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All Prokofiev Program


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#1 abatt

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 06:52 AM

Well, the casting shuffle has again resulted in changes. I just checked the ABT website. Steifel is out of Prodigal for the entire week. Herman Cornejo will dance with M. Wiles tonight and for the rest of the week in Prodigal. Dvorovenko will dance prodigal with Simkin!! (The Corella/Boone Prodigals have not changed, except for the fact that they are not performing tonight, June 1).Steifel is still listed for next week's Giselle with Osipova.

They have also changed the program order: Prodigal/ Desir/ Dneiper

#2 Waelsung

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 07:35 AM

Well, the casting shuffle has again resulted in changes. I just checked the ABT website. Steifel is out of Prodigal for the entire week. Herman Cornejo will dance with M. Wiles tonight and for the rest of the week in Prodigal. Dvorovenko will dance prodigal with Simkin!! (The Corella/Boone Prodigals have not changed, except for the fact that they are not performing tonight, June 1).Steifel is still listed for next week's Giselle with Osipova.

They have also changed the program order: Prodigal/ Desir/ Dneiper


Since I'm planning to see the first two performances on Monday and Tuesday, I guess I should be glad it's now two different couples. I just wonder whether Cornejo and Wiles have had enough rehearsal time together. And, of course, wishing E.S. the speediest recovery possible.

#3 bingham

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 09:45 AM

Well, the casting shuffle has again resulted in changes. I just checked the ABT website. Steifel is out of Prodigal for the entire week. Herman Cornejo will dance with M. Wiles tonight and for the rest of the week in Prodigal. Dvorovenko will dance prodigal with Simkin!! (The Corella/Boone Prodigals have not changed, except for the fact that they are not performing tonight, June 1).Steifel is still listed for next week's Giselle with Osipova.

They have also changed the program order: Prodigal/ Desir/ Dneiper


Since I'm planning to see the first two performances on Monday and Tuesday, I guess I should be glad it's now two different couples. I just wonder whether Cornejo and Wiles have had enough rehearsal time together. And, of course, wishing E.S. the speediest recovery possible.

Will D Simkin have enough time to prepare for the difficult role? Maybe, he has been preparing even before the changes were made?He did mention in his website that he is going to do something new in the Prokofief program.

#4 sealings

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 03:26 PM

ugh dvorovenko/simkin moved to weds night! irina was dancing the matinee! i can't stand all these casting changes.

#5 FauxPas

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 07:56 PM

[Moderators - you can move this to another thread if necessary]

Just got back from the All-Prokofiev evening. This program is promising but like most mixed bills the first two ballets looked like they needed more rehearsal and will probably settle in by Friday. "On the Dnieper" looks well-rehearsed but has other flaws (not the dancing and choreography though!)

Prodigal Son

I thought that this was a very promising and impressive debut for Herman. We all know the dancing chops are there but his movements were stronger and more grounded to suit the choreography - nicely articulated and angular. The major development was the acting - this kind of impetuous lost boy suits Herman's still developing gifts at characterization. I think all the elements are there but he needs a more suitable leading lady (Paloma or Irina) and more rehearsal. Right now there are hints of "dance now, act now" and the full synthesis isn't 100% there - it should happen by the end of the week.

As for Michele Wiles, this was not really convincing. She had the moves and the attitude but something was heavy and lumbering lacking sharpness and flow and I thought she would crush Herman in the pas de deux. The height mismatch is a part of this ballet but not having seen it in many years, I was unsure if the awkwardness and clumsy lack of continuity was an artistic choice for comedic effect or evidence of unfamiliarity between the principals. Michele is a bad match for Herman but I think this looked like a dress rehearsal in need of serious polishing. Ultimately, Michele would have been better with Ethan and Herman would have been better with Paloma Herrera or Irina Dvorovenko. [Note: Veronika Part could and should do the Siren]. The ballet looks good on the huge Met stage. Good dancing by Sean Stewart (rarely given demi-soloist gigs and missed) and Arron Scott as the servants.

Desir
This piece struck me as pleasant, professional but outside of one lovely pas de deux, ultimately unmemorable. Think of several of the Richard Tanner ballets or Peter Martins premieres at NYCB. They look nice, the music is good, the costumes and lighting are lovely. Kudelka has used Prokofiev waltz themes that are familiar from "Cinderella" and the ballroom scenes from his opera "War and Peace". The choreographer is trying to be neo-classical with a bunch of dancing couples in a moonlit natural setting who break off into duos like "In the Night" or "Dances at a Gathering". Folk touches, some off-center partnering etc. Seven couples in color coded costumes. Feel familiar? It must have felt and looked fresher in Canada in 1991 when it premiered. Like the other ballets, this would look better on the more intimate City Center stage. The one lovely pas de deux was set to the big "Cinderella" pas de deux music from the second act for the Prince and Cinderella. It was danced by Isabella Boylston and Corey Stearns who got a strong round of appreciative applause. The other two major couples were less lyrical - Gillian Murphy and Blaine Hoven as the mature passionate lovers with lots of turning and hurling the girl in the air and Misty Copeland and Carlos Lopez as the young, impetuous pair. Everyone looked good but the familiar "Cinderella" music reminded one of better choreography to the same music.

On the Dnieper

Most of the time you walk away from a premiere humming the lighting design, the costumes, the set design and usually the dancing but the choreography usually not. Here I really did like Alexei Ratmansky's very emotionally specific use of standard dance vocabulary but felt that the design and staging undercut his excellent work. Ratmansky has set the original libretto faithfully and respected Prokofiev's good score (slightly below his most memorable work). The story of a romantic triangle (or quadrangle) is familiar but Ratmansky digs pretty deeply into these people and doesn't deal in clichés.
All of the movements have been seen before but here they are used for very specific character building effect. I was reminded at times of Antony Tudor's dramatic ballets and also a bit of Boris Eifman at his best (I don't have the deep-seated contempt for him that several posters have). The Tudor influence in specific use of dance gesture for exposure of inner life and the Eifman in the almost frenetic pace of the combinations and the general intensity.

Marcelo Gomes as the returning soldier Sergei is first seen alone onstage with a solo that changes direction constantly and is full of nervous energy - clearly this is a man who has seen the outside world and can't get back into the small-town rut he joined the army to escape from. He is restless, he wants something but doesn't know what it is, he feels part of this place and not part of this place, he knows these people but they feel like strangers to him and him to them, etc. In comes Paloma Herrera as Olga with open breezy moments suggesting a fresh wind and Sergei has found what he is looking for. All the dancers reaffirm their technical prowess but reveal new layers as actors. Paloma Herrera never has had more dramatic conviction and seldom has danced better than earlier this evening.

However, the stage setting by Simon Pastukh is a bunch of stumpy cherry trees on casters looking like potted plants in a hotel lobby. The stage floor is littered with piles of cherry blossom petals endangering the dancer's footing. To change settings, the corps manipulates a bunch of grey picket fences into various configurations and rearranges the stumpy wheeled trees. There is a dark backcloth which does eventually show a moon. It looks like the scenery is both too busy and cluttered and at the same time seems empty because it is so unspecific and unimaginative. The other oddity is that after the first scene, no one is alone onstage even in the most emotionally revealing moments. Like the Soviet Russians squeezed into communal apartments, no one seems to have privacy. All the forbidden liaisons seem to occur in public and often in front of the betrayed original partners. Sergei starts to make romantic pas de deux overtures to the affianced Olga right in front of his old love Natalia. At first I thought they were acting out his internal thoughts but no, it was happening in real time and space. Sonya also has a romantic breakdown because of her longings for Sergei right in front of her parents and friends. Frequently Veronika Part as the discarded Natalia is on the side, spying on her lover in despair. That works. The rest plays false in certain places. Veronika Part with her weeping willow arms and long mournful face is an impressive Natalia radiating despair and threatens to steal all the emotional focus from the lovers. I was glad that a volatile David Hallberg as Olga's rejected fiancé was not played as a bland stiff or lumbering heavy but had virtuosic choreography suggesting a man spinning out of emotional control. Lovely turns by Martine Van Hamel, Georgina Parkinson and Victor Barbee as the concerned parents of the illicit lovers.

Frankly I think the piece could use a little rethinking (some sections should be played alone onstage and the development of the central romance needs to be tweaked) and all the sets and lighting should be redone. The costumes however are evocative and fine. However, the choreographic vision and distinctive style are there. The rest can be fixed.

#6 Michael

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 07:13 AM

Your reaction to On the Dnieper is thoughtful and specific and your description of the movement is so very accurate - This is just a difference of opinion but I had just the opposite response to the designs and the use of the social groups vis-a-vis the principals - in this ballet I just loved it.

The moving fences and the arrangements of the blossoming spring trees, first in a kind of crepuscular light and finally in the moonlight, evoked for me successively a village, the homes within it, an alley, finally the edge of town and the fields beyond (when the fences cut the stage on a diagonal, from front right to rear on the bias). The differing heights of the fences gave me a sense of architecture. The colors of the blossoms seemed real to me, apples and peaches, in the moonlight scenes. I was sitting quite far back in the orchestra - Row X. I felt I'd never seen the sometimes awkwardly deep and big dramatic space on the Met stage used more originally and dynamically. Think of the frame and compression, and yet the breadth of space it provided, for that brilliant running, tapping, fast dance variation of Hallberg's towards the end.

My thought about the groups being present is that thematically, the ballet's theme is just the exploration of the tense relationship between individual happiness and desire and the imperatives, habits, sometimes sympathies of the social group as a whole and the families within it. The group is, as you say, always present in this ballet, looking on and taking part by turns. The grief, despair, tragedy and happiness of each unit, individuals and couples, creates a problem for the others: parents, villagers, spurned lovers and the village at large - this is the stuff of the ballet, in a specific way that Ratmansky's Russian Seasons could only hint at at NYCB. Maybe this is a particularly traditional Russian theme? Think of Les Noces of which there may be echoes here in the betrothal ceremony scene. And in Russian history, one thing in the 20th century (among others) is the pointed (political, philosophical and historical) confrontation between the claims of society and those of the individual.

I particularly liked, in the blocking, the way that a group of dancers, sometimes the parents, sometimes the principals, often turned their backs to the audience in a row at the front of the stage and focused their attention on the action upstage beyond them - and you in the audience would watch this through their screen; this emphasized the fact that we were looking on at an event that concerned them, a little closed world --

Not the usual grin at the audience and flick the wrist fest at ABT to be sure. In my view this ballet must be seen and I'll go back to see it again as much as I can.

MP

#7 abatt

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:35 AM

I attended on Mon evening. I was very disappointed with Prodigal Son. Faux Pas is right - it looked like a dress rehearsal in need of additional rehearsal time. Herman was excellent in the first portion of the ballet, as the angry young man who rejects his family to strike out on his own. Here, his technical abilities served him well. However, the final sections, where he is alone and a broken man, did not work for me. His acting here was poor. I guess I've seen it so many times before with great interpreters (Boal, Woetzel) that I have a very high standard for the nuanced acting which is essential to bring it off. Additionally, the partnering sections between Wiles and Cornejo had many rough spots that must be addressed. There were clearly problems which diminished the impact of their pdd. Also, Wiles does not exude the predatory sexuality that I associate with other Sirens (think Helene Alexopolous at City Ballet years ago).

I thought most of Desir was a crashing bore, except for the pdd between Boylston and Stearns,which was wonderful. The choreograpy for the corp was particularly dull and monotonous. It seemed to go on forever.

I liked On the Dneiper for the most part. All the leads danced well, and the story held my interest. As noted above, I think the set design actually limited the choreographic choices. In particular, the presence of little pieces of paper all over the stage (cherry blossom leaves and wedding confetti) restricted the ability of the dancers to move freely. Every second I was worried that someone would slip and fall on all that debris all over the stage. (Moreover, little pieces of paper kept on slipping out from above the stage during the prior ballet (Desir) which was distracting.) I doubt it is a ballet that I would rush out to see again. The choregraphy was serviceable to the story, but not inspired.

The evening program ended at 10:15, with a total running time of 2 hrs, 45 min. All in all, it felt like a very long night.

#8 aurora

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 09:00 AM

I hope to write more about the evening later but I wanted to concur with something abatt said...

Also, Wiles does not exude the predatory sexuality that I associate with other Sirens (think Helene Alexopolous at City Ballet years ago).


I am not as familiar with this ballet as many people on here I am sure, but I too found this a major problem. I am not a Wiles fan, but I can enjoy her in some roles, even if she will never be a favorite of mine.

But a Siren has to have some sort of sexuality to her--some sort of animal magnatism or allure. And Wiles had none.
This is not a criticism of her looks, so I hope no one takes it that way--but there was nothing in her portrayal to give any sense as to why she would be remotely desirable and without that, nothing makes much sense. She just seemed like a bossy, tall, powerful (yes, she had that), bore.

#9 nysusan

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:13 AM

I also felt that ABT's Prodigal Son was unsuccessful for many of the same reasons as abatt did – I especially feel that while Cornejo was good at the beginning he was unable to convey the complete devastation and loss the character goes through at the end. I also agree that he and Wiles were not a good match, but I had no problem with Wiles' individual interpretation. I thought her Siren was a total dominatrix – really giving the poor guy no quarter. Unfortunately the partnering between the two principals was poor and even more disturbing – the male corps did not do a good job with all of those intricate manipulations of the Siren. It's impossible for me to say if that was their fault, her fault or a lack of rehearsal time but effects that were supposed to make her look imposing & overwhelming looked awkward. I wish I could see Simkin & Dvorovenko in this but unfortunately I'll be out of town for both of their performances.

I disliked Desir intensely, but it provided great roles for Copeland, Lopes, Boylston and Stearns and I'll enjoy seeing other favorites in it (at least that's what I keep telling myself since I have tickets to 2 more performances of this program!).

I enjoyed Dneiper and agree with Michael that the use of sets & juxtaposition of village groups with principals provided an intricate part of the subtext – collective vs. individual and the closed in feeling of a small rural town where everyone knows everyone else's business and one person's choices affect everyone. However all that confetti/cherry blossoms did have me concerned about slips and falls – but all the dancers got through it fine and were just fabulous. I enjoyed this piece but am not sure yet how much or if it will hold up to repeated viewings. Time will tell.

#10 Classic_Ballet

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 10:15 AM

I also attended last night.

Fauxpas has described the evening very well, I agree with most of his thoughts.

Prodigal Son was ok, but I think that Herman needs to work some more in the acting and I didnt like Wiles.
Their partnership wasnt good, which could be because of the lack of rehearsal (last minute casting change).
I am not a big fan of this ballet, but I think I could have enjoyed it more.

Desir was so so boring to me. Lovely costumes and lightning, but I found the coreography terrible.
Except for the pdd that Stearn/I.B. got, the rest was the same boring thing over and over again, and it seemed to last for ever. I dont like Kudelka's cinderellas either, so..

On the Dnieper:
I found the coreography pretty brilliant. The story is interesting and very well translated to the audience through the steps. I am not crazy about the music and thats one of the things that probably didnt make me love the ballet.
I think the 4 principals were wonderful, loved Veronika Part. Herrera also looked real good.

I did not like the fact that the stage seems to be very crowded all the time, like people almost jumping on top of each other. I wd have liked a couple of quiet pdd and/or maybe a beautiful solo for Part at the very end.
The costumes look good but I think they are not confortable for the dancing or at least they dont allow for more exciting dancing to happen. Is emotionally intense and very well coreographed, as i said before.

Between P. Son, Desir (which I hate it) and the new piece, I think I am done for this week.
I bet the press is going to love the program and they wd probably say "this is what abt has to do more often, instead of boring full-lenght old classics". I did love the balanchine program, but to be honest, maybe its me, but I would have liked well more to enjoy a well danced bayadere or Manon that what I saw last night at the met.

#11 MJ

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:28 AM

Loved it! The evening really shows the strength of the Male Corps!

I felt "On the Dnieper" was poorly lit, it could have been a little brighter. Principals were often in dark spots. The fight scene was in red and the cherry blossoms on the stage floor made everything look ultra Barbie pink. I felt the beginning scene could have been more emotional. A Son/lover returning from the battlefield in Springtime. The Photograph scene was very well executed, I have never seen anything like that in a Ballet before.

"Desir" had the women corps in the back for most of the piece, and the men were dancing up front, nice change.

I've never seen PS before, I found it touching.

#12 Roberto Dini

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:41 AM

The other oddity is that after the first scene, no one is alone onstage even in the most emotionally revealing moments. Like the Soviet Russians squeezed into communal apartments, no one seems to have privacy. All the forbidden liaisons seem to occur in public and often in front of the betrayed original partners. Sergei starts to make romantic pas de deux overtures to the affianced Olga right in front of his old love Natalia. At first I thought they were acting out his internal thoughts but no, it was happening in real time and space. Sonya also has a romantic breakdown because of her longings for Sergei right in front of her parents and friends.

I thought the lack of privacy further demonstrated the oppressiveness of a small town, in which everyone knows everyone else's business.

I hated the men's costumes in Désir. I don't think they matched the women's gowns, which were quite glamorous in comparison to the men's loose-fitting, untucked shirts.

#13 griffie

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:01 PM

Alistair Macaulay's NYT review for Monday's Prokofiev program is now up:

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance

It was interesting to me that so many of his points were already covered by various ballettalk posters!

Thanks to everyone who has posted such great reviews: I'm still trying to decide on cast for Prodigal, between Cornejo/Wiles or Simkin/Irina - would love to hear feedback on the Simkin/Irina Wed. evening performance. I'd think Wiles would be cast a bit against seductress type, but I would love to see Cornejo in this role even if theirs is not an ideal pairing. General consensus seemed to be that he would have settled in more with Wiles by Saturday when I'd go.

#14 abatt

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 07:07 PM

I thought V. Part was outstanding, contrary to what the NYTimes review said.

#15 Waelsung

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 07:46 PM

Mamma mia, what a difference a day makes. Last night I came back home terribly disappointed by what I saw, especially in Ratmansky's On the Dnieper. Tonight it was a completely different story - literally, with Vishneva lightning up the stage and completely stealing the show from everybody else. Turns out her heroine is the protagonist of this ballet, not the other way around as it looked yesterday. Hammoudi was also so much better than Hallberg, but Diana - what an incredible artist. Without her there was no depth, no emotional involvement, nothing.

It would be very interesting to see this with Part/Gomes and Vishneva/Hammoudi. Could be a masterpiece.

And to think that I never liked Ratmansky:)


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