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ABT Fall Performances

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Isabella and Benjamin have been a couple for years. They've worked together A LOT as dancer and choreographer. Of course, there's reason for him to use her in his pieces. But he has the integrity to not put a dancer in the lead who isn't deserving of the role, even if the dancer happens to be his longtime girlfriend. And Isabella has the integrity to not accept a lead role she can't carry off extremely well. It is an exciting time of premieres for Isabella (Clark Tippet's revival premiere as well as Millepied's). I am certainly thrilled for her.

Btw, there's a gorgeous picture of her and Isaac Stappas on ABT's homepage:

ABT

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Ambonnay,

Agreed -- Ms. Boylston and Mr. Gomes are the first team. So what?

Again, Ben chose whom he wanted to dance his ballet. In fact, there are many corps and soloists -- both at NYCB and ABT -- (and surely many other companies) that are as good, if not better, than the principals. In fact, this is how it's been for the 30 plus years that I've been attending ballet in NYC (many times a week when the various companies are in season).

Feel free to be cynical (is is your right) though.

That said, I'd rather see Hee Seo -- whom I adore -- than almost any female dancer at ABT. I only wish that David Hallberg was dancing Ratmansky's ballet with her.

To each his/her own.

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I agree with Marga. In fact, Ben did not use a previous girlfriend (also a ballet dancer and before Isabella) in earlier pieces. This says to me that

he is extremely confident in Isabella.

One note: I'm not sure it's appropropriate to talk about the personal lives of dancers. Moderators?

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I always felt sorry for the first string football player whose father is the coach and even if that player is the best player there are always those who questions the coach's decision,(it is only natural) or even the Ballet Mistress of a small company whose daughter or son is so deserving of a lead role but the whispers of nepotism is always in the air. I have no doubt that Isabella is going to shine, but Im sure she expects some backlash. This will probably make her even better.... Having put my two cents in, Has ANYONE seen the performances yet? Any thoughts? Dying to hear something. I wish I could be there!!!

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One note: I'm not sure it's appropropriate to talk about the personal lives of dancers. Moderators?

Ben and Isabella have acknowledged (and discussed aspects of) their relationship on public panels, so it is not "unofficial news", and TimeOut New York notes that they are a couple (here, in paragraph 4). So it meets BalletTalk's standard.

By the time the company was ready to announce casting, its artistic staff knew that Isabella would be a lead dancer in Ben's ballet. Obviously, they would not have cast her in Some Assembly if they didn't think she deserved both roles.

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Ambonnay,

Agreed -- Ms. Boylston and Mr. Gomes are the first team. So what?

DeborahB:

To be clear, what I meant by making the observation that Boylston and Gomes are the first team is to indicate that I don't understand what weight your prior indication that there is an alternate team should be accorded. Obviously, it's desirable to be on any team of a work like this. And it is obviously better to be on the first team than to have the same role on the second team, all other things being equal.

Also to be clear, I'm not saying Bolyston is necessarily not deserving. Just observing that I personally find it difficult to believe, as cynical as I am, that her being Millepied's girlfriend is IRRELEVANT (ie has no relevance, not even a de minimis one) to her choice as first team ballerina. :wink: It should be noted that Bolyston might (?) not be the only one who is deserving. Nor is she necessarily the most deserving, however qualitative and subjective that assesment may be.

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Ambonnay,

Agreed -- Ms. Boylston and Mr. Gomes are the first team. So what?

DeborahB:

To be clear, what I meant by making the observation that Boylston and Gomes are the first team is to indicate that I don't understand what weight your prior indication that there is an alternate team should be accorded. Obviously, it's desirable to be on any team of a work like this. And it is obviously better to be on the first team than to have the same role on the second team, all other things being equal.

Also to be clear, I'm not saying Bolyston is necessarily not deserving. Just observing that I personally find it difficult to believe, as cynical as I am, that her being Millepied's girlfriend is IRRELEVANT (ie has no relevance, not even a de minimis one) to her choice as first team ballerina. :wink: It should be noted that Bolyston might (?) not be the only one who is deserving. Nor is she necessarily the most deserving, however qualitative and subjective that assesment may be.

Agreed, giving a deserving corps member an opportunity is wonderful. Being a deserving corps member who is in a relationship with a choreographer gives you an advantage over other deserving corps (or even soloist) dancers.

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One could reply that Suzanne Farrell was not the only dancer who could've danced her roles, nor was she the most deserving one. The miscarriage of ballet justice in that part of dance history would have left the ballet world so much poorer in memorable moments, indeed, in a memorable era. On the practical side, lots of dancers' noses were out of joint, and Farrell suffered socially because of it. It's just one of those ballet things (or opera things, or theatre things, or.....)

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One could reply that Suzanne Farrell was not the only dancer who could've danced her roles, nor was she the most deserving one. The miscarriage of ballet justice in that part of dance history would have left the ballet world so much poorer in memorable moments, indeed, in a memorable era. On the practical side, lots of dancers' noses were out of joint, and Farrell suffered socially because of it. It's just one of those ballet things (or opera things, or theatre things, or.....)

Marga, I know you have history with Isabelle and are a fan. I agree that she is very talented. That said, to compare her with Suzanne and by implication Ben M. with Balanchine is a little far fetched.

That said I hope Isabelle isn't suffering socially from being cast in a principal role, and I hope she does well. I just think the Suzanne comparison is really premature.

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I can agree with you to a point. After all, when Suzanne started (and I was there from the beginning, watching), she wasn't "all that" yet! At least, not to the public. I do agree that there is no comparison to Balanchine - by the time he was 32 he had choreographed and presented quite a body of work already. But I wasn't really comparing Millepied to Balanchine, nor was I putting Isabella up there with the legend Suzanne Farrell has become.

This thread simply made me think of choreographers and their muses and what is right and what is wrong and how there is no right and wrong in this situation. I used the most recognizable example. I could've referred to Karen Kain, for instance, who rose to prominence because Rudy chose her to dance with, but many, many people have no knowledge of Karen and her Canadian triumphs.

Most companies in the world, both major and minor, could offer examples from their own history to illustrate my point.

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I can agree with you to a point. After all, when Suzanne started (and I was there from the beginning, watching), she wasn't "all that" yet! At least, not to the public. I do agree that there is no comparison to Balanchine - by the time he was 32 he had choreographed and presented quite a body of work already. But I wasn't really comparing Millepied to Balanchine, nor was I putting Isabella up there with the legend Suzanne Farrell has become.

The Suzanne Farrell example is interesting -- of course she has achieved a lot, and part of that may have been due to the opportunities she got. And the audience has benefited from her growth as a result of those opportunities. However, who is to say that, had Farrell not gotten the roles she had, some other ballerina who did not actually get an opportunity would not have developed and done something wonderful (and distinctive) as well?

It is sad, but generally intrinsic to the current organization of ballet companies, that opportunities are limited for everybody, particularly for members of the corps de ballet. It is also sad that dancers have a limited timeframe to try and achieve things. :wink:

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Ambonnay --

Not to belabor the point (which I feel like we are doing now), but Ben chose Ms. Boylston to be in the first cast -- girlfriend or not.

He feels she can handle the work (and certainly I do too). I'm sorry, but I have trouble with your term, "deserving." Each and every dancer at both ABT and NYCB (as well as other companies)

-- as far as I'm concerned -- is deserving of a major role created on them. The caveat here is that they must be able to handle it.

From what I've seen of Ms. Boylston, I bet she'll be wonderful.

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Not to belabor the point (which I feel like we are doing now), but Ben chose Ms. Boylston to be in the first cast -- girlfriend or not.

DeborahB:

I'm sorry, but, so I understand, how would you know that, assuming you are not Millepied and he has not communicated this particular point to you? :wink:

Also, I wouldn't agree with you that "[e]ach and every dancer ... at ABT" deserves to have a "major role created for them". Assuming you mean a major role created by a choreographer who is at least a little known in such capacity. :huh:

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I was led to this review of the Oct. 2 (Friday) performance by twitter (I'm "nurturing"):

To the kinetic music of David Lang and the stark but effective lighting of Brad Fields, Millepied’s choreography was propulsive and contemporary. After making a strong impression with a new work at SPAC last summer, Millepied showed an even steadier hand here and with a larger compliment of dancers to boot. Move over Christopher Wheeldon, Millepied is now the ballet choreographer to watch.

ABT at Bard review

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There seems to be at least one cast change. According to the NYTimes ad Salstein is instead of Phillips, in new Ratmansky - probably dancing with Lane. I was kind of looking forward to Phllips. Anyone else notice other changes?

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In the Millepied piece it was Leann Underwood in for Stella Abrera. I'm also going Friday evening at AFH and wonder if Stella will be replaced again.

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I attended the evening performance on Saturday, October 3rd at Bard College. It’s difficult for me, after one viewing, to give much of a comprehensive, intelligent review of the evening, as I was taking in so many new works. I will try, instead, to give you a general impression of what I saw, highlighting some of the outstanding performances. Please excuse my writing; I’m doing this at work.

I arrived at the theater early to see Stella Abrera marking choreography on the stage. My, she is beautiful! With no stage curtains, one of the unusual pleasures of the Bard experience was watching the dancers warm-up before each piece.

Seven Sonatas, the new Ratmansky work, was danced by Abrera, Kent, and Reyes and Saveliev, Hammodi, and Cornejo. The dancers were paired respectively as listed, although Kent and Abrera seemed to switch partners frequently. There were also two pas de trois sections. This piece was the most classical of the evening, in the sense that the dancers retained turnout and what I consider “ballet arms” throughout. The music was fast, fast, fast, but the dancers all brought their allegro A-game, and even the extra long ones (Abrera and Hammoudi) kept up. Cornejo and Reyes are such joyous, buoyant dancers, and they move together beautifully. They really lit up the stage. Julie Kent showed impeccable footwork, but I found myself wishing she would open her shoulders more and lift her face (I was in the balcony). There was something a bit tentative about her performance. Ratmansky’s choreography is wonderfully musical, and I enjoy how he uses less frequently seen petit allegro steps. This piece seemed understated compared to the rest of the program, and thus, I think, received a more tepid audience reaction. There were moments that maybe lacked rehearsal, and sloppy arms from the men, but I am eager to see Seven Sonatas again.

Next up was One of Three, which featured a trio and later a slew of men in black suits, interacting first with Gillian Murphy, then Misty Copeland, and finally Paloma Herrara. Whereas Seven Sonatas exemplified subtly, lightness, and happy couplings, One of Three showed us dancers exhibiting flashy extensions, rugged male ensemble work, and sometimes jaunting confrontations. Gillian appeared in striking long white ankle-length gown with a slit down one side. The gown appeared restricting, but somehow accommodated her ear-splitting developes. Gillian exhibited great control and sexiness, and Cory Stearns partnered her well. I wish I had the words to better describe Barton’s choreography. There was definitely some hip-hop influence where the movements would abruptly halt then the flow would start again (pop ‘n lock?). Misty came out all spunk and fire, in a black, high-neck, sleeveless number. Her movements featured an abrupt flexing of the feet and falling back on the heels, which accentuated her sort of long feet and hyper-extended legs. It looked pretty crazy. She was partnered by Simkin briefly, and just as I thought “Wow, look at him handle Misty” something went awry and he either dropped her or she slipped. There were a few seconds of audience gasp and awkwardness before they got it together. Still, despite the snafu, their interaction was interesting and unexpected. Paloma was the last woman to appear and she seemed the most at ease with the contractions and flow of the choreography. Paloma is not one of my favorites, and I avoid her in the full-lengths, but she seems to really excel in more contemporary choreography.

After a brief pause came Some Assembly Required. This pas-de-deux exhibited some unusual and challenging partnering. Jared Matthews doesn’t have much bulk to him, but his strength (for example, lowering Maria to the floor slowly while lying on his back) was undeniable throughout. The couple is entwined for much of the dance. There is flirtation, conflict, sex (almost), acceptance, and forgiveness going on. Nothing looks too easy. The message? Love is work.

I sat in my seat and watched the onstage goings-on during the second intermission. Stage hands quickly appeared with long sheets of white Mylar which they flattened and taped to create a large white square covering most of the stage. When they were done Marcelo came out. Hooray! At that point I decided to scamper down to the orchestra to gawk from the edge of the stage (I wasn’t the only one). Soon the stage was full of dancers. I was amazed as Maria came out so quickly with her hair put up and a different costume. I was happy to see the regal, captivating Kristi Boone and some of my other favorites. Daniil looks like a porcelain doll, up close in his stage makeup. As I stood there I noticed Benjamin Millepied right behind me, seated in the front row, all bearded, skinny, and serious. The lights dimmed, and I scampered quickly up the aisle and up the stairs to my proper seat. Thankfully it’s a small theater!

Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once was next. Isabella Boylston was listed opposite Gomes in the casting on the website, but she was substituted (on stage and in the program) by Stella Abrera. No complaints here. This was really a great night for Stella (her picture, mid-leap, even graced the program cover), and I know her many fans on this board will be delighted to see her getting some nice opportunities. In the beginning, Blaine Hoven seemed to gather the dance as a sort of leader of the tribe. There was so much going on in this piece, solos, couple-work, and a big ensemble finale. It was high energy and fast paced, except for the slow sensuous Gomes/Abrera pas de deux, which seemed to be performed almost entirely in plie. David Lang’s minimalist music fueled the driving pace, except in this pas de deux section where it was so slow, pounding, and dissonant, it finally started to turn me off. Simkin stole the show in this one. Millepied uses the silences in the music to punctuate huge moments in the dance. At one point Simkin catapulted himself through the air only to be caught on-high by a group of men, freezing with pinpoint precision in the perfect moment of silence. He did the same thing back the other way, perfect again, the audience gasping. He began a third attempt but as he starts to jump toward the awaiting group (women this time) he shirks; the audience laughs. Simkins subsequent solo sent the audience wild again. I’ve never seen anyone turn like him. I lose count of pirouettes after 6 or 7 revolutions. And he finishes slowly, on demi pointe, with a low developé a la seconde. Simkin also performed a series of these insane tour jetés where he lays out his body, almost parallel to the floor, and elevates his legs above that, all while covering so much aerial space. It looks like he’s being propelled by strings . . . or magic. I should also mention that Simkin partnered Gemma Bond in this one, and they suited each other wonderfully, (despite an excessive level of elfin blondeness). Seriously, though, I hope to see more of them together. I’m sure if you asked the audience, they would have pegged Simkin as the featured dancer, as opposed to Gomes (whose perfectly controlled turns and strong partnering also deserve mention). The piece ends--after a crazy, criss-crossing, ensemble segment with all dancers on stage--with Simikin front and center revolving in one of his endless pirouettes as the panel of light on him dims.

I was captivated by EDHAO. (So was my partner, who remarked that football didn't cross his mind once during the last piece.) The level of movement when the entire ensemble was onstage was visceral and powerful, perhaps exacerbated by the small theater. The simple, modern black costumes against the white floor meant nothing got missed, and despite all the crossing intersections and big movements performed by 24 dancers in a small space, the formations and connections were spot-on. I appreciated the lighting, as well. Textures and patterns were occasionally projected on the white surface, (echoing the repetitive, patterned feel of the music). But these effects were not distracting, and the stage wasn’t plagued by the dimness that seems to accompany so many contemporary ballets.

I wonder if the critics will find this piece a bit gimmicky. I wonder if NYC audiences will have the same reaction as the Bard crowd (standing ovation/ lots of cheers). I wonder if Simkin will dance this role in every performance.

I do hope the Bard/ ABT relationship continues. It was a lovely day trip. We took a leisurely drive, spent the afternoon at the FDR home and presidential library, and enjoyed the foliage in the Hudson River Valley, where the reds and oranges (much like the ABT stars) pop out earlier up there than down here.

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We took a leisurely drive, spent the afternoon at the FDR home and presidential library, and enjoyed the foliage in the Hudson River Valley, where the reds and oranges (much like the ABT stars) pop out earlier up there than down here.

I love the end of your sentence - the part I italicized in your post. What a great comparison.

Thank you SO much for your comprehensive review. I was at Bard last year so could picture the auditorium/theatre and your moving around in it during intermission. I really enjoyed your detailed account of Millepied's ballet, especially the description of Daniil's dancing. I wish I could've seen it! Your review helped me visualize the whole evening's performance. Kudos.

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Decoster, that was a very impressive and detailed review. i'll be looking forward for your future reviews. I'm so glad that Stella is back after her long recovery period.

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That was a killer review. Thanks Decoster. I felt as if I was almost there and more so, that I want to see what you saw. I'm set to see the rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon. Now, I'm doubly excited. You did it!

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I may have an extra pass for the Wedsnesday afternoon (1pm) ABT rehearsal. If interested PM or email me. I've offered it to an old friend but have not heard back.

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Gee, thanks for the kind words on my sloppy (but heartfelt) review.

I've really enjoyed visiting this board since I joined. I find not only keen insights on the company, but more importantly, a historical perspective on ballet that helps me put things in context.

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There is a six-minute Behind-The-Scene rehearsal video of A Ratmansky's " Seven Sonatas" in ABT-Facebook.

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And also one each for the new Barton ballet and the new Millepied ballet.

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