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Mid program casting replacement


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Has anyone ever seen a performance where a character was played by one dancer in the first act and by another dancer in the second act? I recall a Don Q done by ABT where the gypsy girl, Mercedes -I think her name is, was played by Leslie Browne in Act I, but after the intermission, Susan Jaffe was dancing the role. The program listed only Browne. And no announcement was made about the replacement. Wondered how often this type of thing happens. Anyone else have a story?

[This message has been edited by Bridget (edited January 23, 2000).]

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A few years ago during an NYCB performance of The Sleeping Beauty, Kyra Nichols, who was dancing the Lilac Fairy, sprained her ankle during the Vision Scene and was replaced after the intermission by Sherri LeBlanc. (Lilac's wedding scene variation was cut.) In this case, too, no announcement was made, although a non-balletomane acquaintance of mine who was at that performance said to me the next day, "That wasn't the same one, was it?"

I've always wondered how Sherri got through the act with such ease, considering the fact that she'd never learned the role before.

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That happened recently when San Francisco Ballet visited So. Calif. Not only was there no announcement but hardly anyone noticed the change (it was written up in our reviews)! Years ago Cynthia Gregory was dancing Don Q in L.A. Looooong intermission between Acts II and III; Gregory was injured. 3 soloists danced the 3rd act pas de deux, each doing either her specialty or as much as she knew! There's a video of La Bayadere that started with Makarova and ended with Tcherkassky.


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A most memorable replacement was when Nikkolaj Hubbe hurt himself dancing Agon and went out into the wing and Peter Boal ran out on stage, with a tshirt on inside out, tights and the wrong shoes and finished for him. It was unreal!

As for Sherri, she had understudied the role

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well in boston some years ago laura young, who was set to retire that year, was unable to finish a performance of don quixote (as kitri) that she had started and jennifer gelfand finished it for her (had also learned it to do with another partner but did this one and some others with fernando bujones, this at age 17)...

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Giannina's mention of an ABT video jogged my memory of a Bolshoi video of The Nutcracker that started with, I believe, Maximova and Vassilyev, and ended with Pavlova and Gordeyev. I think it's still being sold.

I've always suspected that the Bolshoi did this in order to show off more of their stars.

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Unscheduled replacements?

I will take the chance of boring you with one that happened in the world of opera—at the Michigan Opera Theater, during a sold out Saturday night performance of “Aida”, which at least has a not insignificant dance component.

Camilla Johnson, a gifted soprano who is developing a reputation for canceling performances, was singing the Ethiopian princess. She seemed fine during the first act. During the intermission David DiChiera, the general director of the MOT stepped from backstage and announced that Ms. Johnson was ill but wanted to continue and begged our indulgence. I turned to the person sitting next to me and said “that is the last we will see of her tonight”.

A bit later DiCheira appeared again, this time to announce that Ms. Johnson was unable to continue but that Marquita Lister, the alternate cast Aida, was in the house, getting into her costume and warming up. And this time begged our indulgence for Ms. Lister. By now the intermission seemed as long as the second act of “Gotterdamerung”.

The performance was structured so that the Nile scene came immediately after the intermission. Ms. Lister had to walk out on the stage and sing “O Patria Mia” right away. This may be the equivalent of coming into “Swan Lake” just in time to start the 32 fouettes.

She was marvelous (as she had been with the “B” cast) and earned thunderous applause after this aria and a standing ovation during the curtain calls.

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Years ago, in Chicago, (I was a mere toddler, of course) the Kirov presented a performance of "Swan Lake" with Natalia Makarova doing Acts II and IV, and Kaleria Fedicheva doing Act III. Makarova was very new at the time, and rather frail. But she was lovely as Odette. Fedicheva was a wonderful dancer, (I believe she died a few years ago), but she and Makarova could not have been more dissimilar. She was a big girl with a broad face and prominent muscles - even her insteps had ripples. The Panovs (remember them?) wrote about her very disparagingly in their book. It seems she was a big-time manipulator. But she was a very effective performer, unlike some of the other politically-connected Soviet dancers of that era.

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In the Sleeping Beauty performance I saw with the substitions, Kyra Nichols injured her **foot** in the first act, in which she was Aurora. She in the first intermission **switched** roles with the Lilac Fairy and did the journey through the mist in the boat scene, which is all port de bras (and beautiful ones at that), and then went home. A member of the corps or a soloist, I don't know who--if this is really part of the story above, it would be that dancer--then danced the last part of Lilac, not in the Lilac Costume, but with the wand. Meanwhile, the former Act One Lilac Fairy, who was I think Valentina Kozlova, danced Aurora. I also saw that Peter Boal substition, from the fourth row. One just sat there in disbelief....For some reason I think he was dancing in his socks, but it couldn't be. Maybe it was just the wrong socks. I also remember it being Soto not Hubbe, which shows my memory should be supplemented by my program collection.

[This message has been edited by Nanatchka (edited January 25, 2000).]

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Guest Laura C. Cutler

Regarding "Swan Lake": Didn't it used to be more common (though perhaps not frequent) to have two different ballerinas playing Odette and Odile (on purpose, I mean)?

Regarding unannounced substitutions: I think it's really bad for substitutions to go unannounced. It's not fair to either of the dancers or to the audience. I'm really surprised companies (particularly major ones) would do this, or that they get away with it. Aren't there union rules requiring substitutions to be announced? It seems unprofessional to me.

One curiosity between ballet and opera--It used to be not terribly uncommon (perhaps still isn't) for an announcement or program insert to inform the audience that a particular singer was not quite well, but was going to (bravely and valiantly, by implication) perform nevertheless. (I was told singers don't want people to hear them in bad condition and think that's how they always sound.) I have only once seen this happen in ballet, in a situation where there was no possible replacement, and the ballerina was able to do the dancing, but had to wear a kind of brace or bandage (can't remember if it was on the leg or arm). There was no getting around the obviousness of the brace, so they decided it was better to let the audience in on what the deal was, than to have them distracted and confused by it. She did a fine performance, and probably got some sympathy points, too. Has anyone else here attended a performance where a dancer was announced 'not well, but performing'?

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Nanatchka, we must be talking about different performances. I've never heard your story before. At the performance I saw in which Kyra Nichols danced Lilac and was replaced by Sherri LeBlanc, Margaret Tracey danced Aurora--all the way through.

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Regarding the Kirov casting of Makarova in the "white" acts of "Swan Lake", and Fedicheva as the Black Swan, I don't recall this being the usual Kirov practice at that time. Makarova was very young, and she didn't start studying until she was thirteen, so her technique had a way to go. She developed in front of the audience for a great deal of her career before her defection. She was clearly destined for great things and was probably being protected by the management. There were several Kirov ballerinas at that time easily capable of dancing the dual role without assistance.

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I'm not so sure about the reasons for having Makarova and Fedicheva dance the role. For example, there is a movie of "Swan Lake" (VERY abridged) from early 50s where Odette is Ulanova and Odile is Dudinskaya. My guess is that it was done for artistic considerations only: Ulanova was considered the best White Swan, Dudinskaya the best Black Swan, so why not cast them both?

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I remember years ago at Covent Garden, Monica Mason, as Myrtha, broke her foot in a jump, finished the scene (mainly by adlibing with her arms--she was brilliant), and a few seconds later Myrtha was Lesley Collier, who had danced the peasant pas de deux, and was obviously on her way home, because she had only had time to put on a white dress, and everytime she turned, the audience could see pink underwear. Sadly Monica Mason was out for about a year after that.

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>I remember years ago at Covent Garden, Monica Mason, as Myrtha,

broke her foot in a jump, finished the scene (mainly by adlibing with

her arms--she was brilliant)<

It was Makarova's company debut as Giselle, and I remember Mason saying 'Well, I couldn't just walk off and leave her there, could I?'

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Laura, I always assume the dancers are all performing injured (but nobly).

When ABT first got Don Q, I don't think they ever got through a performancve where the starters finished the ballet. Once, in D.C., there was a different Kitri for every act. The ballerina was injured, and one girl knew Act I, one Act II, and one the Act III pas de deux. In New York, I forget which Basil was injured after the adagio of the Act III pas de deux, but I do remember being told that someone threw her tambourine at Peter Fonseca and yelled, "You're on." Anthony Dowell cramped in the adagio of the Act III p/d with Kirkland at his company debut. Someone else did his solo (can't remember who) and she took her curtain call with the Don as her partner.

Re Swan Lake, I think it was common practice in the West in the 30s and 40s to cast different dancers as Odette and Odile, partly because the ballerina who could do fouettes often wasn't lyrical enough for the White Swan (something that certainly doesn't bother any company directors these days). I think Ilya's explanation for the Ulanova/Dudinskaya pairing is quite logical. It's also worth remembering that, for the sake of the story, Odile is supposed to be a different person who has been transformed, through magic, to look like Odette. Somehow, this has been changed to the same person trying as hard as possible to look different, to show off her dramatic range.

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Guest Figure8s

Doesn't legend have it that Robert Weiss blew his achilles tendon during a performance of Ballo Della Regina, crawled off stage and Merrill Ashley continued without him?



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It's not legend. It's what happened. It was opening night of the fall season in 77 or 78. Weiss was at the point in his big solo where he was doing a flurry of brise voles, stopped, looked like he was seriously considering leaping up and continuing, then limped into the wings.

It's not really a substition story, as nobody actually replaced Weiss. Instead, Ashley finished dancing alone, and managed to get through the bits where Weiss would have been supporting her with almost no alteration to the steps at all. It was fortunate, I guess, that Weiss hurt himself after he'd alreayd discharged his most substantial partnering duties.

This incident certainly added considerable luster to Ashley's burgeoning reputation at the time. I was also quite happy that Weiss managed to return from what is often a career-ending injury.

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In the televised ABT performance of La Bayadere, Natalia Makarova performed in only the first act. Does anyone remember who finished the performance?

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