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ABT at the Met 2011 - Sleeping Beauty

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Here are some thoughts from me on Wednesday night’s performance with Cojocaru/Kobborg and Abrera.

I am still not a huge fan of “Sleeping Beauty,” but I guess it can be charming, with the right Aurora.

I saw Alina Cojocaru’s ABT debut last year, and found it extremely enchanting. Although I felt that she was a bit reserved or a bit nervous at the beginning (it was her debut, after all), she became more and more comfortable and radiant as the performance progressed, leading to a natural climax in the Act III pas de deux. There was an aura of excitement and anticipation surrounding her debut, and she delivered.

This year, the aura of anticipation had diminished somewhat—Cojocaru has several ABT performances under her belt now, and moreover, several viewers (including the people sitting behind me) were undoubtedly disappointed that Osipova had been replaced. However, whereas Cojocaru had been slightly restrained at first in her performance last year, on Wednesday night she was her at her endearing, ebullient best right from the get-go.

Although Part danced well on Tuesday night, I didn’t get much out of her characterization in Act I beyond some kind of vague youthful happiness, but that suited me fine, since Aurora doesn’t strike me as a particularly complex character. With Alina, however, Aurora’s thoughts seemed crystal clear. With her bright eyes and ear-to-ear smile, she seemed to be saying, “Oh wow! This is the best birthday party EVER!” She looked at her suitors with an excited but slightly bashful expression, as if saying, “I can’t believe all these handsome princes are here to see me!”, and she greeted all of them with a glance or a drop of the head before she took their hands in the balances or leaned on their shoulders in the penchee arabesques. She was always affectionate and deferential to her parents—I especially liked that she took the time to gently place her collected roses at their feet instead of scattering them on the ground. And she simply radiated joy. Throughout this whole scene, I had a huge grin on my face. I simply couldn’t help it!

Indeed, those people behind me who had been disappointed to miss Osipova were full of praise and admiration for Cojocaru in the intermission! There were a few little bobbles here and there, and I have to admit, Part really outdid her in the grand jetes (must be that gymnastics training!). And Part also looked better in the short sequence of little hops in an arabesque while turning that become pirouettes. However, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Act I thanks to Cojocaru.

After that, however, the usual shortcomings of the ballet set in for me. I thought Kobborg made a fine Prince, if unremarkable, and he and Cojocaru looked very sweet together. Really, the dancing was lovely, but that’s about all I can say.

So it seems Stella did three Lilac Fairy’s in a row (Tues night, Wed matinee and evening), but you couldn’t tell it! She looked fantastic last night, even better than Tuesday. Her arms are always so lovely, but last night her pirouettes were also spot-on. (Was it just me, or did Sascha just look so proud when she came out to take her bows? :wink: ) Promote this girl to principal, PLEASE!

Sascha himself did a fine job as Bluebird, though I did not care for the way he used his arms—very floppy wrists, especially compared to Simkin, whom I think has lovely port de bras.

I don’t understand at all what Macauley is referring to in his review when he says Simkin “doesn’t cut clean lines in the air.” Is he referring to the entrechat six? Yes, perhaps Simkin doesn’t have the definition of the Danish dancers, for example. But I didn’t see anything sloppy about the brise vole or the bigger jumps. Granted, Simkin is not Hallberg, so he won’t have those ridiculously long lines. Anyone else have an opinion on this?

Boylston was okay for me. Like Drew, I appreciate her verve, and she does have that ‘look at me’ quality (which she sometimes over-uses), but she is the not the most graceful dancer, and yesterday I noticed that she does some of her steps and poses by leading with her chin, which is a pet peeve of mine. My ballet teacher is always reminding us to stretch from the back of the neck, not the chin.

Wednesday night’s fairies were Melanie Hamrick (green), Kristi Boone (orange), Leann Underwood (blue), Luciana Paris (yellow), and Simone Messmer (red). All were fine though I missed seeing Renata Pavam!

Paris toned down the hand-fluttering and looked less like a spastic bumblebee, to my great relief. Messmer fell off pointe badly in the middle of her variation, but she did not let it affect the rest of her performance at all—if you had blinked during that moment, you probably would not have realized anything had happened. I myself had been in the middle of thinking how much I enjoy watching her, and then when the little stumble occurred, I felt like those figure skating commentators who are like, “so-and-so is skating perfectly!” right before she falls. :sweatingbullets:

Overall, it was an enjoyable performance of a ballet I don’t particularly like, though I don’t think it was nearly as exciting as Cojocaru’s debut last year.

So the ABT season ends for me with a whimper, not a bang. Thank goodness there’s the Mariinsky to provide a much-needed dose of drama next week!

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If companies were to refund tickets based on guaranteed casting, there would be no opera or ballet company in the world that would be in business. There's a reason for that fine print about casting subject to change.

I think over the years fans decide for themselves how much to trust the casting lists, especially when they are published well in advance, where illness, injury, overwork, etc. can't be anticipated (at least most of the time).

I agree with you, Helene, it would be very difficult to refund tickets. But I do have to share an experience I had with the Barbican centre in London. I bought a ticket to see a concert there since my favorite violinist would be performing with the London symphony orchestra, but of course she had to cancel the day before due to injury and was replaced by the concertmaster(yep, I couldn't believe it either--this is not ballet after all!). Luckily, the Barbican has a policy that allows you to receive a credit for a returned ticket, which can be used in the next six months. (I actually was able to receive a refund because I'm a foreigner.)

I doubt that would really be feasible for ABT (a credit good till next season?), but I did want to point out that some theaters have return policies...

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If that was the case, then ABT should have put up the casting changes much sooner. Since ABT does allow exchanges (except on the day of performance) ticket hold ers could have had a choice of seeing a Swan Lake ( maybe even Semionova) instead of Wednesday night's SL.

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I don’t understand at all what Macauley is referring to in his review when he says Simkin “doesn’t cut clean lines in the air.” Is he referring to the entrechat six? Yes, perhaps Simkin doesn’t have the definition of the Danish dancers, for example. But I didn’t see anything sloppy about the brise vole or the bigger jumps. Granted, Simkin is not Hallberg, so he won’t have those ridiculously long lines. Anyone else have an opinion on this?

Honestly, I often suspect that Macaulay must feel the need to temper a positive comment with something negative and so he relies on vague phrases such as this. I felt this with the Swan Lake article, when he called Part's dancing "monotonous." I understand he's working with limited space, but he could often do more to make himself clear.

Perhaps, though, someone on here can explain what he meant about Simkin, if they're seeing whatever he's seeing. Personally, I thought the only thing wrong with the Bluebird pdd was the partnering; individually, Simkin and Lane both looked fantastic to my eyes.

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A gentle reminder that the company forums were created to discuss what you think about what you've seen. To discuss Macaulay's views, please post in the Macaulay thread in the "Writings on Ballet" forum:

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A gentle reminder that the company forums were created to discuss what you think about what you've seen. To discuss Macaulay's views, please post in the Macaulay thread in the "Writings on Ballet" forum:

Very sorry. It's at times difficult to disentangle the two, given that we see as much through others as through our own eyes (as these forums themselves attest). To clarify, the thrust of my comment was to solicit others' impressions of what they had seen in Simkin's dancing on that or other nights.

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I'm interested to see if Irina does the wedding variation tonight. Last year in Los Angeles, she and Max skipped the solo variations in the wedding pas.

That's really surprising and disappointing to hear. ABT should never allow dancers to completely skip variations because of their physical limitation. I understand that people frequently alter choreograhy to suit their strengths, but I've never heard of dancers leaving out entire solo variations. (I didn't see Irina last night, so I can't comment on last night's show.)

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Very sorry. It's at times difficult to disentangle the two, given that we see as much through others as through our own eyes (as these forums themselves attest). To clarify, the thrust of my comment was to solicit others' impressions of what they had seen in Simkin's dancing on that or other nights.

I knew what you meant when you posted. I'm afraid, though, that any mention of Macaulay is like honey to bees :) and the thread topics drifts to him.

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To keep to Vernonika Part then, the Times review if you read it carefully is appropriately balanced and factually detailed. Some things she did very well; some others that made the role very difficult for her.

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Perhaps you should just, um, quarantine Macaulay in his own area heh, heh.

While you can't have people posting things that are wildly off-topic, the problem is, if you post, "Cojocaru and Kobborg did a lovely 'Sleeping Beauty'. They did a "Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal last year, but it was better at the Met. I think they're a lovely couple", somebody's going to say - "A gentle reminder. The first part of sentence 2, but not the seven words after the comma, belongs in "European Ballet Companies" under "Royal Ballet". Sentence 3 belongs in "Dancers".

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Perhaps you should just, um, quarantine Macaulay in his own area heh, heh.

While you can't have people posting things that are wildly off-topic, the problem is, if you post, "Cojocaru and Kobborg did a lovely 'Sleeping Beauty'. They did a "Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal last year, but it was better at the Met. I think they're a lovely couple", somebody's going to say - "A gentle reminder. The first part of sentence 2, but not the seven words after the comma, belongs in "European Ballet Companies" under "Royal Ballet". Sentence 3 belongs in "Dancers".

; ) yup.

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Perhaps you should just, um, quarantine Macaulay in his own area heh, heh.

That's what we've been trying to do. That place is called "Writings on Ballet". We've found that when critics' opinions are brought into the picture, yet another thread becomes about the critic, and many posters stop discussing what they thought, which is the only reason why we have these forums in the first place.

While you can't have people posting things that are wildly off-topic, the problem is, if you post, "Cojocaru and Kobborg did a lovely 'Sleeping Beauty'. They did a "Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal last year, but it was better at the Met. I think they're a lovely couple", somebody's going to say - "A gentle reminder. The first part of sentence 2, but not the seven words after the comma, belongs in "European Ballet Companies" under "Royal Ballet". Sentence 3 belongs in "Dancers".

You're welcome to start your own board with your own guidelines if you are unhappy with ours :)

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Helene, that's why I don't post. Since the categories overlap, you can always find an arbitrary reason why someone has posted something in the "wrong" place. That's why I let you sit there and say "MY sandbox. MINE!"

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Based on my limited reading of the Macaulay forum, I gather that what goes on over there is more a meta-critical discussion about the criticism. What happens here, it seems, is quite natural and quite different: those who post at times refer to the views of others in order to illuminate their own descriptions of what they have seen and of how they analyze and understand what they have seen. Sometimes those "others" are previous posters; sometimes they are published critics. So long as the emphasis is on the topic at hand (what I, the poster, have seen and how I analyze and understand what I have seen), I'd like to think we could all have a little leeway to bring in the occasional outside references. But then, of course, I'm not in charge!

No ballet viewer watches from a vacuum. Just as I take to each performance the views and opinions I have read here, so I am also informed by what I have read in the pages of the Times. These are all inevitable parts of what Helene, in "Why This Forum Exists," refers to as "the point of view of the audience."

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This is the last post on this, since "discussing the discussion" is off limits apart from when we have to explain policy: we've weighed the pros and cons of having references to critics in the company forums, and we've made this decision based on that analysis.

We've asked this several times before, but we don't assume that everyone reads every thread, which is why I've asked again, rather than deleting the reference.

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So the ABT season ends for me with a whimper, not a bang. Thank goodness there’s the Mariinsky to provide a much-needed dose of drama next week!

Batsuchan, my feelings exactly. I was hoping, as others did, that I would see Osipova/Hallberg on Wed and Cojocaru/Kobborg on Fri making a lovely end to the season. As it was I feel like the real end of the season for me was the Semionova/Gomes Swan Lake. All in all I'm not unhappy though and hope that Hallberg rehabs quickly and in time for the Japan tour (and certainly for Nutcracker, which will probably be my next ABT visit). And now on to the Little Humpbacked Horse!

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Just got back from Cojocaru/Kobberg and would like to give a few impressions. Cojocaru was amazing. She brings meaning to every moment. 1 example - in Rose Adagio there is a section in which Aurora is center stage & the suitors are in the four corners. Cojocaru was glancing at her mother for encouragement and reacting to each suitor in a clear and nuanced way that I had never seen before. When she dances I find myself watching with the most intensity because I don't want to miss a "word." She uses her technique to this end. The wedding pas was a great example of amazing partnering and connectedness. Kobberg is a classy dancer. I don't think he had a lot more years of the Prince roles in him, but he is classy, musical, has a beautiful movement quality and he is one of the great partners out there.

The rest - Again I really wish the fairies woudn't keep popping up, and we could have the characters doing their dances back. I dislike having Bluebird pas followed by the wedding pas. We shouldn't have back to back pas de deux. The spider web thing is still annoying. I know we are stuck with this production (it has been modified, with some major offenses moved) but some tinkering is still possible.

Bluebird was Simkin/Lane. No botched lift as had been reported from a past performance. To me he looked like he didn't want to be there. His variation seemed like an abbreviated version. Lane was lovely and did some beautiful phrasing.

Of the faries I thought Simone Messmer was the best. Misty Copeland as the "Valor" fairy got the job done but totally ungracious (my husband thought her so forceful that maybe she should go toe to toe with Carabosse) anyway it was a bit much for me, one can be strong and likable at the same time.

Kajiya was Lilac. I know she has a lot of fans, but I really didn't like it. To me she goes from step to step trying to hit positions and balance. There seems to be no sense of phrasing, no "juiciness" to her dancing, no overall shape. What we get is an attempt to balance every time she goes on pointe, so I feel like I'm watching step after step after step - sometimes a balance, sometimes 3 turns, sometime a little fumbling - It doesn't add up to much for me.

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Kajiya was miscast as the Lilac Fairy. Lilac needs to be a taller dancer, and one with the force and power to hold the stage, face down and defeat Martine van Hamel's Carabosse, and virtually rescue civilization from the edge of the abyss repeatedly. Stella Abrera was a better Lilac the other night. But neither subsidiary casting, nor the shortcomings of the production, could obscure the brilliance of this performance. What a night.

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I loved Cojocaru and Kobborg. It's not just that she can hold her balances forever. Her phrasing is gorgeous. She employs her arms, back, head and neck to beautiful effect. Cojocaru and Kobborg were better on Friday than Wednesday. Stella was marvelous earlier in the week as Lilac. I also loved Lane and Simkin in Bluebird on Tues and Friday evening. Lane held an unsupported balance last night forever (and without the help of the Cojocaru Gaynor Minden shoes to offer extra support). Why, oh why, can't we see Sarah in a lead role? Yuriko was a disaster as Lilac, in my opinion. (She replaced Ricetto.) She had little sense of musicality or phrasing. It's not merely her size that is an impediment to success in this role. I saw Part and Gomes earlier in the week. Gomes is such a gorgeous dancer in evey way. Part was lovely, and did a particularly moving Vision Scene. I'm seeing both shows today. I can't believe that the season ends today. The time flew by.

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Lane held an unsupported balance last night forever . . . Why, oh why, can't we see Sarah in a lead role?

Absolutely - Sarah Lane has leapt to another plateau. She holds the stage and projects and appears to have found out that less is more: that she is "bigger" just doing her thing instead of punching herself out and trying to be "big." Of which principal in operation Alina Cojacaru is Exhibit No. 1.

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Lane held an unsupported balance last night forever . . . Why, oh why, can't we see Sarah in a lead role?

Absolutely - Sarah Lane has leapt to another plateau. She holds the stage and projects and appears to have found out that less is more: that she is "bigger" just doing her thing instead of punching herself out and trying to be "big." Of which principal in operation Alina Cojacaru is Exhibit No. 1.

How extraordinary! I was thinking the same thing watching Lane last night. It's as if she watched Cojocaru and a light bulb went off in her head! IMO she's had a sort of rough go of it this season. Never really making an impression. Always making simple mistakes and seemingly to push on herself so as to become a distraction. But last night in Bluebird she just became another dancer. I could see her breathe into all the technique and just "do" the role. No pushing, No weird faces. No technical mess ups. And she didn't seem to be fighting Simkin in their partnering. She just let it happen . She absolutely showed herself to be on a higher level last night than all season. Brava Sarah!

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Osipova also pulled out of the Sunday matinee of the Bolshoi's Corsaire in DC two springs ago, citing "exhaustion" after she'd danced Medora the night before (and missed an entrance during the Jardin Animee during that performance too, if I recall correctly - I mean completely missed, corps dancing around, no principle dancer for twenty to thirty seconds of what was supposed to be a major variation, everyone wondering what was going on (it was the spring before this one, a couple of nights after her Sylphide at ABT)).

Osipova was hospitalized that Saturday night and missed the matinee the next day, according to newspaper reports at the time.

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JBluebird was Simkin/Lane. No botched lift as had been reported from a past performance. To me he looked like he didn't want to be there. His variation seemed like an abbreviated version. Lane was lovely and did some beautiful phrasing.

... Misty Copeland as the "Valor" fairy got the job done but totally ungracious (my husband thought her so forceful that maybe she should go toe to toe with Carabosse) anyway it was a bit much for me, one can be strong and likable at the same time.

My thoughts exactly on both fronts. Simkin's variation was nowhere near what we've come to expect out of him, but it was more than made up for by Lane. She was absolutely extraordinary last night. Copeland was "forceful" enough to look quite out of place among the rest of the fairies, all of whom seemed to be exhibiting the limpidity described by a certain critic to great effect. Messmer in particular was pretty fantastic.

And Cojocaru? Such a beautiful Beauty—I have no words.

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Saviliev is replacing Max B. in SB on Thurs, July 7.

Gomes is now replacing Saviliev in this chain of replacements. Looks like whatever happened to him as the Purple Pimp was serious enough.

I'm a little surprised at Seo being given Lilac Fairy...doesn't seem like her type of role at all.

Did anyone see H Seo 's LIlac Fairy?

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i don't think Seo performed Lilac at all.

prior to her scheduled debut she was scheduled (on a cast-change slip, on Wed.?) to replace Riccetto, who was injured, and then Seo got injured. so i think she didn't dance the rest of the run.

[disregard my assumpton; see correct information below by VirginaB]

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