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Posts posted by MRR

  1. .... Marcelo Gomes will replace Hammoudi as Siegfried on the June 19th matinee. Hee Seo, whom Hammoudi would have been paired with for both performances, has really gotten an upgrade to first class with her new partners!

    Hee Seo is as first class now as she has been for years, dancing opposite the likes of Hallberg and Muntagirov! She is an ABT Principal...and did not have to wait until her 30s for the appointment.

    Yes. I was just making a point about Hee getting perhaps two of the best and most experienced partners in the world for her R&J and SL, instead of a relatively underdeveloped soloist. I think having Gomes for SL will be particularly helpful considering that it is her debut. I also loved Seo as Juliet when I saw her MET debut and thought at the time that she and Bolle might be well-matched, so I'll be interested to hear reports.

  2. Didn't know where the best place was to post this, but some cast changes that have recently taken effect:

    Roberto Bolle replaces Alexandre Hammoudi as Romeo on the June 12th matinee, and Marcelo Gomes will also replace Hammoudi as Siegfried on the June 19th matinee. Hee Seo, whom Hammoudi would have been paired with for both performances, has really gotten an upgrade to first class with her new partners!

    Maria Kochetkova replaces Alina Cojocaru as O/O on June 21st. Cojocaru's Sleeping Beauty is still on, for now.

  3. I watched the stream and had similar problems to you, California. Not to mention that the stream constantly froze, although for the Grand pas and latter part of Act II it was steady.

    I liked the production more than I thought I would. In the ballet, Drosselmeyer is the ballet instructor for Clara/Marie's sister, Louise, so he has a big role with lots of dancing all throughout the evening. Tigran Mikayelyan was a very charismatic Drosselmeyer, and Katherina Markowjskaya and Polina Semionova were lovely as Marie and Louise, respectively. The corps work was sloppy at times and there was a botched press lift from one the couples at the end of a divertissement, but the performance was largely well-danced and the production was entertaining. An interesting aspect of the production is the Grand pas, as Louise and her cavalier dance the pas de deux, but Marie actually dances the traditional Sugar Plum variation and not Louise. Thus, Neumeier choreographed an additional variation for Louise set to music of the oft-omitted Cinderella divertissement from Sleeping Beauty. I love the Cinderella music and am always so sad that it gets cut from most productions of Beauty, so this was a nice surprise for me that it was added here!

  4. In response to your post, pbl, these are some of my thoughts on some of the ballerinas you mentioned (I haven't seen Boylston or Dvorovenko enough to provide comments):

    Veronika Part--Part is a tall, broad-shouldered ballerina with an expansive, "womanly" body, and she is blessed with Hollywood looks to match. She has impeccably tapered legs and feet and is known for the great use of her Russian back. I loved her Swan Lake with Roberto Bolle a few years ago, although other performances of hers have strangely left me cold. Part is known for being technically inconsistent, but it certainly seems in the last several years that she has made a tremendous effort to solidify her technique, get control of her nerves, etc., and it will definitely be interesting to see how she fares at Kitri this year. I would most recommend Part in Swan Lake or as Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, and I think she also has the potential to perform well in Sylvia.

    Xiomara Reyes--Reyes often seems to be the unsung principal at ABT, but while she is not suited to all roles she is still a very competent, enjoyable dancer. I greatly enjoyed her as Medora and Titania (The Dream) last year at the MET. She is petite and doesn't possess the long, eye-popping extensions of Part or Semionova, but she instead emphasizes allegro. She is tremendous with fast footwork and her turning ability is quite good. There were times when she was technically shaky as Medora last year, but her overall interpretation of the role made up for any faults technically: she was charming, mischievious, and sunny. I would recommend her in the coming season as Medora, Kitri, or Aurora.

    Polina Semionova--I found her to be quite a stellar Odette/Odile both with David Hallberg last year and (especially) with Marcelo Gomes the year before. She is a very tall woman and uses her height to great effect. She is a strong, steely technician who can hold pirouettes and balances for days, but she also has beautiful extensions, finely shaped feet, and an extremely pliant back. Most of what strikes me about Semionova is how physically expressive she is; she finds ways to make her entire body impactful in her work. With that said, she is a far more physically expressive than she is emotionally expressive. While I did find that she had some great moments in terms of characterization as Odette and Odile, she is certainly not fully developed as an artist yet, and she is not the type to give you such a visceral, dramatic performance that one might expect from, say, Vishneva. But I still think she is really worth it as a dancer, especially in Swan Lake or perhaps Sylvia.

    Hee Seo--Although I have seen very little of her, I did see her MET debut in Romeo and Juliet in 2009. I thought her Juliet was stunning: innocent, naive, tragic. Her recent promotion to principal has been relatively controversial amongst balletomanes because many feel that she does not have the technical and theatrical chomps to warrant such status. I thought Seo had all the potential to become a principal when I saw her as Juliet, but Juliet is not a highly technical role and it seems from reports that Seo sometimes struggles with some of the technical challenges of other roles (notably Gamzatti, where she apparently finished her fouettes facing the back of the stage last year). Seo will be making her debuts as Aurora and Odette/Odile this coming season. The former role I can see her being suited for, but I can't really picture her in the latter (for better or for worse).

    Diana Vishneva--People have been talking about Marcelo Gomes in this thread, and I would say that Gomes is perhaps most brilliant when he is with Vishneva (I know offhand they are cast together in Onegin and Romeo and Juliet this season). Vishneva is a good, if perhaps unspectacular, technician: she doesn't have the exquisite lines of some or the flash-bang pyrotechnics of others, but she's an artist. There is a very visceral, almost erotic quality to her dancing that I found striking when I saw her as Juliet a couple of years ago (particularly during the Balcony pas). Although I have not seen her live as Giselle, many have had glowing reports of her in the role (although sadly ABT won't be performing Giselle this season). I would definitely recommend her in either Onegin or R&J.

  5. What is continually perplexing to me is why Gomes never gets cast as Basilio (he did dance the role with Ananiashvilli years ago, correct?) This role might not be as natural a fit for him as Siegfried and Romeo, but surely he could do a decent job with it (at the very least). Certainly he would be better than Stearns. And especially now that Part is being given the opportunity to dance Kitri, this would be the perfect time to cast Marcelo alongside her. I also see that in the upcoming tour to Spain, Semionova is dancing Don Q with Stearns, when initially she was with Gomes.

  6. MRR - Your essays are always so detailed. You have great patience and ability to translate an unspoken art into words.

    I missed Gilbert's performance. You write that she did not kow she was mad. I am curious - can you really say she did not know she was mad, or was she portraying someone struggling to figure out if she was mad? Was she struggling to assess her reality and the truth of what was told to her, comparing words with actions, life's prior lessons with her discovery of how things really were? For example, was she trying to figure out if Albrecht really loved her, in light of his statements to her, his interactions with her, his behavior with her friends, the rules of society in which she lived? Was she questioning if he loved her even if he hurt her, or could not be with her based on societal constraints, or if he also loved someone else? Ruminating on these thoughts could drive someone mad. Analyzing all of these interactions and contradictions could create intense, maddening, seemingly intolerable pain and sadness, as well.

    Thank you! Your questions are very thoughtful and definitely have me reconsidering some aspects of Gilbert's mad scene. Indeed, one could say that Gilbert's Giselle struggled to figure out if she was mad. What I thought was interesting was that she actually seemed to believe Hilarion when he revealed the "true" Albrecht to Gilbert, and this proved notable because she transitioned from showing the intuition of her character vs. the eventual insanity of her character. I came up with her not knowing whether she was mad or not based on her gaze up to the audience after she falls to the floor (following her marking out the steps when she first meets Albrecht). I was seated far back in the theatre, but looked like she had this almost spooky, lovestruck gaze, which suggested that she had no real control of her sanity or of what had just happened. I suppose one could say she was struggling to realize if she was mad or not by doing this, but what went though my mind while watching this part is that she had no knowledge of whether she was even mad. With all of this said, the mad scene left me a tad bit cold at the time (and I know FauxPas expressed some reservations about her mad scene as well), but I think Gilbert had some really interesting details in there.

  7. My report of the Wednesday (Gilbert/Hoffalt) Giselle performance:

    With her wholesome looks, pure technique, and silky port de bras, Dorothee Gilbert is a ballerina of the first order. During Giselle's iconic entrance out of the cottage in Act I, it was as if Gilbert's face was glowing. She had this wonderful, natural smile; complete with one of the most beautiful, sensitive pairs of eyes I have seen on the professional stage. Starting off the first act, Gilbert's Giselle seems derived from the sun. She is glowing, luminous, and altogether care-free. Yet one begins to see a flicker of the disturbed nature within Giselle when during the peasant dance Gilbert falls backward into the arms of Albrecht (Josua Hoffalt). The way she thrust her body into Albrecht's arms was the most effective of the three Giselles I saw (Dupont, Ciaravola, Gilbert), as Gilbert evoked a flash of the ill spirit within the title-role which eventually cannot withstand betrayal. One of the keystones of the character of Giselle is her love to dance. Perhaps she loves to dance even more because her mother, Berthe, will never allow her to, fearing that Giselle dancing will prove a bad omen toward her becoming a wili. Yet, toward the end of the act, Berthe relents and allows Giselle to dance, which sets the stage for Giselle's famous Act I "Spessivtseva" variation. In the variation, Gilbert demonstrated a wonderful lift on her standing leg during the attitude pirouettes, and she showed a nice (if a tad bit tentative) command of the arduous hops en pointe. Yet it was her sheer love to dance which spoke to the audience the most, with Gilbert's eyes twinkling and her body beaming.

    Gilbert's mad scene would not prove especially riveting at the time, but her approach makes sense the more it is analyzed. First of all, Gilbert's reading of Hilarion informing her about the real Albrecht was unusual because she didn't just go and stare at Albrecht in this love struck, almost protective manner. In other words, there was no "Hilarion must be lying!" She stared at Albrecht with a rather foreboding gaze, sensing he was up to no good but not sure why she would be betrayed. Yet it wasn't until she hugged Albrecht when she fully realizes what he has done to her. This difference in interpretation was not the only contrast between Gilbert and the other two Giselles I saw. In the section when Giselle recalls her first encounter with Albrecht, Aurelie Dupont and Isabelle Ciaravola clearly made out the steps when they recall dancing with Albrecht. Conversely, Gilbert marked the steps, barely making them out, which provided an interesting effect. I loved how Dupont and Ciaravola clearly danced the steps and gave them a more ferocious intensity than when they were done with Albrecht, a notable example being how their pointe shoes would stab into the stage when they landed a grand jete. Rather, Gilbert seemingly made this aspect of the mad scene a point about Giselle couldn't dance anymore: she was too weak, vulnerable, frail, and heart-broken to embark on what she loved or on the memories of doing what she loved. Thus, one might say she brought a new layer to Giselle: she dies not only because of Albrecht, but because there is no "dance" left within her.

    Toward the end of the scene, Gilbert proved her finest moment of drama when, after falling to the floor, she slowly glanced up at the audience with this spooky, jack-o-lantern smile that suggested a girl of true insanity. The indelible aspect of Gilbert's mad scene was that she never knew she was mad. She seemed to be convincing herself that she was well and happy instead of letting herself showcase all of these tragic grimaces of a girl who is mad and knows it. With all of this said, Gilbert's mad scene has room for development. Indeed, her mad scene was very, very creditable, and the moments I described provided the backbone for an interesting and different interpretation, but Gilbert lacked the stoic drama of Dupont on Friday and the subtle nuances and spontaneity of Ciaravola on Saturday. I appreciated that Gilbert, akin to the other two Etoiles, kept her mad scene subtle and never bordered on camp or histrionics of any kind. Yet, the mad scene is for right now headed in the right direction, and very much in the right direction, but is not yet a fully-fledged work of art in the manner that the rest of Gilbert's Act I Giselle is.

    The playful girlishness of Gilbert's Act I Giselle proved more natural a portrayal for her than the dark, ghostly confines of the spirit in Act II, but Gilbert's interpretation of Act II was nonetheless impressive. She entered the stage in her initiation scene as this anonymous ghost, devoid of any identity. For all we knew, she was just another nameless wili. Gone were the inviting eyes of Act I. Throughout the initiation, her eyes were locked down to the floor and provided the audience a barrier and the sensation she was firmly within Myrtha's control and only Myrtha's control. That is, until she sees Albrecht.

    Gilbert's Giselle begins to have an identity when Albrecht appears, and suddenly there is this humanity and sensitivity within her. This humanity and sensitivity never fully forms, as she is still a ghost, after all. Gilbert provided her Act II Giselle with a fascinating contrast between her human love for Albrecht and her spiritual remoteness in showing that love. Gilbert's Act II Giselle was on the softer and more forgiving side, but she left it a mystery as to whether love equaled forgiveness. The choreography in Act II for Giselle more glaringly exposed Gilbert's weakness as a technician: her extension. Although otherwise a strong dancer, Gilbert has a relatively tight lower back and not the flexibility in the hamstrings to allow the elasticity of her extensions to come alive. This proved only a minor weakness in her performance, as Giselle is not a role which should really call for the Svetlana Zakharova ear-grazing extensions. Giselle is a more restrained role than most, but the adagio pas de deux with Albrecht exposed this weakness in Gilbert's dancing because many of Gilbert's developees, arabesques, penchees, et al, were not as elongated and expansive as many.

    However, Gilbert channeled her spiritual Giselle to highlight different strengths of her technique, namely her balances and her footwork. There were some nicely sustained balances which evoked the weightlessness of Giselle, although on two occasions she let those balances interfere with the supposed choreography because they were sustained beyond the length of the intended phrase. However, there was nothing to criticize about Gilbert's backward bourrees, bourrees so fast that one thought she was about to fly. Alas, an excellent performance from Gilbert was just slightly marred by the most unexpected of manners: the scenery. As Gilbert was about to say her final goodbye to Albrecht, she glided backwards until she inadvertently bumped into the wing. But, it was no big deal, as Gilbert turned and exited as if nothing had happened. In many respects, Gilbert is almost like POB's answer to Marianela Nunez. The two artists are in many respects different, of course, and have vastly contrasting training backgrounds. Yet both are crackerjack technicians who while not fully developed artists are well on their way. Gilbert proved herself a sublime Giselle last night, maybe one of the finest out there, but one can sense that her best years as an artist are still to come.

    As Albrecht, Josua Hoffalt was rather lightweight. He was not a bad actor, nor a bad technician, and he developed a youthful rapport in Act I and a sorrowful rapport in Act II with Gilbert. With that said, true to form with the other Albrechts I witnessed during the run (Mathieu Ganio and Karl Paquette), Hoffalt was more successful in conveying the grief toward Giselle in Act II then his love for her during Act I. The staging gives Albrecht more opportunities to distinguish his character in Act II then in Act I, so Gilbert carried the performance until the second act when Hoffalt made himself and his character known. Hoffalt has wonderfully soft knees and sensitive musicality, but he lacks the fine lines of Ganio and the batterie to match. Hoffalt "only" completed 25 entrechant sixes to Ganio's 28 (and far more exceptional 28) and Paquette's 34, and his last eight or so entrechants were substandard. Some of his pirouettes in the variation were also shaky, and one didn't get a sense of power from Hoffalt—either from his technical ability or from his acting ability, which was sensitive but rather ossified.

    As Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, Laura Hecquet was forgettable, literally. As I left the theater, I struggled to remember anything of real importance about her dancing or her interpretation, for better or for worse. One thing that did stand out to me, and not in a good way, was her "entrechant six." The beats in her sixes were basically her heal bones crossing (when the goal is to have the thighs or at least the calves cross), which simply does not cut it in the role of the Wili Queen which features several of these jumps. Otherwise, Hecquet proved to be an inoffensive, and actually quite clean, dancer, but the regality and brooding presence so necessary for Myrtha were not at all conveyed by Hecquet. Rather than being the queen of the wilis, Hecquet seemed almost as if she were a random wili plucked to become the leader of the tribe.

    The peasant pas de deux was danced by Heloise Bourdon and Axel Ibot, the same cast as Saturday. Ibot delivered nicely in the first variation, demonstrating that pure batterie, vivacious smile, and buoyant jump seen on Saturday with an extra-long arabesque balance thrown in for good measure. His second solo would prove uncharacteristically shaky; as some of his double assemble landings and pirouettes were not pitch precise. His one double tour to the knee was clean enough, but a touch under rotated and not finished with the panache that he had on Saturday. Ibot is definitely a talented danseur who just needs more experience solidifying his commendable talent. Heloise Bourdon was luminous as Ibot's partner, charming the audience with her tasteful elegance. Bourdon, who suggests herself a Giselle in-the-making, dances like a dewdrop: quiet, light, and fluid. Proof of her commendable technical ability surfaced when Bourdon embarked on the tricky double pirouettes from the knee (partnered by Ibot). The tendency in the step would be to stick the popo out while trying to get up into a pirouette from a kneeling position, but Bourdon maintains a superb, neutral spine even when attempting this difficult transition.

    Yann Saiz proved himself a real force as Hilarion: passionate, intimidating, and even a touch erotic. One even questioned why Giselle picked Albrecht over Hilarion. The Wili corps were exceptional as usual. The audience certainly let their bravos be heard for the Wilis, and one of the most lauded aspects of these performances has indeed been the Wili corps. While not to take away from the sublime corps work in Act II, I wish to single out the eight women who dance as peasant girls in Act I and have an allegro section in-between the variations in the peasant pas. The clarity, precision, and musicality in which these women dance this section are remarkable, and their speed would make even the fastest NYCB dancers blush. In fact, all of the peasant sections are superlative, and a remarkable change from ABT, a company which in contrast throws together the peasant dances in Swan Lake as if they are of little significance.

  8. I'm rather surprised (unless if I have glossed over a post mentioning her) that Tamara Rojo hasn't been named in this thread. I have always found her to be remarkably intelligent and articulate. I have loved hearing about her passions for Kenneth MacMillan's choreography and why his ballets mean so much to her. She also had some rather blunt feelings toward the film Black Swan which she had no reservations in expressing!

  9. Zachary,

    I completely agree with you. Smirnova is a sublime young talent and strikingly mature for her age (I believe she is 19 or 20). I definitely foresee her becoming a principal within the next few years considering how meteoric her rise has been already. I saw some clips of her in Diamonds and Emeralds when the Bolshoi premiered Jewels, and even in just meager clips I instantly wanted to see more of her. There are also videos of her dancing Lilac Fairy to Evgenia Obraztsova's Aurora, and they are wonderful together. I loved that one of the coaches setting Jewels called Smirnova "a ballerina out of the past."

  10. I'm the minority here, but I thought Dupont carried the Friday performance. I have watched videos of her in the past and have found her a bit cool for my taste, but last night she was riveting. As Angelica said, she was a sophisticated peasant in Act I, and I loved her transformation into this rather complacent, blank ghost in Act II. Her mad scene was for me the highlight of her performance--wonderful subtle and impactful acting, and best of all, no histrionics. I agree that Dupont did lack amplitude in her jumps, but what Michael said about that lack of elevation being intentional crossed my mind last night, as for me her lack of elevation did not detract from her performance. Rather, it helped her provide a foundation for her subtle, classical, and nuanced interpretation of Giselle.

    I am perhaps not as big a fan of Ganio as some on this board. Don't get me wrong, he is very, very fine, and I thought his entrechant sixes at the end were spectacular: I counted 28 and they were as good at the end as they were at the beginning. The shapes of his legs and feet are wonderful, and he is an elegantly fluid upper body, but I found him rather impassive in the first act. I thought he came alive more in the second act and portrayed the grief-stricken Albrecht of Act II better than the romantic Albrecht of Act I. Overall a very fine performance, but I don't find him to be as impactful a danseur as Gomes and Hallberg at this stage of his career.

    The Willi corps were stunning. One can instantly see why POB hires basically all of its dancers from the school. The schooling is so profoundly consistent from dancer to dancer that the overall impact of the Willi corps makes the company seem like a true troupe and not merely a group of individual dancers. I echo some of the disappointments expressed for Emilie Cozette at Myrtha, although Monya and Zulme, Aurelia Bellet and Laura Hecquet, were divine. Charline Giezendanner was a charmer in Act I peasant pas de deux, while Fabien Revillion was competent but struggled with some of the batterie on the sissones at the end of his variation.

  11. Nanushka--That's why I said it was out of left field. I don't think Part being cast as Manon is particularly likely to happen, but I don't find it to be out of the question. Zenaida Yanowsky of the Royal is about Part's height, and she's danced Manon.

    Manon should be a petite or 'normal height' dancer to do justice to MacMillan's choreography, lifts being only one part of it. The large/big boned ladies like Bussell, Semionova, Cuthbertson, Makhalina are 'heavy loads,' no matter how strong the Des Grieux who is lifting her. Even if they can be lifted and hoisted into positions, the audience cannot help but notice the strain. Just thinking about the perils of lifts takes away from the magic. We should not even be thinking about the effort. [This was one of the few 'negatives' of the recent Boylston/Simkin Swan Lake...the lifts turned out well but one was aware of the effort.]

    This is all true, of course. But the question is whether the strained lifts and what have you should prevent Part from getting cast period. I would rather see Part in Manon than Herrera or Seo, even if strained lifts are part of the package. Now, if Bolle or Gomes can't partner Part due to other partners using them (or if Bolle chooses to not perform Des Grieux at all), then it would not be sensible to cast Part. And while I'm definitely not as big a fan of Part as several on this board, I think the role could be interesting on her. With that said, I don't think it's likely she will be cast.

  12. I'm glad they're finally bringing back Manon. Casting for this should prove very interesting. I assume Dvorovenko, Murphy, Reyes, Semionova, and Vishneva would get cast as the title-role. But then, who else? This is assuming that they show Manon over a full week (meaning eight performances), and that they give each ballerina one show. If Kent still feels physically up to the challenge, she could dance it. I'm sure Osipova wants a stab at the role. Part would be out of left field, but she might work, especially as the complicating partnering in Manon would practically force management to pair her with Bolle or Gomes, which would be nice. There is also a possibility Cojocaru could be brought back to guest. Herrera and Seo don't seem suited to Manon at all.

  13. Drew--Thanks for that information. I am admittedly not very familiar with this ballet, as I had only seen a live performance of Le Corsaire once prior to this week. I had assumed that the role belonged to shorter men, but of course you are right about Malakhov.

  14. I have expected the news of Seo's promotion to come with some resitance, but I would just like to say that Seo's MET debut in Romeo and Juliet was honestly one of the greatest performances I've seen from a Juliet (now, I'm only 19, so I haven't seen that many!) The tragic pathos, the musicality, the liquid bourees, and those exquisitely tapered legs and feet just broke my heart. Congratulations to her, and I hope she can replicate that standard in other ballets and roles.

  15. The role of “big bravura” in ballet has always been a much generated topic, especially when one of the world’s foremost companies—the Bolshoi—derives its name from “big bravura.” There are those who insist bravura is the direction which ballet should be going in: more athleticism, more tricks, more amplitude. Then there is the camp which insists that ballet should stay with its roots and never slide into the realm of circus acts. They argue that bravura is often tasteless, and at times proves a mockery of what ballet is. I see both arguments, but in Le Corsaire, I always feel that the more bravura, the better. With the weaknesses of the ballet—the overcomplicated storyline, the piecemeal score, the wishwashy characters—this ballet needs excitement wherever it can get it. And, last night, excitement and bravado were brought to a ballet which provided a packed house with an exciting evening of ballet. Le Corsaire is in many respects a men’s ballet, and a bravura ballet, and those in attendance enjoyed plenty of bravura from three danseurs known for it.

    Dancing the role of Conrad, Herman Cornejo continued to be the revelation of the season for me. At first, his smaller stature would seem to more suit the role of Lankendem, the owner of the bazaar where the slave girls are traded in Act I. Indeed, Cornejo was superb as Lankendem on Wednesday. Conrad is a pirate who falls in love with Medora, and thus he plays more of a “leading man” role in the ballet. For some reason, I’ve always associated Conrad with tall men, but not last night. In spite of being very short, Cornejo looks surprisingly tall onstage when the role demands it. He made Conrad into this powerful, masculine figure with a palpable, endearing love for Medora. Gone was the efficiency of Cory Stearns two days before. Cornejo is anything but efficient as a dancer, with his truly infallible technique, precise musicality, and magnetic artistry. Even in a couple of instances where his pirouettes weren’t completely on, he covered any small error as if there was no error at all. Of Cornejo, Simkin, and Vasiliev, Cornejo is by far the bravura dancer with the best taste. Not only does he have the tricks, but Cornejo has a sense of true classicism. I notice that the debate over bravura never centers around Cornejo, perhaps one of the premier bravura dancers of our time, as Cornejo gives the audience everything. Remarkably, he satisfies all ends of the spectrum in terms of opinions on where ballet should be headed: he has line, artistry, musicality, and of course, the tricks. Unfortunately, Cornejo’s height which proves so useful for athleticism does not prove useful for maintaining a regal, statuesque bearing onstage, which is really no fault his own. He simply cannot evoke shades of being a prince in the way Gomes or Hallberg might in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, et al, and he is not a natural partner (although his partnering is much improved). And, even in this ballet, I preferred Cornejo just slightly in the role of Lankendem to Conrad because Lankendem is so suited to a dancer of his shorter stature. However, preferences in these matters are rather futile. Cornejo is sure to bring the house down regardless of the role, and he accomplished as much last night.

    Taking over Lankendem for Cornejo last night, Danill Simkin proved himself another such bravura artist. I first heard about Simkin in 2008 when he was on the competition circuit, and the thing clear to me then, as it is now, is that Simkin is a young male dancer’s dancer. His formidable technical ability is seemingly unlimited. All of the laws of physics surely cannot apply to Simkin, whose pirouettes revolve on an unwavering access and whose jumps seem suspended by wires. However, the critics of bravura are right in that ballet should never be all about the circus acts. A tremendous difference between Cornejo and Simkin, and not just in this ballet, is their stage manners. Even in the showy, bravura roles (Puck, for one) Cornejo always seems like he is dancing for you. He is always giving to the audience, and the bravura is merely a foundation for that. Conversely, Simkin almost “takes” from the audience. He carries on with an almost smug smile which creates an image of expecting applause, bravos, cheers, and the liking after every variation, every turn, every jump he does. Unlike Cornejo, Simkin does not even make an attempt to bear any humility onstage; rather, he is a dancer who is good and knows it.

    Now, is that smug smile an issue for this ballet? Not necessarily. It has been something which has bothered me in other roles of Simkin, but Lankendem is a showy character to the extreme. Simkin danced with remarkable virtuosity on Friday, but somehow Cornejo was even more spectacular in this role Wednesday. I noticed a stuck out popo in the grand plié landings of the opening assemble jumps, and the double tours at the end were all leaning toward his left side. I’m being a technical Nazi here, as Simkin was very, very fine. I hope the coaches at ABT are able to work their magic on Simkin in terms of having him develop a multi-faceted persona onstage. They are already working with him on his partnering, which showcased particular improvement last night (although it is still by no means great). I have no particular criticisms of Simkin last night, as indeed his performance suited the demands of the role very well, but his performance of last night reminded me too much of performances from other ballets in where he milks his bravura for all it is worth and leaves the audience with a smug persona which he mistakes for “artistry.” Which is a fault of his past performances and not this one, I realize, but I read similar criticisms of his debut as Siegfried in Swan Lake last week.

    Ivan Vasiliev is a dancer who almost seems more animal than human. The amplitude of his jumps, the lightning quickness of his pirouettes, the stern passion onstage all seem to represent a wild cannibal more than a premier danseur. Yet, in the role of Ali, Conrad’s slave, the cannibalistic nature of his dancing is perfect. The Act II variation of Ali is something that is now expected to bring the house down, and Vasiliev gives the audience the unbelievable athletic ability it desires. A dancer without a great classical line, Vasiliev avoids this problem to spectacular fashion in a role when he can rely completely on his storied jumps and have his substandard lines tucked away with those baggy turquoise pants. At times, another criticism of Vasiliev has been his acting ability, but in this role that criticism is unfounded. In addition to the blinding passion and bravura Vasiliev brings to the stage, he brings a wonderful exotic mystique to the role of Ali. He, like Cornejo, also “gives” to the audience. There was this one moment where he finished one of his spectacular, “has no name” jumps, and he powerfully starred at the audience for a few seconds prior to unleashing into a space-devouring ménage. The moment was as memorable as any ceiling-grazing jump. He almost seemed to draw in energy from the audience for a few seconds, but he was giving to the audience in the sense that he desired their power. Vasiliev gave the role of Ali a true sense of loyalty. The way he bows down to Conrad, even the way he runs on and off stage to satisfy Conrad’s demands, showcased Vasiliev’s unforgettable, humble power in the role of Ali.

    While a men’s ballet, Le Corsaire was not to be defined by just the men last night. Although she is often the unsung principal of ABT, Xiomara Reyes provided the role of Medora with palpable charm last night. Xiomara Reyes and Hee Seo might just have the two most natural smiles in the company. Reyes’s smile does not simply end at the teeth, it extends to the eyes. Without the sumptuous lines of other ballerinas, Reyes instead milked her allegro sparkle for all she could. As aforementioned, there were technical flaws in Reyes’s performance: some pirouettes in the first act that were off, I don’t think I spotted one turn of Reyes’s that took off from a true 5th position, and a rather impressive fouette series was slightly marred by a cheated final double pirouette to end. But I didn’t care so much about technical flaws with Reyes, because her performance was a technically and musically ambitious one. More than that, however, Reyes stood out because she developed a true rapport with her Conrad, Herman Cornejo, unlike the subdued chemistry between Part and Stearns on Wednesday. Not to mention, Reyes even sparkled life out of the often enigmatic Sarah Lane as Gulnare, and the two of them exemplified camaraderie with their friendship. Although Reyes lacked technical precision in many places and simply does not have the elegant long lines of a Veronika Part, I left the theatre thoroughly charmed. I was able to get her autograph at the stage door following the performance, and her vivacity is just as palpable onstage as it is off.

    If there was a disappointing lead dancer in last night’s performance, it was probably Sarah Lane as Gulnare. In fact, her performance was not bad in the least, but last night Lane was quite calculated in comparison to the other dancers. Although technically quite a lovely dancer with those nicely tapered feet, elegant port de bras, and elastic extensions, Lane was impassive last night, especially in comparison to the comparatively vivacious Maria Riccetto on Wednesday. Corps member Mikhail Ilyin demonstrated much potential as Birbanto, a pirate and Conrad’s friend, as did a Joseph Phillips in the same role on Wednesday. Julio Bragado-Young gave the role of Seyd, the pasha interested in buying Medora, nicely played comedic timing. Even the three Odalisques, the same three as Wednesday (Melanie Hamrick, Kristi Boone, Christine Shevchenko), were much improved tonight, especially Shevchenko, who after struggling with the diagonal pique arabesque/pirouette sequence Wednesday, nailed it almost flawlessly last night.

  16. I've never seen a circus acrobat who can do what Vasiliev does. He does not have a beautiful classical line, but in the role of Ali that's not a significant issue. It's a problem if you are playing a prince. Vasiliev was thrilling. He gives 110 percent and the audience loved it. We are lucky to have him dancing at the Met. I, too, enjoyed this afternoon's performance.

    I agree. Don't me wrong, Vasiliev is not at all suited for some roles. He doesn't have a good classical line, but what he does bring to the table is this very raw and passionate persona coupled with tons of bravura. And, for me, in the role of Ali that bravura and passion is ideal.

  17. So the favored soloists marked for promotion are Seo and Boylston. Stella and Sarah are just marking time.

    This is very wrong-headed of ABT. See Macaulay's review of Le Corsaire in the New York Times. Even he is coming around to Sarah and Stella.. Seo and Boylston don't hold a candle to them and Sarah and Stella deserve their chance at greatness.

    I think Hee Seo can hold up to Abrera and Lane....in the right role. She broke my heart as Juliet, and I know a lot of people on this board expressed praise for her Tatiana in Onegin. But I could never see her as a Gamzatti, Kitri, Odile, Manon, etc. I think Seo can be very, very lovely, but I doubt her versatility (and I say this is someone who enjoys her dancing but hasn't seen much of her beyond R&J).

  18. I have to agree that Paloma was the worst of the Swans I saw last week. There is nothing Swan-like about her. She is best in modern works, I believe.

    Word. She didn't clearly shape a character of either swan and her once storied technique has gone south. Her feet were exceptional as always, but the flexibility of her back is gone, her arabesque struggled to ever reach 90 degrees, and even her known turning ability failed her during the fouettes where she traveled all over the stage. Amongst the two swans, I was actually more disappointed with her Odile, oddly. I felt a tad bit vulnerability in her Odette and found it a (barely) passable interpretation. But her Odile had this sort of cheekish grin that went nowhere. There was no seduction or fire in her Odile; instead, she was almost sweet. Although, I suppose this is not fair of me to make this comment. As I don't think anyone would want to act "evil" toward Corella, even in performance mode, on his farewell show!

  19. If she was attempting to show her Siegfriend the ways of the world, she certainly didn't make any progress. He was the same Siegfriend at the end as he was at the beginning.

    Correct, and I wasn't really intending to imply differently. Dvorovenko's O/O showcased maturity, and I felt that she tried to give this approach to the ballet because of a lack of built-in chemistry with Muntagirov. But, alas, his Siegfried never changed. Frankly, Muntagirov's best moment was the Act III solo, where he didn't have to interact with anyone and could just dance.

  20. I also attended the Dvorovenko-Muntagirov Saturday matinee. I thought Muntagirov was extremely impressive technically--beautiful buoyant jumps, wonderful everlasting pirouettes, tapered lines. But I knew no more about his Siegfried at the end of the ballet than I did at the beginning. He had this boyish ear-to-ear grin throughout Acts I and III that just sort of hung there. He never stopped smiling, not even when the Queen Mother tells him he must marry or when Odile flashes him her palm during the middle of Black Swan pas. As Abatt mentioned, his chemistry with Dvorovenko was vaguely there, at best. I felt that Dvorovenko put in a creditable performance, but by no means an exceptional one. Semionova and Murphy were quite superior earlier in the week (I did not see Part), although I found Dvorovenko's interpretations of the two swans far more developed than Paloma's. Dvorovenko is a theatrical, desperate actress, and sometimes her acting "works" and sometimes it doesn't. Dvorovenko's provided very mature interpretations of Odette and Odile, and what I will say was interesting about the dynamic between Dvorovenko and Muntagirov is that Dvorovenko's swans were almost showing Siegfried the ways of the world. Dvorovenko was in good form technically, if a bit shaky at times (she came off of pointe awkardly during some of her pique attitudes/arabesques during Act II, and her pirouettes/fouettes in Act III were far from the best), but her extension has held up quite well.

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