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Swan Lake on PBS -- Great Performances

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Ill keep my comments short- I loved it- all of it! Ive been waiting for this production to be filmed for the public ever since I first saw it danced by Gillian Murphy live at OCPAC about 3 years ago. Yet, I have one thing to say to all the critics out there: you wonder why ballet is not shown more on public televison in the US...its because even the "ballet fans" out there are such tough critics, its hard to satisfy even the people the program was intended to please. So, why bother bringing it at all?

Here we have two wonderfully talented dancers (not to mention the rest of the cast) from one of the best ballet companies in the world (IMHO) performing a ballet classic and I would say 60-70% of all these reviews are criticisms! Im shocked and a little disappointed.

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Tessdixon, I guess one person's "tough critic" is just another's Idealist. :tiphat: I am so glad you liked it. I'm especially glad you posted your satisfaction. Is there something about Gillian that you find especially affecting?

I don't know if a discussion forum has as much power over programming. Yes, this is non-commercial television, but it still wants to pull in audience. PBS knows that every single one of us will be tuned in to them, and many of us will buy their DVD -- from their website, even.

Hey, this is the same conversation I hear when the curtain falls on performances, but we keep going back . . . and back . . . and back . . . . . .

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And I suppose I would rather go with beauty and feeling -- even if there's a sacrifice of some technique -- in Swan Lake.

So would I, and that's what Veronika Part provided along with Marcello Gomes in the final Swan Lake of the same recent Kennedy Center appearance. I'm happy to have Murphy and Corella's performance on tape, although I've only had time to watch the first two acts so far. But I wish McKenzie had chosen to feature the cast I saw.

I was so pleased to read your comments KFW---I have my tickets to see Veronika Part on July 7.

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Yet, I have one thing to say to all the critics out there: you wonder why ballet is not shown more on public televison in the US...its because even the "ballet fans" out there are such tough critics, its hard to satisfy even the people the program was intended to please.  So, why bother bringing it at all?

Underneath all the criticism, Tessdixon, we are really all delighted that this was on TV. I have many friends who go the ballet often, and love everything they see---which is great. I listen politely without much comment, and am very happy that they buy tickets.---BUT---some of us need a place to VENT---and that is part of Ballet-Talk.

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I have one thing to say to all the critics out there: you wonder why ballet is not shown more on public televison in the US...its because even the "ballet fans" out there are such tough critics, its hard to satisfy even the people the program was intended to please.  So, why bother bringing it at all?

Tess, I can see that a run-through of this thread might give an impression of negativity, and possibly even carping and elitism. But I think you have to read these statements in the context of the real enthusiasm and appreciation that virtually all posters have expressed about Dance in America, ABT, and the dancers over the years. The build-up to Swan Lake -- as to Don Q -- produced posts that were full of wonderful anticipation.

Many of us feel that we have several obligations when it comes to ballet -- promotion and encouragement on one hand, and what I hope is contructive criticism on the other. I try to balance both, but tend to reserve "promotion and encouragement" for other, more generalist forums. Ballet Talk, for me, is kind of like being in a supportive but completely honest family. We praise. But we also argue (among ourselves) about areas that (in our individual opinions) need improvement. And, most important, we learn about the art.

I feel that there's been plenty of all three in the postings on this thread.

And, amidst all the financial, political and mega-cultural factors leading to a decline in dance on public television, I find it hard to believe that the opinions expressed on Ballet Talk have played much of a role.

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.....I would say 60-70% of all these reviews are criticisms!  Im shocked and a little disappointed.
Tessdixon, you took the words right out of my mouth! I was going to post something about my disappointment with all the criticism, but decided against it, especially when I watched my tape of the performance again -- after reading through this thread and the one on BT for Dancers -- with a more informed eye.

I wrote immediately after the ballet ended (mine was the breathless post at 11:02 pm) and was still in love with everything I had seen, and deliriously happy that ballet was seen on television again! And then the nit-picking began in a torrent of posts, and it reminded me of how my hubby reacts to a movie, concert, even ballet, the minute it's over, analyzing what he has just seen while my head is still in the clouds, in the wonderful place that a great performance should take us to. (I also remember how jarring it always was over 35 years ago when I attended the NYCB every weekend, to exit the State Theater and turn into the subway entrance, i.e. the real world, to see people going about their business, while my whole universe had just changed.)

In re-viewing the performance a couple of days later, I started to see more and have more to "criticize", or rather, critique -- both positively and negatively. And that's where Ballet Talk becomes a vital aid to us balletomanes. Where else can we instantly find a group of informed people who know exactly what we are talking about, whether they agree with it or not? Where do we go with our ballet passion and need to talk about every little thing we saw? There are few others in our homes or among our friends who know (or care) to discuss such minutiae.

I think we can all agree that we love the dancers very much. And there are few among us who could go out there right now (even if we could in the past) and do any of what they are doing so that armchair critics could have something to comment on.

What makes me feel bad is the chance that the nastier, non-constructive comments get to the dancers about whom they were made. The last thing I would want is for any of them to be hurt, knowing the fragility of some of their souls.

I hope to send out the message that we absolutely love them and the fact that we are able to dissect their performances means that they have truly arrived and been placed on pedestals. Anyone up that high is bound to have every inch of their being and movement examined in microscopic detail. The dancers we talk most about have the enviable position of having reached the top of their profession at a very young age. We are so proud of them and privileged to be entertained and transported to other worlds by them. My sincere appreciation goes to each and every dancer who has moved us to speechlessness as well as extreme verbosity!

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Please don't get me wrong, I love the fact that there's ballet on public television! I first got interested in ballet from seeing it on television. It propelled me to buy my first tickets to the ballet, and I've been going back ever since. So I hope this showing of Swan Lake will convert some people into ballet fans.

I think an underlying 'complaint' of some comments here (including mine) is that this casting decision seems to be the result of 'technical showiness' rather than a true reflection of the artistic epitome that dancers strive for.

I don't think it's mere coincidence that the powers that be (maybe McKenzie, maybe PBS, maybe the sponsors of the program) cast the dancers who are the most technically awe-inspiring at ABT. It's easy to impress people unfamiliar with ballet with triple fouettes or high jetes. It's less easy to impress them with gorgeous extension, great chemistry, or elegant subtlety.

People here like the pairing to different degrees, but I think almost everyone agrees that Murphy and Corella do not have the greatest chemistry among ABT couples, and that neither of them are the best conveyors of emotion. What they do have, though, is athletic prowess and flashiness.

I totally understand this casting choice, and any pairing would have been vulnerable to criticisms and would have made some people dissatisfied. But an important issue needs to be thought about, and that's the way ballet wants to market itself in the future. If highlighting technical prowess supercedes other considerations, will the artistic goals be altered, and if so, is it necessarily a bad thing? Is this just the natural evolution of an art form? Although almost everyone agrees that commissioning new works is a good thing, and many new works emphasize this athleticism, should the classics also be kneaded to do the same?

Moreover, how do you balance between doing what's necessary to stay financially stable (and thus preserve ballet for future generations) and doing what's necessary to stay true to the art when those things might work against each other?

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I think we can all agree that we love the dancers very much. And there are few among us who could go out there right now (even if we could in the past) and do any of what they are doing so that armchair critics could have something to comment on.

Here, here! Even if some of us, like Marga's husband, tend to express our deep and caring involvement in the performance with a bit too much analysis, a bit too soon.

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I think it's important to step back a moment to the purpose of the site, which is to provide a place for people to discuss ballet. As long as criticism follows our Courtesy Policy, it may be expressed on the board.

No one need apologize for or justify courteous, well-reasoned criticism.


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What Helene said. :smilie_mondieu:

Although as I’ve indicated I don’t think Murphy and Corella were a dream couple, as one who doesn’t see ABT regularly I was grateful to have the chance to get a good look at an outstanding young American ballerina and to see Corella’s try at the role, even though for no fault of his own he’s not suited to it. I think both of them brought a good deal more to their roles than flash and pirouettes, and I’m glad I saw them!

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So I finally saw it this afternoon- and I loved it! I've seen many ABT performances of Swan Lake- Kent/Malakhov, Ananiashvilli/Bocca, to name a few- and they are just all so different, but each exceptional in their own way. This was probably my least favorite cast, but I must say I now see Murphy on a whole new level. I, too, thought she'd be a better Odile, but was so impressed by her Odette. She really was so gentle and lyrical, and I loved many of her small nuances. During the close-ups, I loved her facial expressions- she really looked the part of a terrified, young maiden turned swan, not able to trust anyone and frightened by the prince.

I thought the chemistry between her and Corella was very good! I didn't see "zero" chemistry at all! Corella really looked in awe of her. And his characterization really moved me- he was so genuinely drawn to this swan-princess and looked hopelessly in love, and towards the end, desperately so. I didn't think it was over the top. One thing that I did find strange, though, was in Act 1- and especially during the Pas de Trois- when Cornejo(s) or Reyes would finish their respective variations, and walk off aknowledging the prince, Corella had a strange expression- like "Yea, whatever, that was pretty good...do I know you?" I'd expect Corella to flash that great smile of his or show some appreciation or excitement. I think the whole first act looked a little stiff because it seemed as though they were all trying to be something they weren't- too perfect, i don't know- from the corps to the principals- Corella was almost unrecognizable- I wish he could've just let go and been himself. I guess it looked over-rehearsed.

But I still loved it! And I am very glad this cast was filmed, because it will be so interesting to see both Corella and Murphy develop if McKenzie continues this pairing.

Loved Gomes, and Cornejo :yahoo:

"The Swamp Thing"- what a fitting name- I can't agree more...I was realy bewildered...and everytime he came on I'd just start laughing :tiphat: I wish he could just wear a big black robe or something.

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There was a great deal that I liked besides the Danse Russe, though, as I said in my earlier post. Murphy has great potential in the role of Odette, but she's not there yet. Corella was unexpectedly grounded and less of a "pixie" than I've seen him do before, and landed Siegfried as a danseur classique, if not noble. Cornejo was, it seemed, playing Corella, keeping it light and subordinate to the principal man. I respected his dancing as a true "two-legged dancer", taking steps left and right no matter what, and doing them equally well on both sides. Franklin and Parkinson were the masters of all they surveyed, claiming attention just by their presence. I know that Kevin McKenzie is a nice guy, and has good taste. I just wish that it were better in evidence in this production.

And on the matter of vocal applause, it depends on the context:

HON. JOHN WILKES (defaming another Honourable Member): Where, Oh, where can we find a more knavish rogue, or more roguish knave than this?


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Sorry, guys this is really silly, BUT

I always thought the expression was "hear! hear!" 

Not silly at all! I've been confused about the expression ever since I inadvertently wrote "here, here" on a forum of dictionary devotés about 5 years ago, and was too embarrassed when I later realized my mistake to go back to edit it. The posters on those boards were vicious, regularly and gleefully decimating selected posters for their stupidity.

Since then, I don't care which homonym is used -- they both make sense to me! :)

I'm sure I'll have cause one day to use "heir, heir"! I can't wait.

I've started watching my other Swan Lake videos (8 different ones) and the first one I put on after rewatching ABT's was Makarova and Nagy in 1976. I had not rewound it since last viewing and it started in the middle of Act IV. As soon as I saw Makarova move it put the entire PBS ABT SL in perspective for me. Here was the real thing. No question, no contest. I had forgotten just how great she was as Odette.

The next day it was Evelyn Hart with Peter Schaufuss and the London Festival Ballet to Makarova's choreography. Another transcendent experience, so different from Makarova's, but supremely wonderful.

I still love Gillian Murphy's bold portrayal, but do prefer the ballerinas who become swans inside and out.

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I wasn't sure what to expect from Gillian, and I was afraid she would turn out to be just another technical dynamo so wrapped up in steps that she forgets the story. I was very pleasantly surprised, though, to see that she is on her way to becoming a beautiful artist with astounding technique. I really enjoyed her Odette, and I liked her powerful projection. It reminded me of Matthew Bourne's idea behind his all-male Swan Lake that Swan's are very powerful creatures. Gillian's powerful Swan Queen made the story more poignant for me- rather then being a victim who is inevitably doomed, she makes it seem that she has come to the very end of the rope. I felt that her black swan, while still impressive technically, somehow lacked maturity, almost as if she were approaching the role from the point of view of a young, inexperienced woman. This was only a subtle detail, really, and maybe only something I saw.

I also enjoyed Corella- he is continually improving, but I do wish I could have seen Gillian dance with Marcelo Gomes, maybe. I saw those two together in Theme several years ago, and that seemed very "right."

I enjoyed the whole thing, really- since I wasn't sure what I would think having read so many posts from people who have seen this version live. I even liked the "Swamp Thing."

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Am just re-visisting the tape made of the telecast. This Act III (ballroom scene) gets better and better in my estimation.

Gomes's Rothbart, everyone loved. He turns the character, who is sometimes cheapened into something resembling a Vincent Price villain, magician or puppetmaster, into a powerful, seductive figure who makes you feel why he is so good at contgrolling all that happens. I was mesmerized by his commanding yet seductive gesture (forefinger pointed upwards, other fingers drawing the princesses in) during the Russian dance, and by the eyes. Lots of closeups, and well-deserved.

Gillian Murphy was also impressive -- and not only the dancing. In this part of the Ballet she "acts" effectively in her interactions both with Rothbart and Siegfried. The look on her face when she emulates some of Odettes more swooning, passive, and swanlike gestures, is one of the cruelest, most self-satisfied, I've seen. She gives pliancy to the artificial Odile, who --ironically -- seems to me to be less stiff than her "real" Odette. Odille really is a well thought-out, effective portrayal.

Corella's Siegried really becomes effective and quite sympathetic once you accept that his characterization is of someone who perhaps a little less bright -- certainly less experienced -- than any of the other main characters. He's a reactor, always a few beats behind everyone when it comes to understanding what is going on. His solo variations really do express joy, or possisbly relief, that he has found Odette again -- and that she's SO exciting and relatively uncomplicated, compared to their meeting by the lake.

In a world with so many Swan Lakes -- so many excellent performances -- God is definitely in the details.

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Well, it was just shown here where I live! I have seen this production 3 times live(Kent,Wiles and Nina A.). I enjoy this production and was very glad to hear it was being brodcasted! My only reservations were with who was cast! One of them surprised me and the other dissapointed(though I didn't have high expectations to begin with).

Now, the surprise, Angel. I love him as a dancer, but had never pictured him as The Prince. He was very good! More reserved and noble than I expected, though a little more mellow dramatic than I would have liked. He was very relaxed in his dancing and not too over the top as in some other roles. I do wish he would have changed his emotions a little bit more and pointed his feet in a few places where I felt he was just being careless, but other than that I was impressed!

Gillian, now I've never really been a fan of hers(except in contemporary works), but I had been hearing such good things about her in this ballet, that I was willing to give her a chance. I can't really say one thing I liked about her in this ballet. Her 'White Swan', did nothing for me. I felt she had the same strained dramatic look on her face the whole time. I do not like her legs(though that's a not something she can change) nor her feet(which she could change if she didn't wear those darn GMs) her arms were very spastic to me. You know when the 'White Swan' turns her back to the audience and bourees off? First her bourees are not up to snuff, in my opinion,and her arms, I HATE THEM, I litteraly screamed. They were so stiff and barbie like and that part is my favorite I get chills everytime, except this time. 'Black Swan', I felt this was a better role for though I still didn't care for her. She made some weird faces and still didn't bring much depth to the character. I know she is known as a turner, but I thought her fouettes were ugly. Yes she threw in triples and quads, but she was throwing her arms and leg and her foot flapped a little. I would prefer nice clean singles to those. I know that tons of people LOVE Gillian, but I am not one of them. I'm not saying she is a bad dancer, though I see alot that could be coached. There were a few more things I didn't like, but they were more technical and nit picky.

Over all, I really enjoy this version of 'Swan Lake'. Ah, 'The Corps' also looked very good! I felt everyone was well rehearsed and really into the performance! Oh! The Pas de Trois, I loved loved LOVED all 3 of them! I have seen Herman do this live and he was just glorious again! I would love to see him as the Prince. I thought the 2 girls were very nice, though I felt Erica was a bit better.

I am just happy that Ballet was being shown again on PBS! :D

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Has anyone seen the DVD yet? I'm still wondering it matches what was shown on PBS in terms of all the cuts.

The cuts seem to be the same but the wide screen is nice to see the entire stage on the long shots. My vhs tape cuts off at least 2 corp dancers on each side for some of the long shots in Act 1.


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