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Mike Gunther

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Everything posted by Mike Gunther

  1. So what did you all think of this? I was glad to see that it was such a big hit for the company, although I agree with Sarah Kauffman that it was more of a feel-good ballet than emotionally deep. Not that there's anything wrong with just feeling good! It was a big show with a live band, two singers, a tap-dancer, and full cast augmented from the Studio Company and the School. Lots of Jazz Age razzle-dazzle - that's the element of Fitzgerald's story that obviously inspired Webre. I liked his jazzy, hyper-kinetic steps, and loved watching the company execute them. Other Webre "trademarks" were in evidence too: the goofy slapstick, the pas-de-objects (sofas, tables), and a touching pas-de-romance between Jay Gatsby (Jared Nelson) and Daisy Buchanan (Laura Urgelles, in the perf. I saw; Elizabeth Gaither, in other perfs). Tom Buchanan (Louis R. Torres) was the most fully-developed character. In Fitzgerald he's just a smarmy rich playboy, but Torres and Webre turned him into a red-blooded mensch; poor Gatsby never had a chance. In Webre's imagining, Gatsby is a pure Lost Romantic; the perfect role for Nelson, but Webre's concept never lets us see the Donald-Trump-like-drive and crudity that propells Gatsby into his mansion. In Webre's version, the story's tragic denouement - where George kills Gatsby - is almost like an afterthought. In the Sat. Mat. that I saw, Andile Ndlovu performed a star turn as George (danced by Brooklyn Mack in other perfs.). Flipping around and across the stage after Myrtle's death, his madness was as dramatically believable, and as impressive, as his technique. Equally impressive was Myrtle's (Sona Kharatian) amazing stand on top of half-a-dozen guys! She is over ten feet above the stage at that point, standing completely upright on a "platform" of the men's arms and shoulders, then sl-o-o-w-ly bends 180 degrees backwards to be sl-o-o-w-ly handled back to the floor; an amazing demonstration of choreographic genius, and of the dancers' skill and trust. As for the structure of the ballet, Webre has done a great job of explicating Fitzgerald's complicated plot for the audience. In a way, he's done too good of a job. The cast of characters is taken over literally from the story, although many of them have no essential role here: Nick Caraway is doubled, as narrator and dancer; Jordan Baker appears only as someone for Dancer Nick to partner; and Pamela Buchanan isn't even a plot point. These characters are only literary devices, and do not belong in a dance adaptation. Nick Caraway's narration interrupted the flow of the ballet, and was downright intrusive. And the Louisville Flashback at the beginning of Act II was completely misplaced. It's the beginning of the story, and - in the dance version at least, to unblock the flow - should be the first scene of Act I!
  2. Spartacular! (Thursday performance) Fyi, the Tues./Sunday cast (Ivan Vasiliev, Alexander Volchkov, Nina Kaptsova, Maria Allash) also danced Thurs. Three times in a week, I don't know how they had any legs left. I feel privileged to have seen them. Such leaps, such bounds, such lifts! By both couples - it was just amazing, not only technically but dramatically too. And this rave from somebody who doesn't even like that particular ballet! To me the choreography (except for the above-mentioned leaps, bounds, and lifts) is just 3 hours of mugging. But what can I say - they made me into a believer.
  3. Hi all, Here's a link to the WB's upcoming season, with dancer and AD Septime Webre blogs: http://www.washingtonballet.org/_blog/Septimes_Salon/ Even if you don't follow the Washington Ballet specifically, I think the blogs are worth your attention as an example of good outreach! Personal communication from dancers and choreographers at this level is always welcome... and, I think, good for the company too.
  4. Just you Sat. Mat. the shoes were very quiet. I've always admired the Kirov for their soft-shoe landings.
  5. Thanks for that review! In that performance, I found youngsters Anastasia Kolegova (Aurora) and Anton Korsakov (Prince) more appealing than you did, although I agree that Kolegova was a bit stiff in Act I. I also think Korsakov looked more comfortable in his solo numbers than in his lifts. But they brought off their grand variations in Act III as smooth as silk, so overall I was left with a good impression.
  6. I don't know (or have forgotten) if "reviews" go here or under the company forums? Anybody?
  7. I saw him Thurs. night, partnered with Julie Kent. Rocked my world. Those two were so in tune with everything (music, choreography, each other) that they weren't just "in the flow," they were the flow. It was like they were spontaneously creating the whole dance. Oh, and Herman Cornejo as Mercutio was no slouch either. Maybe one reason the ABT brought R&J back so soon is that they knew they could deliver a peak experience with it. I'm still reliving this performance in my mind. Absolutely unforgettable. Thank you, thank you ABT!
  8. Natalia (or anyone), do you know which lady - must have been either Maria Kowroski or Abi Stafford, I guess - partnered Stephen Hanna in the middle section of Concerto Barocco? I really loved their performance on Sat. afternoon.
  9. Sorry to jump on this late, but isn't it premature until we see the results in living dance? If the Trust idea doesn't work, that will be obvious as different companies try and fail to put across this choreography. But if I was a dancer, which I'm not, jeez I'd at least like to try. To me, it's just too great to fossilize inside some video dance museum... especially for an audience fifty years from now that will see it live or not at all. Just my 2 cents.
  10. Is there a permanent BAM (Bad Audience Member) thread? If not, maybe there should be. I've been told to sit down, in the middle of a standing ovation... chewed out, when I poked awake a snoring patron... swatted, when I tapped somebody's tinkling wrist bracelets... And nah, I'm not perfect either
  11. Thanks so much, Hans, for this review! I saw the same performance, and share your generous feelings about Cojocaru and Kobborg - and you are right, MacMillan needs superb casting like this to make his ballets come alive - in truth I would have been happy to see M repeated, with exactly the same cast. May I also praise Gary Avis as the reprehensible Gaoler, in a truly memorable character performance that, for me, absolutely "sold" the Third Act. Cervera's Lescaut, for me, is another memorable performance. In MacMillan's concept I suppose that he is an evil character, a brother who is so depraved that he pimps out his own sister. However, Cervera danced so well, and with such explosive joy in his character, that he almost tilted me over to "the dark side" - more importantly, he made it possible to understand how Manon, Des Grieux, and even Monsieur G.M. could have fallen under his spell. I hope that folks will share their reviews of the other performances, with different casts. Had I to do it all over again, I would have seen every one of them.
  12. Chroma: Federico Bonelli, Mara Galeazzi, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Laura Morera, Ludovic Ondiviela, Tamara Rojo, Eric Underwood, Jonathan Watkins, Edward Watson DGV (Tue): Cindy Jourdain (sub. for Lauren Cuthbertson), Leanne Benjamin, Marianela Nunez, Mara Galeazzi, Eric Underwood, Edward Watson, Gary Avis, Federico Bonelli DGV (Wed): Cindy Jourdain (sub. for Zenaida Yanowsky), Laura Morera, Marianela Nunez, Mara Galeazzi, Eric Underwood, Steven McRae, Gary Avis, Federico Bonelli
  13. Can anybody explain the program notes (by choreographer McGregor) for Chroma? e.g. "... the body can behave as a frequency of color - in freedom from white." ??? I think we need some notes for the notes . Enjoyed the dance, though.
  14. Right on! My question when thinking about going to a performance is usually the same as my answer: "why *not*?"
  15. I caught the WB Studio Company's Sun. Matinee at the Black Rock Center For The Arts in Germantown, MD. For those that aren't familiar with them, the WB Studio Company is a pre-professional "bridge" to the full Washington Ballet that supplies dancers to WB performances and also puts on its own performances, as they did this weekend. The program: Zzzap!, a silly new ballet by Brian Reeder that reimagines ballet school as a superhero training facility (!?) -- Carolina Neves, Andile Ndlovu, Alexandra Pera, Christina Schifano, Kirsten Wicklund PDD from Don Q -- Yuka Oyoshi, Kensuke Yorozu PDD from Le Corsaire -- Alexandra Pera, Andile Ndlovu Who Cares? (Balanchine/Gershwin) -- Jasmin Dwyer, Carolina Neves, Yuka Oyoshi, Kensuke Yorozu The performance I saw on Sunday was fine. I was impressed by their technical preparation and execution, as well as their character work, which I guess is no surprise since these folks have already won/placed in numerous competitions just to get to this point in their careers. Some need to work on their "stage smiles," while others got it just right. They are dancing the same program (alternating roles) next week in DC, well worth seeing imho. I left with a big "non-stage" smile on my face.
  16. I went to the Saturday matinee - guess I felt like releasing my "inner child" Lots of good things in it for all ages; a big, "theatrical" production, spectacular fly-by-wire for PP and the Darlings, plenty of jokes and clowning around, enough classical work (soloistic grand jetes, fouettes, battements, etc.) for the company to show off its chops. Norton Fantinel as PP, Jade Payette as Tinkerbell, and Amanda Cobb as Princess Tiger Liliy were great in their classical variations, as were pirates Jared Nelson and Jonathan Jordan. I hadn't seen Norton dance before, and man, was I impressed. He's quite a talent. In the short public talk afterwards, Norton spoke about the challenges of flying by wire. He said that it felt very uncomfortable, like "wearing five dance belts at once!" The whole thing was a lot of fun, and personally, I enjoyed it.
  17. Oedipus and Jocasta grand PDD? Baryshnikov in a Satyr dance? Lots of possibilities here...
  18. Second that! Excellent program and performances - I thought Reichlen was a standout in both pieces and meltingly lovely in Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet. I NY and can't wait to see their other two programs this weekend.
  19. To clarify, I did not mean "odd" in the sense of peculiar, I meant "odd" as in various or diverse. I think that is a good thing, and in no way was I trying to put anybody down! If my original post was unclear, I do apologize.
  20. I loved Gillian Murphy as Hagar in Pillar Of Fire - soulful acting/dancing that really "sold" the work to me. With Tudor I sometimes wish he'd just get it on, so to speak, but Murphy gave us many, many beautiful moments, especially when playing off Jose Manuel Carreno's "bad boy." They were so good together that I found myself wanting to rewrite Tudor's ending.. Murphy and Carreno seriously hooked up! In Brief Fling, not sure that Yuriko Kajiya and Marcelo Gomes are really "Tharp dancers," whatever that means. They looked like they were dropped into Fling from some other, more classically-minded, ballet. On the other hand, that may be just what Tharp intended, so no criticism on my part. Wiles & Hallberg's PDD, and for that matter the company's Allegro Brillante, came across, to me, as good and enjoyable performances that somehow didn't scale the heights (literally, in the case of Hallberg's jetes). Doesn't mean I didn't like 'em, I did, just that I didn't feel electrified as in Pillar Of Fire or energized/intrigued as in Brief Fling.
  21. A prophecy fulfilled - Onuki at the Sat. mat. was indeed amazing. She was lighter than air, and her blissed-out "Happy Sylph" interpretation made the denouement all the more poignant. Then, after jumping for an hour in Sylphide, she still had energy to burn in the vigorous "Celts!"
  22. Besides reviewing this week's Washington Ballet Performance in the Washington Post, Sarah Kaufman took the occasion to review AD Septime Webre's first ten years with the company: (Washington Post article). I think she makes some valid points: The Washington Ballet has never been a powerhouse, though it has had some stellar performers in its ranks over the years -- notably, back in the early '80s, the young Amanda McKerrow, before she went on to become a star at American Ballet Theatre. On Thursday's program, one felt the loss of standouts Erin Mahoney-Du and Runqiao Du, longtime members who have retired, though some especially handsome dancers remain, among them Brianne Bland, Jonathan Jordan, Kharatian, Nelson, Payette and Torres. Webre has chosen other avenues by which to make his mark at the Washington Ballet. By adding works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor, Tharp, Morris and Wheeldon to the repertoire, he has steered a previously rudderless organization toward the best of contemporary ballet offerings -- when he is not distracted by lightweights (recent Trey McIntyre works and other flimsy new creations come to mind). But the Washington Ballet still has ground to cover in its execution. One had only to see how unfavorably it compared with other troupes in the Kennedy Center's "Ballet Across America" sampler last spring, particularly Oregon Ballet Theatre, a company of similar size that has not been around as long, yet whose dancers seized the stage with appetite and attention-getting strength. From a distance, thanks to the best of Webre's framing of its repertoire, the Washington Ballet looks very, very good. But in Webre's decade at the helm -- years that brought renewed energy to the company, that updated its public image, that reached out to broader and, especially, younger audiences -- something has gone missing. The dancers can double up on adrenaline and hit us hard with sexiness and verve. But ask them for the guts of what they surely obsessed over at the barre in the course of their classical schooling -- lyric line, musical phrasing, fullness and precision -- and what they deliver invariably falls short. For this company, purity and artistry come second. What comes first is putting on a helluva show. My own take, fwiw, is like what a reviewer once said about our own National Symphony Orchestra: pound for pound they are some of the best players in the world, but the ensemble is less than the whole. Unlike Sarah K., though, I don't think it's just about ensemble technique. To me, they are missing an artistic identity. They can dance anything, so ok, what do they *love* to dance? Who are they, really, as a company?
  23. Saturday's matinee had the same casting as on Friday eve. and Sun. matinee. Matinees in DC can be an odd audience as you get a lot of older folks, first-timers, random tourists, and even (as today) a vocal baby. The Mark Morris piece got a somewhat tepid response; in fairness, the WB as a whole wasn't at their best in this, although Jared Nelson absolutely nailed his huge solo. The audience didn't know what to make of Morphoses, but they liked it anyway (except for the crying baby, who I guess was not a big fan of Ligeti). Cor Perdut got the biggest hand of the matinee, thanks to Brianne Bland and Jonathan Jordan. Tharp's all-too-accessible Baker's Dozen closed the program on a positive note. On the way out I overheard a lot of compliments, along the lines of "wow, I haven't been to the ballet for years, but that was really good." So the WB is obviously doing something (actually, a lot of things) right. As for my own impressions, well, I didn't think the program itself was all that strong, but the dancing was mostly excellent except for some uneven ensemble moments in "Drink To Me" (hmmm). Besides Nelson, Bland, and Jordan who I've already mentioned, the Morphoses "quartet" of dancers - Elizabeth Gaither and Luis R. Torres (yes Natalia, you are so right about Torres, he rocks - he's The Man!), Laura Urgelles, and Jonathan Jordan (again!) did themselves and the company proud, not to mention Maki Onuki and just about everybody else in their individual moments. When Onuki was dancing, by the way, even in ensemble, several people around where I was sitting made appreciative noises - ooh, ah, etc. - that didn't help my concentration any, but I admit that I was feeling the same thing.
  24. You can't go wrong in the center orchestra I'd avoid the side orchestra in ET, though, at least close in (rows K+) because the sight lines there cut off one slice of the stage. Hope this helps, Mike
  25. Richmond, I'd guess, although that is just my guess.
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