I'm Kind Of In Love With Frances Chiaverini

Will Morphoses succeed without Christopher Wheeldon? It was the question of the evening last night at The Joyce Theater during the company's first performance since their celebrated founding artistic director left.

 

For Morphoses' post-Wheeldon premiere, executive director Lourdes Lopez brought in Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti to set an hour-long work on the company. And it looks like Veggetti felt the pressure. With Bacchae, he tried so hard to prove this was a company of the future: There was already a dancer onstage moving as the audience arrived; once the house lights went down, the piece began with a marionette rathen than a human dancing; a motion capture soundstage reflected the dancers' movement with odd noises; there were even dancers speaking into microphones in the audience. But all of these things felt like a haphazard bag of tricks with no other purpose than to break up the monotony of the choreography. Don't get me wrong: There is something beautiful about Veggetti's movement quality. It kind of looks like a delicate plastic bag being pulled along by a river. But everything is so smooth and suspended that your eyes can't help glazing over after a few minutes.

 

Or so I thought, until Frances Chiaverini began to dance. All of a sudden I could see the dynamics in the movement. It became interesting and original. She was so completely in control of her body in every moment; each gesture was made with precision and focus. When Chiaverini was onstage, it almost looked like a different ballet. The other performers were all talented, both technically and artistically. But Chiaverini brought the piece to an entirely new level.

 

The Morphoses I saw last night bore little resemblance to the company that premiered in 2007. But if they can keep attracting dancers like Chiaverini, they'll keep attracting audiences—even without a celebrity director.

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Ma Cong in the studio with Tulsa Ballet. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Without him we wouldn't have The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But how much do you know about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the man behind classical ballet's most recognizable music? Did you know that the Russian composer hid his homosexuality for much of his life? He also struggled with depression; there's been speculation that his death in 1893 was in fact a suicide.

Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong dramatically recounts his life in a new full-length ballet titled Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music, premiering March 29-31. If you think a story ballet about the most renowned composer of story ballets set to, yes, a Tchaikovsky score, is a bit meta, you wouldn't be wrong. But considering the renewed importance of LGBTQ rights in society, it's a ballet perfectly timed to our era. In Russia, censorship still asserts that Tchaikovsky was not gay. The subject also calls to mind backlash surrounding an LGBTQ-themed work at Louisville Ballet just last month.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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