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Everything posted by Birdsall

  1. Nadezhda Batoeva was the star of the performance I saw tonight (or last night since it is 1am here in London). Her acting was perfect as Kitri....very feminine but with spice to her. She wasn't afraid to show off a bit holding some fabulous balances (a la seconde, coup de pied, in arabesque, in attitude, doing piques). Never were these balances vulgar (didn't change the choreography...simply fit them in)...she held long enough to impress but not long enough to be too showy. Her fouettes were great (many doubles interspersed with singles and then mostly singles. She traveled a bit while doing them but since she traveled in a straight line downstage it did not look bad. That was a very minor quibble. Otherwise a fabulous performance! Fillip Stepin was also great as Basilio. He may not be the type to make your jaw drop like Vasiliev's wildness, because he does everything with elegance. He did bring Batoeva down early on the first one handed lift but he more than made up for it with a second long held lift that excited the crowd as Batoeva shook her tambourine! Alexander Sergeyev was fabulous as always as Espada. I love his backbends as he twirls the cape in a diagonal across the stage. Ekaterina Chebykina was the Street Dancer. For me personally she is a maddening dancer. One moment she's doing something quite nicely and the next she's being more of a gymnast. It is hard to explain. She just doesn't seem to have the elegant Vaganova qualities. Ekaterina Ivannikova was a fabulous Queen of the Dryads. Her Italian fouettes en dedans were beautiful. This is a dancer I like that doesn't seem to be cast as much as she should. Tamara Gimadieva was a charming and sweet Cupid with flowing arms. I missed Don Quixote and Sancho Panza entering on a horse and donkey respectively, although I suspected the animals would be left out. I thought maybe they would borrow a horse and donkey from an English farmer. Somehow it is anticlimactic after the corps runs around acting like a major person is coming for Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to simply walk out! I also missed the little cupids but I knew the Mariinsky wasn't going to bring Vaganova students on tour but hoped some Royal Ballet students might be used. Overall, a wonderful performance! I love the pairing of Batoeva and Stepin. They looked like young, good looking lovers! Hope they keep dancing together!
  2. I had my doubts Renata Shakirova could pull off a good Kitri, but she was full of life and energy all night long and performed the Dudinskaya variation in the dream scene. It looks really hard to do the alternating pique turns in a diagonal in this variation but she did them well. Her fouettes were great with many doubles. At the very end of the night after Basilio holds her in a balance on one leg, and she quickly kneels as he stands her back leg slipped but she saved the tiny mishap by switching very quickly into a move like when Odette folds into the floor. That shows professionalism to think on your feet and turn a mistake/mishap into a moment to do something else that works! The audience genuinely loved her, and she did give a great performance. Maybe not as good as Batoeva last night but still very good! Vladimir Shklyarov danced as if he wanted to prove his worth at the Mariinsky. He looked in better shape than I have ever seen him, and he gave his all in every scene. In Act 1 when Basilio lifts Kitri twice by the knuckles and lifts her in the air and sets her down, Shklyarov lifted her higher than I have ever seen anyone lift Kitri in that moment. It was amazing! Later he held her forever in the one handed lifts. I never thought Roman Belyakov was anything special until I saw him tonight. He was a great Espada and looks very tall. He might be able to replace Korsuntsev and Ivanchenko when they retire as the tall males who are able to partner tall ballerinas. Nika Tskhvitaria was a complete delight as the Street Dancer. Loved her personality and high attitudes! The big surprise of the evening for me was Oleg Demchenko as the Gypsy! All I can say is, "Wow!!!!" His jumps, energy, and acrobatics made this small role seem important. He turned a small role into a star turn! I never saw a more exciting Gypsy man than Demchenko! I liked Ekaterina Chebykina as Queen of the Dryads better than I did last night when she danced the Street Dancer. The crowd loved her too. I think her fingers and arms are sometimes wild and uncontrolled but she was on better behavior tonight although I saw some splayed fingers. Overall, I really thought Shakirova was more like a soubrette who didn't have a sassy Kitri in her, but she did. Pleasantly surprised and enjoyed seeing the Dudinskaya variation in person!
  3. I agree. It was very thoughtful, and I learned a lot while reading it.
  4. I definitely always buy my tickets online. With most companies you can now choose the exact seat you want and sometimes they give a view of the stage from the seat. It is very helpful. I am slightly claustrophobic, so I always try to sit on an aisle and that way I am also assured of at least one arm rest plus less feelings of being cramped between people. To get a good aisle seat that isn't way off to the side you have to buy as soon as tickets go on sale on the website. There are also certain opera or ballet stars where I would prefer to sit closer, some where I would sit farther away. In his heyday (1980s, 90s) and even as late as maybe 2010 when Domingo was still singing tenor (instead of now singing as a VERY mediocre baritone) I would have paid top price to make sure I have a seat exactly where I want to sit. Now if I know Domingo is singing I would buy a seat in the nose bleed section if I didn't actually run the other way! I am amazed how much cheaper ballet tickets are compared to opera tickets, so parterre box which is painful to buy for opera is amazingly cheap for ABT shows. So if I can go online and buy a parterre seat in the front row of a box (the seats behind the front row appear to be for people with no legs) I will buy it, so that I don't get stuck with a lousy seat at the last minute.
  5. Congratulations to Nadezhda Batoeva. She is now listed as a First Soloist on the Mariinsky website. Well deserved......
  6. It is sort of sad that the really only exciting and interesting casting decions are the Gamzattis......Tereshkina as Nikiya will be technically excellent especially in turns (scarf variation especially), but overall ho hum casting for Nikiya, in my personal opinion. But one of the few upwardly mobile Mariinsky ballerinas Batoeva as Gamzatti should be very interesting, and Kolegova might be a very interesting Gamzatti as well. The corps will be the star of these performances, I suspect. Not sure I will fly up for this particular tour. Spending my money on the Mariinsky's London tour instead for many Swan Lakes and a couple of DQs.
  7. It looks like Irina Golub has moved down to Second Soloist (she was a First Soloist). I mentioned earlier that Elena Yevseyeva has been promoted to First Soloist. Anastasia Lukina and Vitaly Amelishko have been promoted to Coryphees.
  8. Thanks for all these comparison pics. I enjoy them!
  9. Yulia Stepanova’s June 11 «Swan Lake» with a young up-and-coming dancer Mikhail Kryuchkov as The Evil Genius. Pay attention to 7:51—-7:58 . An ideal arabesque, pure textbook Vaganova Method, both legs ideally aligned in the same plane with her body. This is very rare.
  10. Fateyev needs to be moved to Siberia! LOL
  12. To put everyone at ease, this article says the Mariinsky extended its DC Kennedy Center contract another 10 years back in 2012.
  13. I have a feeling that you are right and those two listings are an indication of casting. In recent years they have only had 3 casts and usually not 3 principals. So I suspect Skorik and Chebykina (Fateyev's newest non-Vaganova trained fascination) will be on the DC tour for sure. And the third person will either be Tereshkina or Kondaurova. Frankly, the only one I would like to see as Nikiya is Tereshkina, and I already saw her in it twice at the Mariinsky. Her turns are great especially the difficult ones that end in arabesque after the scarf variation (with Solor). I don't know. I might pass on DC this year. Kim will bring down the house. He always seems to do that b/c he has something energetic about him that audiences love, but I do think Shklyarov is the better dancer, but, as you say, he may not be free. I also like Ermakov better than Kim. Maybe this is a personal taste but for me Kim is best as Golden Idol and Ali and would be a great Jester in Swan Lake probably. Solor has lots of acrobatics, so he should be fine in that also for the most part. He can be impressive. He's just not a favorite of mine. I hope his acting has gotten better because he used to have a big grin with relatively no acting.
  14. Yes, Madame P., thank you for the review of Legend of Love! I can imagine it from your description. I think this role is probably great for Stepanova, since she can be quite commanding on stage but also vulnerable and is a great actress!
  15. In a recent interview with the Interfax news agency, Vaziev named Yulia Stepanova among the very best of Bolshoi “forces." She has been cast very prominently during the Japan tour that starts in less than 2 weeks (On Saturday Stepanova also debuts in the «Legend of Love» at the Bolshoi).The original quote: - "Наша задача заключается в том, чтобы показать свои лучшие силы, чтобы гастроли шли по нарастающей. Поэтому привлекаем лучших артистов – это Светлана Захарова, Евгения Образцова, и, конечно, Ольга Смирнова, Юля Степанова, Артем Овчаренко, Денис Родькин. Мы сами заинтересованы в этом, ведь это наша репутация - репутация нашей страны" ... A translation:“Our task is to showcase the very best of our forces so that the (Japan) tour has the ascending quality. Thus, we employ our very best artists — these are: Svetlana Zakharova, Evgenia Obraztsova and, of course, Olga Smirnova, Yulia Stepanova, Artiom Ovcharenko, Denis Rodkin. This is in our own interest, our reputation, the reputation of our country are at stake.”
  16. Russia plays Nutcracker even in summer sometimes, because they play it all year round, but in America it has become a Christmas ballet and a big way to make a lot of money with lots of special celebrations (before and after events) it is a cash cow that the other ballets are not (in the U.S. at least). Yes, their Nutcracker is a Ringling Brothers Circus version to fit into the community made specifically for Sarasota. I think they almost always do that except for the one year they did La Fille. IThey did La Fille again, but at a non-December time, if I remember correctly.
  17. I found it pretty surprising and daring for Webb to do La Fille Mal Gardee instead of Nutcracker in December also, and I was there, and the house looked full to me, so I felt it was a gamble that he won. Of course, maybe there are more money making issues at play when canceling Nutcracker. I have to admit that when I first saw that particular season announced, I thought, "That is DARING!!!!!" There is no way to really know the future, I guess, concerning what will happen with Sarasota, but I would be very surprised if the company totally took a complete nosedive. They still have the ingredients for success. I think the dancer overhaul is shocking and traumatic (especially for the dancers), but we will have to wait and see. I believe Webb inherited a lot of dancers, and it seems like the way of the world now to clean house and bring in dancers who will be loyal to you. I was just guessing at his wanting a specific style or whatever. I was actually being polite. I think he simply wants other personalities and the article sort of hints at that, but I really don't know. When Webb took over the former director had been ousted, I believe, and I think there were hard feelings then too, so Sarasota has had a turbulent time. Even though Webb has been there for 10 years, during that time I think that the former director was initially upset and attempting to compete with SB at first. I think Webb invited and honored him recently to patch up old hard feelings. I think the hard feelings were not necessarily directed toward Webb but rather the board or the loss of the director position. But when I saw that Webb had honored him, I thought that was a step in the right direction. I really don't know the whole story, but the previous director started up a Jose Carreno Festival which later folded and then a modern dance company during Webb's time. I think there was a no compete clause so the former director was doing "other" things somewhat related but different, but to me it seemed like a competition. I have always wondered if Jose Carreno felt like a pawn in a competition game and that might be why he pulled out of his festival and initially was going to team with Barbieri's school, I believe. I suspect there is more to the story than the article lets on. We are likely to never really get the whole story. I hope the dancers who are not being rehired find jobs, and I hope Sarasota Ballet continues on.
  18. I suspect you might be right, Drew, about Sarasota, because no company wants to say there are financial issues. If someone is a donor he/she is less likely to open the wallet if there is a sense of a sinking ship, because it is like throwing money out of the window. So no company in its right mind would admit to financial issues. However, there was a major shake-up in Sarasota's administration earlier, and Joseph Volpe was simply part of the board back then and stepped up to be an interim director, until they found someone new, but recently he simply gained the title of "executive director." Suddenly, there is no more search for a permanent executive director. He is it. Supposedly, his wife loves ballet, and when they retired in Sarasota they started attending Sarasota Ballet, and that is how he got involved. Since he has a lot of expertise, he might be the one behind all the changes. Webb probably trusts his judgment, but, of course, that is a total guess. I know if I were running a regional company and Joseph Volpe were willing to take the executive director position despite having retired already, I think I would be willing to listen to him. I am sure there are pros and cons to Volpe's style. The infamous Kathleen Battle firing at the Met made news around the world, but even at the time it was pointed out that other male stars were given more leeway when it came to bad behavior. Of course, there are many stories of Battle's crazy behavior, so maybe it was warranted. We have never really gotten her side of the story. However, the firing seemed sudden, and I wonder if she received warning. If she received several warnings before her firing I would understand it a little better. On a positive point, she supposedly sang a recital at the Met (appearing there for the first time since her firing) last season. However, I have no idea how well she sang. I haven't heard her in years. That is going off on a tangent. I do not necessarily think this spells doom and gloom for Sarasota Ballet. I think you have someone who knows how to run a much, much larger company than Sarasota Ballet at the helm, and you have an artistic team (Webb and Barbieri) who have put Sarasota on the map. So there is still promise for the audience and the company overall. But I do feel sad for the dancers who are losing their jobs especially since the arts are not well funded in general. I looked at the roster and I don't think it has been updated. I wonder if some of the principal dancers will be gone. It is always nice to attend a performance and you recognize most of them. So next season may feel seeing a whole new company.
  19. What you are saying is what I was trying to imply. There is hope for the audiences, if not for the dancers who left and some who remain (who might be shaken by colleagues/friends leaving). If morale is now low, it could effect the artistry next season. As you say, however, Webb and his wife Barbieri are staying. They have turned the company around artistically. But apparently now they are cleaning house and maybe planning on hiring many new dancers, who maybe fit in with their vision. My impression is that until the company had become somewhat known Webb had to make do with what he had (maybe he was never totally happy with the dancers' style or training....who knows?), but now that it is gaining some international buzz and Volpe is the executive director they are planning to clean house and start fresh as far as dancers go. On a human level, I find that very sad. On a business level maybe it is what is needed (I am not behind the scenes, so I can't judge and know what went on and what is necessary really). I don't think this is necessarily the "Fall of Sarasota Ballet" at all. Like I mentioned, Joseph Volpe ran the Met in NYC. He knows a thing or two about running a HUGE performing arts entity. Hypothetically, Sarasota Ballet should be a breeze for him. I have a feeling there are big plans for Sarasota Ballet, but they are in the works, and the changes are painful, especially for the dancers. I wish these decisions had been made in time for them to find work elsewhere. I hope it is true that Webb is trying to help some of them. It sounds like there are some he is eager to be rid of, however, so he won't be helping them.
  20. Joseph Volpe, who is now the Executive Director of Sarasota Ballet, used to be the General Director of the Metropolitan Opera, a much, much larger entity. He handled lots of union disputes and talks in his day. He is also very famous for having fired soprano Kathleen Battle when she was on the top of her game. So he can play hardball when he needs to. I have heard he was often fair in union talks, but I'm sure he didn't please everyone. I will be very surprised if he doesn't have a game plan that makes sense (but might not make sense to us at the moment). Apparently, a major overhaul is happening, and there are probably pros and cons to all of this, but we don't have all the facts. It is sad to hear so many dancers will not be returning (I was recognizing many overtime). It will definitely take its toll on morale among those who stay. One of the things I thought I saw previously was a joy for what they were doing/dancing. What some lacked in polish they made up for a love of what they were doing. It is a shame if more technically perfect dancers replace them but are on the cold side.
  21. There must be a problem with it, because they made it sound like it would be rescheduled. It may show up in a future season, but maybe there were scheduling conflicts with whoever was going to help stage it.
  22. I can picture lovers of experimental work being fine with just knowing the dates for the season, but people who love ballet and do not live in Sarasota (but near enough to visit) or people who would like to travel to Sarasota (great beaches, by the way for anyone who is thinking about can look down and see your feet) need to know the ballets. But they did finally post and so I shouldn't complain. I guess the posting of just the dates were for the hardcore subscribers who live in Sarasota and plan to see every show no matter what, but they need the dates to put in their calendar and make plans. But the rest of the world wants to know the ballets in order to consider when to go to Sarasota.
  23. Yes, finally! They had the dates up for weeks with no info and then finally added the choreographers maybe a week ago and yesterday finally added the actual names of the ballets. I was thinking it takes chutzpah to ask people to subscribe without giving the ballets they would be subscribing to, so I am glad to see they finally came through. Some very interesting things, and this is why there is buzz around Sarasota. Who would have thought the sleepy town of Sarasota would become an Ashton base? I also see that the Gomes connection is being explored. They got him to participate in a gala and then he danced the male lead in Two Pigeons, and now he is going to choreograph something for the company. I walked by Joseph Volpe before the final program on April 28, and it is funny to see him running things at Sarasota Ballet after so many years of managing the Metropolitan Opera. I live too far away from Sarasota now to go to every show, but their repertoire continues to tantalize. I am getting to see ballets that normally I would never get to see.
  24. I actually know Amy and like her very much, but my only problem is someone saying that people abused and desecrated (she probably didn't use that word) without having spoken to those very people and knowing what was going through their minds. I don't like someone saying Grigorovich was arrogant in his choices. Maybe he was. You could be 100% correct, but it is an opinion. Without knowing WHY he substituted a new variation for Odile, I am not totally sure someone can be condemned. Maybe you know why. Maybe it is documented. I haven't read about his Swan Lake (just seen it and don't like it as much as others). However, I did not live in Soviet Russia and did not have Soviet censors or politicos breathing down my neck. How do we know what it was like and whether choices had to be made? Maybe when his version of Swan Lake debuted the ballerina dancing Odile hated the Odile variation and had enough power to demand a change. Maybe it was purely Griogorovich's arrogance, as you say, but I do believe "changing things up" in ballet was normal until recent times. With hindsight it is easy to declare these people as horrible people, but hindsight is 20/20. We did not experience the Zeitgeist of that period. Why do these people have to be condemned? We just need to know that there are notations and research and reconstructions that may shed new light into Petipa and be happy with that. We can enjoy reconstructions and what went on before. No one needs to be condemned or negated. Also, another point is that a choreographer wants to create something "new".......that is why they do completely new ballets.....the hope their artistry adds to the canon. They don't want to take dictation. They want to create new art. Then, when they become famous they are offered money to re-create Swan Lake, for example. A ballet company says, "Let's see what you can do with Swan Lake!" In their minds, there is no point unless they create a new Swan Lake. I am sure many of these choices are not necessarily "valiant," but money motivated, and money puts food on the table. I think many Ballet Alert members forget that ballet is also a business. Dancers need to eat. Choreographers need to eat. Ballet companies need to survive financially. So the ballet needs to be a success. If the sign of the times want higher extensions and grander grand jetes and more gymnastics and that helps put bottoms into seats, ballet companies are going to do it. The fact that Nutcracker has become a Christmas tradition in America demonstrates how money factors into ballet company decisions. Wonder if any American company would jettison their Christmas Nutcracker and produce a modern dance night instead. Doubt it. I will continue to be interested in seeing reconstructions when I can in order to understand Petipa better, but I will also continue to go see the Mariinsky's Swan Lake which has a special poetic mood to it in the lakeside scenes that no other version has, in my opinion. I love that reconstructions are being done, but I will cry rivers when and if the Sergeyev Swan Lake is put to rest forever.
  25. Some of the composers' embellishments were as florid as ones that are not by the composer. And "showboating" (not my word choice) has been proven to enhance the drama of the moment in many instances, although not all. That is because the composers actually expected it. Singers were taught the art of ornamentation. It was not just a diva simply showing off, although, yes, there were cases of that. However, it was a requirement at the time. Of course, embellishing Wagner or Puccini would be considered bad taste, but 18th and 19th century operas are composed in such a way where it is basically necessary. In the mid 20th century many great conductors abhorred the practice even in operas where it was supposed to happen. Muti is one I mentioned who eventually loosened up and allowed some embellishment in bel canto. Now lots of research has proven that many of Mozart's operas are actually enhanced by including ornamentation in the da capo arias instead of treating Mozart like Wagner (only playing and singing the notes on the page). To me the performing arts are not unlike language. Both are alive. We no longer speak Old English because mistakes in the language became the norm over time and slowly various idioms or slang terms crept in changing the language forever. There is always an attempt to have "correct grammar" so that there is a norm and standard we can adhere to for research writing, a common standard, etc. but needless to say the language still changes, because language is a living thing, not a finite thing engraved into stone forever despite grammar books having been published over and over through the years trying to set the language in stone. It doesn't work. Language evolves against our will. I suspect the performing arts are the same way, and that includes ballet, even more so with ballet because not everyone can read the notations. Even symphonies and operas with scores are open to interpretation (conductors argue over speed, tradition, etc), and there are always the more rigid interpreters and the liberal interpreters. I do think reconstructions are a great thing (the reconstructionists are maybe like the Wagners of today wanting to give more respect to the art of ballet), believe it or not. I am not arguing AGAINST reconstructions. I think the research into them is important and staging them so we can compare and contrast is great. I just don't think those who did what they thought best in the times they were in should be condemned as criminals who desecrated Petipa. Ashton probably also did what he did in hopes of helping ballet. We didn't walk in their shoes and live their lives, and unless we can find solid proof (for example, in a personal diary) that these people from various ballet companies set out to harm Petipa intentionally we should just be glad we have their versions and the newfound interest in reconstructions side-by-side..... Let's take the Beverly Sills recording of Giulio Cesare. It is so dated and all wrong after all the research into period instruments and performing editions of Handel. But I doubt any opera lover doesn't find some amazing things in that recording and wouldn't be without it. In some ways it is a more exciting recording of Handel's opera than another period correct recording that I have which makes me fall asleep (so who is championing Handel better?)......Cecilia Bartoli claims Giuditta Pasta was really a mezzo (and there is SOME good arguments for that viewpoint), and her recording of Norma is supposedly closer to what we might have heard in the 19th century. However, no respectable opera lover would throw away their Maria Callas recordings of Norma who continues to be the touchstone that we judge all Normas by many years after her death. Her influence over the role is so great that La Scala doesn't stage it. It took years for them to finally stage La Traviata (another famous Callas role). Every opera lover I know would rather throw the Cecilia Bartoli Norma in the trash and take the Maria Callas recordings (both bootleg and studio recordings) to a desert island. Her Norma is probably all wrong by 19th century standards. Maybe Bellini wouldn't like it. Maybe he would. No way to know. But every opera lover ADORES Callas in the role and wishes he could hear a Norma of that stature in his lifetime. But, no, more "correct" sopranos sing it and put us to sleep and make us find less to love in Bellini. So my point is......there are no absolutes.......the Royal Ballet with Ashton pieces, the Kirov Sergeyev versions, the many others.......they all can be loved and enjoyed along with the reconstructions. Nobody reading BA today experienced pure Petipa in the 19th century. We all learned his artistry in "changed" versions. Reconstructions are actually pretty new. I find it strange that some people act like they have been raised on pure Petipa from the 19th century and are shocked and disgusted by the very versions that probably introduced them to this beautiful art.