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FauxPas

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Discussing non-white dancers, there is also a lack of Asian dancers in NYCB. I fell into a conversation with Wendy Whelan during the intermission of a recent performance. I was interested in Balanchine ballets that have been out of the repertoire: "Tzigane", "Gounod Symphony" and also "Bugaku". Wendy replied that "Bugaku" is problematic right now with the yellowface and cultural appropriation issues. I mentioned that "Bugaku" might fly if cast with Asian dancers and Wendy replied that they don't have that many in the company right now. So there's that. ABT actually has more Asian dancers and could cast Stella Abrera and Hee Seo in "Bugaku" (Hee is not ideal but she is Asian) and Joo Won Ahn as the partner - maybe Kimin Kim could guest. Plus there are two other Asian men and two girls in the corps de ballet and Zhong Jing Fang, a soloist. The piece requires a soloist couple and four corps couples - so five women and five men. Allegra Kent and Edward Villella are still around to coach it.
  7. I am still missing Danny Tidwell and Eric Tamm who also languished in the shadow of the "Born to Be Wild" generation. Though in the case of Tidwell he got some roles like the Spectre of the Rose and mainly left because he didn't like dancing in a big company. In the current crop, Catherine Hurlin also is being fast tracked and that is a good thing. I will also miss Kaho Ogawa who retired due to career-ending injury, not neglect. Among those who waited over a decade too long for big roles add the name of soloist Zhong-Jing Fang but she also had an injury but like Abrera was allowed to languish too long before opportunities and promotion. Ahn who I saw as Solor has a very clean elegant technique but I have yet to see personality from him. But I am glad he is getting chances. Bell is very young and very promising - we will see if he turns into a Marcelo or into a Cory with time and experience.
  8. No I misremembered it. But the big problem is that McKenzie would nominate just one dancer or maybe two dancers to be the next big star - Hee Seo, Cory Stearns, Isabella Boylston etc. When you have a whole generation of principal dancers who are all about the same age you can't just have one new dancer being groomed. And when a generation retires suddenly you have dancers who have been waiting around for a decade like Misty Copeland, Deven Teuscher and Christine Schevchenko learning all the principal roles all at once in their thirties. Everywhere else dancers are given "Swan Lake" or "Don Quixote" debuts in their twenties. Now it seems from the Fall casting that Ahn and Bell are on the fast track being groomed to do principal roles. Calvin Royal definitely could do more - I like the idea of Apollo. Give Gorak some more chances? It wouldn't hurt to give something to someone else besides Ahn and Bell - Gonzalez, maybe Patrick Frenette, Marshall Whiteley, Cameron McCune or Luigi Crispino? Ratmansky uses Tyler Maloney, Jonathan Klein, Gabe Stone Shayer and others - he always utilizes young talent from the corps and ABT has benefited from it. And there are dancers like Scout Forsythe who I haven't even seen in anything because they have never been given a solo - from what I have heard Forsythe is extremely qualified.
  9. I truly love Gillian Murphy and Stella Abrera but time is against them and they will at some point need to start dropping roles. Abrera is already doing so or is being made to do so. Murphy I suspect, after some post-pregnancy retraining, will bounce back quickly and reclaim 90% of her former repertoire. However, ABT under McKenzie had a bad policy of not teaching and giving performance opportunities to younger dancers to replace the established principals. This process of putting aside performances to cultivate up and coming young talent needs to be done before the retirement of the older generation. In the 20th century, there usually was a Wednesday matinee where two soloists would debut in principal roles. In the aughts, McKenzie started coasting on his star power and guests and stopped building up young dancers. Or he centered his attention on just one dancer like Cory Stearns, Hee Seo or Isabella Boylston and let others idle on the sidelines. These new "stars" were not always the most interesting performers and didn't match up to the dancers they were being groomed to replace. (I like Boylston who is a strong dancer and is growing as an artist especially with good coaching) This was really a crisis around 2012 when the ABT male "dream team" all retired within a few years of each other, Hallberg became perennially injured and Gomes was dismissed for reasons not released to the public. Suddenly there was just Cory, Whiteside and the increasingly fragile Cornejo to take up the slack. There also was a mass retirement of older female principals two years ago which saw the last of Diana, Xiomara, Veronika, Paloma and Julie Kent. I say bring in Skylar Brandt as Kitri and Giselle earlier rather than later in preparation for another wave of retirements in the next five years which will include Abrera, Murphy and probably Copeland further off. Skylar is a good jumper and light and can do difficult terre-a-terre footwork unlike say Copeland or the diminished Abrera (who I love but who came to Giselle at least a decade too late).
  10. I got tickets for all three casts on the weekend of October 12-13. Never have seen a full-length "Paquita". I was curious about this production and it seems that it is by Yuri Smekalov and includes a new libretto and some of his choreography to added music to the Delvadez. From the Mariinsky website: https://www.mariinsky.ru/en/playbill/playbill/2017/4/6/1_1900 "Continuing to revive titles that are significant for the playbill of St Petersburg ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre is presenting a new version of Paquita. This is not a revival of the 19th century production, created in Paris by the ballet-master Joseph Mazilier and which was performed in St Petersburg from 1847 with choreography by Marius Petipa. Choreographer Yuri Smekalov is working on a new three-act ballet using his own libretto based on the plot of the novella La gitanilla by Cervantes. The basis of the score of the new ballet comprises music by Édouard Deldevez that was composed for the Paris premiere of Paquita in 1846. Yet today this one-and-a-half-century-old opus will sound different: the order of the numbers has changed, several of them have been re-orchestrated and, moreover, Deldevez' score has been added to by excerpts from works by Minkus and Drigo. The famous wedding Grand pas staged by Marius Petipa to music by Minkus, which triumphantly crowned the plot of the St Petersburg production, will occupy its place of honour in the new ballet, too. This parade of classical dance that demonstrates the skill of the corps de ballet and the virtuoso qualities of the ballerina and the soloists appeared in the 1881 production, and as an independent piece, unconnected with the ballet's plot, it has survived to this day. It is true that over the decades Petipa's choreographic text has undergone many changes. In the contemporary Paquita, the Grand pas will be included in a version brought close to the historic original – Yuri Burlaka is reviving Petipa's choreography using surviving records of the production from the early 20th century. The new ballet, which combines dances and scenes created by Yuri Smekalov, together with historic rarities, will be a hommage to the golden age of classical ballet, a mark of respect and gratitude of the new ballet generation to the aesthetics of the unsurpassed master of classicism – Marius Petipa." Premiere: 30 March 2017, Mariinsky Theatre Running time 3 hours The performance has two intervals
  11. If I remember correctly, Part was coming off of a back injury the first year of the Ratmansky "Beauty" and did the simpler "Marie Petipa II" variation that first year. The second year she was recovered and did a variation similar to what the other Lilacs were dancing.
  12. Sorry, but I distinctly remember Veronika Part doing a different variation the second time I saw her the Ratmansky production - but it was a later year. It had unsupported pirouettes which the Marie Petipa II variation did not have.
  13. @Roberta I agree - there is nothing basically wrong with the design of the sets, it is the execution. The colors look dead and somehow it has no grandeur or flair. I actually am not a big fan of the new/old 1890 "Sleeping Beauty" design. If I remember there were three set designers or something and the costume designer was working independently. None of the scenery for each act had the same style as the previous. The colors were a riot of discordant hues and there was no color coordination between the costumes and sets. A friend of mine said it looked like an old British panto (Sleeping Beauty is a big popular British panto classic and it was called "Sleeping Princess" for the 1921 production so no one would confuse it with the panto). Also all the costumes for the corps and soloists were not uniform but everyone had a different skirt length and different heavy appliqué accents on the skirts and bodices. So the corps didn't look like a uniform unit but a motley crew of various people dancing together. Didn't the Royal Ballet use a lot of the original Bakst backdrops in the 1946 Messel production? Or am I wrong? I think Diaghilev went bankrupt and the 1921 sets were kept in storage by the creditors or sold to a scenic rental studio. Also, discussing recreations of the 1946 Royal Ballet "Sleeping Beauty", I believe that ABT's first full "Sleeping Beauty" production was one by Mary Skeaping which attempted to recreate the 1946 Royal Ballet production but came out as a pale carbon copy done on the cheap. The costumes looked flimsy and synthetic I somehow remember. It was shown on television c. 1976-77 with Cynthia Gregory, Fernando Bujones and Jolanda Menendez. Fuzzy deteriorating Betamax copies of that telecast are seen in Youtube clips.
  14. That toe pedestal effect in the Vision Scene was always in the production. I also saw the same effect in the new/old Vikharev reconstruction with the Mariinsky when it toured to New York. In the standard Kirov Konstantin Sergeyev and other later British and Soviet productions the effect was done without the toe hold platform by having Aurora go up on pointe in arabesque and pose and the Lilac Fairy would support her by rotating her with her lilac walking stick.
  15. @California Ratmansky has altered and revised this "Beauty" every season it has been revived. The first year Part as the Lilac Fairy did a solo variation in the prologue that the Harvard collection Sergeyeff notations said was performed by Marie Petipa II from the 1890 premiere - it was mainly posing and minimal pointe work. (the beauteous Marie Petipa II was mainly a character dancer who according to Ekaterina Vazem had not gone through the full training program at the Imperial Ballet School.) Other ballerinas did a Lilac variation from the Sergeyeff notes credited to Lyubov Egorova that was more demanding. Part did a different variation the next year when she returned as Lilac. Also the revival season had new character dances in the Act III Wedding Scene that Bronislava Nijinska had devised for the Diaghilev production in London - one was a Russian Dance for the Five Ivans that used music from "The Nutcracker". Also, some of the low arabesques and demi-pointe had been toned down. The difficult solo male variation for Prince Desiré in Act III was the one performed by Nicholas Legat when he danced it in a revival at the Maryinsky. Gerdt probably did something simpler. Frankly, I had wildly conflicting feelings about it in its first season (less when I saw it with Gomes/Vishneva) but liked it better in the revival seasons. Ratmansky's modifications and the dancers' increasing comfort with the alien style made it cohere better. I think Ratmansky might have relented a bit about the low legs and demi-pointe too. I actually think that the NYCB has a prettier production with better design. Don't like the speeded up tempos and rushed dancing there though.
  16. I think that the design is dreary and the costumes are bulky and awkward. Better than the "Barbie Sleeping Beauty by Mattel" look of the Kirkland production (remember that Aurora was the daughter of the Burger King?, the daisies on the suspenders the boys wore in the Garland Dance and the Scottish Prince in purple tartan with maribou accents? - he was FABULOUS!!!) However, not all ballerinas looked comfortable or happy with the demi-pointe especially for chainés, the low arabesques and extensions. Gillian Murphy looked cramped like she was dancing with sandbags tied around her legs and it put a cloud over her performance. Her body didn't want to do the steps that way. Paloma Herrera, who was a very good Aurora back in the day in earlier ABT productions, was assigned the Ratmansky Beauty for her farewell and refused to dance it in New York - she chose to leave ABT in a Wednesday matinee Giselle with Bolle. Actually, the smaller scale 19th century technique helped Hee Seo who is pretty limited and low impact technically. Though Hee couldn't do the Rose Adagio balances usually - once she fell backward and had to be caught by the foreign prince. Boylston and Lane have adjusted to it well and so did late career Vishneva. Also the variation for Prince Desiré with all those Bournonville-type leg batterie looks good on short compact dancers like Cornejo and Gorak but was awkward for tall guys with longer legs like Marcelo Gomes. In Petipa's day they were unabashed about substituting choreography to suit the dancer. If the ballerina could do a certain step a certain way, I am sure Petipa would have accommodated the prima most of the time and adjusted his choreography.
  17. By the way, in the comments of Sarah Lane’s Instagram post showing her bows on Wednesday night, someone asked if she will be dancing Saturday night. Sarah Lane replied “No, I won’t be” with an emoji that looked like a raised eyebrow blowing a kiss.
  18. FauxPas back for a fuller report on Acts III and IV: So Calvin Royal III was the Purple Pimp and Roman Zhurbin is Swamp Thing. Nancy Raffa is Queen Mama. Act III is the usual affair with good work in the national dances by Arron Scott and Gabe Stone Shayer as the Neapolitan Boys. Calvin Royal III is a flamboyant and enticing Purple Rothbart with sweeping turns and flashing eyes - not Marcelo Gomes or Vladimir Malakhov but damn good. His solo to the Russian Dance is exciting. Then there is that balance - that wasn't. He kind of got halfway up into the arabesque and just quit and put the leg down. Royal still got a huge hand at the end of his solo. Now for Sarah as Odile. Tapping into her dark side and sexuality as Manon has unleashed a certain power to Sarah's stage presence and dance authority. As Odile, Sarah had a kind of dark, glittering beauty - the smile was commanding and just a bit contemptuous. The black hair against her pale skin with her bright red lips gave her a combo Snow White/Evil Queen allure. The pas de deux with Herman was danced with stunning authority including a long held balance that bodes well for Aurora next week. Herman's solo was beautifully danced with buoyant jumps and turns. Odile's solo pas begins with unsupported pirouettes that were impressively fast and secure and presaged well for her fouettés in the coda. I noticed that Sarah was beginning to push a bit and some of the turns looked pressed - during one traveling pirouette downstage Lane momentarily went off toe. It was a millisecond error and passed by in a blink of an eye. In the coda, Herman took flight and tore off some whiplash tours à la seconde. Then came the dreaded fouetté sequence: Sarah started off strongly with single-single-double-repeat for nearly half the sequence. But she was already positioned left of center stage and started to travel downstage left on her turns. In order to regain control and finish the sequence, Lane switched to solid singles and continued those until the end of the music. She traveled less and ended the sequence securely. (Charles Barker conducted with no problems except for some flatting horns). Sarah and Herman got a big ovation at the end from a Misty fan club audience. On the way out I heard a young woman say: "That black swan was just so perfect - she was like needlepoint." Act IV: Misty seems relaxed and in her element here. The choreography puts less pressure on her feet and highlights Odette's emotions. Misty has great chemistry with Herman and a more human character to represent - a suffering woman who has been betrayed but still needs to forgive. Given Misty's difficulty in holding balances in arabesque and strained looking developpees in Act II, I think the problem was pain in her feet or a pulled muscle that was not enough to cancel but caused discomfort. She looked limited in Act II as if she could not stretch the limbs more. Misty has had many foot injuries and admitted in an ABT Talk that she dances in constant pain. I suspect that in taking class or warming up the afternoon before the show, Copeland realized her feet were not in good shape and that discretion is the better part of valor. To push through Act III with a bad foot was probably going to lead to accident and/or injury. Better to work her way through Act II, take a long rest and come back for the shorter Act IV. Anyway, at the final bows Herman brought out both Misty and Sarah and all three took ensemble bows. Sarah Lane got to bring on Charles Barker for his bow. At the final front of gold curtain solo bows, first Herman came out, then Sarah Lane and finally Misty to a huge fan ovation. BTW: the production is starting to look tired with musty wrinkled backdrops. With great casts like Nina Ananiashvili and Julio Bocca or Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes, the oddities and missteps of McKenzie's production didn't matter much against the success of the evening. With less authoritative superstar principals, the production looks trite, rushed and flat with silly details standing out more. Given the current weak male roster, Purple Pimp Rothbart is a star turn that usually lacks a star - it was designed for the "Born to Be Wild" male dream team that has passed on into history.
  19. Just over: Sarah Lane was a scintillating glittering Odile who completed the fouettés and brought down the house. Herman caught fire. Fuller report to come soon.
  20. Intermission report: Interesting performance tonight. Act I was very good. Herman a refined, introspective Siegfried. The pas de trois featured Luis Ribagorda as Benno partnering Luciana Paris and Betsy McBride. Paris danced with lots of animation though few match Erica Cornejo in the coda (she is on the DVD). McBride with her broad smile, gorgeous port de bras and crisp footwork was an unalloyed delight. More please. Ribagorda danced with dash and attack and brio. Act II: Misty doesn’t look obviously injured. However her entrance and solo as Odette require the ballerina to hold an arabesque and balance for a few seconds. Misty didn’t hold the arabesque and got off it quickly. There was one bobble on the developpes in her solo. She is a good turner. Otherwise, Misty is an attractive and pleasing but not profound or grand exponent of Odette. The curves of her body create gorgeous lines. Her toffee caramel complexion looks ravishing against her white tutu. He is naturally a warm stage personality who is responsive and sympathetic. She is not a doomed victim of fate. She and Herman have a wonderful rapport and by the end of the pas de deux they were both lovely.
  21. Irina and Max are not official coaches for ABT but they have privately coached Sarah Lane, Skyler Brandt and Christine Schevchenko. Irina and Max coached Sarah Lane in her one last minute ABT "Swan Lake" and also coached Aran Bell for his debut as Romeo. They often attend performances to see the results of their coaching. I spoke once to Irina at the intermission of "Onegin" a season or two ago where Skyler Brandt was Olga and Dvorovenko was there to see the results of their work together. Re: Canbelto's comment on their dance enthusiasm - I also saw Irina, Max and their daughter Emma at Jazz at Lincoln Center where they were attending a performance by Lynda Carter ("Wonder Woman" before Gal Gadot) who is a knockout rhythm and blues singer and performs twice a year at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room with a kickass Nashville band. They seemed to be big fans. Irina is always made up and dressed to the nines. On another note: Irina with her glamour and dramatic flair would have been a fabulous Manon back in the day and probably could still dance it!
  22. I saw Cory Stearns dance Des Grieux in 2014 with Polina Semionova. He is one of two Des Grieuxs (the other being Bolle) who have danced the role before. All four Manons and Cornejo and Hallberg are role debuts. Like California, I also attended both the afternoon and evening performances yesterday. The thing about "Manon" is you need strong chemistry between the leads. Neither performance yesterday had that chemistry. Misty Copeland had a very strong debut as Manon - I think she is well cast in the role actually. Misty has engaging youthful charm (and Manon needs charm since she doesn't treat people well) and also a natural unaffected sensuality. The choreography doesn't require more technique than she has and the beautiful curves of her torso and legs give a sensual line to the choreography. Misty is also a very good actress with natural facial expressions and a lovely smile. Her Act I Manon worked for me in the first scene as an open, curious teenager with lots of joie de vivre discovering the world and the power of her sexuality. The second act worldly courtesan was less convincing - Misty just didn't radiate quite enough sophisticated glamour and looked like a small-town girl dressed up in borrowed finery. (Diana Vishneva was the only ballerina who really convinced me as the superstar courtesan in Act II) Misty also is small and was very light when lifted and carried and her back is flexible. The final scenes were very well done by Misty who was quite intense. Her Manon was full of a lust for life and experience that made you see why Des Grieux has trouble letting her go - she didn't seem mean spirited just emotionally naive and morally undeveloped. I think this was a very good start with room for further refinement. Misty can take this role around the world as she has with her MacMillan Juliet. Cory was Cory. The first solo was dull if competently enough danced. He didn't give as much back to Misty and she gave to him though he partnered her well. Cory has always looks very handsome and his body has beautiful lines and placement. Other than that he is a cipher. The real life came from Calvin Royal III and Catherine Hurlin as Lescaut and his Mistress. Calvin had lots of bad boy fun in him and danced the hell out of the part. Hurlin is really having a breakthrough season - her dancing was clean and vibrant. Her characterization was of a young, saucy good time girl with zero f*cks to give. She was a good natured cocotte who didn't care what happened as long as she was making a good living while having a good time. Her second act showed real potential as a comic actress with lots of witty dramatic touches. Her dancing was excellent throughout. Hurlin is moving fast and really making the most of every opportunity. The evening show was quite different. David Hallberg showed that Des Grieux is a role that he was born to dance - he really brought out the naive poetic quality in Des Grieux as no one has since Vladimir Malakhov danced it with Vishneva. Marcelo was very dramatic in a Latin lover way but David is more the sensitive, dreamy naif from Prevost's novel. I found his acting full of nuance and feeling - he really brought the character's emotional dilemma to vivid, painful reality. Hallberg's line is beautiful and his port de bras a dream. The refinement in his dancing mirrors that of the creator Antony Dowell. His partnering was good, not great and quite careful but he also has had shoulder and arm injuries. Of course, one can only imagine what might have been had this been ten years ago and pre-injury Hallberg was partnered with Osipova. For right now in his late thirties and after nearly career-ending injuries, this was a minor miracle. I found Isabella Boylston too strong as Manon and not ideally cast. Her real role in this ballet is Lescaut's Mistress - it has harder footwork and turns and is a sassier, pluckier character. Boylston has great technique and her footwork and chainés were impressive all night. She and Hallberg have danced together a lot lately and worked well together. Her Manon seemed experienced in the first scene and in the second scene of Act I she seemed to immediately become a calculating, cynical prostitute before our eyes. It seemed to me that Boylston's Manon was basically a prostitute from the get go and the innocence was an act she quickly dropped when Msr. G.M. shows her the money. Her Act II was well-danced - particularly her solo - but I didn't see what made Manon the object of every man's attention in the room. I also wasn't heartbroken for her at the end. As I said, her role is the Mistress not Manon. Blaine Hoven and Christine Schevchenko danced and acted the hell out of Lescaut and his Mistress. Hoven's trick jumps and turns were virtuosic and he seemed to outdance Hallberg. Whiteside had just a little more hammy insouciance and acting ability but Hoven delivered a bravura dance performance. Schevchenko danced better on a technical level than any other Mistress though the experienced Stella Abrera had more nuance. Schevchenko also was very funny in Act II with great comic reactions. The drunk pas de deux was a big hit with the audience in both the matinee and evening performances. Tom Forster was very menacing and sadistic as the Jailer. For those who want to know: the sets and costumes are the original Nicholas Georgiadis production from the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and the music is in the arrangement and orchestration by Martin Yates. Some years ago ABT borrowed a rather dingy production by Peter Farmer from Houston Ballet. This borrowed production from the ROH looks in good condition and is luxe - in particular the costumes. One detail I am missing or did I imagine it? In Act II during Manon's solo which turns into that sequence where she is carried aloft and passed from man to man - I remember that during this scene all the men in the room are fixated on Manon and are starting to approach her by the end. In this staging, the other male partygoers are dallying with other prostitutes and ignoring Manon during her solo and then suddenly converge on her when it is over. You don't get that sense of Manon seducing everyone.
  23. Last night's performance was generally a great success - everyone danced well, the production looked handsome, it was well-coached and staged by Robert Tewsley and Julie Lincoln and the audience was enthusiastically appreciative at the end. If one had seen the ballet with Ferri and Bocca or Vishneva with either Malakhov or Gomes as I have (and most of you have), then it was just a pleasing, diverting evening but nothing earth-shattering. We'll start with Roberto Bolle - he has not aged in his appearance and his face and body are like an Apollo still. However, I noticed in his first solo that there were some stamina problems which suggest he is retiring just in time. Chevalier Des Grieux's first solo, choreographed for Antony Dowell, looks deceptively simple and is slow and unflashy but is actually very exposed. This solo requires perfect form, technique, control and strength to stretch out those arabesques from the fingertips to the toes and sustain them without wobbling with no breaks. There are also balances. Bolle in the first solo was sort of start and stop with breaks between the steps and really didn't do balances. He is still an AMAZING partner and Hee Seo just flew around up and over his shoulders and back like a bird. He caught her like she weighed nothing. I did notice that he warmed up over the evening and by the third act was in good form. He got entrance applause and a standing ovation at the end. Hee Seo is a lovely Manon but not a heartbreaking one. I know that Alessandra Ferri is around to coach the MacMillan ballets for ABT and though I have no inside information, it looked as if Seo was expertly coached. She danced beautifully and seemed to have the details down. Of course, other dancers have had more flexible backs or extensions but she was lovely. However, the temperature didn't rise above mildly warm in those passionate pas de deuxs - if you saw either of the pairs I cited above you would see that Seo was lacking in passion and also a certain reckless sexuality. Ferri or Vishneva looked like they were going to jump over the heads of their Des Grieuxs when they ran into his arms - Seo was safe and sweet. I liked her dancing a lot, but in the first scene she seemed a poised debutante not a sexually precocious innocent and her courtesan in Act II was elegant but not a femme fatale. I thought this was very excellent Seo but just "nice" Manon. James Whiteside really went over the top and took risks as Lescaut and stole all his scenes - he is really a remarkably versatile and creative artist. Stella Abrera as Lescaut's Mistress had the kind of diabolical sensuality, strong stage presence and authority that I felt Seo lacked. She really should be dancing Manon. I actually think the Mistress might have more difficult and demanding solo choreography than Manon and Stella danced with polish and style. The supporting cast featured such "A" team players like a disturbingly corrupt Roman Zhurbin as Msr. G.M. and Martine Van Hamel as Madame. Everyone was working well together and this looked thoroughly rehearsed. Unlike Jane Eyre, this really is a ballet that projects well in a big opera house with visual spectacle and good use of the corps and supers. Everyone seemed very happy to be there and felt they got their money's worth.
  24. I was also at the Saturday matinee. Interesting how those that saw it with Forster/Boylston liked the work and those who saw the Whiteside/Teuscher cast disliked it. I think this work depends a lot on the performers. For example, in the first night cast every critic and commenter singled out Stella Abrera as Blanche Ingraham - her incredible presence and projection. On Saturday afternoon, Hee Seo danced the role and it was a blank. Pleasant but unmemorable and didn't seem important. Agree that Thomas Forster made a very persuasive leading man. The foot thing seems a witty visual gesture to suggest Mr. Rochester's offhand but domineering personality and his way of imposing his strong personality when dealing with others. It is in the book but hard to capture without dialogue - Marston found a clever visual analogue. Regarding the ballet itself: I had a similar reaction to the others - I don't feel a strong attraction to see the work again but I found Cathy Marston's fusion of ballet, modern dance and expressive mimetic gesture interesting. I think in the last century or more in ballet we are focusing too much on footwork and steps in the lower body and not enough upper body dancing, port de bras and expressiveness. This is why I think "Jane Eyre" and Cathy Marston might be a great thing for this generation of ABT dancers. The use of upper body expression and movement was consistently fascinating and full of subtle detail and psychological insight. Also Marston got some excellent dramatic acting from dancers we don't expect that from. But that is what is lacking in today's young dancers and what Marston managed to elicit from this cast. The actual ballet steps were really basic and not very diverse. Elaborate ballet steps and jumps and turns project better in a big house. If you are in a 5,000 seat opera house you will lose the small details in the upper body and the expression in the faces. ABT Fan was sitting in row D and probably got more out of Marston's choreography because they were close to the stage. "Jane Eyre" looks like it belongs on the City Center stage, not the Met. Even the Koch/NY State Theater would be better. Did anyone see the Copeland/Stearns cast?
  25. The master calendar on the ABT website is full of oddities currently. They have retired ABT principal and current staff coach Keith Roberts listed as Prince Desiré partnering both Sarah Lane and Cassandra Trenary. The Metropolitan Opera website lists Roberts as dancing Carabosse at those performances and Gorak partnering Trenary and Cornejo partnering Lane. Sloppy! Update: Rechecked and the ABT calendar is being updated to include the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse but they have the order of the dancers wrong!
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