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Martins Balanchine program


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On Friday the mixed Balancjine/Martins programme will premiere with the following cast:

Serenade: Rose Gad/Marie Pierre Greve Christina Olsson/Diana Cuni Gitte Lindström/Tina Højlund Jean Lucien Massot/Julien Ringdahl Peter Bo Bendixen/Byron Mildvater

Thaikovsky Piono Concert: Caroline Cavallo/Gudrun Bojesen Mads Blangstrup/Jean Lucien Massot Claire Still/Amy Vatson

Oktot (Peter Martins) has not been published yet but it was stated as the introduction that it mainly will be a piece for a male ensable and that Silja Schandorff and Andrew Bowman will dance a pas de deux. The music is Mendelsohns oktet for strings.

The pas de deux for the second movement was presented and it look like Martins n in the conservative, romantic mode as opposed to his brazzy modern chic. I do not recall that he has other colours on his palet.

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Largely a good evening, highlighted by a nearly flawless Serenade, staged by Victoria Simon. Apart from occasional arm placement problems by one of the demis, it was exceptional, and I daresay City Ballet couldn't have done it better.

Octet was Martins-as-usual, and included several instances of that annoying effeminate question-mark posture he likes to put his men into - it pops up a lot in "Symphonic Dances", too. There's also a lot of dashing across the stage at angles, a la "Fearful Symmetries", some couples who can't quite get it together ("Them Twos") and some costumes, designed by Martins, that look at lot like the green leotards used in "Ash."

All Martins ballets seem to include at least one role for someone who looks like Martins and dances a bit like Martins once did. Nilas gets this job a lot, and so did Nikolaj Hubbe before he wisely started to fill up his date book with other things. In Octet the honors go to Andrew Bowman, whom I believe is from New Zealand, but looks Danish - tall, blond, and muscular. He is graceful and certainly watchable, if not particularly compelling. He partnered Silja Schandorff competently in one of those standard crawling-all-over-each-other Martins pas de deux. Schandorff didn't have much else to do, and lacked her usual luminosiity.

What really turned me off about Octet, however, is Martins' casting of the other lead couple - Yao Wei and Kristoffer Sakurai. Both have potential - Sakurai more than Yao - but they are radically different dancers. Yao is a chirpy classical sprite, while Sakuri is modern and severe - he broods even when he smiles. They not only look unlikely to fall in love, but unlikely to sit at the same cafeteria table. Given Martins' weirdo racial profiling at City Ballet, I can't help but assume that the reason they were paired was because they were the Royal Danish Ballet's only Asian dancers. Unfortunately, that's the only thing they have in common. Chemistry = 0.

The ballet was raptuously receieved anyway, with Martins coming out to make several dramatic bows before the Danish queen, as well as Darci and Talisa Martins, who were in the audience wearing matching pink coats.

The evening ended with Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto. RDB head Frank Anderson recently said he thinks this ballet is unjustly neglected as a Balanchine classic, which shows how much he knows - it's as hackneyed as Serenade is sublime. All those tiaras!

Tonight, it also had to suffer from Caroline Cavallo and Claire Still in the lead roles. Perhaps these ladies are wonderful and kind human beings, but I simply cannot stand to watch either one of them dance. I find them clumsy and cloddish - so much that they sometimes remind me of my own talent-free ballet career, which is really saying something. And Claire Still looks like Mayor McCheese from the old McDonaldland TV commercials. Basically, I spent most of the ballet watching the corps and hoping one of the leading ladies would break a fingernail and be replaced by one of the vastly superior girls dancing behind them.

The corps did look good, I must say, with special notice to NYCB alumnus Julian Ringdahl, a very relaxed-looking, but still technically strong dancer.

Patricia Neary did a great job of staging the ballet, given what she had to work with, and looked absolutely sensational when she came out for bows. A sequinned black minidress, black stockings, and long, loose salt-and-pepper hair - I only hope I look half as good at her age!

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i totally disagree!! and i find KayDenmark's comment a little harsh.

first of all the coupling of Yao Wei and Kristoffer Sakurai wasn't ment to be, due to an injury Thomas Lund wasn't able to perform at the premiere, so Kristoffer Sakurai stepped in to his place.

and secondly they are both very energetic and they look great and dazzling together.

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Serenade was beautiful and also interesting to watch Rose Gad negotiate the role in the same way that Kistler has to--as both have, ahem, matured as dancers and are now caught in this piece that was made for students.

Martins ballet was a lot of moving without a lot of steps if that makes sense. It smacks of several of his others, but I also found myself catching glimpses of much of the Balanchine rep within it--perhaps he was being sentimental. Of the two trios of boys, the second group was decidedly stronger and less affected than the first group who often seemed to be struggling with coordination.

The pairing of Bowman and Schandorff was a solid one, they are technically gifted dancers. Schandorff for me, however, made the pas de deux sparkle--with very little return from her partner (who, admittedly was kept busy contorting her into sometimes lovely and sometimes horrendously akward shapes)

Wei and Sakurai again had this problem of the woman trying to inject a little life into the movement with her face and the man stuck concentrating on catching her off the turn or splay. I think they are more than well accomplished (both hover around the 20 year mark I believe) and perhaps suffered from a wee bit of "opening-worldpremiere-martins-whoa i'm in the corps still-queen is here" jitters.

PC2 was a tight ship from head to toe. I disagree with Kay, however, and feel that this was an exceptional role for Cavallo--she did not appear as flat as in many of the story ballets I have seen. Claire Still has a remarkable jump and near hairpin precision (though her pirouettes were a bit off) but she is not a 'ballerina' by any stretch of the imagination. I should also add that this is a difficult ballet, and I am remiss to think of more than one or two others who have the technical prowess to pull it off.

As for the bows, i second all comments and would add another "mini" to Neary's dress. It is amazing to me that she and Simon are cut from the same cloth, so to speak. They couldn't be further away from each other.

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PC No. 2 hackneyed?

(Spews coffee on keyboard.)


(Throws coffee mug in general direction of where the cat would have been.)


Excuse me, Kaye, I sometimes deal with sudden shocks very poorly.

Let me put on my recording of Pletnev doing PC No. 2 (sadly, there aren't many recordings of this work at all) and try to calm down....

Perhaps in the world beyond the Hudson PC No. 2 is neglected, but as the offspring of Ballet Imperial (isn't ABT going to do this?) it's much admired, even adored, by many NYCB cognoscenti. It is one of the grandest of Balanchine's grand ballerina roles, and one of the most difficult, and I am drooling at the prospect of seeing Sofiane Sylve do the lead when City Ballet puts it on. There are many princess roles in the classical repertory; as the ballet's original name implies, this is a role for an Emperess.

I will admit it doesn't always reveal its gifts readily, and it's easy for the ballet's moments of sentimentality and even kitsch (all those chainé turns to the piano's glissandos seem a bit, er, obvious) to obscure, at a first viewing or so, its many glories. I can't, of course, speak to how it was danced by the RDB. I've never seen Cavullo, but here she certainly has some very large toe-shoes to fill.

I do hope you'll give this ballet a chance to work its magic on you. Leigh has written quite lovingly about this as one of Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky gut-busters," and perhaps one day you might find yourself at the edge of your seat anticipating the moment when the ballerina tackles those murderous pirouettes, and even find your heart beating a teeny bit faster when the moment arrives, as do many, many here in New York.

PS. One of the things I always admired about Balanchine is how he made it OK to like kitsch. It wasn't until I started going to NYCB many, many years ago that I realized that liking Tchaikovsky was nothing to be ashamed of.

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I was going to write myreview, but I must admit that I to a large extend agree with Kay. Serenade was great, Oktet as expected and Piano Concert not really that suited to the company, allthough it remains one of the most repeated performance by Balanchine here.

In Serenade you can learn everything you need to know about choreography, it is a splendid work. However, I continue to be displeased with Rose Gads bad habit of lifting her tulle instead of her legs. Otherwise I think she did an ok performance for a dancer no longerin top gear. I demonstrated how good she is at all the trimmings of a role. Christina Olsson, whose career has mirrorred Rose Gads is the opposite type of dancer, who focuses on the dance and less on the trimmings. The russian girl in Serenade has always been one of her best roles and one, which looks like Mr. B made it for her. Gitte Lindstrøm was a strong Angel, but could be as well placed in one of the other roles.

Re. Oktet allthough Silja Schandorff was effective in the role, there was very little role to be effective in as the mood changes was not accounted for by Martins and Andrew Bowman is not an equal partner for her like Greve or Blangstrup.

I must say it was the strongest performance I have seen by Christoffer Sakurai. I initally got the same idea as Kay re. the casting but realisted that Thomas was the intended casting.

Regarding Piona Concerto, I would have preferead Theme & Variation, Symphony in C or Who cares as the closing ballet. Piano Concerto needs not a good corps (we have that) but a uniform looking corps (which we can never provide). There is a lot of posing in the ballet which has never been a force of RDB. The dress/tiara combination is odd and Cavallo and Still both ended a bit on the scataco sites. Mads Blangstrup was impressive, but that was more a result of his princely look and elegant bearing than actually dancing, which there is too little off. It may be a masterpiece, but it does not really suit RDB. I am hopefull that Gudrun Bojesen may be able to make the ballet seem less dated.

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Guest LesterVanDerHoost

I think that this is one of the best night's the royal danish ballet, has had for a long time. The dancers shall not be yell't at they should rewarded for job well done!! I think that you are being unfair Kaydenmark! It was a good first time show for Sakurai and Wei...

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I went to see the "second cast" last night the 19th, but the there were several changes. Serenade though was danced as announced. I liked Marie-Pierre Greve very much and wish we could see her more often. Diana Cuni was beautiful, moving with such grace and authority. In Octet Gitte Lindstrom / Blangstrup was replaced by Silja Schandorff / Bowman. I had looked forward to see Lindstrom in the part (not that I ever mind seeing Schandorff!). Yao Wei was on with Sakurai again replacing Izabella Sokolowska. There were also changes in the Piano Concerto. The awaited Gudrun Bojesen / Massot couple was replaced Caroline Cavallo / Blangstrup. I don't think Cavallo is so bad here, the role suits her pretty well. Again Diana Cuni was surprisingly good, a bit of a revelation for me. I like her more each time a see her, she is what I will remember most from this evening.

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Guest cultulral

I must say that the program was very well danced the other night it was a pleasure to watch , even though the corps de ballet girls does not look at their best at the moment , but wauw the soloist both Cuni and Watson looks absolutely amazing they dance like true ballerinas .

I will write more comments at a later point

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Welcome, cultulral! I hope you will come back and write more comments later.

I have to say I'm happy to hear all the positive reports on Diana Cuni. I think she's one of the most promising of the -- well, to me she's still one of the younger dancers :flowers: and I'm glad she's getting roles.

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A note:

We have four posters who have posted on this, or other Royal Danish threads -- or at least four individual user names -- who have registered with the exact same IP number. All four accounts have been temporarily suspended; you will not be able to post until we can ascertain that there really are four separate people. I've just emailed all four; please check your email(s). We'd be very happy to have you as member(s) but we need your real email address -- not one from a free service -- and we need to be sure that there is only one person per account, and one account per person.

I hope those who saw it will post about the second cast, as adagiocloud asked, above, if you saw those performances.

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I didn't see the second cast on the 15th, and then on the 19th it was more first than second cast (see above). There is only one perfomance left this year, which is with first cast. After that the Nutcracker plague takes over... The Balanchine programme is then back in early January with three performances before the US tour.

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The second Serenade cast (with cuni, hojlund and greve) was quite good. Each of these women has a distinctly different take on their role than the first cast, which is also exciting to see. Ringdahl was noble, if a bit casual at times.

I have a question, however about the hair in Serenade. I have seen this ballet a great deal, and can't say that I ever recall actually "seeing" when the dancers hair comes down ---and she pitches her hairclip into the SR wing---more than with this group. Perhaps it is just that they have complex updo's? Is it a moment meant to be seen and have I just missed it all along?

Octet with Blangstrup and Lindstrom (and Wei/ Sakurai again) was laden with more emotion than with the Schandorff/Bowman pair. They seemed to have more chemistry, and I have found that Blangstrup has a much more acute sense of emoting vs. overdoing it which Bowman tends to do.

I think that Birkkjaer is certainly someone to look out for. I'm not sure if he is an apprentice or has graduated into the company, either way he is well on his way.

Piano Concerto second cast was equally as dazzling as the first. Bojesen lacks a bit of the American "so there!" that is needed to punctuate the ends of some of the turns, but was still delightful with Massot. Both Still and Watson are having a time negotiating the many downstage double-pirouettes in the pas de troix, but I suppose that I would be nervous about falling into the pit if I were in their position! I must admit that this ballet alternates between being fascinating and 10 minutes too long for me.

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Thank you Jorgen and Aspirant!

Aspirant - I'm quite fond of Piano Concerto No. 2, but it is a long haul. I think my recording of the concerto clocks in at 41 minutes.

The hair in Serenade should be like the hair in Giselle, unnoticeable, but at least it's a bit easier in Giselle because Berthe can smoothe out her daughter's hair on the pretext of comforting her. The poor Waltz Girl needs to unclip her hair while doing chaines and it stays the way it looks when unclipped, which can sometimes be a bit lumpy and plastered. I remember seeing one woman frantically picking out hair pins and spinning ever more slowly and wobbly. . .and then of course her hair fell in one post-hairspray clump.

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I know that a lot of women, when being honored with either of those two roles, will spend a good deal of time trying to figure out a one-clip hairstyle. It takes some work in front of the mirror (and the right kind of hair, probably.)

Juliet? I'm betting you know more about this (and anyone else too. Liebling? What say you on easy-release hairdos? If this becomes an actual topic I'll split it off. . .)

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I have followed the Royal Danish Ballet for many years and have sat through wonderful performances as well as those I would rather not see again. I have spoken with the dancers, choreographers, and the ballet-wise Danish audiences at intermissions. I know one thing—the Company has some great principals: strong men and beautiful women. Among them but not limited to them are Caroline Cavallo, Rose Gad, Silja Schandorff and the rising Gudrun Bojesen.

With what has been said here about Caroline Cavallo, one can surmise that they may not be totally unbiased in their comments. I and others I have spoken with cannot understand their viewpoints—which, of course, they are entitled to. I have seen Cavallo dance both “La Sylphide” at the beginning of the month and recently “Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #2.” She danced with brilliant technique, wonderful musicality and has an unmistakable stage presence. As the Sylph she captured that ethereal quality, and glided across the stage with her beautiful lines—long graceful arms (and hands) and legs. The audience loved her performance also, and gave an extended and thunderous “in unison” applause as the Europeans are known to do.

In “Piano Concerto” her musicality and mastery of the movements were obvious to all who know ballet. Clair Still, the other lead, is also a very graceful well-trained dancer who deserves more than the bashing she received at this site recently. The ballet is technically very difficult and both dancers were up to the challenge. Cavallo, especially, pulled off a “tour de force” and the audience knew it; again the dancers received a loud and warm appreciation at the end.

When it comes down to it, isn’t that what the art of ballet is deigned to achieve? If it reaches the hearts of the ballet lover, it is in everyway a tremendous success.

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Welcome, Anna! Your comments are most welcome -- there is often disagreement on dancers; people tend to have strong likes and dislikes, as I'm sure you know. We wouldn't consider calling a dancer "clumsy" as bashing, though there will be those who would disagree with the assessment. There are several people who've posted on this thread who have been watching the company for many years, as well, and from the posts here, I doubt that we'd all agree on much! (But that's part of the fun of having a discussion group.) In a way, of course, we're all biased, but I happen either to know those who made the early posts on the thread, or have had fairly extensive email contact with them, and I'm sure that they don't have a personal ax to grind against any dancer.

Caroline Cavallo is very popular with some members of the audience, but I don't think the views stated here are atypical; I know quite a few people who share them. I liked her dancing in soloist roles when she first came to the company, but not in leading ones. I agree that she has a strong technique, but for me she has a narrow dramatic range -- she doesn't seem able to make each role distinctive (which I think is especially important in that repertory) -- and, for me, is lacking in mystery, a vague term, to be sure, but the ethereality in "La Sylphide" seems external to me. That said, I was glad to read a description of Cavallo's dancing from someone who does like her and can say why :wub:

I'd also say that even if everyone else in the house jumps to his/her feet to give a standing ovation, someone is welcome to dissent; I've been in audiences that applaud what I think are perfectly dreadful performances enthusiastically, and I've been in audiences where a performance that I think is wonderful (usually one that isn't obviously tricky or showy) gets barely a clap. I'm making these comments only because we've had a succession of new posters rush to the defense of dancers in the past week, and while I'm happy to have all the comments, I don't want people to be reluctant to post their opinions. Anna, you phrased your difference of opinion very delicately, in true Ballet Alert! spirit -- thank you! And welcome!

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Thank you, Mel Johnson and Alexandra for welcoming me to your site. I think my contribution to your talks will be sporadic at best since I travel a great deal and am not at my computer much. I travel to Copenhagen quite frequently and have fallen in love with the RDB over the years.

Alexandra, I appreciate your thoughts on my views and hope our differences in viewpoints will add to the fun of these discussions. It would be a dull world if everyone agreed on everything.

My comment on bashing was in reference to the Mayor McCheese McDonald’s commercials remark. I see no place for that in any kind of constructive critique of anything but fast food establishments—certainly not if the writer wants to make a legitimate point or even be taken seriously.

I hope to see the RDB when they perform in Washington, D.C. in January. I hope to see Gudren Bojesen dance since I have not had the chance to see her perform. Can anyone tell me where else they will be in the United States? Is there a smaller group of dancers that will be performing in other cities?

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I recognise myself that I have some bias regarding Caroline Cavallo, who may also be one of the dancers I have seen most frequently over the last ten year. I may also add that the view among a large group of steady attendees at the Royal Ballet is less positive regarding Caroline Cavallo. It is not that she is disliked, nor not respected as a strong dancer, but that people, including myself feel that she gets more leading roles than what her talent - or any talent can honour. Without doing a statistic count, she seems to get more part than Silja Schandorff, Gudrun Bojesen, Gitte Lindstrøm, Rose Gad, Christina Olsson, Marie Pierre Greve, Tina Højlund and Amy Vatson. Her repetoire include Sleeping Beauty, Lilac Fairy, 5 fairy, Swan Lake, Manon, Onegin, Romeo & Juliet, Etudes, La Sylphide, The Nutcracker, Napoli as well as a large number of shorter ballets. How any casting director can choose Cavallo befiore Schandorff for the premiere of Manon simple goes over my and even the critics understanding. I even asked a dancer I know privately why Cavallo gets such a large repetoire and she told me, that especially anglo-american directors choses Cavallo because she dances each step very academically correctly and that seems to appeal espcially to the group of second hand directors RDB seems to get. It may also be a factor that she is hardly ever injured, nor has she had periods of maternity leaves as other principals.

My personal view is that Cavallo lacks the dramatic qualities a Danish audience so cherish and personally I think she lacks charisma and line compared to the other Danish ballerinas. I would often rather see their take on the role and as long as

Schandorff and Olson do not dance Onegin, Bojesen and Lindstrøm do not dance Manon and Bojesen Romeo & Juliet etc. I cannot help myself wishing for another casting.

Being aware of my bias, I try to see Cavollo with fresh eyes each times but have so far not really been changed re. my opinion. Re. Piano Concerto I think she does what she can, but she has nothing to add that changes my feeling it is a somewhat dated ballet, which is an unusual view on a Balanchine work from me. I look forward to see Bojesen in the part.

Re. Clair Still she is meet with equal bias from a large part of the audience, and when questioned it is often explains as she is not pretty (We are use to very beautiful ballerinas in RDB). I myself am very fond of her light style

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