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Everything posted by ZB1

  1. Thank you very much for your review, Haglund’s! I almost fell out of my seat when I read that she would be dancing the lead in this ballet (replacing Xiomara Reyes) – she is one of my absolute favorite ABT dancers. I have been sending mental notes to Kevin McKenzie to cast her in the lead for a full-length ballet ever since I first saw her dance about four or five years ago. I didn’t think I would make it to ABT’s Met season at all this year, but now I am incredibly tempted to buy a ticket to the Saturday evening performance. However, based on the general reviews for “Cinderella” on this board, I’m not sure a ticket to the ballet (plus the time and money I would have to spend to get to NYC from Pittsburgh) would be worth it. Still, it’s Stella (and Guillome Cote, whom I have yet to see but hear good things about)….
  2. I’ve never watched “So You Think You Can Dance” before, but I was under the impression that it was geared toward young, inexperienced dancers who are trying to break into the realm of professional dance by getting some exposure (and another thing to add to their resumes). So what is Danny, who’s already had a very, very prestigious job in the professional dance world (at ABT) doing on the show??? Does he feel a need to prove to the world – via television – that despite his ballet background, he can succeed in other types of dance? Although I have no idea why he left ABT, I agree that the lure of the cash prize and the popularity that winning the competition brings with it might have been a big factor behind his decision to participate in the show. How many years of dancing in ABT’s corps does it take to accumulate $250,000? More than two or three, I’m sure. Plus, although “So You Think You Can Dance” is no “American Idol,” it does have a devoted fan base that is larger (or at least more vocal, it seems) than the devoted fan base for ballet. If Danny were still dancing at ABT, he might get the occasional mention in a published review and a few kind words on BalletTalk or in individual balletomane’s blogs, but participating on this show means that he gets to dance before a crowd of screaming fans and (attempt to) win the hearts and votes of the American public. Maybe he feels that his talents are better enjoyed and appreciated now, given that TV reaches way more people (of many different backgrounds) than a performance at the Met does? I don’t want to accuse Danny of selling out, but in my view that’s essentially what he’s doing, in the name of money, exposure, and popularity. Although I can’t blame him for it – given how underpaid and underappreciated ballet dancers tend to be, I can understand why “So You Think You Can Dance” might be a more fulfilling project, at least in the short term. That said, I’m still rooting for him and actually took the time to watch video clips and read comments about him online. But I’m saddened by the fact that his ballet background and what we think is by far his greatest accomplishment – dancing with ABT – gets pushed to the background, both on the show and by bloggers who write about it. On the FOX website, he actually says the following: If you had to categorize your dance style, what would it be (hip hop, ballet, tap etc…)? I would have to say contemporary. But with a strong ballet background. Well, at least he acknowledges he has a ballet background. But he is always referred to as a “contemporary” (how is that different from modern?) dancer on the show. Maybe he and/or the producers think viewers would actually be turned off by hearing the word “ballet” associated with him? And bloggers who comment on the show (few of whom have any real knowledge of ballet, as far as I’ve gathered) only mention in passing that he trained at the Kirov Academy (and many people might not know what that is, just from those two words) and was involved with ABT (or American Ballet Company, as many still think it is called). Finally – correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Danny featured on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine in January or February 2003? I remember reading the article, and I am almost certain it was about him. He must have been quite new at ABT at the time, and the interview noting that Danny started in jazz and tap but was soon encouraged to try ballet. He said something about hating ballet at first (because of the stereotypes) but then finding that it is the most challenging and most fulfilling form of dance. He seemed to be very happy with where his career was going in ballet.
  3. I’m reporting on behalf of my mother, a casual ballet fan who also saw the performance (at my insistence) and called me right afterwards to tell me how much she loved it. Now, she’s far from a ballet expert, and all of her knowledge of/exposure to the art comes from me. But I think that the audience – like most ballet audiences – was made up mostly of people like her, not experts like those post on BalletTalk! She loved the performance and told me that it was a wonderful introduction to ABT (this was the first time she had seen the company live). She was afraid she wouldn’t like “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes” and “The Green Table” she’s not a fan of “modern” dance but actually ended up being impressed by both. She said the men in the former were especially good, with a deep commitment to the piece. She had trouble following “The Green Table” at some parts (in terms of figuring out who was who) but said that it was a powerful piece and well danced. Her favorites, however, were the “Swan Lake” pas de deux and “Sinatra Suite.” She said Paloma Herrera danced very well (I think she used words like “beautiful” and “passionate”), but that Gennadi Saveliev failed to match her in charisma or stage presence (“still, it was good” was her final judgement). She loved Herman Cornejo in “Sinatra Suite’ – he was her favorite of the night – and thought he moved very smoothly and elegantly. Hmmm… this isn’t much of a review, given that I’m only paraphrasing the impressions of the person who was actually there. Still, she said the audience reaction was very positive, although the theater was far from sold out. She bought the cheapest ticket available and got a seat way up in the rafters but was able to move down several rows due to all of the empty seats. If that’s any indication, I guess there’s no reason for ABT to stay for more than one night? Oh, and about the theaters statistic – I heard that it was more than in any other city EXCEPT New York (I grew up in St. Paul myself). Regardless, the Twin Cities does (we all consider it one city) have a very strong and vibrant artistic community, but the taste is decidedly in favor of the contemporary (not that ballet isn’t/can’t be contemporary, but it is still generally viewed as not so). When I had a subscription to the James Sewell Ballet in high school, I recall the company selling out its performances on a regular basis (don’t know about now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was still the case).
  4. After the profound disappointment of Wednesday’s “Cinderella” (I still can’t get over how bad the production was, at least in my eyes), the Bolshoi more than redeemed itself with an electrifying Saturday afternoon performance of “Don Quixote.” I’ve only skimmed through the above posts, but I’m fairly certain that everyone shares my opinion that Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova were magnificent. I feel like I should give up and skip all future performances of “Don Quixote” because no other dancers can come close to matching them in these roles, and anything less would be a disappointment.
  5. Koshka – A friend of mine told me that quite a few dancers at the Bolshoi and the Kirov began wearing Gaynor Mindens recently (she’s a dancer, but I’m not quite sure how she got this information…) The Kirov’s Tatiana Tkachenko actually appears in the latest round of Gaynor Minden ads. Natalia – Yes, it was indeed Vinogradov! Wow, I will have to keep an eye out for the two of them at today’s matinee. My opinion does seem to be the minority one, since friends who went Thursday said they enjoyed the performance. But I did spend most of Thursday telling friends who were considering the ballet to save their money and go to New York City Ballet next week instead (especially since “Don Quixote” is sold out).
  6. One more thing: I am still kicking myself for not realizing that the man who sat directly in front of me in the audience was Alexei Ratmansky himself! I was annoyed that he always took his seat after the lights had already gone down (and popped out of his seat as soon as the lights went up) – but it wasn’t until the third act that I noticed the he entered the house from the door that leads backstage from the orchestra section. He was with an older gentleman and the two spoke a few words of Russian prior to the third act (when he took his seat a bit earlier), although I did not listen to their conversation because I did not realize who they were! In fact, it was only then that I began to suspect that they were affiliated with the ballet, and I took a good look at them to memorize their faces. As soon as I got home, I googled Ratmansky, and sure enough, the pictures that came up look just like the man that I saw! I wonder if he heard any of the conversation (in English) that I had with my friend – especially the parts when I said how much I disliked the production and my complaint that the Kirov doesn’t have a decent “Cinderella,” either!
  7. Sarah Kaufman’s review in the Washington Post is absolutely glowing. Between that and the enthusiastic standing ovation the ballet received Wednesday night, I’m beginning to think that I missed something big – although I’m reassured by the fact that neither Natalia or Bill were especially impressed. I had several friends go last night (Thursday), so I will have to get their reactions. Despite the fact that I love ballet and see every company that I can in Washington, DC (and try to catch performances wherever I travel – mainly NYC) I am in general quite a lenient critic. I tend to find something I like in almost everything I see. To a certain extent, this was the case on Wednesday night, because I did like Yanin as the dance instructor and Filin as the prince. But that’s about it. I agree with everything that Bill said in his comments above – I can’t believe that I forgot to mention the dancing horses! The Blue Angel and Opera Diva ideas seemed like they had potential but were poorly integrated into the plot. Were they just attempts by the prince’s friends to offer him distractions to his sadness over the loss of Cinderella? Or were they characters that the prince ran into during his quest for her? The various elements of this ballet were all poorly put together, and the lackluster choreography did not help… Perhaps if I saw the ballet again, then I would have a more positive reaction (but I’m unwilling to spend the money or especially the time necessary to sit through it again, at this point). Evaluations – both positive and negative – made after only one viewing are always likely to be altered (however slightly) by a second, mainly because the viewer notices more of the details. Last month, I saw ABT’s “Othello” three times and came to like the ballet more and more (although I did not hate it upon my first viewing – I was impressed by and interested in it, just not enamored with it). Speaking of “Othello,” I can’t believe how negative Sarah Kaufman’s review of the ballet was, especially compared with her (overly) positive review of the Bolshoi’s “Cinderella.” I’m as glad as anyone can be to see the Bolshoi back at the KC – and I’m still very much looking forward to the Osipova/Vasiliev “Don Quixote” tomorrow – but having such a well-respected name does not give a company the right to present anything it wants. Although the reputation can skew people’s viewpoints a bit. I mentioned my reactions to “Cinderella” to an ex-ballet dancer friend of mine, and she told me that in her opinion American audiences are sometimes too charitable when it comes to Russian companies, since their reputation (especially in popular culture, to the extent that ballet companies have any sort of reputation in popular culture) is that they are the absolute best. Audience members sometimes feel that if they did not like the performance, the fault is with them and not the performers on stage because the Bolshoi is simply incapable of presenting anything less than ballets of the highest quality. Now, I don’t want to say that the average DC ballet-goer is too stupid to realize the differences between good and bad performers (as subjective as those judgments are), but I do think reputation plays into it. In fact, the reputation of the Bolshoi might have somehow – subconsciously – affected my evaluation of the ballet. A few years back, when I lived in St. Petersburg (as an American), proud residents of the city were always quick to point out how much better the Kirov (Mariinsky) ballet was than the Bolshoi. “Ballet in Moscow is NOTHING compared to ballet in St. Petersburg!” they would tell me. I still retain some “Petersburg pride” and I love the Kirov, so perhaps this affects my evaluation of the Bolshoi even when I don’t mean for it to? At any rate, there is no way the Bolshoi’s “Cinderella” can compare with the brilliant “Romeo and Juliet” the Kirov brought to DC last month. (Interestingly enough, I am no fan of the Kirov’s “Cinderella” – the Ratmansky version – either!) At any rate, I stick by my initial reaction to the ballet, and I remain mystified by why Sarah Kaufman (a) loved it so much and (b) thought it was a meditation on Russian history and/or current Russian politics. As a graduate student in the Russian and East European Studies department, I can say with a good amount of authority that I know Russian history and politics, and I really didn’t see it show up in the ballet (except in Prokofiev’s score, but that is completely separate from the Possokhov choreography).
  8. I was there last night, but I’m afraid that Natalia’s review will sound absolutely glowing compared to mine. I entered the theater expecting to be charmed and/or impressed and left thoroughly disappointed. The dancing itself was fine (nothing special, actually, but not bad); the production was absolutely horrible. I alternated between hating it and being thoroughly bored by it – at some point during the second act, I actually fell asleep, which is something that I have rarely (if ever) ever done at a ballet. I read the program notes before the ballet started; I was disappointed to learn that the story was not the traditional fairy tale but I was determined to keep an open mind. My resolve lasted until about the time when the dance teacher entered (who – Gennady Yanin, that is, in the role – was one of the few people I actually enjoyed watching). At that point I gave up and allowed myself to think negative thoughts, since it became harder and harder to fight them. The steps were indeed, as Natalia put it, “trite crap,” and the few of the dancers stood out in their roles. I hated the concept of “the storyteller” as the fairy godmother; he seemed to have an almost creepy presence in and control over every aspect of Cinderella’s life (why did he have to watch her every step at the ball?) The stepmother and stepsister were just plain stupid, and not in a comic way. I prefer them to be portrayed as self-centered, spiteful, and somewhat clueless – all the physical jokes (falling over each other) in this ballet got old after about five minutes, but they were used over and over again. As a side note, I’d love to know who the dancers in these roles were, since they were all obviously ballet trained but had less than, um, ideal dancer bodies (both sisters were short and chubby, while the mother was as tall as a basketball player). I kept waiting for the ballet to get better, but it never did. Why did the storyteller/fairy godmother hand out orange-colored sponge balls to the party guests? And why did the sisters drag them home in mesh bags? Nothing really connected for me in this ballet, and few of the dancers seemed connected to the roles they were portraying (actually, the stepsisters overplayed their roles, to the point where I wished that they would just disappear). Svetlana Zakharova was lovely but nothing more – I got absolutely no feeling for her character, and I saw no character development. There was little palpable or visible love for the prince from her side. Sergei Filin was much better, acting-wise. I felt and understood his sudden obsession with Cinderella (somewhat, anyway), and there seemed to be much more affection for her on his side than there was for him on hers. Overall, however, there was a glaring lack of chemistry – except for maybe in the final pas de deux, but it should not have taken almost three hours to get there! The audience seemed to like it (I was sitting in orchestra) – there was laughter at the “funny” parts (none of which struck me as particularly funny) and a standing ovation, which I really couldn’t believe (although DC audiences are quite generous with their standing ovations). I think there was a Zakharova “claque” seated somewhere near me, since I heard a loud burst of very enthusiastic applause coming from my left as soon as she appeared on stage, and some loud “brava”s after the act II pas de deux clearly meant for her. I think the above few paragraphs might be harsher than I intended them to be, but I was truly very disappointed by this entire production. It was the first time that I saw Zakharova, and based on this one performance, she really doesn’t seem to live up to the hype! This was the first really bad performance that I have seen in a long time, and I see almost everything that is at or comes to the Kennedy Center (ballet, modern dance, opera, classical music, etc.).
  9. I was browsing the Kennedy Center website earlier today, and I noticed that the casting for both “Cinderella” and “Don Q” has changed to the following: CINDERELLA Wednesday, Feb 21, 7:30 p.m. Svetlana Zakharova – Andrey Merkuryev Thursday, Feb 22, 7:30 p.m. Ekaterina Shipulina – Aleksander Volchko Friday, Feb 23, 7:30 p.m. Ekaterina Krysanova – Andrey Merkuryev DON Q Saturday, Feb 24 mat , 1:30 p.m. Natalia Osipova – Ivan Vasiliev Saturday, Feb 24, 7:30 p.m. Maria Aleksandrova – Denis Matvienko Sunday, Feb 25 mat , 1:30 p.m. Natalia Osipova – Ivan Vasiliev Sunday, Feb 25, 7:30 p.m. Svetlana Zakharova – Denis Matvienko Honestly, I’m a little disappointed because I have tickets to the opening performances of both ballets and had hoped to see Sergey Filin in “Cinderella” (mainly because I’ve never seen him live, while I’ve seen Merkuryev dance plenty of times). But I suppose now I will get to see the “boy wonder” Vasiliev!
  10. Due to my ardent desire to see Obraztsova and Fadeyev again, I bought a standing room ticket this morning to the Saturday matinee. It cost me $25 plus handling fee, which is more than standing room at the Met (at least for operas)! I’ve never done this before and don’t know anyone who has, but I’m going to give it a try… The ballet is long, but I’m young and my legs can handle it, right? Good training for trying to get myself back into ballet class, maybe.
  11. I might have a chance with tickets that are returned at the last minute (I should really write “ticket,” since I don’t intend to get one for any one but myself) – I have had good luck with this on occasion at the KC. There is also the option of standing room, which the KC only sells if the performance is sold out. I’ve never done this (at the KC or anywhere else) – does any one know if I would be able to see anything at all? The ballet is long, but even seeing the balcony pas de deux again would be worth it… Friends who’ve worked at the KC tell me it is illegal for people to buy or sell tickets on the premises because it is a federal building (there may be more to it, but I don’t remember the details). In any case, it doesn’t happen!
  12. I was there on opening night (Tuesday) as well to catch Fadeyev and Obraztsova – two lovely dancers who, through a single performance, have redefined for me the principal roles in this ballet. This was my first viewing of the Lavrovsky version of “Romeo and Juliet” and although I must say that I still prefer the MacMillan (but perhaps that is simply thanks to force of habit), I think it (Lavrovsky’s) provides for an overall more complete theatrical experience. The sets and scenery are lavish and grand (I love that gold-and-maroon theme), the costumes are beautiful and quite detailed, and the action never stops (the set changes are accompanied by small vignettes downstage, in front of the drawn curtains). The choreography was quite good as well, although the ballet drags in some of the ensemble scenes/dances (I’m surprised to learn from Natalia’s post that this production even has some significant cuts – perhaps I just have a short attention span, but three and a half hours already seems like quite a long running time for a ballet). The plot and character development is also muddled in some places; I suppose every one is familiar with the story, but it would have been helpful to introduce Paris and his importance (he simply appears at the Capulets’ ball – after he is shown to be one of the guests on his way – and starts to dance with Juliet for no apparent reason other than that she is pretty and a girl of some significance). It also took me some time to figure out who the troubadour and Juliet’s companion were and why they were included in the ballet at all, other than to give more dancers a chance to be featured. Nonetheless, I think I agree with Natalia that Fadeyev and Obraztsova were the best Romeo and Juliet that I have ever seen (although my experience is mainly limited to ABT’s performances of the MacMillan choreography). Maybe it’s unfair to base this partly on the fact that they look incredibly believable as fourteen-year-olds in love (they are young and pretty and light-haired), but I must say that it helps! However, it is more important to note that both are very musical actor-dancers, with a deep understanding of their characters. Both are technically very accomplished, of course, but the emphasis of their dancing was always on maintaining and projecting the way in which their characters feel, not on cranking out virtuosos performances. I loved Fadeyev in the balcony pas de deux; his leaps were beautiful, light, and airy, but I never got the sense that he was showing off through them – they were simply the manifestation of the euphoria he felt at being with Juliet. Obraztsova was tender and passionate; the way in which she caressed Fadeyev’s hair as he knelt before her at the end of the first act revealed everything the audience needed to know about her feelings. Such a simple, simple act – yet so beautifully done! I though the music was fine, but then again, I have some unpleasant memories from a year ago of the orchestra almost completely botching the same score when ABT performed the ballet here. I have yet to buy tickets to any other performance, but as silly as this seems, I really don’t want to ruin my memories of the perfection that was Fadeyev and Obraztsova by seeing other dancers! And their next performance (Sat. matinee, I believe) is sold out…
  13. I am about to depart for ABT’s last DC “Othello” (with Hallberg and Murphy), so I am afraid that I cannot contribute my own thoughts until tonight. But I saw the ballet again last night (Saturday night), with the opening night cast again – I must have been a bit confused when buying tickets down at the box office, but overall, I am very happy that I ended up seeing the same cast again. I am excited about Hallberg, Murphy and co. but I cannot imagine that they will be better than the amazing cast of Gomes, Kent, Radetsky, Abrera, and Cornejo. This is the sort of ballet that – for me, at least – gets better upon a second (and maybe third) viewing. The first time that I saw it, I was impressed by it (well, mainly by the dancing and acting) but did not really like it. Saturday night (with the same cast) I was able to sit back and let the ballet and the music sink in – and I ended up enjoying it as well as being tremendously moved by it. The audience reaction – which I measure by applause and intermission conversation – was overall significantly warmer and more positive on Saturday than on Thursday.
  14. (As I am fairly new to Ballet Alert/Ballet Talk, I feel a need to preface this post by stating that I have attempted to see most ballets that ABT has performed in Washington, DC, over the past five years and that I also make a trip to NYC during the City Center season every fall.) I attended the Tuesday (opening night) mixed repertory and Thursday “Othello” performances. Although I much preferred the former, I was deeply impressed by the latter. I’ll take the mixed repertory ballets one at a time and save “Othello” for my next post. A note on the empty seats: I sat in the first tier on Tuesday and, from my vantage point, orchestra was quite full. The box tier, however, was strangely empty (those are the most expensive seats, so I suppose those who buy them must be willing to pay the money – although I thought that the Kennedy Center would be able to fill in the gaps by distributing box seats to its own employees). The sides of the first tier were also almost empty (I can’t comment on the second tier). I am just speculating here, but I think part of the problem is that the Kennedy Center greatly reduced the number of $10 student tickets it sells for each performance and decided against selling last-minute (after 6 PM) tickets to students at half price. I have friends who wanted to go on Tuesday or Wednesday nights and even made the trip out to the Kennedy Center only to be told that they could not buy the 50% off tickets even if seats were still available (the $10 tickets sold out the day they went on sale in early January, which – in my experience with buying these tickets – has never happened). I wonder why the Kennedy Center decided not to sell half-price tickets on Tues. and Wed. nights even after it became apparent that many of the seats were unsold even 30 minutes before curtain??? This makes absolutely no sense to me (and I have a bit of a background in arts administration). I myself am willing to pay quite a bit to see ballet, but other friends who are graduate students and have an interest in (rather than a love for) the art cao their ballet spending at around $25 per performance. But moving on to the actual performance (Tuesday night – mixed repertory). Overall, I thought the quality of the dancing was incredibly high, and the entire evening (and open rehearsal, which I also attended) was a pleasure from start to finish. I agree with most (if not all) of Sarah Kaufman’s review – and since, in my opinion, she is usually unnecessarily harsh in her critiques of the company, ABT must really have done something right! “LA BAYADERE ACT II” I saw ABT perform the full-length ballet at the Kennedy Center three years and vividly remember thinking that the corps looked like an absolute mess. The entrance of the shades was especially cringe-worthy. But now, I was mesmerized by what I saw – I could not believe that it was the same company that I saw in 2004! Makarova must be quite the miracle worker, as I have never seen a finer performance of “La Bayadere” – neither in the US nor in Russia. The dancers moved together so beautifully that I found myself barely breathing during the entire ballet. Out of the three soloists, I also found Stella Abrera to be the most compelling. She has long been one of my absolute favorite dancers at ABT, and she has made very role she has danced her own. (As a side note, I’ll just say that I dearly wish to see her leading a full-length classical ballet – or am I completely off the mark in thinking that she could be perfect in “Giselle” or even “Swan Lake”?) I must admit that I am one of those who cannot see what it is that people love about Veronika Part (although I have never seen her dance the lead in a full-length ballet, so my impressions are from the smaller roles in which I have seen her). In this ballet, she seemed incredible cold and detached to me – somehow, she gave me the impression that she would rather be anywhere else than on stage. Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno were both very good; the latter still has the most controlled and technically perfect pirouettes I have ever seen. And he still knows how to wow an audience with ease. (Why am I writing still? He cannot be that old!) “DARK ELEGIES” A fine ballet, and truly moving performances (especially from Julie Kent). I have never seen “Dark Elegies” before, so I was glad that I was finally exposed to the ballet. Nonetheless, after the open rehearsal and the performance, I must say that I respect the work more than I like or enjoy it. Maybe that’s because it is too heavy to take in twice in one day? “RODEO” Another new ballet for me (somehow I missed it in NYC in both 2006 and 2005) – and what a delight it was! Xiomara Reyes and Sascha Radetsky were absolutely perfect in the leads – they really brought the comedy and warmth of the ballet to the surface. Radetsky’s tap number almost made me jump out of my seat – I could not believe that it was that good! The corps couples really excelled in this one as well; every one seemed to enjoy his/herself so much. I could certainly see why! Up next: Thursday’s “Othello,” with Gomes, Kent, Radetsky, Abrera, and Cornejo
  15. ZB1

    My Introduction

    Hello, everyone! I will make this short, as I cannot wait to begin posting about the most recent performances I have seen! By way of introduction, allow me to present a short biography: I am a graduate student (on my way to an MA in Russian and East European Studies) and a big fan of ballet, modern dance, opera, and classical music. I have worked in arts administration (is there a subforum for discussing issues related to that?), I have lived in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, and I have recently taken up ballet classes again. I am happy to be part of a community of such enthusiastic and well-informed ballet fans, critics, and dancers!
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