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7.2.16

Edwardian Gilded Age




A new little playlist I made for 8tracks.

28.1.16

The Sleeping Beauty - Carla Fracci, Richard Cragun and Rudolf Nureyev



I've been thinking a lot about why ballet dancing is so unexciting right now.

It has to do with a degradation of focus in form and movement.

Then I saw what was missing when I saw this clip of Carla Fracci dancing the Grand Pas de Deux of Sleeping Beauty with Richard Cragun.  Granted there are little niggling problems in the performance that are easy to overlook.  Fracci was the perfect Romantic Ballerina.  So the soft, romantic style is extremely evident in her port de bras.  Even still, I could see she was working assiduously to be keep to classical form.  However watch her dancing.  There is not one static moment in the whole performance.  All the steps are aligned and flow together without losing the shape of the movement.  The few prolonged poses were there to fit into the sustained notes of Tchaikovsky's music not as a photo opportunity for the press.  The difficult parts were professionally glossed over to flow and fit into the dance as a whole not to pull cheers from the audience.  Then there was the sheer showmanship and relaxed joy in Fracci's expression.  So often dancers now grimace and bite their lips when they dance.

Now what made Fracci wonderful was not that she was the only one who could dance with such ease.  The wonder of it all was that she was the BEST of the BEST!  When I see old clips of the glory days of the 70s, I can see this style in all the Principal dancers, the soloists and the Corps.  Obviously this theory of movement was taught or inferred to all dancers of this time period.  Fracci was talented enough to rise above it and perfect the style.

Now in the next clip with Nureyev, the style is looser but still classical.  Unlike Cragun who was the perfect Courtier in style, there is something wild inside Nureyev.  I can see it in all his performances. He liked to push difficulty in himself and in his partners.  Fracci seems inspired by this element in her partner.  Usually it is the male dancers responding to the women but Nureyev liked his partners to respond to him.  This Grand Pas is passionate but still the movement flows without muddying the steps.  The only caveat I had were that the fish dives were a bit awkward.  Nureyev used a bit too much force in sweeping Fracci off her feet.




It is unfortunate but this style is now gone.  The remnants are still evident in Russian dancers but it is even fading in their dancing.  Almost every contemporary dancer is trying to pull out the stops and be as gymnastic as possible filling their dancing with prolonged, static pauses to showcase strength and be picture perfect.  This kills the dance, strangles it until it just becomes another classroom exercise.  There is no flow, no forethought about how the steps relate, what they are trying to convey to dance partners or the audience.  I'm hoping I will see the former style return and the show pony flourishes banished to the dust bin.

26.1.16

First Post of the Year!

Wow, it has been awhile.  I've been busy with different events.  But now, life is back to normal.

My exercise program took a bit of a hit.  However I didn't lose tone.  My favorite tape is still Lotte Berk's 1982 program which works for me like nothing else has before or since.  I love how it makes me feel afterwards energetic not worn out.  Yes, the program still hurts and will continue to hurt as I work the muscles deeper.

My legs are quite long looking now and my bottom has lifted.  The saddlebags are almost complete gone.  I've also noticed that little pudge on the upper back and sides is gone.  My waist now pulls in quite nicely.  Its interesting to watch the changes occur slowly yet I'm surprised how such small exercises can make such a huge difference in my shape.

Again Lotte Berk won't give you a muscular look.  It won't give you a weight lifter's physique.  If that is what you want, look for another program.  This program is perfect for people who want to emphasize their own feminine shape to its best possible look.  It does this by lengthening the muscles.

In my searches around Youtube, I stumbled upon another old exercise program that uses Lotte Berk's original method.

It is called Denise Welch - You Can Do it!   See link Below:



This tape is based on an extended version of the 1982 group of exercises.  You'll recognize a few from Lotte's original exercise tape along with variations that offshoots of Berk's method use as well.  The program is still tough but longer...about 60 minutes.  Some of the exercises have been modified further for gentler stretches.  Especially in regards to the neck and the back.

Denise Welch is a British celebrity and unfortunately I don't believe her exercise tape was ever released in the US.  Also to buy the tape from the UK would mean you would have to own a DVD player that will play all region codes.  Luckily the link above showcases the whole program.

I've been interspersing Berk's method with the T-Tapp 15 minute program and various Jane Fonda aerobic workouts (mainly Prime Time:Walkout).

At the moment, I'm thinking about adding a workout here and there of Kettlebell to work my muscles differently.  I've read Kettlebell is good at building muscle but not causing bulk.  I'll be back with the updates.

29.12.15

Pairing Glue Nags with Thoroughbreds

When gamblers reach the bitter end, rather than pay debt they double up on bad bets.

That is what ABT seems to be doing now.  Piling good money on bad, in this case, chaining their most accomplished or exciting new male dancers with raggy, sloppy, slow, lazy and weakest female dancers ever seen in the Principal ranks.

The knowledgeable dance audiences have spoken, they do not want to see Jurassic Park dinosaur arm Isabella Boylston, the beautiful but floppy limbed Hee Seo, or the whiny publicity hound Misty Copeland .  We don't want to see them even if they are paired with the fabulousness of Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes or Joseph Gorak.

I feel the most for Joseph Gorak.  He is an exciting up and comer whereas the others are established dancers.  His career is being purposely stymied by being forced to support crooked armed Boylston in the hopes that his classical line and polish will gild her sloppiness.

Gorak had a beautiful partnership growing with Sarah Lane.  Both of them were matched in artistry and temperament.  They were one of the most romantic looking dance couples in the company.  They were both successful and drew ballet fans because they were good and good together.  However ABT is convinced that since they drew an audience together they would continue to draw an audience with partners not their equals.  So Gorak gets Boylston and Lane gets chain ganged to the bored Simkin.

I'm sorry, I won't sit through Boylston's crooked witch arms and jutting chin performances again just to see Gorak.  I think Hee Seo is a very beautiful woman, she just isn't a classical dancer with limbs of steel to support taxing classical technique.  Copeland clomps around the stage in unhammered toe shoes and distressing hyper extended legs.

To further the gambling analogy, ABT is now in the process of piling up all their eggs in Copeland's basket.  They know dance fans won't support her.  So they are hoping the dupes who don't know dance and only Copeland's publicity stunts will flock to her performances.  Hence all Copeland's up coming Washington DC Sleeping Beauty performances are double the regular ticket price.  And what will the suckers born every minute see?  My guess is Copeland attempt yet again to hop on pointe as Princess Florine.  No doubt she will fall off pointe as she does time and again.  All due to her hyper extension which can be corrected.  It must be corrected if she is to continue walking let alone dance.

The better dancers such as Stella Abrera or other up and coming soloists are not given a chance to dance Aurora.  Its particularly insulting for Abrera who will debut in the role in the spring NY season.  But as of now, is being given no chances to refine the role on the road.  It is past the time soloists and lovely Corps (such as Courtney Lavine) should be given their chances at prime roles.  When I think of the NYCB giving a flurry of Corps dancers a chance at dancing Sugar Plum Fairy this holiday season, I just sigh.  Perhaps ABT should just concentrate on offering one or two classics with longer runs during the spring which will give more dancing opportunities to dancers such as Lane and other soloists plus Corps.

But we won't see it.  We will see the glue nags who are being kept in the running instead of being put to pasture.

I think Gorak and Lane should plan a dance elopement and run away together.  To a better company that will give them roles to dance together plus filled with talent they can be paired with in equality.



Watch them together dancing the Themes & Variations Pas De Deux at mark 42:32.  I doubt we will ever see them dance it together again at ABT or dance together at all.  The Guggenheim clip is a record of what was, what could have been and what will never be.

21.12.15

The Twilight of the Gods



I had another thought regarding the fall of ballet and how it is a result of the 21st century social network culture.

I've been thinking a lot about when the fall began.  Perhaps it was around the time George Balanchine passed away in 1983.  All at once, the ballet world had no figurehead, no monumental force of nature to act with or rebel against.  The winds of momentum behind the culture of ballet died down and entered a dead calm stage.  This was only sporadically interrupted a few years later with Gelsey Kirkland's blockbuster auto-biography.  It is telling that the only disruptions to the still waters were autobiographies by Balanchine's many ballet daughters (Farrell, Kent, Ashley, even Red Shoes star Shearer) and sons (D'Amboise, Villella).  I also find it fascinating that two of his muses Farrell and Kirkland, threw off conventional ballet careers to forge their own schools/ballet companies.  Perhaps this is a more important legacy of Balanchine rather than any of them becoming choreographers.

The true death knell came for ballet in 90's.  But this knell was not just for ballet but culture in general.  As I've stated in many other posts, I think Jaron Lanier was right when he wrote that the internet froze culture in place.  Culturally we are still in the 1990s.  If you want proof, think of any time in the mid to late 90s.  Think of the clothing.  Can you wear clothing from that time period now?  Is music substantially different? If you are honest, the answer to the first question is yes, and the second would be no.  In fact, try to think of a difference between 2000 and 2010.  There is none.  Not like the huge difference between 1970 and 1980.

Not only has the internet froze culture, it cracked and fractured established cultural institutions.  The music industry is now bits and pieces of different styles.  None of them having any influence over each other and existing in a vacuum.  If you just want to listen to 1960's era girl band pop you can and you can access derivative bands that sound the same.  You can do this without ever having to pay attention to the greater popular culture at all.  What is left of greater pop music culture is repeats created by corporations.  They choose the musicians, the singers and the music according to what worked before to infinity.  So it won't change because there is no incentive to change.  Music fans are now cocooned in their own little worlds.

This same dynamic has also affected the movie industry.  But it hasn't fractured so far just yet.  Hollywood still has a stranglehold on what gets made and style direction.  But each year that hold is slipping.  We can see the fracturing occur in the rise of the independent films and TV series of various streaming services of Amazon, Netflix etc.

The world of fine art fell long before the internet age.  This was done deliberately and that would be an essay by itself.  Classical music was a part of the fracturing of the music industry.  But it split further when in the 90's companies started to push their own "star" faces  regardless of ability in order to attract non-classical fans.  This juggernaut insistence of P.R, over artistic integrity only succeeded in pushing knowledgeable fans into various sub-fandoms far from the mainstream classical music world.

Ballet held against this change longer than most of greater culture.  It was hermetic and seemed forever remote from the forces of corporatism.  But now we know that it isn't.  We now have "faces" being pushed on us regardless of actual dance skills.  The corporate powers that now contribute in great amounts to ballet companies have more power on the company boards than ever before.  As in film and music, they don't want to count on someone or something new happening by serendipity.  They want a sure thing.  Therefore "faces" are manufactured.  These faces are then plugged into various other spots such as modeling, TV commercials, TV shows, films etc.  The actual dancing is not important.  In fact it is important that these faces hardly ever dance at all and if they do, under media restrictions so tight that it assures a real opinion/review never sees the light of day.

But why has this happened?  This brings me back to internet cultural mores and how they have changed us.  The internet and the tech industry that drives it absolutely denigrates humanity.  It has an almost communist fervor to collectivize humans into various social network sites.  It wants us to SHARE but that sharing doesn't extend to itself.  There is no individual in Facebook, there is only the friends circle.  You are only important as the friend circle your identity is pegged into.  The industry is also fascinated with crackpot theories and rather religious belief systems such as singularity.  The tech mavens HATE their own bodies and want to transcend into computers to become....I don't know what.  But they do want to live forever.  These deluded individuals call their own bodies, meatbags.

Meatbags.  Now can you see why it is so easy for the forces that be to kill ballet?  In fact for people in general to not realize what is being lost?  These ideas are influencing us thru technology.  We are being taught to think we are all worthless, weak, ugly and needing tech tools to be better.  Because of these anti-human technological ideas, the very tenets of humanism that our culture was established upon are being destroyed.

Ballet is the very epitome of humanism.  It is the celebration of the golden ratio.  It is proof of the As Above, So Below mystical ideals.  I mentioned before that ballet celebrates the same tenets that Da Vinci encoded into his Vitruvian Man drawing.  That man and woman are proportional and beautiful  That our very bodies adhere to the same mathematical ratio that governs everything else in the universe.  We are proof of the divine on earth.

Each step of ballet builds upon this humanist ideal.  Each step would fit into Da Vinci's squared box. The shape formed by ballet steps is pure harmony in body and in space.  It lifts humans up to the absolute pinnacle of creation and beauty.

In a culture that is now ashamed of humanity, human needs, desires and bodies...it is no surprise that people think ballet can just be changed to fit the face of the moment.  Or any politically correct notion being enforced.  This will lead to a gigantic fracture seen before in other parts of culture I already mentioned.  In the mainstream there will faces of mediocrity in the big companies filled with people who can or cannot dance.  But each and every one will be vetted by a media rating.  Ballet fans will cocoon into sub-fandoms following small boutique ballet companies or regional companies.

In essence there will never be another Balanchine or anyone quite like the ballet "children" he raised.  Anyone like him or his dancers can only exist in a culture not fractured into tiny pieces.

20.12.15

The Nutcracker - Gelsey Kirkland Ballet




This is the third year Gelsey Kirkland Ballet Co has performed their own version of The Nutcracker.     I missed the previous performances, just due to time factors and money.  It is very expensive trying to fit in all the holiday shows of late.  NYCB busts the bank with an asking price ticket of $95 for the fourth ring in pigeon heaven.  But make no mistake, the GKB version of this classic is no runner up to Balanchine.  It has its own independent take on the ballet that is very satisfying.  This version also has some love notes to both the Balanchine version and the Baryshnikov version,  two legendary productions that Kirkland danced in over the years.

The students from the Kirkland Academy were very professional.  Not only did they fill the children's roles but also the Corps for the Snowflake dance, Corps back up for the soloists in the 2nd act divertissements and part of the corps for the Waltz of the Flowers.  Everyone looked great, my only reservations were that the Corps pointe shoes were horribly noisy during the Snowflake scene and many dancers performed over-extensions above the perfect 90 degrees for arabesques.

The standout dancers were Koki Yamaguchi who danced Fritz and the Russian Ambassador, Kaito Yamamoto as the Mortal Time doll in the first act, leads Dawn Milatin as Marie & Erez Milatin as the Nutcracker Prince.

Dawn Milatin had wonderful acting skills, dancing technique and stage presence.  All of which I am sure the GK Academy has helped foster.  I loved that Dawn Milatin sold the role, especially in the Grand Pas de Deux, in a very showbiz way making it larger than life.  That kind of showmanship is just missing in many larger companies these days.  Erez Milatin is just as good with long, clean extensions and powerful leaps.  He filled the romantic aspect of the Prince role very well.

The company's new theater and studio on Jay Street is a good size and accommodates both performances and dance studies.  Although, I did think this production would do better if it had more stage room to breathe,  but the small stage did not hamper the dancers in a noticeable way.  Still having a theater in the same space as the dance studio is best and cheaper in the long run.  It gives the company more wiggle room to mount more ambitious projects.

This is a great addition to NY's holiday performances and I plan to make it a yearly seasonal event.

16.12.15

Swan Lake - Stella Abrera and Sterling Baca



An absolutely beautiful Stella Abrera dances Odette's Pas de Deux with Sterling Baca.  The purity in her form is just wonderful to see.  She has perfect, casebook examples of harmonious 90 degree angles that highlight how much ballet is in the same spirit of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man principles.  She only strays a few times from the golden mean of straight angles for effect.

If only she was among the cast come this spring.  Instead this company wants to force us to watch Jurassic Park Boylston, the ungainly Copeland and totally unnecessary Russian also rans Kochetkova and Semionova.  At least Veronika Part is among one cast that doesn't embarrass the company.

ABT has at least 3 ballerinas, Part, Abrera and Lane, that could perform this ballet with renown.  Plus there are even more pure classical dancers moldering in the ranks that could also be wonderful in this ballet.  Instead we see amateur levels attempting to dance and that the company cynically uses to state they have no adept performers and must use guest stars.

Come on, ABT, cast Stella in this role.  And while your at it, cast Sarah Lane.  Yes, Sarah Lane.  Who was so good a dancer that Hollywood tried to hijack her career to further glorify that over-acting mess named Natalie Portman.