La Bayadere

September 11, 2012 at 9:01 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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I just watched the Opus Arte DVD of The Royal Ballet’s 2009 production of La Bayadere: The Temple Dancer. Really good ! The Shades in the Act 2 (Scene 2) is a hidden gem.

The official billing is choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa; though I notice that revival staging is accredited to Olga Evreinoff, and principal coaching is accredited to the latter and Alexander Agadzhanov. Anyway the choreography was great. I did have a little problem with the costumes in combination with the lush scenery – a switch to more dessert and sand might have worked better.

The story is pretty and easily followed: two women love the same man and one women poisons the other. There is some rich emotion to be mined and it is an opportunity for some excellent choreography and dancing. Carlos Acosta dances the part of Solor the ‘love object’ – he is a brave warrior (and hunter of tigers). Tamara Rojo dances the part of Nikiya – a temple dancer: the Bayadere. Marianela Nunez dances the part of Gamzatti – the Rajah’s daughter and the other women.

The Shades in scene 2 is very reminiscent of the mass swan scenes in Swan Lake, but with a much more dramatic entrance. The interview with Leanne Cope and Francesca Filpi on the ‘Extras’ really add some wonderful context to this scene. Incidentally, the ‘Extras’ segment on this DVD are really good; as is the accompanying booklet.

A DVD worth watching.

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Red Doors

July 11, 2011 at 7:24 am | Posted in DVD Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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Found this film at the library and watched it at home.

It was quite good. A film about Chinese Americans that concentrated on the American part. The film centres around the everyday goings on of three sisters: Sam (Jacqueline Kim); Julie ‘Jools’ (Elaine Kao); and Katie ( Kathy Shao-lin Lee). Sam is about to marry someone who wants she probably shouldn’t. Julie can’t find a boy friend; and Katie who doesn’t know how to talk to the boy next door.

By the end of the film: Sam will have given herself a chance for self-happiness; Julie discovers someone she really hits it off with (much to her mother’s surprise); and Katie tries communicating with words, rather than with dangerous practical jokes. Their father runs away to a monastery to find some time to think.

If anything the film is about New Yorkers – the film won Best New York film at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film has a small immigrant Chinese element to it – the family look and are Chinese (well at least to the extent that you can be Chinese in America) and they eat with chopsticks and speak mandarin at dinner (well at least at the beginning), but otherwise the story would work for a Greek American family. the film does not labour the point. The father going to a monastery is a very American story!

The film has an immigrant element: Sam was good enough to go to Juilliard (to train as a ballerina); but her parents advised her not to go – not a secure financial career path. Echo’s of Georgia Lee’s (writer and director) own path – she dropped out of business school to make films; we she choose to resist the immigrant desire to be ‘safe’.

A good film – particularly if you come from an immigrant background! or not !!

Prince of the Pagodas

August 11, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Over three long nights I watched this DVD of the Royal Ballet’s 1990 production of The Prince of the Pagodas. Warning – contains plot details.

Aug 7, 2008 by Show_Hanger

Prince of the Pagods has a strong story going for it: a contested kingdom; sibling rivalry; competition for a woman’s hand in marriage; fighting for the woman you love’ and more. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version features some very good dancers: Darcy Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Simon Rice and Fiona Chadwick. Yet, it did not engage me; I was not held in thrall – certainly not in the way Romeo and Juliet does. I feel that the ballet was let down by the music. The music was generally uninspiring; It just did not enhance and support the emotional elements of the story.

This was the first time that I had seen Dacry Bussell dance. Some years ago I read her biography, and was very pleased to find this DVD at the library. She is a joy to watch; she is svelt, not skinny; she graceful, yet athletic – wonderful jumps; her arabeques are a joy to behold; no wonder she was MacMillan’s muse!

Act I sets the scene. The king divides his kingdom between his daughters – Princess Rose (Bussell) and her half sister Princess Epine (Chadwick). Unfortunately, it is not an equal division; Princess Epine is given a smaller portion, and it is clear that she is not happy. Four foreign kings arrive in search of brides. During the ensuing ‘struting’, Princess Epine ousts her father and takes the crown from him. Princess Epine turns Princess Rose’s fiance – The Prince (Cope) – into a salamander and transports him from the kingdom.

Act II seems to one long dream sequence. Princess Ross, accompanied and assisted by the court fool (Rice), searches for the Prince. She rejects the four kings and her perserverance is rewarded – she finds the prince and her love returns him to human form.

Act III see things set right. Princess Rose and the Prince return to her father’s kingdom – now ruled by Princess Epine. In a series of superbly choreographed gritty fights, the Prince vanquishes the four foreign kings. The king is restored. Princess Epine is banished. Princess Rose and the Prince marry – or at least formally engaged.

This ballet has a unique piece of choreography – a pas de deux with one dancer ! The king of the east dances with himself – constantly looking at himself in a handmirror!

I think the ballet was staged at Covent Garden and filmed by the BBC in 1990.

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Aug 7, 2008 by DVD_Hanger

The DVD had two items on it: the Ballet and a documentary –Out of Line – on the life of Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The DVD helpfully puts a summary at the beginning of each Act.

The documentary was facinating. We see MacMillan as a dancer. We see three of the dancers he has used as instruments to aid his choreography – his muses: Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri and Darcy Bussell. The first two are interveiwed, Seymour extensively; but Bussell not at all for some reason.

The documentary covers much of MacMillan’s career as a choreographer, though how objective it is I don’t know. But it appears to have been pretty controversial. MacMillan seems to have been constantly at odds with the traditionalists and the critics!

The DVD is worth getting out for the documentary alone.

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