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ABT - Swan Lake May27 - June 2, 2008


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Swan Lake opened last night to a less than full house - thanks to no marketing by ABT.

Michele Wiles as Odette/Odile was amazing from the hips down with rock steady turns, including a four revolution pique and triple fouettes, but her upper body did not do much to encourage the fantasy. The whole issue is the lack of definition in her arms and shoulders and the lack of lift and strength in the upper arms and elbows. You need all of those things in order to convey a bird like quality and especially Odette's fragility. It's also a problem that is fixable, so why don't they fix it? If they can't do it in the ballet studio, send her to Radetsky's trainer at his gym. This arm problem is the one thing that is keeping us from having another astonishingly beautiful and heartbreaking Odette. Fix it, for Pete's sake.

Hallberg as Prince Sigfried and Gomes as von Rothbart just about outdid themselves last night. I had to laugh in Act I while watching Mr. Franklin, the tutor, watching every step of Hallberg's. Yes, Freddie, some day he will be as great as you were. Hallberg was pretty grand last night - so young and yet such a firm grasp on the heart of the matter. He doesn't venture past four revolutions in his pirouettes, but when he unfolds those legs to a perfect finish, he is beyond beautiful. Gomes played von Rothbart as the son of Satan last night - brilliantly - with such detail and huge dancing. Seeing these two dramatic heavy weights on stage together was fun. McKenzie could tinker with his own choreography in Act III to give them more interaction.

The corps was beautiful last night - breathing as one and completely focused - and were led by our gorgeous big swans Part and Boone.

Radetsky, Kajiya, and Riccetto pulled off an impressive PdT - with Radetsky's sissonnes and tour jetes explosive.

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Michele Wiles as Odette/Odile was amazing from the hips down with rock steady turns, including a four revolution pique and triple fouettes, but her upper body did not do much to encourage the fantasy. The whole issue is the lack of definition in her arms and shoulders and the lack of lift and strength in the upper arms and elbows.

Thanks for the report Haglund's. That's exactly what I remember from the first time I saw Wiles a couple of years ago, and why I haven't gone to see her since. Strong technique and beautiful line are absolute prerequisites for the role but as far as I'm concerned Odette/Odile is as much about the upper body as the lower body. Seeing half of a great performance doesn't interest me.

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When I saw Wiles last year in "Swan Lake" I found her interpretation of Odette rather imposed from outside and artificial. She looked overcoached with carefully placed positions and studied affect. I don't remember any problems with her arms per se. However with dancers like Vishneva and Veronika Part doing Odette, the others do seem to lack something. That Kirov upper body training...

However, her Odile was exciting especially after she slipped during a series of tours and then pulled out all the stops during the coda to show her stuff to the crowd.

Also having seen Veronika and Diana with Marcelo and Angel with Nina A., the rapport between Michele and David H. seemed lacklustre. They look good together but don't strike any sparks or pull out the best in each other. I think maybe next year with Veronika gone, Michele should dance with Marcelo. Then her Odette/Odile might pop with some excitement.

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When I saw Wiles last year in "Swan Lake" I found her interpretation of Odette rather imposed from outside and artificial. She looked overcoached with carefully placed positions and studied affect. I don't remember any problems with her arms per se. However with dancers like Vishneva and Veronika Part doing Odette, the others do seem to lack something. That Kirov upper body training...

However, her Odile was exciting especially after she slipped during a series of tours and then pulled out all the stops during the coda to show her stuff to the crowd.

Also having seen Veronika and Diana with Marcelo and Angel with Nina A., the rapport between Michele and David H. seemed lacklustre. They look good together but don't strike any sparks or pull out the best in each other. I think maybe next year with Veronika gone, Michele should dance with Marcelo. Then her Odette/Odile might pop with some excitement.

I saw Michele do Act III with Acosta some years back, and they were indeed wicked. So, you may be on to something there, FauxPas. The frustration is knowing just how thrilling she could be as Odette if this arm issue could be fixed. That said, arms won't be a problem in Don Q or Etudes in which I'm expecting her to blow us away. Right now, she really is the superior technician at ABT.

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I had to laugh in Act I while watching Mr. Franklin, the tutor, watching every step of Hallberg's. Yes, Freddie, some day he will be as great as you were. Hallberg was pretty grand last night - so young and yet such a firm grasp on the heart of the matter.

Hallberg certainly surpasses 'Freddie' with his beautiful classical line--and feet! If, as you say, that he has a 'firm grasp on the heart of the matter' that is an area where Franklin excelled and I would hope that he is mentoring the young man.

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Unfortunately, pd3 is generally not announced. Seems that first cast this year is Radetsky, Kajiya and Riccetto, so my guess is no, Cornejo is not dancing that role.

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I caught the Wednesday matinee with Herrera, Stiefel, and Saveliev. It’s been a long time, if ever, that I’ve seen Herrera and Stiefel paired in a dramatic classical production, and I didn’t think that either enhanced the other. They were more suited for each other when they were much younger. Paloma has since moved on to a deeper level emotionally with her performing, but Ethan IMO is still skimming the surface with regard to characterization of dramatic roles – although he certainly shines in the more comedic roles like Don Q.

The individual dancing was first rate – everything one expects from these two – but the partnering and connection left something to be desired. Stiefel put her down from a couple of lifts in a rather hard fashion, and while he allowed her sufficient rotations in supported pirouettes, he didn’t push her to brilliant multiples the way Corella, Carreno and Gomes do, and of course, Bocca always did.

Herrera was a touching and fragile Odette, bird-like, and full of sorrow. She really tugged at the heart strings. The exiting bourrees with her back to the audience in Act II were so pretty with every tiny bird muscle in her back rippling. Every step to point was a perfect perch with those exquisitely shaped feet and legs. Her Odile was a temptress who toyed with Sigfried – but Paloma doesn’t do evil.

Stiefel was in fairly fine form yesterday, throwing off pirouettes that were secure with 4 and 5 revolutions. Jumps were clean and bright – not those that someone with his injury history should still have. I’m really looking forward to seeing him in the new Tharp piece.

Saveliev is dancing better than I've ever see before. It’s tough to be compared to the von Rothbart put out there by Gomes or Hallberg, but he managed far more than just a credible characterization with solid dancing.

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Haglund's, who were the P de Trois dancers.Thanks.

Sorry, I forgot to include. Lane, Kajiya and Lopez. (The program had Boylston listed instead of Kajiya.) Ms. Kajiya was her normal wonderful, lyrical self. Ms. Lane was out-of-this-world radiant, fleet fleet fleet, and just beautiful.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nina Ballerina

A couple of months after turning 45 Nina Ananiashvili danced a Dream White Swan Adagio, one that may occupy dreams of people for a very long time, and sets an immense standard for ballerinas who follow her in this role. After her Act II Giselle had dominated the Gala, perhaps this was to be expected. Above all there was a great economy of characterization; her wings were simply a swan's, her expression that of a deep Georgian sadness, she was simply emptied of hope in that prison-body of a bird. The mime, of course, but not a need to act or tell the story, she was just there. Her dancing was a stream; her arms, wings, that had been there so long that they were as natural to the rest of her body as would be arms to the body of a pristinely trained classical ballerina. By being a ballerina, she was a swan. Marcelo Gomes was the perfect pure partner, giving his ballerina the security to grow her freedom. A supported turn: her wings could unfurl freely as rotation was ending, rubato as natural as a breath. While Diana Vishneva's following variations last season perhaps surpassed Nina's in virtuosity, tonight's Adagio was simply ballet's art at its summit. The ovation was immense.

As the Act ended with Rothbart's summoning Odette back into her prison, Nina's masterstroke: Her parting touch of Siegfried's shoulder was that of a human hand in its full freedom and feeling, and that one pure moment of humanity-returned would make all the heartache that was to follow worth the risk. Nina, her back to us, rippled her wings in one very generously long exit.

Her Odile was of course appropriately different. The opening adagio with Mr. Gomes, another high point. Not an experienced partnership, on Monday she is paired with her Angel, here we saw Mr. Marcelo's extraordinary partnering skill. In the many supported spins it was his iron hands, perfectly placed and moving with machine-gun precision, that enabled her dancing to again be one unending stream of art. Her fouettes, she actually dared some triples, perhaps not the speed of Osipova's, but gutsy and she got through it. And obviously had a triumphant feeling! Mr. Gomes was a model of classical intent and execution. David Hallberg's bad guy, now in context, was everything that his opening night variation wasn't, and earned its audience roar. (By the way, in Act I, Gennady Saviliev, as remarked earlier in this thread, has really raised his virtuosity this season. Always so admirably a model of classical style: while his circle of jetes did not show substantial elevation, his final diagonal did, and his return on the diagonal was marked by fine double air turns. Bravo!)

That horrendous example of AD "creativity", Act IV, with those poor ballerinas at the beginning playing frogs on their lilly pads in a swamp pond, one running this way then that, causing them all to rotate 180 degrees on their pads, another three off to who knows where...ugly unclassical movements... But then Nina and Marcelo save it in their parting, only to have that ridiculous apotheosis that breaks the tragedy--and caused a lady behind me to break out in violent laughter (not nice to the audience, but so earned by the brilliant perpetrator of this travesty).

Ovation immense. Many a bouquet of red roses tossed to Nina. Each lead received loud applause, even the normally booed Swamp Thing, tonight Vitali Krauchenka. Nina just made everyone so happy. And not the least, herself. From the formally presented bouquet, not only her worthy Prince received a flower, but also the villains Rothbart and Swampy, and conductor Ormsby Wilkins, and one final one tossed to the orchestra. In a curtain call she sweetly visited the stage right side also, and caught a huge pink bouquet on the fly!

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What a bummer. I completely missed the cast change topic and went in expecting to see Diana Vishneva, but got the geriatric Ananiashvili instead. I think her performance was terribly disappointing, clumsy and sloppy with botched fouettes being its nadir. Gomes barely caught her at the end of the Black pdd, but the way he did it she looked like a kielbasa in his hands.

I'm really upset and have a very bad feeling about the rest of Vishneva performances. She's already not listed for Tharp (thanks goodness I didn't buy tickets for this) and God only knows whether or not she will be able to dance the scheduled Kitri and Giselle.

And what happened to Part? If she also cancels her O/O and Nikyia this ABT season can be written off completely.

Ananiashvili can't cut it for me. And anyway, shouldn't she be retired by now? Gomes looked like he fell in love with his mother :).

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What a bummer. I completely missed the cast change topic and went in expecting to see Diana Vishneva, but got the geriatric Ananiashvili instead. I think her performance was terribly disappointing, clumsy and sloppy with botched fouettes being its nadir. Gomes barely caught her at the end of the Black pdd, but the way he did it she looked like a kielbasa in his hands.

Obviously you and I went to see a completely different ballet. I was very disappointed that Diana was injured, but I thought Nina was spectacular! I agree more with drb - that Adagio was one for the ages.

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I largely agree with drb's review, but would add a few comments. I was disappointed to not see Vishneva perform, but Nina was wonderful as were David and Marcelo. I sense ABT is actually quite upset with Vishneva.

The corps performed both well and poorly. The good work was at the end when they were swans and the weak work was in the scenes such as the May pole. Two of them dropped the ribbons as they danced around it. They also couldn't work as one at times.

I was not thrilled with Ormsby's "interpertation" of some of the more lyrical passages and it felt that he wasn't getting the sweetness from them I expected. I'm not a musician but a few passages just sounded terrible to my ears and the performers seemed to struggle a bit to look lyrical.

I did get the impression that perhaps some more rehearsals could have solved all of the kinks I observed as some of this choreography looks quite intricate to get so much working with precision.

Question to historians here:

Are the headdresses the women wear (not the swan muffs) but the other ones at the court... are these examples of actual items worn at some time in the past in history or are the the creation / design of the costume designer? They looked like gold wire ear muffs with a headband or something.

I don't care about perfect historical accuracy in a fairy tale, but was curious about some of these ""styling choices". Anyone know about these items?

On another note: Rose tossing

A man got himself all the way down to the front of the left aisle (facing the stage) with a supply of stemmed roses which he tossed onto the stage. What struck me is his throwing accuracy and Ms Annaniashvili even managed to catch one bouquet. I would think that rose tossing at a "target" is rather difficult. He was rather good at this.

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First of all, I was there last night. I was not disappointed to see Nina Ananiashvili, she is one of the great ballerinas of the last century and one of the great ones for much of the first decade of this one too! Diana is INJURED, ABT has no reason to be angry with her whatsoever, if they are which they aren't. IT HAPPENS. How long have you been going to the ballet? Dancing on an injured foot has many times seriously aggravated an injury and caused permanent damage. We have many seasons in the future to enjoy Diana but not that many to enjoy Nina even with a few concessions to age. Get over your disappointment over missing your favorite and notice how wonderful some of the choreography, music and other performers are.

Yes, you could see that Nina has lost some power and strength in the lower body. Arabesques weren't as high and balances were at a minimum. The Act II adagio had an understated lyricism and delicacy I hadn't noticed before and was very moving. I thought I saw a kind of "English" quality in this style that was new and delightful and unusual for Nina. NYSusan found Nina's arms "over the top", I just found them ultra-Russian and typical of Nina Ballerina's romantic style. I judged her still a lovely Odette but the Odile is on borrowed time.

The Black Swan PDD had a number of glitches. Marcelo and Nina have danced "Swan Lake" before but not for several years. I think that in the intervening years, Nina has developed a need for more support from her partner that Marcelo didn't know about due to the last-minute substitution without much rehearsal. His partnering was not as flawless and intuitive as it always is. Nina clearly needed to be lifted rather than jump into her supported arabesque backwards leap upward in the pas de deux section of the Black Swan and one of them was botched and she came down hard. Nina's solo as Odile was absolutely gorgeous. In the coda, Nina was trying to slam out some multiples in her old style and really overreached herself. She fell out of the fouette more than a few times and settled for clean singles until she ran out of steam. On Monday, I would suggest she stick to clean, sustained singles all the way through. Plisetskaya and others substituted a tour of piqué turns for the fouettés. Considering that Nina's piqués are still some of the greatest I have ever seen, there would be no dishonor at this point at taking that option if her fouettés aren't what they were. Her last scene was gorgeous and heartbreaking though she doesn't do the big swan dive Marcelo does at the end.

Still the loss of power and virtuosity makes me glad I decided to forego seeing Nina in "Don Quixote" this year though the pairing with Angel intrigued me. I saw a glorious, exuberant performance four years ago with José Manuel Carreno and want to keep that joyous memory unclouded. BTW: Nina's arms were bare and I thought her face, body and arms looked lovely and in fine mature but athletic shape. She by no means looks out of shape, middle-aged and certainly not geriatric. I could see no wrinkles and no sagging flesh. Some loss of power and virtuosity yes, but she still has a lovely message to deliver and the means to deliver it. I look forward to her Giselle.

The other heroine of the evening was Simone Messmer, buoyant and fresh in her pas de trois solo, a super big swan jumping in for Part mid-scene and lovely as the Princess in the ball scene. David Hallberg went from the ultimate danseur noble prince (per Alastair Macauley in the NY Times who seems smitten) to the ultimate sexy devil as the noble Von Rothbart incarnation. He has his trademark beautifully pointed feet and stretched out legs but a feline grace and attack that were new to him and very effective.

BTW: I spoke to several dancers backstage after the performance and received first-hand confirmation from several sources that Veronika Part was suffering from some kind of stomach ailment or bug. She is not injured and is determined not give up Saturday afternoon's "Swan Lake".

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To answer your questions, I am not a dancer but an architect who has been attending ballet for years but only regularly for the last 6 or 7. I am aware that injuries when not treated or left to heal can become worse or permanent. No one wants that to happen. Nor am I saying that Ms Vishneva is not injured.

But to your point, the injury happened more than a month ago supposedly and she went on to perform the dying swan at the Gala WITH an injury. Now this appears on the face to be imprudent and risky as you point out. And it would seem that she should have rested and not appeared in the Gala. But she did and why she did I have no idea nor whose decision this was. But even after the gala ABT did not announce the recent cast change (for last night and did so 72 hours before the performance) because apparently the injury is worse than they thought at first, but they hope to get her on stage for Don Q on the 11th. I hope Ms Vishneva has a full recovery. She has a lot more to give.

Ms Annaniashvili was wonderful and I am thrilled and feel privileged to see her perform

and I thought her arms and hands were extraordinary.

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I bought a ticket to last night’s performance after hearing about the substitution. Ananiashvili opposite Gomes and Hallberg was just too much to pass up. Unfortunately I got stuck on the outside aisle of Orchestra Balance only 4 rows from the stage. So basically, I saw a lot and missed a lot at the same time.

What I saw was Ananiashvili enthralled at performing with both Hallberg and Gomes. The prelude with vonRothbart seducing the young girl was very dramatic. Hallberg’s eyes directed into Ananiashvili’s had a chilling impact, a “this is not pretend, Nina; I am truly evil, and here we go . . .” And then they went.

Nina’s Odette was to die for. All of those details that are so important to creating this fantasy were on display. When she stopped at the end of a series of travelling turns, it was a dead stop with her wings bent over the top of her head – nearly broken. When her hands ‘spoke’ of her mother’s tears filling the lake, you saw the water flowing. Her bourreeing exit with back to the audience was breathtakingly beautiful. The final Act II supported pirouettes with hummingbird quality serrees and final penchee were as dramatic as it gets. I don’t care if she’s eighty years old, this white swan was one that I’ll remember for a long time. I wouldn't say her arms were over the top - they were Bolshoi.

I couldn’t fault Gomes on his partnering last night. He was where he was supposed to be at every second. We don’t know how much rehearsal the two of them had, but the outcome was pretty good, and I doubt that anyone has ever lifted Nina as high as she went last night. In the Act II PdD, Gomes lifted her high and she split those legs and then pulled them back together with even greater speed and force. Thrilling.

Nina’s Odile had some uncharacteristic problems with her fouettes last night. I suspect that all will be redeemed on Monday night. Her overall performance as Odile was the complete package. Again, it was the details. Where Odette was careful, Odile was reckless. Where Odette was shy, Odile was in-your-face. Where Odette was sincere, Odile was deceitful.

Both Gomes and Hallberg had outstanding evenings, and both seemed pretty thrilled to be sharing the stage with Nina. And that Saveliev – where has this Saveliev been hiding from Saveliev all these years? He had a huge PdT with Melissa Thomas and Simone Messmer. This is the first time I’ve seen Thomas in the PdT and she was beautiful, assured, and captivating. And Messmer - last minute cast in a tough PdT and then thrown into the Big Swans mid-dance to replace Part. I hope somebody bought her some flowers or at least a beer last night after the performance. This girl did a great job under some tough circumstances.

One of our future swan princessess was dancing her heart out in the cygnettes. I trained my binocs on Sarah Lane to see this beautiful little face filled with Odette’s soul and arms working like there was no tomorrow.

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SanderO, injuries like torn ligaments can take over a month to heal. One of the visitors backstage last night was Alexandra Ansanelli (who is exquisitely beautiful and incredibly sweet to talk to). Her right foot was in a full cast/brace. She is in New York for at least another three months because she has a serious injury and is taking the time away from the Royal Ballet to spend extended time with her family in New York. However, she won't be dancing for some time. Then there is the real tragedy of Julio Bragado-Young who is walking with a cane, will require another surgery and may never dance again after losing his beautiful wife. After thinking about that, be glad it is only a ligament and that Diana will probably be dancing by the end of June if not July.

The "Dying Swan" is only four minutes long and consists of one step, the bourree. I saw a seventy year-old Maya Plisetskaya perform that ballet. Of course it is difficult requiring sustained footwork but nothing on the level of a complete "Swan Lake" with every step and difficulty imaginable including jumps, fouettés, balances, turning on point in chainés over three long acts. Vishneva may be healing but still in pain when performing pirouettes or balances and in great danger of permanently damaging her ligaments or having her foot fail her precipitating another injury. Diana may not have all her stamina back and can't risk another injury dancing a virtuoso ballerina role. Ms. Vishneva has been a generous and reliable performer and this is the first injury that has seriously impacted a New York season. In last year's Spring season Diana had some infection-type illness that took her out of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Manon" but she returned promptly for the end of the season when recovered. This business of her cancellation and the hand-wringing is ridiculous and tiresome. This is a fact of life in the dance world and happens every season even to our absolute favorites.

In past years I have been deeply disappointed to miss Vladimir Malakhov and Alessandra Ferri's Spring seasons at the Met after waiting a year to see them again. Ethan Stiefel's fans have probably suffered with him when he has missed many seasons recently. I am sure that when Vishneva feels restored and recovered enough to give of her best in a complete virtuoso classical role, and I feel she has the integrity and sense of responsibility to sense that if she cannot do justice to the role she will disappoint herself and her audience, she will dance again with ABT within a few weeks.

Give her some credit for having integrity and professionalism, it was generous of her to dance at the opening night Gala which is a major fund-raising and social event and needs all the star-power it can get to pull in press and big donor money.

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BTW: I spoke to several dancers backstage after the performance and received first-hand confirmation from several sources that Veronika Part was suffering from some kind of stomach ailment or bug. She is not injured and is determined not give up Saturday afternoon's "Swan Lake".

Thanks for that information. Looking forward to Saturday matinee.

Thought Nina was lovely last night. Interesting to see Gomes and Hallberg switch roles from Tuesday night.

Gad, I wish they'd do Blair's or Ashton's ACT IV.

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Throw in the Blair Acts I and III and you have a darned good Swan Lake! (I'll take Blair's IV over Ashton's. A minority opinion, I know, but either beats what we're seeing now.)

I also was very happy to see Nina, whom I'd not seen in this production before. I thought both her O and her O were beautifully rendered. Someone remarked on the strong chemistry between her and Gomes. In her Act II variation, Nina appeared to have trouble with her one-footed releves, and I think this may have been her problem with the fouettes. Tossing in the doubles cut down the number of releves, but she just didn't have the control Thursday night.

Watching Nina, you can't help be aware of the heritage she brings with her. As far as I'm concerned, she brings an artistic insights that come only with maturity.

Marcelo's Siegfried is a young man not quite grown up, an interpretation that I like very much. His ebullience during the Black Swan was endearing, and you could almost imagine him going up to the queen saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I want to marry her!" His mime is nuanced and clear. I've never seen a dancer look more natural while miming. It almost takes on a conversational quality, as it should. And best of all, on the third call following the Act II adagio, he stood at the side of the stage as he presented Nina and bowed slightly to her.

And yes, special kudos to Simone Messmer, so unflappable at being thrown on in mid-role. (sorry) Didn't she also do one of the national dances in Act III?

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NYSusan found Nina's arms "over the top", I just found them ultra-Russian and typical of Nina Ballerina's romantic style. I judged her still a lovely Odette but the Odile is on borrowed time.
I wouldn't say her arms were over the top - they were Bolshoi.

Yes, I did think her arm movements were excessive, but that's just my taste. Although Odette is imprisoned in a swan's body by day I always think of her as as a woman in her scenes with Siegfreid. The struggle to recover her human nature is also an essential element and it's the humanity that matters to me so I dislike an overly swanny or animalistic portrayal. I also think that the constant use of swan arms diminishes their effect and lovely as Nina's arms are I wish she'd tone them down - they'd have more impact for me if used a bit more judiciously. And while her arms are gorgeous I didn’t really feel that their movement was connected to her back in that deep Russian way. But that's my opinion. It’s been about 30 years since my last Bolshoi Swan Lake - I barely recall it but maybe I just don’t like the Bolshoi approach. It’s certainly true that the Kirov Odette/Odile is my favorite, although Fonteyn was my first great O/O the next one was Makarova and current favorites are Pavlenko, Part & Lopatkina.

Anyway, although I didn’t consider the Thurs night performance as one for the ages I do think that Nina, Marcelo & co were very, very good. The act 3 lapses were troubling, but that’s what happens with age & lack of rehearsal time. On the other hand, there were things about Nina’s Odette that were wonderful - her mime in the first lakeside scene brought tears to my eyes and she had many other striking moments but the sum of the parts just didn’t add up to a great SL for me. I will admit that I was distracted by the absence of V Part after the pdd, but I recall not being enthralled by the pdd before I noticed her missing.

I’m going to see Nina with Angel on Monday so this is to be continued...

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So, last night was supposed to be Julie Kent. I open the program and it's Odette Irina D. and Odile Julie Kent.... :devil: that was my reaction! I was not happy and while Irina wasn't bad, she wasn't Julie Kent! Julie Kent seemed a little weak in her variation, though she pulled it off, but the Black Swan Pas was breathtaking! Just gorgeous!

More Later!

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So, last night was supposed to be Julie Kent. I open the program and it's Odette Irina D. and Odile Julie Kent.... :devil: that was my reaction!

That was my reaction, too! If they had to split the role, I would have preferred to see Kent as Odette and Dvorovenko as Odile, but why did they do this in the first place? Anyone have ideas/theories?

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