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ABT City Center Week 3

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I went to the matinee (Family Friendly) this afternoon; here are brief notes - it was a good but slightly limp afternoon. The corps looked decently drilled in Theme and Variations. Ashley Tuttle looked better than I've seen her before in this role, but she still isn't a steely technician, and I prefer that in Theme. I don't want to wonder whether the ballerina will nail her turns. I'm not sure I'd want to be cast in that ballet after a year on Broadway; I saw Movin' Out finally this week and it's not exactly a vehicle for maintaining one's classical technique. Corella did a decent job in the role, but he wasn't in his top form. I'm also curious about his second variation - I know there are differences between the ABT and NYCB versions of Theme but it's beginning to feel a little like people are taking that variation and treating it like it was Tchaikovsky pas de deux's ad lib male variation.

Le Grand Pas de Deux is innocuous and amusing enough. I saw Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes, and I painfully regret not seeing Dvorovenko in this role. But I would expect her to insist on getting her own purse for the performance. I mean, it's just a plain pink purse. Not metallic. No sequins. No rhinestones. No animal prints. I can find something more fabulous at Webers any day of the week, and I have!

I'm curious to hear from people who knew Three Virgins and a Devil when it was originally in repertory versus this current revival. It really looks thin. Was it always this bald or is it the staging? As performed, it doesn't seem that coherent or thought-out in plot, characterization or choreography. Interesting to contrast it with Fancy Free, from about the same time and holding up far better.

Now that I've seen Flames of Paris once, I don't think I ever need to see it again. It's got barrel turns and double whoop-de-doos (as my friend who went with me calls all large air jumps) for the guy and fouettes for the woman and it all feels very generic. Insert your favorite manege here. Gillian Murphy and Gennadi Saveliev did the honors. Saveliev is a reliable technician who didn't have much personality in this role; Murphy projects more than she did.

Paloma Herrerra was one of the sweetest girls with the red purse I've seen in a long time in Fancy Free. She handled the first encounter with the sailors as if it never got beyond the point where she was worried she couldn't control their antics and because of that, it never looked like it might become violent. As ATM said earlier in the season, that seems to depends a lot on the woman's reactions rather than the men's actions. Craig Salstein may be from Miami, but he's an engaging and convincing kid from Brooklyn as the first sailor. He needs to "stick" the steps though, and a double tour then a split isn't the same thing as a double tour to a split. I haven't had the best of luck this season with Marcelo Gomes. He's a dancer I like a great deal but I haven't seen his best performances or roles. He's an amiable third sailor, but Carreno's rumba variation is still the best in the company (and Gomes is the Brazilian!) Gomes is oddly not sexy in the part, and he's a very sexy dancer. It's almost as if he's dancing the steps too much.

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Leigh -- You are being exceedingly kind to Ashley Tuttle's performance. This was a very poor Theme and Variations. Its rival in recent memory being her own prior performance (Saturday matinee two weeks ago), which was probably worse, all told, because that day included not merely an anguished and tense effort simply to get through the piece but several near (or actual) crash and burn episodes. She should not be cast in this. It is simply beyond her capabilities.

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I thought Theme & Variations was very sluggish at yesterday’s matinee. Not just Tuttle, the whole cast seemed to lack energy. Although I have to admit that I was watching Tuttle intently and expecting her to crash and burn at any second.


Leigh - you make an interesting point about the effect of a long hiatus on Tuttle’s technique - perhaps they should have thought about that before casting her in T&V.

I also thought that Flames of Paris was very forgettable.

Leigh, in answer to your question about Three Virgins & a Devil - I didn't see it until the 70’s (with Nahat & Wilson). I remember it being pretty much the same as this version, only funnier.

There is one thing I’m curious about in Fancy Free. I’m sure I remember the dreamy sailor (the one who does the soft shoe & the second variation) dancing the pas de deux and yesterday Gomes danced it even though he was doing the rhumba sailor. Is it customary to “blend” the roles like that? And yes, Herrerra’s pocketbook girl was very sweet. I’ve seen 3 casts of Fancy Free this season & I liked her the best, although I also liked Sandra Brown. Abrera was the first one I saw this season and with her that scene really took on a rough edge.

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Susan, I think there are now two versions of Fancy Free - it's actually more common at present to give the pas de deux to the third sailor, almost turning him into the "principal".

I know there's a history to this, but I'm not sure of it. Anyone out there know?

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Interesting. I saw 2 other casts this season, Corella, Radetsky, Carreno and Salstein, Steifel, Carreno (Salstein was a last minute sub for Corella). The second sailor danced the pas de deux in both of those performances and it fit so well with his "dreamy" personality that I assumed that was the intent of the choreographer. Well, you know what happens when you assume!

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The second sailor (John Kriza) did the pas de deux. The third sailor (Jerome Robbins) did what's often called the Carmen Miranda sailor and was the leader. Robbins made the change, I believe, for Baryshnikov at NYCB. I never saw this change at ABT until the last revival.

It's a change I think is exceedingly ill-advised. During the early scenes of the ballet, the Third Sailor is the leader -- his is a dominant personality; the Second Sailor is the rather naive, sweet one. Mixing them is lke having Melancholic bop out to do Sanguinic -- it doesn't work.

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Absolutely. Switching those variations disrupts the balance of the characters, the flow of the action, and the consistency of all three men's characterizations. Matters of the utmost significance, all of them.

NYSusan you are correct. In the first weekend's cast, Radetsky (the dreamy sailor) got to kiss the girl. In light of which, the variations which followed at the bar with the women seated, and room for only two men at the table, made sense. Radetsky continued to approach the Betty Grable character with a dreamy, slow, kind of moonstruck, innocence which makes sense only if he's the one who has danced with and kissed the girl.

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In Fancy Free it was always the third sailor (Rumba) who did the PDD. There have been too many small changes over the years. One small change that has annoyed me is when PDD couple is sitting at the bar and the sailor mimics shooting down airplanes. I don't know when that was added but it's been around for a long time. I saw the mixed program this afternoon and was amused to see that the program still states: "Time: 1944, a hot summer night". If they still want to use this phrase, they should be attuned to the mores of the time. The whole ballet seems to have been 'sexed up". The PDD was too suggestive;at one point while Gomas was standing behind Kent and embracing her, his arm went across her breast and she was quite emphatic in removing it. I liked Herrera very much as the girl with the red pocketbook; she brought Muriel Bentley to mind. Bentley, although not a Latin, had a dark-eyed sultry look about her. The third girl to emerge (Melissa Thomas) had a much too 'come hither' look about her. Originally, the girl enters hesitatingly and unsmiling and doesn't offer the boys much encouragement. Perhaps they should change it to "Time: 2003, a hot summer night" and let it go at that.

I always enjoyed "Three Virgins and a Devil". I looked at it as a parody of modern dancers of the 40's. The only thing the ballet needed this afternoon was those two old gals, Agnes deMille and Lucia Chase in the cast, although Erica Fischbach as the "Priggish One" was quite effective.

'Le Grand Pas de Deux" and Dvorevenko were made for each other. (A revival of 'Gala Performance' for her next season?)

I need some help on this one:---Flames of Paris---what is the name of that step Saveliev did, where he almost threw himself to the floor, and then flipped over?

I was looking forward to Wiles and Hallberg in "Theme and Variations", but came away disappointed. They had absolutely no sense of the style of the ballet. Wiles performed like a talented soloist; she was not a classical ballerina, she smiled too broadly and at times got too fluttery with the hands in the PDD as though she was in "Swan Lake", and too often thrust her head back in a broad grin. The 'corps' looked a bit ragged in the coda---after all those tour jetes their lines were messy.

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I double checked reference books on the "which sailor danced the pas de deux" question since it keeps coming up. If you take them in the order they dance their solos, they were First Sailor - Harold Lang; Second Sailor - John Kriza and Third Sailor - Jerome Robbins. The Second Sailor, Kriza, a/k/a the "sweet sailor" or the "sentimental sailor" danced the pas de deux. The third sailor, Robbins, danced the rhumba solo and not the pas de deux. (See Balanchine's Stories of the Ballets and Marcia Siegel's "Shapes of Change," a study of trends in American Ballet which has a detailed account of the action in "Fancy Free" and other works of that period.)

One interesting point I'd forgotten and was reminded of by several authors is how Kriza didn't quite belong -- the Lang and Robbins sailors were always one step ahead of him, always sticking him with the tab, and ran off with the first girl, leaving him alone (to be found, of course, by the second).

On another point, regarding the character of the two women, one of the books I checked, "Movement and Metaphor," was not at all helpful in sorting out the sailors, but did mention something that surprised me -- Kirstein called the girls "floozies." In a way, this makes sense. My mother certainly wouldn't have been in a bar, late at night, by herself, in 1944, especially not that close to the ships (and we lived in Baltimore, a sailor's town). But I never thought of them as "floozies," perhaps just girls with less restrictive parents :) I've never read a reference to "floozies" anywhere else, and I think this was a singular view of Kirstein's.

I'd always assumed the shooting down the plane mime was in original, but only based on a story I read (and I can't remember the source) that when the company first went to Germany, the dancer "tactfully omitted" this bit.

I thought the company's last revival of "Three Virgins and a Devil" was wonderful (Robbie Wallace was the Devil). I'm sure it didn't measure up to the Robbins-de Mille-Chase cast that atm saw; my cast was very young and sweet. But devilish, too, and entered into the spirit of the times (meaning they didn't look like contemporary kids lost in a work that made sense to a prior generation).

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I still stick to my guns :rolleyes: It was Robbins (the Rhumba sailor) and Janet Reed who performed the PDD originally; he might have ceded the role to Kriza (the second sailor) later on. If anyone has a copy of the book "Jerome Robbins, That Broadway Man" by Christine Conrad you will see two photos of Reed and Robbins alone at the bar with the original bartender Rex Cooper in the background. I also like what Grace Robert (in her Borzoi Book of Ballets) said about the girls: "The girls.....might have been a couple from the gang that goes for cokes to the corner candy store" (by 'cokes', I am sure she means soda) This was written in 1945. As Eliza would have said, "I'm a good girl, I am".

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As I recall, the story was that during a tour of Japan, Kriza diplomatically omitted the plane-shooting-down mime.

As it appears that the second sailor has been doing the pas de deux for about a half-century, through many, many restagings of the ballet by Robbins, if one must bemoan the change, such moanings should be directed squarely at the ghost of Robbins past.

A quick call to a Robbins-scholar friend of mine elicited the information that while Robbins did indeed do the third sailor and the pas de deux, as soon as he passed the role to others, such as Michael Kidd, Robbins decided, based on the dancers' personalities, who should do the pas.

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It's always possible that reference books are wrong. (Photos aren't always good evidence, as they're often staged or studio shots, or good/bad intentions that changed before the ballet made it to the stage.) Some of the reviews I've checked, including Denby's, don't even mention the pas de deux, only the solos and (in others, not Denby's) the mime. A note of interest: he referred to Kriza's solo as a "Tudor parody."

There are several Robbins' books in the works, and I hope one will include a performance history (what was changed, when, and who danced what). Siegel is quite specific, but doesn't give her source: "The second sailor (John Kriza) is the one who danced the pas de deux, and in a way, his solo is a continuation of his attempt to win over the girl he found." That's the way that solo was danced when I first saw the ballet, and it's one of the reasons why having the Third Sailor dance the pas de deux seems out of cync. Whether the pas de deux sailor leaves the other two to go back into the bar, or the others run off after the girl, would make a difference, too. (I have no trouble at all bemoaning a choreographer's second, third, or fourth thoughts. :) )

There are references to the sailor telling his war stories, but I haven't yet found anything specific about shooting down a plane, so that may well have been added later. (I actually had remembered Japan, but couldn't, in a quick check, find a tour to Japan in that time frame so thought I'd misremembered.)

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I hadn't been to a Family Friendly matinee in years, and within the space of a month, I've been to two, so.....

In Boston, for the Stars & Stripes program, there were lots of beautifully dressed children who had obviously been primed on audience behaviour, for they were quiet as mice, although loudly enthusiastic in all the right places---the first regiment captain got great applause for her baton-twirling skills!

Yesterday at ABT, children chattered like magpies throughout the program, obviously lending support to the choice of Rossini's La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) for the Grand Pas de Deux.

They were awed into silence during Theme and Variations, although there was a delighted collective intake of breath as the curtain went up on the spectacle of massed periwinkle and pink tutus. Michele Wiles was appropriately lovely and technically sure in her ballerina role, although I would like to see some small variety in facial expression....

David Hallberg gave a very good account of himself, solidifying his place in the roster of ABT men who don't look miscast in this.....

I thought 3 Virgins was slight...enjoyable, cute costumes, a devil without an ounce of evil in him as played by Craig Salstein, so the point of going to hell was lost on most of the children surrounding me, even with the added sound cues. There were lots of immediate answers needed for "why did the man take the girl into that cave and then set off a firecracker, Mom?" Not, perhaps, the most apposite choice for a DeMille revival or a family matinee....

But my favourite outpouring of verbiage from the under-three- footers came during Fancy Free....

*Why did that sailor steal that lady's purse? You aren't supposed

to STEAL!!

* Why is that man lying on the floor looking at that lady? Is she

telling him a story?

*That man jumped off the bar, Dad!!! You won't let *me* jump off

the couch....

* That's FUNNY, Mom! That man is shaking his bottom when he's

dancing all by himself!!!

* Why are those sailors drinking in a bar? Don't they have jobs?

It was an engrossing performance, obviously.

During the absolutely splendid Grand PDD everyone hooted and laughed and clapped and a good time was had by all.

Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky were in fine fettle and I really cannot imagine better casting----they were absolutely perfect in their timing and delivery.

A fitting prelude to Nutcracker season...

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Thank you, Juliet -- we haven't had a review from you in a long time!

A question -- are there reduced ticket prices for FF matinees? For children or adults? I often wonder, when I see a Parent with 3 or 4 kids in tow at the Kennedy Center, how they manage it.

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I also like what Grace Robert (in her Borzoi Book of Ballets) said about the girls: "The girls.....might have been a couple from the gang that goes for cokes to the corner candy store"

I don't know if it plays into this or not, but in the 1940s, college girls went out for something called a "coke date"... where they'd meet a boy "for a coke"... I'm not sure they actually ordered a coke, but the idea was that it was such a light involvement, as opposed to accepting an invitation to dinner, that it was a preferred way of checking someone out before accepting a more "serious" date.

Have I missed something in my quick scan of this thread, or am I the only one who finds ABT's idea of what is appropriate for a "family" matinee truly bizarre? Fancy Free? Three Virgins and a Devil? Pillar of Fire? What ever happened to The Concert? Mel, what was that thing that the Joffrey used to do that ended with a Cakewalk? (or was that it's title, Cakewalk?)

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Re the Fancy Free Pas de Deux: After seeing it both ways, I think it's much better for that ballet if the Sweet Sailor does the pas. In addition to the reason Alexandra gives, having him do the pas gives balance and individuality to all three male characterizations. Once the Sweet Sailor does the pas, his character is not only differentiated from that of the Rhumba Sailor; but also from that of the remaining character (the turner). You can tell all three of them apart. I found, when the Rhumba Sailor got both the rhumba and the pas de deux, that I could not clearly differentiate between either of the two remaining characters.

On Sunday I liked Wiles and Halberg -- He is such a promising young dancer and if anything was more assured than Michelle. With this and with his performances in Symphonic it was very much Halberg's season.

Oddly enough, I thought the most tentative part of Wiles's performance was her Pas de Deux. I would have liked to see her dive deeper into her arabesques, deepen the camber of her poses, flow more with her arms when being spun in arabesque. She seemed happier dancing her individual variations and in these she performed the best Theme of the five I saw this season (though I didn't see Murphy). She turns exceptionally for someone Maria Kowroski's size. Perhaps she is not very flexible? Earlier in the week I thought she really cut loose during the Jiri Kylian programs. I agree, she could use more spontaneity, be slightly more natural -- but how do you teach that to someone, it has to come with repeated performing I think. I thought she made gains here too during Theme. At the conclusion, her smile for the first time became somewhat unforced and somewhat joyful, in contrast to what it had been earlier in that piece and in even greater contrast to what it was last season in Grand Pas Classique.

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I agree with your comments on Fancy Free, Michael -- I was serious about wanting to read a performance history of it. In what I first saw at ABT in the 1970s (and, according to several older colleagues here, what had been done at ABT since the late '40s) the odd-man-out theme for the Second Sailor and the leadership of the Third were very much a part of the ballet.

The best thing I've seen Michelle Wiles do is the fourth movement ballerina in Symphony in C -- at several performances, she had more authority than the other three ballerinas. It could be that the role particularly suits her, or that she's in the stage where she shines in smaller roles, but isn't yet quite bit enough for larger ones? (She was also a very fine big swan)

There is a ballet, "Cakewalk," Amy, but neither it nor the Concert are in ABT's rep. It's another sign of changing times, though, that ballets intended for (and still enjoyed by) adults are relegated to childrern's fare. I don't know whether this is societal pressure or company attitude, but it's the same force that turns "David Copperfield" into a children's book, or all of those harrowing grand, ancient legends into "fairy tales".

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There is a ballet, "Cakewalk," Amy, but neither it nor the Concert are in ABT's rep

No, Alexandra, I was thinking of ABT's artistic director's Joffrey background... and wishing it had enlightened his choice of rep for "family" concerts. If I remember, Agnes de Mille had a fantastic lecture she did with the Joffrey dancers & slides, etc... sort of a ballet appreciation concert... I wish such things were being done for children now.

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The theory seemed to be with the "Family" programs, if it is funny or humorous scenes, than it is for children. And from the reviews on the board and on danceviewtimes, this really wasn't the case.

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