran, and Traci Finch - rushing about the space in speedy (even risky) combinations. The breathless quality of the movement is a fine response to the zesty drive of the Beethoven as played by Doori and Melody.
Above: Sarah Artkins in Miro's TILTING/LEANING; photo by Adam Jason
Melody Fader took in stride the demands of Pierre Boulez's 'Notations' which accompanies last season's intriguing duet TILTING/LEANING. Dressed in Sarah Thea Swafford's sleek wine-coloured body tights, dancers Sarah Atkins, Traci Finch, and Amber Neff go from intense to playful and back again in choreography where they balance against one another in unique and quirky shapes.
Supported arabesques are a signature motif in TILTING/LEANING (Sarah and Amber above, in an Adam Jason photo). At the end Sarah and Amber appear to 'fold' Traci into an improbable little bundle. This ballet rewards repeated viewings with its resonant nuances.
For Holly Curran (rehearsal image, above), Miro has created an unusual tour de force solo entitled IN THE COLD. While Melody Fader spins out some Satie at the piano, Holly appears alternately shell-shocked, frantic, or trembling with the chills. Repetitive, compulsive moves give way to a spacious manège of leaps; the dancer periodically assumes a potent arabesque or pauses to rearrange herself before contemplating her next move. The solo, which choreographically rather plays against the expected responses to the Satie melodies, was excellently mastered by dancer and pianist.
Above: rehearsal images from Miro's new duet RAW
Miro's meshing of music and movement created yet another fresh vision with RAW. Introducing the work, Miro spoke affectionately of the German-Argentine composer Mauricio Kagel who was Miro's composition teacher. The choreographer pays homage to his musical mentor with one of his most inspired works to date: RAW is such a fascinating piece that when it ended I immediately wanted to see (and hear) it again.
Doori Na - his strings muted - and Melody Fader evoked a misterioso atmosphere: Doori showed great control as he spun out a thread of sound, and Melody later drew forth a shimmering, high-lying theme from the keyboard. Dancers Traci Finch and Amber Neff are literally entwined much of the time in this duet; their handling of the strenuous partnering motifs, including lifts and intimate bondings, gave the ballet a captivating intensity. An aggressive passage eventually leads to serene, almost worshipful images as Amber leans against the piano and Traci kneels at her feet. RAW seems to veer from sensuous to sterile to pensive, and it is perhaps Miro's most intimate creation to date.
To end the evening, Miro invited the viewers to circle the dancefloor, the better to watch Constantine Baecher's impetuous romp of a duet, HAPPY DANCE OF THE WILD SKELETONS. Melody Fader plays John Cage's 'Bacchanale' on a prepared piano as dancers Traci Finch and Amber Neff - in girlish playsuits and bobbi-sox - indulge in playful, slap-happy hijinx. Their hair comes down at the end, as they revel in the sheer joy of being silly.
Happy anniversary, Miro!
The Company's next performances will be on November 21st and 22nd. 2014. Visit their website here.
September 20, 2014 | Permalink
I've fallen in love with Vincent Persichetti's WINTER CANTATA which I discovered quite by chance when I plucked a CD of the composer's choral works off the shelf at the library a couple weeks ago.
Composed in 1964, the work was inspired by a collection of haiku ('A Net of Fireflies') which Persichetti's daughter had given him as a gift. To the intriguingly spare accompaniment of flute and marimba, the chorus of women's voices weave a magical tapestry of wintry images. Intricate harmonies and tapering sustained notes are particularly pleasing vocal elements; the flute and marimba evoke cool air and gently swirling flakes of snow. There are eleven brief movements, and an Epilogue which draws its text from one line of each of the previous eleven poems.
The CD, featuring the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia conducted by Tamara Brooks, may be found here.
September 19, 2014 | Permalink
Wednesday September 17th, 2014 - Lori Belilove and the Isadora Duncan Dance Company presented an evening of film, live performance and discussion in an intimate salon setting at the Company's home space on West 26th Street. A few days after marking the anniversary of Isadora's untimely death (on September 14th, 1927), Lori and her Company keep the spirit of 'the mother of modern dance' vividly alive.
For me, this week brought the unusual happenstance of back-to-back evenings of Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan. These two pioneering forces on the frontiers of modern dance seem to me to be twin goddesses: from them, so many blessings flow - even onto the present day.
Central to this Isadora evening was the showing of a silent film clip of brief fragments from Dance of the Priestesses, a 'lost' Duncan work. This film, made in 1963, features extremely rare footage of Anna Duncan, one of the original Isadorables. In the film, Anna dances with Julia Levien and Hortense Kooluris, two women who were the teachers of Lori Belilove: thus the direct line of passing the torch from generation to generation is maintained.
The film was entrusted to Lori Belilove and it inspired her to embark on a restoration of Dance of the Priestesses which, until now, had been little more than a legend. The dance is set to music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck from his opera IPHIGENIE EN TAURIDE. In the film, Anna, Julia and Hortense show a wonderful weighted quality. Lori was able to impart this to the dancers of her current Company and, after viewing the film, we were treated to a beautiful live rendering of the piece. Lori has set it for five women (Isadora's ensemble works can be danced by small or large contingents of dancers). The girls looked stately in their midnight-blue gowns, with Morgana Rose Mellett in a prominent role and Kim D'Agnese, Emily D'Angelo, Faith Kimberling, and Nicole Poulos as her sister/priestesses. Their performance evoked the ancient gods and the mythic rituals of times long vanished.
Also on film, we saw a full performance of Slow March (photo above) as performed by the Company last May.
Isadora created danceworks in several moods, stemming from her mental state at the time of creation. Joyous, celebratory dances gave way to dark, lamenting themes following the death of her two children. Lori Belilove performed two of these despairing solos tonight: Death and The Maiden (set to Chopin) and Mother (set to Scriabin). The mood was brightened by two Chopin mazurkas danced by Mlles. D'Agnese, Mellett, Kimberling and D'Angelo in signature pink-and-white Grecian tunics. Lori and the four girls joined in an extended finale: Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Orpheus' Lament, both drawn from themes from Gluck's opera ORFEO ED EURIDICE.
Pianist Melody Fader played all the selections for the evening, an enhancement to the atmosphere of the performance.
Watching the dances this evening, I couldn't help but think that today's young choreographers could benefit greatly in studying Isadora's work. In terms of musicality, structure and creation of mood, Isadora's instincts always seem spot-on. As dancer Miki Orihara wrote in her notes for her recent solo concert, we may look into the future of dance by investigating the past.
September 18, 2014 | Permalink