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Ocean's Kingdom

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Joan Acocella has a review in The New Yorker (10/3/11), Come Together: In search of a new audience, the ballet brings in a former Beatle..

Unfortunately, it's available online only to subscribers.

The piece is interesting, more for the side information she includes than for the opinions, which are pretty much which have been posted here and published elsewhere.

About the music:

... a big, pleasant, tuneful, unremarkable piece of Orientalism.

Robert Gottlieb's review, linked by miliosr (above), makes an interesting comment about the plot.

Ocean’s Kingdom is a fairy story with no subtext, no resonance—it’s not about anything except its water-logged plot.

Acocella's rather sardonic summary of the plot makes it sound even more old-fashioned and comic bookish. She points out feature that reminds me of more than one 19th-century Imperial Russian ballet or American minstrel show -- the heroine, Princess Honorata, is a blond beauty; the good Prince is "pale-skinned," matching Honorata; the villain is "dark-skinned." (Who says that there aren't enough opportunities in ballet for people of color? :wink:)

The events, according to Acocella, "go by fast. Martin's choreography keeps pace, in banality, with the libretto." (Ouch!)

Here's the part that I think will interest fans of NYCB:

One thing that you can say for "Ocean's Kingdom" is that its blandness brings into sharp relief the opposite qualities -- precision, brilliance, nerve -- of its Honorata, the twenty-five-year-old star Sara Mearns. Mearns is the most dazzling dancer that N.Y.C.B. has fielded in maybe twenty years. Here dancing is luxuriant: plush, creamy. Light beams off her. She has an unusually flexible spine, and the movement issues directly out of that deep source, entraining the whole body. It's not hand here, feet there. It's one action, one story. Apart from the singleness of movement, the most striking thing about Mearns is what she calls her "expressiveness." That is, she likes to act, and she thinks that's what she's doing. Actually, what she's doing is concentrating emotional energy in her spine, so that the dancing comes out looking like acting.

Acocella drops "Ocean's Kingdom" by the end of the piece and makes some interesting generalizations about NYCB in this generation. In addition to Mearns, she praises Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, and Robert Fairchild, all of whom are ...

doing thrilling work, unpretentious and yet glamorous, wild, rimmed with fire. They, more than any of the chats and posters [about audience-building], will bring in a new audience.

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Too much of a coincidence that they both fell. My thought was they both slipped in puddles

left behind from Ocean's Kingdom!

.. There was a flower mishap also. Megan's flower fell off her lapel and plopped center stage

taunting the sailors until Wendy's hornpipe when she delightedly picked it, sniffed it and saved

the day. Nothing like Union Jack to cheer everyone up. I think Sir Paul would have loved it too.

I saw Union Jack Friday night and the Sunday matinee. There were several costume mishaps in these two performances, at least four that I noted, leaving scarves flailing and odd pieces littered across the stage. It was a relief when a dancer would pick up a stray piece or, in one case, just kick it off the stage. If Andrew Veyette could manage the donkey, I thought surely he or Megan Fairchild could have retrieved the flower in character. Leave it to a pro like Wendy Whelan to save the day with charm and wit!

I greatly preferred Jenifer Ringer and Amar Ramasar in the costermonger pas de deux, as opposed to Fairchild and Veyette. Ringer in particular was a winner, a natural comedienne who lit up the stage and connected with the audience. Amar Ramasar was also funny and charming, if not quite as radiant and natural as Ringer. I thought Andrew Veyette, while funny at times, also came across as angry. Amar Ramasar looked like a charmer with a roving eye, but it was all in good humor and he seemed very affectionate with his lady. Veyette, on the other hand, had moments of what looked like bitterness, which was totally not in the mood of the piece.

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Just saw Ocean's Kingdom. I have to agree with the critic (can't remember who) who called it "a hard day's night." I though the music was like movie music for a boring movie, and what was Peter Martins thinking? What a mess. I'm not a fan of his choreography, but I know he can structure something better than this. Again, what was he thinking? My husband has a theory that the music wasn't ready to be a narrative ballet, and so had to be fixed and restructured to accommodate pas de deux sections, a divertissement section, a finale etc., and that Peter had very little time to actually choreograph so just threw something up. Who knows, but what a mess. For whatever reason, Martins ended up with a messy, uninventive, boring ballet. One comment about Daniel Ulbricht. He was saddled with a silly clown wig, and the technique that he did was sort of lost in the shuffle. If the turns and jump that he did were part of a classical pas de deux, audience members would be jumping out of their seats. A waste of talented dancers all around.

The audience was packed. Audience reaction to Ocean's Kingdom was tepid. No front of curtain bows.

Next La Sonnambula. This is not one of my favorite Balanchine ballets, but I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was a relief to see a clear narrative intent, inventive choreography (even though it's more than 50 yrs old), a fulfilling structure and hear music that supports the movement. Ana Sophia Scheller was outstanding in the pas. Sometimes I wonder if she will ever be a principal. What is keeping her back.

West Side Story Suite - Georgina Pazcoguin as Anita is the star of this show!

Audience reaction to Sonnambula and West Side were much greater then to Ocean's Kingdom. So maybe those people who bought tickets because of Sir Paul will have seen something they liked and come back to the ballet.

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The audience was packed. Audience reaction to Ocean's Kingdom was tepid. No front of curtain bows.

Wow! Aren't front-of-curtain bows pretty much de rigueur at the Koch State Theater?

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The Ocean's Kingdom video in which the much-admired Sara Mearns sparkles her brightest and during her commentary, hair specially curled for the occasion and make up neon-bright, she exudes all her charm and stage presence, trying to convince us that her ballet is something other than a failure and a fiasco. Looking at the excerpts, what strikes me is that it seems like a comic book plot, and suitable for teenagers. It has that teenage vibe - tattoos, young couple against the world.

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