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Mother's Day Celebration

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I am getting excited for Ballet Arizona’s Mother’s day celebration. They have released the cast list! This all Balanchine production should be a blast! There are 3 pieces being performed this weekend, no one should miss it.

The main piece I am excited to see is Apollo Featuring Roman Zavarov. He will be wonderful, I’m sure! He is so perfect for this part. Zavarov’s partners will be Hartley, Huang, Barrell, Draxton, Edelman, and Saari. And for the matinees switch out Huang and Barrell for Mahowald and Wojtowicz. Unfortunately I already have tickets to the evening show where Mahowald and Wojtowicz won’t be performing. They are two of my favorites but Huang will be superb she always is.

La Valse is a piece I have not seen before, I’m not sure what to expect. I am not worried that I won’t like though. With Anderson I know it will be fantastic. I think for the evening casts Anderson did a great job of pairing up the dancers Wilcox and Marshalsay seem like they would mesh well. Mahowald and Zavarov are perfect together. Smith and Ross Clarke are a well matched couple when it comes to height, appearance, and acting style. The only questionable couple would be Imayoshi and Shtylla I’ll let you know on this one. On the other hand the matinee casts are a bit odd-Did Anderson really put Wozniak with Barrell? I am not even sure he weighs as much as her. Vander Stoep is so calm onstage, how can he be paired with a true powerhouse like Haar? I hope Zejnati redeems himself and is a more attentive partner to Huang this time. And, Magnicaballi and Shtylla are a mismatch when it comes to their technique. As for the other dancers, it appears Poulis has a solo part in this, I think that will be great for him-I am excited. Campbell, Ham, and Saari will go together well in the eighth waltz.

The third piece is Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Featuring Magnicaballi, Shtylla, Wilcox, Cavanaugh, Smith, Zejnati, Huang, and Ross Clarke. This is a superb neoclassical piece with no storyline; it’s all about the music, like many of Balanchine’s pieces.

As much as I like the Orpheum’s old world charm and history I am thrilled to be going to Symphony hall this weekend-can’t wait!!!

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Thank you for the heads up, insider.

The direct links to the .pdf files are here:


La Valse

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

"Apollo" looks great. I loved Wojtowicz's Amor in "Don Q" a couple of years ago, and I'm glad to see she's in a featured role. I missed Paola Hartley in the last program: I would have loved to see her in "Les Sylphides".

It looks like Ian Poulis is playing "Death" in "La Valse": that will be i*n*t*e*n*s*e.

Magnicaballi in the von Aroldingen role is counter-intuitive, but I bet it will be grand.

So many opportunities for so many dancers!

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Bart Cook and Maria Calegari were here for an extended time, staging. The Balanchine pieces were originally scheduled for June, you'll remember, so that the dancers have had very little time for the pieces to settle in. The Arizona Republic had a nice Balanchine bio primer, but missed the opportunity to report on the repetiteurs. The reporter, Richard Nilson, is reasonably supportive, but -- referring now to another Ballet Talk thread -- he's no balletomane.

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There were two ceremonial bouquets at the end of today's performance, the season ender: Karen Wojtowicz, who gave a superb performance as Polyhymnia in "Apollo", and Ross Clarke. It's a good thing we don't have an animated weeping icon, because I'd use up all of the board's bandwidth with it x 1000000000.

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Yes, Helene -- it's true. Karen Wojtowicz and Ross Clarke will both be starting as full-time students at ASU. The woman who handed the bouquet to Mr. Clarke is his wife, Liz, who left the company last year and started school herself. It was wonderful to see his surprise and then watch him throw his arms around her as she presented the bouquet. His smile lit up the house!

When I heard he was leaving, I thought "WHAT!!!!!! But, you can't!!!! You're just getting started!" (Okay, I admit I also had more inchoate thoughts along the lines of "Waaaaaaaaa!") After his final bow, however, Mr. Ross could not wipe the smile from his face, declaring himself "stoked" to be starting school. This did make me feel better, though I have been *so* looking forward to seeing him continue to grow. Well, he'll continue to grow, but we just won't get to know about it. Seeing him so happy made me happy for him.

Try as I might, I *cannot* feel the same the same about Karen Wojtowicz and Nathan VanderStoep. I wanted to yell "NOOOOoooooooo! You can't leave us!!" Each of these highly-accomplished dancers certainly could perform principal roles *today.* I am so sad about them leaving. Maybe we should add to the balletomane thread, "You know you're a balletomane when you take the departure of the dancers personally." In any event, each of them has given audiences great pleasure. Let's hope they, too, have been rewarded and wish them continued success and joy as their lives change. :dry:

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As an infrequent visitor I didn't have a sense of VanderStoep, a relative newcomer to the company, until, ironically, "La Valse", but Wojtowicz showed that she was most capable of principal roles with her splendid Polyhymnia. Clarke, who did get many more opportunities, was giving richer and deeper performances with every program. He's too young to retire!

He did look so happy, though, didn't he? My original seat was in the second row of the back section, but in the middle, so that when the entire row in front of me filled with short ladies except for single tall man with big hair who sat directly in front of me, it was only a decade of Feldenkrais that allowed me to make the micro-movements to see anything around his head for the Stravinsky without blocking the people behind me. I retreated to the back row for the rest of the program, and although I thought I recognized the woman who handed Clarke his bouquet as Elizabeth Conway, and Clarke as Clarke, it was such a shock, I wasn't absolutely sure. Thank you for posting the ID.

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I went to the Saturday matinee performance, and above all else, I was just so happy to have Balanchine ballets being performed in Arizona!

Overall, I thought Stravinsky Violin Concerto was great. The corps was spot on, which is commendable since this performance was meant for June, meaning they had to do it a month early! As for the leads, I LOVED Tzu-chia Huang as usual. She just looks great in everything she does, and I feel like her body is more suited for Balanchine ballets than some of the other BAZ dancers. Chelsea Wilcox did a commendable job as well, and I really enjoyed the choreography for her part. I can't say I'm surprised, Balanchine ballets are just so natural with the music. Whenever I learned one as a dancer, it seemed like every note of music had a corresponding step. Kudos to Ross Clarke for a great performance! I can't believe he's leaving...he was very impressive in this ballet.

I thought that BAZ had a great version of Apollo. I can't say enough about Roman Zavarov in the lead role. I haven't really seen him dance before, and he is a real talent. He danced with authority and confidence, though his version of Apollo definitely hinted toward the more adolescent side of Apollo. I hope we get to see him in more lead roles in the future! As for the muses, I thought the standouts were Karen Wojtowicz as Polyhmnia and Michelle Mahowald as Calliope. Losing Wojtowicz must be a huge loss to BAZ-- she was so poised. Mahowald's long limbs were a joy to watch.

I was looking most forward to La Valse because it was the only ballet being performed that I haven't seen before, but unfortunately due to a prior engagement I had to leave about half way through. From what I did see, I have to say that the costumes for this ballet are incredibly gorgeous! According to the program the costumes were on loan from Pacific Northwest Ballet. The low point of the afternoon was definitely the second waltz, which according to the program was danced by Beau Campbell, Jennifer Ham and Chelsea Saari. The trio was not together at all, and I found it very distracting. The rest of what I saw looked very promising, however. Natalia Magnicaballi's entrance was entrancing, and it broke my heart to have to leave shortly after she began dancing. Maybe one day I'll get to see the second half of the ballet!

Overall, I thought the afternoon with BAZ was a delight. I took my mom, and she loved it too. This was a great ending to the season, and I hope the next season is even stronger!

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If there is such a thing as typical Balanchine, Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto is it. Magnicaballi was magnificent! I also liked Smith and Zejnati’s piece it was so beautiful and romantic. Sometimes Zejnati is a little over the top though. I loved the last piece with everyone, it was a feast for the eyes. There were so many formation changes. I was on the edge of my seat trying to take it all in. It was so exciting!

Richard Nilson’s review raved about Apollo. He called Roman Zavarov Ballet Arizona’s new star and I have to agree. His lines were beautiful, his jumps mighty, and his mannerisms godly. He was perfect for this part. All I have to say is I have been predicting his stardom since the first time I saw him. The choreography was so literal in the beginning. I laughed when he first “popped” out of Draxton. He was then swaddled like a baby and Saari and Edelman comforted his cries. When unwrapped I could see why the three muses all wanted him, he was suddenly all grown up. The muses were played by Hartley, Huang, and Barrell. Hartley was a perfect partner for him, she played the Terpsichore (the lead muse) the muse of music. She is weightless, young, and vibrant. Barrell and Huang did a fine job too, though not the perfect partners for Zavarov. The literalness of Balanchine’s choreography came out again in Huang’s solo she was the muse of poetry and she repeatedly made gestures of words falling out of her mouth. When the four danced together it was so fluid and calm. Slender Zavarov had to manage three girls at one time, I was surprised at how effortless he made it seem. And, most off all I loved the ending, it was so moving.

La Valse is an eerie piece. Mahowald and Zavarov were a match made in heaven. Smith and Ross Clarke, this was touching as this was Clarke’s final weekend of shows. Marshalsay and Wilcox were a nice pair I would like to see them dancing together again. Imayoshi and Shtylla were not my favorite. Perkovskii was Death, this part was laugh out loud funny at times and creepy. His first appearance was when just his head showed through the black backdrop and his face floated it was utterly strange. As for the corps Hartley clearly stood out as stunning, she was only dancing this role due to another dancer’s injury. I thought it unusual that Zejnati danced a corps de ballet role. I only noticed him because his name was in the program and I looked for him. Nothing about his dancing struck me as superb and he did not stand out among the rest. Others that did stand out were Mitchell, Wojtowicz, Wozniak, and Bandera. Campbell, Ham, and Saari did a good job but I could have thought of a few dancers that would have been better. Wojtowicz is already sorely missed she was a superb dancer and I hope she goes on to great things.

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I thought I had posted this back in May when I wrote it, and I apologize for the lateness of it:

I traveled to Phoenix to see the Saturday matinee and evening and Sunday matinee performances of the Mother's Day program. In an All-Balanchine rep in which dancer after dancer claimed a role and left his or her stamp on it, there were three extraordinary performances that were among the most vivid I've ever seen: Roman Zavarov as Apollo, and Natalia Magnicaballi as The Woman and Ian Poulis as Death in "La Valse".

The young Roman Zavarov is that contemporary anomaly: a dark-haired Apollo of medium height, not one of the tall blond gods. His physical beauty is much like the role's originator's, Serge Lifar's. From his birth through the final ascent -- this is the full version -- every moment and movement had a purpose, and the contractions rippled through his body to his eyes and head. He was arrogant like Brunnhilde in "Die Walkure" -- certain he knows everything, and a bit rough and dismissive of the muses; not much was going to impress him. His saving grace, after his initial surprise that sound and music came from the instrument gifted to him, was that he was in love with music, the instrument, and the sounds he made, which may have explained Terpsichore's patience.

Zavarov had a point of view, and his portrayal showed growth, wonder, and experimentation, all backed by power, not always gentle or benevolent. Zavarov's Apollo still needed a lesson, and, in the role of Terpsichore, Paola Hartley's were humor and the ability to act in harmony with another being. There was a point in the pas de deux where his face lit up, showing vulnerability for the first time, and even better, the williingness to collaborate. I saw this program from the fifth row, two-thirds back in the orchestra, and from the balcony, and each time, what he did with his eyes and face registered.

The real glory of Zavarov's performance was that he repeatedly showed the power of gesture.

I love the full version, and it was a joy to see Kenna Draxton's Leto, with her long, glorious legs and her reach to the skies before jabbing herself sharply in the abdomen. In the last performances of her career, Karen Wojtowicz brought a wonderful lightness to the role of Polyhymnia in the matinee casts, not the usual amazonian casting. Jillian Barrell in the evening cast took a more juicy approach, and it was a fine contrast. Michelle Mahowald's Calliope was structural and vivid; Tzu-Chia Huang danced the role with elegance. In the evening performance, the starburst was perfect!

In the evening performance of "La Valse" Sergei Perkovskii was a classic Death, but in the matinee performances, Ian Poulis was more than Death -- he was Mephistophelean, and it wasn't just the facial hair: he entered the stage and stopped with full intensity, and tilted his head, his eyes locked on his victim. Not for a moment did he lose that intense glower. So much of this performance done with his eyes -- again carrying to the back of the house -- and it was almost cinematic: had this been a thriller, the audience would have had its collective heart in its throat.

Poulis' waltz with Natalia Magnicaballi melted the stage with intensity. He didn't skulk off after her death: he gave a look upwards, mission accomplished, soul owned, before heading to the next one. It was a knockout performance.

In the opening waltz, Chelsea Saari, danced with rhythmic surety, arms up and full, and responding to the woodwinds and horns. Magnicaballi was part of this sisterhood. She embraced experience with deep breaths, completely willing; her waltz with Ilir Shtylla was intensely passionate. He wasn't enough for her, though: she wanted more, and in Poulis' Death, she found what she was looking for. As she put on the necklace, she might as well have consumed it.

This was the first role in which I've seen Magnicaballi shed her elusiveness and be inflamed. I hope that Magnicaballi and Poulis will be cast together again, because their chemistry was unmistakeable.

In the evening performance as the leads, Ginger Smith was inexperienced rather than naive, and happy to gain that experience; Ross Clarke was her ardent partner, in over his head. In the other waltzes, there were so many wonderful performances in both casts: Astrit Zejnati's hands were made for white gloves as the precipitator in the Seventh Waltz. Jillian Barrell's beautiful feet in the Third Waltz were a highlight, and she was beautifully partnered by Slavomir Wozniak in the matinees, with Chelsea Wilcox and Daniel Marshalsay excellent in the evening. Heather Haar, with her beautiful light jumps gave a dynamic performance, solo and with her partner Nathan Vander Stoep. Tzu-Chia Huang and Michelle Mahowald, who, when cast together, can look like stylistic sisters, gave very different personas to the Fifth and Sixth Waltzes, Mahowald's impassioned and Huang's elegant but dramatic.

The recording of the first movement for the opening ballet, "Stravinsky Violin Concerto", was a bit slow, causing the men, particularly in the first performance, to look like they were moving through a viscous liquid: they never quite got off the ground, even in the flying conclusion. The women, though, were dead on in all three movements, and the energy in the fourth movement was explosive. At the end of the ballet, the entire cast does a quick jump in unison, and they came down precisely together and for a split second stopped, before resuming full throttle, and that moment was magical.

The slowness of the recording may have been the reason that the elegant Huang and the athletic Chelsea Wilcox looked similar in their two opening solos in the matinee cast. The upsides were that every movement and transition by Huang and Wilcox was crystal clear and that their feet were so soft, not the impression I usually take away from this work. Watching Huang gently corkscrew onto point was especially lovely. Unlike her tentative beginnings in "Les Sylphides" in the earlier spring program, in the von Aroldingen role Chelsea Wilcox took ownership, with an athletic, strong, gripping performance. It's not the only way to dance the role -- in the evening, Natalia Magnicaballi gave a cool, inscrutable reading that was equally fascinating -- but watching it would be easy to leave the theater thinking it was. Her upper body was lovely, her arms curved.

The matinee cast was a group of equals, and the chemistry was palpable.

In the evening cast, Natalia Magnicaballi, cast against type in the von Aroldingen role, and Ginger Smith brought different colors to their roles. Smith and Astrit Zejnati portrayed a deep, complex relationship through tension and release, a pas de deux of communicators; Zejnati showed that he was willing to listen. For such a young dancer, Smith is an old soul. Ross Clarke, partnering Tzu-Chia Huang was ardent, showing a vulnerability that the part's originator, Peter Martins, never did. It wasn't an easy relationship -- there were hurtful misses in their communication -- but it was very moving.

Repetiteur Bark Cook's influence on both of the leading men in each cast -- Cavanaugh and Shtylla in his role, and Ross Clarke (especially) and Astrit Zejnati in the Martins role -- was evident. Clarke and Zejnati made the movement ripple through them without any of Martins' stiffness or self-consciousness.

There were retirements celebrated with flowers after the Sunday matinee, the season closer: Ross Clarke and Karen Wojtowicz. Clarke was featured in many roles, and it seemed like this season he really hit his stride. Wojtowicz's brilliant Amor in "Don Quixote" a few seasons ago was a real highlight, and I was hoping to see her for many years in the classical repertory. It is very sad to see them go.

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Thank you for posting this lovely review, which allowed me to revisit these special performances. Ross Clarke performed locally this summer with "Novaballet," so perhaps we haven't seen the last of him. He danced with an upper body pliancy that was mesmerizing and appropriate to the particular contemporary choreography. There were various other Ballet Arizona dancers in the performance, including Giselle Doepker. A pleasure to see them.

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