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Oh alright, carbro. I'll bite.

Saw it Tuesday with Murphy/Hallberg. It's even worse than I remembered. Murphy danced strongly and vibrantly. She's fun to watch but she has no fragility, vulnerability, pathos in her. She was a remarkable Juliet in that she made her strength, independence and feistiness work in that role, but this production has zero choreographic inspiration for her to work with; lyric passages are constantly interrupted by vulgar comic shtick; the Fairy Godmother has no magic and neither does the production. The only almost-magical moment is Cinderella arriving at the ball, being lowered in that beautiful pumpkin coach in a divine coat. But even that entrance is preceded by such stage busy-ness that it's anti-climactic.

Last year I saw Kent, Murphy and Reyes. The only one who made the dreary thing work was Reyes, with her sweetness, gentleness and purity, plus all those qualities listed which Murphy's Cinderella lacked. The Wicked Stepmother needs van Hamel's ditsy diva quality; the "falling down" stepsister needs Erica Cornejo's exuberant and zany performance. Without them the "comedy" is distasteful.

But then there was David Hallberg. What can one say? He's worth the trip. His line, his legs, his feet, his arms, his turns, his jumps, his beats, his nobility, his musicality, his charm, his wit - what a dancer! He is now a full-grown artist.

What a pleasure to have followed his career from the corps to now. It doesn't always turn out so well. So gloriously.

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I saw Kent and Gomes on Monday night. They were wonderful, but Kudelka's ballet is not worth talking about.

A great precis of Macaulay's review in today's Times, Farrell Fan. If august Alastair were ever to find himself under length restrictions a la Clive Barnes at the Post, you've given him his model!

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Stella Abrera came through with flying colors at today's matinee - with the help of a boyishly handsome Prince Charming, Guillaume Cote. Flowing, expansive, light, modest, and above all lyrical - Abrera was a delightful Cinderella who simply worked her butt off every day for a dozen years and, with no complaining or grand expectations, lived patiently and accepted whatever good fortune came her way. Typecasting, for sure. Mr. Cote, besides being one gorgeous classical dancer, was a generous partner who manuevered Abrera above his head and around his shoulders like they had been dancing together for a long, long time. There are a lot of difficult acrobatic lifts and poses in Act III, and they all appeared to work flawlessly. A couple of the supported pirouettes were a little off, but that was the extent of any awkwardness in the performance. The efficiency of Cote's movement and coordination reminded me of Wes Chapman - the early version of Chapman, not the version in today's performance as the stalking and interfering photographer. The stepsisters, Jackie Reyes (w/glasses) and Simone Messmer, were less physical and not as over-the-top as last year's casts. These were very big opportunities for these two dancers, and I'd say each scored a success and can be expected to be much more engaged in future performances. If I hadn't seen Erica Cornejo and Carmen Corella last year, and if I hadn't seen all of the jokes already, I might have thought that they were funnier. I think in this production, all of the jokes only really work on the first viewing unless the dancers are allowed to improvise and make them their own.

Sarah Lane, Marian Butler, Adrienne Schlte, and Kristi Boone were Blossom, Petal, Moss, and Twig, respectively. All danced very well, but each was under-employed by the choreography.

This Cinderella is a novelty piece that is okay the first time around but not good for subsequent viewings, mostly because it really doesn't capture any of the magic of the fairytale. That said, I'm returning tomorrow night and Saturday to gauge Abrera's progress in the role and to get another glimpse of Cote.

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Well, Cote could REALLY help put over anything by Kudelka. He's a beautiful dancer, modest, elegant, noble, AND he comes from the National Ballet of Canada and has had Kudelka create works on him -- so he understands the style very deeply.

I haven't seen this Cinderella, but I DO remember seeing how the right dancer could make me really see value in works of Kudelka's I thought were hopeless -- in particular, Eric Hoisington bought the house down dancing like a Rodin statue come to life in Kudelka's setting of a colossal Brahms symphony for the San Francisco Ballet. Tone was everything for that (and stamina -- Hoisington started out at a superheroic pitch and built on that. Unbelievable.)

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Thank you very much for your review, Haglund’s! I almost fell out of my seat when I read that she would be dancing the lead in this ballet (replacing Xiomara Reyes) – she is one of my absolute favorite ABT dancers. I have been sending mental notes to Kevin McKenzie to cast her in the lead for a full-length ballet ever since I first saw her dance about four or five years ago.

I didn’t think I would make it to ABT’s Met season at all this year, but now I am incredibly tempted to buy a ticket to the Saturday evening performance. However, based on the general reviews for “Cinderella” on this board, I’m not sure a ticket to the ballet (plus the time and money I would have to spend to get to NYC from Pittsburgh) would be worth it. Still, it’s Stella (and Guillome Cote, whom I have yet to see but hear good things about)….

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After tonight's performance, the second of Abrera and Cote, all I can say is that anyone who misses their final performance Saturday evening, well, it's your loss. Of course, all was helped this evening by a supporting cast of Carmen Corella, Marian Butler, Craig Salstein, Isaac Stappas, Kirk Peterson and the most believable fairy godmother, Susan Jones. Abrera was exquisite. Cote was ooh-la-la. It would be nice if he could be her first Albrecht - perhaps next year?

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Friday, July 6, 2007

For the children

Were one to awaken into an Alastairian dreamscape, tonight's cast of Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg would have danced Sir Fred Ashton's Cendrillon. Had that been so, Ms. Murphy, alone among ABT's home-team of principal ballerinas, would have attracted me to the performance. Most of the major companies of the world have ballerinas aplenty with the chops to do due justice to Ashton's sublime masterpiece, but ABT's emphasis on male virtuosity would count for little in that version. For Kudelka it counts a lot.

For an evening performance of a three-acter, there were lots of kids in the audience and it says something, I'm not quite sure what, about this Cinders that the those kids were about as important to the production as the corps is to Petipa. In Act 1 I just enjoyed Gillian's spontaneity and her sparkling barefoot dancing. Maria Riccetto (with Carlos Lopez) had the more advantageous role as the myopic sister. Kristi Boone (with Roman Zhurbin) was the blonde bombshell one: why shouldn't she look great, after all she's just been promoted! This has turned out to be a special season for young Mr. Zhurbin, beginning with his impressive debut as Bayadere's High Brahmin. He really puts himself inside his character's skin, real emotional involvement, and looks big enough to become a substantial partner. Someone to watch.

As the lights lowered before Act 2 the kids began to clap, here, then there, then in unison with the oldsters for conductor David LaMarche, then each wanted to get in the last clap: sort of like the closing pops of a batch popcorn. But they did stop in time for the ballet to go on. While, yes, there is too much trivia going on as Spaceship Pumpkin alights, it is a fun entrance for the kids, even though Gillian is worthy of THE entrance, down Ashton's stairs. When Ms. Murphy doffs her cape to reveal her pretty-in-pink considerable charms, it is greatly to David Hallberg's credit that he takes off into his iconic grand jetes, some of astonishing elevation, while at the same time looking like a man who's knees have turned to jelly, such beauty he's just seen. As they dance together, Big Red's plasticity further engulfs him. He flicks his hand and circles it above 'round her head. She reaches her hand to touch her neck, as if awakening to the breeze she's just felt there from his. Maybe Kudelka isn't telling a story about a royal, but Mr. Hallberg has been won, and his gift to Cinders, and to us, is that Bruhn-like classical purity, on David's own grand scale, a True Prince. On a lone stage dancing together as Prokofiev swells with love, she is so melted into a timeless moment that she neglects the time. Suddenly there she is, in her pink slip, shorn of gown and one sparkling slipper. There's no way he's not going to find her.

The second intermission seemed a bit much for a lone father with three young daughters sitting next to me. Three entirely different children took their seats, sans adult. As the lights began to dim, kids throughout the theater began their clapping fun again. But more vocally, too, and as Mr. LaMarche appeared there was a torrent of cheers and squeals. The conductor may have looked just a little sheepish, but I'd bet that he's going to have happy memories of tonight for a very long time. Fading to that popping corn... The new kids next to me did talk on occassion, but it wasn't the talk of boredom, they were into it, having fun. And since it wasn't Ashton, well, why not? Is it possible that there was some audience building going on tonight? There was a scene in a shoestore (unfortunately they didn't deal in sparkly pointes), and one of the clerks was Luis Ribagorda. How nice to see Sarah Lane's future husband! (See the recent thread on her Time Out interview.) In the wedding scene, Fairy Godmother Georgina Parkinson waves away all the kitchen set except the fireplace. So, we're in Gillian's garden. It is, obviously, just past Halloween, and Gillian enters with her tatters replaced by a nice print Fall dress, David in white with tie and suspenders. The kids get excited. I switch the binocs off the couple and see why. There's a fire in the fireplace! Tonight Ms. Murphy's diagonal of fouettes featured a number of triples! She's given a white veil and he a jacket and they are married. He doesn't mind his inlaws at all.


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I just got back from tonights performance and I was shocked at how amazing Stella was! I saw last night's performance with Gillian as Cinderella, I am a huge fan of Gillian, but Stella did a much better job. Its Stella's time to be made a principal, tonights performance reassured that. She would be an amazing Odette along with an excellent Giselle. The number of female principals seems to be decreasing and Stella would be the perfect addition!

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Abrera scored a slamdunk win with Cinderella tonight. In a production designed to highlight the men, she stole the whole evening with her warmth and superior dancing. The girl's line is endless, and she has this week been sporting an arabesque reminiscent of Kirkland's in its gentle, narrow curve and impressive height. Her lightness in jumps that devoured space was, again, reminiscent of Kirkland's (who was sitting in Orchestra with her husband). Secure pirouettes; beautiful fouettes while waving Cinderella's cleaning rag over her head; gorgeous, breathing balances; so incredibly relaxed dancing with Cote this evening; and 100% committed to the character from the time the curtain went up until it came down for the final time. At curtain bows, she even caught a bouquet with one hand and raised it over her head with a little victory pump of the arm.

Cote, obviously enjoying himself this evening, was seriously suave and brilliant in his jumps. His turns were less spectacular than Thursday and Wednesday, but still pretty darn clean. His partnering of Abrera, who is so much less experienced, was brilliant. He took complete control, left nothing to chance, and just let her enjoy the ride. That she did. Never have I seen such a joyous and warm Abrera. She even gave Cinderella a couple of ditsy moments.

What a great way to end the season by seeing a beautiful dancer in a breakout performance. My only fear is that she might have been so good that they decide to bring this production back next year.

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In Saturday night's performance, Sarah Lane was Blossom, Marian Butler was Petal, Adrienne Schulte was Moss, and Kristi Boone was Twig. If they don't fast-track Kristi Boone to Odette/Odile, we will all miss out on something special. She has a commanding presence and steely strength not unlike Cynthia Gregory's. She's fixed those shoulders that used to ride up and the calmness in her upper body is now the antithesis of what's going on with the legs and feet -- exactly as it should be. Beautiful! Regal!

Stepsisters Jackie Reyes (w/glasses) and Simone Messmer gave stronger performances than Wednesday's. Both sisters worked harder at annoying Cinderella. Craig Salstein was a standout, particularly in his comic interaction with the stepsisters, but with his overall dancing as well. He was also very funny Thursday night as Another Hired Escort for stepsister Marian Butler.

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After being perfectly captivated by Murphy's fantastic technique and Hallberg' perfect Prince Charming on Friday night, I surely thought I had seen THE Cinderella of the season. I was completely unprepared for Abrera's astonishing portrayal on Saturday night. Cote was a tremendous asset in his partnering giving Abrera every opportunity to give the performance of her career. Time to move on to bigger and better roles as a Principal.

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