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Posts posted by DeCoster

  1. Recent article from NY Observer on Benjamin Millepied: http://ow.ly/s5b8


    Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once features music by David Lang, the co-founder of Bang on a Can who won a Pulitzer Prize for music last year. Mr. Millepied approached him about using his music months ago, and after meeting Mr. Millepied, Mr. Lang was eager to help. “He’s incredibly friendly, a pleasure to be around,” Mr. Lang said. “And he’s beautiful.” Mr. Millepied has a soccer player’s lean, compact body, a finely chiseled jaw and large, blue eyes, bearing a faint resemblance to Jude Law. An abstract tattoo runs up the left side of his stomach, inspired by the Bauhaus painter Oskar Schlemmer. When he smiles, which is often, you get the sense that he is confiding in you—a secret maybe, an insider’s joke.

    ABT couldn’t afford to commission a new score, so Mr. Millepied chose three works Mr. Lang had already composed—“Cheating, Lying, Stealing,” “Stick Figure” and “Short Fall.” Taken together, the music balances a wintery, emotional tenderness with heavy propulsive rhythms. Urban and modern, it is a strange if entirely welcome choice for ABT, often criticized for its focus on fusty period fairy tales.

    “I think Ben’s being courageous, bringing my music into the ballet,” Mr. Lang said. Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of ABT who commissioned Mr. Millepied, agreed: “I’ve been following him for a while now and I thought that, if nothing else, this guy is daring.”


    The article also mentions that Millepied recently vacationed to the Caribbean with his girlfriend Isabella Boylston. Such fun ballet news! It is a big season for Miss Boylston, and I look forward to seeing her confront the pressure. I've enjoyed what I've seen so far.

  2. I just wanted to add that Xiomara Reyes danced beautifully in Désir on Friday. I was struck by how beautiful, non-frenetic and non-athletic her pas de deux with Roman looked compared to Monday night's performance. She made the choreography look effortless and completely natural.

    Roberto, I could not agree more regarding Zhurbin and Reyes. They also stole the show on Tuesday (6/2) dancing with easy fluidity and passion. Quite a contrast to Blaine Hoven and Gillian Murphy in the same pas de deux (I also saw the Sat. matinee), where the movements appeared slightly heavy and deliberate, and the chemistry was lacking entirely. (I have been thinking lately that perhaps Xiomara--like others have mentioned regarding Dvorenko--is one of the unheralded, yet consistently wonderful dancers at ABT. Although not possessing the insane virtuoso technique of some of the other principal women, she has excellent stage presence/ theatrical abilities, wonderful footwork, and seems to relinquish her entire self into the act of dancing. Perhaps a bit of a present-day Eleanor D'Antuono?)

    On to "On the Dniepier":

    I enjoyed the ballet and hope it does find its place in the rep. As many pointed out, there is a distinct sense of a lack of privacy in this small-town love rectangle (doesn't Pillar of fire give us this same feeling?). Group dances for the village men and women are mixed throughout the action, a sort of Greek chorus reflecting the anxieties and hopes of the main characters and sometimes commenting on them. I thought the group work was flawlessly executed and well rehearsed (unlike Desir, where the dancers were not on the same page stylistically in the group sections). The ballet takes on much more shape and dimension, and I appreciated Ratmansky's use of the stage more when viewed from up above.

    Comparing the two casts I saw is difficult, as I certainly liked aspects of both. Carreno was more effective than Saveliev in conveying the PTSD, freaked-out qualities of a returning soldier. The frantic beats and side-to-side glances of the opening solo reflect a man who no longer knows his place in the world or whose identity may have shifted since going to war. Carreno and Saveliev have wonderful footwork; however, I felt deprived of this (especially from farther away), as their green/grey uniforms blended too easily into the stage surface. Others have commented on this, as did the very friendly man sitting next to me on Saturday afternoon. Vishneva's Olga was daring, flirtatous, and bold: a village girl not afraid to create disharmony or rock the boat by following her heart. Her way of dancing simply conveys riskiness and a certain sexuality. She looked gorgeous in that white dress, and of course she is quite the crowd-pleaser. Messmer was a more subtle and conflicted Olga: drawn to Sergei, yet aware of the disharmony their relationship is brewing in the community and thus seemingly guilt-ridden or torn. And she is no slouch in the technical department, managing the difficult allegro choreography well. Hee Seo was gorgeous and moving as Natalia. She is a fine actress. I somewhat appreciated Riccetto's intrepretation more, however. It's just that Olga and Natalia (Messmer and Riccetto) seemed to have more of a relationship on Saturday, so the sense of feverish attraction mixed with guilt on Olga's part juxtaposed with pained jealously, followed by resigned, compassionate sacrifice on Natalia's part came through more. Perhaps this could have something to do with it being my second watching.

    Hammoudi was great as Olga’s shunned fiancé. He does angry really well, and with those long legs he covers space quicker than most men in the company. Tamm was respectable in the role, and he is a fine dancer, yet he didn't command the same threatening presence. Once again, the costume for this character bothered me: the wide lapels and slightly unbuttoned shirt seemed sort of 1970s and out-of-place.

    I have difficulty describing choreography, but Ratmansky's work was satisfying not only aesthetically but in the way the dance conveyed emotion. I hope to see “On the Dnieper” again someday, hopefully with Veronika Part as Natalia.

  3. I have not seen Desir but i vaguely remember Anna Kissellgoff giving it positive reviews and raving about the partnering.This was several years ago(NY premiere?) and i always wanted(desired) to see it.Everybody seems to hate it.Is it too oldfashioned or the choreographic taste is different now? Any comments?

    I enjoyed Desir greatly last night, especially Xiomara Reyes and Roman Zhurbin. They had a wonderful energy together, so youthful and exuberant. I've never enjoyed Reyes so much. I did not find the piece cliche or old fashioned in the least, but perhaps poorly rehearsed. Especially in the group sections, I noticed that Reyes and Ricetto danced with so much breath and movement in their torsos (more of a modern dance approach, I guess), whereas the rest of the woman didn't allow themselves those contractions and releases and maintained more of a traditional ballet posture. I felt that Ricetto and Reyes really threw themselves into this performance with abandon, and the audience was appreciative. The partnering was astounding though . . . jaw dropping really.

    I want to write about Dnieper and Prodigal, but will wait until I see another cast on Saturday from up high. (I got tickets through the 18-29 thing and could not believe that they gave me Orchestra row G. Yet despite my delight at these fancy seats, throughout the performance I was kind of wishing I was back up in the dress circle. I felt I was missing things and not getting a full view of the staging and formations. However, it was nice to observe facial expressions and see the dancers up close. Hee Seo and Diana Vishneva are just so incredibly beautiful.)

  4. The video has increased my anticipation for the premiere as well. And hearing the talk about Ratmansky's demands--like his desire for the dancers to express emotions through their movement--made me think he might be following in Tudor's footsteps a bit with this piece. And thus perhaps it makes sense he arrived at ABT afterall, where the dancers, in my opinion, are more adept at telling stories.

    Viewing this special website with all of the wonderful designs and that stunning photograph + seeing Ratmansky being interviewed in front of a reproduction of the Bakst design for "L'apres midi d'un faune" led me to fantasize that ABT might someday produce a lovely souvenir program a la Ballet Russes. Now that's something I could imagine buying at the theater! (Dirty pointe shoes aren't my thing)

  5. This article in Wall Street Journal's magazine, describes the ballet as an "unorthodox love triangle in the Ukraine." Not much other info in the write-up, but it contains a lovely photograph of Part, Gomes, and Herrera and reproductions of three costume designs by Galina Solovyeva.

    According to ABT website, V Part, P Herrera, M Gomes and D Halberg will be the !st cast of A Ratmansky's 1st ABT premiere. Anybody knows anything else about this new production?Is it a story ballet ?
  6. I'm still deciding on what Prokofiev performance to choose. What does everyone else think?

    I had an impossible time deciding on that one so I splurged and selected one Boone/Corella and one Wiles/Stiefel P.S.. I am excited to see what Kristi Boone brings to the role. She really caught my eye in Jardin Aux Lilas in the "episode from the past" part: a very lush and dramatic dancer. And now that the casts for Dneiper are up, I am suddenly so excited for the season and the chance to see all these beautiful dancers in all their glorious configurations (D. Vishneva, A. Hammoudi, etc. etc. etc.!) Lets hope for no injuries.

  7. I also attended the Saturday matinee. Concerto Barocco looked excellent for the most part, especially the ensemble: so sharp and well rehearsed. Wendy Whelan often appears awkward and strangely angular to me, but especially on Saturday. Her lower body is perfection, but her arms are distractingly sharp and unballetic. They appear weightless, but not in a good way, sometimes crashing down against her body or flying up alongside her ear. In general NYCB dancers all do the broken wrist thing a little too much for my taste, but Whelan is the worst offender. Perhaps Whelan's peculiarities were accentuated in contrast with Ellen Bar's beautiful port-de-bras and shoulders. (My mother, who is not ballet trained, even commented that the two did not move their arms the same way!) I haven't seen Ms. Barr dance before, and I hope to see her again: gorgeous lines, expressive movements, and a beautiful face. Despite her tall frame, she seemed to tackle the allegro portions effortlessly. Albert Evans did look superb, although it's mostly a partnering role.

    The Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was a real audience pleaser. Gonzaga Garcia has nice ballon, and Scheller is an assured spinner. You can tell the audience loves those fish dives. It's such a pity they botched that finally lift (it appeared they stepped on each other a bit during the preparation and never recovered).

    La Valse was definitely the highlight for me. Wow. I have not seen this piece live or recorded, and I was completely enraptured by the choreography and the music. I wish I had my program, because the supporting couples were excellent in addition to Janie Taylor, the perfect willing victim. The creepy gleefulness of the piece is something I haven't seen in many other ballets. I also thought Philip Neal was wonderfully theatrical.

    Last was Symphony in Three Movements. I thought the whole ensemble danced with energy and great musicality. This piece (in addition to Concerto Barocco) really made me think that Balanchine wanted to challenge his dancers, to see how fast they could possibly move. The end is so fast!

    Replying to Krystin’s comments above on Macaulay’s review (same program/cast, different night), I understand your reaction to his seemingly harsh criticisms. It is natural to feel defensive about dancers we love. I think he can point out strange details (like Danny Ulbrict having small feet. Duh. He’s really small.) and at times be a bit harsh. However, I do think that he is seriously invested in the future of ballet as an art form. He wants to see these companies flourish. He wants to see dancers grow, tackle challenges, and improve their artistry. He seems to review more performances and companies than critics of the past, and I am enlightened by his comparisons and the historical context he often provides. I’m a bit of a convert, I guess. Just my two cents . . .

  8. New works bring in younger audiences, ...

    This statement got me thinking. I think it's become a mantra (cliche too?) for most arts organizations. But how true is it?


    1) What is a "new" work? Short, modern neo-classical vs. classical full-length (ie. 2 or more acts)? Or simply a new full-length story ballet?

    2) Do younger audiences attend the shorter modern/neo-classical pieces because they are curious, or have shorter attention spans, or prefer more "modern" music? Or (here's a question for all you statisticians): Do they also come to the full-length classics, but the aging baby boomers are taking up more seats so the percentage of younger audience members able to attend is lower? Which 'format' do the younger audiences actually prefer?

    3) And considering the very young - children - which do they prefer? Short or long? Story or not?

    4) Or is it all a nurture vs. nature thing, and it depends how you were raised to appreciate the 'old' classics?

    You've raised many good questions (that I can not answer) and exposed my somewhat sloppy generalization. I was speaking mostly from my own perspective and that of my friends who are occasional ballet goers. We want to see the ballet as an evolving art form, not simply as a sort of annual re-presentation of 19th century works (with 21st century athletic prowess, of course). And just as they were in the 19th century, I would like to see some ballets set to contemporary music. Why not? Ballet it a vocabulary of movement, not a historical exercise. I love the classics. I was immersed in ballet from a young age. However, I think to keep a level of excitement about ballet, there needs to be a sense that it is evolving and changing, a sense that there is something current and vital happening. For this reason, I think it is important for the art-form to balance re-stagings of the classics with new(er) works.

    I think younger (and not typically ballet-going) audiences do have a lower tolerance for the pantomime and general silliness of some of the story ballets (I'm thinking of Corsaire and Sleeping Beauty especially). But children (who I was not considering at all of in my OP) eat that stuff up. Kids love goofy sultans, wicked sorcerers, magic fairies, etc. I was one of these children, and I still enjoy these ballets (depending). But if a company is seeking to attract more audience members in their 20s and 30s, I think they should consider ballets with more contemporary themes. That being said, maybe my statement has nothing to do with "new works" at all. I brought my boyfriend (a 31 yr. old non-ballet goer) to the Tudor evening, and he was floored. The psychological nature of the works connected with him much more than the story ballets (Giselle and SB) I dragged him to in the Spring. And I think he did really appreciate the variety of the mixed bill.

    So, I apologize for my unqualified comments, and I can't be said to represent young folks in any way. Perhaps I just want to see more new works . . . and more Tudor for that matter!

  9. Visiting BalletTalk seems to bring happy news from ABT these days. Wonderful!

    I agree that Citizen was pretty atrocious, but I have to come out in support of Rabbit and Rogue (the other new work last year). I really liked it, despite the critical response.

    New works bring in younger audiences, and this, I think we can all agree, is a transition that needs to start happening to ensure the ongoing existence of ballet companies in the US.

  10. Matthew Murphy (former ABT dancer who is now a freelance photographer for the NY Times) has some beautiful photographs of rehearsals for Benjamin Millepied's Danse Concertantes on his blog over at The Winger. The photos are in two separate posts. Pictured are Isabella Boylston, Blaine Hoven, Maria Ricetto (Ricetto and Millepied were also pictured in the NY Times article this Sunday), Alex Hammoudi, Sarah Lane, Cory Stearns, Amanda McKerrow and others.

    Can't wait to see some of my favorite ABT dancers at the Joyce! Anyone else?

  11. Like many others I relished the chance to see some exquisite ABT corps and soloist dancers shine on the smaller City Center Stage. Along these lines, I wanted to mention the upcoming Benjamin Millepied-Danses Concertantes at the (way small) Joyce Theatre, Dec. 9-14. I just purchased my tickets and noticed the YouTube plug lists the dancers to appear: Isabella Boylston, Sarah Lane, Maria Ricetto, Celine Cassone, Melissa Thomas, Nicole Graniero, Gemma Bond, Alexandre Hammoudi, Cory Stearns, Eric Tamm, Luis Ribagorda, Tom Forster, and Blain Hoven. "Wow," says I.

    They will be dancing Balanchine's Sonatine and two Millepied works, all to piano accompaniment.

    Sorry if I posted in the wrong place or redundantly.

  12. I attended the Oct. 26 Sunday matinée, unexpectedly, as a former coworker had her date bail out at the last minute, thus she offered me the extra ticket. I had only budgeted for one performance this season (I chose the all-Tudor evening), so you can imagine my delight!

    I was swept away by the subtle drama and subtly gorgeous dancing in Leaves are Fading. I feel as though I've seen so many still images from this piece (McKerrow and Kirkland), it was special to see it performed for the first time. I agree with many of Marqa's insightful comments. Hee Seo really excelled in this choreography. She is thin and delicate, yet strong and regal . . . and those feet. Hee's facial expression, so full of longing and intensity, fully expressive (not static), really suited her dancing this afternoon.

    Julie and Marcelo were all that I hoped for. Her ethereal delicacy contrasted with his earthy strength. They moved me and wowed me with their gorgeous pas de deux.

    One thing that struck me during Leaves (and I sat in orchestra row D, much closer than usual) was the quietness of the footwork from all the dancers. They all seemed to be working through their feet so beautifully, I heard literally nothing. We always notice when distracted by pointe-shoe sound effects, so I'd like to note that during this piece I heard not a leaf fall. Brava!

    Citizen. Oh boy. Not much to say here that hasn't been said. It didn't please me, but it was short. I have, in the past, thought of liberating Cory Stearns from his costume, but never before out of sympathy. :sweatingbullets: He did manage to look gorgeous, despite the green corset and metallic silver capri tights. The other male dancer (Sean Stewart?) wore equally ridiculous garb but seemed more adept at the modern, Forsythe-esque choreography, whereas Cory appeared to occasionally revert back to a ballet comfort zone. My favorite/least favorite (depending on how you look at it) wacky, po-mo moment in this piece was when the random, non-performer "citizens?" strolled onstage. (Of course my eyes were immediately drawn to Marcelo who received another mental ovation for Leaves).

    I thought Baker's Dozen was well danced and great fun. Maria Ricetto and Blaine Hoven were riveting. Maria is phenomenal to watch (crisp jumps, great extensions, wonderfully musical), and I can't wait to see what the future holds for her career. Jacquelyn Reyes (I think--wavy brown hair?) was another standout who showed a great deal of personality. I thought the dancers captured Tharp's off-kilter choreography well (my friend disagreed), although I admittedly have never seen the piece danced elsewhere. I didn't feel that this work was dated, in fact I think vintage Tharp really stands the test of time, blending ballet, jazz, circus clown goofiness, and pedestrian movements into something bigger than the sum of its parts. I was also glad to see that Elaine Kudo, a great lady and former teacher of mine, coached the piece, as she certainly understands Tharpian musicality and technique.

    The afternoon finished up with Theme and Variations, a whirlwind, non-stop, in-your-face Balanchine extravaganza. I wonder how this looked on ABT in the 40s? Kajiya Yuriko appeared nervous--her facial expression more of a grimace than a smile--and truly lacked the gusto to get the job done. I was rooting for her (I loved her in Corsaire last Spring), but I agree with other ballettalkers that Kajiya may have not been up to the task for this one. David Hallberg was a bit off and even fell out of his pirouette, but his exuberance and palpable love of performing so effect me that I forgive everything. Objectivity be damned; I could watch this man dance anything. The corps was impressive, and I have to agree with the earlier poster who commented on the brilliant technique of Simone and Misty as part of the lead group of four girls. Misty Copeland is so solid; I love watching her precise legs and feet as she executes jumps, turns, anything! One corps memeber (I believe Zhong-Jing Fang) got completely off in the final coda, and struggled to rejoin the corps. Otherwise an exciting and impressive showing.

    All in all Sunday was a pleasant and unexpected afternoon--I felt like a lucky girl indeed. On a side note, did anyone else notice the story on Wheeldon in the program was written by Matthew Murphy? Good to see him doing some writing work since his dance career was derailed by illness.

    I can't wait for Friday and the all-Tudor evening, especially Pillar of Fire and Jardin aux Lilas. Yay!

  13. :thumbsup: Boy, what did poor Etudes ever do to deserve "tackily sensationalist and musically repellent"? Or what did ABT do to it?

    Macaulay on Etudes (from NYT 6/5/08): "It’s much more enjoyable when it’s danced atrociously, the way I used to see it 30 years ago with the London Festival Ballet."

    Excuse me, what? I understand that he loathes the ballet, but how could a work that is pretty much about the progression of ballet technique, a technical exercise of sorts, be more enjoyable when dance atrociously? Or perhaps I take ballet more seriously than Mr. Macaulay :blush:

  14. I have to say, I was impressed that he included her with the ABT ballerinas, when he specifically did *not* mention several principals and was downright hostile to several others (Paloma and Xiomara). I was also surprised he seemed more willing to be well disposed to her than in the past (I remember the boring comment as well).

    Agreed. But what about the leading women he did *not* mention? Does Macaulay get any "dance pleasure" from principal dancers Julie Kent or Irina Dvorovenko? I thought it strange that he accused the women of not having the authority to match the men, and then dissected soloists (Lane and Part) without mentioning Kent and Dvorenko who have had more time to develop in the roles.

    On a side note: Many reviewers have pointed out some performances he missed (like Part in Bayadere), and of course Alastair can't see 'em all, but having myself seen both Carreno and Gomes in Merry Widow this season, I think it's Gomes who really became the "real star: in that role. He takes the physical comedy of the first act to another level, in my humble opinion.

  15. Faux Pas, I recall once reading an article in which Susan Jaffe mentioned that she worked with an acting coach. I don't know if all dancers at ABT take acting lessons, but this may have played a role in the fact that Susan Jaffe was praised as a fantastic dance-actress.

    Jaffe did indeed work with an acting coach whom she extends a great deal of credit to. She discusses this and her theatrical development in her 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, which I happened to rewatch recently.

    Susan sometimes comes to watch video at the Performing Arts Library (where I work), looking so lovely and fresh with her pixie haircut.

  16. Is that the Lincoln Center public library ?

    Where is that room ?

    Do you have most of this year abt performances ?

    I am desperately looking to see Part bayadere and swan lake in video, wd you have that by any chance ?

    Yes, the Lincoln Center public library. The research division is on the third floor. We have not only film and video, but clippings, photographs, programs, printed materials, etc. (Circulating materials are on the 1st and 2nd floors).

    We generally only tape ABT (and other dance companies) once a year (I believe last year was Manon w/ A. Ferri). The artistic director chooses the production and the cast. Because the film needs to be edited and cataloged, it can be as long as six months before it is available at the library. There are other videos, beside full-length ballets, that we acquire which may be of interest to ABT fans, for example the "Works and process at the Guggenheim series" features artistic staff, choreographers, coaches, etc. in roundtable discussions with principal dancers and soloists demonstrating segments of the choreography.

    To see what our holdings are before you come in, go to http://catnyp.nypl.org/. You can search by company name, dancer, or choreographic work. Or you can just do a keyword search. A good way to see only ABT videos is to search "American Ballet Theatre" under author and then modify your search to restrict the format to film and video. Or you can just come to the library and ask your friendly dance librarian for help.

  17. Attended yesterday's matinee performance of the Merry Widow. Enjoyed the production. The choreography, though not particularly virtuosic (word?) did seem challenging at times, especially some of the corps partnering work in the first act (those attitude turns in plié while moving and the lifts with the girls performing extend brisé: not easy!)

    Was delighted to get a chance to see Julie Kent this season, as I've missed her thus far. I felt that this role suited her poised maturity and subdued elegance especially well. To me Kent was just pure grace: nothing forced, lovely footwork (precise but soft), supple port de bras, and a sensuous rapport with her partner, the always charming Carreno.

    X. Reyes is not one of my favorite principals by any means, but she excelled as the sassy flirt, Valencienne, and the outrageous gowns didn't hold her back one bit. However, I was hanging around after the performance to wait for the tapes (I work for the NY Public Library for Performing Arts, and we were documenting the performance for the Jerome Robbins moving image archive*) and Yuriko appeared onstage in practice clothes (only 5 or 10 minutes after curtain!). As I watched her whip through some of the choreography I was intrigued and a bit jealous of the Wed. PM crowd (including christine174). I can't wait to see her develop as a dancer!

    I'm attending Saturday's matinee. Looking forward to seeing the production with a different cast and from up high.

    *For those of you in NYC, the Dance Division of the New York Public Library will be adding Wednesday's matinee to its growing collection (at least 200 titles) of ABT performances. What better way to spend a hot summer day than watching ballet in our air conditioned research room!

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