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  1. Helene, I felt uncomfortable with Macaulay's "her own press notice" phrase because it seems to relate to the ethics of the professional dancer and artist, beyond the quality of the performance in question. Claiming that the dancer put his/her own personal interest over the performance is something to be told with due caution, only when he/she really did, or there are sufficient reasons to think like that. As the dancer's intention cannot be directly proved, we have to infer from what we've seen, and, to me, the Sunday performance wasn't that bad to justify his comments. Anyway, it seems that it's only me to link that specific phrase with the artist's ethic issue, and my question/curiosity is resolved. Macaulay, generally, may well have confidence in his taste, which may be a very refined one, considering his title as the NY times chief dance critic. But, I think he also should be aware of the dark side of the taste - a part of which, however small, has nothing to do with his knowledge, however vast it is, in ballet, just coming from his whole life, ballet-related or not. It's given to him like his fingerprints, and I don't think it's the place where confidence may be allowed - it will be the opposite. And, as he himself cannot clearly know what kind of and how much of innate bias is mingled with his acquired, cultivated, educated taste, I think the degree of confidence in taste as a whole should be always carefully monitored. I don't dislike Macaulay's describing in his review what he doesn't want to see, but want to know why, and, which part of the taste it comes from. Further, I don't expect, or, want (why?) him to exactly agree with me on a performance - I don't want to have two exactly same photos at my hands when trying to reconstruct the performance in my mind through various reviews, like making a 3D movie with many photos taken from different points, but need to know where he took the photo.
  2. Even if the NY times version prevails in the end, I hope to see many other voices from people who work as critic, which may help the readers like me distinguish "personal taste and artistic merit" mixed in any review, especially, in my opinion, in Macauley's. Or, I hope a tag is attached to each critic which briefly explains his aesthetic view and taste. Knowing Macauley admires and loves Balanchine and classic blond males, as written here, would have helped me duly appreciate his reviews. In his Giselle review, I also liked his mentioning "a dominolike ripple" in a "sensuous but unyielding diagonal", which was one of the scenes I loved most in Kirov's Giselle, but I felt the comments about Vishneva, "this was a Giselle who was living up to her own press notices rather than to the role’s drama", a bit insulting to a professional dancer, unnecessarily nasty, like now notorious "too many sugarplums" phrase, though I can't tell if she was really oddly flat on the first night, obsessed with her reputation, as he said, so, deserving such comments, because I didn't see it. On Sunday when I saw her, I noticed a hair of self-consciousness and exaggeration in her acting in Act One, but, I still think Macauley's comments too harsh (...or, it may be just me who feels like this, not being familiar with American criticism culture), unless he saves same or more paragraphs to her dancing and acting in Act Two, which was so moving on Sunday, and I think, may been same on the first night. I think Macauley has much knowledge and even enthusiasm about art and beauty of ballet, and I just wish those merits of him don't fortifies his confidence in his taste too much, making him unjustifiably aggressive about what "he" didn't want to see.
  3. It happened again last Saturday (for record purpose, Feb 5, 2011). I don't think I can dare to report about it, and can just say I've learned when to use the word, 'sublime'. Hope someone leave a report here about this performance - I wish BT also has a record of this great performance.
  4. I've seen five, and think I've read almost all reviews about it. In short, the quality of the performance didn't reach the height of their lastest performance, The Bright Stream in Washington DC, and they received mixed reviews - I've found London critics do always respond quite differently to any performance, classical music or ballet, so different making me realize all reviews are in its nature very personal, and in this occasion also, they were divided for almost all issues, say, who was outshined in the T&V. That being said, they seemed to have agreed at least Lilac Garden of the second day, especially Julie Kent, was great, so was Tchaikovsky PdD of the second day (Herman Cornejo, I think, was another who did move and rock the critics and audiences alike), Duo Concertant of the first day was bad (but, I noticed Cory Stearns improved much from the last season, and he got a favorable review about his role in Lilac Garden. An audience member wrote he was also nice in Grand Pas Classique of the last performance which I didn't attend), and above all, they unanimously mentioned the music was terrible - one suspected in passing ABT seemed to want to save musician fee. Dancers looked a little tired, and I saw a few dancers including principals almost slip on the stage - it may be a common error, but, seeig such things several times during a short period made me think there being a problem with the stage or with the dancers' overall physical condition. Assuming that ABT strived to save the money for London tour as said, I thought a small part of 5 million which was used to creat the new Nutcracker could have been spent in this, for better music, better compositon of the programme, and better condition for dancers (though I know the money was donored specifically for the new project). I recall reading in one of the BT forum the operating expense of a ballet company is most important, and usually most poorly sponsored expense item. Londoners seemed to like Veronika Part a lot - she won a very long applause after the adagio from Alexei R's new Nutcracker, she was the only one, as far as I've seen, who received two bouquet of flowers after the performance, and I guess she must have contributed to making the Saturday evening performance sold out - it was the only sold-out performance. [by mentioning the slipping, I meant to say I suspected there may have been a problem with overall arrangement of the tour, not to blame the individual dancer in any case. As far as I've seen them, they haven't done that so often, so I didn't think it linked with their technique. And, with ksk04's kind the explanation, now I learned it should go to the unfamiliar stage. ]
  5. Ambonnay, you are very welcome or 'Je t'en prie'
  6. My pleasure! Hope this can be helpful - actually, at first, I felt a little dizzy at Act 2 synopsis (- too many characters coming and going). Wish to add that the actual performance was quite clear and easy to understand what was going on.
  7. Reading your post, I was reminded of Elisabeth singing together with Don Carlo and Rodrigo at the plaza. I thought Rodrigo's choice of sacrifice was made out of sort of desperation because the hope of liberation of Flanders had almost gone - the King refused to free Flanders (or made clear he couldn't do that), and Don Carlo was prisoned, staring the execution in the face due to his insane public attack on the King. However, there was still Elisabeth - sympathetic to his cause, caring for Don Carlo who, still, had the slightest chance of being a king, and having the power to give birth to a next king (when Don Carlo fails to succeed the crown). Rodrigo's sacrifice would be pressure on both Don Carlo and Elisabeth, who Rodrigo believed would have the legal power to do what he couldn't do by himself. Then, Rodrigo's choice seems quite reasonable, far from desperate.
  8. Here is the second act synopsis: Act II Scene 1: Evening The young people have assembled. The accordionist has taken a fancy to Galya, the schoolgirl who had danced with him so merrily earlier in the day. He whispers to her that he will soon be back and that she should wait for him. The pranksters do their costumes as Galya relays her conversation with the accordionist. To add to the fun, the tractor driver puts on a dog costume and suggests to Galya that she should meet the accordionist as proposed, but that he, disguised as a dog, will not allow the accordionist to approach her. The tractor driver protects Galya to enthusiastically that the artist finally realizes he is being mocked and joins the conspirators. The elderly dacha dweller arrives wheeling a bicycle and sporting his most impressive hunting gear and gun. He catches sight of his beautiful ballerina in the middle of a clump of trees. In the darkness, he is too enchanted to note his Sylphide’s masculine form. His wife arrives in ballet shoes to impress the male dancer and catches her husband flirting. Angered, she chases him off, but the tractor driver frightens her when, still in his dogskin, he rides by on the bicycle. Appearing in her partner’s costume, the ballerina helps the anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is dacha dweller to recover then mocks her romantic illusions. Waiting for the ballerina, Pyotr is met by his own wife in disguise. Zina jokes and flirts with him; when he fails to recognize her, Zina disappears into the bushes. The old dacha dweller and his “Sylphide” come running in. The ballerina, still dressed in male clothing, tries to intervene by pretending to be the Sylphide’s hurt lover. She challenges the dacha dweller to a duel. The disguised ballerina fires first and misses. As the dacha dweller takes aim, Gavrilych bangs a pail and the old man thinks he has fired. The Sylphide falls to the ground as the horrified dacha dweller flees the scene. After he disappears, the “victim” comes to life and dances to the delight of his fellow plotters. The dacha dwellers return and realize they have been victims of an elaborate prank. Scene 2: Morning of the following day The field workers gather in a meadow to enjoy the harvest festival performance. Pyotr waits excitedly for the show to begin so that he can relive the experience of the previous evening’s performance. To his great astonishment, two ballerinas dressed exactly alike appear on stage and dance, their faces hidden by masks. When the dance ends, they raise their veils and reveal their secret. The confused Pyotr timidly begs his wife’s forgiveness and they reconcile. Pyotr has learned his lesson: he now knows that his modest Zina is both a first-class worker and a marvellous ballerina.
  9. It is too belated response, but, as SandyMcKean’s question is so fascinating, I’d like to add my little thoughts. I’ve seen Don Carlos twice this season (Alagna HD, Mr. Lee live), and though those are all my experience with this opera, I, too, can’t find in the character of Don Carlos the answer to your question, why these people love him so much. So, I looked into the minds of the other people who love him, and here is my humble opinion: In short, they love him because of their own needs, to fill something they lacked in their own lives, maintaining their self-respect. To Elisabeth, Don Carlos was the only man with whom she could cherish love without feeling cheating her husband because she had known him and loved him from before she married. Her marriage apparently lacked the love between husband and wife, and she couldn’t allow herself to begin another affair with any other guy, which will affect her nobility, her self-respect, seemingly the highest virtue to her. Further, clinging to the memory of love with him may have increased the gravity of her sacrifice made to save her nation and people, which in turn highlighted the nobility of her deed. If the love she had to give up turned out to be nothing by beginning to love another guy or simply forgetting him, she might also lose the price she thought she had paid by accepting and maintaining the unhappy marriage. Eboli seemed to have thought of Don Carlos as the only one who could restore and reaffirm her self-dignity which was totally devastated by an affair with King Phillip, which I assumed may have begun by King Phillip’s coercion, at least in part. I think Eboli didn’t love Don Carlos until she mistakenly assumed Don Carlos loves her. By this misunderstanding, she came to be able to think again herself as someone who can be loved, who can be the object of innocent and genuine love, so, even after the truth was known, she couldn’t let him go because already at that time she placed the basis of her self-esteem at the love of Don Carlos. In the case of Rodrigo, it is more difficult to find any deficiency in his character/life, so, I just suspect he may have some discontent with his ability to manipulate, seeing himself as a Machiavellian, therefore thinking highly of Don Carlos’s unrealistic idealist-like character. I also cautiously suspect he decided to lay down his life in Act 4 to prove "to himself" that he can be faithful when he could act otherwise. I also think a part of the reason why he made such decision lies in the fact that it was unlikely to win his cause then, considering all circumstances.
  10. I attended three performances of The Bright Stream - Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday matinee. All were enjoyable, and, to me, the first one was most electrifying. The first day casting boldly remitted more dazzling and mature virtuoso rays, while the alternate casting looked younger and more modest. Kings and queens in oil painting vs. princes and princesses in watercolour – but, I wish to add that such lightness the alternate casting bears was something working well with this comic work. The Kennedy Center: It was marvellous. When I first saw this milk white-lit building Friday evening, I almost cried. Walking up to this dreamy venue and seeing a Giselle by Kirov would be a special event. My small wish is that they pay same attention to the lighting inside – during the Sunday matinee, the light was too dim, almost dark. Zina: As many said, Herrera was in her finest form. Last spring season, I liked her in B-H variation, but she wasn’t so impressive in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. She seemed not to be able to break the heart of the audience because her heart doesn’t, but, Zina was something she can do well, and she did it really well. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Zina and the Ballerina dance the same step in turn or simultaneously, where I could see how steel-strong Murphy and petal-soft Herrera could render it differently and equally beautifully. I loved Herrera’s Zina more, but, Reyes was also nice, speedy in turns, and more clearly conveyed her feelings, making her tension with her husband more vivid. Pyotr, Zina’s husband: This role seemed not easy, not because of its difficulty of dancing, but because of its unfaithful character – how can a dancer make it look still attractive or at least acceptable. Also, it may look a little dull and plain, so can be buried among other exciting scenes where a male dancer wears a tutu, and a dog rides a bicycle. Gomes did it fairly well, filled it with rich elaborate mimes as well as fine dancing, so laid a solid foundation for the whole story, quite like a farmer, Zina’s husband, would actually do. His acting was better on Saturday when he no more showed a little hint of Espada-like look, and presented the rustic simplicity with masterly naturalness. Cornejo jumped higher and faster, landed softly, but, failed to create in detail who Zina’s husband is. Ballerina: Murphy was brilliant. I often felt, in classical roles, she danced under the expressionless mask, but in this Hollywood-celebrity like, slightly arrogant and flirty character, she seemed to throw away all reservations and commanded the stage –her first act solo (of the second day) had the thrilling charisma which would be found in a great pop performance at a full-packed mega stadium. I can’t say Isabella Boylston was bad. She was fine. She looked like a soloist (while she is in the rank of corps de ballet), but Murphy is a principal, and I felt there was such difference between two. Ballet Dancer: Hallberg’s line seemed to achieve its own aesthetic value, and in his sword like shape, he executed his first act solo with precision and fire. Simkin did it differently – he danced with his unique jazziness, pleasantly and relaxingly. As Hallberg’s solo of the first day was so impressive, I was surprised to see that piece can be executed with a different style. Simkin looked like musical notes from an idyll. In the second act “Sylphide” scene, Hallberg, on Friday, delicately depicted a ballerina’s typical look and held his neck and arms just like Giselle does in the second act of Giselle. He looked he could dance Myrtha quite well. On Saturday, he seemed to decide to add more comic flavour to his “Sylphide”, went wilder in expressions/gestures, exposed his legs more when sitting on the bench. That was also fine, but, I think he didn’t have to and liked the first approach more, since his manliness already strikingly struck the audience during the first act that just seeing him wearing a romantic tutu with a calm ballerina look was funny enough. It was Simkin who needed more exaggerated humorous facial expressions and gestures (and he did) because a romantic tutu was too perfectly fit for him to make him look funny – I even could find Alina Cojocaru (her sweetness and girlishness) in him. He was more of a Giselle, or a Snow White. Accordion Player: Sasha Radetsky was sensational on the first night. At some point, he was explosive, at the other, he was heartbreakingly soft, and he linked each note so lithely, not letting a small rest or any staccato, just like a lyric Baritone, or an accordion itself which swells and sinks smoothly. So, Sarah Lane was a perfect match for him, his dancing, with her xylophone-like crystal clarity. Her long legs executing fast footwork was simply dazzling, radiant and sensuous. Radetsky also didn’t fail to ooze cute, bluff and bohemian nuance an accordion boy may have. Craig Salstein will be another guy in the ABT who can do Accordion Player well, but, I didn’t like much many staccatos he put into his dancing – IMO, staccatos were already enough in his partner, Maria Riccetto’s dancing. And, at the night rendezvous scene, Salstein’s hand gestures went too decorative as usual. Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller: I liked Susan Jones more than Martine Van Hamel who was so serious, therefore looked somewhat pathetic. Susan Jones was appropriately sweet and silly, which I think is the key feature to smoothly handle the unfaithfulness issue crouching beneath the whole story. IMO, sweet and silly Tatiana-like touch made all these fuss look like a light, one-off happening simply caused by a powerful enchant of ballet, evoking ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Otherwise, seeing these unfaithful spouses may make us deeply or bitterly sigh like when we see the brattish kids at the Alexei R’s new Nutcracker. Old Dacha Dweller: I was curious to see how Clinton Luckett will do this, who I only remember as a ballet master for Gomes and Hallberg, and Duke in the Lady of Camellias, Prince of Verona or Frair Laurence in the Romeo and Juliet. Well, it’s hard to make detailed comments on his acting as an Old Dacha Dweller, but I enjoyed it, and eager to see him in the role of Kulygin, Masha’s husband in Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, which Jonathan Cope did so excellently this season at Royal Ballet. Milkmaid: I can’t miss mentioning Misty Copeland, her swift feet, her sweet shyness during a short duet with a guy, and her triumphant look doing the milking. I think a part of the reason why I prefer the first casting in almost all roles lies in that I was getting tired and losing my concentration slowly day by day. With Osipova, the alternate casting will have different color and can be more exciting than this time.
  11. Just came back from Kennedy Center - ABT's premier of Bright Stream. Tonight, everyone on stage dazzled and sparkled brilliantly. They were all lively. To praise each member duly is far beyond my ability. I just want to say I think it's the success or, even, victory of ABT as a whole - dancing, choreography, staging, costumes altogether (Well, please remember that my ballet experience with ABT falls short of one full year, so, it's a truly personal expression. Just take it that tonight was ABT's one of the best performances since last May). Anyway, tonight I first felt and learned how thrilling can be a ballet performance when every dancer, not lead roles only, shines.
  12. Casting change: Alina Somova and Tereshkina were switched. PRINCIPAL CASTING Tue., Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Giselle: Diana Vishneva Alberth: Andrian Fadeyev Hanz: Yuri Smekalov Mirtha: Ekaterina Kondaurova Wed., Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Giselle: Alina Somova (cast change on 1/12) Alberth: Evgeny Ivanchenko (cast change on 1/12) Hanz: Konstantin Zverev Mirtha: Alexandra Iosifidi Thu., Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Giselle: Viktoria Tereshkina (cast change on 1/12) Alberth: Evgeny Ivanchenko (cast change on 1/12) Hanz: Yuri Smekalov Mirtha: Ekaterina Kondaurova Fri., Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Giselle: Alina Somova (cast change on 1/12) Alberth: Evgeny Ivanchenko (cast change on 1/12) Hanz: Konstantin Zverev Mirtha: Alexandra Iosifidi Sat., Feb. 12 at 1:30 p.m. Giselle: Viktoria Tereshkina (cast change on 1/12) Alberth: Vladimir Shklyarov (cast change on 1/12) Hanz: Yuri Smekalov Mirtha: Anastasia Petushkova Sat., Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Giselle: Uliana Lopatkina Alberth: Daniil Korsuntsev Hanz: Konstantin Zverev Mirtha: Ekaterina Kondaurova Sun., Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m. Giselle: Diana Vishneva Alberth: Andrian Fadeyev Hanz: Yuri Smekalov Mirtha: Alexandra Iosifidi http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showEvent&event=BLBSF
  13. ABT Japan tour 2011 casting: - Special Don Q featuring different pairs for each act (like Alicia Alonso tribute last year); - Angel Corella in four performances (opening gala and closing gala, where he seems to perform "Caught", and two Don Qs {Act 1 of special Don Q (opposite Paloma Herrera), and the whole one (opposite Xiomara Reyes)}; and, - Osipova and Hallberg again in R&J. http://www.japanarts.co.jp/html/2011/ballet/ABT/english.htm Please note that it is not yet announced in ABT's official site, so it is subject to change.
  14. I saw Nuñez twice last year, first in the role of Masha in Kenneth M’s Winter Dreams, and then, the female lead role in Theme and Variations. In Winter Dreams, she was technically coolly flawless, but she did not end there, making the audience immersed in the emotions of Masha – her passion, pain and frustration. General view among the balletomanes in London was “This technically gifted dancer is now developing into a great actress”, and also The Telegraph said “Marianela Nuñez, as Masha, revealed new depths of drama beneath her classical reserve.” I think the praises paid to Gillian Murphy during the latest Met spring season can exactly go to Nuñez also. She was also good in T&V, though I liked Tamara Rojo slightly more in that role (on the day of her performance, I felt she sparkled, but, not at me, and, when I saw Nuñez do T&V, I found myself missing the regal brightness of Tamara). However, it can be a little hasty to conclude Nunez successfully landed at the new level of artistry. Later, Nuñez danced the title role in Sylvia and Cinderella (filling in for Alina Cojocaru, who cancelled her all remaining performance of 2010 after doing two Onegins), and G. J. Dowler, a dance critic at www.classicalsource.com wrote about her first performance of Sylvia, “Nuñez is a gloriously talented dancer, make no mistake, but her transition to the next level of artistry continues to be hesitant – whereas she made a beautiful and wholly successful Masha in Winter Dreams recently, a role in which her technique was placed entirely at the service of the choreography, Sylvia sees her return to old form – mightily impressive but without variation.” Still, I have somewhat high expectation about her Giselle, as reviews on her second Sylvia were more favourable, then, she got a very nice review on her Cinderella, and, more importantly, Giselle is not an Ashton work which seems to require more development from her than others, in the eyes of dance critics in London). And, I’m very curious to see how this sunny ballerina will portray Giselle, considering an interesting comment on her Cinderella, “She is a very ‘modern’ Cinderella…making it quite clear that if no prince comes along soon, she might just pack her bags and book a one-way ticket out of there. There is little vulnerability, but that is Nunez’s interpretation and fits very much with her own persona (by, again, G. J. Dowler at www.classicalsource.com)” I’m going to see their performance live on 13rd, so, if there is anything I wish to note specifically, I’ll leave a short comment, though I don’t think I can conclusively make or reserve a recommendation.
  15. Though I didn’t dislike ABT’s new Nutcracker on the first date, I wasn’t sure whether I could enjoy it again when I already knew a little mouse would come out of Mother Ginger’s skirt, which was the decisive moment when I got to have favorable impression toward this production. And, when I had the chance to listen to the Nutcracker music (conducted by Sir Simon Rattle) after the first performance, I didn’t think Alexei Ratmansky’s choreography is well connected with the music. So, I wasn’t much excited with going to the BAM again, especially through the blizzard. However, happily, the second seeing was enjoyable, equally or more. A girl’s strongest Christmas wish is to meet and marry her prince. – This seems to be the main theme Ratmansky had on his mind making this new production. If so, it becomes more understandable why so many scenes in the second act involve a man-woman relationship related story. It’s no wonder Clara explores her greatest curiosity in her dream. Even the illustration on the screen, a white house in the navy and purple background, seemed to indicate the destination of Clara’s journey, where Grand PdD takes place and the Nutcracker Prince proposes to Clara. At first, I doubted it, and didn’t like it. Don’t children’s wishes end in the Land of Sweets, not in front of the altar, just like Clara and Fritz came into the kitchen to have some sweets? Then, I was reminded Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum also came to the kitchen, ate something, and kissed a bit fervently. The classical Grand PdD went playful in the end, which Alastair Macaulay wrote “Mr. Ratmansky…shows us how those adults still feel like the children they were”. Children, in the same way, have keen interest in adult things, especially in love between man and woman, while people usually think and want they are interested only in some childlike things like sweets and toys. Maybe, both adult and child have the desire to be and act like the other (or, in terms of desire, they are not different), and some of such wishes may come true on Christmas, because it’s Christmas. Before Act I – Staring at the screen for quite a few minutes, listening to the, though fabulous, Tchaikovsky music is the last thing I want to repeat. When music starts in a ballet theater, a natural desire to “see” the music surges within me, and I cannot but plead, “let me see it quickly, please”. I wonder how Ratmansky can keep silent for not a short time, while he sometimes seems to be obsessed with storytelling. I took that silence as homage to this great composer and also a little apology to him for Ratmansky’s being talkative continuously even when unnecessary (He seems to have to continue his storytelling because he wants “all-new” Nutcracker). Act I – I enjoyed it better than the first night, partly because I became more used to it, forgetting the traditional versions more. Party scene – On the first night, it was like hearing somebody talking a boring story too fast. Yesterday, it seemed better, though I can’t pick up what made the difference (maybe, it can be myself who changed). Roman Zhurbin did well in the role of Grandfather. Battle scene – I like Ratmansky’s effective and ingenuous use of the Little Mouse throughout the performance, but, I can’t like the long, pale-pink tails of the mice, especially seven tails of the Mouse King. So, the battle scene or any scene full of mice was a little bit too scary to me, though that’s exactly what Ratmansky intended. Snow scene – Even the Snow Storm scene looked better yesterday, maybe because I experienced it on the way to the BAM. When I see the snow storm scene, I feel like Ratmansky is shouting “I’m from Russia”. However, if I were to have 2.5 million (and more) and make a new Nutcracker production, I would like to make it more like “A dog of Flanders”, taking the deathly coldness, excluding some of the fast and busy movements, because I felt from the music certain “joy and ecstasy (from something transcendingly beautiful)” and “peace (finally found in death)” in addition to some sadness. Act II Sugar Plum Fairy – It was interesting the nanny who watches over Clara (and forbids her to take too much sweets) in real world becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy in Clara’s dream, introducing to her the Kingdom of Sweets. I thought Ratmansky captured Clara’s mind well (“Oh, Nanny, she is the very gatekeeper to the sweets”). After the first night, a very minor change was made about the timing when Clara wears her slipper again which she threw during the Nutcracker boy’s mime. On the first night, she was busy wearing it again at the center of the stage before she and the Nutcracker boy were escorted to the side. Yesterday, she put on the shoes while she was sitting at the side of the stage, which of course seemed more appropriate. National Dance – Like others, I hope Ratmansky to rethink about Russian dance. Currently, it seems like a put-together of mimes and steps which were omitted from Fancy Free because they were too silly or least amusing. I also want Chinese dance to be a more virtuoso one, like Bronze Idol or Blue Bird. Waltz of Flowers – At first, I didn’t like the bees. When the bees are on stage, I feel a little left out, unlike the traditional one where no bees are involved and so many flowers beautifully smile toward the audience. Seeing it second time, though I still don’t like it, I admit the bees are necessary at least in terms of color balance. Without bees in black (and with bright yellow mask), the stage full of frilly hot pink costumes would seem (to me) a bit distracting. And, last night, the audience who I guess consisted of more of only-once-a-year balletgoers than the first night gave a much longer applause to the flowers scene. Grand PdD – I think it is the very important moment in Ratmansky’s Nutcracker, which can determine the overall impression and opinion about the production. Also, it may depend upon each audience’s familiarity with the various existing versions and personal taste how much it should be traditional or festive or wild. In my case, I would rather choose a bit traditional approach because having through Ratmansky’s bright and brisk Nutcracker until the Grand PdD, I came to wish some rest, enjoying a bit more quiet, peaceful, elegant dancing which I expect a ballet to provide. It’s like hearing “Silent Night” song after many more cheerful carols. What’s been and is difficult for Ratmansky as well as performers will be still making the production look new, and not losing the consistency with the rest part of the work. I am not in the position to comment on the choreography of the Grand PdD, and the only thing I can say is that when I saw the Grigorovich lift in the PdD, I took it as another statement of Ratmansky, “I’m from Bolshoi”. Marcelo Gomes returned to his fine form yesterday. On the first night, he looked tired, needed one or two seconds of preparation time before he began turns or jumps, and panted so heavily when he was standing at the left side of the stage during the epilogue. All I saw for the first time, though I’ve seen him only for one spring season this year. Last night, he regained the lightness and cleanness of his usual self. I could see his arm stretched lightly to the above, and moving in the air a bit softly like a flower stem, and finally a flower (maybe, a cute lily-of-the-valley) blooming at the end of his arm. He had a warm and pleasant smile on his face, such bliss which can be found in Renoir’s paintings. However, I'm still curious to see other castings to know what those “Bournonville-like petit allegro steps” were meant to be exactly, and how they can be executed differently. According to the playbill, Ratmansky said “The choreography for our version is all-new”, and I did agree he embroidered his signature in every scene of this production, though I think some changes were made for the sake of “all-new” slogan, and personally I prefer a “half and half” version, unless I can afford two Nutcrackers a year. And, though it’s a charming idea to look into Clara’s mind, seeing her as an individual, not a mere child, I felt a little sorry for him to confine a Christmas spirit to a love of man-woman relationship (eros), while I think his new Nutcracker could extend the traditional “love within family” to “love for others/neighbors (agape)” which may sound boring and too educative, but with his talent (and with unusual generous support from the sponsors), he might have made a “still fascinating but more true to the genuine Christmas spirit” story. One thing I thought a little strange was the statement of ABT in the playbill, expressing its grateful acknowledgement for the financial contributions made by its dancers, stage managers and its staff to help support ABT. I wonder whether it is really common, or ABT is in its financial difficulties (thought it may not be a good time for any ballet company in the world).
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