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ABT Mixed Bill - Allegro Brill, Flames, Pillar & Brief Fling


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Opening this thread for reports and comments on American Ballet Theater's Mixed Bill opening the run at the Kennedy Center. Ballets are listed in the 'topic title' with exception that 'Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux' replaces 'Flames of Paris' on the 18th (today).

Now for my own report.

AMERICAN BALLET THEATER

MIXED BILL: ALLEGRO BRILLANTE, FLAMES OF PARIS PDD, PILLAR OF FIRE & BRIEF FLING

Kennedy Center Opera House

Washington, DC

February 17, 2009

THE BIG PICTURE

A sparse -- in the balconies -- but enthusiatic crowd welcomed ABT back to DC last night. We were treated to the very promising company premiere of Balanchine's Allegro Brillante (Gillian Murphy in full bloom!), the 'Flaming' local debut of much-touted Wunderkind Danil' Simkin, a powerful essay of the Tudor classic Pillar of Fire (with a tremendous performance by 'local pride' Michele Wiles) and -- as if last week's Sylphide/Celts at Washington Ballet weren't enough -- 'high-flying kilts of all colors and variety' courtesy of Tharp's Brief Fling.

THE DETAILS

Allegro Brillante

If I remember one image from the company premiere of Balanchine's short-but-sweet Allegro Brillante to the lone movement of Tchaikovsky's unfinished piano concerto, it is GILLIAN IN EXCELSIS! The sleek redheaded ballerina performed this as if she were a principal at NYCB (rather than ABT) all of her life. WOW! The creamy multiple pirouettes, totally in harmony to the starts and stops of the solo piano! The perfect placement of limbs and port de bras...and heavenly feet! The delightful musicality - 'playing' with the pianist during a stacatto section of pointework! The proper air of Imperial Snoot, with a glimmer of warmth when looking at her partner, the excellent and excited Cory Stearns (a major premiere for him, one the troupe's newest soloists). The corps -- all wonderful individual dancers -- can be forgiven lack of uniformity on this opening night. Yet, I could not help but notice Hee Seo's exemplary line and attack, as well as the beautiful technique of Joseph Phillips among the men. Darla Hoover, who staged the work on ABT, came out for a well-deserved bow.

Flames of Paris pdd

I came into this evening expecting this pdd to be the 'technical highlight' of the night. It was OK (to a point) but both the preceding Allegro Brillante and the evening's closer, Brief Fling, made more of a technical 'wow' impression on me and the neighbors around me in 2nd tier. So what happened?

I was under-whelmed by Danil' Simkin, not because he cannot DO the amazing steps (he's capable of pulling off rivoltades and barrel turns 'til the cows come home) but because of his overall demeanor and "kid" look. Part of this he cannot help - he is diminutive (but cute and fuzzy!)...as if he were still competing in the junior division of Youth American Grand Prix. The height is not the problem; performers of this pdd can be short -- think Ivan Vasiliev at the Bolshoi. However, the musculature and 'manly look' is de rigeur. Simkin is not quite there yet, so this souffle deflated for me. Yet, he was very warmly received by the audience, it should be noted.

His partner, the pert Sarah Lane, had tons of charm but her technique totally failed her...fouettes that ended prematurely and were clutzy from the get-go....a botched diagonal of hops on pointe (or off pointe). She was having an off-night.

Pillar of Fire

Michele Wiles 'nailed it' last night. She delivers one of the best, most convincingly portrayed, Hagars I've seen. Yes, even topping Gillian Murphy's own wonderful rendition, which I saw last October during the Tudor Evening at City Center, NYC. We all know Wiles the great classicist and technician but 'who'd have thunk' that she had the makings of a great actress? Well, she proved that last night. Interestingly, she used her great technique -- those spot-on arabesques and jetes en tournant -- to a dramatic end. Until tonight, I had not realized the meaning of the 'yearning arabesque,' in the Tudor vocabulary.

It was a good cast. Marcelo Gomes brilliant as the over-sexed Man From the House Opposite who rapes Hagar. David Hallberg, so wonderful as James in WB's Sylphide last week, was here equally convincing as the nice guy who truly loves Hagar. Additional kudos to Maria Bystrova as Hagar's 'stiff' older sister, as well as to Marian Butler as the flirty and sneaky younger sis.

Brief Fling

There was excitement to the max in Twyla Tharp's pean to Scotland...and to energetic dancing, in general. Once again, ballet and modern dancers are juxtaposed to create one brilliant romp that leaves audiences whooping it up at the end. If Allegro Brillante was Gillian Murphy, then Brief Fling is surely Herman Cornejo! He soars!!! He spins at 100 mph at perfect vertical axis...and we all drop our jaws!!! His classical partner in blue-plaid tutu, Xiomara Reyes, was nearly as impressive. But I truly LOVED-LOVED-LOVED Misty Copeland as the leading modern gal in baggy green-plaid trousers. Kudos to the entire high-flying ensemble.

ABT is soaring! Bravi Tutti!!!

The run continues with two repeats of this mixed bill, followed by four Swan Lakes. I look forward to reading more reports from other BalletTalkers, as I'll only be able to attend the Sunday-matinee Swan with Wiles/Hallberg...and maybe Friday's Swan with Part/Gomes, if I can get out of a prior commitment. :)

Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

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I'll be seeing the mixed bill tomorrow and Swan Lake the day after, so I look forward to reading about Wiles as Odette/Odile. Thank you for this review, Natalia--I believe Wiles is doing Hagar again tomorrow, so I am very excited to see her in that role.

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Opening this thread for reports and comments on American Ballet Theater's Mixed Bill opening the run at the Kennedy Center. Ballets are listed in the 'topic title' with exception that 'Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux' replaces 'Flames of Paris' on the 18th (today).

Now for my own report.

Great review as usual (esp for us who can't be there). Who are the other soloists in the Allegro... :thanks: premiere? Thanks.

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Natalia, thanks for the wonderful reviews.

Let me just add something about Brief Fling. As much as I adore & admire Cornejo's dancing, I found him 'too classical' for Tharp. The only reason I noticed this was because the Kennedy Center opened a rehearsal that afternoon and I got the chance to see Marcelo Gomes in the same role. His performance was more attuned to Baryshnikov's head and shoulder movements from "Push Comes to Shove" and it just rang more Tharpian for me. I will be interested to see if anyone else noticed the difference.

Ditto on Wiles' Hagar. Either I'd forgotten how moving this ballet can be or Michelle really knocked it out of the ballpark. I was in tears by the end.

Flames of Paris pdd - All I can say is, "Ah... youth and energy" and smile.

I'm much agreed with you on Gillian in the "Allegro Brilliante". Wouldn't it be loverly' to see what Balanchine would have created for her?

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Natalia, thanks for the wonderful reviews.

Let me just add something about Brief Fling. As much as I adore & admire Cornejo's dancing, I found him 'too classical' for Tharp. The only reason I noticed this was because the Kennedy Center opened a rehearsal that afternoon and I got the chance to see Marcelo Gomes in the same role. His performance was more attuned to Baryshnikov's head and shoulder movements from "Push Comes to Shove" and it just rang more Tharpian for me. I will be interested to see if anyone else noticed the difference.

When ABT performed Brief Fling at City Center in NYC a few months ago, I saw both lead casts (Gomes/Herrera and Cornejo/Reyes). I agree with you that Gomes and Herrera were better interpreters of the Tharp style. Based on everyone's review, I'm looking forward to seeing Murphy in Allegro Brilliante this Spring.

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Bingham, it's "Irina and Max" as the Allegro Brillante leads both today and tomorrow, according to the playbill. Kanawha, I am sorry to be missing tonight's Kajiya/Gomes pairing in Brief Fling. It's great that you were able to see them in the open rehearsal and, thus, see both couples back-to-back.

By the way, I don't think that Cornejo being too classical in this is necessarily a bad thing, since Tharp's idea is to contrast classicism and modernism. He was very non-Russian in his demeanor, by the way...there was a jazzy edge to the way that Cornejo came out of those pirouettes, did you notice? However, I am sure that Gomes would be fantastic and even edgier, just judging from his other Tharp work.

p.s. Small aside on an addition to the corps: I could not help but notice that the Royal Ballet's choryphee/1st artist, Caroline Duprot, has joined the ABT corps! With a gorgeous face to die for, Duprot had long been one of my favorite RB corps dancers. She did not take part in the current mixed bill but I see that she's listed in the corps for some of the weekend's Swan Lakes. So that's two recent 'defections' from London to NY -- first Gemma Bond and now Caroline Duprot. Any others?

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Quick update to the above: I checked my City Center Season Playbill against that of the new Kennedy Center season and can report the following changes in ABT's corps de ballet --

Out of the corps - Cory Stearns (promoted up to Soloist)...all other City Center season corps remain

Into the corps -

Caroline Duprot (from Royal Ballet, London)

Isadora Loyola (promoted up from ABT II)

Amanda McGuigan (back after absence during City Center; was listed in corps 07/08)

Kelley Potter (from ?)

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Quick update to the above: I checked my City Center Season Playbill against that of the new Kennedy Center season and can report the following changes in ABT's corps de ballet --

Out of the corps - Cory Stearns (promoted up to Soloist)...all other City Center season corps remain

Into the corps -

Caroline Duprot (from Royal Ballet, London)

Isadora Loyola (promoted up from ABT II)

Amanda McGuigan (back after absence during City Center; was listed in corps 07/08)

Kelley Potter (from ?)

Kelley came back to ABT(she was in the corps a few years ago) from Boston ballet.BTW,sorry for not being clear in my previous post, but i was asking for the demisoloists in the Allegro Brillante premiere. :wink:

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Bingham, I don't have my playbill with me but I recall Hee Seo as the female standout and Joseph Phillip as the male standout.

Thanks for the clarification on Kelley Potter. No wonder that the name rang a bell.

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Bingham, I don't have my playbill with me but I recall Hee Seo as the female standout and Joseph Phillip as the male standout.

Thanks for the clarification on Kelley Potter. No wonder that the name rang a bell.

Thanks. There are pictures of the mixed-bill newly posted in Gene Schiavonne website.

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As before, the evening began with Allegro Brillante, this time with Irina Dvorovenko and Maxin Beloserkovsky as the principal couple. This was my first time seeing the ballet, and I think it is one to add to the list of 'beige ballets'--its chief merit is the negative one of inoffensiveness. Still, it was pleasant enough, and I enjoyed seeing Balanchine performed with the elegant upper bodies of Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky, who, although they have long lines and limbs, danced with easy agility. I thought the demi-soloists looked rather ill at ease, though.

Next was that creaky old gala pas de deux, Flames of Paris, performed once again by Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane. The danger of a flashy pas de deux like this is that sometimes dancers will turn it into a technical exercise, and that is what happened tonight. A suitable backdrop for Simkin's variation would have included a pummel horse and uneven bars--his death-defying jumps drew gasps, but they remained athletics, not art.

I have to pity Sarah Lane. She seems like a charming and technically strong dancer, but it seemed she felt she had to prove herself a worthy partner to the flying whirligig--in trying to impress, she reached too far and in spite of some nice pirouettes, the overall effect was one of unsteadiness. I think if she had worried less about tricks and had just relaxed and provided some much-needed personality, it would have been more of a success.

Next was the real meat of the evening, the reason I went in the first place: Pillar of Fire. I had only seen this ballet once before, probably the last time ABT brought it to the Kennedy Center. I'd been sitting far away and was mostly confused by it, though I wanted to understand and see what others saw in it. Well, tonight I did. The performance (Michele Wiles, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg) wasn't what it should or could have been, that much was clear, but the dancers performed it with commitment, and the power of Tudor's choreography came through. It was intense and very moving.

I understand why they put the 'difficult' ballet in the middle, but I wish it had been last. At the end of it, I felt the way one feels after Giselle--what could follow it? ABT went the mood-buster route with Brief Fling, which I found tedious and long. Tharp has a reputation for wit and humor, but this ballet was more like Scotch Symphony on hallucinogens. The dancers had plenty of energy, and Cornejo was particularly impressive, but the whole thing seemed pointless and odd rather than clever and interesting.

Generally, the evening was a bit of a letdown. Three of the works presented really had no choreographic substance, and they looked even emptier next to Pillar. However, in my opinion Pillar alone was worth the ticket price, and I'm glad I attended. It does make me wish ABT would bring more Tudor here, though.

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I have to pity Sarah Lane. She seems like a charming and technically strong dancer, but it seemed she felt she had to prove herself a worthy partner to the flying whirligig--in trying to impress, she reached too far and in spite of some nice pirouettes, the overall effect was one of unsteadiness. I think if she had worried less about tricks and had just relaxed and provided some much-needed personality, it would have been more of a success.

I have been a fan of Lane's. She has an odd situation in some ways. She is very short and very technically strong, so she has had the advantage/disadvantage of being cast with strong males who have needed a partner. This has worked well for her (in my opinion/observation) in Theme & Variations and Sleeping Beauty (bluebird ppd & aurora) but not so well in Sinatra Suite & Flames (which I saw in NY). Misty Copeland, who I also admire, is cast in things that suit her without the other height factor coming in. I am just using Misty as an example. Career's take shape for a variety or reasons.

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Yes, I would really like to see her again, in something else. She was perfectly lovely in the less flashy parts of her variation. I could imagine her being very beautiful in T&V and Sleeping Beauty, as you mentioned.

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Thanks for your report of last night, Hans! re. Flames of Paris, that's now twice that this has bombed -- Simkin too showy-narcissistic and Lane technically weak. Can't a company like ABT, known for its well-rounded (technique + artistry) artists, find one man and one woman who could do this pdd justice?

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Thanks for your report of last night, Hans! re. Flames of Paris, that's now twice that this has bombed -- Simkin too showy-narcissistic and Lane technically weak. Can't a company like ABT, known for its well-rounded (technique + artistry) artists, find one man and one woman who could do this pdd justice?

I think they have scheduled this ppd because of Simkin (maybe it was part of his deal). I don't think they'd be doing it at all without him.

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Not so much a part of his "deal," as it was a pas Daniil knows well and has done several times before arriving at ABT. ABT might have felt there was less risk putting the new kid/star out there in this -- rather than something brand new for his first few performances.

They (Sarah and Daniil), I have no doubt, would much rather be dancing Tchai pas de deux or the demis of Allegro Brilliante while in DC. I'm thrilled that they are cast for SL's trois.

Flames is an old, uninteresting pas, except for its tricks. The male role has many choices of tricks to do, or not, depending on the male's comfort level and preference of right vs. left side. Not so for the ballerina's choreography. Sarah is technical, but tricks, for tricks sake alone, are not her thing.

Flames' joy in today's world is seeing exceptional talent on young, beautiful, hungry dancers that look great together and can put new sparkle on ____ choreography. Sarah and Daniil have a lovely chemistry and comfort together, and they compliment each other height-wise, width-wise, age-wise, and physical beauty-wise.

ABT could have given Flames to Irina and Max (ha!) instead of Allegro, Gomes or Hallberg and Wiles or Murphy instead of Tchai pas.... but it doesn't take a genius to see that the newest talents are what sells Flames. I for one would rather not see this pas ever again on anybody. Flames is burnt to a crisp and needs to go where old coals go.

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Did anybody attend last night's second show? How did Wiles & Hallberg fare in Tchaikovsky PDD...or Kajiya & Gomes in Brief Fling?

I loved Gillian Murphy as Hagar in Pillar Of Fire - soulful acting/dancing that really "sold" the work to me. With Tudor I sometimes wish he'd just get it on, so to speak, but Murphy gave us many, many beautiful moments, especially when playing off Jose Manuel Carreno's "bad boy." They were so good together that I found myself wanting to rewrite Tudor's ending.. Murphy and Carreno seriously hooked up!

In Brief Fling, not sure that Yuriko Kajiya and Marcelo Gomes are really "Tharp dancers," whatever that means. They looked like they were dropped into Fling from some other, more classically-minded, ballet. On the other hand, that may be just what Tharp intended, so no criticism on my part.

Wiles & Hallberg's PDD, and for that matter the company's Allegro Brillante, came across, to me, as good and enjoyable performances that somehow didn't scale the heights (literally, in the case of Hallberg's jetes). Doesn't mean I didn't like 'em, I did, just that I didn't feel electrified as in Pillar Of Fire or energized/intrigued as in Brief Fling.

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Not so much a part of his "deal," as it was a pas Daniil knows well and has done several times before arriving at ABT. ABT might have felt there was less risk putting the new kid/star out there in this rather than something brand new for his first few performances.

They (Sarah and Daniil), I have no doubt, would much rather be dancing Tchai pas de deux or the demis of Allegro Brilliante while in DC. I'm thrilled that they are cast for SL's trois.

Flames is an old, uninteresting pas, except for its tricks. The male role has many choices of tricks to do, or not, depending on the male's comfort level and preference of right vs. left side. Not so for the ballerina's choreography. Sarah is technical, but tricks, for tricks sake alone, are not her thing.

Flames' joy in today's world is seeing exceptional talent on young, beautiful, hungry dancers that look great together and can put new sparkle on ____ choreography. Sarah and Daniil have a lovely chemistry and comfort together, and they compliment each other height-wise, width-wise, age-wise, and physical beauty-wise.

ABT could have given Flames to Irina and Max (ha!) instead of Allegro, Gomes or Hallberg and Wiles or Murphy instead of Tchai pas.... but it doesn't take a genius to see that the newest talents are what sells Flames. I for one would rather not see this pas ever again on anybody. Flames is burnt to a crisp and needs to go where old coals go.

I agree with all of the above. My question still remains why Flames at all. If I remember correctly it was stuck into the ABT program last spring when Daniil signed on. Most new soloists don't get ppds to show them off.

I have no doubts about Sarah's technique after seeing her T&V. (I saw Ashley Bouder tonight WOW but that's another thread)

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..... Flames is burnt to a crisp and needs to go where old coals go.

SZ, I believe that the 2,000+ audience members who roared praise and gave a standing-o to Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev at the 2008 YAGP Gala at City Center, NY, would disagree with you. After that all-time high (words of Wendy Perron of DanceMagazine - not mine), it was almost cruel to cast ANYBODY else in that pdd at City Center and, later, in DC. Simkin and Lane simply fall short, by a mile. There ARE great dancers, even at ABT, who do that pdd justice. For ex., didn't Gillian Murphy & Ethan Stiefel dance a spectacular FLAMES pdd on PBS TV, a couple of years ago, in the context of a New Year's FLEDERMAUS? Murphy would never have the problems falling-off pointe during the diagonal of FLAMES, like Lane did -- not once but twice.

Vipa, did you not know about the huge success of Osipova/Vasiliev in FLAMES pdd, at City Center, in spring 08? FLAMES lives...and even the full ballet has just become a hit at the Bolshoi, after Ratmansky resurrected the whole ballet for the Bolshoi in July of last year. [it repeats at the Boslhoi again in a couple of weeks, where I'll be seeing it.] So don't be surprised if Ratmansky - you know, the guy who has just been named ABT's artistic associate choreographer -- might stage the full FLAMES on Simkin & Lane's new company soon. Simkin & Lane should NOT be cast in the leads of the full-evening ballet, from what I saw on display at the Kennedy Center this week.

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