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Wednesday, the Dream and Symphony in C


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#1 Michael

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Posted 30 May 2002 - 04:55 AM

This is half a question and half and impression. And short.

It's odd, but it seemed to me last night that ABT may be more comfortable dancing Balanchine than dancing Ashton. We will see about Fille this weekend. It's easy to see, though, why that would be true for any company. Ashton's is such a sui generis style, so difficult to master and preserve. The step vocabulary, the balletic language seems unique to me. But, for you who have seen a lot of his work, is this what Ashton's style is supposed to look like? Or are we only seeing it through a glass very very darkly?

Carlos Acosta as Oberon had the most wonderful sense of weight, of what Alexandra calls "pressing to the floor." In that particular, the contrast between him and, for example, Angel Corella (who seems always to walk on demi pointe) could not be more marked.

I also absolutely loved Julie Kent's Titania. Beautiful placement, beautiful feet, beautiful hair, she gave herself over totally to the role, might even have overdone the shaking/giggling/melting in her body, and the almost reverse epaulement and arms, but that's one of the reasons why I ask the question in the first paragraph.

The performance of the evening, though, even of the season was GILLIAN MURPHY's first movement in Symphony in C. She was simply phenomenal -- This was as good as I've ever seen this danced. She has matured and has total command of the stage, her presence is radiant, she completes all her steps, has gorgeous musicality, total technical ease and assurance as well, she illuminates the music with her entire body and shows you what the choreography is all about. The only fault I could see may be a slight lack of flexibility in her upper body and back - I can't think of anyone else whom I would rather see dance this role at the moment, or Theme and Variations for that matter either.

#2 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 03 June 2002 - 04:17 PM

I saw the same program as Michael, only I was at the May 25th
matinee. I really loved "The Dream". It is a jewel of a ballet. I had the Joffrey perform it years ago at City Center, and always
wanted to see again. I agree with Michael's views of Acosta and
Kent in the two main roles. (And Michael always says it so much
better than I could.) Many people around me were very disappointed with Acosta's performance. I think they were
expecting fireworks, and the part doesn't call for them. One older
woman kept going on and on about how Acosta had "held back."
If any part called for fireworks, it was the part of Puck. I saw DeLuz and he was just perfect for the part - it fits his sunny
personality and bravura dancing ability.

As for "Symphony in C" yes Gillian Murphy was wonderful, but I found the performance as a whole to be somewhat lacking. I last
saw the ballet performed by NYCB at the end of January. I don't think ABT really "got" "Symphony in C" the way NYCB did. Maybe
it's that they lack the speed for the ballet. I'm not really sure. I've heard people say ABT shouldn't perform Balanchine because they never do it right. That's a pretty sweeping statement, but I do think Ashton fits ABT much better than Balanchine.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 03 June 2002 - 04:56 PM

I saw a different cast of "The Dream:" McKerrow and Belotserkovsky. Neither were really up to the technical challenges, and the performance as a whole was flat, I thought. But I could still see the ballet -- to me, it looked like a very solid staging that needs fine tuning.

The corps was a tiny bit sharp, but, I thought, only a tiny bit. I thought they were very Ashtonian, and I've always thought the native ABT language was closer to Ashton than Balanchine. What I was afraid of (along with others, I think) was that ABT would be too broad in the comedy, and they weren't.

Belotserkovsky, as Oberon, just didn't have the speed, and so the Scherzo didn't work. Oberon's temper causes that storm, and the anger comes out in the turns -- the air is stirred, everything else is scattered. It's really a little classical suite for a ballerino and supporting dancers and it erupts in the center of the ballet and is its climax in every way. Several people I know thought that Stiefel did very well. No one can be Dowell, because Dowell was both imperious and fey, and he had such an unusually beautiful body.

Because ABT is dancing two new Ashtons, there was a lot of talk this weekend at the Dance Critics Association (about 150 dance critics from around the country, a few from abroad) that it would be nice if they'd get more. Rather surprisingly, to me, this came not only from people who are identified as Ashton people (David Vaughan) but seemed to be a general sentiment. Hard times make for strange bedfellows :( Ashton may be brought back -- dragged out of that Heritage Works freezer -- for 2004 (his centennary) but his works are seldom performed now at Covent Garden. One this season, one next. One! That means ABT's current repertory has double the Ashton works of the Royal. (Imagine if NYCB programmed only one Balanchine ballet in a season!)

ABT has, in recent memory, danced Les Patineurs, Les Rendezvous, Birthday Offering, and Symphonic Variation (the latter was particularly well danced, and well-liked, but went away very quickly).

The Symphony in C I saw Thursday night was in much better shape than when the company was in D.C. As a matter of fact, both programs showed a different ABT than the one I've been watching at the Kennedy Center for the past six or seven years. Much more disciplined -- no wrist flicking, no overgrinning, no turning the second movement of Symphony in C into Swan Lake Act II(a). It was a very clean, very joyous performance. Done in a different accent than it would be across the plaza, but I want a world of many accents.

Vladimir Malakov danced the first movement (with Paloma Herrera, surely one of the strangest pairings imaginable). I haven't seen him in several years and have never seen him in a pure dance role. I thought it was the most sophisticated male dancing I've seen in years -- sophisticated because it was clean, every step given full measure, no overdancing, and his movements are polished.

#4 Lolly

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 01:34 AM

Yes, we are all VERY concerned about the amount of Ashton works which are currently in the rep, as I'm sure you know! But I shan't turn this into another "new director" debate...;)

I managed to see The Dream three times in its short run here last season (it was paired with Song of the Earth and also featured in a mixed bill of pas de deux etc) and I loved it. I saw Carlos Acosta dance it with Sarah Wildor and they were great, although I much preferred Johan Kobborg in the role as I felt it was more "him". The person I thought came closest to dancing like Sir Anthony was Hubert Essakow, who was, I think, third cast with Alina Cojocaru! He was very calm and precise, a very pretty dancer who we don't see much of these days. (Haven't seen him for months actually - perhaps he is injured. He is still on the company list!) But I think he only got one performance so he wouldn't have had time to develop himself in the role really.

The main reason for me writing this is that I'm sure I have a piece of video somewhere of Sir Anthony coaching Carlos as Oberon - I'm not sure how the guardianship of a ballet works but I thought it would mean at least that if the owner/guardian didn't coach, they had to be happy with the finished production - so did Sir Anthony coach everyone there?

I must say after seeing Angel Corella and Ethan Stiefel here I can't imagine what they would be like as Oberon... I'd love to see them though. It is such a unique role that I bet there are a lot of disappointments (like the woman who missed Carlos' fireworks - she should have gone to see him in Don Q instead;) ) but as well there must be a lot of nice surprises when someone unexpected dances it really well.

I hope you all enjoy it though - you must have got our share of Ashton this season! If anyone is dithering about whether to go and see it, please, go for me!:(

#5 liebs

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 06:08 AM

I saw the same cast last night as Alexandra has commented on and agree with her analysis. I was very favorably impressed with Flavio Salazar as Bottom. His mime scene after he returns to human form was detailed and hence, touching.

Symphony in C is played at a much slower tempo than NYCB uses and that is both good and bad. In the second movement with Kent and Gomes, the slower tempo robbed her of any chance to make the adagio one long skein of movement in the way Kistler and others do at NYCB. And since Kent, and mostly everyone else in the cast, are "very steppy" in the way they perform this work, the movement lacked magic.

Stiefel danced brillantly but inappropriately in the third movement. He was determined to show off the height of his jumps and inserted double saute de basques, thereby overshadowing his partner Gillian Murphy. She danced well if somewhat icily - although it was hard to blame her for her lack of warmth under the circumstances.

Wiles and Ricardo Torres led the fourth movement. Here the slower tempo was a boon, allowing Wiles to cleanly and joyously execute that difficult pirouette combination. I was most impressed with her and thought she had the best understanding of the dynamics of the piece.

On a general note, both Dream and Bizet call for very strong pointe work and I frequently did not see fully stretched feet. In Bizet, some of the women have a much looser fifth position in releve than one sees at NYCB. Additionally, both in Onegin and last night, the women's pointe work is very noisy. Perhaps it is true that the design of the State Theatre muffles the foot falls but I generally sit much closer to the stage at the State Theater and rarely hear as much of a racket as the fairies made last night.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 07:13 AM

Lolly, Dowell did coach the principals in Dream, at least, for ABT. (And Grant coached the principals for Fille.) The credits were Anthony Dowell with Christopher Carr -- which usually means that Carr set the corps.


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