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ABT City Center - Week Two


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Tuesday, October 30th

Week 2 opened with Baker's Dozen, Sinatra Suite, C to C, and Fancy Free.

Baker's Dozen had a lively cast that included Kristi Boone, Isaac Stappas, Maria Riccetto and Craig Salstein. Unfortunately, the piece looked rather dated and stereotypical Tharp. We've seen so much of the same stuff through the years that her choreographic voice has become mundane in some respects. I really hope that she comes up with some fresh ideas for her premiere this spring at the Met.

Sinatra Suite fell flat for me. This would be such a perfect vehicle for Craig Salstein. His tendency might be to over-act it, but that would be preferable to what I saw tonight.

C to C had a different cast than opening night with a different result. Tonight it was Riccetto, Abrera, Reyes, Radetsky, Hoven and Salstein. Riccetto was more committed to the movement than Julie Kent was. There was much more energy to her movement, clarity and severity to the odd shapes that Elo demands of the dancer. Same with Abrera. Her movement and shapes were cut and sliced and diced and whipped like Chef Ramsey dispatching a contestant on Hell's Kitchen. Phenomenal until she whacked her head on the scaffolding during an exit. Hope all is well there. If she misses her Leaves debut tomorrow night, I will just kill myself. Radetsky, like Gomes previously, gave a wonderful performance. With C to C, you have to just go with it without too much thinking, and you can make it enjoyable.

Fancy Free with Carreno, Hallberg, Salstein, Herrera and Murphy was enjoyable as always. Hearing an orchestra, after the previous two-thirds of the program was piano and recorded music, was a relief.

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I found the Fancy Free utterly flat, with the exception of Carreno's solo as the Third Sailor. Much as I love Hallberg (Second Sailor), this jazzy style eludes him. No chemistry between him and Murphy. Salstein, who had already given all he's got in Baker's Dozen and Sinatra Suite, drew on the temptation to hammify. Whose brilliant idea was it to put Craig in three ballets in one night, anyway? And I can't fault the dancers if they failed to reach the apex the other cast did last week. That was practically revelatory.

I thought Gomes was absolutely astonishing in Sinatra -- or as Sinatra, at least Tharp's imagining of him. He created a whole world, full of contradictory emotions, up there on that stage, with nothing but his body, Sinatra's singing and a two-note partner. Paris danced well enough, but she did not inhabit the same emotional space as Gomes.

Baker's Dozen can probably use some tightening. Again, ABT's dancers benefited from Barbara Bilach's excellent pianism. Michele Wiles tends to be too stiff in the shoulders, never quite hitting the Tharp slouch, but she understands the idiom and invested it with her wit and musicality. Misty Copeland was delightfully sassy, and Julio Bragado-Young warmly charming. I like Simone Messmer's short, assymetrical hairstyle.

I agree with those who posted last week that choreography is the weak link in C to C. I don't know about you folks, but the reason I go to ballet is to see good choreography, so I won't be disappointed if it doesn't show up again next year. Or ever.

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Carbro said:

Salstein, who had already given all he's got in Baker's Dozen and Sinatra Suite, drew on the temptation to hammify. Whose brilliant idea was it to put Craig in three ballets in one night, anyway? And I can't fault the dancers if they failed to reach the apex the other cast did last week. That was practically revelatory.

Craig wasn't in Sinatra Suite. It would have been great, if he had been.

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Wednesday, October 31

Oh my.

The Leaves Are Fading was magical this evening. Maybe it was the chemistry of a couple really in love. Maybe it was because they devoted more thought than most do to the different stages of their evolving love for one another. Maybe it was both. Whatever it was, it worked me into some seriously watery eyes.

Abrera was breathtakingly beautiful in this piece. Breathtaking. She wears Dvorak like it was composed for her. No wonder Radetsky would gently shake his head in disbelief of how lucky he was to be dancing with the love of his life tonight. He was in heaven. And danced wonderfully as well. The entire cast was incredible, but special thanks to Kristi Boone, Maria Riccetto, Melissa Thomas, and Roman Zhurbin for creating such beauty and romance.

I nearly went home after this, not wanting to think about anything other than what I'd just seen. But I stayed to see Lubovitch's Meadow with Kent and Gomes. Another superb performance of his contemporary work that makes his own comtemporaries' work this season look like junk. I love this piece.

Seeing that there would be a new cast for From Here On Out, I stayed for that as well. Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns were the leads with a corps of youngsters who haven't danced all that much in contemporary works. Hee Seo was sensational and looks right to do the lead. Melissa Thomas, ballerina-in-the-making, is no contemporary dancer. Nuh uh. It's probably good for her to try, but her upper body, so beautiful in everything else, looked a bit awkward. Boylston and Stearns had that deer-in-the-headlights look for the first several minutes. But then settled down to a rather boring execution of the movement – although there were a few measures of excitement. Maybe these were just first-performance problems which will self correct with more time on stage. But so far, this piece still looks custom made for Paloma who has been the only one able to sustain my minimal interest in it.

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I never cared for "Sinatra Suite". You'll see more impressive dancing at any competition (say, the Manhattan Amateur Classic in January, or the one at Columbia on December 1). Now, it's obviously not the fault of the ABT dancers - it's the choreography.

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Question - the Nov. 1 Times review had a photo of Bakers Dozen with the caption -- From left, Jeffrey Golladay, Maria Riccetto and Kristi Boone in “Baker’s Dozen.

That can't be right -- If this has been covered on this board I apologize.

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I saw the first two performances of Fall River Legend, and was somewhat disappointed in both Kent and Murphy. Most of the rest of the cast was first rate.

Neither Kent nor Murphy conveyed the anger, hurt, resentment, and torment felt by The Accused. Rather, they looked like they were trying to adapt Giselle's mad scene to make it de Milleian. It looked odd. Both of them looked like they were acting for camera rather than theater. A little excess would have been better.

Georgina Parkinson and Roman Zhurban as the stepmother and father were very good on opening night and were able to convey why The Accused should have had an ax to grind with them, so to speak.

I wonder why they didn't give Jennifer Alexander a whack at this. Also, Xiomara Reyes might have brought more to the role as well.

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ABT Sat. 11/3 matinee: Baker's Dozen, Sinatra Suite, Leaves Are Fading, From Here on Out

It's been SO long since I've seen Baker's Dozen. I remembered the Tharpian slouch, speed, humor and, as usual, the contrast between her 'natural' idiom of moves and the classical technique interspersed. So it was nice to see ABT try it, and yes I remember Craig Salstein, who seemed to truly enjoy his brief solo, and be most comfortable performing it. Also, for someone who can be so cool and collected in classical pieces, it was nice to see Michele Wiles 'cut loose' and even emote a little in this work's pdd, and last year's "In the Upper Room".

Ah "Sinatra Suite", as I've posted before, I have a history with this work, with VERY strong memories of it's originators dancing it. Last year I saw all 4 male leads dance it, and each brought something (or forgot something) different in it. This time, it was only Herman Cornejo and Misty Copeland (who was injured last year, and unable to perform it at CC--I did see her do it in London last February.) Personally, I felt this time like those patients who have their right & left brains' connection split to relieve epilepsy. My left brain kept telling me that Cornejo and Copeland were doing each step very correctly, in most cases beautifully correctly, in one case inspiringly correctly...but...my right brain was squirming uncomfortable because it all seemed to be danced in slo-mo, CHUNKILY (ie. contained sequences of steps, pause, followed by another sequence of steps), in short: There was still no fluidity/musicality?/FLOW between or through it. Where was that sort of snazzy slink I remember so well? Or the snap in the songs other than "That's Life'? How could it be danced so perfectly on a technical level, but feel 'put together' step-by-step, rather than just 'gliding' thru it? I don't think it's something that can be taught, it has to be felt, so maybe everyone just needs more comfort in the role to relax?

None of the women has gotten that develope en avant-into-fouette-to (2nd?) arabesque right yet, or the pop-up on the full-split. And none of the men, that almost full stage slide Mischa used to do AND time to slow down with the music. Ditto the changed speed mid pirouette. But Herman did almost hit the floor before the fouette into 4th arabesque with fist to sky. So all in all, it is definately improved since last year, but I still missed some who performed it then.

I hadn't seen "Leaves are Fading" live in 20 years! I am so glad it is back, and that I saw it. Stella Abrera was as mentioned previously by others, "breathtaking" exquisitely perfect, and better than Julie Kent who danced the central pdd with Marcelo Gomes. I love Julie and her line, but this time it was Abrera who shown as soon as she made her entrance. Michele Wiles and Alex Hammoudi also made an interesting couple in their pdd, if not quite the innate comfort with the 'breath of phrasing' that is so required in this work. Please don't mothball it again, ABT! But rather, make it a centerpoint in a Tudor retrospective in his 2008 memorial year.

Maybe a lack of sleep last week finally made itself apparent during the final work, but it was hard for me to really pay attention. I saw some things that were interesting, and some things that were reminiscent of others--a little Balanchine, a little Forsythe, a little Wheeldon even (and actually wished I saw more of him)-- but would really need to see this again when I was more awake, or more focused, or maybe could appreciate it more than a kind of bland "okay...but" reaction.

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SEASON HIGHLIGHT

A truly powerful performance today by Michele Wiles in Fall River Legend. Jaw clenched, lips quivering, teeth bared, nostrils flared, eyes beaded, brows rippling. Trembling in terror and barely able to breath after the deed. A tortured soul, impossibly hurt, no mend in sight. The old folks deserved their whacks today. Brava, Michele. Brava.

Isaac Stappas was tremendous as the pastor with some very confident and polished acting and dancing. One problem -- he's just too hot to believe that he has an ounce of minister in him. Mmmmm, maybe one of those ministers who always gets into trouble.

This is the performance that ABT should take across America.

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SEASON HIGHLIGHT

A truly powerful performance today by Michele Wiles in Fall River Legend. Jaw clenched, lips quivering, teeth bared, nostrils flared, eyes beaded, brows rippling. Trembling in terror and barely able to breath after the deed. A tortured soul, impossibly hurt, no mend in sight. The old folks deserved their whacks today. Brava, Michele. Brava.

Isaac Stappas was tremendous as the pastor with some very confident and polished acting and dancing. One problem -- he's just too hot to believe that he has an ounce of minister in him. Mmmmm, maybe one of those ministers who always gets into trouble.

This is the performance that ABT should take across America.

How was the Cornejo-Kajiya Ballo...?

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How was the Cornejo-Kajiya Ballo...?

The first few moments of Ballo were both promising and horrifying. Kayjia began with some beautiful phrasing like we've not seen before. Then the partnering proved to be too much for Cornejo. Watching somewhat from the side, it appeared that his mistakes were nearly always that he expected his partner not to need a partner and that he was there just in the unlikely event that she couldn't be on balance 101% of the time. Add to that his inability to keep her on balance during a simple promenade. Add to that the smallness of the City Center stage resulting in Cornejo looking like he was half-sizing some of the jumps. Kayjia had some wonderful moments during her solos when she was being Kayjia. When she started intentionally flailing her arms and wrists around uncharacteristically (I guess in order to capture the style), she looked like a 14 year old student.

The other piece on the program was From Here On Out. It sounded like the music, particularly the first few minutes, was speedier than I'd heard during the previous four performances. An improvement. Paloma held nothing back yesterday afternoon and has discovered a few moments in choreography that she can emphasize to make it worth watching. There is a stunning moment when she is being whirled around Gomes's body and suddenly comes to a dead stop suspended at his side, facing the audience, leg and foot in one of her beautiful extensions. She just holds it there motionlessly. A made-for-Paloma moment, if ever there was one. I think that the key to this piece is that the dancers have to find what's good and emphasize it and breeze through what isn't. That is definitely in process.

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I guess Hagland and I were at different performances Sunday afternoon...ha! I loved the soft romanticism that Yuriko Kajiya brought to 'Ballo'; I always felt the ballet was only about technique but she showed us a whole new side of it. And since I am in the process of reading the Kavanaugh/Nureyev bio it was so gratifying to see Cornejo's beautiful pirouettes...a high retire way up on 3/4 toe. I am already looking forward to his Albrecht. I thought the central PDD of "From Here On Out' was the most successful part of the ballet, due in a large part by the performance of Herrera and Gomes. They made the choreography look a lot better than it deserved. 'Fall River Legend' looked very dated to me, or perhaps because I can still remember Nora Kaye's performance---her anguish was felt from the depths of her solar plexus and I saw nothing of that from Wiles, or last year from Murphy (in 'Pillar of Fire').....we just are not nurturing dramatic ballerinas anymore.

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As for Xiomara in Fall River: Xiomara? As an axe murderer? Reminds me of Jeff Foxworthy’s story about his friend asking him if he minded if the friend asked out Foxworthy’s former girlfriend. Foxworthy said, "Don't you remember me telling you how she chased me around a parking lot with a butcher knife? "And the friend says, "Yeah, but she's really cute."

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I thought Sunday matinee's performance of Ballo was beautifully performed by Cornejo and uncomfortably ok for Kajiya. There were a couple of small partnering sections that seemed a little shakey... but Ballo is all about their solos. And there Cornejo succeeded beyond expectations for a first debut. He was in full power with a mature, sensual beauty while at the same time looking fresh and exciting.

Kajiya, and the other females I saw this season in the leads of Ballo, were strong but they just didn't have the ballerina beauty and presence to command this ballet.

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As for Xiomara in Fall River: Xiomara? As an axe murderer? Reminds me of Jeff Foxworthy’s story about his friend asking him if he minded if the friend asked out Foxworthy’s former girlfriend. Foxworthy said, “Don’t you remember me telling you how she chased me around a parking lot with a butcher knife?” And the friend says, “Yeah, but she’s really cute.”

Xiomara would make a sweet, baby-faced ax murderer. Alessandra Ferri had the role for a number of seasons. It would definitely be scary.

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If this is the photo:

Front row: Sarawanee Tanatanit, Michele Wiles, not sure.

Second row: ??? (obscured, but possibly Riccetto) , Craig Salstein, Julio Bragado-Young

Front row is as you said, Sarawanee and Michele Wiles, along with Tom Forster (far right)

Back row is Stella Abrera or Yuriko Kajiya (both brunettes on the programme that evening) then definately Jeff Golladay and Julio Bragado-Young.

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