Los Angeles

Monday, October 12, 2015

So Cinderella - My Week with the Mariinsky Ballet

Photo taken by me for +MusicCenterLA
Hey internet.  Long time no blog, huh?  I'm easing back into life after having submerged myself in all things Mariinsky last week.  The legendary Russian ballet company brought Alexei Ratmansky's 2002 version of Cinderella to The Music Center for 5 performances and a slew of other activities throughout the week.  I simply adore show weeks, but they are exhausting and require some pretty intense social media-ing.  I literally signed out of all my personal accounts and just focused on work last week, so that's why things have been quiet on all Firebird fronts.  

In any case, the shows were absolutely stunning.  The Mariinsky Ballet is, not surprisingly, ballet perfection.  Technique, artistry, production - every member of the company is strong and beautiful.  It was truly inspiring to see them work both on and off the stage.  

I was incredibly fortunate to see the production 4 times (though not the whole thing each time) and experience 4 different casts of Cinderella.  It was interesting to see how each ballerina interpreted to role and made it ever so unique to her personality.  While they were all incredible, I must admit seeing prima ballerina, Diana Vishneva (on whom the part was originally choreographed) was a special treat.  She lives up to the hype.  The woman is a true artist.  

Furthermore, I thought Ratmansky's take on the classic fairy tale was fun and refreshing.  Without sacrificing the story's inherent charm, he cleverly played on themes of time, poked fun at aristocracy, replaced a glittering fairy god-mother with a grungy fairy-tramp and infused humanity into the often-times flat characters.  And there were those moments.... Those visual moments that stick with you, even when they are often the simplest of moves, which I find in every Ratmansky ballet.  I think he is the best thing to happen to ballet in a long time.  (What you're hearing now is the sound of me fan-girling!) 

You can get a glimpse of some of the going ons I was capturing behind the scenes on The Music Center's blog, 135 Grand.  

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let's Talk Twyla!

Last night, husband and I saw Twyla Tharp's 50th Anniversary show at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. I've always been a fan of Twyla's work - Nine Sinatra Songs is perhaps my favorite - But until last night I had never seen a piece of her work performed live.

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Even as I type that, it seems strange, but this is the reality of living in a place like LA.  The thing about Twyla Tharp's work is that I always feel like it's my kind of movement, my kind of humor, and as I watch her choreography my dominant thought is always: "I want to dance this."  Last night, while not overwhelming, or remarkably new, was no different.  

It was my first LIVE Twyla experience and it didn't disappoint.  Her dancers were a perfect assortment of sizes and strengths - from lanky SAB graduates to seasoned modern dance veterans, each cast perfectly within the works and all bringing a high quality of technique and charisma that is just totally Twyla!

Nicholas Coppula flies through the air while performing "Yowzie" during Twyla Tharp's 50th anniversary tour at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

The first act was a series of ballet-based fugues, aptly titled Preludes and Fugues, that, while well-danced and peppered with plenty of originality and charm, went on a little longer than needed.  The second act was a horse of a completely different color...  Yowzie was set to seven classic jazz songs and farcically depicted a drunken night out.  While again, the work felt a tad one-note, it evoked humor, humanity and honestly reminded me of my own first night in New Orleans (shenanigans that ended in beignets at 3 in the morning!) 

All in all, Twyla's 50th was simply enjoyable.  A great show for every dance-lover to see.  Catch the final show tomorrow at 2pm.
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

World Ballet Day!

October 1st signifies a great many things.  Perhaps to some it signifies the beginning of the holiday season, to others it may just signify that the rent is due.  But to me, October 1st means one thing: #WorldBalletDay. 

World Ballet Day had it's trial run last year and was so successful, it became an even bigger event this year.  It's essentially a 24 hour live stream of a typical day in 5 of the greatest ballet companies around the world.  Viewers can comment on the stream, ask questions, submit their own videos and images to be featured, and get a very inside, intimate look at the many facets of these large ballet companies and how they work.  

The day begins with The Australia Ballet, then moves to The Bolshoi Ballet, followed by The Royal Ballet, then National Ballet of Canada, before finishing here on the west coast with San Francisco Ballet.  Each company live streams their morning company class, various short interviews and featurettes, and rehearsals.   This year, to expand their reach and broadcast, each of these five companies invited other nearby companies to use some of their "air time" to showcase their own dancers and daily practice.  So additional companies like the Royal New Zealand Ballet, National Ballet of China, Nederlands Dans TheaterAmerican Ballet Theatre and Ballet West were brought into the fold.

What I love about World Ballet Day is that it shows how ballet remains a truly globally connected and transcendental art form.  There is a consistency to it across every company, in every country - Every class starts with a plié and ends in a reverence!  And viewers all over the world get to see some of the greatest ballet dancers working today, most of which, they would never get the chance to see dance live otherwise!  

I'm also just incredibly impressed with the quality of the broadcast.  It's an enormous feat and while there are always a few technical bumps here and there, it's gone incredibly smoothly the last two years.  In my opinion, it is a supremely perfect example of how ballet can use modern technology to really expose themselves to new audiences and in a whole new way.  And it's so much fun!  I guess I only wish I had the constitution to stay up through the night to watch it all!      

This year's broadcast just ended, but you can re-watch the full 23 hours of ballet goodness soon (I'll be sure to post it when it's up.)  In the meantime, here's the portions from the Australian Ballet and The Royal Ballet ...

Until next year, may I just say thank you #WorldBalletDay for uniting us all with company class!   

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