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ABT at Kennedy Center, January 2011Mixed Bill & Bright Stream


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#16 kfw

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 04:37 PM

BIGGEST BOO: The ultra-drab set and costumes are nothing like the colorful and 'luxe' Bolshoi version that toured NYC and London.

But how about the hammer and sickle on that red banner with harvest motifs above the stage? :smilie_mondieu: Given that D.C.'s a political town, I had to laugh.

#17 Natalia

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 05:23 AM

Quick notes after last night's (Saturday, Jan. 22, 7:30pm) Bright Stream, with the same cast as Friday night's opener.

* Gillian Murphy cranked up the fire-power of her jetes -- now higher and closer to the 180-degree split of Alexandrova/Bolshoi, especially in the brilliant A1 solo to pounding drums (in the Caucasus style). As on Friday, her A2 'male solo' (echoing the steps of David Hallberg in A1) was brilliant. Brava!

* David Hallberg comes close to stealing the show in A2, with his Drag Sylphide. What makes him so hilarious, even better than the Bolshoi guys I've seen (such as Filin and Tsiskaridze) is that Hallberg is so tall and big boned. When he jumps up onto the bench, then back down to the stage, it's a thunderous boom. His deadpan face is a gem; his comic timing perfect. I wish that there were an 'Oscar' of some sort for most brilliant ballet performance. This is it. [I missed the 2nd cast but wonder how on earth the 'lightweight' Danil' Simkin could have the same impact. His whole approach is probably different, which makes it fun to compare with Hallberg.]

* As mentioned earlier, the plain design of this production leaves me cold on many fronts. Case in point: the A2 dress of the Lady Dacha Dweller (Van Hamel) is no longer the obvious hearkening to DonQ-Kitri. Here, the Lady wears only a plain 1930s red dress with tiny dark ruffle at the hem, and white pearls, during the A2 'moonlight courtship' scene. In the Bolshoi version, she wears a 3-tiered flouncy dress similar to Kitri-A1 in Don Q. Also, ABT's Lady Dacha Dweller does not perform as long on pointe as in the Bolshoi version. The quick-stabbing taquette steps, a-la-Kitri or Paquita, are now gone. In the Bolshoi, this character actually goes completely across the stage (gingerly) on pointe. Instead, ABT's Lady just elevates herself to pointe a couple of times. Van Hamel still did a great job with characterization but the Spanish flavor and 'pointe work' were watered down.

* The set is still ugly-drab but this time I was sitting in the center, so was able to spot what, I think, is supposed to be a train...a couple of black panels with white smoke, coming in from the rear, audience-left side of the stage. Audience sitting to the far left miss this.

I'd love to read about the 2nd cast, Sat/Sun matinees (Reyes as Zina, Cornejo as Petr, Boylston as the ballerina and Simkin as the danceur/Sylphide...and Susan Jones as the Lady Dacha Dweller).

#18 richard53dog

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 06:36 AM

Natalia, I loved the reports. I can't wait to see Bright Stream in NY in the spring. You've whetted my appetite.

It's set to open with the four principals that opened it in DC. But there is also a "petite" cast similar to the alternate cast in DC but with Osipova as the ballerina (rather than Boylston) that looks very interesting. I hope to get to both!

#19 Ambonnay

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 12:26 PM

I was at the Saturday evening performance of "The Bright Stream". I liked the ballet a lot, although I thought Hallberg's depiction of "La Sylphide", even though excellent, lacked subtle nuances and went for more slapstick-type physical and facial expression humor. That could have been what Ratmansky contemplated for the Ballet Dancer role, but I don't know whether that is the case one way or another. That being said, Hallberg and Murphy were both again excellent in their roles. More on that in a separate post.

Zina -- Herrera
Pyotr, Zina's husband -- Gomes
Ballerina -- Murphy
Ballet Dancer -- Hallberg :flowers:
Accordion Player -- Radetsky
Old Dacha Dweller -- V Barbee
Dacha Dweller -- M van Hamel
Gavrilych -- R Zhurbin
Galya-- S Lane
Milkmaid -- M Copeland
Tractor Driver -- J Matthews
Highlanders -- A Hammoudi and others, including B Hoven
Fieldworkesr from Kuban -- A Scott and others
Zina's friends -- N Curry, L Underwood and others
Waltz -- various female corps members
Old Men -- certain male corps members

Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
Staged by Tatiana Ramansky
Libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov
Music by Dmitri Shostakovich ("The Bright Stream, Op. 39")
Scenery by Ilya Utkin
Costumes by Elena Markovskaya
Lighting by Brad Fields

The Kennedy Center venue is beautiful, including when the off-white outside of this impressive-looking building is lit by lights in an already dark evening. I sat in the middle-right side of the front row of the orchestra section. The view was excellent.

As Zina, Herrera danced the best I have seen her, without some of the upper body unexpressivness and upper body stiffness that I sometimes find in her work. Zina's husband in the performance, Gomes, was a good character fit for him as well. A less serious delivery, but appropriate portrayal of that character. Radetsky, Zhurbin and Lane were effective as well. Zhurbin is continuing to get roles that involve characters much more mature than Zhurbin's own age reflects. He continues to do a very good job with them, although some of the roles he has occupied (eg Lord Montague, Lord Capulet) are non-dancing.

This is a ballet with a lot of activity in most scenes. It almost takes a second viewing of the same cast to appreciate many things. I feel like my understanding of the ballet after this first viewing only scratched the surface.

I liked the simplicity of the scenery. The costumes were nice and crisp-looking, without being unduly embellished. The costumes that could have been better were Murphy's and Hallberg's "initial" costumes. Murphy had on a navy and white French-looking knit hat. Hallberg's costume, with a navy beret-type hat, and navy ensemble, reminded me a bit of his costume as the fiance in Ratmansky-choreographed On The Dneiper. The duo's initial costumes looked kind of French-styled. The scenery, costumes and the dancers created a definite sense of time and place.

The ballet choreography was witty and animated. I liked it, and I thought the four ABT principals were all effective in their respective roles. In a comedy-plot-inspired ballet, it can sometimes be a fine line between a performance that just straddles the line, but falls on the right side of it, which I thought this performance was, and a performance that is "too" over-the-top that it is almost farce-like.

I particularly liked the scenes with Hallberg posing as a ballerina and the scene, towards the end of the performance, where Herrera and Murphy are dressed in identical off-white, flowy dresses with tank-type tops. Each has a grey/black mask covering her eyes. They dance similar steps. This is the scene where Zina's past of having been a ballerina is revealed to most of the remainder of the cast. Having two principal ballerinas dance comparable steps at the same time is a nice part of the choreography.

#20 Drew

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 01:21 PM

Delighted to read these reviews.

Ambonnay: you mentioned the view from the middle-right side of the front row was excellent--can you see the dancers' feet properly from the front row?

#21 Ambonnay

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 01:49 PM

Ambonnay: you mentioned the view from the middle-right side of the front row was excellent--can you see the dancers' feet properly from the front row?


Drew -- I was seated in Row G, which ended up being the first row because the orchestra is between the stage and my row. I was able to see the feet, but note that was from Row G. I didn't even feel like I had to turn my head particularly high to see. I also couldn't tell G was the first row from the "generic" seating chart for the venue I was shown on the Kennedy Center website. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised, as I like to be close to the dancers.

#22 nysusan

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 03:00 PM

Thanks for all the reviews, it sounds like ABT has a hit on their hands and I'm so glad to hear that. I loved Bright Stream when the Bolshoi did it at the Met a few years ago but was a little worried that ABT might take too broad an approach - as Ambonnay said - there's a fine line between comedy and farce and sometimes I feel that ABT comes down on the wrong side of that line so I'm glad that isn't the case here!

Looking forward to their NYC performances this spring.

#23 mussel

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 09:46 PM

Raving reviews of Bright Stream from both Washington Post and NY Times.

I can't wait for the Met season, or should I just take the next Metroliner to DC?

In many past productions Ballet Theater has seemed not a true company but a backing group for guest stars. But in Mr. Ratmansky’s recent production of “The Nutcracker,” it looked like not just a company but also a family: unified in performing and acting style, happily purposeful, imaginatively engaged, full of strikingly individual performances that were harmonious parts of a vivid whole.

Now in “The Bright Stream” — .... — the same family feeling blooms. Part of the fun is to see how sweetly the featured stars interact with everyone else. Ballet Theater is becoming, throughout its ranks, a company of actor-dancers, as it has seldom been in my time.


It becomes more apparent, at least to me, that Ratmansky will become heir apparent to ABT's artistic directorship. I hope when Kevin decides it's time to step down, the job will be given to Ratmansky and he'll accept the offer.

#24 Natalia

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 03:23 AM

Natalia, I loved the reports. I can't wait to see Bright Stream in NY in the spring. You've whetted my appetite.

It's set to open with the four principals that opened it in DC. But there is also a "petite" cast similar to the alternate cast in DC but with Osipova as the ballerina (rather than Boylston) that looks very interesting. I hope to get to both!


You're most welcome, Richard! I did not realize that Osipova would be in dancing in this in NY. That will be extra special.

Kfw, that red strip of cloth above the proscnium is probably the brightest, most colorful bit of design in the who work. At a 2nd viewing the designs are duller than ever. If it weren't for the dancers and choreography, I'd call this ballet "The Bland Stream."

#25 kfw

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:26 AM

Kfw, that red strip of cloth above the proscnium is probably the brightest, most colorful bit of design in the who work. At a 2nd viewing the designs are duller than ever. If it weren't for the dancers and choreography, I'd call this ballet "The Bland Stream."

I can understand your reaction since you've seen the Bolshoi version in the theater. I've only seen their televised performance, and I was very pleased by what I saw at the Kennedy Center. The simple white tops and headscarves on the women villagers, for example - uniform and lovely.

#26 Natalia

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:17 AM

.... The simple white tops and headscarves on the women villagers, for example - uniform and lovely.


That's one way to describe it. To me, it's "cheap." Even in the film, it's obvious how much lovelier and 'luxe' were the Boris Messerer designs. No need to see it live.

#27 kfw

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 08:30 AM

I was very pleased by what I saw at the Kennedy Center. The simple white tops and headscarves on the women villagers, for example - uniform and lovely.

Sarah Kaufman's Washington Post review is here, along with a photo showing those villagers.

#28 Ambonnay

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 09:21 AM

The highlight of Hallberg's role was of course his character's impersonation of the ballerina. He wears a wreath adorned with orange flowers in his hair, but has no female makeup. He wears a dress that has the bustier area presumably slightly stuffed. Pointe shoes. A Giselle Wili like white dress. Even though Hallberg looks tall on stage, in his regular roles he doesn't come across as having a large frame commensurate with his height; his body ordinarily comes across as slim and well-proportioned for a danseur. But when Hallberg dons his ballerina costume, part of the comedy is how manly he looks -- you notice his broad shoulders, his strong legs (I think his large frame was mentioned in the Washington Post review (?)). I found Hallberg's facial expressions to be a quite exaggerated. That might be because I was sitting quite close to the stage, and Hallberg's expressions needed to be that way for all audience members to be able to view them.

I thought that Hallberg's portrayal during the "Sylphide" portion of the ballet wasn't what I would have expected from him. Given the normally lyrical and elegant nature of his dancing, I would have hoped to have seen those "normal for Hallberg" qualities expressed in some portions of his impersonation of the ballerina, e.g., when he is dancing en pointe. I don't think that Hallberg needed to emphasize the akwardness of the ballet dancer (male) mimicking a female dancer throughout or highlight his large body and its physicality durig all phases of such mimicking. In some ways, I was looking forward to Hallberg playing this role because I have found Hallberg's "normal" dancing to be so gorgeous, and his hand and feet so expressive, that sometimes he seems more elegant and "gorgeous" than the ballerina whom he is pairing. Hallberg could have made use of those qualities, so intrinsic to his own dancing, to try for a more nuanced, and less "slapstick", version of his ballet dancer (male) mimicking the ballerina.

I appreciate that Hallberg has to adhere to Ratmansky's instructions with respect to choreography. However, I suspect that there was a little bit of room for interpretation and I was slightly disappointed that Hallberg/Ratmansky adopted a more "taking a large male dancer and making him look silly and obviously out of place" approach, instead of an approach saying "we have a danseur whose dancing is so pleasing that in some respects it already had the beauty of female ballet dancing and let's see how we can exploit those intrinsic qualities".

Despite the above, I wouldn't have wanted to see anybody but Hallberg in the role he had. And I thought Hallberg was fabulous. Just not fabulous in the way I would have hoped.

My own thoughts on the costumes -- I thought the costumes were appropriate for the characters included in this ballet. A lot of the corps were dressed as villagers in the former Soviet Union. That does not cry out for elaborately ornate costumes. The costumes that were selected had enough color -- just not bright vibrant colors in general, except for the Milkmaid's bright red dress and one of the dresses worn by the female dacha dweller. For example, there was nothing wrong with Lane's crisp white hat, matching the white parts of her dress against a medium brown (but a nice full brown) material for her dress. She looked crisp. Some of the female villagers had white tank top type tops on, with full skirts in browns and similar hues. What is wrong with that ensemble for a Soviet villager? The ensemble looked slightly modern, and was appropriate for the characters shown.

#29 Ambonnay

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 07:06 PM

One of the conceptual themes in The Bright Stream is duality, particularly the duality that is formed when one compares reality with a given character's perception of reality. So, initially Zina's husband is drawn to "the ballerina" (ie Murphy in the first cast), but does not know that Zina used to be a ballinera. Each dacha dweller is fooled by the impersonation of the person that he or she thinks he or she, respectively, is interested in. The ballerina and the ballet dancer imitate one another, in costume as well as with respect to certain dance steps. There is, as previously noted, the duality of Zina and the ballerina dancing together the same moves when they have masks on.

There is Zina's peasant community, contrasted with the more glamorous traveling dancers who arrive in town. The visitors only superficially seem more glamorous, including initially to Zina's husband, when in reality the peasant community is very vibrant with characters, relationships among them, activity and desires (whether fulfilled or not). Zina's past as a ballerina is more sophisticated than anybody else in her community, including her husband, knew. The duality of men and women. How one doesn't always focus on what one has, and aspires towards another based on how one perceives that other person.

This theme of duality adds a nice touch to what is largely a comedic ballet.

#30 Kyeong

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 05:41 AM

I attended three performances of The Bright Stream - Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday matinee. All were enjoyable, and, to me, the first one was most electrifying. The first day casting boldly remitted more dazzling and mature virtuoso rays, while the alternate casting looked younger and more modest. Kings and queens in oil painting vs. princes and princesses in watercolour – but, I wish to add that such lightness the alternate casting bears was something working well with this comic work.

The Kennedy Center: It was marvellous. When I first saw this milk white-lit building Friday evening, I almost cried. Walking up to this dreamy venue and seeing a Giselle by Kirov would be a special event. My small wish is that they pay same attention to the lighting inside – during the Sunday matinee, the light was too dim, almost dark.

Zina: As many said, Herrera was in her finest form. Last spring season, I liked her in B-H variation, but she wasn’t so impressive in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. She seemed not to be able to break the heart of the audience because her heart doesn’t, but, Zina was something she can do well, and she did it really well. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Zina and the Ballerina dance the same step in turn or simultaneously, where I could see how steel-strong Murphy and petal-soft Herrera could render it differently and equally beautifully. I loved Herrera’s Zina more, but, Reyes was also nice, speedy in turns, and more clearly conveyed her feelings, making her tension with her husband more vivid.

Pyotr, Zina’s husband: This role seemed not easy, not because of its difficulty of dancing, but because of its unfaithful character – how can a dancer make it look still attractive or at least acceptable. Also, it may look a little dull and plain, so can be buried among other exciting scenes where a male dancer wears a tutu, and a dog rides a bicycle. Gomes did it fairly well, filled it with rich elaborate mimes as well as fine dancing, so laid a solid foundation for the whole story, quite like a farmer, Zina’s husband, would actually do. His acting was better on Saturday when he no more showed a little hint of Espada-like look, and presented the rustic simplicity with masterly naturalness. Cornejo jumped higher and faster, landed softly, but, failed to create in detail who Zina’s husband is.

Ballerina: Murphy was brilliant. I often felt, in classical roles, she danced under the expressionless mask, but in this Hollywood-celebrity like, slightly arrogant and flirty character, she seemed to throw away all reservations and commanded the stage –her first act solo (of the second day) had the thrilling charisma which would be found in a great pop performance at a full-packed mega stadium. I can’t say Isabella Boylston was bad. She was fine. She looked like a soloist (while she is in the rank of corps de ballet), but Murphy is a principal, and I felt there was such difference between two.

Ballet Dancer: Hallberg’s line seemed to achieve its own aesthetic value, and in his sword like shape, he executed his first act solo with precision and fire. Simkin did it differently – he danced with his unique jazziness, pleasantly and relaxingly. As Hallberg’s solo of the first day was so impressive, I was surprised to see that piece can be executed with a different style. Simkin looked like musical notes from an idyll.

In the second act “Sylphide” scene, Hallberg, on Friday, delicately depicted a ballerina’s typical look and held his neck and arms just like Giselle does in the second act of Giselle. He looked he could dance Myrtha quite well. On Saturday, he seemed to decide to add more comic flavour to his “Sylphide”, went wilder in expressions/gestures, exposed his legs more when sitting on the bench. That was also fine, but, I think he didn’t have to and liked the first approach more, since his manliness already strikingly struck the audience during the first act that just seeing him wearing a romantic tutu with a calm ballerina look was funny enough.

It was Simkin who needed more exaggerated humorous facial expressions and gestures (and he did) because a romantic tutu was too perfectly fit for him to make him look funny – I even could find Alina Cojocaru (her sweetness and girlishness) in him. He was more of a Giselle, or a Snow White.

Accordion Player: Sasha Radetsky was sensational on the first night. At some point, he was explosive, at the other, he was heartbreakingly soft, and he linked each note so lithely, not letting a small rest or any staccato, just like a lyric Baritone, or an accordion itself which swells and sinks smoothly. So, Sarah Lane was a perfect match for him, his dancing, with her xylophone-like crystal clarity. Her long legs executing fast footwork was simply dazzling, radiant and sensuous. Radetsky also didn’t fail to ooze cute, bluff and bohemian nuance an accordion boy may have.

Craig Salstein will be another guy in the ABT who can do Accordion Player well, but, I didn’t like much many staccatos he put into his dancing – IMO, staccatos were already enough in his partner, Maria Riccetto’s dancing. And, at the night rendezvous scene, Salstein’s hand gestures went too decorative as usual.

Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller: I liked Susan Jones more than Martine Van Hamel who was so serious, therefore looked somewhat pathetic. Susan Jones was appropriately sweet and silly, which I think is the key feature to smoothly handle the unfaithfulness issue crouching beneath the whole story. IMO, sweet and silly Tatiana-like touch made all these fuss look like a light, one-off happening simply caused by a powerful enchant of ballet, evoking ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Otherwise, seeing these unfaithful spouses may make us deeply or bitterly sigh like when we see the brattish kids at the Alexei R’s new Nutcracker.

Old Dacha Dweller: I was curious to see how Clinton Luckett will do this, who I only remember as a ballet master for Gomes and Hallberg, and Duke in the Lady of Camellias, Prince of Verona or Frair Laurence in the Romeo and Juliet. Well, it’s hard to make detailed comments on his acting as an Old Dacha Dweller, but I enjoyed it, and eager to see him in the role of Kulygin, Masha’s husband in Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, which Jonathan Cope did so excellently this season at Royal Ballet.

Milkmaid: I can’t miss mentioning Misty Copeland, her swift feet, her sweet shyness during a short duet with a guy, and her triumphant look doing the milking.

I think a part of the reason why I prefer the first casting in almost all roles lies in that I was getting tired and losing my concentration slowly day by day. With Osipova, the alternate casting will have different color and can be more exciting than this time.


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