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Giselle & Stravinsky Violin ConcertoImpressions?


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#1 Paquita

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 07:50 PM

I attended the matinee today, the last performance of the run, which also happened to fall on the same day as the Santa Claus Parade! It would've been nice if all those people crowded outside the Hummingbird Centre were coming to see the ballet :) Nevertheless, the theatre seemed pretty full and with good reason. If seeing Giselle were not enough, we were treated to the Stravinsky (a new addition to NBoC's repertoire this year) as well! It was great to see other BA posters there too :)
Having only watched the NYCB video of Stravinsky violin concerto, I was excited to see this ballet performed live. I really admire Balanchine for his ability to visualize music as complex as Stravinsky's. The dancers seemed to revel in his challenging choreography. In today's performance, Jennifer Fournier and Chan Hon Goh, both who have performed with Suzanne Farrell's company, danced the 2 arias.
In the first pdd Fournier was partnered by Jean-Sebastien Colau. She is a strong and athletic dancer, which worked to her advantage here. She made the twisted positions look easy, however, I thought she could've used more facial expression. I liked Chan's calm, almost playful style. Her partner, Guillaume Cote, was also excellent. His technique was sharp and polished, giving his dancing an energetic quality. It will be nice to see this ballet in the future as the dancers grow into it (I felt this happened with Jewels- it looked even better the second time they presented it).
After the stark modernism of Stravinsky Violin Concerto, the warm, pastoral atmosphere of Giselle was a little jarring, but it didn't take too long to set in. The NBoC performs Sir Peter Wright's production. It's uncluttered and honest. The corps had some wobbles and seemed tight in the first act, but they came back well enough in the second act.
The frequently paired Greta Hodgkinson and Aleksandar Antonijevic appeared in the leads. Hodgkinson's Giselle was completely believable throughout, and more than technically sound. Her pointework is especially light and her landings are soft. She manages to communicate Giselle's innocence, vulnerability, and eventual disillusionment in Act I very well. Her girlishness never looked forced. Her reaction upon realizing Albrecht's betrayal felt true. The word "devastated" would be a gross understatement. Her eyes expressed disbelief and her body went completely limp. However she didn't really come off as "mad" to me... It seemed like she was still sane for the most part, and that this made the truth even harsher and unforgiving. In the second act, a mature and compassionate Giselle emerged.
Antonijevic has been dancing Albrecht for years, yet it never looks tired on him; he is never just going through the motions. Time after time, he manages to make the audience feel that he still believes in the role. In the first act he was convincingly smitten and danced with a smooth ease. When his identity is revealed to Giselle, he is definitely upset, however it's hard to tell whether he feels any guilt or regret as well. He makes up for it in act II, where his anguish is clear. His dancing here is remarkable too. Such a pure line and clean batterie!
Heather Ogden's Myrtha is completely unsympathetic to his pleas though. Ogden was certainly frigid and cruel, but I wish her Myrtha showed more authority. She didn't necessarily look like the Queens of the Wilis, but perhaps just the most angry one. Nevertheless, her technique was right on.
It was an enjoyable, but very long, program. Next week will be the opposite, the Contract will be presented on its own. I believe it is roughly 90 or 100 minutes and there may not be an intermission this time (when it premiered in 2002 there was one intermission, but Kudelka felt the ballet would be stronger without a pause... there really isn't a "logical" place for a break in the ballet).
I would love to hear what other posters thought of this program, and the other casts...

#2 mom2

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 03:37 PM

Paquita,

I was there yesterday afternoon as well, sitting with another balletmom friend! We should have had a bit of bubbly together!

I agree completely with your review, and must commend you on a fine piece of writing! I have to say I love Giselle very much and wasn't sure about pairing it with the Balanchine on the program, but the contrast was nice and it certainly made one think!

My seats are VERY close to the stage this year, so I could quite easily see the facial expressions of those in the lead. I concur with all you've noted. The last time I remember seeing Giselle Johann Persson played Albrecht (how I loved watching him dance) - but I feel I finally have seen Antonijevic in a role that you would think was made for him. Greta Hodgkinson's Giselle was also one of the better I've seen - in fact, I don't remember who the Giselle was last time I saw it!


Bravo to all!

#3 Paquita

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 06:47 PM

mom2,
Thank you for the reply! Yes, it would be really nice for us Toronto posters to meet sometime:)
The last Albrecht I saw was also Johan Persson. Perhaps we attended the same performance... It was his last performance before leaving for the Royal, making it an especially emotional and poignant one, and his partner was Chan Hon Goh. This season Chan danced with Guillaume Cote. I wish I could've seen that cast as well...

#4 Saveta

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 10:16 PM

Hello all, and I'm sorry I'm so late to report about my impressions from the fall season. I saw two different casts of Balanchine's Stravinky Violin Concerto/Giselle performance, and than I saw the opening cast of Kudelka's The Contract. But I should probably make a separate post for that performance.

Well, I love any Balanchine's works and always love a good Giselle, so I was thrilled with this type of programing (although I admit it was a bit unortodox, and it did surprize me when Giselle was added to the repertory later last year). As I said, I was very fortunate to see three different performances this year (thanks to another Ballet Alert friend :wub: ).

It was my first time seeing Violin Concerto in person, and I think I got to understand it a bit better than what I did from watching the tape. About the first cast (Goh-Cote/Fournier-Colau) I agree with Paquita about pretty much everything . I really liked Goh in the pas de deux section, and for Cote, I'd love if he'd be able to spend some time exploring Balanchine's style a little bit more in the future. It seems like he is instictively drawn to it, but not always clear on the fact that Balanchine really was interested primarily in Stravinsky's music in the formalist sense. I feel Cote is a dancer with such an interesting potential and that may be why it seems natural that he'll develop further. Having said that, I loved his boyish 'folk' attitude which felt so genuine in the last section. And although I said I did like Goh's really interesting musical phrasing in the pas de deux, overall I think she attempted too much to emote, which to me was very distracting. (Simmilar criticism I have for Colau's grinning approach, as well as for Rodrigues and Hodkinson in the other cast, both of whom I revere as dancers, but here I felt that they were smiling in places just because they are there-on stage, not like they were genuinely happy to dance in that section- which would be ok I guess)
In that second cast (Sonia Rodriguez-Nehemiah Kish/ Greta Hodkinson/A. Antonijevic) I was really impressed by Kish's approach which was in moments rough, like he was little bit trying to catch up with the right phrasing so it started looking in places almost non-academic; but because he's very musical dancer, this toghether made an interesting quality that with right fine tuning would make really solid Balanchine sensibility. For Antonijevic and also Sonia Rodrigues I felt they were on the contrary just very academic and correct, (especially in the last section I somehow expected that Antonijevic's Slavic background would help him 'just do it' in that folk-spirited kinda' way. Greta Hodkinson danced beautifuly in the opening scene and in the pas de deux, but as the ballet progressed somehow she seemed to lose that 'in the moment' feel, and just started smiling away and executing choreography. (again, this is one of my very favourite dancers, and I think I just saw her on particular evening)

About Giselle: this production (Peter Wright) to me is the most logical First Act I know. Very clear in storytelling in comparison with the Russian Petipa/Lavrowsky production I was before more familiar with. Here a lot of things happen (such as Peasant Pas de D.- actually Pas de Quatre here; that harvest cellebration if I have that correct etc) so many things happen before the Court party appears at all, so once they do, everything works like a good pas d'action and the tragedy quickly unfolds, which builds up drama and really gives nice hartbreaking effect, completely proportionaly accentuated with the mad scene.
What I don't like about Wright's production is the opening of the act II and the entrance of Myrtha/Willis. It's significantly shortened, Myrtha dances the opening scene with the arabesque penchees, but doesn't get to dance those lovely parallel enchenments- too many things happen on an diagonal angle, Moyna and Zulma finish quickly their shortened sections and the travel of Willis seems hastened. (and in here we don't get so many Willis, just 18 which doesn't have such powerful impact in that travelling arabesques)
The rest of the act however is very nice, logical and concise. So again, dramaand story coherence seems to take precedence in this version. The first of two casts I saw in those 3 performances, with Greta Hodkinson and Alexandar Antonijevic, probably is my favourite over all in the NBoC's Giselle casts I saw in my ten years here. They took my breath away few years ago, and this year I had the same butterflies in specific segments. To me this is one of Antonijevic's best roles (along with Cranko's repertory- Romeo and Lensky in Oniegin) and Hodkinson I feel is even better in the role this time around. I did find that she was more detailed and natural in the First act on the opening evening and by the time I saw her again few days later, she had to be exausted from dancing both Gisele and in Violin Concerto on the alternate evenings. Even so, since the last time I saw her few years ago, she really matured in the Mad scene - that was the only thing I felt was initially almost too subtle for theatrical production (didn't project enough to the depth of the theatre proscenium in my oppinion) and now she found an excellent ballance between the naturalistic subtle emoting and assertiveness in drama. In the same cast I also liked Ryan Boorne as Hillarion- really convinced me that he's good harted but rough-around edges village boy. Myrtha was Heather Ogden, whose jetes I really loved, but for my taste she didn't display enough command in the upper body- Which brings me to the other cast- Jennifer Fournier had a great command of the stage as Myrtha, but unfortunately not enough precision in her allegro steps. In that other cast, Giselle was Chan Hon Goh and Gillaume Cote was Albreht. It was my first time seeing them in the roles and I liked Goh's second act more than her first (while I felt Hodkinson is equaly good,and very different in both acts; by the way both of them did heartbreakingly beautiful Giselle's 'Willi -initiation' turning scene in the 2nd act ); Cote I think has a lot of potential, he's very natural in every role I saw him so far,and he'll just get better with more experience.
I was blown away in both casts by Victoria Bertram in the role of Giselle's mother Bertha, as well as by Julye Hay as Bathilde- they both approached their roles with such fine details, Hay had this unbeliveable moment when she gives necklasse to Giselle, but pulls away her hand when the other one tries to kiss it- makes it clear that she doesn't appreciate Giselle's overt enthusiasm about their little moment of 'bonding'. I think (and would like to nominate if anyone is listening) Julie Hay for the next Myrtha- I have a hunch she'd be spectacular.
Generally, in both casts the entire ensemble had great chemistry, and the production came nicely together. I shouldn't forget that I loved some of the dancers in the Peasant Pas (de Quatre):Gillian Vanstone, Piotr Stancyk and Keiichi Hirano are the ones whose variations I remember still vividly.
And yes, it was great to finaly meet Paquita. :)

#5 Paquita

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 11:16 AM

Saveta, I agree Julie Hay would probably make an excellent Myrtha. She was very commanding as the lead fairy in the prologue of Nureyev's Sleeping Beauty last year- such long lines and crisp attack.
I would be interested to read what you thought of "the Contract". I actually remember making a long post after the performance... but I can't seem to find it here! Does anyone remember reading my review of the Contract, or maybe the post never got sent? :wub: strange...

#6 tigger

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 09:22 PM

Paquita's review -- this link should take you there. (And what a thoughtful review it was too!) It's from spring of 2002, for some reason I thought The Contract was created last year.

#7 Saveta

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 08:14 AM

I agree with tigger, this was an excellent review Paquita, and it would be just fun to hear what you thought in comparison this time around.
I'm going to open a separate post for it.
Read you all there!


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