The whole theme of the performance was Cocktail Hour. Each dance represented a different drink. I will divide this post by each dance, and critique each one separately.
A slight dancer tiptoes onto a dim stage holding a lit candle flickering in the darkness. She is dressed in a beautiful green ensemble with glitter and gold sprinkled throughout. She reminded me of a spooky cross between Tinkerbell and Peter Pan (her outfit was a delight but her short hair and boyish figure were more Peter than Tink). The dancer was beautiful, but this piece was so obvious. The green outfit and the creepy music were enough for the audience to guess which drink she was portraying; the dance itself was unnecessary, which should never be the case in ballet. I can understand why the show started with this dance: it was the best out of all of them. A strong opener brings the audience in, but it also leads to greater disappointment throughout the rest of the show.
This was an awful follower. The dancer wore what looked like a cheap child’s pink tutu bottom with an odd bikini top (a two-piece outfit for a ballet just doesn’t work: no one likes to see an emaciated tummy peeking out at them). She moved more like a crane than a dancer (was that the point? If so, it was not graceful to watch). She looked uncomfortable the whole time, as if she wasn't even into it.
Three dancers came on stage: two men dressed in black turtlenecks and sunglasses looking like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, and one woman with a horrible platinum blonde wig (she looked like the anorexic version of Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). The music was a James Bond theme, which made sense, but the rest seemed random. The background male dancers started miming See/Hear/Speak No Evil (why?), and the electronica music was nothing meant for a ballet performance.
*This photo was not of the performance I saw, hence the different male outfits.
*This photo was not of the performance I saw, hence the different male outfits.
This sexy dancer saunters in, and she is quite believable as the sultry singer that the audience hears in the background. She is quite graceful, especially with her hands. But that’s where my enjoyment ended. She wore a pillbox hat, an accessory only Jackie Onassis Kennedy should ever be seen in. The dancer then started performing a striptease, taking off her cute capelet and swinging it around her head. She took off her gloves with her teeth (ugh, spare me) and then threw them at the audience. I thought I was going to the ballet, not a gentlemen’s club…
First of all, have you ever heard of a Sputnik drink? Neither have I. I will admit that the performance included a recipe for the drink, so I can appreciate that. A dancer comes onto the stage in a garish orange outfit along with matching elbow-length gloves (the costume designer must have thought that adding gloves would bring class to this entire performance since many of the ballerinas were wearing them. This sadly was not the case). The dancer looked like a 1960’s go-go dancer gone wrong (and that’s saying something when go-go dancers are rarely right). And I couldn’t tell if she or the singer started screaming like an animal in the middle of the dance, but either way, the entire thing was disturbing.
I saw this performance in Manhattan, the Big Apple, NYC, you get the picture. You’d think they would have gotten this one right. But, alas, they did not. The dancer comes out in an ugly mauve-ish dress (which they described as “elegant.” Ha!) with, get this, a fake dog on a leash (trying to dance with a stationary dog is difficult and not very pretty). The entire dance lacked the New York City feel: the dress was God-awful (not even close to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfastat Tiffany's), and the dancer did not have the aura of a powerful, New York woman like I would have hoped to see. And at the end the dancer shouted “Merci!” Sweetie, this is New York, not Paris. Later the choreographer described this scene as a woman leaving a “fancy party” (or not-so-fancy…) to head home for one final duty; she called it “a date with her dog,” but really that is a euphemism for taking the dog out so it won’t have an accident in the house in the middle of the night. How poetic.
I’ve never had a Brandy Alexander, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say it was not named after Alexander the Great as this group assumed. Five dancers (four women, one man) jump onstage wearing togas and gold cuffs. I liked that the dance focused on the man (very infrequent in ballet), but I couldn’t tell what his relationship was with the women. Were they supposed to be his slaves/concubines (all I could think of was Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U”), or his warrior princesses? All of the dancers seemed very serious for this tough piece, except for one oblivious girl who had a silly grin on her face the whole time. The girls were dancing with those stupid Cleopatra eyes (you know, when you take sideways peace signs across your eyes), while back-flips and hard-core movements would have been more appropriate for the theme of this dance (if you're going for the Ancient Mediterranean theme).
The ballerina comes onto stage with the theme song to Rawhide playing. She’s not dressed as a cow-girl or a sheriff, so the audience is left guessing at who she is supposed to be. But all of my focus was on the belt in her hand, which she used as a whip or noose. S&M clearly came into my mind (and I wasn’t the only one. Someone else in the audience mentioned Fifty Shades of Grey). The use of props in dance annoys me greatly; it’s a way to dumb down the art form for the public. So along with the strange outfit and the weird sex toy, all I could guess was that she was supposed to be a hooker or the bride at her own bachelorette party, bouncing around a man dressed in a suit who served no purpose whatsoever.
We later learned that this ballerina came from the New York City Ballet. Talk about a down-grade! I assume this switch was made due to an injury or her age, neither of which would be her fault, but that’s life as a dancer.
This dancer’s costume was quite beautiful, much like that of Absinthe. It looked like a burgundy gown Anne Boleyn would have worn, except the skirt was cut off. The bust was decorated with beading, and the Elizabethan collar acted as a halter-top, which I thought was very clever. But other than the outfit, I was not entertained. The ballerina had a pissed-off grimace on her face the entire time. Was this her getting into character? I doubt it. And at one point she opened her mouth wide like a wolf, as shown in this picture. What was that all about?
Scotch on the Rachmaninoff
For one, what happened to plain ol’ scotch on the rocks?
This was the oddest dance of them all. There were two male dancers dressed like Chippendale dancers in bedazzles vests. The choreography was awful; I felt embarrassed for the dancers. They were touching each other and dancing with one another; they even slapped each other’s faces with gloves, giving the entire performance a homoerotic feel about it. The play-on-words with Rachmaninoff was lost on most people; the dancers were supposed to look like they were playing dueling pianos, but really I was just waiting for Elton John to show up for a threesome.
This was the finale performance. Immediately the audience gets the connection with the Kentucky Derby with a horse picture in the background. But this felt more like a hoe-down than the famous horse race (the banjo music threw the whole theme off). The main point of the dance was that two ballerinas were horses and two men were their stable-hands. The men would lead the “horses” on invisible leashes, which made sense. But then they attempted lifts, which goes against the whole thing: why would men try to lift horses? If you’re going to have characters (human or otherwise), be consistent! The only redeeming point of this dance was one ballerina who was supposed to be an attendee at the horse race in her pretty pink dress carrying a parasol.
There was a Q&A section which clearly demonstrated why this ballet was so awful. The choreographer Marilyn Klaus is an insane woman with crazy dyed red hair; she is an “artist,” the kind that really should be understood as “weirdo.” She said things like, “The dancers are painters but they make the paint” and that the “spirit of dance oozes out of my pores.” WTF? She strangely evaded the question when someone in the audience asked about the day-jobs of the dancers, saying that “They do what they can to stay afloat.” What, are they prostitutes and drug dealers when they aren’t dancing? They obviously aren’t good enough to be full-time dancers, so she should have been honest, admitting that they wait tables and such. Instead, she just continued the illusion that the life of a dancer is beautiful and glamorous, when it truly is anything but.
I just kept thinking that this ballet was a pitiful take of TheNutcracker. There were several small dances, much like the different treats in the classic ballet. But the dancers never really got into character (except perhaps Gimlet), and excluding Absinthe and Bloody Mary, the costumes were horrible compared to the beautiful outfits you see in any production of The Nutcracker (why Catherine Zehr, the costume designer, got such applause, I do not know. Obviously most viewers were not regular ballet-goers). And whoever wrote the original music was no Tchaikovsky. I believe that if the songs were ones the audience could have recognized, even sung along with, everyone would have connected better with the performance. But instead everyone had to listen to what I would call noise, not music. The choreography in general felt pretty amateur, and when the dancers were not in sync with one another, that made it even worse. And get this: they do a Cocktail Hour performances every year. Once was bad enough!
What’s sad is that this performance was streamed live to libraries throughout Queens and Brooklyn. The idea of bringing ballet to the masses is a wonderful one: most people can’t afford to see the ballet, and it really is a beautiful art form that should be appreciated by everyone. But portraying this to the public as “ballet” is a crime. It’s a shame that these audiences will think they saw something special, when this mediocre adult dance recital did not even capture a fraction of what ballet really can be.