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ABT at City Center, Fall 2008


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Yes, Herman is only 27, but that's about the age when other great, ballet males (and some females) started having such probs. It's not a numerical issue, dancers are all so young, it's Herman's heavy-duty dance career, since he was 16, taking some toll. I hope Herman will be all better soon.

And Sarah is just beginning to develop who she wants to be, who she will be, as a soloist at ABT. She's trying different things out....having been a soloist at ABT only since August 2007. Veronika has been a soloist for quite some time, in two major companies.

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I'd also like to mention Arron Scott, who is going to give Craig Salstein a run for his money in the funny department, as well as turning into a really good dancer. His "Tico-Tico" in "Company B" was superior to Craig's "Oh, Johnny".

Yes, I too thought Arron Scott gave us a wonderful "Tico Tico". He got the Taylor movement without the mugging that is starting to already creep into some of the others performances in this piece. Also saw the new soloist addition, Daniil Simkin in the role on Friday night and was dismayed at his take on it. Ok, he is obviously a good technician (even in trousers, not tights!), but the underpinings of this dance were way beyond him. First of all, he looks about twelve years old, and is not a great match up on stage with any of the other dancers. Someone ought to tell him not to wear so much lipstick on his already wide grin, and the men certainly don't bow along with the women right away, although there he was running downstage with the girls, and then having to be pulled back by, I think, Roman Zhurbin. Maybe this addition to the company is to provide Sarah Lane with a petite partner to match her somewhat overstated talent. I agree she was nice in the corps, but has yet to find any comfort in the soloist catagory. At least the two mini dynamos could match each other grin for grin!

For me, the less said about Michelle Wiles in "Theme" the better. Oy! What a mess! Doesn't she hear music? And just because you can do three or four piroettes doesn't mean you should. Less is always more, but with Michelle it always seems like she's out to prove to the dance world she's a contender. Alas, not for this viewer. And poor Cory Stearns! He just looked relieved it was over. Give us Blaine Hoven or Alexandre Hammoudi any day.

More later, but will someone please tell Jared Mathews to get a haircut?

mimsyb

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One question after attending Sat. Matinee. How did Stallings get a piece presented at ABT's very limited rep season at City Center?

I have the same question as vipa re "Citizen." I gather from the postings re the first cast that the highlight was Herrera's physique in that "bikini." I had the same reaction to Lane. Other than that... as someone else said, a head-scratcher.

I'm a little sorry there aren't more postings over the past couple of days. I enjoy the reviews.

Alexandre Hammoudi is looking very good. Saw him in "Leaves" today and a few other things over the past few days (it's all starting to blur together). He looked wonderful partnering Veronika Part in "Leaves" this afternoon. I saw her with Hallberg the other day (I think it was "Overgrown Path") and as when I saw them together at the Met over the summer, he looks ill at ease with her. Hammoudi had that Gomes air about him -- protective of his partner and charismatic when taking the stage on his own.

Also had misgivings about the Lane-Cornejo Theme on Thursday, as others have commented. They look fantastic together, but she has that forced, stiff expression, and the partnering was awkward.

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Today's matinée (Sunday, Oct. 26th) was a present to myself on the occasion of one of children's birthdays (the 4th to turn 28, egad!) and what a wonderful gift it was. I don't think I've been inside the City Center theater since NYCB called it home prior to moving to Lincoln Center. My mother, and at Nutcracker time my father too, took me there back then and I remember it being BIG. Well, either it shrunk or I grew up. I think we know which. Entering the orchestra section flabbergasted me -- it was such a little place! I was led to my front row seat (a perfect one, no.105) and seated, had the stage almost in my lap. I don't think I ever sat in the front row with my folks when I was little. The orchestra pit is quite small and deep, so the lip of the stage puts you intimately in touch with the action on it.

I was so eager to see "The Leaves are Fading" for it was to be the second time I'd seen a company dance it this year. In February I watched all performances of Festival Ballet Providence's production of it because my daughter was a member of the company. It is one of the loveliest ballets in existence and could be watched repeatedly without ever becoming tiring.

Melissa Thomas was the lady in green. She floated through the mini-role, both pre-ballet and at closing, with a beatific and understanding smile on her lovely face, with just a trace of wistfulness at the very end as she let the last memory/dancer fade away. First to appear Hee Seo had me fixated on her at various times throughout the ballet because of the exquisite carved shape of her legs and feet (reminds me of Irina's legs). A precise dancer with a high passé position, her form was compelling to follow as she drew arcs with her legs and positioned her long high-arched feet from movement to movement. I also loved watching Jacquelyn Reyes who has such a sunny look and beautiful body. Her lilting front brisés showed off her long legs and delightfully high jump. One of my favorite dancers today.

Jared Matthews also had a loose, joyful jump as he partnered Maria Ricetto in one of the duets. Both danced with enchantment and pleasure and conveyed it to us in the audience very easily. A lovely pas de deux. After being so charmed by Tobin Eason last Friday at Bard, I noticed him as soon as he danced onstage today. He had a similar jovial face, a little toned down to befit "Leaves", and my glance gravitated toward him again and again.

The partnership of Veronika Part and Alexandre Hammoudi worked very well in this ballet. Their pas de deux was golden. I especially loved the weighted way Veronika lifted her leg in grand battement, achieving a solid position at the top of the movement and holding it. She was secure throughout and, yes, I will add, perfect. An absolute standout in "Leaves". Hammoudi was a skilled partner with an accomplished performance himself, and they suited each other fully.

As at Bard, my eyes were also on Nicola Curry, and she didn't disappoint. Her stage presence continues to fascinate. She is one divine dancer. Marian Butler keeps growing on me, too. She has such a beautiful face, is a meticulous technician, knows how to enthrall the viewer and engross us in her stagework.

As five couples, early on in the ballet, formed a circle and whirled by us, I was so involved in identifying the individual dancers that it was with a pleasant jolt that I saw Marcelo Gomes and Julie Kent fly by as part of the group. When did they blend in? I was looking forward to their pas de deux -- the famous John Gardner/Amanda McKerrow pas -- and soon it began. Kent is such a delicate china doll, it's always so satisfying to see her pull off difficult choreography with the aplomb of the ballerina she is. "Leaves" is not in the league of difficulty that the classics are, but to make the central pas de deux look flowingly effortless is at all times a challenge. Marcelo, king of sensual dancing, yearned for his ladylove, playfully drew her into his circle of allure -- even his eyes alone flirted with her -- and then he rejected her, as is meant to happen. Julie was sheer perfection but for a botched turn sequence which forced her down to flat, but this was probably only noticed by the ballet-savvy.

In Providence (where McKerrow and Gardner spent weeks teaching the ballet), Mark Harootian danced Marcelo's role extraordinarily well. I liked parts of Mark's interpretation even better than I liked Marcelo's. To be able to compare is interesting. I loved the way Marcelo danced it and I loved the way Mark danced it. Who's next?

The success of the ballet lies in Tudor's choreography. The close-fisted men's steps danced to a staccato beat, for instance, lend a certain clever power to the gender which may be reminiscent of a time period (as this ballet deals with the passage of time) where "men were men and girls were girls". It's an appealing and eye-catching movement. The overhead lifts, with the women held on straight arms just above the back of the waist, draping languidly backwards over the men's heads, have such a pleasing appearance that Tudor must have used them as often as he did just for the aesthetic effect. Same goes for the lifts where the female's front and back legs are simultaneously bent at the knee from a 180° split position while being held aloft over the man's shoulder while both gaze lovingly into each other's eyes. Looks so pretty. When the stage fills with all 15 dancers, it's a splendid flurry of strikingly simple, flowing pastel costumes, expansive, elated movement and longing glances which draw the ballet to a close with the reappearance of the one having the memories. We who watch are filled with longing, too, for we crave more of such loveliness.

A word about the conductor, Charles Baker. Never since Bernstein have I seen an orchestra leader so involved with the music he's conducting. My seat was to the left of him by three seats and during the overture he was as wonderful to watch as the dancers who followed. During the ballet, he sometimes vocalized quietly along with the musical strains as he gave himself a workout, especially upper-body, in his effort to elicit the beauty of Dvoràk's score. Tudor and Dvoràk together anointed his face with a magical, angelic expression.

Next installment(s): Baker's Dozen and Citizen (I liked it!) and Theme and Variations

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Sunday evening's performance allowed me to see some 2nd casts and dancers I don't often see in lead roles. For me, the revelation of the evening was Simone Messmer. She was excellent as the primary Lover-in-Experience in Pillar of Fire- very technical, with a fluid upper body and beautiful extensions and balance. But when I realized the spitfire with the blond short hair in Company B was also Simone (she looks very different in the Tudor work) I was truly amazed. Of all the dancers in this work (and that includes the astounding Cornejo and a lively Gillian) she really embodied the Taylor style. She danced with her whole body, moving her head along with her shoulders and back (many ballet dancers seem to hold their heads too stiffly in modern dance pieces), jutting out her hips, without sacrificing an iota of technique. More important, she danced with a super energy and really looked like she was having fun (and that sense that dancers are having fun with the work is so critical to Taylor pieces). She really embodied the joy of dance that is not only key to Company B but to dancing in general. Kudos to her.

As for the other pieces on the program, Riccetto and Blaine Hoven danced Baker's Dozen very well, but I missed seeing Gillian Murphy, who always dances Tharp works so well. It seems to be tough for ABT dancers to incorporate Tharp's shimmying, swaying legs, and hips and shoulders into their technique. Other than Riccetto and Hoven,most of the dancers seemed a bit too stiff and I thought this made the piece seem a bit bland. As for Stallings' Citizen, Sarah Lane gave a strong performance in the lead role. As for Pillar of Fire, I have never been a fan of Michelle Wiles, and while I enjoyed all the other dancers, her wooden and slightly sloppy interpretation of Hagar marred my pleasure in viewing the piece.

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Today's matinée (Sunday, Oct. 26th) was a present to myself on the occasion of one of children's birthdays....

Next installment(s): Baker's Dozen and Citizen(I liked it!) and Theme and Variations

Belated happy birthday!

I (sort of) liked Citizen too! It was certainly different.... While I don't think it's any kind of masterpiece I'd want to see very often, it was not too long, and it was fun to see Sarah Lane do something totally different: dark, creepy, sexy in an odd way. Would have liked seeing more choreographed for her and Stearns (the guy wearing the blue-green corset). I heard Paloma and Hallberg in a previous performance of the same parts/piece were also very intense.

Baker's Dozen looked the most rehearsed next to Citizen, but I didn't like it. Too dated, cute with predictable jokes.

Leaves was pleasant enough. The music is gorgeous, and I very much enjoyed Veronika in her part, though I think she would have been better cast in the lead. This sort of choreography suits her body and womanly style so well. Hee Seo was also a standout with gorgeous lines and lovely ease to her strong dancing.

And then came Theme... I'm not going into details. I'll let somebody else take the first shot at that, but I thought this Theme's principals were a mess. Hallberg looked freaked by the sudden female casting change, though he did everything he could to be a good partner to Yuriko. His solos suffered as a consequence, and hers were very weak as was her contribution to the pas de deux and finale. It was a joy however to see Misty Copeland and Simone Messmer dancing as strongly and radiantly as ever in the demi soloists (2 of 4 girls).

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First, welcome to griffie and mimsyb.

While we're mentioning people we've never noticed before (or never particularly appreciated), I have to say that Simone really got to me with the "There Will Never Be Another You" part of "Company B". For all the heavy-handed artsy antiwar stuff, like "The Green Table", nothing got to me the way she did. And I can tell you several people around me let out with "ooohhhhhs" when they realized what was happening.

I also want to mention Nicola Curry, who I really enjoyed in both "Company B" and "Bakers Dozen".

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Friday Night:

Overgrown Path

Pillar of Fire

Company B.

A quick review of Friday Night performances.

Overgrowth....well danced, Carreno looked fantastic. Reyes and Cornejo daced pretty good as well.

The music is beautiful but the coreography didt do much for me.

Pillar of Fire made the night and the seasson so far for me.

I have not enough words to describe the ashtonishing performance that

Murphy delivered. Marcelo and David supported her at their best as well. Loved it !!!

Gillian was simply an oscar winning actress !!

Company B was a wonderful ending. To me Simkin was a fenomenal Tico-Tico, although its true that he looks pretty petite and childish. Luciana Paris was so graceful in her solo !! The rest of the cast danced well although I would say that they were behind the music a few times and it didnt seem that they were feeling very confortable in Taylor's hand. Probably more reahearsal will solve that.

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I attended the Octer 25th (Saturday) matinee. I agree with Leigh Witchel (his Dance View article) about "Baker's Dozen". I really hated everything about "Citizen" - the choreography, the music, the costumes - the whole works! All I kept thinking throughout the ballet was "What a waste of great dancers!" I thoroughly enjoyed "Theme and Variations" even though I've seen it many many times. I thought Michele Wiles was just dazzling in the ballerina role - regal, radiant, musical. I don't think she put a foot wrong. Cory Stearns was pretty good. I thought he was a bit off in his first solo. He wasn't as good as other ABT dancers I've seen in the part - Corella, Carreno, Gomes - but he's very young. Cory really did show great promise in "Themes". And yes, he seemed a bit small for Michele, but his partnering was fine. When I saw him last Spring in both "Le Corsaire" and "Etudes" I thought he was better when he was partnering than when he was doing his solos.

But the highlight of the afternoon for me was "Pillar of Fire". What a beautiful ballet it is. And Julie Kent was so moving as Hagar. I saw Michele Wiles in the part a few years back, and she was wonderful, but for me Kent was even better. Her Hagar just broke my heart. Gennadi Saeliev was very good as the man Hagar loves. Sarah Lane was so perfect as the younger sister that I wanted to smack her. I was a little disappointed by Jose Manuel Carreno's performance. I saw Marcelo Gomes dance the part a few years ago, and he was so seductively evil. I understood why Hagar slept with him. (Heck, I would have run off with Gomes' young man from the house opposite if he had asked me.) Carreno is a wonderful dancer, but he's no where near the actor Gomes is. I hope ABT keeps "Pillar of Fire" in its repertory. I've only seen it three times, and I would love to see it many more times. "Pillar of Fire" is such a rich ballet that I feel like I get more out of it every time I see it.

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I attended the Octer 25th (Saturday) matinee. I agree with Leigh Witchel (his Dance View article) about "Baker's Dozen". I really hated everything about "Citizen" - the choreography, the music, the costumes - the whole works! All I kept thinking throughout the ballet was "What a waste of great dancers!"

I was at Sunday matinee. The only positive of "Citizen" was that it reminded me that first class, professional artists will do their best and make as much as they can of a substandard work. The commitment and skill of the dancers on Sun. afternoon reminded me of this. It is true of all quality performing artists be they dancers, musicians, singers or actors.

"Leaves" was a joy in many ways.

"Theme" is a ballet that I love. I also know it is full of difficulties for the principals (also for the 4 main corps women, a difficult part). In my opinion Kajiya should not have thrown into it. Surely ABT had other alternatives. Hallberg was also not at his best. Perhaps the change in partner threw him.

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Sarah Lane was so perfect as the younger sister that I wanted to smack her. I was a little disappointed by Jose Manuel Carreno's performance. I saw Marcelo Gomes dance the part a few years ago, and he was so seductively evil.

I saw 'Pillar' last season but I have purposely avoided it this season for some of the reasons Coleen mentioned. Many of the subtleties of the younger sister and the seducer are missing. I do have a long memory of other performances. particularly Janet Reed as the younger sister. With Reed you weren't quite sure if she was genuine or not in her affection for Hagar--she wasn't quite so overt. Gomes, on the other hand pushed the role too hard and came out looking like a common street thug--unlike his seductively elegant Rothbart. (which is how Hugh Laing played it---seductively elegant)

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I saw the Sunday evening performance. It started out with a repeat of "Baker's Dozen" with good work by Blaine Hoven, Maria Riccetto and a chipper Arron Scott in the role Craig Salstein performed on opening night. Scott was more Bobby Van perky vs. Salstein's Donald O'Connor. The "Citizen" was only distinguished by an interesting second cast. Everyone was either a soloist or a corps dancer and seemed to work as a collection of equals. Neither Sarah Lane or Corey Stearns reached the star turn level of Paloma Herrera or David Hallberg but they seemed more part of the ensemble. Sean Stewart in the role previously danced by Blaine Hoven was more forceful and dominating with his typical sure command of style. Nice to see him in a major assignment. Devon Teuscher and especially Melissa Thomas shone in the two other female roles. The piece still has problems but it is short.

"Pillar of Fire" got a surprisingly authoritative performance from Michele Wiles as Hager from whom I expected little. I usually see Wiles as being wholesome and sunny and outgoing - the polar opposite of this character. She beautifully brought out the sense of isolation the character has - belonging and fitting in nowhere with no one. The only small things missing were a stronger feeling of repressed sexual frustration and a touch of neuroticism. Otherwise she really brought a lot of emotional depth and detail to the role. Marcelo Gomes and David Hallberg lived up to the high expections I always have for them with almost definitive portrayals. Particularly Hallberg really shone in a low-key, unflashy but essential role. Marian Butler was good but could have been more teasing and girlish as the Younger Sister but Maria Bystrova ruled as the Elder Sister.

"Company B" had a very "A" team cast with Gillian Murphy and Herman Cornejo ("Bugle Boy of Company B") in key roles. I was particularly taken with Misty Copeland ("Rum and Coca-Cola") and Arron Scott ("Tico, Tico") as well as Craig Salstein again in full Donald O'Connor mode ("Oh Johnny!"). I agree with whoever mentioned that ABT has failed to sufficiently point up the darker contrast of the silhouetted men in combat or marching poses in the background suggesting the warfare and loss underlying these cheerful pop tunes. Everything seemed on one happy level but this is a much darker piece than "Baker's Dozen". The Paul Taylor Dancers are much more grounded and have a different sense of weight on stage than the ballet dancers of ABT who are more aerial and jumpy. That does make a difference.

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Sunday matinée (Oct. 26th) -- Baker's Dozen

Same cast as Sunday evening.

Barbara Bilach at the piano. I had a good seat for watching Bilach as she played the overture. We were facing each other, she in the orchestra pit, me in the front row. Her face was calm throughout as she tackled yet again the contrapunctal jazzy rhythms of Willie "The Lion" Smith. She is used to playing this. The ritardandos and diminuendos, accelerandos and and crescendos linking the different pieces are usually also in counterpoint, making it a bit of a difficult piece to get under your belt. Perhaps that is why I felt she was a little insecure at Bard. I take it back. She is skilled enough to be able to play this wildly speedy, galloping music with nonchalance. For viewing purposes (knowing that the pianist is to be heard, not seen, when she accompanies ballet), Bilach was boring. Were she in concert I'd love to see some animation as she tickled the ivories.

Curtain opens. Female dancers in white tops with criss-crossed straps in the back. An embroidered-looking beige sash-width belt cinches the waist of beige skirts, split to the top both front and back to allow for acrobatic movement. Legs are covered in lacy, legging-like tights which end inside white jazz shoes. The males are in beige trousers and shirts.

One thing about ABT's rendition, as has been mentioned in previous reports, is the lightness of the company's dancers. I agree that this must be, if not the finest, then one of the finest ballet casts to dance this modern work. So much of this piece is performed in the air as dancers grand jeté on and off the stage, throw themselves into each other's arms or onto their backs, jump off each other's bodies, and propel themselves straight up like rockets, with legs tucked in beneath them. There's groundwork, too, with lots of sliding movements, being pulled into the wings while in splits, rolling around from one side to the other via a fellow dancer's back, plenty of rond de jambes in plié, falling to the floor, turning upside down with butts sticking up, and signature Tharp traveling modes. Sassy shoulder rotating, arms loosely hanging, leading with pumping arms to traverse the floor, funny bits like not being let onto the stage by an unseen dancer in the wings, first pulled back by an arm, then a leg, and being left alone on stage to display antic moves as if in front of one's bedroom mirror, make for a lively, infectious gambol that leaves the onlookers in such good spirits.

I could see "Baker's Dozen" again and again. There's too much going on for me to follow everyone in only two showings. I'd like to follow each dancer throughout the piece -- that's how I enjoy ballet. The whole cast had great facial expressions as they acted their way through the dance. Sitting where I was I got to really see everything. Standouts in Sunday's matinée were Arron Scott, who got the plum role of the dancer alone on stage sitting on his knees who starts to sway his hips as he realizes the others have taken a powder, and continues into an endearing solo dance charming himself as well as the audience, the very blond Blaine Hoven who was high-spirited throughout, Eric Tamm, looking so Tommy Tune and Broadway, and Isabella Boylston, to whom I will devote the next few paragraphs.

I have to preface my remarks by stating that I knew Isabella when she was Hildur Boylston and a 12 year old student at the Kirov Academy of Ballet's SI in 1999. My daughter and she became soulmates that July. The following summer, Isabella went to SAB and the year after, also, after winning the Gold medal at the Youth America Grand Prix finals at Pace University, which I attended because my daughter was in the competition too. A few months later, after the SAB SI, my daughter and I saw her taking class at STEPS where a crowd of students had gathered around the doorway to watch her in Willie Burman's class, informing those who didn't know, that she was this "amazing" dancer from the SAB SI. She was 14 years old. And, yes, she was indeed amazing. Isabella went on to complete 2 1/2 years at the prestigious Harid Conservatory, graduating from high school there to move right into ABT's Studio Company (having already been approached at ABT's SI the previous summer). She participated in several ballet competitions, including the NYIBC, and won some top prizes and gained notice, becoming one to watch. (Sidebar: A veteran competitor, she was a Grand Award winner at the Colorado State Science Fair in 2000, winning first place, Junior Division All Fair, for her project on Beetle Juice.)

My daughter has not seen her since the last two classes they took together that day at STEPS 7 years ago, but I made a point of going to ABT's Met season this past summer in order to see Hildur dance. She was featured as a D'Jampe soloist in La Bayadère and otherwise performed corps roles, and as I was sitting on the hard right side the day she was lined up with the corps on the same side (thereby not visible), I felt really gypped out of getting my full dose of Isabella Boylston.

Well, it seems I was to be deprived of her again, since the cast I got for City Center was the second cast for Citizen, in which Isabella is first-cast, and just as I was resigning myself to my fate, I noticed her name in the program for Baker's Dozen! Happy days (as Jamie Oliver would say)! With nearly in-studio proximity, I sat upright in my seat ready for bliss. And I got it! Isabella Boylston is a blissful dancer, no question. And anyone who saw her nine-page photo spread and sublimely tutu'ed cover shot in Dance Spirit in September 2006 knows she has the ballet body of perfection: long, shapely legs, high insteps and arches, long arms, fingers, and toes, a beautiful countenance, narrow hips, taut yet free torso, linear sculpted muscles, gorgeous flexibility. Her solo in "Baker's Dozen" (thank goodness she had a solo!) showed off her ease of technique, speed, musicality, lyricism, and charm. Isabella even threw in a "glinch" reminiscent of the great Suzanne. I enjoyed her performance so thoroughly and wondered why other reviewers hardly refer to her (lumping her in with others, or not even mentioning her dancing at all when she was indeed one fifth of a small ensemble). Her duet with Patrick Ogle in BD was full of split positions, both on the ground and en l'air, high-swinging grand battements, energy, energy, energy, and fun. She'd be a major standout even if I didn't know her. But I'm so glad I do.

My reports on "Citizen" and "Theme and Variations" won't be as long, I promise. Others have already said so much.

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I attended the Oct. 26 Sunday matinée, unexpectedly, as a former coworker had her date bail out at the last minute, thus she offered me the extra ticket. I had only budgeted for one performance this season (I chose the all-Tudor evening), so you can imagine my delight!

I was swept away by the subtle drama and subtly gorgeous dancing in Leaves are Fading. I feel as though I've seen so many still images from this piece (McKerrow and Kirkland), it was special to see it performed for the first time. I agree with many of Marqa's insightful comments. Hee Seo really excelled in this choreography. She is thin and delicate, yet strong and regal . . . and those feet. Hee's facial expression, so full of longing and intensity, fully expressive (not static), really suited her dancing this afternoon.

Julie and Marcelo were all that I hoped for. Her ethereal delicacy contrasted with his earthy strength. They moved me and wowed me with their gorgeous pas de deux.

One thing that struck me during Leaves (and I sat in orchestra row D, much closer than usual) was the quietness of the footwork from all the dancers. They all seemed to be working through their feet so beautifully, I heard literally nothing. We always notice when distracted by pointe-shoe sound effects, so I'd like to note that during this piece I heard not a leaf fall. Brava!

Citizen. Oh boy. Not much to say here that hasn't been said. It didn't please me, but it was short. I have, in the past, thought of liberating Cory Stearns from his costume, but never before out of sympathy. :sweatingbullets: He did manage to look gorgeous, despite the green corset and metallic silver capri tights. The other male dancer (Sean Stewart?) wore equally ridiculous garb but seemed more adept at the modern, Forsythe-esque choreography, whereas Cory appeared to occasionally revert back to a ballet comfort zone. My favorite/least favorite (depending on how you look at it) wacky, po-mo moment in this piece was when the random, non-performer "citizens?" strolled onstage. (Of course my eyes were immediately drawn to Marcelo who received another mental ovation for Leaves).

I thought Baker's Dozen was well danced and great fun. Maria Ricetto and Blaine Hoven were riveting. Maria is phenomenal to watch (crisp jumps, great extensions, wonderfully musical), and I can't wait to see what the future holds for her career. Jacquelyn Reyes (I think--wavy brown hair?) was another standout who showed a great deal of personality. I thought the dancers captured Tharp's off-kilter choreography well (my friend disagreed), although I admittedly have never seen the piece danced elsewhere. I didn't feel that this work was dated, in fact I think vintage Tharp really stands the test of time, blending ballet, jazz, circus clown goofiness, and pedestrian movements into something bigger than the sum of its parts. I was also glad to see that Elaine Kudo, a great lady and former teacher of mine, coached the piece, as she certainly understands Tharpian musicality and technique.

The afternoon finished up with Theme and Variations, a whirlwind, non-stop, in-your-face Balanchine extravaganza. I wonder how this looked on ABT in the 40s? Kajiya Yuriko appeared nervous--her facial expression more of a grimace than a smile--and truly lacked the gusto to get the job done. I was rooting for her (I loved her in Corsaire last Spring), but I agree with other ballettalkers that Kajiya may have not been up to the task for this one. David Hallberg was a bit off and even fell out of his pirouette, but his exuberance and palpable love of performing so effect me that I forgive everything. Objectivity be damned; I could watch this man dance anything. The corps was impressive, and I have to agree with the earlier poster who commented on the brilliant technique of Simone and Misty as part of the lead group of four girls. Misty Copeland is so solid; I love watching her precise legs and feet as she executes jumps, turns, anything! One corps memeber (I believe Zhong-Jing Fang) got completely off in the final coda, and struggled to rejoin the corps. Otherwise an exciting and impressive showing.

All in all Sunday was a pleasant and unexpected afternoon--I felt like a lucky girl indeed. On a side note, did anyone else notice the story on Wheeldon in the program was written by Matthew Murphy? Good to see him doing some writing work since his dance career was derailed by illness.

I can't wait for Friday and the all-Tudor evening, especially Pillar of Fire and Jardin aux Lilas. Yay!

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I went tonight and found thrills and disappointments. I just want to say a little about Ballo at this point. I was very disappointed in Wiles and Hallberg. I had expected Wiles to ace this piece. I found her being overly cute in presentation (very un-Meryl Ashley) and lacking in the speed and sharpness that the ballet requires, as a result she looked sloppy and a bit sluggish. Hallberg seemed way out of his comfort zone. The four soloist women were terrific - Copeland, Riccetto, Seo & Underwood, and I thought Zhong-Jing Fang a stand out in the corps.

I am curious to read other impressions of this ballet & the others. I'll post my thougts about other pieces later, I'm more curious to read other impressions - just one silly thought that came to me at the end of the night Lane/Simkin might grow up to be Reyes/Cornejo - not exactly but maybe you know what I'm getting at.

Also, thank you all for your opinions and insights. I love reading these posts.

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just one silly thought that came to me at the end of the night Lane/Simkin might grow up to be Reyes/Cornejo - not exactly but maybe you know what I'm getting at.

First we had the grown-ups in Ballo & then the kiddies in Flames. I honestly don't see a comparison between the Lane/Simkin pairing and the Reyes/Cornejo pair. Reyes is a small woman who dances big; she is extremely musical and communicates at all times with her partner. Lane is a small girl who dances small. Everything is pretty and restrained and small. She never looks at her partner. I am yet to be convinced of her musicality. She also has a tendency to fall off pointe at crucial moments. Reyes takes chances; Lane does not.

If you look at the Youtube clips of Cornejo at 17 doing James in La Sylphide, you can see that he was already an artist. No forcing or playing to the footlights here; just pure beautiful dancing. Simkin is still young and one can only hope he gets the proper coaching to develop beyond being a crowd pleaser. Cornejo's jump is high and beautiful; Simkin has ballon but his jump is not pretty and his feet tend to sickle. Cornejo has elongated his line so that he looks longer than he is. Simkin needs to learn to do this.

As for Ballo - different eyes, different take. No, Wiles was not perfect but I found her delightful - bold, witty, musical and seeming to enjoy herself enormously. Hallberg can do no wrong in my book. Keep in mind this role was choreographed on a much slighter dancer, Ricky Weiss, and later done to perfection by Ib Andersen. Hallberg must have at least six inches on those two. Also the stage is far too small for him, as are the wings. After one exit, I was expecting to see a bloody nose on his next entrance. He dances with such a beautifully controlled brio and is there a more beautiful jump around?

Yes indeed the four soloists were tip-top, especially Copeland and Seo.

I sat through another Interminable Path due to a different cast than last week's. Again, Copleand and Sep were mesmerizing.

It's been a while since I saw Brief Fling and it's such a fun piece. Really well danced by all. Copeland seemingly can dance anything. And tonight she danced almost everything. I'd like to see her do the lead in Ballo soon. She's musical and articulated and communicative. She'd be wonderful in it .. or anything else.

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>Lane/Simkin might grow up to be Reyes/Cornejo - not exactly but...

I'm at a loss to see any comparison....

Reyes is mature, strong as an ox, but lacks finesse. In the right parts she has strong tricks/technique, some excellent acting skills (eg, Kitri), and a huge, warm-hearted smile, but her dancing doesn’t have a natural beauty in lines or in overall presentation for me. I don't think I'll ever watch Reyes in a Balanchine ballet that requires a totally different technique/style. Herman has a sensual purity to his dancing, even when he's trying to ham things up as in Fling last night. I've always loved his dancing, but I don't particularly like Reyes and Herman together. One does not really compliment the other but they're both about the same height and seem to enjoy dancing together.

One day soon, I hope you will see Sarah and Daniil in a ballet that really suits them, such as R&J, Giselle, SBeauty, Ballo, Tchai pas, in time even Theme. They have a freshness to their dancing that goes far beyond cranking out tricks. But Daniil certainly was the winner in the tricks department with Flames last night. Wow! He was beyond belief presenting all those male tricks we've seen on others over the years. But Daniil brings a new, easy approach and a handsomely, playful (yet serious) style. His body is beautifully long and his face is that of a cherub. I loved him! Can't wait to see Daniil in a better ballet.

Sarah's solo and coda in Flames were all pretty much done on the same foot, her left one. The hops on pointe flying across the stage, turns, jumps to the left (pushes off of the left foot/leg) then the double saute basques(!) - three in a row (pushing off and landing on the left foot), then whatever fouette combination for 32 counts. My left foot was hurting just watching it and realizing how lopsided the female role is for today's world with dancers of different training. It's not a fine pas de deux I'd want to see again and again. ABT's debut female for Flames was Eleanor D'Antuono ('72 per the program notes). Enough said..... Flames was designed for a female who's as strong as an ox. Sarah is not that, though she did a lovely job getting through it without crashing through the tricks. I suspect Flames will be even better, less nervous, over the weekend when Sarah and Daniil haven't done a full-out dress rehearsal the same day as the evening's debut performance. That's a ton of pressure for very difficult tricks.

I wish Sarah and Daniil had danced a pas de deux such as Tchai pas instead. It would have suited their styles much better. And Daniil can certainly handle lifts/partnering too as he showed us last night holding Sarah in the air a bit longer than needed during a high, over his head, tour jete.

I was very happy to be there last night and see the first evening of what I'm sure will be a wonderful partnership. They look genuine and comfortable together in their youthful joy/energy and unforced styles.

As for Ballo, Michelle Wiles was far from unforced. Strong as heck, yes! Lots of punch, yes! At times, heavy-weighted in execution, yes! At least this year, she didn't punch holes into the stage during her a la seconde position, on-pointe bounces. Michelle was lots of fun, but not in a Balanchine-ballet way. Hallberg was his usual, smooth, gorgeous, princely self. It was great to see him dancing so well again.

The demis were mostly all very good, but not all were cast for the best result. I'd have switched a couple of them to dance different solos. Seo has beautiful lines but isn't/wasn't right for the huge jumping solo. Misty was excellent in the first solo, but I think she would have been even better in Seo's jumping part. (Yuriko was my favorite at ABT for that jumping solo.) Riccetto looks less uncomfortable with her solo's choreography than last year, but she doesn't dance boldly or pretty enough for me. Leann Underwood was a surprise in the fourth solo. A beautiful girl with a beautiful, feminine movement quality.

I skipped "Interminable" Path.

Brief Fling was certainly fun and silly, with very silly Scottish-inspired Mizrahi costumes. The dancing and acting was done especially well by the mostly very young cast. I'd like to see Messmer take on the female lead or Lane. I think both of these ladies, from what I've seen in various parts, are ready for more acting/character roles.

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I went tonight and found thrills and disappointments. I just want to say a little about Ballo at this point. I was very disappointed in Wiles and Hallberg. I had expected Wiles to ace this piece. I found her being overly cute in presentation (very un-Meryl Ashley) and lacking in the speed and sharpness that the ballet requires, as a result she looked sloppy and a bit sluggish. Hallberg seemed way out of his comfort zone. The four soloist women were terrific - Copeland, Riccetto, Seo & Underwood. . .
I agree about Wiles, but don't think she should be criticized if the conductor failed to give her tempi that would let her zip through the choreography. I also agree that her attempt to flirt with the audience came through as coy, forced and saccharine. Hallberg, on the other hand, used the slower tempi to dance absolutely huge, bringing razor-sharpness to what we often see as blur. When he stopped a pirouette on his very high 3/4 pointe, extending his working leg and pausing, I had to catch my breath. It may not have been exactly the right phrasing for Ballo, but under the circumstances, I savored it.

Also praises for an outstanding quartet of soloists -- especially Copeland (who ended up owning the evening, IMO) and Seo (How long can a dancer stay in the air? :) Until the music says "down"). Seo seems to gain authority with every opportunity, as was also seen in Overgrown Path, where she took on the "black dress" woman danced by Gillian Murphy earlier. More on that and Brief Fling later.

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I went tonight and found thrills and disappointments. I just want to say a little about Ballo at this point. I was very disappointed in Wiles and Hallberg. I had expected Wiles to ace this piece. I found her being overly cute in presentation (very un-Meryl Ashley) and lacking in the speed and sharpness that the ballet requires, as a result she looked sloppy and a bit sluggish. Hallberg seemed way out of his comfort zone. The four soloist women were terrific - Copeland, Riccetto, Seo & Underwood. . .
I agree about Wiles, but don't think she should be criticized if the conductor failed to give her tempi that would let her zip through the choreography. I also agree that her attempt to flirt with the audience came through as coy, forced and saccharine. Hallberg, on the other hand, used the slower tempi to dance absolutely huge, bringing razor-sharpness to what we often see as blur. When he stopped a pirouette on his very high 3/4 pointe, extending his working leg and pausing, I had to catch my breath. It may not have been exactly the right phrasing for Ballo, but under the circumstances, I savored it.

Points well taken. I am going to see Sat. Mat. & have high hopes for T Pas with Wiles & Hallberg. I have my fingers crossed for Kijya in ballo but I still think she is miscast (I saw her in it last year), I hope she proves me wrong.

In respect to Brief Fling - I haven't seen it in years and found Reyes quite delightful. I find that I say this often after seeing her perform, she flies somewhat under the radar so I am constantly surprised & delighted anew. A flaw in me not in her.

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SO guys, tell us -- how do you like Simkin?

He's so well-represented on Youtube, and hte way he dances somes across so well on video, I do wonder how he'd look in 3-D. he seeems wonderfully wacked to me - -I think i might like him a LOT. The video with him and his dad competing is hilarious, really adorable -- wonderful layers of sweetness and silliness under the surface of that, the kind of comic lead who delights you continually without actually making you laugh out loud.

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[ She also has a tendency to fall off pointe at crucial moments. Reyes takes chances; Lane does not.

I honestly don't see a comparison between the Lane/Simkin pairing and the Reyes/Cornejo pair.

I still have high hopes for Lane's potential. I don't think that it is really a matter of falling off pointe. I think it is part of a planning & execution problem that also appeared in places in Lane's SB. She goes for a lot and will, for example, do a series of beautifully shaped multiple turns, repeat the sequence nicely and then the 3rd time (which should be the big pay off) she falls short and doesn't quite make it. Those moments leave one feeling somewhat unsatisfied. It's almost as if she feels that she has to do the most difficult thing she can all of the time in order, to prove herself - a problem that often afflicts young dancers.

I agree that Copeland looked great all night. I am glad to see her being used so well.

I also agree that Reyes is a delight - confident, mature, lots of technique and that Cornejo showed maturity in many ways when he was young. I just meant that for me Lane & Simkin are dancing like young, somewhat unformed dancers who, in my opinion have a lot of beauty and potential. I am touched by that, and at the end of the evening I found myself happy to witness complete artists. Personally, I feel Lane & Simkin can get there. Even if they don't I am still glad to see the start of the journey.

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