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NYCB Weeks 1-3: SWAN LAKE ReviewsJan 6-8, 10-15, 17-18

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#16 Helene



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Posted 10 January 2006 - 09:21 AM

It may be just the change from the swans plie arabesque entrance at the beginning of the coda to Odette's jumping entrance that changed the mood too much for me, but I also felt as if Odette didn't repeat the passe/releve/entrechat series as often as usual, and it didn't have the intensity I'm used to. Could that be because it followed Odette's jumps  instead of the plie arabesques and didn't provide the same degree of contrast?


I hadn't thought of it that way. When Odette does that series in a traditional version, it's the first time we see her dance petit allegro, the only other allegro being in the fast turns in the variation coda, and it's extremely powerful. The huge jumps take away from that thunder.

#17 oberon


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Posted 10 January 2006 - 08:55 PM

January 10

Wendy & Damian (Whelan & Woetzel, of course) gave a sublime rendition of the story tonight. Not finishing the fouettes seemed pretty trivial in the face of all that Wendy does with the role. Her Odette is so fragile, a clear vessel thru which the music shines beautifully. Her Odile is dramatic and downright cruel after Rotbart exposes the hoax. In the final scene, actually, the Whelan/Woetzel duo reach their apex. Instead of being a mere ending, it really is the climax. Damian danced well all night, and partnered Wendy with utter perfection. Together they made the final leave-taking and Siegfried's remorse resonate deeply.

Andrea Quinn set fast tempi and the orchestra played with passion. The corps of Swans were impressive.

Ulbricht (the Jester) won numerous volleys of applause and cheers with his dare-devil pyrotechnics. Andrew Veyette again made an excellent Benno and his two girls in Act I (LeCrone & Sloan) both showed considerable improvement over their debut outing last week. The Pas de Quatre was a bravura festival tonight, with the genial & light-footed Benjamin Millepied attempting to hold the stage while the three girls set off firecrackers with their almost dangerously fast, intricate combinations: Bouder, Tiler Peck & Ana Sophia Scheller charmed & dazzled the audience by turns. Lowery & Fowler (Hungarian) and Dronova & Carmena (Neopolitan) were repeaters from last week, all fine. In Spanish, one couldn't really "read" Sarah Mearns as she wears character shoes - she sure is beautiful, though. She danced with Jon Stafford, and Ellen Bar (excellent) danced with Craig Hall. Hall is an amazing asset to the Company...once you start watching him you cannot stop. Yvonne Borree and Albert Evans gave a flashy, sexy Russian dance, Borree seeming very confident in Albert's care - she danced full out and looked happy. Albert was his usual grand self: polished, sexy and strong. The would-be brides piece is a lovely interlude and tonight we had the elegant beauty of Saskia Beskow, the amazing Faye Arthurs, and Barak, Keenan, Laracey & Muller each enjoying her moment in the spotlight. I thought Robert LaFosse was a cipher as Rotbart. He seemed bored during the divertissement.

I regret missing Miranda Weese's Swan Queen his season, both her performances falling on days that I could not attend. I have her videotape, but it would be interesting to see what she is doing with the role these days. I hope someone will report on her performance here.

#18 drb


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Posted 13 January 2006 - 08:12 PM

A debut of Odile, can Odette be far behind? Naturally Ashley Bouder gave much to admire, and much to treasure, in her first performance in the Peter Martins Swan Lake. Odette was of course the greater challenge. While not everything was perfectly smooth this first time around, there were already "Bouder moments." Seconds before the music perks up at the end of the adagio we saw her find her human self inside the swan: it began with a movement on the right hand, no longer the feathery extremity of a wing, that rippled through the right arm, across the shoulders, through the left arm, to the hand. And, a longer moment, all of the last variation.
She already has Odile nailed. She made it look so easy. And yes, the anticipated multiples, so the 32 included a total of 39 rotations. She exuded the childlike glee of a pure innocent in celebrating her destruction of poor Siegfried. Not what you'd want your daughter to be, but probably made daddy Rotbart and whom/whatever he'd married very proud parents.
But, the burdens off her back, we saw hints of Odettes to come in Act 4. A magnificent, complete Odette, moving, and so beautifully danced.
This great artist will begin to find the amplitude that was perhaps not fully there in Act 2, and given her track record, this will likely commence not many hours from now.
To speak of a "natural" Odette, Tess Reichlen danced the Russian--perhaps training to ready her Odile!

#19 Michael


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Posted 13 January 2006 - 08:50 PM

A great performance by Bouder tonight. I have no reservations about it. As good as you knew her black act would be, her white acts were incomparably better. I agree that it was especially Act IV. The body just singing. She seemed to energize everyone in the cast, I can't remember a performance of this when so many dancers danced their best -- princesses, cygnets, national dances, you name it.

But especially the pas de quatre in Act III -- This is being performed extraordinarily well by Ana Sophia Scheller, Tiler Peck, Megan Fairchild, with Jon Stafford tonight and De Luz last night -- This group is getting better at this night by night. This is as good as you will ever see Megan Fairchild dance. And it's as good ensemble dancing as you will ever see from this company. Just about perfect dancing by all four dancers in all particulars and everyone just about perfectly coordinated together too.

#20 oberon


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Posted 13 January 2006 - 09:35 PM

I thought Bouder was a fully-formed Odette/Odile who sprang up out of the lake in all her glory. The surprise for me was how beautifully she danced the first lakeside scene, and how vividly she portrayed Odette. She gives a wonderfully musical performance, maintaining a neutral and somewhat sad facial expression. She used very crisp, almost abrupt, gestures to accentuate the character's fear of Siegfried, slowly melting into a more flowing feeling. Her portrayal was both youthful and oddly mature, giving the impression that the role had been in her repertoire for years. Bouder Nights aren't complete without one little slip (or a big fall in some cases) and she did have a moment of skidding briefly, but her composure never slipped for a second. Odile was of course a piece of cake for her and quite thrilling to see it all tossed off so splendidly. She was touching in her resignation and final parting from Siegfried in the last act.

Benjamin Millepied has never, to my mind, been an especially good partner - until tonight. He really was a great match for Bouder, his boyish appearance a compliment to her young Swan Queen. In his solos, Benjamin showed that he has not re-gained his pre-injury form; but everything had a lightness about it. He was a convincing actor, ensnared by powers beyond his control.

Adam Hendrickson is a fantastic Jester, sweeping through the tricky combinations with an air of devilish nonchalance. During his ballroom number, one of the small Jesters lost a slipper. Adam snatched it up from the floor, went into his leaping splits at the front of the stage, then rushed toward the wing and pitched the shoe over-hand offstage, never missing a beat. For all his brilliance and charm, there is a darkish aspect to everything he does - even the Jester. He is a great dancer & presence, and I would like to see what he would make out of Siegfried.

Adrian Danchig-Waring is tall & handsome with a beautiful line but I don't think the bravura required in the pas de trois is his to offer at this point. Carrie Lee Riggins seemed a bit reticent, though attractive, and Alina Dronova danced prettily here, the beginning of a long night for her as she was also a Cygnet and later took over Neopolitan from Amanda Edge.

The pas de quatre was superb tonight, the Fairchild-Scheller-Peck trio outdoing themselves - they seem to have a lock on this number this year as the Ringer-Abi-Hyltin team didn't materialize. Jon Stafford was mighty impressive here, including some flashing air turns. Edwaard Liang was back after a long hiatus, barely able to disguise his gorgeous classical technique in this character piece and exuding his unalloyed joy at being able to dance so beautifully; Rutherford was a radiant partner for him. Jason Fowler replaced Steve Hanna in Russian and did a fine job with the glamourous, leggy Reichlen on brilliant form. Dramatic, vital dancing from the Spaniards (Bar, Faye Arthurs, Suozzi & Froman) and a fleet-footed Neopolitan from the boyish Aaron Severini and Dronova, who still seemed fresh after her marathon. The delightful would-be brides number was adorned by Beskow, Barak, Muller, the plushy dancing of Laracey, the exquisite Sarah Ricard and newcomer Sophie Flack. Among the villagers in Act I William Lin-Yee stood out not just because of his great height but also an easy style. The children are sweet, and Peter weaves them into the dances skillfully.

Bouder was very warmly received and graciously bowed to Benjamin, thanking him for his attentive partnering. If the theatre hadn't been so hasty to bring up the house lights, I think they might have gotten a fourth call.

#21 BalletGirl



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Posted 14 January 2006 - 03:52 PM

Did anyone see Sara Mearns perform Odette/Odile today? If so, please report for the unfortunate, like myself, that could not get tickets to the sold out matinee. Thank You!

#22 oberon


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Posted 14 January 2006 - 04:54 PM

Yes, I have just come home from the Sara Mearns SWAN LAKE and a beautiful performance it was. I cannot remember being so moved by a performance of this ballet. My partner & I were both deeply affected by her portrayal of Odette, not just because she danced it so well but because she was so young and so vulnerable. The remarkable thing about the first lakeside scene, which she commenced with a very big jetee into her swan pose, was the feeling of time being suspended. Andrea Quinn forsook her usual pressing tempos and gave Mearns a beautifully sustained rendition of the heart-wrenching music which Mearns "sang" for us with her sustained legato use of arms and beautiful delineation of the various attitude poses and supported plunges into arabesque. You just got lost in the sheer beauty of it. Her Odile was also very effective, visually glamourous and an almost innocent sense of cruelty as she deviously kept Siegfried entranced while looking like a sweet young thing. Her solo here was very well-phrased; she did 16 fouettes, then a series of turns around the stage. The final scene wasn't so much tragic as just terribly sad; you so wanted her to win, even when you know she wasn't going to.

Nilas Martins was a very fine partner for her, his strong hands and fine timing giving her the freedom to dance full out. Nilas looks like a story-book prince and well portrayed the despair of a man who has ruined not only his own life but that of the woman he loves.

The pas de trois in Act I was superbly danced by Antonio Carmena, Abi Stafford & Sterling Hyltin; Austin Laurent was a long-legged and amusing Jester; Dena Abergel a luscious Queen and Henry Seth a magnificent Rotbart. The pas de quatre was again splendidly danced by Fairchild, Peck & Scheller with Joaquin de Luz (replacing Veyette); Krohn & Ramasar were outstanding in Russian, Saskia Beskow a gorgeous Hungarian maiden (with Tyler Angle), Megan LeCrone has a high kick (in Spanish - with Arthurs, Fowler & Jon Stafford) and Rachel Piskin & Allen Pfeiffer were a lively Neopolitan couple. The contenders for Siegfried's hand were Bar, Keenan, Laracey, Muller, Ricard and Barak in one of the best segments of this production.

The very large audience enthusiastically applauded the new Swan Queen and her hapless prince. You would never have guessed that Mearns was dancing this role for the first time.

#23 Balanchinomane


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Posted 14 January 2006 - 06:14 PM

Sara was simply exquisite. She looked completely at ease and secure in the role.
The emotional emphasis in Swan Lake has always been Siegfried's love for
Odette. With this performance you see Odette falling in love with Siegfried.
Tentative and shy at first and more trusting and mature as the Act II pas de deux
unfolded. Her arms had the right amount of flutter - her back is pliant and
flexible - She really let Nilas lead her movements but she was clearly in control.
As Odile, she knew she was the prettiest girl at the party. The pas de deux
was a seduction. She was ever present of Von Rothbart's evil daring and sought
his approval as our hapless hero was duped. I didn't miss the fouettes - she has
lots of time to perfect them. This young lady has a bright future.

#24 Dale


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Posted 14 January 2006 - 08:56 PM

I'll write more later, as I just got back from a double-dip of Swan Lake. But I second that Mearns was "simply exquisite." Her Odette was delicate, vulnerable, yet proud. Her Odile was not a temptress, but I'm glad she didn't try to act older than she is. Balanchinomane described her Odile well -- the prettiest girl at the party, which suited her just right at this time. A strong debut. Good for Sara Mearns and a tip of the cap to Peter Martins and coaches.

#25 nysusan


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Posted 15 January 2006 - 09:05 AM

I will add to the chorus here - Mearns debut was magnificent. She was (of all things) a traditional Odette - pure, luxuriant & tender. I was one of the people who thought Martins was crazy with this move - but he was right. Her technique was fine, she had stamina to spare, her line and phrasing were beautiful and her performance was very, very moving. Her Odile wasnít as spectacular as Bouder's, but it was still excellent and what I liked about itís concept was that she didnít try to make Odile the opposite of Odette - it was similar enough to actually remind you of Odette. But while I agree that she didnít play the temptress I thought she was still very seductive.

Yesterdayís matinee was my 3rd SL of the season. Iíd been toying with the thought of going to Bouderís matinee today and Saraís second performance on Tuesday. As the performance began I thought no, I canít take any more of this. At the end, as I brushed back a tear I changed my mind and ran downstairs to get tickets for this afternoon & Tuesday night.
She was that good.

#26 FauxPas


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Posted 15 January 2006 - 02:38 PM

I attended Sofiane Sylve's debut on Saturday evening. She was magnificent and I have seen a lot of Swan Queens in my not so long life (Asylmuratova, Ayupova, Ananiashvili, Gregory's 2nd Act, Guillem, Meunier, Gillian Murphy, Part, Zakharova, Vishneva and more). I thought that Sylve ranked very high.

The production is another matter... The sets are drops that are dully unatmospheric, a court without a court, a lake scene without a lake... The colors on the backdrops are muted and dull but the costumes are neon and loud in their brightness except for Siegfried who always clashes with the backdrops and fades into obscurity. The lighting this time around isn't as good or my memory was rose-tinting my impressions of the first season of this production (Jock Soto and Monique Meunier as the leads). The problems have been discussed before but they were baldly evident on Saturday night. The corps was not up to its highest standard until the 4th act.

The soloists all tried to inject some juice into the proceedings. Kudos to the kinetic and dazzling Daniel Ulbricht as the Jester. He had some charm and made one grateful for the energy and wit he brought to the proceedings on top of his stunning technique. The first act pas de trois had Megan le Crone, Kristin Sloan and Sean Suozzi and they did a nice job. The Pas de Quatre had fine work from Tiler Peck, Megan Fairchild and Anna Sophia Scheller with a hard-working Jonathan Stafford. However the lack of dramatic connective tissue and the fractured style impaired visuals just made it feel very piecemeal and fragmented. The choreography mixing bits of Balanchine, Martins, Ivanov and Petipa didn't help matters. The second act corps formations in the original Ivanov version cannot be improved upon. Balanchine in his one act version kind of struck out on new territory and his work is good Balanchine but doesn't look well in the full-length context. I didn't like the allegro finish to the pas de deux and I missed the big swans. The fourth act is better.

Luckily most of the heart of Odette's role is preserved in the Ivanov version, especially her entrance, pas de deux and solo in the second act. The Black Swan PDD is the original Petipa and the fourth act has some attractive and effective things in it. So with a fine Odette/Odile, the disaster can be averted.

Sofiane Sylve is an experienced classical ballerina who has done full-length story ballets before and knows how to build a character through dance over four acts. She was mesmerizing to watch. She is a firm, athletic diamantine classicist with sculptured movements that never lose flow or elasticity. Everything in her Odette was smooth but had an undertow of nervous tension - her fluttering movements as she was cornered by Siegfried were superbly realized. So there was this tension between smooth flowing fluid movements and the sharp, perfectly controlled sculptural perfection of her steps, port de bras and footwork. Everything was suffused with energy and had stunning clarity but nothing was broken up into jagged lines or individual steps. Her Odette was not a weeping willow but a creature well aware of her situation and torn between resignation and fighting against her fate. She knew she was in trouble and she didn't want to drag Siegfried into her cursed fate. She had great authority and you knew that this was a Swan Queen and not just another swan.

The Odile drew upon this same diamantine brilliance and control. She was a cool calculating temptress who didn't give much away - was only sensual or seductive when she had to be but let her own beauty and charisma draw Siegfried like a moth to a flame. She never went over the top or spelled out her intentions too clearly. The fouettes, including several doubles and triples, were also fully within her control and never veered from the center line of the stage and were completed without much strain or seeming effort.

Charles Askegard is also experienced and has some background in story ballets as a soloist with ABT in the 1990's. He was hampered by costumes that didn't differentiate him from the soloist men and blended colorwise with the sets. His height and dignified bearing did set him apart and he showed good but not thrilling classical form in his solos. He seemed stiff and wooden initially but responded well to Sylve and Albert Evans as Rothbart who each gave him something to work off of. He also had great control and support as a partner in the crucial pas de deux with Odette and Odile.

The evening was ultimately a triumph for Sylve who made the evening memorable and all the disparate elements come together. I wouldn't want to see this production with a lesser performer.

Faux Pas

#27 drb


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Posted 15 January 2006 - 04:15 PM

I saw Bouder II this afternoon. A number of repeat successes from the Bouder I cast. It was pleasing to see a significant increment of technical improvement since Friday in Ben Millepied, as he returns from injury. Soon, it would seem, NYCB's resident prince may well be a full out danseur noble.
The already glorified PDQ team of Megan Fairchild, Ana Sophia Kitri Scheller, Tiler Peck, and (this time) Joaquin De Luz outdid themselves: today's conductor was Andrea Quinn and she set them a real speed test. As she and they finished right on the music, one could see her eyes rivited on them, grinning ecstatically and raising her left fist in triumphant joy! Music and dance as One.
Adam Hendrickson triumphed again as Jester, delivering both character complexity and a high level of virtuosity--not just jesterly tricks, but a promising amplitude of danseur noble.
Oh, yes. There was an O/O. A real, complete one. Odette this time around had a back seemingly less tense, more "Russian" (as is currently under discussion in another Ballet Talk thread). Ashley Bouder also inhabited Odette-the-Swan, as could be seen from the way she transformed the choreographed hand flutters into an icon of imprisonment. A moving swan-woman, tenderly partnered by Ben, and her variations were perfection. But then, you'd expect this to happen with La Bouder, just as she'd done in her second Sleeping Beauty. Odile was of course dazzling again. This time a more wicked, less innocent one. And perhaps trickier to dance, with the change from Friday's Kaplow to Quinn as conductor.
In Act 4, the lake farewell, she managed to top her triumph of Friday. This scene is, compared to what else is on offer in certain other companies, a true triumph for Peter Martins. The audience is respected, a fully un-Stalin, sad ending. Bouder the actress reaches a profound level in this setting. A moving moment as she protects Siegfried with the form of the cross as in Giselle. The Heart, the Soul, are touched, and as she fades through her flock, quietly and forever away from her redeemed love, I swear I saw the face of Ulanova.

#28 oberon


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Posted 15 January 2006 - 04:46 PM

Thanks for the great reports, drb & FauxPas...reading about Sylve, I will now be doubly looking forward to this Wednesday.

Nobody saw Miranda?????

Anyone reading here: if you went to a perfomance, please write and tell us about it. Don't be shy, I think everyone wants to read about these Swans.

#29 nysusan


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Posted 15 January 2006 - 10:45 PM

I've read several posters here marvel at how quickly Bouder grows into a role, but I was still astounded at the difference between her performances on Friday night & at the Sunday matinee. On Friday her Odile was thrilling, but even though there was some wonderful dancing & beautiful imagery in her Odette, at other times I thought her dancing in the white acts had a very abrupt, gawky quality to it. Ultimately I found her Odette lacking, even disturbing - especially in the first act.

When Siegfried first startled her she was not just frightened but absolutely panicked. Not a huge, frozen fear but agitated, raw & downright animalistic. She seemed that way for pretty much the whole 1st lakeside act. Far from being a woman trapped in a swan's body, to me her Odette seemed like a wild, frenetic creature without one ounce of vulnerability, tenderness or poetry. She danced with a relentless attack and kept accenting her movements right ON THE BEAT. Her 4th act was much better than her 2nd, with hints of things to come, but not quite there yet.

Despite the fact that I didn't like her Odette I still left thinking that it was a good start for a very talented dancer. But she was clearly an allegro dancer in a very complex role that really turns more on the adagio than the allegro. I figured that even if she never became a great Odette her talent was so great that she'd find a way to make the role work for her. But I figured it would take a year or two. I will admit that I just didn't know Bouder well enough.

Fast forward to this afternoon and the gawkiness was gone, the attack was softened, all the sharp edges were smoothed away. It didn't seem so much that she changed her approach as that she modulated it. Her Odette was still wild and unruly at first and then again as dawn approaches and she turns back into a swan. But this time you saw her wildness dissipate & her humanity emerge very early on. This time her adagio flowed. It was beautifully nuanced and she presented a very cohesive, moving interpretation. I am amazed to say that I went from disliking her performance on Friday to thinking that her performance this afternoon was one of the best I've ever seen, and I don't say that lightly. It is a very different approach from my favorite Odettes (Fonteyn, Makarova & now Pavlenko)- it would have to be since the staging is so different - but it was still very beautiful & heartbreaking.

There were two particularly wonderful moments I will remember for a long time. The first was part of her first act solo, when she burst into a circle of turns at breakneck speed and it seemed as if she was throwing all caution to the wind. The second was at the end of the ballet. After von Rothbart dies she is drawn away from Siegfried and pulled into the formation of swans. She resists the pull,tears herself away and comes back out to him. But she's already turning back into a swan - her arms have started to flutter uncontrollably. In a motif repeated from the first act he wraps his arms around hers and draws them over her breast in an embrace. He soothes her tenderly, quieting her arms. They go through this twice but she can't hold onto her human form, and is drawn away from him back into the lake. It's a beautiful moment.

#30 oberon


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Posted 16 January 2006 - 02:42 AM

nysusan, I agree that Bouder's first Odette had a very frantic quality but I sort of liked it. A wild creature utterly terrified of human contact. And the man has a crossbow! I hope she doesn't soften her approach too much. This in contrast to the softer shyness of Mearns, who then carried this forward with her dreamy adagio. This season I have really enjoyed the variety of interpretations offered by the leading ladies, and even the altering of some steps and the various fouette solutions. Each ballerina has made me see things differently...and I still have Sylve to come.

The ending of this production overwhelms me every time and you have perfectly described the transforming moments when Odette loses her battle and is doomed, beyond her control. The ranks of the swans closing in around her as she bourees off, and Siegfried's grim remorse, send chills up my spine.

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