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La Bayadere@The Met 2004


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I went to see Roberta Marquez in her first guest appearance with ABT in La Bayadare Friday night. Stiefel was her Solor and Dvorovenko was Gamzatti.

For starters, I thought the company looked very strong in this ballet. I noticed a couple of really tiny bobbles from the corps in the shades scene, but nothing that distracted from the drama. This is a ballet full of spectacle, and ABT does it really well.

Marquez is lovely - and tiny, really tiny. On flat feet she looked about shoulder level with Stiefel. She is very dramatic with a flexible & hyperextended torso, and very expressive arms. I liked her best in the first & third acts. There was nothing wrong with her Shades scene, but she seemed a little cold and I thought her dancing had a hard edge to it.

Stiefel was wonderful. His dancing is always so clean and elegant and virtuosic but sometimes I find his acting a little less than convincing. The last couple of times I’ve seen him he seemed to have a new commitment to character, and last night he WAS Solar. He was all passion and ardor with Nikiya, yet he also managed to convey a sense of awe in his first encounter with Gamzatti, which turned into confusion and resignation to duty in the later scenes. He was exceptionally remorseful in the last act.

This was the first time I’d seen Dvorovenko’s Gamzatti, and what can I say, it’s hard to believe the role wasn’t made on her. I cannot imagine a more forceful, dominant performance, every inch the royal princess who was the master of all she surveyed. And her dancing sparkled. Nikiya and Solor never had a chance.

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I saw the Saturday matinee of "La Bayadere" with Ashley Tuttle as Nikiya, Angel

Corella, and Gillian Murphy as Gamzatti. Corella was electrifying, both in his dancing and his acting. After seeing Tuttle struggle the last couple of years in "Theme and Variations" and the Black Swan pdd from "Swan Lake", I was worried she wouldn't be up to challenges of Nikiya in "La Bayadere". I'm happy to say my fears were groundless. Tuttle was one of the best Nikiyas I've ever seen. Her beautifully flexible upper party made her dancing in Act I especially poignant.

In Act II I was really impressed by the height of her leaps and even more by the speed of her turns at the end of the act. After having seen Tuttle in "Romeo and Juliet" and "Moving Out" I knew what a wonderful actress Tuttle is. Her portrayl of Nikiya was an especially moving one.

As Gamzatti, Gillian Murphy showed what a grand ballerina role this is. As I think Anna Kisselgoff said of her performance as Gamzatti last year, Murphy was all "fire and ice". She was truly a woman to be reckoned with. And what a beautifully crystalline technique she has.

I was also moved by Guillaume Graffin's powerful portrayl of the High Brahmin. He's really an incredible actor. Monique Meunier was especially good in a very brief role as one of the D'Jampe dancers. Why wasn't she one of the lead shades?

Why wasn't she Gamzatti? With her technique and acting ability, she could be one of the best Gamzattis ever. Why doesn't ABT let her do more? After loving her at

NYCB for years, it makes no sense to me. As for the Shades, I thought they were really wonderful. I saw one slight wobble (the shade in the second row from the front on the right) but that was it. All in all, it was a really beautiful production.

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I saw it on Friday night with Marquez, Stiefel, and Dvorovenko.

As I was telling friends, this is not my favourite ballet, but I was so pleasantly surprised and exhilarated by the performances... I am used to a longer version, and while I missed the parrots and the Minou dances especially, I was more than happy with what I saw.

I saw Marquez in London for Sleeping Beauty and was not very happy with some aspects of the performance (we won't even discuss this new production, which is dreary and utterly lacking in magic.) I thought she was exceedingly good as Nikiya, however. She is a dramatic ballerina, and her dancing was passionate as well as simply wonderful, technically. I haven't been as moved by a Nikiya since Assylmuratova.....She was heartbreaking as a woman, very spiritual and pure as a shade, and was more than a cipher in the last act, somethiing which very few other ballerinas manage.

She is a great partner for Stiefel, their sizes and styles complement and enhance each other. He was as good as I'd hoped he'd be---and I'm certainly happy that he's evidently gained acting skill while his dancing remains stunning.

Dvorovenko owns Gamzatti and owned it before she danced a step. She is a beautiful woman and with one thrust of that chin, one sensed that she was Going to Prevail. She did lend a depth to the character in her scene with Nikiya, as one sensed the woman desperate to put on that wedding crown and unbelieving that the one suitable candidate would not be hers by right, if nothiing else. Her chess scene with him is wonderful, as she actually plays with him and one does not want to miss a moment by watching the dancing on stage while this mini-drama is being played out under the palanquin.....

Seeing the Shades scene from the orchestra is not ideal, and Misty Copeland's very ungraceful front-row-center thud to earth was unfortunate. However, the corps acquitted itself very nicely as a whole.....

I still have no idea why Meunier is dancing corps or demi roles. Infrequently. What a puzzlement, what a pity.

Of the three shades, Pavam was excellent technically but blank. Cornejo was fine, but not outstanding, and Maria Riccetto was superb. Craig Salstein looked like a jack-in-the-box, but that is not necessarily a criticism, given this role. He jumps and turns and he did a good job.

Overall, a very enjoyable night and much more moving than I expected.

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Wow. That may be the best description I gan give of Zakharova’s Nikya - except to say that anyone who is in NY and wasn’t at the Met tonight should run out and get tickets to her second performance on Wednesday.

I’d never seen her dance before, but from descriptions I’d read I was expecting every developee to be 180 degrees, and her arabesques to all have that elongated neo classical quality. There was none of that evident in the first act. Her dancing was clear, beautiful and technically very strong. Since my knowledge of specific ballet steps is very limited, I will leave it to others to give a detailed description of her technique. What struck me most was the way her technique was used in service of artistry. Her phrasing never seemd rushed, she always had so much time within the music and every step seemed to convey Nikiya’s state of mind.

Her dancing was just gorgeous. Her steps and shapes were so clear and precise, yet she danced with utter fluidity. Several times I almost forgot that she was dancing, her technique was so completely in focus with the character. Then she would hold some amazingly beautiful shape and I would remember, oh yeah, every move she makes is extrordinary. In the first act, each time she danced she presented a different aspect of Nikiya’s love for Solor. Watching her first solo, before the pas with Solor, was like coming upon a private reverie. She was all hope and yearning. In her pas with Solor she was the embodiment of tender love. When she is summoned to dance at the bethroval, and sees Solor’s betrayal with her own eyes she dances pure anguish.

Her second act was exquisite, even though this is where she chose to pull out the hyperextentions. I prefer a traditional classical line in the shades scene but even so, it didn’t distract from the beauty of her performance.

Carreno was a soaring Solor, I love the way he controls those turns and finishes them so slowly and precisely. Wiles was great as Gamzatti. She sailed through the technical challenges, but she also showed great stage presence and depth to her characterization. Her Gamzatti was played on a much more human scale than Dvorovenko’s or Murphys, she was very much a woman in love, and only turned into a ruthless princess after Nikiya tried to stab her.

Herman Cornejo was a superb Bronze Idol - his leaps and turns are remarkable for their clarity as well as their speed. The 3 shades were Liceica, Cornejo and Maria Ricetto, and tonight I really liked Ricetto.

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I was there for Zakharova's Nikiya as well. :wink:

Zakharova was beautiful as Nikiya on Monday night. She was passionate and communicated with her entire body throughout. The adagio in the Kingdom of the Shades was thrilling, nary a wobble throughout the whole thing, just a very placid, very clean perfection. I love it when Nikiyas can pull off a very smooth adagio, making it look completely effortless and holding poses and balances for ages - it makes the part appropriately otherworldly and magical. Only thing that bugged me though was how high Zakharova was able to lift her leg; it looked un-human in a distracting way - made it seem like I was watching a Cirque du Soleil performance at times. In fact, much of her Shades act was like this - almost as though she were showing off her technical skills, great as they are. Since we're talking about Kirov-trained dancers here, I guess I'll mention that my absolute favorite Shades act came from Diana Vishneva, with whom Zakharova used to be colleages with at the Kirov. SHe pulled off the smoothness, showed off as much rock-solid technique, but did it with more character and without having the technique be a distracting side show.

But back to ABT, Zakharova's Acts I and III were quite good - she knows how to inject drama into a role and keep dancing at the same time, something her counterparts in the main company have a bit of a ways to catch up to still. Michele Wiles did an excellent job as Gamzatti, though admittedly much of the role is technical fireworks. When required to act, I felt she faltered a bit - clearest example of this is in Act III, when she has a marvelous solo during the wedding scene. She dances the solo marvelously, but then, just a bit later, when a girl toting a flower basket reminiscent of Nikiya's killer flower basket runs on, Wiles fails to react with the appropriate fear and apprehension that the moment should bring. She goes through the motions of the moment with too much grace and lightness, moving her arms softly as though she were bowing, not running away scared. No one can deny, however, that Wiles is a great stage presence in her current form - just needs to work more at the dramatic.

Jose Manuel Carreno made the most of Solor; he's not in the spotlight all to often, it's more a ballerina's show, but boy did he grab a hold of and make full use of the spotlight when he was in it. Herman Cornejo - stunning as the Bronze Idol. The audience ate it up. The corps danced the Kingdom of the Shades very well tonight. Reading early reports from Washington and otherwise, I was expecting disaster - but the corps exceeded my expectations. THey're not the Kirov, but they're not second rate, either.

This is my first time seeing ABT in Makarova's production of "Bayadere" live (seen it once in London and then on the Asylmuratova/Zelensky/Bussel video); I don't particularly like John Lanchberry's alterations to the score and orchestrations - particularly in the Grand Pas Classique. It sounded just find in the original Minkus orchestrations, I do'nt understand why he felt the need to make it either more diddly, or mess up the orchestrations to make the music sound more flat and thin. But that's just me being used to the way it's played in the Russian versions.

Also - maybe I missed this sitting in the balcony - but for some reason I feel like they never lifted the scrim for the Kingdom of the Shades? They go to black to change from Solor's tent to the Kingdom, where you see lights going across the scrim, but then, I never saw the scrim go up for the entire act...seems odd they'd do the entire scene behind a curtain, but again maybe I just missed this?

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I was there for Zakharova's Nikya as well. First thing I noticed was how much her Nikya had in common with Alina Cojacaru's last year. The super-flexibility, the remarkable cleanness of dancing, the lithe, light, airy style. But Zakharova also brought an air of exotic and mysterious beauty that the more ethereal Cojacaru didnt have. I just loved her way of simply dominating the Shades scene by one spead of her lovely arms. She was well-matched with Carreno, as both have very long legs and arms, and she is rather tall.

As for the super-flexibility, I wonder what y'all would think of Allegra Kent then. Talk about flexible and 180 degree leg lifts!

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Ah, but Kent never danced in Bayadere! The overuse of high extension in ballets where understatement is a virtue is a sore spot on this board for years! Giselle has finally started to calm down after what seemed like ages of wretched excess. Great high extension is wonderful in its place, but must be appropriate to the ballet. My favorite imaginary ballet master/dancer conversation:

"Can you stick your kneecap in your ear?"

"Sure!"

"Good for you; now don't. This is 'Konservatoriet'."

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Ah, but Kent never danced in Bayadere!  The overuse of high extension in ballets where understatement is  a virtue is a sore spot on this board for years! 

Well for the record I didnt find Zakharova's extensions excessive -- she didnt showboat them at every opportunity, and she was very lovely. I think every ballerina has strengths and weaknesses, and Zakharova certainly had enough strengths to make her performance very memorable.

Besides, there's nothing more annoying (to me) than totally stiff-backed dancers. I noticed this painfully in the corps last night. During the "Shades" scene I thought some of the corps looked like they were doing "waves" at a football stadium, the way they completely refused to extend or arch their backs. It made me cringe, as Ive seen videotapes of Bayadere from other companies.

By the way, Veronika Part danced in the first act, and she was fantastic. AND she arches her back! :wink:

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Marc Haegeman, in his reviews of Zakharova at POB, commented how involved and reigned in she looked. I thinking guesting agrees with her as I have never seen Zakharova look better in some 20 or so performances I've seen of her. The extensions came out in the Shades act, but weren't forced - they came naturally and musically. Yes, she still pushes her hips out of alighnment with some high developees, but she didn't stop the ballet to do them. I view SZ as a strange bird or creature. I'm facinated by her as I'm shaking my head at some of the things she does. Maybe it was having the fabulous Carreno partner her or the "classic lite" nature of this production, but Zakharova appeared more committed than in the Kirov's production. I felt she built this performance rather than just going out and dancing what she rehearsed 1,000 times in the studio. The biggest shock she gave the audience was on a balance she held forever (but totally within the framework of the ballet and music). It looked like one of those happy accidents and was lovely.

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Of course Veronika Part arches her back -- you do not graduate from Vaganova if you can't! But she has an especially expressive and pliant back and arabesque.

Part was ravishing and her acting made me long to see her Nikiya. I think she did it in St. Petersburg or on tour around 2000. She was also supposed to do it in London that year but cancelled due to injury.

I've seen Zakharova dance Nikiya on several different continents over the past several years and I thought this was overall probably the best portrayal I've witnessed from her. She was "in" the production, not commenting upon it, and that was gratifying. Any show of restraint from her is welcome. First act duet was superbly danced by both Carreno and her, and splendidly partnered.

I do not think ABT believes in an arched back -- they are too afraid of seeming to defer to a Russian hegemon in ballet. American dancers are not trained this way, and by the time you're in your '20s it's certainly difficult to acquire that facility.

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The thing is though, when did the taboo for American girls and back-arching begin? Because when I see archival film of Suzanne Farrell or Allegra Kent, or even the NYCB corps, their backs are certainly arched, and their legs are very very high. Maybe not to the extent of the Vaganova dancers, but it did seem like a perfectly acceptable position. This is a real contrast to contemporary dancers like Wendy Whelan, who have a ramrod straight back.

By the way, anyone catch the NYCB Workout Video? I love Peter Martins' deep, deadly serious voice intoning, "KEEP your but-tocks straight. It is very important to always keep your but-tocks straight." :grinning:

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I suppose, I am in the minority on this, but I found Zakharova’s performing style jarring and self-indulgent. In duets, she seemed to say not “I love you”, but rather “Aren’t I beautiful?” That balance she held in the “Shades” looked very out of place to me. It seemed to show indifference to the music and the choreography. This is not Don Q, after all. She has toned down and grown up a bit since I last saw her a year and a half ago. She is a beautiful woman, and that awesome body looks stunning posing in arabeque and in any efface position, but in croise she looks somehow flat and uninteresting. One used to be able to sense her counting, and mercifully that’s gone, but I still feel that her mind and her legs are not connected in any meaningful way. When Leceica and then Erica Cornejo came out for their variations, one could immediately sense a musical intelligence, a thinking mind behind every step. I found that utterly missing in SZ’s performance.

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Roma, I also found SZ’s performance a very dull affair indeed.

Ballerina shall be made of a great intellect and great body, which is not the case with her.

Edited by Daron
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Not sure that I follow about the back arch: Do you think the back should be arched all the time when you're dancing? You think dancing with a straight torso is stiff?

Or are you just talking about having a flexible arabesque? Because I don't think Whelan has a stiff back, she just keeps it straight. I'm sure if fhe were doing shades corps she would get her leg up very high indeed. please someone explain.

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Guy,

I'm talking about having a flexible arabesque. Like in the Shades scene -- I noticed most of the female corps kept a very straight back and held their leg to exactly 90 degrees. Whereas when, say, Veronica Part does an arabesque, her whole body, including her back, seems to stretch. That's the look I like.

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I don't think it is a case of right and wrong, I think it is more a case of individual taste. I love seeing a perfect 90 degree arabesque, and find the flinging leg up to as high as I can get it undisciplined. The super flexible back that some of the Russians have, too, I find somewhat distracting, more suited to gymnastics. But I know I am probably in the minority.

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Ref back arching:

First of all, if what I say below is mistaken please correct me!!

As far as I understand, Russian training pays a lot of importance on epaulement, which is somehow related to the use of the UPPER torso. For example, on doing your first cambre derriere at the beginning of the barre exercises, they focus on working your upper torso first, and not to just cambre from the lower back (waist, and below). That gives a beauriful "airy" look, which is so apparent in an attitude efface derriere (it is also safer for your back)

Of course, as the body gets more warmed up, they start adding the cambre from the lower back as well.

Maybe the dancers you are seeing are working the back straight from the waist?

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