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Kennedy Center Festival -- Week I

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#16 Alexandra


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Posted 09 March 2003 - 07:45 AM

Thalnk you, Inga, for your comments on the dancers. It's hard to tell much about Kaptsova from that role (the Young Girl in Spectre), partly because of the role and partly because of the costume, of course -- the body is completely hidden. But she received many favorable comments here. Goriacheva is certainly dancing correctly and with a strong technique; by unpolished, I meant that her dancing isn't very refined, in line, head and arms, etc. I had liked her in "The Nutcracker," but there, she wasn't in a tutu. I'm sorry if I'm being rude about a cherished dancer!

And I'm sorry I can't say more about Shipulina. We're only seeing her in that one solo (the second solo in the Don Q excerpt) and since it is the second solo, we're still recovering from Volochkova :) Also, the opening night, there was a costume problem. Volochkova's didn't arrive. She wore one of the yellow tutus, and both soloists had to wear rehearsal tutus. Everyone looked uncomfortable, understandably.

I can see what you write about Yanin, because he's suited to "Narcissus" but not at all to Spectre, which is more classical (and there he is a substitute). It has been interesting to watch him do that role three times in a row, though, because he seems to be working on it; the arm positions became softer with each performance and he certainly is trying, in both roles, to do them properly. (These days, that is not such a small thing, and I'm grateful to see it.)

Dale, The "Fille" pas de deux tha Bolshoi is dancing here is not Ashton's, but Gorsky's. I think NYCB has often switched the sailor roles -- starting when Robbins was alive -- and I've always hated it. (I'm not a fan of Stiefel as the shy sailor, either, although I thought La Fosse was excellent. He used to do the Kriza role with ABT, too.)

#17 Dale


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Posted 09 March 2003 - 09:39 AM

Thanks, Ari. I was a little confused on the theaters being used.

Alexandra, I always found it out of character for the bolder sailor to stay behind, instead of going off with the girl with the red purse. I wonder what Fancy Free looked like when the ballet was one of several American "character" ballets in Ballet Theatre's rep.

#18 Alexandra


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Posted 09 March 2003 - 09:47 AM

I agree with your point about the bolder sailor, Dale. There are other problems with that mangled casting, too (I wrote about some of them above). I certainly don't go back to the original cast -- if ATM is reading this, I'd love to read her comments, of how she sees the company's performances today compared to what she remembers. But when I started watching ABT in the mid-70s, even though the company wasn't casting the works ideally, I had the sense of being able to see the ballet clearly, and the company certainly believed in it. It was sitll part of its aesthetic, and, from interviews, dancers wanted to be cast in it.

There's a wondefully clear description of the ballet in "The Borzoi Book of Ballet," written by someone who saw the first cast many times. (I believe the author is Margaret Roberts, but I'm not certain and no longer have the book.)

Since one of the ideas of this "international festival" was for each company to present a signature work, I thought it interesting that ABT chose "Fancy Free." One could argue that "Le Corsaire" is the present company's signature work. I was glad to see that "Fancy Free" was still taken so seriously!

I think the audience reaction here to the group of soloists from the Bolshoi (which was spottily enthusiastic, but puzzled) was rooted in a lack of familiarity wiith the present company. To many Americans, "Spartacus" is the signature work of the Bolshoi, although I doubt a Russian audience would agree now.

#19 Alexandra


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Posted 09 March 2003 - 03:54 PM

Anyone else go? Juliet :) ? Samba? Other DC-ers? It would be nice to have more than two views.

#20 Juliet


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Posted 09 March 2003 - 06:04 PM

Here I am--not firing on all cylinders but...

I really enjoyed Saturday afternoon's performance, each ballet for different reasons.
As a Bournonville fan I was very happy to see Napoli---andI'm sorry not to sign in with a cranlky or jaded review, but I though it was really, really good, with one exception. The phrasings, the nuances and musicality in the dancing were all clear and really let me see something different in each dancer in this piece. The dancers all had little touches which worked as individual flavourings....

Mads Blangstrup and Andrew Bowman did the men in the Pas de Six (the latter particularly elegant and easy) and Lund did the first male variation--all really clean, seamless and integrated in their body movements.....
The reason I say integrated is that the Gennaro part was danced by J-L Massot, who looked as if his upper and lower body were operating on two different people. Really disjointed, no elevation and no characterization whatever. *Very* disappointing....not his day, in my eyes.
Caroline Cavallo did Teresina and I thought she looked great--lively, little dramatic touches--I really enjoy seeing experienced dancers do this as they bring acting and characterization to a piece that might otherwise just be thought folksy and hackneyed.

I can't wait to see the full-length Napoli next year as part of the ballet season.....

Bolshoi. Welllll.....
Spectre suffered for me by the proportions of Yanin and by the lack of the window....he was *very* good in Narcisse, and his upper body was pliant and almost as plastique as I would like in this, but he was more in the produce section than the flower shop. I saw D. Gudanov do this last year and he was lovely--almost as good as Malakhov, who remains my favourite in this role.

Fille pdd was boring. Sorry, but it was.

Volochkova is never boring. Las Vegas Kitri, here we are. We ought to get her a showgirl headdress and she'd sell out the town.

You know those big tins of glitter that they sell? She must have had her very own for each show. Glitter on the hair, on the eyelids, on the bodice, on the tutu, bracelets and rings for days, and the fan--well, it was a veritable sunrise everytime she opened it. What a mess.
(Yes, for all you fouette fans, she did them cleanly and with great vigor, but stopped early...)

She danced with Ivanchenko, who had a bridal white costume, with no glitz. His dancing, alas, was as uninterestiing as the costume. Adept, but this is not just an adept role--it would be nice to have a leeeetle bit of panache here....this man was big but rather lummoxy, rather than sexy.

I really have stayed away from Fancy Free for the last several years. This was, far and away, the best performance I have ever seen. Corella (in the booty role), Cornejo (in the little guy role) and Radetsky doing the legato and pdd. Stella Abrera was one minx...and I liked the fact that for the first time in recent memory, the stealing of the purse and horseplay was not a seeming prelude to something more violent. The misogynistic, scary performances I have seen at City Ballet have really bothered me. ...Abrera held her own and looked splendid doing it....Gillian Murphy was the girl in magenta anad I liked her better than I have before in *anything.* I saw the friendship between the women, the interaction between the men wasn't overdone or hokey and dated----this is one cast that should stay together for this piece. Splendid.
Just loved it. Surprised myself.


#21 Paul Parish

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Posted 09 March 2003 - 11:21 PM

COngratulations, Washingtonians --

You've done a great job -- I have SUCH a vivid sense of this festival. I feel almost as if I'd been there....

And it makes me very happy to hear that Fancy Free looks so good -- I LOVE hte ballet, know it best I guess from the old NYCB performance that was televised, with the very poetic Joseph DUell as shy/rhumba boy and Stephanie Saland as hte girl who responds to him.... When ABT was here a couple of eyars ago, they put a good cast out there, looked almost Broadway, hte guys weren't idealized at all by comparison with Kipling Houston, Duell, et al.... hunky, chunky, almost Palookas... good-natured, though....

How does Gomez look in hte role? His body strikes me as such a huge side of beef, I can't get past that sometimes -- though he is a clear, clean dancer -- I haven't seen him much, and my first impression came in the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, which erupted into a show where Paloma Herrera was phoning in her perfoemance as the heroine.... he did everything in a very generous manner, and had the graciousness towards the audience that the ballerina should have had..... but it was just way too much vitality for a romantic ballet.... which sailor did he do?

I DID hear from a friend about Volochkova's bracelet -- diamonds as big as the Ritz??? Y'all must be having fun....

#22 Hans


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 09:43 AM

I wish I could have written sooner after the performance, but better late than never, I guess. I went on Sunday, and had a really good time. I found the opening of the Napoli Pas de Six to be a little too cute, but was soon won over by the dancers' energy and evident high spirits. The feet were quick, but not as clean as I expected--they rarely put their heels down, which made for some shallow demi-pliés, and none of them were very turned-out. I still found it more interesting to watch the legs, as the port de bras was stiff and the épaulement barely existed. the costumes, too, looked a bit ballet school recital-ish, as though they'd been ordered from Curtain Call, though they probably look better surrounded by a crowd and surmounted by a bridge and flags. It looked a little strange to have the dancers just standing around onstage after their variations; again, I'm sure it makes more sense within the context of the ballet. Overall, very well done--wonderful energy and mostly very clean, quick dancing.

Le Spectre de la Rose was positively weird...the curtain opened on a bare stage with a plain, modern, white Ikea chair downstage left. Nina Kaptsova then entered lyrically in a frilly pink Victorian gown, and the effect was, to say the least, inharmonious. To make matters worse, in leapt Gennady yanin in a frightening costume of bathing cap covered in very fake-looking rose petals and tights of a shade that was not meant to be worn by a male dancer. Just because Nijinsky did it doesn't mean everyone should. I did not find him appealing in this dance, as his arms were effeminate and his legs short and bent. His jump was also unremarkable. I enjoyed Kaptsova's dancing, however; she had a dreamy quality and was light and lyrical.

La Fille mal gardée was a big improvement on the dancing thus far--Goryatcheva showed us the clean, unmannered port de bras the Danes had lacked, and also used her long, beautiful legs to advantage, not raising them to ear-scraping heights but focusing on her dancing as opposed to positions. She was delightful in her quick allegro variation. Bolotin showed beautiful high jumps in his variation and the coda and clean legs and feet. Both of them actually used their heads, which was a pleasant surprise. Goryatcheva looked more "Kirov" than Kirov-trained Volchkova...more on her later.

Narcissus opened with rather too many flashy jumps and turns instead of choreographic substance for my taste, but later, the choreography was coherent and clear--we never had to wonder what he was doing, or what some gesture meant--it was all very clear without being heavy-handed. Very, very well acted by a boyish Gennady Yanin, convincingly innocent. Beautiful music, too, which was a nice change from other new choreography.

I agree with Juliet about Don Quixote: Las Vegas Kitri. Those big sparkly tutus, along with Volochkova's heavy makeup, big gold bracelet, and exaggerated manner probably come across well on the vast Bolshoi stage surrounded by big elaborate sets and a crowd of people, but in the small intimate Eisenhower Theater, the effect was overpowering, like having to stand in line next to someone wearing a lot of bad perfume. The pattern on Evgeny Ivanchenko's sparkly white jacket recalled Elvis. However, the dancing was mostly very good. Volchkova is not a small or feminine dancer; she is built more along the lines of Chenchikova, tall and athletic. Yet for all her mannerisms and glitter, the adagio was rather low-key, no stunning balances or technical fireworks. All we got from her was an attempt to touch her knee to her ear every time she performed a developpé a la second, which usually ended in failure; she contorted herself to no real effect. Irina Fedotova in the first solo was excellent--she jumped higher than the Danish men put together and landed without a sound. Very clean, with nice port de bras. Ivanchenko's solo looked good; technically impressive, but again I agree with Juliet--he could have used more flair and Spanish flavor. Volochkova's solo was boring, a weird mix of Gorsky and Petipa that was unimpressive. Unfortunately, she held her ending pose for quite some time, turned around into another pose and stood there for a while, then walked slowly to the center of the stage and took three bows as if she'd just danced the variation of the week. Most of the audience gamely played along and applauded as long as she bowed; it was not deserved. Ekaterina Shipulina in the second solo looked quite nice, I thought; graceful and lyrical, with no obvious technical weaknesses. She seemed to have a nice jump and clean lines, although not really very remarkable or memorable. The coda was at least fun; Ivanchenko has beautiful legs and feet but needs to project more. Volochkova snapped her fan open on her doubles, which spared us from having to look at her messy first position during her pirouettes. After the first sixteen, though, she was sloppy...gave new meaning to "'executing' the steps."

I've never really liked Fancy Free very much, even though it is well-choreographed and often humorous. It was well-acted by Craig Salstein, David Hallberg, and Marcelo Gomes with Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, and Angela Snow. The dancers tried to make the purse scene playful, it seemed, but the music is menacing at that point, which gave the dancing a darker tone. I wanted the police to show up. The rest of the ballet, however, was clear and playfully danced, though some of the men moved rather too exaggeratedly (Gomes' solo recalled Marie Rambert's comment to Frederick Ashton that he waved his "great big bottom about like a banner").

Overall, a fun, enjoyable evening. It was interesting to watch how the various companies related to the stage--the Danes seemed quite comfortable in the space; I was in the balcony, and I felt it. Volochkova's dancing spilled over the proscenium, making it feel as if I were in the third row, and the other Bolshoi dancers, while they appeared to have enough space in which to dance, clearly seemed used to having much more space on the sides. ABT just looked cramped, probably because of the huge set. I can't wait until next week when I get to see the Kirov...does anyone know if casting is up for them on the KC site yet? I hope they don't inflict Zakharova on me...I'm praying for Ayupova!

#23 Roma


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 10:48 AM

Hans, Ayupova hasn't danced Nykia in a long-long time. It's unlikely she'll come to D.C., though I suppose hope dies last.

#24 Alexandra


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 11:17 AM

Casting isn't up yet. Opening night is Wednesday, and I'll be going, and will post the casting, which will be in the program.

Thank you for your comments, Hans.

A quick comment on the RDB (I really can't say "the Danes" anymore, since half of them aren't Danish). The lack of plie, especially when landing from a jump, is one of the ways one can tell foreigners from Danes. I don't think ALL of them never put their heels down, or aren't turned out, or can't jump -- but Bowman certainly has no plie, and they give him the second solo! Lund and Still are quite good jumpers, actually, and in the pas de six, dancers will modulate their jumps so that no one stands out as jumping too high. The object is to look as though you're floating; with the women, especially, when it's done well, it looks as though their skirts catch the air, and they're floating on it. There's a large vocabulary of low jumps in Bournonville, some of which are in these solos.

I've heard at least a dozen people place Volochkova in Vegas. (We should, at any moment, get an email from a Las Vegas citizen....) I didn't think it was makeup -- thank you for that! I thought she'd been out in the sun too long. Something that I hadn't noticed during her Swan Lake or Bayadere here (which, I thought, were MUCH better than her Don Q) was that one leg is turned out, and one turned in.

#25 Hans


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 12:47 PM

Actually, one aspect of the RDB I'd forgotten to mention was how well the women jumped--very impressive, with quite clean beats. I noticed the raised heels and lack of turnout among most of the dancers, though I admit that is an overgeneralization; also, I've seen these same two things a great deal among American dancers as well, even those in companies such as ABT, so I didn't mean to make it sound like a Major Sin (though of course it would be nice if it were corrected). I also think it's smart of them to modulate the height of their jumps--it's wonderful that they pay attention to that!

Re: Volochkova, I agree with you--that combination of a tan, blond hair, and lots and lots of glitter produced an effet generally associated with Vegas (at least in this country). I think her makeup was probably intended for a much larger theater, and wouldn't look out of place on the Bolshoi stage, but in the Eisenhower, it really was just way too much.

Roma, I know it's probably futile to hope for Ayupova, but at least maybe we could have Pavlenko...? I would just be really irritated to see an overtly athletic ballerina in Kingdom of the Shades--and it's not like I can just pop over to the Maryinsky to see a different cast whenever I please! I'm really happy they are going to bring Swan Lake later in the year, and Nutcracker, but I want to know which Nutcracker it will be before I buy tickets.

#26 Alexandra


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 01:09 PM

Hans, I think it's the New, Improved Nutcracker :D

I agree that the RDB women were more impressive than the men. I think that may be because they're older (very early 30s) and came up through the school when it was still functioning. The two foreigners -- Cavallo and Still -- have both been with the company since 1990, too. Whereas the men were from all over the map, and of the Danish men, except for Lund, I didn't think much of them. I thought Bowman was really, really trying to do the style, and I salute him for that. There's something, though, that is missing if they haven't been trained in it from an early age. Part of it is technique -- like the plie landings and carriage of the arms, so that they don't look stiff. And part of it is something intangible -- the way of being oneself on stage without overdoing it. I hate it when they go into Grin Mode, which they'll do (and always have done, I think) if they think people aren't getting it.

#27 samsara


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 04:47 PM

This is my first posting and I'm not as good as many of you so please bear with me.

I attended the Saturday, March 8th afternoon performance at the Intl. Ballet Festival at Kennedy Center and except for the wonderful performance of the three sailors in ABT's "Fancy Free", found the afternoon rather generic but enjoyable. It was very refreshing to see "Napoli" again danced by Royal Danish dancers even in such a stripped down excerpt as this one. Although not totally great, I felt that the Danish danced with the musicality and brio so unique to the Bournonville style and remain true to their tradition.
I enjoyed the Bolshoi dancers much less. The real fiasco for me was Anastasia Volochkova in Don Q. This was bad taste at its peak, total vulgarity!!! Between the chain, the finger-long ring, the wide gold bracelet, the diamond hoop earrings and the excess of gold glitter on her hair there was no room for her dancing which was uneven and flat. It saddened me to see that the audience would appreciate such mediocrity with cheers and a partial standing ovation.
The true brilliant performance, both in dancing and characterization came from ABT in "Fancy Free". I have seen this charming and joyful piece many times with both ABT and NYCB and feel that this was the perhaps the best set of sailors I have seen in a very long time as all three sailors were perfectly in tune with their respective roles. Herman Cornejo was sweet and perky in a boyish way and Sacha Radetsky was a true romantic in his solo. But the highlight was Angel Corella as the "Rumba" sailor. I heard that he had been a bit too strong with his charactization - almost angry and bully-like when he danced it the first time on Thursday but undoubtedly he understood the role better by Saturday - he was sexy, playful, and totally enchanting. Charm and sex appeal exuded from all the nuances of his solo - here was a sailor that really showed those girls (and all of us in the audience) the good time they (we!!!) could have with him. He was definitely the leader but still in a "buddy, one of the guys" sort of way. It was an extraordinary performance by the three buddies, but most higly by Mr. Corella. Stella Abrera was terrific as the "red bag" girl but Gillian Murphy did not have sufficient allure as the girl in pink. ABT saved the day triumphantly.

#28 Alexandra


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 05:07 PM

Thank you, Samsara! Welcome, and I hope we'll be reading you often.

I thought ABT saved the day on the nights I went, too. Partly becuase it was a full ballet, with a set, and not excerpts, but also very good performances.

#29 carbro


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Posted 10 March 2003 - 06:40 PM

I attended the Thursday and Friday nights, and to my eye, the RDB and Bolshoi contingents both relaxed into better performances with time. That Don Q, though . . . definitely Vegas!

Most of my responses have already been noted one way or another, but I have to insert a special commendation for Thursday night's Fancy Free. The Sailors: Salstein, Hallberg, Gomes; the women: Herrera, Kent. During the pas de deux, I got the distinct feeling that Julie was developing real feelings for her sailor (Marcelo), and that anything could happen. I had never gotten that delicious sense of erotic possibility from that pas before. Also, her responses to the sailors' variations were absolutely delightful. She stopped just short of upstaging them. It was fun to see Paloma in a role where she didn't have to sell her technique. I enjoyed Salstein (but a little less would have been better), and Hallberg, though promising here, was still very much the classical prince -- not completely comfortable in the jazzier vernacular.

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