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Royal Blue

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    avid balletgoer
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    New York
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  1. All four retiring dancers—Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney and Jamie Rae Walker—have had unforgettable moments during the Paul Taylor Dance Company's 2019 Lincoln Center Season. So I am glad they chose to remain a while longer, and wish the same had occurred with Michael Trusnovec and Laura Halzack. Not complaining though, but instead am grateful to have seen the company during the last years of Taylor's life. As well as to have been in attendance at what was at the time, and even more so in retrospect, a deeply moving performance (Musical Offering; Runes; Mercuric Tidings) on March 25, 2018 afternoon. The dancers recently hired made a wonderful overall impression, and appear extremely promising. Moreover, those who have been longer with the company (especially Eran Bugge)—chosen and guided by Taylor himself—made superb contributions in what was for me a richly gratifying and illuminating season. It is devoutly hoped that PTDC will flourish under Michael Novak's artistic leadership, in order that its remarkable repertoire remains vibrant and extant.
  2. Shorter ballerinas, of course, can appear regal and/or take on serious roles. Up until this ABT run, I had only seen Theme and Variations with the three NYCB women mentioned. It is undoubtedly exciting to watch a tall ballerina like Devon Teuscher perform the part.
  3. When preparing to watch Theme and Variations with ABT, I hardly expected the company to equal let alone surpass the magnificence of NYCB's performance with Tiler Peck and Joaquín De Luz last fall. Although no match for NYCB's production, ABT's possesses its own loveliness, and is worth seeing. Moreover, even slower speeds adopted by ABT cannot deprive this ballet of all its beauty. Certainly Sarah Lane's performance would have been more effective with stronger partnering; however, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Far from being reluctant to see Theme and Variations with ABT again, I await with eagerness Devon Teuscher's second performance tonight. On the other hand, what an unquestionable boon to be able to view ABT's excellent production of Apollo—with the prologue and apotheosis—also! In either version, Apollo is a stunning success for Balanchine and Stravinsky, and a defining work of the art form. Two or three casting choices for the Muses caused a little uneasiness beforehand; nevertheless, the dancers in both casts—Joo Won Ahn, Stella Abrera, Katherine Williams, Melanie Hamrick; Calvin Royal III, Hee Seo, Christine Shevchenko, Zhong-Jing Fang—proved well-matched. (There was nothing wrong with the pleated tunics of the Muses either.) Of the other five ballets included in ABT's first two programs this season, a couple are premieres, one premiered last spring, and a pair are older works unfamiliar to me. From way up, the luminous flooring of the stage effectively becomes the background for the dancing, and makes all the proceedings in A Gathering of Ghosts appear more tedious. A seat in the orchestra is preferable in order to at least observe the shapes made by the "Ghosts" against the black backdrop. Still, a puzzling new ballet by Twyla Tharp, whose best moments are in the second movement with the four consorts and Cornejo. During my first viewing last Thursday—from the orchestra—Ratmansky's The Seasons was spellbinding throughout, and elicited wonder at the choreographer's seemingly inexhaustible capacity to create material of such beauty and originality as to make a variety of dancers truly shine. A second viewing from the fourth ring caused a more muted reaction, partly attributable to the unfolding ballet's deteriorating color palette. There is little doubt, however, about the exquisiteness of the Winter section, which drew memorable performances from Aran Bell (Winter), Katherine Williams (Frost), Devon Teuscher (Ice), Catherine Hurlin (Hail) and Luciana Paris (Snow). Of the two pas de deux, I preferred the one from the late 1980s. Even though the songs by Tony Bennett are evocative and lovely, Let Me Sing Forevermore unavoidably comes across as being part of a dance competition. The music by William Bolcom and greater sense of intimacy in Some Assembly Required (1989) are more appealing for a ballet. Some of Clark Tippet's choreography in fact feels artificial and overdone, yet the piece also contains moments of great depth of feeling. Fine dancing from the two casts of both works! What a remarkable achievement and a welcome addition to ABT's repertoire is Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe, a ballet created in 1973 to songs by The Beach Boys. Music, costumes, scenery, lighting and choreography blend beautifully and consistently throughout, reaching a thrilling apogee with "'Cuddle Up’ — The Pas" as the cast (the women in lovely orange dresses) dances against a new-sprung blue backdrop. Yet the haunting aspect of this work is the presence of the woman in white—its sole ballerina! The juxtaposition of her movements—combining effectively with the rock music to a surprising extent—with the popular dancing by her counterparts is striking and affecting. Certainly there was outstanding work by many dancers in both casts of Deuce Coupe I saw. My gaze Saturday afternoon, however, riveted on a radiant Katherine Williams as the ballerina. And on Sunday afternoon, it fastened on Christine Shevchenko, who offered such a breathtaking display of beauty, skill, precision and control as to appear dancing the part surrounded by a halo.
  4. Devon Teuscher's splendid debut in Theme and Variations was, indeed, far and away the most exciting thing about ABT's 2019 fall gala.
  5. On October 11, 2018 NYCB performed in its program: Afternoon of a Faun; Other Dances; Moves; and Something to Dance About. There were two other events of interest that evening, and no compelling necessity to view three of the ballets scheduled. However, the two gorgeous performances of Afternoon of a Faun with Sterling Hyltin during the previous spring's Jerome Robbins Centennial Celebration struck a chord deep enough to induce me to immediately snatch a ticket as soon as a convenient seat became available in the auditorium. The superb performance of the ballet that evening—with an excellent Joseph Gordon in the male role—is one of the most significant art events I have ever attended, serving as the catalyst for reflection about what is a remarkable and special work. As part of their installation of the Art Series for the Winter Season of 2019, NYCB had affixed three large panels, high in the windows of the theater's facade, which included the words—one in each—"WHO ARE YOU". Created in 1953 when Robbins was 34 years old, Afternoon of a Faun essentially poses the same question. In addition to anything else, this 10-minute ballet engenders contemplation about the issue of identity, the nature of intimacy, and the meaning of art. Frankly, a more telling work could not have been fortuitously programmed for a season in which the company was under siege. Notwithstanding any flaws or shortcomings in Robbins' character, it is proper today to acknowledge the genius reflected in his greatest works. One should, furthermore, pay tribute to the woman whose beauty and artistry inspired Afternoon of a Faun, and who first interpreted its female role—Tanaquil LeClercq. As well as to the male lead at the premiere, Francisco Moncion. And—this great ballet being in part about all dancers—in a broader sense to all those performing it subsequently.
  6. A weekend that began with irritation at the failure of the MTA to get me to Lincoln Center in time for Saturday afternoon's performance of Dances at a Gathering ended with reflections of gratitude that mass transit makes it possible to attend wonderful live art events like the NYCB Sunday matinee in the first place. Again Maria Kowroski came to the rescue following the intermission Saturday with her sublime dancing in Everywhere We Go. This time, however, it thankfully came within the context of stronger overall work from everyone else, culminating in the superb execution of the moving choreography to the ballet's solemn penultimate musical movement. Saturday evening's Serenade lacked a starry cast. Nevertheless, with a dancer of Sterling Hyltin's caliber as the Waltz Girl, and the solid backing of various excellent female members of the corps, it was not hard to find plenty to savor in this remarkable work. A grand performance of the splendid Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, led by the regal Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen, ended an exceptional program on a rousing note. However, although in themselves Marc Happel's new costumes for the women are lovely, I concur with the criticism expressed earlier regarding their unsuitability for this ballet. In between came Summerspace, which was last presented by the company almost twenty years ago. All six dancers in the cast—Abi Stafford, Emilie Gerrity, Lydia Wellington, Sara Adams, Andrew Veyette and Adrian Danchig-Waring—looked fabulous in Robert Rauschenberg's colorful unitards. Being new to Merce Cunningham's choreography, my only point of reference to Saturday evening's performance is what I witnessed at The Joyce Theater back in April. At that intimate theater, it was easier to immerse one's self in Morton Feldman's music and the world of Summerspace. Moreover, despite criticism about being unidiomatic, the dancers of Ballet West appeared more practiced in the style. (Although, in fairness, the larger stage of DHK makes the proper execution of the steps—including some punishing jumps—exceedingly difficult.) Still, the two NYCB male principals as well as Adams acquitted themselves well. And, both Gerrity and Wellington were riveting! The biggest disappointment was Stafford's inability to match in a key role the elan and impact of her counterparts at the Joyce. An exciting yet grueling sequence of jumps, for example, here amounted to little and was over before I realized it had begun. Notwithstanding any of this, I would not hesitate in principle to attend all three remaining NYCB performances in order to gain greater familiarity with Summerspace. Sunday afternoon was my first viewing of the program which includes this fall season's two new ballets: Edwaard Liang's Lineage, and Lauren Lovette's The Shaded Line. The opener was brilliant. Separately and together, Sterling Hyltin and Taylor Stanley captured copious beauty in Opus 19/The Dreamer—countering the inclination to dismiss it as minor Robbins. As others observed, Lineage is at the least an attractive work, and it was difficult to tell from Sunday's performance that this was mostly a second cast. Once again, Emilie Gerrity in her debut was engrossing. There is no better preparation for viewing a new ballet than being forewarned by fellow BA members about its awfulness. Yet nothing I saw Sunday of The Shaded Line would dispose me to skip any program that included it, or not try to figure out what it is about on further viewings. The ambition exhibited by Lovette is notable, as are the resources—including 26 dancers, no less—placed at her disposal. This ballet affords a great opportunity for Georgina Pazcoguin to display her particular talents. In a supplementary role, Unity Phelan is typically bewitching. Finally, how apt that such a glorious performance by NYCB of Symphony in C—with an ineffably beautiful Sara Mearns appropriately leading its divine second movement—should follow for me the patchy one last November at City Center! One could scarcely ask for a better cast: Ashley Bouder and Joseph Gordon; Mearns and Russell Janzen; Indiana Woodward and Sebastian Villarini-Velez; Brittany Pollack and Andrew Scordato. All were on fire! If cast and performed as well, few ballets provide a more brilliant showcase for the art form than Symphony in C. Most significantly, its second movement—sublimely interpreted as on Sunday—is one of the sections in ballet most likely to compel sober rumination about the vast splendor and ultimate mysteries of the universe.
  7. Even though I do not feel as keenly about Union Jack as you do, cobweb, I admire your enthusiasm. For those who love the art form and have seen many performances, it is interesting to reflect about which ballets and which moments in a particular ballet mean to us the most. * All ten members of the cast at each performance of Dances at a Gathering must be chosen with great care, as it seems to me has been done in this run of the ballet. (I like what little I have seen of Jovani Furlan, and I have great faith in Emilie Gerrity.) As the woman "in blue", a more critical part than is perhaps usually thought, both Lauren King and Brittany Pollack are fantastic. Thursday evening's performance of Everywhere We Go was inconsistent and will be improved upon. And yet, no matter: Maria Kowroski was transcendent in what I regard as the ballet's finest moments! Nor will I ever forget Rebecca Krohn in the role. My calculations about who would be assigned the part in a second cast have proven correct, and I am looking forward to her debut next week.
  8. Not only do spectacular scenes with a crowded stage in opera and ballet reflect inescapable realities of mass society and civilization, they also—ironically—contribute substantively (through contrast) to our understanding and appreciation of—human intimacy! Depending on their placement and function in a work, the accompanying music, and their handling in a given production, such scenes can be anything but tedious or pointless. One need not be enamored of militarism or nationalism, or hunger for military parades in order to deem the entire first section of Balanchine's Union Jack—along with the ballet’s glorious finale—thrilling. The intervening "Costermonger Pas de Deux" and "Royal Navy" segments, on the other hand, provide lighter fare. One cast of the ballet this fall consisted of dancers reprising their roles, and included Gonzalo Garcia, Tyler Angle, Abi Stafford, Jared Angle, Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlen. On Tuesday evening, the performance featured Amar Ramasar, Andrew Veyette, Lauren King, Ask la Cour, Brittany Pollack, Unity Phelan and Ashley Bouder—with all but Veyette and Bouder debuting! Both casts were fantastic, so although I could attend this program only twice and would have had no issue viewing either again, I am glad how everything panned out. As befitted her vast stage experience and prominent artistic ambitions, Mearns in "MacDonald of Sleat" was more assertive than the blossoming and gentler Phelan. All the same, the latter's debut in the role was enchanting. Another key difference was the discrepancy in height between the lead women in "Wrens". Certainly the imposing Reichlen dazzled with her striking figure and legs. Nevertheless, Bouder herself looked marvelous in the costume and displayed her consummate craft in the role. Considering that it is a weaker section, how enjoyable the "Costermonger Pas de Deux" proved to be at both performances! Like true professionals, Megan Fairchild as the Pearly Queen and Andrew Veyette as the Pearly King set aside any personal differences to deliciously re-enact their roles on Sunday afternoon. Just as was the case with Lauren King in “Green Montgomerie” and Brittany Pollack in “Dress MacDonald”, it surprised me that Daniel Ulbricht’s rendition of the role of the Pearly King was a debut—although, of course, this ballet is not presented often. Best of all, Lauren Lovette was at once hilarious and utterly charming in her buoyant, splendid debut as the Pearly Queen. My complete absorption in the performances and choreography of the program's preceding ballet, Kammermusik No. 2, similarly surprised me, since it is not a favorite. Most of the dancers—Emilie Gerrity, Peter Walker, Unity Phelan and Jovani Furlan on Sunday; Abi Stafford, Joseph Gordon, Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen on Tuesday—were new to their roles. The way Balanchine in this peculiar piece blended dancing by eight male corps members to the unusual material for the soloists is fascinating. Even though I have seen Kammermusik No. 2 many times, these performances made me feel it is a work whose ingenuity and particular beauty I am in the process of discovering. That nine-minute ballet of sheer musical and choreographic loveliness titled Valse-Fantaisie begun the program. Having seen it only once before this past spring, Sunday afternoon's performance set the stage for an enthralling one Tuesday with Indiana Woodward and Roman Mejia as the scintillating leads.
  9. Although the choreography in Program D of the Ballet Festival on Friday night was of variable quality, there was much of musical interest during the evening, a greater consistency of tone than in the previous program, and all four dancers—Sarah Lamb, Edward Watson, Robbie Fairchild and Maria Kowroski—excelled in their roles. The three-part Cristaux presented after the intermission was particularly engaging, and offered Lamb the opportunity to cap her enchanting work during the past two weeks with a dazzling performance.
  10. What a haunting, powerful performance of Maurice Béjart's somber Song of a Wayfarer by David Hallberg and Joseph Gordon Tuesday night at The Joyce Theater! Marking another milestone in Gordon's blossoming career, it was exceptionally intense and poignant. At its conclusion, the audience applauded warmly, but not in any unusual or excessive way. However, after the curtain came down for good, the applause remarkably would not cease for a considerable period. Although the two dancers did not take another bow, they came out on stage a little while later—In their regular clothes—at the end of the program. Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations divertissement, a lighthearted yet thoroughly delightful ballet boasting some brilliant performances—including one by ABT’s Cassandra Trenary—incongruously followed after a pause, in the third program of the Ballet Festival, Béjart’s rigorous piece. Irrespective of what occurred with the audience’s reaction to Song of a Wayfarer, in this instance a second intermission during the evening seemed warranted.
  11. Deeply grateful, above all, that the pas de deux from Concerto with Lauren Cuthbertson in the female role was brought across the pond. Moreover, I loved greatly Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan with Romany Pajdak, and Dance of the Blessed Spirits as performed by Joseph Sissens. In consummate alignment with the marvelous music and choreography, the set design, costumes, lighting, and color scheme enchanted in all three works. The outstanding performances of the four dancers I did not mention by name previously—by the order in which they appeared, Calvin Richardson, Sarah Lamb, Marcelino Sambé, and Edward Watson—made (together with those of Pajdak and Sissens) the other five items in the first program of the Ballet Festival more appealing. Three of these eight dancers from The Royal Ballet on this visit to New York are principals; the rest come from the lower ranks. What a hub for ballet must London be right now!
  12. Watching the pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto performed by Lauren Cuthbertson and Nicol Edmonds as the third piece in "Program A: An Evening of Solos and Duets" further validates my unshakable belief in the importance of seeing ballet live. Showcasing incredibly gorgeous lines, Cuthbertson looks stunning in person wearing the orange tunic costume, and dances magnificently. Having become familiar with Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major by attending numerous performances by NYCB of Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH, I consider the Andante—performed solo here by one of the Royal Ballet’s pianists, Kate Shipway—among the most hauntingly beautiful music ever created. Of course, one must see Concerto in its entirety before making comparisons between the versions of the two choreographers. Without a doubt, however, there are different ways to successfully choreograph ballets to great music, particularly if not commissioned. (Interestingly, MacMillan used this work by Shostakovich in 1966, only nine years after its composition.) Although extremely impressive in all four pieces he appears in, Joseph Sissens amazes most in Frederick Ashton’s splendid Dance of the Blessed Spirits, dancing to the sublime music by Gluck. Almost a sea change occurred in my reaction to Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan over the course of two evenings. Perhaps I unnecessarily compared it to the extended, fabulous Dances of Isadora; nevertheless, on Tuesday evening Five Brahms Waltzes (about ten minutes long) seemed underwhelming. By contrast, on Wednesday it enthralled me with its own brand of exquisite if ornate beauty. As rapturously performed by Romany Pajdak there is a hint of madness in this dance—yet it is fiercely and thrillingly divine! The careful, wonderfully executed juxtaposition in dance by a soloist between beautiful poses on the one hand and rapid coverage of the stage on the other is always profoundly exciting. As one would expect with such an illustrious company as The Royal Ballet, all the dancers in the first program are indeed excellent. Nonetheless, it is not unusual for these kinds of programs to be of a patchy quality.
  13. On Friday evening the program consisted of: Scotch Symphony; Duo Concertant; Sonatine; and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. The following night a performance of Valse-Fantaisie replaced the slot occupied by Duo Concertant. The casting on these two evenings, however, was completely different. Both the Saturday and Sunday matinees, on the other hand (the program: Stars and Stripes; Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Tarantella; and The Times Are Racing), had the exact same cast, with one exception: Ashly Isaacs and Brittany Pollack switched roles in the last work. Yet, partly for the reasons mentioned by posters above, everything performed by NYCB over the weekend was hugely enjoyable. In a nutshell, the company ended its Spring 2019 repertory season brilliantly! Both Stars and Stripes and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (superbly performed with Ashley Bouder and Harrison Ball, and Teresa Reichlen and Andrew Veyette as the leads respectively) benefited from their placement on the same program—they were more appealing in this context. Each had fit somewhat awkwardly on separate programs earlier. Watching Scotch Symphony, an enchanting work rarely presented, afforded considerable pleasure this season. Ditto for Valse-Fantaisie, which I was only able to see for the first time Saturday night, fortunately with the excellent cast headed by Indiana Woodward and Harrison Ball. Although the recent weight loss by Ashley Laracey is disappointing, her wonderful debuts in Scotch Symphony and Stravinsky Violin Concerto provided further proof of what an exceptional ballerina she is. Looking at the list of featured roles Ashly Isaacs has performed beautifully with NYCB brought back pleasant memories, so I obviously concur with all the praise for her accomplishments already offered by previous posters. Certainly it occurred to me that performing one last time a memorable part she has danced with unforgettable verve would be fantastic as a farewell. There is something I failed to realize though: at the end of The Times Are Racing her role makes a final entrance and hurries downstage left away from the others to dance a short but spirited solo as the music bursts into a thrilling climax—what a magnificent note to end a dance career on! Nevertheless, as long as the dancers in the roster are talented and remain enthusiastic, casting changes—unless they are egregious—will have little effect on Justin Peck’s “sneaker ballet”: I have now seen it numerous times with all sorts of them (Brittany Pollack has been fabulous in three different roles), and it never fails to thrill. In fact, it only gets better. Less than three years after its premiere, The Times Are Racing has proven the perfect closer on a program. All twenty dancers in the cast typically do outstanding work throughout. In this run the second segment with the sensational trio of Emilie Gerrity, Lydia Wellington and Indiana Woodward (along with Peter Walker) proved particularly mesmerizing—especially during the vocalized portion of the score. And a word about Unity Phelan’s mishap last Thursday in the Scherzo of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3: her debut proper in that role four days earlier (on Sunday afternoon) was spectacular!
  14. Given a talented group of dancers assigned the right parts, any minor flaws in the execution of the choreography during a performance of Dances at a Gathering—as those that occurred last evening—will have the commensurate consequence of dropping a bucket of grimy water in the middle of the ocean. Even though I had viewed it again spellbound just the previous night with the second cast and have now seen this masterpiece quite a few times altogether, the 50th Anniversary Performance by the first cast—made more moving by the appearance of Patricia McBride and Edward Villella before the curtain, and the presence of a couple (?) other original cast members in the audience—felt as if I were watching the ballet for the first time. Certainly not every minute in DaaG’s hour-long length is equally gorgeous; however, that is not unexpected—there are always climactic moments in a great work of art! Although not by any means its sole thrilling segment, the penultimate one set to Chopin’s Scherzo, op. 20, no. 1 (including the sublime, haunting interlude for the woman “in pink” and the man “in purple”) is one of the most electrifying in ballet. Variations in the precise way and degree of success with which any two individual dancers handle a particular role are inevitable, and opinions may differ. Nevertheless, from my point of view, there were no glaring issues with either cast during this 4-performance run of DaaG. As the woman “in pink” specifically, Lauren Lovette last night danced beautifully, and was as captivating and touching at certain instants as I have ever seen her. At both performances this week Megan Fairchild was the woman "in green", and Indiana Woodward the woman "in apricot".
  15. Fifty years after its premiere on May 22, 1969 at the New York State Theater, Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and affecting works in New York City Ballet's repertory. The simplicity and beauty of the staging, costumes, lighting and colors in this ballet make it, naturally, immediately attractive. Three features, however, are especially fascinating about DaaG. First, how brilliantly Robbins utilizes ten dancers only in what is an unusually long non-narrative ballet. (Partly by virtue of this, I believe, DaaG leads to uncommon reflection about the physical space of a stage, and how choreographers may use it effectively to achieve their artistic vision.) Second, the successful synthesis of humor and jollity in the work with moments of surpassing poignancy. And finally, the music. No matter how Robbins came to choose the 18 pieces used in DaaG out of all the famous Polish composer's piano miniatures, their arrangement always produces a powerful cumulative impact at the theater. “The ballet stays and exists in the time of the music and its work,” he maintained. It certainly feels that way: the ultimate glory of both DaaG and The Goldberg Variations, I would argue, is that they enable the sympathetic viewer—through the exquisite art forms of music and ballet—to establish some sort of longed-for connection to the past. In the two casts of DaaG this season there were no less than eight debuts (including the three in NYC). With two reprising their respective role at both performances, eighteen dancers participated in total—ranging from veteran principals and soloists to those recently promoted, in addition to a young member of the corps. Yet the performance by each cast was deeply moving, which speaks volumes about both the quality of the ballet and the talent in the company’s current roster. Particularly impressive was the wonderful NYC debut on Friday evening of Unity Phelan as the woman “in mauve” since that is a superb part and Sara Mearns is magnificent in it. Praise, of course, is certainly due to Lauren Lovette (in pink), Megan Fairchild (in apricot), Maria Kowroski (in green), Tyler Angle (in purple), Gonzalo Garcia (in brown), Aaron Sanz (in green) and Roman Mejia (in brick) in the first cast; to Sterling Hyltin (in pink), Indiana Woodward (in apricot), Ashley Bouder (in green), Russell Janzen (in purple), Anthony Huxley (in brown), Joseph Gordon (in green) and Harrison Ball (in brick) in the second; and to Lauren King (in blue) and Peter Walker (in blue) for their contributions at both performances. Also, to Susan Walters, the pianist.
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