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Everything posted by laurel

  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!
  16. Brandt may have seriously considered seeking the role of Giselle following her performance in 2018 during the "Big Ballet" show on Russian TV and the enthusiastic feedback she received from the panel of Russian judges. With her boss back home offering less encouragement than the Russians, I can understand why she might want to push herself to achieve this not-insurmountable goal. I hope we get to see her Giselle in New York; I love her incredible dedication to her art.
  17. Lane can dance with anyone, and we've seen her do so, this year and in the past. Stearns, Hoven, Simkin, Marcelo Gomes, Craig Salstein, Roman Zhurbin, or any one of the young male dancers who Ratmansky has pulled from the corps for leading roles, like Tyler Maloney, Carlos Gonzales, Jonathan Klein. Lack of a suitable partner is no excuse to sidelined her from extra performances. A little creative thinking and extra coaching would help, too.
  18. I sat there tonight, watching Ghosts for the third time this week, when it occurred to me that this might very well be the last time I'll see Cornejo perform at ABT, and I started to cry. In the middle of his anniversary show. There's no reason for me to pay to see him perform in the future with dancers I don't really enjoy. For the wonderful Lane-Cornejo partnership to end so abruptly and sadly is truly tragic. Their gorgeous dancing and emotional connection has sustained me through some difficult personal times over the past couple of years, and I feel lucky to have seen so many of their outstanding performances. My heart was breaking for Lane with her sad little Instagram post this afternoon, and I knew she and her husband would not be there tonight. The few company members I did see on stage, who did not dance in the gala, were Abrera and Radetsky, Boylston and Whiteside, and Connor Holloway and Tyler Maloney way in the back. For Lane to have attended a party to which she was not invited would have been unthinkable. We may never know whether anything really did occur to end the partnership, the way we may never know what happened to Marcelo Gomes, but it's my feeling that this is the work of Lord Voldemort in the front office. Between the sight of so much money sitting at the front of the orchestra tonight, and the return of the "guest artists" next year, it's pretty clear that for management, company artistry is a valueless commodity which doesn't result in cold hard box office cash. I don't care who Lane will be forced to dance with next season; I will be there supporting her at every one of her performances. Guest artists? No way.
  19. I agree with you about this. I found it rather insulting. The rest of New American Romance seemed derivative. However, the colors of the costumes were lovely. My only interest last night was in seeing the Bond piece. I found the choreography cluttered and busy; it was difficult to focus on any one thing on stage. The music was grim, the folk song lyrics (which I searched for later) were grim, the thematic basis as stated in the program ("meditations on the joys and perils of our contemporary lives") also seemed very grim. Hoven had danced in Garden Blue just before this, which might have affected his energy level. But he and Lane worked easily together, performing lifts cleanly and problem free. A second viewing of this piece, with this cast, would be beneficial. Lane was the only dancer on stage whose facial expressions mirrored the choreographic theme. Concern, sadness, fear; at least she offered some idea regarding the nature of the dance. During the curtain calls, it was astonishing to see how joyous she was. It's been a long time since I've seen her look so happy at the end of a ballet. Considering how rarely she's been cast in a contemporary piece, much less in a leading role, her reaction seemed to reflect this, as well as her positive feelings towards performing with Blaine Hoven (reinforced later on her Instagram postings). Frankly, with Cornejo now out of the picture, I think Hoven is the dancer who should have been cast opposite her in R&J. Is that too much to ask from management?
  20. “Of Love and Rage” . . . a title which perfectly describes my feelings today since the Spring casting was posted. I love that our beloved Sarah Lane will finally get to dance her dream role, Juliet, for us in New York. I’m enraged that her long partnership with Herman Cornejo has been forced to come to an abrupt end. And that she’s scheduled to dance her dream role opposite the one guy who still can’t lift her. Also enraged that there’s nothing we can do about it. Hopeful that Ratmansky will give her a leading role in his new ballet, no matter what it may be like. It seems that management is once again going to try and wring every last nickel possible from Copeland before she ends up breaking something again or just collapses from exhaustion. She gets two performances of almost everything, except for the Nutcracker, which she’s scheduled to dance at three performances. It seems certain now that Lane has been officially designated her understudy for every show which might give her trouble, from Apollo to Swan Lake. Let’s see what kind of physical shape she’ll be in by the last week of the season - Swan Lake week. After last week’s performances, I don’t think Lane will be cast in any of the T&V’s in the spring. However, I could very easily imagine both Brandt and Hurlin assigned to two of the performances. It would suit each of them perfectly. I’d hate to think that Brandt might see Hurlin promoted ahead of her, the way Sarah Lane and Yuriko Kajiya saw both Hee Seo and Boylston pass them for promotion. Brandt has the skills and drive to soar to endless heights, but I think her dancing needs a deeper emotional charge than what I’ve observed, which has been mostly big toothy grins in every performance. It’s wonderful to see someone who is so obviously in love with what they do, but perhaps more maturity might be what she needs to color her performances with less sunshine. It’s insane that Cornejo would not be assigned to Sleeping Beauty with Lane. This is one of the cornerstone performances of their partnership – the Vision Scene as they perform it together is filled with so much heartache, yearning and loveliness, I get choked up just thinking about it. And enraged again to think that company management could actually consider breaking up such a glorious duo. There are many things in this world I can’t explain and can’t understand, and right now this is at the top of the list. The really great news is that a promotion for Tom Forster may be imminent, and also how many ballets he’s been scheduled to dance with Christine Shevchenko. After their amazing partnering in last year’s Nutcracker – they were like a dashing whirlwind of technical excellence and beautiful movement – I am most definitely making plans to attend at least one of their Swan Lakes, and maybe their Giselle, too. I hope their partnership will put to rest anyone’s notion that Whiteside and Boylston are the best ABT has to offer.
  21. All my favorite lyrical ballerinas are disappearing: first, Veronika Part, now Stella Abrera, and one day, Sarah Lane . . . Athletic, speedy thrills seem to be de rigueur for success now; force over beauty, visceral power over art. The rare dancer who combines both, like Herman Cornejo, offers aesthetic pleasure through virtuosity. And like Stella, true artists are a rare breed. When you experience the gifts they offer us, the earth often moves.
  22. Compared to what I saw on Thursday evening, I thought the performance of T&V tonight (Saturday) was much improved. This was the kind of performance I’d been hoping to see on Thursday! The tempo seemed faster, the theater was better attended than on Thursday, and this time, people finally applauded throughout. The whole feel of the performance was changed. Gorak was still underwhelming, but Lane appeared confident, relaxed and smiling, not stoic-faced. Her dancing flowed like water, smooth and clean. The entire company was “on.” Skylar Brandt and Tyler Maloney had so much energy they seemed near to bouncing off the stage. Gorak finally achieved the near-impossible (for him) task of lifing Lane onto his shoulder at the ballet's end. He was not comfortable holding her there, but he needed to accomplish this lift, and he did. Though this company will never dance like NYC Ballet, nonetheless this was a fine performance tonight from all involved, very Balanchine in feel, and not a watered-down or mangled through the ABT meat grinder version. Very grateful I was able to see it again!
  23. Nearly forgot about this. Do you recall this NY Times story from Oct. 14, 2007? The AD's paternalistic attitude toward Cornejo is on full display as he justifies keeping this virtuosic dancer from romantic leading roles because of his short stature. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/arts/dance/14larocco.html?searchResultPosition=14
  24. I was at tonight’s performance, which was a real mixed bag. Yes, the evening opened with the AD’s remarks in memory of Alicia Alonso. He stumbled through his speech, several times forgetting what it was he was supposed to say, or wanted to say. What might have been an uplifting eulogy was turned into a dull jumble of confusion, pretty much killing whatever anticipation for T&V the audience might have had, not mention feelings for Alonso. Way to go. And T&V was not great. This was such a wonderful opportunity for Lane and Gorak to give strong, dynamic, performances in honor of Alonso, and to show off their skills. Apparently Lane’s nerves have been troubling her again – her Instagram has been fraught with anxious postings about this ballet all week. I believe the conductor, Charles Barker, slowed down the orchestra’s tempo at the start to accommodate her nerves – and I mean WAY down. It was glacial. The great thing about T&V is the speed and precision required to perform it, and the thrill you get watching it. Here, the pace was just too slow. However, Lane has such command of her technique that if you were unfamiliar with this ballet, you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. She looked wonderful. Her major issue came at the end of the slow woodwinds sequence, when she joins hands with all the corps women as they support her through the arabesque penchee, all the while twisting in and around themselves. It’s a haunting and ethereal moment, and she performed this beautifully, and continued to do so as the music shifted to a faster pace. Near the end, however, she has to perform a series of pique turns moving downstage right, in preparation for her exit. The turns were far too slow, and she completed them after the music had ended. It was unfortunate. Gorak’s performance was problematic as well. His double tours kept traveling, way too far over toward stage right, and again, he ended off the music. The worst part, though, was the final moment of the ballet. The male lead lifts his partner onto his shoulder, they hit a pose as the music ends. But this is Gorak. And he still can’t lift Lane. His hands were clasped around her waist, and he couldn’t lift her up to his shoulder level, she slid halfway down and he held her there, her legs dangling in the air. After all these years. Again? At this late date, it’s beyond disappointing. I’ll be back on Saturday evening for Lane & Gorak’s second performance of T&V, hoping against hope they’ll be better. I found the Tharp ballet somewhat fascinating, and not at all the horror show the NY Times review implied. Norma Kamali’s costumes looked as if the dancers had been let loose at a costume house and pulled bits and pieces together from boxes and bins to improvise their own outfits. Cornejo was extraordinary, astonishingly strong and confident. His dancing seemed infused with the flavor of Argentine tango. I kept thinking of Rudolf Valentino’s tango in the silent film “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” You can’t compare his dancing to Cornejo’s, of course, but the bent knees, elbows held aloft, the high head, all the tango elements seemed to flow in and out. At one point, Cornejo dances a short duet with Skylar Brandt with tango-like footwork. I found the ballet fun, and upbeat. Both Brandt and Trenary danced in all three pieces tonight. The final piece, “The Seasons,” was the highlight of the program. Everyone danced with great confidence and speed, a great improvement from the spring. There was some astonishing work from Kate Hurlin as Hail, Aran Bell as Winter, Blaine Hoven as the Faun. The evening, which started so slowly, really ended on a high note. Spotted in the audience: Adrain Danchig-Waring, seated across the aisle from me, Herman Cornejo’s wife, Maria, seated behind me, and Jon Stafford, chatting up patrons near the stage. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
  25. Lena, of course you are right. Management never fails to disappoint me. And of course, Erica Cornejo is Herman Cornejo's all-time favorite partner, so it will make the anniversary even more of a special event for him. Their duet is what I'm most looking forward to that evening.
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