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Everything posted by Batsuchan

  1. I too am very sorry to hear about your experience, Ceeszi! I actually had a great experience with CityCenter regarding my tickets for the canceled Sat night show. I bought my tickets back in November using that Fall for Dance discount that YID mentioned, and I received an email on January 3 notifying me that the Sat evening performances had been canceled. After conferring with my friends, I switched half the tickets to Friday and half to Sunday. CityCenter simply mailed me the new tickets; I didn't even have to go to the box office. Then, a few weeks ago, my friends who wanted Friday tickets realized they could no longer make it, and even then, I was able to get refunds/switch them to Sunday tickets. You must be lucky, Ceeszi, because I've had about 5 canceled performances in the past 2 years (including one I went to London for!)--so now I religiously check and check and check before I venture out to a theater. So I went to the Sunday matinee with three friends, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the show! Unlike "Kings of the Dance," which I thought was an *utter* waste of my time and money (even with the shirtless men!) and a complete waste of the dancers' talent, I thought "Dialogues" showcased Vishneva's considerable physical talents, though not necessarily her taste. I walked out of "Kings of the Dance" thinking "Gee, even I could do what they did! I can twitch and convulse like Cote, and flap my hands and fingers, and play with a pants/skirt a la Hallberg!" After seeing "Dialogues," however, we all agreed--Vishneva can't be human! The show opened with a video documentary that discussed the three pieces that were supposed to be on the program. Janet Eilber, artistic director of MGDC discussed "Errand in a Maze," and we got to see some clips of Martha Graham in the role, along with clips of Vishneva rehearsing. Then Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot discussed "Subject to Change," which was dedicated to a family friend who had suffered brain damage and was in a coma. (It is called "Subject to Change" because their friend's condition was still evolving--they did not know the "ending" to the story so it was subject to change.) Finally, John Neumeier discussed "Dialogues," which ironically was not performed at all--despite lending the program its title--since Thiago Bordin is injured. I saw the Martha Graham company for the very first time last Wednesday at the gala performance where Vishneva danced "Errand in the Maze," so I cannot really comment on how well she performed the technique. In that piece, I felt very much like a lot of symbolism and iconic poses were lost on me. (Why is that entryway shaped like a pelvis bone, and what is that supposed to mean??) That being said, I did feel like Vishneva was sharper and more staccato in the performance on Wednesday than on Sunday. I remember thinking that this was one time when having recorded music was useful, because it allowed her to match the contractions to the beats and with extreme precision. Second was Bigonzetti's "Vertigo." I must admit, I was actually thrilled that "Dialogues" had been replaced by "Vertigo"--and with the magnificent Marcelo Gomes to boot! This is because 1) the Russian reviews I've read of Neumeier's piece via GoogleTranslate sounded pretty lukewarm, 2) Marcelo and Diana are an amazing partnership, and 3) I *LOVE* "Vertigo." I've adored the piece since it first appeared on YouTube in late 2010, and I was thrilled to be able to see it live. Anyone who is interested can check it out here (with Vishneva and Gomes): Ok, I do admit that I do not love the first 5 minutes or so, which is what Bigonzetti added to make it different from "Kazimir's Colors." (You can compare the stuff in "Vertigo" from 5:20 or so in with this: )There is a little too much of that frenetic arm folding and unfolding that I despised in "Kings of the Dance." But I think the second part (set to the Lento from Shostakovich's piano concerto #1) is gorgeous. I love the sharp contrast between the un-balletic, bent-over poses and the fully-extended arabesques. One second, Vishneva is twisted around in a pretzel-like flexed-foot supported turn, and then the next moment she stretches out into a luscious developpe. She shifts from wet noodle to steel in a fraction of a second, from completely lethargic to completely alive. And of course, she has Marcelo to help her make it look effortless. They simply sizzle together. Yes, I am a huge fan of their partnership and would happily travel up and down the East Coast to see the two of them together--in anything! I also had the pleasure of watching them rehearse "Onegin" a few weeks ago--I cannot wait to see this at the MET! Needless to say, I loved, loved, loved seeing this piece live, as did my friends. Finally (after two lengthy intermissions), we got "Subject to Change." This featured Vishneva in this little white lace dress/nightgown-ish costume, Merkuriev in black pants, and 4 men wearing black pants and jackets with red linings (no shirts). (Despite this not being "Kings of the Dance" there were six shirtless men in this show! Perhaps they should have put pictures of them on the posters. ) For those who have not seen pictures or clips, this piece involves a large red carpet that is unrolled at the beginning. People dance on it, roll themselves into it, they spin it, etc. Yes, perhaps it's gimmicky. I don't really know how to describe the movement in this ballet except to say that it is frenetic, fantastically fast. And in the middle when the 4 men danced (while yelling in Russian), it looked martial arts-like. With Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" playing in the background (a piece I love), I found the whole thing rather dramatic and exhilarating, though I certainly wouldn't call it ballet. The partnering looked incredibly difficult--and it wasn't the lifts--but rather an awkward handgrab or position change that had to be pulled off at exactly the right moment and exactly the right way or else someone would surely fall. For example, at one point, Merkuriev knelt down behind Vishneva, stuck his neck between her legs and lifted her up onto his shoulders in one smooth movement. The pace of the movements was lightning fast, and I definitely thought, "there's no way I'd ever be able to do something like this!!" The speed and precision were amazing. At several points in the dance, Vishneva mimed smearing on lipstick on her face with a glassy-eyed look, and I was reminded of Leon & Lightfoot's friend who suffered brain damage. If I hadn't seen the explanatory video, I'm not sure I would have had such a favorable impression of this piece, but knowing the back story certainly lent it a certain gravitas--at least to me. However, there were certainly some audience members who did not enjoy it, including one lady who was sitting near the very front of the orchestra and got up in the middle and walked out, yelling loudly in a foreign language and then in English as she went. (How rude!) All in all, I had a great time, though I surely wouldn't choose a performance of "Dialogues," over, say, Vishneva & Gomes in "Giselle"!
  2. This is pretty belated, but I happened to stumble across a bunch of pics from rehearsals for the gala, so I thought I'd share. Rehearsal in the studio (with Desmond Richardson, Vladimir Malakhov, Ben Schultz and Roberto Bolle): (Unfortunately you might need an account to view them.) On-stage rehearsal with Ben Schultz (for "Errand into the Maze"): http://gullimar.livejournal.com/114691.html#cutid1 On-stage rehearsal with Desmond Richardson (for "Three point turn"): http://gullimar.livejournal.com/115110.html#cutid1
  3. Starting this fall, Diana Vishneva will be launching a new solo project, and it looks like it will be coming to NY City Center next March! Diana Vishneva: Dialogues http://www.nycitycenter.org/tickets/productionNew.aspx?performanceNumber=6260 The new show premieres at the Mariinsky in October, and the theater website has a little more info on the show and the participants: http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/playbill/playbill/2011/10/22/1_1900/ I guess we NYC fans will get to see her in "Errand into the Maze" after all!
  4. The dancers did have kind words and it looks like they're enjoying themselves in Japan! Here are more pictures from the press conference: http://www.asahi.com/showbiz/gallery/110721abt/ And here are some mini-translations of the updates on the Japan arts blog. http://ja-ballet.seesaa.net/category/9459798-1.html Today’s post shows some pictures from the special “Don Quixote” performance with three sets of leads. The post below that shows pictures from the rehearsal before the show. They say that Simkin and Kajiya had big smiles and were full of facial expression, and that Simkin had amazing jumps. In the second act, Corella and Reyes showed off their solid technique. Reyes’ smile was very cute, and Corella’s comical performance was noteworthy. They say to watch for Murphy’s high-speed fouettes. And the post below that shows pictures from the post-gala party. Gillian Murphy came in her costume. (They say she’s always cute.) In the lobby they had a signing event—how come we don’t get events like that in NYC?? Corella had to leave early, so he walked along the line and made sure everyone got a signature. How sweet!
  5. Woohoo, for once I can help out! Though this feels like a game of telephone—they spoke in English, their words got translated into Japanese, and now I am translating back to English. It does seem like it’s not a word-for-word translation though, as many of the expressions/colloquiums used are specific to Japanese. Here is what the quotes said: Kevin McKenzie: I’m happy that we were able to come to Japan. For everyone who suffered daily because of the earthquake, I am very proud to be able to give people a good time using the art of ballet, and I think it’s a great honor for ABT to send hope and good wishes as a representative of America. David Hallberg: I’m really looking forward to performing in Japan. I always feel a lot of anticipation and support from you all. We feel the responsibility of meeting those expectations, and in the same way that the Japanese fans support ABT, this time, I think it would be good if we could support you all by giving a good performance. Gillian Murphy: Everyone always greets us so warmly, and I always look forward to performing in Japan. I offer my condolences to everyone who was affected by the earthquake. And I empathize with the words of karate to “face things with spirit and heart,” and we will also try to do our best. Marcelo Gomes: I’m very happy that I get to dance in front of all of you. I think everyone in Japan has been affected by the earthquake and has suffered, but I want you to know that you are always in our thoughts and prayers. This time we have brought exciting performances, so by all means, please come to watch them. Paloma Herrera: Like everyone else, I’m very happy we were able to come to Japan. I think my first tour was when I was 16, but this time it is also in Japan, so I have special feelings about Japan. Jose Carreno: I’m very happy I was able to come to Japan in the year that I’m retiring from ABT. Many of my fans and colleagues at ABT regret that I am retiring, but I am very happy. I am sad to leave ABT, but my love for dancing won’t change, and I think I might be able to approach ballet from a different perspective. Julie Kent: Yesterday we arrived in Japan after finishing performances in NY and LA. When I arrived at the hotel, my first thought was “I’ve returned to my family home!” This time is the fourth time I’ve come to Japan with my son, and it is the first time I brought my daughter with me. I hope you all enjoy our performances. Angel Corella: I feel like I’ve returned to my family. I would like to dance for the world and for Japan. And even if it’s for a short while, I hope you have a good time. Xiomara Reyes: I’m filled with excitement. I think healing starts with the heart, so I would like to help heal everyone’s hearts with our performances. Veronika Part: I’ve come to Japan many times. The first time was when I was with the Vaganova Academy, but I also have been coming with ABT. I love the Japanese people. Cory Stearns: Please call me Cory! This is the second time I’ve come to Japan. I would like you to see how I have grown. I am very excited about our performances in Japan. Also, congratulations to Nadeshiko Japan [the women’s soccer team] for winning! Yuriko Kajiya: ABT’s dancers and staff all truly love Japan. And everyone looked forward to participating in our Japan tour. This time, I heard about the earthquake in Japan on TV while in far-away New York, and everyone in the ballet company including me said they wanted to support Japan. Because of this, we were able to return to Japan, and I think it would be great if we could help people forget reality for just a little bit and have a good time. We have brought American power to Japan, so please enjoy our performances. Daniil Simkin: This is the 8th time I’ve come to Japan, but it is the first time with ABT. I think it’s a great honor to come to Japan as part of a family. Since it’s right after the earthquake, I want to dance and do my best to bring everyone joy through art. *** On the other blog posts there are pictures from a rehearsal. One comment I thought was cute was regarding Gomes/Kent practicing the "Lady of the Camellias" pas de deux--apparently it was so good, it didn't seem like a rehearsal and the staff started clapping at the end without thinking. They also say that Julie Kent answered all their questions and they were quite taken by her kind manner. There was also some fan event with Angel Corella. One thing of note that he said is that when he danced Basilio in 2005, he danced it like a boy, and now he wants to show a more grown-up Basilio. He also said that Daniil Simkin will show us a boyish Basilio.
  6. On a somewhat unrelated note, I found a bunch of pictures of Diana Vishneva’s birthday party on Mari Vanna’s official Facebook page last week (anyone can view them; you don’t need an account): Some of them are absolutely hysterical! Never did I ever imagine that I would see the glamorous Ms. Vishneva and Yuri Fateev, head of the ballet, decked out in aprons and chopping cucumbers together! And the pictures near the middle are great too—looks like someone (Baimuradov, I suspect) told a naughty joke, and everyone at the table (Kondaurova, Gumerova?) is just dying of laughter. Looks like a fun evening! Happy belated birthday to Diana!
  7. I attended the Friday and Saturday night performances of “Carmen Suite” and “Symphony in C,” as well as the Sat matinee “Little Humpbacked Horse” for a clean sweep of the Mariinsky week. I’m still pretty exhausted so it’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts. First, as a general comment, I was struck anew by how much one’s preconceptions and expectations of a piece can influence one’s reactions, and how you only get one “first viewing.” I also noticed that my own enjoyment of a performance is highly dependent on where I am sitting (the closer the better, it seems) and other extraneous factors (like the person sitting behind me whose cellphone rang in the middle of the adagio section in “Carmen”). Prior to Friday, I had seen neither Alonso’s “Carmen” (nor Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”). I have also never seen the opera, and my only exposure to the music has been through snippets of other Carmen ballets and 3-4 minute clips in figure skating programs. I had a vague notion that Carmen was kind of sexy character who gets involved in a love triangle and is killed, and that’s about it. So I personally had no qualms with the music arrangement, and while the story and characterizations may have been simplistic compared to the opera, to me they seemed appropriate to the piece at hand. The ballet itself felt very stylized; it’s stripped down to only a few essential elements and a limited range of steps. On Friday, I enjoyed it as one might enjoy some chips and salsa—not really filling fare, but tasty and spicy. And I thought Vishneva provided all the requisite heat—to me, she looked stunning and was terribly seductive. She seemed to embrace all the non-balletic steps/movements as evidence of her character’s defiance of convention—she jutted her hips out and brought attention to a flexed foot as she suggestively slid it down the back of her other leg. To me, she seemed irresistible, and it was no wonder that she and Smekalov seemed to have that chemistry which was lacking on Monday in “Anna Karenina.” However, I will agree with other posters that her movements were lacking a bit of that effortlessness that I am used to seeing in her other roles. And there was little in the choreography in which she could show off her virtuoso technique. I also agree that Ivanchenko was disappointing as the torero—while watching him, I kept thinking “dough boy”—because of the white costume, the lack of sharpness in his execution and movement, and general blandness. But overall, I enjoyed the ballet for what it was, and so did my friends. On Saturday, Lopatkina played Carmen very differently. Whereas Vishneva’s movement had a very sensuous, slinky quality, Lopatkina’s movements were very sharp and powerful, emphasizing Carmen’s strength. Unlike Vishneva, who seemed to revel in the non-classical poses, Lopatkina kept the movements very classically correct—in fact, the arabesque pose where she had her arm straight up by her head as well as a supported backbend with Korsuntsev looked like they could have been straight out of “Swan Lake.” Although the images she created were striking—those lines!!—I felt like I did when I saw David Hallberg in “Don Quixote.” Gorgeous dancing, gorgeous lines, but not for a second did I believe the Spanish flair. Lopatkina’s Carmen felt a little too cold and regal for my tastes, but my friend, who saw both Vishneva and Lopatkina, put it this way: “One is fire, one is ice, and both can burn you.” ** I heartily enjoyed “Symphony in C” on both nights, but again, I had no reference for comparison. Seeing the entire cast in perfect harmony at the end of the piece was exhilarating! Shklyarov was again a standout for me as he has been all week. That smile, that charm! And where did he get those front extensions? Wow! I love Obraztsova (and they continue to look so cute together), but he outshined her here, in my opinion. Lopatkina and Korsuntsev looked impeccable in the second movement, but I might have preferred Kondaurova by a hair. She has a luscious quality to her movement, and that seems to be something I personally adore. I would love to see her in anything. Fadeyev, Shirinkina and Timofeev were all great too. On Saturday, it was a pleasure to see the brilliant Tereshkina in the first movement. I had noticed this on Tuesday in the “Little Humpbacked Horse,” and my impression was confirmed on Saturday: she just seems to radiate warmth and an easy-going confidence—she looks like she’s having a great time. Like Kondaurova, I would also love to see her in anything I can. What a difference from Friday night! ** And that brings me to Alina Somova. I had seen clips of her in the “Ballerina” documentary a few years back and read about her in detail in reviews and on this forum, but this was my first time seeing her live. And for me, personally, it was pretty horrifying. Friday’s “Symphony in C” gave me the initial unfavorable impression. First, at every possible opportunity, she seemed to stretch the front of her neck as far as it would go, leading with her chin—instead of lengthening the back of the neck, like I have been taught. And when Fadeyev lifted her vertically and she beat her legs, her feet were like 10 inches apart instead of tightly crossed in front and in back of each other. But most of all it was the quality of the movement that offended me. I read a great description of “plastique” in a dance review recently—the “coalescence of softness, flexion and tempered steel that gives movement its flow.” But when Somova danced, all I saw was softness and flexion and no steel, kind of like silly putty—sure, it is stretchy, but that’s it! Still, this was only a very short performance. Others suggested she might do better as the Tsar Maiden, so I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt in the Saturday matinee. And at first, all was good. She certainly is very pretty and made a picture-perfect princess. I found nothing wrong with her initial solo. With the slow music, she was able to control her movements, show some flow. I was even somewhat touched by her lonely, yearning expression. …And then it went all downhill from there for me. The tempo picked up and it became a floppy mess of limbs flung all over the place with little connection to the rest of the body. I suspect that she is just so naturally flexible (maybe even double-jointed?) that she really needs to think about controlling her movements, and she can do this when the music is slower but not when it is fast. My friend and I were discussing this odd quality of her dancing by comparing a picture of Somova and Tereshkina in basically the same mid-air pose. When I saw this picture on the promo posters, I felt that it looked “wrong.” Somova’s body feels very static to me and lacks a sense of movement. She looks like a wooden puppet whose arms and legs have been pinned onto her torso; there is no sense of connection between the parts. http://www.theballetbag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/The-Little-Humpbacked-Horse-4.jpg On the other hand, with Tereshkina, everything looks connected, and energy seems to emanate from the core through the limbs. The impression I get is that of strength (but not of effort). http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/07/14/arts/Ratmansky/Ratmansky-articleLarge.jpg It’s a very subtle difference, and I admit that I am extremely picky about these things because it’s something I’ve been taught to see and correct in my own dancing. Our ballet teacher is constantly reminding us “don’t lift your leg; push down through the ground” and let the weight/energy flow down and through it. So that is instinctively what I look for. But it wasn’t just the technique (or lack thereof) that bothered me with Somova, it was also her characterization. Both Tereshkina and Obraztsova seemed to find the humor in the role and played it a tad tongue-in-cheek, but Somova played her Tsar Maiden very “straight”—very much a sugar-sweet Barbie doll princess. That would be fine since the “Little Humpbacked Horse” is a fairy tale, not heavy drama, but her facial expressions were surprisingly amateur. My friend wondered how young she was/how long she’d been dancing, because her expressions seemed very inexperienced and immature. Once Ivan arrived, she glued this awful fake smile on her face and resumed with the neck-stretching. I think it would have worked much better if she hadn’t tried so hard with the face-pulling—when she left her face neutral (or when she forgot that she was supposed to be “emoting”), she looked so much more comfortable and believable. The rest of the cast was somewhat mixed for me as well. Alexander Sergeyev was not as incandescently charming as Shklyarov, and his humpbacked horse, Grigory Popov, outshined him technically, in my opinion, whereas Shklyarov looked better than his horses. In fact, Popov was almost a little too technically strong (those jumps!) and polished for me—a little goofiness or roughness in the movements seemed appropriate to the offbeat, humpbacked horse character. I noticed several small changes to the choreography versus the other two performances. In the first scene, when Ivan is interacting with his brothers, there is a movement where he lunges forward in an arabesque and is pulled by the leg by his brother—here Shklyarov kept his leg fully extended and his foot pointed, whereas Sergeyev kept his leg bent and foot flexed. And again, when his brothers hold his arms and he does these sideways split jumps, Shklyarov kept his feet pointed while Sergeyev flexed his. At the end of the ballet, Sergeyev did his solo starting on the opposite side (he did a mirror image of the steps), and he finished with a series of pirouettes instead of the high-flying center-split leaps that Shklyarov did. (Popov did them instead.) However, despite the less-than-ideal Tsar Maiden, and despite the slightly less scintillating Ivan, I still enjoyed “The Little Humpbacked Horse.” For me, it’s one of those ballets that you can’t really go wrong with; it’s so much fun. ** All in all, though I didn’t really love most of the ballets that were performed, I was oh so glad to have seen the Mariinsky perform. Though perhaps the greatest excitement of the whole week came from going to the stage door on Friday night! I don’t normally do that, but it was so fun to see so many of the Mariinsky stars come out. Shklyarov was an absolute sweetheart, even more adorable in person (if that is possible), and I will treasure the photo I got with him. But the greatest pleasure of the week for me was getting to meet several of you in person! It made my ballet-going experience extra-enjoyable. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing you in the fall!
  8. I guess the third time was the charm for me with "Anna Karenina"--I can't say this ballet will ever be one of my favorites, but I got the performance I was looking for tonight with Ekaterina Kondaurova and Andrei Yermakov. Though a lot of that might have to do with where I was sitting--on Mon and tonight, I was in the middle of the orchestra near the front and had a very clear view, whereas last night with Lopatkina I was almost at the very back. How different her performance might have been for me if I were seated closer! However, the one drawback of sitting close--for me at least--is that the music is overpowering. I hated it on Monday; last night, from far away, it was more tolerable, but today, near the front, it was relentlessly dark again. But the big difference between the prior performances and tonight for me was the Vronsky. To me personally, Andrei Yermakov totally looked the part--he was close to what I think of when I imagine the character in my mind's eye. Very handsome, and a bit boyish. In Act I he seemed somewhat infatuated with Kitty in a way that made me think of Romeo and Rosaline, before he meets Juliet. He looked like he was having fun flirting with her, but wow, when Kondaurova's Anna came in, he just had to have her. To me, he played his Vronsky with a kind of rash impulsiveness (a symptom of his youth), and I really felt like he might explode if he didn't get Anna. I think this worked especially well in the second act--I really felt like he was fighting, fighting, fighting to keep Anna; I believed his despair when he shot himself, and I could feel his frustration when he gave up on her. In contrast, I had to stretch my imagination to think of Smekalov as Vronsky. At least he complemented Lopatkina well physically and in interpretation, but with Vishneva, I just couldn't really see him as her young lover, and they were definitely not on the same page with the interpretation. Also, Yermakov's technique seemed to be cleaner--his barrel turns were neatly landed, and his pirouettes were nicely centered. Most of all, Yermakov had great chemistry with Kondaurova. And I loved her as Anna. To my eye, she played her Anna more like Vishneva's (or maybe it felt that way because I was sitting close again). She was a woman consumed by passion and then despair--but this time it worked because she had the chemistry with Vronsky and they were both extremely passionate/fiery. In the pas de deux that closes Act I, she ran straight up to Vronsky, and they just stood there, lip to lip. Here was the passionate release that I was hoping for on Monday! And at the end of the scene, Kondaurova played it very differently--Lopatkina's eyes suddenly widened like she realized "Oh god! What have I done!," whereas with Kondaurova, you could see the comprehension and dread slowly set in. Subtle, but very effective. In Act II, it was the first time where I felt like Anna felt genuinely pained about hurting her husband. And I think that might be because Islom Baimuradov, who played her husband, is Kondaurova's off-stage husband as well. They had a very natural onstage rapport, and maybe it was because I knew they were married, but I felt like it added something to the ballet--I could see that she cared about him (and he for her), so it added dramatic weight to her dilemna. As YID pointed out to me, Baimuradov seemed gentler with her than the other Anna's--in the first scene in his study when she comes over to try to get him to dance, he kissed her on the cheek, and he didn't do that with the others. I thought Kondaurova was fantastic in the final scene, and sitting so close with binoculars, I could see her taking these deep breaths in synch with the beat/rhythm of the train, and it was like you could see her heart hammering in synch with the train--very effective. All in all, a great performance of an okay ballet. As I said before, it was the best one of the three for me, but I really wonder a) how different Monday's performance would have looked with Zverev and b) how different Wednesday's performance would have looked up-close. Ah well. It won't be the end of the world for me if I don't get to see this ballet again. During the bows, Kondaurova made sure to bring out cute little Roman Surkov (Seryozha) out to take a bow, and once again I thought it was sweet. He's soo adorable!!
  9. With tonight's "Anna Karenina," I felt not only like I was seeing a completely different interpretation, but indeed, a completely different story altogether! On Monday, Vishneva played Anna as a woman who is well aware of society's rules, but suffers from an excess of passion. She is torn between the love of her life and her family (mainly her beloved son), and in the end, she dies a victim of cruel, narrow-minded society. Unfortunately, I felt like this interpretation fell completely flat on its face on Monday in Act I. I felt like Vishneva had all this passion bottled up inside, but neither the music nor the choreography were giving her anyway to release it. In addition, to make this interpretation work, she needed an equally-ardent Vronsky, and the chemistry between her and Smekalov was simply not there. And all the anguish and torment she displayed just made the music seem even bleaker. Tonight, however, perhaps because I knew what to expect with the music--or perhaps because of Lopatkina's interpretation--I didn't mind the score at all, and may have even found bits of it charming. (How did I miss the piano solo the first time?) Lopatkina's Anna was a completely different woman altogether. In Vishneva's hands, the role seemed thin, but paradoxically, Lopatkina seemed to embrace that superficiality, and it made the role work for me. Her Anna was not a deeply-thoughtful, deeply-feeling type. Instead, she reminded me of a Madame Bovary--a bored, rather vapid woman who makes the foolish mistake of having an affair and gets exactly what she deserves in the end. Instead of a tragedy, a Grand Morality Lesson! It also helped that she and Smekalov looked much better together--their faces kind of match, and their heights are closer, and I'm guessing they are quite comfortable dancing these roles together. And although Smekalov had seemed oddly wooden on Monday, today his temperament seemed to match Lopatkina's perfectly. Their affair is not about all-consuming passion, it's about a young smitten soldier and a silly bored housewife looking for a good time. Indeed, at the end of Act I they didn't need some big, passionate pas de deux--they're just having a swell time! Thus, Act I totally worked for me--and it didn't feel dreary at all! In Act II, however, this interpretation worked less well for me. The problem with the ditzy housewife is that she doesn't elicit much sympathy from me. To me, Vishneva's Anna seemed very cognizant of the transgressions she was committing, the seriousness of the act and the consequences, while Lopatkina's Anna never fully understood the consequences of her actions, never let them weigh on her soul (or so it seemed to me). So while I found Vishneva's reunion with her son to be terribly moving--at last! a chance to release that bottled-up passion!!!--Lopatkina's reunion seemed rather perfunctory. It was a little too cheery and not guilt-ridden enough for me--"Mommy's back! Oh you look well! Oh, and I guess I'll be going again!" Then, in the opera scene, Lopatkina looked like a chagrined child, starting to understand that "uh-oh, maybe this affair was not a good idea," whereas Vishneva kept her head high, desperately trying not to crumble and reveal her humiliation and despair. And thus, at the end, when Vishneva rushed to her death, I felt some pity for her, Lopatkina's Anna seemed to get her just deserts. Vishneva's Anna tried to be a victim, Lopatkina's Anna is the sinner who gets punished. So while I wasn't moved at all, I certainly felt like tonight's performance made a lot more sense to me, fit the choreography and music better, and was significantly more satisfying. After seeing tonight's show, I really wonder how different Vishneva's performance would have looked with Konstantin Zverev, her original Vronsky. If he had played a super-passionate Vronsky opposite her Anna, I think it might have looked completely different. I am now extremely curious to see how Kondaurova plays her Anna!! ** I also saw today's "The Little Humpbacked Horse" and I completely agree with YID. I can't choose between Tereshkina and Obraztsova--they were both fantastic, and very different!
  10. What a difference a day makes! I really enjoyed "The Little Humpbacked Horse"! It's not quite "The Bright Stream," but after last night's desolate "Anna Karenina," it was quite a relief. Really, I would not have guessed it was the same composer at all. I absolutely, loved, loved Vladimir Shkylarov as Ivan! So winsome and charming. All the lightning-fast beats of the legs he did and center split leaps at the end of Act II were phenomenal! I cannot wait to see him again tomorrow!! (Can we borrow him for ABT???) Yuri Smekalov, last night's Vronksy, was completely unrecognizable as the vaguely menacing and hugely comic "Gentleman of the Bedchamber." He was fantastic--I think this role suited him much better than Vronsky! It was such a pleasure to finally see Viktoria Tereshkina live. She played the Tsar Maiden as a bit of a tomboy, kind of an independent woman. I'm very curious to see how Obraztsova plays her tomorrow. I totally didn't realize that Yekaterina Kondaurova was in Act I (as the Young Mare)--it was such a brief part--but I loved her as the "Princess of the Sea." That pas de trois was one of my favorites--slow and sinuous, with a lot of lifts that reminded me of pair skating/gymnastics moves. She looked stunning as well--totally queenly and untouchable. It made me very excited to see how she does "Anna Karenina." Overall, the choreography looked very typically Ratmansky to me. The first act was a bit slow--some of the group dances felt a bit interminable, though I really liked the dance of the Wet-Nurses. It definitely picked up a lot in the Act II once Tereshkina appeared on the scene though. For me, LHH was not quite worthy of the resounding recommendation I gave to "The Bright Stream," but it was really enjoyable and I'll happily see it twice more. Unlike "Anna Karenina," LHH did affirm my belief that the Mariinsky is one of best companies in the world! Bravo!
  11. FauxPas, I agree with you completely! How different it would be to see the ballet with Tchaikovsky music! I too thought Vishneva was excellent in a not-so-excellent production. While watching the second act especially, I felt like she was carrying the whole weight of the ballet on her skinny little shoulders. Bravo for your extraordinary efforts! I, however, hope that ABT does not mount “Anna Karenina.” True, the choreography appears to be within Julie Kent’s abilities (which, conversely, frustrated me with Vishneva in the lead—couldn’t Ratmansky have given her something more technically astounding to do?)—but judging from what I’ve read, I think I’d much prefer “Onegin” as a showcase for Kent rather than “Anna Karenina.” Like you, I am not a fan of the score—too much moody atmosphere and not enough melody! Yes, the Mariinsky Orchestra sounded great under Gergiev’s baton. But there were some points in the ballet where the dancers were off from the music—notably in the scene where Vishneva had to strike a dramatic pose or make a movement on each horn blast or drum crash (against a backdrop of sustained notes), and since they occurred at uneven intervals, it didn’t quite match up at times, thus robbing the scene of some of its dramatic impact. As for your comment about Shchedrin--I found this article which seems to say (acc. to Google Translate) that Shchedrin was unwell, so they skipped the tour. Here are a few other links I found: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-12/scene-last-night-iseman-aronofsky-zuckerman-toast-dancing-anna-karenina.html Tiny thumbnail pics of the gala here: http://www.patrickmcmullan.com/site/event_detail.aspx?eid=38081&home=1 And on a somewhat-related note, Vishneva is apparently celebrating her birthday tomorrow at Mari Vanna restaurant: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=252593148088484
  12. In the first scene you mention, I think Anna was supposed to be hallucinating at this point? I thought it was a depiction of a dream of hers—to have both her lover and her family? As for the second part--I believe she was intercepted by a bunch of servants in the house, and they appeared to be torn between their affection for their former mistress and desire to see her reunited with her son, and their orders to keep her away. They seemed to try to keep her away at first before relenting. At least that's how I interpreted it! Oh, and I agree with you about the ABT orchestra. Ugh. If I ever win the lottery, I'd happily donate money to sponsor a better orchestra!
  13. Totally agree! It seemed like Vishneva felt that way as well—she certainly showered him with affection during the bows, and she brought him out for the curtain call. I thought they were quite cute. As for the craziness at the house last night--be warned if you are going on Friday night--I imagine it will be packed to a similar degree!
  14. I agree with you, abatt! The high points were definitely the interesting staging--with the backdrops being projected onto a huge 3-sided screen and various parts of the set being lifted on and off the stage--and the beautiful costumes. One ballet-newbie friend who so loved "Lady of the Camellias" was severely disappointed, and unfortunately she had dragged her poor husband (not a ballet fan), who was ready to sell his ticket at intermission. Poor Diana couldn't save this ballet, but boy, did she try! Unfortunately, in the first act, she did not have much to do dancing-wise or even acting-wise. None of the steps looked terribly interesting or technically-thrilling, though like other Ratmansky choreography, it involved some intricate footwork and probably was difficult to do. At least she looked ravishing in the costumes. As others have said, she may not be classically beautiful off-stage, but on-stage, with the stage makeup, she was stunning! It was nice to see her play a mature, sophisticated, elegant woman--that seems to fit her so much more naturally than playing these innocent, naive girls. Unfortunately, she did not have much chemistry with her Vronsky, Yuri Smekalov (subbing for Konstantin Zverev), though I feel like that has less to do with the casting substitution and more with the fact that little is done to develop the romance. There are no big, romantic pas de deux like in "Romeo & Juliet," or "Lady of the Camellias," or heck, even "The Bright Stream"! And that may be because the music doesn't really allow for it. I really disliked the music. It was uniformly dreary, dark and dissonant, and although it does become intense and passionate, it's more screechy/scary sounding than lyrical and lovely. No beautiful melodies here! In fact, one of the themes in the first act reminded me a lot of the start of the cadenza in Shostakovich's first violin concerto (but we didn't get the rollicking burlesque afterwards). Brutal, not pretty. I'd take Chopin and "Lady of the Camellias" ANY DAY over this! The ballet did pick up in the second act, and that was because Vishneva (Anna) was finally given something to work with. I finally felt a few tugs at my heart when she is briefly reunited with her son (Roman Surkov, who was absolutely adorable!!) before he is wrenched out of her arms. Seriously, I think Anna and her son may have had more chemistry (and thus made me feel more moved) than Anna and Vronsky. The scene at the opera where Anna is snubbed by society was also effective, I thought. For one, the costuming was brilliant, with Anna in a gorgeous red dress against a sea of pastels (a scarlet letter if ever there was one!), and we got a break in the dreary music with some lyrical opera singing. And I thought Vishneva played it brilliantly, showing both Anna's humiliation as well as her determination not to let it show. Finally near the end she got a solo which required some real power and energy, and Vishneva threw everything she had into it. Not only did I feel like Vishneva was trying to express all of Anna's anguish, but also that she was trying to singlehandedly rescue this sinking production. She really was a force to be reckoned with. But it was too little too late. Overall, this reminded me a lot of Ratmansky's "On the Dnieper," which I also didn't care for. Yes, there were some innovative sets, but the music was so bleak and monotonous and lacked melody, and there was very little to impress me in the steps, and the romance between the lead characters left me cold. THAT BEING SAID, I am very curious to see how Lopatkina and Kondaurova handle the roles. Who knows? Maybe it will improve upon watching...? And it's always a pleasure to see Yevgenia Obraztsova, even if she was only onstage for 5 minutes. The house was absolutely completely packed. I saw Maria Bartiromo (from CNBC) there. When I was standing in line for the restroom downstairs, I heard the house staff discussing shutting down an elevator since people were apparently trying to get into the house via the elevator, and they also dispatched someone to go to the stage door since some groupies were apparently trying to get in. Craziness!
  15. I'd be up for meeting up! And I also feel your pain about the discounts. But I had no idea how hard it would be to get tickets, so I got mine early...oh well...
  16. I agree with you, Helene, it would be very difficult to refund tickets. But I do have to share an experience I had with the Barbican centre in London. I bought a ticket to see a concert there since my favorite violinist would be performing with the London symphony orchestra, but of course she had to cancel the day before due to injury and was replaced by the concertmaster(yep, I couldn't believe it either--this is not ballet after all!). Luckily, the Barbican has a policy that allows you to receive a credit for a returned ticket, which can be used in the next six months. (I actually was able to receive a refund because I'm a foreigner.) I doubt that would really be feasible for ABT (a credit good till next season?), but I did want to point out that some theaters have return policies...
  17. Here are some thoughts from me on Wednesday night’s performance with Cojocaru/Kobborg and Abrera. I am still not a huge fan of “Sleeping Beauty,” but I guess it can be charming, with the right Aurora. I saw Alina Cojocaru’s ABT debut last year, and found it extremely enchanting. Although I felt that she was a bit reserved or a bit nervous at the beginning (it was her debut, after all), she became more and more comfortable and radiant as the performance progressed, leading to a natural climax in the Act III pas de deux. There was an aura of excitement and anticipation surrounding her debut, and she delivered. This year, the aura of anticipation had diminished somewhat—Cojocaru has several ABT performances under her belt now, and moreover, several viewers (including the people sitting behind me) were undoubtedly disappointed that Osipova had been replaced. However, whereas Cojocaru had been slightly restrained at first in her performance last year, on Wednesday night she was her at her endearing, ebullient best right from the get-go. Although Part danced well on Tuesday night, I didn’t get much out of her characterization in Act I beyond some kind of vague youthful happiness, but that suited me fine, since Aurora doesn’t strike me as a particularly complex character. With Alina, however, Aurora’s thoughts seemed crystal clear. With her bright eyes and ear-to-ear smile, she seemed to be saying, “Oh wow! This is the best birthday party EVER!” She looked at her suitors with an excited but slightly bashful expression, as if saying, “I can’t believe all these handsome princes are here to see me!”, and she greeted all of them with a glance or a drop of the head before she took their hands in the balances or leaned on their shoulders in the penchee arabesques. She was always affectionate and deferential to her parents—I especially liked that she took the time to gently place her collected roses at their feet instead of scattering them on the ground. And she simply radiated joy. Throughout this whole scene, I had a huge grin on my face. I simply couldn’t help it! Indeed, those people behind me who had been disappointed to miss Osipova were full of praise and admiration for Cojocaru in the intermission! There were a few little bobbles here and there, and I have to admit, Part really outdid her in the grand jetes (must be that gymnastics training!). And Part also looked better in the short sequence of little hops in an arabesque while turning that become pirouettes. However, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Act I thanks to Cojocaru. After that, however, the usual shortcomings of the ballet set in for me. I thought Kobborg made a fine Prince, if unremarkable, and he and Cojocaru looked very sweet together. Really, the dancing was lovely, but that’s about all I can say. So it seems Stella did three Lilac Fairy’s in a row (Tues night, Wed matinee and evening), but you couldn’t tell it! She looked fantastic last night, even better than Tuesday. Her arms are always so lovely, but last night her pirouettes were also spot-on. (Was it just me, or did Sascha just look so proud when she came out to take her bows? ) Promote this girl to principal, PLEASE! Sascha himself did a fine job as Bluebird, though I did not care for the way he used his arms—very floppy wrists, especially compared to Simkin, whom I think has lovely port de bras. I don’t understand at all what Macauley is referring to in his review when he says Simkin “doesn’t cut clean lines in the air.” Is he referring to the entrechat six? Yes, perhaps Simkin doesn’t have the definition of the Danish dancers, for example. But I didn’t see anything sloppy about the brise vole or the bigger jumps. Granted, Simkin is not Hallberg, so he won’t have those ridiculously long lines. Anyone else have an opinion on this? Boylston was okay for me. Like Drew, I appreciate her verve, and she does have that ‘look at me’ quality (which she sometimes over-uses), but she is the not the most graceful dancer, and yesterday I noticed that she does some of her steps and poses by leading with her chin, which is a pet peeve of mine. My ballet teacher is always reminding us to stretch from the back of the neck, not the chin. Wednesday night’s fairies were Melanie Hamrick (green), Kristi Boone (orange), Leann Underwood (blue), Luciana Paris (yellow), and Simone Messmer (red). All were fine though I missed seeing Renata Pavam! Paris toned down the hand-fluttering and looked less like a spastic bumblebee, to my great relief. Messmer fell off pointe badly in the middle of her variation, but she did not let it affect the rest of her performance at all—if you had blinked during that moment, you probably would not have realized anything had happened. I myself had been in the middle of thinking how much I enjoy watching her, and then when the little stumble occurred, I felt like those figure skating commentators who are like, “so-and-so is skating perfectly!” right before she falls. Overall, it was an enjoyable performance of a ballet I don’t particularly like, though I don’t think it was nearly as exciting as Cojocaru’s debut last year. So the ABT season ends for me with a whimper, not a bang. Thank goodness there’s the Mariinsky to provide a much-needed dose of drama next week!
  18. I wholeheartedly agree! I am peeved that Macauley omitted her from the review. So what if she's not a soloist and doesn't fit nicely into his sentence about them and their "own distinctive fragrance"?! Hmmph! On the other hand, I am happy (if shocked) to see some positive words from him regarding the soloists, and perhaps all this really means is that Pavam should be promoted to soloist, pronto! @ leonid (and others), I was completely ignorant of the political climate at the time of the initial staging of "Sleeping Beauty," so thank you for enlightening me. I don't really feel like ABT's production retains any of those dark undertones (or any undertones at all), though the next time I see the ballet "Sleeping Beauty" (which will not be this season), I will try to be cognizant of the history and symbolism!
  19. I too am glad that he is at ABT and that I get to see him often! I have no doubt you are right about the choreography--but some people, like Marcelo, seem to make it more meaningful and memorable for me. I have no doubt that David and Jose did the same choreography in the beginning of Act II, but they simply struck me as movements, whereas Marcelo made it make sense, for me at least. I often have the same reaction listening to different musicians' versions of the same violin concerto, for example. The notes are all the same, but when some people play it, I'm like, "Ah! I've never noticed that passage before!" Thank goodness for Marcelo!
  20. It’s unfortunate that Osipova’s performance was canceled, but it actually worked out well for me. I really wanted to see Cojocaru/Kobborg but can’t make Friday night’s performance, so now I get to see them tonight! It seems like things like this happen all the time with the guest artists—people grumbled about Bolle’s cancellations due to an injury last year—so I’m not that surprised, though I certainly understand others' disappointment. And I agree with mer01 (congrats on your first post!)—the situation is not quite the same as with Semionova/Gomes, since they have danced together and well, Gomes is Gomes! ** I attended last night’s performance with Part/Gomes/Abrera and thought it was fine. I have to admit that I have avoided seeing Part in the past because her occasional technique bobbles make me nervous, but several posters raved about Part/Gomes performance last year, so I decided to check it out. Tonight, however, Part seemed completely “on” and even seemed comfortable in the infamous Rose Adagio balance section. She may not look at all like a 16-year old girl, but she uses her body beautifully and her lines are lovely. She has a powerful grand jete, and I was especially impressed by the ones where she did a little flourish with her front leg (like a little kick before extending it out). I was sitting in the orchestra on the left side, and it was so strange/hilarious to see that man come down the aisle with the usher chasing after him after that scene! Gomes was his usual fabulous self, but there’s really not much for him to do as Prince Desire. I love Stella, so it was a pleasure to see her as the Lilac Fairy. But it was perhaps more of a pleasant surprise to see my new corps favorite Renata Pavam as one of the fairies (the one in blue—I forgot the name). Her variation was simply lovely. She also had an un-credited appearance as one of Aurora’s friends (doing double duty!). The other fairies were Hee Seo (in green, subbing for Maria Ricetto), Isabella Boylston (orange), Misty Copeland (red), and Yuriko Kajiya (yellow). Unfortunately, Kajiya’s variation (or the way she performed it), made me think of those science experiments where they feed bees caffeine and watch them go spastic. Is it supposed to look like that? In the final act, Daniil Simkin’s Bluebird was a standout. He landed his first set of jumps with very deep, juicy plies. Later, his sequence of brise vole (the side to side jumps with beats of the legs) was remarkable. Unfortunately, at the end, he flubbed the lift where Sarah is supposed to end up lying on his shoulder on her stomach (I think), and instead ended up carrying her offstage with his arms. Yep, methinks he still needs to work on that partnering. I have seen the Act III pas de deux a number of times, not only in ABT’s production, but also in galas with dancers from other companies, and I always feel like it looks a little uncomfortable. Last night’s partnering was great, and the fish dives were fantastic (though even Gomes couldn’t keep Part’s supported pirouettes completely centered). But I still find the choreography baffling. When Aurora is in passé-releve supported by the Prince, why does she keep flopping over to the side like that? I don’t get it. And what exactly is she supposed to be doing in her variation? Needless to say, this is not my favorite pas de deux. The same can be said for the ballet as a whole, though I suspect only part of my dislike comes from ABT’s production in itself. True, during Act I, I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of a “Skittles: taste the rainbow” commercial, but I’m not sure a more sober, less-candy-colored version would be more enjoyable for me. But once again, I am completely clueless about other versions of the ballet, so perhaps the more seasoned veterans can tell me about some of the superior productions they’ve seen. I suspect, though, that the problem for me with this ballet is the story. “Sleeping Beauty” is not a drama, nor an over-the-top comedy like “Don Quixote” or “The Bright Stream.” It’s a fairy-tale like “Cinderella,” but there is no real conflict (it takes all of what, two seconds for the Prince to eliminate Carabosse?), no reversal of fortune for the characters (elevation of Cinderella from rags to riches; punishment for her stepsisters/mother), and no real chance for the Prince and Aurora to fall in love on stage. The music is undeniably lovely (except when played badly as it was occasionally last night), there may be some nice dancing, and it might be enjoyable to see your favorites or star ballerinas in it, but I suspect that it will never be a favorite ballet of mine.
  21. I totally agree that Marcelo is an amazing partner, but I think he's had a lot of experience! I happened to stumble upon this old interview with him from 2003, and I thought his answers were really illuminating: http://www.balletalert.com/dancers/interviews/Gomes.html To me, it seems that being a good partner is not just about height or strength, but a lot about attitude. I think Marcelo is a fantastic partner because he WANTS to be a fantastic partner, because he ENJOYS being a fantastic partner. And I'm not sure that is something you can really train, though that attitude can certainly be encouraged. Going back to the original question, like many others, I probably vote for BOTH. Within the company, I would expect Simkin to eventually make principal. I could see Jared Matthews doing lead roles, but he's not yet a dancer that makes me excited to see him. Hammoudi is certainly tall and handsome, though I am a bit worried about his lack of consistency and his partnering mistakes. Eric Tamm is another corps dancer who routinely catches my eye--very well-centered pirouettes and nice extension--and he did a very admirable job of partnering Part in the very-athletic "Lady of the Camellias" lifts. I feel like I haven't seen enough of Hoven to have a strong opinion either way. I'm not too familiar with dancers outside of ABT, but when I saw Chase Finlay in "Apollo" at NYCB, I did start to imagine what it would look like to see him as Siegfried or Albrecht. I personally am not a fan of Vasiliev--a little too sloppy for my tastes--but I completely understand that he would pack the house. My concern there, however, is that he is rather short (though super-strong), so it doesn't help much if he can only partner Reyes and Osipova (and maybe Cojocaru?). I thoroughly enjoyed Sarabia in DQ, but I'm not sure how he would look in the other ballets (can he do the tragic roles?). Is Polina Semionova's brother any good? All I know about Dmitry Semionov is that he's very tall and went to the Vaganova school and then the Mariinsky before joining her in Berlin. If he's good, it might be nice to have another tall guy around. I'm starting to feel like one problem is that ABT's up-and-coming men tend to be on the shorter-to-medium height, while the female principals/soloists/guests are on the medium-to-tall side of the spectrum. Maybe ABT should bring more shorter guest ballerinas--like, say, Evgenia Obraztsova! I know this is a thread about the male dancers, but I would *love* to see her at ABT! (And maybe she can bring Ratmansky's "Cinderella" with her.) As for the partnership issue that some posters have raised--I think Vishneva/Gomes are becoming a great one, though they aren't necessarily being publicized that way. And I think if ABT wants Vishneva to do more performances, then give her Gomes and some dramatic roles, and I think she would be here. If next season we have Onegin, Giselle, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, and R&J or Manon, I bet we'd see her more than we did this season. But, if management thinks Osipova or Semionova are better at filling the seats, then that's a different story... I guess we shall see what transpires!
  22. Saturday night’s “Swan Lake” performance with Semionova and Gomes was stupendous--definitely one of the best that I’ve seen in my brief ballet-watching history, but I can’t say it’s the very best. In fact, I can’t name the single best SL performance I’ve ever seen, but there are Acts or aspects of several different performances that I consider the best I’ve ever seen. From this performance, I can say that Marcelo’s Siegfried was without a question, the most inspired, most passionate, most amazing Siegfried I have ever seen. Before the performance began, I knew that Marcelo would do everything in his power to make Polina’s Odette/Odile debut at ABT the best it could be, that he would be the most selfless and supportive of partners, but I was not expecting him to go crazy like he did! In Act I, his jumps were so airy, his landings were so soft, and he used his upper body so gorgeously. I almost felt like he was saying, “Ok, I might not have David’s beautiful lines, but just look how beautifully, how musically I move!” And Marcelo’s acting was top-notch, as always. Thanks to his performance, it was the first time all week that I felt like the Queen Mother and Wolfgang were actually meaningful presences in his life. He gave the Queen Mother a look of such adoration when presented with the crossbow, and when he turned to Wolfgang for advice later in the scene, it felt like they were having a conversation. Then, in the beginning of Act II, he made me see Siegfried catch sight of Odette. This moment was lost on me with the other Siegfrieds, but Marcelo pointed out something in the sky, went around the stage following its path, and saw it land somewhere beyond the wings. Excitedly, he reached for his crossbow and prepared to shoot, but then he realized, “What’s this?! Something’s not right!” and ran off the stage. “AHA, so THIS is what this scene is supposed to be about!” I thought. And then, at the end of Act III/beginning of Act IV, Marcelo’s Siegfried was simply wild. After discovering his mistake, he pounded on the doors with such force I thought they might actually fall down, and when he came on the stage at the beginning of Act IV, he collapsed from the weight of his grief. On another dancer, or in a different performance, these actions may have seemed way too over-the-top, but with Marcelo, it looked just right, because you could just see how inspired he was by Semionova. I have always thought Marcelo to be unrivaled as a partner and an actor, but up to now, I had never considered him to be one of those show-stopping virtuosos the way, say, Simkin or Carreno (with his pirouettes) or Corella can be. But his variations in Act III blew me away! Semionova held her ridiculously long arabesque balance in the black swan pas de deux, and Marcelo answered with some extra-long balances of his own. And my goodness! I was not expecting to see Carreno-style multi-revolution pirouettes with the leg fully extended! To me, it felt like Gomes was so amped up by the performance that he was really going for it, taking risks, almost making it up as he went along. It was like his performance as Albrecht earlier in the season when he was so impassioned that he threw back his head after he landed his moves. Simply mesmerizing! Bravo! That brings me now to Semionova… Totally agree with this! (Though I’m saying this while considering Bolle and Vishneva to already be part of the company. ) Without a doubt, the best Odette/Odile I saw all week (I missed Veronika’s performance)—and like abatt, I would gladly see her again in anything. To me, she is a natural fit for Odette/Odile the same way that Cojocaru is a natural fit for Giselle—I never felt she was acting; everything felt “just right.” Of all the ballerinas I’ve seen, I definitely would call her my ideal Odette/Odile (but I admit that I’ve never seen Veronika Part nor any of the Mariinsky ballerinas). That being said, I’d be lying if I said her performance was the very best I’ve seen. In contrast to FauxPas, I actually preferred her Odette to her Odile. As her NYTimes interview suggested, Polina seems to be more of an understated performer from the little I’ve seen of her—she’s as passionate and expressive and heartbreaking as one would want, but without going crazy. As a result, I was a bit surprised when she kept her Odette variations on the safe side, but it seemed in-keeping with her characterization. There were no quad pirouettes like Gillian in Odette’s solo, and no lightning fast entrechats and passé-releve (like Vishenva) in the coda. Hers was a classy, not showy, Odette, and I was okay with that. (And let me not forget that she actually did the battements before the developpe! Hooray!) However, I did find myself wishing her Odile was a little more over-the-top. She was seductive and malevolent, without being harsh or bitchy, and she and Marcelo definitely had some red-hot chemistry. But I found myself missing Vishneva’s no-holds-barred, irresistible vamp last year with Hallberg. It’s very funny. If you asked me which ballerinas I think are best-suited for “Swan Lake,” Vishneva would not be on that list, and if you asked me which are Vishneva’s best roles, Odette-Odile would probably not be one of them. And yet, she has given me the best Act II and Act IIIs I’ve ever seen (in separate performances). From the moment she burst through the doors with those blazing eyes and her ruby-red lips as Odile, I thought, “Oh sh*t! Here we go! Poor Siegfried doesn’t stand a chance!” She didn’t just seduce Hallberg’s Siegfried, she completely enslaved him—by the end, he was practically groveling at her feet. And I liked this power dynamic a lot because it mirrored Odette’s own enslavement—in the prologue, Von Rothbart seduced and captured her, and now in Act III, we have Siegfried trapped under Odile’s spell. And during the black swan pas de deux, Vishneva’s dancing was almost indescribable. A great technician will make even the hardest moves LOOK easy, but there was something about the absolute surety, the complete lack of wobbles or hesitation in the penchee arabesques, that made me think, “Oh my god, it IS easy for her.” While Semionova’s reserve seemed appropriate as Odette, I did wish she was a little crazier and faster in her pique turns in the circle around the stage in Act III. And I have to admit, her fouettes were a bit of a letdown after seeing Gillian’s on Tuesday and Thursday—although her turns were nicely centered filled with multiple revolutions, they were not super-quick like Gillian’s, so there were many skipped beats. Still, these are minor quibbles. Similarly, the white swan pas de deux with Polina and Marcelo was superb, wonderful, gorgeous—but for me, it came in a close second to Diana and Marcelo’s performance two years ago. To this day, I can still clearly remember that unbelievably slow tempo, those almost-everlasting backbends, and the utterly rapt and pin-drop silent audience (I still heard coughing on Saturday night). Of course, Diana and Marcelo had the benefit of dancing together many times before, so they could take risks that Polina and Marcelo did not. But the superficial side of me will also admit that the height difference (or lack thereof) detracted ever-so-slightly from Polina and Marcelo’s performance; it just looks better to me when the ballerina is not so much taller than the danseur on pointe. Anyway, these are self-indulgent criticisms for a performance that truly was magnificent. I feel lucky to have been able to see it. Bravo, bravo, bravo! If I had to give you my dream casting for next year, though, I’d like to finally see Semionova and Hallberg together in “Swan Lake.” And having never seen Veronika’s Odette/Odile, I would love to see her paired with Bolle. And finally, Vishneva and Gomes. I don’t know if anyone will ever match their 2009 white swan p.d.d. for me, but I’d like to see them try again! *** Two final shout-outs: Stella was a stand-out in the Act I pas de trois. She seemed so on-fire that I couldn’t help but think, “is this her making her case for a promotion to principal?” And finally, how nice to see Renata Pavam as a cygnette. I was also impressed to see Skylar Brandt as one of the cygnettes—isn’t she only an apprentice?! Phew, can’t believe the season is almost over!
  23. Thanks for the link abatt! I agree, Irina is always impeccably dressed...except at Carreno's farewell! For a second I didn't recognize her--so unusual to see her so casually dressed in jeans!
  24. Poor Polina! Though I'm not surprised--she only has like 100,000 fans on Facebook. I myself heard of her well before I heard of the other guest ballerinas like Osipova and Cojocaru--the ones that seem to be better known among the NY critics and seasoned ballet fans. My impression is that Semionova is very well known and admired among young fans (among dancers/kids still in ballet school) in part because there are lots of YouTube clips of her and she is very active on Facebook. Of course, it doesn't really help sell tickets at ABT if there are some teenage fans of hers in California or London or something, but I do think ABT, and the other ballet companies in general, could definitely do more to reach out to young fans online.
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