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Mixed Bill: Symphonie Concertante & The Dream


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Last night was quite something -- so many familiar faces covered in grey hair or no hair at all, but the smiles were all recognizable. Everyone behaved during the alumni group bow at the end. No one pushed anyone into the pit that I could see. And what a performance the current dancers put on. Murphy and Abrera in Symphonie Concertante were as near perfect as one could ask for. Abrera, as the violin, with her new confidence and determination, put on quite a virtuosic and elegant display. She surprised herself with a snappy pirouette-developee side-double pirouette with a perfect ending, and the audience giggled a bit at her surprise followed by "oh yeah I meant to do that" expression. Murphy cracked a wide smile, too. Both of them were radiant and confident and delivered the goods as did the corps. This piece certainly looked better on the Met stage than at City Center.

The Dream was Cornejo with all cylinders firing. It was hard to believe your eyes when he took off, and every step was done to convey the story. Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes were incredible as well, but this piece definitely belonged to Cornejo.

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to see this company right now?!

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Last night was quite something -- so many familiar faces covered in grey hair or no hair at all, but the smiles were all recognizable. Everyone behaved during the alumni group bow at the end. No one pushed anyone into the pit that I could see. ...

And here they are!

http://www.geneschiavone.com/gallery/album08

Mr. Schiavone has also posted a 48-photo set of ABT Corps dancers in rehearsal.

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Last night was quite something -- so many familiar faces covered in grey hair or no hair at all, but the smiles were all recognizable. Everyone behaved during the alumni group bow at the end. No one pushed anyone into the pit that I could see. And what a performance the current dancers put on. Murphy and Abrera in Symphonie Concertante were as near perfect as one could ask for. Abrera, as the violin, with her new confidence and determination, put on quite a virtuosic and elegant display. She surprised herself with a snappy pirouette-developee side-double pirouette with a perfect ending, and the audience giggled a bit at her surprise followed by "oh yeah I meant to do that" expression. Murphy cracked a wide smile, too. Both of them were radiant and confident and delivered the goods as did the corps. This piece certainly looked better on the Met stage than at City Center.

The Dream was Cornejo with all cylinders firing. It was hard to believe your eyes when he took off, and every step was done to convey the story. Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes were incredible as well, but this piece definitely belonged to Cornejo.

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to see this company right now?!

I can only agree with just about all of this. I was considering staying home and then curiosity took over - and so I hopped on www.metopera.org, found a seat I liked, and flew in (hardly anyone was on the Long Island Expressway - I live for days like that). To tell the truth, I didn't know about the alumni reunion per se, I mainly wanted to see the Ashton Dream with a cast I liked (and having seen Sym Con twice at City Center last fall, was not so much looking forward to that). As I wandered around the plaza before curtain I kept noticing people with name tags, and had no idea what that meant. And as the chandeliers rose to the ceiling I saw the spotlight and drawn curtain that traditionally augured cast changes. "Uh-oh," I thought, but instead Cynthia Gregory, Susan Jaffe, and Gage Bush (who didn't speak) appeared and said their piece.

Sym Con, which previously had struck me as too schematic in its invariable matching of violin with ballerina 1 and viola with ballerina 2, seemed just right that evening. Abrera and Murphy pair well; they are both around the same height, but hair color and complexion provide contrast. In the first movement I liked best the cadenza; if my memory is right there's a passage where Stella's fingertip touches Gillian's, and Stella completes a circle around her counterpart. The slow movement provides contrast in the form of the single male dancer; and Maxim Beloserkovsky very effectively conveyed the sense of a man trying to choose between two equally attractive women. He had more to do on his own in the finale, too.

During intermission, there was a lot of "How are you!!!??" and "Are you still with XX Ballet?" and smooching on both cheeks. None of this was directed at Klavier, who felt a bit left out; but the Ashton Dream more than made up for any failure to recognize this undersigned keyboard instrument. Haglund is quite right that Herman Cornejo nearly stole the show with a performance that was both adeptly characterized and technically astonishing. (Seated next to me were two dance students around age 17 from one of the well-known dance schools; after Cornejo finished one particularly astonishing combination, the boy gasped, "That's impossible!") But equally good were Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomez, not to mention Isaac Stappas as Bottom. His dancing on pointe (that's impossible!) as well as his comic timing were both marvelous. I hear a lot of talk about dancers' hands, feet, backs; Isaac disguised in his donkey's head deserves a special tribute for the hilarious way he moved his mouth. Julie and Marcelo made something wonderful of the final duet, to Mendelssohn's Nocturne (fortunately left alone by John Lanchbery). The passage where both intertwine hands like a ring and lift one leg behind them is very beautiful. And then came the curtain calls and the assembled multitudes on stage, complete with balloons (Klavier did not join in; someone had to stay in the auditorium to applaud).

Having seen the Balanchine Dream several times but the Ashton never, comparisons invited themselves. Ashton is very tight, without the sacharine cuteness of all the little kids, the divertissements, and Puck-ascending of the Balanchine; his treatment also I think is much funnier. The most involved, twisted part of the action, to Mendelssohn's scherzo, with the male lovers trying to find each other in the fog and Bottom periodically poking his face out from the bower, is a masterpiece of coming timing. One small element of the action seemed misjudged: for some reason Bottom's head is removed before Titania awakes, whereas in Shakespeare she is allowed to see Bottom "translated" for a moment before he is restored to his normal self. But if I have any major bone to pick with the Ashton version, it is the treatment of some of the music by John Lanchbery. The overture, one of Mendelssohn's perfect creations, is mangled; occasionally there are new (and unneeded) counterpoints and unidiomatic orchestrations; and here and there some of the more threatening music sounds more like ersatz Mahler than anything by Mendlessohn. Balanchine would not have, and did not, treat Mendelssohn's classic score so cavalierly. The vocal performances emanating from the pit were thin and weak; the orchestra under Charles Barkley considerably better.

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I attended Monday's Symphonie Concertante-The Dream program.

I don't much like Symphonie Concertante. I've seen it at least seven or eight times, and the only performance I've truly enjoyed was the one by the SAB students (Rachel Rutherford as one of the soloists) during the first Balanchine Festival. The steps are so academic, the music so much more. That said, Julie Kent gave a crisp, clean and musical reading opposite Paloma Herrera, whose first movement was none of the above, didn't seem to realize there was anyone on the stage with her. Gennadi Saveliev's partnering was solid, but his dancing not so much. I wondered whether he was dancing on an injured ankle, as he took some very unsteady landings.

The Dream fared considerably better (although I far prefer the Balanchine version, to which Mr. Ashton seems to pay homage with direct choreographic quotes). Stiefel's Oberon was much improved since he first performed the role when it was new to ABT. His characterization is more regal, his virtuosity now serves the phrase, rather than the other way around. His new Titania, Xiomara Reyes, has a very good vehicle in this. She has the epaulement and quick feet Ashton requires (although perhaps not to the level long-time RB watchers might want), and she captured the sweet airheadedness of this Titania. Ashton's T is a FAIRY Queen, while Balanchine's is a Fairy QUEEN. In the B, Titania drives the action, in the A, Oberon.

Can't elaborate on "perfect," which describes exactly Cornejo's Puck. It must have been hard for him to resist the temptation to take it just a micrometer more. That micrometer would have been too much. "Perfect" sums it up perfectly.

And kudos to Julio Bragado-Young, our very funny Bottom.

The program's music -- the Mozart concerto and the Mendelssohn (even Lanchberryized) -- was heavenly.

Both seatmate and I wondered, has anyone besides Ethan danced both the Ashton and the Balanchine Oberons?

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Last night was quite something -- so many familiar faces covered in grey hair or no hair at all, but the smiles were all recognizable. Everyone behaved during the alumni group bow at the end. No one pushed anyone into the pit that I could see. ...

And here they are!

http://www.geneschiavone.com/gallery/album08

They may have grey hair (or very obviously colored hair) but they all look FABULOUS! Ballet dancers "mature" incredibly well.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Vishneva/Corella/Salstein/Bragado-Young

Dreamgirl

Diana Vishneva's Titania was all pride and petulance versus Angel Corella's very angry Oberon in the changeling confrontation. Later, Angel and Craig Salstein's Puck were more than just boys-will-boys mischief-makers. When Oberon kicks Puck's butt, it was audibly not a stage kick, one can only guess what heck it would have raised had it been in R+J across the plaza... There was even a girl-slaps-boy's face as well.

When the happy couple first came together Jennifer Alexander was a very Brittish Hermia, her working foot tracing those love circles on the floor for her Lysander, Jared Matthews. A smile with a touch of Fonteyn's restraint didn't hurt either. They most effectively prepared us for the love story at the ballet's conclusion. Marian Butler and Sascha Radetsky played the bickering couple with just the right not-over-the-top sensibility. Ashton does rustics superbly, probably because he really liked them. Julio Bragado-Young caught Ashton's Bottom well, not just a cardboard joke at all.

When drugged Diana spots Bottom, it is not just a comic love-at-first-sight. As she comes to him she especially loves his Assish features. As she spies his hooves, pointes, she sees them as yet a further way to express her erotic feelings, as she playfully skips hers among his. Diana can dance love, and its nice to know its always real.

Throughout there's lots of virtuosity for Salstein and Corella. Angel doesn't take a Dowell approach, preferring to dance with size and force, as opposed to refinement. And a whole lot of excitement.

After Titania's "caught" by Angel, she begins their reconciliation on uneven terms. She shows him the bottom of her pointes at least seven times, sure to seduce Ashton, and his protagonist! But she does eventually catch on, and then it becomes mutual. There is a magic moment where she dances Hermia's love circles to Angel. But these have an extra airy floor-skimming quality, just so he'd know that this was the love of a Fairy Tzarina. Toward the end Bottom comes out and she sees through his human form to the Ass of her Dreams. She looks upon him fondly.

Diana was a vision of beauty tonight, and so much more.

The program opened with a classroom excerise by Balanchine. Perhaps I've just been spoiled by a week of the master's masterpieces, some beautifully done, across the court. And some thrilling dancing in some not officially great, too. It was sad that Irina Dvorovenko was scratched, she's got the technical chops, and also a way to connect to the audience to take us from reading to singing. The vocal singing was not of the musical level that NYCB delivers for its Dream. The corps looks much better here than when so cramped at City Center. Sarah Lane was one of the six demis, and my binocs where so occupied throughout. If one must show this Balanchine, then why not cast such young corpsters in the leads, so that these roles will really be life and death matters to the dancers?

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Sarah Lane was one of the six demis, and my binocs where so occupied throughout. If one must show this Balanchine, then why not cast such young corpsters in the leads, so that these roles will really be life and death matters to the dancers?

This has always been a differance between ABT & NYCB. NYCB has a tradition of corps dancers being thrown into lead roles. The rep lends itself to it. ABT with it's big ballets relies so called "bankable" stars.

Never the less, I have my ticket to see Lane in Blue Bird PPD. I wish ABT would release fuller casting.

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[Never the less, I have my ticket to see Lane in Blue Bird PPD. I wish ABT would release fuller casting.

Vipa, the casting I posted does have the Blue Bird pdd. Give it a look. Or look on ABT's website. It's there too.

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May 29th - Symphonie Concertante & The Dream

SYMPHONIE CONCERTANTE

Not mentioned above, but Maria Riccetto danced viola in "Symphonie Concertante" to Stella Abrera's violin, who I believe was filling in for...Irina? (Sorry don't have program in front of me.) Jennifer Alexander consequently subbed for Abrera in "The Dream". Riccetto danced surely and exquisitely, and was well matched with Abrera. Consequently, I actually stayed awake and started to really pay attention to small details in "soloists"and "corps"performances. I didn't know that Mr. Savaliev was injured, but that may explain the slackness and missing sharp "attack" in some sequences. Balanchine always means 'details' to me, and attention to technique (without having dramatic storytelling abilities to fall back on), and in the women--esp. Abrera and Riccetto--I saw it, but Savaliev was somewhat on/off that night. He's doing many performances though because of the cast shuffling, (and if injured too?) he deserves credit for otherwise dancing/partnering well.

THE DREAM

Vishneva came through with a lovely performance. Oh her back and arms, and so concentrated use of those legs. She was expressive and generous, and never fussy or prissy in all that tight/fast Ashton choreography. With Bottom, she was teasing and so affectionate with her newfound amour. And with her Oberon, actually showed an arc to the story and their relationship from affronted refusal to hand over the changeling, to an amenitive gift of the child later, to a true relationship in the final pas de deux.

Corella was concerned about continuity through the performance, and it did take a little time for him to actually settle into it. This may explain my initial reaction, which was to notice something a little "je ne sais quoi" first, then consequently to pay closer attention to the execution of certain key phrases and choregraphic sequences later, and finally to smile when he 'nailed' them. Speed, elevation, epaulement, turns of course, and graceful attentive partnering as always; extension yes, but not always, and sometimes speed affecting perfection in execution--but still skillfully done. His dramatic abilities fully complemented Diana, and a not always obsequious Puck; in those interactions with Puck you always knew who was boss. Salstein had some really nice sissones, and whizzed through most of Puck's contortions skillfully, while projecting Puck's exuberance and purposeful ineptitude.

Marion Butler owns that role, such a perfect blend of histrionic pathos with comic timing. Sascha, too has no problem showing anger, angst, or astonishment, and danced well too. I missed Stella Abrera's Hermia, but Jennifer Alexandre, was proper, forlorn, and determined as required. Jarred Matthews, too, was a competent and elegant (Lysander?) if not an overly effusive one.

There may have been no onstage rehearsal time to perfect 'blocking' with sets, fog, and swiftly moving corps crowds and soloists, (or accustome oneself to a complex (and borrowed) costume), but still something to be proud of just the same. I am sure Thurday night's performance will be even more secure, and superb.

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Last night was quite something -- so many familiar faces covered in grey hair or no hair at all, but the smiles were all recognizable. Everyone behaved during the alumni group bow at the end. No one pushed anyone into the pit that I could see. ...

Thank you for recognizing my smile! THANK YOU for posting a link to Mr. Schiavone's photo of our curtain call. I would love to know if he, or anyone, has any other photos from our alumni event. (?) If any other retired ABTer who sees this has photos from 5/26/07 I'd love to see/share. Thank you to the current audience for letting us indulge. It was an awsome day!

" xABTinarina "

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