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#16 sandik

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:36 AM

I still remember the moment when Thomson's Dr. Coppelius came into his studio at the beginning of Act II, after he had just lost his key, been roughed up by Franz and gang, and found his studio door open -- just being the end of Act I -- and he sat at the end of the chair, diminished, a frightened, diminished man trying to gather himself. It was one of the most moving details in any portrayal of that character that I'd seen.


And I'm glad that you saw it. Moments need witnesses.

#17 sandik

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 09:51 PM

I went to Doug Fullington's lec-dem last weekend, and thought people might like a brief report:

Swan Lake: Then and Now

Doug Fullington presented another of his excellent background lectures in conjunction with PNB’s upcoming performances of Swan Lake. Unlike many works in the ballet canon, Swan Lake has been the subject of scholarly examination almost since its premiere – there is a wealth of material for people who are interested in exploring the history and context of the work. Doug’s lecture was equally rich, dealing with the general history of the ballet as well as the more recent development of the production that PNB has in its repertory.

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation covered the actual order of events in different productions of the ballet – Doug traced the shifts and interpolations in the score from the original composition in 1875-6, through its first production in Moscow in 1877, its 1895 revision in St Petersburg, through to the current PNB version. Tschaikovsky’s ballet music is such a standby today that it’s hard to remember earlier audiences felt that the original score for Swan Lake wasn’t very ‘danceable.’

Because its been in almost continual production somewhere in the world since the 1895 revision, Swan Lake is a great way to view our changing expectations of classical ballet, especially when it comes to amplitude and virtuosity. Doug had a fascinating collection of slides that show just how varied the iconic “swan” image has been over time, and followed that up with some performance excerpts by Margot Fonteyn and Michael Soames from the mid-1950s. Both dancers were excellent examples of the classicism of their time, and while they gave a truly evocative performance, it was very interesting to compare them with current expectations of speed, clarity, and range.

After a short break Doug introduced Maria Chapman and Jerome Tisserand, who will be making their debuts as Odette/Odile and Siegfried during the first weekend of the run. They were very gracious, answering questions and describing their experiences as they prepare for what is a very challenging work. Chapman explained that it was the first program-length work she had ever seen live, as a student in the Boston Ballet’s summer session -- in a serendipitous coincidence, the Odette/Odile from that performance, Elaine Bauer, is now a coach at PNB and has been working with Chapman on the role.

The bibliography Doug circulated includes Roland John Wiley’s books on Tschaikovsky and Ivanov, Cyril Beaumont’s “The Ballet Called Swan Lake,” the Royal Academy of Dance’s “Mime Matters” DVD illustrating basic ballet mime as well as signature sequences from the historical canon, and the recent ICA release of mid 1950s performances by Margot Fonteyn and Michael Soames.

As always, Doug was an excellent presenter, combining lecture and video with artist Q/A and general questions. He manages to embue scholarly detail with a loving enthusiasm for the art form – everyone in the room, no matter their previous level of expertise, learns something new about the work in question. It’s a wonderful skill, and I’m always thrilled to see it in action.

#18 Helene

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 09:53 PM

Many thanks, sandik!!!!!

#19 sandik

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 09:55 PM

I forgot to mention that this lecture came only about a month after his wonderful studio lec-dem on Men in Ballet, which I am still trying to write about...

#20 SandyMcKean

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 08:55 AM

Now that we are so close, I think I'll post this video (perhaps someone has posted it before?). It is a very cleverly edited 3 minute video showing 4 different PNB Odile/ Siegfried pairs from years past (including the incomparable Carrie Imler). Don't miss it:



#21 Jayne

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 10:49 AM

That was fun! I'm partial to Nakamura's interpretation. She gets the charming, brittle temptress just right.

#22 Helene

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:04 AM

Thank you for posting that, Sandy: I hadn't see that for a while.

Patricia Barker danced with Jeffrey Stanton, Carrie Imler with Batkhurel Bold, Kaori Nakamura with Lucien Postlewaite, and Carla Korbes with Stanko Milov. Only Bold is still dancing non-character parts: he'll dance with Lesley Rausch in this run.

#23 sandik

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:35 AM

Thank you for posting that, Sandy: I hadn't see that for a while.

Patricia Barker danced with Jeffrey Stanton, Carrie Imler with Batkhurel Bold, Kaori Nakamura with Lucien Postlewaite, and Carla Korbes with Stanko Milov. Only Bold is still dancing non-character parts: he'll dance with Lesley Rausch in this run.


Postelwaite is certainly still dancing -- just not here, alas!

#24 Helene

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:57 AM

Sorry, I mean in this production Posted Image

#25 seattle_dancer

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:34 PM

What are your thoughts on the performances and different casts? I'm curious about opening night?

Today I saw Karel/Carla at the first Sunday matinee. They work so well together.

Karel easily whips out 5 to 7 pirouettes and then sustains his releve. His jumps seemed effortless. Carla was enchanting. Her white swan was so nuanced with small details I don't even have words to describe. Toward the beginning of the Act III pas de deux Karel set her up in an arabesque with her arms in fifth and it seem like she balanced for ten seconds! I was in the front row of the orchestra and saw her managing that balance and subtly fighting for it have when she could stepped out of it and filled the time with some traveling steps. Such a great moment!

Also enjoyed Kiyon as Jester, Leta/Price in Neopolitan, and Lindsi Dec in Persian. The music was exquisite - I never tire of listening to it. Bravo!

#26 Jayne

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 11:17 PM

Happy to oblige. I saw 2 SL's this weekend: Saturday matinee and Sunday evening.

(I'm editing this because it's TLDR)

PNB's corps has stepped it up a notch. The corps was "on" at both performances that I saw. They are still a Balanchine company - no one would mistake their swan arms for Vaganova training - but the precision of the Balanchine flock was tremendous. Particular kudos to the 2 big swans: Chelsea Adomaiis and Elizabeth Murphy.

Equally important, Lesley Rausch was "on". She's had the technical chops for a while, but the acting was great on Saturday. Her Odette was tender, every facial expression matched the music. Her Odile was better - all "come hither / no you can't have me yet". She hit her 32 fouettes and Ms Rausch's reaction at the end matched a figure skater who's just skated the Olympic performance of her life. The audience responded to this performance like a figure skating competition - this was the most responsive audience I've sat amongst in years and years. At the end, the bravos and standing ovation began as soon as the curtain came down. I sat in the 3rd row Orchestra Left, and 5 seconds into the ovation I turned around to have a look - the entire house was on its feet.

As Prince Siegfried, Batkhurel Bold was his usual strong silent self. He'll never be a good actor - he does try - but his partnering is fantastic, so strong, lifts so high and stable. But no panache. I wish he'd work with Stanko Milov to get a little more flair. But he's in his 30's now and if the panache isn't strong by now - maybe it's just not going to happen. As a dancer in the modern works, or as the "heavy" playing Tybalt in R&J, I like him just fine.

Louise Nadeau guested as the Queen Mother and received applause as soon as she entered the stage. She gave a wonderfully detailed performance. I wish we could see more of her as a character actor.

Now, you all know how I feel about theatre manners, and next to us sat a young father and his 2 year old son. Honestly I felt sorry for the child. This is an adult space, and the show runs for 3+ hours. This is not Nutcracker and this child was not prepared to sit still and silent, even for a child-specific ballet. He was a happy child (thank god!) and he wanted to walk around. I could deal with that, but he was also very verbal, and not willing to whisper. His father kept him with him through the first act (Palace Courtyard) and famous second act (Lakeside), but left before Act 3. Despite this verbal child - Lesley Rausch kept us all enraptured in the Act 2 ppd. She held the spell. It was magic. This is not her first turn in Swan Lake but I think it was her best. My mother came with me and at the intermission we turned to each other and said "we're so lucky to be here today to see this!"

Kyle Davis made the most of the Jester role - although I quibble with the costume design. He is dressed as the others, and in the same red as Prince Siegfried, making his role difficult to discern for first time viewers. The humor of alcoholic Wolfgang seems to be mis-staged this time. In prior SL's, this is funnier. I don't blame Kiyon Gaines (the Sunday evening performance was similar) but there were missed opportunities for laughs. Also, his plain melton coat is very late 19th century, while the rest of the cast wears elaborate early 19th century Russianesque costumes.

Among the courtiers, Leta Biasucci and Angelica Generosa stood out (as they always do). Slighty off topic, but I really think both of these ladies are going to be wonderful soubrettes as they continue at PNB. Kitri, Swanhilda and Lise should all be assigned to them (gosh I'd love to see PNB bring back Fille!). Now, back on topic:

The Pas de Trois was Lindsi Dec, Kylee Kitchens and Jerome Tisserand. Ms. Dec has a 1000 watt smile and makes footwork look like hopscotch. Ms. Kitchens is her technical equal, but she never smiled during the entire ppt! Dancing with anyone else, this would go unnoticed, but dancing next to Ms. Dec makes Ms. Kitchens look like she is in terrible pain up on stage. The real highlight was watching Jerome Tisserand in this ppt. He sails through the jumps with such ease, and gave us beautiful body lines, clear beats on his entrechats, and a sense of his original French training.

Musically speaking, the PNBO was in fine form, although sitting immediately left of the stage, you do get an unbalanced reception the orchestra, because the strings are so close to you. The violin solos were all strong, and the horns really sounded good.

There was also a ppt that adds in Laura Gilbreath. I noted that the program cover shows Ms. Gilbreath as the black swan, but she is not dancing O/O in this rep. I'm sure having your picture on the cover as Odile has to hurt, when you're relegated to dancing the ppt.

More to follow...

#27 Jayne

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 12:20 AM

There seem to be complaints about most von Rothbart portrayals, either he's a cartoon, a sea monster, or an inadequately evil aristocrat. Maybe the "right" von Rothbart has yet to be portrayed? In the PNB version, he's a linebacker, probably an Offensive Tackle. (Sorry to the Non-North Americans reading this who don't know the terminology). What I mean to say is that the costuming - particularly in the upper body, is so heavily padded and layered - that von Rothbart can barely move. He has no neck, he has Grizzly Adams grey hair and an enormous hat. His boots go up most of his thighs and the actor can barely move around the stage. The cape has been extended with poles (which are unnecessary), and it looks a little cheesy. There are other character roles where a dancer can make his mark (example: Herr Drosselmeier), but not PNB's von Rothbart.

Eric Hipolito stood out in the Spanish Dance, and Kylie Kitchens improved in the Persian Dance.

Act IV is the tragic finale, as Odette is drawn away en pointe, her arms undulating, and when she's gone Siegfried falls at center stage in grief. Ms Rausch's swan arms are indeed very good, and I think they will get even better over time. But they were not quite up to the level of Louise Nadeau. But it will come with more performances. Just wish I could have brought the entire Ballet Alert crowd with me.

Sunday evening I sat in the 2nd tier, so expressions were more difficult to see. But the corps swan patterns were now visible, and I thought the corps was still very, very good. Maria Chapman made a tender, more delicate Odette. Her Odile was not quite as strong. I only counted 26 full fouettes, and I remember thinking she was turning pretty slow compared to the music. This time Jerome Tisserand was her partner, and I really enjoyed watching his Prince Siegfried. His partnering skills are not quite as rock solid as Batkhurel Bold, but his style has more panache, his ballon is tremendous, and he finishes so beautifully. I hope he gets the nod to Principal soon. I was worried that he would look very short next to the willowy Maria Chapman, but they were a surprisingly good match on stage.

At the end they received a strong vocal response, but no standing O. I think they both had a lot of friends in the audience for their debuts. I know PNB has considerable talent, and Peter Boal could have cast Lindsi Dec, Laura Gilbreath or Kylie Kitchens as O/O. But I think he made the right choice by casting Maria Chapman. I am surprised that Rachel Butler did not get the nod (maybe she was 6th cast?).

Benjamin Griffiths had fun as Jester, and Ezra Thomson made a better impact as Wolfgang (not as much of a fussbudget, but the comic timing was a little better). The swan cast was mostly the same, Lindsi Dec subbed into the ppt. This time Laura Gilbreath danced the Persian divertissement.

My seatmate was my Russian-Ukranian friend, and she barely clapped after the Czardas dance. Afterwards she said Americans really shouldn't dance it, because it's just not in their bones and looks bad. But I think if you grow up with the wonderful folk dance troupes, watching American-Balanchine trained dancers have a go will look like a let down. Probably the equivalent of watching the Mariinsky dance Ailey's "Revelations".

#28 Helene

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 09:22 PM

As a part of their 40th anniversary celebration, the company is inviting all and sundry to send video of their best "swan arms," to be included in a video montage. The explanation is here and some examples are here.

And here is the montage:



#29 Jayne

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 11:17 PM

Well, there are reasons Mr B cut out the 1st Act entirely:

http://www.thestrang...nt?oid=16508792

In some ways, it is a pinnacle of dance athleticism. But it is undeniably tedious, older than dirt, and pretty goddamned boring.



#30 Helene

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 09:03 AM

That Shakespeare: he's so dullllllll, and they talk so much, and in what language? And in Wagner: all they do is re-hash the same thing for 16 hours.

Every time I try to take my friends to see "Hamlet," they can't believe the story -- ghosts: really? -- and that Ophelia character is so passive. And you can forget about the Ring. "Rent," though, they can relate.


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