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Universal Ballet in NY


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#1 atm711

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Posted 02 August 2001 - 09:06 AM

Universal Ballet's "Bayadere" must certainly qualify as the most sumptuous production around. If it's costuming and props that capture you--this production is for you.

The two ballerinas -- Eun-Sun Jun (Nikia) and Seh-Yun Kim (Gamzatti) turned in "nice" performances (would it be better to say "commendable"?) The latter has a more bravura technique and attacked her variation in Act II with much verve, while Eun-Sun Jun is the more lyrical. (Makarova, Assylmuratova and Bussell are hard acts to follow!)

The much touted "Shades" scene left me with a few reservations. There were too many distractions---the 32 entered on a 2-level cumbersome ramp while a panoramic back-drop filtered clouds and mist across a moon-lit sky. The entrance was performed behind a too-dark scrim, which made the scene look murky. The serenity of the scene was missing for me. It wasn't until they were all in place that the scrim was raised and we could see the pristine whiteness of the costumes. As to the "Corps"--there were many rough edges--perhaps it is too much to expect 32 to dance in unison.

#2 Alla

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Posted 02 August 2001 - 09:34 AM

It really was a sumptuous production, and the wedding scene was especially gorgeous, with jewel-like reds and blues and yellows. I agree about the scrim, etc., in the opening of the Shades scene. Finally I just took off my glasses and let the murky atmosphere flow by. And there were moments when I thought the corps wasn't going to make it. Some of the bobbles in arabesque were downright dangerous. (Imagine if one dancer fell over -- then another -- then another ... the domino effect in those lovely tutus would have been quite something!)

In general, all the performances were neat and (yes) commendable, but I found the whole company unmusical and, despite their lovely Kirov-style port de bras, somewhat unfinished-looking. They seemed more concerned with getting the steps done than with dancing them. That said, Seh-Yun Kim definitely wowed 'em in her wedding pas de deux (one balance in attitude seemed to last forever).

Two small notes. The girls with the parrots -- shouldn't they hold them upright while they're dancing? Last night the poor birds were tossed around every which way, and the effect was reminiscent of a certain Monty Python sketch. (And what about the plastic snake that the fakir conjures out of a basket before the Shades scene??) Also, cameras were flashing throughout the performance, even after the warning announcement was repeated a second time. It was very distracting, and I was sitting in the Fourth Ring -- can't imagine how it must have been for the dancers.

#3 stan

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Posted 02 August 2001 - 09:55 AM

I agree that the Gamzatti was a lovely dancer and that the evening on balance was a plus but there were a lot of questions. Overall, I much prefer the ABT production. Here the ballet ended with the Shades scene and there was no destruction of the temple. I missed that. Which version is more authentic? The program notes said something about creating a "streamlined" version of the ballet (shades (so to speak) of Peter's Swan Lake!) but you're hardly streamlined when you end at 11:00. We could have used Andrea Quinn last night! The wedding scene seemed to go on forever. I didn't much care for the parrots or for the water pitcher on the head dance.

As to the dancing, I agree that the women, particularly, Gamzatti, were outstanding. I was less impressed with the Solor. And the Bronze Idol (here done in the wedding scene) was a throwaway. It's tough when you get used to the technical panache that ABT brings to it. (Wasn't the Bronze Idol Angel Corella's first big role?) It's true that a couple of the corps members were awfully wobbly in their arabesques. I've never seen that at ABT.

Also, can someone tell me whether I was hallucinating or not. I had the impression that the music to the first variation in the Shades scene was actually music from Don Q. I understand that it's the same composer and that Minkus is notorious for his "beer hall" music as Croce described it.

The orchestra (something called the New York City orchestra) played as loudly as any orchestra I've heard since Jimmy Levine conducted the last act of Gotterdammerung.

#4 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 07 August 2001 - 05:36 PM

I saw the Sunday August 5th matinee performance of the Universal Ballet's "La Bayadere." On the whole, I was impressed by the quality of the dancing. I thought the corps was excellent in the Kingdom of the Shades act. There was not one wobble in the bunch. (Of course I saw it on Sunday and by then opening night jitters must have been overcome.) I as well prefer Markarova's version. You really need that third act with the earthquake destroying the temple (and the Rajah and Gamzatti, etc.) and Nikiya and Solar reunited in the afterlife for closure (imo anyway). I also agree with Clive Barnes that the way Markarova streamlined Acts I and II into one act is very smart. As Barnes said, Act I is mostly mime, and not a whole lot seems to happen. And I thought the divertisements went on too long in the Universal Ballet's Act II. I thought the drum dancers were wonderful, but I could have done without the parrot dancers and the dancer with the jar on her head (though the girls who danced with her were very cute.)

I was especially disapponted with the Golden Idol solo. First of all I always thought it was a solo. I found the attendants who danced with the Golden Idol really annoying. In the Kirov and Bolshoi versions of "La Bayadere" doesn't the Golden Idol dance all by himself? I saw the Paris Opera Ballet dance Nureyev's version of "La Bayadere" in 1996, and I could have sworn the Golden Idol danced without attendants. Also I found the quality of the dancing rather mediocre. And the Golden Idol solo has always been one of the highlights of "La Bayadere" for me. And I've seen some really spectacular pyrotechnics in this solo. When I saw ABT's "La Bayadere" in 2000, Herman Cornejo danced the role.

I saw Seh-Yun Kim in the part of Nikia and she was just wonderful, really lyrical with
a lovely flow to her dancing. And she was physically one of the most beautiful ballerinas I've ever seen. A Ukrainian dancer, Irina Komarenko was Gamzatti. She was okay, but I wasn't too impressed with her
dancing in the wedding pas de deux. Hyuk-Ku Kwon as Solor was very ardent in his acting. And his dancing was pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he danced his solo in Act II. He was a bit sloppy on the landings, etc., but Kwon showed real potential. (And after seeing the Universal Ballet's "Swan Lake" at City Center in 1998, I was only too aware that male dancing is not a strong point for the company.) But in his solo in Act III he didn't even attempt the double assemble barrel turns (is that what you call them?) The rest of the solo went well, and the audience clapped madly anyway (I guess most of them had never seen "La Bayadere" before.")


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