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ABT at City Center, Fall 2008

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Today's 1:30 performance (Nov. 2) began with Ballo and the slip of paper announcing Kajiya and Tamm in place of Murphy and Hallberg. I knew Gillian wouldn't be dancing as planned, but I was so looking forward to David in this. But no worries -- it's always exciting to see a new'un in a new role and I thought Eric Tamm was very, very good. Kajiya, too, after her troubled "Theme" a week ago (last Sunday's aft perf) was confident, strong, and bursting with energy. I was happy I saw her in a better light. When she got to that special Merrill Ashley variation, I looked at her very closely, Ashley's dancing running through my head. Allegra Kent was seated near me and I wondered what she was thinking, too. Kajiya tried her darndest, she really did, and without the knowledge of Merrill Ashley's precedent-setting performances, one could say Kajiya did very well indeed. Alas, we DO have knowledge of Miss Ashley's incomparable antecedent! It makes you treasure having seen Ashley do it all the more and place a higher value on her considerable ability with the special choreography of this piece. Of course, it was a collaboration with Balanchine, who simply incorporated the things Merrill Ashley could do, and she could do just about anything this ballet required. The speed! The precision of those hops! That unique 3-part drawing in of the leg from grand battement a la second to high passe!

But this review is supposed to be about Kajiya. I was pleasantly surprised at how pleasantly and surprisingly she danced today. With ease and showing beautiful lines, good elevation and a much better facial expression -- joyful! -- to replace that upper lip curl that looked almost like a sneer last week when she was dancing unsure. She is quite the sublime dancer. I'm glad that I can end my season of watching by saying so, that I was able to change my mind about her (even knowing she was thrown into "Theme" and had to make [really sour] lemonade). Yuriko, you were wonderful today and you have t--i--m--e to get better at things like Ballo. You certainly took the bull by the horns today. More power to you.

I have to say that unless Kajiya improved significantly between Sat. & Sun. I can't see how she could have presented Ballo well. Yes, it was about Ashley's technique, speed & precision, but others have done a credible job - Bouder, Murphy, Ana Sophia Scheller are all examples. I hope Kajiya managed it today - but this is her second year in Ballo and I don't think she should be in the ballet.

So unless Kajiya pulled off a miracle today we respectfully disagree.

What did you think of Flames today?

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Re "Flames," this is the first time I saw it. Simkin was so much fun! I look forward to seeing him dazzle and develop... in that order. Lane is not on his level in the dazzling department, and she has a stiffness that I just can't warm up to, but there is a lot about her that I do like, so hopefully with her, the development will help.

Re Kaijya... I enjoyed her so much during the Met season that she became pretty much my most sought-after dancer. Her "Theme" and "Ballo" have left me contemplating dancers being pushed beyond what they can comfortably do. I always tend to think about favorite corps members and soloists being promoted, but I'm learning to appreciate them in what I actually see them doing. In other words, I sometimes feel my favorite dancers are being kept back from dancing the bigger roles they surely are capable of. But maybe they're really not ready for that.

Along those lines, I'll mention what for me was one of the highlights of perhaps 8 performances (I lost count) over the past 2 weeks -- the soloist women in "Ballo." Love this piece! And Isabella Boylston's swaying movements, Simone Messmer's huge, expansive grand jetes, and Leann Underwood's grace, remain in my mind. Thanks!

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Tudor Celebration

Friday, October 31, 8pm

Very quick notes:

* largest audience I've seen at City Center, in recent memory - jam packed! I'm told that it was sold-out, even in the Gallery. Glad that I made it to the theater with enough time to inch my way to my Rear Mezz seat!

* enjoyed the documentary films in-between the dancing; most enlightening...especially some enticing clips of the complete R&J

* more than one person seated around me lamented the omission of the originally-scheduled Leaves Are Fading

* Continuo - a gorgeous little ballet to Pachelbel's Canon. Six wonderful corps dancers but THE revelation of the night for me: gorgeous long-limbed Katherine Williams - WOW! Definitely a Nikiya or Odette in the making, with those extraordinarily expressive limbs. Perfect - perfect - perfect face & physique. Her partner, Grey Davis, was also most impressive.

* Jardin aux Lilas - rather dull rendering from this cast, with Julie Kent having an off night. I had not seen ABT in this work for a while, so was shocked to see the blah new costumes for most of the females...e.g., where is the iconic stripped blue-and-white dress for the 2nd female lead? Where is that sassy dress with the big back bow for one of the corps gals? Where was the clear characterization of the smaller corps parts? Just a blah production, all around. Joffrey definitely does it better - glitzier costumes and all. Even little NYTB tops ABT in this.

* Romeo & Juliet pdd - the loveliest piece of the evening for me. I saw this tiny gem of a pdd last spring as performed by NYTB...but in the hands of Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Savelyev, it rose to a masterpiece of dance drama. That pose for the final kiss -- with Romeo lying on the floor face-up & Juliet kissing him from opposite direction, bending down to meet his lips -- is one of the great moments in the world of ballet.

* Judgment of Paris - I saw this silly little ballet at NYTB last spring. Hated its cheap tricks then; still hate it now, although it was nice to see the 'veteran ABT stars' back up on the stage, particularly Martine Van Hamel with those hoops sliding down her arms in time to the music...one of the truly funny moments amidst the cheap laughs, IMO.

* Pillar of Fire -- This ballet is almost laughable, it is so outdated in its story. Nonetheless, Gillian Murphy turned-in a performance that made me believe in this antiquated morality tale. Murphy nailed it.

Quite a fun night, despite the few downers. Wheee!!!

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I will keep my comments to a minimum because I only attend a handful of ABT performances a year (as opposed to at least three a week

at NYCB for decades). I simply don't know the dancers well enough to make interesting comments. However, I was deeply disappointed in

yesterday's (matinee) "Ballo Della Regina." I saw it last year with Gillian Murphy and thought she did a fine job.

Yuriko Kajiya was not up to the part, and I'll leave it at that (Vipa said it best above).

"Flames of Paris" was thrilling -- and not just because of the incredible Danil Simkin. Sarah Lane, whose part was less showy but quite difficult, was also excellent.

I'm not a Tudor fan, so I'm not the right audience for "Jardin Aux Lilas" (although it was lovely, and I did like Veronika Part a lot).

"Company B" is a favorite Paul Taylor ballet, but I prefer the Paul Taylor interpretation. Still, the dancers seemed like they were having a grand time and that

enthusiasm was infectious.

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I have to agree with the posts above that were critical of Yuriko in Ballo. She doesn't have the allegro technique needed for this ballet. Why would ABT select Yuriko for this role? It makes no sense.

Because Yuriko has nice lines, and nice jumps. She's leggy and lean, and I think ABT saw that Yuriko has a delicacy, a clean, pretty look about her that would work in Balanchine ballets. I really liked her in the Brief Fling piece this season. Also liked Yuriko in Upper Room - done a year or so ago where she broke out of the clean, pretty mold. I think Yuriko can do Balanchine but she's, so far, much more comfortable in other ballets.

Sarah Lane is very special. I'll just leave it at that. Theme is about the hardest ballerina role I know of in the female Balanchine rep. Flames was also the hardest ballet tied with Theme at City Center this season but in a different, circusy way. I can't wait to see Sarah dance many other parts including Ballo where she will be a bit more comfortable.

To balance this out a little.... I think both of these ladies have a bit of stiffness but that's more because of their *classically,* correct training and nervousness in huge roles. One dancer is a bit more stiff than the other, but that's a personal style. Yuriko is a cooler dancer than Sarah (eg, Sleeping Beauty, goat of Sylvia, Amour -- all require an actress style). Theme, Flames, Ballo were huge steps up for these ladies having been soloists, not principals, in the white tutu act of Bayadere, etc.

I forgot to mention that both these ladies were gorgeous as soloists in Bayadere at the Met. Sarah turning one triple after another on top of her radiant, lovely, lyrical qualities. Yuriko as the jumper girl in Bayadere (the 2nd solo) with beautiful lines was effortless in her lyrical, classically languaged movements while flying across the stage.

I think its wonderful and interesting to see Balanchine ballets done on classically trained dancers. But it's always going to be different from NYCB. Classical dancers are not used to Balanchine's training, Balanchine's ballets on a daily basis, and a style that is more out of the box. It doesn't surprise me one bit that Theme was a first at ABT because it does have a formal, classical style in comparison to something like Ballo or Allegro Brilliante (coming soon!!!). I love all these ballets, and am so happy to see them train young dancers to dance better.

I can't even look at NYCB's opening Gala night program this year without crying.... because there is so little Balanchine. I think ABT's on the right track when often NYCB is not these days.

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I am a fan of both Yuriko & Sarah, but I have to say that I felt like a schizophrenic watching Yuriko in Ballo. She was absolutely beautiful and so very, very wrong for the role. Gorgeous arms, a light, easy jump, delicate phrasing, a feeling of utter joy in her performance. These are wonderful attributes in a lyrical dancer but they made for an unrecognizable Ballo. Along with the blurred feet there was no attack, no accenting in her phrasing (or at least, no Balanchinian accenting in her phrasing). What was Kevin thinking giving her Ballo & T&V? I can think of a dozen roles that she'd be great in (including La & Les Sylphide) but her foray into Balanchine only made one wish for Bouder. Even more than Kevin, what was Merrill Ashley thinking? Don't the Balanchine police (I mean trust) have any say in how the ballets they set are performed?

I thought Eric Tamm made a fine debut in the male lead. He may have been a little over eager and certainly there is room for improvement but I loved his long, clean line, elegant legs and secure partnering. This was a very impressive performance from a young corpsman I don't think I've ever even seen in a featured role before.

In fact, the most enjoyable part of the season for me were the flashes of brilliance I saw from dancers I didn't know 3 weeks ago. Ilyin, Phillips, Scott, Boylston, Boone, Copeland, Lane, Messmer & Melissa Thomas were all wonderful, but we've seen their potential previously. Over the past 2 weeks Katherine Williams, Leann Underwood, Alexander Hammoudi and especially Thomas Forrester all looked like future stars. It was a shame that Hammoudi missed his solo roles at the end of the engagement, I'd really like to see more of him & Forrester next season. LOTS more!

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Yes, I noticed Katherine Willliams, too. I hadn't really taken notice of her before, but I was amazed at how consistent she was.

Over the past 2 weeks Katherine Williams, Leann Underwood, Alexander Hammoudi and especially Thomas Forrester all looked like future stars. It was a shame that Hammoudi missed his solo roles at the end of the engagement, I'd really like to see more of him & Forrester next season. LOTS more!
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Of the corps dancers, I was most impressed by Melissa Thomas and Hee Seo (spelling?). I think C. Stearns needs more time to develop into major roles, and ABT is giving him too much too soon. In the soloist ranks, I can't wait to see more of Simkin. I loved all the Tudor ballets. The biggest dud of the season was, without question, Citizen.

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I attended the Saturday and Sunday matinees (November 1st and 2nd). I don't have much time, so I'll just make a few brief points. Yuriko Kajiya was much better in "Ballo della Regina" than she was last year, but I agree with many other posters that it's not her kind of ballet. I see Yuriko as a classical, even more a romantic ballerina. I think that before too long she'll be wonderful in "Giselle" and "La Sylphide". Eric Tamm was very impressive, both in his partnering and his solo dancing. (Although I would have much rather seen Cornejo and Hallberg dance the male lead in "Ballo".) I wish Tamm was getting the attention Cory Stearns is. In my opinion, Stearns is a decent partner, but only an okay solo dancer.

That being said, I thought Stearns was very good in "Jardin aux Lilas". I was moved to the point of tears by Saturday's "Jardin", especially by the performances of Julie Kent and Roman Zhurbin. But when I saw the same ballet on Sunday, it just left me cold. I could not get into it at all. There was something about the performances of the lead dancers (even Veronika Part) that I couldn't connect with. I don't think it's because I had just seen it the day before. "Jardin aux Lilas" is a ballet I didn't like much in the beginning (it was so different from "Swan Lake" and "Giselle"), but the more I've seen it the more I've gotten out of it.

"Company B" was a lot of fun. I loved the dancing and even more the music, but it didn't have much depth (imo anyway). Another fun ballet without much depth (again imo) was "Brief Fling". I particularly liked the performances of Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera, but those costumes!!!! Is it just me or were they all absolutely hideous? And there were so many different kinds of costumes for one ballet. I found that really jarring.

My favorite ballets of the two matinees were the two pas de deux. I have seen "Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux" many many many times, but I always love it. And it was so excitedly danced by David Hallberg and Michele Wiles. Wiles and Hallberg are very good together, their chemistry is fabulous. I hope to see much more of Daniil Simkin - talk about bravura and exciting dancing. What I especially liked about Simkin's dancing was that he had everything look so easy and effortless. Also, he seemed to be having so much fun. And Sarah Lane was just wonderful. I got my subscription renewal from ABT today, and I was sorry not to see Simkin listed as dancing in more ballets. I know he's young (and he looks like he's about twelve) and he's very short, but he's so good!!!! He can dance with Lane and Reyes. His partnering didn't seem to be a problem on Sunday. I would really like to see Simkin dance in all the classics before too long.

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My husband turned and asked them to please stop talking, and they looked at him as if he was crazy.

I had a similar experience at Lar Lubovitch tonight. A couple started talking very loudly during one of the pieces. I, along with other audience members, shushed them. I told him that they were being rude. He replied that I was rude to shush them. :thumbsup: This was a man in his 40s. Where were these people raised that they think it's all right to talk out loud during a performance?

At a another performance at City Center last year, a man in the row behind us, making way for someone in his row, practically sat on my father's head. When I pointed this out to him, he got indignant and said, "Where am I supposed to move?" as if the fact that he was moving for someone else made it okay. :sigh:

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Like many others I relished the chance to see some exquisite ABT corps and soloist dancers shine on the smaller City Center Stage. Along these lines, I wanted to mention the upcoming Benjamin Millepied-Danses Concertantes at the (way small) Joyce Theatre, Dec. 9-14. I just purchased my tickets and noticed the YouTube plug lists the dancers to appear: Isabella Boylston, Sarah Lane, Maria Ricetto, Celine Cassone, Melissa Thomas, Nicole Graniero, Gemma Bond, Alexandre Hammoudi, Cory Stearns, Eric Tamm, Luis Ribagorda, Tom Forster, and Blain Hoven. "Wow," says I.

They will be dancing Balanchine's Sonatine and two Millepied works, all to piano accompaniment.

Sorry if I posted in the wrong place or redundantly.

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When I was at Lar Lubovitch, a woman asked the usher if she could go in and out during the performance, as she needed to call her friend to make arrangements for them to meet up. At last - a considerate one? Guess again.

The usher said that she couldn't do that; she would have to wait until the pause to return. So the woman sat there making repeated calls to her friend during the performance. "I ask if I can come back. She says 'no'. What you want from me? It is usher you have problem with."

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