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I'm surprised no one has posted on the ballet yet. I saw it on Monday night with Herman turning in a beautiful performance in the first act. I did not care for the actual ballet, the choreography, or most of the dancers' interpretation of the choreography, though the ideas behind it (the elaborate sets, the massive choir) were nice enough. Anyone care to share their thoughts?

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I saw it Monday night too and hadn't posted anything because I hated it. I was going by the old notion of "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything."

But in fact, there are some nice things I can say. I certainly agree that Herman Cornejo in Act One was very convincing. Julio Bocca in Act Two had the less interesting part. It's hard to fault any of the dancers in any case.

The music for Act 1 was good -- John Adams's (him again)

"Harmonium," brilliantly performed by the New York Choral Society and the orchestra under Charles Barker. They, along with vocal soloists Troy Cook, Chad Freeburg, and Mary Ellen Callahan, were also wonderful in the music for Act 2. But that music was "Carmina Burana," which ought to be declared off-limits for choreographers for the next couple of generations.

I thought Natalie Weir's choreography in Act 1 was marginally better than Stanton Welch's in Act 2, but I really disliked the entire ballet, starting with the pretentious title, "HereAfter." It didn't help that Act 1 is called "Heaven" and Act 2 "Earth," thereby reversing the title.

It should be noted that there were audience cheers at the end. Jennifer Dunning in the New York Times had the best comment on that. "How could something so big and serious-looking not be good?"

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Regarding Farrell Fan's comment about Carmina Burana (ought to be declared off-limits to choreographers for the next couple of generations) - I completely agree. What possesses a choreographer (especially one with American Ballet Theater at their disposal) to say, hey, I think I'll do a new ballet to - let's see - how about Carmina Burana??!

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i am interested to hear about stanton welch's new work in NY, but don't know what it's called. sounds like maybe this is it? "Hereafter" - ?

i am not registered at NY Times site (i was, but i forgot my name!) - so i haven't seen any of the reviews, which might set me straight. OK, i'll TRY to register AGAIN...

meanwhile, can anyone fill me in a bit, about how stanton's work has been recieved? (btw, i'm a natalie weir fan, and saw one of her works last night, here in australia.)

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ah - just answered my own question:

HEREAFTER. A ballet in two parts presented by American Ballet Theatre, artistic director, Kevin McKenzie. Act I, "Heaven," choreography by Natalie Weir, music by John Adams; Act II, "Earth," choreography by Stanton Welch, music by Carl Orff. Scenery and costumes by Santo Loquasto, lighting by Brian MacDevitt.
thanks to ari, i found a review by sylviane gold:


Welch and Weir have done good work in the past, but this project seems to have overwhelmed them. In both halves, the choreography reaches for grandeur but rarely gets beyond trite.  

- - - The idea was to construct a unified ballet with two choreographers, Natalie Weir and Stanton Welch, and two disparate choral pieces, John Adams' "Harmonium" and Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." Act I, titled "Heaven," pairs Weir with the Adams, which is a soaring setting for three poems, while Act II, "Earth," is Welch's choreographic vision of Orff's popular, pulsing cantata based on medieval poetry.

- - - Unenthusiastic audiences aren't necessarily right, of course. But this one was. Kevin McKenzie's commendable effort to diversify ABT's repertory is going to result in expensive mistakes, and "HereAfter," ponderous and glum, is one of them.

hmm...bit of a worry. :)
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Grace, I haven't seen much of either Stanton Welch or Nathalie Weir's work, and I"m not sure how helpful "they're controversial" is. Both have their fans, especially Welch, who has done more work here. And both have detractors, mostly that the work is derivative or not particularly original.

I hope others who can provide more detail...

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since *I* didn't say "they're controversial". i am assuming that you, alexandra, are putting forward that idea? - but with hesitation. is that right? if so, i understand that, and am not surprised by that, or the reasons you suggest for it. i guess i was just looking for THIS week's feedback, rather than an overall assessment... :)

so i MUST read the reviews! :)

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I did like HereAfter and I'll try to explain why. I'm certainly in the minority here.

Re the two choreographers: I had no prior familiarity with Natalie Weir, except for the bits of the Harrison ballet that she did. Previous Welch pieces that I had seen had not impressed me much.

Re the music: I'm no fan of Adams and don't care for anything that Martins has done to his music. I found the music in the first section of HereAfter to be very repetitive and not very interesting, although beautifully played and sung, as has been stated here. Carmina Burana: I know it is overchoreographed, but I searched in my memory and can only recall seeing one version: that by Michael Uthoff for the Hartford Ballet over 20 years ago. I have not seen PB's version, or even the one that our local Albany Berkshire Ballet has. I adore this music, even though it is also overplayed and oversung--and so I was eager to see another ballet version.

It is an interesting approach to choreography, isn't it? To have the AD choose music and then search out the choreographer to make the work. Frankly, even though Kevin McKenzie heard both choral pieces on the same program and therefore wanted the ballet to mimic that, I didn't find enough of a link between the two: only the reappearance of Ethan Stieffel at the end, a tenuous link, at best. So I don't think the ballet works as a whole.

I thought the hamster cage set in Part I was rather silly. Happy to see it disappear in Part II.

Part I was fine enough to sit through, but I loved Part II. I found it exciting, dramatic, and not at all derivative, but that is, I am sure, because I haven't seen umpteen dance versions of Carmina Burana. In fact I thought it was the best work that I have seen from Welch and I would be delighted to see it again. After those reviews, not likely.....

I tried not to focus on the costumes, because they were rather silly too. There were lots of "Welch-isms", as my daughter and I agreed, it wouldn't be Welch if there wasn't some falling and rolling going on--but there was also some beautiful lifting and jumping going on.

Both sections really focus on the men--well ABT has lots of men right now, with lots of bravura. As I watched Ethan Stieffel yet again, I thought about his all-too-brief stint across the plaza.... and it was a true pleasure to see Monique Meunier on a stage again, woefully under-utilized, but your eyes go right to her and they don't leave her.

As is my tendency, I didn't look for a story, I didn't look for deep meaning--I just enjoyed the juxtaposition of powerful music and powerful dancing.

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if it makes you feel any better, i've NEVER seen a Carmina Burana...

It is an interesting approach to choreography, isn't it? To have the AD choose music and then search out the choreographer to make the work.
odd indeed, if true... :confused:
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The story of the ballet's genesis is told in a five-page article by Valerie Gladstone in the ABT Playbill. It begins:

"'I was absolutely overwhelmed,' says Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, recalling his reaction to hearing the New York Choral Society perform John Adams's Harmonium and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana three years ago. 'I was so affected by the juxtaposition of the spritual with the carnal,' he says, 'I thought, what a wonderful evening of ballet it would make.'

"McKenzie set out to fulfill his dream by sending the music to likely choreographers. 'Unless a choreographer feels passionate about the music,' he says, 'you're not going to have a good ballet.' Although several submitted detailed proposals, nothing satisfied him until he heard from Stanton Welch, the new artistic director of Houston Ballet, and Natalie Weir, like Welch, also a well-known Australian choreographer.

"'They are enormously inventive,' McKenzie says from experience. 'In their ballets, they show a strong sense of theater and an inclination toward storytelling. They know how to develop an emotional narrative.' Both of them have worked with Ballet Theatre before: Welch choreographed Clear, both he and Weir created ballets for the George Harrison tribute, Within You Without You, and Weir also did Jabula for Ballet Theatre and created two pieces for the Studio Company, His Weeping and Bitter Moon.

"McKenzie couldn't believe that both their proposals revolved around a central figure who goes through the cycles of life. 'I felt it made their collaboration on HereAfter all the more natural,' he says. 'We will see Natalie's hero move on to Stanton's ballet. Their dances, like the two musical pieces, represent two ends of the spectrum -- heaven and earth. I named it HereAfter for that nebulous place between life and death. 'In the future, the works may be presented separately, but this season, they will be given eight performances together.'"

I'll refrain from commenting on the foregoing, but I'm glad rkoretzky was nudged to post. It makes me feel like Voltaire.

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Actually, I don't think it was uncommon for choreographers to work on scores chosen by directors--certainly Balanchine didn't choose Apollo or Prodigal Son, and Ashton was given the score, the sets, and the libretto for Devil's Holiday, as was, of course Petipa for Sleeping Beauty, just to name some great ballets. And Fokine's Firebird, and Nijinska's Les Noces were done to scores that Diaghilev chose. But of course Diaghilev chose by and large great choreographers, which I'm afraid McKenzie didn't. I was wondering if there could possibly be a subliminal message to Stanton Welch in the titles of his works ABT is doing this season--"It is CLEAR that HEREAFTER we can do WITHOUT YOU." But I suspect not.

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and i DO mean "ow!"

it was the idea of putting 2 different composer's pieces together, and then casting around for choreographic responses - which would go together - that struck me as odd.

farrell fan - thank you for that fascinating additional info, which helps explain a lot.

'Devil's Holiday'? sheesh - never heard of THAT before. (NOT meaning to change the subject ;) )

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just heard from an acquaintance who has returned to australia after seeing this work. apparently, for the last performance, they swapped the order of the two choreographer's contributions, resulting in a better effect all-round. interesting that what was suggested here, up above in this thread, was actually tried out - and DID work better!

maybe you have more influence than you know! ;)

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