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2016-17 season: Pennsylvania Ballet

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Drew   

Re questions raised above in this thread concerning the reasons for firing Murawski: while it seems possible, as was suggested by Vagansmom we don't know the whole story (that is, we don't know much beyond what Murawski says she was told), as best I can judge the fact remains Corella hired a dancer as a principal and in well under a year fired her. So whatever the reason for letting her go, it suggests Corella either made a bad miscalculation hiring her or  he made a bad miscalculation firing her. Or both. 

 

Anyone, even the most skillful, compassionate, and diplomatic artistic director in the world, can make an error in judgment, or find he is dealing with problems he didn't anticipate, but especially following in the wake of everything that happened last year it at least raises questions about his decision making/problem-solving processes. If the company flourishes artistically or even just financially, then people probably won't care that much about this particular dancer in the long term--art is cruel that way, as is success.

 

I do feel for Murawski -- and though I've never seen her dance, I think that in video she looks very talented! As she surely must be to have been hired as she was.


(Re Kaysta's note about the comments in the newspaper--The comments section of the article posted above seemed to get hung up on what people think of the reporter so I stopped reading, but comments sections in newspapers almost never do anyone any favors as they tend to go over the top on controversy.)

Edited by Drew
Trying to minimize residues of speculation.

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sandik   

I didn't look at the comments, so can't speak about them, but the author made a rather wonky claim.  In response to the executive director's comment:

 

"Just as a coach must make difficult decisions that they feel are in the best interests of the team, so does an Artistic Director."

 

she said:

 

"But coaches judge players on athletic ability. Not on appearance."

 

In dance, appearance is a part of the package.  I think that the company has made a difficult situation worse, in several different ways, but I agree that the article doesn't make as powerful an argument as it might.

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Jayne   

The whole thing has exploded, with the crazies taking over the comment section.  Really, papers should go old fashioned and require typed letters to the editor, with addresses and telephone numbers before publishing commentary.  Online article comments today are tantamount to a crowded subway station with every passenger using a bullhorn.  

Edited by Jayne

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Pennsylvania Ballet has added two "Pas de deux Previews" (Black Swan and Sleeping Beauty) to the program next weekend. In the 2017-18 season, they are doing their own Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

 

Complete casting for the weekend: http://paballet.org/sites/default/files/general/ReAction Casting_for website 5.3.17.pdf?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FY17-Re%2FActionCastingAnnouncement&utm_content=version_A

 

I keep getting notices that they are extending the deadline for subscriptions and wonder how they are doing on advance ticket sales. These additions look like a good way to entice local audiences to the coming season.

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mira   

Did any BalletAlerters get to Pa Ballet's last program Re-Action?   Hope to hear some first hand thoughts.

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On my way home from a conference in Baltimore, I long ago decided to take a detour through Philadelphia to see the final two performances (Saturday night and Sunday matinee) of this final program of the 16-17 season. I'm very glad I did. The big attraction for me, I confess, were the three Balanchine PdD: Tarantella, Tchaikovsky PdD, and the PdD from Rubies. Very recently, they added two more to the program as "Pas de deux Previews" of the next season, Black Swan and Sleeping Beauty Wedding PdD. Guilty pleasures for ballet lovers, almost like a gala.

 

Rush (Wheeldon): The program opened with the aptly-named Rush, to Martinu, made in 2003 for San Francisco Ballet. I had not seen it before and it's unlikely I'll want to see it again. It was fast-paced with some modest originality in the partnering, but too much gimmickry for its own sake for my taste. E.g., he uses angular, jerky overhead arms repeatedly, almost like a semaphore, for no apparent reason other than novelty. In one place only, two single file lines of corps members lined up from front to back of the stage, with men extending one arm, the partner woman leaning far over sideways, and then being pushed back upright. Never saw it again. Another move had two men standing close together, with another man "walking" the woman sideways over their chests; they did that one three times. I'm not a huge Wheeldon fan (although I loved his Midsummer Night's Dream and American in Paris), so it's possible I'm being unfair.

 

Somnolence (Matthew Neenan): Set to Vivaldi, this was a world premiere, although apparently parts of it had been used for exhibitions over the last 15 years. This closed the program Saturday but was moved to the middle for the Sunday matinee, as this was Amy Aldridge's retirement performance and they needed her Rubies PdD last. The scenic drop is a cream-colored mattress-cover design, with a big slit out of which dozens of pillows in varied colors emerged. The different segments captured insomniacs, nightmares, sleepwalkers, and restless creatures of all kinds, with lots of humorous touches throughout. I wouldn't mind seeing it again, but wouldn't seek it out.

 

One unexpected stand-out: a corps member, in the midst of a group segment, threw a mind-boggling revoltade -- so high and gorgeous I could not believe. (If you don't know what this looks like, here's one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUnFwOOkHP0  A bit later, he threw a second one, although not nearly so high. On one of his exits, he did some incredibly high double cabrioles that were just stunning. At the bows, the line of corps members pushed him forward so he could get his own applause. I'm about 90% certain it was Harrison Monaco, but please correct me, Philadelphians, if I got that wrong. Obviously Neenan put those moves in for him to show off. Given the overall dizziness of the ballet with so many different bits and pieces, it worked, but was somewhat unusual.

 

One of my disappointments with the men in this company: they just don't seem to get much height, in menage, leaps, etc. Whatever Monaco's secret is, he needs to pass it along.

 

Black Swan: We learned at "Preludes" (their pre-performance talk) with Ballet Master Charles Askegard that Corella had coached the Petipa and Askegard the Balanchine. It was obvious that they were being coached on lovely dramatic nuances concerning their interaction, but it hasn't all been internalized. Sterling Baca had an annoying habit after supported turns of jerking his head to the side, looking at the audience, and throwing a switch to smile. His technique was solid enough, although not gasp-inducing. The gasps all went to his partner, Mayara Pineiro. Wow! For the fouettes, she threw in triples through most of the sequence. Near the end, when normally the couple "scooches" backward in arabesque to the back corner, Baca stood at the side, and she did a hop backwards in arabesque on full pointe with bent knee, straight across the front of the stage; I have never seen that and the audience went wild. If you can only see one O/O next year, she's the one to see.

Saturday night it was Lillian DiPiazza and Aleksey Babayev. Her fouettes, singles throughout, travelled seriously sideways and she didn't quite make it to 28. (Sorry to refer to the fouettes, but they're a "touchstone" in many ballets.) They were both solid otherwise and certainly worth a second look.

 

Sleeping Beauty Wedding PdD: Oksana Maslova and Arian Molina Soca did the final two performances. Their three fishdives were to die for -- just so solid, secure, gorgeous. She threw in some nice extra balances Sunday. Both are quite wonderful and worth seeing this fall. Soca has a very strange smile, almost a smirk, that flashes way too much. This company needs a facial coach to work on the strange expressions I saw from so many.

 

Tarantella: Saturday night, two corps members, Kathryn Manger and Albert Gordon, were fabulous. Such energy and joy in this super-demanding choreography. It's become common for Corella to cast corps members in challenging roles and they do deliver the goods. Sunday afternoon, they made an announcement that Aldridge wanted to dance this one last time, replacing the names in the program. She was partnered by Craig Wasserman, another corps member to watch. They both seemed a little tired, but still sparkled and gave it their all.

 

Tchaikovsky pas de deux: Pineiro and Baca did Saturday night, with great fish dives with plenty of abandon and risk. In his variation near the end, he did the turns a la seconde with a lifted turning leg twice, a move recorded for posterity in the Baryshnikov/McBride performance in the late 70s for Dance in America (now on DVD). For those who think it's sacrilegious to change Balanchine choreography, read the liner notes for that performance; Balanchine asks Baryshnikov if he can do anything special with the turns and Baryshnikov said, well, yes. Okay, let's put that in. (I've always wondered if Balanchine saw that move in Push Comes to Shove in 1976; Robbins also used it for Baryshnikov in Four Seasons.) On Sunday, this was Lillian DiPiazza and Ian Hussey. It seemed to me both struggled a bit to keep up with the steps, but the finishing fish dives were fine. 

 

Rubies: Aldridge spent her entire career with this company, so presumably she has gotten a lot of coaching in Balanchine style over the decades from experts. I don't claim special expertise in this ballet, but it looked quite appropriate to me in style. Her partner at both performances was Alexander Peters.

 

The retirement finale for Aldridge was quite lovely -- lots of individuals coming on with single roses, bouquets from Corella and others, an explosion of confetti from on-high. The audience clearly loved her and it took a very long time to get that curtain down. 

 

Sara Murawski is still listed as a principal, but was not cast in anything for this program.

 

 

 

 

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Kaysta   

 

I could be wrong, but I think the dancer you noticed in the corps was Peter Weil.  He has absolutely amazing technique.

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9 hours ago, Kaysta said:

 

I could be wrong, but I think the dancer you noticed in the corps was Peter Weil.  He has absolutely amazing technique.

I'm staring at their pictures in the program. It was Monaco's wavy shock of hair that stood out, but it might be Weil. Very frustrating! I'm wondering if anybody who knows the company better than me saw this. Or perhaps a local writer picked up on those steps? I hope that Harrison/Peter can be nurtured to round out his technique so he can be cast in soloist roles soon.

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mira   

Thank you, California, for your thoughtful report.   The dancer who came forward in the bows after Neenan's ballet was Harrison Monaco - he is leaving to dance at Miami City Ballet - and was taking a final bow at the Academy.

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2 minutes ago, mira said:

Thank you, California, for your thoughtful report.   The dancer who came forward in the bows after Neenan's ballet was Harrison Monaco - he is leaving to dance at Miami City Ballet - and was taking a final bow at the Academy.

Huge loss! With that technique, at such a young age, he'll soon be a stand-out. I'll look forward to reports of his performances next year at Miami!

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I wish I had been able to go to the shows.  But Macaulay was not too positive in his review:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/arts/dance/pennsylvania-ballet-angel-corella-changes-academy-of-music.html

 

Even worse was his comment on instagram:  "I was in Philadelohia last night to see Pennsylvania Ballet's final program of the 2016-17 season, "Re/Action". This included the world premiere of Matthew Neenan's "Somnolence", the company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's "Rush" (2003), and four pas de deux - two by "Petipa" (whose estate, if only it existed, should sue), two by Balanchine. The "New York Times" has posted my review; I've tweeted it. The photo, showing "Somnolence", is by Alexander Izilaev. Friday 12 May."

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mira   

That's the worst review I've ever seen written by Alastair.  He's often tough but this is shocking.

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12 hours ago, California said:

Near the end, when normally the couple "scooches" backward in arabesque to the back corner, Baca stood at the side, and she did a hop backwards in arabesque on full pointe with bent knee, straight across the front of the stage; I have never seen that and the audience went wild.

That is very common in the Cuban version of Black Swan.  I find it distasteful and circus-like.  Lorna Feijoo used to do it that way in Boston.  Obviously, it is just an opinion.  I will be honest, my issue with Mayara is that her bent knees in general are a problem.  

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33 minutes ago, mira said:

That's the worst review I've ever seen written by Alastair.  He's often tough but this is shocking.

Agreed. Rubies was cancelled Thursday as Aldridge was injured, so he didn't see it and I thought it was quite good.

This is a medium/small company, with 37 dancers: 10 principals, 2 soloists, 25 corps members. 

I thought the two PdD from next year's programs were works-in-progress -- obviously benefitting from coaching, as noted, but with much to do. 

At "Preludes" on Sunday, Corella noted that this company had previously done the Wheeldon Swan Lake but was returning to the "traditional" version. That drew hearty applause from a group that obviously follows the company closely. It's May, so I suspect what counts as "traditional" has not been entirely worked out. 

This strikes me as another example of New Yorkers not understanding that smaller regional companies need to show different things. Somnolence worked well for that audience. The PdD were a needed boast to subscription sales. NY critics are free to trash the work of these regional companies, but until they understand the economic realities of those cities and audiences, I take everything they say with a grain of salt. 

EDITED TO ADD: I suspect New Yorkers would appreciate Somnolence far more than the Martins work regularly inflicted on them.

 

This was a company premiere of the Wheeldon. My complaint was the choreography (too many gimmicks thrown in for no apparent reason). I don't know who sets/rehearses Wheeldon's work, but I wonder if they are to blame for the "marionette" quality Macaulay despises. I thought that quality came from the angular, jerky overhead arm movements that were seen throughout the piece and were presumably part of the choreography.

Edited by California

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Kaysta   

I'm surprised that it was Monaco, as he hasn't really stood out to me, though it seems that may be due to lack of opportunities.  I apologize for the misidentification.

 

I was at Thursday's performance, and I have to agree with McCauley (gosh, I hate saying that, as I find him borderline detestable).  Outside of Tarantella, I thought it wasn't the best night of dancing I've seen from this company.

 

I didn't enjoy either of the previews, Rush, or Tschaikovsky pas de deux (which is one of my favorite Balachine pieces).  Somnolence had some enjoyable moments (mostly the PDD with Torriente and Baca) but I thought it was over-the-top.  And Rubies was cut due to Aldridge's injury.  Overall, it was exceedingly disappointing evening.

 

I'm sad to hear of more departures:  especially Alexander Peters (who was also very good in Somnolence on Thursday).  So now we have Murawski, Peters, Aldridge and Monaco leaving.  I wonder if there will be as much turnover as last year. 

 

While I enjoy Torriente's dancing (and I realize she came from a principal position at CNB), I'm going to feel very disappointed with this company when they promote her after kicking Murawski to the curb.

Edited by Kaysta

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sz   
7 hours ago, mira said:

That's the worst review I've ever seen written by Alastair.  He's often tough but this is shocking.

More mean spirited than usual.....My response to Alastair was that he not only doesn't realize how difficult it is for regional companies to sell tickets without razzle-dazzle programing, but that Alastair seems to write for audiences who think all ballets look the same in their steps, just wearing different costumes. 

No way did any of the pas de deuxs presented by PA Ballet resemble each other except for some of the technique exhibited by the men solos in Black Swan and Tchai pas. But neither were step for step the same. An arabesque in one ballet is never the same in another if you are watching a true artist.  

I considered this event (a gala of sorts) a fantastic treat, a feast of great small ballets with lots of different flavors and lots of very talented dancers.  I was there for two performances, and considered them both better than some galas I've seen lately in NYC. 

Dancers not to be missed in the future:  Arian, Daysei, Peter Weil, Sterling, Nayara, Lily, Etienne.  Very sadly Mayara was not cast in the performances I attended but I'd run to see her in anything in the future.  She is bright, charming, beautiful with killer technique.  She does not have hyper extended legs or arms, but they are gorgeous with power and fullness in lines, along with heartfelt musicality.  She is a lovely, passionate performer.  I've seen several videos, as well as live performances in Corsaire. 

 

Edited by sz

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Kaysta   
26 minutes ago, sz said:

Very sadly Mayara was not cast in the performances I attended but I'd run to see her in anything in the future.  She is bright, charming, beautiful with killer technique.  She does not have hyper extended legs or arms, but they are gorgeous with power and fullness in lines, along with heartfelt musicality.  She is a lovely, passionate performer.  I've seen several videos, as well as live performances in Corsaire. 

 

 

While I was not impressed with Thursday night, I will agree with you on this.  Mayara Pineiro is a star.  I will go out of my way to see her perform next year.  She and Jermel tore the house down with Tarantella.  I'm sure I would have enjoyed her black swan and Tschai pas as well.  

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Drew   
10 hours ago, mira said:

That's the worst review I've ever seen written by Alastair.  He's often tough but this is shocking.

 

:offtopic:Hmm...I'm pretty sure I've read worst from him!

 

:) I'll have to remember the name Mayara Pineiro...

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2 hours ago, sz said:

Dancers not to be missed in the future:  Arian, Daysei, Peter Weil, Sterling, Nayara, Lily, Etienne. 

Not in total agreement, but I would certainly add Oksana if we are talking about classical dancers.  Also, the young Jack Thomas seems very promising.  I was impressed with him at the Prix.

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Yes, my reasoning for using the word, "classical."  (Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Paquita)  I also think she works well in quirky contemporary pieces, ala Ekman.

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