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REVIEWS: The Sleeping Beauty


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Saturday eve, June 9, 2007

From misery to admiration

Paloma Hererra had the unenviable task of replacing the ill Diana Vishneva. Strange, when Aurora enters, she has no friends among the young people. In NYCB's production Aurora has tons of them. But of course there they probably really are. It takes a school. Paloma pulled off the Rose Adagio without a hitch. For the first time I saw the costumes of the four nerds (no disrespect to the poor dancers, I refer to the characters that replace the princes of earlier versions). Unbelievable. But in all the casts I've seen they get the balancing job done (all four dancers were replaced, I guess each ballerina has her own quartet).

There was a very long delay at intermission. Obviously an injury. Turned out to be Gelsey Kirkland.

Angel Corella made the most of the Vision Scene. Plenty of charisma in the earlier part (he may at times sacrifice perfection in order to deliver the expected virtuosity, but his deepening interpretation is more than compensation). Paloma continued her very committed performance with an intensely focused Vision Scene, with Angel very powerful and ardent. I now really look forward to his Swan Lake with Nina Ballerina.

Their Grand PdD featured especially all-out fish dives. There's nothing like a long-term partnership, yet these seem fairly infrequent these days. Sarah Lane really lit up the place as Florine. A company that believed in itself enough to grow its future would have given us the likes of her as Aurora.

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6/9/07

Saturday afternoon, I only watched Hallberg's violin solo then the Bluebird pas with Hee Seo and Radetsky. Hallberg is a Prince if there ever was one with the most beautiful male dancing I've seen in awhile from a tall guy. Handsome, elegant, romantic and moving beyond words with a solid, poetic technique.

Wanted to love Hee Seo as Florine.... her big extensions were very striking but she performed more as a future Lilac Fairy type. Her jumps were weak but her presence was mature and womanly pretty. Radetsky, as Bluebird, had many amazing jumps in his solos but he seemed overall forced and without joy in the creation of his role.

Maria Riccetto has never much appealed to me though she has lovely lines. As Lilac Fairy, Riccetto just doesn't have the acting or the womanly presence to carry such a role.

I almost left the theater Saturday night, when I found out Diana Vishneva cancelled, but I was happy I stayed -- to love again Gelsey's performance in Carabosse. She's always so fascinating and so committed to whatever role she takes on. Just brilliant and interesting to watch Gelsey's great artistry... I hope nothing too serious happened to her.... Gelsey seemed fine through the entire first half...though I was terribly worried every time one of those firecrackers with smoke exploded around her entrances/exits. Those effects seemed unnecessarily dangerous for any dancer to be near...

And then another surprise to find Sarah Lane as the evening's Florine which was back to her radiant, lovely, gorgeously technical self. And yes, agreeing with drb, Sarah was very much looking ready for "Aurora"....

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There was a very long delay at intermission. Obviously an injury. Turned out to be Gelsey Kirkland.
Deja vu all over again.

Who took over?

as a sort of devil's advocate, however, i must point out that it could be as simple as what sounds like a lot of complicated and potentially risky bits of stage business as well as a 54-year-old performer who has not been on stage in over 20 years.

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That's one reason why the role was created by Enrico Cecchetti. In addition to a ride in a carriage made from a wheelbarrow, the part has a lot of stamping and violent movements. There are lots of opportunities for a dancer to get injured in what a lot of people simply dismiss as "another mime role".

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Two major ballerinas cancel out of MacKenzie's dreadful Sleeping Beauty due to illness or injury, and yet both are still scheduled to dance next week. A former prima in a character role ducks out at intermission. Should Page Six of the Post investigate for back stage drama?

Paloma was very, very lovely last night. She was a believable 16 year old of extraordinary grace and modesty. Her joyfulness of dancing with Corella was sincere, and the two of them were as harmonious as the music. From a technique standpoint, Paloma was underemployed, but she did not try to force entertainment into the performance with technical stunts that have no place in Petipa. She and Corella seemed very relaxed and motivated by the music. Last night we saw a very musical Paloma.

I had some mixed feelings about the Lane/Lopez Bluebird. She had technique to burn last night, but the quality of movement was overly bold - more like Kitri than a bluebird - even though she was wearing the worst possible bluebirdish eyeshadow. Lopez had neither height of jump nor speed nor turning facility for this part.

When they announced that Gelsey was being replaced by Kristi Boone, I was a bit unhappy, because Kristi was blowing me away with her Fairy of Fervor. Those legs remind me of Cynthia Gregory's, and Kristi's got the stability and unforced energy as well. Yuriko Kajiya stepped in for her at intermission, and no one can complain about that. She's exquisite, but very different from Kristi. Melissa Thomas was a cool, classical beauty as the Fairy of Charity. I remember her as Moyna in Giselle a few seasons back. A very pretty, unaffected dancer.

Just in case Page Six misses this - at intermission last night, the oboist was loudly practicing the theme song from Jesus Christ Superstar. Could that be next year's new production?

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I managed to get back from my business trip just in time to drop my bags off at home and run up to the Met for Vishneva's second ABT Aurora, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to hear of her "illness". I guess it was just as well, I still cherish the memory of the astounding Aurora I saw from her when the Kirov toured the Sergeyev version. Better to keep that picture in my mind than to replace it with a tentative outing.

All in all, I was glad for the choice of replacements. Miss Hererra won me over last night. Her first Aurora at the Sat matinee was very good, but this one was really beautiful. She was charming, modest, sweet – a pearl of an Aurora rather than the blazing radiance of a Vishneva. She was secure enough with the technical demands of the role to throw them off as though they were nothing – and gave us a wonderful, appropriate reading of the character & the story. Her interactions with the suitors, her family and eventually her true prince were all perfectly delineated, all while she was tossing off heart stopping balances & jetes, delicate hops on pointe, etc. All of this with perfectly coordinated flow through the torso and beautiful epaulment - the lack of which has often plagued her in the past. After a great Rose Adagio I thought she'd lack mystery in the vision scene but I was wrong – she gave us all 3 acts, all danced well and each one characterized just right. Damn, the last thing I needed was another ballerina I'll want to see in every production at ABT!

I loved Kirkland as Carabosse – she was much less campy than van Hamel. susibee described her perfectly – her Carabosse was no joke – this was the ruins of a beautiful, powerful fairy pushed over the edge and dead serious about extracting her revenge.

There were so many excellent performances, I'll just single out Hee Seo as the fairy of sincerity and Melissa Thomas as charity. Also Abrera's Lilac has grown much more expansive since her first outing and Lane's Florine was just as delicate and magical as I remembered. I haven't mentioned Corella, he has been dancing wonderfully this season. Aside from his own bravura take on Prince Desire, he and Paloma have great chemistry together. In the last act you really sensed their delight each time they looked at each other and knew that that they would live happily ever after.

After a week away from it I've looked at this production with fresh eyes and I don't think it's nearly as bad as I did at first. My first reaction to it was colored by anger at McKenzie & co for messing up an opportunity to give us a truly great staging of Sleeping Beauty – and dumbing down yet another great classic. This is not a great staging (in comparison to the Kirov, Royal or even NYCB) but it's not horrible, either – it presents most of the Petipa well and the dancing is beautiful. This is no small feat and I think a lot of credit should go to the coaches. While NYCB's staging is cleaner and more dramatically cohesive, their style of the dancing is so wrong in this that it's hard for me to watch it (not saying they aren't great dancers – they are fantastic, but they're not coached to dance in the classic Petipa style). Last night I went with a friend who absolutely loved the production, she had no problem with any of the embellishments. I'd be happier with less glitter on the tutus, but the only costumes that really bother me are the yellow & turquoise get ups for the villagers and the last act courtiers' costumes. I could live without the "river of tears" addition, but they're not likely to change that and seriously – unless you read the synopsis you have no idea what's going on with that anyway. I think that banishing the King & Queen is a mistake, but if they'd just jettison the whole Prince caught in the spider web concept and lose some of the smoke & pyrotechnics it would be a much better production. And that would give them back enough time to give us back the 4th act divertissements.

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6/8/07: Dvorovenko, Beloserkovsky, Kirkland, Wiles etc.

I made what ended up being a 5 hour (!!) drive to the city -- normally 3 -- to see friday evening's performance with a friend of mine. I really wanted to see Gelsey Kirkland -- really really really -- and she was fantastic!! Her miming sequence in the prologue was the best I've ever seen, and her committment to each of the movements she was performing made for a really strong characterization, as expected.

Since everyone has commented a lot about the "production" itself -- and what a production it is... -- I'll comment a bit on the dancing. Michele Wiles was better than I expected, still not one of my favorites, but definitely watchable. The rest of the fairies bothered me immensely during their variations, but not when dancing as an ensemble. The reason for this is that it seemed as though they were coached to remove any trace of gracefulness from their movement at all; this is fine as a way to create dynamics within a variation by singling out a few steps to be accented, but for the whole thing to be a spastic, jerky exercise completely lacking any artistry or softness is a different issue. I thought Riccetto must have been either injured or not completely warmed up (she was the first out and seemed kind of stiff) but then Schulte followed with a truly bizarre-looking turning sequence and similarly stiff movement, Reyes looked like she was going to give herself whiplash during her hops on pointe because there was no softening of her knee at all, Fang almost overdid the whole bird-fluttering thing and everyone seemed to love it but I thought it looked goofy, and Copeland looked like she was mad at the audience and everyone on stage (maybe she was...) and stomped through her variation. The movement quality was SO distracting. But, when these solo fairies gathered with everyone to dance, they were graceful, lush, beautiful dancers like we've come to expect and enjoy...so I don't know what was going on. I've performed these variations before and have never been given direction as they must have had, nor have i seen them performed similarly anywhere else. Any ideas on what was happening??

Dvorovenko had the same expression on her face throughout the entire ballet, which is a loooong time to be smiling so brightly. But she's beautiful anyway, even though she's not one of my favorites. She almost fell backward out of her first rose balance but then seemed to pull it together even though she never really balanced...but that's ok. It's so evil to make this sequence the first big thing aurora does on stage (PS -- those prince costumes -- haha!!) I felt there was very little character development from Dvorovenko throughout the ballet -- it was always the same movement quality, expression, energy...I enjoyed Max's performance a lot more, though he looked distinctly uncomfortable lying onstage during the vision scene...twice (and being immersed in stage fog is never fun...it can make one rather loopy.) Grand pas was good, the fish-dives went fine, but I think the opening develope/bend-backward-until-your-head-touches-the-back-of-your-knee for Aurora is probably the hardest part of that whole bit.

Speaking of, I could do without the entire vision scene -- as someone else mentioned, the story makes no sense the way they staged it here. Hee Seo in the corps though -- what a beautiful dancer!

By the time the third act rolled around, I was almost glad the divertissements were cut -- the production was seriously dragging. That was until I saw Kristi Boone as white cat -- HOLY COW! That girl is gorgeous. I hope they give her lots of solo stage time. Abrera was ok as bluebird, her upper body just seemed so stiff...and -- surprising -- I was really impressed by Saveliev as her partner! I've posted about him before -- maybe I just kept catching him on bad days -- but his coda brise voles (however on earth you spell that, I don't speak french so I'm going with the phonetic spelling!) were floating, fluid, and sparkling. Very impressed with him (finally!) Yay!

So...nothing too insightful there, just some observations mostly about performance quality (are these consistent with what you notice about these dancers, or limited to their coaching in this ballet?) There were a lot of goofy elements in this production and even though it was "streamlined" I still felt it was dragging quite a bit...but the little girl sitting next to me LOVED it, and that's what's really important...these are the experiences that make us want to learn how to dance and inspire us to commit years of our lives to this art form so that we can perform and share our passion for dance and beauty with our audience.

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regarding the last perf. of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY: a german visitor who was there said kirkland performed only the first scene and then was replaced. can anyone confirm this and if so, can you say who 'pinch-hit' for her after she became indisposed? was there any reason given for her not continuing?

all observations gratefully accepted.

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regarding the last perf. of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY: a german visitor who was there said kirkland performed only the first scene and then was replaced. can anyone confirm this and if so, can you say who 'pinch-hit' for her after she became indisposed? was there any reason given for her not continuing?

all observations gratefully accepted.

Kirkland was replaced at intermission due to an unspecified injury. Kristi Boone, who had been dancing the Fairy of Fervor stepped in for her, and Yuriko Kajiya replaced Kristi as the fairy. Kristi did very well although it appears she did not get the full treatment as far as face makeup was concerned. She received a very warm response from the audience.

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I saw it again last night with my Girlfriend. Much Much cleaner, the dancers were more relaxed. The tech crew was quieter, the spider web sequence made sense. Less smoke. Dancers were on last night considering it was a double-header.

Word to the NYTimes: Beautty is a classic ballet based on a fairy tale, ABT has made it more colorful and appealing to children. Your reviewers should take that into consideration.

To Haglund, It was announced Gelsey would not perform after the Intermission due to an injury. It may have been the last time she danced on stage. I wonder if she was afraid of the flying by Foy bit.

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Word to the NYTimes: Beautty is a classic ballet based on a fairy tale, ABT has made it more colorful and appealing to children. Your reviewers should take that into consideration.

You know, New York Theater Ballet does wonderful children's versions of the classic ballets. They are shown in small theaters and last about an hour. I don't go to ABT to see a children's ballet, but a great ballet that can also be enjoyed by children - as I did when I was a child.

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Word to the NYTimes: Beautty is a classic ballet based on a fairy tale, ABT has made it more colorful and appealing to children.

The ideal way to do that would have been to leave the Red Riding Hood and Puss 'n' Boots divertissements intact.

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I managed to get back from my business trip just in time to drop my bags off at home and run up to the Met for Vishneva's second ABT Aurora, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to hear of her "illness".

Why? is there any reason to believe she wasn't truly "ill"? This reminds me of the time I had tickets to a matinee of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, starring Vanessa Redgrave. The performance was cancelled, but somehow the actress made a miraculous recovery and performed that evening.

Must've been some bug going around. I bought my ticket expecting to see Vishneva, Hallberg, Cornejo, Reyes, and Kirkland. I saw Herrera, Corella, Lopez, Lane, and 1/2 Kirkland, 1/2 Boone. Disappointed? yes, but with one exception I didn't mind the replacements. Still, maybe it was just my mood, or maybe a number of others in the audience felt the same, but until the Rose Adagio I felt everyone was going through the motions. "We gotta sit through this thing? it got really bad reviews, huh?" (thinks the spectator) "Yeah, we know. We're the ones on stage looking ridiculous in these costumes. At least it's the last night." (thinks the dancer) "Daddy, I can't see!" (says the 4-year-old little girl behind me, often). "Ask the usher for a seat cushion. I'm only 5'8" (thinks Klavier).

But I'm glad the rest of you liked Paloma, 'cause if you hadn't, I would have thought something was seriously amiss with one of us. I don't always respond as emotionally to the dancing as all you balletomanes, but when she took the roses in the coda and held the balances flawlessly, I was starting to feel goosebumps and finally felt glad I came. The applause, which began well before the final cadence, was explosive. Not only did Paloma dance with seeming effortlessness, but she looked and acted the part of an innocent young girl. But then I couldn't help guffawing at that green plaid kilt with the orange hat and the violet boa that poor Patrick Ogle had to wear around his neck. (And he replaced . . . ) It was an oddly schizophrenic experience, loving Paloma's dancing but having a hard time taking the people around her seriously.

Which brings me to Gelsey Kirkland, or at least the portion of Gelsey Kirkland's performance I was able to see. I'm happy to have seen this legend live if only this once, and I remember someone above saying that her performance was not as hammy as Martine von Hamel's. It was quite hammy for me, and I didn't believe this character was evil for a minute. More an old bag lady surrounded by four aliens from outer space. ("Daddy, what are those things?" asks the 4-year-old behind me. Daddy couldn't answer.) Personally I think the hamminess dilutes the sense of evil, and if I were to stage this ballet, I would made Carabosse quite obviously a fairy princess, albeit a fallen one. I would dress her in black, make her very beautiful, but make her cold as ice and not hammy at all. (That's the same way I would want to see Goneril and Regan in King Lear.) Only by avoiding the obvious can one make this character believably malevolent. After intermission, Kristi Boone did what she could, but she can't tear up the stage like Kirkland.

Angel Corella was terrific, both on his own and in his final pas de deux with Herrera. In fact my only real disappointment in the dancing came with Carlos Lopez. He was certainly very good. But Herman Cornejo to me is so transcendent a dancer that I keenly felt his absence. And putting the fairy tale characters on stage without letting them have their solos seems simply perverse. Instead of all the cuts, why not start at 7 and do the score complete? If the Met during opera season can do full-length 4-hour Wagner operas uncut, why can't ABT present this considerably shorter ballet complete? If it's an issue of accommodating the children, ABT can borrow a page from the Met's Magic Flute and present a shorter version for kids, including the fairy-tale divertissements that would be the biggest draw for the youngsters.

Thinking over all these past posts as I took my seat, I didn't know how I'd react to this ill-starred production. I wasn't as bothered by it as some here, but then again I don't have a lot of productions to compare it to. (I was far more critical with NYCB's Romeo and the Hamburg Death in Venice, because I know the source material so well.) But as a production NYCB has a much better designed SB, with a boat that doesn't look like something out of Harry Potter (doubtless the ABT boat is being held for Matthew Bourne for when he creates the Harry Potter ballets). And NYCB has the fairy tales. But ABT has the dancers.

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Miss Herrera won me over last night...... Damn, the last thing I needed was another ballerina I'll want to see in every production at ABT!

Welcome to Paloma's Fan Club!

The last couple years I've been disappointed in performances by Vishneva, Part, and Dvorovenko but I've never been let down by Herrera. She is consistantly good and

always turns in reliably brilliant performances.

She still has that modest quality she had when she was so young and just starting

out with the company. She is secure in her technique and her artistry continues

to grow. If she is blessed with a long career she can become one of the beloved ballerinas of our time, like Jaffe and Ferri. And oh, those gorgeous feet!!!!

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Kirkland was replaced at intermission due to an unspecified injury.
Gelsey Kirkland, returning to American Ballet Theater as a performer after 23 years, suffered a burn to her hand during a performance of “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday night, the company said. Ballet Theater, in a terse statement, did not describe how the burn happened or its seriousness, but appearances by Ms. Kirkland’s character, the evil fairy Carabosse, are accompanied by pyrotechnics. Ballet Theater said Ms. Kirkland had been treated by doctors from the company and the Met and was taken to the emergency room at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital as a precaution. She was treated and released, and returned to work, the company said.

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I managed to get back from my business trip just in time to drop my bags off at home and run up to the Met for Vishneva's second ABT Aurora, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to hear of her "illness".

Why? is there any reason to believe she wasn't truly "ill"?

My apologies for implying that there were reasons other than actual illness for the cancellation of Vishneva's second Aurora. There was no basis for it, other than my own personal hunch which was obviously wrong. Yet another good example of the wisdom of Ballet Talk's no gossip rule...

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My apologies for implying that there were reasons other than actual illness for the cancellation of Vishneva's second Aurora. There was no basis for it, other than my own personal hunch which was obviously wrong. Yet another good example of the wisdom of Ballet Talk's no gossip rule...

I see no reason for you to apologize. It's an open enough secret that a claim "illness" can be a euphemism for all kinds of reasons to cancel, one of which can actually be illness. If I recall correctly, Joseph Volpe admits as much in his recent memoir, when discussing the Battle and Gheorghiu/Alagna skirmishes. What struck me as odd was how four of the announced principals were replaced on a single night. It was understandable that David Hallberg should not have been pressed into duty twice on one day, but he was not listed as "ill." And Gelsey Kirkland's being treated for a burn is entirely credible. As for the rest, I'd say the situation struck me as odd. And I'll leave it at that.

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I asked the people at the ABT what was the reason for Diana bailing out on the Mannon. Her answer was: a cold.

I saild... "a cold... is that enough to hold a performer back?" I would have thought dancers were pretty tough.

No reply.

There have been many substitutions this season at ABT... something must be being passed around. I'm with Klavier... it's odd.

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Oh I don't know. A cold can make you dizzy and fatigued. I'd say it was entirely possible. Look at it this way. If she had gone on and done the performance and not done well, much comment would have been made about it. So she's criticized no matter what she decides to do.

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There's one lollapollooza of a chest cold/bronchitis running around the New York area this season. I can easily believe it capable of knocking down any number of dancers.

The issue may not only be getting through a performance while ill and tired with limited respiration but also handling long and tiring rehearsals with a new partner. If she could just run through a few brief blocking rehearsals with Malakhov and the new Lescaut that might have worked. But having to work in a new partner might be too much.

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Friday, June 8 performance

I couldn't believe that the lights were up behind the "shower curtain". I could see people wandering about and stretching. There were several points in the prologue that just looked as if there were too many people on the stage--either that or they didn't know where they were supposed to be.

I HATE seeing a man as Carabosse. The performances are almostly always OOT, hammy and comical. I can't find any menace at all this type of a performance.

That's interesting because I found Kirkland so hammy and over the top that I was laughing out loud (quietly) :flowers: in spots. She immediately brought to mind a man overplaying the role. While I'm not convinced that they belong in this production, I loved Carabosse's minion's costumes.

Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky danced well. Wiles did not move me.

I was disappointed that they cut several of the variations in the last act. I was also disappointed in Saveliev. He didn't seem to have the stamina for the Bluebird. His jumps markedly lost elevation as his solo progressed, and it seemed to me that he dropped some of the beats towards the end.

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