Friday, July 21, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

"Jewels" Dazzles at 50th Anniversary Lincoln Center Gala

The ballet Rubies
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

While George Balanchine may have died in 1983, his legacy has only strengthened as the years have passed. One of the greatest choreographers to have ever lived, he has remained the father of American ballet cofounding the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet (NYCB). "Jewels" is a ballet which celebrates his iconic status and pays tribute to this heterogeneous genius. Balanchine trained as a dancer at the Mariinsky Theatre in his birthplace of Saint Petersburg, Russia; had an artistic breakthrough when he departed for Paris in 1924 and was appointed choreographer of Ballet Russes; and, finally settled in America in 1933 to found his two famous ballet companies.

Bolshoi Ballet Director Makhar Vaziev, Paris Opera Ballet Director Aurelie Dupont, and Lincoln Festival Director Nigel Redden"

How seamless it was that the three greatest ballet companies in the world - Bolshoi, New York City Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet - joined forces on this Thursday evening July 20th to dance the monumental ballet "Jewels" in a historically unprecedented night as part of the Lincoln Center Festival being held from July 10-30.

Hal Witt, Olivia Flatto, Dana Cowin and Peter Martins

This Russian-American collaboration did not appear on CNN's Breaking News; however, it was no less noteworthy as these countries got together to stage one of the most exhilarating nights I have experienced to pay homage to the world renowned Balanchine. Many Ballet enthusiasts commented they could feel Balanchine in the room and Creative Director of NYCB Peter Martins who danced this piece in 1968 under Balanchine's tutelage told me he was feeling extremely nostalgic.

 Sam Hunley, Vanessa Zahorian, Cathleen Hribal, Denise Sobel, Roman Gronkowski, Michael Manning (Standing) and Glenn McCoy

There were others who felt similarly wistful as indicated by the sold-out tickets with decent seats starting in the $450 range and a pre-dinner held which cost $2,500 per person. This was an evening for ballet lovers many of whom paid a $1,000 fee to join the Producer's circle so a premium seat could be bought. Expectations were high and there were those who flew in from France, Russia and elsewhere to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Bolshoi dancers left to right Katya Zavadina, Victoria Litvinova, Daria Bachkova and Alena Kovaleva

"Jewels" which premiered April 13, 1967 in this theater, now called the David Koch theater, at Lincoln Center was inspired by Balanchine's visit to Van Cleef & Arpels where he posed for pictures with ballerinas wearing gem-encrusted tiaras. "Jewels" is a plotless ballet where the audience's interest must be sustained without the assistance of a storyline. Tonight, the three dance companies had no trouble holding the audience's attention especially with the varied styles with which they executed the ballets.

Brian and Joanna Fisher with dancer Harrison Ball

While, it would be unfair to view this as a competition, if it was I think the United States and Russia nailed it with the NYCB putting on a spectacular performance the likes of which I have rarely seen. I would bet there was an element of rivalry spurring on each company as they performed their pieces with an alacrity and enthusiasm that dazzled.

Australian Columnist Leo Schofield and Bolshoi Director Makhar Vaziev

The first act entitled "Emeralds" was performed by the Paris Opera Ballet in green costumes designed by Christian Lacroix with the music of Gabriel Faure. This act was pleasantly melodious and lulled me into an anodyne state - something I wish more dance performances would do. After a lengthy intermission, the dynamic part of the evening began, with NYCB dancers clothed in red tutus wowing in the Stravinsky piece entitled "Rubies."

Bolshoi dancers Angelina Karpova, Vlad Kozlov and Anna Baranova

Joaquin De Luz regaled the audience with his soaring jumps, replacing the formerly inimitable Edward Villella, by dancing this part with an enthusiastic ease. Megan Fairchild and Teresa Reichlen gave one of their most astonishing performances to date with Fairchild's growing confidence placing her amongst New York City's top dancers.

Angela Zhan, Toby Milstein and Julia Loomis

Tonight I was proud to be an American but was anxiously anticipating what the Bolshoi had in store with its new director Makhar Vaziev being heralded by the press for his exacting eye. It is safe to say the Russian's were great and had the best costumes of the evening, designed by Elena Zaitseva.  The white sequined tutus and headpieces were reminiscent of "Swan Lake" and I felt they were given an unfair advantage with their placement at the end of the program and their over-the-top costumes.

  Orchestra Manager David Titcomb, Piano Soloist Stephen Gosling, orchestra violinist Helen Strilec, and Director of New York City Ballet Peter Martins

I hope Putin and Trump did not collude on this one. All joking aside, the ballet was entitled "Diamonds" and given that those are the most precious jewels-surpassing emeralds and rubies - I felt the Americans were once again slighted. Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin were out of this world. Chudin did stationery fouette turns and pirouettes that floored the audience - the effortlessness was incredible.

Meryl Rosofsky with former soloist Jacque d'Amboise,
and Principal dancer Joaquin Deluz

As the ballet concluded with a lengthy standing ovation for the Russians, guests headed to Tavern on the Green for an after party with most of the Bolshoi, the New York City and Paris Opera Ballet dancers in attendance as well as Peter Martins, Jacque d'Amboise and Festival director Nigel Redden. Redden told me he has been working on putting this together for the past five years and this was a tribute to Balanchine who has changed the world of ballet with his fast technique and laser like focus on the body.

Left to right: Eric Cabezas, Ben Cubenas, Christian Zimmermann and Richard Kielar

He also said Balanchine had a musicality that was second to none. Reiterating the preeminence of Balanchine, was legendary dancer Jacque d'Amboise who first danced with Balanchine in 1942 and then joined as a lead in the production of "Jewels" 50 years ago. The most notable characteristic of Balanchine, d'Amboise told me, was "his exquisite manners."

Sheila Rosenblum, Janna Bullock and Heather Randall

If Balanchine was sitting at a table instead of just saying to Jacque grab a chair he would go and bring a chair to the table for him. Balanchine's diffidence extended to the dance arena where he would politely ask Jacque if he would rather dance with Allegra Kent or Suzanne Farrell giving him the choice despite the fact that he needed Jacque for a specific partner. This side of Balanchine is scarcely known and it was riveting.

Jacque sadly recounted arriving at Roosevelt Hospital minutes after Balanchine died with doctors later discovering his life had been taken by mad cow disease. At that moment Creative Director of the Bolshoi Makhar Vaziev, who has the demeanor of a Russian movie star, took to the microphone to thank everyone for participating. He later told me how excited he was to bring these three companies to Moscow and Paris to perform this dance tour de force for a global audience.

- Lieba Nesis

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New York Fashon Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Attack of the Killer Accessory

Newsprint pants 

I often tell a story about a member of my family (ok, it was my dad) who once strode jauntily through the airport, holding a copy of the New York Times. Nothing remarkable there except that I couldn't help observing that each stride brought the newspaper in contact with the leg of his heretofore pristine white pants. Later, as he noticed the fresh ink stains, I couldn't resist adding insult to injury. Why hadn't I told Houston we had a problem? My inexcusable excuse: someone twice my age (54 to my 27), should surely have been aware of the dangers of newsprint.

Since that fateful day I have had numerous regrets which, although I'm sure my father has long forgotten this relative non-event, I regard as "payback." Admittedly, this is a first world problem yet I always think there is some sort of karmic retribution at work in the universe when it happens to me, especially when, rather than through the fault of a newspaper, it is some of my favorite accessories which are responsible for ruining some of my equally favorite articles of clothing.

Figue Tuk Tuk Evil Eye bag

Exhibit A -- One Figue Tuk Tuk Evil Eye bag, a courtesy replacement generously offered from Figue for a previously purchased "eye-less" bag which had quickly lost its irreplaceable beads. I wore the mirrored and bugle beaded evil eye bag intermittently this past winter sans incident, always receiving numerous compliments from strangers -- it is a true conversation starter. Fast forward to the first warm day of this spring/summer when I fatefully paired it with a colorful print silk dress. Bag over the shoulder, off I went about my appointed morning rounds. By the time I stopped for lunch it became clear that the "eye" had been extremely "evil" ripping the side of my dress to shreds and giving new meaning to the word "eye-catching. I considered throwing the offending bag on a sacrificial bonfire to appease the revenge of bad juju from the fashion gods. Instead I kept it in rotation -- I "eye" it warily, taking great pains to keep it at arm's length if I'm wearing anything more delicate than a suit of armor.

John Hardy Cobra Multiple Coil Bracelet

So, what happens when your husband comes home with a fabulous piece of jewelry from your favorite jewelry designer? After marveling over how well I had trained him -- the John Hardy wrap-around coil cobra bracelet was truly "me"-- I soon realized that this bauble provided a little more than I bargained for. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to train the sterling reptile -- his fangs are a menace and a constant source of ripped garments. So far Mr. Hungry Sneaky Snake has "bitten" the loose weave on a knit suit jacket (unworn with tags). The garment was attacked as it lay resting innocently in the closet, a victim of circumstances, as my bejeweled wrist reached for the coat just to its left. I know my fanged frenemy has been up to no good with other garments as well but I'm trying not to let it "poison" our relationship. It's an uneasy truce. As long as I keep him from temptation, he holds his venom.

Pant leg stuck in shoe

Footwear is another source of constant fashion emergencies, if not actual trip ups. I remember well my first post-college job interview when, already in an anxious state, my heels sabotaged me further by forming an undeniable attraction to my wide trouser legs. As I walked I felt my pants legs being seized and tugged under the heel portion of the foot bed of my mules. (Don't judge -- it was the '80s!). Since then I have occasionally relived that experience always bringing back PTSD. While "Never let them see you sweat," was the advertising tagline of the day, I was clearly sweating it out as I tried to get my ridiculously shod foot in the door as a junior copywriter.

Marni slide minus stones

If there's anything that out rankles me even more than the embellished handbag it's embellished footwear. Shoes with tassels, stones or any other applied ornamentation are things I love in theory but hate in practice. There's nothing like losing a stone (or several) from a pair of barely worn shoes and being unable to replace it.  Case in point -- a pair of Marni slides, worn exactly twice, purchased from TheOutnet but still setting me back more than a pair of plastic slides should.  At the Marni boutique I was hoping I could obtain a few extra gemstones for what will obviously be a recurrent problem. Instead I was met with utter disdain from the snooty saleswoman. "Those are old --maybe you need a new pair," said the HBIC. Another "helpful" recommended I go hunting for stones in the trimmings stores.

A few other accessory items which don't play well together include Velcro and knits, silver necklaces with light colored tops, delicate legwear and boot zippers, rings with missing or protruding prongs and silky duvet covers. That last one was actually a blessing in disguise. Who knew that the simple chore of making the bed would alert me to the fact that a prong on my engagement ring had worn away and I was in peril of losing the diamond?

- Laurel Marcus