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ABT City Center Week 3

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To inspire you :blushing:

Every season I say that our discussions of both ABT and NYCB's New York seasons get better -- and every season I mean it. Each season there are three or four new people who jump into the mix, and it is wonderful to read so many different opinions.

While I'm especially fond of the long detailed reviews, I'm also quite happy to read the "Went last night. X was great" quick takes -- it's all part of the mix. So if you haven't stuck a toe in yet, please do. And to our devoted regulars -- I hope you're not burned out and are going to see some of the cast changes this week. If so, please let us know what you think!

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Well, since you put it that way . . .

Saw the "W"/Preposition program Tuesday. New casts for me, and cause to reconsider previous biases. Specifically, Xiomara Reyes, dancing the last pdd in Duato's "Without Words" with Ethan Steifel, was pitch perfect. I hate when that happens. :wink: With this ballet generally, I am just increasingly irked by the degree to which Duato misses what Schubert is up to. Or maybe that's just me, and I'm missing it.

Forsythe's "workwithinwork" was densely packed and energetically performed. I think I need to see it again to take it all in, but would rather not. :pinch::wacko:

Once again, "Within You Without You," had me floating out of the theater singing the music and shaking my shoulders. Standouts in the mostly new (to me) cast were Abrera with Stappas in the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" pdd, Gomes (as always) in the "Within You Without You" section and Craig Salstein among the ensemble. The energy this crew put forth was absolutely explosive, which is why, although this is by no means great art, it is reliably great fun.

Big News

Listed to perform the Elder sister in Wednesday's Pillar: Monique Meunier! :o :party: :bouncing:

Also listed for Wednesday is Zhong-Jing Fang in Symphonic Variations. I was deeply impressed by this young dancer's spiritual quality in her ABT Studio Co. performances. :wink: She joined the main company last spring as an apprentice and is still listed at that level. :flowers:

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Thanks again to everyone for the wonderful reports! There's plenty to do over here in Edinburgh, but not much ballet :wink: However, I am going to see the Rambert Dance Company tonight and the Royal Ballet is only a 4-5 hour train ride away.

Does anyone have any more details on Corella's injury? I hope it's minor, and not something that will force more adjustments in casting, as the company seems stretched enough with the varied repertory.

As to Acosta, I would think that his busy schedule would prevent more than a brief appearance during the 2004 Met Seaon. It seems that his first priority is the Royal Ballet- he performs again in La Bayadere down in London next week-along with future tours of "Tocororo", and he also is likely to perform with the Texas Ballet Theatre (I think that's the right name now) where Ben Stevenson is AD and of course the occasional performance in Cuba.



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Wednesday Night

In Symphonic Variation's tonight (Wednesday) the performance by the young Zhong-Jing Fang as the "girl on the right" was indeed extraordinary. She begins with a base of great physical beauty and, as a dancer, is beautifully centered, moves with instantaneous quickness and in a beautifully soft manner, and is extremely melodic in her response to music. You could hardly stop watching her and everyone I talked to at the theater (four different friends) all spontaneously noticed and remarked upon her performance. This is someone you don't see every day. Wow.

Stella Abrera's performance was sound but slightly forced. Watching her I wondered if there is actually a word which is the opposite of "legato," as that would describe her. Until a friend aptly suggested "staccato." Also if there can be a liquid pas de bourree, what is its opposite, because that describes Stella?

I was struck by how Sophie Fedorovitch's design for the backdrop in Symphonic in a sense "invented Sol Lewitt" a generation before Sol Lewitt himself "invented Sol Lewitt." There, as it were in a single flash, was revealed (one cannot say "anticipated" when something springs up fully realized) the entire development of postwar graphic mimimalism. Which only goes to show that graphic miminalism, far from springing from the ground fully formed, had deep roots in the 30's and 40's, and was not so much a revolutionary as an evolutionary artistic development.

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I'm with Michael - could not take my eyes off of Zhong-Jing Fang. She truly is exquisitely beautiful - both as a dancer and as a woman. And as to your comments on the back drop - I kept thinking this was 1940's "modern"...along with the men's costumes. In some strange way I kept thinking of Prodigal Son - something about the time these ballets were made maybe? I know when a ballet is performed the original costumes, if at all possible, are used and I am assuming that's why the men had to wear these unfortunate outfits. I found them very distracting - they looked as though they were either wearing aluminum beanies and the half shirts didn't do it for me either. The women, on the other hand looked great - much more flattering costumes for them.

My reactions to last night are not what I expected. I attended wanting to love the Ashton and Tudor pieces, but I really did not. I hesitate to even post this but since I can't be pummeled with tomatoes, ;) I'll just say Pillar of Fire kept reminding me of Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" - it was so incredibly somber. It's not that I was expecting a light and happy tale, but for me it was not something I'd rush out to see again. However, Amanda McKerrow certainly expressed her character's withdrawn sadness deeply. Unfortunately towards the end of the piece Ms. McKerrow appeared to be bleeding on the front of her right ankle, a bit on her heel - and there was a huge stain of red on her knee as well. I believe this was real for it appeared to stain the front of her dress as well. I can imagine that this was an incredibly draining performance for her as Hagar from an emotional point of view. She received quite an ovation at her curtain call.

Irina Dvorovenko was her usual spitfire self in Raymonda and really knows how to milk the crowd - I couldn't help but laugh several times, but I did think she was very good.

As for Martha Graham's piece Diversion of Angels - why does a ballet company choose to perform a modern piece? I don't really think it's their calling. Just my opinion, of course.

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Dvorovenko and Beloserkofsky have become the "Max and Irina show," caricatures of "Russian Dancers" presenting a caricature of classical ballet. It is very popular. I can't stand to watch it but in a resigned mood, and when they've also fed me properly, I tell myself so what? -- A good program has something for everyone.

I don't know if it was just the Max and Irina show turning me off, but the Raymonda passage performed last night seemed particularly dull, uninteresting and schematic from every point of view and one sure does hope that this is not a hint of what to expect from the full length production to come. Anna Marie Holmes must find some leavening for this particular loaf.

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I just wanted to echo what people said about Fang. She was absolutely luminous. I do like the men's costumes, though, the headpeices give them a slighly otherworldly feeling. I remember Cynthia Harvey saying in a forum (she was in the earlier ABT production), that the men felt a bit awkward wearing them, but I think that is to the good, because it reminds them that they should use their heads (I don't mean to think, I mean to move!) Symphonic Variations was made in 1946, and Prodigal Son in 1929, a very different time, and by a very different designer, so I don't think there is any connection. I really liked the classical allusions of the costumes.

I didn't notice McKerrow's ankle, but I thought she was wonderful, and quite varied in mood, shifting from reality to imagination so clearly. I don't find the ending somber at all, just incredibly peaceful. Pillar is a bit overwraught at times, but there are so many wonderful things in it. Last night was a real treat (Gomes in Symphonic, among other things), I just wish I could see it again on Friday.

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Just an aside here re "The Max and Irina Show" - it did appear that way to me too, I just didn't have the gumption to post it. I did, however, get a kick out of Irina D., in particular, but kept wondering if my reaction was their intension? Also wondered if the size of the stage at City Center and where I was sitting, just off center in the sixth row of the Grand Tier, had a negative effect of making me feel as though they were in my lap? It did have a bit of a circus like feel to it.

cargill, thank you for addressing my question about the era of choreographies - perhaps my feelings stemmed purely from the stylized nature of the costumes? No matter, really... And I too did like the classical touches, especially, on the women's costumes.

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BW, is it at all possible you mean Apollo rather than Prodigal? The half-shirt costumes are common to both ballets, rather than Prodigal and Symphonic. I have to admit to liking them; I had better, David Quinn and I did a direct hommage to them for a ballet I made in 1999, Armature.

I was also excited by Zhong-Jing Fang. I'm still trying to discover the universe of what's "Ashtonian" about a dancer, but I have to say that I felt about Fang the way I felt the first time I saw Sarah Wildor. They aren't similar (Fang is more innocent) but she just felt like she was doing it right; she was making sense out of the phrasing. I was seeing enchainements, not steps. She could take what looked jerky in other hands (like the female duet that traverses the front of the stage) and make it look clean and fluid. She has beautiful soft port-de-bras and it's natural for her. And then there's her face; which is beautiful and faintly sad - a quality I have heard admired before for Ashton's women.

I hope other people who know Ashton better will see her and say what they think.

Oddly, I like Gomes very much as a dancer, but not in this ballet. He's just too weighted; his presence feels to me like a dark shadow. I'll give Stella Abrera points for coordination and fluidity, but she's a bit too presentational for this work. The dancer should not call attention to him or herself; I think it's got to be angelic. That being said, I think that this cast fared much better with the work than the other one I saw.

I'd like to mix people from both casts of Pillar; I preferred Erica Fishbach's more tender Elder Sister who's actions seemed to be driven by overprotectiveness than spite. I liked Angel Corella's first entry as the Man from the House Opposite, but he degenerated into a thug, and I don't think that's the best way to do that character. He's a gigolo. I also preferred Carlos Molina as the friend in the first cast. I'm not sure which Hagar I preferred.

Dvorovenko did more with Raymonda than Herrerra and so did the corps de ballet. A couple of extra performances have given them a chance to find ways to deal with the stasis of this setting; Holmes has the women sitting on their partner's shoulder's eternally like vultures. I appreciate Dvorovenko's zestiness, but I recognize her sloppiness. It's best not to look at her too closely from the waist down and just enjoy the self-possession.

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Oops, sorry Leigh - I just missed your post while I was editing. Apollo - yes but not exactly...I thought Peter Boal looked fantastic and godlike as Apollo the other day in Brooklyn. :D I think it's just for me - the "old modern" style of things... Enough said. :D

Leigh - you do have a much better way with words than I and I found myself agreeing with so much of what you said - but I just couldn't put it into words. You've got the vocabulary and the understanding to do it...but think of me as the nonballet educated audience expressing myself. :) And I don't mean to sound self-denigrating either - just being realistic.

Seriously - all very well put.

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Wiles did more with Raymonda than anyone else this season, she just needs to work on the arms a bit. Dvorovenko was hysterical last night, though I am not sure that was her intention.

The staging looks like a reduction of the Kirov version (including the long shoulder sojourn). The female variation was doubled up, to what end, I can not tell. I thought it blurred the effect.

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Diversion of Angels was....interesting. I'm not much of a modern person, I more prefer ballet, but I think the company did a good job. Don't know if I cared for Wiles in this piece, but I thought Tuttle and Kajiya did well. They did have some issues with running into the wings though.....

I must say that I, too, thought Fang was beautiful In Symphonic Variation B) The other people I went with noticed her as well. It's really amazing she's only an apprentice! Although I thought that Abrera looked much better this season than last season (La Bayadere; Gamzatti), technique-wise.

I really liked Pillar of Fire. It's the first time I've seen it, so I have nothing to compare it with, but thought Amanda McKerrow was stunning. Her bleeding was very bad--it stained the dress she was wearing. But maybe the physical pain helped her to be more emotional? Purely theoretical of course.

I thought that Raymonda was too cheesy--I think it should be more regal. And from where I was sitting (side orchestra), Dvorevenko's feet semed sickled a lot. Her head-waggling was kind of funny, I have to admit. The demi-soloist men were excellent, though, and very together.

Roma, what did you mean when you said the variation was "doubled up"?


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My take on last night:

I managed to miss Diversion of Angels, because I thought houses only had 7:30 starts on Tuesdays. I should pay closer attention to what's printed on my ticket in the future.

In Pillar, McKerrow was a big disappointment. Her dancing was fine, but she seemed utterly, and unrelievedly, miserable throughout. When she finally hooked up with the somber, poker-faced Gennady Saveliev as the Friend, they looked like newlyweds sharing a stroll to the gallows. I saw nothing in this Hagar to indicate why the Friend would find her the least bit interesting. Ashley Tuttle's Younger Sister was so determinedly, relentlessly up that the results were more than a little frightening, like this was a deranged Younger Sister who'd take an axe to the neighborhood one evening. Monique Meunier was a welcome sight indeed as the Older Sister, with her familiar arresting presence and intensity. I don't think she really had a clear grasp of the role, though, much as Maria Bystrova didn't. This sister thinks it would be the best thing in the world for Hagar to forget about men and s*x. Rather than reproach Hagar for her indescretion, the Older Sister offers her a way out. Meunier, much as I adore her, was a bit too stern and matriarchal.

Between the scary Younger Sister, the simmering Older Sister, and the relentlessly morose Hagar, this family seemed to have come from the hand of Charles Addams more than Antony Tudor.

I did like Kristi Boone and Adrienne Schulte as two of the Lovers in Experience. They dance large, and I like that.

I can only second what everyone has said about Fang and Abrera in Symphonic. Gomes was a bit too weighty and ponderous. Not that he's heavy or leaden, but there is nothing empyrean about him.

Dvorovenko was to die for in Raymonda. Yes, her feet have problems, and her bourreing is a bit on the clunky side, but it is a delight to see someone who understands that this is a Hungarian princess, and who handles her upper body with such perfect contrast between steely tension and fiery release. If you can't hit those hand-behind-the-head poses instantly and with utter conviction, you might as well not bother.

I did miss Belotserkovsky's solo. Where did it go?

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I thought that Raymonda was too cheesy--I think it should be more regal. . . . Her head-waggling was kind of funny, I have to admit.

. . .

Roma, what did you mean when you said the variation was "doubled up"?

In the Raymonda GPC, I think Irina D outdid even herself, mannerism-wise. :devil: The corps was much improved since the end of Week I in Rmnda. Overall, it just looks as though the company (including most soloists and principals) haven't had time to learn the roles adequately. There's a vaguely improvisational (not spontaneous) air to their dancing in this piece. I heard :gossip: that Max omitted the variation due to an injury. News, anyone?

The variation a deux was danced by Maria Riccetto with uncharacteristic reticence and stiffness. Her partner, Melissa Thomas, was grand, open, almost reminiscent of a young van Hamel. Petite A., this dance is usually performed by one woman, not two, hence Roma's term, "doubled up."

Liked McKerrow's Hagar very much. Very different from Murphy. Murphy's longing was edgier and more EXpressed -- outward. McKerrow's was more internalized. Still, I never experienced this degree of emotion from McKerrow before -- usually think of her as a very competent, very attractive, bland dancer who projects to the row where the critics sit and not much beyond. In the rear mezzanine, the air was buzzing. Meunier's Elder Sister was somewhat imperious, perhaps not quite fully realized. But she moved magnificently, and I'm beginning to wonder if her ABT career will mirror her NYCB career. :toot: Neither leading man quite fulfilled my expectations of their roles.

I am so thrilled :bouncing: that Zhong-Jing has created so much excitement. :D

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Interestingly, I've been told that at the Kirov it is absolutely taboo to clap the hand and make a sound in the Hungarian, that it is considered peasant, that Petipa choreographed it with just a brush of the fingers; evidently when Kirov artists see others do it they consider it vulgar. As I said, interesting. Anyone?

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Interestingly, I've been told that at the Kirov it is absolutely taboo to clap the hand and make a sound in the Hungarian, . . . they consider it vulgar. 

Ahem. :wacko: Uh, I wonder how Zakharova (hardly a practitioner of tasteful restraint) handles the claps.

:offtopic: Oops! Sorry.

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If I could design the perfect personality for a ballerina my preference would definitely be for more restraint than Dvorovenko shows. And yet, I enjoyed her performance of Raymonda immensely as I enjoy most of her performances. I was sitting much closer to the stage than usual ( I usually sit in the first row of the rear mezz and I this time I was in the first row of the Grand Tier) and from such a close vantage point I found her facial expressions a little disconcerting, but still, what confidence and composure and exuberance! Also musicality. I thought Wiles was beautiful in Raymonda, but a bit too tentative. I liked Herrera's Raymonda better than her Theme & Variations but that's as far as I'm willing to go. To me, Dvorovenko had a natural feel for the musical phrasing and the aplomb to pull off a showpiece like this.

With the exception of Diversion of Angels I thought that most of the 11/5 cast changes were a big improvement. I liked Wiles in Diversion, and thought this cast was fine but overall I preferred the first cast, especially Sandra Brown & the Cornejos.

In Symphonic Variations I found a cohesion that was glaringly absent in the first cast. I love,love,love Marcello Gomes but agree that he was not a great choice for this role. His demeanor somehow seemed too heavy and ponderous, especially compared with the light, radiant classicism Beleterovsky brought to the role. Max's performance was the only one I liked in the first cast, he seemed to radiate beauty and serenity. I like the costumes,I thought they evoked the feeling of greek gods (especially in Beleterovsky's case). The major problems I had with the first cast were that I didn't feel harmony or balance among the dancers, that I thought the women lacked fluidity and that Beleterovsky stood out too much. I found myself watching him through most of the piece, and I didn't think that was what Ashton had in mind.

Michaels' description of Abrera made me laugh, because that's EXACTLY how I felt about Tuttle. With this new cast, even though I felt that Gomes' interpretation lacked the right tone, I thought it fit better with the rest of the group and allowed the eye to follow the patterns and take in the gorgeous, flowing movement and the progression of the choreography instead of focusing on one dancer. Similarly, Abrera may be no Fonteyn but, for me, she was much more fluid and less brittle than Tuttle. I thought this cast as a whole, especially the women, were able to negotiate the choreography with much more delicacy and musicality.

Mary Cargill's review quotes Cynthia Harvey as saying that "Somes stressed that the six dancers should give the appearance of being friends". I think that's a very interesting description of the tone of this piece and I felt that if they were not quite friends yet then at least they all had they same point of view, and were looking towards the same horizon, which allowed the beauty and harmony of the choreography to shine through for me. :wacko:

I loved McKerrow's Hagar. I definitely thought she gave the most emotionally nuanced interpretation of the role I've seen yet this season. I didn't notice the blood on her ankle until the curtain calls, which is very strange considering how close I was. What I noticed was that her braid kept falling off her head and down onto her face at the beginning of the piece. I found it a little distracting but she managed to get it under control pretty quickly.

Now I must confess that I am a complete ballet geek and am going again tonight. :shhh: This time I'll be back in my usual rear mezz seats and I'll see if the perspective affects my opinion before I cast my vote in the Hagar poll.

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Ahem.  :wacko: Uh, I wonder how Zakharova (hardly a practitioner of tasteful restraint) handles the claps.

She doesn't dance Raymonda. It's true though, there is no clapping at the Kirov, only a strong brush of the fingers.

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I noticed Zhong-Jing Fang this summer when she took some classes where I take. I couldn't stop watching her! She's one of those dancers who makes it look so easy--very soft joints. I was excited to see her picture on the ABT website and can hardly wait to see her perform now after reading everyone's reviews. She really stands out as being incredibly gifted.

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