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ABT 2013 Swan Lake at the Met

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I saw three of the SLs this year (Murphy/Whiteside, Kochetkova/Cornejo, Kent/Gomes). I agree with most of what has been said, and add just a few more points:

Murphy: I saw her in SL a year ago with Gomes and thought she was not quite 100% this year -- balances not quite as sustained, turns not quite as fast. I don't know if that was the new partner (Whiteside) or the brief illness that took her out of the Ratmansky a few weeks ago. She added one detail to the fouettes I don't remember seeing before: on a couple of the rotations, she fluttered her arms up and down in swan arms! The physics of making that happen while turning are mind-boggling.

Kochetkova: I look forward to seeing her again in SL. Sparkling technique, speed, elevation.

Kent: This was exceptionally moving and dramatically appropriate, as others have noted. I don't have a problem with simplifying some of the choreography, but she's really pushing the envelope at this point. Some of the fun of SL is seeing how different dancers execute the famous "bits" of choreography, and she has dropped much of it -- the schooching backward arabesques in Act III replaced by a small circle of pique turns, e.g. I only counted 24 fouettes (all singles), but that might be my mistake. In II, I noticed an example of the vaunted Gomes partnering: she was in arabesque, on pointe, let go of his supportive hand, but lasted only a second or two - she started to learn forward and his hand was at her waist in a nano-second to support her.

Cornejo: Wow! What a debut! I saw him in Mercutio and Puck last year and the speed, height, precision, energy were all there in his Siegfried. I can't wait to see him in this again. He also seemed to have worked out all the detailed acting throughout very effectively. One odd thing in his variations in Act I: he almost always looks straight at the audience, rarely the party-goers. Isn't he supposed to be entertaining his subjects in this? (Gomes does this a little, but not as noticeably.)

Gomes: Along with his luxurious dancing -- never rushed, always in perfect form, I loved his detailed characterization. He lived this character start to finish.

Kent and Gomes: A very nice touch during the second all-stage curtain call: They walked to opposite corners, stage front, turned their backs on the audience, and gave long, sweeping gestures to acknowledge the corps. It was so coordinated that it looked like they had done this before (has anybody seen this before?) or had planned it beforehand. Gomes does a gesture like that himself during curtain calls, but I haven't seen both principals do this. Both came up through the ABT ranks themselves, of course.

Vasiliev: This was painful to watch. He threw in his usual tricks and the audience loved it, but he seems such a mismatch size-wise. Perhaps they need to make some alterations in that costume for him, so he looks more like an aristocrat and less like a jester.

Matthews and Whiteside: I thought they were both very effective as Aristocratic Rothbart -- menacing, sinister, manipulative.

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I agree with everything said about the Kent/Gomes performance. It was for me a MAster Class is how these roles should be performed. Her port de bras are so far and away the finest in recent memory, and her acting of both characters was simply on a whole other plain than the others this week. Gomes needs no further praise from me. He is the the finest example of a male dancer going today. No one comes even close. I don't mind the choreographic changes one bit. At this level it's purely academic if she does or she doesn't do the backward hops in arabesque. My question is: how does she dance at this continued level? (as an aside, she was my favorite Juliet also this year. Pure poetry) One can only hope that if and when she does retire she will stick around to show and coach the younger dancers.

A few other comments. Stella is the only female dancer that I notice who is capable of doing "sixes" in the pas de trois. Someone commented, not since Erica Cornejo. My question is, why not? Someone is not telling the ladies how they are done!

MAthews was great as Rothbart. Big improvement.

Jos. Gorak gets my vote for a promotion and soon.

Vasiliev as Rothbart was a total embarrassment. Not only did he not fit the costume (oh, those over the thigh "Kinky Boots"!). But his dancing was just pathetic. Clumsy and awkward. His toes were un-pointed. His thighs looked even larger than ever! His preparations and landings rough and without any semblance of any training whatsoever. He looked like a cross between a thug and a purple troll. Why did he get three performances of this role? Oh yeah, he sells tickets. This is so sad.

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Yes, Murphy was wonderful on Thursday. She grows as an artist every year. Her current interpretation of SL is much richer and deeper than the one that was preserved on DVD some 10 years ago. Her physical, technical power is probably the strongest of anyone in the company. She always blows me away when she adds the swan-flap arms while she's doing triple fouettes in Act III. Whiteside had a very successful debut in the lead role. Based on what I've seen he is a valuable addition to the ABT roster.

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New NYT profile of Daniil Simkin. I hadn't put 2 and 2 together before, but given his completely private training with family as a child - where he learned all his "tricks" and then took them to competitions - suddenly the partnering complaints make sense.

The older boys in school get technical training on how to partner, so it's not a new concept when they join companies. Also, in schools attached to companies, they are more aware of the expectations of joining a company (rehearsing multiple ballets in one day).

Is he really 5'8"1/2"? (174 cm) Somehow I figured he was as short as Baryshnikov's 5'5" (165 cm). Tall or short, if he doesn't have the upper body strength or plenty of experience partnering - this is going to continue to be a problem. I wonder if it would be helpful to do an exchange with the Bolshoi or Mariinsky for 6 months, so he could be intensively coached on partnering.

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New NYT profile of Daniil Simkin. I hadn't put 2 and 2 together before, but given his completely private training with family as a child - where he learned all his "tricks" and then took them to competitions - suddenly the partnering complaints make sense.

The older boys in school get technical training on how to partner, so it's not a new concept when they join companies. Also, in schools attached to companies, they are more aware of the expectations of joining a company (rehearsing multiple ballets in one day).

Is he really 5'8"1/2"? (174 cm) Somehow I figured he was as short as Baryshnikov's 5'5" (165 cm). Tall or short, if he doesn't have the upper body strength or plenty of experience partnering - this is going to continue to be a problem. I wonder if it would be helpful to do an exchange with the Bolshoi or Mariinsky for 6 months, so he could be intensively coached on partnering.

Still, if his parents had been on top of it, they could have brought in dancers (both male and female) to help Daniil with the partnering in his earlier years. Surely, as dancers themselves, they should have recognized the need for a comprehensive training program if he was to go on to joining a company. It can't all be about the tricks. (or can it?). No dancer should have to learn about partnering in front of an audience. Unfair to the dancer and certainly unfair for any partners and the audience.

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New NYT profile of Daniil Simkin. I hadn't put 2 and 2 together before, but given his completely private training with family as a child - where he learned all his "tricks" and then took them to competitions - suddenly the partnering complaints make sense.

The older boys in school get technical training on how to partner, so it's not a new concept when they join companies. Also, in schools attached to companies, they are more aware of the expectations of joining a company (rehearsing multiple ballets in one day).

This discussion reminds me of interviews with Marcelo Gomes, who started working on partnering at an early age in Brazil. Here's an interview from 2003 that discusses that: http://balletalert.com/dancers/interviews/Gomes.html

One of the things that is so noticeable about your dancing is your partnering. Could you talk about that aspect?

I actually started partnering very early, in Brazil, when I could barely lift, so I have been trying to put girls on their feet for a very long time! We also had a lot of partnering work at Harid. Surprisingly, partnering wasn’t that important in Paris. They waited until the last year in the school to give partnering class, so I was really much more advanced than the other boys.

Elsewhere, I've seen discussions of the fact that, at least in many (most?) American ballet classes, there are so few boys that they learn how to partner many different types of girls. As others have noted, it seems strange that Simkin's dancer parents didn't anticipate this during his "homeschooling" in ballet.

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I just want to say that for some reason the Gomes interview says interviewed by Marcelo Gomes. In fact, I did the interview, he wasn't talking to himself! Mary Cargill

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I just want to say that for some reason the Gomes interview says interviewed by Marcelo Gomes. In fact, I did the interview, he wasn't talking to himself! Mary Cargill

Thanks for correcting that - it did seem odd.

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Is he really 5'8"1/2"? (174 cm) Somehow I figured he was as short as Baryshnikov's 5'5" (165 cm).

Yes. It is perhaps Daniil's slightness that makes him appear shorter. Baryshnikov has been reported to be 5'6", 5'7", and even 5'8". Since I've never stood next to him, I don't know his actual height, but I think it's more than 5'5".

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