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Everything posted by beck_hen

  1. Oh wow. I can't imagine anything I'd like to see more than those two Ashton pas de deux—if they can come anywhere near the Sibley/Dowell performances in the Dowell documentary at the NYPL, which are sublime. I've seen the Bussell/Cope version of Awakening and it didn't have the same magic.
  2. I was there last night too—apologies for being longwinded, I'll probably split posts... About the Peasant pdd I find Giselle the most perfect dramatic ballet, with no narrative interruption, IF the peasant couple acts as if they are in love. Then, there is a wonderful dramatic contrast between their sunny, uncomplicated love of equals and Giselle's doomed mismatch. Simkin's own dancing was spectacular (over-the-top and pulling it off), but he did a disservice to the narrative flow of the act and to Lane. Standard promenades and pirouettes had off timing where her lovely positions were not allowed to flower, and rotations were not drawn out and molded to the music. It happened, but it didn't HAPPEN, though there was enjoyable dancing from both. Looking through my opera glasses, I decided that her fixed smile has indeed become a bad habit. I believe she is holding tension in her face that does not come out in her dancing, which has sweep and clarity. It's an unenviable position, going up against the virtuosity of Simkin and Cornejo. For me she would be completely up to the task if she can relax her facial expressions and they are a bit more gallant. Favorite Act I moments Nina's first entrance: the trick of timing where she ended her phrases up on point, attitude, hand to her ear listening for him. Her eagerness is on the music. The first run-in between Hilarion and Giselle and Albrecht: the sweetness and gentleness of her smile and hands as she indicates she's in love with Albrecht. Nina's Romantic style Nina's Giselle was not the most dramatically convincing Giselle I have seen. For guilelessness, a pure soul too good for this world, I liked Amanda McKerrow, and Julie Kent and even Xiomara Reyes (in her best role) are also good in this vein. For a totally unique and compelling contemporary take on the role, I loved Vishneva's female Rimbaud of a few years ago, burning the candle at both ends and bursting forth as a loving spirit. There was such a through-line between the two halves; it's a Vishneva trademark that she can never appear as a passive actor, she is always an agent in her own destiny. I suppose I agree with Leigh Witchel that Nina is dancing the idea of Giselle, because I am conscious of the ballerina's art throughout. But what a transcendent experience! Stylistically the second act was the best I've ever seen, a ballerina master class I wish I could see dozens more times. I would need to in order to fix in my mind everything she did. If she is wafting through a book of lithographs, then it is a 32-volume Encyclopedia Britannica. The final pose of the pas de deux: she reaches the arabesque behind him, but she and the music are not finished, she is still moving. Quite by accident I found a quotation by Maina Gielgud in a danceviewtimes interview: "In relation to phrasing, I can always remember how, for example, Markova, Alonso and Rosella Hightower, or Nina Vyroubova in another way, would sustain 'living' positions on pointe (I mean not dead balances), which made it look as though time was suspended. One had simply no idea of what was going to come next. The unexpected." I'm off to Osipova/Hallberg/Part. Last night was probably impossible to follow. More on Nina, Murphy and Carreno later, plus new cast.
  3. A promotion or two or three or four is definitely in order. I am eagerly waiting to see who will be selected to compete for the Erik Bruhn prize. That will be a big clue, after all, the last competitors were Wiles, who won, and Hallberg, who didn't win but has since blossomed into a danseur of world-class stature.
  4. Forgive the bad pun, but somehow I feel this discussion has come full circle. If there is a consensus, it is that the fouettes are both fun and irreplaceable. In that case, Vipa's advice is best. It is true I've seen videos of corps members performing spectacular fouettes (Zhong-Jing Fang!)—there is no shortage of dancers who can do them. Meanwhile, I'll continue to enjoy some of the dancers who can just barely get through them.
  5. For me personally, they are not important. I accept the argument that they exemplify Odile's cunning and overpowering character, but I am still taken out of the flow of the story at that moment because we are all evaluating the technical feat. Plus, there isn't too much to discuss about this aspect of a ballerina's performance. Can she or can't she? If she can't, is she still worth seeing? I have never seen a dancer equally strong as Odette and as Odile, but I am more disappointed by Odettes without poetry than Odiles without fouettes. One role where I do expect pyrotechnics is Kitri. But the swan is a more multifaceted role, with different demands. Edited to add: I think I view the role like the all-around competition in gymnastics. Adagio, bravura, drama, musicality—are all required. I prefer not to see the event specialists, but the one who can weave the elements together into a convincing whole.
  6. Hmm, maybe I will see that program after all. Thanks drb!
  7. I've only seen it twice, but I feel like I could never tire of Episodes. It's as if a gloriously weird dialect of classical ballet (and music) developed independently in a parallel universe. I think Janie Taylor's performance in the third section was the highlight of the ballet. It may seem to be a reach, but for me, the choreography of the third section references Coppelia. There's no Dr. Coppelius figure; the dancers are like dolls who teach themselves how to dance. There are some spastic movements but Taylor presented them as if they were completely natural and unpremeditated, like synapses firing. Abi Stafford was good in the first section, but her approach was in direct contrast to Taylor's. I could see her shaping the tensing and releasing movements deliberately. Very apples and oranges, and if I had to pick I'd take Taylor's apple. Ellen Bar didn't live up to my memory of Teresa Reichlen in the second section. I don't like to base my opinion on physique, but Reichlen's unusual suppleness was so effective in that part. She made her splayed limbs look remarkable and strange, like I was watching a scary insect mating ritual. Yes, that's actually a compliment! Maria K. was very stately and beautiful in the final section, but a tad bland? It seems like a challenge to link the more conventional finale to the bizarre things that happened before. As a ballet, I thought Tribute was kind of boring, not singular enough compared to the other works on the program or in the repertoire. It did make the dancers look good, though. I agree with everyone else, Devin Alberda's solo, wow. Was that choreographed on him? What a difference it makes when that's the case. Bouder gave her role the full ballerina treatment, but I wondered if she was pushing a narrative that wasn't really there in the ballet, some romantic quest that none of the other dancers recognized. She was exquisite anyway. I'd like to see her in more story ballets. Vienna Waltzes is great theater! It was cast so appropriately, it's hard to believe that's the second cast. Mearns is someone you want to see waltz. She was both elegant, excited and a bit shy, very Young Girl in Spectre de la Rose. Jared Angle showed pleasant refinement as her partner. I don't yet see the shading in the relationship provided by Rutherford and Hubbe, whose take on it is a small masterpiece, in my view. I could feel the world narrow to just the two of them. But a good debut. Miranda Weese was in impressive form whipping off chaines, and Jennifer Ringer spectacularly nailed the woman of experience role. Even though I'm not crazy about Tribute, I think this is a well-constructed program. While I could discern the different flavors among the leotard ballets on the Stravinsky/Balanchine bill, as an evening it was too much of a good thing. Contrast is illuminating.
  8. Great news, and I think we saw it coming through his casting of late. I'll be the first, but I'm sure not the last, to say I'm a little curious about the lack of female promotions. At this point, I would love to see the corps ladies enter a POB-style concours for soloist spots. Either that or find a way to shrink myself and sprout wings so I can be the fly on the wall of Kevin McKenzie's office.
  9. I feel like the ballet is a contest between the choreographer and the dancers. There should be no doubts or fudging. They need to assert mastery. If you question what's happening at all, they're not doing it right. On the other hand, it's not that the piece can or should be 100% clean, given the element of risk and excitement in the choreography. Bart, you're an old NYCB fan, I think? As in that company's style and repertoire, there is somehow a distinction between good messy and bad messy, between pushing the envelope and barely keeping up. But really comparing casts was the only means for me to articulate these distinctions at all... The contrast between the stompers and the classical dancers matters, but the latter shouldn't be too classical. I'm looking for crisp, all-out, uninflected. Herrera and Dvorovenko were both able to leave their usual styles behind and achieve this, and I also saw it from Yuriko Kajiya.
  10. I think the word we're looking for to describe it is "cathartic." (Of course, I can experience catharsis from a great Giselle or Swan Lake, but of quite a different kind.) I think Natalia's point about the intensity of live performance is important. The stage magic of story ballets can look dated and artificial compared to the special effects in movies, but this piece's effect could not be supplanted in that way. At one point I thought Tharp was trying to kill the dancers. She stretched the ballet form close to the breaking point (I find hers the definitive statement on this, and could skip a lot of Forsythe works as a result), but the mood of the piece is ultimately optimistic and triumphant. She matched and commented on the excess of the music. I've been less happy with works to Glass by other choreographers; they just weren't as clever. I'm a bit surprised so many companies are taking it on, since even ABT's second cast struggled with it. The first cast was wonderful. Ethan Stiefel was the best I've ever seen him.
  11. Yes and yes, and I'm one of those. Not that my seats are the best, but well placed in the section I can afford. It does make sense to subscribe, particularly since you can exchange out of the duds in your series. However, I'm always letting mine lapse until they finally call me not wanting to lose my subscription. This is mostly because of the casting issues mentioned. The "make your own series" was a new innovation last year, and I was really pleased about it. Maybe it wasn't that popular and got dropped, because I would have expected to see it mentioned in one of several brochures I've received. If it were offered I probably would have bought my tickets already, instead of agonizing over which series I should pick in order to have the least hassle with exchanges. Like so many people now, I like buying my tickets at the last minute and I don't necessarily want to set aside a certain day of the week for a subscription. I know this is also a problem in the classical music world. They can rest a lot easier with a certain number of birds in hand, rather than having them all in the bush until half an hour before the performance. In terms of creative subscriptions, I wouldn't mind a buy X, get one free card like you get at sandwich shops, bakeries or coffee places. But that doesn't seem too realistic, and I don't mean to demean a ballet performance to the level of a bagel.
  12. I can only echo that sentiment. I feel Lane has in her favor a fervency, freshness and innocence to her presentation that is unusual, helpfully married to technical aplomb. Maybe in the past this was par for the course for a young dancer, but more seem to be ironic, studied, coy, or simply direct rather than evocative. She dances her roles rather than "selling" them. What do I know? I'm young and jaded myself. I read somewhere a ballerina should possess generosity of spirit, and I have caught glimpses of that from her. Also, it was noted at the time, her performance as a lead in Quanz's Kaleidoscope definitely looked like a preview for Princess Aurora on her birthday.
  13. I'm thrilled Gomes has found another signature role, and will be lining up to see it! On Cornejo in starring roles: picking up the nuances of partnering is an area I need to improve in. However, as far as I can tell, Cornejo isn't the greatest at it, in a way that's not just a function of his height. I think ABT appreciates him and is eager to offer him opportunities, but this poses a problem... Parenthetically, sensing a lukewarm reception of Rasta Thomas here, I'm really hoping former ABTer Danny Tidwell doesn't follow the same peripatetic path. I saw that Complexions Ballet, where he was dancing recently, was on at the Joyce, and thought I might get a ticket partly in order to see him. He's no longer on the roster (though many will be interested to know Monique Meunier is), and a look at his website shows he's started a magazine (with Thomas gracing the first cover) and is appearing in a show in L.A. More power to him, but I wonder how he will develop artistically going it alone. And then I'm selfish, and if dancers are in major companies I know I will be able to see them.
  14. I think if you're as big a star as she is, the companies you guest with allow you quite a bit of latitude. She probably always does the pas de deux and her solo work the same way, and only needs to rehearse the blocking and mime scenes with the company. Of course, I also detect a hint of sarcasm in that review...
  15. Carreno indeed has prodigious technique and presence, but over the last four years I've attended a string of performances where he lacked chemistry with his partners. His Siegfried and Apollo looked cold and impassive compared to my vivid memories of him on the night of Susan Jaffe's farewell performance of Giselle. Of course, that was a special night, and one other poster wrote the only flaw in it was that Albrecht loved Giselle too much—he wouldn't have betrayed her. Even aside from flat partnerships, I've never seen him as a dance actor who disappears inside his roles. Of course he does inhabit them appropriately and often thrillingly. I think he is a true premier danseur, so I am happy to watch Carreno be Carreno. I don't know if that distinction makes sense, though it is clear in my own mind, and actually not intended as a disparagement of his obvious talents. And of course I have not yet seen Hallberg in Othello yet, so who knows. My opinion of him is based on attending somewhat dramatically bland performances by him in Raymonda and Swan Lake several years ago, and then hitting the jackpot with a series of striking, nuanced and varied performances by him. Playing Death in The Green Table seemed to unlock something in him. His Afternoon of a Faun with Abrera was exquisite, sensual and mysterious, so much so that some posters left the mixed bill afterwards rather than have it clouded in their minds. I was very fascinated by the way he used his physical gifts to enhance his interpretations. As Death, he made a perfect fifth position something terrifying, slamming into it in those boots. As the faun, the way he stared at his own perfectly-turned out developpe was the ultimate expression of narcissism. I saw him do a Siegfried where he involved the entire company in his portrayal. His interactions with Freddie Franklin's Tutor created an incredible amount of character development. A company dancer in the best sense. Also a good debut as Romeo with Herrera, who looks very lively with him. And many other enjoyable occasions... I suppose I just have that happy feeling of being there at some of the milestones in his career, whereas Jose was certainly fully-formed by the time I got to see him. Gomes I also watch with interest, particularly in juicier character roles, since he seems to enjoy them the most. Once you've seen his Von Rothbart, you really don't want anyone else. In my opinion, something about him just seems to connect with his partners and the audience when he is onstage. He has a stronger pull, and some dramatic alchemy occurs. The only thing that worries me is that sometimes he looks a tiny bit bored in the straightforward classical roles, even though he always brings out the best in his ballerina. I can imagine him mentally raising his eyebrows at Prince Charming, thinking "This guy would be more fun if he weren't a cardboard fantasy-figure... where's the evil?" But that's my overactive imagination. At least he seems to have a restlessness that says dance actor to me.
  16. You all are whetting my appetite for the Met season! And it would only be carping to say I find Hallberg and Gomes better actors than Carreno, or the former soloist Erica Cornejo the best Cowgirl—an embarrassment of riches at ABT now. I'm glad people are noticing Abrera and Kajiya because they are my favorites as well. How will they be cast in Sleeping Beauty... I think Kajiya would be lovely as Princess Florine.
  17. Leigh, I was living in your universe. The two moments you mention struck me as major gaffes, although I experienced the overall performance as absolutely thrilling. Bouder has such audacity—she has the ability to be more in control than any other ballerina, but you can see her sometimes trying to exceed her own limits, watch her taking the risks. The timing and scale of her renverses in the Vision scene were on that edge for me. Can I pull it around at the last possible moment? Whew, watching her is like riding a rollercoaster. By this I don't mean to imply she fell out of character; I was fully convinced she was the shining center of her world (on Saturday evening Reichlen's Lilac stole the spotlight from, and drove the story instead of, Ringer's Aurora, IMO). About those fish dives. I'd like to see them done the way they were in the Fonteyn-Somes and Fonteyn-Blair videos: BAM! like magic, out of nowhere. Ringer and Neal completely exposed the mechanics Saturday night when she paused in arabesque coming out of the pirouettes. Also, I thought Abi Stafford's staccato approach to Princess Florine was completely wrong, no matter whether the character is viewed as a bird or an enchanted princess. An off note. It's difficult for me to judge the production since it's the first Sleeping Beauty I've seen live. Still, for me it felt like an amuse bouche for ABT's outing on the grand stage of the Met, with fantasy casts I'm already dreaming up (Murphy Aurora, Hallberg Desire, Part Lilac, Cornejo-Lane Bluebird, Fang Kajiya Copeland Boone Schulte fairies...). Dramatically it is so condensed it doesn't really hold together. Some action is so brief as to be comical. At this rate, doing away with the hunting scene entirely would be fine. The Awakening is also a bust. I'd prefer another intermission to stretch my legs, with the conventional division of scenes restored.
  18. That was the part that stood out for me, too, and I'm not sure I know what it means. But it does remind me of the close working group around Kenneth Macmillan described by Lynn Seymour in her autobiography. In the early years it included her and other dancers or designers for the Royal's touring company, I really forget the details. It is at least refreshing to expect the dancers to contribute to the content of his work, as opposed to the infantilization that often takes place.
  19. Okay, I concede she should not necessarily be let go, which I gather would be impossible to do anyway. However I don't feel that her public statements, focusing on her own political rights rather than the understandable offense taken by her colleagues and part of her audience, promote healing and moving on from this incident in any way.
  20. I agree with papeetepatrick that Clarke's potential employment woes are the just consequence of her poor decisions, rather than a political witchhunt. Almost all private companies today have mission statements, nonprofits or government-supported enterprises like ballet companies do also. As far as I know, for a ballet company today that mission or vision includes reaching out to the local community and fostering a new level of inclusiveness in the ballet audience. Ms. Clarke's public statements run counter to that goal; as an employee she cannot fulfill the mission of the organization. No, she should not be blacklisted out of theatres everywhere, but that doesn't mean she'll fit the needs of a company. She could form her own touring group like Anastasia Volochkova, of course she may not have the level of talent or connections necessary.
  21. My friend has been good-naturedly complaining recently about the celebrity trend to apologize without apologizing (Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, etc). The basic construction goes, "I'm sorry for offending you, but not for what I actually said." He finds this a bit disingenuous. However, Simone Clarke does not even apologize this much, and I find I like it even less. If I were British, I would vote with my dollars pounds and boycott Simone Clarke's performances (though the idea of changing the world through my spending patterns is laughably American). She has a right to her opinion, and I have a right to abhor it.
  22. I do think American Ballet Theatre, at least, should actively promote its own stars. It is interesting to note that Diana Vishneva is the star cited by Rockwell. She was created as one—by the Kirov. I can think of many Soviet/Russian stars who genuinely outshined almost all their American or European counterparts, but I do think they are granted a mystique that works to the disadvantage of the others. An American tendency toward egalitarianism prevents the audience from getting to know its own favorites, and the dancers from receiving the recognition they deserve. Also, it is not enriching to see a different ballerina in Swan Lake at ABT every night. It means ballerinas can't deepen their interpretations through repetition and is often plain-old miscasting. I think it makes more sense to cap most ballets at three ballerinas and give each of them more performances.
  23. I am so pleased to read the thoughtful and articulate comments from Leonid, Helene, volcanohunter, et al, just as I would expect from them. Unfortunately for my own ability to contribute constructively, La Zakharova is involved... She is my pet peeve; for me watching her is like hearing fingernails on a blackboard. In my view, Zakharova is no Guillem, Maximova, or Plisetskaya, because she is boring. Her stage persona is haughty and cold—watching her is like touching dry ice—it looks frozen but leaves a burn. Mixing metaphors further: unlike the ballerinas mentioned, she doesn't modulate any of her effects, in their timing or intensity. She always dances like a stereo turned full blast, with everything the biggest it can be (and not on the music), which is attention-getting but deafening. In the Bolshoi visit to New York I much preferred spending the evening with Alexandrova. And I have read that Alexandrova dances a more difficult version of Pharoah's Daughter, while Zakharova dances a simplified one, allegro not being her forte. I love to read dancer interviews. However, at the end of the day it doesn't matter what they say as much as it matters how they dance. She dances like she doesn't understand anything written here. In the end, I am convinced that the classical tradition is not endangered by technical facility (although it is more difficult to pass down classical style with distorted examples of classicism hogging the spotlight). Great dancers simply must possess taste and soul along with a great or merely acceptable body.
  24. SanderO, you should search the board for the posts/threads discussing "emploi"—they are very interesting explorations of this subject! I find the typing done by reviewers or posters to be valid rather than spurious a majority of the time. While dance training and viewing history are invaluable, the desire to know more, and reading the board intensively, should allow you to do it yourself pretty soon. I've found it helpful to look at videos of dancers from the past to establish the standard for comparison you mention. You may then reject or embrace certain conventional wisdom. For example, I've decided recently that the idea that dancers today display unprecedented virtuosity and athleticism is wrong. Maximova and Vasiliev's Don Quixote pas de deux is unsurpassed, in my view. And for the past 60 years other Bolshoi dancers have performed athletic lifts, throws and contortions, in choreography by Vainonen, Messerer or Grigorovich, that I now see in works by Elo, Martins or Forsythe. So yes, there is a trend toward athleticism in ballet now, but that doesn't mean no one could have performed the same feats earlier.
  25. It is within the context of the Royal Ballet's history that the appointment is so shocking. I find it sad that, as Alexandra mentions, there is a trend not to believe in the power and possibilities of classical ballet. Ashton's own improbable story is the most inspiring counterexample to this attitude. A young man who is transfixed by Pavlova as a child in Lima, Peru, travels to England to take his first ballet lessons at age 20, studying under Massine, Rambert, and Nijinska! Nursing the dream of classical ballet for years, someone who would never become a great dancer went halfway around the world to become a great choreographer instead. The Royal Ballet drew others from afar, such as a young Margot Fonteyn from her girlhood in China, Lynn Seymour from Canada, Elaine Fifield and Robert Helpmann from Australia, Deanne Bergsma from South Africa, and many, many more. What did they come for? What did they believe in? Classical ballet was the shared language of this group, and the diaspora of Russian exiles they learned from. All of this shared value and sacrifice, and Wayne McGregor has never taken a ballet lesson? Why not? Ballet's vocabulary is simply broader than that of much contemporary dance. As a young viewer at NYCB, I attend mixed bills. I've never seen the work before and have no reason to accept received wisdom. How do I rank the choreographers? 99% of the time it will be 1. Balanchine 2. Robbins 3. Wheeldon 4. Martins. Balanchine's Episodes simply has a more varied and innovative palette of movement than Jorma Elo's last work for ABT. In my view, "contemporary" or postmodern dance also breaks less formal ground than pioneers of modern dance like Graham, Limon, or Horton. All of those dancers have "techniques" named after them, just as there is a ballet technique to work from. There was a formal coherence, a vocabulary that could be expanded, altered or subverted. Throw away dance techniques, classical or modern, and you may make a conceptual or intellectual statement, but you have lowest-common denominator movement. This is not an indictment of McGregor specifically, but his appointment seems to me the wrong direction for a ballet company to go in.
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