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POB Headed to NYC in 2012

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I could never understand the French love affair with the choreography of Lifar. Mimsyb can you imagine seeing 'Suite en Blanc' on the same itinerary as 'Symphony in C'? It happened to me during a POB tour of NYC in the late 40's--although then (Sym in C) it was called 'Palais de Crystal'. When I think of Lifar's choreography the word 'static' comes to mind. Pity the French for getting Lifar instead of Balanchinehappy.png The frivolous pairing of Lifar, Petit and Bejart is a bit much, what with the price of tickets today.

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I saw both the Wednesday night opener and went back again last night. Every ballet seemed to be dialed down in energy and excitement due to the casting. I happened to enjoy "Suite en Blanc" but Emilie Cozette though accomplished technically was not match for Marie-Agnes Gillot as the Cigarette solo. She does everything right but leaves no impression. The rest of the dancers were good. "Arlesienne" and "Bolero" depend a lot on the intensity and charisma of the lead performers. Benjamin Pech was no match for Jeremie Belingard's passion and dance power. Belingard really threw himself wildly into the turns and jumps suggesting real emotional desperation. Pech is good but doesn't have the emotional or physical power. In "Bolero" Marie-Agnes Gillot was very precise, cool and knew what every move meant. But she doesn't have the animal magnetism that Nicolas Le Riche has - it was a different story. Also, Gillot isn't exactly a naturally sensual dancer. All depends on the casting.

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I agree that Bolero looked a lot less impressive last night than with LeRiche. In part, I think it may be simply because it is a more interesting ballet (to me) with an all male cast. It wasn't only that LeRiche has more charisma. With an all male cast, it looked like some sort of cult or initiation meeting. With a woman in the lead, it didn't seem that way at all. It just looked like a sexual tease, as she flung her long, sweaty hair around. All she needed was a pole to slither on. Since this kind of thing has become common place in TV and movies, it really isn't so shocking or interesting anymore.

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I agree with atm711 about the absolute frivolity of the pairing of these ballets. The vacancy of the choreography masquerading as something worthy of viewing was astonishing to me. I'm not sure a cast change would have made much difference. If POB was trying to present a museum of their work, then they succeeded. But these are highly trained artists with much to offer. To ask them to dance these ballets on their first NY visit in some time did no one any favors. I believe they do Balanchine and Robbins with better results. Were they afraid to present these choreographers on their own turf? Mind you, I'm not advocating every company dance Balanchine or Robbins. It's just I want to see dancers at this level challenged to do their best in good work. As it is, despite some showing of elegance in their port de bras and epaulment, much of the footwork was blurred and unsteady. The women have pretty feet, as do the men. None seemed to my eye to have any awareness of how to best present them. Many of the men landed rather flat footed from their jumps with a noticeable thud. (this on a stage built for noiseless landings). And more than a few of the lead women had trouble with a double piroette, coming off point before the finish of the revolution. Partnering at times seemed rather more studied than seamless, but this could be a reflection of the choreography. I agree with Macaulay that nothing was revealed about the dancers through these ballets. Dancing that is seen but not felt. The "emotions" of both "L'Arlesienne" and "Bolero" were patently false. "Suite en Blanc" was just a puzzlement of steps that came from nowhere and went nowhere. As I said before, I'm sure all will be made right with "Giselle". One can only hope. Meanwhile, I spent the last half of the evening wishing I was over at Bar Boulud with a nice plate of charcuterie and a cool glass of Sancerre. Have a nice Bastille Day everyone!!

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I don't think it would have been a good idea for them to perform Robbins and Balanchine during their NY visit. New Yorkers see that rep all the time. They wanted to bring something different that was quintessentially French. Though these works were not masterpieces, they are rarely seen in NY.

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I thought Marie-Agnes Gillot was absolutely riveting in Bolero. I couldn't tell you anything about what the men around her were doing because my eyes were glued to her the entire time.

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I don't think it would have been a good idea for them to perform Robbins and Balanchine during their NY visit. New Yorkers see that rep all the time. They wanted to bring something different that was quintessentially French. Though these works were not masterpieces, they are rarely seen in NY.

I couldn't agree more with this post. Why bring Balanchine and Robbins works to New York when New Yorkers can see these works all the time in the very same theater? While I found this mixed bill to be an up-and-down affair (I disliked L'Arlesienne), kudos to Madame Lefevre for not pandering to local tastes and, instead, presenting us with works that are all but unknown in the US.

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The argument could be made that indeed dancing Balanchine on NY's turf would be a great challenge. The Kirov took on "Symphony in C" last Summer to thrilling success. I for one never tire of seeing his choreography performed well. I merely was trying to make a point that I think the company would have shown better with other ballets. If POB came visiting on a more regular basis, then perhaps these little "oddities" would be fine. Maybe there's a reason these ballets are not better known in the US. They just aren't all that good. Wonderful dancers deserve wonderful choreography.

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I like the programming because it's good to see things you'd otherwise never get a look at. Everything has been danced sincerely, they believe in this. L'Arlesienne, the Lifar, and Bejart etc. - There's a certain company aesthetic they're proud of and own to - it's certainly not our contemporary ballet aesthetic, it's Euro-Art from 1930's to the 70's and it's most interesting to see and understand. The Euro-dram thing today relates to this, look at it on a continuum that includes Kylian and, yes, even Ratmansky, given his years in Denmark. Ratmansky's new Firebird and some of the other whacky stuff he's done, and Russian Seasons too fits right in with this stuff.

I'm not saying I love it all, or like it better than the what we see here all the time or the usual Russian stuff that gets brought here. But except for the Lifar, which is where Russia meets the Paris style (with less or more continuity, a strange hybrid it is!), it's a company training and repertory we just don't see.

So: Vive la différence.

MP

And then there was that extraordinary Giselle last night.

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And then there was that extraordinary Giselle last night.

Oh yes, Michael, talk about "extraordinary!" I've been attending performances of Giselle since before most of you were born (probably), and last night's Giselle was one of the most extraordinary I've ever seen. Working backwards, the ensemble work was breathtaking in its uniformity, speed, accuracy, and sheer beauty, a Greek chorus commenting as one on the protagonists. The peasant pas de deux was charmingly danced by Charline Giezendanner and Fabien Revillion, and those pirouettes from a kneeling position were spot on. It seemed as if there was more dancing in Act I than I've seen in previous performances, which was a plus. On the part of the principals, Act II was breathtaking. Aurelie Dupont went from being a rather sophisticated peasant in Act I to being sheer gossamer in Act II. Mathieu Ganio was a deeply contrite Albrecht and a fine partner. His entrechat six towards the end of Act I seemed to rise to heaven. Emilie Cozette was an impervious Myrtha. The one thing I missed was the speed of the bourrees that dancers at ABT seem to achieve. But I think this was a stylistic difference in that I'm sure she could have done them because POB can dance FAST. And oh, those Wilis!

What is most striking to me about this company is the clarity of execution. You can "read" every step and no one takes short cuts.

Two Giselles to go today. Will I remember each one in its singularity or will they combine in a single blur of magnificence? I'll take it either way.

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I thought by far the best dancer onstage last night was Ganio. Wow! Cozette I found to be a disappointment. Dupont was fine in Act One -- I wish she had better elevation for the many jumps in act two. The Wilis were magnificent. Will be back tonight to see Osta/LeRiche.

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I have to agree w. canbelto about Friday evening's performance. The revelation was Ganio. He was terrific. I also enjoyed the peasant pas. Definitiely more dancing than in the ABT version. I liked Dupont's acting and she was beautifully lyrical, but I too wished she had more elevation. Hers was a very graceful performance, but it lacked intense drama. Is the glacial pace of the bourees of Myrta a POB method, or is Cozette just woefully slow? She blended into the scenery. I didn't like her Myrtha at all. The corps was excellent. The production looked very cramped on that stage.

Certain details I really enjoyed were two separate moments in Act I when Dupont feels the presence/onset of the Wilis approaching. (One such moment is when her mother is telling the story of the Willis, and she is on the opposite end of the stage and cups her hand to her ear. Then she rubs her arms, as though she feels a sudden chill.) I also liked how this production makes very clear why Albrecht's sword is such an important detail in revealing his true identity. That is mostly lost in the ABT version.

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Is the glacial pace of the bourees of Myrta a POB method, or is Cozette just woefully slow?

That's POB's way of doing it, it's the same glacial pace in its Blu Ray recording with Gillot as Myrtha. I think the fast bourrees ABT does really grab your attention.

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Dupont can jump, the low elevation was because she chooses to do it, because that's the way the production is choreographed. Low chassees off the stage in diagonal exit, not jetees. It's part of the deliberately self effaced, non athletic and restrained aesthetic that they dance it with. It's a conscious choice, along with Cozette's Myrtha. (Which I find oh so lovely, I wouldn't miss a step that woman dances this week). The bourrees are stylistic too, it's a totally different formation to the step, much smaller, rapid, traveling less, keeping the ankle more locked.

Where she got elevation was in the lifts. And what lifts, Ganio's partnering was very strong, did you see the way Dupont lay back in the first one? And during the second series, that's where her elevation was low, but when he took her over, she soared. It's a detail in the blocking.

What people are reacting to is a different training and approach. Good or not, these details are intentional. I found Dupont's effacement not just of her personality, but her humanity in Act 2 unprecedented and amazing. It was not just that she wasn't herself, but that, with the blue- grey makeup and staying completely frozen from the shoulders up, and never meeting Albrecht's eyes, she wasn't even human. And that's the dramatic point.

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Cozette's main disappointment was her wobbly arabesques. The slow bourrees didnt bother me as much. I also found her lacking in a certain authority.

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I have to agree w. canbelto about Friday evening's performance. The revelation was Ganio. He was terrific.....

Exactly as in Washington, at my performance! (Equally great were my Peasant pdd couple, Bourdon/Ibot, who are performing in this afternoon's show in NY.)

To Michael: Dupont was a relatively-weak Giselle, technically, and definitely emotionally...but she had a great Act I solo. I saw several soloists in DC dancing with gusto, including those cited above + Gillot as Myrtha. I beg to differ that Dupont was merely trying to fit into the "self-effacing aesthetic of this version." If that was the case, then a lot of others did not receive the "memo" that this is a low-key version.

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Especially Ganio, whose entrechat series was maybe the best I have ever seen, and I've seen David Hallberg ...

They seemed to soar as the series continued, until he was nearly reaching the proscenium. And he was so sensitive too. Loved his last attempt to reach for Giselle's skirt. Bravo to Ganio for breathing life into a performance that otherwise was lovely but a bit ossified.

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Especially Ganio, whose entrechat series was maybe the best I have ever seen, and I've seen David Hallberg ...

They seemed to soar as the series continued, until he was nearly reaching the proscenium. And he was so sensitive too. Loved his last attempt to reach for Giselle's skirt. Bravo to Ganio for breathing life into a performance that otherwise was lovely but a bit ossified.

Too bad, K Mc is in Taiwan...

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I'm the minority here, but I thought Dupont carried the Friday performance. I have watched videos of her in the past and have found her a bit cool for my taste, but last night she was riveting. As Angelica said, she was a sophisticated peasant in Act I, and I loved her transformation into this rather complacent, blank ghost in Act II. Her mad scene was for me the highlight of her performance--wonderful subtle and impactful acting, and best of all, no histrionics. I agree that Dupont did lack amplitude in her jumps, but what Michael said about that lack of elevation being intentional crossed my mind last night, as for me her lack of elevation did not detract from her performance. Rather, it helped her provide a foundation for her subtle, classical, and nuanced interpretation of Giselle.

I am perhaps not as big a fan of Ganio as some on this board. Don't get me wrong, he is very, very fine, and I thought his entrechant sixes at the end were spectacular: I counted 28 and they were as good at the end as they were at the beginning. The shapes of his legs and feet are wonderful, and he is an elegantly fluid upper body, but I found him rather impassive in the first act. I thought he came alive more in the second act and portrayed the grief-stricken Albrecht of Act II better than the romantic Albrecht of Act I. Overall a very fine performance, but I don't find him to be as impactful a danseur as Gomes and Hallberg at this stage of his career.

The Willi corps were stunning. One can instantly see why POB hires basically all of its dancers from the school. The schooling is so profoundly consistent from dancer to dancer that the overall impact of the Willi corps makes the company seem like a true troupe and not merely a group of individual dancers. I echo some of the disappointments expressed for Emilie Cozette at Myrtha, although Monya and Zulme, Aurelia Bellet and Laura Hecquet, were divine. Charline Giezendanner was a charmer in Act I peasant pas de deux, while Fabien Revillion was competent but struggled with some of the batterie on the sissones at the end of his variation.

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I'm with the pro-Aurélie Dupont crowd. Her approach to Giselle is unique: I've never seen a ballerina so completely engaged with the other dancers onstage for the sake of the narrative.

It made one reallize how inward-facing most great dramatic interpretations I've seen have been (and I saw Vishneva's first NYC performance of Giselle with Corella and Part). Most dramatic dancers establish their character in those asides when emotions play across their faces when they confront the audience away from the main action. Better dancers do that and coordinate a dramatic call-and-response with their main partner, acknowledging corps de ballet members too.

But I can't recall a single phrase Dupont danced that wasn't clearly addressed to another dancer. No soul-searching was addressed to the ether. Nothing was solely registered as an inward reaction (except the appropriate moments in the mad scene).

It worked: I've never seen the narrative purpose of each step articulated so clearly. Her Giselle never just danced. Every phrase in the first act established her role in relationship to a different character onstage; each arabesque in the second articulated a new plea addressed to Myrtha. One's eyes remained on Dupont, but one was left with a deeper impression of the secondary characters, too. (The production in itself is very generous to the secondary characters, but having also seen Ciaravola peform in it, I can say that Dupont took this aspect to a far higher level.)

For instance, in the past, I've always thought the fleeting steps and the play with the petals in Act II were simply to Romantic-era gestures to Giselle's ghostly lightness and maidenliness. Dupont's interpretation and interaction with Albrecht clarifies that other than a light gust of wind or the shaking of a tree branch, Giselle is in a realm where she cannot directly communicate with Albrecht at all. She showed remarkable integrity in this approach: Giselle and Albrecht aren't permitted the satisfyingly romantic resolution of a direct look into each others' eyes even at dawn. None of the longing gazes that I've seen in the Russian interpretations, moving as they are.

If by "dramatic" you mean "exciting" or "moving," look elsewhere (and that's what I usually do). You will not be swept away by images of flung flight or stirred by reallistic images of broken fragility. But if "dramatic" means "narrative," this is the most dramatically perfect interpretation you will ever see.

N.B. Speaking of frailty, Dupont never rotated her shoulders inward slightly--as Kent, Vishneva, and most others do--to suggest vulnerability: she maintained a grand port de bras throughout. Would be curious to know whether this was a nod to the style of the day or whether she's one of those dancer who believes in consistentally maintaining the same line for all roles.

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Regarding the other dancers:

Veronika Part's mime as Myrtha remains the gold standard, but Marie-Agnès Gillot's interpretation is more complete overall--technique, musical interpretation, and mime. One wishes she had been first-cast for the NYC run. (Like others, I was less impressed with Cozette technically and dramatically.) I primarily came to the second performance to see Gill and she was well worth the ticket.

I loved Ganio's technique and thought he took his mime interacting with Dupont as far as possible, given the grandeur of his prince in the first act and her invisibility in the second. Paquette (in tune with Ciaravola) adopted a more sympathetic approach and was less technically magnificent.

The Peasant Pas was technically solid on opening night night with Giezendanner/Révillion and they are quite close to making these characters fully interesting dramatically as well. Bourdon/Ibot were slightly less polished both dramatically and technically (though still at a very high level). Bourdon in particular revealed no signs of tension: good girl.

I echo everyone else's comments about the corps. (On a shallow stage! With little preparatory time! After a gruelling North American tour!) And, by the way, can I just say that it's so lovely to finally see a company with arms as articulate as its legs?

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Incidentally, is the repeated kissing the hem of the robe (first Bathilde's by Giselle, then Giselle's by Hilarion, then Giselle's by Albrecht) as a way to show that Albrecht has come to honor Giselle's greatness in most productions? And, if so, extra points to POB for making me notice this.

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I would highly advise people to catch the second Osta/LeRiche performance. I saw them last night and while Osta's technique was diminished she was frail, tragic, heart rending as Giselle. Just wonderful. One beautiful personal touch: as she leaves Albrecht forever, she gives him the same blank, deranged look she gave him during the Mad Scene. Spooky and surreal.

Daniel Stokes in the peasant pas de deux was simply painful to watch. Almost fell twice, completely overwhelmed by the steps.

Cozette was an improvement over Friday night.

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I will be going to Osta's last-ever Giselle next Thursday. Meanwhile, I saw the opening night and Saturday matinee. Isabelle Ciaravola had more of the true romantic spirit in her epaulement and arm movements than Dupont who is essentially a classical ballerina doing Romantic. Ciaravola is not young (she joined the corps de ballet in 1990 at the age of 18) but she projects willowy youth and openness of spirit. She is indeed a very fine dramatic actress and brought a spiritual dimension to the second act. Dupont on Friday reminded me of late-career Susan Jaffe as Giselle. Jaffe was more naturally a Myrtha (which she danced in the 80's and 90's with Ferri and Bocca) with her strong line and cool glamour. However, Susan Jaffe improved as an actress a great deal so that even if she couldn't be a shy innocent teenager, she could act one in a very detailed and precise manner. The second act shows a more impassive, mature spirit Giselle and Jaffe was fine in the second act. I had the same reaction to Dupont - it was not a glossed-over performance dramatically - she worked out many convincing and intelligent moments. But the spirit and face are of a strong, capable and sophisticated woman. Also Dupont's physicality as a ballerina is classical. In the second act which is pure dance, she convinced me. However, I have seen Giselles from late career Maximova and Fracci through Ferri to Vishneva and Cojocaru today. Dupont didn't have that emotional intensity or the sheer dance power of Osipova.

Ciaravola is petite but with a small torso with proportionally very long arms and legs. So she can float while revolving on pointe slowly and can hover in a balance. There is a willowy lightness to her movements that is very Giselle. Her face which is not a young face (though the heavy makeup causes her to look older) is constantly mirroring her emotions. There was a feeling of spontaneity in her reactions - nothing looked overly worked out. In the mad scene the moment where she stumbles over the sword was shockingly spontaneous and seemed a stage accident though it was not. Neither Dupont or Ciaravola have the deep penchées or flexible backs of the Russian ballerinas but Ciaravola has Russian arms. She was very light in Act II and kept a sense of emotional through line - she was going to save Albrecht and redeem their love on a higher level. She is a wonderful dancer and actress.

Karl Paquette was a fine Albrecht but again like Ganio he only really clicked dramatically and dance-wise in Act II. He seemed efficient technically but sometimes blank in Act I despite perfect blond prince looks and manner. In the second act grand pas he really brought his best game. His partnering of Ciaravola was excellent. The supporting cast was much better at the Saturday matinee and the orchestra played much better. Marie-Agnes Gillot has the frightening authority and technical chops for a definitive Myrtha (her bourrees were also slow - clearly the choice of the stagers) much stronger than Cozette. Axel Ibot had lots of verve and charm in the Peasant Pas de Deux and Heloise Bourdon was charming and graceful. Audric Bezard was much more dramatically propulsive and charismatc than the opening night Hilarion, Vincent Chaillet.

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Although I loved all three performances of Giselle presented thus far, the highlights for me were:

1. the corps de ballet in every performance, who were awe-inspiring;

2. Clairemarie Osta, who must surely be one of the great Giselles of all time; and

3. Marie-Agnes Gillot as Myrtha, tearing out of the wings with commanding authority in those grand jetes in attitude.

I also enjoyed Emilie Cozette as Myrtha.

And I loved the vetting of mime in the first act in favor of more dancing.

Only thing on my wish list: Since POB much of the time dances at breakneck speed, I would love to have Myrtha's opening bourrees done quickly. I wonder why they favor the slower bourrees. Perhaps they see the fast ones as too "showy." This is a company with rare taste.

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