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ABT's The Dream on PBS

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Did anybody watch this? I saw it and was very pleased by it; Alessandra Ferri was particularly enjoyable as Titania, along with Ethan Stiefel as Oberon and Herman Cornejo as Puck. The corps danced particularly well, but I though the lovers seemed to be over acting at points. Some of the comedic moments seemed to get lost in the busy camera work, but over all i think they did a pretty good job translating from stage to screen. It's a fun to be able to watch it on the small screen, and hopefully they'll bring the stage production of "The Dream" back sometime soon at ABT.

Edited by art076
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I agree on the too-short line. I had some problems with the way it began - little. The dancing is never supposed to be mincing and tiny. It's BIG! It begins big, and gets even more so. Sometimes, it even overflows the stage a bit, but that's all right. Also, the costumes have been cut down. No big bows and waterfall curls for Hermia and Helena. I missed them.

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I had some problems with the way it began - little.  The dancing is never supposed to be mincing and tiny.

Do you think they ever dance smaller when they know that they are being filmed? I too thought dancing could have been bigger but wondered if the fact it was being broadcast may have made a difference in how they were coached for any time it was filmed. It sure made the corp look like flitting fairies though.

I found the choral addition in the music jarring but enjoyed most of the rest. Completely enjoyed the set.

Herman Cornejo never fails to impress me and the dancer I thought was Craig Salstein (I stand corrected) was perfect for Bottom. It all left me wanting more. Time to go snag some tickets for the Met season.


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I thought all in all they did a pretty good job of it. It would have been nice to have had a brief summary of the plot at the beginning, I think, and maybe something brief about Ashton--there were 5 or 10 minutes they could have filled with something besides corporate announcements! The least successful part to me was the corps work--it was either way too far away, or very up close. It was hard to see those gorgeous patterns, and the camera work seemed just a bit jerky, hurling in for closeups in the middle of a musical phrase. But the closeups of the principals I thought worked very well--Ferri is some actress! It was great to see Bottom's dream close up too. What a perfect work it is, and I thought ABT did a very good job with it--if only they were doing it live!

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I loved it!

The pas de deux occcasionally struck me as jarring instead of lyrical, but I expect I’ll come to see it otherwise on further viewings (which will commence tonight!). In general, I was bowled over by both the choreography in all its humor and beauty, and the performances, Stiefels’ and Cornejo’s especially. My wife – a dance fan but not fanatic -- kept commenting on the lovely costumes, and actually walked right up to the screen on our little TV during the bows, to see them better.

The was the first Ashton I’ve seen excepting the Joffrey’s Les Patineurs in the late 70’s, and as much as I’d been looking forward to it, what I was expecting choreographically was the English understatement and powder-dry decorum I’m always reading about. Apparently I’ve misunderstood, because I found this as dazzling in parts as what I’m familiar with from Balanchine. Why The Dream isn’t in repertories world ‘round is beyond me. This is considered one of Ashton’s masterpieces, no? I take it that its choreography is well representative of his style. Mel, diminished as they were, were the costumes for this production patterned after those of the original?

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THANK YOU PBS FOR TELEVISING THIS. I hope we have some Nielsen people who are ballet fans :wink:

I thought ABT did a fine job, especially the corps. This isn't their native language, and they didn't fall into the usual traps of trying to make Ashton look quaint. (I don't think Ashton is either small or big; they didn't mince it, and they didn't look dotty, and even though there was a slightly different accent, I thought they were fine.)

Ferri was wonderful, I thought, her performance beautifully danced and subtly acted (as opposed to Stiefel's rolling eyes and flaring nostrils, and the Lovers' three-expressions "acting", the most common usually OH!!!!! -- eyes widened, jaw dropping -- that spoiled the comedy when they're supposed to be poking gentle fun at 19th century melodrama.

Cornejo's was a Hall of Fame performance for me; I've never seen that role danced so clearly, and he had the tone just right.

I thought Stiefel was off the mark throughout, except in the pas de deux, where I thought is dancing was quite fine. But the Scherzo was too slow, and his preparations showed. (Dowell is impossible to live up to, I think, especially in a created role, and the line just isn't the same with someone who has short legs!). I also had a major quibble with the pas de deux; they danced it as though it were a Petipa balletl: the story is over, now we do a pas de deux. That pas de deux is a conversation, a gentle power struggle, in which the two work out the differences which led to the quarrel in the first place, and I didn't get that at all.

But, despite my quibbles, Ashton looked like Ashton, and that is no small accomplishment!

I also agree with kfw -- why this isn't in repertories all over is a mystery. Maybe there's hope -- many companies picked up "Fille" after ABT did it, so maybe they'll be a trendsetter for "The Dream" as well. And, while we're throwing out hints -- and this has been said before -- ABT looks so good in Ashton, please please please do more! Cinderella would be nice....

Edited by Alexandra
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they danced it as though it were a Petipa ballet: the story is over, now we do a pas de deux.

You must have known I'd take issue with that :). I can only assume that you meant that they danced it the way Petipa is usually danced today. :wink:

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I thoroughly enjoyed PBS broadcast of ABT's production of Sir Frederick Ashton's The Dream. The corp de ballet danced, I believe, wonderfully. Craig Salstein was a terrific Bottom. He's point dancing was clear and sharp, not easy when you think a male dancer is not train to dance on point. Ethan Brown, Marian Butler, Carlos Molina and Stella Abrera was all wonderful as the confuse lovers. They may not have bought out all the humor, but they danced strongly and believable lovers. However as good as Molina was, I don't think he gave himself fully to the sexual playfulness as Marcelo Gomes did when ABT first perform The Dream a few years ago. Marian Butler is a dancer I must admit I have not payed much attention to. But here is an American dancer I believe if given the proper guidance and nurturing could eventually become a promising principal dancer, or the very lease a strong and reliable soloist. As for the leads - they would all in their own way glorious. Alessandra Ferri is one of the premier dance-actress. Her Titania was a perfect playfull and willful queen. She also has the most beautiful pair of feets I've seen on any prima ballerina. Just beautiful. Ethan Stiefel was nearly perfect as Oberon. Although I totally agree with Alexandra - his facial express sometimes made him look more like a madman than a noble king of the fairies. And has there ever been a more spirited, exuberant, brilliantly danced Puck as Herman Cornejo?The joy in which he danced that role was contiguous. The highlight of the evening for me was the pas de deux at the end. Television can never match the thrill of live performance, but TV can give you a close-up of the dance. Ferri and Stiefel was in complete harmony with one another: Ferri, soft and lyrical; Stiefel strong and noble. A near perfect performance of one of the most beautiful pas de deux ever created. ABT did Sir Frederick proud!

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I think that maybe what looks like overacting on Stiefel's part might be partly because he was dancing for an audience in an auditorium, not really for TV. Certainly when I have seen him dance it live, he was very very good. And Bottom wasn't Craig Salstein--he was one of the rustics. The Bottom was Julio Bragado-Young. I would love to see Salstein do it, though. It does seem odd that ABT, knowing the work was going to be broadcast, didn't schedule it again, since they must have realized people would be interested in seeing it live.

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Overall I was happy. It's such a luxury to have ballet on tv and for it to be Ashton, it was wonderful. I thought the ballet photographed well, the costumes looked divine. Ferri came off best for me - she was queenly, beautiful, light. Her acting was the best of the night. Steifel danced well but the camera was not kind to his facial expressions. I saw him do this on stage and the effect was much better. Cornejo stood out for his clear and crisp performance. Unfortunately, I'm not in the position to say how this stood for its "Ashton" style, and from what I hear and read, we'll probably never see true Ashton style anymore.

On the negative side, I am disappointed that we get just one hour (especially when so many other Great Performance shows go on 2 hours). It could have been paired with something else. And I didn't like the camera cuts - it followed the narative rather than the dance phrase, like when it cut away from Cornejo doing some magnificent jumps to take in Stiefel's reaction).

ABT has much more Ashton is its rep., especially if you go back to the Baryshnikov years as AD, including Les Patineurs, Les Rendezvous and Birthday Offering.

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I loved 'The Dream'. How wonderful it was to see ballet on PBS again. It's been such a long, agonizing drought! ABT has staged a beautiful production and Ashton's choreography is glorious. Cornejo's Puck was pitch perfect and brilliantly danced. I hope the company brings 'The Dream' to New York in the next couple of seasons.

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ABT has much more Ashton is its rep., especially if you go back to the Baryshnikov years as AD, including Les Patineurs, Les Rendezvous and Facade.

And "Symphonic Variations" and "Birthday Offering," both of which, especially the former, they did very well.

I forgot to mention Julio Bragado-Young's Bottom, which I thought was very touching and subtle. (I'd thought that perhaps the over-acting that made me wince was because of the stage/TV problem, but Ferri, Cornejo and Bragado-Young were both detailed and subtle, so, while one may not see the facial expressions clearly without opera glasses in the Met, I'd still say it was overacted by some.) It was also nice to see a young Bottom, especially the joyous dancing in the finale.

If numbers count, I'll also go along with the crowd on the ONE HOUR IS TOO SHORT FOR DANCE, PBS. One of the DC PBS channels ran it at 11 p.m. (in this market, that conflicts with both the late local news and Nightline, and seems to send a message of: "we know no one is really interested in this, but we guess we have to show it sometime."

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According to Kisselgoff's piece in The New York Times' Television guide,

. . . Kevin McKenzie . . . said the solution was to bring the camera onstage during a dress rehearsal to focus on key dramatic moments and splice these into sequences shot at two live perfomances.  Television viewers can now have thier attention directed to passages nd facial expressions that even a theater audience might miss.

Great idea, of course, but as with all else, the devil is in the details. So Stiefel's exaggerated expressions had nothing to do with the presence of an audience, just his own misgauging of their effect on tv.

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The camera was also a bit over-excited by Ashton's musicality, ruining a few passages by ZOOMING IN as a gesture was (very well) timed to the music and the cutting away in a flash so you wouldn't miss the movement that ended the next phrase, turning a comma into a neon red exclamation point, as it were. At those moments, I wish I had been in the theater so I could have enjoyed the musicality (and I thought generally the dancers' phrasing was excellent) more quietly.

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And Bottom wasn't Craig Salstien - he was one of the rustics. The Bottom was Julio Bragado-Young.

My mistake. Thanks for the correction!

The main disappointment I had was the fact that in the introduction there was no mention that this was the 100 anniversary of the birth of Sir Frederick Ashton. I know The Lincoln Center Festival will be celebrating him with several companies including The Royal Ballet performing his ballets. But I sometimes think Balanchince's year long birthday celebration is overshadowing Ashton's.

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I agree about the camera movements - too many cuts and too quickly. The camera cuts back and forth quickly and frenetically, like it's racing to catch everything all at once. I wonder if there would have been another way to do this satisfyingly on camera? If it zooms out too far, then some detail is lost, and if you're always zoomed out, the average viewer could get bored seeing just the same shot for an extended period of time. I've never enjoyed, though, too much zooming on the upper half of the dancer's body. It seems to me that the whole body should be kept in the frame; dance was designed to be expressed with the entire body - of which the facial expression is of course a part, but I don't think anything is lost if the zoom stops at keeping the dancer's entire body in the frame.

On another note:

But I sometimes think Balanchince's year long birthday celebration is overshadowing Ashton's.

Perhaps this explains why the Royal is celebrating Ashton's 100th next year instead of this year?

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The more I see of Ashton's ballet's the more I fall under his spell. I thought it was lovely, especially Ferri and Cornejo's performances. I thought Steifel danced very well, however his acting seemed a bit off. Since I've never seen The Dream before I'm not sure but it seems like his Oberon should have been a little more aristocratic, more haughty in his mischieviousness. I wish I had seen Anthony Dowell dance it!

And I remember seeing pictures of Sibley as Titania. Didn't she used to wear a wig for the role? Do they not do that anymore?

Also agree about being too short. Why could it not have been an Ashton double feature? They could have paired it with Symphonic Variations, or A Month in the Country ( Oh Lord, let me see this ballet someday!)

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But I sometimes think Balanchince's year long birthday celebration is overshadowing Ashton's.

That's due to the facts that 1) we're here in New York, not London; 2) Balanchine was much more prolific; and 3) Balanchine's company has done more to keep his ballets (in better or worse condition is another matter :dry:) than the Ashton's has for his.

Editing to add: Plus what Art said. :wink:

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I saw The Dream live last year with Gomes and Kent, but with nearly the same supporting cast. It was interesting to compare. Ferri for me was a revelation. I thought her acting and dancing was just fabulous, and unlike Kent was not wearing a strange looking wig. Does anyone know if she had previously danced this role with the Royal Ballet?

Cornejo was great, as he was live when I saw him. I thought Gomes added a greater sense of "kinglyness" to the role and also seemed more exotic - he seemed less like a normal human than Stiefel did. Frankly, I'm not sure if this was actually present in the dancing and acting or if simply their physical differences made me perceive them differently.

In any case, I'm glad I saw it.

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I, too, adored Ferri. I thought it might have helped if Stiefel were merely taller, which of course is impossible, and not a criticism of him. Some of the beautiful architecture of the figures might have been enhanced in the pas de deux. Also, a little passion would have been good. I felt during the broadcast as I did in the theater--that this is such an English dream--not Shakespearean, but Victorian. It is interesting to me to see the suitability to the music, which is supremely adept, but so, too, is Balanchine's. I don't think their differering sensibilities--Sir Fred, Mr.B-- are any clearer than in thinking about them vis a vis their Dreams. A really great experience of ballet is to see first one, then the other. Let it be so. I can dream, can't I?

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That's the awful thing about video-filmed performances, that you're forced to watch whatever the director wants you to watch. Maybe I don't want my attention directed to facial expressions, overdone or not. When it comes to editing dance for video/film, less is more. I suppose the powers that be didn't want users who might not be familiar with the story to get confused, but they should know it already, and would it've killed PBS to have a quickie synopsis?

I'd like to see a Cornejo/Ulbricht Puck dance-off.

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