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Everything posted by Helene

  1. Albrecht's point of view sounds like a series of self-justifying rationalizations to me. I'm sure Albrecht has hired his share of gameskeepers to prevent poaching on his estates; how kind of him to condescend to those who do his dirty work. Also, Giselle's mother knows that if Giselle lives long enough, she is frail enough to need someone who adores her and can provide for her, and Hilarion fits the bill. I'm willing to listen to the point of view of a villain, but not a cad. But I loooove red hair. Maybe that explains it (Edited to use the right word.)
  2. Cohen said that the stress fracture in her back was due to an injury she sustained while doing Pilates. Lambiel was injured last year, and just announced that he is injured yet again. He may be in shape for Euros and/or Worlds, but he's pulled out of his Grand Prix events.
  3. The movie was called "Six Weeks," and it starred Katherine Healy, who has appeared in recent years with Ice Theater of New York.
  4. Miriram Mahdaviani choreographed the music in a piece for NYCB. I believe it was part of the American Music Festival.
  5. I've always thought of Hilarion and Gurn as sympathetic, because I've seen them cast as young men of the same class as the heroine. I've never had any sympathy for Albrecht, because he's the one in the position of power, and he abuses it by pretending to be a peasant, like the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, although not quite as extreme. I've always thought of Giselle as the biggest wimp around, because she protects a liar and a cheat. My sympathies go to Hilarion, because he knows something is rotten in Denmark. James as a character can be different, because while Effy is well-intentioned, she has the assumption of a particular life, and I can sympathize with the potential artist or poet or dreamer who is being squelched by standard expectations and a bourgeous life. That said, to make Hilarion less sympathetic to me than Albrecht would only be possible if Hilarion were portrayed as (more of) a vain, abusive brute, and he could show nothing but pride and stubbornness, not remorse, when Giselle goes mad. Gurn would have to be a churlish brute as well, although he could be cast the way Alexandra describes, as a middle aged man. Although he'd have to be pompous or a lech or have a sense of buying Effy, i.e., someone insufferable, not just older. Which would turn Effy's mother into the mother in La Fille Mal Gardee? I don't think I would have made a very good 19th century audience member. Maybe that's why I like Balanchine and older men in general so much
  6. Alexandra, Thank you for the link to Tobias' review. I am so sad that Hubbe replaced Lund Although, given how much she loved Bojesen, I'm not sure we saw the same performers I guess I felt that Bojesen's Sylph wasn't offering an alternative to a bourgeois world, but a bigger house and a richer father-in-law. Helene
  7. When I lived in NYC, my second home was the 4th Ring, and my favorite seats were the ones in the last row at the far ends, where I could see the stage from an angle. Standing room at the State Theater is behind the last row of the 4th Ring; even so, it's worth standing through the entire NYCB Nutcracker. At the Metropolitan Opera, where ABT's Spring season is held, there is standing room behind the orchestra, which is a great way to see ballet up close. When I was 14, I had to watch Makarova's and Nagy's performance in Swan Lake through a pair of binoculars, because I had shattered my glasses two hours before the ballet started! I find, though, that I enjoy watching the patterns and the contrast of the principals against the corps unaided.
  8. To me there are many ways a male dancer stands out -- assuming this means in a good way -- but I would say that the unifying aspect is that he "sings" to me. The most common aspects of this are * The music and the rhythm drive the dancing, not the other way around, and the phrasing seems inevitable. If there's any reason why I think Villella is heads over Nureyev, and why I found Nureyev dull, it is this one. *The dancing makes me look at the dancer; the dancer doesn't "demand" I look at him. *The dancing is done as part of a phrase, with the relative weight of the movement and shapes in proportion to the phrase. *The dancer knows his strengths and weakness and dances within his own frame. Bart Cook might not have had the best line, but his energy was infused from the top of his head to the tips of his toes and was so palpable, that when he was onstage, I couldn't look at anyone else. (I had even forgotten that Peter Martins was the other guy in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto tape until I looked at the liner notes.) The same is true for me for Nicholas Ade, a corps member at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Anthony Dowell and Peter Boal had/have beautiful line, still or moving, and I find them equally appealing. *The man focuses his energy on his partner. Dowell could be elegant and deferential to his partner, with no false humility. Cook presented his partner with energy and as a equal. Joseph Duell and Jacques d'Amboise could make me see their partners through their eyes. Very different types of partnering, but each make be feel like I'm watching a single dancing entity, not two dancers.
  9. Alexandra, Thank you so much for your reply. I wrongly assumed that the "Sylph" section of Etudes was meant to show the Bournonville style in the evolution of ballet. I thought that the Sylph is supposed to be in many ways the opposite of Giselle, whom I could never imagine stealing someone else's fiance. But I did expected more of a contrast of temperament and style between the Sylph and Effy, to represent the difference between the relationship with someone James has known since he was a child and who will fit into his local life and the stranger -- glamorous or delicate or fine -- who represents a different world without obligation. Or even like the older women at the Catskills resort in Dirty Dancing whom Patrick Swayze describes in awe ("They really take care of themselves") in comparison to the working class older women from his home town. But maybe James was just a leg man I watched Queen Margrethe during the curtain calls. Since the first bow is always to her, she can't even enjoy a performance out of the direct public eye. I noticed that she was clapping a strong clap, not just a polite, public obligation clap. She did sit in the box alone, next to two empty seats. You are so right about this being a lonely way to attend a performance. I can't imagine going to the ballet alone and not being able to say something after the performance, even if to the complete strangers sitting next to me. I didn't know that was her lady-in-waiting in the opposite box (the one without the crown over it, duh). I did see a man dressed up in what looked like military dress in the box next to the royal box, and a man whose job was to pull out the Queen's chair before she was seated. The royal box was empty for Tosca. I wonder if the bowing protocol is the same for opera, if a member of the royal family is attending. The ballet dancers grew up with the Queen, while the opera singers, at least the principals, were mostly an international lot. If they also bow to the royals, there must be a prompter somewhere to remind them, since opera singing is often a "If it's Tosca this must be Copenhagen" sort of profession.
  10. Since I was flying in and out of Copenhagen on my way to Tallinn, I decided to stay in Copenhagen during the last two days of my trip. I was able to see the Royal Danish Ballet's double bill of La Sylphide and Etudes on 16 October. The original cast was Gudrun Bojesen (Sylph), Lis Jeppesen (Madge), and Thomas Lund (James). Nikolaj Hubbe replaced Lund. I'd never seen the Royal Danish Ballet before. I'd seen a production of La Sylphide staged by Peter Martins for the Pennsylvania Ballet and performed by Tamara Hadley, William DeGregory, and Robin Preiss, and Etudes by ABT, performed by Marianna Tcherkassky. But my only exposure to the RDB style was second-hand, through these and Stanley Williams' stagings of Bournonville Divertissements for NYCB, and through films and performances by former RDB dancers, like Bruhn, Martins, Andersen, and Luders. So my context is limited, and I'd appreciate it if someone could give me the proper one if I'm way off the path. My expectation for the Sylph was that she is supposed to be an other-worldly spirit, a contrast to down-to-Earth -- literally and figuratively-- Effy, living by a non-human code, and oblivious to the inevitable ramification of being "captured" by a human. While the grudge between Madge and James and Madge's revenge furthers the story line and brings it to dramatic conclusion, I would expect that, allegorically speaking, being domesticated in a relationship should have killed her as well. Gurdrun Bojesen is a tall dancer. To me she looked like she had a short torso and long legs; that could have been exascerbated by the style of the costume. Her dancing was rather athletic, and her characterization struck me as being too close to Effy. I got the impression that she was a cleaned-up, more refined Wellesley-educated version of Effy, but not from another plane. In general, I found her dancing hunched over from the waist, and her shoulders bowed inward, like a tall girl trying to appear small and delicate. The exception was when upstage center in profile, she performed a gorgeous, soft, effortlessly stretched arabesque with her arms crossed and her head high. But oh what feet! Strong, completely controlled on point -- not a single wobble, even though she had to stop on a dime repeatedly -- and wonderfully articulate. The only other dancer I've seen for whom there is that little distinction between feet and toe shoes was Suzanne Farrell, who had a little more roll-through than Bojesen. And among the Sylphs, there were more such miracles. I so wished that I had seen Bojesen in a more modern role, or even in Balanchine's Serenade. I don't know how "big" Madge's performance is supposed to be, but I thoroughly enjoyed Lis Jeppensen's rendition. Generally, over-the-top performances make me yawn and roll my eyes, but she infused the stage with a pervasive energy, and after her first scene, the warning of her presence was there, even when she was not on stage. I thought Nikolaj Hubbe's interpretation of James -- acting and dancing -- was thuggish. In my opinion, his first act solo was different from Morten Eggert's Gurn's only in that his landings weren't as loud. I felt that he lurched with his upper body to create bigger movement, which marred both the position and the line. I was more impressed with the way Eggert performed those beautiful juxapositions of direction and epaulement in the choreography. I never saw any sense of wonder or conflict in his character. I got the impression that he was used to getting what he wanted; that he was imperious and rude rather than threatened by Madge, and thought he could just use physical force to swat her out of the way. I didn't see one example in Act II where Hubbe was torn between the Sylph and Effy, or where he thought of Effy at all. To me even Albrecht in Giselle had more redeeming virtue, and that this James would have been happy to marry Effy and have the Syph on the side, as his due. I really loved Tina Hojlund's Effy, both as a character and her dancing. I was so taken by her clear leg- and footwork in the big group dance in Act I, that I couldn't stop watching her, and obviously missed James' temporary exit to follow the Syph. I just wanted to keep watching her dance that dance forever. I was really impressed by the acting and well as the mime, especially from Effy and Gurn. Hojlund showed the disappointment of being left by James and her reluctant acceptance of Gurn's proposal was heart-wrenching. But I was glad to see that after the hurt, she didn't sulk her way through the wedding, and that she was with Gurn, who obviously adores her, rather than subjected to the brutish James. That wasn't the conclusion that I came to when I saw Pennsylvania Ballet's production, and when I saw Thomas Lund perform in Etudes, I was disappointed that Hubbe replaced him in La Sylphide. I could imagine Lund portraying a James as a young man who was torn and conflicted, based on the quick-silver changes of mood and shape I saw in Etudes. Christina Olsson was the Ballerina in Etudes, and any idea I had that being hunched over was part of the general style was tossed aside: as the Sylph in Etudes, Olsson's arm movements came organically from her wide and open back and shoulders, and her epaulment was free and fluid. It was remarkable to see her change from style to style, making each her own. Even though she didn't have the greatest stretch or amplitude, she defined a space for herself in which she positively glowed and from which she ruled the stage. Lund, Mads Blangstrup, and Jean-Lucien Massot danced the male roles. I didn't think Etudes was a great role for Blangstrup -- it was very exposed -- but I could see how he might make a very interesting James. He had a slightly brooding, distracted quality. In the small ensembles, I believe that it was Diana Cuni who was the standout, unless there's a corps member -- no pictures in the program for the corps -- who also looks like Maria Callas. There was also one male corps dancer who had the most wonderful carriage and danced from fingertip to toe, but he couldn't land the repeated double tours. (He was atilt to the back and left on each.) He managed to come out of each bad landing as if nothing ever happened -- those poor feet and ankles -- with the same noble carriage and presence. He was blond with short hair, as if that narrows it down The theater was lovely. I wasn't surprised that the ballet audience was on the older side; I was shocked when the opera audience for Tosca the next night was so relatively young. A member of the royal family attended the ballet performance. I wondered why everyone stood up at the beginning of the ballet -- this dumb American wondered if the national anthem was about to be played -- and then all eyes were on the royal box, as an older woman in a simple but elegant wine-colored silk dress took her seat. On the whole most of the older women in the audience let their hair turn gray; it wasn't the parade of extremely bad maroon and orange and black hair dye I saw in Estonia and Finland. I've decided that these women are my heroes.
  11. He may like Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, especially the first act. There's a DVD out, performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet, taped during their London tour. There are a lot of things in it a young boy might like -- Puck's antics and wonderful jumps, Oberon's solo amidst the kids playing bugs and the butterflies, Bottom and his friends, the pas de deux between Titania and the donkey, and the scene with the sword fight and Hippolyta and her hounds. He might not like the "mushy" parts between the two couples, and the two dances with the ladies. But you can always fast forward through those parts
  12. According to a letter I received from the Seattle Theater Group, Baryshnikov's Seattle performances have be re-scheduled to Tuesday, 9 March 2004 (for Friday, 17 October ticket holders) and Wednesday, 10 March 2004 (for Saturday, 18 October ticket holders.)
  13. Tonight I saw a mostly different cast in Swan Lake. Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold, who shared the Black Swan pas de deux at the Fanfare of Feathers gala, danced Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried. I don't know what I was thinking last Thursday when the choreography for the Act I pas de trois looked new. My only defense was that Pantastico danced it as if had never been seen before, but that's a rather weak one. Tonight Alexandra Dickson in the other women's role was the standout. She danced softly, with clear articulation, and beautiful posture. I would have loved to see her as Odette/Odile, but that's a wish that I don't think will ever be fulfilled; she's never cast that way. Among the guests, Rebecca Johnston in the champagne-colored dress caught and kept my eye with her full phrasing and lovely feet, as she did from among the 24 swans in Acts II and IV. In the third act, Dickson again gave a wonderfully character-driven, proud performance in the Czardas. Nicholas Ade was strong as the man in one of two couples in the Spanish dance, and among the princes friends in Acts I and II, he was the only one who looked well brought up. I don't really like the Neopolitan dance, but Chalnessa Eames, with her Kitri-like smile and demeanor, danced with a bit of the in her eye, and was delightful. For my taste Le Yin, whom I usually love, was too much of a show off as Jester in Act I, and some of his big effects seemed forced to me, although the crowd took it's cue and went wild. Jonathan Poretta was cleaner and more natural last Thursday, and, in my opinion, was all the more charming for not asking for applause. Le was more the paid entertainer; Porretta focused on making his friends happy and flirting. Milov had played the prince as a too-well-behaved son, who was cowed by his mother and a bit repressed. Bold played the role as a bit of an impetuous spoiled brat, and a bit rebellious. Imler also played a young Odette/Odile. I was surprised when she was more of a bird than Barker: although she did no flapping -- yay! -- she fluttered her upper arms impressively. When she met the Prince at the beginning of Act I, she was very strong and headstrong, although wary, which tied into her interpretation of Odile. The pas de deux was very well-danced and beautifully phrased. I've never seen the solo danced more convincingly; it was so gentle, as if she was having a blissful dream. As Odile she was every bit as good as in the gala, and well worth waiting for. She was a contemporary Bad News force, the young woman that is dreaded by (nearly) every son's mother if he brings her home, and the nightmare of every daughter whose boyfriend got a whiff of her. The way she led him on and tied him around her finger was innate, like she didn't have to think about it at all. I usually yawn when the fouettes start, but I've never seen anyone do single/single/double from beginning to end before. And at the end of the Act, she didn't even gloat; it was more like "job done, let's go." Having finally paid attention to the beautiful duet at the beginning of Act IV, I've decided that it's the test, like the Vision Scene in Sleeping Beauty. All or most of the greatest hits are over, but can the ballerina be moving in the quiet, classical part? Imler was very lovely, and this is really nit-picking, but I felt like I was watching "Swan Lake: The Film", not "Swan Lake: The Myth." I didn't get the feeling that this was The Last Chance Gone Forever. Instead, I felt like this was extremely sad, but not quite the end of the world. Imler and Bold were a beautiful couple, but reminded me a little of my friend's description of a former girlfriend, "Kinda smart. Kinda dumb." It was Imler's debut, and a tremendous one at that. I shouldn't have expected that her first Odette/Odile would be fully cooked, like her Aurora a few years ago. I hope that this beautiful production is revived in a couple of years, so that I can see her grow just a little more into the role. (And maybe with Milov.) But it was still a privilege to see her dance it now.
  14. Must be a trend -- Val Caniparoli choreographed a ballet to a mixture of Bach and African drums called "Lambarena," which is also the name of the musical piece. It premiered at San Francisco Ballet. Pacific Northwest Ballet also performed it, and it's listed in the repertoire of American Repertory Ballet, in Princeton, NJ.
  15. Are there any commercially available tapes of performances that are considered the gold standard of Bournonville technique and style?
  16. Farrell's co-author for Holding on to the Air was Toni Bentley, a former NYCB dancer who had previously written a short memoir called Winter Season. The writing style was recognizably Bentley's, and I would agree with the reviewer that it is 180 degrees from Farrell's style as a dancer. If Farrell does decide to write another book, I hope she chooses a different, more skilled co-author.
  17. (Creativejuice, I so loved reading your review, but I never thought I'd see Firebird and Four Seasons live. Luckily I stumbled upon the National Ballet of Canada tour schedule, and was able to get a ticket to a performance in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theater. Your descriptions were delightful and prepared me for what I was about to see.) The only time I've ever seen the Company perform live was in 1986, when they brought Alice to New York. That was also the only time I saw Rex Harrington perform, as Lewis Carroll, but apart from general impressions of the choreography, music, and production, which I loved, the only performance I remember is Karen Kain's. So I assumed I was going to see part of his farewell tour, and, as it turns out, he didn't dance Friday night; Aleksandar Antonijevic did. So while I don't know what I was missing, I do know what I saw, and Antonijevic was wonderful. I knew I was in for something different when I took my seat and found next to me a father and his very antsy 7-ish-year-old son, who was bouncing around a bit. They were soon joined by a 6-ish-year old girl and mother. Once the performance started, the kids started to ask the occasional question, like "What is he doing?" Traffic was bad, and the three-hour trip took five, and by the time I found my hotel, rushed to the theater, and got to my seat, I was exhausted into passivity. But instead of seething and shushing, I decided to watch the performance as if I was the 7-year-old boy, and I got a totally different perspective. Apologies to Tina Pereira, but when four men started doing consecutive movements in the background of the Spring pas de deux, I followed his comments and watched the men. If this had been performance art, with the crowd at floor level and the lights on, that little boy would have joined in, and followed their movements, and if I weren't a self-conscious adult, I would have been tempted to join him. In Summer, Stacey Hiori Minagawa danced the lead, and her choreography looked very "limby" -- lots of stabbing leg-work, but not much from the center. I thought that maybe Kudelka was ignoring women in this ballet, until Rebekah Rimsay stepped on stage in the Autumn movement. There was a burst of joyous, full-bodied dancing, with gorgeous, finished shapes. The entire ballet lit up when she was onstage. The children really loved the beginning of Winter, with the jousting men. Then Piotr Stancyzk came onstage, and again I was riveted, both by his presence, and the contrast between his character and Antonijevic's. During an earlier visit to Vancouver this summer, I read an article in (I think) The Globe and Mail about up-and-coming young male dancers at NBC, and I was glad to see a featured dancer live up to his hype. Also wonderful and unexpected was Hazaros Surmeyan's dancing. It reminded me of seeing Flamenco performances, where the young male dancers work up a frenzy of a sweat, and then at the end, the singers and musicians each do a little dance solo. There's always some 60+-year old cajon player with a big belly and a shy demeaner who does a minute-long dance and knocks your socks off. It was great to see a part for older dancers that fit perfectly into the cycle of life theme, but showed them off as full-blooded, robust creatures, not as statues or one foot away from the grave. The kids really "got" Firebird, until the static part in the middle, where Katschei and his wife showed up. I don't know why, but I've never seen a production of Firebird that didn't go dead there, even though it ends in such powerful, rhythmic music. Usually, the Prince is on an empty stage until Firebird shows up, the princesses are separated from the forest, and it's not until the Katshei scenes that the creaturs show up. I really liked Kudelka's opening, with the Prince's solo among the forest creatures, and where the creatures interacted with the princesses. Although it's not really ballet dancing, and is a theatrical conceit, it was magical when the creatures turned themselves into rock and tree stump formations to become seats and benches for the characters. I thought the Princesses' pas de deux with the Prince was substantial and elegant. I was too distracted by the princesses' dresses, through, to fixate on their ugly corkscrew tresses; the skirts were hung like narrower versions of the dwarf's and infanta's dresses in Las Meninas. They were cut and constructed well, though; during the turns, the skirts turned with the bodice, instead of with a 1/4 turn delay, as I had feared. The rest of Loquasto's costumes and the sets were stunning, and looked like it would take three companies to finance them. Even though I would not see Greta Hodgkinson, I was looking forward to seeing Chan Hon Goh; I figured if Suzanne Farrell picked her, she must have something extra. I was sorely disappointed. First the choreography had none of the incense in Balanchine's pas de deux, when the women melts to each side, and none of the soft perfume in many versions of the Berceuse. I'm not sure if it was Goh's performance or the choreography or both, but I felt like I was watching Tweetiebird, not Firebird: there were too many mincing, sharp movements, and not much strength, pliancy, and exoticism. Guillaume Cote's performance as Prince Ivan was a dream when he had something substantial to dance: he danced with clarity, lovely line and extension, and soft knees. In each pose, he held the tension of the position, but without effort. He danced as if he needed no preparation; a jump would spring out of nowhere, with a light landing. Although he has the extension of a lot of men, his arabesque comes from the center of his back, unlike most. The best part of the night, though, came from the orchestra. I have never heard a better, more live performance of The Four Seasons either live or on recording. Concermaster Fujiko Imajishi, who performed the violin solos, should be a household name, like Joshua Bell or Yo Yo Ma. She is a treasure.
  18. I just found this review of Netrebko's first solo CD on the andante.com website; it was originally from the Raleigh NC The News and Observer. There's a stunning photo of her on the album cover, as wonderful as the review of her singing: andante.com
  19. That's the way it felt. Jester did do some jester-like dancing in Act I, but it was intermittent, and he was more interactive with the guests. That changed in Act III, although his new costume was no more jester-like than in Act I. Only Siegfried's friends showed up at the beginning of Act II, so Stowell didn't take the Jester/Benno analogy that far. But I was glad that the role was more subtle in Act I. I hope lots of other people see this production and post
  20. I just got home from PNB's Opening Night performance of Swan Lake. What a night! I got a last minute seat in the upper upper Second Tier, about six rows from the back, and only a couple of seats from the aisle. Except for far upstage left -- von Rothbart's entrance and the Odette's Acts II and IV exits, the sightlines were just fine. For $16, what a steal. I've seen Balanchine's one-act version many, many times, but the full length Swan Lake only about a dozen times -- at least eight productions over 30+ years. I think Stowell reworked the entire first act; I don't have anyone listed as the Jester from the '96 production, and that choreography had a character called "Peasant Girl," who did not appear this time. The second act was Ivanov/Petipa. Stowell used the same four national pieces last time, but I don't remember any of the choreography from then. The Black Swan pas de deux was traditional, and the Jester's dance in Act III seemed familiar. At least parts of Act IV were after Petipa, but this is the first time I haven't zoned out the first half of that act. Act I takes place outside the palace, in the courtyard, and the costumes felt rustic, a lot like I've seen in the beginning of Sleeping Beauty Act III. The costumes were stunning, with the courtiers and Siegfried's friends in muted, autumnal colors mixed with some bright reds. The guests (six women) wore light, flowing dresses in muted gelato colors -- champagne, apricot, nectarine, raspberry, strawberry, and lime. The pillars from Fanfare of Feathers were back, with a disconcerting sunny blue sky as background. Jester was dressed as a civilian, not in the split black and white costume I'm used to seeing. In Act I, the choreography for the role was relatively subdued, and he was treated as Siegfried's confidante, like Wolfgang -- they even drank a toast together. Wolfgang was a drinker, but it was reflected more in the downstage right stage business than in his dancing -- he did not dance a doddering old fool or a drunk. Wolfgang opened the ballet with a dance with the ensemble, and it was a very courtly part. The waltz was a huge disappointment, though. Stowell added six little girls to join the six guests, who, in the beginning, provided a lovely contrast in the very long piece. And while it was a charming moment when Milov lent a light hand to each in their tour jetes, Stowell didn't capitalize on the momentum to follow the "swirl" of the music as it reached a climax: he banished the little girls and had the six women do a pedantic, stationary port de bras. I don't remember having seen the pas de trois before; I believe it is newly choreographed. There was one women (Jodie Thomas) who danced with the man (Le Yin), and one women who danced solo (Noelani Pantastico), and in past performances I seem to remember each women dancing with the man, as well as several steps and images that were missing. But the choreography was impressive, and Pantastico, in particular, shone bright. She danced with amplitude, yet with precision. The only way I can try to describe her impact is that she seemed to take up just the right amount of space, yet she showed no effort. She also seemed to project a sense of dancing in the moment, and loving where she is. Apart from the principals, I thought hers to be the best performance of the night. Act II opened with the flat swans moving along the back of the stage against a huge moon. Then the smoke machine started, and von Rothbart emerged from the smoke swirling with huge flowing purple and blue silk cape-wings. It was quite an entrance. Barker was a very strong Swan Queen, from the moment she stepped on stage, a little bit like Firebird. There was nothing delicate about her; she danced as if burdened by the curse and by the responsibility of being in charge of the Swans. If she needed saving, it wasn't because of a specific past hurt; it was that she was held back by a bigger force, and this is a very different interpretation from what I've seen from anyone else and from Barker seven years ago. She played a person, not an archtype. And it made Odile's deception in Act III that much more believable, because she didn't have to change from delicate to steely. I liked that the Prince's solo was left out: we know he's happy, and it's really not about him. It had taken Erin Joseph all of 30 seconds in Act I as Queen Mother to establish why the Prince needed to run after Swans in the moonlight. In Act III there was an interesting dynamic, partially dictated by the staging: Queen Mother sits downstage right; von Rothbart takes a seat downstage left. Odile played to the Queen Mother, not to von Rothbart, who whispered to her a couple of times, but really stayed out of the action. Two control freaks in a pod; this was the second reason it was no wonder that Siegfried succumbed to Odile. The Act III sets added giant French doors to the back of the stage. Odile and von Rothbart entered through them -- upstage center -- and that's where the vision of Odette appears, not from above. It made her seem close enough to be within reach, but it also made sense of how von Rothbart tries to hide her from view. The princesses were relegated to their normal spot -- a relatively empty dance, concurrent with all of the stage business with the Queen Mother urging Siegfried to pick, Siegfried refusing, and the QM getting very annoyed. I prefer the Kirov version where they lead their national dances; it gives them more stature, even though, dramatically, Siegfried is offstage with Odile, and isn't even watching. Still, the costumes were gorgeous. Alexandra Dickson and Karel Cruz led the czardas with character, and his was a very nuanced, old-world kind of guy. The Spanish Dance was also a fine piece, with a flamenco feel, but not the usual stereotypes rolled into one. I thought the Neopolitan and Persian disappointing (except when the four little girls playing Persian Attendants got to jump around). Neopolitan reminded me of Puss 'N Boots -- a little too cute -- and Persian (danced to the Russian music) was a reprise of Peacock in the Nutcracker. The Act III pas de deux -- Barker and Milov nailed it while remaining in character. I don't know any other way to describe it. When Odette was revealed after Siegfried pledges himself to Odile, it took Milov a while to figure out what was going on -- he didn't quite believe what he saw, nor was he willing to believe that what was tangible and within reach wasn't what he wanted. A nice touch. I've never really paid attention to the Act IV pas de deux before, but Barker was so heartbreaking in it, that I was riveted. She was still very strong, but she was also very grave, with a sense that Odette was trying to remember every minute of this, as a last memory. As big music played toward the end, and the swans swirled around and von Rothbart menanced, Barker and Milov stood together in the center of the storm, and she twice put her head on his shoulder in the simplest, most affecting way I've ever seen. The Company deserved its ovation tonight, as did Kershaw (conductor), and designers Ming Cho Lee (sets), Paul Tazewell (costumes), and Randall Chiarelli (lighting). PNB has a special offer going now: for each ticket you buy to Swan Lake -- runs 25-28 September, and 1 October-5 October (with matinee and evening performances on Sats and Suns) -- and Nutcracker, you get two free seats in the Second Tier to the Ballet Now! repertory performance on 6 November. If anyone else has seen this performance, I'd appreciate it if you could tell me who of the six women in Act I was dressed in Apricot. I think she had dark hair, which would leave out Dickson, Skinner, and Lowenberg, and which leaves Eames, Chapman, and Vinson. I couldn't stop watching her.
  21. In my performance log, I have entries for Le Palais de Cristal in July 1986 from a POB visit to the Metropolitan Opera House. (It was paired with Washington Square, a Nureyev ballet set to Ives.) The casts were: 15 July: First Movement: Elizabeth Maurin/Charles Jude Second Movement: Sylvie Guillem/Jean-Yves Lormeau Third Movement: Florence Clerc/Patrick Dupond Fourth Movement: Karin Averty/Manuel Legris 16 July: First Movement: Karin Averty/Laurent Hilaire Second Movement: Elisabeth Platel/Jean-Yves Lormeau Third Movement: Isabelle Guerin/Patrick Dupond Fourth Movement: Fabianne Cerruti/Manuel Legris (I hope I haven't murdered any names; sometimes I can't read my own writing two decades later.) The performance on the 16th was memorable, because the very glassy-eyed women next to me shrieked the throughout Dupond's performance and glared at me for not matching her enthusiasm. I was used to NYCB protocol, which was to wait at least until the end of the variation to go wild. I remember three things in particular -- the costumes for each movement were a different color, instead of the all-white NYCB costumes, I liked Karin Averty very much in the first movement, and the second movement seemed very different and flatter than the mid-80's NYCB version. I was trying to imagine the dancer behind the original choreography, but couldn't, unlike in the Symphony in C second movement.
  23. PNB threw an hour-long gala performance Opening Night last night at the new McCaw Hall. The company expects to hold a separate Opening Night fundraiser each year. I had heard Parsifal in August, and my initial impression of the wonderful acoustics held, but last night's performance was a great program to confirm that the ballet orchestra has entered a new world in the hall. This was the first time that I heard the violin and cello during the White Swan pas de deux as a true conversation between the instruments, reflecting the choreography. After the congratulatory speeches, PNB performed a sampler program with a "feathers" theme, with excerpts from Swan Lake, Firebird, Bluebird pas de deux, Peacock (Arabian theme from The Nutcracker) and the Wedding Feast orchestral interlude from The Golden Cockerel, until the closing piece, the finale from Silver Lining. During one speech, Stowell told the audience that he wanted them to come all season, again and again, and the program was designed cleverly to entice the audience with morsels: since eveyone will come to see Barker perform Swan Lake -- many in the gala audience have the very pricey Opening Night series, for which she is cast -- Louise Nadeau and Christophe Maraval danced the White Swan pas de deux, and Carrie Imler/Batkhurel Bold and Kaori Nakamura/Olivier Wevers shared the Black Swan pas de deux. After the Act III Overture to Swan Lake, performed by the orchestra, the dancing part of the program opened on one of Ming Cho Lee's new sets -- white castle pillars with a diagonal cross beam on each side. Stanko Milov and six women performed the Dance of the Princesses from Act III. The costumes were stunning -- cream colored, each a little different in style from the other, with headdresses to show the region each princess was from. The tone of this piece, though, was more like the Aurora's coming out scenes in Sleeping Beauty; Milov danced a bunch amidst the princesses, and he seemed much more enthusiastic about dancing and dancing with the princesses than the character normally is. I don't know if this was for the gala audience and will change when the stage is full of guests, and his mother is egging him on to pick someone already. Barker was a marvel in the Firebird pas de deux, danced with Jeffrey Stanton. Stowell choreographed just about every trap in the book, and she performed the role seamlessly. Barker makes it bearable to not be able to see Kyra Nichols on a regular basis. Stowell said that there are five casts; in the first week, Nakamura is cast twice, with Barker, Nadeau, and Pantastico once. I think Nadeau poses a lot, especially in balance, without much legato between poses, and as a result, she looked brittle to me as the White Swan. I keep trying to give Nadeau a chance, and even suffered her performance of my favorite pas de deux, Act II from Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Unfortunately I had to trade my Saturday afternoon ticket with Pantastico (whimpering noise) for Sunday afternoon with Nadeau (groaning noise), and last night's performance didn't make me any happier about the casting. To squeeze all of the principals (except Paul Gibson) into the "feathers" pieces, the Black Swan pas de deux was shared by two couples: Imler/Bold danced the first half of the opening adagio and the solos; Nakamuri/Wevers danced the second half of the adagio and the coda. They managed a nice transition between the couples. There was a huge contrast in interpretation that was obvious even through the gala champagne, and both were quite modern. In the adagio Nakamuri ate Wevers alive with sharpness and precision; there wasn't a drop of meat on his bones when she was done with him. He played the young pup. She also had really great rhythm and form in her fouettes; it was like she had all the time in the world, even when the conductor sped up in the middle. I've seen young(er) dancers perform roles where I thought they just didn't get it, but it's rare when I see a younger interpretation of a role is unusual, but fits like a glove. For example, most of the Sirens in Prodigal Son I have seen played the older, more experienced woman and the head of the band of robbers; the seduction was like a well-savored meal. When I first saw Darci Kistler perform the role, I was floored: to me, she was the embodiment of callous youth, who could have been the girlfriend of the ringleader, and for whom the victory was more important than the seduction; I could almost see her straightening her hair in the mirror during the pas de deux. (She would have stepped right on the Prodigal's bones on her way out.) Imler's performance impressed me in a similar way; she is a dancer who grew up in post-pill, post-feminist age of Madonna and Brittany Spears, and while there was none of the vulgarity associated with them in her performance, she put it out there in a very contemporary way. There was nothing shy or coy about her Swan's attractiveness, but she played him just as effectively through dynamic changes of speed and assertiveness. I don't know what Bold's characterization was, because, during the pas de deux I was so fixed on Imler, I didn't watch him, and he's a dancer who holds my attention almost always. Also included was the Four Little Swans -- a huge mistake, because as soon as the music started, the audience started to giggle and was trying to suppress its laughter at the end, when the swans tilt their heads repeatedly to the side. In the Bluebird pas de deux, Jodie Thomas was the only non-principal to perform a lead in the gala; I hope this bodes well for her. Granted, the feeling of Bluebird is different than the White Swan, but when Thomas hit a perfect balance, she did not implore the audience to look at her and acknowledge it, which was much more effective. She danced with Le Yin, who danced all of the repeated steps superbly with strength and whose beats were so fast they were a blur. What a find for the Company. It was very strange and anti-climactic to see Peacock, danced by Ariana Lallone, onstage without the Sendak sets and the Pasha's court. Maybe it's just too early to hear the Nutcracker. And, luckily, Paul Gibson was given an opportunity to blaze across the stage during the Silver Lining finale.
  24. Tcherkassky at ABT and Mahdaviani at NYCB were two dancers to whom my eye was drawn immediately, regardless of who else was on stage. Tcherkassky was short, and her manner was unassuming and gracious -- almost humble. It's not surprising to me that she was overshadowed by Makarova, van Hamel, and Gregory. I did see her perform a few bravura pas de deux with her then-husband, Danilo Radoevic. She floated through them with those lovely feet.
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