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Reviews: City Center Week 1


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As to symphonie concertante and the two leads, I would like to see them with similar, but somewhat different qualities -- reflecting the basic similarity but different tones of the violin and viola. As someone just suggested, I think a Murphy-Wiles matchup would be good, with Murphy's playfulness setting off Wiles' more serene qualities. But putting Part and Wiles together is, to me, like putting a string instrument with a flute -- it can be lovely, but it doesn't fit this piece, and they don't "speak" to each other, they don't speak the same language, the way violin and viola do.

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I noticed Part's uncertainty at the gala as well. From personal experience I know that if you are not a natural turner, turing onstage can be a really scary thing. And that turn is a HARD turn!! It's definitely 90% mental. Too bad though because she was beautiful otherwise. Funny, the only two times I've seen this classic Russian dancer have been in Balanchine pieces. I really need to see her in something classical, like Swan Lake.

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I was there this weekend (Sat.eve/Sun.mat) and thought...

J.ELO: Was interesting to watch as an exercize individual choreographic combinations that were repeated by solos, duos, and triplets without ever quite cohering as a whole. So I paid attention to technique and partnering of the more interesting lifts and turns and watched the dance rather than felt it. As others have noted (including NYTimes reviewers), Elo doesn't provide a 'dramatic arc' to his works; it's an effort at "pure dance" or is it "just dance?" Did any of those arm semaphores remind anyone else of the girls in Tharpe's "Push..."? Ultimately, I thought Glow-Stop was interesting but not exactly memorable.

FYI: According to the interview he gave in the NYTimes, Elo said he was interested in 'how movement starts and stops.' He didn't have a title at that time, but when it did get one, I think the reasoning is explained clearly enough in that earlier Times interview.

GRAND PAS CLASSIQUE (Gomes/Wiles): Glad I finally saw this since it is supposed to be a competition standard too. And glad I saw Gomes and Wiles dance it.

SINATRA SUITE (Cornejo/Lane): Warning...I have a history with this ballet, and can be v.picky because of strong memories. So I am sorry all, but I frowned through most of it because it was weird to see all the steps I know so well, but not see them danced "right". What was missing?--There was NO flow through the steps, so to me it looked sort of "choppy" or "truncated" like someone was concentrating hard on doing the steps rather than so comfortable with them they could just forget and 'flow' with the music. There were also moves that were unfinished, flat, or low, or not followed through so I felt like they were cut-off midstream. And though there were a few instances of dramatic nuance, I didn't see any of the saucy, fiery, and romantic give-and-take of Baryshnikov & Kudo. I am sorry I had to miss Carreno because of work. I will be seeing Gomes and Corella later this week.

RODEO: Marianne Butler was more sweet/sad as the cowgirl, not as 'cocky' as Erica or Xiomara or as funny, but the choreography helps and it was still fun. The guys have all been reviewed before and were good as before--though I thought the tapping was more a softshoe this time.

DRINK TO ME... Odd that I immediately thought of Lander's Etudes as well. But I did enjoy watching how Morris took all those elements of basic technique and melded them, split them, and moved them about the stage. It was a little long, but still lovely to watch.

BLACK SWAN: Yes, very Russian and interesting to see what parts were left out or changed. Some do echappes, some do su-sus (sp?); some do double pirouettes between piques, some don't; some have a spectacular sissone, some don't. And sorry, but no one yet as Cynthia Gregory's SO fluid (almost boneless) swan arms. Everyone is so strong in this part, and always seem to forget Odile is supposed to be the image of Odette and so swan-like too. Of course the partnering was fine, and dancing too--fine but not sublime.

CORSAIR: It was great to finally see Jose Manuel Carreno do this. All the fine male principals at ABT do the part well, and each brings something different to it. And seeing other companies perform it also makes me miss ABT's men more. When I saw Carreno, I kept thinking Nureyev: Like a tiger: all coiled muscle and control with very strong high carriage and powerful jumps. JMC also does many more moves in between the standard choreography and many more 'slave-like' drops to the floor with arm uplifted in homage to his ballerina (Herrera). It was a major "wow" performance and SO different from Corella. Carreno was strong, powerful, very sensuous in how he did moves. Corella is soaring, amazingly fast, and beautifully graceful. A panther rather than a tiger? Carreno reminded me strongly of Nureyev, Corella reminds me of no one but himself. Paloma Herrera danced much better with Jose Manuel Carreno this year, than with Corella in the pas de deux last year at City Center.

GREEN TABLE: I saw this several times by Joffrey way back when, and am SO glad it was revived. But yes, it is sad that it only seems to be done when there are wars. Maybe it should be done yearly, to prevent wars instead of criticizing the results afterwards? I've seen ABT do it 3x now, and still missed David Hallberg as Death. :-(

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I noticed Part's uncertainty at the gala as well. From personal experience I know that if you are not a natural turner, turing onstage can be a really scary thing. And that turn is a HARD turn!! It's definitely 90% mental.
I'm glad you posted this, because when I read Haglund's review, I thought of Merrill Ashley's memoir, in which she talked about not being a natural turner, and how for Who Cares?, when she danced the Morris "turning" solo, practicing more didn't help at all for that role with those turns. It must be incredibly frustrating to know that practicing/more work won't help, and that the results might be hit or miss.
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I think the "natural turner" idea is 98.999% myth and really doesn't come into play until after 3 or 4 revolutions in a pirouette. Dancers are trained from early on to do double pirouettes, not triples or more. Double pirouettes for women, unfortunately, are still an acceptable minimum standard. A dancer can accomplish a double pirouette with all sorts of errors embedded in his or her technique. But to consistently do three or four revolutions or fancy schmancie pirouette combinations, the dancer really has to have his act together. A problem with many dancers who claim that they are not "natural turners", is that they are unwilling to completely dismantel their pirouette technique and rebuild it, because that may mean that for a while, they won't even be able to do double turns.

Dancers have to do something along the lines of what Tiger Woods did a couple of years back. Even though he was the best golfer in the world, he was determined to be a much better one. He completely gave up the driving technique that had brought him so much success and re-tooled his swing. For an entire season, he suffered loss after loss while he integrated the new technique into his body, but look at him now. Look at him now.

So when I observe Veronika Part falling out of pirouettes at City Center, I say no one is doing her a favor by accepting this as a natural deficiency. And maybe that's exactly what Kevin McKenzie is saying by not promoting her to principal.

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I have to step in and say Part didn't fall out of a standard double pirouette. She does those beautifully, with the nice wide fifth Balanchine liked. She finished them so musically, too, also ending in a generous fifth with lovely port de bras. It was the the pirouette-develope-pirouette she had a problem with. I wish she could do them on stage (I bet a dollar she does them great in the studio, but we don't pay for that).

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Whether or not Part had a technical lapse or two, and I really didn't see one, she was beautiful. The Viola role is a lovely one for her -- she is such a lyrical dancer: melody; the flowing legato nature of a violin or a viola, that's her greatest interpretive gift. She's got that beautiful long line, the extensions, and not just the way she uses her feet and legs, it's in her arms and hands also: and the way she carries her line and her movement through her back, there's never any break in her motion or in the visual picture she arrives at.

(It doesn't really matter to me anyway that a dancer dances perfectly clean as long as the bumps in the road don't distract from the overall performance -- of course I understand that this is precisely what we are discussing here -- That people above did find something distracting -- It just didn't interfere at all with my appreciation I guess).

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An interesting discussion. Of course one has to look closely at the details ... but this can also be a distraction from appreciating the whole picture and (perhaps) getting the whole point. It's an ongoing dilemma for every one of us in the audience who is fairly (or very) familiar with the technical matters. It comes up often in opera discussions where it is not uncommon to find people who feel a performance is ruined (for them) by one technical deficiency or other on the part of one of the leads. I often find myself working at trying to achieve a balance in these areas.

On the other hand, a serious artist SHOULD be very concerened about such matters. I hope that there will be a lot of response to haglund's suggestions and the analogy to Tiger Woods.

On the whole, as to the larger question of how one functions as a looking, thinking, listening, and feeling member of the audience, I agree with Michael:

(It doesn't really matter to me anyway that a dancer dances perfectly clean as long as the bumps in the road don't distract from the overall performance -- of course I understand that this is precisely what we are discussing here -- That people above did find something distracting -- It just didn't interfere at all with my appreciation I guess).
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Of course one has to look closely at the details ... but this can also be a distraction from appreciating

the whole picture and (perhaps) getting the whole point. On the other hand, a serious artist SHOULD be very concerened about such matters.....That people above did find something distracting

I think an educated audience should be looking at both the big picture and the details. I don't care if a dancer executes 3 or 10 pirouettes, 32 or 24 fouettes, as long as the turns are gorgeous and the overall performance is generous with 100% effort. At the gala, Veronika Part didn't even attempt the pirouette-to second-and back to passe.... and her overall performance was tenative (jumps included). If Part was an inexperienced corps dancer given this part on short notice, I'd still expect her to give it 100%, fall to her fanny (a la Bouder) trying, but go for the high Cs.

Moving on....

I think Irina and Gillian will be quite interesting with high voltage when placed opposite each other....

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I'm with Michael & Bart here. I did not see the SC at the gala but at the Saturday matinee & found Part sublime. Yes, sitting close mezzanine, I could see the concern cross her face before the turns but they were brief moments in an otherwise glorious performance.

For me Part (like Allegra Kent & Suzanne Farrell & Kim Highton) is the music, pure & simple. The music doesn't come from the orchestra, the impulse does not come from the conductor. It is channeled directly from the composer to Veronika & to us from her.

This is a rare gift & I am willing to overlook the occasional blip on an otherwise gorgeous horizon.

The Tiger Woods analogy is a good one if one is looking solely for technical perfection, but Tiger doesn't golf to Mozart. Ballet is, first & foremost, about the dancer's response to the music & in this Veronika excels.

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I'm with Michael & Bart here. I did not see the SC at the gala but at the Saturday matinee & found Part sublime. Yes, sitting close mezzanine, I could see the concern cross her face before the turns but they were brief moments in an otherwise glorious performance.

For me Part (like Allegra Kent & Suzanne Farrell & Kim Highton) is the music, pure & simple. The music doesn't come from the orchestra, the impulse does not come from the conductor. It is channeled directly from the composer to Veronika & to us from her.

This is a rare gift & I am willing to overlook the occasional blip on an otherwise gorgeous horizon.

The Tiger Woods analogy is a good one if one is looking solely for technical perfection, but Tiger doesn't golf to Mozart. Ballet is, first & foremost, about the dancer's response to the music & in this Veronika excels.

I agree in some ways but don't think that it is an either or. Part is gorgeous in many ways, but I am one of those who finds her technical mishaps jarring. Improving her technique won't ruin her artistry, it will just add to the choices she and make. Ballet technique isn't magic (of course some have more facility than others) it can be learned. Not everyone can reach the level of Murphy but believe me technique can be learned.

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I'd like to address the Tiger Woods analogy. Woods has a few million dollars in the bank, and millions more coming in endorsement contracts. He plays a game that he can continue to play in his 60's. He could afford both financially and professionally to cherry pick the events in which he competed as he re-tooled his technique. There are relatively few skills that he needs to perform over and over again; the majority of his game, at that level, is mental: strategy, club selection, and focus.

Part is in a much lower-paid profession, has a relatively short time in which she can perform, and, as a member of a company, must be ready to perform when cast. There are far more individual skills that Part needs in order to perform any given role; turning is just one of them.

I've never seen Part or Woods, for that matter, live, only on film, but on film, both Woods and Part have extraordinary physical elegance.

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Ok, not moving on yet...

At the gala we only saw the first movement of SC, primarily allegro.... so I'm only speaking of that movement.

I'm hoping the gala was a dress-rehearsal-type performance for SC, and that in the later performance Part felt more confident in this newest ballet (for her). I agree Part, is beautiful and can be very musical and can be sublime in certain parts (much like Allegra Kent & Suzanne Farrell)... I've never seen Kim Highton....

But Kent and Farrell didn't hold back on performances, none that I've seen.... and btw both Kent and Farrell have done this Sym in C turn many, many times. Not that it makes them the great ballerinas that they were, but it shows the audience that these women rose to many a good challenge. I can't think of any ballet where Suzanne or Allegra didn't take risks that many other dancers wouldn't. I think that's an important part too, not the entire picture, of what makes a fine dancer great and fascinating.

Tiger Woods is a beauty, and golf is an impossibly difficult sport, but Woods is not artistic in the way that dancers, singers, etc., are. Dancing goes far beyond beautiful technique. And Part is definitely in that category of soulfully artistic. But I think I'm beginning to get impatient with her, perhaps ABT too for giving her too many White Swan parts.... instead of challenging her.

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Yikes! Maybe bringing up Tiger Woods wasn't such a good idea. My only point was to illustrate his willingness and determination to let go of what was comfortable in order to move forward with his game.

As someone who has spent a fortune dragging people to see Veronika Part's and Marcelo Gomes's Swan Lake, I assure you that I admire her lyrical abilities beyond words, and want to see her have more opportunities, including ones beyond the Petipa-derivatives and Balanchine. But my sense is that she has to cement a few aspects of her technique before she will get those opportunities and we will get the joy of seeing her more.

I'm looking forward to seeing her and Wiles tomorrow evening. I hope that the decision isn't made to "dumb down" the choreography and take out that troublesome pirouette-develope-pirouette. Wiles performed it beautifully and effortlessly, and I'd like to see it again. AND I'd like to see Part try to nail it.

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Yikes! Maybe bringing up Tiger Woods wasn't such a good idea. My only point was to illustrate his willingness and determination to let go of what was comfortable in order to move forward with his game.

On the contrary. (I'm a West Coaster following this discussion closely.) I understood exactly what you meant, you sparked some interesting responses, and I'm reading all of them with interest. :) Thanks!

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Since Veronika Part is scheduled to perform tomorrow and again Saturday, I would like to post this here for anyone who was hoping to see her. She sent four of us and e-mail today saying that she had an injury earlier in the day and will be out for the rest of the season. I wish her a very speedy recovery.

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Yikes! Maybe bringing up Tiger Woods wasn't such a good idea. My only point was to illustrate his willingness and determination to let go of what was comfortable in order to move forward with his game.
I'm glad you did bring it up. I think what he did was extremely brave. I do think, though, that he had more leeway in his career to make that change than a dancer does.
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Since Veronika Part is scheduled to perform tomorrow and again Saturday, I would like to post this here for anyone who was hoping to see her. She sent four of us and e-mail today saying that she had an injury earlier in the day and will be out for the rest of the season. I wish her a very speedy recovery.

VERY, VERY SORRY TO HEAR THIS.

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Since I felt that I had to drop in on this very fine discussion with the sad news of her injury, could I please be allowed to say that I saw her Mirtha last June and was 'absolutely mesmerized' by her stage presence. Her dancing also seemed quite fine to me.

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Since Veronika Part is scheduled to perform tomorrow and again Saturday, I would like to post this here for anyone who was hoping to see her. She sent four of us and e-mail today saying that she had an injury earlier in the day and will be out for the rest of the season. I wish her a very speedy recovery.

:) Very sorry to hear that! Hope she gets well soon!

As far as the "natural turner" idea....I think usually it's not so much of actually being able to turn, it's more of a fear of turning itself, which gets amplified when one is onstage. And now I'll move on!

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Let me just interject some clarifying notes here. There were absolutely no visible mistakes in Veronika Part's performance on Saturday afternoon (10/21). Yes, that turn was gone and seemingly due to her difficulty in executing it (Michele it is reported could do it at the Gala Opening). Otherwise her performance was indeed gorgeous and she did dominate the stage with a larger presence and bigger scaled phrasing than Wiles. Wiles however showed greater technical command and speed in her pirouettes. Neither was deficient in any serious way and the content and beauty of the ballet was very evident indeed. Whatever was missing or whatever imbalance there was between the women, the quality of the choreography and Balanchine's vision was communicated and made visible to the audience. That was what was important. I am not going to fail to see or burn down this forest because one tree was missing or changed.

I am sure that Balanchine on occasion for a favorite dancer changed a bit of choreography because it was uncomfortable or unsuitable for that dancer. I know that certain entire variations devised for Violette Verdy were replaced because she had a style of moving that no one in the company could replicate. I am sure that all of the Balanchine divas of beloved memory, Allegra Kent, Suzanne Farrell et al. also had bad moments or even whole seasons onstage. Also, I think we have all seen some of our favorite dancers - some of them virtuosos - have gaffes or even falls onstage. Makarova I think fell more than once. Irina Dvorovenko, a strong turner, has been particularly accident prone in several performances I have attended with her (I think I am her bad-luck charm). She has skidded after jumps and slipped onstage on evenings when I was present. She still is a fine dancer and her accidents didn't impede her promotion. Nor did falling off pointe impede the younger Julie Kent (in Symphonie Concertante in 1999) and the young Susan Jaffe (stepping off of pointe in "Birthday Offering" and fall out of a fouette sequence in "Swan Lake" in the early nineties). Both ladies put themselves through a demanding technical reworking by Irina Kolpakova and emerged stronger in the mid-nineties.

Part has been given a lot of Balanchine to dance and I think with the intention that it would use her classical training but would give her greater speed, allegro technique and strength. Much of her work in Balanchine has been very striking and beautiful because she is a very musical dancer and Balanchine worked to make his dancers a physical embodiment of the music in his choreography.

Her injury is another setback and this after she showed such progress just a year ago in the 2005 City Center season. Which was followed by a dull, inactive and repetitive schedule at the Met in 2006. Probably she will have at least the Lilac Fairy to look forward to in the Spring 2007 Met Season to add to her meagre list of roles. I would love to see her Nikiya in "La Bayadere" but somehow doubt it will come her way (the Kirov thought she was worthy to do it but ABT knows better about Petipa I guess). When her breakthrough with the company will happen is anyone's guess but I don't think it is going to happen this year.

Hence the frustration...

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Having seen both the Wiles/Part/Gomes cast and the Herrera/Kent/Saveliev cast let me expand on Faux Pas's clarification to say that neither cast made any obvious mistakes or looked uncomfortable or tentative in this during the regular rep (I didn't go to the gala). I thought the ballet looked beautiful and am looking forward to seeing it with Murphy & Dvorovenko later in the season. Of course I'm disappointed that Veronika won't be dancing tonight (or for the rest of the engagement) but I'm still looking forward to seeing the ballet again tonight even without her. I agree that she is not a dazzling technician but I fall into the camp that is so enchanted by her musicality, line and fluidity that I don't need to see technical fireworks from her. I do, however, understand Vipa 's point about not being able to relax when watching her. After reading that post I realized that I sometimes feel that way too, especially when overhead lifts are involved. I guess I can see both sides of the argument here.

I would like to bring up a couple more points about Veronika's supposed technical deficiency and then I'll move on to happier topics. I don't recall anyone posting about the fact that Kent didn't even ATTEMPT the pirouette-developee-pirouette combination or question her status as a principal due to her technical deficiencies. And looking at this from another point of view - despite their technical prowess can you even imagine Wiles, Murphy or Herrera dancing the Viola role? I can't. IMO ABT's biggest deficiency, their Achilles heel is their lack of ballerinas who combine the highest level of technique with musicality/fluidity/imagination (not counting absent guest artists!). If they perform it at the Met this spring we can keep our fingers crossed for a Vishneva/Annanishvilli cast but otherwise there is no hope these days of anything approaching the level of Gregory /van Hamel.

Ok, enough about ABT's flaws & on to their strengths. I was very unenthusiastic about their first program on 10/19. I've been to several since and enjoyed all of them immensely. Loved Lane & Cornejo in Sinatra Suite. It still wasn't perfect but I thought it was much more passionate & alive this time. Also loved both casts I saw in Drink To Me...I have not been a fan of Mark Morris in the past but I really like this piece. It's quirky & off center but charming and balletic, very enjoyable.

I always groan when I see Rodeo and Fancy Free on the schedule and wonder how I'm going to make it through 2-3 viewings so I can get my fill of everything else. Yet the minute the music started playing & Reyes hitched up her pants I was charmed once again. I seem to recall a similar phenomenon with Fancy Free...

On second viewing I still don't like Glow-Stop, but this time I just focused on the dancers which made it tolerable for me. I thought last night was the best program yet. Drink was great & really benefited from Corella's first performance of the season. It was my first time seeing Meadow and I loved it. Julie Kent was so perfect in the lead female role that I can't envision anyone else in it. Her beauty was indescribable - celestial, otherworldly, androgenous yet also very feminine. Gomes, of course partnered her perfectly. The program ended with In the Upper Room, which never loses it's magic effect for me. The minute it ends I want to see it again, and I will soon!

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I don't recall anyone posting about the fact that Kent didn't even ATTEMPT the pirouette-developee-pirouette combination or question her status as a principal due to her technical deficiencies.

That approach is often true of Julie Kent, I remember one of her Giselle's a couple of years ago when all of the double pirouettes (in the Spissetskeva [impossible for me to spell] version) turned into singles and I did think that it mattered.

The question is a good one: It's not what to think of a few mistakes but "What to think when a dancer leaves out the hard stuff?"

And I don't know the answer can be general. It depends, I suppose, on what specific hard stuff is left out in what specific role, and whether you care varies accordingly.

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