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ABT Fall Season Mixed Rep PerformancesNovember 1-10


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#31 puppytreats

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 07:24 PM

I spent a few hours this afternoon writing a post containing my comments on the mixed bill, and, through the magic of control, alt, backspace, undo, sh*t, what did I just do, the review disappeared. So here is an abstract, or a "fragmented meditation", on my earlier post.

I saw a rehearsal of "Bach Partita", "Clear", and "Les Sylphides" on Friday; a performance of "Les Sylphides", "Clear", and "Theme and Variations" on Saturday afternoon; and a performance of "Theme and Variations", "Clear", and "Tempest" on Saturday night.

"Clear"
1. I did not choose to see this ballet, but ended up seeing it three times, because it was sandwiched between ballets that I wanted to see. As stated above in my review of the rehearsal, thank God the music was beautiful.
2. The audience seemed to love this ballet. The awkward clappers were out in full force in the afternoon, applauding after jumps and spins, at odd times and in disregard of intervals.
3. Much of the choreography was unmusical, or as someone stated above, unrelated to or not revealing of the music. Many of the movements were ugly, awkward, and embarrassing, such as the bobble head shakes, chest slapping, and knee knocking, even though the dance also included eye-covering motions, and expressions of shame, fear, forgiveness, and looking the other way.
4. Paloma and Julie seem to have returned to fine form, after some regression last year. At this point in her career, Julie seems to excel in this type of choreography.
5. The ballet is described as a showcase of ABT's men, but I thought it said more about man and woman, and ultimately, about women. After the journey of the seven naked men, or 7 expressions of 1 man (perhaps through time and space), the woman enters from behind to retrieve the core man, and he fights, but ultimately surrenders, to her comfort and authority. She emerges as the powerful one who has done and must do the hard tasks. Even after the music has stopped without achieving the final note of resolution, she concludes the music and the dance, as the man rests his head on her shoulder, and she points to the sky above while standing strong on a shrinking circle of light below her feet.
6. Paloma presented a woman who was a companion. Julie portrayed a woman who was authoritative while also acting as comforter, a wife and mother. She gave us strong, powerful, Mama Kent, who was ultimately the person in control, and was caught but then relied upon by the man for that purpose.
7. Marcello seems to really enjoy this type of choreography. I have not often comprehended the level of fanaticism of his devotees, but his portrayal was technically and dramatically superior to all the other dancers in all three performances that I observed. He portrayed a journey, with a range of developing emotions, as well as a strong, beautiful technique, even as he sought Julie's comfort and strength at the end. Sascha's evening performance did not present the same journey, emotionally, intellectually, or physically. Near the end, Marcello's series of fouettes (I think) (but not 32) remained strong throughout, unlike Sascha's, which lacked Marcello's speed, numerosity, and form. Sascha is a good dancer, but he portrayed a less communicative, angrier, silent persona.
8. The costumes were ugly and ill-fitting. I cringed when Marcello turned around in fifth position at the beginning, with the awkward draping and collecting of the fabric. The dying of one dancer's pants to a different color to attempt to match his skin tone did not work well. The sweat was hard to look at. I was surprised that the director let one overweight dancer with poor muscle tone and an awkward, ill-fitting dance belt display himself in that fashion onstage.
9. I did not understand the design of the lighting. I could not tell if the design portrayed distorted smiley faces, an abstract pattern, or some type of symbol.

"Theme and Variations"
1. I saw this once from the second row all the way to the right side, over the percussion section of the orchestra, and once from the center of the fourth ring. This greatly affected my interpretation and experience of this dance.
2. ABT seems to dance this at a much slower tempo than NYCB. I prefer the slower presentation of this dance. I understood much better the steps, patterns, and phrases, and more fully enjoyed the development and grandeur of the dance. The fast speed seems too competitive and designed to show off skills, and blurs the choreography.
3. When I first saw Isabella on stage in the afternoon, I felt bad for her, thinking that the dance did not fit her. After I saw Polina in the afternoon, I felt even worse for Isabella.
4. Polina made nearly every step clear, complete, and succinct, whether fast or slow, high or low, spinning or walking, leaping or beating. (OK, not all of her beats were complete, but many in this company seem not to complete entrechats.) She was well-suited to the princess ballerina role in this dance.
5. Daniil is athletic and performs turns, leaps, beats, and speedy steps well, which audiences appreciate vocally. He is very well-suited to roles that involve athleticism, solo variations, and characters who are dramatically impish and youthful, such as the son in "Month in the Country" or Ariel in "Tempest". However, I do not think he excels in Balanchine roles, such as "Stars and Stripes" last fall, and "T&V". He nearly dropped Isabella in the final lift, destroying the coda, when the tutu got caught in his face, and she had to improvise her arm movements to balance herself and cover the major flaw.
6. Daniil received well-merited applause during his spinning solos. However, as MacCauley noted, he needs to work on his arms. Cory's evening performance merits the same criticism. Cory seemed to phone in much of his performance, as I often feel he does. Some of his footwork was nice, such as his beats, but his spins were sloppy.
7. The corps did a poor job during the daisy chain in the evening, disrupting the pattern and shape, with improper spacing and timing.
8. The orchestra seemed to have a major problem in the afternoon on this piece, although I do not know if my being seated over the percussion section distorted my hearing.
9. The set consisted of four flat black panels with a red and yellow columns at the end, and flat red and yellow chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I felt like the designers were being sardonic and maybe laughing at the audience. NYC now has Disney and mall-stores occupying Times Square, and the designers gave us Disney in the theater.
10. Has anyone ever discussed this ballet as a commentary on fifth position? I don't know what position one would call arms when the body is held like a "Y".

"Les Sylphides"
1. The music and choreography of this ballet, presented live, are beautiful and moving.
2. Veronika created an internal world on the stage, separate from the world outside, from the theater, and even from the glade in which she was situated onstage. I agree that her poses are swoon-worthy. She is a true poet and special artist. Her many fans were vocal and expressive.
3. Melanie looks a bit like Veronika's cousin, in the hairdo and headpiece used in this dance, adding an interesting element to the performance.
4. I did not like Polina's jetes in this piece. They did not seem to move through horizontal space, but rather, landed flat. I have seen other tall, Russian ballerinas jete in this fashion, so I do not know if this was a function of training, style, or choreography. I felt this more strongly after seeing Daniil's different style of jetes, such as the higher arching, but shorter traveling jetes in the beginning of the Ratmansky piece, and the more traditional jetes elsewhere (such as when Albrecht follows Giselle around the bench in Act I.)
5. I am often critical of Cory, but his performance in "Sylphides" deserved strong praise. For the first time, I understood why Cory was a principal dancer. His poet was a strong, confident, slightly sinister, puppet-master. This subtle but revealing portrayal offered an interesting contrast to his more overtly emotional, evil, and manipulative puller of strings in "Othello". Cory's strong, well-proportioned physique matched his confident promenades, effortless movement, and elegant dancing, which were well-suited to the role.
6. The corps' waving, curving expression of "Wilis-like" arms, and slow repositioning into groupings, were more effective than during the hand-holding, enchained transitioning in "T&V".

"Tempest"
1. I liked this ballet, contrary to many writers. I was not disappointed by its length, especially since the program warned that it was a "fragmented narrative" and "mediation on some of the themes" of the play. Also, I had read the play in preparation, which alleviated some of the confusion that I initially experienced during the flashback scene.
2. Daniil was well-suited to his role as Ariel. The choreography featured a range of athletic tricks which he routinely does very well, including the flashy leaps, spins, and beats, often speedily performed. He also created the character well, with his expression of his dissatisfaction with his enslavement, shown through his child-like rebelliousness and fist-pounding temper tantrum, followed by his submission to and performance of his fairy duties, shown through his impishness, speedy airiness, flight, and stealth.
3. Writers have complained that Hermano was short-changed, but the choreography for the role of Caliban fit his character. It also highlighted Prospero's relationship to the different characters and to different aspects of himself. While Caliban was enslaved like the fairy Ariel, Caliban was the uncivilized occupant of a deserted island, occupied only by his witch mother, who was likely also an outcast. Therefore, his earth-bound movements contrasted with Ariel's airy phrases. Hermano performed difficult, although earth-bound, moves, with great athleticism, agility, and speed. He also portrayed the hairy, barbaric character without being grotesque or too overt.
4. The choreography not only demonstrated the difference between the airy slave and the earthy slave, but also provided insight into Prospero's differing treatment of his two slaves, and his own internal conflicts and feelings about himself. Caliban's kingdom was stolen like Prospero's was. Prospero was both victim and perpetrator of the theft of land and rights. Prospero was also someone connected to magical and spiritual powers of a witch, like Caliban's mother, and a fairy, like Ariel and the water fairies. He treatment of Caliban and his feelings about this side of himself are expressed through the Caliban's earth-bound choreography. Prospero left his book of magic to be destroyed, and like this side of Prospero, Caliban ripped up its pages.
5. Prospero was the character who lacked unique phrasing, not Caliban. His role seemed more like a character role, such as Aurora's father. At times, he appeared to be Moses or Noah. Marcello seemed wasted in this role, although he always demand the center of attention, which is appropriate for Prospero, and he partnered Sara beautifully.
6. Sara danced beautifully, with precision, airiness, and joy. She seemed so much more confident and at ease dancing with Marcello and Joseph Gorak here, than when she is paired with Daniil, in other ballets. Her character, however, seemed too much like Clara in the "Nutcracker", especially as she danced in her white nightgown. Miranda is ordered by her father to preserve her innocence until marriage, but she has been educated by her worldly and other-worldly father, who is king, spiritualist, intellectual, manipulator, and mastermind. She is not a child like Clara.
7. Joe is an elegant, princely dancer, who joyfully expressed his love for Miranda. This portion of the ballet could easily have been better developed. However, maybe Ratmansky wanted to avoid cliches and sentimentality. He also seemed determined to offer limited, nearly equal portions of time to make statements about each character and each segment of the plot.
8. As usual, Roman Zhurbin created a wonderful character in his portrayal of Alonso. The drinking scene with the servant and Caliban was well-crafted to provide comic relief and an expression of this side of these characters, without being excessive, as is often the case in ballets involving jesters.
9. Did Ratmansky imply that Prospero arranged for Ariel to influence the young lovers to fall in love? I did not derive that interpretation from the play. I thought that Prospero used the fairies to influence the other survivors of the shipwreck, but did not know that he masterminded the reconciliation of the deposed and deposing families through the use of fairy dust on his own daughter.
10. I don't recall Ariel becoming or being cross-dresser or hermaphrodite, or the devil, as suggested when Ariel appeared in the nightmare dressed in a red bodysuit with breasts and large wings. This presented an interesting comment on gender roles, particularly after viewing "Clear" earlier in the evening.

#32 puppytreats

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 07:25 PM

There would be a lot more sympathy for Caliban if it were done chronologically, because you'd see Propero de-throned and set to sea, then landing with Miranda on the island and having Caliban help them and his thanks was to be enslaved.


Prospero is Christopher Columbus?

#33 puppytreats

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 08:54 PM

From my seat, I could not tell what was on the reverse side of the four trees wheeled in by (I think) the fairies in Tempest".  It seemed important, based on the reaction when revealed and then withdrawn.  Does anyone know what was portrayed and then hidden?



#34 ABT Fan

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:02 PM

I was there Saturday night and left with mixed feelings.

T&V was anticlimactic. Seminova was lovely but not fantastic. Stearns struggled with stamina and strength more than technique I thought. Near the end he had a pained smile on his face. Even when he'd exit the stage he'd drop his form and energy before being fully off the stage. Yuriko Kajiya as a Demi-soloist was beautiful. Eric Tamm in the corps looked good but his long hair flopped around so much it was distracting. I liked the new gold costumes for the leads but not the red for the corps; they looked garish.

I love Clear and remembered it well from a performance at City Center years ago. Radetsky was very good but his technique has diminished; I'd say he's past his prime. He's had some knee problems so perhaps that's the problem. I also think he's overdone the upper body weight lifting. His shoulders and trap muscles are too bulky and lack the suppleness ballet dancers need. Being shirtless only accentuates this of course. Craig Salstein was excellent - very sharp and full of personality. Gabe Shayer, wow! What leaps, technique, and maturity for a 20 yr old! Thomas Forster - I finally see what others have been raving about. He has an enormous jump that's plush and very controlled. Beautiful feet. Wonderful technique. I've just not seen him dance much to get a good look at him before. I also like the costumes and don't think they make anyone look fat. Great innovative choreography.

Tempest- don't know what else I can add that others haven't already said. I did not like it. A great disappointment. The music was awful, mostly undanceable. There were sections with an organ and the choir singing "Ahhhhhhhhhhh" that drove me insane. It was grating. The organ was completely unmelodic. Despite reading the program notes several times before the piece started, the story was very unclear on stage. The set of the ship wreck kept moving around the stage every once in awhile for no reason other than to create movement or action. Marcelo Gomes looked like a very buff Jesus Christ with the wig and beard and especially when he put the crown on near the end. But he danced and partnered Sarah Lane wonderfully, as usual. Lane was terrific. She always is. Lovely, musical, technically assured. Joseph Gorak was perfect as the young suitor. Why oh why hasn't he been promoted yet? Herman Cornejo did what he could. He danced well but this didn't show off his talents to their best. Daniil Simkin was the star of this piece deservedly. The character and quicksilver choreography laced with dizzying leaps suited him well. He stayed in character throughout. But I felt embarrassed for him when he had to come out wearing the female breast plate - that made no sense to me. But I guess neither did most of the piece! I really want to see Dream in the spring but can't bear the thought of sitting through Tempest again.

#35 ABT Fan

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:03 PM

Puppytreats, it was fruit, a cornucopia. But again, why?

#36 abatt

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 09:45 AM

I have a question about Sylphides.  I'm attaching this link only for the purpose of looking at the photo of Boylston.  One thing I found in her performance of the work is that her hands and arms didn't seem to look like what everyone else on stage was doing.  You can see in the photo that she breaks the line of her arm at the wrist, so her hand is almost at a 90 degree angle with her arm.  Notice, in contrast, that the corps has their hands and arms softly rounded.  What's the correct position.  Is this too nitpicky? 

 

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance



#37 sandik

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 11:20 AM

Just looking at the thumbnail, I think what you're seeing is the difference between an action and a pose.  The corps are likely still behind the main couple here -- Boylston is in the middle of a longer phrase, when the arm tends to articulate more fluidly.  I don't think her line is compromised here.



#38 abatt

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 11:48 AM

Thanks for the response, sandik.  That raises the question as to why Tom Forster, who is in mid-air in the middle of a longer phrase, has his free hand in a beautiful position, with his fingers pointed skyward instead of at the floor like Boylston.



#39 California

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 11:54 AM

Just one quick issue as I wait for my flight home: Gabe Shayer was spectacular as Ariel in Tempest, in a role that seemed tailor-made for Simkin. But did Simkin use whiteface make-up Friday night? His skin is flesh-colored, not literally white. I saw both performances, but can't recall at this point. The whiteface on Shayer seemed awkward, to put it mildly. Why not let both of them show their actual skin color? 



#40 Plisskin

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 12:00 PM

^^ I don't necessarily think it's that. I've noticed Isabella's untidy hands before in other pieces:

 

http://images.huffin...boylston2gs.jpg

http://graphics8.nyt...rts/ABTspan.jpg

http://panacheprivee...ory-Stearns.jpg

http://www.abt.org/c...boylston2gs.jpg

 

I wish whoever works with her would fix that. It's kind of 1 reason why I'm not to keen on her.



#41 abatt

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 12:52 PM

Simkin did use white face makeup as Ariel during the premiere on opening night. 



#42 cobweb

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 02:44 PM

To follow up on California's comment, Gabe Stone Shayer was indeed spectacular as Ariel yesterday. I wasn't eager to sit through Tempest again, but I was curious to see the second cast -- and in particular Shayer, who made a big impression on me as part of the ensemble in Clear a night or two ago. He is a young man with a lot of talent. Huge effortless leaps with soft landings, charming and vivid acting, and charisma to burn. He is not a slender androgynous type like Simkin, and in fact he has a somewhat thick, weighted quality, but somehow it just seemed so right as he flew across the stage. I'm glad ABT didn't hold to the hierarchy, and gave this young man a huge opportunity!



#43 ABT Fan

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 03:31 PM

Simkin used white make-up Saturday night. Since Ariel is a spirit it made sense to me, and wearing a white unitard so he was all one color. I assume Shayer wore the white unitard too? I'm so glad to hear Shayer was so great in this role; he was so impressive in Clear. It's not easy to follow Simkin.

#44 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 06:23 PM

To follow up on California's comment, Gabe Stone Shayer was indeed spectacular as Ariel yesterday. I wasn't eager to sit through Tempest again, but I was curious to see the second cast -- and in particular Shayer, who made a big impression on me as part of the ensemble in Clear a night or two ago. He is a young man with a lot of talent. Huge effortless leaps with soft landings, charming and vivid acting, and charisma to burn. He is not a slender androgynous type like Simkin, and in fact he has a somewhat thick, weighted quality, but somehow it just seemed so right as he flew across the stage. I'm glad ABT didn't hold to the hierarchy, and gave this young man a huge opportunity!

 

 Cobweb -- I totally agree about Shayer! Although I didn't know who he was at the time, I couldn't take my eyes off of him in "Clear" (except when I couldn't take them off Thomas Forster ... ) The first thing I did when I got home after Saturday evening's performance was scour the ABT website to figure out who I'd been watching. Those jumps were a thing of beauty. And he's fast, to boot.  



#45 Helene

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 07:39 PM

 

In terms of T&V I'm afraid you have to go over to the other company to get a satisfactory rendering.  On the woman's side Peck or Bouder.  On the men's side De Luz or Vayette.  In fact NYCB has a nice video of Vayette doing one of the variations on their website.  As for of ABT I enjoyed the Lane/Cornejo T&V I saw a few years ago.


 

Unfortunately Ballet Arizona isn't doing T&V in this year's "All Balanchine" program -- it's "Walpurgisnacht Ballet," "Episodes," and "Western Symphony" -- because Astrit Zejnati as the lead man was one of the great performers in it I've seen.  He was trained in Albania and, while never looking dated, is old school in the best way.

 

 

There would be a lot more sympathy for Caliban if it were done chronologically, because you'd see Propero de-throned and set to sea, then landing with Miranda on the island and having Caliban help them and his thanks was to be enslaved.


Prospero is Christopher Columbus?

 

Since Caliban was the only inhabitant when he got there in a smashed up ship, Prospero didn't/couldn't murder the inhabitants or steal their natural resources to send to another continent, and I wouldn't put him in Columbus' circle of Hell. 




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