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The Bard's Ballerina

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  1. Yes, I went, and it may be blasphemous, but I will even admit that I enjoyed Saturday night's performance over the Kirov's Jewels. I still don't care for Twyla Tharp, but the Washington Ballet at least made Brief Fling more than palatable. The dancing was very good throughout, and Erin Mahoney was especially notable as the green "modern dance girl." Sarah Kaufman was right about the costumes, though. Poor Michele Jimenez's blue bodice could not have been less flattering. The dancers gave Dark Elegies a committed and moving performance. Amanda McKerrow of course has the most experience with Tudor and it showed in her haunted expression and simplicity of movement. I haven't seen Paul Taylor's own company dance Esplanade, so I can't comment on the differences in movement between them and WB, but I really enjoy this work. When I see it, I feel like getting up on stage myself and running around to Bach in a pretty, candy-colored dress.
  2. OK, Alexandra, I get the hint. I'm here. I've only got a few minutes (new-ish job much more time-consuming than the old, but it does pay a good bit more), so I can only make a few comments. Sleeping Beauty overall -- LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT! Sets, costumes, everything (well, except Nioradze, but more below). Danila Korsuntsev (Desire) -- Very pretty; elegant dancer. Actually looked comfortable in that silly hunting outfit and wig. Irma Nioradze (Aurora) -- Her dancing didn't really bother me as mannered, but then again I couldn't get past her face. She's not unattractive, but she has a very sophisticated, worldly, Joan-Crawford-like face and from the fifth row I was having a VERY hard time buying her as an ingenue. She looked about 20 years older than her mother the Queen. Favorite fairy-tale divertissement -- White Cat/Puss in Boots. Listed in the program as Yana Selina and Kiril Simonov. They were absolutely adorable. She looks a little like Reese Witherspoon. -------------------------------------------- I'll cheat and add on my comments on Thursday's performance of Jewels here: Emeralds -- I almost slept through this. The dancing was technically clean, but where was the musicality?????? Rubies -- I was getting pretty disgruntled by this point, remembering Miami City Ballet's fabulous rendition of this section last year (twice). Diamonds -- Woke up. Diamonds was worth sitting through the rest of the evening for. I thought Daria Pavlenko was beautiful. --------------------------------------------- This weekend, Washington Ballet. Promise to write a bit more about them.
  3. A friend and I had our annual Washington Ballet Nutcracker outing this past Saturday evening. I have to say that I think this year was by far the best performance we've seen in the 5 or so years that we've been coming. The performances were delightful all around and the dancing was of the highest quality, from the Washington School of Ballet students who made up the corps (Victoria -- they really looked terrific) to the radiant Michele Jimenez as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Jason Hartley's exuberance was perfect for the lead candy cane, and Brianne Bland, Laura Urgelles, Jon Jordan, and Boris Serebrykov had clearly taken the time to coordinate the details and timing in the Waltz of the Flowers. One very notable addition to the company is Richard Krocil, who danced the Snow Prince to Carmen Ramos' regal Snow Queen. Richard is tall, with a very princely aspect, and fabulous jumps with great ballon. A single grand jete seems to cover the entire stage. The only bad note of the evening came from the Warner Theatre's very bad policy of seating latecomers. Most of our row arrived a good 15 minutes into the party scene and then took another 5 minutes to get themselves settled. Grrrr....
  4. I learned my lesson last year. I love the Nutcracker, but I just couldn't subject myself to ABT's debacle again (especially not at those prices!).
  5. I only saw yesterday's matinee of Coppelia, which I thought was delightful. The acting wasn't fabulous: Lorna Feijoo doesn't have a particularly expressive face, and Nelson Madrigal just looks like a big, happy lug of a guy. But the dancing was wonderful, especially by Feijoo, whose technique and radiance more than made up for her lack of facial expressions. I liked the bright, colorful sets (far preferable to the usual bubble-gum pink ones), but didn't care for the flat tutus. The character dances weren't as crisp as I was expecting from such a traditional company, but on the whole, I thought the corps and soloists were all quite fine. It was also nice to see that Swanhilda has such big, healthy friends whose partners were nevertheless able to lift them without staggering.
  6. As requested, e-mail has been sent (to webmistress address). 2 minutes later: I got an error message, but you can get my e-mail address from my profile. [ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]
  7. A few notes on Saturday evening's performance: I have to admit that I didn't really care for Carmen. The group dances were fine and enjoyable, although even the most toned and muscular thighs are going to jiggle unpleasantly if you have bare-legged women stamping their feet in character shoes. The main problem for me was the lack of characterization of Carmen and Don Jose, which was admittedly difficult for the dancers to develop in a 30-minute ballet where the group dances got more time than the main "action." Also, the partnering was awkwardly choreographed, with too many lifts transitioning uncomfortably into other lifts. Septime could have taken a lesson from Choo San Goh, who had a number of beautiful, meaningful lifts in "In the Glow of the Night." I did, however, like the Picasso-esque sets very much, and Jon Jordan and Boris Serebryakov are very strong additions to the corps. (I'm sure the other new men are excellent as well, but these two were dancing in the front so I noticed them more.) I liked the ballet, but was disappointed not to see Amanda McKerrow in "In the Glow of the Night." She was scheduled to perform according to the program, and no notice was given at any point that she was not dancing. Still, I thought Laura Urgelles danced eloquently and movingly so I wasn't as upset as I might have been. Also, Brianne Bland was delightful and gave a wonderful performance in the second section. Although she's a little too small for Runquiao Du, with whom she was partnered, she managed to engage him in a way that made their partnership very interesting; since the departure of Ju Hyun Jo last year, Du has often looked like he's off on different planet from his partners. Like Alexandra, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the company's effort in the 4 T's. It didn't have the depth of, say, Miami Ballet in last year's Balanchine Celebration (Festival?), but for a company that doesn't perform a great deal of Balanchine, I thought they gave a clear, effective performance. In fact, I would have preferred that Carmen had opened the night's program and 4 T's had closed it. [ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]
  8. Knobby knees. My reaction to Miami City Ballet's Jewels was a little less ecstatic than others' mainly because I was sitting very close to the stage and I keep seeing in my mind the disturbing image of those little Diamonds corps girls with their knobby knees. The knees weren't so noticable in Emeralds -- long skirts -- or Rubies -- short skirts, but the full, white tutus were NOT flattering on these girls. I was very relieved when the grown-ups (Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero) took over with their lean-but-adult body lines and mature, regal carriage.
  9. I did like Les Patineurs, very much, although I appreciate Alexandra's comments from her longer review and can see what she meant about the various characterizations being a little "off" and the steps not flowing as they should. I thought the performance was charming and understated and a very pleasant introductory piece, but I have to admit that I wouldn't have wanted it programmed any later in the evening.
  10. Well, I thought everything was just wonderful last night (Thursday). When I arrived, I was still rather disgruntled over DTH's inexcusably weak performances, but Miami City Ballet reassured me that there are still some companies that can dance ballet beautifully and put on a terrific show. I thought the men did a wonderful job of partnering all around. It was refreshing to see pas de deux danced with commitment by both partners, instead of getting the feeling that the guy's bored and can't wait for his solo variation. Carlos Guerra was especially impressive; I can't believe he's so young! He dances big, but smooth. I also liked Yann Trividic (the Hoofer) very much in Slaughter, and while I wish that Villella had milked the audience's appreciation a bit more, I can appreciate his desire to keep himself in the background. Although I suspect that all of last night's ballets have probably received greater "star" performances during their lifetimes, you'd have a hard time convincing me that another company could have managed to treat each of the ballets as equally special and worthy of its best efforts. I sincerely hope that MCB will make the Kennedy Center a regular tour stop in the future.
  11. I went Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. I didn't write anything earlier because I was just so underwhelmed and because I had almost nothing to add to Sarah Kaufmann's review of Giselle (although I think her assessment of the Memento Mori choreography was kind). Alexandra, I think your word "studentish" is the best description of both the Giselle and Sunday's Firebird. Actually, I kept thinking to myself Sunday that Firebird looked just like a student recital piece. Bethania Gomez, the Firebird, had the body of a 12-year-old and danced like a 12-year-old (albeit a talented one). The other dancers were just dull. Admittedly, most of the audience was more impressed than I; they gave Firebird a standing ovation. I hated Adrian (Angel on Earth) at first. The costumes were unflattering (the men wore these floppy frock coats and floppy bell bottom pants) and I didn't see that the choreography interpreted the music at all. Of course, it didn't help that I hated the music and that one of the pianos seemed to be either out of tune or incredibly poorly played. The piece did grow on me as it went along, however (although I wouldn't go out of my way to see it again). The "corps" parts were more interesting and the work as a whole was quite well danced. I liked Return more than I did last year. This is the "ballet" danced to James Brown, Aretha Franklin, et alia. The dancers seemed more comfortable with the choreography this time around, but they just don't have the attitude to really pull this one off. The one highlight of the two programs was Ramon Thielen. Why DTH didn't cast him as Albrecht or the "Young Man" in the Firebird is beyond me. Yes, I know he's too animalistic to be a "prince" type, but he's certainly far more magnetic and interesting to watch than Duncan Cooper, who seemed to be sleepwalking through his performances. [ 05-29-2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]
  12. Well, I went Saturday evening as promised, and enjoyed myself much more than I had expected. I agree with everything Alexandra said, but I'll add some more comments since no one else has. The production was good, with very nice sets from the Boston Ballet (I especially liked the crypt) and colorful, reasonably-high-quality costumes (although the trains of the noblewomen's party dresses looked like they were made out of the padded stuff that lines the elevators of my office building on moving days). The choreography and the performances had their high and less high points. Michele Jimenez was gorgeous, but there was absolutely no chemistry between her and Runqiao Du. In their pas de deux, it wasn't Romeo and Juliet dancing; it was the glorious Michele Jimenez and Some Guy Who Has to Lift Her a Lot. And he did have to lift her A LOT. It was nice to see Runqiao Du smile (I didn't know he could), but his dramatic expression seemed limited to smiling and not smiling. Michele's acting was quite credible when she wasn't with Romeo; she obviously detested Paris, faced her fake death with horror, and was extremely moving in the last scene. Jason Hartley was very effective as Mercutio, although he seemed a little tired at the performance I saw (completely understandable). Septime Webre really builds Mercutio's character and sets up the later confrontation between him and Tybalt by having Mercutio humiliate Tybalt at the Capulet ball. Unfortunately, the audience was so busy watching Mercutio's antics at the ball that Romeo and Juliet's first meeting was totally obscured even though they were in the foreground. Jared Nelson was a very pretty, petulant Tybalt, and the (here) underused Erin Mahoney got to get in a little bit of histrionics as Lady Capulet upon Tybalt's death. It was a little disconcerting to have some of the harlots also cast as Juliet's friends. The harlots were particularly well-dressed in this production, so they didn't look very much like harlots. The tiny Brianne Bland stood out among them, with her pretty, knowing looks and fabulous grand jetes. Some dramatic problems: the Prince (Webre made him an "Archduke Cardinal") appeared only in Act I and had no dramatic presence whatsoever and was dressed more like an altar boy than a cardinal; he didn't even show up in the second half to banish Romeo after he kills Tybalt. Also, after the balcony scene, Romeo shows up the next day goofing around in the marketplace, dancing with harlots and acting as if he'd never even heard of Juliet. And the orchestra was only marginally better than awful. Still, despite the shortcomings, the performance as a whole somehow managed to come together remarkably well and the audience reacted very favorably, giving the dancers a well-deserved standing ovation. I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who saw one of the other casts.
  13. Thanks, Victoria! I'm never one to complain about an opportunity to see Michele Jimenez dance, although it would have been nice to see Amanda McKerrow again, especially if she really is considering retirement.
  14. Thanks for your comments, Alexandra. I'm going Saturday night with a not-very-discriminating friend, so I hope she will enjoy it. I was happy to read your favorable comments about Jason Hartley as Mercutio. Although he's often been overused (as you know), I agree that he can be very effective in the right roles. A question for you (or anyone else who knows) -- I was wondering whether Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner were dancing at all, especially after being featured so prominently in the WB promotion for R&J, or whether their ABT commitments created a conflict. [ 05-11-2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]
  15. Well, as I just noted in my post on Saturday evening's performance, I didn't get to see Kent and Carreno on Friday night, but I have a hard time believing they could have been as wonderful as Amanda McKerrow and Maxim Belotserkovsky this afternoon. I will, however, give anyone the benefit of the doubt if they insist, having seen Kent with Corella in last year's Sunday matinee of Swan Lake (the highlight of my 2000 ballet-going). I'm sure it helped that I was in the sixth row today, but with McKerrow and Belotserkovsky, I was able to understand everything about Giselle and Albrecht. McKerrow's Giselle was a pure, innocent, fragile soul utterly devoted to, but not wholly trusting, the charming Loys. Belotserkovsky's Albrecht, in turn, was completely captivated by this shy, sensitive peasant creature. And it wasn't hard to see why, given the alternative of Bathilde. In what was definitely the supporting performance of the day, Stella Abrera was all cool, haughty condescension as the two-timed noblewoman. McKerrow wasn't as strong technically as Jaffe; she couldn't manage the hops on pointe in the first act. But her performance wasn't about technique; to me, she WAS Giselle. In the second act, she was the same generous, loving girl as in Act I, or rather, she was the inner spirit of that girl. I found Michele Wiles less effective than Murphy as Myrta, but if I hadn't seen Murphy, I doubt I would have had any complaints. Wiles wasn't as commanding as Murphy, especially in her solo, but once the Wilis came on stage and she had someone to relate to, her performance improved significantly. I thought the corps was a little off from their level of last night, but they still looked like a different company from last year's Bayadere Act II debacle. Today was the first time I had seen Belotserkovsky in anything other than the Tharp piece last year. I was extremely impressed with his stage presence, his attention to the details of his performance, and his chemistry with Amanda McKerrow. A few final notes: I thought Giselle's mother's mime (by Ilona McHugh on Sat. and Erica Fischbach today) was beautifully eloquent in both performances. Fischbach was particularly moving; with her gaunt look and empty eyes, she looked as if she was really foreseeing her daughter's death. I also thought the peasant pas de deux was stronger today than last night (although it was good last night also, the highlight of Act I in my view despite a little shakiness on the part of Xiomara Reyes and the fact that Herman Cornejo's bushy hair took up nearly as much space as the rest of his body). Marcelo Gomes would generally be considered too big for this pas de deux, but he managed to look like an overgrown, good-natured peasant boy who just happened to dance really, really well and who made a genuine effort to relate to and show off his partner nicely. [ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]
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