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ABT Fall City Center season Week 1


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#16 Michael

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 07:19 PM

Sat - Sun Matinees

Herrera in Theme:

This weekend belonged to Paloma Herrera, who I think is giving a pretty good imitation of a classical dancer these days and who has grown tremendously as a Ballerina these last three years. Saturday afternoon's Theme and Variations, partnered by Marcello Gomes, was the best I have seen this performed at ABT and one of the better performances I have seen period. Paloma was remarkable for, of all things, her musicality, the marked legato flow with which she responded to the music, the graceful and flowing use of her arms (gosh I thought I'd never see myself saying that) -- you could see the impulse of the steps and gestures flow from shoulder to forearm to wrist and, finally, for her response to her partner. She and Gomes were in perfect sync, on the music, their tempi attuned to each other, their turns and counter-turns to face each other perfectly timed. Herrera, who has often seemed to be pure Hell on her partners, actually seemed to have a fine rapport with Gomes. He, of elegant, long line, despite some stiffness in his variations, is above all a wonderful, sensitive partner. Their rendition of this was memorable.

How good Herrera and Gomes were yesterday became dramatically obvious on Sunday Afternoon, as we watched Ashley Tuttle, by contrast, struggle her way through Theme, having grave difficulty keeping up with the tempi in places, tense in expression, sharp and stiff in her relevees, nearly colliding with Corella on two occasions. When they took ages to appear for their curtain call, leaving the corps de ballet on stage for two rises and falls of the curtain without an appearance by the principals, one seriously wondered whether she had hurt herself.

In general, ABT, in its version of Theme, is taking great care to emphasize the series of reverences of the principal couple, and of the soloists and corps members to each other. And to emphasize a certain carriage of the Ballerina's neck, head and arms, slightly en face and slightly at a tilt, which I had not noticed before, but which forms a sort of movement theme in the ballet.



Herrera and Carlos Acosta in Tschaikovsky Pas De Deux:

As if yesterday's Theme were not enough, the rendition of Tschai Pas de Deux we saw today from Paloma Herrera and Carlos Acosta was sexy, dramatic and had plenty of Edge and Sparkle -- all things lacking in the first two performances by Dvorovenko and Corella. What a truly extraordinary dancer Acosta is. I believe this is the first time he's appeared in NY for a bit, as I don't remember him at ABT at all last Spring? In any case, what a thrill it was to see him on stage here once today. Such a strange and wonderful combination of masculine weight and of lightness, Acosta has. Of showing force and power and effortlessness at the same time. He breathes in the air -- and it is that moment of breath that gives the illusion that he can soar and hang in the air. In addition, after watching him, we no longer have to ask if ABT has a man who can cleanly complete a double tour.

It was, to be sure, a far from a flawless performance, stepwise, by Paloma Herrera. There were occasional rough spots. That simply did not matter in my eyes, however. She and Acosta were so in the "spirit" of the piece -- something that was sadly lacking from Dvorovenko and Corella on both Wednesday Night and Saturday Afternoon -- that I felt the performance wanted little. Watching Irina Dvorovenko's flat performance yesterday, I had thought to myself: "She did the steps … so what exactly is it that was so wrong about this performance?" -- Because something was very wrong indeed, the ballet had no definition or style whatsoever, it did not look like the work I knew and loved. I can think of no way of putting it except to say that they did not have the "spirit" of the work, but that is no more than a way of indicating what was lacking, kind of a circular definition. Maybe someone else can express it better.



Fancy Free:

Fancy Free is also being very well performed by the company at City Center.
Herman Cornejo (as the Short, turning sailor who drinks shots during his variation), Sasha Radetsky (as the Dreamy sailor who dances the long-in-line variation) and Jose Manuel Carreno (as the Rhumba Sailor) are a dream cast for the men in this Ballet. Each of them presented a fully realized characterization of his role from the dramatic point of view from the moment he stepped on the stage. Each gave a very detailed performance. Each dances oh so beautifully and, in the case of Carreno and Cornejo, with such utter virtuosity. The exuberance of youth and the optimism of America emerging victorious in Imperial power from Second World War are captured perfectly in this piece. The staging, coached by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, gives a beautiful weight and luster to this ballet, revealing it as the small masterpiece it is.

And this in spite of the fact that the two women, Stella Abrera and Gillian Murphy, were not at all up to the men's level of performance. Abrera came on with a sort of hard, one dimensional, artificial edge and maintained it throughout. Somehow I felt that much more could have been done with the part, one never believed in her for a moment.

And whoever said above in this thread that Gillian Murphy can barely act is certainly correct. She has the perfect World War II Pin Up girl looks but one wanted the affect, the jitterbug era manner to match. More naturalness. More innocence? More something. Gosh what a flat performance. It's a tribute to this ballet that it can survive that. Perhaps the women don't matter too much in this perhaps they are caricatures and it's the sailors that Robbins was really interested in? Those who have seen it well performed with other casts may know.



Grand Pas de Deux and Three Virgins:

Others have covered this. I continue to enjoy Three Virgins, having now seen it Three Times. Twice was enough for the Grand Pas de Deux, however, and I went out for a coffee after Theme. The Grand Pas was a nice occasion piece for Malakhov on opening night (and appears to have been created as a New Years Eve occasion piece for Stuttgart). I think it is a serious mistake, however, to perform it repeatedly as repertory. My neighbors and the children in the audience seemed to like it very much, though, and since others don't generally see it more than once, perhaps I am wrong about this. More specifically, I do not like the rather cruel and misogynistic nature of this parody. In tone it reminds me a little of Peter Martins "Three More," in that, from a certain point of view, it can be seen as cruelly mocking the audience for applauding the conventions it parodies. It is possible, and preferable, to spoof something from a loving point of view.

#17 carbro

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 08:50 PM

The Grand Pas was a nice occasion piece for Malakhov on opening night (and appears to have been created as a New Years Eve occasion piece for Stuttgart).  I think it is a serious mistake, however, to perform it repeatedly as repertory.  . . .  from a certain point of view, it can be seen as cruelly mocking the audience for applauding the conventions it parodies.

Michael, although I was not as offended by LGPdD as you (not offended at all, in fact), I thought programming it directly after Theme, without as much as a palate cleansing intermission, was a big mistake. It seemed to subvert the integrity and excellence of the work preceding it. However, on its own terms, it revealed the Xiomara Reyes' superb comic timing. It also took all those qualities that I dislike in her and turned them into assets -- if only for one ballet.

I wish I had enjoyed Saturday's Theme as much as you did. The principals' dancing looked generally flat to me. I did enjoy the emotional rapport between Paloma and Marcelo. In my opinion, both have done better in their individual variations before. The company looked pretty good in this, despite a few instances when the floor patterns got kind of muddled.

I did not think Dvorovenko was truly awful in Tchaikovsky PdD. Her weakest moment was her first entrance in the coda, through which she slinked and slithered (that's a first!), rather than danced. The crisp attack we are accustomed to seeing here is not familiar to her, and with more experience in the role she may find it. :clover: Beside my memory of Makarova in the role :speechless:, this performance was pretty darned good. Corella was wonderful, though: clear, energetic, musical.

I agree that the girls in Fancy Free were far below the level of the guys. Despite my high expectations of Herman Cornejo, he consistently finds ways to amaze me. The scale of his dancing is enormous -- it was only in still moments that his small stature became evident -- and the dancing pours out of him, seemingly of its own, spontaneous volition. "Effortless" barely begins to describe it. :blink:

#18 Big Lee

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 10:35 PM

Sunday night, October 26, Masterworks program

All in all, with few exceptions, I thought this was a pretty wonderfully danced program.

Symphonic Variations seemed somewhat awkward, however. It also led off the program, changing places with Diversion of Angels. Right at the beginning, a ringing cell phone went off and seemed to distract the audience, and the dancing as whole seemed tense - almost as if everyone was extremely worried about making a big mistake and was trying too hard. A bit more "abandon" I think would have made this take off. By the way, I thought the ABT orchestra sounded fabulous here - an all together wonderful performance of the Franck.

Diversion of Angels came off great. Tremendously energetic, with particularly committed dancing by Erica and Hermann Cornejo as the yellow couple and Sandra Brown as the Red woman. Sandra Brown has sure been a soloist for a long time; any reason she's not seen as a principal?

Speaking of people who aren't principals, Michele Wiles was wonderful in the Raymonda excerpts, and is probably my favorite dancer in the world right now. Tremendously assured and charismatic, she just made me fall in love. :blink: Acosta looked great partnering her, with tremendous elevation on his jumps and a just elegant countenance. The Corps looked very good as well.

Pillar of Fire I also thought was very fine, though I'm not old enough to have seen Tudor in the "Glory Days" when he was with ABT. Kent as Hagar I thought was very good - I always thought that she was one of the better actresses ABT has and brought out the inner emotion of the role very well. The psychology was clear, without being goofy or the ballerina appearing to be in physical pain. Reyes was good as the younger sister (I have a particular liking for Reyes so take that for what it's worth).

All in all, I had a wonderful evening. Strangely enough, Sebastien Marcovici and Janie Taylor of NYCB were there and I wanted to talk to them but alas, I was afraid that I'd step on one of their feet and single handedly ruin ballet in NY or the like. It's hard to talk to strangers who don't really seem like strangers!

#19 atm711

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 05:10 AM

In reply to Michael's query: ".....more naturalness....more innocence.....Perhaps the women don't matter too much in this; (Fancy Free), perhaps they are caricatures and it's the sailors that Robbins was really interested in."

The beauty of the original cast of women (Janet Reed and Muriel Bentley) is that they were above all, natural. They could have been any young woman you would encounter on the streets of New York or riding the subway. I like what you said a bout this production evoking the 'feeling' of WWII. This is something I have always found missing. I'll be seeing it next week.

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 06:47 AM

atm, atm..don't go -- how was the pocketbook scene done originally? It is so violent now, more West Side Story than my memories of "Fancy Free" even from the late 1970s.

#21 nysusan

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 08:32 AM

atm, atm..don't go -- how was the pocketbook scene done originally?  It is so violent now, more West Side Story than my memories of "Fancy Free" even from the late 1970s.

Alexandra, I agree. I hadn't seen Fancy Free since the mid seventies, and I was shocked by the harshness of the pocketbook scene. I don't recall if it was danced differently then but this time I found it to be very mean spirited and threatening, and I didn't remember it that way at all. I remeber it as being much more playful & less aggressive. Maybe political correctness has overtaken me, or my point of view has changed drastically in the past 20 years, but I was thinking that if it were me I wouldn't come back & hang out with those sailors, I'd call the cops on them! Then again, who could resist Radetsky, Cornejo and Carreno?

I also agree with the reviewer who commented on Radetsky's performance (sorry, I forget who it was). I think this was the best I've ever seen him - dreamy & evocative, combined with a kind of goofy sincerity. Very nice to see him making the most of an opportunity.

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 09:35 AM

I think perhaps it -- and they, and we -- have all lost our innocence. When that scene was created, I doubt many, if any, people dancing it or watching it even thought the word "rape". It was the kind of teasing that happens on playgrounds. Several people here have mentioned over the years, and I agree, that Herrera dances the role of the pocket book girl in a way that de-emphasizes the danger and comes as close as anyone to recapturing that it's about teasing, not aggression.

#23 carbro

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 10:27 AM

Alexandra, having seen ABT's Fancy Free both at the International Dance Festival at Kennedy Center this past spring and again this past week at City Center, the comparison between the two pocketbook scenes was significant. It has been toned down considerably, although it is still more malicious than it probably should be.

#24 Farrell Fan

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 10:47 AM

All in all, I had a wonderful evening.  Strangely enough, Sebastien Marcovici and Janie Taylor of NYCB were there and I wanted to talk to them but alas, I was afraid that I'd step on one of their feet and single handedly ruin ballet in NY or the like.  It's hard to talk to strangers who don't really seem like strangers!

Forgive this digression, but I know the feeling. Fortunately, my late wife had no such qualms. That's how we became friends with Suzanne Farrell.

#25 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 11:38 AM

Quoting Mindy Aloff:

"The costumes for this production, of white satin, gold braid, and ornamental fabrics, are edged in fur, courtesy of Ben Kahn. On all but one costume, the color is ranch mink. On Herrera’s tutu, though, the fur is snowy white. Ermine? At ABT? It seems that Holmes is going to stage a full-evening Raymonda for the company in the near future. If you plan to bring the kids, leave their copy of The Little Fur Family at home. "

It is my understanding that the costumes being used for this presentation are from the previous staging by Bujones, and do not come from the production of Raymonda planned for spring.

#26 Alexandra

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:25 PM

Did anyone go to the Innovative Program? nysusan mentioned it (thank you) but I wondered what people thought, especially of the new Forsythe.

#27 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:27 PM

:thumbsup:

Goodness I sound stuffy. Sorry folks.

#28 atm711

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:45 PM

About the "Pocketbook" scene in "Fancy Free": It was very playful and good-natured. The girl appeared to enjoy the attention, but wouldn't admit it to the s ailors---which was pretty typical of the time--look, but don't touch! One never felt there was a threat of rape. She was a bit haughty and might have thought the boys beneath her!.

#29 Alexandra

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:48 PM

Thank you, atm, that's very helpful. Today, the girls look a bit -- well, that they're not quite nice girls. And the third girl looks like a hooker, in some performances I've seen.

#30 Dale

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 01:09 PM

Thank you ATM711. I think the only way for it to work as not looking like harassment is to work on the woman's reactions when the handbag is being tossed around. Many times now, she has a look of terror, which makes us react that she's in danger. Maybe it should be more annoyance and the sailors should look like they're playing (which they do in many performances I've seen).


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