Ballet with Grilled Cheese

MAILANDER’S LA - I suppose we should have expected that the axial purpose of Grand Avenue Park, even for a cultural event, is to show off City Hall, to let it loom there as an ominous backdrop in all its craven authority--which is why I was only too glad to sit on one of the wings Saturday night, so I didn't have to look at it, to watch the Los Angeles Ballet perform two Stravinsky / Balanchine collaborations, Agon in its entirety and Rubies from Balanchine's Jewels suite. 


The performances were enthusiastic and filled with fun. I think the ballerinas had the most trouble (limited, but sometimes present) when turning in the very middle of the stage, as this is necessarily a hastily constructed platform and there are likely a few buckles and bows on it.

The center of the stage also proved a tough spot for the evening's emcee--it seemed like Los Angeles's Ballet's co-director Colleen Neary was, er, tap-dancing for time quite a bit--either that, or there was a necessary educational component that came with the staging. The component largely noted for a very tolerant audience of about 2,500 how Ms. Neary knew Balanchine in this way and in that way and especially not in that way, though she was indeed only too glad to wear his perfume and she let us know she could count steps better than some other girls.

The company's Ally duo, principal dancers Allyssa Bross and Allynne Noelle, especially shone under the stars, weaving and chicken-winging and waitressing their way through the patented Balanchine modernism. I thought a couple of men a little too striving rather than secure with their performances, and caught a couple of very relieved smiles from them after they departed the stage.  The lighting was exceptional given the outdoor venue but the right speakers were unreliable and had to be taken offline during some segments, including the delicate court dance riff in Agon.

Neary's opening monolog, which was nearly as long as Rubies itself, was quite indulgent and she came across as more than snooty for the snootlessly minimally paying crowd on the lawn.  I am indeed so tired by now of hearing about how privileged we should consider ourselves that so-and-so lived here--it's demeaning to the people who have lived here and worked here all their lives.  But that's my thing. 

The Grilled Cheese Truck showed up to feed the masses, hitting the mark a little more precisely than Neary, creating a sideshow populist frenzy. 

We were a group of six and all six of us thought, OK, but I would rather see them in the hall, which is, I suppose, the point.


(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)   Photo by Emily




Vol 11 Issue 55

Pub: July 9, 2013