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Matthews and Kajiya leaving for Houston ballet

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We have another thread going under "dancers" on this. Administrators: should we combine somehow? Lots to discuss, for sure!

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I'm going to put the official notice here:

YURIKO KAJIYA AND JARED MATTHEWS

TO GIVE FAREWELL PERFORMANCES WITH

AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE

Final Performances Scheduled for Saturday, July 5, 2014

at Metropolitan Opera House

Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews, both Soloists with American Ballet Theatre since 2007, will give their farewell performances with the Company on Saturday, July 5 at the Metropolitan Opera House. Kajiya will debut in the role of Swanilda in Coppélia at the matinee, opposite Joseph Gorak as Franz, and Matthews will dance the role of Franz at the evening performance, opposite Paloma Herrera as Swanilda.

Yuriko Kajiya was born in Nagoya, Japan, and began her ballet training at age eight. She continued her training on scholarship at the Shanghai Ballet School. In January 2000, Kajiya won the Prix de Lausanne Scholarship, which enabled her to study at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.

Kajiya joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in September 2001, became an apprentice with the main Company in 2002 and joined the corps de ballet in June of that year. She was promoted to Soloist in August 2007. Her repertory with ABT includes Kitri in Don Quixote, Giselle in Giselle, Gamzatti in La Bayadére, Gulnare in

Le Corsaire, Clara, the Princess in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Olga in Onegin, Lilac Fairy and Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, the Waltz in Les Sylphides, Miranda in The Tempest, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and leading roles in Ballo Della Regina, Brief Fling, In the Upper Room, The Leaves are Fading, Petite Mort, Rabbit and Rogue, Seven Sonatas, Baker's Dozen, Chamber Symphony and Theme and Variations.

Kajiya starred in the Japanese documentaries Passion Across a Continent (2007) and Yuriko: Ballerina (2011). In 2012, Kajiya received an Artistic Ambassador Award from the government of Japan.

Jared Matthews was born in Houston, Texas and received his early ballet training there under the guidance of Victoria Vittum and Gilbert Rome. He attended summer programs at North Carolina School of the Arts, the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, where he was the recipient of the Coca-Cola Scholarship.

Matthews joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in 2001, became an apprentice with the main Company in 2002 and joined the corps de ballet in April 2003. He was promoted to Soloist in August 2007. His repertoire with the Company includes Albrecht in Giselle, Franz in Coppélia, Lensky in Onegin, Lankendem in Le Corsaire, Espada in Don Quixote, Lysander in The Dream, the Nutcracker Prince in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Head Wrangler in Rodeo, Mercutio and Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty, Benno and von Rothbart (Ballroom) in Swan Lake, Aminta and Orion in Sylvia, Ferdinand in The Tempest, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Thaïs Pas de Deux and leading roles in Black Tuesday, Brief Fling, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Duets, Gong, In the Upper Room, The Leaves Are Fading, Seven Sonatas, Some Assembly Required, Symphony #9 and workwithinwork. He created leading roles in C. to C. (Close to Chuck), Glow – Stop, One of Three and Thirteen Diversions. In 2007, Matthews represented ABT in the Erik Bruhn Competition.

Following their final performances with ABT, Kajiya and Matthews will join Houston Ballet as first soloists.

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I had an opportunity to see Kajiya and Matthews in La Bayadère. Although the "Kingdom of the Shades" survives more or less intact, Stanton Welch's production makes a hash of the rest of the ballet. Nikiya loses her entrance down the temple steps, her first variation is cluttered with a lot of other temple dancers surrounding her, the second with the water jug is eliminated completely to make for a longer duet with Solor, and the pre-death variation is hacked in half, almost completely re-choreographed and similarly cluttered with excess bayaderes. (There is no offer and rejection of an antidote.) But her choreography in the "Shades" scene is pretty much all there, and in particular Kajiya got through all the pirouettes in the scarf variation without a hitch. I suspect she might have preferred slower tempos than the ones Welch ordered and Ermanno Florio provided. At the end of the scene Nikiya makes her exit by bourréeing up the shades' ramp. Now that must be painful.

Matthews lacks the big, elastic plié that has practically become standard issue among male dancers over the last 25-30 years. I think this deprives his dancing of some dynamic variety. He doesn't exploit "low" space the way many dancers can, and his phrasing tends to be homogeneous, without any particular points of emphasis. The shallow plié proves most problematic in his stiff-legged walk, but I wonder whether this couldn't be ameliorated. Solor gets to keep most of his choreography, except for the entrée of the engagement party divertissement. Visually Matthews wasn't quite tall enough for Katharine Precourt's Gamzatti, but some of the little partnering they have is reassigned to the Rajah, and Matthews had no trouble with what remained. Overall I suspect the heroic warrior/pirate roles are not quite his turf.

Welch has even less faith in mime than the Soviets had. The High Brahmin, Rajah and Aya are all turned into dancing roles. (Is there any good reason to put Aya on pointe and in a costume practically indistinguishable from Gamzatti's?) The net effect is to flatten out all the relationships. If Nikiya and the High Brahmin perform standard pas de deux choreography instead of mime, it looks practically the same as her interactions with Solor. The confrontation between Nikiya and Gamzatti is turned into a trio in which Aya is the one who attempts to stab Nikiya, while the latter contents herself to slash Gamzatti's portrait. It's also extremely anti-climactic to place snakes into Nikiya's basket of flowers at this point. At the end of the ballet the temple comes crashing down not because of Solor's infidelity--he hadn't sworn anything over a sacred fire anyway--but because Gamzatti kills him for refusing to marry her. At least so the program notes tell me. There are a number of dancing gods in this production. In the first scene a fire god dances, unseen by everyone else, to music normally assigned to fakirs, and a dream god ushers in the "Kingdom of the Shades" (because evidently, when a man passes out on his bed after smoking opium, it is insufficiently obvious that what appears behind him is a hallucinatory dream). There is a dancer painted gold in the final scene, but he doesn't dance. But no doubt the strangest thing Welch does is to reassign the D'Jampe music to a quartet of male dancers, which just looks silly. Still, the "Shades" choreography is relatively untouched, even though I don't care for the dotted-note rhythm of the shades' descent, and the very abrupt accents they employ, especially the woodpecker bourrées. But at least Peter Farmer's designs look mostly good, and the company dances it well.

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I had an opportunity to see Kajiya and Matthews in La Bayadère. Althought the "Kingdom of the Shades" survives more or less intact, Stanton Welch's production makes a hash of the rest of the ballet [...]

Thanks for writing about this performance and for details about Welch's production. (Makarova's is the only one I know well, though I saw Nureyev's once.)

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