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Robert Abrams
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Pennsylvania Ballet - Serenade and Carmina Burana

by Robert Abrams
November 14, 2007
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019

PA Ballet Playbill
Taylor Gordon has already written a conventional review of Pennsylvania Ballet's Serenade and Carmina Burana at the New York City Center, which means I am freed up to offer a few wild speculations.

Serenade is the sort of classical, traditional ballet that you can't help but love. That shouldn't prevent a ballet company from shaking things up. Serenade features an ethereal blue backdrop. It may be ethereal, but it is blank. If one wanted to make the ballet more modern, while still being true to itself, have a photographer on stage taking stills of the dancers as they are dancing, and then project the images on the backdrop in real time. I first saw this done in Daniel Clifton's Marked Territory at the Joyce SOHO. I thought the effect was very cool, although admittedly I wasn't so taken with the dance itself. The technique is worth a try in Serenade. The photographer could even relay the photos wirelessly to a computer in the lobby, which could print out photos on demand to sell to the audience. Of course, it should be kept in mind that adding real time photo projection to Serenade could have two possible results: it could either be cool and innovative, or it could ruin the ballet. We won't know which until someone takes the risk and tries it.

Serenade is an abstract ballet, but there is one short section where a man seems to turn into a bird with the help of a woman and is led off. It might work to expand this section into a full story ballet.

Finally, a question. One of the classic images from Serenade is the salute danced by the full company. Where does this salute come from? My best guess is the Olympic salute that was used in the early days of the modern Olympics, but that's just a guess.

The second ballet, Carmina Burana, provided an interesting contrast with Serenade. It was forceful and brisk in contrast to the languid Serenade. Both were danced compellingly.

The production had no end of interesting costumes, including one using stretchy fabric attached to a woman. A man would sometimes be inside this long fold of fabric. It made for a unique form of partnering.

I also liked the set. It looked like a sailboat or the Denver International Airport. It would be really cool if the PA Ballet did a dance video on a moving sailboat. That's what the moveable set made me think of.
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Serenade

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Serenade

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jonathan Stiles and Laura Bowman in Matthew Neenan's Carmina Burana

Jonathan Stiles and Laura Bowman in Matthew Neenan's Carmina Burana

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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