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ABT - "Etudes" and "Rabbit and Rogue"


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The program opened with Harald Lander's Etudes - a bravura "classroom" ballet demonstrating the work and effort that a student puts into the classroom, which culminates into a virtuosic firework spectacle. The curtains parted to reveal 5 little dancers, demonstrating the 5 positions of classical ballet. The next section was a series of synchronized barre exercises - this was a disaster. This section is supposed to be about the corps moving uniformly, and instead, some dancer's legs were higher than others, stress on the exercises was different for each dancer, and the dancers differed on HOW they approached the movement. I missed the Kirov do this while they were in town, but I imagine that a ballet company with a strict pedagogical structure feeding into the company would have tackled this a lot better - ABT has diversity, which I think is FANTASTIC, as it reflects the make-up of our country and movement style, but for a piece like this, they should also be able to move together when the choreography demands it.

An ill Angel Corella meant that Jared Matthews was thrown in with Xiomara Reyes and Sascha Radetsky. He did very well, considering the substitution, but was not as clean as the role demanded, perhaps nerves? I would love to see David Hallberg in the role. Xiomara was the glittering jewel of the ballet, performing fast chaines, and attacking the movement with a huge smile. Sascha was excellent as well.

The best section was definitely the jumps, where the company hurled themselves across the stage, and whipped their legs through beats that would make City Ballet drool. The finale was the most uniform I have seen ABT dance all season, crisp and precise and spectacular. Bravo!

The program continued with Twyla's premiere, "Rabbit and Rogue." Separated into 5 sections, Ethan Stiefel and Herman Cornejo bounced off of each other in the title roles (in black leotards with a silver stripe spiraling down their bodies, sparkling with every turn) with a fierce yet soft attack of the movement. Ethan is great to watch in Tharp, and I can tell that he really enjoys performing her work. I couldn't help but be reminded of their Oberon and Puck in Ashton's "Midsummer," performed by Ethan and Herman respectively. The Rag Couple was performed brilliantly by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg with a tango/jazzy flair, and the Gamelan Couple was performed by Paloma Herrera and Gennadi Saveliev in silver tights and pointe shoes. I thought that overall, the partnering was interesting, and there were some great moments between the two dancers in each couple.

Overall, the piece was too busy for my taste, and I would not call this the next Tharp masterpiece. There were some wonderful images in the piece, but overall was too long and had too much squeezed into one piece. The movement was great, but the structure of the piece was too saturated. The score, by Danny Elfman, was excellent, dark yet playful - and the play between the music and the choreography was also superb (it was no Stravinsky/Balanchine though). The program is worth seeing, a break in the full-lengths of the ABT spring season is definitely welcome and appreciated.

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Last night’s opening of Etudes was SPECTACULAR! Principals, soloists, and especially the ABT corps created such classical beauty with an energy that built so perfectly to the end that the audience responded orgasmically.

Corella withdrew for illness and was replaced by Jared Matthews who was originally scheduled to debut at today’s matinee. (Considering what Corella gave us on Monday night, it is completely understandable that he was still depleted on Tuesday.)

I cannot say enough about the corps last night. Such unity in style. Such a high level of EVERYTHING. I sat on the side and had a crystal clear view of the movement house-left during opening tendues, ronde jambe, etc. at the barre. I don't know where dancedance40 was sitting, but from my viewpoint right down the diagonal, they were sensational. I didn't observe any meaningful lapses in leg height, although some have legs longer than others. Bravo, brava, bravi to every last one of them. In seeing Kajyia dance short spurts in front of Sean Stewart, I hope I saw a future Giselle pairing there. In a word - harmony.

Reyes continued to dance the strongest and most assured that I’ve ever seen her. Never in my dreams did I think they would cast her in this; but she was so on top of her legs and turning with a ferocity and control and dancing with such sparkle that made her perfect. Certainly, she looked different from the more statuesque and linear ballerinas remembered in this role, but she was sensational.

Radetsky had a huge performance! God, those legs are so chiseled, quick, expressive, and clean. His partnering of Reyes was tops. It’s very obvious why he was first cast in this.

Matthews had a bit of a tentative start, and has a bit of work to do, but he was so no-holds-barred in his presentation that he’s convinced me to buy another ticket for the end of the week to see him again after he’s gotten a couple of performances under his belt.

As I said, this performance was spectacular, and I’m not going to even compare it with what I saw at the messy opening night at City Center, because it was in a league all by itself.

Rabbit and Rogue - Those who have never seen Tharp before will love this simply for its nonstop energy and flying around at full speed . This piece could be one of those ‘new audience builder’ pieces if they take it on the road. The ABT dancers proved yet again that they are the best interpretors of Tharp’s stuff on this planet. That said, I found it quite tiring, because the dancing started out with climatic tricks and continued at the same level for about 90% of the time. I’d give a D- to the score for its boringness and hodge-podge construction. Who cares if it was terribly complicated - it wasn’t entertaining and was plain bad for dance. I would rather have watched the dancers in silence.

As in Etudes, we had everyone dressed in either black or white - but with some shiny silver thrown in. (The ladies wore silver, highly reflective point shoes.) As in Etudes, we had dramatic dark lighting. As in Etudes, we had groups darting in and out. And in many respects, Etudes illustrated what was wrong with this piece, because it so perfectly blended music, dance, atmosphere, and concept where Rabbit and Rogue did not.

There were lots of reminders of Tharp-past. At one point, I wondered whether we were going to see guys pick up a girl and turn her upside down in a slow back-bend circle as we see in many of Tharp’s work. No sooner thought than received. There were strains from In the Upper Room in the PdDs and with the groups appearing out of the black back of the stage. One part that I loved was when for a few seconds they completely opened up and lit the back of the cavernous Met stage and this enormous space filled with exceptional dancers moving at a crazy speed.

But just to repeat, the dancers were out of this world. It would be unfair to single anyone out, although the piece was obviously geared toward the male principals (last night - Stiefel and Cornejo).

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I am completely unqualified to critique dance or choreography but I want to get the ball rolling and read what others had to say about Twyla's Rabbit and Rogue and the opening performance of Etudes. So here follows my impressions.

One thing that comes through in Twyla choreography is an abiding love and understand of dance and movement. Sitting through this work is an exhilarating experience for the audience and must be an exhausting one for the performers. In the Upper Room had this same physically draining feeling to watch. The only emotion she managedto get from me last night, is some laughter because she has her dancers do some... to my eyes, completely ridiculous movements.. goofy awkward and so "anti-ballet." I can almost imagine that something I, completely with no dance training might do and of course be laughed at! I simply don't get why one would have such brilliant artists do such silly, graceless and awkward looking things. But not all the choreography is like that, and some of it is more in the vain of the first piece Etude, although it uses more modern vernacular of movement.

I found the costumes largely unappealing except the more classical looking ones. Again I looked for meaning here and could find none and visually alone they did nothing for me but made me think "why?". Perhaps I am just not getting it.

in last nights performance the dancers who were thrilling were Stiefel (though I didn't care for much of the choreography she has him do), Herman Cornejo who was once again a dynamo of energy and control, and Paloma Herrera who surprised me with how much fun she seemed to have with this non classical role. But Maria Ricetto was perfect for this piece, especially her long body which cut space like a knife (and she wasn't wearing that plastered smile on her face which distracted me in my last viewing of her work. Maria, you nailed it. A beautiful performance. Brava!

For me, the big disappointment was Gillian Murphy who looked completely out of place in that role (and a bit heavier to my eye). My impression was she was there because it was her job, not because of her love of dance.

The two works being performed in one evening, were both very much about movement and ensemble, with Etudes being derived from classic ballet and no attempt to give meaning to the pure aesthetic of classic movements dancers do in class. The work brilliantly allows us to see how the basic ballet movements are stunning in themselves and woven together into what we see as ballet. Ms Twarp's work seems to take off where the Lander choreography ends and continues to de construct familiar ballet (and movement).

Michelle Wiles had the lead in Etude and she seemed to be a bit stiff while being perfect. She has a gorgeous long neck but at times it makes me think it forces her to be a bit stiff in the upper body from her shoulders up.. appearing like a marble statue and not a flesh and bones ballerina. Paloma does does not give this impression, however.

Regardless of my apparent lack of understanding of Rabbit and Rougue I am astounded at how the these movement geniuses manage to learn and perform this intricate works with such precision and at times virtuosity and make it look they been dancing the piece for ages. And for the life of me I cannot even fathom the mental process involved in creating such a complex work. It all inspires awe in me.

Having seen Etudes performed recently by Kirov at CC, I thought the ABT did the piece beautifully but lacked a bit of the precision that Kirov's corps managed. I also realized how much more intimate the CC is for ballet and you feel so engaged over there. I am really liking the CC experience more and more and the Met Opera seems like a huge stadium compared with a cozy club.

I am looking forward to Don Q and a return to some classic repertoire next week.

There were two conductors last night. Charles Barker for Etude and Ormsby for the Rabbit. I prefer the way Barker gets music out of the orchestra. Interesting contrast that was too.

Please finish the construction. The experience outside the hall is painful.

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I attended last night’s (Wednesday’s) performance of ABT’s Etudes - Rabbit and Rogue, and frankly, I can’t imagine what could have been better. The combination of good friends, great seats, and a superbly danced program made the evening near perfect for me (well, better weather would have helped). I also agree that the construction work at Lincoln Center is annoying, but I’d rather be standing in a crowd waiting to get into the Metropolitan Opera House than a crowd waiting to get onto a subway train.

I’ve never seen Etudes before, and though it seemed a somewhat monotonous piece, I thought it was danced beautifully and danced with gusto, especially by Jared Matthews, who apparently was a last minute substitution.

Next came the Tharp piece, complex and astonishing all at once. I found the complexity of the dance combined with the propulsive nature of the music and the sheer number of people on stage exhilarating and aesthetically beautiful. It reminded me of not only other Tharp ballets, but also of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, the Broadway show from the late 1970s. I remember at the time I thought that the dancers (including a young Ann Reinking) seemed literally to be flying across the stage, as were the dancers in Rabbit and Rogue, and for me I think it has something to do with their being coached through the original work by the choreographer him or herself, and not by someone a generation removed from the original. Having the creator of the piece there to push, goad and inspire you with their fire and enthusiasm makes an enormous difference for a performer.

What I found very troubling was Alastair Macaulay’s review of the evening in today’s New York Times. While Rabbit and Rogue may not be Tharp’s best work, he also gave her previous work, Nightspot, a heavy critical drubbing a couple of months back. I don’t know if critics expect a masterpiece from Tharp every time she produces something new. But when the chief film critic for the paper gives a new Adam Sandler movie a better review than the chief dance critic gives to a new Twyla Tharp ballet, it seems to me that there is something very wrong with the world in which I find myself. I watched Ethan Stiefel and Herman Cornejo fly across the stage last night and thought, “These guys are like two Nijinksys! I’ll never see Nijinsky dance, but I’ll bet these guys come close to what he was like!” Maybe my standards are lower than Macaulay’s but I feel that it’s far better to spend an evening at any ballet, even a mediocre one, than it is to let your mind and imagination rot away on pop culture junk food-style entertainment. Anyway, I’m scheduled to see both Sleeping Beauty and Merry Widow in the coming weeks, and woe to any critic who tries to stop me!

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One thing that comes through in Twyla choreography is an abiding love and understand of dance and movement.

I agree with the above statement but don't quite agree with some other opinions. I too thought Paloma took to the role beautifully but I loved Murphy. I think she was able to apply her technique in a new way and it was fun to see. I brought someone with me who had never been to a ballet before. In speaking of Murphy he couldn't believe the combination of athleticism and femininity that she demonstrated. All in all I think it is a fun piece with an enjoyable score. It was danced well by all. My overall opinion of Tharp is that she is super smart, super facile and can create fine works but she will never really move me emotionally. For me she doesn't have that depth or risk that emotional honesty.

In Etudes I thought Wiles was warm, brilliant and having the time of her life. She totally commanded the stage. Her phrasing was delightful, some of her turns were amazing, not just in the number of turns but in the timing and shape of them. Sterns and Matthews had their moments but were out classed by Wiles. It occurred to me that Twyla's casting put limitations on the casting of Etudes, which impacted upon the men. I believe she used 3 male principals and 2 male soloists. Taking into consideration illness & injury that probably doesn't leave a lot of options.

I'm sure that ABT did lack the precision of the Kirov in Etudes. It is a ballet in which having the same style of training helps a lot. Also, (I may be wrong about this) I'll bet the Kirov can devote a lot more rehearsal time to the ballet. I thought ABT's performance was just OK, because of a number of small mishaps (certainly not bad enough to ruin the enjoyment of the piece). The piece is so naked that each misstep shows -- a dancer stumbling out of a turn (and therefore out of line), losing the head coordination in the jete section or being slight off the count. Nothing is hidden.

I don't meant to sound negative, because it was a very entertaining night at the ballet. I'm so glad I was there.

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What I found very troubling was Alastair Macaulay’s review of the evening in today’s New York Times. While Rabbit and Rogue may not be Tharp’s best work, he also gave her previous work, Nightspot, a heavy critical drubbing a couple of months back. I don’t know if critics expect a masterpiece from Tharp every time she produces something new. But when the chief film critic for the paper gives a new Adam Sandler movie a better review than the chief dance critic gives to a new Twyla Tharp ballet, it seems to me that there is something very wrong with the world in which I find myself.

But the standards for judging are so different--the Adam Sandler movie was deemed "better" on its own terms (i.e., in relation to other such movies); it would be a strange world if everything was judged by some single abstract standard of "goodness"! The fact is is that we expect more from ballet and ballet choreographers, especially a choreographer with Tharp's chops and the HUGE amount of resources that are available to her. I agree that we may be wrong to expect a masterpiece with every effort, but it sounds like she failed to deliver on more basic/servicable grounds (I didn't see Rabbit & Rogue, but I did see Nightspot at MCB, which I thought was terrible in many of the ways Macaulay details for this ballet). We do--and should--expect a ballet that's more than just "choreographically flashy, aurally odious, structurally baffling, expressively empty," to quote AM's review.

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A while back in the "ballets not to revive" thread, I listed Etudes. Many of you instantly rose to the work's defense. I wondered, then, if there were any reactions to Macaulay's recent characterization of the ballet, which went beyond just criticizing the performers/performance, in yesterday's NY Times? He calls the ballet "ghastly," and "just a sensationalist display of ballet style and technique at their most superficial" that it is "appalling no matter who’s dancing however well." He continues:

"The score, Knudaage Riisager’s orchestration of Czerny études, is a kind of 'Young Person’s Guide to Hating the Orchestra'; the structure and arrangement of dances is inane. It’s much more enjoyable when it’s danced atrociously, the way I used to see it 30 years ago with the London Festival Ballet. (When the dancers jumped in grand jeté, their legs would flash out into the splits, and yet their torsos would descend.) Brief moments of Ballet Theater’s 'Etudes' were fun in this horrid way. But watching the often admirable Sascha Radetsky forcing himself rigidly through this twaddle made me miserable."

Besides relegating divergent opinions to taste, how might defenders argue against his "inane structure and arrangement" or superficiality attacks?

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I'm going to let Alexander Meinertz defend it

So, what is Etudes, a Danish ballet, a French ballet—or indeed a non-ballet? The answer is, of course, that it may be many things, depending on the staging and the performance. Although roughly built on the same text, the London Festival Ballet Etudes has been nicknamed the »circus« version as opposed to the POB Etudes which is the »diamond« one; cold, hard and brilliant. The ABT performances of Etudes that I saw in 1993 definitely were circus ones. Etudes in Denmark, however, is more of a family affair, a very intimate experience; the dancers don't force projection, they don't compete or show off in the frenetic way you can see other companies do. According to Henning Kronstam, who knows the ballet intimately from dancing it and from staging it for more than twenty years, Etudes must be performed in the best spirit of "pure Danish style," meaning in a simple, clean and unobtrusive manner.

So, as much as Croce dislikes Etudes she does, however, also seem to miss the point of it; it is not a symphonic ballet, it is not an abstract or a plotless piece and it was never intended to be one. If one chooses to look at Etudes and judge it as a bad Theme and Variations, then, naturally, it's terrible. For the most part you don't even get choreography in a compositional sense, rather you have the natural progression of a series of arrangements of academic exercises, classroom, and combinations. The theatricality of Etudes has been downplayed over the years—the venerable rehearsal room decorated with busts of ancient ballet masters Noverre, Galeotti, and Bournonville has been replaced with a bare stage—and possibly that's one of the reasons for mistaking it with a plotless ballet.

I have no more love for ABT's production of the ballet than you, but we may not be seeing what Etudes was meant to be, or what it is in better productions.

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I agree. What would be a problem is if the critic assigned to cover the particular event (whether it be a Tharp piece or an Adam Sandler movie) has a particular bias against - or in favor of - the artist (if you can call Adam Sandler an "artist").

Just as one doesn't send someone who likes only Ingmar Bergman films to review Adam Sandler's latest, one doesn't want a critic who has never liked a particular choreographer or dancer to review a piece or performance by that artist. If Macauley generally doesn't like Tharp, that is something to consider. I don't care for Tharp, either, but I'm not publishing reviews in the New York Times.

For example, I stopped reading Gottlieb's reviews of ABT, because he had nothing favorable to say about the ABT women other than Vishneva, and the ABT men could do no wrong. Once I noticed that I could give a very close approximation of a Gottlieb review in advance, because it's not based on the performance, it became pointless to read him.

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Just as one doesn't send someone who likes only Ingmar Bergman films to review Adam Sandler's latest, one doesn't want a critic who has never liked a particular choreographer or dancer to review a piece or performance by that artist. If Macauley generally doesn't like Tharp, that is something to consider. I don't care for Tharp, either, but I'm not publishing reviews in the New York Times.

Do we know if Macaulay is predisposed not to like Tharp? I found this review to be built firmly on his observations of the work--i.e., I didn't hear a bias against Tharp coming through. (Contrast that to Etudes in the same review, which he admits he doesn't like as a ballet.)

I think we need to be careful to distinguish irrational bias from judgment based on observations. We can only disagree with the former, but we can argue with the latter (i.e., offer other observations that we think build our case).

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I'm going to let Alexander Meinertz defend it
So, what is Etudes, a Danish ballet, a French ballet—or indeed a non-ballet? The answer is, of course, that it may be many things, depending on the staging and the performance. Although roughly built on the same text, the London Festival Ballet Etudes has been nicknamed the »circus« version as opposed to the POB Etudes which is the »diamond« one; cold, hard and brilliant. The ABT performances of Etudes that I saw in 1993 definitely were circus ones. Etudes in Denmark, however, is more of a family affair, a very intimate experience; the dancers don't force projection, they don't compete or show off in the frenetic way you can see other companies do. According to Henning Kronstam, who knows the ballet intimately from dancing it and from staging it for more than twenty years, Etudes must be performed in the best spirit of "pure Danish style," meaning in a simple, clean and unobtrusive manner.

So, as much as Croce dislikes Etudes she does, however, also seem to miss the point of it; it is not a symphonic ballet, it is not an abstract or a plotless piece and it was never intended to be one. If one chooses to look at Etudes and judge it as a bad Theme and Variations, then, naturally, it's terrible. For the most part you don't even get choreography in a compositional sense, rather you have the natural progression of a series of arrangements of academic exercises, classroom, and combinations. The theatricality of Etudes has been downplayed over the years—the venerable rehearsal room decorated with busts of ancient ballet masters Noverre, Galeotti, and Bournonville has been replaced with a bare stage—and possibly that's one of the reasons for mistaking it with a plotless ballet.

I have no more love for ABT's production of the ballet than you, but we may not be seeing what Etudes was meant to be, or what it is in better productions.

Great passage! Thanks, Leigh. It really pulls us into an ongoing critical conversation about the work. Macaulay's concerns about the inanity of the work's structure are answered here in part by the "natural progression" idea, and the note about production details helps to understand how this ballet might come to be evaluated on grounds different from original intents.

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It may be difficult to tell if he's biased. The mere fact that he rarely likes her work doesn't actually prove that he's biased. He may just be discerning. :smilie_mondieu:

I was never impressed by her, and it's not because I'm biased. (Of course, others would disagree, and say that I don't "get" her.) I just don't think she does anything well. For example, "Sinatra Suite" is extraordinarily mediocre. I've been involved in ballroom dancing for years, and any one of my ballroom friends can outdance what you see in "Sinatra Suite". Plainly, it's not the dancers' fault - the choreography is poor. (I must admit, though, that most of my friends aren't run-of-the-mill ballroom dancers. Two of them just placed Second and Third at Blackpool.)

Tharp has said that what she's doing is more advanced (not her exact word) than ballet, because it includes ballet and other elements. I think that she's mixing styles, and none of them are done well. She throws in everything plus the kitchen sink. I also think that mixing styles breaks things up, making the choreography easier to perform (not necessarily less grueling, but less demanding of pure technique).

I'm not a ballet dancer or a modern dancer, but it just seems to me that doing one classical movement, followed by a modern movement, is easier than going across the entire stage doing classical movements. Doing a chaine of movements requires that you maintain control through the sequence. You don't need the same control or balance to do a lone turn and then switch to something else.

I'm not very conversant with the names for things, so please pardon the trivial example, but it seems that it's harder to do four double tours en l'air than it is to do one double tour followed by jitterbugging across the stage snapping your fingers. I've seen lesser dancers do things like that, and the impression I get is generally "Oh, he (the dancer) can't keep it up, so he does a little of this and a little of that."

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I saw this last night and though both ballets are kind of hyperactive and step-intensive and thus extremely similar to one another I enjoyed the evening very much. Frankly, I wonder if they had programmed maybe a cooler Balanchine piece or something by Tudor with the Tharp as a closer, perhaps people wouldn't be so exhausted by the Tharp.

Basically, Tharp in "Rabbit and Rogue" is building on things she has done before in earlier ballets. Kind of "When Push Comes to Shove in The Upper Room". So you have Baryshnikov's "Ballet Clown Prince" from "When Push Comes to Shove" times two with Rabbit and Rogue spinning and pirouetting and pratfalling on their chiseled ballet boy butts as two knockabout virtuoso danseur/comedian rivals. These two balletic buffoons come up against a legion of kicky, swiveling dancers grinding out a mix of ballet and modern dance steps in a murky twilight zone lit by hazy pools of light against the darkness.

Instead of Stiefel and Cornejo last night was Marcelo Gomes and Sascha Radetsky in the title roles. Marcelo always surprises me with his energy and commitment though that is the hallmark of his performing. Here he threw himself into the slinky hip grinds, constant leaping and turning, Warner Brothers cartoon tussling with Sascha with an incredible combination of control and abandon. He looked hot and goofy at the same time. Sascha Radetsky continues to be ABT's secret weapon - I never would have thought that he would ever alternate in a role created by Herman Cornejo. He is constantly turning and jumping in twisty, fast variations and Sascha's technique was totally up to the challenge. He matched Marcelo in energy and technique and brought his own smart-alecky edge to the part with his tattoos and spiky hair.

While the percussive and energetic score rattles on with exotic gamelan accents, other more serious couples emerge. There are a group of demi-soloists including a puckish Craig Salstein and feline Jared Matthews with Misty Copeland and another girl. The "Rag Couple" here a showgirl confident Kristi Boone and a smooth Corey Stearns wearing tight black costumes do a ballroom adagio number with extra kicks and spins. The "Gamelan Couple" are in white and are more classical - an ageless and gallant Jose Manuel Carreno and Maria Riccetto looking better than I have ever seen her with flawless pirouettes and sparkling footwork and a spontaneity I have never, ever seen from her. In and out the groups come interacting with and interrupting solos and competitive duets by Rabbit and Rogue.

Then at the final curtain the two ballet goofballs make up and decide to be friends... We don't know why but we are happy for them!

"Etudes" had a scintillating Irina Dvorovenko with Maxim Belotserkovsky as the Cavalier Boy and Jared Matthews as the Turning Boy. Matthews is probably more naturally suited to Max's role but was given this part to stretch his technique - as when Kevin gave Basilio in "Don Quixote" to Max for a similar purpose. Matthews was very good but you could feel a little bit of effort and uncertainty (ending in success) that wouldn't be an issue if Herman Cornejo or Angel Corella were dancing the part. Still an A+ for effort and a solid B with the result, making an A or A- performance overall. Corps was looking good and I didn't see any mistakes or lack of ensemble that pulled me out of the piece. Clearly they have improved their game since opening night.

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The point of Etudes as a progression from basic elements to stage performance is hard to miss. But in order for it to be a tolerable experience for me, the music has to be reorchestrated, at the very, very least.

I have way, way overstepped my decade quota for Etudes, having seen it during the Kirov's spring NYC engagement, then about a third of it on ABT's opening night. Wednesday night I saw it again, for the (I hope) last time for a long time. By the time the barres were gone, I had a headache from the music. A friend say, "It's much less bombastic than it was last night." I wasn't there the previous night, but it was plenty bombastic on Wed.

So my failure to report on the new Tharp stems from my confusion and my inability to figure out whether Rabbit and Rogue was inscrutable because Etudes had pounded my brain flat, or whether it was really inscrutable. I did notice that in the cast I saw, the only dancer who managed to incorporate the Tharp slouch into his/her movements was Cornejo. I don't know whether Tharp omitted it except for him, or whether the other dancers just didn't have it down.

I'll have to wait for a future season for a retake of this one, when R&R shares a program with something (anything! :) ) else.

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By the time the barres were gone, I had a headache from the music. A friend say, "It's much less bombastic than it was last night." I wasn't there the previous night, but it was plenty bombastic on Wed.

So interesting! Do I not recognize bombast when I see it? A sobering thought... I guess I'm just very new to ballet... at least, new relative to a board moderator. Tuesday night was the first time I've seen this ballet, and tonight, the 2nd time. I found the technical display rather exciting!

I missed Cory Stearns' debut in Corsaire, but from what I hear on BT he looked like, well, a corps member making a debut in a principal role. Tonight he didn't look like that at all to me. Looked confident, poised, principal-like! Where does ABT find such a plethora of male talent?

I liked R&R more tonight than I did the first time. Relentless yes, and busy, absolutely, too much so! But it's growing on me.

Someone commented on Murphy on opening night. I found her delightful. She's not a dancer with emotional depth, but I really enjoy her in playful roles like this.

Wish I had seen last night, when the two demi-soloists were Misty Copeland and... can anyone fill me in on the other?

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So interesting! Do I not recognize bombast when I see it?
Your experience is completely valid. I was talking not about visual bombast, but auditory bombast coming from the orchestra pit. And it's a very individual thing. I was speaking with someone who was thrilled by the Friday performance -- not a frequent ballet goer, but a woman in her 80s who was a music major in college and has an lively interest in the musical arts, and she didn't hear what I heard, kept saying, "But it's Czerny! It's Czerny!" (So? Besides, Czerny didn't compose it for loud brass. :wink: )

It might be a matter of the acoustics of a listener's location within the hall. If I ever opt to see Etudes again, I'll have to seek out a very different spot. :)

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So interesting! Do I not recognize bombast when I see it? A sobering thought... I guess I'm just very new to ballet... at least, new relative to a board moderator. Tuesday night was the first time I've seen this ballet, and tonight, the 2nd time. I found the technical display rather exciting!

I missed Cory Stearns' debut in Corsaire, but from what I hear on BT he looked like, well, a corps member making a debut in a principal role. Tonight he didn't look like that at all to me. Looked confident, poised, principal-like! Where does ABT find such a plethora of male talent?

I liked R&R more tonight than I did the first time. Relentless yes, and busy, absolutely, too much so! But it's growing on me.

Someone commented on Murphy on opening night. I found her delightful. She's not a dancer with emotional depth, but I really enjoy her in playful roles like this.

Wish I had seen last night, when the two demi-soloists were Misty Copeland and... can anyone fill me in on the other?

Sarah Lane.

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Mikhail Ilyin stood out in the Saturday evening June 7 performance of Etudes. I don't know much about him except that joined ABT this season as a member of the corps de ballet. His turns were always under control and never forced. I look forward to seeing him again and don't think he will remain a corps member for long given the quality of his dancing.

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Basically, Tharp in "Rabbit and Rogue" is building on things she has done before in earlier ballets. Kind of "When Push Comes to Shove in The Upper Room". So you have Baryshnikov's "Ballet Clown Prince" from "When Push Comes to Shove" times two with Rabbit and Rogue spinning and pirouetting and pratfalling on their chiseled ballet boy butts as two knockabout virtuoso danseur/comedian rivals. These two balletic buffoons come up against a legion of kicky, swiveling dancers grinding out a mix of ballet and modern dance steps in a murky twilight zone lit by hazy pools of light against the darkness.

Nice description, that's it in a nutshell!

I liked it. Wasn’t absolutely blown away by it but I saw it on opening night and liked it enough to decide to come back again and see the second cast. I liked it enough the 2nd time to hope they do it again at City Center in the fall.

The first time I saw it I was struck by the energy, the Tharpian juxtaposition of ballet and her own unique movement style and the relentless energy reminiscent of In The Upper Room. Some of the themes that struck me were the competitiveness between the 2 male leads and also the way they seemed to spread competitiveness & bickering among the other dancers. It looked to me like the rag couple & quartet started off doing their cooperative ballet partnering thing (as expected) but then followed their lead & fell into bickering until the Gamelan couple appeared and presented the classical ideal. Then at the end Craig the Angel got them to team up to partner one of the quartet girls and said something like “can’t we all get along” and everyone danced happily ever after.

A lot of these connections were brewing in my brain after the first night but I couldn’t really put the whole thing together for myself until I read some of the opening night reviews, particularly those by Tobi Tobias and Robert Johnson. They brought the aspects I couldn’t really articulate into focus and I started to see it as a commentary on the inner workings of a ballet company disguised as a manic romp. She highlighted the competitiveness between established stars & emerging stars, perfectly mannered pas de deux falling apart when petty jealousies & insecurities erupt, partnering problems, and the cooperation and focus that hopefully prevail with the right guidance... Maybe I’m reaching, but to me it fits with her prior inside joke ballets like Push, and after reading those reviews I really saw all of that the second time I saw the piece. At any rate I thought the dancing was spectacular and interesting enough to benefit from multiple viewings but 2 was my limit for this program so I hope they keep it in rep for at least a couple of seasons.

Regarding Etudes - I saw ABT do it about 30 years ago, saw the Kirov do it twice at City Center this spring and had no idea that I hated it till about halfway through ABT’s opening performance this season. Frankly, I sat there at first astounded that I actually wished I was watching Alina Somova but then I realized that the dancers weren’t the problem, generally speaking I thought ABT’s corps and principals were fine and yet I could barely sit through it. I couldn’t understand my reaction, but the discussion here and particularly the posts from Ray, Leigh and Carbro have helped. To my ears the orchestrations were indeed bombastic and I think the staging is quite a bit more plodding than what we saw from the Kirov.

Mikhail Ilyin stood out in the Saturday evening June 7 performance of Etudes. I don't know much about him except that joined ABT this season as a member of the corps de ballet. His turns were always under control and never forced. I look forward to seeing him again and don't think he will remain a corps member for long given the quality of his dancing.

I wish I'd seen Ilyin, I bet he was spectacular. I got Jared Matthews at both of my performances. I love Matthews and I think he did well but I just find him miscast in the role of the turning boy. I would love to have seen him as the cavalier but I think the other male lead calls for a dancer in the Corella/Cornejo/Ilyin/Philips /Salstein mold. I understand that many of these dancers were needed for the Tharp but hey - they put the schedule together!

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This was a program that might have been better for the City Center season rather than the Met. Word of mouth (or bad reviews) must have gotten out, because I have rarely seen so many empty seats at the Met on a Saturday night (even when the bill of fare is Wozzeck or Moses und Aron). Whoever said (carbro, I think) that Etudes should be re-orchestrated is exactly right; in fact, better to have played these Czerny pieces on a solo piano as written. The orchestration was positively ugly; the dancing - well, Reyes, Radesky, and Ilyin did all they could with these not very coherent little snippets. Viewed from the Dress Circle, the (unintentionally) funniest thing was when the corps girls alternated black and white tutus on a diagonal to upstage left; all I could think of were black-and-white cookies.

But this was the better of the two halves. I had not read any exposition of Tharp's "meaning" in constructing Rabbit and Rogue before seeing the piece, and I would like to think a viewer can grasp something of the narrative of a ballet without having to be told in a program note or review. But despite the laudable contributions of Stiefel, Cornejo, Hallberg, Gillian Murphy, Salstein, Herrera, and Saveliev, I could make nothing out of the piece. Stiefel and Cornejo butt heads once in a while, yet somehow they emerge friends at the end; Salstein keeps running around for no apparent reason; the boys take off their shirts (was it the 98 degree heat?); two other couples come in and out; and the whole confusing thing is done to Danny Elfman's generic, derivative music. Phooey. I like Tharp in a full-throttle piece like Upper Room, but this was too long and drawn out, without the driving energy she shows in the earlier piece, and if there was a story I couldn't find it.

This is my only time seeing ABT this season; there are just so many of these evening-length 19-century blockbusters I can take, and I was hoping this would be a refreshing alternative. I shoulda stuck with Swan Lake.

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. . . and if there was a story I couldn't find it.

I agree. I also find this "make of it what you will" to be an abdication of the creator's responsibility. It's one thing to ask the audience to be an active participant. But some choreographers (and novelists, and screenwriters . . .) just fail to do their job, and take the position that if the audience doesn't get it, then the audience isn't sufficiently perceptive.

There was a similar discussion yesterday at a panel hosted by Michael Riedel on the Tony Awards and the current Broadway season. Someone suggested that a certain play would have been helped if an explanation of what was happening was given to the audience on their way in. And someone else commented that if a play isn't clear in and of itself, there's something wrong with the play.

"The Emperor's New Clothes", anyone?

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Thanks, Adam. It's a recasting to the advise to public speakers: "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bull----." I was baffled, but given (as Leigh noted on another thread about a Tharp mentor) her body of work, I'm willing to keep at it until I come down firmly on one side or the other. I can't dismiss it based on a single viewing.

With three costumes per corps and soloist dancer (although curiously, principals stayed in the same duds througout), there was no shortage of clothes in R&R. Now whether they were the emperor's or empress' is a good question.

I imagine the close of the contract signing, Twyla dancing out like a teenager headed to the mall with daddy's credit card. Maybe I'm cynical, but it looked that a small fortune was spent for the sole intention of making the production look expensive or classy.

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Should costumes have meaning if there are characters representing "personalities" as in a story ballet? Or are they just meant to clothe the dancer's bodies?

The classical tutu etc is rather generic and only when adorned does it acquire more significance for the character/dancer who wears it.

I think, despite ms tharp's brilliance this piece is at once simplistic and silly and overly done. Certainly not the "less is more" approach.

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