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laurel

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    fan/avid balletgoer
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    New York
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**
    New York

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  1. The last time I attended an ABT performance was in December 2019, during my annual holiday visit to Costa Mesa for family and three ABT Nutcracker weekend performances. At the Saturday matinee show, Katie Williams was a standout as one of the Nutcracker's sisters. Their choreography is not easy, and I often feel the dancers are holding back during the variation, not putting too much of themselves into it. Not Katie Williams. She simply didn't make the choreography her own, she absorbed it and lived it. She moved so easily and swiftly across the stage, the other four dancers (Katie Boren, Brittany DeGrofft, Zhong-Jing Fang, Rachel Richardson) seemed to vanish in plain sight. I've never seen anyone else perform that variation as well. Katie Williams needs more opportunities to show just how good she is, and what she can do. I wouldn't hesitate to attend a performance in which she was featured.
  2. laurel

    Sarah Lane

    Whether you admire her or not, Sarah Lane has always lived by her own set of rules and values which very likely have helped keep her sane through this whole ABT ordeal. I was astonished to learn that during her decade in soloist purgatory, she was offered a principal contract in San Francisco. Family or no, how many other young ABT dancers would have turned that down? It appears to me that the company’s offer of her dream role debut in R&J next spring was an outright bribe, akin to hush money to drop her action against them. Say what you will, but it makes me feel good to know she had them running scared for a while, knowing she’d caught them in their clumsy combo of hypocrisy and bias. Other dancers who left the company under a cloud may not have had that kind of luxury, of knowing they were in the right, both morally and legally. Personally, I feel the odds are against my seeing Lane perform live again, but I’m still grateful to her for sticking around New York for so many difficult years and allowing us to see her beautiful, moving performances in roles both small and large. My life has been punctuated by moments when I’ve experienced something so extraordinary on stage, both theater and ballet, that it’s changed my view of what might be possible for an art form to achieve. Many of those moments belong to Sarah Lane. I’m so glad I was there to see her dance.
  3. Now that's a dream worth dreaming, though most likely not realistic [sigh]. I vote for Sascha Radetsky and Stella Abrera as co-directors.
  4. During my first - and only - viewing of Black Swan, I assumed the plot had been adapted from the 1947 movie A Double Life starring Ronald Colman, about a Broadway star's descent into madness and murder. No dancing involved, but the theatrical setting was highly evocative.
  5. I awakened this morning to the news about Diana Rigg, and now this news of Lane. Two of my favorite cultural icons in one day. It’s really too much. There’s no longer any reason for me to return to ABT. The only reason was removed from the roster this morning without an acknowledgment or farewell. No one deserves such cavalier treatment, especially not a skilled artist who devoted her entire career to one organization. However, if Lane really knew about this in advance, she ought to have said something on social media, the way Hammoudi and Scott did, rather than leaving people to speculate. Her fans understand the difficult situation she’s always faced at ABT. In my opinion, ABT today seems to have morphed into something like a cold corporate entity rather than a nonprofit ballet company, performing a not very successful balancing act between profit and art. All the newly promoted dancers are “youthful” and may seem “exciting,” but some are not skilled enough for principal level and often visibly struggle with artistry. Possibly there will be improvement, but what I expect more is the company doing what it always does: glossing over lack of skills and choosing instead to promote names and faces on social media, emphasizing how exciting all this change is, and ignoring the fact that there are no more virtuoso, world class dancers left in the company (yes, Cornejo, but he’s not what he once was and I don’t think he’ll be around much longer). Lane is the victim both of a changing American culture and of a management which never really supported her, but probably felt obliged to promote her because of her extraordinary, explosive artistry three years ago, which was wholeheartedly supported by the audience. Lane also greatly admired the earlier generation at ABT which didn’t have or believe in self-promotion on social media, which has become de rigueur today. Her disagreement with Cornejo, which sundered their partnership, became the coup de grace for her career at ABT. This talk of a falling out with Ratmansky seems odd. Her final ABT performance this spring was scheduled to have been Aurora in Ratmansky’s Sleeping Beauty. Why then would he have allowed her to perform this great role in his major restaging? Removing her from a small part in “The Seasons” yet allowing her to perform the difficult lead in “Sleeping Beauty”? That’s just bizarre. Why has Lane’s company persona suddenly turned from quiet, insecure, overlooked artist to company harpy and harridan? If anyone ever bothers to write a memoir or history about this terrible era at ABT, I hope I’m no longer around, because the answer would probably anger me even more. I doubt I’ll ever get over the rupture of the Lane-Cornejo partnership, but I’m glad I forced myself to travel and saw as much of them as I could. No matter how much management tries, they can’t erase the fact that for many years theirs was the best partnership in the company, like no other, and brought much joy to the audience. And the memory of Lane’s Swan Lake in Richmond on Valentine’s Day is a wonderful one, worth the anxiety of traveling at the outset of a pandemic just to see her. She was everything you’d want O/O to be and more; pure, gorgeous dancing, with two vastly different and beautifully limned characters. Ballet heaven, indeed. And that should be her legacy: ballet heaven incarnate. Lane appears to have a teaching gig lined up in NJ, and perhaps she’ll decide that now’s the time to start a family. Her future should be a bright one, hope it will be smooth sailing ahead!
  6. So sad, another ABT soloist retiring without much fanfare or farewell. Scott was one of those dancers we never seemed to see dance often enough, but when he did get the chance he was completely invested in the performance. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors.
  7. Stella Abrera invaded my consciousness sometime in the early 2000s during a performance of Jerome Robbins' "Afternoon of a Faun," with David Hallberg. Her warm, lustrous dancing was so enthralling, the stage seemed bathed in a golden light. To this day, I can't recall a thing about Hallberg during that performance; Stella's golden light simply erased him. One other performance of hers which stands out in my memory was her Cinderella in 2015, at the moment she entered the ballroom and appeared to float down the stairs en pointe. Because I believe she was, literally, floating - she'd been promoted to principal only a day or two before the show. I thank her for the many, many beautiful memories she's given me.
  8. It was a disappointing program, and rather indicative of just how out of touch ABT management is with contemporary life, in so many ways: in its lackluster use of digital media, its refusal to utilize and monetize whatever archival film and video assets it may hold - put your assets to work for you, management! - and its absolute refusal to give the audience what it wants, which is ballet dancing. Beautiful, transporting, sigh-inducing ballet dancing, in complete performances or even just portions of performances. We came for the ballet dancing, but all we got was . . . nothing. I'm not sure what it was we got, besides sadness.
  9. Wonderful video. Thank you for the link.
  10. Lena C., just curious about how long the Saturday evening Swan Lake performance lasted. Did it end between 9:30 - 10:00 pm as ours did on Friday? That second intermission lasted a loooooong time. I thought there might have been a problem, perhaps someone was injured, but thankfully, no. But it was really nerve wracking just waiting for that curtain to rise!
  11. Lena C., you are amazing! Up and down the east coast with ABT! Thanks for the info. on Sung Woo Han. I'd like to see him in this new role in the spring.
  12. Thanks, ABT Fan, I did see the Q&A with Lane this morning. I was at the hair salon and brought my phone so I could stream it. Some of the stylists came over to watch a little of it, too! They didn't know who she was or what she was discussing, but were impressed that I'd just seen her perform a couple of days ago. I thought the students asked some excellent, thoughtful questions. It was a more interesting discussion than most. I was stunned to learn that even as a new principal, she couldn't get tech rehearsals for her debut ballets. I wonder if they treat other, more favored principal women as cavalierly. She's lucky her leg wasn't badly injured when it went through the set flat!
  13. I was in Richmond, Virginia yesterday to see their version of “Swan Lake,” featuring ABT’s Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns in the leads. I was unfamiliar with this small company but was happy to see how professional and very skilled their dancers were. A couple of the women seemed highly proficient and would not look out of place at ABT. The ballet was performed at the Carpenter Theater, which has all the earmarks of once having been a 1920s silent movie palace, with a high, soaring ceiling, wide auditorium and a deep balcony, and a proscenium area covered with terra cotta designs and figures painted turquoise and coral. Unfortunately, this also means that the stage is very shallow, which is not great for the grand choreography of a ballet like Swan Lake. Because of this, the scale of the production is reduced, as well as the scale of the dancing. No Bolshoi-style grand bravura displays, not a lot of traveling movement. The grand jetes are less grand, the maneges less deep. Throughout the show, you could see Lane and Stearns tempering their movement to conform to the stage size. The production has more traditional elements than ABT’s, including the jester and only one Von Rothbart dressed in a black unitard and ragged cape (thankfully, no green sci-fi lizard). There is a prologue, but no purple Rothbart wrestling a toy swan into submission. Here, Odette is picking flowers on the rocks by the lake. Von Rothbart enchants her, she moves offstage into a cloud of smoke from the wings, and from behind the rocks we see a swan (or swan shape) floating past. I was there to see Lane, of course, and she didn’t disappoint. Her accumulated experience since her unexpected SL debut in 2017 have changed her dancing in this ballet and enriched her characterization. With each additional performance, she displays how much she’s learned and how far she’s come. As usual, Lane takes you on the character’s emotional journey and makes it easy to follow. Her Odette, after her initial shock at the sight of Siegfried, gradually succumbs to her attraction to him, visibly shaking her head “No,” as if she cannot control what is occurring. She is a deeply unhappy girl and her intense sadness might bring you to tears. Lane’s performance in the Act II pas de deux was beautiful. Her dancing was pure liquid, those deep arabesques, the backbends, the hands floating and feathering the air. I’d hoped some of her emotional qualities might have had an effect on Stearns. I’ve avoided performances with him and his usual partner, Hee Seo, for around a decade due to their inexpressiveness, Seo’s technical problems, and the overall dullness of their dancing. Alas, Stearns’ performance last night was still pretty square jawed and stolid, but his partnering is very good, and in the White Swan pas de deux his minimal display of emotion allowed Lane to shine. And I consider that a plus. Lane’s Odile really is something else. What a malicious creature, mocking Siegfried with an imitation of Odette, taunting him! It was almost outrageous. When Von Rothbart leads her onstage, Odile actually joins in the Spanish dance for a few bars, until Rothbart pulls her aside and offstage. This woman really craves attention! Sometimes in fantasy and fairy tale theater and movies, the use of sequins and sparkle may indicate the presence of magic, and that’s what I see in Odile and her hard-edged glittery costume. With this glittering outer shell, Lane’s seductive and hard-edged dancing as Odile was an amazing counterpart to her feathery soft Odette. She magically seduced Siegfried into her glittery embrace and he was lost – especially with her magical and amazing 33-fouetté coda (yes, I counted). The moment I saw the Act III ballroom set on that shallow stage, which decreased the stage area even more, I assumed that there would be fouetté trouble ahead, especially since Lane (like everyone else at ABT) tends to travel downstage during fouettés (it’s the ABT house style). Lane usually begins her sequence with two singles followed by a double, but here, she began with a double followed by two singles. She continued this pattern and apparently was controlling her spin velocity and slowing it down, so she managed not to drift too far downstage. By the time she’d reached 24 or 25, she’d stopped traveling, and continued with singles for the remainder. At this point, she was clearly following the music and increased her speed, providing her with a few seconds more to whirl through that extra 33rd fouetté and end cleanly. It was a great display of the maturity and control which deepens with each of Lane’s performances, especially in the ballets, like this one, in which her home company offers her little or no performance time. What fools! New York audiences would eat up this woman’s incredible double-character interpretation of Odette-Odile. Lane is dancing with enormous confidence now – I think perhaps those two Manon performances last year changed her forever – or maybe it’s the maturity that comes from age, or both. Whatever it is, I think that her performances this spring should be emotional knockouts. I should mention that this is the first production of Swan Lake I’ve seen in which Odette and Siegfried survive the end conflict with Von Rothbart and walk off into the sunset (or sunrise) together! Siegfried appears to have been vanquished, but he rises from the ground, faces the audience, raises his arm overhead and proclaims his love for Odette as her image appears in the sky above the lake. Von Rothbart collapses in a heap and dies as the spell is broken. Odette runs onstage dressed in her prologue costume (oddly, a Juliet-style garment), a swan no more. A happy ending! Thank you, Richmond Ballet!
  14. Lane and Copeland were part of a group of five who were promoted to soloist level at the same time (the others were Kajiya, Matthews and Boone), in 2007. Copeland was promoted to principal in 2015, two years before Lane.
  15. Has anyone else noticed that Skylar Brandt has been cast as Giselle in tonight's KC performance opposite Herman Cornejo? That's two performances this week for Brandt! Go, girl!
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