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Ballet Arizona Swan Lake (Paula Hartley)


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#1 Arizona Native

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Posted 07 November 2006 - 10:31 PM

My family attended Ib Anderson's full-length Swan Lake on Saturday afternoon. Paula Hartley is the Odette/Odile for the matinees, while Natalia Magnicaballi performs in the evenings. Ms. Hartley's Siegfried is Michael Cook, while Astrit Zenjati partners Ms. Magnicaballi.

What a pleasure it has been to see Ballet Arizona grow! Ms. Hartley, always technically strong, demonstrates increased dramatic power and range. Her Odette begins as a vulnerable and frightened swan, gradually transforming to a joyous woman in love. She uses her athleticism to advantage -- for instance, with an exciting passe-entrechat sequence that nearly brought me to my feet. In the First Act pas de deux, as she leaped from a deep plie in 5th, her partner's hands at her waist assisting, her legs scissored open and she appeared to take flight -- a foot over her partner's head. Even as she assumed the woman form of Odette, she maintained aspects of her swan personality.

Her Odile was surprisingly evil, though not brittle. In previous roles, we have seen Ms. Hartley's warm and generous side. Here, warmth became passion. In the Act II pas, she reeled Siegfried in and played him for a fool. She commanded the stage and overshadowed everyone else on it. When I asked my girls (10-year-olds) what they liked best about the ballet, they were in agreement that everything Odile did was "the best part." Her dramatic energy never flagged. A woman two seats over from me was actually counting fouettes, (aloud!) while I was thinking, "She's fabulous!!!! Who cares how many turns she does?" When she did the series of partnered pirouettes to combre back -- her face towards the audience, but upside-down -- her eyes still held the audience, "Now I've got him right where I want him," she seemed to say.

I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. Hartley could be so deliciously mean.

Mr. Cook is not Ms. Harley's usual partner, and made several outright partnering mistakes. For instance, it was more than jarring when he stood too close as she turned in attitude derierre, actually bumping her foot as she spun. While she hardly wavered, it was quite irritating to see. While I have enjoyed him in other roles, he did not seem ready for this kind of danseur noble role, appearing too weak in contrast to this strong Odile, lacking both stage presence and dramatic nuance. Many audience members did enjoy his performance, however -- a particularly fun moment followed his Act II entrance -- a grand jete that begins in the wings. This was quite well done, as the audience saw none of the preparation, just the very showy mid-air appearance. He got great ballon and height, so the audience rewarded him with a collective gasp and "wow"s.

The audience support and enthusiasm, throughout, was terrific.

As for the corps, Ginger Smith, a School of Ballet Arizona product, continues to be a standout. Unfortunately, all others were not at her level. As a Cygnet, she had every angle of the head -- but she was the only one. Had it not been for her performance, I would have thought they were taught the part only from the shoulders down. All three of the others were off. Too bad. This company has progressed beyond the point where I can be pleased with nice footwork. In any event, she caught my eye every time she was onstage -- she has the whole package -- rock-solid technique, musicality, stage presence, and the beginnings of real acting ability. Did I mention that her arabesques have the most gorgeous line? That, too.

Among the women, Kanako Imayoshi was also a standout, with beautiful epaulment and use of her eyes.

The most jarring aspect of the choreography occurred during the Mazurka. Inexplicably, it was done double-time -- so fast that the dancers had a hard time executing it. Even had they pulled it off, at that speed it was quite unmusical.

We wanted to return to see Natalia Magnicaballi, but have conflicting comittments. I'm hoping one of you will see it and post.

#2 bart

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 07:39 AM

Thanks very much, Arizona Native, for that review. It's wonderful to hear how well Anderson's ambitions for this company are paying off. Your descriptions helped me to visualize so much. I was wondering about the production itself: how did they handle scene changes, group ensembles, etc., with what are obviously fewer resources than the big companies?

P.S. As someone who sees a lot of another "Sons/Daughters of Balanchine" company -- Villella's Miami City Ballet -- I always feel a thrill when hearing stories like this.

#3 Helene

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 08:47 AM

I am so happy to read of Paola Hartley's success in Swan Lake. I think she is one of the hidden treasures of ballet in the US. In the classical works, she mostly takes a back seat to Natalia Magnicaballi -- whom many of our posters know from her appearances with Suzanne Farrell Ballet -- if the roles are even double-cast, and she doesn't often get the reviews, which are most often done on the Opening Night cast. (Although this year was an exception.)

#4 Arizona Native

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 09:51 PM

I was wondering about the production itself: how did they handle scene changes, group ensembles, etc., with what are obviously fewer resources than the big companies?

P.S. As someone who sees a lot of another "Sons/Daughters of Balanchine" company -- Villella's Miami City Ballet -- I always feel a thrill when hearing stories like this.


To add to the crowd effect, Anderson used students from the School of Ballet Arizona. As for the scenery -- it was lovely, as were the costumes. The Board and Anderson continue to be smart managers, not getting overextended: the costume design Act I & II, Scene 1 of each was by Peter Cazalet (for Ballet Arizona), while Scene 2 was Zack Brown, courtesy of the Atlanta Ballet. Similarly, the scenery was by David Walker, courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater.

There are several new dancers this season, all with impressive training credentials, and we look forward to getting to know each one and seeing their progress.

#5 stinger784

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 06:47 AM

Arizona Native I would like to thank you on your perspective of our show and I hope to see you at future performances. Hopefully I will be able to meet you at one of our shows one day!

(I am Ian and was the taller male of the Spanish Dancers.)


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