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Marc Haegeman

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet in London

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Thanks for the info, Marc! I am glad to know he is well-known for his agile facial hair! :D

One more thing. I heard a woman saying to her young daughter in the first interval, "If I take you to another ballet, don't expect it to be as good as this one was." It was that kind of night out! :wink:

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I am very, very, very BAD! :shhh:

...For my bank balance. I decided this morning that I have GOT to see Le Corsaire on Saturday afternoon so I bought a ticket.

PLEASE tell me I will love it! Then I can show my conscience that I have made a good decision! :blushing:

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Of course you did the right thing, Kate :blushing:

I can't tell if you'll love it -- reviews of this have been mixed. But if you like even one of the dancers, you'll have a good time.

And if you really want to ease your conscience, all you have to do is remember to tell us about it :)

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One wonders what the Mariinsky is trying to prove by bringing ballets to London which they are still learning. Yesterday evening was first night of "Contrasts", an unnecessarily heavy program grouping Serenade, Nijinsky's Rite of Spring (as staged by Hodson and Archer), and Lander's Etudes (as staged by Josette Amiel). Serenade was OK, but not by any means the most interesting performance I saw of this ballet. It all looked dull, flat and lifeless.

Watching the two remaining ballets was however painful, because even if it is obvious how hard the corps is trying to pull them off, they can't conceal they are underrehearsed and at this moment totally overstretched. Moreover, combining such two vastly different ballets in one evening isn't exactly a stroke of genius in programming either, and if one really needs to have them in one evening, why not rather end with Rite of Spring?

We had some thrilling orchestral playing for Rite, which I feel is not really matched by this colorful, but in fact rather dramatically tame staging of the ballet.

The soloists looked generally more at ease and I thought Yulia Makhalina was excellent in Rite, while light-footed Leonid Sarafanov looked a treat in Etudes. (I don't doubt Andrian Fadeyev, as the second male lead, can do a lot better if he wasn't that exhausted.) It must be a matter of coaching here, but even Svetlana Zakharova proved she can stick to the style of a ballet.

I am sure you'll have a good time with Le Corsaire, Kate. At least this is a ballet they are supposed to know :blushing:.

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I am sure you'll have a good time with Le Corsaire, Kate. At least this is a ballet they are supposed to know :).


Thanks Marc and Alexandra. I'm very excited already and I promise to report!

I can't believe that a year ago I was having trouble motivating myself to go to the theatre. This year I have been so much!

Did you read this today?


Sounds interesting, even if the programme is a 'test' on the ROH. I'd really like to see Rite of Spring now! I'll wait until they've practiced (and I have been paid :) )

One other thing... When is it 'correct' to applaud? Sometimes, with the Kirov especially, people clap whenever someone does a good trick. This distracts me a bit! I'm happy to applaud all the curtain calls (they are many and they are long) but the article says 20 minutes on Monday night! Is it OK to go at some point to catch the last train home? Do the dancers really like it? These might seem like funny questions, but I know I am in the right place to ask them without feeling too stupid. :blushing:

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I'm of the "applaud when you want to" school of applauding. You sound like you have good instincts -- no need to applaud every trick :blushing: It never hurts to do what others are doing, especially at the beginning, so you feel that you're "fitting in," but if there's a standing ovation, say, and you really didn't like it, you're not obligated to go.

When to leave is a controversial topic, too. Some firmly believe one must stay as long as the dancers are on stage, and in the best of all possible worlds -- without trains to catch, say -- I'd agree. But if you have to catch a train, you have to catch a train :) The dancers can see you leave, though, so it is pretty rude when half the audience stampedes for the exit as soon as the curtain falls. It's also rude, I think, to crawl over people who are enthusiastically clapping, at least for the first couple of curtain calls.

This is a very individual thing, so others will have different views -- I'm sure it varies from country to country and house to house, so that will factor in as well.

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Marc, how could I resist your invitation to post about my tropical London-visit ? :)

I hope you don't mind that I start with the 'Contrast'-performance.

I must say I have mixed feelings about the evening of 04th August.

I don't think it was such a good idea to bring 'Serenade' and 'Etudes' into one programme, adding 'Rite of spring' to this was, well euh...a real contrast !

More, we have discussed already several times the problems for dancers to adapt to another 'style'. I can imagine that dancing 'Etudes' after the 'Rite of spring' wasn't easy, apart from the energy-consuming choreography of the 'Rite..' !?

Add to this some technical problems, a lack of rehearsal time and the performance falls to pieces :D

I found "Serenade" appealing for its playfullness, its pureness and fluent choreography. Well, sometimes this makes me forgiving towards Mr.B. for high-kicking legs ;), but I consider it no more than a finger exercise.

Natalia Sologub was outstanding and I was also happily surprised (again !) by Irina Golub. Korsuntsev and the most charming male-dancer of the Kirov : Viktor Baranov (!) showed more competence in this plotless ballet than I've ever seen before.

Nevertheless, I always remain with some dissatisfaction : one can make another twelve simular choreographies on Tchaikovsky's Serenade ?!

"The Rite of Spring", a meticulous reconstruction by M.Hodson and K.Archer, should have been the crown-piece of the evening.

Shame, but to me it wasn't. I find it hard -knowing about all the efforts the authors took to come to this result- to judge on it. Personally, it was a disappointment : it didn't work for me! Ofcourse it's difficult to put aside other, good performances of the Rite in order to see this one with new eyes !

OK, there were marvellous bits in it. I adored the costumes, the settings, the ritual cadance and the force of the dancers, though they need more time.

The orchestra was breathtaking and made me shiver !

But, at some point I even wouldn't have mind if the blocked curtain stayed down :clapping: The ballet missed completely his climax at the end, no matter how convincing Yulia Makhalina was in her performance. The most frappant and powerfull picture of the performance for me is Yulia, standing for minutes in the same position, realizing she's the choosen one and no escape is possible.

"Etudes", a real pleasing choreography with simple but effective lighting turned out to be underrehearsed or were the dancers too tired ?

Apart from this I ADORED the leading maledancers : Sarafanov and Fadeyev. Zakharova sparkled in a ballet where she could demonstrate her dazzling technique, but again there remained some imperfection : not the slightest emotion :(

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Many thanks, Viviane, we began to think you missed the Eurostar :clapping:

The ending of Sacre was indeed sort of an anticlimax, also because Makhalina fell dead like Basilio in the 3rd Act of Don Q. Otherwise, she made quite a strong impression, if most of all by just standing still.

Just want to add that the high-kicking legs in Serenade are definitely a Mariinsky trademark and you won't see anything like this in other companies. But to my mind the piece suffered most from the sluggish conducting from Mikhail Agrest (faring a lot better in Sacre).

You went to see Bayadère as well, I believe? :D

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Yes indeed Marc, I went to see La Bayadère too ! I'll write something about it tomorrow :clapping: ...and my Eurostar was delayed due to the heat ! :sweating:

Thanks for the info re- high-kicking legs, I apologize towards Balanchine fans ! :D

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The Mariinsky concluded its London tour with two performances of Le Corsaire. The evening performance was a fun night out. (Kate you went to the matinee, I believe?) Sofia Gumerova replaced the scheduled Svetlana Zakharova as Medora and did a much better job than when I saw her earlier in the season. Gumerova looked more relaxed and confident, and actually seemed to enjoy what she was doing. She still lacks the face and the presence, as much as the plastique to carry off the first act (her unveiling on the market square could be mistaken for a bad joke), but the remaining acts were enjoyable.

It was also good to have the delightful Irina Zhelonkina as Gulnara, giving a few glimpses of Kirov classicism from a mostly forgotten era: all delicate, feminine charm, swift, and moving without the slightest noise, the last act variation seems tailor-made for her.

The men were interesting all: Shishov as Conrad, Fadeyev as Lankedem, Baimuradov as Birbanto. Only Zelensky, over-cautious, pained a bit. His Ali still had his moments, but we remember what he really could do with the part, and that's all gone now. As something of a local star, he nonetheless got the loudest cheers of all.

The weakest part of the evening was again the 3 odalisques, looking like alien visitors stranded in a Kirov harem, with Sheshina thundering her way through it and Sukhorukova unappealing as ever (compared with a dancer like Zhelonkina, they really seem to come from a different world). Only Selina brought a few moments of grace.

As a gesture of farewell there was a flower throw, even though I felt the company wasn't very concerned about all this. The soloists did several curtain calls, because the public didn't want to let them go. In previous seasons the whole company, or at least the ballet masters used to assemble on the stage for taking a bow. Nothing of that this time. Well, they had an early flight the next morning. Onward to the next engagement. And London will see them back in 2005.

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Sorry, I'm spoiling the chronology of the performances a bit. I need to keep my promise and post something on 'La Bayadère' !

"La Bayadere" 02 August 2003

Nikya : Daria Pavlenko

Solor : Andrian Fadeyev

Gamzatti : Elvira Tarasova

Travelling to see the Kirov : it's always exciting ! I had a ticket in my pocket for Kirov's old/new Bayadère on Saturday 02 August and I was more than happy because Daria Pavlenko had recovered from illness !

Earlier this year I saw Vikarev's reconstruction of "La Bayadère" for the first time in Paris and I was completely bowled over :thumbsup:

So, I saw -months later- a production where almost all the flaws seemed to have vanished.

I had no problems anymore with so-called 'slow parts' in the first acts, costumes were adapted and dancers were no longer struggling with attributes. Even the elephant didn't rush over the stage this time :).

Maybe the tiger will come out of the jungle instead of the toyshop till they are touring the USA ?

After her unforgettable "Swan Lake" in Graz, I had high expectations of Pavlenko's performance. And I can't wait to tell she didn't disappoint me this time too !

Her entrance was impressive and what a face !

She was a very determined Bayadère and the High Brahmin (Vladimir Ponomarev) couldn't influence her.

The first pdd.already set the tone : Solor and Nikiya are in love, no doubt about that.

Pavlenko seems to have a remarkable influence on her partners : I saw Fadeyev like I never saw him before, he was even better this time than in Paris : warmer and emotional ! He was really convincing in his love for Nikiya and the Brahmin was tormented by the idea !

The Second Act brought us an impressive confrontation between Nikiya and Gamzatti (Elvira Tarasova). Tarasova is a firstclass ballerina and actor, her despair was human and plausible and she had no problem in taking us along in her mental development of the character. Pavlenko's strong bodylanguage made the confrontation absolutely stunning.

I felt realy spoiled with the cast : we had Yana Selina, Irina Golub, Svetlana Ivanova and Olesya Novikova as the 4 Bayadères :)

Manu's dance was a bit of of let-down...there was absolutely no comparision with the delightful Vaganova-students in Paris.

Ofcourse the "Infernal Dance" with a pure Rakhmanova, powerful Baimuradov and Scherbakov made me forget everything !

Btw -since Graz- Baimuradov is a new favourite of mine :wink: , he has style !

Nikiya's melancholic dance of the Bayadère, her hidden despair, the joy when receiving the basket with flowers : I was totally carried away and -to my surprise- I found myself with my hands on my face, appalled by the betrayal.

In the Third Act Gamzatti is totally convinced in having Solor as her own until the shade of Nikiya appears and Solor seems completely absent. His dream was a delight to the eye : Irina Golub (she became a gem !), Irina Zhelonkina (a marvel !) and the younger Tatiana Tkachenko (she brings something sweet to her dancing). Fadeyev was 'grand' and I adored Pavlenko's balances and little gestures.

I can't find words for the "Kingdom of the Shades", the line-up of 32 shades is a mindblowing perfection. The Orchestra was in superb form and the audience was completely in spell of the performance : the auditorium was as still as a mouse until the very last note.

A tunderous applause afterwards was sending waves of appreciation to the dancers.:)

As I already said before, I adore the Fourth Act ! No matter how long it makes the performance...

Although this time I was a bit less enthusiastic : 'the Dance of the Lotus Blossoms', executed by children of diverse English balletschools could'nt compete at all with the divine Vaganova School dancers. I can't say they didn't do a good job on the London-stage, you simply can't compare it. But I don't want to be picky here : the audience loved them and there were some extraordinary and charming dancers between them.

The Pas d'action delighted me thanks to Tkachenko and Selina, even Sukhorukova surprised me by being more elegant.

I'm always in awe for the haunting shade of Nikiya who disturbes the dancing of the marrying couple : Daria Pavlenko was mesmerizing and the cold-white spotlight helped her in her commanding interventions.

I had an apocalyptic picture in my head about tunder and lightning, falling collums, stones and whatever made the temple collapse from my Parisian viewing....none of this was happening that evening -well not exactly- but absolutely not in that overwhelming way !?

What happened ? Have they reduced these scenic events or was there a technical problem ?

Nevertheless, the apotheosis was great...the applause immense and one of the first things Daria did was coming forward and send a 'thank you' to the Orchestra : a beautiful gesture !

A pity the organisator offered only 4 performances of 'La Bayadère', they easily could have another sold-out evening and I already regretted not to be able to see her 'Swan Lake' on the 08th of August :(

I can't help it, I'm becoming more and more in the spell of the Kirov Ballet, how will I survive next season ?

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Many thanks for this review, Viviane. You were lucky to catch one of the best performances of the whole season in London. Quite right about the collapse of the building at the end: on previous occasions it had been more spectacular, but for some reason in this performance nothing much happened.

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I'd seen Pavlenko do just the Shades act in DC and loved her. I like her cool purity (which almost everyone else took as coldness). Thank you very much for posting that review, Viviane.

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Writing something about a ballet is always a pleasure, Alexandra :)

"Cool purity" yes, that's right. I don't know another Kirov-ballerina who's able to perform the whole scala of emotions, Pavlenko has. If people speak of her coldness, I think they missed all subtleties she can add to a character.

She hasn't the dazzling technique of Vishneva and Zakharova, but I think she's completer as a performer. Sorry it sounds like I start raving :rolleyes:

Well anyway, she has everything I'm looking for in a ballerina !

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Pavlenko’s dancing strikes me as much more profound and sensitive, as well as more consistent and classically in line than the other ladies you mentioned, Viviane. I wouldn’t say her technique is in any way less impressive, she just doesn’t slap us in the face with it all the time. To my mind, too, she is a much more complete artist than anything I have seen from Zakharova or Vishneva, who rely far too heavily on flashes of technical display to make their point.

Pavlenko's Swan Lake on Friday had the same qualities of her earlier performance in Graz, except that it didn’t attain the same emotional level as then. Even though it was also Igor Kolb who was her Siegfried, the magic of that earlier performance wasn’t quite repeated. I guess that night was one out of a million.

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I saw Le Corsaire on Saturday afternoon and, yes, from the start, I was transfixed! The shipwreck definitely set the tone.

I'm sorry I haven't posted earlier and I'm not going to be able to write a very good review because I've been working very hard long hours this week and it seems like a very long time since I was at the ballet! :lol:

But, thinking back, this was the best of matinee ballet. It was cheerful, and the dancers seemed to be really enjoying themselves. (I always like it when they seem to be having fun.) Like La Bayadere, the costumes and effects were excellent.)

I did think that the ballet was quite disjointed in some ways but I just enjoyed watching it. I left the theatre feeling very happy. It was quite comical, and very lovely, when they all waved from the boat at the end! :D

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Thanks! Im glad you got to see it, tired or no. Kate, when you get the chance -- if you have the time -- come back and tell us who you saw. I'd also be curious about the audience reaction.


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Saturday lunchtime and I am much restored after what I can only say has been one of the worst weeks at work I've had in a while... (have not been to class for nearly a month - argh!)

Anyway, Alexandra I'd be happy to answer your questions.

I'll talk about the men first. I saw Vladimir Shishov as Conrad, Anton Korsakov as Ali, Mikhail Lobukhim as Lankadem...

All were very lively and I was very impressed with Mikhail Lobukhim as Lankadem throughout the ballet. He was exceptionally energetic and really 'into' his part, being both villainous and charming, and never seeming to stop moving!

The second act was also very exciting. Anton Korsakov as Ali fulfilled my expectations that this was a good ballet for men to do, and he was lovable and did some seriously good jumping! Vladimir Shishov as Conrad proved to be an able romantic partner for Medora, but he did not make such a big impression on me as the other two. I'm not sure why, maybe he just didn't have a very visible personality in this ballet. Actually I'm not sure that in these classical ballets it's very easy for the romantic lead men to stand out when they are so often working as a support to the female leads... Anyway, that's probably something to discuss in another thread. The best guy I've seen in a romantic lead who actually had a visible personality was probably Roberto Bolle or Igor Zelensky. Sorry, back to the topic! :)

I saw Tatiana Tkachenko as Medora and Elvira Tarasova as Gulnara. When I saw Elvira Tarasova as Gamzatti the previous week I wanted to see her again, in a role where she played a nice person. She was lovely as Gulnara. I think she is technically brilliant, but also quite modest and calm about it. I don't know why her biography is not on the programme!

Tatiana Tkachenko seems like she is quite young, but thoroughly excited by the prospect of taking on new challenging roles such as Medora. What she lacked in stage presence (I think Tarasova has this) she made up for in charm and enthusiasm, and technical ability. She will, IMHO be one to watch for the future because she has 'something' about her.

Like I said in my last post, this was a matinee and the audience were all, like me, looking for some Saturday afternoon escapism and to see something memorable. It was not like an evening performance. The audience did not clap for twenty minutes at the end, but everyone left with a smile on their face, and I think we all thought we had seen something special, even magical, that afternoon.

Wow! I didn't expect to write this much! I hope Ihave answered your questions, Alexandra, and that my reviewing skills are improving! :)

Anyway, in the autumn I am going to a few Dance Umbrella events at Sadler's Wells: the gala, Ballett Frankfurt, and Michael Clark dance company. I'll let you know what these are like if you like, and chat some more about Kirov too, if there's anything left to talk about! :D

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Thanks for taking the time to post about this, Kate!

You are quite right about Elvira Tarassova. She has been extremely reliable in soloist roles for more than ten years now, yet was never much publicized. Her performance of Gamzatti in the final Bayadère was absolutely thrilling and she does have this stage maturity which all these youngsters, no matter how talented, lack. (She does have a "biography" in the program book as far as I can see - nonetheless, these biographies are full of mistakes and omissions, while the silly accompanying photos must date back from their school days... Is this really impossible to get these basic things right?)

I heard favorable echoes about Tatiana Tkachenko in her debut as Medora. Incidentally, she is a pupil of Lubov Kunakova (Kirov aficionados will surely remember her as the wonderful Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty video with Kolpakova-Berezhnoi). In typical Mariinsky fashion Tkachenko only had a few days to learn the role of Medora.

We will be glad to hear about the future ballet perfomances that you see! :)

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Thanks for the info, Marc! I looked at my prgramme again, and there is a biography for Elvira Tarassova! :) I guess I must have missed it because you're right, the photo looks nothing like her! I am also glad that you agree that she is a good soloist.

I was intrigued by you mentioning that Tatiana Tkachenko made a very good Lilac Fairy. I can imagine her in the role and hopefully one day they will bring Sleeping Beauty to London and I will see her in it!

Also, considering the fact she had not had very long to learn Medora, she did a fantastic job, and this only backs up my point that she is probably one to watch for the future.

I love balletalert! You learn so much! :)

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Very, very late I'm keeping my promise to write something about the Kirov. Unexpectedly I saw the first performance of Corsaire as well as the second night when Miss Vishneva graced us with her high extensions and brilliant smiles.

On that first night I thought the company looked extremely tired and somewhat overwhelmed by their schedule of performances. Shishov was a rather tentative Conrad - immeasurably better the second night, Zakharova was straqining so much she became positively grotesque at moments and while Sarafanov as Ali and Korsakov as Lankadem performed their variations beautifully, neither of them made much effect. It was only little Irina Golub as an odalisque who really brought life to the performance for me. Beautiful,, musical, seemingly effortless dancing,; like a bird singing.

Things had settled by the second performance - presumably everyone had enjoyed a decent night's sleep without any early calls. This was the only time I saw Zelensky all season. I felt he's now outgrown the role of Ali. He's too much the leading man to be anyone's slave and I wonder he doesn't move across to dance Conrad. I was also sorry that his spectacular variation consisted mainly of 'trick' steps. I remember when he could bring the house down simply by performing the choreography as set.

The highlight of the season for me was Bayadere and I should say here that it was far more interesting having read what other people had posted here about the production, in particular what Doug wrote.

I saw all three casts and enjoyed the production more every time I saw it. For me the ballet gained hugely, the structure was clear, there was logic to the story and to the sequence of dances. Moments when you said to yourself "I wonder why he/she does that?" became obvious. And was I glad to see the back of the Golden God.

I think we had the entire production with the exception of one dance in the second act. There is a group of women in the procession with golden headdresses and yellow skirts who did nothing but process and I guess they must have some kind of number.

Going back to what Doug wrote about the Shades, as far as I couold tell they do exactly the same version as always. The one exception was that Pavlenko's final entrance was very like what he described as being in the notation .... jump into arabesque, rond de jambe en l'air. All the other Nikya's did the standard Kirov version.

Of the ballerinas I probably liked Pavlenko best; very pure, sincere dancing and the poor girl had just risen from her sick bed. But all had something to offer. Likewise all the Solor's; Fadeyev I think gave the best all round performance, Sarafanov danced exquistly and acted well - but he does look about 12 years old which is something of a disadvantage. Kolb is not a dancer I particularly care for but his dancing was all you could wish for, his acting very detailed and his agonized run across the stage after Nikya's shade in Act 3 was mind-blowing. But to sum up,

To mention other casts and other roles would take all night and endless space, so I'll just say that most were good, some excellent.

I didn't see the 'Noces' programme, and on the whole I'm glad. I first saw that with Beriosova as the bride and Dowell as one of the leaders of the festivities, and I suspect it would be hard for anything to match that.

I did though, enjoy the Contrasts programme or at least some of it. Serenade was fine with Sologub, Golub and Gumerova partnered by Korsuntsev and Baranov, both gentlemen somewhat outclassed by the ladies I thought. Rite, I originally saw with Joffrey some 15 years ago. I didn't believe in it then and I found it still less credible this time around.

Etudes though, was great. It's a ballet I love and although the Kirov is still finding its way around the piece, rather like driving a new car - nothing's quite easy and natural yet, I thought they did it proud. It was especially good to see the men of the corps de ballet getting a chance to show off their technique on stage. Zakharova was great in the ballerina role - less good perhaps in the Romantic section which I find a bit of a bore anyway. And as for Fadeyev and Sarafanov, well perhaps they weren't quite Bruhn and Flindt, but you'd travel a long way to see better. Fadeyev's turns were sensational and I think it will be a long time before I see anything more exhilarating, precise and beautiful than Sarafanov in the last sequence of beaten steps. Really terrific. I hope the company keeps performing it.

Finally, I have to say just how awful the sightlines are at Covent Garden. I sat in the stalls, stalls circle side, balcony side and towards the centre, and never had a view without an obstruction. And I'm reasonably tall. Frankly, they should have pulled the place down and built a decent theatre.

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Alymer, thank you so much for your detailed comments about the Shades scene. I appreciate knowing part what was danced in the coda. I could kick myself for not getting to New York to see it when it played there. Glad you enjoyed it.

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