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Mixed Bill - Firebird, etc.Ratmansky premiere


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 04:13 AM

It's D-Day...the NYC premiere of Ratmansky's new FIREBIRD. Osipova/Gomes tonight. Is everybody ready? I'm hoping to catch this cast on Wednesday night but anxiously await all reports. :)

#2 Ilya

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 07:09 PM

I thought both the choreography and the dancing in Firebird were fantastic. I especially liked David Hallberg---he was deliciously evil as Kashchei. A very different role for him, showing his range---especially striking given the fact that he gave an outstanding performance as Apollo during the same evening. Osipova, Gomes, and Messmer were great in Firebird, and Part and Abrera were great in Apollo. Firebird's sets and costumes were also a hit: the designers came out along with Ratmansky for the bows, and all got enthusiastic applause. I thought Thirteen Diversions were the weakest link of the evening.

#3 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:42 AM

[size=5]Thanks, Ilya. Sounds like a winning evening, all around[/size].

#4 Ilya

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:10 AM

One complaint about Firebird---there was something about Marcelo Gomes's boots and/or the flooring that resulted in very loud squeaks every time he'd do a pirouette. Unfortunately, his choreography contained many pirouettes, especially at the beginning of the ballet. Each time I'd cringe and pray for no more pirouettes. :) Hopefully this issue can be somehow resolved... I'm planning to watch it again next week. :)

#5 Ray

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:58 AM

I took away a completely different impression from the performance. Firebird seemed uninspired; it was not clear to me why Ratmansky made the choices that he did (he was fairly rigid about sticking to the libretto: why?); the costumes seemed silly and overdone; the music does so much more work than the choreography (example: the men's choppy jumps at the very ending of the ballet to that glorious, familiar music). Thirteen Diversions, while of course not the best choreography on a program that included Apollo, was actually the most theatrically cohesive piece on the program. Apollo was a bit of a work in progress: interesting but not yet satisfying in all regards to see Hallberg tackle the role, and some PDD misjudgments and lax musicality from the women all around. And the sense of ensemble among the women did not feel strong.

#6 Ceeszi

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:32 AM

I splurged for orchestra seats for Onegin, so I retreated up to Family Circle for last night's performance.

I ended up liking Thirteen Diversions more than I thought I would. Misty Copeland was beautiful in her solo and then in her pas de deux with Gray Davis. They replaced Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns, who were originally on the program. Maria Riccetto danced with Craig Salstein instead of Jared Matthews and Christine Shevchenko danced with Daniel Mantei instead of Blaine Hoven. Stella Abrera and Eric Tamm were the only couple on the program that remained intact. The other eight couples were in dark costumes and were always in the dark, so they were kind of hard to make out, especially from the nosebleeds. The music by Benjamin Britten was sometimes pleasant to listen to and sometimes it was very jarring.

I saw Apollo last summer with the New York City Ballet, but I enjoyed it more last night. I could not take my eyes off of Veronika Part as Terpsichore. Hee Seo was Polyhymnia and Stella Abrera was Calliope. I am not familiar enough with the ballet to make any judgment on whether they performed this well or not, but I loved watching Part and Hallberg dance together. I would also say that Hallberg was a much better Apollo than Chase Finlay, who I saw last year. Hallberg seemed to have more command of the stage and was very good at partnering the three ballerinas.

I have mixed emotions about Firebird. First of all, I was so excited about seeing this, but then I felt let down by the whole production. I agree with the comment about Marcelo's boots - that was very distracting, especially at the beginning of the ballet. One woman sitting next to me said that Marcelo looked like he was in an Elvis suit. I thought that the dance for the maidens was kind of silly - yes - I know that they are supposed to be under a spell, but it looked strange. And I really feel that Ratmansky's choreography did nothing for Osipova. I kept waiting for her to let loose, but she never really did. Natalia and Marcelo danced together beautifully in La Bayadere and Onegin, but last night they looked awkward together and (I could be wrong) it looked like they made a mistake or two. I also did not like the Firebird costume itself. It seemed like the ballet came to life a little more at the end. Two women behind me got the giggles in the last fifteen minutes of the ballet, so that was also very distracting. I'm sure this is still a work in progress. I wanted to like it more than I did.

#7 abatt

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:40 AM

I did not enjoy the Firebird either, Ray. The Firebird herself rarely seemed to be the focal point of the story. There was nothing memorable or beautiful about the choreography for the Firebird. Also, although he gives the Firebird some airborne choreography, much of it was oddly grounded. For example, was there a point to Osipova's numerous little slides along the floor. (This is a gimmick that Wheeldon has used a number of times in various ballets, too.) Worst of all was the choreography for the maidens. They seemd to be running around the stage aimlessly. Also, nothing that Simone Messmer did was that much different from what her green sisters were doing, so it was hard to understand why she was a lead character. Hallberg was very campy and amusing. I thought the final tableau of all the men in white outfits jumping around was trite. Have to agree that Marcelo's constant squeaks on the super high gloss floor floor were distracting. Was there a point to having a super high gloss floor for this ballet? Watching this ballet reminded me of all the reasons I did not care for Ratmansky's Nutcracker either.


I only saw one performance of Thirteen Diversions last year, and I recall liking it very much. That cast was led by Hallberg, Murpby, Gomes and Boylston. Seeing it again last night, I wondered why I liked it so much last season. It seemed pallid compared to last year.

I liked Hallberg's Apollo. He may not have all the details in place yet, but he did well enough. No, it didn't compare to my memories of Peter Boal or Hubbe over at NYCB, but it was very good nonetheless. One thing that becomes clear when viewing ABT do this is that companies that regularly perform neoclassical works are able to bring out the nuances of the choreography in a way that ABT simply cannot. Part was lovely as the lead muse. Agree with the post above that there were definite lapses of musicality and coordination among the muses, and they did not look like an ensemble.

LOL re the Elvis reference for Marcelo's costume. I was thinking a modified version of Travolta's outfit in Saturday Night Fever.

#8 Amy Reusch

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:21 AM

If you go, be fairly warned, the second intermission is very long while they change the floor. I was on the Balcony and I'm with Ray and Abatt on this one. Hallberg had fun with hs character, and there some good moments, but not enough to fill more time than a commercial for this ballet. Choreography looked less musical than I think of Ratmansky as being, and generally spread a little thin.

"Misty Copeland" is written all over the firebird part. Why were there so many firebirds? It almost felt like Ratmansky didn't have Osipova around during the making of the ballet and decided to give everyone in the corps who wanted it a chance at being firebird as well, and ended up singling out Misty because she was the best at it and building the piece off rehearsal time with her.

I always hope for an opulent Firebird production, like a Faberge egg, or one evocative of those laquered boxes. This was like Tim Burton does Marvel Comics.

It is hard to see faces from up in the nosebleeds, who was the lovely soloist in 13 Diversions with the silent pointe shoes?

It was interesting what worked in Hallberg's Apollo. I don't think I've ever seen an Apollo with such beautiful line, but I wondered what Balanchine might have adjusted for him. Jacques d'Amboise has said it's hard for him to go see many ballets today because he sees the ghosts of other dancers in the movement. It is very easy to see d'Amboise and Martins in Apollo. (I wonder what parts Lifar left his mark in?). Hallberg's leg line was beautiful, silken, sublime. There some places where Apollo stands with his front foot in a half forced arch, and it looked kind of strange on Hallberg. I expect he will make a third iconic interpretation of this role, that all future dancers will then have to contend with, there were many strong points, but I found myself missing an expressiveness in the upper body, across the back and out into the arms in certain moments.

I agree with the above posts about the musicality. There were times where I thought, "wait? That doesn't happen with the music?" Glad to hear it wasn't my imagination.

#9 Bradan

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:25 AM

I had mixed feelings about Firebird. The whole thing seemed a bit kitsch -- though so did Fokine's when I saw the Mariinsky do it last year. I enjoyed the costumes and the profusion of color onstage. But I agree the choreography for the women made them appear silly, in sharp contrast to the men's powerful and constraining movements. Even the Firebird seemed to spend a lot of time being held rather than flying on her own steam. But Osipova is an exciting dancer and looked like an uncanny creature. Hallberg was also very satisfyingly evil in a cartoonish way.

I enjoyed his Apollo as well. He has the ability to make the air look heavy when he moves through it, and I thought his characterization of Apollo was nuanced. And his line is sublime ...

#10 Amy Reusch

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:50 AM

Ilya, the squeaky soles on the floor was only in the opening scenes, was it not? I wonder if they changed something mid performance

#11 Amy Reusch

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 06:52 AM

Anyone ele wondering "Petrushka?" during the wall scene?

#12 FauxPas

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:23 AM

  • Thirteen Diversions: This is a fine work by Wheeldon - I think among his best. However, the substitution of four different soloists really seemed to mess up the ensemble. Misty Copeland was stunning but the men (three substitutes) seemed all over the place in their group dancing - different height jumps, messy formations, you name it. It looked better and more together last year.
  • Apollo: David Hallberg has it in him to be a great Apollo. However, the music was slow and soft and so were the movements. Everybody seemed to have soft flowing balletic arms. It looked neoromantic and not spare and modern neoclassical. David also didn't properly execute the jump where he shifts the pelvis contrapposto. The arms and upper bodies were too soft and there was little or no sculptural angularity of movement. Also in the entrance of the muses Veronika Part had her arabesques and ecartés at 90 degrees whereas Hee Seo and Stella Abrera were kicking up to their chins or to the back of the head practically. Veronika learned this role at the Mariinsky over a decade ago and she had authority and elegance. NYSusan pointed out that Stella Abrera and Hee Seo should have switched roles since Polyhymnia needs an allegro dancer and Hee Seo is a soft lyrical dancer. Someone like Maria Riccetto, Isabella Boylston or Sarah Lane would have been better. BTW: Stella looked in top form tonight and in the matinee two weeks ago of "The Bright Stream" as the Ballet Dancer. (Veronika Part was stunning as Zina but no mask can hide that unique face and body and she could never be mistaken for Stella even on a very dark night) Yet Stella is down mostly for later casts often relegated to the Wednesday matinee. ABT has just thrown Radetsky and Abrera aside. If it is due to age, well most of their regular principals are over 35 and if it is due to past injuries to areas of the body which could be reinjured - well then why are they giving every ballerina role to Hee Seo who also has suffered multiple back injuries? Abrera is the finer dancer and artist right now. Rant over. Anyway, Richard Tanner was listed as the ballet master on "Apollo" and I think it would benefit the company if someone else took a look at it.
  • The Firebird: I came in expecting to hate it. I have seen the original Fokine done by the Mariinsky and Balanchine's done by NYCB. This really did go against certain traditions that Balanchine faithfully followed after Fokine. First of all both Prince Ivan and Kaschei the Immortal really dance - a lot. In Fokine and Balanchine, Ivan is mainly a partner who walks around and pantomimes and Kaschei is all pantomime. It starts out with Prince Ivan sleeping on the floor of some bleak looking interior with a door. The Prince awakens, decides to venture out into the big, bad world and makes the sign of the cross over his chest. Then he goes through that door in some Freudian rite of passage Joseph Campbell thing. Surprise, surprise, I liked the forest set - yes the trees looked kind of weird but it was colorful and compelling and imaginative. Second surprise - we don't get the entrance of The Firebird - we get a Firebird corps - male and female. Here I am with Fokine and Balanchine - one Firebird, a female and she is unique. Then the Firebird enters in the person of Natalia Osipova with flickering arms and feet and feral darting eyes. She dances among her fellow firebirds - clearly like Odette in "Swan Lake" the firebird queen. Ivan sees her and grabs her after a pretty realistic tussle. The other firebirds don't attack him. With friends like that.... The pas de deux gets rather romantic with the Firebird swooning over Ivan's shoulder. I like Balanchine and Fokine better where the Firebird is a wild animal who must be tamed. Ratmansky's Prince Ivan lets this Firebird out of his grasp to dance out of and back into his arms. Balanchine and Fokine's Prince keeps a firm hold on his prey who pulls away from him until she realizes to respect his strength and bravery. Then the Princesses come in and they are all in weird ragged green tutus with green and yellow Raggedy Ann fright wigs. They are all on pointe and dance a rather interesting group classical choreography. No character shoes and pantomime like in the classic versions. However they are portrayed as klutzy and kooky including the main Princess danced with real flair and courage by Simone Messmer. Kaschei comes in alone with no attending demons (nice shadowplay in the background). Again, Kaschei has lots of choreography and his hold over these maidens seems to be psychosexual. Interesting and kind of kinky but I can take that in my fairy tales. What Ratmansky is up to with Prince Ivan, the Princess, the Firebird and Kaschei dancing a moody pas de quatre with all sorts of lifts and tossing each other around is beyond me. Finally we get the breaking of the egg that holds Kaschei's soul and the rest is pretty straightforward. The maidens lose the ugly green tutus and become elegant blonde maidens in long white shifts. Their knightly lovers are freed from inside the metallic trees. Everybody dances including the Firebird who is handled by the male corps in a rather familiar way. Again in B & F there are demons and no one touches the Firebird except for Prince Ivan - Ratmansky kind of demystifies the Firebird. I kept expecting Osipova to tear into some stage spanning grand jetés but no - most of her choreography was petite batterie and little jumps. Osipova was fierce and danced with great detail and precision and speed seeming otherworldly. I liked a lot of the choreography and the design but questioned several of the choices. I think this is a quirky success. Ratmansky has cut down on the pantomime, processions and character dancing and upped the classical dancing quotient. Lots of group dancing where once there were pantomime scenes or tableaux. All women are on pointe and all the men have bravura steps. Traditionalists will hate it and others will embrace it.


#13 mimsyb

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:51 AM

I have to ask, "why the Wall Scene in the first place?" It surely sets some thoughts going, and the fact it's immediately replicated upstage re-inforces something, but what? It's a tease that is never further developed so why bother? I'm in agreement with many of the posters here in that there's an awful lot of running around on stage, but little meaningful choreography. Why do all the Firebirds look alike? What makes Osipova's role special, other than she gets to dance with Marcello? Same for the "girls in green"? It's difficult to even find Simone on the stage at times. How hard would it have been to give each girl a bit of a difference to her costume? Same for the "Elvis" men in white at the end. Who are these guys, why do they all look alike and why are they tumbling out of the trees? And what's with the phony blond wigs for the girls at the end? I sat in the Dress Circle and for me much of the choreography looked like something out of a Busby Berkely musical. All it lacked was a huge rotating staircase like we used to see in so many MGM movies! (where is Arthur Freed when we need him?). Much of the "dashing about" was reminiscent of Susan Stroman's work from across the Plaza. The apples? Pure gimmickry. And the smashing of the egg (spoiler alert!) comes too late to matter much. (and why exactly did we need that feather in the first place?) While Ratmansky's "humor" is out in full force, it really sort of distracts from everything else on stage. (maybe a good thing). I did like the trees and everything they did, but I think if we're only thinking about the scenery by shows' end, something may be seriously missing. The principles were wasted here, for sure, despite Hallberg's gleeful hand wringing. There was certainly no nobility to either Gomes' Ivan or the princess of Messmer. Just silly kids having a good time on stage. ("look, I'll write I love you on the floor!"). I am seeing the other casts, so maybe............
Meanwhile, the "Apollo" was quite fine for the most part. Veronica reminds me a lot of Diana Adams. And I thought the three muses were well matched. And while fun to see again, I totally understand why Mr. B took out the "birthing scene".
"13 Diversions" was well danced by all. And special judos to both Eric Tamm and Gray Davis. How good looking can two guys get? Pretty good in the dance and partnering department also.

#14 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:05 PM

I did not enjoy the Firebird either, Ray. The Firebird herself rarely seemed to be the focal point of the story. There was nothing memorable or beautiful about the choreography for the Firebird. ......

LOL re the Elvis reference for Marcelo's costume. I was thinking a modified version of Travolta's outfit in Saturday Night Fever.


Oh dear. I'm glad that I read all of the reports after Ilya's before hopping on the bus to NYC.

What is it with Ratmansky and trite/silly choreography for the corps (e.g. the 'old blue men' in Psyche, the 'darn bees' in Nutcracker, the conga line in Cinderella, the Multiple Firebirds in Humpbacked Horse - yup, they're there too! -- etc, etc.)? Hardee-har-har. Gotta see the White Jumping Men at the end for myself; how on earth can ANY choreographer 'blow' that majestic music?

Elvis Suit? I wonder if the designer of this production was the same 'genius' who designed the Ratmansky 'El Cheapo Cinderella' in which the Prince looks like the Milk Man?

I'm still hopping on the bus tomorrow...now prepared for a little comedy instead of a Faberge-era fairytale. It's a 'double whammy' too, as I'm now planning to attend both afternoon (Boylston) and evening (Osipova) shows...[size=2]but may end up taking the early bus back to DC.[/size] Whee!!!

#15 FauxPas

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:13 PM

I guess the wall scene is to show Prince Ivan surmounting his fears and becoming a hero...I guess. Also, the apples seemed extraneous in this telling of the story. In the earlier Fokine and Balanchine it is clear that the apple grove is tended by the maidens for Kaschei and the magical golden apples are for his feeding and care. They also attract the Firebird to the forest grove. Later on the maidens play catch with the apples in a playful dance. Ratmansky just has the apples lined up at the front of the stage where they seem extraneous. We don't even get the idea that they have fallen from the trees nor that the maidens gather there to collect golden apples for Kaschei. And then the Princess and Ivan kind of do pranks and schtick with the apples offering them to each other and pretending to eat them and that looks goofy. Again, if the apples are not really being used as part of the story then cut them.

As for the Leto birthing scene in "Apollo" - again the coaching was lacking here. When I have seen it done by other companies you have a tall imposing ballerina who really gives you the throes of childbirth with real agony and the legs shooting upward. Sarah Smith looked like she was doing yoga.


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