Monday, October 24, 2016

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

In case you didn't know, this will be the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's last season. Because of this, I knew I wanted to buy tickets to see them dance at the Kennedy Center this fall. I like that this company performs several shorter pieces instead of one long ballet; it gives the show more variety!

Danses Concertantes

Image found here.
This was by far my least favorite portion of the night. I just could not get past those garish costumes! The notes in the program said the costumes were supposed to resemble those designed by Eugene Berman in the 1940's, but all I could see were men wearing beanies and ruffles and women who looked like Crayola crayons (except for Valerie Tellmann-Henning, who was dressed like a bumblebee). See:
Image found here.
And it wasn't just the costumes that bothered me. The choreography was silly, including jazz hands and flirtatious facial expressions. It was like physical comedy, a show that children would giggle at as they watched. Add on top of that the fact that many of the dance movements were off-beat with the music (written by Stravinsky), which distracted me even more. I was watching this piece thinking, "I can't imagine the Mariinsky or Bolshoi ballet companies performing this rubbish." And each threesome*/pair took a separate curtain call, as if they deserved extra applause! This piece was simply frivolous, which is not a word I like to associate with the ballet.

*The woman next to me said she kept thinking ménage à trois while watching this piece. EEK!

Gounod Symphony

Image found here.
I am sorry that the photo above does not do justice to this piece. These are brand new costumes, and they are beautiful! They look like fun summer dresses rather than costumes (I would wear one!), and the mix of black and white made the intricate patterns of the choreography really pop. The dancers would weave in and out amongst themselves and make shapes that must have been amazing to see from higher up (I was really close to the stage). I just thought this piece was incredible to watch.

I will say that the principal dancers, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook, look kind of old (though they have both been careful to hide their age from the Internet). And her costume, which I think was supposed to look gold, really just came off as taupe, unfortunately. But that's just a side note! I really enjoyed watching this piece, and some of the choreography included moves I had never seen before in ballet, so that was exciting!

Stars and Stripes

Image found here.
Image found here.

Although Balanchine was from Russia, he did become an American citizen and was proud to be an American. This piece shows his patriotism for the United States, and is set to music written by John Philip Sousa (like this familiar song).

The photos above don't really show how over-the-top these costumes are. The women wore either pink or almost iridescent purple tutus, along with white gloves and tights that gave the impression that they were wearing little white socks. The overall style looked like a combination of Minnie Mouse and Uncle Sam. All of the dancers wore little hats with feathers sticking out the top (like cat toys), and some carried batons or bugles to complete the ensemble. It was all a little too much.

The choreography was a bit trite. Who knows how many salutes were wrapped into this one number, and the women did their best to "march" in their pointe shoes. But I did enjoy that the main male dancer, Thomas Garrett, looks like a long-faced Chris Evans, which fits perfectly with his character El Capitan (vs. Captain America). And the set did include a large American flag which was much appreciated.

Overall I really enjoyed the performance. I realize I tend to focus on costumes a bit too much, but I'm a very visual person, and certainly know more about fashion than I do about dance. But I love the way ballet mixes art and dance and music and fashion, all into one! I will miss the Suzanne Farrell Ballet!

And if you're curious (like I was) about how ballet pointe shoes are tied, here's a video:

Please see my previous blog post about the Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

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