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  1. We have been talking about the mime that was added - what about the traditional mime that wasn't there? The first is in the Giselle/Albrecht/Hilarion aka Hans confrontation in Act I: When Hilarion/Hans takes out his knife to attack Albrecht, Belyakov did not do the traditional business of reaching for his sword (which he isn't wearing because he is disguised as the peasant Loys). Belyakov just kind of waved Hans off while stopping Giselle from interposing herself between them. This gesture of reaching for the sword hilt tips off Hilarion/Hans that Loys is not what he seems. Of course, Hans/Hilarion has already overheard Albrecht's discussion with Wilfred at the beginning of the act, so he is already on to him, so in this staging that bit of reaching for the nonexistent sword is superfluous. I guess that bit of business was not notated in the early French sources - the Antoine Titus and Justamant notations? However after the village girls leave, Hilarion/Hans breaks into the hut to steal the sword to unmask Loys as Albrecht. I think it could remain since it could give Hans the idea that the sword is probably there in the hut and could be useful. Anyway, I miss it and it would still give Hilarion/Hans motivation to find the sword. It should go back. The second bit is Giselle's fainting spell during the village girl dance with Albrecht. About half of the dance is there but the music that seems to suggest dizziness or sudden weakness is there but the fainting spell is not. I think the music suggests it and it is excellent dramatic foreshadowing and should be retained. That also isn't in the French sources? It is there in the music. Also the character usually known as the Duke of Courland (here Bathilde's father) bows to the dressed down Albrecht when he is exposed to everyone - the whole group of courtiers bow to him as if he is their sovereign lord. Usually they seem to be equals or Albrecht is junior to the Duke. Also in Act II, I noticed a change in Giselle's choreography as executed by Smirnova. Usually in the Act II grand pas, the initial Giselle solo has Giselle executing a developpé with the right leg and shifting to a slow arabesque en tournant and after a little sauté then executing a developpé on the left leg and dropping into arabesque penchée. It is very exposed and the ballerina has to be equally strong and flexible on both sides of the body. Here is Makarova doing that combination in 1976: Smirnova only did what looked like one developpé very high on the right leg and then did only another very brief one on the same right leg. Did the other Bolshoi ballerinas do that change in this production or is it exclusive to Smirnova? Maybe a problem with her left hip? Weird.
  2. Here is Olga Spessivtseva - not pigtail but a kind of ponytail. I see little or no resemblance to Smirnova, who I like very much but prefer as Raymonda or Odette to Giselle. Great Giselles are kind of a ballerina breed apart. I would be fascinated to hear from Seattle_Dancer or others who can compare the PNB new/old "Giselle" to the Bolshoi Ratmansky reconstruction. Differences, weaknesses, strengths, etc.
  3. The Ratmansky ending looked very rushed and slightly confused to me. Ratmansky decided to have Giselle disappear into the ground before Bathilde returns. Wilfred comes on first leading the rescue party and then Bathilde follows (as directed by Wilfred). Wilfred seems perturbed to see Giselle's ghost. The original notations have Bathilde returning with the courtiers and Wilfred and Albrecht is told by Giselle to marry Bathilde and then she sinks into the earth. Also Bathilde actively consoles and forgives Albrecht. So it is a more dramatic scene with Bathilde taking an active part with the women on each side (the Albrecht "sandwich" as Helene called it). Ratmansky has Bathilde come on later after Giselle is gone and Wilfred seems to be holding up an exhausted, devastated Albrecht who seems to barely look at Bathilde who reaches out to him. Albrecht weakly returns the extended arm. He seems way too far gone to go back with her and is half slumped. It looks as if though Bathilde is willing to take him back, Albrecht is spiritually still with Giselle and order is not restored, really. Like Ratmansky wants it both ways - the double forgiveness and the devastated, alone Albrecht sorrowing at the end. According to the reviews, the PNB version works well dramatically and is moving.
  4. By the way, this program note from the Pacific Northwest Ballet website will clarify a lot of questions we are having: https://www.pnb.org/repertory/giselle/ It seems there were two sets of human interlopers - gamekeepers sent packing by Hans/Hilarion and then later a group of peasants returning from a festival who were saved from the Wilis by an old man. Some interesting points in the article by Marian Smith: "The French manuscripts give us a marvelous opportunity to discover ways in which this ballet was performed in the first two decades of its existence, that is, before Petipa created his now-famous version of Giselle in St. Petersburg in 1884—the version that today’s productions are based on. They reveal, quite surprisingly, that Petipa’s version of the choreography was not nearly as different from that of Coralli/Perrot as dance historians have long averred. Passages in the Justamant manuscript that are choreographically similar to those in the Stepanov manuscript include many elements in the Act One Scène d’amour, sequences of steps in the Peasant pas de deux, Giselle’s first entrance in Act Two, as well as the opening of that act’s adagio for Giselle and Albrecht, and the well-known diagonal formation of the Wilis It seems that Petipa liked much of what he saw in the original choreography and kept it." "...Third, these sources show us characters whose personalities are not quite the same as the ones we are accustomed to—for instance, this Giselle is more high-spirited and feistier. Indeed, in Act One scene iv when Loys fails to appear on time she says (in the Justamant manuscript) “Loys should have come; but he isn’t here; he’s badly behaved and I’m leaving.” When he arrives shortly thereafter, she turns her back on him, saying to herself, “There he is. He will pay me back.” This is a far cry from the emotionally delicate girl we sometimes encounter today in this scene, a girl who seems dependent on Loys’ affection for her sense of well-being and even weeps a few minutes later when the daisy-petal prognostication comes out badly. (This weeping is not mentioned in either of the French manuscripts.) Giselle also openly defies her mother in Act One scene vi and even tries to dance away with Loys at the end of the scene, and in the finale of the same act (in the Justamant manuscript) actually curses Loys. The strength of Giselle’s spirit in the first act helps explain how she is able to defy in Act Two of the most formidable character of all: Myrtha." "Finally, it must be pointed out that both the Justamant and Stepanov manuscripts confirm, rather unsurprisingly, that the dance vocabulary of the time was primarily petit allegro—small, fast steps, primarily jumps and beats—for both men and women, soloists and corps de ballet. Moreover, in the Stepanov manuscript, all women in dancing roles wear pointe shoes."
  5. I saw this streamed live from the Bolshoi this afternoon. Some corrections to the casting above: the beloved Lyudmila Semenyaka performed the role of Berthe this afternoon and was very moving in the role. I have to say that the added and corrected mime adds many layers to the dramatic structure of "Giselle", particularly in Act I. There are several bits that frankly, now I cannot live without. Even the Act I initial tableau has surprises. We see aristocrats walking to the hunt on the upstage higher path while a moment later, peasants walk by in the opposite direction on stage level. We see the class distinctions creating separate worlds that divide Giselle and Count Albrecht in the first few minutes. Hans (Hilarion in most productions) comes onstage and starts to poke around Loys' hut stage right. Albrecht/Loys and Wilfred enter and Hans hides behind a tree upstage and is a witness to their entire conversation. He realizes from the first that Loys in an imposter and his actions are to protect Giselle, not just jealousy. Stealing the sword is to obtain evidence proving his story. Little bits of mime are restored that seem integral: During Berthe's warning pantomime to Giselle about dancing herself to death and becoming a Wili, there is an admonishing finger gesture that is timed exactly to the chords in the orchestra. Bathilde is a kind, modest noblewoman who is sympathetic to Giselle and bewildered, not angered by Albrecht's betrayal. The music is different and longer in some places and the dancing is majorly rearranged. The little dance sequence early in Act I where Giselle and Albrecht dance with the village girls is mostly excised - they enter and dance but briefly. All that dance material is pushed to the sequence late in the act where Giselle is crowned queen of the harvest festival. That is redesigned by Ratmansky as a major "Harvest Festival Grand Pas" with the village girls Act I choreography moved there. It starts with Giselle's diagonal "Spessivtzeva" solo, then comes the peasant pas de deux (traditional but with the steps refined and made more musical and surprising and gorgeously danced by Khokhlova and cutie Alexei Putintsev). After that comes an expanded version of the solo that Albrecht dances earlier in the act in the standard Russian version. This turns into an expanded pas de deux for Giselle and Albrecht. Then we get the group corps dances from both the village girls from earlier in Act I and the harvest revelers combined for a big finish. It is the Duke of Courland, not Bathilde who interrogates Albrecht as to why he is dressed as a peasant.A touching mad scene from Smirnova and curtain. Giselle's actual choreography is completely identical to the standard Russian version - very little changes. Her mime is similar but expanded with subtle and expressive dramatic details. Albrecht's solo is expanded and slightly enlarged from the standard one usually performed earlier in the act. Act II starts with some reveling country bumpkins who are drinking in the forest late at night to music either shortened or cut in the standard version. The Pacific Northwest Ballet had a wise old man come on and tell the revelers to get home as it is Wili witching hour but oddly Ratmansky has Hans/Hilarion push them offstage. He then ignores his own advice by praying over Giselle's grave. This bit frankly can either be cut down or omitted as it is in the standard text. Ratmansky wanted to restore many magical theatrical trick effects to Act II that Perrot and Coralli wanted but were limited by 19th century stage machinery and technology. So both Myrtha and Giselle entered from beneath the stage via a stage elevator through a trap door. Myrtha seems to fly across the rear of the stage left to right via a kind of scooter. Vlashinets is a really strong Myrtha with a huge jump and great control. She seems to fly and float without technical assistance. Giselle initially appears to Albrecht via an alcove covered with a scrim which is lit and she magically materializes by her grave. Giselle (or a Giselle stand-in) later floats on wires above the stage and there is a high tree with a lever contraption for her to drop lilies on Albrecht during that initial encounter. Those bench press lifts with Giselle horizontal have been changed to Albrecht lifting her from the waist overhead with Giselle remaining vertical - it actually looks more authentic and early 19th century that way. The bit where the Wilis form a cross comes after Giselle's wild circle dance when she comes to life - they all circle around her and it ends with them forming a crucifix formation kneeling. This does not make sense since the Wilis are later shown to be repelled by the cross on Giselle's grave - why would they form a cross? The "Fugue des Wilis" comes during the Wilis capture of Albrecht (both that and the killing of Hans/Hilarion is totally restaged). They form a circle around Albrecht and he and Giselle escape the circle and take refuge by the stone cross over her grave. It is a brief but striking moment and Ratmansky's original choreography is imaginative and inventive. Olga Smirnova is technically strong in Act II with excellent entrechats. The pas de deux is mostly exactly the same but Albrecht's solo has a bit where he changes legs that exactly follows the musical structure that I now need to see performed in every production. Smirnova got cheers for her solos, particularly her entrechats but the series en derriere didn't get off the ground very high to give that flying look. The final coda with Albrecht doing a series of high entrechats or brisés has been changed to him dancing around the stage - I think the standard choreography gives one a stronger sense of being forced to dance oneself to death. 99% of Giselle's steps and staging are the same, Albrecht's choreography is majorly retooled. The final scene has Giselle not returning to her own grave but to a bower stage right. She gestures to Albrecht to remain faithful to Bathilde and then she sinks into some enveloping greenery and disappears into the ground. I think she needs to return to her own grave at that point. Evidently, Gauthier and Perrot wanted the covered with grass effect and delayed the premiere back in 1841 Paris. At that point Bathilde enters and Wilfred is supporting Albrecht who reaches towards her in distress and she gazes to him with forgiveness. The final bars of music was originally major key and triumphant rather than those sad sweet minor key phrases we hear in the standard version with Albrecht alone and stumbling around clutching the lilies. Dramatically, this is a very effective version. The choreographic changes will divide some people. I mostly liked them and loved the added subtle details. The Bolshoi performers were uniformly excellent. There were minor technical problems with the transmission at Empire 25 Times Square. Some regular audio dropouts in Act I, some pixelization in Act II and also red lights that randomly appeared that may have been on the Bolshoi technical crew's end.
  6. I also attended the Thursday night Stravinsky & Balanchine program. "Danses Concertantes" is indeed a minor curiosity in the Balanchine oeuvre. The slightness of the ballet combined with the grandeur of the slightly kitsch Eugene Berman sets and costumes are a mismatch. As for Pereira, I agree with the comments above - she dances small, she projects small, she is very sweet but low impact. It was very evident when the various color coordinated soloists made their initial entrance before the front drop that when Erica came on, we saw a corps ballerina not a prima ballerina. A flagship soloist but not principal material - and management is giving her shot after shot. Pereira is not a kid any more despite looking like one - she has had over a decade and many opportunities to "pop" on that stage. She doesn't pop and she never will. Give those roles to Indiana Woodward, Mr. Stafford. Harrison Ball was a fine (and handsome) partner. The other problem is that the principal pas de deux is less interesting than the other trios for the demi-soloists. The trio in red were really fascinating, There are no solos that make an impression - I don't think the prima ballerina has one? In "Monumentum/Movements for Piano and Orchestra", Teresa Reichlen looked sleek, in shape, in control like a prima ballerina. I read here that Suzanne Farrell coached this and it showed in Tess' subtle detail and musical phrasing in her execution of the choreography. Also, Ask La Cour was incredibly focused, sharp and precise as her partner - it is not a showy part but a crucial one and he was incredibly present and musical. I am starting to get Ask these days just as he is about to retire. I love his work as "Phlegmatic" in "The Four Temperaments" and he is a delightful Dr. Stahlbaum in the Nut (luckily preserved on video). I was not as crazy about Lauren Lovette in "Stravinsky Violin Concerto" - I felt she also danced small without attack. Her limbs seemed small and didn't fill out the music. Claire Kretzchmar had the attack and a good deal of the style and is promising - she needs to gain authority. The men, Taylor Stanley and Joseph Gordon were terrific as usual. I think this one might need some extra coaching.
  7. Sean Stewart also left the ABT corps and returned. Frankly, I am still pining for Danny Tidwell, who at last sighting was dancing in Oslo for the Norwegian National Ballet but is no longer there.
  8. Hello everyone, I just checked the Washington DC tour schedule. The master calendar now shows that Skylar Brandt is dancing Giselle with Joo Won Ahn and Katherine Williams on Sunday matinee February 16th. I am very happy for all of them! Not sure if this was discussed before. https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/BUBSE
  9. Gardner and McKerrow created the roles in "Some Assembly Required" (and evidently both casts did beautifully under their direction last week), Natalia Makarova coaches the "La Bayadère" production she staged and choreographed for ABT, Eddie Villella was invited by Ratmansky to coach the mime in "Harlequinade". Gardner and McKerrow are working with the Tudor Trust as well as licensed stagers/regisseurs. Ferri I believe coaches the MacMillan repertory having worked closely with him during her career. I believe that both Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky are headed in the same direction as coaches and regisseurs. I hope ABT makes greater use of them. Radetsky is currently leading the studio company and is a company teacher. I think the steep decline in the level of male dancing in the company is indicative of the lack of training and coaching available in the company. For example, in this last run of "Theme and Variations" neither Cory Stearns nor Joseph Gorak could dance the male solo acceptably. We will see how Joo Won Ahn does this weekend. Since the generation of Hallberg, Gomes and Cornejo, no male dancer of that calibre has emerged from within the company. Daniil Simkin was already an international prodigy when he joined ABT over a decade ago. BTW: this discussion has made me think of some ballets I wish would return to the ABT mixed repertory. One is the "Bruch Violin Concerto" by Clark Tippet that hasn't been done in over a decade. https://www.abt.org/ballet/bruch-violin-concerto-no-1/ Also Makarova staged the "Paquita" Grand Pas for ABT back in the eighties. It was last done in the early nineties when I saw Julie Kent dance the lead ballerina role in it. It would be nice if that came back either restaged by Makarova or have Ratmansky do his a new staging of his authentic version from the Harvard Sergeyev notes. I also would love to see Ashton's "Birthday Offering" come back.
  10. My impression of a lot of Ballet Company AD's like McKenzie and Peter Martins is that they hire ballet masters who will not be a threat to their authority. That is why Martins refused to bring back star dancers like Farrell, Villella, Patricia McBride, Allegra Kent or Melissa Hayden as ballet masters. They had worked longer with Balanchine and could challenge his authority. Someone like Clinton Luckett or Carlos Lopez cannot claim authority over Kevin McKenzie. And they did not dance leading principal roles and therefore cannot teach them to someone like Aran Bell or Joseph Gorak. Aran Bell had to go to Max Beloserkovsky to learn Romeo in the MacMillan R&J. He had never done a lead in a dramatic ballet before. Carlos Lopez was at best a Benvolio or Mandolin Player and couldn't coach him as Romeo. Max evidently got the job done since Aran Bell got excellent notices for his Romeo debut including in the New York Times.
  11. Weird thing - Boylston at age 14 did have lovely port de bras. Here she is at age 14 at the 2001 YAGP: BTW: Boylston herself has been one of the most outspoken critics of the lack of coaching for the ABT dancers. She mentioned that she was working with Susan Jaffe but when Jaffe left to take another position that it left only the octogenarian Irina Kolpakova in charge "and Kolpakova can't coach everyone". The other two female coaches are Nancy Raffa and Susan Jones who mainly handle the corps. The male coaches are Keith Roberts and Carlos Lopez. Lopez was only a soloist at ABT and not a great one.
  12. I attended the "Masters" program on Thursday, October 17th and last night the 22nd. Theme and Variations: Frankly the slow tempos could be seen as adding grandeur and lyricism to the work if the dancing has enough amplitude and strength. Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns who are taller and longer-limbed than the other cast filled out the broader phrases better. Stearns is also an excellent partner and carried himself well except for his solo in which he struggled through the multiple turns traveling a lot around the stage. Teuscher really shone in the ballerina role - she actually has a Balanchine ballerina body - very elongated. Also she is an excellent turner as the late Alicia Alonso was. She looked like a queen on that stage. I was sitting quite close to the stage last Thursday and Sarah did not look nervous or tight to me. Her problems were her conductor and her partner - not small ones which can seriously derail a dancer's performance. Otherwise, she looked lovely. Her problem is that she is small and those slow tempos make her dancing look small and brittle because she lacks the amplitude to fill them out. Faster tempos and a strong partner and she would sparkle in T&V like Tiler Peck and Ashley Bouder do at NYCB. Gorak was exactly as described by the previous posters and his lack of development is disappointing in the extreme. His coach is Keith Roberts and Gorak mentioned in an interview that upper body strength is a problem with him and that he was training to correct that. Frankly, nothing has come of that and he is exactly in the same place he was when he started at ABT. A Gathering of Ghosts: I agree that this is no masterpiece. I found it enjoyable because of Herman and a few of the supporting dancers like Christine Schevchenko and Skylar Brandt. Herman's solos are the best thing in it and reminded me of how well Tharp worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1970's and early 1980's. There was that same creativity and sense of fun and she released something in both Misha and Herman that was not seen with other choreographers. When the costumes weren't pretty, they were humorous. My advice is to totally ignore any suggestion of plot or individual characters - you can ignore "Greased Lightning" and "Madame de Stael" and "Murasaki" as they don't really show up in the choreography. It's just Catherine Hurlin in silver shorts, Joo Won Ahn and Aran Bell up there. And that isn't a bad thing. The Seasons: A choreographic masterpiece. The weird color palette and discordant designs of the costumes and the lack of scenic designs are a problem. I agree with the poster above who said that it looks better on the Koch/State Theater stage. Aran Bell is just out of his teens and had a huge growth spurt less than five years ago - I think he is still growing into his new 6 foot plus body. Hence his odd posture, etc. He will blossom into a tall, handsome man with maturation. The casting changes last night were Zimmi Coker replacing Cassandra Trenary as Rose, Cassandra Trenary replacing Catherine Hurlin as Autumn Bacchante. So Hurlin was the odd woman out but she danced earlier that evening in the Tharp and is scheduled to dance in the "New Romantics" program tonight. I suspect fatigue from a demanding schedule of performances and rehearsals is the culprit. Stella Abrera looked so gorgeous as the Spirit of the Corn - her port de bras really looked creamy and magical and Tom Forster was an excellent partner. He is ready for Siegfried and Albrecht.
  13. Agree with all that is said above. One less reason to attend performances at ABT. I was suspicious that perhaps Stella was pressured to retire but this public-facing Instagram post suggests otherwise:
  14. I will be attending Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Hope to see some of you. Sad to hear that this is not a good production. Makes me angry all over again that ABT didn't buy the sets to Ratmansky's Munich Ballet "Paquita" when the company discarded the production. That one followed the original libretto and the Harvard Library Sergeyev notations.
  15. Casting Asian dancers gets rid of the yellowface problem. No white dancers putting on black wigs and trying to look Asian. Also the ABT dancers I suggested are mostly principals who certainly have merit and the corps dancers merit dancing corps roles.
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