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Swan Lake- Spring 2011

122 posts in this topic

There certainly was a kind of crazy energy in the house last night for Semionova's first "Swan Lake" with the company. I liked her Odile very much. The Odette was not really in my top 10 though. Don't get me wrong, Semionova dances very, very well. However, for me she is an allegro dancer and the adagio is an acquired skill and it shows. She had the pliancy in the back and the ability to fully extend and sustain the steps that Julie Kent lacked on Thursday and that Part was slightly deficient in on Friday. Part however grew immeasurably throughout the performance and delivered the best Odile I've seen from her. Semionova danced with accomplishment but I didn't get the deep emotion from her that Part, Kent (even now), Ananiashvili, Asylmuratova had nor does she have the authority that Part and Lopatkina bring to the Act II swan queen. She is very, very fine but I preferred Semionova as Kitri where her wiry muscularity and allegro sparkle were fully exploited. The Odile was wonderfully danced with excellent pirouettes in the solo (though Gillian Murphy and Part both excelled Thursday and Friday - Part was only a fraction less virtuosic as Odile than Murphy!) Her balance in the black swan pas de deux was stunning and got applause and the final fouettés were a series of quads and ended strongly and in pretty much the same spot onstage. Definitely a star dancer. But I don't think her interpretation or her style is greater than many ballerinas I have seen in the part though her technique is supreme. Again, a better production with a better Act IV and more work with her partner would help her a lot. I do hope she is invited back regularly to guest - I think she would be a wonderful Nikiya and Aurora and also has the qualities for Balanchine ballets.

Marcelo really deserved the whole bouquet that Polina Semionova gave him at the final bow. Marcelo really looked like he knew everything that she was going to do before she did it and never missed a beat. Given that they probably only had an afternoon to work together, this really is an impressive feat of partnering.

Stella Abrera was gorgeous in the Act I pas de trois with Simkin and Riccetto. Again some ensemble problems but individually they were excellent with Simkin landing better than on Monday. Sascha Radetsky no longer seems like a boy in a fake beard playing Mephisto in the high school play as Purple Rothbart. Only Marcelo and Hallberg dance it better than he does. Susan Jaffe's presence as the Queen Mother added to the gala atmosphere.

BTW: it was a mad scene at the stage door which got rather frightening. All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass. Polina Semionova came out briefly and signed but got so intimidated by the crushing and pushing that she went back into the theater and exited through a private door. I was told that Marcelo didn't come out at all but left secretly bypassing the stage door.

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IMHO, Part was more than lovely last night; I would go so far as to say she was sublime. However, if anything was missing, it was a sublime performance on the part of the first violinist, especially in the PdD of Act II and again in Act IV. I don't know how our Odette managed to keep her concentration and not to wince with every note that was off-pitch. The role is so dependent on the music, especially in the PdD, and in that regard Part was poorly served.

The violin solo playing has been distressing. I wonder why?

It has been distressing every time I've seen ABT's "Swan Lake" in recent years, though this week it has been better than at the opening night gala, where I literally had to cover my ears, it was so dreadful. :wallbash:

At first I thought it was just ABT's inability to find a decent solo violinist, but now having heard the Cuban Ballet's violinist botch it just as badly, I guess the solo is much more difficult than I imagined.

Still, unacceptable, in my opinion. Anytime I have friends going who've had musical training, I warn them in advance.

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BTW: it was a mad scene at the stage door which got rather frightening. All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass. Polina Semionova came out briefly and signed but got so intimidated by the crushing and pushing that she went back into the theater and exited through a private door. I was told that Marcelo didn't come out at all but left secretly bypassing the stage door.

Poor Polina! Though I'm not surprised--she only has like 100,000 fans on Facebook.

I myself heard of her well before I heard of the other guest ballerinas like Osipova and Cojocaru--the ones that seem to be better known among the NY critics and seasoned ballet fans.

My impression is that Semionova is very well known and admired among young fans (among dancers/kids still in ballet school) in part because there are lots of YouTube clips of her and she is very active on Facebook. Of course, it doesn't really help sell tickets at ABT if there are some teenage fans of hers in California or London or something, but I do think ABT, and the other ballet companies in general, could definitely do more to reach out to young fans online.

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Also, if anyone has anything to offer on Carreno's "true" last performance with the company, would love to hear :)

Yes, I saw the matinee as well and will comment on it first.

The cast was Julie Kent as Odette/Odile, Carreno as Prince, Jared Matthews as Purple Von Rothbard, Isaac Stappas as Green Ron Rothbard, and Blaine Hoven, Misty Copeland, and Simone Messmer in the pas de trois.

It's rare to have a ballerina over 40 still tackling a ballet as technically and dramatically demanding as Swan Lake, but Julie Kent continues to ambitiously do so in spite of waning technical ability. I was surprised to find out that her Odile exceeded the quality of her Odette, but the support from the audience and great partnering from Carreno seemed to light a spark in her, a depth of emotion missing in Act II as Odette.

In regards to the comments of Kent falling off of pointe during her balances on Thursday--her opening arabesque as Odette on Saturday was shaky, her second one was decent, but the third one she controlled beautifully. As Odette, Kent didn't get much beyond the surface of the character except in the pas de deux, where her sorrow and despair were quite palpable, and in other subtle moments throughout the ballet. What ultimately caused Kent's Odette to fail was the lack of flexibility in her back. Back flexibility is one of the first things to go for older dancers, and Odette is one of those roles where such a weakness impacts the dancer's interpretation immensely. Kent's use of her upper body was largely one-dimensional--her arms almost seemed to move independently of her back, and it was a challenge for her to be effective in explaining her predicament of being a woman trapped in a swan's body by day. Her variation wasn't too shabby, but she simplified the opening by taking out the double rombe de jambe transition into the devlopees a la seconde, and her double step-over turns were never fully rotated (I was amazed she could find her balance en pointe and start the bourees in a circle without issue). However, the subleties of Kent's Odette were surprising and prevented her performance from being forgettable. Her gesture to Siegried when he attempts to kill Rothbard with his bow was strong, deliberate and clear, and her transformation back into a Swan at the act's conclusion was one of the most chilling I've seen.

As Odile, Kent struggled at times technically--she only did 26 fouettes and traveled a great distance, first downstage, then toward stage right. She didn't hold a long balance in arabesque during the pas de deux and her dancing was on the whole safe, but the Black Swan pas de deux was her shining moment of the ballet. She wasn't a particularly evil Odile, but an Odile who Siegried could feasibly fall for and believe as Odette, and an Odile who could also showcase to the audience through little moments--her haughty laugh when she kneels down on the floor when faced away from Siegried, for instance--where she was obviously a different character than the vulnerable Odette. Although not an ambitious Black Swan PDD by any means, it was a clean and at times inspired one. Her lack of back flexibility wasn't nearly as noticeable as Odile, and the supportive audience really seemed to draw life into her interpretation. It was as though she turned back the clock a couple of years in the midst of one act.

Speaking of turning back the clock, Jose Manuel Carreno sure didn't dance like he was 43. There were relatively obvious signs of pacing himself--he isn't a great actor and seemed to focus his performance onto his variations and pas de deuxs--but it was a commendable effort and a great way to leave the MET stage, especially in such an unexpected manner. As always, Carreno showcased beautiful pirouettes. A big key to the consistency of his pirouettes is his standing leg. His standing leg has such a sensation of opposition--it is so lifted and yet looks like it could drill a hole into the stage. Add that to his strongly placed arms and an engaged center and he can just turn all day. His double tours to the knee were both beautiful and supremely musical--first in Act I, then in his solo in the Black Swan pas de deux (both immediately following pirouettes). His other jumps were largely strong--his double cabrioles especially beautiful--and I agree with the sentiment that he has a couple more years in him. His partnering was lovely--his supported pirouettes gave Kent, a relatively weak turner, the illusion that she could turn like Gillian Murphy. This is not to say the performance was perfect--his extension in his arabesques and attitudes was dire, and he struggled (although succeeded) in doing the turning overhead lifts with Kent in the White Swan pas. Like Kent, he seemed to gain strength as the performance went, and the Black Swan pas was the pinnacle of his performance. In spite of not being as spectacular as Gomes would be in the evening, Carreno's final performance at the MET did justice to his great career.

Jared Matthews as the Purple Von Rothbard was relatively strong albeit uneven. His arabesque balance was sustained only for a short while and I'd like to see his use of turnout from the tops of the legs improve. The menacing, seductive stage presence required for the role was grasped by Matthews but never fully explored. Certainly when you compare him to Marcelo's Rothbard who has strength and amplitude of movement, consummate musicality, and a brooding persona, Matthews just doesn't compare. However, this is not to say that it was a bad performance or that he is a bad dancer, but there is much work to be done before I can call him great.

Act I pas de trois featured a lovely performance from Misty Copeland and efficient but pallid ones from Blaine Hoven and Simone Messmer. Copeland is a real spitfire--a dynamic dancer but also an elegant one. She has nice command over facial expressions--she appears happy without having a cheesy grin plastered on her face throughout her entire time on stage. Her technique and musicality were lovely, although some of her fifth positions weren't crossed all the way (same with Messmer). Messmer demonstrated some nice entrechat sixes but she seemed to tire toward the end of the pas de trois and her overall performance left me cold. Hoven was clean but couldn't match the excitement in his variation to that of Simkin in the evening or the dynamo of the Royal Ballet I saw in March, Valentino Zucchetti. Hoven also seemed to have difficulty doing partnered pirouttes with the two women--Copeland's weight was always back during the supported pirouettes done in the pas de trois (the issue was solved during the coda), and his last pirouette with Messmer was a double that ended awkwardly. Overall a decent effort from all three, but only Copeland was engaging.

Overall, a good performance, but one that just could not compare to the evening.

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Add me to the chorus of people who thought the Semionova-Gomes performance was stellar. I would go see her again in a heartbeat. I hope ABT invites her back.

I have to disagree with the post above that Part is miscast in SL. In fact, SL is her calling card. In my opinion, it is her best role. The problem is that ABT is not giving her the right partner. Part, Dvorovenko and Wiles have primarily been responsible for "breaking in" Cory in principal roles over the last few years.

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There is a really nice article in Dance Magazine about Part. (dancemagazine.com/issues/July-2011/Russian-Soul)

She is also the cover of the July issue.

Very kind and impressive words from Kevin M., I. Kolpakova and M. Gomes.

Beautiful article, in wich dance critic Laura Jacobs says that Part's performance of Aurora "was the most tenderly musical and stylistically expressive that this writer has ever seen" and Mckenzie says that "“Her Nutcracker, my god, it was out of this world”

I am very happy to see that Part is finally coming along all together to become the great ballerina that she can be.

Its clear that Semionova is now a must for the company.

Young (26 yo), healthy, with an impressive range which can cover from the most dramatic roles to the more technically demanding ones, and add to that a sweetheart/adoring personality and a lot of respect for the company.

This ballerina is a rarity, and to me she is the only one who could possibly fill Nina A shoes, a dancer that the audience and the rest of ABT dancers, both (which is very important), can fall in love with, as it happened with our beloved Nina A.

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Regarding Friday night's Part/Stearns Swan Lake I very much agree with the earlier poster who wrote: "I fail to see why a Swan Queen of her stature has to have a novice Prince."

I look forward to seeing Veronika in Swan Lake every year and this performance was such a disappointment to me. Veronika can be so heartbreaking in this role, but it really felt like she was ill at ease and holding back on Friday and I attribute this mostly to the deficiencies of Corey in partnering her. Veronika usually makes such beautiful use of her expressive Vaganova back, particularly when she dances Odette, and on Friday she was uncharacteristically stiff throughout the performance. Her performance seemed frozen emotionally as well, and I didn't feel any connection or trust between her and Corey. They didn't seem like people who wanted to be on the same stage, let alone die for their love of one another. I think ABT needs to give up on trying to make this partnership happen. Over the years I've spent watching Veronika I've noticed that her relationship with her partner seems to affect her own, individual performance more strongly than for many of the other ABT ballerinas: when she isn't totally confident in her partner she can come across as tense, restrained, and simply uncomfortable, as she did on Friday night. But with a partner like Marcelo, she can outshine any other ballerina in the company in Swan Lake. I hope that ABT gives her the chance to shine in this role again next season.

Despite my disappointment in Veronika and Corey's partnership, the evening had bright spots. Veronika's performance was only lackluster by the (very high) standards her past Odette/Odile's have set. In a pleasant surprise, her fouettes were the strongest I've seen from her. While Corey was bland dramatically and lacked stage presence and connection with his partner, at least his solos were well-executed and engaging.

Jared Matthews and Hee Seo were both truly excellent (and Melanie Hamrick solid if not as exciting) in the peasant pas de trois. Hee Seo has become one of the highlights of this ABT season for me; I'm consistently impressed and excited by her performances. I hope to catch her Lilac Fairy this season, but next year I hope we can see her as Aurora.

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Mind you, I’m only 18, so I haven’t seen an abundance of Swan Lakes that I know several members of this board have, but the Saturday evening performance with Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes was undoubtedly the most sensational, dramatically moving performance of Swan Lake I have ever seen. Although I was sad that David Hallberg sprained his ankle and couldn't dance, I couldn't help but think that this partnership of Semionova and Gomes should have been cast as such from the beginning. I was very excited to see Polina--and had heard great things--but I intentionally didn't watch videos of her on Youtube or anywhere because I wanted to be as surprised as possible. However, given the epic quality of her performance, I doubt watching her dancing on video would have made a difference in preparing me for what I would see.

A luscious, exquisitely exotic dancer, Polina Semionova is the finest interpreter of Odette/Odile I have ever seen live. She is a dancer unlike anyone I have watched before--luxuriant, passionate, dynamic, sensual--she has all of these different qualities that mesh together to form an intensely interesting dancer. Her performance was rare in that her interpretations of both Swans were impactful and riveting.

During the reality television series done on English National Ballet, Agony and Ecstasy, Semionova was supposed to do Swan Lake with that company but her Visa failed to come in time, and instead ENB principal Daria Klimentova danced Odette/Odile. The choreographer of the Company's production, Derek Deane, referred to Semionova as a much more physically expressive performer than Klimentova, and this is exactly what stands out to me about Semionova's dancing. She expresses her emotion, her dance, through her entire body--her back, her arms, her legs, her feet, her eyes. Unlike Julie Kent's arabesques in the matinee which hit the position and stopped, Polina's arabesques were everlasting--they grew and expanded as though the movement stretched to the sky. Unlike other dancers who have high extensions, namely Alina Somova, Semionova's dancing isn't defined by them. I love high extensions (when tastefully done), but at the time of the curtain call that was the last thing I remembered about her performance. Her control is breathtaking, which was sublimely demonstrated in Act II during her variation and (especially) during the pas de deux. The pas de deux left me breathless. The tentative, somber chemistry between her and Gomes was instantly tangible. A dancer can always develop a role, no matter accomplished at it he or she may be, and Semionova can develop her sense of fragility and vulnerability as Odette even more. However, this was such a rich interpretation that I can't complain.

As Odile, Semionova used her bold sensuality to the fullest extent. I really felt she had the characterization of Odile just right: brash, bitchy but always alluring, and I will forever be amazed how she and Marcelo developed such fiery chemistry on merely a day’s notice. As aforementioned her arabesque balance was mightily impressive. While she didn’t hold it as long as I’ve seen the Royal’s Tamara Rojo do, she didn’t waver in the slightest. Her variation featured triple pirouettes to single attitude turns—she looked capable of doing triple pirouette to double attitude—and it was danced exquisitely, although at times she was late with the music and appeared to be slightly pacing herself for the fouettes. Her fouettes featured a series of eight doubles followed by singles with the occasional double thrown in. I don’t much care for the Russian technique of fouettes in which the leg goes straight from passé to a la seconde, but she made them look better than most. The best moment of the Black Swan pas came at the end of the coda, when Marcelo kneeled down and thrust his arms open, indicating his overwhelming love for her. She went up to him and paused for a moment as if to say, “You’re sure you love me, right?!” before extending her arm in the backward cambre. It was an electrifying conclusion to an electrifying pas de deux and the audience responded in kind.

Polina Semionova’s performance would have left most Prince Siegfrieds in the dust, but the statuesque, ardent Marcelo Gomes put forth an indelible performance of his own. Supremely gifted as a partner, one would never know Marcelo and Polina seldom dance together, nor would anyone suspect that he had only a day or two to prepare for dancing on stage with her. Gomes began Act I as a noble prince, ebullient at the sight of his crossbow yet timid when approaching the prospects of finding his first love. Much could be praised about Gomes from the beginning—although 6’2’’ his jump landings are quieter than a pin dropping. His pirouettes (tonight at least) may not have had the sheer number of revolutions that Carreno’s did, but the opposition and balance of his standing leg was just as apparent, more apparent actually considering his height. His fluidity for such a tall dancer is remarkable, and yet he can always call upon that strength, that passion to perform. Any solo he does no matter how brief draws your attention. I suppose I might have been a wee bit disappointed that he didn’t do the most revolutions of pirouettes I’ve seen him do, and he has a technical flaw in cheating the entances to his double tours. Yet he is a performer who is unpredictable in the best way, and the energy he drew from Semionova no doubt elevated his performance to a different league and vice versa. Although his command of the stage is largely unparalleled, he knows to take a back seat when necessary. During the black swan pas de deux most of whom I saw was Polina--exactly as it should have been. He shows his off ballerina so well, but when it comes time for his variation he eats up the stage. A backbone of the Company, audiences are lucky to see this exceptional artist perform. They would be even luckier if ABT commissioned Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Mayerling (or if the Royal hired him to guest), but that’s a discussion for another day.

Sascha Radetsky started his purple Rothbart variation wonderfully but seemed to run out of gas at the end: he hopped during a triple pirouette and hopped again to get his leg to arabesque, and he seemed to be a bit late during the ending phrase also. His placement wavered in the sous-sus prior to the arabesque, and he took a long time to find his balance, but once he did he held a decently sustained position. He doesn’t have the technical mastery of Hallberg or Gomes, but he still danced very well and really got into the character of this seductive, vicious individual.

Act I pas de trois was Stella Abrera, Marie Riccetto, and Daniil Simkin. While Simkin was spectacular in the air, his partnering was awkward, in particular the partnered pirouettes—the two ladies were consistently leaning toward their standing legs instead of being directly straight over them. His variation was commendable, and his presence is no doubt exciting, but his lack of pas de deux training shows even in the most basic of maneuvers. Oddly, the consummate turner Simkin normally is didn’t show Saturday: he hopped on two of his pirouettes. With another dancer you would hardly notice, but it is a disappointment when Simkin’s virtuoso technique fails him in any way. Once you see what he is capable of, it is human nature to expect his highest standard every time.

Maria Riccetto was lovely and delicate, but Stella Abrera was the standout performer in the pas de trois with nice entrechat sixes, sharp musicality and expansive dancing. Many say she deserves to be promoted to principal, and while I have not seen her in much (only this and The Brahms-Haydn Variations) I have been very impressed. With some of the principal women getting closer and closer to retirement she could have that chance.

I don’t love this production, but I agree with Waelsung that the production’s weaknesses didn’t matter last night. The tour de force performances of Semionova and Gomes were too special for me to complain about it. It was just one of the performances you wish would never end.

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I also saw Saturday evening's Swan Lake and agree with all the posters about what an unbelievable performance it was. As always, I am still trying to get my thoughts together and will post further either today or tomorrow. I did want to say to MRR you may be only 18 but you are incredibly knowledgeable about ballet and write about it beautifully. Please keep posting. Also, I forget who said that Swan Lake is not Veronika Part's role, but I definitely disagree with that. In my opinion, Veronika's best roles are Odette/Odile and Nikiya in La Bayadere. I also agree with Atm711 that a ballerina of Veronika' stature and abilities should have a better partner than Corey Stearns. I think Corey is a very promising dancer, but Veronika deserves a partner like Marcelo Gomes or David Hallberg. I've never seen them dance together, but isn't Corey a little short to partner Veronika? Also, please put me on the list for hoping Polina joins ABT on a regular basis.

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as an aside....

All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass.

:blink:

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I also saw Saturday evening's Swan Lake and agree with all the posters about what an unbelievable performance it was. As always, I am still trying to get my thoughts together and will post further either today or tomorrow. I did want to say to MRR you may be only 18 but you are incredibly knowledgeable about ballet and write about it beautifully. Please keep posting. Also, I forget who said that Swan Lake is not Veronika Part's role, but I definitely disagree with that. In my opinion, Veronika's best roles are Odette/Odile and Nikiya in La Bayadere. I also agree with Atm711 that a ballerina of Veronika' stature and abilities should have a better partner than Corey Stearns. I think Corey is a very promising dancer, but Veronika deserves a partner like Marcelo Gomes or David Hallberg. I've never seen them dance together, but isn't Corey a little short to partner Veronika? Also, please put me on the list for hoping Polina joins ABT on a regular basis.

I agree that MRR has made an impressive debut in reporting in BA,very knowledgeable and thorough.Welcome to BA and we hope to read more of your reports.Too bad the ABT season is almost over.

Veronika is in a tough situation.Since Marcelo is the favored partner of Diana,Julie and Paloma( and if Polina joins the company...) she would have to fall in line to be his partner.I'm not sure David would be good for her either.Kevin must get Roberto to commit for more performances in the future.

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as an aside....

All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass.

:blink:

:lol:

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I believe it was last year that Part-Hallberg replaced Dvorovenko-Beloserkovsky in Swan Lake at the last minute, and IMHO it was a partnership made in heaven.

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as an aside....

All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass.

:blink:

Speaking of this very topic, on Saturday night, I took out my tickets in front of the Met and one of THEM came rushing over to me and said "I need a ticket". Then, she followed me into the building and said two more times, "Do you have an extra ticket?" I finally turned to her and said very firmly, "I do not have an extra ticket!" Finally, she left me alone.

It was really hard getting tickets to Saturday night - I called all week to hear that it was sold out. Finally, on Friday afternoon I got two tickets to the last row of Family Circle. I was OK with my binoculars.

Was it worth it? Absoultely. I missed Semionova's Don Quixote, so I was determined to see her Swan Lake. She and Marcelo were amazing. The Act II Adagio will go down on record for something - it was the first time that I have sat through an ABT Act II Pas de Deux and the audience was absolutley still - no coughing, no sneezing. Usually at least one member of the audience decides to clear their throat during that part. I remember at Nina's farewell Swan Lake two years ago, some man kept hocking loogies during the adagio. But Saturday night, it was one of those moments where it seemed that the audience was holding its breath so that the spell would not be broken.

This was probably the eighth time that I have seen ABT's Swan Lake. I also saw Monday night with Dvorovenko and Carreno. Both nights, the corps in Act I was off, but the Swans were lovely in Act II. Also on both nights, the lead violin player hit some pretty funky screechy notes during the adagio (but not as bad as the Opening Night Gala).

I could not take my eyes off of Semionova the whole night. And, I may have written this before in a previous post, but Marcelo Gomes is so good as Siegfried because he is a prince. I was disappointed that David Hallberg was unable to dance, but was so excited to hear Marcelo the Great was his replacement. Any weakness in staging or choreography can be overlooked with the magnificent performance of our two leads. I am also hoping that Polina comes back next season.

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I believe it was last year that Part-Hallberg replaced Dvorovenko-Beloserkovsky in Swan Lake at the last minute, and IMHO it was a partnership made in heaven.

David has a history of shoulder problems, though, and so many of the lifts in that performance were quite precarious. (At one point he actually had to thrust his chest against Veronika to get her up into the air!) They make a beautiful pair, but I fear we'll never see them again for this reason. David does better with smaller partners.

I wholeheartedly agree with the above poster that Swan Lake and Bayadere are two ballets where Veronika really shines. She was lovely in The Nutcracker as well. (There's a nice video on YouTube of a Works & Process event with Veronika dancing some of Ratmansky's coreography.)

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as an aside....

All sorts of young fans, the usual old crazies and some riff-raff were crushing into the stage door and barely letting the dancers pass.

:blink:

Speaking of this very topic, on Saturday night, I took out my tickets in front of the Met and one of THEM came rushing over to me and said "I need a ticket". Then, she followed me into the building and said two more times, "Do you have an extra ticket?" I finally turned to her and said very firmly, "I do not have an extra ticket!" Finally, she left me alone.

Close encounter with a Lincoln Center revenant! Just don't feed them after curtain goes up. :innocent:

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I didn't know about Hallberg's shoulder problems, so thank you for that information. I can now (almost) forgive him for almost dropping Hee Seo twice in her debut performance of Giselle. Pushkin called ballet "the cruel art." I would have to google that to find the context, but it does take a huge toll on the body. This season so many of the male dancers were injured. I used to take the lifts in stride, but I'm much more mindful now of how difficult they are, especially in ballets like Swan Lake.

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I didn't know about Hallberg's shoulder problems, so thank you for that information. I can now (almost) forgive him for almost dropping Hee Seo twice in her debut performance of Giselle. Pushkin called ballet "the cruel art." I would have to google that to find the context, but it does take a huge toll on the body. This season so many of the male dancers were injured. I used to take the lifts in stride, but I'm much more mindful now of how difficult they are, especially in ballets like Swan Lake.

There are certain moments in performance that make my gut clench up in anxiety -- e.g. David's lifts, Veronika's supported pirouettes, anybody's Rose Adagio.

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Thank you to Colleen Boresta and Bingham for the compliments.

Re: Part's Odette/Odile--I seem to be in the middle. I have seen her twice in Swan Lake, once with Hallberg (the performance last season that has been mentioned already) and Bolle (two years ago). I certainly wouldn't go as far as to say she is miscast in SL, although I'm not gaga over her Odette/Odile either.

Swan Lake is one of those ballets where I tend to have a bias in favor of taller ballerinas, and Part obviously satisfies that. Just by the way she stands on stage with all of the other corps women, she looks like the swan queen and I love that. And certainly her body isn't the only the reason she would be good in Swan Lake: the ballet gives her ample opportunity to show off her extension, feet, pors de bras, "Russian back"--in other words, her strengths. The performance with Hallberg, although heavily praised on this forum, stangely left me cold. I enjoy both dancers and am a sucker for exquisite lines--which both have and then some--but the performance didn't do much for me, particularly the Black Swan pas. Her SL with Bolle I preferred. Bolle is a stronger partner than Hallberg, and because Part wasn't replacing someone she had more time to build a partnership and for me it showed. I preferred her Odette to her Odile, but I thought she put in a lovely performance which greatly upstaged Bolle who had a plethora of technical issues that evening.

I wonder if Hallberg's shoulder problems have to do with him having really flexible shoulders? Perhaps it might have to do with him having a flexible back as well, as neither physical attribute comes to his aid when it comes to lifts. He is not someone like Gomes who is so physically strong and seems to have every part of his upper body stabilized and secure during a difficult overhead lift. IIRC, in the SL with Part during those turning overhead lifts in Act II, he barely lifted her the first time and didn't get her up at all during the second lift. I wonder how much this problem can improve, but I would certainly be surprised if Part and Hallberg were paired up in a major ballet again.

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Saturday night’s “Swan Lake” performance with Semionova and Gomes was stupendous--definitely one of the best that I’ve seen in my brief ballet-watching history, but I can’t say it’s the very best. In fact, I can’t name the single best SL performance I’ve ever seen, but there are Acts or aspects of several different performances that I consider the best I’ve ever seen.

From this performance, I can say that Marcelo’s Siegfried was without a question, the most inspired, most passionate, most amazing Siegfried I have ever seen. Before the performance began, I knew that Marcelo would do everything in his power to make Polina’s Odette/Odile debut at ABT the best it could be, that he would be the most selfless and supportive of partners, but I was not expecting him to go crazy like he did!

In Act I, his jumps were so airy, his landings were so soft, and he used his upper body so gorgeously. I almost felt like he was saying, “Ok, I might not have David’s beautiful lines, but just look how beautifully, how musically I move!”

And Marcelo’s acting was top-notch, as always. Thanks to his performance, it was the first time all week that I felt like the Queen Mother and Wolfgang were actually meaningful presences in his life. He gave the Queen Mother a look of such adoration when presented with the crossbow, and when he turned to Wolfgang for advice later in the scene, it felt like they were having a conversation.

Then, in the beginning of Act II, he made me see Siegfried catch sight of Odette. This moment was lost on me with the other Siegfrieds, but Marcelo pointed out something in the sky, went around the stage following its path, and saw it land somewhere beyond the wings. Excitedly, he reached for his crossbow and prepared to shoot, but then he realized, “What’s this?! Something’s not right!” and ran off the stage. “AHA, so THIS is what this scene is supposed to be about!” I thought.

And then, at the end of Act III/beginning of Act IV, Marcelo’s Siegfried was simply wild. After discovering his mistake, he pounded on the doors with such force I thought they might actually fall down, and when he came on the stage at the beginning of Act IV, he collapsed from the weight of his grief.

On another dancer, or in a different performance, these actions may have seemed way too over-the-top, but with Marcelo, it looked just right, because you could just see how inspired he was by Semionova. I have always thought Marcelo to be unrivaled as a partner and an actor, but up to now, I had never considered him to be one of those show-stopping virtuosos the way, say, Simkin or Carreno (with his pirouettes) or Corella can be. But his variations in Act III blew me away! Semionova held her ridiculously long arabesque balance in the black swan pas de deux, and Marcelo answered with some extra-long balances of his own.

And my goodness! I was not expecting to see Carreno-style multi-revolution pirouettes with the leg fully extended! To me, it felt like Gomes was so amped up by the performance that he was really going for it, taking risks, almost making it up as he went along. It was like his performance as Albrecht earlier in the season when he was so impassioned that he threw back his head after he landed his moves. Simply mesmerizing! Bravo!

That brings me now to Semionova…

There is only one word why ABT should continue to invite guest stars..............POLINA!!! i hope permanently.

Totally agree with this! (Though I’m saying this while considering Bolle and Vishneva to already be part of the company. :wink: )

Without a doubt, the best Odette/Odile I saw all week (I missed Veronika’s performance)—and like abatt, I would gladly see her again in anything.

To me, she is a natural fit for Odette/Odile the same way that Cojocaru is a natural fit for Giselle—I never felt she was acting; everything felt “just right.” Of all the ballerinas I’ve seen, I definitely would call her my ideal Odette/Odile (but I admit that I’ve never seen Veronika Part nor any of the Mariinsky ballerinas).

That being said, I’d be lying if I said her performance was the very best I’ve seen. In contrast to FauxPas, I actually preferred her Odette to her Odile. As her NYTimes interview suggested, Polina seems to be more of an understated performer from the little I’ve seen of her—she’s as passionate and expressive and heartbreaking as one would want, but without going crazy.

As a result, I was a bit surprised when she kept her Odette variations on the safe side, but it seemed in-keeping with her characterization. There were no quad pirouettes like Gillian in Odette’s solo, and no lightning fast entrechats and passé-releve (like Vishenva) in the coda. Hers was a classy, not showy, Odette, and I was okay with that. (And let me not forget that she actually did the battements before the developpe! Hooray!)

However, I did find myself wishing her Odile was a little more over-the-top. She was seductive and malevolent, without being harsh or bitchy, and she and Marcelo definitely had some red-hot chemistry. But I found myself missing Vishneva’s no-holds-barred, irresistible vamp last year with Hallberg.

It’s very funny. If you asked me which ballerinas I think are best-suited for “Swan Lake,” Vishneva would not be on that list, and if you asked me which are Vishneva’s best roles, Odette-Odile would probably not be one of them. And yet, she has given me the best Act II and Act IIIs I’ve ever seen (in separate performances). From the moment she burst through the doors with those blazing eyes and her ruby-red lips as Odile, I thought, “Oh sh*t! Here we go! Poor Siegfried doesn’t stand a chance!” She didn’t just seduce Hallberg’s Siegfried, she completely enslaved him—by the end, he was practically groveling at her feet. And I liked this power dynamic a lot because it mirrored Odette’s own enslavement—in the prologue, Von Rothbart seduced and captured her, and now in Act III, we have Siegfried trapped under Odile’s spell.

And during the black swan pas de deux, Vishneva’s dancing was almost indescribable. A great technician will make even the hardest moves LOOK easy, but there was something about the absolute surety, the complete lack of wobbles or hesitation in the penchee arabesques, that made me think, “Oh my god, it IS easy for her.”

While Semionova’s reserve seemed appropriate as Odette, I did wish she was a little crazier and faster in her pique turns in the circle around the stage in Act III. And I have to admit, her fouettes were a bit of a letdown after seeing Gillian’s on Tuesday and Thursday—although her turns were nicely centered filled with multiple revolutions, they were not super-quick like Gillian’s, so there were many skipped beats. Still, these are minor quibbles.

Similarly, the white swan pas de deux with Polina and Marcelo was superb, wonderful, gorgeous—but for me, it came in a close second to Diana and Marcelo’s performance two years ago. To this day, I can still clearly remember that unbelievably slow tempo, those almost-everlasting backbends, and the utterly rapt and pin-drop silent audience (I still heard coughing on Saturday night). Of course, Diana and Marcelo had the benefit of dancing together many times before, so they could take risks that Polina and Marcelo did not. But the superficial side of me will also admit that the height difference (or lack thereof) detracted ever-so-slightly from Polina and Marcelo’s performance; it just looks better to me when the ballerina is not so much taller than the danseur on pointe.

Anyway, these are self-indulgent criticisms for a performance that truly was magnificent. I feel lucky to have been able to see it. Bravo, bravo, bravo!

If I had to give you my dream casting for next year, though, I’d like to finally see Semionova and Hallberg together in “Swan Lake.” And having never seen Veronika’s Odette/Odile, I would love to see her paired with Bolle. And finally, Vishneva and Gomes. I don’t know if anyone will ever match their 2009 white swan p.d.d. for me, but I’d like to see them try again!

***

Two final shout-outs:

Stella was a stand-out in the Act I pas de trois. She seemed so on-fire that I couldn’t help but think, “is this her making her case for a promotion to principal?”

And finally, how nice to see Renata Pavam as a cygnette. I was also impressed to see Skylar Brandt as one of the cygnettes—isn’t she only an apprentice?!

Phew, can’t believe the season is almost over!

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Due to the incredible performances, especially of the two principal dancers, the July 2nd evening performance of Swan Lake retains its magic. As good as guest artist Polina Semionova was as Kitri in ABT’s Don Quixote earlier in the season, she is perfect in the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Semionova is one of the very few Odette/Odiles I have ever seen who is equally wonderful in both roles. As Odette, Semionova has magnificent undulating swan arms which seem to be almost boneless. Her splendidly pliable upper body shows clearly the despair Odette feels after Siegfried has betrayed her at the ball. The velvety flow of Semionova’s musical phrasing is heavenly. Her deep arabesques seem to go on forever. Semionova’s every movement as the Swan Queen is plush and luxuriant. Her petit batterie near the end of Act II, where her legs crisscross in the air, are astounding.

As Odile, Semionova revels in her seductive powers. She truly glistens like the most radiant diamond. Her hard edges are occasionally softened so that the Prince will think she is the “true” Odette. During the coda of the black swan pas de deux, Semionova whips off a series of double and very fast single fouettes. Her turns are in time with the music and there is only the tiniest bit of traveling.

Marcelo Gomes is Prince Siegfried, replacing the injured David Hallberg. I love Hallberg as a dancer, but no ballet dancer inhabits a role as completely as Gomes. This is certainly the case with his Prince Siegfried at the July 2nd evening performance. Gomes’ dancing is also sensational, especially his high, soaring leaps with the plushest of landings. He is also an ardently attentive partner and his chemistry with Semionova is spellbinding.

Other dancers stand out as well. As the handsome von Rothbart, Sascha Radetsky is much better than when I saw him perform this part last year. He is not up to the level of Marcelo Gomes as the seductive sorcerer, but Radetsky is effectively evil with high jumps and clean, soft landings.

In the pas de trois in Act I, Daniil Simkin again shows his unbelievable elevation and incredible ballon. Maria Riccetto is exquisitely dainty and Stella Abera shines with crisp musicality and vividly vibrant dancing.

The all important female corps in the white acts (Act II and the sadly abbreviated Act IV) dance in splendid tandem with the music and each other. Karen Uphoff and Melanie Hamrick’s lyrical phrasing as the two big swans is lovely to see.

Tchaikovsky’s transcendent score is well performed, except for the violin solo during the Act II pas de deux. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a professional musician perform so badly.

In spite of the weaknesses, it was an incredible evening at the ballet. I do hope American Ballet will go back to performing David Blair’s Swan Lake, which they danced before 2000. Swan Lake is a rich and powerful ballet and it deserves the best production possible.

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"Tchaikovsky’s transcendent score is well performed, except for the violin solo during the Act II pas de deux. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a professional musician perform so badly."

I'm sorry to say it was even worse on Friday night.

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"Tchaikovsky’s transcendent score is well performed, except for the violin solo during the Act II pas de deux. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a professional musician perform so badly."

I'm sorry to say it was even worse on Friday night.

You'd think they could find a violinist in NYC.

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I was also impressed to see Skylar Brandt as one of the cygnettes—isn’t she only an apprentice?!

Skylar Brandt is corps de ballet. And, IMO, there's nothing 'only' about any of ABT's apprentices!

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Regarding Friday night's Part/Stearns Swan Lake I very much agree with the earlier poster who wrote: "I fail to see why a Swan Queen of her stature has to have a novice Prince."

I look forward to seeing Veronika in Swan Lake every year and this performance was such a disappointment to me. Veronika can be so heartbreaking in this role, but it really felt like she was ill at ease and holding back on Friday and I attribute this mostly to the deficiencies of Corey in partnering her. Veronika usually makes such beautiful use of her expressive Vaganova back, particularly when she dances Odette, and on Friday she was uncharacteristically stiff throughout the performance. Her performance seemed frozen emotionally as well, and I didn't feel any connection or trust between her and Corey. They didn't seem like people who wanted to be on the same stage, let alone die for their love of one another. I think ABT needs to give up on trying to make this partnership happen. Over the years I've spent watching Veronika I've noticed that her relationship with her partner seems to affect her own, individual performance more strongly than for many of the other ABT ballerinas: when she isn't totally confident in her partner she can come across as tense, restrained, and simply uncomfortable, as she did on Friday night. But with a partner like Marcelo, she can outshine any other ballerina in the company in Swan Lake. I hope that ABT gives her the chance to shine in this role again next season.

Despite my disappointment in Veronika and Corey's partnership, the evening had bright spots. Veronika's performance was only lackluster by the (very high) standards her past Odette/Odile's have set. In a pleasant surprise, her fouettes were the strongest I've seen from her. While Corey was bland dramatically and lacked stage presence and connection with his partner, at least his solos were well-executed and engaging.

Jared Matthews and Hee Seo were both truly excellent (and Melanie Hamrick solid if not as exciting) in the peasant pas de trois. Hee Seo has become one of the highlights of this ABT season for me; I'm consistently impressed and excited by her performances. I hope to catch her Lilac Fairy this season, but next year I hope we can see her as Aurora.

Thanks, OneSwan, for basically agreeing with me about Part/Stearns. I'm still sad about it.

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