abatt

Best and Worst of 2013

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It's time for end-of-year best and worst lists.

On the "best" list, thanks to ABT I finally got to see Osipova and Vasliev together in the their signature roles in Don Q. I had seen them previously on film in these roles when their performance was broadcast from the Bolshoi a few years ago, but seeing it live was another experience entirely. Their technical abilities are astonishing.

Also on the best list was Herman Cornejo's long awaited debut in Swan Lake. He pulled out all the stops and made it a very memorable performance. His technical brilliance was a marvel. (I thought he overshadowed Kochetkova.)

Also on my best list is the Ratmansky trilogy. I hope we can see all three works together again at ABT. Speaking of Ratmansky, I was delighted by NYCB's revival of Namouna and I can't wait to see it again in the Spring.

Another high point was Sara Mearns' performances of Swan Lake at NYCB.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Company is looking fresher than ever since Robert Battle took over the helm from Judith Jamison. He has shaken up the rep by acquiring the rights to important works like Taylor's Arden Court and McGregor's Chroma. Even though the Ailey dancers don't perform these works as well as the PTDC or the RB (respectively), Battle deserves a lot of credit for bringing these works into the company.

It was wonderful to see the SFB in NYC again. I wish they would visit us more often.

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The worst of the worst for 2013 was the acid attack on Filin, leaving him mostly blind. Who knew that the worst of 2012 were the threats against him that were brushed aside? It makes all of the politics surrounding Gergiev and Tsiskaridze at the Vaganova Academy, which in other years could have been the year's worst, pale by comparison.

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Some of the best ballet I've ever seen: Royal Ballet's "Onegin" with Nunez and Soares, and then Royal Ballet's "Monotones II" ... truly a rare treat.

One of the most disappointing: Vishneva's appearance at Orange County Performing Arts Center in Nov. She performed a somewhat modern ballet program rather than showing us her magnificent classical prowess.

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Best: Ratmansky's Namouna at NYCB. 2nd place: Sarasota Ballet's Les Patineurs in DC. 3rd: Extraordinary Corsaire starring Osipova/Vasiliev/Simkin/Lane, during ABT's spring tour to DC.

Worst...not just this year but the last 10 years, at least: Ratmansky Shostakovich Triple Bill. I'm still trying to get rid of the headache.

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The Ratmansky trilogy definitely evokes divided opinions. Some, like me, thought it was brilliant. Others absolutely hate it. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

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The Ratmansky trilogy definitely evokes divided opinions. Some, like me, thought it was brilliant. Others absolutely hate it. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

And that's one of the reasons why people should go and see for themselves.

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In the live context. My best...having seen again my beloved, all time favorite "Sylphides", and being danced to the vintage Britten score. Part in the Prelude as the ice of the cake. Second Best...Murphy as Sylvia. My worst..."The Tempest"..(or the bits I got of it in between dozing on and off).

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In the live context. My best...having seen again my beloved, all time favorite "Sylphides", and being danced to the vintage Britten score. Part in the Prelude as the ice of the cake. Second Best...Murphy as Sylvia. My worst..."The Tempest"..(or the bits I got of it in between dozing on and off).

Britten did the orchestrations. I believe Chopin is still credited with the score. Agree about "Tempest". One of the worst ballet moments ,ever!

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I meant Britten's orchestration. I believe I had the feeling that all those wonderful mazurkas and preludes sounded sort of familiar...(silly sarcastic here..I know.happy.png..)

The Tempest...I still can't even remember very well what was all that about...icon8.gif

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Indeed, abatt (about the Shostak 3ple bill)...and I deeply respect your opinions. It's either loved or loathed, e.g., in my case, I'm still wondering how the ABT Board even allowed it to go forward...maybe because it was a showcase for many stars in its MET presentation (Osipova/Vasiliev, especially, in the final work).

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One of the best and the worst happened on a single evening. ABT's Month in the Country was absolutely sublime -- just a beautifully detailed, nuanced performance. Then they followed it up with a horrifyingly bad performance of Symphony in C where I really wanted to cover my eyes.

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Worst - ABT's The Tempest (exception: dancing by Lane and Gorak)

Best - casting/dancing by some of ABT's up-and-comers in major roles: Gorak in Les Sylphides; Royal III in Piano Concerto #1; Boylston as Odette/Odile and Gorak in the pas de trois in Swan Lake; Shayer in Clear. And, fabulous performance by seasoned Part, Seo, Stearns and Zhurbin in Moor's Pavane.

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Best of what I saw in this calendar year:

1. Mariinsky in Swan Lake w. Lopatkina at the Mariinsky. Extraordinary corps, extraordinary character dancing, fine soloists and one of greatest Odettes I have ever seen (possibly the greatest). Plus the thrill of being in that theater.

2. Cornejo as Aminta in Sylvia or more specifically his dancing in his Act III variation. Pure, light, airy and dazzling: extraordinary elevation, wonderful ballon, clear crisp beats, beautiful line--all easy and effortless. Fantastically beautiful dancing.

3. Sara Mearns in the Fairy's Kiss w. NY Philharmonic: imagination, daring, power. Wow!

4. Wonderful dancing from a whole new generation of NYCB ballerinas in the Tchaikovsky festival -- Peck in Allegro Brillante, Hyltin in Mozartiana, Reichlin in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

5. New choreography that matters: The third and final ballet of Ratmansky's Shoshtakovich trilogy which I saw on its own at ABT's fall season--with two different casts. A ballet that has stayed with me and that I would be happy to see again.

6. Revival of Substance: Ashton's a Month in the Country with ABT (two different casts). Honorable mention to Tharp's Bach Partita.

7. Special partnering highlight: Bolle and Semionova, the long difficult lift that opens the Sylvia Act III pas de deux genuinely danced as if a pleasure -- not performed as if a feat. Even better: her large, easy, joyful leap into his arms as he immediately dipped her into a fish dive. The audience sighed audibly....with reason.

8. Gillian Murphy at the height of her career: whether in Ashton, Tharp, or Mark Morris. Just a pleasure

9. David Bintley's Carmina Burana with the Atlanta Ballet. Atlanta's company often turns to modern dance and "contemporary" ballet. Bintley's work seemed to me legitimately neo-classical with its playful riffs on tradition including a ballerina taken through her partnering paces by 4 men (rose adagio citation) and a medieval feasting scene with "swan" on the menu. It's not Balanchine or even Ratmansky but certainly one of the more interesting ballet works they have performed and happily had live music from the GA State University Chorus.

Worst of what I have seen this year:

1. Clear at ABT. Dreadful ballet, mediocre dancing (at least with the one cast I saw). Dancewise I exempt Thomas Forster from this worst list.

2. The magic of the opening scene of ABT's Sylvia just ever so slightly spoiled in all three performances I saw because of of miscues in the ensemble--Ashton's magic is a delicate affair. One muffed performance I might overlook. Not three.

3. Disastrous partnering: Jared Matthews (replacing Gomez) and Gillian Murphy in matinee ABT Sylvia doing difficult opening lift of the Act III pas de deux. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion though the final explosion never occured as he did get her safely to the ground. Since he was a replacement we can say mitigating circumstances but it was genuinely painful to watch. Less egregious, but plenty awkward; Alexander Sergeyev and Daria Pavlenko missing a shoulder lift in Ratmansky's Cinderella at the Mariinsky--since the choreography had him carrying her across the stage, she just had to hold on to him with one hand as the other went through half the port de bras. In this case, she was a replacement, so we can also say mitigating circumstances, but aesthetically ...

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Best: In contrast to Drew's comment above about Jared Matthews, my best of 2013 was his stellar performance in the role of Lensky in ABT's Onegin this past spring. He was totally believable as the cuckolded boyfriend and heart-rending in his adagio before the duel. I have been following him for several years, finding that he gets better and better (i would support the concept of mitigating circumstances in the Sylvia Act III pas de deux), and so was very pleased to read in today's New York Times that Alastair Macaulay praised his first performance in Nutcracker.

Worst: Definitely The Tempest, as many BAs have already said.

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When one approaches the finish line of another year, it’s good to step back for a moment and consider that in spite of everything, we should count our blessings. By blessings I mean friends, family, and those incidental things that we sometimes take for granted. 2013, like any other year, was horrible for some, glorious for others. Without question, 2013 was unforgettable for the right and the wrong reasons. I’ll list, what were IMO, the general ballet world highs and lows. I’ll conclude with what happened in Russia, which was in a category all by itself.

The Best:

  • Lacotte's "La Sylphide" marathon this past July at POB.
  • The return of Alessandra Ferri to the stage in “CHERI”
  • Anytime Uliana Lopatkina appeared onstage - anywhere.
  • POB’s Mathilda Froustey's and ABT’s Simone Messmer’s relocation to San Francisco Ballet
  • Stephen McCrae and Evgenia Obraztsova finally danced together in MacMillan’s "Romeo & Juliet” at Covent Garden
  • Joseph Phillips also, formerly of ABT moved on to became a founding member and Principal Dancer of the brand new State Primorsky Ballet in Vladivostok.
  • The bumper crop of babies born to several Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky ballerinas last Spring.

The Worst:

  • The passing of David Howard, Frederick Franklin, David Wall, Maria Tallchief and Galina Rahkmanova
  • Alastair Macaulay

The Best à la Russe:

  • Sergei Filin’s courage in carrying on with his life in the midst of tragedy and adversity.
  • The Platinum Soldier On Award: To the Bolshoi Ballet, for hanging tough all year as an ensemble through an ordeal that might have destroyed other institutions. The company celebrated it’s 50th anniversary engagement at Covent Garden, and found time for another triumph last month with the premiere Pierre Lacotte’s production of “Marco Spada.”
  • “Holy smack-down Batman!” Award: From Reid Andersen to Svetlana Zakharova, re the Bolshoi opening night casting of Olga Smirnova as Tatiana in the Russian premiere of “Onegin.”
  • The IPhone5 Dance Program Award goes to Diana Vishneva.
  • The Head-hunter of the Year Award goes to Vladimir Kehkman, General Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre
  • The Comeback Kid Award goes to Altynai Asylmuratova

The Worst à la Russe:

  • The most outrageous and disgusting event: The acid attack on Sergei Filin.
  • The most outrageous and disgusting result of the most outrageous and disgusting event: The Tsiskaridze takeover of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, and the complete summary of how that unfolded from beginning to end.
  • The farce of the year which evolved simultaneously in two parts: 1) The Russian criminal justice system and how it tried the Filin case, and 2) The fractious factions within the Russian media which took sides in its coverage of the scandal all year long.
  • *(Cue the Lilac Fairy music) - "The Slipping Duty" Award. Once again, it’s a photo finish. The award goes to Maestro Valery Abisolovich Gergiev, the General and Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre & Yuri Fateev, Interim (Acting) Deputy Director of the Mariinsky Ballet. The reasons? Gergiev’s blessing of the design and execution of the Mariinsky II with no thought given at all to the needs of the Ballet, not to mention their working conditions which he continues to ignore.
  • Gergiev's "If you like your Academy you can keep your Academy" fib, denying that he wanted to combine all the Petersburg performing arts institutions under the Mariinsky brand, (and his control), when the media produced his correspondence to the Ministry of Culture and the Russian President requesting exactly that.
  • I can’t recap all of Fateev’s management issues here, so I refer you to the Mariinsky-Kirov link for a full summary.

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  • The Platinum Soldier On Award: To the Bolshoi Ballet, for hanging tough all year as an ensemble through an ordeal that might have destroyed other institutions. The company celebrated it’s 50th anniversary engagement at Covent Garden

The Bolshoi first performed at the Royal Opera House in 1956 and therefore celebrated its 50th anniversary tour there in 2006. The tour of 2013 was "the 50th anniversary of its first visit to Covent Garden under the banner of Victor Hochhauser." While this may have been a major anniversary for the company's London impresario, it was actually the company's 57th London anniversary. http://www.roh.org.uk/about/bolshoi (Perhaps this shamelessly deceptive marketing on the part of the Hochhausers should qualify as one of the year's minor "worsts.")

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Cygnet wrote:

Gergiev's "If you like your Academy you can keep your Academy" fib...

ROTFL! Sure, you can 'keep it' but at what a cost (in this case, cost to the artistic integrity, rather than finances)! smile.png

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I've done a complete top 10 (plus one) performances of 2013 on my blog (http://itinerantballetomane.blogspot.com/2013/12/best-performances-of-2013.html) but for the short top four list: Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake, NYCB in Serenade (last January - stunning), Bolshoi Ballet in Flames of Paris, and Misa Kuranaga as Aurora with Boston Ballet.

I hate to do a bottom list, but for my money, Boston Ballet's La Bayadere sticks out pretty bad. Also Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake was enormously disappointing.

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Best - living in NYC and getting to see so much great dance all the time.

NYCB:

My 2013 started with a spectacular performance by Sterling Hyltin in Dewdrop that set the pace for her transformation from principal dancer to ballerina in 2013. She was memorable in a number of roles but her performance in a Man I Love from Who Cares was a high point. Tiler Peck in that same role was also wonderful and seems to go from strength to strength. A number of NYCB dancers had great years. Tess Reichlen looked great all season and was a glittering Odile. Harrison Ball really impressed me as the Jester in that same performance. Ashley Laracey had a breakout season with strong performances in Ivesiana, Coffee - so clean and precise - and other roles. Janie Taylor was astounding in the Unanswered Question and other roles and I really regret her retirement. She is sui generis. maria kowrowski and T. Angle were outstanding last week in Nuts. They are a marvelous partnership. I am happy to see the continuing development of dancers like Anthony Huxley, Scheller, Danchig-Waring, Ramsar among others. Mearns in 2013 was problematic for me - pushing too hard in Ivesiana, dancing heavily in Serenade but then giving a marvelous performance in Western Symphony.

ABT:

Didn't see a lot in the spring. Ashton's Sylvia was a high point although I have reservations about Polina Semionova in the title role. Salstein was wonderful in Sylvia and in everything I saw him in this fall. It was great to see Tharp's Partita and I liked The Tempest although it has flaws. Gomes' performance was magisterial. I'd like to see ratmansky's shostakovich trilogy apart not as a full length evening.

Other:

I loved Mathew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty - lots of flaws but lots of fun. Good to see Taylor's Brandenburg's again but the rest of the program was weak and disappointing. Campagnie Sebastian Ramirez showed me that hip hop can be an expressive art form in its portrayal of a complicated relationship.

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Best - living in NYC and getting to see so much great dance all the time.

I too am grateful for being in NYC and seeing so much.

High Points - Getting to see both SanFrancisco Ballet & PNB.

NYCB

Tiler Peck in anything

Andrew Veyette - Theme and Variations and general growth in strength and presence

Andrew Scordate - corps member great in principal role in Symphony in Three Movements

Robert Fairchild - in Who Cares

Ashley Laracy, Lauren King, Lauren Lovette, Savannah Lowery, Georgina Pazcoguin - All soloists of great individuality who bring something unique and special to their performances.

ABT

Sarah Lane - One of the few engaging things in The Tempest

Marcelo Gomez - Every time he comes on stage

Low Points

Ratmansky - The Tempest

ABT's loss of Simone Messmer to SanFrancisco Ballet (probably a good move on her part)

Kevin McKenzie - He gets a failing grade in developing dancers and programing interesting rep.

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Ended 2013 on a very high note with the 4:00 PM New Year's Eve performance of Nutcracker at NYCB. Angle and Kowrowski were even better than last week. Bouder was a fantastic Dewdrop. She has that world and time enough quality that allows her to play with the music and the diagonal of ronde de jambes was at amazing - she was way off the ground.

In the NYCB tradition there were 2 New Year's eve moments. Scordato as Mother Ginger was sporting a large, glittery bird on his wrist And in the finale, Kowrowski strewed confetti as she reached the top of the two lifts. Great way to end the year.

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I've done a complete top 10 (plus one) performances of 2013 on my blog (http://itinerantballetomane.blogspot.com/2013/12/best-performances-of-2013.html) but for the short top four list: Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake, NYCB in Serenade (last January - stunning), Bolshoi Ballet in Flames of Paris, and Misa Kuranaga as Aurora with Boston Ballet.

I hate to do a bottom list, but for my money, Boston Ballet's La Bayadere sticks out pretty bad. Also Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake was enormously disappointing.

WOW! did you see all of the performances in theaters? I wish I would have these chances. yahoo.gif

‣ Bolshoi's Flames in Paris can be easily picked up as my best one, best dancers, best performances, above all. I cannot ask for more.

‣ The bottom one might be The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle I saw last spring in Beijing. As a small theater, RNZB actually did decent job. I persuaded my sister to sped $100 for a ticket. However, on the second day, she saw Bolshoi's Giselle on DVD and said: "That is different ballet!"

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At San Francisco Ballet:

Best

–Ratmansky From Foreign Lands - sweet-and-sour series of episodes. (Would be interesting to know what the original score was that Ratmansky switched out at the last moment.)

–Symphony in Three Movements with Yuan Yuan Tan & Vito Mazzeo or Sarah Van Patten & Carlos Quenedit in the slow movement – two different kinds of quiet.

–Lensky duel and Jonathan in Cinderella, true Pushkin & pure Max Sennett in Taras Domitro's versions.

–Scotch Symphony - always.

–Borderlands - Wayne McGregor's relentless, almost Warhol-like fascination with dance movement (where fascination is a blend of self-alienation and curiosity). Always tottering on the edge of the not-human. Some wonderful scenes and groupings but no resolutions, everthing porous.

Oddities

–Francesca da Rimini - 20 or so sweet lines of Dante get the Maria Callas treatment.

–Hambourg Ballet Nijinsky - the first act would have been sufficient. Time to let (the idea of) the suffering artist die.

–Suite en Blanc - very weird passages, one with three men, like Borzois, circling a woman and lying at her feet; art deco merangue of a ballet.

Books (best)

–Balanchine and the Lost Muse - With every new anecdote about Lidia Ivanova in Elizabeth Kendell's book, there's less and less of her, until she seems to vanish completely. She becomes the white patch of empty canvas in the middle of a painting that's otherwise finished.

But it's really an important book on Balanchine's lifelong Russian constructivist influences, and the radical theater experiments of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Meyerhold/Fokine and Lopokhov – 10-13-6-6-2-5-11 counts and dancing on the plane of the floor – for which Balanchine later acted as a conservator.

Also Kendell points out the commedia dell'arte and street theater influence on Balanchine via Meyerhold and via Diaghilev during their visit to the last performng commedia dell'arte troup in Naples in 1926. Melancholic is Pierrot, Kendell says, and Phelgmatic is Harlequin. The figure in the gigue of Mozartiana is the ballet's

master of ceremonies, or its Pierrot, or its Death (as in Le Valse). He might be equated with Balanchine. Some of his steps come from Balanchine's own greatest role, the Buffoon of Nutcracker.

–The Infatuations - Javier Marías' mystery about a woman (Luisa) and the Perfect Couple she sees every morning at coffee before work, until one day something happens and everything is off-kilter after that. Long wonderful flights of discussion on Time (slowly turning the tables on us, never drawing attention to its stealthy labors until... )

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I've done a complete top 10 (plus one) performances of 2013 on my blog (http://itinerantballetomane.blogspot.com/2013/12/best-performances-of-2013.html) but for the short top four list: Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake, NYCB in Serenade (last January - stunning), Bolshoi Ballet in Flames of Paris, and Misa Kuranaga as Aurora with Boston Ballet.

I hate to do a bottom list, but for my money, Boston Ballet's La Bayadere sticks out pretty bad. Also Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake was enormously disappointing.

WOW! did you see all of the performances in theaters? I wish I would have these chances. yahoo.gif

‣ Bolshoi's Flames in Paris can be easily picked up as my best one, best dancers, best performances, above all. I cannot ask for more.

‣ The bottom one might be The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle I saw last spring in Beijing. As a small theater, RNZB actually did decent job. I persuaded my sister to sped $100 for a ticket. However, on the second day, she saw Bolshoi's Giselle on DVD and said: "That is different ballet!"

I was lucky enough to spend six months in Moscow for my research. Sadly, I probably won't get that kind of opportunity again.

I'm glad you agree about Bolshoi's Flames. It was a new one for me until very recently and I think the whole production is fascinating - the original and Ratmansky's remake. Like many other Soviet works, I think it's a shame that it's underperformed in the US.

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I was lucky enough to spend six months in Moscow for my research. Sadly, I probably won't get that kind of opportunity again.

I'm glad you agree about Bolshoi's Flames. It was a new one for me until very recently and I think the whole production is fascinating - the original and Ratmansky's remake. Like many other Soviet works, I think it's a shame that it's underperformed in the US.

Although revolutionary modern ballets are not new for me, I was still very surprised to see how modern it is, when I saw the Flames of Paris on DVD. Did they make this in 30s of last century? I like those Soviet's modern ballets, the Flames of Paris, Bright Stream, and Golden Age. Hope Bolshoi could put them all on DVD. Did ABT dance the Bright Stream last year? How was it? I have doubts that they could catch Bolshoi's success. We can see the special Russian outburst of enthusiasm from their folk dances, pretty unique. tiphat.gif
I like your articles in your blog, which makes me more knowledgeable about ballet in general. I am preparing my money & time for visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg. Your <A Guide to the Bolshoi for First-time Attendees> helps a lot. thanks.GIF

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