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ABT in Washington D.C.

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OK, I’ll go first. I attended ABT’s performances on Tuesday the 31st and Wednesday the 1st.

Gong – Not really much to say here. Apparently, I’m not a Mark Morris fan. It’s been danced well, although the second PDD with Misty Copeland and Grant DeLong (I think it was DeLong) was a little shaky on Wednesday.

Afternoon of a Faun – Julie Kent and Max Beloserkovky did a respectable job on Tuesday, but Stella Abrera and David Hallberg were amazing on Wednesday night. I saw an Abrera and Hallberg performance of Faun at City Center this fall, and I was even more impressed last night. Hallberg is already having a very good run here after only two nights; I’m really hoping that a promotion is forthcoming.

Swan Lake Act III PDD – Paloma Herrera is starting to grow on me. To me, she’s become more subtle and nuanced in her performances and the upper body is getting better. (She’s also toned down that “Wow! Look at that!” thing that she sometimes does with her eyebrows, which I find really irritating.) I used to be pretty skeptical about seeing her, and I was a little worried about an over-the-top Odile/Siegfied performance from her and Jose Carreno, but they actually kept it from getting out of control while giving us an exciting, sexy PDD. Carreno, as always, was wonderful, with his beautiful line, jumps, and slow-down pirouettes. Herrera did stumble a little at the end of her fouettes, but I’ll take this performance any day over what we got on Wednesday.

Gillian Murphy did a wonderful job on Wednesday of reminding me why I avoid her full-length ballet performances. The over-the-top, vamped performance that I was worried about on Tuesday came instead on Wednesday. (I’m not sure that the Queen would have approved of her son marrying the Odile that we got on Wednesday night.) Murphy tends to go to extremes artistically – she’s either blank or too showy. I realize that she’s still pretty young; as she matures, I hope that she can find a more subtle and nuanced middle ground. She certainly has the (lower body) technique, but right now seems content to simply do the triple fouettes and other tricks to get the applause (and the audience definitely loved this performance, based on the shouting and loud clapping). Over the years, she has improved artistically, but still has work to do.

Murphy and Marcelo Gomes were a mismatch tempermentally. I thought there was little chemistry between them, mostly because Murphy seemed to forget that there was someone else on stage with her. We all know what Gomes can do when given something to work with (like, say, Veronika Part). Were it not for Gomes’s usual understated, classy elegance, this performance would have been really, really bad, as far as I’m concerned.

Green Table – Tuesday night was the first performance that I’ve seen of Green Table, and I liked it a lot. David Hallberg was very good as Death, being perfectly commanding, menacing, and just downright creepy. I wasn’t as impressed with Isaac Stappas on Wednesday, although I think height has a lot to do with that. This is a role where height is a definite advantage, so that Death can tower over his victims. In the second section where Death is introduced, Stappas had trouble “ticking” loudly enough to produce an effect (his Death was just in the background dancing without producing the ominous ticking sound). Hallberg was very good in that section, I thought; I never forgot that he was present.

Other Green Table standouts over the two nights were Julio Bragado-Young as the Profiteer, Carmen Corella as the Woman, and Kelley Boyd as the Young Girl. I’m very disappointed that Hallberg isn’t repeating the role tonight.

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Some quick comments on the Thursday, February, 2nd performance.

Gong -- I thought the Misty Copeland/Grant DeLong PDD went much better on Thursday. (I'm still not sure it's DeLong; sorry if I have the wrong dancer.)

Although I don't really like this ballet, it is interesting to see the diversity of styles and training that makes up ABT these days. For example, I normally tend to favor the more classical dancers, but I thought a couple of these dancers looked a little out of place in this piece. They danced it well, but couldn't quite capture the comtemporary feel of this ballet.

Afternoon of a Faun -- I bought a ticket for Thursday to see this casting -- Maria Riccetto and Jose Carreno. Riccetto first really caught my eye about a year ago, and I was curious to see how she would handle this ballet. I thought she did pretty well. She doesn't have the almost inhuman quality that Abrera brings to the role, but I thought she was very good, in fact better than Carreno.

Swan Lake Act III PDD -- For me, this was by far the best Black Swan PDD of the week. Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky danced the PDD beautifully, related well to each other, and were appropriately flirty. I know Dvorovenko is quite capable of mugging (she ruined a Les Sylphides for me back in the fall), but I didn't think there was anything excessive last night.

Dvoorovenko did her fouettes at an insanely fast tempo and didn't travel. I'm much more impressed with the lack of travelling than I am with doubles and triples -- with other ABT dancers we often get the reverse.

Green Table -- I'm so glad they brought this to Washington, and I hope they continue to keep this in the repertory for awhile. Isaac Stappas did a very good job as Death last night, although I still prefer David Hallberg in the role just a bit more.

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Sorry if I wasn't clear!

It's a little hard to describe, but in the "Farewells" section, Death is in the background making a rhythmic sound as he dances. I took it to be like a clock ticking, suggesting that he's in control of time and destiny.

With Hallberg, it was audible (and very ominous) throughout the section (Death is just in the background with other action going towards the front). It does go on for quite awile and must be pretty tiring for the dancer. It requires the dancer to really punch out the steps, which I don't think Stappas did quite as well.

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I attended the mixed bills and the four Romeo and Juliet performances. I agree with LAC that Hallberg was very good as Death in Green Table, as was Kelley Boyd as the Young Girl (keep an eye on this one). That R & J is one gorgeous ballet.

Gong has grown on me a great deal. The costumes, lighting, non-stop action- never a dull moment. I love the music-less pieces and the shadows. Gillian Murphy, in the first music-less piece, was extraordinary. Regretfully, her partner Radetsky does not have her balance (but then, who does?). As for Afternoon of a Faun, Kent and Abrera were very nice, Riccetto maybe less so. Abrera, as she has shown in The Nutcracker, has this unbelievable ability of being held horizontally and looking just exquisite. Maxim was fine, but Hallberg and Carreno emoted and posed better.

I agree that the Paloma/ Carreno Swan Lake PDD was lovely, until that unfortunate ending of Paloma's fouettes. Her arms are so much softer now. While I am admittedlly a Gillian Murphy fan, I realize she has room to improve dramatically. But, all that technique and that perfect physique are there. She may not be that lyrical at this point, and may never be, but the lady can dance.

Irina was probably the most solid, and interacted well with Max, but I'm not seeing the passion. God, I love how Odile throws her head back at the end of the coda.

Stappas in Green Table was fine, but clearly less than Hallberg and he seemed very thick in that costume.

Romeo and Juliet-


The Sat. afternoon performances of Xiomara Reyes and Jose Carreno; Herman Cornejo as Mercutio on Fri. night, Julie Kent, Frederic Franklin (he's like 91 years old), Susan Jones as the nurse, Simone Messmer's debut as a harlot; Radetsky as Tybalt, Gomes as Romeo.

Casting concept- If Paris is blonde (as is usual, but not always), Romeo should not be blonde also.

So good to have ABT back in DC. I think they are next here in December.

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I attended the performances of Romeo and Juliet on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Highlights for me over the two performances were both Marcelo Gomes and David Hallberg as Romeo, Herman Cornejo as Mercutio, and Hallberg and Gennadi Saveliev as Paris. Hallberg is a very good actor. Veronika Part did an excellent Lady Capulet without being overly melodramatic (in a role that unfortunately demands excessive melodrama), while Carmen Corella did a good job of hinting at Lady Capulet’s attraction to/relationship with Tybalt.

On Friday, Julie Kent did a good Juliet. I was less impressed with Paloma Herrara’s Juliet on Sunday. An out-of-town family event prevented me from going to either performance on Saturday, so I didn’t get to see Xiomara Reyes perform the role. I think Reyes is ABT’s best Juliet after Alessandra Ferri right now, and it would have been nice to see her Juliet again.

Paolo, I agree that Gillian Murphy did an impressive job in Gong, and I should have mentioned that. I prefer her much more in the contemporary/modern repertory. However, since most of ABT’s repertory calls for dramatic ability and lyricism, I’m just not sold on her yet. As I mentioned earlier, she is a fairly new principal dancer and will hopefully continue to develop.

Overall, I thought ABT looked good this year, especially in Romeo and Juliet, Green Table, and Afternoon of a Faun. It would be nice if they brought a more adventurous full length next year (Sylvia, Raymonda, etc.), but I know that the more popular full-length ballets sell the tickets. Romeo and Juliet certainly sold well at the two performances that I attended, while it looked as if ticket sales for the midweek mixed bill were fairly weak.

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I went Thursday night and Sunday afternoon and saw the rehearsal on Friday.

Thursday's program was enjoyable enough--Gong was lively and fun, Afternoon of a Faun was nice (if not particularly exciting)--as another poster has noted, Carreno could just sit there and stretch for all I care.

The Black Swan pdd was nicely done (Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky) though Dvorovenko was not really evil enough--she probably makes a better Odette. I liked the National Ballet of Canada couple from the Sunday matinee better overall, though it's not really fair to compare an excerpt with a full performance.

The Green Table was repetitive and in the "OK, now I've seen it once & can cross it off my list" category for me. My main thought throughout was that it would be really fun to photograph because of the dramatic lighting and the repetitive choreography (the photographer's friend).

There was a man sitting next to me who said he hadn't been to the ballet in 30 years. Sure wish he had gone to Romeo & Juliet instead. He just couldn't get his mind around Gong and Faun (though of course he liked the Black Swan pdd) and he disappeared at intermission.

The cast was mostly the same for the Friday rehearsal and the Sunday performance, though Frederic Franklin performed Friday but not Sunday.

David Hallberg was magnificent--a terrific actor, a great partner, and a beautiful dancer. He needs a haircut though--shaggy hair in male dancers is just yucky. He and Paloma Herrera were well matched and I thought she was a lovely Juliet, though I preferred Xiomara Reyes 2 (?) years ago.

The men were generally terrific--it's been a good season for the various male corps at the Kennedy Center this season.

The patterned costumes worn in the ball scenes are dreadfully busy, in stark contrast to the solid-color costumes (e.g., Juliet's blue gown), which are elegant and striking. Does anyone know if the costumes are all of the same vintage, or whether some are newer than others?

Once again the cast information was disappointing. There were clearly students in the cast, but their presence was not acknowledged anywhere.

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Reyes and Carreno were stunning in the Saturday afternoon performance. We saw superb dancing very much in the service of the drama, and the most convincing ardor I've ever seen in a production of Romeo and Juliet. In every respect, it was a performance to remember and cherish.

The whole afternoon was wonderful. There were many fine performances. Stella Abrera was gorgeous, over the top, iconic as Lady Capulet, and Gennadi Saveliev brought subtlety and complexity to the role of Paris. Susan Jones was wonderful, as always, as the nurse. The harlots were joyously vulgar. (Is this, as I suspect, a fun role? I can't remember a dancer who didn't seem to enjoy dancing it.)

Judging from the audience reaction (and the absence of dry eyes, in our vicinity at least), others shared our sense that we had seen something very special. "That's why people go to the ballet," commented my husband as we left.

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Thanks everyone for your reviews, and especially to Ginny for your rave about what I'm going to rave about. Romeo and Juliet is a ballet I had only seen on video, but with its paucity of dancing roles for women and its paucity of classical dancing as opposed to swordfights and milling crowds, it didn't much interest me. But I thought I'd give this production a try just to see Reyes and Carreno, and their performance Saturday afternoon affected me so strongly that I bought tickets for the evening as well. As it turned out, while it was a treat to see the artistry of Frederic Franklin that night, the afternoon cast was on the whole more accomplished, beginning with the well-matched leads, whose passion and joy and then grief could not have been more convincing.

Carreno didn’t have quite the ease in his dancing of years past, but with his noble bearing and apparent good nature he was a charming son of a lord, bemused and just a bit above it all until he met Juliet. Reyes was every bit as lovely in her shapes as I’ve expected, but what really thrilled me was the depth of her emotion combined with the remarkably detailed quality of her acting. I was just amazed at what I was seeing. I know at least one critic complains that Reyes plays up her natural cuteness when it’s inappropriate to the role. She was darling when cute was called for here, in her first scene as Juliet plays with her nurse, but she deepened the character considerably at the ball, and darkened her as she was forced to dance with Paris. To see, for example, the play of fear and anguish and disgust in Juliet’s face and body as she was forced to dance with Paris, was to see great acting.

It seemed like the whole cast had their roles thoroughly thought out and internalized. Sascha Radetsky was a forceful, incisive Tybalt, and Carlos Lopez made Mercutio’s death throes –- the shock and horror, the fleeting bravado, the last gasp stumblings -- all the more sickening and heart-rending with his nuance and detail.

I’m surprised that MacMillan’s choreography gives Lady Capulet a stronger emotional response to her nephew Tybalt’s death than to her daughter Juliet’s. Abrera and later Part were each very fine in the role, but with Part perhaps more detailed, but I thought Abrera was more effective in mourning Tybalt’s death. Whereas Part’s acting there was naturalistic, and for once to my mind not entirely convincing, Abrera’s was outsized and expressionistic; her face turned into a mask, into a silent scream. Sasha Dmochowski was the most amusing of the very busy and very fine harlots.

A couple of things I found odd: The images on the chapel walls looked like Eastern Orthodox icons, not Italian Catholic frescoes, and Prokofiev’s score, which I love, doesn’t register Romeo’s emotion when he receives Juliet’s letter in which she agrees to marriage. In any case, having enjoyed this ballet so unexpectedly much, I may have to break down and go see Don Quixote or La Corsaire!

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the artistry of Frederic Franklin

Alexandra had perhaps the best ballet quote in ages when she said in her review of Romeo and Juliet:

"Franklin can greet the dawn, celebrate life, be at peace with his God and plot the politics of an entire city in three steps and a look."

So very, very true....

Edited by Helene
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the artistry of Frederic Franklin

Alexandra had perhaps the best ballet quote in ages when she said in her review of Romeo and Juliet:

"Franklin can greet the dawn, celebrate life, be at peace with his God and plot the politics of an entire city in three steps and a look."

Using the quotes function here can be tricky. I didn't quote that sentence from Alexandra's review, but I'm glad you did.

I was thinking again today about Reyes' artistry. Her Juliet went from a pretty girl to a beautiful woman, as if she'd been ennobled by the character that love and suffering can produce. As Ginny said, it was a performance to cherish.

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I was thinking again today about Reyes' artistry. Her Juliet went from a pretty girl to a beautiful woman, as if she'd been ennobled by the character that love and suffering can produce. As Ginny said, it was a performance to cherish.

I don't find it surprising that Reyes moved you so. Although I thought Erica Cornejo was brilliant in Rodeo at City Center in the fall, it was Reyes who broke my heart.

I don't feel she should be criticized because she happens to be adorable. She certainly doesn't play it up & in fact plays it down quite often, but she really can't help it, can she? She was probably adorable at birth.

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kfw, I'm so glad that you got to see Saturday's performance and agree with us that it was very special. Thank you for sharing your impressions. I'd been hoping to see a review of the post-Friday performances in the Post. You've made up for that lack with your wonderfully informed comments!

As Saturday season ticket holders, we've seen a number of Romeo and Juliets over the years. (Fortunately I love the music, the dancing, and the court pageantry if not the sword fighting.) However, I can't remember a more fully realized Romeo or Juliet. If I've seen finer dramatic characterization in any role, it doesn't come to mind at the moment, and the dancing was its equal. Perhaps when Saturday's spell abates, I'll begin thinking more clearly again.

I did find myself remembering some dancers who made strong impressions in past productions of R&J: for example, Ethan Brown's chilling malevolence as Tybalt and Wes Chapman's gay insouciance as Mercutio. It's a tribute to ABT that there have been so many strong performances over the years. Of course, that can be said of many ABT ballets, but R&J is still very much on my mind. I suspect it will remain so at least until NYCB arrives next month with its creative programs. I'm very much looking forward to the Russian program.

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Sigh. Now I really wish I had been able to go to the Saturday afternoon performance. Based on previous performances that I've seen, I agree with kfw about Reyes's dramatic transformation as the ballet proceeds; I think the minute where she's sitting still on the bed is particularly effective.

And I agree with zerbinetta that her Rodeo was wonderful this fall.

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