Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grouch, Grouch

The Kirov Ballet is coming to New York in April and, aside from several all-Forsythe evenings, the program is about as exciting as warm milk - without even a single full-length classical or modern work. Now that a major international company should tour with a program devoted entirely to a living artist (an another evening devoted to an artist who was alive within my lifetime) says worlds about why the ballet world is healthier than that of, say, opera. But this trend towards excerpting full-length dramatic works irks me, in large part because what tends to get lost is the drama - leaving just the pretty costumes and virtuosity.

For instance, the fourth act of La Bayadere (one of the excerpts on the program) is supposed to represent the guilt-ridden opium dream of a man who has inadvertently driven his true love to her death. In context, the 32 identically-dressed women dancing in perfect unison represent some of the best choreography written ever for the corps de ballet, but they're also really, really creepy - 32 copies of his lost love come to haunt his dreams, and no way to identify the real one. Out of context, the whole thing plays like a courtship, not the ghostly reproduction of one that it's supposed to be.

I wish people would take the grand romantic and classical ballets a bit more seriously, all together. Yes, they're sometimes rather mannered, but there's an incredibly rich vocabulary of emotion and symbolism there for anyone who cared to mine it a bit more carefully.



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