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ABT in Ottawa February 26th - 28th, 2009

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I was lucky enough to see all 4 performances and am so enthralled! So many debuts, so many beautiful details. I just returned home from Ottawa, so will start writing my reviews tomorrow. However, I did write you a teaser. The different danseurs performing the major male roles each brought a unique characterization to the plot. I started to picture them talking to each other according to my interpretation of their embodiment of their part. Here is a roundtable with 3 Counts and 3 Hilarions, presented as a play :) :

Roundtable with 3 Count Albrechts and 3 Hilarions

Cast of characters:


Jose Carreno

Marcelo Gomes

David Hallberg


Gennadi Saveliev

Isaac Stappas

Jared Matthews

Count Marcelo (his Hilarion: Isaac Stappas; his Bathilde: Kristi Boone): I am unable to speak. She meant everything to me. I want to crawl into her grave with her!

Count Jose (his Hilarion: Gennadi Saveliev; his Bathilde: Luciana Paris on the 26th, Kristi Boone on the 28th): This is life. Sometimes everything goes right and life is beautiful. Sometimes really bad things happen. You accept your fate. Take it like a man.

Count David (his Hilarion: Jared Matthews: his Bathilde: Maria Bystrova): But I’m just a boy! This wasn’t supposed to happen! One minute, we were having such a great time, the next…..!

Hilarion Saveliev (Jose’s rival): No one loved her more than I did. She was my life, the object of my dreams. I thought about her day and night. I saw nothing but my Giselle! I wanted to grow old with her! And now she’s gone!

Hilarion Stappas (Marcelo’s rival): Old! Don’t talk about old! First, you must make something of yourself. Look at all HE has just by being born: he’s a nobleman! He’s rich! He’s set for a life of comfort and luxury while I’m carrying around dead rodents looking for the next animal to kill. He has a sword just for fun and did you see his enormous cape? On top of that, he’s gorgeous and suave, has machismo to burn, and he’s even taller than I am! Why should he have her, too? It’s so unfair.

Hilarion Matthews (David’s rival): We’re both about the same age, the Count and I. He’s basically a good guy, but Giselle was supposed to be my girlfriend. I couldn’t let the game go on, his charade. I had to nip it in the bud. It had to get serious or I knew I would lose her.

Count David (wide-eyed): Bu-, bu-, but I’m just a kid! What game? We were dancing and flirting, like all kids do. Giselle’s a real sweetie. I didn’t mean anyone any harm. Have any of you seen my fiancée? She’s twice my age! I was just her boy-toy. She doesn’t love me. I thought for sure she’d let me have Giselle on the side. I was only marrying her because my parents were making me do it! Why couldn’t things just stay the same?

Count Marcelo (quietly and seriously): Giselle and I were deeply in love. We couldn’t help it. Bathilde and I were once in love, too, but then along came this slip of a country girl and completely won my heart. I didn’t expect it, it just happened and when it did, I would’ve followed her anywhere. I was going to have a good talk with Bathilde to break our engagement, damn the consequences. No one was going to deny me my love. I can’t live without her! What am I to do?

Count Jose: I understand, I truly do. She had that effect on me, too. Beguiling she was. Such a pure love we had, so simple. My Bathilde is a great lady, but, after being with Giselle I discovered I don’t need a Countess. I needed Giselle. She would have made me happy all my life. Ah, but it was not to be.

Hilarion Stappas: Look here, man. You plan your fate, get it? You make it happen the way you want. It takes work. I had a wonderful plan and it was developing just as I envisioned it: I would reveal the Count’s deception and I would get the girl. Then together we would build a life of success and fortune. That little country house would soon be history. We would live in a manor and Giselle’s mother would look after our children because both of us would have to work if we were going to rise in stature. I’d have my own sword! And Giselle wouldn’t have to sew her own dresses anymore. Our marriage would be like a business venture, but dammit! that’s all over now. Giselle’s dying wasn’t part of my plan!

Hilarion Matthews: Why, you callous, bitter man! Giselle could never have lived that kind of life. For one thing, her mother wouldn’t have let her, with her heart problems. She would have made sure she got her rest. And what children? With her heart, having kids could have killed her. You didn’t love her – you just wanted to use her to help build some kind of empire and have a bunch of children to show everyone what a man you are!

I loved her for what she was, simple, caring and sweet. A life in the country suited both of us just fine. We would have been happy to the end of our days, if HE hadn’t come along. Why did he have to stop by our village? With his fine horse, he could have trotted on to the next one and found someone else to dally with. No, he had to turn the head of my Giselle! He could’ve had anyone he wanted. I’m starting to get really mad!

Count David: Sorry, man. I didn’t know. I fell for her, though. Who wouldn't? She's something else. I was in (puppy) love!

Hilarion Gennadi: You children! What do you know about love, about life? You’re still green behind the ears! You think it’s your birthright to always be looking for pleasure, for fun, for a cozy life. Get real. Life is hard and then you die. If you can find someone to share your journey then you will at least have love to see you through the hard times, for there will be hard times, mark my words. I found the great love of my life. I knew I would never love another like I loved her. I loved just looking at her, watching her as she danced. I loved everything she did and everything she said. It is my sorrow now that will accompany me on the journey through life.

Count Marcelo: Yes, it is so for me, too.

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I meant to post a link to a wonderful blog by one of the supernumeraries at Giselle, newsman Peter Simpson. He wrote 4 days of blogs for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper about his experience. He was one of the two men who walked across the stage in front of the arriving hunting party holding a pole bearing a freshly-killed boar. Our blogger did a great job in his role.

"The Village Idiot" blog

Be warned: you will howl with laughter!

edited on June 7, 2009 to say that "The Village Idiot" blog is no longer at the above URL, as more current blog entries are there now, and I can't even find it in his list of blogs written in February....

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Roundtable with 4 Myrtas

(I am using the spelling of the Ottawa program book, where both English and French are used. It was spelled Myrta in both languages.)

Cast of characters:


Gillian Murphy

Simone Messmer

Michele Wiles

Veronika Part

Myrta Part: I have called you all together for one reason and one reason only. We must become a unified front. Some of you are starting to stray from your resolve. Remember what our mission is!

Myrta Messmer: I do remember. I’m trying to be all I’m supposed to be! It’s very hard to do, though. Sometimes I recall my softer side…but I always catch myself in time!

Myrta Wiles: I know…. my mind wanders, too, and lets an old memory drift in, especially when I’m standing still while we’re in the middle of forcing a scoundrel to dance to his death. The only way I regain control is by letting the invasive thoughts out through my fingers. I face away from the action – I’m standing to the side anyway, so no one will notice – and, while my arms are crossed signaling no mercy, my fingertips wave the bad thoughts away. If I just keep my fingers moving I’m back to myself in no time.

Myrta Murphy: That’s the silliest thing I ever heard! Where’s your willpower? We can’t waver, not for a second! Every move we make is purposeful. We stand tough, especially against our own thoughts. Myrta does not ruminate! If ever I feel an idea coming on, I become a zombie and go on automatic pilot!

Myrta Part: I am not a zombie. I have a soul. I was once a beautiful woman who danced on the earth before being scorned. I died of a broken heart and turned into a Wili. I will never be scorned again. My movements intrigue as they connive. My allure is the magic that keeps our victims from running off into the forest. They know they are doomed as soon as they set foot in my glade. I rule that clearing! Every fiber of my essence permeates it.

Myrta Messmer: We have so much to learn from you.

Myrta Wiles: I am convinced that my way is just as valid. What about dharma? Must we completely abandon all concern for others? The men that we doom have an eternal life force, too. I find it best not to think about them while they are suffering. There is still a part of me that lives in the past. I admit I felt relief when the bells began to chime.

Myrta Murphy: So, you pretend not to know what’s going on right behind your back. You are aware of what is happening, but you won’t look at it. We all face away, but me, I’m gloating the whole time. It feels good!

Myrta Messmer: I steel myself during that stance and hope that that steeliness shows in my face. I’ve got to show Moyna and Zulma – they’re so young, especially Zulma! – who are standing right beside me, what I am made of. It’s about setting a good example.

Myrta Part: It’s about one thing and one thing only: Power. I am Queen of the Wilis! I am perfect. There is no warmth in perfection. I have no concern for any suitor who stumbles into our realm. I have no feelings for Moyna or Zulma. My only goal is the death of every rogue who appears before me.

Myrta Messmer: I believe I achieved this single-mindedness when it really counted, as Hilarion and then Albrecht came to Giselle’s grave. I felt the power. I will be stronger from the outset from now on. Be warned, the next man who enters here!

Myrta Part: You were already aggressive at the beginning of the night they came. You hurled those fern branches into the woods with amazing velocity. What an arc they made! You dedicated the glade to its solitary purpose with a strong, defiant gesture.

Myrta Wiles: But I saw you get soft in your first dance….there was a moment -- when you swooped low to the ground – that I glimpsed a yearning. It was as if you wanted to caress the earth one last time.

Myrta Murphy: That’s right. I saw that, too! It’s almost as if you kissed the ground. Me, I feel no connection to my past life at all! I love being queen. The power surges through me like lightning – it makes me jump higher, change direction in the air with cutting clarity, explode forward in thrusting leaps. At the stroke of midnight, I feel let loose. I skim above the firmament with superpowered drive. I am home!

Myrta Part: You have feet like hummingbird wings. Your bourrées are indeed supernatural.

Now, back to work. I hear the rustle of an approaching swain.

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Before I start the detailed reviews, let me write out the cast lists for each day. I'll mark the ABT debuts in standout roles which I know about with an asterisk. If 'm not 100% sure I'll leave it unmarked. Please alert me to the debuts you know about.

Thursday, February 26th, 8 PM


Giselle -- Xiomara Reyes

Count Albrecht -- Jose Carreno

Wilfred -- Carlos Lopez

Berthe, Giselle's mother -- Susan Jones

Hilarion -- Gennadi Saveliev

Prince of Courland -- Victor Barbee

Bathilde -- Luciana Paris *

Peasant Pas de Deux -- Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin *

Court Ladies and Gentlemen -- Isadora Loyola, Elina Miettinen, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Sarah Smith, Gray Davis, Grant DeLong, Roddy Doble, Mikhail Ilyin, Vitali Krauchenka

Giselle's Friends -- Gemma Bond, Marian Butler, Zhong-Jing Fang, Melanie Hamrick, Anne Milewski, Jacquelyn Reyes

Villagers -- Eun Young Ahn, Kelley Boyd, Isabella Boylston, Nicola Curry, Caroline Duprot, Nicole Graniero, Amanda McGuigan, Elizabeth Mertz, Lauren Post, Jessica Saund, Mary Mills Thomas, Katherine Williams, Tobin Eason, Kenneth Easter, Alexandre Hammoudi, Blaine Hoven, Patrick Ogle, Arron Scott, Sean Stewart, Roman Zhurbin


Myrta -- Gillian Murphy

Moyna -- Melanie Hamrick

Zulma -- Kristi Boone

The Wilis -- Eun Young Ahn, Kelley Boyd, Marian Butler, Maria Bystrova, Caroline Duprot, Zhong-Jing Fang, Nicole Graniero, Isadora Loyola, Elizabeth Mertz, Simone Messmer, Anne Milewski, Renata Pavam, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Leann Underwood, Katherine Williams

Conductor -- Ormsby Wilkins



Friday, February 27th, 8 PM


Giselle -- Paloma Herrera

Count Albrecht -- Marcelo Gomes

Wilfred -- Alexi Agoudine

Berthe, Giselle's mother -- Maria Bystrova

Hilarion -- Isaac Stappas

Prince of Courland -- Roman Zhurbin

Bathilde -- Kristi Boone

Peasant Pas de Deux -- Yuriko Kajiya and Carlos Lopez

Court Ladies and Gentlemen -- Elizabeth Mertz, Jacquelyn Reyes, Jessica Saund, Sarah Smith, Mary Mills Thomas, Gray Davis, Roddy Doble, Tobin Eason, Joseph Gorak, Joseph Phillips

Giselle's Friends -- Gemma Bond, Isabella Boylston, Marian Butler, Zhong-Jing Fang, Jacquelyn Reyes, Leann Underwood

Villagers -- Eun Young Ahn, Nicola Curry, Nicole Graniero, Isadora Loyola, Amanda McGuigan, Elina Miettinen, Luciana Paris, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Katherine Williams, Grant DeLong, Jeffrey Golladay, Blaine Hoven, Mikhail Ilyin, Vitali Krauchenka, Daniel Mantei, Luis Ribagorda, Eric Tamm


Myrta -- Simone Messmer *

Moyna -- Melanie Hamrick

Zulma -- Leann Underwood *

The Wilis -- Eun Young Ahn, Gemma Bond, Isabella Boylston, Marian Butler, Nicola Curry, Caroline Duprot, Zhong-Jing Fang, Isadora Loyola, Amanda McGuigan, Elina Miettinen, Luciana Paris, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Jacqueline Reyes, Jessica Saund, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Katherine Williams

Conductor -- David LaMarche



Saturday, February 28th, 2 PM


Giselle -- Maria Riccetto *

Count Albrecht -- David Hallberg

Wilfred -- Luis Ribagorda

Berthe, Giselle's mother -- Nancy Raffa

Hilarion -- Jared Matthews *

Prince of Courland -- Victor Barbee

Bathilde -- Maria Bystrova

Peasant Pas de Deux -- Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein

Court Ladies and Gentlemen -- Isadora Loyola, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Sarah Smith, Katherine Williams, Grant DeLong, Vitali Krauchenka, Daniel Mantei, Joseph Phillips, Jose Sebastian

Giselle's Friends -- Simone Messmer, Anne Milewski, Lucian Paris, Renata Pavam, Jacquelyn Reyes, Leann Underwood

Villagers -- Eun Young Ahn, Gemma Bond, Kelley Boyd, Nicola Curry, Caroline Duprot, Melanie Hamrick, Amanda McGuigan, Elizabeth Mertz, Elina Miettinen, Lauren Post, Jessica Saund, Mary Mills Thomas, Alexei Agoudine, Gray Davis, Roddy Doble, Tobin Eason, Kenneth Easter, Alexandre Hammoudi, Mikhail Ilyin, Patrick Ogle,


Myrta -- Michele Wiles

Moyna -- Isabella Boylston *

Zulma -- Zhong-Jing Fong

The Wilis -- Eun Young Ahn, Kelley Boyd, Caroline Duprot, Nicole Graniero, Melanie Hamrick, Amanda McGuigan, Elizabeth Mertz, Simone Messmer, Elina Miettinen, Anne Milewski, Renata Pavam, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Mary Mills Thomas, Leann Underwood, Katherine Williams

Conductor -- David LaMarche



Saturday, February 28th, 8 PM


Giselle -- Xiomara Reyes

Count Albrecht -- Jose Carreno

Wilfred -- Carlos Lopez

Berthe, Giselle's mother -- Susan Jones

Hilarion -- Gennadi Saveliev

Prince of Courland -- Roman Zhurbin

Bathilde -- Kristi Boone

Peasant Pas de Deux -- Isabella Boylston * and Blaine Hoven

Court Ladies and Gentlemen -- Eun Young Ahn, Elizabeth Mertz, Jessica Saund, Sarah Smith, Mary Mills Thomas, Gray Davis, Tobin Eason, Mikhail Ilyin, Jose Sebastian, Eric Tamm

Giselle's Friends -- Gemma Bond, Melanie Hamrick, Anne Milewski, Lucian Paris, Renata Pavam, Jacquelyn Reyes

Villagers -- Caroline Duprot, Zong-Jing Fang, Nicole Graniero, Isadora Loyola, Amanda McGuigan, Elina Miettinen, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teusher, Leann Underwood, Katherine Williams, Grant DeLong, Roddy Doble, Jeffrey Golladay, Vitali Krauchenka, Daniel Mantei, Joseph Phillips, Arron Scott, Sean Stewart


Myrta -- Veronika Part

Moyna -- Simone Messmer

Zulma -- Yuriko Kajiya

The Wilis -- Gemma Bond, Isabella Boylston, Maria Bystrova, Nicola Curry, Caroline Duprot, Nicole Graniero, Melanie Hamrick, Isadora Loyola, Elina Miettinen, Luciana Paris, Lauren Post, Kelley Potter, Jacqueline Reyes, Jessica Saund, Christine Shevchenko, Mary Mills Thomas, Leann Underwood, Katherine Williams

Conductor -- Ormsby Wilkins

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Roundtable with 3 Bathildes

Cast of characters:


Luciana Paris

Kristi Boone

Maria Bystrova

Bathilde Bystrova (her Count: David Hallberg): Why are we here? There is nothing to say about the situation. I am already bored.

Bathilde Paris (her Count: Jose Carreno): I have to talk about it. I want to know what that peasant girl has that I don’t. Am I not beautiful? Do I not receive admiring glances wherever I go?

Bathilde Boone (her Count: Marcelo Gomes [Thurs], Jose Carreno [sat eve]): Isn’t it obvious? She’s fresh, untouched fodder. No experience in womanly ways. My Albrecht is a sucker for innocence.

Bathilde Bystrova: Let him have his little dalliance. I don’t care. It’s me he’ll come home to at night. As long as he remembers to wear his proper vestments when we are together, he can have his fun with the villagers. I want no part of that.

Bathilde Paris: Maybe I should go and find myself an attractive village boy. Then Albrecht will see how it feels. I’m twice as lovely as Giselle. I’m young and I’m wealthy. Who could resist me?

Bathilde Boone: I would never stoop so low. Don’t forget who you are. You have to show him the error of his ways.

Bathilde Bystrova: I do not have to show him anything. He must learn it himself. I live within my class. He will grow up and see that it is what he must do, too. I will not help him. If it takes a few years, it takes a few years. I am finished here. None of this talk is interesting. I will take my leave of you.

Bathilde Boone: Please stay a little longer. I must ask you something. Are you truly content? Did the tragedy of Giselle not trouble you at all? You seem so aloof and detached.

Bathilde Bystrova: What good does it do to get involved emotionally? It will change nothing. So, you think I should be angry with Albrecht? I am not. That I should feel sorry for Giselle? I do not. Their little fling only annoyed me in that it disturbed the sequence of events planned for our noble union, but other than that….meh! That the girl died, well (waving her hand with dismissal)…..that’s too bad. She was not destined to have a long life anyway. If her heart didn’t do her in, her nerves would have.

Bathilde Paris: She was a pretty young thing. But she had no experience with men like Albrecht. When she discovered there was no Loys, it was as if she had lost someone who never even existed. She began to come apart immediately. Very weak constitution.

Bathilde Boone: That is one reason why my Albrecht loved her, I think. He is tenderhearted. He’d jump into the lake to save a drowning dog.

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I will start, not with the first performance I saw, but with the third, because I’m sure you are all keen to hear about Maria Riccetto’s debut as Giselle.

February 28th, Saturday matinée, 2 PM

With fantastic exuberance, Maria/Giselle bounded out of her cottage, the very picture of youthful energy. Her opening little dance was beautifully performed, with high, gliding grand jetés and a definite bounce in all her jumps. Especially graceful were Maria’s “pendulum” developpés front and back (my term – it’s where it looks like Giselle is a bell being swung back and forth, a particularly attractive movement, made all the more so by a high jump).

Appropriately shy when she bumps into “Loys”, the flirting duet is carried out very well, both dancers being youthful and true, in this way, to the story. During an early sequence, with me hoping it wasn’t a portent, Maria slipped – just slightly – on flat foot, on a patch of stage near the cottage. It must have affected her, this being her debut and the misstep occurring so soon into the ballet. It makes a dancer feel a little unsure of her footing, especially when such a thing happens when you’re not even on pointe.

David Hallberg’s Count Albrecht, from the outset, was assured and riveting – but always came across (to me, at least) as a boy performing a man’s role very well. Ironically, the Count is supposed to be young, but we expect the maturity of an older dancer to execute the role to perfection. David is certainly a striking figure, with his blond good looks, long perfect lines, and THOSE FEET! The technical aspects of the role were in his back pocket and he had no trouble with any of the choreography. It came naturally to him. He tried, of course, to act through all the emotions required of Albrecht, but came off more childlike when he wanted to convey shock, and reminded me of a deer caught in the headlights.

Memorable Act I David moments:

1) that step where Albrecht repeatedly lunges to the side in plié dragging his extended right foot along the ground -- well, the point of his tendu is so exquisite that I’d be surprised if he didn’t carve a groove in the stage floor.

2) As Giselle has drawn her last breath and he rushes to her body, he attaches himself to her side so securely that Wilfred has to lift him off in one piece, with his legs still curled up under him, so reluctant is he to be moved. It’s the way a mother picks up an errant toddler who cannot stop a crying jag and refuses to extend his legs in order to stand.

Maria, meanwhile, has her famous variation to do and she is dancing beautifully -- wonderful extensions, poses, and mannerisms. Then it's time for that diagonal. She runs to the corner to begin it. However, as soon as she takes her position for the diagonal hops on pointe, there is trouble on the horizon. She starts hopping, but her arms seem shaky and her face shows concern. She is not in the zone – not properly on her legs. After a dozen of so of the nearly 3 dozen requisite hops, she has to come down off pointe and pose prettily for the rest of the music. Poor Maria. My heart went out to her. For those in the audience, unless we know the choreography, nothing seemed amiss, but for the dancer, this is one of her proving-ground moments in Giselle.

(A little aside about hops on pointe: you have to have a foot built for them in order to do them easily. A too-flexible foot has trouble supporting the weight of the body on, primarily, the big toe. Paloma Herrera, a case in point, does these hops very well, having had lots of experience with them, by angling her foot so that the stress does not fall on her extremely high instep or arch. She bends her foot and ankle to counterbalance the pressure point. Many dancers can hop on point with ease because the anatomy of their foot presents no problem. Some, even world-famous, dancers, find it quite difficult.)

Maria has a long, not overly arched foot on pointe, so I suspect that the problem lay in her starting position, which is hard to amend mid-diagonal. You have to be in place from the outset, then the rest comes naturally. She never looked at ease during the hops she did do, her upper body was held tightly and her arms had no freedom of movement.

Yet, she rallied and finished Act I with aplomb.

In Act II, we had a new Maria Riccetto, who came alive (pardon the irony) with renewed inspiration. She was ‘da bomb! She passed every Giselle-as-Wili test with flying colors, from the opening whirligig to the the juicy developé to the airborne sauté arabesques. Maria’s pas de deux with David were extremely moving, each dancing so assuredly that it made one ache for the naïveté of young love. Maria/Giselle, having already gained some maturity as a rookie Wili, wafted over the stage with light, airy dancing to distract Myrta and later to "lift" an exhausted Albrecht through their final pas de deux just before daybreak. My only quibble would be with the elevation she did not achieve during the two-footed, arched-back soubresauts, as she sacrificed height of jump for beauty of form. (Or, she may have experienced a momentary drop in energy, which is completely understandable given the stamina requirements of being a Wili.) Giselle's final interaction with Albrecht before leaving him and falling backwards into her grave was poignantly and admirably performed by Riccetto. I give her Act II a big thumbs-up.

David Hallberg’s Count reacted to the essence of his Giselle with hyper-sensitivity. His performance had just the right touch. Most memorable David moment in Act II? The unforgettable, most incredible entrechat sixes I’ve ever seen! It’s THE FEET! The height of his jump! His beats had the tight articulation of which every dancer, male or female, dreams. Even the shape of his legs while he’s doing the series of advancing beats – the way his muscles are defined – is breathtakingly exquisite!

(This performance review will continue. To come: Jared Matthews’ Hilarion, Maria Bystrova’s Bathilde, Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein’s peasant PDD, Michele Wiles' Myrta, Isabella Boylston’s Moyna, etc.)

edited March 8th to add material from my notes about Maria Riccetto's performance

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Marga, you have turned (are turning, as there's more to come) this thread into one of the treasures of BalletTalk. I have so enjoyed our Ottawa experience without leaving home. Thanks so much for your powers of observation, your vivid evocations of the dancers and your wealth of detail.

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Marga, at the risk of being a dittohead, I just want to add my appreciation of your brilliant round tables! I have seen all those dancers, and you captured their special qualities so wonderfully. So when do we get the Swan Lake round table? Mary

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Forgive me for jumping around between performances. I thought I'd hold onto this review until I had finished the one for Saturday matinée, but reconsidered. Why should this be waiting in my computer when it's ready to go? I just finished writing it and am too fatigued to write anymore right now. I DO have a lot to say about all the performances and all the main dancers, even the Ottawa audience and venue, and if the interest is there I will continue posting.

Thanks to all who have commented, made requests for roundtables, and PM'd. It means a lot to me and inspires me to keep going! I only wish I weren't the only one who was reviewing these performances. :dunno:

February 27th, Friday evening, 8 PM

Marcelo Gomes is an astounding dancer, really. Not only does he have the perfect body, endowed with the most agreeable eye-pleasing proportions: legs with muscles creating superb contours, pliable and arched, shapely feet, long neck below a ruggedly handsome, expressive face, beautiful arms and hands, masculine chest and slim hips, but he’s got the technique that accentuates his gorgeous features and the acting skills that complete this package of perfection. Every move he makes is so compellingly watchable. Even when he’s just observing the center-stage action from the side, you are drawn to him.

His portrayal of Count Albrecht/Loys was the one to see if you could see only one. With every nuance ideally rendered, he drew us into the story expression by expression as he acted and danced. His countenance and demeanor demonstrated aspects of playfulness, gentlemanliness, courtliness, nobility, dignity, whimsy, concern, tenderness, and true love – all befitting the story at just the right times.

His dancing was unassailable. What a jump! What beats (only a split hair below those of David Hallberg, but that’s only because David’s feet will always win out :))! What ballon! What port de bras! What lyricism! What an arabesque! What turns -- attitude, pirouettes, tours,...!!! You get the idea.

Memorable Marcelo Act I moments:

1) As Loys, his tender rescue and protection of Giselle’s feelings during the daisy-plucking incident. All the Counts/Loyses performed this scene very well, but Marcelo’s stood out for its gentleness and warmth. It cemented our belief in his affection for Giselle.

2) His kind-hearted treatment of his friend Wilfred. Interacting with him, he shows the affection that good buddies have for each other, and, with his unique charisma, Count-Marcelo-as-Loys has a devoted ally in his Wilfred (Alexei Agoudine).

3) When confronted by Bathilde, his deceptive actions revealed, he reacts with confidence and acceptance, showing her respect and attending to her words, concurrently looking over to Giselle with the focus he had shown her when they were alone. He covered his bases, but not disingenuously. He really cared for both of them.

4) The fight between the Count and Hilarion. This is also a Memorable Isaac Moment. These two really had at it! The pushing, the shoving, the back and forth struggle! Count Marcelo is hurled to the ground and sent sliding backwards by Hilarion Isaac. Albrecht counters with equal forcefulness. Hilarion will not let up. Another push. Another counter-advance. The physical fervor of these opponents is a highlight of Act I!

Memorable Marcelo Act II moments:

1) As Count Marcelo first appears on stage and moves toward Giselle’s grave, he is the epitome of grief. Placing his flowers on Giselle’s freshly mounded grave, he splays himself over the soil and begins to burrow into it, clawing the earth with his fingers, wanting so to be with her. You can almost see the tears crawling down his cheeks as his face is contorted in anguish and his body heaves with the weight of his sobbing.

2) From the first sign of Wili Giselle, Albrecht senses her essence with clarity. He follows the trail of her spirit as if on a mission. Everywhere he feels her presence, he runs with unbridled longing. Theirs is a union of a love so binding that they communicate mortal soul to immortal soul. This symbiosis was awe-inspiringly in heightened evidence in the Gomes/Herrera partnership.

3) At the end of his ultimate, grueling, Myrta-commanded dance, Count Marcelo collapses, as is choreographed, but then – BUT THEN! – his entire body bounces up, convulsing horizontally, before hitting the ground in complete exhaustion.

An able foil to the Count, Isaac Stappas as Hilarion made the greatest impact of the 3 Hilarions I saw. Always “outspoken” in his dancing manner, he is one scary Hilarion. He really means business. It’s a good thing he was Marcelo’s rival, because the great Gomes can hold his own against anyone. Had David Hallberg been up against Stappas, he would have been driven into the ground, whimpering.

As the tragedy of the deception unfolds, Stappas as Hilarion seems to almost feign being devastated while inwardly proud of being the orchestrator of the whole scenario. He glories in the disclosure, revels in the limelight. When the switch from Albrecht to Hilarion occurs at Giselle's side right after her death, Stappas's Hilarion seems to assume his grieving position as a matter of form -- perfunctorily -- instead of because he really loves Giselle and must be with her body. (This Hilarion interpretation contrasts directly with Gennadi Saveliev's the evening before and the evening after.)

Stappas’ dancing is strong and accomplished, his acting vigorous, abrupt and well-prepared. In Act II, from the bullet-fast chainé turns across the stage as he is unfurled by the unseen power of the Wilis, to his death-dance of exciting high leaps -- his dynamic thrust in the final throes agonizingly fervent -- Stappas shows his determination to avoid his downfall.

Caveat: If I seem exceptionally enthusiastic about Marcelo Gomes, it’s because I am. I first met him when he was 20 and in the corps at ABT. He danced Nutcracker with Anna Liceica for Canadian Ballet Theatre, the company of the ballet school where my daughter trained. He was already a stellar performer and an equally nice young man. Naturally, I follow his career closely. However, I am acquainted with many dancers from many companies, and I don’t praise anyone nor shower them with accolades if they don’t deserve them. If someone’s dancing doesn’t impress me, I don’t even mention that dancer in my review, however much I may like them as a person. My reviews are as objective as anyone else’s and obviously subjective, too, as ballet reviews tend to be for all critics writing them.

Keep this in mind when I review Isabella Boylston’s brilliant performances. :clapping:

Review of this Friday evening performance will continue.

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Marga, I am in awe of your grasp of these characters and of the various interpretations that can be brought to each role. I look forward to the Meeting of the Giselles.

My own personal favorite so far has been Bathilde Bystrova, evaluating her competition:

That the girl died, well (waving her hand with dismissal)…..that’s too bad. She was not destined to have a long life anyway. If her heart didn’t do her in, her nerves would have.

This Bathilde is no Romantic. And there's some truth in what she says. :clapping:

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Thank you so much for giving us your reviews/character interpretations -- all the way from Ottawa! This has been such fun!

FYI, peasant pas de deux was not a debut for either Blaine Hoven or Sarah Lane. Hoven and Lane danced the pas once or twice, together, I recall in a thrown-on situation (a Sat, mat & eve), during ABT's last season at the Met (in July '08). Maybe ABT doesn't count that sort of situation as a debut.... whatever.... Then Daniil Simkin joined ABT!!

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Yes Marga very delightful. I look forward to the Boylston review. You have a talent for writing that gets to the core of the dancers' emotions. :thumbsup:

:) Hopefully St. Petersburg will enjoy Gomes as Albrecht (Albert)in late March as much as you have. It will be interesting read those reviews as well. If only I had vacation, I would be in St. Petersburg to enjoy it. :clapping:

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