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La Bayadere Spring 2012


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#76 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:15 AM

First things first, I want to note it was great meeting some board members during my trip and get to see some others I knew already. Makarovafan, NYSusan, Bart Birsdall, Canbelto, Carbro, FauxPas, Drew and Cubanmiamiboy made for a great group at the MET..! Canbelto, allow me to mention how pleasantly surprised I was to find you have such a bubbling, sparkling personality, being your reviews so serious and all . Very nice indeed to meet you all guys!

Ok, back to balletic matters. I attended three Bayadere performances. On day one I was going to opt for City Ballet, but the program didn't really "get"me-(I saw "In the Night" over here just a little while ago, and while I find it pleasant, I certainly don't LOVE it that much...well...perhaps a little bit more than its cousin "Dances..."). So then I decided to try Seo/Muntagirov Bayadere.

This performance was sort of on the bland side. Seo executed the steps, did the cat-fight with Boylston and wore her white Shade tutu with grace, but that was it. there was no much characterization or drama in her portray. She was good, but not great. It was appropriate, then, that her rival character wasn't done with a higher level, either technically or artistically. Boylston's dance was tentative, not developed in the grand scale either...just as Seo's. Muntagirov's Solor was a bit more exciting, but generally, the whole performance left me cold.

Day 2 was definitely better. Cojocaru's Nikiya had more depth, and her technique, while diminished from past memorable performances, was still strong. She was the only one from the three Nikiyas I saw who really honored Dudinskaya's devilish series of pique/chainee turns at the PDD coda during the white act, performing them with great speed and sharpness. Still, during the Adagio, she fell off pointe a couple of times, but all around her dancing was wonderful.
Now, the big problem of this particular performance was the pairing of Vasiliev/Solor with Copeland/Gamzatti. I really don't know if Solor even though of his bride to be at any point-(leave Vasiliev his ballerina)-, during the whole thing. They were in two separate worlds. During the betrothal scene, right when they have to perform those tour jetes at the same time, while Vasiliev was still suspended on the air, way up there, poor Copeland was already on the floor, after having jumped half the height of her partenaire. It was definitely an unfortunate pairing, and it was clear that they are in two very different levels, technically wise. I felt it was unfair to Copeland. Vasiliev, of course, was his usual airy entity, jumping with the softness and grace of a cat-(that's the best example I could come up with), He is probably the only current reminder of the bouyancy of the Bolshoi dancers of the past, and he's not shy about showing off. I like that. His cambres are marvelous...he has one of the most flexible, beautiful backs in a bailarin I've ever seen. His solo during the betrothal scene brought down the house. Beautiful pirouettes a la second, perfectly executed. It all that wasn't enough, right after Nikiya dissapears at the end of his vision, he suddenly showed up on stage to leap across and into the right wing in what looked like a lion's jump. Wonderful. It is a shame that he's not as tall and prince-looking as other ABT bailarines-(Hallberg, Gomes, Bolle), but I'm sure his short height has a lot to do with his capability to jump that high.
THE performance of my trip, for me, came embodied in the handsome paring of Gomes/Part. Veronika currently carries like anybody else the long ballet notion of what a beautiful Russian ballerina ought to look like. I'm one of those balletomanes who believes in physical beauty onstage as an element as important as technique or artistry-(poor Vaganova...she was the victim of others who shared my view). Needless to say, Miss Part was a perfect vision in white during the Shades act. What gorgeous lines...how luscious her grand jetes are...her legs seem to go on forever. I have seen her in the past both as Lilac and Sugar Plum Fairy, but for some reason, it looked to me as if this was the first time I saw her dancing. I guess I was lucky to catch one of her "on" nights, right....? Her paring with handsome Gomes was the happiest idea. they are both tall, brunettes and dramatically competent, and she looked very comfortable with him. Of course, during the lifts it was Vasiliev who won the prize here, for which he carried Cojocaru in a complete horizontal position overhead, while Gomes and Part chose to have an arabesque design for her with the left knee folded under. Their veil PDD was gorgeous, and she didn't have any major faults. One of the things I remember the most during this performance was the way Veronika chose to dance the flower basket sequence. It was interesting, because while other dancers even smile during the dancing-("what are they happy about?!", I always wonder)-Part's was a languid, sorrowful display, as if she was just "seeing" her death approach...she knew that it was all done...that Solor would never be hers. I really found her characterization here exquisite and it all made sense to me, unlike with other dancers.

And then there was Osipova. What could I add about her amazing performance..? Everything has been done about her in other reviews. If anything, I really "saw" Gamzatti for the first time. She was no longer "the other" ballerina. She made the character alive and fundamental in the story line. One of the things I noticed was that, during the last act, while the two couples are dancing at the same time, whereas Part would look at Solor anytime she could have a chance, Osipova would try to turn to the audience and gaze at it. Basically Part was dancing to her beloved of choice,... and Osipova too..! Posted Image
I want to note though that I wasn't satisfied with any of the fouettes being executed by any Gamzatti, Osipova included. There seems to be a trend among ballerinas not to show the ample ronde de jamb that ought to be finished with a perfect a la second pose during the whipping of the working leg. Instead they tend to bend the knee while the whipping movement happened almost in front of their bodies, instead of on the side. Then, of course, the movement takes less time, becoming shorter and faster, allowing them to do double and triples pirouettes in between. I find the trick a little diminishing to the fouette concept.

And now that I started to complain, let me mention two of the things that bothered me the most of this production. Number one was the design of choice for the Shades ramp. The big problem here is that the ramp is almost non existent..! The props of greenery take almost half of the stage, and then what it's left of the ramp is just a little piece in which only three shades can stand at a time. Plus, it is only one level of ramp and then the simple floor, instead of the double ample feature showed in old soviet productions. I was disappointed to find the iconic descending sequence very diminished. The other thing was the costume of Nikiya during the last act. I can't understand why they dress her in Harem pants, instead of keeping her in tutu. Isn't she still a ghost only coming into Solor's view...? Wouldn't have made much more sense to keep her as a Shade, still borrowed from the utter world, instead of dressing her with a worldly attire, as it was her choice to change clothes...?

All in all, it was great to see Bayadere. I had never seen the whole ballet before-(what we have in Havana is an abridged "Kingdom of the Shades", very much in the comprised fashion of the 50's), so it was wonderful to see the luxurious staging. The grand importance of this production is that it has been able to become part of ABT...that by now it is not a foreign Russian curiosity-(a la "Pharaoh's daughter")-but an integral part of the NYC ballet life. It was moving to see so many people attending the performances...and to know that the ballet has its golden seat along with the other warhorses. That said, for the inclusion of Bayadere into our lives as balletomanes we can't thank Makarova and Nureyev enough.

See ya..! Posted Image

#77 puppytreats

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 12:10 PM

It is a shame that he's not as tall and prince-looking as other ABT bailarines-(Hallberg, Gomes, Bolle), but I'm sure his short height has a lot to do with his capability to jump that high.

Veronika currently carries like anybody else the long ballet notion of what a beautiful Russian ballerina ought to look like. I'm one of those balletomanes who believes in physical beauty onstage as an element as important as technique or artistry-(poor Vaganova...she was the victim of others who shared my view).


- an interesting topic itself

#78 Rosa

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 02:06 PM

Thank you everyone for the wonderful reviews and recollections. They have been a pleasure to read. :)

#79 Birdsall

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 06:46 PM

All in all, it was great to see Bayadere. I had never seen the whole ballet before-(what we have in Havana is an abridged "Kingdom of the Shades", very much in the comprised fashion of the 50's), so it was wonderful to see the luxurious staging. The grand importance of this production is that it has been able to become part of ABT...that by now it is not a foreign Russian curiosity-(a la "Pharaoh's daughter")-but an integral part of the NYC ballet life. It was moving to see so many people attending the performances...and to know that the ballet has its golden seat along with the other warhorses. That said, for the inclusion of Bayadere into our lives as balletomanes we can't thank Makarova and Nureyev enough.

See ya..! Posted Image



Cristian, that was a lovely way to describe how Bayadere has become a warhorse in a fairly short amount of time here in the U.S. Thank God, b/c it is possibly my favorite ballet. It is hard to pick one as THE favorite, but this is right up at the top.

I agree that it is a shame the ramp in Kingdom of the Shades is so short. I'm sure the corps dancers don't agree! LOL Especially the one at the very front!

I love the finale image of Heaven and Nikiya and Solor going up to Heaven. I know this is a recreated final act that Makarova created, but I think that last image is so gorgeous. It completes the story, and you sigh....
Bart

#80 Batsuchan

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 07:40 PM

I saw a whopping SIX performances of “La Bayadere” (all except the Wednesday matinee and Monday night) AND the dress rehearsal! Phew! I don’t even really love that ballet, but the casting was so tempting that I couldn’t resist, and I ended up enjoying myself quite a bit.

First of all, let me give a hearty cheer to the corps, who raised Act II to a heavenly level. It’s true that there were a few mistakes and wobbles here and there, but on the whole, I thought they were magnificent. Unlike in other productions, they never switch sides during the famous arabesque sequence, and I can only imagine that they are exhausted by the end. I also give a hearty bravo to Gemma Bond, who led this sequence in ALL the performances (or at least all the ones I saw)!

After seeing those six Bayaderes, I realized that having a well-balanced cast, and especially a strong Solor, is what really makes this ballet enjoyable for me. I fully acknowledge that “La Bayadere” doesn’t have a very strong story like, say, “Romeo & Juliet,” but I personally enjoy the ballet more when the Solor’s opium dream seems to flow naturally from the onstage drama, instead of being merely an excuse for a ballet blanc act.

For these reasons, the performance that I enjoyed the most—believe it or not—was probably the Saturday matinee with Murphy, Matvienko and Messmer. All three dancers were technically solid—if not necessarily spectacular—and brought strong and clear personalities/motivations to their characters. Matvienko was my favorite of the five Solors I saw, because he made it abundantly clear that he was truly in love with Nikiya and deeply upset about his impending marriage to Gamzatti. In particular, when Nikiya danced her sad solo before her death, Matvienko actually stood up and walked away from Gamzatti, looking incredibly guilty and anguished. As a result, it made complete sense that he would be so distressed after Nikiya’s death that he would seek solace in an opium dream. And inn Act III, Matvienko’s Solor ran around the stage desperately seeking the ghost Nikiya—such that I felt a cathartic release when they were finally reunited.

I also admired Matvienko’s fine partnering skills—he had great chemistry with Murphy—and I particularly liked how he shaped his arms to mirror hers perfectly. This added to my impression that Murphy’s Nikiya and Matvienko’s Solor belonged together. In addition, in Act II, after carrying Nikiya on his shoulder and kneeling to let her down, he actually turned around to acknowledge her—I thought that was a very nice touch, especially since all the other Solors were like, “Thank god that lift is over!” and didn’t look at Nikiya at all.

Messmer was a gorgeous Gamzatti, very regal and powerful. Her Italian fouettes were particularly solid, and she managed to move to the front of the stage (while staying centered), putting her front and center for the fouettes that followed—a very effective use of the stage, I thought.

On Thursday, Vasiliev also was a very strong Solor, who was very clearly in love with his Nikiya (Cojocaru). To my surprise, I thought they had great chemistry in a sort of “opposites attract” way—the hulking warrior tamed by the pure temple maiden. Aside from minor simplifications of the turns in the scarf dance, Cojocaru was totally in control technically, and she was definitely the Nikiya that moved me the most. From the beginning, I really liked how she forcibly rebuffed the High Brahmin’s advances—for me, this not only demonstrated her spiritual strength, but also helped establish that her true love was Solor. (In contrast, Veronika Part and Hee Seo’s Nikiyas were not as convincing.) Cojocaru’s Nikiya loved Solor deeply, and her anguish over his betrayal was heartwrenching. During her sad solo, she came up very close to Solor and looked utterly destroyed by his betrayal, and Vasiliev responded by looking believably contrite.

As for the dancing, I much admired Cojocaru’s magnificent extension and the way she stretched her petite frame seemingly to its limit—when she stood over the sacred fire and thrust her arms out and upwards, I truly felt like she was summoning the power of all of the elements to her.

As expected, Vasiliev delivered some jaw-dropping jumps in Act II, but his lines definitely left something to be desired, especially in comparison with the tall Muntagirov, who I had seen the night before. Still, I enjoyed Vasiliev’s Solor much more than I expected thanks to his commitment to the character and attentive partnering of Cojocaru—in Act II, when Solor lifts Nikiya and she beats her legs before opening in split, he really made Cojocaru fly and look weightless.

On Saturday night, Semionova’s Nikiya was clearly the star of the show, and to me, she was SPECTACULAR!! In “Don Quixote” last year, I felt like she held back a little initially—it was her debut at ABT, after all—but was on fire by Act III. In “La Bayadere,” however, she was on fire from the beginning! Utter confidence in her balances, whip-like turns, and those long, gorgeous lines and those feet!! From a dancing perspective, she was by far the most impressive Nikiya for me, and her characterization was just barely second to Cojocaru’s. Wow!

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was not as strong, in my opinion. She and Hallberg looked absolutely gorgeous together—I could watch them do grand jetes across the stage together all day long—but without Semionova onstage, Hallberg seemed a little bland. In addition, he seemed to be having a bit of an off night, nearly falling out of a pirouette in his p.d.d. with Gamzatti. He was not helped by Hee Seo, who was beautiful, but equally bland as Gamzatti.

Not so on Friday night, when Osipova’s Gamzatti clearly stole the show! Watching her Gamzatti, I felt like she was auditioning for Carabosse—she was so assured of her place as queen of the universe and so gleefully evil when watching Nikiya die (no remorse whatsoever)! In Act III, my friend and I couldn’t help but giggle at the way she puffed out her chest like a preening bird while doing her solo—but it also felt completely appropriate for her comic-book villainess characterization.

As amusing as it was, Osipova’s Gamzatti totally upset the balance between the cast for me. Veronika Part’s Nikiya didn’t stand a chance against this wicked princess! Even Marcelo seemed more excited and alive when dancing with Gamzatti than with Nikiya—which then made the whole opium dream and reunion at the end ring hollow for me. Who cares about the wishy-washy temple girl when you’ve got a firecracker like this?

I know a lot of people really love Veronika Part, and I will agree that she is a beautiful woman, with long, beautiful lines and a marvelous grande jete, but I always feel uneasy while watching her dance. She doesn’t exude the 100% confidence like other dancers; she always seems to be holding back a little bit, and for me personally, this robs her performance of real impact. It didn’t help that Marcelo seemed to be struggling at times to partner her, and I didn’t feel like they had much chemistry. With Murphy as Gamzatti, the relative coolness of Part and Gomes’ characterizations were fine, but with Osipova, Part and Gomes felt totally underwhelming. I REALLY wish we had gotten to see Osipova’s Gamzatti opposite Vishneva or Cojocaru instead—I think those could have been really explosive performances!

Finally, a word about Seo/Muntagirov/Boylston: I felt a bit like I was watching a recital with the top students from school. They could do all the steps, and often beautifully, but they don’t quite have that star power yet. But perhaps they will in the future.

*
Oh, and a final parting thought. One of the unexpected pleasures of watching the dress rehearsal was seeing an Act III with Vasiliev as Solor, Misty Copeland as Gamzatti, and Semionova as Nikiya! Vasiliev had no trouble lifting Semionova, but the contrast between their body types was truly hilarious—like Quasimodo partnering Esmeralda. This made me hope that one day we may see the two of them as Medora and Ali in “Le Corsaire”—I think it would be really amusing!!!

#81 Batsuchan

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 07:42 PM

This is slightly off-topic, but I found this on Johan Kobborg's Twitter and was very amused:

http://twitter.com/K...300712953151490

No clue what they said, but Kolpakova, Makarova and Cojocaru talking Bayadere in a small dress room… wow ;)


Oh, how I wish I could've been a fly on the wall (that understands Russian) for that conversation! Posted Image

#82 Ilya

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:26 AM

During the betrothal scene, right when they have to perform those tour jetes at the same time, while Vasiliev was still suspended on the air, way up there, poor Copeland was already on the floor, after having jumped half the height of her partenaire. It was definitely an unfortunate pairing, and it was clear that they are in two very different levels, technically wise. I felt it was unfair to Copeland.


This is how I would like to feel. However, very recently, Copeland said this:

Q. What are the pressures of being in a company and having a constant stream of international stars?
COPELAND Proving yourself over and over: it never ends. I’ve been in the company for 11 years. It’s almost like they see a show, they’re thrilled, and then the next day their memory was erased, and you start from scratch. I think it’s just a constant proving that you’re as good as these stars that may not even have the same capabilities or great technique, but they’ve made a name for themselves.

In light of this quote, I'm unable to muster any sympathy for Copeland's predicament as Gamzatti. We have now had a vivid side-by-side comparison of Copeland with several of these "international stars": specifically, with Cojocaru and Vasiliev in the same performance and with Osipova in the next day's performance. All these comparisons were hugely unflattering to Copeland both in terms of capabilities and technique (and artistry as well). These performances also amply demonstrated why these international stars made a name for themselves.

#83 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:20 AM

These performances also amply demonstrated why these international stars made a name for themselves.


Definitely, Ilya. While I was at the Cojocaru/Vasiliev performance, I coudln't help but thinking how thrilling would it be if at one point a performance could be arranged for Vladimir and Viengsay Valdes right there at the MET, in either DQ or Beauty-(two of her strongest points...). That would be THE BOMB, and it could bring her a partenaire of her same level, which she currently lacks. Dreaming, dreaming...

#84 Golden Idol

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 11:53 AM

This is a reply to Cubanmiamiboy about why Nikiya is smiling when she dances with the bouquet. Please correct me if I'm wrong, or if my imagination is working overtime, but I assume she was led to believe the flowers came from Solor (doesn't Aya gesture toward Solor to indicate they're from him?), and this momentarily cheers her in the midst of her heartbreak over his betrothal. Cojocaru played it this way at both of her performances. (Though the evening with Cornejo was wonderful, with Vasiliev it was stupendous.)

And to Bart Birdsall, who cannot decide whether La Bayadere is his favorite ballet: It is far and away mine. (I am, after all, Golden Idol, whose variation is also my favorite of all time, with the Rose Adagio and the Corsaire pas de trois admittedly a tie for close second.)

#85 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 12:38 PM

This is a reply to Cubanmiamiboy about why Nikiya is smiling when she dances with the bouquet. Please correct me if I'm wrong, or if my imagination is working overtime, but I assume she was led to believe the flowers came from Solor (doesn't Aya gesture toward Solor to indicate they're from him?), and this momentarily cheers her in the midst of her heartbreak over his betrothal.


Yes, but even if the flowers come from Solor, they are definitely then a "consolation prize", which is even sadder and more humilliating, competition-wise. That's why I liked Part's portray, for which even if she takes the flowers and dance with them, she doesn't pretend any longer, as she's telling everybody and herself-(AND Gamzatti)- that she's definitely out of the happy picture.

#86 Birdsall

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:18 PM


This is a reply to Cubanmiamiboy about why Nikiya is smiling when she dances with the bouquet. Please correct me if I'm wrong, or if my imagination is working overtime, but I assume she was led to believe the flowers came from Solor (doesn't Aya gesture toward Solor to indicate they're from him?), and this momentarily cheers her in the midst of her heartbreak over his betrothal.


Yes, but even if the flowers come from Solor, they are definitely then a "consolation prize", which is even sadder and more humilliating, competition-wise. That's why I liked Part's portray, for which even if she takes the flowers and dance with them, she doesn't pretend any longer, as she's telling everybody and herself-(AND Gamzatti)- that she's definitely out of the happy picture.


This is probably why Makarova deleted the "Happy Flower Dance" from her version. What you saw at ABT is a very mild flower dance and sort of sad still. The Russian and Parisian versions have a sudden folk-like "happy dance" that is a lot of fun but it really doesn't fit into the story at that moment. It is sort of hilarious that she goes from being so sad to so peppy in a heartbeat, sort of bipolar! LOL

But Makarova did away with the upbeat "Happy Dance" (my name for it for lack of a better phrase). Part of me misses it in the Makarova version, but at the same time I like how Makarova did make Bayadere a more serious work.

#87 Ilya

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:28 PM

While I was at the Cojocaru/Vasiliev performance, I coudln't help but thinking how thrilling would it be if at one point a performance could be arranged for Vladimir and Viengsay Valdes right there at the MET, in either DQ or Beauty-(two of her strongest points...).


You mean Ivan? Vladimir Vasiliev is about twice her age. Posted Image

#88 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:39 PM


While I was at the Cojocaru/Vasiliev performance, I coudln't help but thinking how thrilling would it be if at one point a performance could be arranged for Vladimir and Viengsay Valdes right there at the MET, in either DQ or Beauty-(two of her strongest points...).


You mean Ivan? Vladimir Vasiliev is about twice her age. Posted Image


Of course I meant Ivan...my bad, Ilya!! senior moment...ha,ha... Posted Image

#89 Kristen

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:49 PM

Can't agree enough about Ilya's comments re the Copeland/Vasiliev pairing. I just got back from NY, saw 3 Bayaderes, had the fun of meeting "Drew", "CubanMiamiBoy" and Bart Birdsall (and partner) on Thursday at intermission. I had the incredible experience of being backstage as a (yes I paid for it!) guest stage manager for Friday night - Part/Gomes/Osipova - an experience of a lifetime and will post about it all shortly - regarding Copeland, the stage manager asked me, "well maybe you're just not a Misty fan" to which I said "no, that's the not the problem - she and Vasiliev were badly paired - he's in another league." Anyway have much to say on my "guest stage manager" experience and will post that as soon as I get a chance - in a nutshell, it was a MAJOR THRILL. Just now catching up on the BA postings and will get back! K

#90 Birdsall

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:06 PM

Can't agree enough about Ilya's comments re the Copeland/Vasiliev pairing. I just got back from NY, saw 3 Bayaderes, had the fun of meeting "Drew", "CubanMiamiBoy" and Bart Birdsall (and partner) on Thursday at intermission. I had the incredible experience of being backstage as a (yes I paid for it!) guest stage manager for Friday night - Part/Gomes/Osipova - an experience of a lifetime and will post about it all shortly - regarding Copeland, the stage manager asked me, "well maybe you're just not a Misty fan" to which I said "no, that's the not the problem - she and Vasiliev were badly paired - he's in another league." Anyway have much to say on my "guest stage manager" experience and will post that as soon as I get a chance - in a nutshell, it was a MAJOR THRILL. Just now catching up on the BA postings and will get back! K


Kristen, I wondered when you would post! Can't wait to hear! I thought of you when the gong to get seated went off. I assumed that was you! LOL


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