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"Serenade & SAB" panel discussion 31st May 2009Suki Schorer and SAB alumni


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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 07:19 PM

(from new York, NY) Here's my notes from a panel discussion on Serenade 31st May 2009, 12:00 PM, at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, Juilliard School, Lincoln Center, New York. The panel consisted of Wendy Perron, editor in chief of Dance Magazine and moderator, and Suki Schorer, who has staged Balanchine works for the SAB Workshops for 36 years, including all six renditions of Serenade, Lourdes Lopez, Wendy Whelan, Brian Reeder, Maria Kowroski, and Tiler Peck, all previous performers of the ballet in Workshop. Behind and above the panelists, seated downstage, was a large projection screen. The program was recorded, so if what's here is just tantalizing or frustrating, don't give up hope!*

Wendy Perron? When Workshop began in 1965, there was no Balanchine on the program: Petipa and Bournonville, works of young choreographers, then Suki Schorer came into it:

Suki Schorer: I started when Balanchine padded Workshop with the castanet dance from Agon, Waltz Fantaisie, Stars and Stripes corps lines. I had taught these, he said, They'll be fine. There weren't any ballets from young choreographers.
In 1974, it was an anniversary of Serenade; I didn't know it was an anniversary or anything. I studied an original "hand-cranked" film.
Some of the original cast came. (They said they took class to get stage experience.)

Lourdes Lopez: It was joyous to dance Balanchine variations [starting at age 17]. It was like clubbing. I thought, This is the choreographer I want to dance. Very different from Sleeping Beauty. [slide up now of "Russian" girls, with Lopez]

Wendy Whelan: [Dancing Serenade] I learned how to feel the body of the corps - lots of holding hands.

Lourdes Lopez: The corps does a lot of steps principals do -- I thought, hey, that's what I do.

Suki Schorer: A great thing about Balanchine is the corps doesn't stand there... It's community, you say hello to each other.

Brian Reeder: [referring to the simple movements of Serenade] In their simplicity they're really grand, like [the Shades?] in Bayadere, that's what makes them grand. Where I touched her shoulder -- it's the beginning of going on her journey.

Wendy Perron: Each [movement] ending gives a tableaux to begin the next one.

Brian Reeder: I felt I wasn't just a crane.

Suki Schorer: You're not just a crane!

Brian Reeder: I felt lucky to be in that sisterhood.

Tiler Peck: [I like] the erect beginning, all on stage, arm out.

...

Wendy Perron: He didn't change what he made for the men.

Suki Schorer: He said, I'm going to start a ballet. Men, you can go. I've done research. Ruthanna Boris told me. There were men. He had nine Waltz girls.

...

Brian Reeder: That partnering is not simple, especially if you're a student.

Wendy Perron: I saw the Bolshoi turn the arabesque. They got all tangled up.

Suki Schorer: The boy slides his hands up her leg. [I didn't remember seeing this so clearly before these Workshops. Jack Reed]

Maria Kowroski: I use lots of Static Guard so the skirt won't cling.

Wendy Perron: Calegari says the arabesque is supposed to be timeless. (She couldn't be here. I called her up.)

[clip of the beginning of the "Waltz", with Maria Kowroski]

Suki Schorer: I think their hair came down in 1980 because he saw Maria's beautiful red hair -- she was putting it up, and he said no.

Lourdes Lopez: The three girls are one woman, there dancing with him. The Russian Girl is the messenger; the Waltz Girl is tentative; the Angel is maternal, protective. The man is dancing with one perfect woman with three sides. [Later] he used three girls with different hair color. Stephi [Saland] came in.

Brian Reeder: This sounds cheesy, but it's the spiritual journey of a dancer. From turnout in the beginning up into the light at the end. Simplicity, grand. It tells without being obvious about it.

Wendy Whelan: It's abstract but each person's story -- that's so Balanchine, architecture and poetry.

Lourdes Lopez: Suki didn't just teach the steps: "You run to him. It's the last time you're going to do this."

Tiler Peck: I never tire of doing it -- principal, corps, never boring.

Wendy Perron: It was done for eighteen years in little tunics, flowing [tutus] in 1952.

[clip of Tiler Peck coming downstage between other women]

...

Suki Schorer: We had to accomplish two things -- plie' and tendu -- if you could do those maybe you could dance.

Brian Reeder: The making of "Serenade". Did some really come late? Suki Schorer: Yes, and one girl had a date, that's why one leaves early... He said it's always good to have a problem.

He told a story [in 1934]: In Europe there's this little man with a moustache. I don't have a moustache. I'm not him. They do [Schorer, seated through all of this, raises her right arm straight in front, halfway up, hand and fingers in line with her arm itself] but we don't do that, we do [raises arm part way to side, hand raised]. Hand gets tired. [bends elbow, bends her wrist the other way now as she brings it down to the left side of her forehead, then lowers her hand in front of her, the other arm symmetrical]

Some people call the opening "orange groves", but he hadn't been to California yet! [someone else] Maybe they got it from him! [laughter]

Mr. B. always loved it when you fell, because you had gone beyond safe. Unless you broke your foot, then you cry. Patty [McBride] fell when she got a new part, and the more she fell the more new parts she got. [Younger dancer]: Now she tells us.

In response to a question, Schorer said, There was no verbal scenario. He didn't want us to get dramatic on him.

"Mindy": Talk about why he flipped the order of the movements? Wendy Perron: He wanted a sad ending, "Elegie". Suki Schorer: He said he asked Tchaikovsky, and he said it was okay.

Suki Schorer: The port de bras at the end has changed. Prayer. Maybe the day he died.

Then most of us -- we might have been seventy all together -- got on our feet and, after a false start, Schorer taught us the opening, through to the moment when we stretched our arms out to the sides and threw our heads back, to the music, which began from the very beginning, before the curtain would rise: "This is the wrong music!" [waited for the right passage] Some of this too, I gather, went into the recording.

[edited for clearer layout, a more complete account of Lopez's interpretation of the three girls and some clarification of Reeder's remarks at one point (thanks to a friend who was also there), and for clearer expression in the last paragraph]

*Some further publication has now occurred; see below in Post #8.

Edited by Jack Reed, 07 September 2009 - 01:16 PM.


#2 leonid17

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 03:34 AM

Here's my notes from a panel discussion on Serenade 31st May 2009, 12:00 PM, at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, Juilliard School, Lincoln Center, New York. The panel consisted of Wendy Perron, editor in chief of Dance Magazine and moderator, and Suki Schorer, who has staged Balanchine works for the SAB Workshops for 36 years, including all six renditions of Serenade, Lourdes Lopez, Wendy Whelan, Brian Reeder, Maria Kowroski, and Tiler Peck, all previous performers of the ballet in Workshop. Behind and above the panelists, seated downstage, was a large projection screen. The program was recorded, so if what's here is just tantalizing or frustrating, don't give up hope!


Thank you for giving such an evocative record of the event.

#3 kfw

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 04:00 AM

Jack, thanks so much for this. It's really a delight to read. Can you expand on the following?

Suki Schorer: The port de bras at the end has changed. Prayer. Maybe the day he died.



#4 bart

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 05:37 AM

It's thrilling to be able to read this latest chapter in the fascinating story of Serenade. Thank you, Jack.

What is it about this particular ballet that evokes so much memory, so much thought, so much nostalgia?

Then most of us -- we might have been seventy all together -- got on our feet and, after a false start, Schorer taught us the opening, through to the moment when we stretched our arms out to the sides and threw our heads back, to the music, which began from the very beginning, before the curtain would rise.

And you had time to learn some of the choreography, too !!!! You're a wonder.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 06:29 PM

(from New York, NY) kfw, the part Schorer was talking about is the final port de bras for the Waltz Girl as she is being carried off into the upstage corner by the three boys, ending with her arms back. The prayer-like version began with palms together; the original, classical version did not include this detail. Schorer said this originated the night of the day Balanchine died, by whoever did it then, and it wasn't clear whether it's ever done now, but Schorer was clear that it's taught in the original, classical version. We think there was not only a NYCB performance of Serenade that evening but one at SAB also, just to add to the confusion.

bart, I wouldn't claim I learned much choreography! We had Schorer showing with her back to us (no mirror) while Kowroski was performing facing us, and I got my left and right mixed up! Besides my absence of dance training -- I haven't learned how to learn this sort of thing.

Part of the answer to your second question has to do with the intensity of the mysteries in this ballet, I have a hunch.

#6 kfw

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 06:49 PM

(from New York, NY) kfw, the part Schorer was talking about is the final port de bras for the Waltz Girl as she is being carried off into the upstage corner by the three boys, ending with her arms back. The prayer-like version began with palms together; the original, classical version did not include this detail. Schorer said this originated the night of the day Balanchine died, by whoever did it then, and it wasn't clear whether it's ever done now, [emphasis kfw] but Schorer was clear that it's *taught* in the original, classical version.

Jack, many thanks again. If I'm not mistaken, somewhere in print recently Kistler was criticized for this palms-together pose.

#7 harpergroup

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 07:24 PM

One interesting thing that Schorer talked about the fact that in 1994 she decided to have a short girl cast and a tall girl cast for Serenade at the Workshop, and she cast Kowroski as Waltz girl. Kowroski commented that, though she did Waltz girl for Workshop, she hasn't done it since (at NYCB, she's done Dark Angel). So the really great news from my perspective is that Kowroski is getting to do Waltz girl again, at the Dancer's Emergency Fund performance. She'll be joined by Reichlen, LeCrone, and Fowler (NYCB debuts marked for all four) in an excerpt from the ballet. Thank you Jenifer Ringer for putting that cast together.

This comes from the casting for the week of June 9 through 14, on the NYCB website.

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 01:14 PM

A different account of this seminar is printed in the Summer 2009 edition of the SAB Newsletter, with much more complete texts of what people said each time they spoke, but fewer of them, for comparable length overall. Assuming it's based on a careful transcript of a recording of the seminar, I'm glad to be able to report that my sketchier version, based on my hastily scribbled notes, bears up pretty well in comparison with it, although I sometimes emphasized different aspects of the discussion.

Unfortunately, the Newsletter's not online yet, although something along these lines is in the works: The same issue says the School will publish an "e-newsletter" beginning in Spring 2010. Meanwhile, those interested might try writing to the return address, to see if there are more print copies: The School of American Ballet, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York 10023-6592.


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