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Bayadere: May 15-21, 2007


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I agree with everyone else that last night's performance was outstanding in every way - from corps to soloists to principals. Ethan's dancing was beautiful, his acting has come a long way, and he was a perfect partner for Vishneva. She always astounds me with her dramatic focus and ability to switch effortlessly between expressiveness and classicism. It's very rare to find a ballerina with such a facility for allegro dancing who also possesses expressive plastique, lyricism and cool classicism in equal measure. As Faux Pas pointed out, this served her very well in portraying a complex, multi dimensional Nikiya.

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Adding to the good reviews for Wednesday (5/16/07) night's performance.

I thought Ethan's dancing was as exciting, sexual, sensual, and clean as ever with those stunningly beautiful lines....if a bit too forced with his acting and projection.... But nevertheless I was very happy to see Ethan back and dancing so well. He's all male, but has the lines of a beautiful female dancer.... That's meant to be a huge compliment!!!

I also was surprised to see so little (eg, nearly zero) connection between Stiefel and Vishneva in the Shades section.... In the earlier sections of the ballet, they were both so sexy and steamy..... Vishneva was outstanding, and very dramatic until Shades and then she suddenly became cold, all focused on the technique..... I loved her extreme lines and hyper-extensions and excellent technique.... I loved her dancing! But I didn't think Ethan and Diana connected well at all for Shades as one would hope for an opium dream....

The corps had a few wobbles and anticipation-type moments that were absent from Wednesday afternoon's Shades performance. I wonder whether Natasha Makarova's attendance, in the afternoon, inspired a more perfectly executed corps.

I again loved Hee Seo in the pas d'action section. There's something so fresh and free about her dancing. It's all so joyously natural for her and she radiates with that joy. Ditto, being radiant, with Sarah Lane as the first solo in Shades. Sarah's upper body is so lovely, expressive, never showing any worry or strain.... even if the last triple pirouette (3 of them she chose to execute in her solo) came about to be 2 and 3/4. Sarah handles her technical decisions with such youth, charm and calmness. She reminds me a little of Alina C.... Sarah does seem a natural Aurora..... I'd cast Hee Seo and Sarah Lane as Auroras immediately.....

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Regarding Ms. Vishneva's Nikiya, it seems Natalia Makarova really enjoyed rehearsing Diana for the role. From the Vishneva Newsday.com article posted under the Sleeping Beauty thread today:

Perhaps the greatest evidence of Vishneva's gifts is Natalia Makarova's reaction during a recent rehearsal of "La Bayadère," which the great Soviet ballerina took with her when she defected more than three decades ago. When Vishneva managed to capture the heart of the story in a few sinuous, prayerful steps, Makarova jumped into McKenzie's arms, ostensibly to demonstrate a lift, and she didn't want the rehearsal to end.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Tonight one of the world's great ballerinas honored the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. Her name was, is, and always will be Veronika Part.

Part/Gomes/Wiles

Veronika Part paints with a broader brush, a polar opposite to the Titian-like complexity of Diana Vishneva. The battle tonight was Romantic Love versus Sex+Power, where with Diana it was Love+Sex versus Power.

As Nikiya Part waits for Solor Gomes she is a woman in love, in the last few minutes of a very long wait for her man. But he is late, she is overcome by sorrow, but at the last second his hands clap and she is transformed. Her poetic dancing is flawless throughout, and her first grand jete a revelation, her legs tracing one of the longest straight lines in the history of mathematics.

Michele Wiles already had, in the ballet's prior run, a brilliantly complete characterisation of Gamzatti. The classical PdD was masterful, and she kept her hyper-charged eroticism throughout the technical challenges. She didn't just have a crush on Solor, she had confidence she could win him. That something extra that shown in her dancing at the Gala again was present. An extra grace of musicality. The confrontation with Nikiya seemed to be going Part's way, as she confronted Wiles with the fact of the great love she had with Gomes. But Gamzatti, certain of her rank and womanly wiles, greeted this with disgust: how dare you, you cheap little... And Part in a moment of rage grabbed the knife.

At the betrothal party Wiles, still confident, continued with her erotic pressure on Gomes. Nikiya entered. How this ballerina in red fills that huge stage! It clearly is something more than a 2" height advantage. She kisses the big red flower in middle of the basket, and throws it toward Solor. Gamzatti and he have a momentary smootch. Nikiya buries her face in the flowers. It bit.

The shades again were triumphant. Solor and Nikiya began the PdD. This was a dance of pure love, and Part the Casta Diva. In all likelihood Ms. Part must have seen Asylmuratova's Nikiya. So similar in perfection both of spirit and of technique. This was the kind of emotional power, purely through the perfection of and belief in the steps, that I think Mr. B would have loved. Midway, the three shades had their solos. Misty Copeland first, charged with energy through her variation, then Stella Abrera, and finally Maria Riccetto finding still more poetry than on Wednesday night. What magically airy, huge yet perfect in form, are the expressive grand jetees of Veronika Part. The ease of Marcelo Gomes's lifts, and Veronika's comfort and grace, the lightness of a shade when aloft. Marcelo also delivered all the requisite virtuosity, while always maintaining a meign of noble purity. Throughout this scene Ms. Part seemed free of technical concern and free to be Love itself.

Being upstairs, the beauty of Makarova's circle dances was fully apparent. At first a large circle containing both Solor and Gamzatti. They both were locked in sorrow. The circles split into two, separating in reality what was already separated on a higher plane. Then back to one circle as nuptuals time approached. Ms. Wiles was sincerely repentant right from the moment she appeared at this, her wedding. Her magnificent variation held on to this spiritual tone through all the technical dazzle. One awaits with special anticipation seeing what she'll do with Odette later this season. A special mention of Roman Zhurbin's High Brahmin. He really loved Nikiya, it wasn't only favors he desired. His grief after the snake bite was profound. When leading the bayaderes in prayer at the beginning of the wedding ceremony, as he made the religious gesture where, elbows pressed to body, the hands reach up to touch somewhere between neck and shoulders, he showed in his face the memory of Nikiya using that same gesture to thwart his advances. A truly tragic character.

Ms. Part entered, came between the couple as they knelt, then flew offstage with perhaps the most ethereal grand jetees in the universe. The ballet went on to distruction, and the glorious final pose of Love ascendant.

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I was there tonight and I had a very different take. Part used the first scene to show the spiritual and the sexual dimensions of Nikiya. Her physical yearnings were quite palpable throughout the act.

Both she and Gomes gave more passionate readings than they did on Wednesday. Gomes' dancing couldn't have been smoother or more expressive. The moment in the Shades Act when he is alone on stage, having seen the the specter of Nikiya, he almost collapses to his knee in an unballetic but eloquent moment of resignation and grief. Even in the Shades scened, the carnal aspect was never completely absent. The pair's dedication to letting the story emerge from the steps brings the ballet to new level.

Breathtaking moments included almost every develope by Part, so precisely guided by the music. I haven't seen such meaningful or exquisitely phrased developes since Farrell. Gomes, in Solor's den, making a manege of very small grands jetes, exploding into the final out-sized one.

I much preferred Wiles' characterization of Gamzatti last year. She seems so one-dimensional now -- completely evil and cold. When last seen she seemed an overindulged princess -- rather like Paris Hilton -- who feel entitled to have anything she wants, do anything she wants, with nary a concern for anyone else, oblivious to the possibility that she might hurt anyone. However, Wiles' ballerina authority is finally emerging. She has the freedom and confidence that first drew our eye to the tall blonde in the corps.

Hee Seo was featured as a lead Jampe dancer tonight -- a role very different from Third Shade -- and she was just as impressive.

Misty Copeland reprised her First Shade variation, followed by Stella Abrera looking lovely in the Second, and Maria Riccetto, who cheated her way through the Third. Instead of landing the sissonnes in ecarte, she lands in coup de pied and begins to develop the leg from there. She was given an excrutiatingly slow tempo, so it may have been necessary, but my friend noted that she's seen Riccetto do this variations many times, and she has always done it this way.

The ensemble did a very fine Shades scene, marred only by the frequent squeak of over-rosined shoes. Unfortunately, the pas d'action did not come off so well. Sloppy and uninspired dancing particularly from the four taller women. With Sarah Lane among the short four, I barely noticed the other three.

Bronze Idol, beautifully danced, was credited as Carlos Lopez, but it didn't look at all like him.

I do have to criticize Zhurbin's Grand Brahmin. He makes an immediate strong impression in the early scenes. When he appears at the end, after the Bronze Idol's dance, he should open his cape to summon the priests and bayaderes, but instead he opens it to conceal the BI's exit. It needs to be a grander gesture, more firmly held. He showed throughout the ballet that he can gesture very grandly, indeed.

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Perhaps no one should be surprised at factual errors in the NY Times, but today's review of La Bayadere has some obvious ones. I was at both the Wed eve and Thur eve performances and saw Jennifer Dunning at both. In today's review, she knocks Stiefel on his acting on Thursday night, when in fact, he didn't dance and objects to Abrera's casting on Thursday night, when in fact, she didn't dance. From my vantage on Wednesday night, Stiefel's acting was thoroughly convincing and sincere - right up there with his Albrechts to McKerrow's Giselles. Abrera appears to be perfectly cast as Gamzatti. Beautiful and royal on the surface but dangerous just below. Hallberg was very good on Thursday night --everyone was -- but I think it's time to start trying to differentiate between all the different princely characters. True, their predicaments may be similar, but Solor should not come off as Siegfried. I'm sure this will come as Hallberg becomes a little more invested in the role. Herrera was definitely more subdued as Nikiya on Thursday night than Vishneva on Wednesday night, but her interpretation worked, particularly her dynamics in Act II. The speed and clarity with which she etched out some of the phrases was astonishing. Can't wait for tonight, and oh-oh-oh Nina's back on Monday.

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Perhaps no one should be surprised at factual errors in the NY Times, but today's review of La Bayadere has some obvious ones. I was at both the Wed eve and Thur eve performances and saw Jennifer Dunning at both. In today's review, she knocks Stiefel on his acting on Thursday night, when in fact, he didn't dance and objects to Abrera's casting on Thursday night, when in fact, she didn't dance. From my vantage on Wednesday night, Stiefel's acting was thoroughly convincing and sincere - right up there with his Albrechts to McKerrow's Giselles. Abrera appears to be perfectly cast as Gamzatti. Beautiful and royal on the surface but dangerous just below. Hallberg was very good on Thursday night --everyone was -- but I think it's time to start trying to differentiate between all the different princely characters. True, their predicaments may be similar, but Solor should not come off as Siegfried. I'm sure this will come as Hallberg becomes a little more invested in the role. Herrera was definitely more subdued as Nikiya on Thursday night than Vishneva on Wednesday night, but her interpretation worked, particularly her dynamics in Act II. The speed and clarity with which she etched out some of the phrases was astonishing. Can't wait for tonight, and oh-oh-oh Nina's back on Monday.

I saw that article too. It was incredibly muddled and unclear as to who performed when. I doubt Dunning really was mistaken as to who danced thursday night...I assumed some disasterous editing either on her part or that of a Times editor was responsible for that passage.

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I forgot to mention Sarah Lane's performance as a Shade. It was superb. One thing I really like about her, aside from her swift, crystaline technique and beautiful demeanor, is her courage. She approaches everything without the least bit of hesitation and manages to make it work even when it might not.

I hope that as Part is promoted to principal Lane is promoted to soloist.

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I'd cast Hee Seo and Sarah Lane as Auroras immediately.....

Wouldn't it be fun (or not - you tell me) if Kevin Mc took Peter Martins' idea and drummed up some business with "young playing young." Of course Aurora is much more demanding in terms of technique than Juliet but an interesting idea. I've seen Lane in Theme & Variations and she has a lot going for her. Do we have to wait until she is 29 or 30 so see her do Aurora because she has to stand in line? Casting in ABT has never been as fluid as in NYCB - but what if?

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Saturday eve, May 19, 2007

Vishneva/Stiefel/Abrera II

Another Vishneva, another Vishneva

True to her method, Diana Vishneva told a different story tonight, and the others did too, in harmony with hers.

In her meeting with Solor, Nikiya was much quicker to be sure of his love, this time before his pledge, about a half minute before the first grand jete. By the next scene we knew it was a hasty judgment. For, although he loved her, when dancing with Gamzatti he wasn't dancing in the Wednesday daze of Nikiya, but only in disjoint moments was he grasped by her memory.

Later, in the confrontation scene, Vishneva only played the trump of his scene 1 pledge to her. She, rather than Abrera, lost the argument, Diana fleeing in terror, and Gamzatti swelling with confidence.

In the third scene, she began her dance at the Solor-Gamzatti engagement party a broken spirit. Hope only flashed across her face when she was told the gift basket was from him. Going to thank him, she quickly knew the lie. Desolate, she held the basket to her neck, and her body joined her already killed spirit.

The Shades Act found Diana dancing with sublime beauty, yet each time she looked Stiefel in the eyes, she made these glances as short as possible and fired ice from her eyes through his to the core of his being. I decided to stay for Act 3, if just to see her rage with such power that could destroy kingdoms. But Act 2 had been an opium dream of a guilty man. Do not indulge in fantasy-enhancing drugs.

Nikiya entered Act 3, a serene spirit. As is her wont, Giselle. (As she's promised to play Sleeping Beauty's Vision Scene, ... perhaps, ... once?). Did Solor receive redemption? Well, he looked Albrechtian, but still yielded to his ruler when trying to follow her exit, and though he did fight the marriage touch of Gamzatti, reaching heaven-ward to Nikiya, his arm eventually yielded to his religion's force. And all was destroyed. He surely didn't earn redemption, but then, no one can. But the surpassing heresy of Giselle is that she can grant it.

I went outside and there was a cold rain, not the best of omens for Solor. But there, on the street an empty cab. With Diana Vishneva, miracles can happen.

An especially endearing three shades tonight: Misty Copeland, Yuriko Kajiya, Hee Seo. Hee is a dancer that takes chances, and wins. Please, Mr. AD, give her bigger challenges. For West Coasters, Leann Underwood, ABT's only female apprentice was a shade and a candle dancer. Wasn't she something of a star in Oregon a couple of years ago?

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Bayadere, Vishneva/Steifel/Abrera

I feel I had forgotten Diana Vishneva, only now to be beautifully, beautifully reminded. Where does she get that flexible back?

Glad to see Steifel back! He looks great, and got a warm welcome.

I liked Stella Abrera far more than Michele Wiles, the other Gamzatti I've seen. Abrera was beautiful and cruel. The way she looked at Nikiya out of the corner of her eyes, without moving, when Nikiya sees her with Solor -- whew! Abrera danced beautifully, and I always enjoy seeing her, but I don't know... is she principal dancer material? I just don't feel she has enough stage magnetism or depth. But if people feel otherwise, please educate me! I'd be interested to hear what others think.

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Thanks, canbelto! What a great photo. I forgot to ask where she gets the boneless arms, but perhaps it's the same question. But it does leave us with a mystery. Is it in their blood? Is it trained? Or do Russian training academies choose students with a naturally flexible back? Whatever the case, I'm grateful!

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I attended tonight's performance. This is my second Bayadere - I also attended the Wednesday matinee with Part and Gomes. I loved Wednesday, but tonight was even better!

Tonight was just absolutely mesmerizing. And that is mostly due to the wonderful Diana Vishneva! I loved Veronika, but Diana brought something more to the role of Nikiya. First, she was so much more sure of herself than Veronika. Veronika looked a little tentative in spots - Diana was in total control. Second, every move was taken to the fullest - every gesture had complete amplitude. Third, she has such command of the stage. And fourth, she was given a wonderful Solor. This is the first time that I saw her dance with Ethan Stiefel - what a wonderful partnership they have together. The Kingdom of the Shades pas de deux was breathtaking!

Between Michele Wiles and Stella Abrera - I am split. I feel that Michele is the better dancer, but Stella was the better actress. She was Gamzatti - proud and cruel. I loved her dance in Act III - that was the highlight of her performance tonight, in my opinion.

The corps was good, but not as on as they were at the Wednesday matinee. Misty Copeland and Hee Seo were even better tonight than they were on Wednesday afternoon and they were joined by Yuriko Kajiya, who I thought was better than Adrienne Schulte.

And what a treat that we had Herman Cornejo as the Bronze Idol.

Was that Gillian Murphy in the audience?

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...Where do all Russians get it? Is it in their blood? Their training? Look at Anna Pavlova.

What a great photo, Thanks! Pavlova and Vishneva were both born in St. Petersburg. (So was Veronika Part.) Pavlova was rejected by the Imperial Ballet School at age 8, admitted at age 10. Vishneva was rejected by the Vaganova Academy at age 6, admitted at age 11.

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...I forgot to ask where she gets the boneless arms, but perhaps it's the same question. But it does leave us with a mystery. Is it in their blood? Is it trained? Or do Russian training academies choose students with a naturally flexible back?...

Yes, Russian children are selected for ballet however Vaganova methodology is very well known for the lovely training of the upper body, back and arms. :thumbsup:

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... Vaganova methodology is very well known for the lovely training of the upper body, back and arms. :thumbsup:

At the very end of her ABT stay in New York last summer, Ms. Vishneva did address some aspects of ballet training in a small portion of an interview with Nina Alovert for Russian Bazar. If you add what she loves about other teaching methods to what vrsfanatic describes re Vaganova methodology, you get quite a complete ballerina!

When asked whether she found different systems of teaching in classes in various other countries to be difficult, she responded (I am not aware of an official translation, but feel reasonably confident in mine):

No, this helps me greatly, especially in France and America. Our school is very good, especially when you are young; by age 18 it is sufficient. In France, considerable attention is focused on the foot (steps). In America, balance and rotation is emphasized. When you get to learn something new, there is such happiness! Every day, I always take in everything that life offers, and use it maximally.
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I saw Vishneva (last Wednesday) and Part (Friday) and found both absolutely exquisite. While DV is much more emotional, VP is regal and so "retro" it's outright scary.

I was rather disappointed in Stiefel's performance, but really liked Gomez. Also, I thought that Wiles was a much more interesting Gamzatti, than Abrera.

The corps did a very good job and overall it were extremely enjoyable evenings and a great kick-off of a very promising season.

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I just finished reading the two Bayadere articles on Dance View Times. While Susan Reiter's comments on the Part/Gomes/Wiles performance are a good summation of the majority of reviews I've read here, Michael Popkin had a rather negative opinion of the Vishneva/Stiefel/Abrera performance.

The flat dancing began with Vishneva, whose performance was emotionally disengaged and distant in a way I haven’t seen from her before. In Act I, in particular, she seemed to be going through the motions, and this was unfortunate in more ways than one...She’s a dancer with more than a few grand ballerina mannerisms but is also an unusually passionate performer and the effect of the passion is to make you less aware of her mannerisms. They then seem part and parcel of the passion. When she dances without emotion, however, as she did in this performance, the mannerisms are all too visible. Her cool performance was more acceptable in Acts II and III, when Nikiya is a shade and where her emotional distance was at least consistent with her character, although the scarf dance in Act II fell flat without a strong sense of Nikiya’s emotion for Solor.

I did not get a chance to see Vishneva in this, so is there anyone who can enlighten me as to what her "grand mannerisms" are?

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I have no idea what he is referring to as "her grand mannerisms", but then I have no idea what he's talking about for most of the review. I was at the same perfomance and came away with the opposite impression. I thought Vishneva was the most passionate, most emotionaly involved Nikiya I've ever seen, I thought Stiefel danced (and acted) beautifully, and that they had great chemistry together. Go figure.

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I have no idea what he is referring to as "her grand mannerisms", but then I have no idea what he's talking about for most of the review. I was at the same perfomance and came away with the opposite impression. I thought Vishneva was the most passionate, most emotionaly involved Nikiya I've ever seen, I thought Stiefel danced (and acted) beautifully, and that they had great chemistry together. Go figure.

Totally agree, NYSusan. This was the Wednesday night performance. Had it been Saturday night's, I could see someone being "tricked" by her (relatively!) less passionate approach to act 1, as she was setting us up for her extraordinary dichotomy between acts 2 and 3 (Solor's guilt-based fearful opium image of Nikiya-the-Avenger vs. Nikiya's spiritual freeing of herself from that possible Wili-trap).

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