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World Premiere of Whipped Cream by Ratmansky

144 posts in this topic

On March 10, 2017 at 7:59 PM, ABT Fan said:

Here's a little snippet of Sarah Lane rehearsing Princess Praline in her costume:

 

 

 

Thanks for posting this lovely clip, ABT Fan. So the music is the Gallop that ends the A2 suite of dances of the Praline entourage. It's one of about 4 or 5 truly melodious bits in the score, mostly for the Praline entourage (group dances for the little pralines & the crackers...then this Gallop-Coda). These are topped only by the most hummable tune of all: the Schlagobers (Whipped Cream) Waltz that ends A1.

 

I, too, look forward to seeing Lane's complete Princess Praline at the Saturday matinee. 

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I imagine that a ballet titled Schlagobers would have have cultural and political association for the Austrians just as a ballet entitled Apple Pie would for Americans.  I question the purging of traditional context for the sake of political correctness.  Learning a little history from program notes would not impair anyone's health, and in the general sea of historical ignorance which is now our lot, I would find it welcome.  ABT has the right to do what it wants but if a subject is too controversial for them why adapt it erring on the side of superficiality - let them do something else that is pure froth.   An interesting dimension adding a little darkness to the overindulgent treat is lost, and knowledge of the original intent of this work will be overshadowed, (as will the interpretation of the music), as I am sure this will be the go to production.

 

 

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I don't fault ABT for using the English translation in hopes that more people would be likely to consider buying tickets. It's not so unusual to change names for that purpose. Some of us are still trying to understand why J.K. Rowlings' first book was sold in the UK as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" but renamed for US sales to ". . . Sorcerer's Stone." Did they think "philosopher" would be too high-brow and intimidating?

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, California said:

I don't fault ABT for using the English translation in hopes that more people would be likely to consider buying tickets. It's not so unusual to change names for that purpose. Some of us are still trying to understand why J.K. Rowlings' first book was sold in the UK as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" but renamed for US sales to ". . . Sorcerer's Stone." Did they think "philosopher" would be too high-brow and intimidating?

 

I have to giggle at this, since my partner is a philosopher.  Very few people in the US understand the reference to a philosopher's stone, particularly younger readers -- Scholastic Books was the US distributor for Rowling's works at that time, and they have always been tightly focused on a youth market.  These were not originally aimed at adults.

 

In Joe Mazo's Dance is a Contact Sport, he talks about Balanchine's decision to name the last work he makes for Melissa Hayden after its music (Cortege Hongrois).  Apparently there was some pushback from the marketing department, who knew that audiences would be more hesitant to book tickets, and a great deal of frustration from the people who worked at the ticket windows and the phones -- no one knew how to pronounce it, either in the audience or in the staff.

Edited by sandik

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a person close to NYCB at the time of ROBERT SCHUMANN'S 'DAVIDSBUNDLERTANZ' reportedly questioned Balanchine about titling his new ballet in this way, to which it is said Balanchine replied: If people can't pronounce the title they shouldn't buy tickets...

 

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Another article (I didn't see it in Links). The quotes in this one -- from Ratmansky and Ryden -- seem to me even more interesting than the one above. There is also a little more information about the production itself.

 

And...Ryden declares (more or less) that he has become something of a ballet fan now and talks about watching Ratmansky's Firebird from the Wings:

 

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-mark-ryden-whipped-cream-20170303-story.html

 

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Whipped Cream is Mark Ryden's concoction all the way.  I will write more later, but it clocks in at under two hours and is visually delectable and imaginative. The choreography is classical and sometimes repetitious - three of these steps, six of those steps. 

 

 It was wonderful to have David Hallberg back on stage; Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane were their feminine, adorable selves; Daniil Simkin's role as the boy was the only character who was allowed some variance in acting and he was excellent; Blaine Hoven and Joseph Gorak danced their solos brilliantly.  No complaints at all about the production values and the dancers' commitment and performances.  

 

 It was just too frothy and cutesy for me, which has nothing to do with the expert execution by the dancers and Ryden's remarkable creativity - but the work had zero emotional weight.  I had seen Woolf Works danced by the Royal Ballet in a ballet-in-cinema presentation two nights earlier and the contrasts between the two ballet universes could not have been more extreme.  

 

The Orange County audience ate it up, found it delightful, oohed and aahed over the remarkable sets and costumes, and gave a standing ovation.  

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Thank you Josette, I can't wait to read more of your review.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with Josette, though I maybe liked it a bit more than she did (after one viewing—let’s see how it holds up to repetition). It is pretty frothy and the story fairly non-existent. No real character arcs, and the pacing is odd to say the least. I think a large portion of the audience were Ryden-ites, as he got a huge ovation when he came out (and a huge amount of oooh-ing throughout the ballet for the scenery/costumes), as opposed to the polite enthusiasm that greeted Ratmansky, and I don’t think that is a referendum on the ballet, merely observing that people likely didn’t know who Ratmansky was.

 

 

In Act One the Boy (Simkin) appears for about 6 minutes, after succumbing to the effects of the overindulgence of whipped cream, and is then carted off to hospital, not to appear again until Act Two. I’m not clear how you’re supposed to take his repeating licking of the whipped cream topped whisk, but there are definitely some weirdly sexual overtones there. After he’s gone, totally divorced from this prelude, Princess Tea Fairy (Abrera) and Prince Coffee (Hallberg, wonderful!) show up. Abrera is sunny and coy to Hallberg being slightly perverse (thinking back to his magnificent and creepy turn as Koschei in The Firebird) and a bit of the sexual aggressor. His acting skills have deepened in his absence from the stage, even if the clarity of his dancing is a bit diminished. It was a great joy to see him and he seemed to crack a few genuine smiles at Stella during their pas de deux. Like Josette said, the choreography has clear repetitions including pirouettes where the leg in passe switches from front to back—this is a theme throughout both acts. After this, Prince Cocoa (Gorak) and Don Zucchero (Blaine Hoven) show up to try to win Princess Tea Flower over. Prince Cocoa is all dark machismo and Gorak was excellent and very sharp in the choreography. Don Zucchero is poncey in affected dress. They have a dance off and then dance with Abrera/jealous Hallberg and then all of the sudden they return to their cannisters—the end of that. Then, we get transported to whipped cream land (??) where I imagine the corps dancers are battling over who doesn’t have to suit up in the show-every-ripple white unitard with a pointed whipped cream dollop cap (and a gauzy overlay creating the whipped cream billow). The effect of the costumes is lovely, but I imagine they are not very popular with the dancers! The dancers have a big corps number which is very dancey and then Act 1 ends.

 

In Act Two, we pick up with the Boy (finally) in his hospital bed. There is a big eye creepily blinking over the scene, as Danil is poked and prodded by a drunk doctor and a band of sadistic nurses with giant syringes they wield like machine guns. Princess Praline (Sarah Lane) shows up and stands a rescue mission. I haven’t mentioned it until this point but Simkin has a HORRIBLE costume—this little white short-shorts/vest combo that makes him look about 5 years old. So when Lane shows up to “rescue” him and dances a romantic pas de deux it is extremely jarring (more so when the white shorts/vest combo turns into a gold one and they get married). Princess Praline brings with her a whole retinue of weird creatures that Ryden has clearly been given free rein to develop. Simkin is allowed to “show off” more than Hallberg’s character with several solos focusing on grand allegro. Lane’s big solo is a tight petite allegro that is clearly very tricky despite mostly being done in one spot on the stage. She also has to whip (pun?) off some fouettes after doing this, so it’s a real calf killer. This will be very poor if the dancer cast isn’t skilled at petite allegro.

 

Then, the Doctor gets drunk and we have some alcohol bottles come to life—a delightful Catherine Hurlin (Champagne), Roman Zhurbin (Vodka), and another male dancer (Brandy, sorry, I’m without my program at my desk). They have a combative pas de trois, fighting over Champagne. Hurlin and Zhurbin are clear stand outs for the comedic timing and engagement. I do hesitate at the depiction of Vodka because I think Ratmansky is relying on those same tropes/stereotypes present in the Russian dance of his Nutcracker. They then end up poisoning the Doctor and the Nurses, allowing the Boy to escape to Whipped Cream land and get hitched to Princess Praline. Abrera and Hallberg show up and there is a big finale number with all of the cast.  

 

I thought Act Two was more compelling than Act One. It’s creepier and there is a plot. There’s a lot to take in visually so, for me, I am interested to see it again because I feel I likely missed many things. Act One is really a trifle, and unless you are really invested in the dancing of Princess Tea Flower and Prince Coffee, it’s going to get dull; I can tell. I was invested last night because I adore Abrera and was delighted to see the return of Hallberg, but it’s much less substantial than Act Two. Tea Flower and Coffee need to be well cast: good actors who can sell the barely-there characterization.

Edited by ksk04

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Posted (edited)

So the total running time is less than 2 hours, based on what Josette said.  Does that include an intermission?

 

PS- Thanks for posting your thoughts on the ballet, ksk04 and Josette

Edited by abatt

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Yes, it includes intermission. 

 

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Josette & ksk, thank you both for posting your impressions. Sounds like its worth seeing at least once and since my subscription ticket is for the Simkin/Abrera/Gomes/Lane cast I guess I will keep it, 

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Thank you, Josette and KSK, for your thorough reports. From your description of the "plot," and the many photos available of the over-the-top costumes, I think this one is not for me. I'll stick with the classics this spring season. Hope to see Vishneva and Gomes in Onegin and maybe a debut or two in Giselle and Swan Lake. 

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I pretty much agree with your thorough commentary, ksk04.  Where were you sitting? I was in the front row and was wondering how everything comes across where faces are not so distinguishable.  I'm back tonight and Friday to see the other casts and then to see the Hallberg/Abrera/Lane/Simkin cast's second show on Sunday.  

 

nysusan, it is  worth seeing once.  

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I saw this photo on Simkin's Instagram, and you can kind of see his gold costume here. I thought the shorts looked really short but given his position in the air I thought they just rode up. Guess not. But, the boy gets married? I'm sorry, but that's just weird.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRrIZschJ5X/?taken-by=daniil&hl=en

 

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I guess you can say that at least it's turnabout. The boy marries his rescuer. Usually it's the girl marrying the prince who rescued her. 

I'm not attending until Sunday night, but I love reading your reviews.

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, Josette said:

I pretty much agree with your thorough commentary, ksk04.  Where were you sitting? I was in the front row and was wondering how everything comes across where faces are not so distinguishable.  I'm back tonight and Friday to see the other casts and then to see the Hallberg/Abrera/Lane/Simkin cast's second show on Sunday. 

 

I was in the rear of the Orchestra Terrace (I think that's what they are calling it now) in the center (there's a cheap seat that has unobstructed center views--perfect for me). I watched most with my binoculars, as I usually do, so probably not the best judge on that. I would say that the detail of the dancers gets lost a bit without the binoculars, just because so much of the scenery is really big and eye catching.  I'll be a bit closer this evening in the terrace, so I'll see if there's a difference.

 

Edit: they opened up the Balcony for the Saturday matinee, so I picked up a ticket. Would like to see what Gillian Murphy makes of the choreography. Going to have to give the third cast a pass for now--sorry Skylar Brandt!

Edited by ksk04

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I don't know whether to go see this at the Met in NY or not. At first I was excited that Sarah Lane got a principal role and was going on that basis, plus the fact that I really like the Bright Stream. I'm not a fan of "story ballets" unless there is a lot of dancing. The Golden Cockerel was a total disappointment. The Bright Stream has a lot of dancing for a lot of people. Whipped Cream seems to be about sets & costumes. The actual dancing is barely being mentioned except for Hallberg and how great it is to have him back. I just don't know. 

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Posted (edited)

30 minutes ago, vipa said:

I don't know whether to go see this at the Met in NY or not. At first I was excited that Sarah Lane got a principal role and was going on that basis, plus the fact that I really like the Bright Stream. I'm not a fan of "story ballets" unless there is a lot of dancing. The Golden Cockerel was a total disappointment. The Bright Stream has a lot of dancing for a lot of people. Whipped Cream seems to be about sets & costumes. The actual dancing is barely being mentioned except for Hallberg and how great it is to have him back. I just don't know. 

I'm having the same conversation with myself -- and if I decide to come up for it, then that will be the only ABT I see this year. However, I took a pass on Golden Cockerel, despite being a huge Ratmansky fan (I'm even glad I saw The Tempest) and I do like at least some of the dancers in pretty much every cast announced. . . so I think I'm leaning 'yes.' I also like the idea of major ballet companies periodically collaborating with major scenic artists. (My love for Balanchine notwithstanding.)
 

The two-hour time didn't bother me really once I remembered there is only one intermission.

 

Happy to read more reactions to the California performances though...

Edited by Drew

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As always, if you want to discuss what critics have to say, the place for that is the "Writings on Ballet Forum.  Here's the thread to Macaulay on " Whipped Cream":

 

Please continue to discuss what you've seen/will see/won't see here.

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Posted (edited)

I think that it is worthwhile to see even if you are skeptical. I was pretty skeptical and while I don't think the choreography in it is revolutionary (it's no Bright Stream, for example), I do find it an enjoyable ballet, especially Act Two. If it's worth anything, I wasn't bored at any time seeing it two nights in a row. There is certainly more dance than "mime"/effects if that is what you're worried about and the dance serves the story, especially in the second act.

 

About the Thursday night cast:Cornejo/Trenary/Seo/Stearns. I found Cornejo and Trenary to be wonderful; I think they moved better together than Simkin/Lane, perhaps because Cornejo is a better partner. Cornejo also invested more into the acting throughout, to my eyes (I admit being more partial to Cornejo as a dancer, though, and have never been totally won over by Simkin). At the end of the ballet, there is a big celebration where everyone gathers in a circle and catches the Boy and then pushes him into the middle to do a dance, over and over (which is nicely matched with the music-I think Ratmanksy uses the score very well throughout), and his dancing seemed to grow sharper and bigger as the ballet progresses, much like, I assume, we're supposed to see the arc and liberation of the Boy. He looks no better in the short-shorts than Danil, though. Trenary was sharp and very confident; she also was very strong in her petite allegro solo. Her tutu looked like it was coming apart in the front (the skirt sagged) though and it never got fastened throughout the Act which I thought was odd--has no one a tacking gun backstage? Something that seemed to change choreographically from the opening night is Princess Praline staying onstage during the Boy's solo in their pas de deux, trying to applaud him and encourage him. I remember Lane staying onstage for a few moments, but then leaving. Trenary stayed the whole time and even helps the Boy with his bows, emphasizing his childlike demeanor.

 

Stearns and Seo were competent, but had none of the shading of Abrera/Hallberg. Stearns was gleeful/happy in a gee-golly way the whole time, whereas Hallberg referenced a darker, more insidious character where you understood why maybe Princess Tea Flower might be swayed by Prince Cocoa or Don Zucchero. Abrera plays the Princess in a slightly more zany fashion, and Seo tried to hit those notes, but was mostly sweet and radiant. Prince Cocoa was danced by Calvin Royal and Don Zucchero by Arron Scott. I thought they were both a bit weaker than the opening night cast of Gorak and Hoven. While Scott is a cleaner dancer than Hoven, Hoven invested more into the foppish personality of Don Zucchero which is clearly the emphasis of the role. 

 

The Chef/Doctor role is a character that guides us throughout the ballet, and on opening night it was played by Alexei Agoudine and I didn't think much of the characterization because of the giant character head, blocking any facial expressions besides the creepily neutral one provided on the prop. However, Zhurbin infuses the character with stronger body language. After he takes a secret swig of his champagne, he does a shiver and starts to float (mimicking the nurses or the whipped cream ladies). So, it's not a throwaway role and if you get to see Zhurbin, you will see that.

 

The liquor libations were played by Christine Shevchenko (Champagne), Hammoudi (Plum Brandy), and Thomas Forster (Vodka). I thought Hammoudi was the strongest of all of them, and I found him really funny as opposed to serious; he looked like he was a bit looser onstage than he has been previously. They had good chemistry and I enjoyed their pas de trois which, at one point, seems to reference the Siren from the Prodigal Son (they've got similar headgear), as she bourees around the stage, leading the two men. The scene where the Doctor is pulled between caring for the Boy/the nurses nagging him and the temptation of the dancing bottles of liquor is well paced and one of my favorites.

 

The big corps dance is the scene at the of the first Act (in the white unitards) and it's a big number a la Snow in the Nutcracker. It's a pure dance scene and the music, which is very waltzy, carries through the choreography well. The ballet clearly requires a big cast with no doubling of parts as everyone has to come back onstage at the end for the final celebration wherein the entire massive cast in onstage doing choreography in a vein similar to the finale of Symphony in C, for impact and scale.

 

Looking forward to seeing other peoples' thoughts as well!

 

 

Edited by ksk04

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I am really feeling sorry for myself about missing this!

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Thanking everyone for their comments and details about this. I'll be there Saturday night, and will post any observations which add anything of (I hope!) value to the above.  Cutesy and sweet try my patience; but . . . we'll see . . .

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Just arrived in O.C. after working for past week elsewhere in S'ern Calif. Looking forward to attending three shows (tonight and both of tomorrow's performances). I'm purposely not reading other reports yet, to go into the theater with a clean slate & fresh eyes. Let's see what transpires.

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