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REVIEWS: The Sleeping Beauty


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(the violin solo from Nutcracker inserted in the dream scene!.....Cinderella?? What is this?

hi sz, i'm not disagreeing with you or anyone as i haven't seen this. but for the two points above raised, if you mean the violin solo from nycb's nutcracker, is that not the solo from sleeping beauty inserted by balanchine? also the kirov's beauty, at least, does have a pas de deux for cinderella and prince fortune. perhaps someone else can give more background?

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I think you're correct on both, Mme. Hermine. Cinderella has a divert in the Kirov new/old Beauty, and appears in other productions (including I'm pretty sure the Royal's) in the Mazurka. The violin solo is originally the entr'acte in Beauty; Balanchine borrowed it for Nuts.

Those details aside, I concur with sz's assessment. My review's in DVT this week, it pretty much speaks for itself.

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The Times weighs in. Mr. Macauley was not pleased:

No , indeed. And he is evidently not a member of the Veronika Part fan club:

have never seen Veronika Part look better than her opening-night Aurora, but she’s still a bore. A handsome, tall woman, she wears the same air of terminal nobility from first to last, apart from her irksome habit of letting her audience know which bits she finds difficult. Even when she’s on the music, she doesn’t seem to know why. She seems temperamentally wrong for Aurora, as does Michele Wiles as the Lilac Fairy, a role that needs a generosity that must encompass the whole world onstage.
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have never seen Veronika Part look better than her opening-night Aurora, but she’s still a bore. A handsome, tall woman, she wears the same air of terminal nobility from first to last, apart from her irksome habit of letting her audience know which bits she finds difficult. Even when she’s on the music, she doesn’t seem to know why. She seems temperamentally wrong for Aurora, as does Michele Wiles as the Lilac Fairy, a role that needs a generosity that must encompass the whole world onstage.

One thing I've learned about dance criticism, or any criticism for that matter, is to not bore with the word "bore." I believe Margot Jefferson said something along those lines. Handsome is a word I would use to describe Joan Crawford or Maria Alexandrova, NOT Veronika.

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Ah, well--now we know it---Mr. Macauley is not perfect..... :devil: I would guess he still prefers the English style ballerina in SB and a motherly Lilac Fairy (still reminiscing about Beryl Grey?)...

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I am a huge Part fan, but I do agree with Macauley about her in this case. She just doesn't have the footwork for Aurora, and she didn't really vary the interprepation from act to act. After thinking about it, I have much more respect for Wiles' Lilac, since she must have spent the whole evening realizing that she was going to end up floundering around like a big fish at the end of a line. That would make it very hard to be expansively gracious, and I can't believe she carried it off as well as she did. Mary

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Macauley has quite an interesting take on the cultural influences that are reflected in this production.

This is “Sleeping Beauty†as seen through the lens of various movies.

Like Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,†Prince Désiré has a waterlogged dream (he not only drinks from the river but also swoons into it) that leads him toward a vision of Princess Right. The boat that sails him up her mother’s tears is like a Harry Potter Hippogriff. The King, the Queen and the Master of Ceremonies, Catalabutte, all come out of my favorite Danny Kaye film, “The Court Jester†(“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestleâ€), and the wicked Carabosse is auditioning, unsuccessfully, for “The Wizard of Oz.†The designer, Tony Walton, has provided sets, especially the Sleeping Beauty’s tiny castle with its fat little towers, that are very Disney indeed. The unashamedly bold, often cheerfully clashing colors in both décor and costumes (by Willa Kim) are Disneyesque too, though surely Walt’s artists would have imitated Corot much less crudely in the autumnal treescape behind the Hunt scene.

Nowadays, the movies may be the only cultural experience that a contemporary American ballet audience can be expected to have shared. "Hey, I saw that in Harry Potter" replaces "Hey, I saw that at the Kirov or the Royal."

A more extreme version of this has to do with the hugely popular new movie "300," which revisits the clash between Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, but does so via an aesthetic and value system -- with inevitable plot distortions and a radically new "look" based on contemporary action comic books. ( Sorry! -- "Graphic novels").

The basic situation still comes from Thucydides and other Greek writers -- just as Sleeping Beauty derives from Perrault as transformed by Petipa's creative team.

But in art the road from There to Here is a long one. And sometimes it twists in some rather alarming directions.

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There are two reviews of the production in this week's DanceView Times, posted in the Links.

Leigh, perhaps you could share with us some of the 'apoplectic scribbles' that didn't make it into your review?

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There are two reviews of the production in this week's DanceView Times, posted in the Links.

Leigh, perhaps you could share with us some of the 'apoplectic scribbles' that didn't make it into your review?

Yes, please. The more apoplectic and illegible, the better.

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(the violin solo from Nutcracker inserted in the dream scene!.....Cinderella?? What is this?

hi sz, i'm not disagreeing with you or anyone as i haven't seen this. but for the two points above raised, if you mean the violin solo from nycb's nutcracker, is that not the solo from sleeping beauty inserted by balanchine? also the kirov's beauty, at least, does have a pas de deux for cinderella and prince fortune. perhaps someone else can give more background?

Mme. Hermine, Leigh,

Was just talking with a friend who also confirmed that the Cinderella avec Prince pas and the violin solo (most of us think of as Nutcracker's) were from an older version of the Kirov's Sleeping Beauty. Before my time (40's-50's?)!!..... But thanks for the info.... Always interesting to learn these historical facts.

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The Cinderella pas de deux has been a recent reinstallation in Beauty. It's actually a comic bit with the Prince coming after Cindy with a shoe, and she keeps blowing his hat off with her bellows. Eventually, but not TOO eventually, (this dance is only a couple of minutes long) they get together and run off together.

The violin entr'acte was especially composed for Mariinsky concertmaster Leopold Auer, and had to be cut from the first performance of Beauty when the whole "Panorama" machinery refused to work. Auer was the grandfather of movie and stage comedian Mischa Auer.

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Part 2

Part is All

Tonight Veronika brought Aurora's partner to the ballet. His name is Tschaikovsky.

Ms. Part entered to some applause from her admirers and smiled happily back. How can one say she is too voluptuous for this role? Aurora is two years and two weeks older than Juliet, for those days an adult. But Ms. Part was a carefree, confident young woman. Not a clue of any concern about what her ballerina-inhabitor was about to face. The music let you know it was Rose Adagio time. Since we were given no cause to see this as some fearsome bunch of tricks, we could just let the perfection of it pour in, never a test, never excess, just Beauty doing beauty. Nailing the first balance of the final diagonal of balances in attitude, Ms. Part seemed to silently say "Oh, yeah!", or whatever the Russian is, and easily completed her triumph. A huge response, with mutiple bows. It was in the first variation to follow that I realised that all the mess of this production was invisible, the music filled, or in this production replaced, the void. Just a ballerina and her Tschaikovsky. And in the second variation those jetes, so perfect of form, in no way exagerated, but amplified by Veronika's perfect body and classical line. Then the double circle of turns, some triples included. Her perfection proclaimed innocence; her line, desirability; her serenity, Petipa.

The production's Act 2 disaster at least gave us her vision scene. It began as if her eyes were still closed, dancing with ethereal lightness. She began to dance with Marcelo Gomes. He grasped her around the waist and a glow came across her face as she felt him in her dream. Later, as that ultimate partner came up from behind to hold her about her waist again, just a fraction of a second before the touch, her face burst, however so serenely, into joy. At that moment she showed us that she knew he'd be there at the moment she really opened her eyes. The trust in Tschaikovsky and Petipa to tell the whole story... maybe this is what Balanchine's "Just dance" means.

Epiphanies. Act 3's Grand Pas de Deux. The Adagio. As Marcelo promenades her in attitude, they finish with Veronika's back to the audience and hold that pose. The utter perfection of her placement. We see (or I see, for the first time) Giovanni da Bologna's Mercury through Carlo Blasis's eyes. Because I can't explain how so simple a thing can transcend beauty itself, this paragraph stops.

The next, or next three epiphanies, the fish dives. One of course looks forward to this test, much as one does to Odile's 32. But on this night this ballerina and this partnership weren't taking exams and weren't performing tricks. Of course the dives happened, each glorious. But her sublime line in each dive's final position, the beyond perfect placement of those legs that are the divine prototype, and that was their entire Love Story in triplicate: Each time, the sole of her toeshoe rested, caressing his shoulder. And then, a final epiphany, in the Adagio's finale pose, that sole embraced the back of Marcelo's head. What a total partnership, that can tell a story like this.

There was other splendid dancing, and the return of Gelsey Kirkland to the stage. But all that was in some other ballet.

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I actually preferred Part first two acts (as traditionally recognized) in her Friday debut, but tonight's Wedding Act was better. Tonight she seemed to be pacing herself more carefully. However, the revelation I found tonight was in the Vision, when Desire supports her pirouette with her ending in backbend, even though he was holding her (apparently) firmly, she escaped him. He would have to work if he was to save and have her.

And boy, did this prince have a lot of saving to do! Stella Abrera's Lilac Fairy, benevolent and way too gentle, was no match for Kirkland's raging and spiteful Carabosse. I had to see Gelsey, and given a choice, this cast most appealed to me, even though many dancers reprised roles I'd seen them in. My emotions at seeing Gelsey back on the Met stage were decidedly mixed, and more wistful -- sad, really -- for all those years of lost potential than gratified by her return. She still has that riveting presence, even in a role that is 180 degrees opposite to those highly perishable heroines that were her stock and trade. For those traditional Carabosse bits that this production has retained, she has (need I say?) set a new standard. Unfortunately, this staging draws also on Madge and Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West. "I'm mellllllllllting!"

The fairies were mostly new, compared to Friday:

  • Sincerity: Riccetto
  • Fervor: Boone
  • Charity: Thomas
  • Joy: Lane
  • Valor: Schulte

As usual, the Draper Academy alumnae, Lane and Boone, were special standouts.

The non-divert diverts were a fleet footed Seo with Piris-Nino as the Cats, Seither & Ribagorda for Red Riding Hood, and Bystrova and Krauchenka for Cinderella. Herman Cornejo's Bluebird again defied the limits of human possibility, the crossing of his thighs in the batterie expressing every tremor from the orchestra pit. Reyes' Florine was very posey tonight -- too static.

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Leigh, perhaps you could share with us some of the 'apoplectic scribbles' that didn't make it into your review?

Because Mary Cargill was already covering the production in detail, it followed that my review would be shorter and concentrate mainly on the dancers - although I didn't really accomplish that. Mary ably covered the details of the production, but I wanted to discuss what I thought was a more endemic problem.

For the hell of it, here are my some of notes, edited down, but mainly as I wrote them. You can guess when I wrote them as a parlor game.

Saccharine Front Scrim

Aerial Entrance - So Disney

Why the Lilac Cloth?

Choreography - Why can't they just do Petipa?

The Lilac Fairy is HOLDING Aurora and cuddling her.

Underrehearsed fairies knocking into each other.

They seemed to take Nureyev's production for inspiration - Fairies joggling Aurora.

None of the changes are improvements in the Fairy variations.

Abrera does something recognizably like the Lopukhov and it is such a relief.

What they don't get is that dance design and metaphor in this ballet IS plot.

The dance design in this may clear up the backstory in their heads but it adds nothing.

WHY are the men dancing in Carabosse's curse?

It's not a KIDDIE ballet.

Carabosse isn't funny.

A Garland Dance that proves that ABT has no idea what a corps does.

Murphy has to negotiate steps in her entrance.

She is a good Aurora. Just so.

MORE TURNS MORE SAUTS DE BASQUES FOR THE GUYS!

The entr'acte renders the vision scene and the Lilac Fairy redundant.

WHERE IS THE LILAC FAIRY?

Does this team hate ballerinas or just the 19th Century classics?

The Panorama that almost wasn't.

Evidently Aurora overslept about 200 years.

The awful habit of additions undercutting the original.

The Bluebird scene is about as useful as giving a backstory to the Peasant Pas.

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Tonight Veronika brought Aurora's partner to the ballet. His name is Tschaikovsky.

Ms. Part entered to some applause from her admirers and smiled happily back. How can one say she is too voluptuous for this role? Aurora is two years and two weeks older than Juliet, for those days an adult.

Actually she's six years and two weeks older, but who's counting?

The stagers need to meet with Tschaikovsky's friend, Vsevolozhsky.

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They should have trusted Tschaikovsky more. He built the drama into the music. Neither the costumes nor the sets upset me more than re-arranging the music and taking out the great set pieces of Petipa from the Vision scene, the Hunt scene and the Awakening scene. And, of course, the best Garland Dance is at NYCB. On the whole, the new production is a big disappointment for me.

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Let's see, that makes it 0 for 2 in the NYC major companies' revival game this season! People have to realize that when you undertake a revival of important-to-history ballets with great choreography from the original source and bomb, you create a sort of basilisk, which poisons even the ground around it.

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Tonight Veronika brought Aurora's partner to the ballet. His name is Tschaikovsky.

Ms. Part entered to some applause from her admirers and smiled happily back. How can one say she is too voluptuous for this role? Aurora is two years and two weeks older than Juliet, for those days an adult.

Actually she's six years and two weeks older, but who's counting?

Juliet is two weeks short of 14:

LADY CAPULET

She's not fourteen.

Nurse

I'll lay fourteen of my teeth,--

And yet, to my teeth be it spoken, I have but four--

She is not fourteen. How long is it now

To Lammas-tide?

LADY CAPULET

A fortnight and odd days.

Nurse

Even or odd, of all days in the year,

Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.

Aurora pricks her finger on her 16th birthday.

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Let's see, that makes it 0 for 2 in the NYC major companies' revival game this season! People have to realize that when you undertake a revival of important-to-history ballets with great choreography from the original source and bomb, you create a sort of basilisk, which poisons even the ground around it.

is this then the "i can do it better and more relevantly and flashier and more quickly and we can leave out all those little bits so the orchestra gets out quickly and we don't have to pay overtime and just maybe if it doesn't bomb i'll be remembered for it" syndrome? better IMHO to do it beautifully and be remembered for that.

Wow I sound stuffy. But it is what I think.

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Hilary Ostlere weighs in with a review in the Financial Times:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c3ad0a3e-1300-11dc...0b5df10621.html

Traditionalists will take issue with American Ballet Theatre's new production of this beloved classic, and with good cause. Much has been altered or abandoned for little reason, except the stated one by artistic director Kevin McKenzie of investing it with a heightened sense of colour and new energy, supplied by a choreographic committee including Gelsey Kirkland, McKenzie and Michael Chernov and unstated others for the Garland Dance and Hunt and Vision scenes.
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What is interesting about performing a classic is that without remaking aspects of the work, the "artistic director" is doing very little artistry. So it appears that the more egotistical will approach a classic and attempt to "revitalize" it as if it has gone limp and is of interest no longer. It's almost as if a museum director has taken to dressing up sculptures with dramatic or colored lights or even clothing on nudes! No one would stand for this!

Last Fall I was in Firenze and walking my sister's dog along the Arno and I saw the beloved Ponte Vecchio was part of a daily continuing light show! Someone had decieded to bath it in a rotating selection of colored light... a la Disney or Times Square. How dreadful! From the next bridge one could (in the past) look at the old bridge and see it as a work of architecture that had survived almost unchanged since before the time of the Medici. Yet someone decided to "revitalize it and give it more color and "energy". This apparently what plagues many ADs in ballet when they approach a classic. It's seems to be just too "demeaning" to them to reprise a perfect rendition of a classic without leaving their mark on it.

Classical music requires that the conductor rather faithfully follow the score, although I suppose they can add more instrumentalists or use fewer when they are not available. They can play with the tempi and the dymanics to some extent but not the way the ADs at ballet are doing. Look at the disaster of Romeo and Juliet at the NYCB. Rather than respect the classic... the ADs use it as a skeleton to build their own vision.

This is, of course, fine and dandy, but perhaps we should no longer be expecting fidelity to classics in ballet. There seems to be some underlying pressure to make ballet "modern" or something new and worth seeing. But this ignores the fact that we love to go see our favorite paintings again and again and expect them to be exactly as they were when we last saw them. Repeated viewings allows us to see more and more nuance... and this is what the ADs are missing when the disregard classically faithful productions... that the audience will see something new each time they see something old.

If no one preserves the classics... ballet will become a shadow of what it was... and it will become some sort of modern dance with classical steps en pointe. Can't we have a mix? Some perfectly preserved ballets and some new ones... even in the same company?

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>There seems to be some underlying pressure to make ballet "modern" or something new and

>worth seeing. But this ignores the fact that we love to go see our favorite paintings again

>and again and expect them to be exactly as they were when we last saw them. Repeated

>viewings allows us to see more and more nuance... and this is what the ADs are missing when

>the disregard classically faithful productions... that the audience will see something new each

>time they see something old.

It is the AD's job to update, to an extent, with great taste....., keeping the old favorites alive. Ballet is not at all like looking at paintings. Ballet is a living Art and deserves a new dress, hairdo, etc., or new choreography now and then. The dancers change with every generation and so does the art form. Even the old classics need *some* updating from time to time. The problems begin when there isn't a **good** AD to do the necessary work, a person who has the great taste and the imagination to do it well.

We've been so spoiled by the genius and fine taste of Balanchine....

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