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Swan Lake on PBS -- Great Performances

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First of all, how thankful I am that there is actually ballet on television. I was nervous about the ballet being on Channel 13. Usually, Channel 13 drags out their programs with intermissions and pledge breaks. This was one program that was kind of thrown at you all at once. Honestly, I wanted a break between each act so that I could take all this in. But, there was a brief intermission between Act II and Act III and that was all.

I loved the performance. I watched it with my Mom, who has become quite a ballet lover. She did not know the story, so I talked her through it. She was thrilled by the whole program - the costumes, the dancing, the music. No wonder this is one of the all-time classics. I think seeing her get so excited helped me to appreciate the show even more.

I saw Angel Corella dance live once - at the Stars of the 21st Century Gala this past February. He danced the Le Corsaire pas de deux with Alexandra Ansanelli of the NYCB. That was, of course, a much more flashier role for him. But I thought his Sigfried was very moving. It is not an eye-catching role, but I thought he carried himself in a very princely manner and he was an excellent partner to Murphy.

I also saw Gillian Murphy dance live once - Theme and Variations at the All-Star Tchaikovsky Night about three weeks ago. I thought that she was excellent last night - both as Odette and Odile. Her Odette was heartbreaking, especially the times that she was being controlled by Von Rothbart. And she had this really evil look in her eye while she was performing Odile.

I am not that familiar with Swan Lake that I would know what was missing. I watched a Kirov production on VHS with Yulia Makhalina and Igor Zelinsky. This seemed to me a shorter production, based on what I saw on the Kirov tape, but nothing of the story-line was affected and I thought this production kept things moving along niceley.

The corps de ballet, the character dances, and the Act I pas de trois were first-rate. I hope that this will be the first of many more ballet productions for TV.

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I also watched recently the Kirov Swan Lake with Makhalina an Zelinsky. It's realy quite beautiful.

Just re-viewed last night's Act I Pas de Trois on our DVR. The credits list Erica Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes as Herman Cornejo's two partners.

Question: which woman dances the first solo variation (the presto, done mostly on pointe, with high entrechats)? She's incredible.

All three, in fact, are incredible and delightful. Robert Greskovic has described this section as a "little ballet within our ballet". In retrospect, it was the dancing highlight (for me) of the evening. When I've seen it before it made nothing like the impression it did last night.

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When I saw ABT in Chicago last year do the same Swan Lake, it was once again the pas de trois that stole the show. What is to be done with this production? It is interesting to see that the supporting parts overpowered the principals in this ballet, same goes for when I saw it in Chicago. Is it possibly a casting issue?

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I can't really add anything to the debate because everyone so far has wonderfully discuss all the points I like and dislike about the program. But I will say two things:

1. For Murphy and Corella dancing of the Black Swan pas de deux is the best film performance of that set piece I have ever seen so far. That alone is worth buying the tape for. I also think everyone who mention that Murphy overwhelmed Corella was right. Notice when they finish dancing the pas de deux, that shoot of Corella looking at Murphy was something, as if he was amazes that this woman is in fact human. It was almost, "Oh my God! What was that and how did you do it!!"

2. Gomes reminds me of that guy in high school you know you should not have anything to do with. He is just pure bad and you know nothing good would come of it!!! Yet you find yourself spread eagle and on your back saying, "OK he's bad, but he just an misunderstood soul!" This guy has mastered the art of sly seduction to perfection!!

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I thought the most damaging cut of all was the first part of Act 4, as it cuts one of the most moving scenes in the ballet, which is Siegfried searching among the swans and finally finding the forlorn Odette huddled in the center of the swan line.

I think Corella's expressions dont really play well on the small screen. On tv, they look hammy. I dont know if Swan Lake is the ballet for over-the-top expressions anyway. I think quiet desperation works better in this ballet.

I thought Murphy was a surprisingly regal, touching Odette. She had a quiet dignity about her that I found touching. I dont however think she's a natural adagio dancer -- her movements dont have the natural poetic grace of say, Natalia Makarova. I think with time Murphy will be a great Odette. For now, she's a very good Odette.

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I thought Murphy was a surprisingly regal, touching Odette. She had a quiet dignity about her that I found touching. I dont however think she's a natural adagio dancer -- her movements dont have the natural poetic grace of say, Natalia Makarova. I think with time Murphy will be a great Odette. For now, she's a very good Odette.

Just re-watched Act II, and I'm more impressed by what Murphy was trying to accomplish than I was at first viewing. There's quite a lot of excellent reaction and mime when she first meets Siegfried, and she does it clearly and elegantly. Every placement has carefully been thought out.

Canbelto points out some of Murphy's limitations in adagio. I was also struck by how magnificently Murphy is bound to the earth. Even when leaping, she seems to pull the power and weight of the "terre" with her. This partly explains (for me) the lack of real emotion in the adagio pas de deux (violin solo). There are lifts that should -- for me -- express a yielding quality, something of her vulnerability and even helplessness. Murphy rises and conquers the air, but is never at home there. Her image as she thrusts upward and descends in Siegfried's hands is solid, powerful like a spacecraft. Backward bends and arms extended backward can't really disguise that.

About the camera work --- In Act II, the camera allows us to see the entire corps at most 8 seconds per shot (I counted through all the corps work that precedes the little swans),before cutting to something closer up. Usually it's a max of 5 seconds. No wonder the corps, despite what appears to be excellent dancing, seems lost, absent, irrelevant, or whatever. There's no time to register the patterns and the symmetry. The little swans, on the contrary, are allowed to dance without any cuts at all -- they fill the wide screen and there's plenty of time to watch their synchronization and the movement of feet, legs, and heads. So they make a huge impression.

Edited by bart

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I wonder why the choreography was changed for the swans; I found entering with pas suivi ridiculous and unnecessary

That IS the original entrance for the Swan-maidens. The only one who knows for sure why it is that was is Ivanov and he is dead.

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How is Marcelo Gomes so GOOD at playing BAD guys. I saw him last week playing the heavy in Sylvia.

I saw him play the good guy and loved him in that, but WOW I think I would have rather seen him be evil!

I enjoyed the PBS performance very much. I thought Angel looked wonderful. I only wish the times I have seen him live he looked that clean. But, I guess 3 chances to film plus extra filming of any needed footage helps. I loved Gillian in the Black Swan pas de deux, but not even close to when I saw her last Met Season.

The little shortie "lederhosen" are very silly, but wow what quad muscles those gents have.

All in all, I think it is just great to have classical ballet, especially ABT, featured for the more casual ballet fan.

Miss

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So, why not insert something as charming as the maypole if it doesn't hurt the story in any way? Visually, the effect is stunning. I just loved it! It was a smart move for television.

I also liked it. But at one point there was a long shot showing the ribbons all tangled up around the pole. The next long show showed them all perfectly in order. I spent an unnecessarily extended amount of time trying to figure out how the dancers had managed that trick.

I've seen the ribbons become tangled and then untangled in a live performance, without a change in camera perspective, and still can't quite imagine how the dancers do this.

Such a wonderful evening!

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Thanks for the eyewitness corroboration, ginny.

Apparently the choreography is even more astonishing than I thought.

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How is Marcelo Gomes so GOOD at playing BAD guys. I saw him last week playing the heavy in Sylvia.

Isn't he amazing! How many dancers of his technical ability are also seductively witty, or should I say wittily seductive? Although I realize that role was created for a man of slight build, I can't help thinking about what he could do with Three Virgins and a Devil. Since when are there size limits on devils anyway? In my dreams, ABT stages the ballet for Gomes. I'm still casting the virgins. Any suggestions?

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A few comments on ABT's Swan Lake, nothing too insightful:

For what it's worth, I thought the maypole looked fairly ridiculous...and found most of act I (except Franklin and the pdt -- Cornejo is such a great jumper) to be somewhat less than enthralling.

I didn't understand why in Act II, the corps is bourreeing in parallel, en face to the audience -- a very unattractive and unflattering position in a tutu -- instead of in fifth position, and prefer the choreography in the Makhalina/Zelensky version (Makhalina is a beautiful Odette, and unlike Murphy does not overpower the role.) I thought Murphy's swan arms at the end of Act II were incredibly spastic and very un-swanlike, though the diagonal series of turns in her solo variation -- minus running back to the corner -- was lovely.) And she is too tall for Corella. Strange pairing.

Act III -- loved Marcelo, holy purple tights! -- thought the costumes for the Spanish dance in particular were pretty heinous. Murphy's fouettes -- though numerous -- looked a bit sloppy, her arms in particular (no first position there, but Makhalina's looked worse...) and her retire position wasn't great either. I find her to be a very strong dancer, but not always a beautiful dancer. True, she does many amazing things, but I miss the artistry of someone like Julie Kent (whom I saw in white swan pdd a few weeks ago) who may not do as many tricks but who is always enchanting. Oh -- and the bit of choreography with the arabesque balance for VR -- silly. I'd rather see him move around a bit more than attempt a balance in flat shoes which brings the momentum in the production to a grinding halt.

I don't have much to say about Act IV that hasn't been said, though I found the image in the sunrise to be somewhat chuckle-worthy as well and had been wondering how the principals were going to be brought back into the end of the ballet subsequent to their premature exit. I do like the tragic ending -- I always found the Kirov/Bolshoi versions (where Rothbart loses a wing -- pretty funny) to be disappointing, though I suppose there was enough doom and gloom over there to warrant a new happy ending.

Overall though, I was pleased. I'd still show the Kirov version to anyone who hasn't seen the ballet before, though this version had many beautiful changes (I love the part in Act II where all the swans are on stage for the first time and Odette asks Siegfried not to shoot them -- great formation.) And Stella Abrera and Michele Wiles as the big swans were fantastic.

That's about it for now :-)

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Glad you finally delurked, mmdancer! That silhouette in the sunrise would be rejected by Hallmark, I'm afraid. It's so gooey, don't you think? The idea may have seemed appropriate, but the execution just didn't cut the mustard, did it?

I also agree about Murphy's Act II exit -- shoulders popping up and down.

Welcome to the world of active posting, and I hope you'll write more -- maybe a little self-portrait on the Welcome Page. :blush:

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How is Marcelo Gomes so GOOD at playing BAD guys. I saw him last week playing the heavy in Sylvia.

Isn't he amazing! How many dancers of his technical ability are also seductively witty, or should I say wittily seductive? Although I realize that role was created for a man of slight build, I can't help thinking about what he could do with Three Virgins and a Devil. Since when are there size limits on devils anyway? In my dreams, ABT stages the ballet for Gomes. I'm still casting the virgins. Any suggestions?

:D here, I know, but fun to think about. ABT revived this recently, for the 2003 City Center season so I doubt we'd see it again very soon. They fielded 2 casts:

Devil: Carlos Molina/Craig Salstein

Fanatical One: Erica Fischbach/Sasha Dmochowski

Greedy One: Adrienne Schulte/Maria Riccetto

Lustful One: Kelley Waddell/Marian Butler

Youth:Julio Bragado- Young/Carlos Lopez

I'd love to see Gomes as the devil maybe with Monique Meunier as the fanatical one, Xiomara Reyes as the greedy one and Misty Copeland as the lustful one. Alternate cast could be Acosta with Carmen Corella, Erica Cornejo and and Anne Milewski. Oh, and I'd like to see Jared Matthews get a chance at the youth along with Julio B-Y :blush:

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A few comments on ABT's Swan Lake, nothing too insightful:

On the contrary -- very interesting, and very welcome to Ballet Talk.

As I read these posts, some of my original feelings about the production become confirmed -- or refined -- or even flip-flopped. I agree with you about the Makhallina video, though I gather that she is not too popular among people who are afficionados of Russian ballerinas. I agree that Murphy is --a t this stage of her career, at least -- a strong rather than beautiful dancer. And I suppose I would rather go with beauty and feeling -- even if there's a sacrifice of some technique -- in Swan Lake.

Few posters have spent much time on Angel Corella's performance -- and much of that has expressed some discomfort with his (a) casting or (b) acting/reacting. On re-viewing the DV recording, I am increasingly impressed by the beautiful positioning of his legs and feet during his jumps. (Enhanced by white tights and shoes.) :blush: Geat elegance, and quite difference from his work as the slave in Corsaire, ABT's previous televised outing. In the air, at least, a danseur noble in the making?

And his placement at landing: fantastic! There's one multiple piroutte -- watch the way his returns his feet to fourth, then slowly lowers his extended arms. Mesmerizing -- and easily lost in the fast-moviong, quick-cutting, often cluttered imagery on the tv screen.

Edited by bart

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And I suppose I would rather go with beauty and feeling -- even if there's a sacrifice of some technique -- in Swan Lake.

So would I, and that's what Veronika Part provided along with Marcello Gomes in the final Swan Lake of the same recent Kennedy Center appearance. I'm happy to have Murphy and Corella's performance on tape, although I've only had time to watch the first two acts so far. But I wish McKenzie had chosen to feature the cast I saw.

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I thought the most damaging cut of all was the first part of Act 4, as it cuts one of the most moving scenes in the ballet, which is Siegfried searching among the swans and finally finding the forlorn Odette huddled in the center of the swan line.

I think Corella's expressions dont really play well on the small screen. On tv, they look hammy. I dont know if Swan Lake is the ballet for over-the-top expressions anyway. I think quiet desperation works better in this ballet.

I thought Murphy was a surprisingly regal, touching Odette. She had a quiet dignity about her that I found touching. I dont however think she's a natural adagio dancer -- her movements dont have the natural poetic grace of say, Natalia Makarova. I think with time Murphy will be a great Odette. For now, she's a very good Odette.

I saw Corella dance Swan Lake in Cleveland in March and thought he was not quite as hammy as when I saw him live. I really liked him better with Gillian than Paloma.

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I dubbed him "The Creature from the Swan Lagoon"

"And I'm probably deranged for saying this but I find The Swamp Thing oddly compelling!"

I rather liked Swamp Thing myself – he put me in mind of some of William Blake’s more sinister apparitions (e.g., this one: http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pimage?11507+0+0) At the very least, he’s dramatically necessary: spending eternity fluttering around Marcelo Gomes hardly seems like a fate worse than death ... :)

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I've seen the ribbons become tangled and then untangled in a live performance, without a change in camera perspective, and still can't quite imagine how the dancers do this. 
Oh, it's not the dancers, it's the ribbons who have rehearsed their choreography very well. :)

For an old folk dancer like me, it is not an enigma at all. We can even entangle ourselves while holding hands -- as many as 16 couples -- and bring ourselves out of it in a nice straight line, right before your eyes.

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I didn't really like any of it...Murphy is heavy and not delicate enough for Odette, Corella is too short for her, and the Purple Pimp is completely inappropriate (I was shocked to find out that was Gomes--he used to have such beautiful legs and feet; what happened? He appeared almost heavyset) not to mention that beautiful "Russian Dance" music being wasted on such ugly choreography.

To be fair, I missed Act I, which I hear contained some of the best dancing in the performance. Perhaps the price of the dvd is worth it for the pas de trois alone? Herman Cornejo is one of my favorites.

I was glad to see that the big swans have been restored instead of the variation for Siegfried in Act II, and mime is always good. The "chuckle moment" for me was when Odette jumps off the cliff...and then Siegfried does...and then Rothbart runs up there too, and I always think "Oh my goodness, he's going to kill himself as well!"

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