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Shostakovich Trilogy by Alexei Ratmansky

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. . . the SFB will perform the trilogy between 4/2-13, 2014 as program 5: http://www.sfballet....sonOverview.pdf

Thanks - I was looking in the wrong place. BTW -- if you look at that pdf flyer, there's a picture of the previous Symphony #9 costumes with the cream-colored splotches.

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I think the trilogy is too vast an undertaking for the State Theater season. These ballets require the full strength of the ABT principal ranks. At the fall engagement I anticipate that they will be operating with a skeletal crew of principals, as in the past during their recent City Center engagements. I hope the trilogy returns to the Met in Spring 2014.

One of the critiques I have heard from several people is that the second cast was not quite as compelling as the first, and that the seond ballet (Chamber) is the most vulnerable to depletion by a less-than-stellar cast because it requires nuanced acting skills. I saw the first cast twice, and opted to skip the second cast.

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Third and last (for now) viewing Monday night, with the second cast.

The kiss seems to be gone from the choreography---Reyes and Simkin did not do it.

It was interesting to trace certain motifs---steps, poses, formations---through all three pieces. As I was sitting farther away this time, I was able to better appreciate how ingeniously the space is used in all three parts. In addition, it seems I missed some obvious and important details during the first two viewings---e.g., how the four menacing male corps figures sometimes raise the main protagonist up high, and sometimes push him down to the ground in the Chamber Symphony. They sometimes take the ballerina away from him (Yuriko Kajiya on Monday, Paloma Herrera in the first cast), and sometimes let them reunite. This episode is then echoed in the Piano Concerto #1.

The second cast for Chamber Symphony was fantastic, especially James Whiteside. Hallberg's restraint renders more depth to this work; however, I liked Whiteside more vivid interpretation as well---his character is more down-to-earth and at times more child-like, especially in his first encounter with the first ballerina (Sarah Lane).

Gillian Murphy was still injured and again substituted in Piano Concerto #1 by Christine Shevchenko who acquitted herself very well.

Peter Martins and Christopher Wheeldon were in the audience. So was Alastair Macaulay---it seems to have been a third viewing for him as well. Interestingly, the chief music critic of the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, attended the Saturday evening performance. Perhaps the New York Times is planning more coverage? Quite strangely, Vladimir Shklyarov was also in the audience on Monday---isn't the Mariinsky season still in full swing?

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Gillian was injured and Christine Shevchenko subbed in for her in "Piano Concerto #1". She carried off the last minute performance capably, but ultimately fell rather flat for me. I hope to see more of her partner, Calvin Royal III, though. Of course he was outshone technically by Simkin, but his partnering abilities impressed me and he had this evident joy in dancing at certain moments that I found engaging. He's got some presence...would be glad to see ABT give him more chances to develop like they did with this role.

I saw the Monday night performances. Shevchenko again subbed for the injured Murphy. Thanks to Ratmansky for picking these two corps members for such important roles. They got the loudest applause at the end and both seemed to thrive with this great opportunity in such difficult roles. I hope McKenzie gives them more opportunities in the future.

The second cast in Symphony #9 was a big disappointment, as it had been last fall, and there were no calls in front of the curtain. Lots of detail disappears in their portrayals, especially Bolle and Part in the lead roles. I suppose they all looked worse after seeing the possibilities from the first cast.

E.g., toward the end, Gomes holds Seminova high overhead in a one-armed lift, while she is in a backbend draped over his head, while he turns smoothly around in circles. Bolle used both hands to hold Part overhead and jerked in quarter turns to get around. I noticed the same difference last fall and wondered if I just remembered it wrong (which wouldn't be the first time), but it happened again. E.g., Jared Matthews is capable, but nothing can compete with the amazing Cornejo, especially in the entrechat sideways exit. E.g., In the first cast, Craig Salstein throws himself with abandon near the opening into a sideways catch by the men. Sascha Radetsky barely left the ground and seemed nervous about being caught.

The set in Piano Concerto (all those red pieces on strings) seem to move up and down at random. I caught a hammer-and-sickle at one point, but that doesn't seem to be the intent. Overall, much less interesting (and less distracting) than the detailed backdrop in Symphony.

Peter Martins was in the audience (orchestra, about the tenth row, on the aisle) for all three pieces.

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the attached, cropped press foto of a grouping from SYMPHONY #9 during its initial City Center run in 2012 gives a view of the photo-printed costumes before Dekker muted his designs by dyeing? them with additional color.

aspects of the GPL photo (credited in the prog. and shown earlier in this thread) can be more readily seen in this stage of the costumes' life.

f.y.i.

post-848-0-43216300-1370355815_thumb.jpg

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Lots of talk here about individual performances--but what about the subject--is it too remote for an American audience? I was surprised at the lack of program notes. A few years ago I saw Tom Stoppard's trilogy about Russia -- 'The Coast of Utopia' and had no problem following the plot--lots of program notes. Where did Macauley find the reference to the Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova, and the poet Mandelstam? It was fortunate for me that I read the review for some insight. We have waited a long time for someone with the talent of Ratmansky, his energy brings Jerome Robbins to mind. I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.

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I was at the matinee on Saturday so I saw the second cast. Many people have already described the choreography and its symbolism to great extent, so I’ll stick to the dancing for the most part.

Having seen the premiere of Symphony #9 last fall with the first cast, I can only compare casts with that section. I thought Part/Bolle were fabulous, no less than Part/Gomes from the fall. I have never seen Part/Bolle dance together before and I thought their partnership was seamless; they were really in touch with each other. Part was especially wonderful – she is a very full, luxurious dancer who coaxes every nuance out of a movement. I like the muted costumes better this time around; the white splotches didn’t bother me before, but with the added scenery and the busy choreography I think they would have been too much.

Though I thought Abrera, Radetsky and Matthews (especially Abrera) did a really good job, I preferred the first cast for their parts. Matthews isn’t the quicksilver that Cornejo is. Radetsky wasn’t playful and spontaneous like Salstein. Abrera wasn’t flirty and teasing like Messmer. With the first cast, these 3 parts stand in greater contrast with their style against the main couple who are more serious and contemplative; with the second cast, all 5 of them seemed to blend together, which I didn’t like as much. (Not sure what the choreographic intent was, so disclaimer here.)

I thought the added backdrop for Symphony #9 was “interesting” with its Russian motifs – if only I could have gotten a better look at it. I was sitting in row E in the orchestra and couldn’t make out some of the images that well (but didn’t want to take my eye off of the dancers too long either), so I can’t imagine how the rest of the theatre could see them.

As others have said, there’s a lot going on in this piece. I really need to see more viewings. As much as I love it though, I don’t understand the little touches of humor or whimsy injected here-and-there; they seem so random to me and I don’t understand the intent, and it seems like I should. What do others think about this? Despite that, Ratmansky’s pieces are truly something wonderful. It’s so rare to see the ABT corps really dance (and partner) like they do in his pieces, and what he has the corps doing while the principals are dancing is so intriguing.

I really loved Chamber Symphony, more than Piano Concerto #1 (which I did enjoy). This is the first time I’ve seen Whiteside dance live. He was powerful, elegant, a good partner and has a great stage presence. I think he’ll be promoted to principal within the year. This was the best I’ve ever seen Kajiya; she and Whiteside melted together and when he lifted her it was as if she was an extension of him. I could see them doing Romeo/Juliet together. Lane was lovely as usual. Seo was fine but honestly my eye was drawn to the others so much more.

In Piano Concerto #1, as others have said, Gillian Murphy was injured so Christine Shevchenko filled in. I gather Shevchenko was an understudy only as there was no 3rd cast, and that was reinforced by the very nice applause the dancers gave Schevchenko during the bows. I thought she was brilliant (though I was sad to hear about Murphy, I was super excited to hear Shevchenko would be filling in; have loved her for several seasons and hope she’ll be promoted soon). How wonderful it was to see her and Royal, 2 corps dancers, dance principal parts on the Met stage and give a fantastic performance! I’d never guess Shevchenko was a corps understudy – she and Royal looked very well rehearsed and were very much in sync with each other. Great technique and really solid, comfortable partnering.

Parts of the score really perplexed me, but when Royal and Schevchenko began their pas de deux, the music was so lovely. Reyes and Simkin are not the ideal couple; the experience level between them was noticeable and Simkin struggled through a few lifts (unfortunately, not a surprise). They did do the kiss Saturday afternoon (but, what’s the point of it?). What I found both troubling yet fascinating, were the few times Royal /Schevchenko and Reyes/Simkin were dancing the same choreography side by side and to see that the partnering was stronger and more secure with the corps couple than the principal couple!

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance though and hope ABT doesn’t put this ballet away for too many seasons.

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I think Ratmansky intentionally avoided layering on too much background info in order to allow the viewer to use his own imagination. I actually prefer that approach here.

The Soviet and Russian themes are what inspired Ratmansky in some of his best work, in the same way that American culture and/or Jewish culture is reflected in numerous Robbins ballets..

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the attached, cropped press foto of a grouping from SYMPHONY #9 during its initial City Center run in 2012 gives a view of the photo-printed costumes before Dekker muted his designs by dyeing? them with additional color.

aspects of the GPL photo (credited in the prog. and shown earlier in this thread) can be more readily seen in this stage of the costumes' life.

f.y.i.

Thanks so much for the image -- I was curious about this after your description of the photo transfer process. That level of detail is a mixed blessing for costumes worn in a big theater. I used to work with a designer who said that if you can't see if from the back of a galloping horse in the middle of the night in a driving rainstorm, the audience can't see it from their seats. I think the varigations are really lively, seen here, but I'm not sure I would have the same appreciation if I were sitting in the front of the balcony.

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I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.

If an artist is trying to communicate to you something, why would you want him to "get away" from his "themes"?

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.... I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.

I agree. It's worse - he concentrates on 'Soviet Gloom and Doom' subtheme. He even 'gloomed down' the one sparkling Soviet theme that he had, from his Bolshoi years: Bright Stream, which, in the original Bolshoi version, has colorful, richly-decorated 'happy' sets, costumes and props.

I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

It's American Ballet Theatre...not Gloomy-Soviet-Themes Ballet Theatre.

That said, I hope to see the two newest ballets in this trilogy, in the future. I very much admire Ratmansky's choreography and craftsmanship in the first work (Symph 9).

p.s. I am pleased to read that the original splotchy costumes of Symphony #9 have been improved.

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I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

Should Solzhenitsyn have put on a happy face to entertain?

Unless ABT hired Ratmansky to stage a specific ballet or libretto, or the company puts restrictions on him, the choice is up to him. The audience can vote with its pocketbook. There's plenty of "Le Corsaire" as an alternative.

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Should Solzhenitsyn have put on a happy face to entertain?

Who would ever want to see a ballet on Solzhenitsin? On the other hand, I love the old 1930s Soviet musical films, such as Traktorist, which the Messerer-designed (first) version of Ratmansky's Bright Stream echoes. And I experienced life by the Black Sea with my husband's family, in the 1980s. Nobody worried about bugs, spies, misery...but did about Afghanistan. They're just normal people - not people who benifitted in any way from Glasnost, as did certain groups.

When I pay for ice cream, I don't expect to taste castor oil. And this doesn't mean seeing only the Corsaires. Jewels is very 20th-C. Many beautiful, non-gloomy 20th and 21st-C ballets exist.

Different strokes for different folks. Some like the Ratmansky-Schedrin Humpbacked Horse; I prefer the StLeon/Petipa and Pugni et al version...Imperial Romanov but preserved during the old Soviet days.

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Why should anyone assume that a ballet presented by ABT should be ice cream? Did the company promote it that way and mislead the public?

"Pillar of Fire," "Dark Elegies," "Jardin aux Lilacs" are no picnics in the park, but I doubt anyone said to Tudor, "Lighten up, already" (or at least lived to tell about it). From what I've read of the Ratmansky ballets, his work resembles the dramatic roots of Ballet Theatre, certainly more so than the classics (which can be tragic for other reasons).

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Other than Lilas, you cite some of my least fave ballets ever. :) Sadly, Tudor is barely danced today...gee, I wonder why? On the other hand, I thoroughly look forward to Gala Performance, by Sarasota Ballet, next spring! :)

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Good grief--I seem to have started a ruckus about Ratmansky dealing with themes other than Russia. He is much too talented to put himself in a 'box'. No, it is not necessary to have program notes for a ballet---but, a slight hint may help. Tudor gave us that with the character's name--it surely helped in ballets like 'Undertow' and 'Lilac Garden'. As for 'Corsaire' I have avoided it for years---but I will be seeing it for the matinee tomorrow--I got some very cheap tickets and I am looking forward to seeing a cast without too many luminaries.

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I'm not sure it's possible to make a "happy" ballet with Shostakovich music. It would be akin to making a Disney movie about Kurt Cobain, or a cheery broadway musical about Sendoro Luminoso.

Natalia's relatives by marriage may have had normal lives in the 1980's USSR but Dmitri Shostakovich certainly feared for his life in the 1930's. I mean, how would you feel if you went to a performance of your opera and saw Stalin shuddering at some parts, and laughing at a love scene? The Great Terror murdered millions and Shostakovich was a witness.

His patron was shot months after arrest, his mother in law was imprisoned in a penal camp, his uncle died in a camp, a writer friend was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor, and several colleagues were executed. His Fifth Symphony in particular reflects his emotional response to this time in history.

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Another factor is will these Ratmansky ballets have a life? Balanchine had a school and company as a laboratory. I'm not saying that Ratmansky is another Balanchine (he isn't) but will his works really live on? Will we be seeing his Firebird again any time soon? Will this trilogy have a life in ABT? It is doubtful. ABT is about the full length story ballets with guest artists and some rep thrown in here and there. The works he did at NYCB have a chance of staying in the rep more than the one's he's done at ABT.

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The trilogy is being performed in San Francisco next year, and Ratmansky ballets are heavily in demand. I'm guessing everyone wants a new one, but Peter Boal got a new Wheeldon for PNB by presenting re-stagings of several works, at first in mixed-bills and then in an All-Wheeldon program. It takes patience: Ratmansky is a busy man.

ABT isn't the only company in the world smile.png

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Another factor is will these Ratmansky ballets have a life? Balanchine had a school and company as a laboratory. I'm not saying that Ratmansky is another Balanchine (he isn't) but will his works really live on? Will we be seeing his Firebird again any time soon? Will this trilogy have a life in ABT? It is doubtful. ABT is about the full length story ballets with guest artists and some rep thrown in here and there. The works he did at NYCB have a chance of staying in the rep more than the one's he's done at ABT.

While it was very limited run, I believe the very full house (especially considering this is a triple bill, which don't normally sell well at the Met) suggests that yes, it will, or should, have a life at ABT.

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(Ratmansky) work resembles the dramatic roots of Ballet Theatre, certainly more so than the classics (which can be tragic for other reasons).

Quote of the day.

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I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

This is an astonishingly offensive remark. Many people DID live and die in a Gulag. Many millions. And most of those people WERE innocent, with no secrets to hide.

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Another factor is will these Ratmansky ballets have a life?
Yes, I think so, because so many other companies will gladly perform these 3 works - separately or as a trilogy. I can probably rattle off an alphabet soup list of companies all over the world that would happily rent ABT's sets and costumes, and have him come and set the trilogy. And it would sell well in London, Sydney, Berlin, etc.

Also, when Kevin McKenzie retires (he turns 60 next year) then I think Mr. Ratmansky is his likely successor. Alternatively if Mr Ratmansky doesn't want the post, I think the board will hire a new AD will continue to support more Ratmansky choreography. But perhaps that speculation is meant for another thread at another time.

At any rate, Natalia has been very clear in her reviews that she dislikes many of the artistic choices (sets, costumes and choreography) for Mr. Ratmansky's newer works. This is no surprise to any of the BA regulars. Fortunately for her pocketbook, she can rely on all of the BalletAlert reviews to "alert" her to programs that she probably won't enjoy (especially at ABT ticket prices!) Plus, she gets to see many of the visiting companies in DC - so she is not locked in to just seeing Ratmansky programs.

I disagree that Natalia's comments are necessarily offensive - she is describing a personal experience. I had a good experience as a kid in the 1980's, but other people were living in gang wars in East Compton LA. Both experiences are legitimate.

I also know people who didn't like "Rent" because they didn't pay $150 to experience a guilt trip about homelessness, disease and woe-is-me. They would have been happier at a revival of "Oklahoma". (cue the clip from Team America with the parody "Lease")

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This is an astonishingly offensive remark. Many people DID live and die in a Gulag. Many millions. And most of those people WERE innocent, with no secrets to hide.

I agree with you, Ilya. Those of us who lost family members and whose parents lost friends and acquaintances cannot reconcile communism in any way with being happy. Of course, people rise above the circumstances of their lives in order to have a life. There is laughter and joking (often ironic jokes and clever anecdotes about the captors in order to make the captivity more livable). But the feeling deep within the heart is profound sadness.

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