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Shipping from Amazon on 25 July is Divine Dancers, a Gala in Prague (January 2006?) starring among others Polina Semionova/Igor Zelensky, Daniil/Dmitri Simkin, Masha Alexandrova/Sergei Filin.

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I'm very excited about this one and pre-ordered from amazon.com yesterday. I've heard great things about Semionova, and I've never seen her live or on tape.

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According to dancebooks.co.uk, the DVD includes:

"A gala performance recorded in Prague in January 2006. Those taking part are Polina Semionova and Igor Zelensky (pas de deux from Manon, Natalia Hoffmann and Altin Kaftira (Krzysztof Pastor's Wie lange noch? and Balanchine's Who Cares?), Delphine Baey (Mémoir by Julien Lestel), Daniil and Dmitri Simkin (My Way, choreographed by Stephan Thoss), Maria Alexandrova and Sergei Filine (La Fille du Pharaon and Raymonda pas de deux), Charles Jude, Stéphanie Roublot, Jean-Jacques Herment, Viviana Franciosi (The Moor's Pavane), Oksana Kutcheruk and Roman Mikhalev (Sleeping Beauty pas de deux), Dmitri Simkin and Marek Tuma (Ben van Cauwenbergh's Amsterdam), and Daniil Simkin (Le Bourgeois by Ben van Cauwenbergh)."

If you register, you can see a pretty long clip of it here:

http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=2054708

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I watched Divine Dancers this afternoon. Unless you love Masha Alexandrova and Sergei Filin you might want to save your money. A peculiar release in that these two Bolshoi stars are given lesser billing than Charles Jude (an honorable Moor's Pavane), Polina Semionova and Igor Zelensky, and Daniil Simkin.

It begins with Polina and Igor in the bedroom PdD from Manon. Sure she dances it well, but Vishneva and Malakhov capture so much more of its emotional intensity and beauty on their Great Dancers of Our Time dvd. Chemistry needed, not there. Of course Semionova is the very young Prima of Malakhov's Berlin company. He's very generous with permitting video excerpts of his company, so you can see much more of her greatness on You Tube, for example.

Daniil Simkin is supposedly the new Baryshnikov or whatever. On the basis of this, not even whatever. Not that he has a chance to show if he can dance ballet. The first bit is a duet with his father, OK, a novelty for a novel situation. But it is to Sinatra's My Way. Choreographer Stephan Thoss is not Twyla Tharp. Very not. Then he has a duet with Marek Tuma to a Jacques Brel song. It would merit an F if there were anything to even grade. His father speaks, saying he wants to make sure that his son doesn't make the same career blunders he made. Then we see Daniil in a solo to another Brel piece. Seems to be playing an 8 year old boy, wearing a tie no less, "cute", and finding a cancerette in his shirt pocket. Poor kid can't find a match. But can play pretend smoking and do a couple of tricks. The audience likes this one. This is the last but one item on the dvd. They stick in at the end:

Masha and Sergei in an adagio from Raymonda Act II. This is the best thing in the show. Both of them are in great form and relate, so strongly that when it ends about three minutes later, they seem to find returning to reality a bit awkward. Why on earth didn't this keep on going? The dvd says it is 6 minutes long, but that includes the final bows for all the performers, including Alexandrova and Filin in their Fille du Pharaon costumes. So clearly the adagio has been placed at dvd's end for some non-sequential reason. In Fille she dances Aspicia (on the full ballet dvd this is danced by Sveta Zakharova and Masha dances Ramze) so you do get something otherwise unavailable here. This actually is nearly 6 minutes long, and they are terrific, individually and together.

So this dvd does give you nine great Bolshoi minutes and a nice six minute look at Polina. And they do get to say a few words. (Masha and Sergei both really admire each other, so? We couldn't tell by watching?)

Most of the other, unfamiliar, dancers are either saddled with empty choreography, or in one case would have been better served if the recording had been "misplaced." The one good exception is a duet from Who Cares? danced by Natalie Hoffmann and Altin Kaftira.

Now I will keep going back to watch Masha and Sergei, so I can't say don't buy it....

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And it just came in the mail, and I was so happy to get the package :)

Maybe I'll continue reading Anna Karenina instead.

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The one good exception is a duet from Who Cares? danced by Natalie Hoffmann and Altin Kaftira.

Two wonderful soloists from the Dutch National Ballet, if I may add.

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I couldn't resist: I postponed Mrs. Karenina for another night and watched Divine Dancers instead.

There were some performers that I'd already had interest in seeing, but thought it unlikely anytime soon, like Semionova and (Daniil) Simkin; others, like Herment, Kutcheruk, Mikhalev, Hoffmann, and Kaftira, who I didn't know but was glad to have seen; and Jude and Dmitri Simkin, whom I didn't realize were still dancing.

There were two things I think marred this DVD: the pseudo-documentary approach and the camera work. I say "pseudo" because it neither simply created an introduction to the pieces nor integrated the documentary and dancing. Or if it attempted the latter, it failed: having one dancer say how much he or she liked working with her partner between variations was disruptive and superfluous. :angel_not:

There were three issues with the filming: intermittent fussiness -- at one point, the camera panned to Maria Alexandrova's feet while she was doing a very impressive set of fouettes -- close-ups on works that made them look overwrought for far too much of the time, and camera placement that made the dancers look thick. This was a live performance, and the performers couldn't ignore the audience, but there are techniques, like in the filming of POB's Jewels, that capture live performance expressions that are more palatable to the camera. The camera took the dancers head on and added sacks to them. For example Filin, who almost disappeared when he turned sideways in a short backstage clip, looked very wide in La Fille du Pharaon, and the close-ups on his remarkable musculature did not compensate completely.

The rep itself made a standard approach to filming difficult. The dancers who suffered most from the cameras were Hoffmann, her partner Kaftira, and Jude. Hoffmann and Kaftira performed a Krzysztof Pastor piece called "Wie lange noch?" to a song by Kurt Weill. At least in close-up, not only did Hoffmann in particular look overwrought in the choreography, neither her dancing nor the choreography matched the quite sweet vocal delivery of the unattributed soprano. (According to the Kurt Weill Foundation website, in 1944 the song was "[r]ecorded by Lenya for the Office of War Information, intended for broadcast in Germany behind enemy lines." I can't find the lyrics for it on the English-language internet, but I can say that the soprano sang nothing like Lenya.) In "The Man I Love" pas de deux from Who Cares? which the Dutch National Ballet performed last season, there was a lot of facial expression that seemed over-the-top for Balanchine, at least in close up. Stylistically, the second half looked unrecognizable to me as Balanchine. I would have cast Hoffman in "My One and Only" instead; she's a very strong dancer. There is too much temptation to act in "The Man I Love."

Jude's makeup and expressions looked very different from the rest of the cast in The Moor's Pavane. To me the women, Roublot and Franciosi, looked dull, and Herment looked far more naturalistic, although it's hard to know how Jude and Herment registered to the audience. I am happy to have The Moor's Pavane on tape, though, whatever the flaws of filming. The one piece that did film well was "Mémoire" by Julien Lestel, which emphasized arms for the majority of it's 6+ minute duration -- a mini-miracle of understatement, and to Rachmaninoff no less -- and was danced by Delphine Baey.

I find Manon dull, and I wish that if Semionova and Zelensky were cast in MacMillan, it had been better MacMillan. Kutcheruk has overexaggerated extensions, which is wrong stylistically for Sleeping Beauty, but remained remarkably on balance most of the time, and I kind of like her upper body. Her partner, Mikhalev is a throwback to the Bolshoi men from decades ago. (He has very reliable thighs.) There was nothing memorable about Stephen Thoss' "My Way" for Daniil and Dmitri Simkin or Ben van Cawenbergh's Broadway-like choreography to Jacques Brel for Dmitri Simkin and Marek Tuma ("Amsterdam") and character piece for Daniil Simkin ("Les Bourgeois") of the type familiar from videos on his website, regardless of the quality of the dancing.

Alexandrova and Filin are beautiful dancers, but I don't think the video is worth it just to see them. In the thread Are certain ballet steps an endangered species?, both carbro and kfw asked whether certain types of steps are disappearing because they don't look as good on today's taller dancers. Watching Alexandrova and Filin in La Fille du Pharaon, I thought of those posts, and how their legs looked too long for the quick steps, unlike Dupont and Ganio who, in another Lacotte reconstruction, La Sylphide, danced with the correct geometry for quick precise footwork and direction changes. Of all of the selections from Raymonda they could have chosen, the one they danced is most dependent on perfume, and by going cold into it in a gala setting, they had no chance to establish the right mood. As drb pointed out, this intimate piece was inexplicably the last piece on the DVD when it's clear they were in costume for La Fille du Pharaon a minute later during the curtain calls and had danced Raymonda earlier.

If there was a strength to this DVD, it was that there were men dancing. I'm not sure how old Igor Zelensky is now, but there should be a law against anyone who was that good looking as a young man getting better and better looking with age. (It's simply unfair.) Watching Dmitri and Daniil Simkin dancing together, my eye was drawn to the father. Although he was prettier twenty years ago, I find Jude's face fascinating now. I don't know how old or young Mikhalev is, but he looks like he comes from the Soviet era, regardless of actual age.

On the whole, I don't think this DVD is worth it. It might be better to wait until excerpts show up randomly on Classical Arts Showcase.

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Charles Jude must be around 53 now (he was born in 1953), and I hope that he won't make the same error as his mentor Nureyev, dancing for too long...

Thanks for the comment about the piece by Julien Lestel (a former POB dancer now at the Ballet de Marseille), I didn't even know he also was a choreographer. By the way, a funny anecdote about him: a few months ago, I was with my in-laws in a shop in Lyon selling fancy furniture and decoration items, and the clerk said some of the paintings on sale were from a ballet dancer of the Ballet de Marseille who did some painting besides his dancing job, he couldn't remember his name but it was Julien something, previously at the POB... So Mr Lestel seems to be a multi-talented artist. :clapping:

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Charles Jude must be around 53 now (he was born in 1953), and I hope that he won't make the same error as his mentor Nureyev, dancing for too long...
In this case, I think he was following the example of Baryshnikov, who found modern works which matched his skill.

I think the issue with the camera wasn't his dancing, but that his facial expressions were more extreme than those of his cast members. In the audience, this might have read very differently.

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Charles Jude must be around 53 now (he was born in 1953), and I hope that he won't make the same error as his mentor Nureyev, dancing for too long...

I saw him in the rather weird Lifar Icare a year ago.

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My copy of Divine Dancers arrived just as I was leaving on a trip oversees so I popped it in my luggage thinking I could enjoy it in some down time. That time was yesterday. Having seen Daniil Simkin in Jackson, this DVD does not do his immense talent justice. The couple from Dutch National were a surprising delight, while this is far from a best representation of Alexandrova and Feline.

Somehow the DVD credits Jude with the Petipa choreography for Sleeping Beauty performed by Oksana Kutcheruk and Roman Mikhalev. Anyone out there familiar with this turn of events? It was nice to see how Mikhalev has gone and developed since his schooling, but a disappointment to see that he has left Russia for the West. Hopefully he will have more opportunity than he would have had in Russia. Does anyone know of his where abouts now? Mr. Jude seemed to indicate he had moved to his company in Bordeaux, however when I Googled Bordeaux nothing came up. Is Mr. Jude still in Bordeaux?

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Mr. Jude seemed to indicate he had moved to his company in Bordeaux, however when I Googled Bordeaux nothing came up. Is Mr. Jude still in Bordeaux?

The ballet is listed on the Opéra National de Bordeaux website (French only), but only the 2005-6 season is updated on the site, and there's no list of dancers that I can find:

http://www.opera-bordeaux.com/artistes/ballet.htm

The ballet main page is mostly dedicated to Jude and his accomplishments.

Ballet performances in Bordeaux for the 2006-7 season are interspersed with opera and classical music performances on this site:

http://www.bordeaux.fr/ebx/portals/ebx.por...e&listeTotale=0

Le Messie Maurizio Wainrot

Nutcracker Charles Jude

Rite of Spring Massine/Les Noces Nijinska

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Yes indeed, the Ballet de Bordeaux site is a bit strange- I never managed to get the season of the Ballet de Bordeaux only, their list always give it mixed with other performances...

By the way, it's interesting to see that they'll perform Massine's "Rite of Spring". Are there some companies which still perform it today ? The last time I heard about it was in the 1990s when the Ballet de Nice performed it along with other Massine works ("Le beau Danuble bleu" and something else, I think).

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Agree with Helene’s comments. The camera work is way too busy throughout this DVD. Wish the editor &/or cameraman had learned from the Dance in America series. In this case, the camera cuts too often into the dancers' bodies, for close-ups of heads or body parts, making for an extremely aggravating and frustrating viewing experience. One can't watch through a movement phrase without having to suffer through almost as many editing cuts as there are musical counts. Some camera angles are not flattering, others are just bewildering and seemingly arbitrary.

Could the editor somehow please be informed that it is very important for dancers and dances to be recorded with the entire body in view?!! It is equally important to see the space/architecture of the dance, as well as the relationships between dancers. In this case, the camera work is so obtrusive, it completely takes away from focusing on the dance and dancers. It is self-defeating -- even shameful -- to film quality dancers like this, when the editor makes it more about the camera than the dancers and dance.

Daniil Simkin, the teen-aged virtuoso dancer often compared to a young Baryshnikov, is better served on his web site (watch his Don Q, as well as other solos there) than on this DVD. It would have been preferable to see him in the classical variations he does so well, rather than the contemporary pieces he is in. To add insult to injury, the camera continues to cut to a tight shot of him, cropping out the opportunity to see his consistently remarkable pirouettes. The duet with his father is only briefly entertaining as a novelty.

The pas from Who Cares brought to mind the old axiom with which Balanchine advised: "Don't act. Just dance." The camera work here continues to be distracting and obfuscating. What one could see raised questions about unusual phrasing & tempos, compared to NYCB’s or even ABT’s performances of this pas.

The special effects introduction to each dance is really irritating. Reminded one of the Giselle filmed with Erik Bruhn and Carla Fracci. Too busy. Does the editor feel it necessary to embellish ballet? Good dancing and dancers can hold the screen easily, without this kind of bothersome editing. It is worse than a pesky mosquito. The faux documentary style is equally ineffective, & seems to serve little purpose other than to add to the disruptive, choppy rhythm of this DVD.

It is good, at least, to be able to see modern choreographer José Limon's The Moor’s Pavane here. Most of the contemporary works suffered from predictable choreography. The classical works were shot so poorly that it was simply annoying to try to view the dances, in spite of very good dancers.

Sorry for ranting, but this is a real pet peeve.

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But I understand it is a rather strange Moor's Pavane and doesn't mention who set it? (Or does it in the video itself?) The complaint I heard at a Humphrey Symposium last weekend was that one of the male dancers does a very exaggerated sharply defined "turn in" and "turn out" in a way that is not in keeping with the other dancers who have performed the role and which renders his character oddly "wimpy". Any word on who set it?

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The credits say:

"Direction and Reconstruction: Sarah Stackhouse"

She danced with Limon.

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Is Mr. Jude still in Bordeaux?

Apparently. He is listed as Director for the company's visits to Budapest and St. Petersburg later this year.

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Hoffmann and Kaftira performed a Krzysztof Pastor piece called "Wie lange noch?" to a song by Kurt Weill. At least in close-up, not only did Hoffmann in particular look overwrought in the choreography, neither her dancing nor the choreography matched the quite sweet vocal delivery of the unattributed soprano. (According to the Kurt Weill Foundation website, in 1944 the song was "[r]ecorded by Lenya for the Office of War Information, intended for broadcast in Germany behind enemy lines." I can't find the lyrics for it on the English-language internet, but I can say that the soprano sang nothing like Lenya.)

The translation of the lyrics can be found in The Unknown Kurt Weill, edited by Lys Symonette. (1982) Here are some snippet quotes:

. . . .
"I believed that I could not live without you."
. . .

"You promised me blue skies, and I cared for you like my own father."
. . .

"When will I ever be able to tell you: It's over."
. . .

Here is a letter to Kurt Weill about "Wie lange noch?" [How Much Longer?].

Letter from W. C. Morck of the Office of War Information (?) to Weill, 3 July 1944:

This organisation wishes to express its deep appreciation and to thank you and Mrs. Weill for your very fine work on the song "Wie lange noch."

These recordings, which have a very definite place in the prosecution of the war, have been received, reshipped, and by the time this note reaches you, they will have reached their ultimate destination.

At some time in the future, we hope that it will be possible for us to show you more definitely how your song assisted in the total war effort. Until such time, however, we would appreciate your treating the song in a most confidential manner.

Farneth, David.
Kurt Weill: a life in pictures and documents.
Overlook Press, Woodstock, 2000. page 230

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Hoffmann and Kaftira performed a Krzysztof Pastor piece called "Wie lange noch?" to a song by Kurt Weill. At least in close-up, not only did Hoffmann in particular look overwrought in the choreography, neither her dancing nor the choreography matched the quite sweet vocal delivery of the unattributed soprano. (According to the Kurt Weill Foundation website, in 1944 the song was "[r]ecorded by Lenya for the Office of War Information, intended for broadcast in Germany behind enemy lines." I can't find the lyrics for it on the English-language internet, but I can say that the soprano sang nothing like Lenya.)

No, it sounds like Teresa Stratas to me, who made a specialty of Weill late in her career.

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Coming very late to this party as I only found out about this DVD recently . . .

I'll confine my remarks to Jose Limon's The Moor's Pavane, which is where my true interest lies. I was hoping that this version of The Moor's Pavane would function in much the same way that the Paris Opera Ballet's recorded version of George Balanchine's Jewels functions -- as a fascinating alternative to the established "text". On those (perhaps unreasonable) terms, I would say that the "Prague" Moor's Pavane falls short. (Some of the fault lies with the performance and some of the fault [as others have noted] lies with the filming.)

In the event, Sarah Stackhouse, who danced with Limon's company while he was alive and who is now a principal stager of Limon's works (if not the principal stager), set the work on the four dancers -- Charles Jude, Jean Jacques Herment, Stephanie Roublout and Viviana Franciosi. So, to the extent there are deficiencies with the performance, it cannot be said that they stem from a false or inaccurate source (like the various Soviet versions floating around the Internet.)

To my eyes, the filming flaws are more severe than the performance flaws but the performance flaws are still very real. The problem I see with this Moor's Pavane is that there is no technical or dramatic unity among the performers. In terms of mastering the technique (or at least faking it with confidence), the dancers are all over the map -- from the very good (Desdemona -- Roublout?) to the not-at-all (Iago -- Herment). (Although, to Herment's credit, he busts out a marvelous suspension at one point before plunging to the floor.) So, the end result is a real mish-mash of Limon technique and ballet technique.

The differing dramatic approaches of the four dancers compound this problem. Herment, Roublout and Franciosi affect a more naturalistic, post-Method "acting" style while Jude unveils a style which would be right at home in a silent movie from the 1920s. (The overabundance of mascara around his eyes doesn't make the situation any better.) But, as another poster noted, what looks more than a little ridiculous in close-up, may have worked like a charm in the vast space of the hall. In other words, Jude's postmodern Theda Bara theatrics may have been more suitable on the night and may have registered better with the audience than those of his more restrained colleagues.

All that being said, I found the filming (especially the editing) to be a more significant problem. The filming of the pavane starts out well enough (the Pauline Lawrence costumes look fantastic in digital) but then the editing starts to work against the performance in terms of focusing on the wrong things during the pavane. This results in an absolute scandal when it comes time for Emilia's solo. This is one of the best parts of The Moor's Pavane, as the mentally fragile Emilia character celebrates her "triumph" of stealing the handkerchief from Desdemona. But what we end up seeing for most of Emilia's dance are close-ups of the other three characters and, so, the importance of Emilia's actions to the forward flow of the storyline is lost.

There are other blunders in this vein; the most egregious being the manner in which the film crew presents Othello's strangulation of his wife. This is a marvelous conceit of Limon's as the strangulation remains unseen to many in the audience because Iago and his wife move in front of the other two and hide the murder with the enormous folds of Emilia's dress. (Limon rightly realized that what you think is happening is often more horrific than what you actually see.) They then separate and there is a stunning "curtain-like" effect which reveals the tragedy for all to see. Unfortunately, the footage used captures Iago and Emilia from a side angle so that the murder is obvious all along and the curtain-like effect is completely lost.

All in all, I would give this Moor's Pavane a mild thumbs up. (I actually liked it more than I'm conveying but right now the flaws are overwhelming the considerable merits.) Still, the definitive ballet version of The Moor's Pavane is still waiting to be filmed . . .

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OK, I've watched the non-Limon parts from beginning to end several times now and, apart from the Bolshoi duo, my reaction was a great, big "Eh!" Most of this just wasn't my thing. Alexandrova and Filin were great in their little excerpts, though. (I know we're supposed to be highminded on this board but Filin's legs are/were insane in high definition.)

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I'm watching this DVD but I can't find Stephan Thoss' My Way(Daniil and his father's duet), neither is it mentioned in the booklet. It's not on the Menu of the DVD, either. Could someone please tell me it is just before or after which piece? Thanks in advance!

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I don't have the dvd but on the television the order was: Manon, Wie lange Noch, Memoire and then My Way.

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I don't have the dvd but on the television the order was: Manon, Wie lange Noch, Memoire and then My Way.

Thank you, innopac.

On my DVD, Memoire is straightly followed by La Fille du Pharaon. I bought this DVD in 2008 summer on Amazon. The running time written on the box is 84 mins. But (now) on Amazon.com it says 90 mins.

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I don't have the dvd but on the television the order was: Manon, Wie lange Noch, Memoire and then My Way.

Thank you, innopac.

On my DVD, Memoire is straightly followed by La Fille du Pharaon. I bought this DVD in 2008 summer on Amazon. The running time written on the box is 84 mins. But (now) on Amazon.com it says 90 mins.

I just found the DVD, which I think I had bought from amazon.com, too. The sequence in the booklet and the DVD is the same that innopac describes:

(Opening)

Manon (Macmillan, Semionova/Zelensky)

(Intro)

Wie lange noch (Pastor, Hoffmann/Kaftira)

(Intro)

Memoire (Lestel, Baey)

(Intro)

My Way (Thoss, Da.Simkin/Dm.Simkin)

(Intro)

La Fille du Pharaon (Lacotte, Alexandrova/Filine)

(Intro)

The Moor's Pavane (Limon, Jue/Roublot/Herment/Franciosi)

Who Cares? (Hoffman/Kaftira)

(Intro)

The Sleeping Beauty Grand Pas de Deux (Jude after Nureyev/Petipa, Kutcheruk/Mikhalev

Amsterdam (van Cauwenbergh, Da.Simkin/Tuma)

Les Bourgeois (van Cawenbergh, Da.Simkin)

Raymonda Adagio, Act II (Petipa, Alexandrova/Filine)

The Intro to "My Way" is 0:52 and "My Way" is listed as 5:07, which looks like the missing 6 minutes. I wonder if there were rights issues with the music when your DVD was distributed.

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