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The Bright Stream - Spring 2011


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#31 Batsuchan

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 07:48 PM

I'd be interested to hear a comparison from people who saw both Simkin and Hallberg, who are such different types. I saw the latter, and he was the most gigantic and manly sylph you've ever seen. Beautifully acted and danced, too, and completely hilarious.


I've now seen the Gomes/Herrera/Murphy/Hallberg cast twice, and I saw Reyes/Vasiliev/Osipova/Simkin tonight. (I'm also going tomorrow night for the Part/Hammoudi/Abrera/Stearns cast, so I might expand on this later.)

I agree with you, Anthony_NYC, part of the hilarity of Hallberg's sylph impression was that he was just so HUGE, and much taller than Barbee (the old dacha dweller). Simkin is pretty petite, and he was shorter than Clinton Luckett, who played the old dacha dweller tonight, so their juxtaposition was not as immediately funny.

As others have mentioned, Hallberg had absolutely gorgeous feet (some of the ballerinas must have been jealous), and he had the sylph arms (especially when running across the stage) down pat. Throughout most of the interaction with Barbee, he kept a wonderfully straight face, giving the impression of the ballerina as being a bit aloof, or playing "a bit hard to get."

Simkin, on the other hand, looked more believably like a ballerina from a distance, so he played his ballerina as an exaggeratedly feminine, almost flirty girl. He gave Luckett bright, angelic smiles, practically batting his eyelashes at him. He also had very impressive technique, pulling off some triple pirouettes and holding balances.

One move that read completely differently on Hallberg vs Simkin is when the dacha dweller has lifted the sylph onto his back by the arms, so they are back to back. When Hallberg fluttered his hands and feet at this point, it just looked absurd and hilarious, whereas when Simkin did it, it looked like he was panicking and flailing to get down, which was also hilarious.

On the whole, I would say Simkin hammed it up a bit more, and this was particularly hilarious when a very macho-seeming Osipova stormed in and separated the two would-be lovebirds. He looked very much like the desperate, hysterical girlfriend begging for forgiveness.

In Hallberg's case, the juxtaposition of his ballerina-perfect moves and positions and poses with some suddenly masculine gestures, and the juxtaposition of him and the dacha dweller were extremely effective.

I'm very curious to see how Cory handles this tomorrow!

Lastly, I have one complaint about this scene--I was sitting on the far right, so I couldn't see any of the sequences that took place on the bench (boxes?) on the right side. It would be nice if they could address this! Although I knew what was going on, it must have been torture for the people around me to hear the others laughing and not have a clue what was going on.

****

Some notes on the other performers:

Craig Salstein nearly stole the show once again tonight, and Riccetto was really into it as well. I loved them!

Susan Jones was also hysterical as the female dacha dweller, and she drew quite a bit of applause for her pointe sequences. And the sight of tiny Osipova trying to help her off the ground was especially hilarious.

I thought Xiomara Reyes was fantastic as Zina. I'm not sure if Osipova toned down her performance from Saturday, but to me, they looked very well-matched in their sequences together. And it was much more believable that they could substitute for the other, since they are both about the same height and have dark hair.

On Monday night, with Herrera, I felt her rendering of Zina's opening passage did not fit the music (the steps didn't seem to match the music), but as I've often found with Reyes, she made the steps make musical sense to me today.

She may not have the height on her jumps or the extension of Osipova, or even Herrera, but she pulled off some fantastic double fouettes and some other speedy turns.

One sequence that read completely different for me was Zina's solo in the pas de deux with Pyotr in Act II. After Zina and Pyotr kiss, Gomes played Pyotr as being ecstatic, but in kind of an innocent way, like, 'wow, I can't believe that just happened!' Vasiliev, on the other hand, looked very smug, and pumped his fist, very "yeah, I know I'm hot stuff." So with Herrera, Zina seemed kind of vaguely upset, but I didn't really understand why. With Reyes, however, it was crystal clear why she was mad ("That pig!"), and the fury seemed to burst out of every pore in her body when she was dancing her solo.

Vasiliev pulled off some amazing tricks--big leaps, big tour en l'air, jumping up in the middle of his pirouettes ala seconde, and a 540-degree kick turn. He definitely is explosive. But it sometimes looked borderline sloppy to me. And I sorely missed the grace and polish and effortless charm of Gomes. Similarly, Simkin is another dancer who can pull off great tricks, but I always feel like his execution is extremely clean.

Osipova also pulled off all her amazing technical feats very cleanly. Her characterization of the ballerina is very different from Murphy's. While Murphy looked gorgeous, like a glamorous movie star, sophisticated and feminine, Osipova's ballerina was an Independent Woman, a complete tomboy. It's no wonder she joined in when the Highlanders and Fieldworkers' dance.

This characterization was very effective when she was pretending to be the ballet dancer--in fact, this ballerina seemed even more comfortable in drag! If Simkin's sylph was uber-feminine, than Osipova's danseur was equally uber-masculine. In both acts, however, her mime read wonderfully clear from the stage.

Well, that's it from me for now, but I'll surely have more comments later!

#32 Amy Reusch

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 05:55 AM

It was wonderful and it makes me very happy that Ratmansky is in residence... I hope the dancers are having as much fun as they seem to be having on stage... It's nice to see a story ballet that makes use of the skills today's corps dancers have... many doing steps the 19th century ballets seem to have reserved for principals.

BUT where were the giant vegetables mentioned in earlier production reviews? I see this set was from Riga not Moscow... Was the ending of the ballet changed because of the horrible starvation?

Quirky as I might be I was curious to see a ballet with giant cabbages... I don't really object, I loved what I saw... But now I'm wondering what happened with the original production.

#33 YID

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 11:19 AM

It was wonderful and it makes me very happy that Ratmansky is in residence...

BUT where were the giant vegetables mentioned in earlier production reviews? I see this set was from Riga not Moscow... Was the ending of the ballet changed because of the horrible starvation?

Quirky as I might be I was curious to see a ballet with giant cabbages... I don't really object, I loved what I saw... But now I'm wondering what happened with the original production.

I went yesterday (Osipova, Vasiliev, Simkin, Reyes). I would like to comment on light, decoration and staging. After intermission, i could barely see the legs of the dancers in dark pants/bottom, behind the grey solid background, and with minimal lightning - their legs were lost in twilight zone. SAD,
I know the action was taking place at night, but there's a different way to stage/light it. I don't recall any nuance left in Bolshoi's production. Also, Bolshoi staging had a bit more variation between the husband (who wore flashy top and white pants) and the male dancer (white top, knee-high pants and long socks). Sitting at the back of the orchestra i was at times confused, who's who. I do miss the Bolshoi's decorations (but it looks like it's current MET's direction -with Opera and ballets - minimalistic decor)
Overall, a very pleasant ballet for ABT, everyone danced so enthusiastically

#34 Goldfish17

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 06:30 AM

What an entirely delightful, fun ballet! I went to see it yesterday evening, Part/Hammoudi/Abrera/Stearns cast.
Ratmansky’s choreography is brilliant, eloquent, and so funny!!

Jemma Bond was a standout as a School Girl.

I really, really hope to see this ballet next season. Is it possible? :)

#35 richard53dog

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 06:46 AM

What an entirely delightful, fun ballet! I went to see it yesterday evening, Part/Hammoudi/Abrera/Stearns cast.
Ratmansky’s choreography is brilliant, eloquent, and so funny!!

Jemma Bond was a standout as a School Girl.

I really, really hope to see this ballet next season. Is it possible? :)



I really hope so, Goldfish. I don't know if ticket sales were really all that impressive but on the other hand ABT does have a pretty strong relationship with Ratmansky and I think it would be a vote of confidence if they revived it for MEt 2012.

#36 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 02:34 PM

Thanks so much, Batsuchan, for the descriptions! I was so sorry I couldn't make more than one performance (there's so much going on culturally right now, not least the Danes across the plaza), as otherwise I always like to catch at least two casts for each ballet. It looks likely it will be revived, so hopefully next year I can get to it again.

Anthony

#37 Batsuchan

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 02:38 PM

Thanks so much, Batsuchan, for the descriptions! I was so sorry I couldn't make more than one performance (there's so much going on culturally right now, not least the Danes across the plaza), as otherwise I always like to catch at least two casts for each ballet. It looks likely it will be revived, so hopefully next year I can get to it again.


I agree!

Here are some more (belated) notes on Wednesday night’s performance with Part/Hammoudi and Abrera/Stearns. (It was only a week ago, but two ballets back, so it feels like ages ago!)

First, I will say that I never thought “The Bright Stream” music would get stuck in my head when I first saw it, but after seeing four performances, I can now recall certain phrases and the accompanying choreography. This is not necessarily a good thing, because I’ll be walking down the street, and I’ll randomly recall the man-sylph flicking his hands and tapping his toe to the music, and then I’ll start giggling to myself like a crazy person.

Perhaps Wednesday night’s cast was not as technically outstanding as the Reyes/Vasiliev/Osipova/Simkin cast, or as secure and polished as the Herrera/Gomes/Murphy/Hallberg one, but there were other details, other interpretative decisions, that I enjoyed. I definitely felt that you can’t go wrong with any of the casts for this ballet, and if you can, collect ‘em all!

I adore Stella Abrera, and she looked gorgeous and glamorous as the ballerina. It was instantly believable that this chic city girl would catch Pyotr’s roving eye. She and Stearns made a handsome pair, and this was the only cast where I felt like the ballerina and ballet dancer might be romantically involved instead of mere partners. This interpretation gave credence to the ballerina’s claim that she had no interest in Pyotr and made the confrontation scene with the sylph and dacha dweller even more delicious. I wrote that Osipova’s mime read wonderfully clear, but Abrera’s mime definitely equaled it. In the early scene where the ballerina and Zina, reunite, I realized for the first time that the ballerina was giving Zina corrections on her dancing. Abrera’s jealous rage when confronting the sylph/dacha dweller, and her macho posing during the duel scene were also fantastic.

Having already seen Hallberg and Simkin’s hilarious performances as the sylph, I set the bar high for Stearns, but he passed with flying colors. His sylph arms and poses were not ballerina-perfect like Hallberg’s, and he was not nearly as virtuosic as Simkin, but he combined the comedic aspects of both performances to great effect. Like Hallberg, he obviously looked like a man in a sylph costume, and he was bigger than the dacha dweller (again played by Barbee), so he immediately looked hilarious. And like Simkin, he hammed it up, making his sylph alternatively ultra-feminine and then abruptly stepping out of character with some masculine gesture. I really can’t pick a favorite among the three sylphs I saw. They were all fantastic in their own ways. (And I sincerely hope that Stearns’ current injury has nothing to do with his pointe shoe escapades, because I would love to see his sylph again.)

I was a tad worried about how Part would handle some of the trickier bits of choreography, but she was perfectly fine as Zina. Hammoudi is a handsome dancer, but he needs some more polish and experience. He fudged a few of his pirouette sequences, and although I didn’t see any partnering problems in the pas de deux per se, it did not look effortless.

As the accordion player, Gennadi Savaliev was not over-the-top like Salstein, so his pursuit of the schoolgirl (Gemma Bond) felt somewhat predatory, making it seem like she might really need the tractor-driver dog to protect her. With Salstein and Ricetto, on the other hand, the only real danger was that the schoolgirl might burst out laughing before the joke was up.

All in all, however, it was another entertaining performance.

If “The Bright Stream” is back next season, and I bet it will be, I will encourage/coerce everyone I know to go see it!

#38 bart

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:30 PM

Joan Acocella has an article on Ratmansky in this week's New Yorker:

You have to subscribe to get the full article, which goes into his background, his tenure at the Bolshoi, and his involvement with both NYCB and ABT..

About "Russian Seasons,"

... whatever acting the dancers produced was contained within classical ballet steps. This is a crucial fact about Ratmansky: his fidelity to the academic vocabulary -- glissade-assemble and the rest. Many other modern ballet choreographers, seeing the classroom steps as old-fashioned, elide them or junk them or turn them into a postmodern "style" thing. Ratmansky loves them, however. His phrases are thick with steps. Those maneuvers, he says, were developed over many eras, in the laboratories of studio and stage, to show ballet dancers at their very best. You'd be a fool to throw them away.


Accocella interviewed Ratmansky's friend Mikhail Baryshnikov for the piece:

"He loves Russian music, and for him everything comes from music. When he talks to me about ballet, it's always about music. Or Tchaikovsky, or Prokofiev, or Asafiev. 'I live in that country for so long,' he tells me. 'I do what's first. When I will live ten, fifteen years in the United States, I will do American music.' " Baryshnikov thinks that the reason Ratmansky created "The Bright Stream" is that its score as by Shostakovich, and he couldn't bear to see a major Shostakovich work retired. (He has set seven ballets to that composer.)


A brief abstract of the article is available here:
http://www.newyorker...a_fact_acocella

#39 Batsuchan

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 06:52 PM

Accocella interviewed Ratmansky's friend Mikhail Baryshnikov for the piece:

"He loves Russian music, and for him everything comes from music. When he talks to me about ballet, it's always about music. Or Tchaikovsky, or Prokofiev, or Asafiev. 'I live in that country for so long,' he tells me. 'I do what's first. When I will live ten, fifteen years in the United States, I will do American music.' " Baryshnikov thinks that the reason Ratmansky created "The Bright Stream" is that its score as by Shostakovich, and he couldn't bear to see a major Shostakovich work retired. (He has set seven ballets to that composer.)


Thanks for the heads-up!

I'm going a bit off topic here, but I vote for using some Scriabin music in choreography!
And I've always thought the final movement of Shostakovich's violin concerto #1 would make for interesting dance music, though the rest of the concerto might be difficult.

#40 Drew

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 08:09 PM


Accocella interviewed Ratmansky's friend Mikhail Baryshnikov for the piece:

"He loves Russian music, and for him everything comes from music. When he talks to me about ballet, it's always about music. Or Tchaikovsky, or Prokofiev, or Asafiev. 'I live in that country for so long,' he tells me. 'I do what's first. When I will live ten, fifteen years in the United States, I will do American music.' " Baryshnikov thinks that the reason Ratmansky created "The Bright Stream" is that its score as by Shostakovich, and he couldn't bear to see a major Shostakovich work retired. (He has set seven ballets to that composer.)


Thanks for the heads-up!

I'm going a bit off topic here, but I vote for using some Scriabin music in choreography!
And I've always thought the final movement of Shostakovich's violin concerto #1 would make for interesting dance music, though the rest of the concerto might be difficult.


I have a distinct memory that Arlene Croce once wrote she had never seen a good ballet to Shostakovitch's music...wonder if she will change her mind. (I had a mixed reaction to Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH--but Bright Stream made me regret all the ballet scores Shostakovitch never got to write...)

#41 richard53dog

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 05:28 AM

I have a distinct memory that Arlene Croce once wrote she had never seen a good ballet to Shostakovitch's music...wonder if she will change her mind. (I had a mixed reaction to Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH--but Bright Stream made me regret all the ballet scores Shostakovitch never got to write...)


I love the catchy quality of Bright Stream and I really like the almost coarse humor Shostakovitch incorporated into the score. I think that's what got him in trouble with Stalin; the score isn't all reverent to those upstanding Soviet citizens, it lampoons them a bit and Stalin didn't have much of a sense of humor.

I was already familiar to this aspect of Shostakovitch's work with his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which also doesn't exactly contain upright Soviet characters and Shostakovitch adds these smeared trombone effects to satirize an off stage sex scenes. It's quite funny in a dark kind of way. Lady Macbeth is a very black comedy.

Evidently Bright Stream and LAdy Macbeth got Shostakovitch into a lot of hot water. He must have been a very brave individual to steer so close to the edges of what was acceptable in the time and place he was living it.

More and more, I have a lot of apprectiation and admiration for this very special composer.

#42 esperanto

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:10 AM

[The only comment I heard as I left the theater was a rather resigned sounding "well, it's a farce" from an older women I infer was a subscriber. I can read that everyone commenting on this website (so far) loves the ballet and I did too, but I am very curious if the ballet has gotten a more resounding reception at other performances--and whether it really will be a hit. Please report.

Dear Drew
from what I heard from England Bright Stream received rave reviews, both from critics and from audience. I envy all of you who saw this in NY.

#43 Birdsall

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:22 PM

[The only comment I heard as I left the theater was a rather resigned sounding "well, it's a farce" from an older women I infer was a subscriber. I can read that everyone commenting on this website (so far) loves the ballet and I did too, but I am very curious if the ballet has gotten a more resounding reception at other performances--and whether it really will be a hit. Please report.

Dear Drew
from what I heard from England Bright Stream received rave reviews, both from critics and from audience. I envy all of you who saw this in NY.


I think I am in the minority, but I am not sure I will ever see The Bright Stream ever again after watching the whole thing online. I enjoyed the first act (dancing, sets, costumes, story), but I felt the story fizzled and was a bit too slapsticky and silly (although I rarely laugh at most comedy while everyone around me is in stitches). I did think the male danseur playing the ballerina was very talented, but I just don't find a man in a dress funny like most people do. I think it is because I have seen way too many drag queens, and so a man in a dress seems very ho hum to me. However, it is incredible that a male can come very close to dancing with the grace of a female, but I think I would rather see Les Trocks do that! LOL I enjoyed many things in Ramantsky's choreography for Bright Stream, but the story and the comedy just do not do much for me, to tell you the truth. I wish they did, b/c everyone does seem to love it. I'd rather see 20 Bayaderes or 20 Raymondas before I see Bright Stream again. Maybe I will change my mind if I see it again. I might go to the HD presentation at the movies.


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