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Posts posted by drb

  1. I'm almost beginning to welcome that "dreaded insert in the playbill" this season (at ABT), since so often the replacement has been Melissa Thomas, and what an impressive upgrade she's been (and even impressive when she's not been a replacement). Ms. Thomas is very alive and attractive, the tallest of last night's Shades, fine this season in both allegro (she'll take risks) and adagio (expansive, open), and so far, for me, the discovery of ABT's Met engagement. Of course Ms. Lane delighted the audience, as she's been doing for quite some time, and, once she's a principal, I'll really miss her Shade.

    Thanks for the explanation about the flash photographer in the wings, I'd thought someone had decided to jazz up all that boring entrance down the ramp stuff with some lightning effects (or perhaps wanted to make the ballet more in step with the weather ouside). Very distracting to those of us that enjoy being bored by this scene...

    ... with an especially brilliant supported pirouette finishing attitude during the Act II PdD.

    Yes, Veronika Part in Attitude is Classical Ballet!

    Other special delights include Sarawanee Tanatanit's Aya, who every year adds such realism and continuity to the ballet's story, and Craig Salstein's dynamic head fakir. Gennadi Saveliev and Victor Barbee invested the Radjah and High Brahmin, respectively, with plenty of dramatic and emotional presence.

  2. Thursday, June 18

    The Little Princess that Could

    Sarah Lane came on stage a truly young and happy girl. Apparently someone had just taught her a new game, and she could hardly wait to play it. That it is called The Rose Adagio hardly mattered at all. Without a hint of apprehension, Ms. Lane just started playing it. Every diagonal was a flawless breeze for this ballerina, and as each man gave her his hand in that final killer sequence, she touched it just a moment as she went immediately into balance and held each perfectly until the music said to go to the next guy. Naturally, by the time she reached the last hand, the audience was loudly in her hands. Never seen it so calmly and easily done.

    The opening Prologue was hardly as successful, no sense of Lilac as Guardian of a Classicism that must, in its perfection, guide all things right. The one bright light of three-dimensional humanity was Maria Bystrova's Carabosse: without any of last year's version's histrionics yet so fully drawn, that for me she was the most likable character in this section.

    After intermission on came Herman Cornejo, and with him not just virtuosity and unbelievable altitude, but a commitment to classical purity that helped make him a true Prince. In their shared dream, they looked beautiful together, and above all you could believe in them. There was a magic moment, just after he'd turned her by the waist, she faced the audience and her eyes opened so wide: she'd just awakened from a century-long dream into another, and this dream was real because it was shared.

    At the wedding the birds (well, this year she wasn't, as the princess no longer enters in a bird cage) were Yuriko Kajiya (dancing both airy and open, a test run for a future Aurora?) and Gennadi Saveliev (one might have expected one of the young virtuosi, but he honored classicism). In the great Adagio, all fish dives looked easy and finished very solidly in proper form, as did the final pose. Mr. Cornejo's variations were all you'd expect from him. Of course this young partnership gave us a young Royal couple, clearly prepared for the responsibilities of their office, and not that ultimate statement that through classical purity all things will be right forever, that came through with such power in last summer's Part/Gomes II.

    What next for this pair, Romeo and Juliet?

  3. Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Where have NYCB viewers gone on this Forum? Last week, there wasn't even a week 6 thread! Yet I personally saw two very well-attended programs that week.

    At any rate, it just doesn't feel fair to the dancers to ignore a program that featured six debuts.

    OK, so the first five were in Ballet-Master-in-Chief Peter Martins' River of Light. A very glamorous Rebecca Krohn, with Amar Ramasar, both in black, were the first couple. This 10 year old work is very typical of the choreographer, reminding me of those entangled twisted metal rings puzzles that were popular when I was a kid. You had to manipulated them till you got them to come apart, or perhaps form a simple chain. Looking at Mr. Balanchine's Agon Pretzel PdD is rather like watching a master magician solving such a puzzle, and obviously Mr. Martins is much attuned to this sort of dance. It is just that all I usually see in his work is more like a cleverly printed instruction sheet. This dance looks like a sequence of puzzles. The second pair out were in red, Erica Pereira and Jonathan Stafford. Ms. Pereira looks like a Balanchine ballet waiting to happen, and I hope we see her in such soon. The third pair, in white, were Kaitlyn Gilliland and Robert Fairchild (not a debut, he replaced Tyler Angle's announced debut, as Mr. Angle had two more major performances in the evening's program). But something special happened when Ms. Gilliland and Mr. Ramasar danced together. Of course they had the work's main duet, and it seemed more inspired. When she saw him a look of awe seemed to fill her eyes, a sense that something new and mysterious was about to befall her. Their pairing conveyed a feeling of wonder and discovery, and the choreography eventually expanded beyond them, as other dancers joined in, leading to the ballet's finale. Ms. Gilliland is really flourishing this season, what with a splendid earlier debut in Robbins' Piano Pieces. Kaitlyn brought composer/conductor Charles Wuorinen on stage, and placed him right between herself and Erica. Lucky man!

    The final debut, and surely a major one, was of Tyler Angle in Ben Millepied's role, partnering Wendy Whelan in Alexei Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH. With 19 dancers, this is the Bolshoi master's largest work for City Ballet, and bears comparison to his evening length Bolshoi masterwork, Bright Spring. As in that work, and on a smaller scale in his NYCB Russian Seasons, we see the choreographer filling the stage with dancers, and every one is worth watching, no dancer-as-scenery or wallpaper, each an individual, yet there is never a doubt where our attention should be. Truly corps as dancers, not decoration. When soloists are the main focus, the corps amplifies or resonates or serves as counterpoint. A couple of other choreographers who don't seem to waste a dancer would be Balanchine and Ashton? The outer movements are centered on Ashley Bouder and her suitors Joaquin De Luz and Gonzalo Garcia (what an addition to the Company!). Is this the first major work made on Ms. Bouder? Ratmansky certainly can see and challenge her! Mr. Angle, an ideal partner, was superb with Ms. Whelan, and his technical leaps forward, already seen this season, served him well in the virtuosity created on Ben. At the beginning of their adagio movement, three pairs of corps dancers first occupy the stage alone. One by one, a dancer will have some little problem, and the others come to that dancer's aid, and the group is sympathetic. Ratmansky's dancers are a community, they care for each other. He seems a very human choreographer, in that way a little like Ashton.

    The program began with Wheeldon's Rococo Variations (I still don't get it), and third was Bigonzetti's Oltremare (that I really didn't want to see again, but I was wrong).

  4. ...

    The ABT website calendar now officially shows Vishneva withdrawn for Don Q. She will be replaced by Ananiashvili. However, Vishneva is still listed for Giselle in July.

    Ms. Vishneva's recent web postings on the injury:

    [Fan]:... In a few days I´m going to go to San Petersburg. I will assist to Vaganova Method Conference and perhaps I can see you in your Gala Concert (on June 23).

    Diana:... Unfortunately, I cannot dance in Mariinsk theatre in June because was traumatised.....

    [Fan]:... Would you be dancing Giselle at the MET on July 11? ...

    Diana:... I was traumatised in the City Center and I am now treated in NY. I hope to dance Giselle on July, 11th in MET.

  5. Monday, June 2, 2008

    An Odile from Heaven

    Tonight Nina Ananiashvili danced with her regular partner, Angel Corella, and this combination of experience and rehearsal time made some differences.

    Even shortly after Angel arrived on stage he looked away, as if missing something. Still, he mostly entered in to the general congenial atmosphere that marks ABT's Act I. Surely his dancing was on form with all the expected virtuosity. The Hamlet soliloquy, danced with superb control and focus, reflected this vacancy with special intensity, coming after his mother had reminded him of his forthcoming duty to select a bride. The bride selection process had already been prefigured by a dance of village girls about him, and later his seeming invisibility to them all was most ominous. Already evident was the conducting of Charles Barker, a certain lift that drove the dancing.

    The lakeside Act found Nina quite frightened by the sight of the prince, but he had a childlike innocence about him. Although his child-glee at finding this new playmate, as he enthusiastically chased her around the stage, gave her some concern, he'd clearly listened to her mime. Perhaps it was that child's openness to fairy tales, but at any rate he believed and their Adagio was, as with Marcelo Gomes, a thing of beauty. In general, her supported turns went more easily tonight, even without that machine gun precision of Mr. Gomes's hands. What stood out was her musicality; it was dancing absolutely in time with every note, and every grace within that note. One could truly see the music, and hear her dancing just as much as Siegfried had heard her mime. Any fluff by Mr. Barker and the orchestra would have ruined it, and they came through flawlessly. There was more "story" development during tonight's adagio, a certain sense that this new reality was becoming an anchor for Siegfried's sanity. Nina's variations flowed more smoothly tonight, and her petite allegro beats as Angel turned her had the miniature swiftness of a hummingbird's wings. A surprise change: in her final exit, she faced the audience and did not do the constant ripples of Thursday night's more familiar back-to-us exit (since Makarova, these always make my day, or season...).

    Her Odile was far more secure this time. Mr. Corella did not project that mad Hamlet stare often seen here, he seemed instead quite sanely aware of his predicament and longed for a solution. When he saw "Odette" he was a willing dupe. Nina's Odile played down those signals (to us) that she was some evil fake, for she needed to convince a relatively rational prince that she was his love. This lovable Odile was danced more fluidly, an easier lightness that defied age, than at her first performance. Angel was joyous in his conviction, both variations amazing in their multiple yet pure pirouettes, and an entrance grand jete that seemed to land him all the way to center stage (memories of Darci Kistler at her very beginning!), yet cleanly landed. There was no break in character, he seemed to never dance for effect or show, but it was quite an exhibition! Nina too was very on in her variations, and this time she perhaps took a nod from Veronika Part, and stuck to singles in her fouettes, some with right arm raised above her head. One could see, or sense, Mr. Barker's attention during these turns, assuring every one meshed with the music's thrust. A very successful 32, as were Angel's turns in second, including a quad.

    Their final act together was simply a mighty river of sorrow, but one with the grace and Grace of love.

    What a gift, these Swans. Thank you, ABT.

  6. Her Aurora partner at both Met Sleepings was Marcelo Gomes, not David Hallberg. Have they, perhaps, partnered on the road? I do agree with some of the above comments that her partnership with David Hallberg did lack the chemistry that all her work with Gomes has shown. But David's dancing and partnering was very impressive. Hopefully this partnership will have a chance to develop, and anyhow the Part/Gomes unity goes on with Bayadere.

  7. Saturday matinee, May 31, 2008

    Odette AND Odile

    Today, for the first time, Veronika Part's Odile rose to the level of her Odette. From her first Swan Lake, she has, for me, been ABT's most poetic, most pure Odette, full of all the mystery and beauty of classical form that this role calls for. Instead of her seemingly permanent Siegfried Marcelo Gomes, this time her prince was David Hallberg. So that I missed searching for that always varying surprise magic moment she and Marcelo somehow would deliver in Act II. After brilliant Act I dancing, concluding with a Hamlet-like soliloquy, Mr. Hallberg was a splendid lakeside partner to Veronika. A hint of things to come, at that early moment where she is about to look up and be startled by his crossbow, she struck a perfect balance. Their PdD built from chaste classicism to hope, her variations free and all in beauty, virtuous virtuosity.

    But this is all expected from the Company's Classical Prima-Lyrica. The surprise came with her Act III Odile. Certainly the particular brilliance of her Act II variations gave a clue, but even moreso the confidence of her bearing when she first appeared as Odile. Virtuosity in full measure, great balances, yet never overdone, the line only she can deliver, and truly confident fouettes, ending not in fatigue but with a flourish. The compleat ballerina! Why not? She is after all a young ballerina entering her prime. Mr. Hallberg had a madness in his eyes that should have terrorized the princesses, and made them thankful for his rejection. And Marcelo Gomes's Rothbart: the most spectacular villain since Liepa's Crassus.

    There is a moment in Act IV that mimics one in Act II. Odette's back to Siegfried, her left leg wraps around his back. A moment later her right raises back, over his shoulder. In Act II all is chaste, they do not touch. But here they do. She has her humanity, and he his sanity. They will have their tragedy, but it will be a human one. Victory.

    In a more perfect world, Mr. McKenzie would have appeared during the curtain calls, knelt, and promoted her to Principal. As it was, after the final curtain the house lights went up and spotlight went off. But the audience stayed and forced four more: Mr. Gomes, Ms. Part, Mr. Hallberg, and the victorious couple. Onward to Bayadere! And many seasons to come of Veronika Part keeping the Classical Flame burning at ABT!

  8. Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Nina Ballerina

    A couple of months after turning 45 Nina Ananiashvili danced a Dream White Swan Adagio, one that may occupy dreams of people for a very long time, and sets an immense standard for ballerinas who follow her in this role. After her Act II Giselle had dominated the Gala, perhaps this was to be expected. Above all there was a great economy of characterization; her wings were simply a swan's, her expression that of a deep Georgian sadness, she was simply emptied of hope in that prison-body of a bird. The mime, of course, but not a need to act or tell the story, she was just there. Her dancing was a stream; her arms, wings, that had been there so long that they were as natural to the rest of her body as would be arms to the body of a pristinely trained classical ballerina. By being a ballerina, she was a swan. Marcelo Gomes was the perfect pure partner, giving his ballerina the security to grow her freedom. A supported turn: her wings could unfurl freely as rotation was ending, rubato as natural as a breath. While Diana Vishneva's following variations last season perhaps surpassed Nina's in virtuosity, tonight's Adagio was simply ballet's art at its summit. The ovation was immense.

    As the Act ended with Rothbart's summoning Odette back into her prison, Nina's masterstroke: Her parting touch of Siegfried's shoulder was that of a human hand in its full freedom and feeling, and that one pure moment of humanity-returned would make all the heartache that was to follow worth the risk. Nina, her back to us, rippled her wings in one very generously long exit.

    Her Odile was of course appropriately different. The opening adagio with Mr. Gomes, another high point. Not an experienced partnership, on Monday she is paired with her Angel, here we saw Mr. Marcelo's extraordinary partnering skill. In the many supported spins it was his iron hands, perfectly placed and moving with machine-gun precision, that enabled her dancing to again be one unending stream of art. Her fouettes, she actually dared some triples, perhaps not the speed of Osipova's, but gutsy and she got through it. And obviously had a triumphant feeling! Mr. Gomes was a model of classical intent and execution. David Hallberg's bad guy, now in context, was everything that his opening night variation wasn't, and earned its audience roar. (By the way, in Act I, Gennady Saviliev, as remarked earlier in this thread, has really raised his virtuosity this season. Always so admirably a model of classical style: while his circle of jetes did not show substantial elevation, his final diagonal did, and his return on the diagonal was marked by fine double air turns. Bravo!)

    That horrendous example of AD "creativity", Act IV, with those poor ballerinas at the beginning playing frogs on their lilly pads in a swamp pond, one running this way then that, causing them all to rotate 180 degrees on their pads, another three off to who knows where...ugly unclassical movements... But then Nina and Marcelo save it in their parting, only to have that ridiculous apotheosis that breaks the tragedy--and caused a lady behind me to break out in violent laughter (not nice to the audience, but so earned by the brilliant perpetrator of this travesty).

    Ovation immense. Many a bouquet of red roses tossed to Nina. Each lead received loud applause, even the normally booed Swamp Thing, tonight Vitali Krauchenka. Nina just made everyone so happy. And not the least, herself. From the formally presented bouquet, not only her worthy Prince received a flower, but also the villains Rothbart and Swampy, and conductor Ormsby Wilkins, and one final one tossed to the orchestra. In a curtain call she sweetly visited the stage right side also, and caught a huge pink bouquet on the fly!

  9. Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Sara and Tyler

    Faycal Karoui was in his metier tonight, with Ravel and Debussy. First up was Mother Goose, light-weight fun with in references to other ballets, primarily through borrowed props and scenery. That tremendous dancer Tiler Peck as Princess Florine, who dreams most of the story, was impressive for her varying facial expressions. Now, if only in Balanchine... Many dancers have chances to shine and have fun. But Katherine Morgan stood out as Beauty. When Beast Adrian Danchig-Waring first approached her she expressed revulsion, although her almost impeccable manners would not allow her to refuse him this dance. Still, she had to avert her vision, often shielding him from sight with her hand. Ultimately they stopped dancing and she turned away from him, as he knelt, pleading, then just curled up on the floor, hopeless. But her compassion led her to approach him, caring, and he became her prince. Seeing this, her eyes momentarily dropped, in respect, or maybe just to say that if she'd known she would have worn a fancier dress. What a stunning dancer.

    The middle pair of ballets began with Janie Taylor and Damian Woetzel dancing the dancers in Afternoon of a Faun. Soon after she joins him in the studio he pulls her up into attitude. What better way, in this dancers' world, to experience beauty as perfection? He gazes at her, a symbol of perfection, and something deep inside this cool, unemotional student-ballerina fires back a voracious stare, that never changes for the rest of the performance. She will have him, however abstractly the choreography dictates. This ballet of course could have been made on Ms. Taylor, so important is the ballerina's long hair, so often touched or tossed by her, and stroked by him. Her technical strength and control were much in evidence, and her radiance... Soon, he kneels. Her back to him she rises into attitude, Janie's rear leg caresses 'round his back... The eventual kiss, and the male dancer's final homage to Nijinsky's original shocker, are inevitable. As for Damian, well, every last performance is too soon, way too soon. This was followed by Antique Epigraphs, with solos, in order, taken by Rebecca Krohn, Rachel Rutherford, Teresa Reichlen, and Sara A. Mearns. Obviously pretty and well-danced, but perhaps it should have come before Faun.

    The final work featured major individual debuts by Sara A. Mearns and Tyler Angle, or more precisely by their partnership. In G Major, to Ravel's piano (Cameron Grant) concerto is perhaps under valued, both as music and ballet, because its outer movements can in no way compare to the middle adagio. Still, in the "jazzy" opening Ms. Mearns was in fine allegro form, and so was Mr. Angle. When the music suddenly slowed, his control was also impressive. From early on in his career Tyler showed great promise as a partner, so effective in displaying his ballerina, in guiding audience eyes to her. What he needed was technical development, and tonight that was here. With this pair, on this debut night, the middle movement looked every bit a masterpiece. They rose to the heights of the music, in a way quite literally so. As a flute (?) solo begins, he begins to gently lift her. The dancers are so in, and adding to, the music. It is as if rubato and legato merge. It just isn't conceivable that this is a debut, so in harmony, physically, musically, spiritually, are these dancers. He sees only her; and her eyes, full of emotion, are only for him. This lyric intensity continued right through his final lift, carrying her offstage, and from my angle seemed to continue still. They looked ecstatic in the concerto's finale.

    The program opened with a film, described by the printed program as "Afternoon of a Faun film sequence... [from] Peter Martins: A Dancer (1979." Mr. Robbins was coaching a romantic bit from the ballet to Mr. Martins and Suzanne Farrell (her name mentioned in the audio announcement but not in the program). Back in the day these were glorious performances to see. But instead of reliving those happy feelings, seeing these dancers so intimately together, I felt a sense of violation. Perhaps in light of events in years since. In 1953 Mr. Robbins dedicated this work to its originator, Tananquil Le Clercq. Could anyone describe her in this ballet?

  10. Tickets for the Mark Morris version of Romeo and Juliet in Lincoln Center for May 14-17, 2009 (yes, a long wait till we finally get to see it!) went on sale to the general public today. They've already been sold to series subscribers and to contributors with priority, so, a word of warning... Prices run from $30 - $90, and I notice that, specifically, some really good ones remain in the $30 range. They specify seats and highlight where they are on a map. Bravo! Also on sale today are the many performances of Maestro Gergiev, with both his orchestras.



    Here's a map that might clarify just where seats are, better than the one shown when you are buying:


  11. Is Nina Ananiashvili's Monday Swan Lake with Angel Corella still on the casting printout?

    Diana Vishneva's last, pre Gala, performance was in Steptext with the Mariinsky on April 15, and she surely looked fine in that performance. Subsequently it was reported in the press that she would miss her Balanchine performances because of a foot ligament injury. Such things can get better in a couple of weeks, or linger for over a month. It would surely have been difficult for ABT to predict how long it will take. But it is very encouraging that in her Gala Dying Swan she was not dancing in a cast!

    I remember an ABT season where not a single lead ballerina role suffered a replacement. Not this time...

  12. Happy 75th Birthday to Irina Kolpakova!

    Actually her birthday was on May 22nd and was noted in both the Russian and Russian-American media.

    Called the Crystal Ballerina, this student of Vaganova (1951) was, according to tvkultura, among the greatest of Auroras, Nutcracker's most romantic Masha, a great Sylphide, and created the Grigorovich roles of Katherine in Stone Flower and Shirin in Legend of Love. She was known for her high jump and the exact perfection of her pirouette. Ms. Kolpakova also appeared in much new choreography, including a one-performance-only version of Romeo and Juliet wearing a swimsuit: the ballet was banned for being "too erotic." The article includes a photo of her in La Sylphide and a video:


    Nina Alovert, writing in the current issue of the Brooklyn-based Russian Bazaar, gives a more detailed appreciation of Ms. Kolpakova's career, both in Russia, and since Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to America in 1989. She refers to the ballerina's commitment to the classics, to the extent that she would even seek out former ballerinas who still remembered original variations, as for example in Raymonda, and would perform these versions rather than the ones that had been altered by Dudinskaya. Yet, "despite the strict commitment to classical dance, Kolpakova has always sought to participate in the new, that appeared in her time in the Russian ballet world, dancing modern choreography with perfect purity of form and style." The article also includes a photo of the dancer/teacher by Ms. Alovert:


    For a view of Ms. Kolpakova as teacher, YouTube now has a five-part 50 minute video of her teaching Aurora to Larissa Lezhnina (about 20 years ago, but superbly clear and sharp). Just enter Kolpakova Lezhnina.

  13. ... "Mariinsky International Ballet Festival."

    Wow! Thank you! The 10 minute Part 1 is virtually all on the Star of the subsequent NYC engagement, Big Red herself, Ekaterina Kondaurova: rehearsing, dancing, and speaking. Interesting, too, for what passes as a new ballet. For ABT fans, Part 2 includes Gillian Murphy's Swan Lake, while Angel Corella appears on three of the final four segments.

  14. Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Baroque to "Jazz"

    That evil insert again: Ashley Bouder was replaced.

    Her replacement in Brandenburg was Megan Fairchild, whose partner in BC3 was Gonzalo Garcia. Another Boal role for the ex-San Franciscan, and, as with Opus 19, another success. The pair was a beautiful match. Ms. Fairchild continues to grow this season, in coordination of upper with lower body, yielding a more flowing stream of motion through her body. Yet quite different from the more Mariinsky flow shown by that too-infrequently seen Sterling Hyltin. Her greater variation in facial expressions tonight was also pleasing, perhaps aided by Gonzalo's engaging partnering, or maybe due to the differing choreographic demands from Robbins than from Balanchine? While Mr. Garcia doesn't remind me of Boal, in fact I got a momentary sense of a very different former guest of the Company, Jorge Donn, Gonzalo's charismatic "look" and interaction with his partners suggest he'll be an artistic and box-office hit in quite a range of Robbins works.

    Janie Taylor did dance tonight, warmly partnered by Philip Neal in the Andante from BC2. She seemed strong, dancing as if a river made of ribbon, every exotic moment connected: unfurling beauty in motion. Her arabesque is not a single thing, not trapped in any moment, but your heart remembers it went by.

    The Corps and soloists all seemed to love dancing this ballet tonight. Maurice Kaplow's just-right conducting must be praised for contributing to this happy state of affairs. If it is true that Robbins the year before his passing wasn't his most original, that he rehashed a lot of his old ideas here, well, he had a lot of good old ideas, and these dancers must have found they felt as good to dance in this work as anywhere else. (The evening had opened with a film of Mr. Robbins dancing, in 1993. His voice over spoke of how he loved to choreograph.) The four couples brought great life to the Menuetto-Polacca from BC1, and in the finale from BC6 it was especially interesting to see Janie Taylor dance allegro: the lightness of a carefree butterfly.

    In the middle was In The Night, with piano soloist Cameron Grant. Rachel Rutherford* (Amethyst) and Tyler Angle were first out, the freshest lovers of the three couples. Early in their pas, in her lyric swirling, the back of her gown flipped up and stayed caught in her hair. TAngle, as he's sometimes called, gallantly untangled the dress at first chance, to the audible pleasure of the full-house. Youthful exploration was followed by the more knowing couple, dressed by Sir Tone (Dowell) in more earthly colors, Sara A Mearns and Charles Askegard. No need to experiment, so theirs was the most classical choreography. As men retire all around him, how fortunate the Company still has Mr. Askegard, a man who clearly relishes partnering beautiful women. And he certainly seemed to enjoy showing off the Divine Sara! Experienced as these lovers may have been, the new was still very much with them, as shown by the startling lift as he carries her off. Then come the bickering long-weds, Wendy Whelan and Jared Angle. Always scrapping and kvetching, yet when the chips are down, she knows every one of his buttons to push, and they all work.

    N Y Export: Opus Jazz completed the evening. No doubt about the commitment of the dancers to this work, given the film they've made of it. And it showed in their dancing. There is an especially powerful moment in the film, where Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall dance a parting PdD. Here, his back to us, she perched on his shoulders, he kneels to one knee and she slides off. They exit to opposite wings. This ballet gives Georgina Pascoguin a chance to star. And does she ever!

    It was great to see the house packed, and the crowd so enthusiastic, granting many curtains through the evening. Just two quibbles. 1. That music just isn't jazz, any more than aspartame is sugar. 2. The rarely seen Mr. Hall was in splendid form. Why on earth has he been replaced in a forthcoming Afternoon of a Faun partnering Ms. Taylor? Last time 'round that pair delivered the hottest Faun I've ever seen.

    *Ms. Rutherford has an extraordinary video on NYCB's site in which she speaks of working with Jerry Robbins.

  15. Anyone else care to comment about Judgment of Paris? I've always wanted to see this.

    This started the portion of the program after the intermission. There was a little program box containing the words:

    American Ballet Theatre dedicates this evening's performance

    of Judgment of Paris to the memory of Sallie Wilson.

    and she was credited (along with Diana Byer) for the staging. Nothing about her was spoken from the stage, nor can I recall any press release from the company at the time of her passing. Perhaps they are waiting for the Fall Tudor Season. Still, she was one of their great stars...


    Juno-- Kathleen Moore

    Venus-- Martine van Hamel

    Minerva-- Bonnie Mathis

    Client-- Kevin McKenzie

    Waiter-- Victor Barbee

    The point was for the former stars to have fun, dancing for their old fans, I suspect. The actual presentation did not demonstrate the subtleties in each character, nor those of Tudor, at the level of the recent recension by New York Theater Ballet, but that wasn't the point of a Gala performance, was it?

    [Added at 12:17] Here is a clickable photo of Irina Dvorovenko's gown in Jessica Lang's piece:


  16. ...

    The absolute thrill of the night, the moment that brought me to tears, was exiting down the stairs and who should I see walking up from orchestra - the most beautiful, the most elegant, the most radiant Natalia Makarova with her dashing husband. Oh my.

    Guess I was too slow coming down the stairs, missed the high point of the Gala.... Rats!

    Working with proportions, assuming Irina is about 5.5 feet tall, the diameter of the circle formed by the dress was about 18 feet. A true coupe de theatre. Poor Max just had his underpants. Splendid Isolation III to the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th really gave the orchestra and Charles Barker a chance to shine (the Don Q music that followed was almost an embarrassment, comparatively). Jessica Lang had some clever choreographic tricks with the dress. At first, as Ms. Dvorovenko turned in it she seemed trapped in place by it, as the circle closed in around her. But it was cut so that her feet had a way out. Lang also used the gown to further the plot: Mr. Beloserkovsky used it as a wrap, and a place to lie in, and once his wife shed it completely they became free to be a true couple. Wasn't this movement composed as a love gift to the composer's wife Alma?

    I also missed Diana Vishneva's Mariinsky Dying Swan. Very different from Lopatkina's traditional, exceptionally lyric portrayal, with its deeply sad and humble death. Diana's swan rebelled, full of passion for life, wings flailing defiantly, she yearned still to fly. Her death was wracked with pain, shown with expressive head movements. Even as she could no longer prevent her collapse toward the floor, her arms, even her body, her dancing, seemed focussed upward to her sky. A bird, even to the death. A sense of pain's release. A dead bird lies upon the stage. Above, a secret swan soars.

    It has been a while since we've seen John Cranko's Onegin. A half dozen years ago ABT presented some terrific casts, and tonight's put together stars from two of those. Julie Kent was Tatiana (then, with her great partner Robert Hill) and Marcelo Gomes her Onegin (then, making his debut with Alessandra Ferri). A couple of weeks ago they danced together on the Bolshoi's stage, in celebration of his winning the Benois de la danse; she'd won it a few years back. While Cranko's choreography may not match MacMillan's for passion, there is the greater power of Pushkin's novel that comes through. Many years after the sophisticated snob, or perhaps just a brooding nihilistic intellectual, had rejected the innocent and open love from this young girl, he'd returned to see her. But she'd married a prince, and with time had found true love with him, and despite Onegin's passion, she dismissed him. And the curtain closed as the young girl's grief poured from Ms. Kent's soul.

    Nina and Angel gave great hope for this July's Giselle, in their 10 minute excerpt from the ballet's second act. She has somehow distilled Giselle into something so simple, yet primal. Her face, the serenity of an angel.

    It was announced that ABT's effort to raise a $30,000,000 endowment had surpassed "$29,000,000 and still counting." Bravo!

    The casting handout in the lobby, as of 19 May, gave details on the mixed bill. Tharp's casting will be Cornejo, Stiefel, Herrera, Saveliev, Murphy, Hallberg on June 3, 4 (eve), 6, 7 (eve); Radetsky, Gomes, Vishneva, Carreno, Boone, Stearns on 4 (mat), 5, 7 (mat). For Etudes, Reyes, Radetsky, Corella on 3; Dvorovenko, Beloserkovsky, Matthews on 4 (mat), 5, 7 (mat); Wiles, Stearns, Corella on 4 (eve), 6; Reyes, Radetsky, Ilyin on 7 (eve).

    Myrthas are given for Giselles: Murphy July 7, 10; Wiles 8, 12 (eve); TBA 9 (mat); Part 9 (eve), 11; Abrera 12 (mat).

  17. I'm in the process of typing up some thoughts about the rest of the program and will try to post them later.

    I'll say some more tomorrow myself. Busy day today. I thought it was quite a special night at NYCB.

    Sorry not to have replied, Klavier. The exceptional dancing, role inhabiting, by Wendy and Kaitlyn left me too full to see Noces, which I'd already, like Kathleen, seen to not major pleasure before. Looking forward to reading both your thoughts, especially since it seems you've seen the same program, different evenings.

  18. ...Alicia Graf, an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company member, will give the commencement address at Columbia University School of General Studies graduation on May 19 at 5 p.m. ...

    Today's the day! I'm not sure one wishes a dancer Merde! when she's to speak rather than dance, but a star's a star and surely all will go well. A couple of years ago Columbia's Alumni Magazine ran a feature on Alica J, with a number of photos of this Farrellesque dancer:


    While much of the piece is about her knee injury and, subsequently, rehearsing for Carmen de Lavallade's Portrait of Billie, her academic work is also included:

    ...At GS, Graf shifted her drive to academics. “I’m a nerd at heart,” says Graf, who is soft-spoken but playful. “I could spend hours in the library and I wouldn’t even notice that the time had passed.” She interned at Essence and JP Morgan, and majored in history. Graf wrote her thesis on the Dance Theatre of Harlem, her former employer and one of the first internationally acclaimed African-American ballet companies. What started as a simple history of the company evolved into a complex study of how the Theatre navigated discrimination against blacks in classical ballet and the politics of funding for nonprofit organizations. “Alicia discussed the company’s history in nuance,” says Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History and Graf’s thesis adviser. “No one had really written this piece of history before.”
  19. Saturday evening, May 17

    Kaitlyn Gilliland

    Tonight I bought a ticket just to see Janie Taylor debut in my favorite Robbins ballet, Opus 19/The Dreamer. What promise, that most mysterious of dancers in this dance full of mysteries. The dreaded program insert: "due to illness and injury...". I pray this is just a one-show thing, with so much yet to see of her this season.

    The program began with Robbins' PdD Andantino, a setting of the second movement of Tschaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, danced by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. This looked like Robbins was cheating, using applause-grabbing music without bothering much about choreography.

    But then came The Dreamer. At its beginning, with McBride/Baryshnikov, it seemed something of an off-effort, compared to other dances the choreographer made on the all-round greatest male dancer I've ever seen. The evening-opening film showed Robbins teaching the part to Jeffrey Edwards (1990). Ib Andersen was an early successor to Baryshnikov, and found more in it. But it was Peter Boal who caught its greatness. It has been said that Mr. Boal's only (relative) weakness was acting. If so, it was a blessing in this role. He was just there, only a human, vulnerable in that moment of falling asleep and awakening into a dreamscape. This was my favorite of all the great classicist's ballet roles.

    Tonight Gonzalo Garcia had the Boal role. His dream began in the form of six female dancers, with one quickly separating from the rest, with grander amplitude, arms wildly swinging, yet in harmony with the rest of her body, almost as if those arms were reaching toward him from some other dimension, perhaps from reality that he'd just left behind? This was Wendy Whelan, Boal's great partner in this dance. Her dancing tonight was remarkably huge, fluid, emotional. Toward the end of the first movement, Prokofiev's violin soloist (Erin Keefe) plays over a bed of violins, an intensely moving masterstroke, and Robbins sees his dancers moving as if in some other medium than air, a more viscous space, where time slows, and straight lines curve, deep sleep. And all there is in the world are Wendy and Gonzalo.

    Then comes some allegro, Wendy incredibly on, dancing with the speed and clarity of youth. One has been waiting to see Garcia the technician that we saw with the San Francisco Ballet, and here we finally see his virtuosity flower at NYCB.

    As the dance nears its end, the dream nears its end, Mr. Garcia, whose sense of being at home in the part grew throughout the dance, begins to experience fitful jerks in his body. In some performances past, I've heard the occasional snicker. Not here. Gonzalo really aced this part of the ballet. Perhaps his real-world body signaling him home? The body eases. He is stage front, in line with seven dancers behind him. The bodies weave, as one of them, Wendy, moves in front of him. The other six dissolve, leaving Gonzalo alone with Wendy. Their heads nestle. They are about to wake together?

    Next was Tschaikovsky's Piano Pieces. This begins with four short folksy pieces for a corps of 7 men and 7 women (7 brides for 7 brothers?). Then a bridge is formed by the first of three impressively danced virtuosic solos for Antonio Carmena.

    Reverie, a PdD for Sara A. Mearns and Jared Angle follows. This is Ms. Mearns as dream-woman. She was also very on-form technically, so that her musicality was in full play. There are various times when she is a couple of steps away from Jared, and must go to receive his hand. It is how she gets there. At first the eyes, as if they make an elastic connection that pulls her toward him, but then it is no simple law-of-physics pull, for it is most lusciously danced. Another virtuosic turn by Antonio, and then the next duo, Abi Stafford and Amar Ramasar, have a happy up-tempo dance. Variations for Sara and Jared follow. And then it happens.

    Kaitlyn Gilliland generated great anticipation from the School, only to have her apprenticeship suffer a long gap due to injury. As she came back one would often spot her in the Corps, partnered by William Lin-Yee, somehow placed in line-of-sight with that ballet's lead couple. How often I missed seeing what the leads did, so captivated by what the kids were dancing. And now here she was, with partner Stephen Hanna (he was to be perfection), to dance October-Chant d'Automme. All that promise, vanished. Reality, beyond what one could imagine. She entered with a gravitas, a profound inner glow, that might remind old-timers of the mythic Muse. Yet, within, fire. A confidence, this was her stage. A line of staggering beauty. Have you ever seen a leg sigh? Tonight I did. And more than once. What joy it must be for a dancer to feel that in her own leg! The exiting upside-down lift with Mr. Angle was an icon. Then some exceptional virtuosity by Mr. Carmena, one could breath again. Next, Kaitlyn's solo to June-Barcarolle. Having scaled the adagio to Everest heights, it was a treat to see she's a virtuosa too. It is as if every minute's joy missed during that time of delay were released as she soared in that final grand jete.

  20. Damian Woetzel will retire from the company after 23 years, June 18, 2008. While his greatness is centered on his beloved Robbins rep, "... Jerry was the deciding factor in my joining City Ballet," he also excelled in Balanchine. During most of his career he was the all-American virtuoso component of the company's male dance triumvirate of opposites, with classicist Peter Boal and super-partner Jock Soto.

    Vanity Fair is honoring his retirement with a 14 photo spread:


    The Spring issue of NYCB News includes a Q&A (by Joseph Guttridge) with Mr. Woetzel. A summary:

    Q: [...]some of your earliest memories from when you started with the Company[...]?

    A: My first Company class was very unusual, as it was the only time in all my experience that [NYCB Ballet Mistress] Rosemary Dunleavy taught class[...]. It was a great class!

    I joined the Company the day after my [sAB] Workshop performance[...]. Jerry Robbins was making his new ballet, In Memory of... , and I ended up dancing one of the demi-soloist roles at the premiere, which was only a week after I joined the Company. It was a wonderful way to start.

    Q: What have been some of your most memorable roles?

    A: The roles I learned from Jerry were very special. He cared so much for every step of the process and invested so much energy in preparing his ballets. He made you feel a great amount of of responsibility. I remember learning the Boy in Brown in Dances at a Gathering--that was a very special experience. And watching Jerry demonstrate the part he created and danced himself in Fancy Free was amazing. That's the part I do, the rumba sailor. Of course it was daunting as well because even when he was older, he was uniquely effective at showing the character he was trying to create.

    Q: Over the years, how has your dancing changed?

    A: For me it's been about trying to keep progressing over the long term, while in the short term having as much impact and fun as I could with any one ballet. Being authentic to whichever part I am dancing has been the most important thing. It's never been enough for me just to be taught the steps and go out there and do it. I tend to study a ballet and its various versions and interpreters, and then work toward finding where I fit in and really discovering the ballet, in a sense. I have been engrossed with ballet my whole life, and even early on I couldn't get enough of the history. I needed to know everything. That's all been a part of me as a dancer and something I could draw on over the course of my career.

    He was also asked why he selected Balanchine's Prodigal Son ("...a ballet I love both to watch and to dance. It is an endlessly fulfilling role.") and Robbins' Fancy Free ("... a uniquely American aspect to it that has always felt particularly right to me.") for his farewell program. On Mr. B: "The Balanchine repertory has been the mainstay of my career." On Mr. R: "Jerry was the deciding factor in my joining City Ballet--the chance to work with a genius." As to what he was looking forward to, "So many things, but I will just say 'The future...' "

  21. . . .

    Is it Odette? Was it Odile? . . .

    Odile? In Balanchine? Huh? :off topic:

    Or am I reading too literally?

    Poetic license, perhaps.

    ...Suzanne Farrell, perhaps.

    If you are willing to think of novelist Jack Kerouac as a poet:

    From his Journals, 1949, after seeing a performance of Ballets Russes at the Met:

    It is the most exquisite of the arts—one can die a strange little death after seeing the ballet for the first time.
  22. The Tartar Information Agency* English language site (obviously making use of some artificial translating program) gives more information on what each winner did to merit the Benois de la danse award:

    In the nomination for the best male role statuettes of Banois-2008 was given to Carlos Acosta for the main role in the ballet Spartacus by Hachaturyan, staged by Grigorovitch; and Marcelo Gomes for a leading party in the stage C to C by American ballet theater in New York and for main role in the ballet Othello by American ballet theater in Washington.

    Best dancing-girls became Italy's Silvia Acconi for the main role in the ballet Mermaid, staged by Hamburg ballet, Germany; and Tamara Roho for pas de de from the ballets Carmen and Esmeralda.

    Jean Christof Mayo with the stage Faust by List was awarded for the best choreography.

    The sixth statuette was given to 93-years old founder of the Cuba Ballet Fernando Alonso in the traditional nomination For Life in Art.

    *The full article:


  23. Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Water to Wine

    Watermill was tonight's curtain raiser. I felt a need to go, because given Blockhead programming, the only way to see Ashley Bouder these first couple weeks is in this program. A performance without Bouder is like a meal without wine. Also, I was a little curious about Watermill, I'd seen it way back then, really disliked it, but did not boo (probably never will). Welsely's review from last week was especially welcome, and the Times review gave me a make-believe story (a bad trip) that could at least be a framework in which to watch it.

    Nikolaj Hubbe, Robbins, looked very like a Franciscan as he began the dance. Back in those 60's/70's days, it seemed that many folks liked to approach their trips from a religious perspective, perhaps with the idea that a lofty perspective might lead to some revelatory experience, or anyhow help avoid a bad trip. In sophisticated circles, that would fashionably mean not the simple faith you'd been born to, but something deeper, Eastern. (I am not taking sides, there can be profound depths in all of them. And shallows.) Mr. Robbins begins his voyage with Zen. His program notes make the association of Zen and the Shakuhachi, and that instrument dominates the opening scene. Mr. Hubbe begins, intensely contemplative, very slowly, until the arrival of groups bearing brightly colored lanterns from either side. As they converge upon the seeker, the lanterns come prettily together, and Robbins (perhaps the choreographer in him) has his concentration broken by the active movement. Perhaps just a bit, but this breach of spiritual focus means his book-Zen is hardly to be a protector vs. LSD at full strength. If that'd been his hope, he's in for a bad trip.

    A high, but not really loud, tone begins in the music. Yet it is as if the seeker cannot enter it peacefully, but embelishes it one way or another. First it somewhat morphs into birdsong, very Messaien-like. At the time of Watermill the great composer and his wife were still making annual visits to Hunter College to play his music. I wonder if Robbins attended, just a dozen blocks from his home..? Other distracting shifts as well. People begin to populate his hallucination. Matthew Renko, a young man who gets the most dancing (although I found that nearly all movement that I saw was dancing). And Kaitlyn Gilliland's romantic pas with Zachary Catazaro. It is here that the seeming contemplative yields his discipline completely, replacing Mr. Catazaro with himself in embrace with Ms. Gilliland. The hallucinator enters his hallucination.

    One hardly needs the Tibetan Book of the Dead to know a monster is about to appear. Adam Hendrickson, a fearsome lion-like beast. First trouncing others. Mr. Hubbe, lying off to the side, discipline not even a memory, cannot keep still, and is noticed. There is a break in the continuity of the hallucination, giving the seeker an illusory chance to regather himself. Six women, each carrying a swaying stalk from those hour-glass shaped bundles (explained by Macaulay as being on the beach during the presumed trip). I felt they were sort of yarrow-stalky, perhaps a symbol of the seeker looking for some other spiritual discipline, maybe involving divination... In any case, he is given a pair. But eventually finds no succor from this contemplation.

    He kneels, as if a penitent. A spiritual gesture, unfashionable, perhaps from his DNA. As he rises, somewhat stage right, he moves toward the central characters of his hallucination, loosely gathered rear stage left. He is followed by a black death figure. Mr. Hubbe seems older. He has concerns not at all for Death. He calls to mind the serenity of the old man in Kurosawa's Dreams. I looked it up when I came home. It was the last episode. The old man was fixing a watermill. The completely forgotten name of that last dream: Village of the Watermills. I feel Robbins' journey was a success, that he has perhaps landed on his spiritual shores.

    Now where was the boring part? I missed it. Slow can be full, beauty can grow from terror. There were no boos from the sparse crowd. Applause, even a few cheers. And hardly a grumble heard around me.

    Oh, and then the Robbins Four Seasons. Sterling Hyltin brought a welcome touch of Darci, flanked by Sean Suozzi and Christian Tworzyanski, to winter. And then Sara A. Mearns and Jared Angle reminded us of the beauty of classical ballet, and the rebirth that comes with spring. Especially well-received by the audience. Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar showed more of summer's playful side than its languor. While returning Joaquin De Luz may not have found his turns as centered as usual, nor tried the Baryshnikov hops during the turns in second, he had his fun and gave it to us. Nor could we ask Antonio Carmena to copy Mr. Ulbricht's newly amplified virtuosity. And yes, Ashley Bouder does flirt with the crowd, but this is her play-role, NYCB doesn't do Bolshoi fun pieces, and isn't the point of fall to show us Bolshoi? She is pure joy here, and this most generous of ballerinas doesn't hold back a drop of her Champagne from us!

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