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Bayadere: May 15-21, 2007


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Comparing and contrasting the couple of the La Bayadére performances I attended.

Radetsky's Thursday evening performance of Head Fakir was technically more clean and better danced than Matthew's Saturday matinee but my husband enjoyed Matthew's quirkiness. I guess Radetsky's biting of the rubber snake upon exiting wasn't quirky enough for him, he probably would have further enjoyed Salstein's energetic Saturday evening Fakir even more.

Although it took a while for him to warm up to commanding the stage as Solor, I found Hallberg's Thursday performance to be completely engaging. By the end of the performance the polite audience was readily applauding his variations. His double cabrioles were breath taking.

Choosing between Nikiya's from the two performances, I much preferred the depth of Dvorovenko's performance. Herrera's lovely arching back and blistering fast footwork to Wilkins' evening tempo was amazing but the character remanded two dimensional for me.

Barbee's Brahmin was much more effective than Zhurbin's passionate matinee performance. I felt badly for those who were seeing Bayadére for the first time during the Saturday matinee as the scarf that conveys the visual representation of Nikiya first from outside the temple to the palace interior was lost. Not that Zhurbin's mime was poorly done but the scarf physically did not reappear during his informing the Radjah of Solor's secret love. The indiscretion of the moment was not as clear because of this.

I had double the pleasure of seeing two of Murphy's Gamzatti performances. There was something about the accuracy of her turns Thursday evening that made me enjoy her better that evening. The response of the matinee audience in comparison would have begged to differ. She was an icy and beautiful royal woman both times, it was hard for me to find any fault in her performances.

Shade corps for both performances did very well with the exception of the lack of balance in the same first / second year corp member. During both performances the audiences gave them very supportive recognition through lengthy applause. Of Shade solos I very much enjoyed Lane's first solo Thursday evening.

It was Scott's debut as Bronze Idol that brought our Pennsylvania crew to both performances. Both of his performances showed crisp automaton-like movements and turns but his matinee performance revealed better stamina and ease in his later jumps. "Chicken & waffles all around!" to quote PA native Mr. Stiefel. :thumbsup:

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I've not a clue what Michael Popkin is talking about. Perhaps he was sitting in a score seat. Vishneva/Stiefel/Abrera all gave compelling, passionate performances. The dancing was phenomenal.

Critics' seats are down in the orchestra. So, no, he would not be sitting in a score seat.

I actually thought Vishneva's performance was slightly flat, compared to the performance she did of Bayadere in 2002 with the Kirov at the Met. I also did not see much chemistry between her and Stiefel. Her performance was better than 95% of the Bayaderes I've seen (it was very good), but not up to her best. The bar was set very high by her in 2002.

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I have to second (or rather third) <b>Dale</b>'s and Michael Popkin's impressions. Of course, it's all a matter of expectations - mine are always so high for Vishneva that even slightest failure on her part to meet them seems a big disappointment. For a different dancer a performance like the one I saw Wed. night would be spectacular, but considering what Vishneva standards usually are, it was a rather distant and disengaged outing.

I also agree with M.Popkin's take on Stiefel, Abrera, and the corps - it was plagued with problems in Act I, but looked surprisingly impressive in the Kingdom of the Shades scene.

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I have to second (or rather third) <b>Dale</b>'s and Michael Popkin's impressions. Of course, it's all a matter of expectations - mine are always so high for Vishneva that even slightest failure on her part to meet them seems a big disappointment.

I felt that way about Diana's Odette/Odile last summer with Jose Manuel Carreno. I expected a lot and I was disappointed. However, I thought she was superb on Saturday night!

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I thought that Vishneva was, as Manhattnik used to say, the cat's pajamas last Wednesday evening. The acting has gotten 100% better since the 2002 performances Dale was referring to, and her dancing was emotionally charged and expansive up to and including her first entrance as a Shade. Thereafter she began to look a little tired. I also thought Stiefel overcompensated through overacting, and that the ballet didn't gel as theater that evening, though I blame Makarova's digest version for that.

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Vishneva's performance in the first section was very strong - her flexibility and acting - excellent. But I think there's less "acting" in the Shades scene. In that, it's the movement, shaded through musicality, and the connection with the partner that carries the ballet. She was very, very good. But, since I didn't feel her connection with Stiefel, I was moved less than I had when she performed with Fadeev.

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I attended tonight with Nina, Jose, and Irina. I also saw the Wednesday matinee with Veronika, Marcelo, and Michele and I went Saturday night with Diana, Ethan, and Stella. I loved all three performances, but I am going to say that tonight was the best of all!

Nina - she may not have the sky-high extensions of Diana and Veronika, but I felt that her Nikya was the most complete of the three ballerinas that I had the pleasure of seeing this week. She brought emotion to every minute she was on stage and I could not take my eyes off of her the whole night. The Met was packed and even after the pas de deux in Act I Scene I, people around me started going "Ni-na, Ni-na, Ni-na". I had the feeling that I was witnessing something extraordinary in her performance. I was in tears during the Kingdom of the Shades. And the curtain calls? This is the only "Bayadere" that I attended that had multiple curtain calls.

Jose Manuel Carreno was excellent as well. Again, I thought his Solor was the best of the three men. He also took the greatest risks in his solos and he was the perfect partner to Nina.

Again, Irina Dvorovenko was the best Gamzatti. Before tonight, I called it a draw between Michele and Stella. Michele danced the part better, but Stella acted the part better. Irina blew them both away. And this is the first "Bayadere" where I thought Nikiya and Gamzatti were equally matched. Irina was fantastic in her Act I dances and her Act III solo dance.

Carlos Lopez did the Bronze Idol tonight. I also saw him on Wednesday. Veronika Part did the third Shade. She was beautiful, but I prefered Hee Seo.

Except for a noticeable wobble by Shade #1 at the very beginning, the corps was really on tonight.

Well - that's it for "La Bayadere". I loved all three of my Nikiyas. Bravo to Veronika, Diana, and especially Nina!! :FIREdevil:

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Monday, May 21, 2007

A Nina Fest

The last Bayadere of the season starred the trio Ananiashvili/Carreno/Dvorovenko. But of course the night belonged to Nina Ballerina and her fans. Nina simply stepped into Nikiya's body before her first entrance and stayed there for the next two and three quarter hours, letting the old story tell itself with the grandeur of its simplicity. The casting seemed an echo of the old CCCP. Nina (Tbilisi), with Vitali Krauchenka (Radjah, Minsk), Irina Dvorovenko (Gamzatti, Kiev), Roman Zhurbin (High Brahmin, Moscow), Veronika Part (3rd Shade variation, Petersburg), Sascha Radetsky (Head Fakir, California--whoops!). Other non ex-Soviets were Jose Manuel Carreno (Solor), Jennifer Alexander (Aya), Misty Copeland (the best of her 1st Shade performances that I saw), Melanie Hamrick (the cabrioles Shade), Carlos Lopez (Bronze Idol). Irina was especially splendid, and after the confrontation scene she made her fist and strode toward us, a vision of beauty, she looked us all in the eyes. They became rounder. The Evil Eye incarnate. I stared back in Fear.

But tonight was all Nina, our Prima of the 90's. I'll leave technical matters to others. Of course she could do it. I just made myself empty and absorbed, wasting nothing of her Gift. For it was a night of gifts. At the very end, aligned up the remains of the temple's stairs, she turned her gaze back to penitent Carreno. Slowly her arm arc'd 'round to his direction. From her hand came the final gift, the Grace of Peace.

The house stands. Applause and cheers. From the fans a shower of flowers. During one curtain call, Nina turns to her right and sees an old fan (yes the same one from the old days). A look of joyful recognition crosses her face and she strides in that direction. The bouquet en l'air. And into Nina's cradling arms.

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So, there you go!

I thought tonight's performance, overall, was rather flat. The exceptions were (in order of appearance) Radetsky's Lead Fakir, Dvorovenko's Gamzatti (agreed she was the best of the three) and Copeland's First Shade, which has gained both oomph and fluency through this run. This was disappointing, because I was really looking forward to seeing Carreno and to welcoming Ananiashvili back.

It looked to me like a few of the dancers were phoning it in, and some perhaps merely texting. Nothing in the first two acts tempted me to stay after the Shades. I rarely leave early, but despite Carreno's presence, ennui urged me home.

So my Bayadere total this year ended up being 3 2/3. I saw both Part-Gomes-Wiles, the second Vishneva-Stiefel-Abrera and tonight's.

The best Entrance of the Shades was Saturday's which could almost have illustrated "serenity" in a dictionary. Neither Vishneva-Stiefel nor Anianashvili-Carreno moved me as deeply as either of the Part-Gomes performances. I found the two of them so strongly connected by a common vision, exquisite musicality and the ability to luxuriate in every movement. I was always aware of Vishneva's acting, but Part went beyond portraying the emotion, she seemed to become its essence. When she delivers like that, you (or I, anyway) feel the magic, which is why her Third Shade tonight, looking like a studio run-through, was so crushingly disappointing. I had no great expectations for Melanie Hamrick's Second, but her movements were choppy and not always finished.

Stiefel looked just fine on Saturday. Not a vestige of his occasional hamminess or lack of belief in the role. Sometimes, the most productive periods of a dancer's career are those when they can't dance. They're forced to watch and think. I just never felt a strong connection between him and Vishneva, just as I didn't feel one between Carreno and Ananiashvili.

I have no trouble understanding why Vishneva has such a powerful pull on people. She has a lively presence and a highly individual style. She just runs a bit lukewarm for me. It's probably chemical. :FIREdevil:

I'll be back for a Symphonie Concertante/Dream or two. Until then, I'll be either across the plaza or home.

The casting seemed an echo of the old CCCP. Nina (Tbilisi), with Vitali Krauchenka (Radjah, Minsk), Irina Dvorovenko (Gamzatti, Kiev), Roman Zhurbin (High Brahmin, Moscow), Veronika Part (3rd Shade variation, Petersburg), Sascha Radetsky (Head Fakir, California--whoops!). Other non ex-Soviets were Jose Manuel Carreno (Solor) . . .
Depending on how non-Soviet you consider Cuba to have been. Not one of the republics, but certainly a satellite or at least a proxy. Edited by carbro
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I enjoyed tonight very much but I was not as enamored of the performances as the others who have commented.

Sorry for bursting any bubbles. I don't mean to seem over critical.

Nina acted the part beautifully and was incredibly lovely, but she did seem not herself. Her arabesques were not just "not sky high", they were often below 90 degrees. And her leg was often not straight, which is something I have never noticed from her before. To be fair I thought she improved as the night went on. And I did think she was good. I don't mean to quibble, but while the audience was clearly thrilled to have her back, she did not seem up to her standards.

Carreno--he did well in the solos, though I prefered Gomes. His partnering however was really off. Especially in act one.

Nina is not a large dancer. and the preparation for the shoulder lifts in act 1 was so radically different from that of Gomes and Part (who, however much weight she has lost is still a tall tall dancer) that I was shocked. With Part and Gomes i didn't even see the lifts coming. she hurtled at him and the next thing I knew she was on his shoulder. Tonight, the preparation was slow, deliberate, and I seriously thought Nina was going to fall during the first lift. He really seemed to have great difficulty. This was true throughout his partnering--he seemed to knock Irina off at one point and from then on it was as if she was partnering herself on him. Again however, I think things improved in act 2.

I also thought he looked out of shape, i think of him as a rather lean dancer, not like Hallburg, but not bulky--perhaps however this was just the first tunic he was wearing, as he looked better in the rest of the costumes.

On the other hand, I agree that Irina was fabulous. I liked her much more than Wiles. She was so imperious! Both her dancing and characterization were superb.

Really I thought the entire cast was excellent. The shades, the 3 main shades...fantastic

Sorry for pointing out the negative. I really did enjoy tonight and it was a joy just seeing Nina back again. She is one of my all-time favorite dancers.

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Neither Vishneva-Stiefel nor Anianashvili-Carreno moved me as deeply as either of the Part-Gomes performances. I found the two of them so strongly connected by a common vision, exquisite musicality and the ability to luxuriate in every movement. I was always aware of Vishneva's acting, but Part went beyond portraying the emotion, she seemed to become its essence. When she delivers like that, you (or I, anyway) feel the magic, which is why her Third Shade tonight, looking like a studio run-through, was so crushingly disappointing.

I second that. I still had visions of Part and Gomes in my head, and as beautifully expressive as Nina is, Veronika remains my ideal Nikiya. She seemed tired tonight as the third shade, but I can forgive that. I didn't feel much chemistry between the Ananiashvili-Carreno pairing, and their most poignant moments I caught were when they did not dance together. :clapping: Carreno had a rather strained look on his face when attending to the two leading ladies. There was no sense of abandonment in love.

My displeasure was further enhanced from sitting in quite possibly the worst seats in the house--last two seats at the end of row E orchestra, right side of the house. Yuck.

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...The casting seemed an echo of the old CCCP...Roman Zhurbin (High Brahmin, Moscow)...

FYI: Mr. Zhurbin may have been born in Moscow, however he never studied ballet until after his family moved to the US. His training is purely American.

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As much as I looked forward to my beloved Ananiashvilli---the vision of Part was very much in my head...she embodied the role. The chemistry was missing between Carreno and A.---perhaps these 'quickie' performances (only twice this season?) don't leave too much time for that. But, since A,s last season with ABT the Company has made great strides in its ballerina quotient. I hope A's Swan Lake will still hold the magic for me; although I don't particularly like her pairing with Corella---can't they give her Gomes???

I am still incredulous that after two breathtaking Nikiya's---Part is still doing corphee roles.......and Hee Seo was incomparable in the variation---further proof that Part should only be doing ballerina roles :clapping:

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I can't argue with most of the general comments about last night's performance; however, I will say that I go to see every one of Nina's performances for the same reason that I still go to hear every one of Placido Domingo's performances. There is an immeasurable artistry that each brings to the stage which perhaps is even more apparent and appreciated in the absence of awe inspiring technical feats. Why did we love Fonteyn at 55 years old? Same reason.

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I am still incredulous that after two breathtaking Nikiya's---Part is still doing corphee roles.......and Hee Seo was incomparable in the variation---further proof that Part should only be doing ballerina roles :(

I could not agree with you more. In fact, I meant to post this as well. I was thinking about this in the car on the way back home last night. For Veronika to have done Nikiya so beautifully and then to be the Third Shade? :clapping:

I don't get it. And while she danced it beautifully, I was really hoping to see Hee Seo again.

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I am still incredulous that after two breathtaking Nikiya's---Part is still doing corphee roles.......and Hee Seo was incomparable in the variation---further proof that Part should only be doing ballerina roles :(

I could not agree with you more. In fact, I meant to post this as well. I was thinking about this in the car on the way back home last night. For Veronika to have done Nikiya so beautifully and then to be the Third Shade? :clapping:

I don't get it. And while she danced it beautifully, I was really hoping to see Hee Seo again.

Nika's being shouldered with responsibility of maintaining the reputation of a Principal Dancer, when she isn't one.

It seems to me that she's being held to a higher standard than the sitting PDs. Is that fair? IMO at this stage, she shouldn't be doing supporting/minor roles in the classical repertory. After the 4.5 minutes of her Rose Adagio last week, will she be doing cameos as one of the Prologue fairies, or as one of Aurora's friends? Why is she pulling double duty shifts with

retro-yo-yo-casting?

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When Makarova first mounted the Shades Act on ABT, the Third Shade was Martine vanHamel, then a principal dancer. If ABT's ranking system were like that of the Royal, the role would generally be assigned to first soloists. The woman who danced it last night, if she was supposed to show her ballerina mettle, did not rise to the occasion. Then again, neither (quite) did the Nikiya.

It is my belief that a principal dancer should shine not only in prima roles, but in any role.

In the McKenzie era, it seems that a dancer becomes a principal when they have passed muster in two or three full-length leads. Part has done Odette-Odile, Raymonda, Myrtha, and by season's end Nikiya and Aurora. Yes, her promotion is overdue, but since she is still a soloist, soloist roles are not entirely inappropriate.

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Is it not possible that Ms. Part chose to play a shade as a gesture of respect to Nina Ananiasvili, and for the honor of being on stage with her? She is, after all, a Russian ballerina. Ms. Dvorovenko is now a Nikiya, yet was it a coincidence that it was this night that she reprised her old role of Gamzatti? Respect. Tradition.

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When Makarova first mounted the Shades Act on ABT, the Third Shade was Martine vanHamel, then a principal dancer. If ABT's ranking system were like that of the Royal, the role would generally be assigned to first soloists. The woman who danced it last night, if she was supposed to show her ballerina mettle, did not rise to the occasion. Then again, neither (quite) did the Nikiya.

It is my belief that a principal dancer should shine not only in prima roles, but in any role.

In the McKenzie era, it seems that a dancer becomes a principal when they have passed muster in two or three full-length leads. Part has done Odette-Odile, Raymonda, Myrtha, and by season's end Nikiya and Aurora. Yes, her promotion is overdue, but since she is still a soloist, soloist roles are not entirely inappropriate.

Also, given that VP sometime shows obvious nerves when faced with technical challenges, maybe it is good for her to be out there when the stakes are not so high. Onstage time in smaller roles can really help a person develop. This might be something VP wants.

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If I'm not mistaken, dancers at the Kirov-Mariinsky are often shifting back and forth between principal roles and 'background' dancing. Maybe it's a good thing. It can help you realize how important corps dancers are, and it can further develope the principals and it can help keep everyone in touch with everyone else.

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Maybe I should clarify or elaborate or something. By "principals" I meant dancers who do 'leads' and solos and not the 'Principals', although I have seen 'Principals' on the road doing 'back up' dancing. I also recall comments on various K-M forums stating that 'Was that really so and so that I saw doing corps dancing last night !'.

Also I have read (or heard (DVD)) that when Rudolf Nureyev was director of the Paris Opera Ballet, he rehearsed all the dancers together and not in select isolated groups.

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