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Saratoga- First Week

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Did anyone see Midsummer Night's Dream last night? I will be attending 2 performances next week, but I wish I could see Abi Stafford and Rachel Rutherford make their debuts in Concerto Barocco this week.

Any comments on Stafford's performance tonight in this role would be greatly appreciated.

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And in today's Albany Times Union (thanks Ari!)

Some 30 grade school-age ballet students in colorful winged costumes made for an adorable corps de ballet in miniature. As fairies, nymphs and sprites, they provided a marvelous court to Darci Kistler playing Titania and Peter Boal as Oberon.

A solid and weighty presence clad in shimmering gold, Boal commanded the stage for his opening solo. Played at the edge of the stage, it felt almost two-dimensional as he breathlessly darted from one end to another.

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Re Midsummer, where do the children in the production come from when the company goes to Saratoga? -- I.e., the SAB kids they use in the City or do they get a new crop upstate? If its the latter, Gabrielle Whittle certainly has her work cut out for her during the week-long break between the City Season and Saratoga.

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Michael, When NYCB comes to Saratoga they often bring a few children dancers with them from SAB but they do also hold auditions around Easter time in Saratoga for children. My sister was an understudy two years ago for Firebird and danced as a blue girl in Circus Polka last summer. We live about an hour and a half south of Saratoga. Since there are so many children ballets this summer they may have brought more children from Sab then in the past but they do audition local children, other girls from my old school were in Firebird last summer as well. They have a very rigorous rehearsal schedule everyday sometimes more then once a day depending, Garielle does an amazing job with the kids too it's quite impressive. Well I think thats probably all you needed to know. Hope I was a bit of help, a lot of the children are local as in Saratoga and Albany but I do know that a bunch come from SAB and from Pittursburg youth ballet.

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I just wanted to say that I saw Midsummer Thursday night (tonight) at SPAC. It was excellent, casting was as posted here on Ballet Alert although there was a misprint in the program. Daniel Ulbrict did a great job as puck he had a lot of energy and really kept you're attention. Tom Gold's feet as Oberon were excellent as well, he really has no trouble in keeping up with the music through all those fast steps. Maria and Charles complimented eachother as always as Titania and her cavilier. It was really nice to see Miranda on stage, I was unable to attend any city performances this year so the last I saw the company was last summer at SPAC but she looked as strong and beautiful as ever and it was the first time I'd seen Philip in a while and he did well except for a slight mishap where he ended a set of turns on one knee in the divertisment and had a look on his face like "oops" but it was no set back. Aesha was incredible her fouette's were right on as Hipolyta. Oh and Megan Fairchild was adorable and strong as the lead butterfly, I enjoyed seeing her in a featured roles, much more to come from and for her I can tell. There were only two things which seemed off, every dancer seemed to be getting "dizzy" a lot, probably just because it's the first week back to SPAC since last summer and they're still getting used to it again, nothing so bad that it threw the dancing off, just something i noticed. And I hate to say things badly about dancers especially in NYCB but Ask la Cour just seemed alkward dancing with Aesha tonight, almost like he didn't know where his arms and legs ended or he wasn't sure how to use them. This was my first time seeing him dance but he just didn't seem to feel comfortable or fit in, maybe I'll see more of him and come to a different conclusion. I hope so. Oh one more thing I just thought of, there were many many apprentices dancing tonight which was interesting to see and new company members, they just looked so young, but Abi Stafford danced a featured corps role in the divertissment tonight which I found interesting, she's such a sport for doing things like that. She was a bit off on timing at times but hey she's used to being a soloist now and everyone was a bit off, but it's not the end of the world. All in all I really enjoyed tonight, it was a good performance and I can't wait to get up there to see more. I'm about equal distance to Saratoga as to NYC.

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Major computers problems at home! No access until today! Let's see what I can remember of this week's performances:

Not in chronological order, but I'll begin with Wednesday night's repertory bill of Barocco, Strange and Western.

Again out of order: Guide to Strange Places has pretty colors in the lighting and the women's dresses. Peter Martins is a very angry man, I think, and a psychiatrist could have a field day with his choreography for his wife.

Western: such wonderful fun! I had seen it in the city with Jennie Somogyi and Nilas Martins in the first movement, here it was Pascale van Kipnis and James Fayette. (We'll have the NYC cast tomorrow). I think I'd like to see Jennie and James together! As much as I love Pascale, and I do--I don't think this part is suited to her. I adore her adagio technique-- and this doesn't give her much of a chance to show that off. As for James Fayette--he has developed into a wonderful partner (more about that re Barocco) and his hornpipe in Western was first rate. His Bottom is also tops--more on that re Midsummer. It's a pleasure to see Alexandra Ansanelli relaxed and enjoying herself--I chatted with her for few minutes. She is so genuinely thrilled with her promotion and has worked so hard for it. They are using her a lot and let's hope she stays healthy. She and Albert make a wonderful pair in 2nd movement. A review (perhaps it was the Times Union?) opined that the dancing was first rate with the comedy a B for effort, but I do not agree. If anything, the comedy in Western has become a bit too broad--I love it, but wouldn't want to see them play it up any more than they already do. Maria Kowroski is at her best in a kooky, comic part--those are the times that she lets her personality shine through, and the final movement is a perfect example.

And the finale of Western has to be one of the most enjoyable scenes in ballet. Of course, the unison needs to be perfect--and it wasn't. But it was close...and a great way to end the evening.

The evening began with what Suzanne Farrell calls "twenty minutes of salvation" [snip] --for the audience and for the dancers. (Although those jumps on pointe in the third movement must feel anything but heavenly to the dancers, it seems that they love to perform it.) And why not? It is the perfect blend of music and choreography. Just as in the Bach score, there is not a single note that is wasted, nor is there a single note that is out of place--there is no excess in the choreography either. No excess, but exactly what is needed. Indeed, Wendy Whelan does virtually ascend to heaven--the arc that she follows in the second movement takes one's breath away. Here James Fayette shows his attentiveness and care as a partner. The eight corps dancers were all veterans and it showed. Nothing was out of place. I hope Mr. B would have been pleased. I was.

I'll save Midsummer for another post. Soon!

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Friday night 7/11/03

Tonight was quite special. I came close to skipping the ballet, in favor of a performance of "Susannah" by Lake George Opera. I still wish I could fit in the opera, but I am so so glad to have been at NYCB tonight.

The reason? A truly inspired performance by Nilas Martins in first movement Western. At just about the midpoint in the movement, I realized that he was in the air. He was achieving elevation! He was turning--quickly,cleanly and accurately! He gave the first complete performance that I have seen from him in the longest time--maybe the first ever. He also seemed to be having a blast up there--poor guy, I had seen him in such misery so many times that I was thrilled for him and thrilled to have seen it. In fact the section with his hat at her feet was far, far better than on Wednesday, with my beloved James Fayette. His hat was right there, right at Jennie's feet....thanks Nilas. Keep it up.

As much as I enjoy Maria Kowrowski in the final movement, her performance tonight was sloppy, extremely so. Her fouettes were all over the stage and her free leg was swinging wildly in the grande battements. She must be hyperextended, but she must watch this tendency. I love high extension as much as anyone, but extension for no reason other than to kick to the stratsophere is not attractive, nor is it balletic.

I forget how much I enjoy Glass Pieces, until I see it again after a long hiatus. My ears are offended by much of Adams music, and I associate that with Philip Glass, to the detriment of Glass. My musical daughter put it better than I can and I don't remember exactly what she said, but to the effect that Glass has an underlying melodic structure that drives the music forward?

In any case, Glass looks as fresh today as the day it premiered. It appears to be timeless--that type of choreography can so easily look dated. In Robert Tewsley's first appearance on the SPAC stage he did himself proud, and we are looking for more from him. The corps is the star of the show and they looked wonderful. How many of them were even born when this ballet was made?

The opener was Donizetti, with Miranda Weese subbing for Jenifer Ringer. The feature was a very clean, experienced corps of senior members. Woetzel was in as well (I believe Tewsley was originally cast). I like Damien in this type of part. He showed the control that is necessary, while sacrificing none of the bravura that is called for. Of course his turning ability is well known, but he also posseses an excellent sense of timing in his turns, and is able to shift speed effortlessly--makes for an exciting sequence.

I tried my best, but I could not warm to Miranda. Clean, lovely technique--but, to my mind, no personality. Like with Maria, I enjoy the two of them most in a part where there is humor. In a ballet without distinct character , they don't bring any of their own. Maybe this is what Balanchine wanted ("just dance, dear"), but I don't think so? Remember Patty McBride in Donizetti? I expect that Jeny Ringer would bring her warmth and sparkle along as well, and I mourn that we didn't get to see her. Of course many of you know that she is one of my two current favorites!

I realize that I have still said nothing about Midsummer, and not because I don't (and didn't) like it. I adore it, at SPAC (have never seen it at the state theater, and don't really want to), relived opening night through Manhattnik's outstanding review, and will say more....later. I promise.

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