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ABT Swan Lake in DC


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Opening up this thread for a discussion of the Swan Lakes at the Kennedy Center, which begin tonight with Veronika Part, then Gillian Murphy at Saturday matinee and Nina Ananiashvili in the evening, then ending with Michele Wiles on Sunday afternoon. I'll be catching the Part and Wiles performances.

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AMERICAN BALLET THEATER

SWAN LAKE Opening Night (McKenzie, after Petipa/Ivanov)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kennedy Center Opera House

Odette/Odile - Veronika Part

Siegfried - Marcelo Gomes

Von Rothbart - David Hallberg

Pas de Trois - Yuriko Kajiya, Maria Ricetto, Jared Matthews

I believe that I have gone to 'Ballet Heaven' and come back -- I have witnessed the most glorious, heavenly, perfect Odette of my 40 ballet-going years and her name is Veronika Part. WOW! Meltingly lyrical, with exquisite arabesques, buttery bourres, perfect legs and feet, sleek-and-trim yet feminine, extraordinary port de bras, a face of ultimate beauty AND a dramatic ease. This was Veronika Part's Odette tonight. What about her Odile, you ask? Mighty fine, thank you. She did not go for the multi-fouetes that we know Gillian and Michele will pull off...but she managed splendidly, including a zippy series of 32 nice single fouettes ending in a double, all performed with a devilish smile. Veronika Part became an A-#1 BALLERINA tonight, for me. I have never seen her in a long, major role quite as wonderfully as what I saw tonight. The promise of 1990s St. Petersburg has finally come to pass. I bet that her beloved teacher, Inna Zubkovskaya, was smiling from the heavens tonight!

Marcelo Gomes was a dramatically "on" Siegfried and a perfect partner to the statuesque Part. He doesn't wow us with technique but with total artistry. I LOVE the way that he completes each enchainement or variation with a flourish, right to the beat of the music. This guy knows how to give maximum 'oomph' to his finishes!

David Hallberg is on a roll. Tonight he essayed a surprisingly devilish Von Rothbart, with some wonderful dancing thrown in his Act III ballroom solo. We will see his Siegfried at the Sunday matinee and I bet that it will be a dazzler, opposite Michele Wiles.

The Act I Pas de Trois, alas, was underwhelming, though properly, cleanly danced by Yuriko Kajiya, Maria Ricetto and Jared Matthews (resembling a grown-up Daniil Simkin, in a way!). I had almost written-off this trio as merely "OK" until one point in the coda when Kajiya surprised us with a 1st-arabesque balance that went on forever. Whoa! - where did that come from? Kajiya - you wowed us!!!

The ensemble was quite good. No complaints. :)

It was Veronika Part's magical night and one that I will forever keep in my heart.

Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

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Actually, I do have one thing to add. This was the evening I brought a group of my ballet students to see Swan Lake, so they were also able to see this performance of a lifetime. I believe for most of them it was their first time seeing the ballet live--a very good introduction indeed!

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She did not go for the multi-fouetes that we know Gillian and Michele will pull off...but she managed splendidly, including a zippy series of 32 nice single fouettes ending in a double, all performed with a devilish smile.

That smile was a killer! She and Gomes brought everything I remembered from the last time they danced this here, and a good deal more. Memories fade, of course, but I don't remember her malicious glee, her confidence, her projection of triumph, her overall characterization of Odile being quite as sharp last time. Whether in black or in white, she was more beautiful than ever.

Thanks for your review, Natalia.

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Thanks for the feedback! So...it is well past midnight, which means...this is February 21, Veronika Part's birthday. Happy Birthday, beautiful Odette! :)

I can think of a perfect birthday gift for her today. How about it, ABT? (hint-hint)

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Wonderful review Natalia, thanks! My husband and I just walked in the door after driving back from DC. I'm really glad we were able to make the trip, it was well worth 8 hours on the road!

So nice of Veronika to give US a birthday present...maybe we can all send psychic energy Kevin's way and will him into giving her the gift she so deserves!

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Sorry but I can't resist---this is the time to say "we told you so"....

Thanks, atm!!! :) To be honest, I did not 'get' her as a first-flight ballerina'til last night. Yes, a gorgeous woman who looked great wandering about waving a flower-topped stick as the Lilac Fairy. Lots of unfulfilled potential, e.g., I found her lovely when, as a 15-yr-old student, she portrayed Pavlova in the little Neumeier gem, Pavlova and Cecchetti, on the stage of the Mariinsky. Wait - wait - wait. I practically gave up on her after those (to me) unfortunate Auroras at the Met in '07. All of that is erased after last night.

ny susan - It was definitely worth the drive, wasn't it?

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Sorry but I can't resist---this is the time to say "we told you so"....

Thanks, atm!!! :) To be honest, I did not 'get' her as a first-flight ballerina'til last night. Yes, a gorgeous woman who looked great wandering about waving a flower-topped stick as the Lilac Fairy. Lots of unfulfilled potential, e.g., I found her lovely when, as a 15-yr-old student, she portrayed Pavlova in the little Neumeier gem, Pavlova and Cecchetti, on the stage of the Mariinsky. Wait - wait - wait. I practically gave up on her after those (to me) unfortunate Auroras at the Met in '07. All of that is erased after last night.

ny susan - It was definitely worth the drive, wasn't it?

Natalia, Terrific review as usual.I have a feeling that KMc is going to surprise us soon with what we have been hoping for.Maybe, he is just waiting for this triumph to occur. I just hope Ms. Kaufman does not rain on Veronika's parade.

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I wouldn't hold my breath on McKenzie promoting her. He has been using her in principal roles for years, but he refuses to reward her with a principal's contract she deserves. It seems he only promotes people who can perform quadruple turns.

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Wonderful review. I have to think that maybe the partnership of Gomes and Part contributes to her performances. I saw her as O/O with Hallberg as Siegfried and while lovely at moments, i have to admit that it was not that exciting of a performance. A few weeks later, Part and Gomes together in Bayadere - magical. The Shades act was absolutely unforgettable, and their duets were interrupted by a long, loud ovation.

I'm so happy for Part's success. :crying:

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There’s no doubt in my mind that Part & Gomes have a very special spark together, which is why I made the trip to DC and yes, it was worth it!

Now that I’ve had some sleep, here are a few observations. What is usually most striking about Part in SL (or anything, really) is her plastique, her plush upper body & port de bras and her emotional immersion in a role. All of those traits were there last night but what struck me most this time were her line & musicality. There were certainly some very high developees and that 6 o’clock penchee at the end of the PDD but I think these just have to be accepted as part of the “standard” interpretation at this point. However I was totally mesmerized by the beauty of her line throughout but especially in some very low (maybe 45 degree) arabesques and in attitude - from head to toe to fingertips her line was ravishingly beautiful, perfectly harmonious and miraculously expressive. This contributed greatly to her interpretation. I haven’t seen such an anguished Odette in a long time, and I’m still amazed at how a women as tall as Part could convey such emotional fragility in the midst of such a sensual & passionate portrayal.

Her musicality was also very apparent - her dancing sang in the lakeside acts but it also came out in her Black Swan fouettes. As she began them I was thinking that they really weren’t very fast but then I realized that they were perfectly timed to the music and somewhere around the 10th or 12th the music accelerated briefly and so did she - all perfectly in character as she reveled in her control, her power and her triumph over Siegfried.

I agree with Natalia that the pas de trois was fine but undistinguished. The secondary roles that I liked most was the combination of Joseph Philips & Craig Salstien in the Neapolitan dance. They are both great jumpers and turners but I never noticed how similar they are in height & physique - they were perfectly complimentary and wonderful to watch.

Also noticed that there were having some technical problems with the production. One side of the front lakeside curtain kept getting stuck which was pretty distracting to us. My husband and I both realized that we didn’t see Siegfried actually raise those 2 fingers and pledge himself to Odette at the end of the lakeside scene. I’m wondering if he actually didn’t do it or if our view was blocked by the circle of swans swirling around them. Did anyone actually see that part of the scene, or notice it’s omission?

Finally, I will not harp yet again on the specific problems I have with this staging but have to note that, as wonderful as Part & Gomes were, for me this was not one of the best Swan Lakes I’ve ever seen simply because the shortcomings of the production kept working against them. They’d build up these incredible swells of emotion and the choreography would just let it all dissipate...again & again.

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Susan, I didn't see Siegfried 'swear' his love to Odette, either, and I was in the 2nd tier, so my view was not blocked by the swans. I agree with you about the production, of course. What they did to Act I is pretty egregious, and I didn't find the staging for the swan corps in Act IV very effective.

Re: Part's extensions--extreme extensions and an overstretched look are something I am very sensitive to, and I don't think she took anything too far in that area. Her extensions never had an uncontrolled look about them, and she always kept her body upright and did not let her leg get too close to her torso or interfere with her arms. The 180º penchée, as you noted, seems to be expected of everyone now, and I thought it looked all right on her. She kept it at a perfectly straight line, unlike some who crank it into a slight oversplit. It is surprising how just two or three degrees make a big difference!

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Thank you, Natalia and nysusan for the beautiful reviews!

I, too, noticed that Gomes didn't get to swear his love. Part actually lowered his hand before he got it all the up, just as she did during their first encounter. I found it a curious change.

The lakeside curtain getting stuck was a bit distracting. Does the curtain usually open and close without trouble and simply had an "off night"?

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Thanks so much for the wonderful report, nysusan. :crying:

Three times Gomes-Siegfried tried to swear his love to Odette (or Odile) and three times she 'interrupted' him, which, as Rosa notes, was curious:

1st - Act II, just as the swans begin running in circle, he & Odette are standing in the center. He began to slowly raise his arm and, when at waist length, she halts him in a 'brushing off' gesture.

2nd - Act III after the Black pdd, he fully raises arm & hand but she quickly pulls it down in a devilish-playful manner as if to say "Enough! You just blew it!"

3rd - Act IV during the soulful Russianesque adagio (with oboes)...just as the corps swans are slowly entering the stage, he once again fully raises his arm and she, once again, immediately brushes it off.

Rosa, thanks for reminding me about that darn curtain! That curtain's malfunction was to blame for NO curtain calls! At the very end of the performance, AFTER the regular bows, the darn "shower curtain" gets stuck, so the main red Kennedy Center curtain could not be lowered...so THERE WERE NO CURTAIN CALLS! An abomination! If ever there was an occasion for screaming our lungs out at the curtain calls, this was it, but we were denied this joy. Instead, the house lights came on, we all stopped applauding and left, with that silly "shower curtain' the only thing on the stage.

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Three times Gomes-Siegfried tried to swear his love to Odette (or Odile) and three times she 'interrupted' him

That made me think of how at least twice in Act IV Part-Odette mimed that she would kill herself and Gomes-Siegfried rushed to her, separated her fists, and embraced her tightly.

Did anyone attend this afternoon's matinee?

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.....Did anyone attend this afternoon's matinee?

...or Saturday's evening performance with Ananiashvili? Did all of us BalletTalkers "call it quits" after Friday's sublime experience with Veronika Part?

Were there curtain calls of any type at either Saturday performance? :dunno:

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.....Did anyone attend this afternoon's matinee?

...or Saturday's evening performance with Ananiashvili? Did all of us BalletTalkers "call it quits" after Friday's sublime experience with Veronika Part?

Were there curtain calls of any type at either Saturday performance? :)

I went to the Saturday evening performance with Ananiashvili. I do not know much about ballet so cannot give detailed technical comments, but my overthoughts were:

1. Simkin is amazing. I look forward to seeing much more of him.

2. Nina is so amazingly fluid with her arms. The fouettes seemed solid with only a slight bit of traveling towards the end.

3. The first few minutes of Jared Matthews's Act Three von Rothbart were delightfully wicked, but then he seemed to taper off and not give it the zest I thought the role could support without being over the top.

4. My favorite part: I have to say, with all the remarkable dancing, was Prince Siegfried going to the woods, telling Benno he wanted to be left alone. All the elements came together and this part was so haunting for me.

They received a standing ovation at the end. :)

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Yet another amazing performance of "Swan Lake" today, this time by Michele Wiles. We were treated to innumerable balances (never so long as to be off the music, though), multiple impressive pirouettes, including triples à la seconde during Odile's variation, detailed, beautifully expressive port de bras and hands, and a poetic, moving interpretation. I am very, very glad to have been able to see this performance. While both her Odette and Odile were technically brilliant, she did not rely on 'tricks' to carry her through the ballet. Her Act II Odette was nervous and jumpy, slow to trust Siegfried, which made it all the more touching when she finally did. While her Act III fouettés included doubles and triples, it was, surprisingly, the final diagonal of arabesques voyagés en arrière that were the real climax. Every single relevé in arabesque was perfectly still, right on balance, hypnotising Siegfried and drawing him toward her. In Act IV, she overcame the bland, drama-free choreography to deliver a scene of noble sadness.

David Hallberg was very good as Siegfried. He suffers a bit from what I call 'Ethan Stiefel Syndrome'--beautiful lines, but no weight. Marcelo Gomes, as seen Friday night, has a very noble gravitas to his movements that I prefer. Still, the interpretation was convincing, and as Hallberg still seems fairly young, the 'inexperienced youth' approach works. I could really see his Paris Opéra training in the velvety smooth articulation of his feet.

Marcelo Gomes continues to make it difficult to complain about the tawdry 'Dance of the Purple Pimp' because he does it so well! As much as I would love for that part to be removed, he performs it perfectly.

The pas de trois had some notable moments--Hee Seo danced with a sunny, bright manner, graceful port de bras, and agile footwork, and Renata Pavam performed the tricky pirouette sequence at the end of her variation with ease and confidence.

The character dancing in Act III was, as before, a problem for two reasons: the choreography is not very good, and most of the dancers don't have the ability to save it. The czardas and mazurka made me long for the Mariinsky, and while the sparkling Maria Bystrova tried (essentially singlehandedly) to rescue the Spanish dance, she just wasn't given enough to work with. The bouncy Neapolitan dance was a welcome relief, although it is still not very well constructed.

It is quite unfortunate that all this excellent classical dancing does not have an appropriate setting. This production, although the sets and costumes are lavish and beautiful, has too many problems to name. The combination of such excellent dancing with a really good staging would make this a "Swan Lake" to be reckoned with.

Oh--I nearly forgot to mention (imagine that) one more standout: Veronika Part as one of the two big swans in Act II. Not that it wasn't nice to see her again, but putting her in a demi-soloist role after that Prima-quality performance on Friday seems unjust. Her performance proved that you can take the dancer out of the role, but you can't take the role out of the dancer--while dancing on the music, exactly in step with Kristi Boone (who was lovely by the way), Part remained every inch the haunting swan queen.

No curtain calls at this performance even though the 'shower curtain' worked fine, so I wonder if they just don't do them with this production. It does not really seem fair to deprive Ananiashvili of that in her final Kennedy Center performance with ABT.

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Ah, miliosr, you reminded me of one of the main things I love to hate about this production: the awful prologue with that ridiculous toy swan. Not even five minutes into the ballet, and that thing ruins my suspension of disbelief. There is also the matter of Swamp Thing running up onto the cliff right after Siegfried throws himself in as if to say, "Swimming, what fun! Cannonbaaaaall!" :)

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There is also the matter of Swamp Thing running up onto the cliff right after Siegfried throws himself in as if to say, "Swimming, what fun! Cannonbaaaaall!" :)

Speaking of that jump off the cliff, Gomes made it both spectacular and ardent Friday night. Part jumped at a bit of a angle to us, but Gomes positively leaped, and at such a diagonal that we saw him sail through the air for several seconds it seemed. It was beautifully done.

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