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Sleeping Beauty Seminars, Casting, and Reviews

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#16 SandyMcKean


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Posted 13 February 2010 - 10:19 AM


Thanks for the review; I read it with complete interest......I liked the way you write about how you felt about the evening instead of restricting yourself to only what you thought about it (if that makes any sense). I concur with most of what your reactions were. I haven't seen all the same dancers you mention, but having seen 3 Beauties so far (my 4th will be tomorrow to see Leslie Rausch make the gigantic leap to Aurora.......I'm a huge fan of Leslie's).

If I had to give a "Most Accomplished" award to a single dancer at PNB, it would be to Carrie Imler. For me she is the penultimate professional. She delights and astonishes me every time: be it as Aurora, or as a stomper in Tharp's "In the Upper Room". I can easily echo your football fan cry (in fact, not being the shy type, I'm afraid I did a enough screaming of "brava" and "yo" the night I saw her to likely make you squirm :)).

As I'm sure you have observed, Bold has never been very expressive. He is a joy to watch and his partnering is terrific (IMHO), but communicating emotion, character motivation, etc is not his strong point. I wonder if that was all that was happening during Act 3. I sure hope no injury is involved.

I would have loved to see Kyle Davis as Bluebird. He moves like no other male dancer I've seen at PNB. I distinctly remember noticing him the very first time he hit our stage. I didn't know who he was, or even that a new dancer of his type had joined the organization. There was just something about his dancing that strongly caught my eye. At the intermission I had to look at the program to figure out who that standout dancer was. Now I find it difficult not to focus on him and ignore other dancers when he is on stage in a more typical corps role. I've never seen him is such a highlighted role as Bluebird. I envy you again.

Wevers is more than a dancer; he creates drama in its broadest possible sense (which I suspect is why he is such a talented choreographer). As you say, his Carabosse is spectacular (in a dramatic sense -- just as his Friar in R&J was). I have jokingly called him "rubberman" given his ability to move seemlessly into the most unusual limb positions (not as a "trick", but to dramatic effect).

#17 sandik


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Posted 14 February 2010 - 03:12 PM

I apologize in advance -- this is very long, so just skip ahead if you get frustrated.

Lots of thoughts and not room for them all in the paper, so I’m chattering away here.
I’m not sure what it is (Valentine’s day programming, perhaps?) but it seems that everyone has been performing SB this month. It’s been great to follow along with all the discussions, and see what other communities think of their production.

Different productions of this ballet emphasize different things -- some try to underline the fairy tale aspects of the story, some slice away as much of the narration/mime as they can so that it almost becomes “Suite from SB,” some come down heavy on the symbolic/metaphorical bits (historical accuracy of period costumes). Hynd’s production has some of the didactic, with careful period details and, more importantly, big helpings of what we believe to be the original choreography. In his symposium last month, Doug Fullington referred to that as “the King James version” of the work, and the care that the company has taken with it does have a vaguely religious sense to it.

I saw all the Auroras over the first weekend, and then slid into the school matinee yesterday and caught a tiny snip of Leslie Rausch as well. But I’m still missing all kinds of castings, debuts, new pairings and old favorites, so I’m glum. My goal reviewing this time around was to talk about as many performers as possible, since this is such a great vehicle for individual performance, but I wound up having to talk about context as well.

It’s always great to see different dancers appear in several guises throughout a performance. Retainers become nymphs, nobles become peasants, and the same group of people keep turning up at parties given 100 years apart. Wherever he shows up, William Lin-Yee seems to have great aplomb, which makes such a difference in the classical roles. He’s working hard, yes, but you don’t feel that he’s pushing past the aesthetic boundaries of the work. Liora Reshef had a great weekend -- between her corps work, her Fairy of Beauty and her Princess Florine, she really shone. I’m not sure if it’s the French part of her training, or just something innate, but she’s got lovely, flowy arms, which really help her phrasing, especially in linking steps or changes of direction.


Kaori Nakamura (with Postelwaite) has a nice breath at top of the develop at her entrance. She’s not afraid of suitors, more confident than I remember her last go with this part. A bit knowing, looking over the shoulder, more like Odile than Aurora.

Mara Vinson (with Orza) had a little too much control, doesn’t glow enough in Act 1. But anything like a renverse (focus over the shoulder) looks really pretty. She understands the head/chest connection in epaulment really well. She’s very meditative in the Vision scene, which is probably the best choice to make here. She’s not herself, so she’s not “meeting” a suitor like she did in Act 1 – she’s more of a cipher, and it seems to work well if she’s just a little removed. She beckons to him, but she’s got much less volition than he does. Best effects in final act – she really glitters in the grand pas de deux. I remember thinking that Odile looked easier for her than Odette – maybe this is a related thing.

Carla Korbes (with Cruz) slides right into the pas de chat, makes nice long phrases, with lovely accents in the penchee arabesque sequence. She makes much of little – good choices with phrasing, coordination and accents. Easy arms, soft attack, clearly thinking of a young girl. Really floats through Vision scene.

Carrie Imler (with Bold) skims left and right on first entrance, really sees people on stage, relates to them through her character. Ducks her head at praise from her father, shy of suitors to begin with. A couple shakes in her first balance but after that she’s settled in. The big circular port de corps were really nice (stable in the lower body) modulating timing, energy. Her Aurora was happy in Act 1, which is much harder to pull off than you’d think. Has really put thought into the character and arc of her development. Seems much more at home here than in Swan Lake, but could just be familiarity. Her grand pas just gleamed.

Lilac Fairy

Carrie Imler – you just don’t worry when she’s dancing. She could keep us safe from nuclear holocaust. Makes it clear that LF ranks higher than all the other fairies, she’s the one that directs the action (“now we’ll give our gifts, now we say our goodbyes.” She outranks, is more powerful than Carabosse, can make her behave (multiple bows, ”listen to me”) Carabosse does not surprise her – like the best mothers she has eyes in the back of her head – when Carabosse tries to sneak up on her downstage left LF turns around just in time to stop the attack with a well-placed hand. Her mime is visible, well-placed, good timing, an articulate “speaker”

Carla Korbes -- very even, great sweetness, but not the same settled quality as Imler. Her power is less readable.

Sara Ricard Orza -- very gentle, rules through kindness. Solicitous of King and queen after curse, after spindle. More active arm waving during blessing (seems to be at discretion of dancer) When she has a phrasing choice she leans towards the fleet rather than the languid.

Laura Gilbreath -- had a very good start, but needs to develop her sense of command. She is the leader but she seems to look to others rather than take charge herself. Nice suspension in big waltz turn. Good timing with Wevers as Carabosse. She might look stronger in comparison if she were dancing with a different Aurora (not Imler).


Seth Orza does well with the mimetic work in Act 2 – he’s got clear relationships with the people in his world, and when the supernatural visits, in the guise of the Lilac Fairy, the arc of his doubt, shifting to belief (“You can’t really show me a girl I can love” to “Wait, show me again”) is cleanly modulated. He has a tendency to push in his solos, though, in both acts, and it keeps him from reading as a prince. He’s looking for someone to love, like Siegfried, but there’s not the same level of desperation involved, so the strain in his dancing just reads as awkward.

Batkhurel Bold very assured of air work, is very believable as a prince even standing still (a tricky thing to pull off), is making a little progress on the facial expressions, (he even smiled Saturday night.)

Karel Cruz had a very nice reaction to spell in Act 3, making sense out of long phrases. Could use a little more emphasis, all smooth, not enough punctuation. This especially clear in his variation in grand pas de deux

Lucien Postelwaite is a danseur by nature, so any glitches in his performances are inside that context. So saying that he didn’t have his best night on opening with Nakamura means that he still danced fluently and convincingly, but wasn’t as spot on as I know he can be. But he was a great example of classicism in the Gold and Silver trio.


Kylee Kitchens - Good contrast in Beauty between flow in middle of variation and snap at end. Light and quick, very clean in Purity

Brittany Reid - Has very clean phrasing in Temperament, such a reliable dancer. I always look to her to see where things are supposed to be.

Margaret Mullin - Nice flirty glance over the shoulder in Joy, more girl than bird. An interesting interpretation.

Lindsi Dec - She’s bright and direct – when she uses that well (like the tall girl in Rubies) it makes her very appealing, but when it gets too fast for the context she loses the point of what she’s doing. (same goes for her work in Gold and Silver in last act) Nice suspension mid-way thoughthe Wit variation – needs to keep more of that, the feeling that there is time for a moment.

Sara Ricard Orza - Gentle energy in Beauty, even in fast or quick stuff. Maybe a harbinger of her Lilac?

Rachel Foster - In Joy, very capable in all the twinkly bits, nice modulating the flutter, more amplitude in upper body than other roles. In Temperament, she makes it a bit more accented than other dancers.

Chalnessa Eames - Very sly as Wit, a cousin to the tarantella she dances in Stowell’s Swan Lake. She uses stillness well, very pretty as Generosity, but it doesn’t play to her strengths

Leslie Rausch - In Generosity, good with the arms gesturing down the front (hard to pull off). It’s a little window into her Aurora.

Eric Hippolito - Nice batterie in the ensemble section.

Sean Rollofson - Nice bounding jumps as courtier.

Carabosse – Wevers has beend oing this for quite a while and it’s a very well developed interpretation. His mime is almost conversational, it has the personal rhythm and individual “pronunciation”you only get with familiarity. Porretta emphasizes the limp, with fingers always going (spider-like, you need to watch out for those, that’s where the thinking and decision to make mischief happen) Rushes the “will die” in the curse mime. But then repeats the “dead,” which reads really well.

Act 1

Are the hags trying to get Carabosse to stop spinning, or are they egging her on?

Kiyon Gaines has been dancing in a flat hat and pink shirt for many performances and still looks like hecan’t imagine anything more fun to do than the Garland Waltz. He’s made some really interesting decisions as Catalabutte – his “oh no, I forgot the really nasty fairy” moment is especially fine.

Barry Kerollis looks good in this section as well, very settled as a member of the court.

I’ll bet the queen regrets begging the kind to commute the hanging sentence he wants to impose on Carabosse.

Entrance of the tiny kids eclipses the entrance of the dukes.

Michael Burfield is the third herald -- he’s the one that gets all three pieces of mime about Carabosse (flapping wings, big hump and long nose) and he does a great job of almost running the king over in his zeal to deliver bad news, and then ducks to avoid getting hit with the repercussions.

The garland is still shedding on opening night, one of the corps manages to dribble the flowers off-stage, soccer style.

Between the uniform chocolate brown wigs and big costumes for the suitors we can barely tell them apart.

Act 2

Orchestra squeak on opening chord.

Entrance for prince not that tah-dah, undercut by Countesses snit. But Postelwaite isn’t a big tah dah guy -- more modest.

Jordan Pacitti is making some really interesting moves into character work. Gallison is not as full of detail as the tutor in Stowell’s Swan Lake, but there are places to make a legible character. Flemming Halby used to make a lot of little in this role, coming from the Danish school where they spent time working on character techniques. Pacitti might want to go back and look at some of the video of Halby’s performances, not to copy his work, but see what the possibilities are.

Ariana Lallone really plays up the bitchiness of the Countess, recoiling from the peasant girls’ gifts and sneering at the other women trying to get the Prince’s attention. She has a real Cruella deVille vibe going. And when he does ask her to dance, she preens. She uses the riding crop much more than Dec does in this role.

The Panorama really doesn’t do much (ground level fog makes it look like this is set in a bayou) I know that we don’t do the original effect with the scrolling/unscrolling landscapes and scenes, but with the developments in projection technology, someone could design a kind of slideshow or video sequence that really does show all the stuff in the original Petipa scenario.

Simple structural effects make a big impression throughout this work. Gradation in size of Aurora’s envelopés (small to large) knocks you flat.

Really saw lots of quotations from Swan Lake white acts here.

We kill our evil fairies here -- Wevers falls backwards down the ramp and “dies” with his head at the bottom of the slope. Very effective.

Prince kisses Aurora -- confetti snow turns into red hearts?

Act 3

Gold and Silver: Andrew Bartee needs to relax shoulders and get legs a little more under him, but what a nice outing for him in this trio. He’s got a loose grand battement, so it reverberates through his torso just a bit, perhaps he could lower his leg just a bit to avoid the vibration. He’s paired with Postelwaite here, who is very at home in these roles, and so you get a picture of where Bartee can go next. Imler -- what a pleasure, fills out every phrase without rushing but still lets us know how tricky it is. Faithfully repeating energy and focus on the repeat facing upstage. m/m duo in 5/8 -- tricky and crispy but so fun. Imler nails the port de bras in the coda, which can so easily look like a semaphore message from a sinking ship. Dec big leaps, big jumps, big everything.

Puss in Boots: Temptation to just go with the joke in this duet, but Pacitti has really put some thought into his phrasing. The quickness in the snatching gestures contrasted with the fluidity in the back to back squirming (especially the alternating coordination of pelvis and head) is just excellent. And how unusually sensual this is in the middle of a Petipa party scene -- I have a feeling that they wouldn’t do anything that overt if they weren’t wearing costumes that concealed their heads. Ricard Orza had a great light touch with the catfight. “Just what every girl wants – a dead rat!”

Bluebird: Porretta has had this part for several years, and he’s still makes it look great. The brise vole sequence unfolds beautifully. He has a showoff facet to his performing that sometimes gets the better of less substantial choreography, but doesn’t seem to come out when the work itself is important. Rachel Foster as Florine has a great lower body working, but needs more amplitude in her arms. She keys into the vibratory element, but needs more of the connection from moment to moment. Griffiths sails through the solos and is a great partner for her, gets her lots of good looking turns, and really shows her off. His brise voles are as silky as Porretta’s – he really has the swimming quality, and when he and Foster do that last sequence down the diagonal she seems to get some of that easy energy from the contact and really opens up. Margaret Mullin makes a very nice debut – the enchantment is clear in her performance. Jerome Tisserand as Bluebird doesn’t try and strain. Instead he is very smooth with a lovely cumulative ballon.

Red Riding Hood: Abby Relic has red hair to go with her red hood – very effective look. She’s got a great sense of the English Pantomime style that this duet uses – big, clear mime, vey direct use of focus. Tisserand manages to make that wolf head look like he’s ‘talking’ – not a simple trick. Leann Duge and Kerollis have some great turns in this, between this role and Bottom I wonder if he’s found a specialty -- “will dance wearing a big head.”

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