Babel 7.16

Babel 7.16 dance production. Choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. Music by Patrizia Bovi, Mahabub Khan, Sattar Khan, Gabriele Miracle, and Shogo Yoshii. Recorded at the Festival d'Avignon, 2016. Stars Aimilios Arapoglou, Magali Casters, Navala "Niku" Chaudhari, Sandra Delgadillo, Francis Ducharme, Jon Filip Fahlstrom, Leif Federico Firnhaber, Darryl E. Woods, Damien Fournier, Ben Fury, Aliashka Hilsum, Ulrika Kinn Svensson, Kazutomi "Tsuki" Kozuki, and Paea Leach. Stage design by Antony Gormley. Released 2018. Grade: NA

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La grande danza

La grande danza---Aterballettoin Milan triple bill of dances performed 2017 by the Aterballeto Dance Company at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. Directed for TV by Andreas Morell with Director of Photography Henning Brümmer:

  1. Words and Space. Choreography by Jiří Pokorny. Music by Georg Friedrich Händel. Sound design by Sawaki Yukari; costumes by Carolina Mancuso; sets and lighting by Carlo Cerri.
  2. Narcissus. Choreography by Giuseppe Spota. Music by Joby Talbot. Costume design by Francesca Messori; sets and lighting by Carlo Cerri; on-stage video designs by OOOPStudio.
  3. Phoenix. Choreography by Philippe Kratz. Music by Borderline Order. Costume design by Costanza Maramotti; sets and lighting by Carlo Cerri.

Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio. Grade: B+


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The Car Man

The Car Man dance production. Music by Georges Bizet and arranged by Terry Davies. Choreographed and directed by Matthew Bourne. Recorded 2015 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. Stars Kerry Biggin, Cordelia Braithwaite, Tom Clark, Danny Collins, Pia Driver, Freya Field, Glenn Graham, Tim Hodges, Katy Lowenhoff, Nicole Kabera, Katrina Lyndon, Kate Lyons, Andrew Monaghan, Leon Moran, Liam Mower, Dominic North, Jonathan Ollivier, Danny Reubens, Ashley Shaw, Zizi Strallen, Chris Trenfield, Alan Vincent, and Katie Webb. Set and costume design by Lez Brotherston; lighting design by Chris Davey; orchestrated by Terry Davies; sound design by Paul Groothius; associate director was Etta Murfitt; resident director was Neil Westmoreland. Released 2017. Grade: NA

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Ballet Hispánico

Ballet Hispánico dance recital performed 2015 at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). Ballet Hispánico is directed by Eduardo Vilaro and has the mission of celebrating Latino culture through dance. It's an important dance group in New York City and one of the few dance companies in the United States to focus on Latin dance and culture. Pieces performed were CARMEN.maquia, choreographed by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, and Club Havana, choreographed by Pedro Ruiz.

CARMEN.maquia stars Christopher Bloom (Don José), Kimberly Van Woesik (Carmen), Melissa Fernandez (Micaela), and Mario Ismael Espinoza (Escamillo). Cigar factory girls, soldiers, townsfolk, and Gypsies are played by Lauren Alzamora, Martina Calcagno, Shelby Colona, Kassandra Cruz, Mark Gieringer, Christopher Hernandez, Johan Rivera Mendez, Eila Valls, Lyvan Verdecia, and Joshua Winzeler. Recorded music segments, all from Bizet Carmen suites or the Pablo de Sarasate Carmen Concert Fantasy, are stitched together from many resources.  Set by Luis Crespo; costumes designed by David Delfin and made by Travis Halsey and Diana Ruettiger; lighting by Joshua Preston. Because all the music comes from the opera, the ballet must be viewed as a ballet telling of the opera libretto---not an easy task.

Club Havana performers are:

- Son (a Cuban dance popular in the 1930s): Martina Calcagno, Shelby Colona, Kassandra Cruz, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Melissa Fernandez, Mark Gieringer, Christopher Hernandez, Johan Rivera Mendez, Eila Valls, and Lyvan Verdecia. 

- Mambo: Shelby Colona & Lyvan Verdecia; Kassandra Cruz & Johan Rivera Mendez; and Eila Valls & Mario Ismael Espinoza.

- Cha Cha Cha: Melissa Fernandez, Mark Gieringer, and Christopher Hernandez.

- Bolero, Rhumba, and Congo: The Company.

The dances are performed to recorded music composed by Israel López, Rubén Gonzales, A. K. Salim, Perez Prado, and Francisco Repilado. Costumes by Ghabriello Fernando; lighting by Donald Holder.

The Ballet Hispánico group has its home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "Lincoln Center at the Movies" (LCatM) is a new resource. LCatM promoters seek American dance content that (1) has cultural significance and (2) can be shown in movie houses around the United States (thru Fathom Events in 2015) and maybe other countries. (It helps perhaps if the dance production has some connection, however slight, to Lincoln Center.) Selling an HDVD would be an additional profit center. (This business model was invented, of course, by Peter Gelb at the Met.)  Produced by Andrew Carl Wilk; directed for TV by Matthew Diamond. Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

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Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dance recital shot 2015 at the David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center) in New York.  Ailey started his company long ago as a home for black artists. Eventually, he dropped the all-black standard to include dancers and choreographers of all races. Still, as you can see from the artwork above, AAADT remains mostly a black operation, and it is probably the leading such dance group in the world.  The program contains the following pieces:

  1. Chroma by Wayne McGregor to a score by Jack White and Jody Talbot. Chroma has nothing to do with black experience. Dancers are Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean Aaron Carmon, Sarah Daley, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Vernard J. Gilmore, Yannick Lebrun, Rachel McLaren, Akua Noni Parker, and Linda Celeste Sims. By leading off with this, the AAADT claims that they can take on any modern dance assignment out there.
  2. Grace by Ronald K. Brown to music by Duke Ellington. Brown is black, and his work is rooted in modern, African, and urban styles. Dancers are Linda Celeste Sims, Demetia Hopkins-Greene, Matthew Rushing, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Vernard J. Gilmore, Grenn Allen Sims, Daniel Harder, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Belen Pereya, Hope Boykin, and Rachael McLaren. Grace is, I think, considered a dance icon of the American black experience.
  3. Takademe by Robert Battle to music by Sheila Chandra. Battle is black and currently the leader of the AAADT. Apparently nobody knows or cares what "takademe" means other than, perhaps, "a dance telling a story." Performed by Jamar Roberts. It's a frantic solo included, I suspect, as a kind of dance joke analogous to a scherzo moment in a piece of classical music.
  4. 4. Revelations by Alvin Ailey to traditional black gospel music. Performed by the Company and with star roles by Marcus Jarrell Willis, Hope Boykin, Jacqueline Green, Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims, Michael Francis McBride, Megan Jakel, Marcus Jarrell Willis, Yannick Lebrun, Rachael McLaren, Matthew Rushing, Alicia Graf Mack, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Jamar Roberts, and Kirven Douthit-Boyd. This is considered Ailey's most profound work.

It appears all the music for the dances was prerecorded. There's no sign of any orchestra in the video, and nothing is said on the keepcase or in the booklet about who plays anything. Produced by Andrew Carl Wilk; directed for TV by Matthew Diamond. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

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Béjart Ninth Symphony Modern Dance

The Maurice Béjart The Ninth Symphony on Schiller's Ode to Joy modern dance was performed 2014 by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne and the Tokyo Ballet on the stage of the NHK Hall in Tokyo. Texts by Friedrich Nietzsche (Prologue) and Friedrich von Schiller (Ode to Joy). Music is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Percussion by Thierry Hochstätter and jB Meier (Citypercussion). Choreography and staging by Maurice Béjart (1927-2007) remade by Béjart Ballet Lausanne Artistic Director Gil Roman with help of Piotr Nardelli.  Soloist dancers are Dan Tsukamoto, Mizuka Ueno, Iori Nittono, Aya Takagi, Kathleen Thielhelm, Masayoshi Onuki, Elisabet Ros, Julien Favreau, Lisa Cano, Fabrice Gallarrague, Pauline Voisard, Felipe Rocha, Oscar Chacon, Keisuke Nasuno, Marsha Rodriguez, Cosima Munoz, Mari Ohashi, Kwinten Guilliams, Aldriana Vargas Lopez, Hector Navarro, and Alanna Archibald. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ritsuyukai Choir conducted by Zubin Mehta with Chorus Master Fukiami Kuriyama. Soloists  for the Ninth Symphony are Kristin Lewis (soprano), Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano), Kei Fukui (tenor), and Alexander Vinogradov (bass). Prologue narration by Gil Roman accompanied by Citypercussion. Original sets and costumes designed by Joëlle Roustan and Roger Bernard; costumes realized by Henri Davila; lighting by Dominique Roman.  TV director was Mari Inamasu; Line Producer was Claudia Krüger; Producers were Masumi Kawaguchi, Junya Yagi, Maryam Nikbin, and Isabel Iturriagagoitia Bueno; Executive Producers were Jan Bremme, Bernd Hellthaler, and Lothar Mattner. Spoken language is in French.  The Ode to Joy is sung in German. Subtitles in English, German, Korean, and Japanese. Released 2015, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling, and the disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio  sound output. Grade: A+

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Mark Morris L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato

Mark Morris L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato dance work. In 2014, the Mark Morris Dance Group performs, at the Teatro Real in Madrid, the above-named work to Handel's musical ode of the same name, i.e.,  L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato.  Choreography by Mark Morris. Dancers (alphabetical by last names) are Chelsea Lynn Acree, Sam Black, Max Cappelli-King, Brandon Cournay, Rita Donahue, Domingo Estrada, Jr., Jusie Fiorenza, Benjamin Freedman, Lesley Garrison, Lauren Grant, Brian Lawson, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Stacy Martorana, Claudia Macpherson, Dallas McMurray, Maile Okamura, Brandon Randolph, Billy Smith, Utafumi Takemura, Noah Vinson, Nicholas Wagner, Jenn Weddel, and Michelle Yard.  Jane Glover conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real Madrid (Chorus Master Andrés Máspero). Solo singers are Sarah-Jane Brandon and Elizabeth Watts (sopranos), James Gilchrist (tenor), and Andrew Foster-Williams (baritone). Set design by Adrianne Lobel; costume design by Christine van Loon; lighting design by James F. Ingalls; directed for TV and video by Vincent Bataillon; produced by François Duplat, Joan Hershey, John Walker, and David Horn. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

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Lang Lang - The Chopin Dance Project

Lang Lang - The Chopin Dance Project, is a piano recital by Lang Lang supporting a ballet performance for 16 dancers of the Houston Ballet, all live. Choreographed by Stanton Welch, the Dance Project was filmed 2013 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Dancers are Ian Casady, Jessica Collado, Derek Dunn, Karina Gonzalez, James Gotesky, Oliver Halkowich, Nozomi Iijima, Melody Mennite, Allison Miller, Jim Nowakowski, Katharine Precourt, Lauren Strongin, Brian Waldrep, Connor Walsh, Joseph Walsh, and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.  Detailed notes in the keepcase booklet list the dancers on stage for each of the following Chopin works:

1. Ballade No.1 in G minor op. 23
2. Etude No. 7 in C-sharp minor op. 25
3. Ballade No. 2 in F major op. 38
4. Ballade No. 4 in F minor op. 52
5. Waltz No. 1 in E-flat major op. 18 "Grande Valse brillante"
6. Nocturne No. 1 in F major op. 15
7. Waltz No. 19 in A minor op. posth.
8. Andante spianato op. 22
9. Etude No. 3 in E major opus 10 "Tristesse"
10. Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat major op. 55
11. Grande Polonaise brillante in E-flat major op. 22
12. Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. posth. No. 16

Stage Director was Michelle Elliott; Lighting Designer was Lisa J. Pinkham; Video Director was Olivier Simonnet. Produced by Jean-Stéphane Michaux and François Bertrand. Music recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A 

The 3 ballades here overlap Lang Lang's performance on the recently released HDVD Lang Lang at the Royal Albert Hall, where he played all 4 Chopin ballades. Of the remaining 9 selections, many are probably already on your shelf as they are often performed by many pianists. So if you already have the disc of the Lang Lang show at the Royal Albert Hall, this might not be a compelling buy just for the music.

The subtitle of this disc is "Sons de l'âme" or "Sounds of the Soul." But this is, of course, not just a piano recital.  It's a joint production with 12 dancers supported by a single musician. Lang Lang functions in part as soloist and in part as accompanist (even reading some sheet music).  When I watch this, I find the dancing to be the true focus of this recording. This is, I think, because the eye is the emperor of the soul and the ear his concubine. And we saw in the HDVD Dragon Songs recording that Lang Lang is quite able to be a "restrained, meticulous, gracious, and loving accompanist."

This is a modest, restrained, and conservative joint effort with mostly quiet music, simple serene costumes, and subdued relaxing lighting. But it also may be a trail-breaking event in the history of fine-art recording. I can't think of any other recording where a famous musician and fine dancers are all on the stage and given equally important roles and credits. Can you think of a precedent for this?

Chopin didn't write danceable music, and the choreography here doesn't follow any rhythm of the music. It's all abstract---two different dream worlds presented for you to enjoy together. Enough words; time for pictures.

The Imp Angel is always happy. The pictures on your PC probably look rather dark. They look fine on a good TV in a room with subdued lighting:

A duet by Katharine Precourt and Brian Waldrep gives us a view of the whole stage:

A near shot of Precourt and Waldrep:

The simplicity of the design lets us focus on the personalities of the dancers. Here's Jessica Callado:

A duet with Callado and Ian Casady:


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Dance! ballet box set. The box includes three titles described in more detail on this site:

1. Chaplin, graded "B+", would please most modern dance fans. 

2. Poppea//Poppea in 3D, graded "D+", was an interesting production, but its video quality might be the worst I've seen for a dance title.

3. The Great Mass, graded "C", might be accurately called "The Great Mess."

The blended grade for these three titles would be "C+", which is consistent with the drab artwork EuroArts has provided for the box. At the moment (late January 2015) the price on MDT Recordings for this suggests that Euroarts is offering this "3 for the price of 2."  You be the judge.