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Airs/La Sylphide - Spring 09 Season


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I was at Monday's performance, and I pretty much floated from beginning to end.

First, La Sylphide. Osipova is a miraculous dancer, but a Bournonville stylist she is not -- at least, not yet. It's not always about the elevation. I especially looked forward to the moment during the Reel when the Sylph flies across the stage. Kirkland on the same stage was like an arrow -- a straight horizontal that made you wonder if her feet ever did touch the ground. Osipova didn't have the speed or the trajectory, took arcing sauts de chat, losing the effect of sustained flight. In an attempt to be light, I suppose, her arms were exceptionally soft. Soft to the point of flimsy, and flimsy to the point at times to look fussy. Still, she offered delights as a Sylph who was not an unknowing danger to James but an intentionally mischievous one.

Cornejo's James was extraordinary. His short-tempered Scotsman had fast, neat batterie, clean footwork, utterly musical. Daniil Simkin as Gurn seemed to have gotten no coaching in Bournonville style and went for the Bolshoi effect.

Nancy Raffa gave one of the finest Madges I've seen.

While problems of putting Airs (which, as I recall, ABT commissioned from Paul Taylor) on the huge Met stage were noted, I thought the cast of seven gave one of the most loving performances I've seen at ABT in a very long time. While no one has equalled Ruth Andrien in the "scoopy attitudes" role, Kristi Boone's majesty brought the ballet to the realm of sacrament. A note about Misty Copeland, who has given me some very lovely memories this season. While I've often thought of her as a very pretty woman, she never struck me as a world-class beauty. There was a moment, in Airs, though, where the light caught her expression of utter serenity, and I had to catch my breath as I felt my heart opening.

It was, all in all, an excellent evening, and I'm going back to this program at least twice more.

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I was at Monday's performance, and I pretty much floated from beginning to end.

First, La Sylphide. Osipova is a miraculous dancer, but a Bournonville stylist she is not -- at least, not yet. It's not always about the elevation. I especially looked forward to the moment during the Reel when the Sylph flies across the stage. Kirkland on the same stage was like an arrow -- a straight horizontal that made you wonder if her feet ever did touch the ground. Osipova didn't have the speed or the trajectory, took arcing sauts de chat, losing the effect of sustained flight. In an attempt to be light, I suppose, her arms were exceptionally soft. Soft to the point of flimsy, and flimsy to the point at times to look fussy. Still, she offered delights as a Sylph who was not an unknowing danger to James but an intentionally mischievous one.

Cornejo's James was extraordinary. His short-tempered Scotsman had fast, neat batterie, clean footwork, utterly musical. Daniil Simkin as Gurn seemed to have gotten no coaching in Bournonville style and went for the Bolshoi effect.

Nancy Raffa gave one of the finest Madges I've seen.

While problems of putting Airs (which, as I recall, ABT commissioned from Paul Taylor) on the huge Met stage were noted, I thought the cast of seven gave one of the most loving performances I've seen at ABT in a very long time. While no one has equalled Ruth Andrien in the "scoopy attitudes" role, Kristi Boone's majesty brought the ballet to the realm of sacrament. A note about Misty Copeland, who has given me some very lovely memories this season. While I've often thought of her as a very pretty woman, she never struck me as a world-class beauty. There was a moment, in Airs, though, where the light caught her expression of utter serenity, and I had to catch my breath as I felt my heart opening.

It was, all in all, an excellent evening, and I'm going back to this program at least twice more.

My reaction was very similar to yours, and I was also disappointed at exactly that moment when I thought Osipova would astonish - the leaps across the stage during the reel. I'm not sure she couldn't reproduce the effect Kirkland had, of skimming and barely touching the floor, but she seemed not to have been told this was an effect to strive for. You're right about Simkin, too - he had the character of Gurn down, but the dancing was not pleasing or fully under control. And, yes, Misty Copeland was beautiful in Airs.

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I attended Tuesday night's Airs/Sylphide as well. I didn't think it was awful - there were gains and losses.

AIRS: Simone Messmer was lovely in the role that Kristi Boone did on opening night. Nice to see Joseph Philips who has been relegated to the corps in the jumpy role Arron Scott did on Monday night (it would be nice to see Joe do the Peasant Pas de Deux in "Giselle" - maybe Benno in "Swan Lake" too?). Otherwise there were some really shaky looking lifts and problems with ensemble. However, Sean Stewart once again had a soloist role and he looked very good. Anna Kisselgoff I believe singled him out ten years ago as a dancer with a singular sense of style and he really had the Taylor style down. I liked Roddy Doble too. However Luciana Paris wasn't as good as Misty. This one needs to settle in with repetition - all these dancers are new to the piece and the style.

LA SYLPHIDE: I thought that David Hallberg was close to definitive as James - a worthy successor to Bruhn and in that line. His mime (I was sitting close) was very detailed and specific. Beautiful stylish use of the appropriate arm positions and sharp crisp leg beats and turns. Nina Ananiashvili clearly didn't have the reserves of energy and technical strength that Osipova has but a lovelier all around sense of the phrasing and the style. I am no expert on Bournonville style but her arm positions seemed more traditional and she phrased the solos beautifully linking the steps together better. Her Sylphide was delicately mischievous sprite with a sense of fun. She and Hallberg had a lovely rapport onstage. Nancy Raffa repeated her vivid Madge from Monday. Carlos Lopez had a good outing as Gurn with a nicely bumbling characterization that genuinely earned laughs and a well-danced solo in Act I. Marian Butler was a good Effie. The corps looked better last night with more cohesion and better ensemble in Act II.

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Didn't Megan Fairchild dance four "Coppelia"'s in a row in Saratoga Springs?

That's true. She was supposed to alternate with Ansanelli. Ansanelli got injured so Fairchild did them all.

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Was anyone else sorely disappointed by tonight's performance? (Nina/Hallberg). I thought Airs was especially awful tonight.

I skipped Airs on Tues. I really enjoyed Hallberg's performance. However, Nina was disappointing. She seemed to be lacking in energy, and was very earthbound. I enjoyed her acting, and she played the death scene to the hilt. However,her diminished technique resulted, for me, in an unsatisfying performance overall.

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Was anyone else sorely disappointed by tonight's performance? (Nina/Hallberg). I thought Airs was especially awful tonight.

I skipped Airs on Tues. I really enjoyed Hallberg's performance. However, Nina was disappointing. She seemed to be lacking in energy, and was very earthbound. I enjoyed her acting, and she played the death scene to the hilt. However,her diminished technique resulted, for me, in an unsatisfying performance overall.

Anyone has seen Part's debut?

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Nancy Raffa gave one of the finest Madges I've seen.
This is super to hear. She is missed at Miami.

Can anyone tell us about the audience's response to Ananiashvili's performance? Osipova may represent the future. But Ananiasvili is at the end of a glorious career, a good part of it spent performing for ABT audiences.

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I especially looked forward to the moment during the Reel when the Sylph flies across the stage. Kirkland on the same stage was like an arrow -- a straight horizontal that made you wonder if her feet ever did touch the ground. Osipova didn't have the speed or the trajectory, took arcing sauts de chat, losing the effect of sustained flight.

I was at the Monday performance, and know exactly what you mean. However, I went back on Wednesday, and this time she did it with astonishing speed and elevation. The audience went wild. (There was another similar moment in the second act, in that there was also quite a bit of a difference between Monday and Wednesday.) My guess is that, for Monday's performance, she decided to tone things down a bit, knowing that it was going to be reviewed. (I doubt those huge jetes are really part of Bournonville style.) Wednesday no review, so a bit flashier. To me, it still seemed in good taste though. I enjoyed both performances immensely.

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Just back from Sylphide. I'd never seen it before and liked it a lot. Osipova and Cornejo were both wonderful. I'm looking forward to seeing Hee Seo and David Hallberg.

I am wondering, though, how Veronika Part and Cory Stearns fared. This doesn't strike me as the best role for Part -- she's so majestic and lush, not exactly sylphlike. And I wonder if Stearns is up to the technical demands. Reports on the matinee, please!

I'm a little less keen on Airs, but it's definitely better than Desir. I think it may grow on me.

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Well, I just got back from Wednesday night's performance, and I guess my expectations for Osipova were sky-high after reading those gushing reviews of her 'Giselle,' because I came away slightly underwhelmed. Those huge jetes that Ilya mentioned were unbelievable, indeed. And the audience was certainly adoring. But I guess I kept waiting to be completely blown away, and it didn't quite get there for me. (Though I may be the only one.) I wish I had seen her 'Giselle'!! Well, here's for hoping that she'll be back next year! :)

I did enjoy Herman quite a bit though!

Tonight's performance was exciting for me for other reasons - right outside of the doors to the Orchestra section, I spotted Diana Vishneva standing there chatting with some people! I didn't see her when I went inside and took my seat, but then, in the intermission before "La Sylphide," I saw her slip in through the side door and take a seat in the front row of the Orchestra section on the left side.

During the second intermission, I spotted Kevin McKenzie and Alexei Ratmansky together, and I also saw Caroline Kennedy outside the ladies room. (This is why I make it a point to go to the ladies room during performances - you never know who you'll see there!)

It looked like a packed house tonight!

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... I went back on Wednesday, and this time she did it with astonishing speed and elevation.
Yes, she did, didn't she? :) Also, she toned down the arms quite a bit. A big improvement over Monday for Osipova.

Cornejo, on the other hand, decided to add emphasis to his batterie by opening to a second position before landing in coup de pied or fifth. It's amazing that he has the time and speed to do it, but it strikes me as a violation of Bournonville style.

Alas, this evening's Airs was a disappointment. On the plus side was Simone Messmer's nicely weighted upper body. Where Monday's cast had the sense of close community so often intrinsic to Taylor, that element was missing tonight, partly due to Kelley Boyd's tendency to address the audience.

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Can anyone tell us about the audience's response to Ananiashvili's performance? Osipova may represent the future. But Ananiasvili is at the end of a glorious career, a good part of it spent performing for ABT audiences.

It was rather empty on Tuesday, entire swaths of empty orchestra rows, especially near the rear. However, she did receieve a standing ovation at the end, and I saw a whole lot of people gathered by the stage throwing flowers (most of them falling into the pit unfortunately). However, compared to today, where the audience applauded nearly every appearance Osipova made on stage and every jump, the audience was very subdued throughout the entirety of Nina's performance. Even the opening curtain there was not a single clap in the audience.

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Well, I just got back from Wednesday night's performance, and I guess my expectations for Osipova were sky-high after reading those gushing reviews of her 'Giselle,' because I came away slightly underwhelmed. Those huge jetes that Ilya mentioned were unbelievable, indeed. And the audience was certainly adoring. But I guess I kept waiting to be completely blown away, and it didn't quite get there for me. (Though I may be the only one.) I wish I had seen her 'Giselle'!! Well, here's for hoping that she'll be back next year! biggrin.gif

Tonight's performance was exciting for me for other reasons - right outside of the doors to the Orchestra section, I spotted Diana Vishneva standing there chatting with some people! I didn't see her when I went inside and took my seat, but then, in the intermission before "La Sylphide," I saw her slip in through the side door and take a seat in the front row of the Orchestra section on the left side.

During the second intermission, I spotted Kevin McKenzie and Alexei Ratmansky together, and I also saw Caroline Kennedy outside the ladies room. (This is why I make it a point to go to the ladies room during performances - you never know who you'll see there!)


I think the choreography of La Sylphide just doesn't have the "dazzle" factor as Giselle does. Far fewer jumps and spins, and solos for that matter than Giselle.
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I was at the Wed Eve performance and if I was 'blown-away' by anything it was Taylor's 'Airs'. What a marvelous work this is--it is much in the same vein as 'Le Tombeau De Couperin'. I have to admit that I really love Taylor's works when they are performed by highly trained classical dancers (my apologies to the modern-trained). Their techniques are finer and they all appear to have a wonderful sense of line. Since I was so taken with the cast, I must name all of them: Kelley Boyd, Luciana Paris, Leann Underwood, Roddy Doble, Joseph Phillips, Sean Stewart.

My main problem with 'La Sylphide' is that I don't care for Bruhn's version. The performance on the whole lacked passion. Cornejo was more of a hot-head (or someone afflicted with road-rage) than a sensitive young man in quest of his vision. He appears to save himself for his burst of energy in his solos--and the rest of the ballet can go hang. Osipova was more suited to Giselle than the Sylphide---both performers had their share of technical delights---the marvelous triple grand jetes across the apron of the stage from one wing to the other by Osipova were breathtaking--as were the many Cabriole derrieres in the choreography which she performed with a beautifully upright back.

Now on to Veronika Part and Cory Stearns on Sat Eve--and the pleasure of seeing 'Airs' once again.

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ABT 2pm 17 June 2009

La Sylphide

Veronika Part

Cory Stearns

Kelley Boyd (Effie)

Craig Salstein (Gurn)

Martine Van Hamel (Madge)

"Airs" had the same cast as Monday night; my comments on Monday night's performance apply as well to this matinee. I was impressed and enjoyed the entire cast, with special mention for Arron Scott's dancing.

I truly enjoyed Veronika Part's dancing with its lush, full-body expressiveness

and her technical mastery placed in the service of a dance role. Whether she is the ideal interpreter of Bournonville 'ethereality', I'll leave the question for experts.

My take is that her gifts, of which there are many, served the role of the sylph beautifully.

Moreover, in my view, the ABT production itself, including the dancing of her colleagues was not in the same league as her dancing. Cory Stearns as a dancer seemed underpowered, as a character seemed underdeveloped. Craig Salstein was impressive in the character of Gurn, but his variation lacked the energetic demeanor that one associates with Bournonville male soli. Fully controlled energy.

The above paragraph excludes the performance of Martine Van Hamel as Madge, who, as she has consistently proved throughout her career, makes every moment on stage count.

For some technical glitch, we couldn't watch the wings of the sylph fall off after she was poisoned by Madge's scarf. They came loose earlier.

Fortunately, the Met gift shop had copies of the Royal Danish Ballet's "La Sylphide" with Lis Jeppesen and Nikolai Hubbe (1988). We'll take that home and watch it.

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On Monday night a regrettable injury to Xiomara Reyes afforded me a first look at Natalia Osipova in the title role of ABT’s La Sylphide.

I think it would be difficult to design a more sylphid-type dancer: she is young, pretty, sweet-looking, and absolutely weightless. Better yet, she has the requisite “elevation;” the grande jete’s were stunning and the tour jete’s, fairy-like. I hope she becomes a permanent member of that company.

This was only the third version I have seen, with the other two recorded. One of these is the film of Pierre Lacotte’s staging with Ghislaine Thesmar (still my favorite sylphid) and the other, a Royal Danish with Lis Jeppeson. I prefer the French ballet, which has, I believe, more fine dancing. At the ABT I was disappointed to see Herman Cornejo, who is ordinarily like a bird or a spring, having to spend so much of Act I standing around gesturing. The ABT production is a Bournonville descendant.

Playing Gurn was a soloist who is, according to past programs, in his first year with the company. He is Daniil Simkin and is quite remarkable. In the Friday night Giselle, Nina A.’s last with that company, he was splendid in a p.d.d. Perhaps next time I can make comments about that performance.

I always find the ABT corps VERY excellent, and I believe the organization must be a healthy one, unusual in these times among organizations of all kinds. From last year to this I counted four corps members gone, with one of those promoted to soloist, and eight new names in the roster!

Speaking of the corps, I found it entirely heart-warming to see Julio B.-Young back. Apparently he has healed, at least physically, after the accident that took his wife, Jennifer Alexander, and injured him.

I must qualify all my ballet opinions with my relative inexperience, but they are honest.

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In the past I have been very supportive of/sympathetic to ABT's administration, but I had an unfortunate experience this morning worth sharing.

I called ABT to ask for the casting of Airs, was connected to the press department & an abbreviated version of the conversation follows:

Z: May I have the casting for tonight's Airs?

ABT: It's a company piece.

Z: I know that but who is dancing it?

ABT: It's a company piece. That's all the information I have.

Z: Don't you have a program?

ABT: The programs are at the Met.

Z: So if I call the Met I can get this information?

ABT: The Met won't have the programs yet. La Sylphide is also on the program.

Z: I know that. I have tickets to five Sylphides. I just want to know the dancers in Airs.

ABT: proceeds immediately - immediately! - to give me the seven names.

The conversation lasted almost five minutes when it could have lasted one minute.

So, I ask, what was that all about? She clearly had the information handy. Is the casting on a "need to know" basis? And did my purchase of five tickets give me access to classified information?

This is no way to treat a donor, multi-subscriber nor any ticket holder.

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Zerbinetta: that information could be found here:

http://www.abt.org/insideabt/news_display.asp?News_ID=271

The "Sylphide" casting has changed a lot due to the injuries sustained by Xiomara Reyes and Maxim Belotserkovsky but the "Airs" casting has been consistent with this press release.

Thank you for this, FauxPas.

It seems quite odd that the press office couldn't tell me to go online & look at this press release instead of making me plead my case.

Because Airs is such an ensemble piece, with multiple partnerings, I would guess it's essential to keep each cast together.

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I saw the Wednesday evening performance and was thrilled. Osipova's floating quality was perfect... She truly has it down... those back sweeping cabrioles (?) in the first scene seemed as if she were being manipulated by the Foy Brothers... without warning she just swept up & back, no discernible effort... so like floating... And I was so happy with the Bruhn staging after seeing Boston Ballet's a few years ago. This is much more the ballet I remember seeing 40 years ago as a child... the setting was so beautiful. Unlike Macaulay, I liked the light tartans and the even the beautiful empire dresses (followed the "if we can't see a dancer's legs, make the costume gorgeous" rule). How annoying not to have the program handy... Who was the handsome Gurn? (I kind of agreed with Madge, Effie deserved him rather than James). He had very noble stage presence, something I was missing in Cornejo's carriage, though I loved his flights, of course, he just didn't seem like the laird of the keep... and the walking was so preoccupied with whether his feet technically pointed..? picky picky picky I get when the dancers are world class! And Effie was gorgeous and perfectly cast... (Who was this? I'd love to see her in any acting role, Tudor, Sleeping Beauty? R&J?)... so nice to see a dancer who can act. Gurn was a hoot whenever he described James running about the woods like a lunatic... very effective. Karl Barbee as Madge was thoroughly enjoyable too. Say, what was that circle he draws on the floor with his staff in Act one? Very curiously intentional, but I didn't quite follow. Also, was he spooling out spiders at the beginning of the 2nd act? I do miss that wonderful pas de trois in the Paris Opera version, where the Sylph is unseen by Effie, is that in none of the Bournonville descendent versions?

The scarf was far closer to what I remembered from my childhood and missed in the Boston production, but still not quite as airy as I remembered... almost, but not quite. I suppose there was some special material back then that Bruhn insisted on?

Now, though I adored Osipova, and the ABT staging I did have some gripes with the 2nd Act drama scenes. My companion came away not quite getting why the Sylph died... I don't know where the problem lay but that's kind of the crux of the whole ballet, isn't it? I couldn't tell when the Sylph stole the ring that she had done so, and I was looking for it.... I'm not sure whether this was due to Cornejo's reaction or what... I didn't like the lighting of the ending... perhaps it was my view from one of the side boxes, but it was odd seeing James lying there on the wide flat stage... I think I wanted everything to shrink down to just him & Madge? It was weak instead of the powerful moment it should have been.

I think McKensie should fine those two sylphs with the noisy pointe shoes... for what reason would they need hard shoes in this ballet? Totally blows the moment to hear them land clank clank... what is going on there? ( That was my only fault of Gurn as well, that he missed some finesse in the landing of those Bournonville style grand jetes... but I have faith he can learn)

Back to the ending... I didn't quite get why Osipova flutters her wrists rather than trembling her fingers as immortality leaves her... is it from the Bolshoi coaching? Is it so that it reads in that huge theater? And the Now Suddenly I'm Blind! scene seemed to lack sense... Surely the ladies of the romantic era were very familiar with the symptoms of fainting... how ones vision starts to swirl with shadows... one didn't get the sense her vision was signaling loss of consciousness to the Sylph but that suddenly Osipova was clumsy with blindness... lose wings=instant blindness... it wasn't a lightheaded dizzy blindness it was a "someone turned the lights off now where am I" blindness. Other picky-picky things about our new legend? (I hope she inspires a whole new trend in ballerinas!!) the little wind up for easy little turns... doesn't seem appropriate for the effortless sylph quality, and it's not like she was launching into triple Petipa fouettes here.. it was incongruous... Oh, and I guess the whole hand consciousness thing... one would want them light and without melodramatic affect but she seemed to use her fingers from that school of ballerinas who appear to have had their knuckles rapped once too many times by a nun... a little too limp & lifeless in the first act... could have just saved this for after the scarf. OK, no more picky-picky...

But Osipova! But oh Osipova! One gets a sense of what seeing Nijinsky must have been like! Seemed a great loss that there were any empty seats... I wish everyone could have seen this performance. I could have clapped ovation another 15 minutes, but my hands had gone numb.

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And I very much liked seeing Airs beforehand too...

I was worried about there being a modern dance piece, programing wise... It must be very tricky to pick something to put on the bill with La Sylphide. Boston Ballet put Serenade, and I didn't like that (the programming, not the ballet, of course!). I wished Serenade had come on after Sylphide as sort of an encore. But Airs was nice... different enough but lyrical enough to set the mind up for it.

I couldn't identify the dancers (not familiar enough to be able to do that), but some were excellent. I felt the men were very effective at sensing the lines, except in some of the partnering... it seemed as if there hadn't been enough rehearsal of the lifts or that they were very different from how they had been trained.. there would be this momentary glitch of effort hoisting the girls up that broke the dynamics... but otherwise the men carried the line up into the air beautifully... made consider how balletic Paul Taylor's choreography was and wonder why some people are against ballet dancers being asked to add modern pieces to their repertoire. One tall blond female just didn't seem to get it though... one could imagine her thinking "what?! What? I'm making the shape! What do you want? God I hate this stuff" without ever getting the sense of how the choreography was drawing lines out through space... It was a fascinating study in how closely one could do attempt the steps and shapes but still not succeed in dancing the choreography. On the other hand, one of the shorter dark haired dancers was so apt in the piece that one would think she came to ABT out of Taylor's company.

What pieces have other companies put on the bill with La Sylphide?

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Back to the ending... I didn't quite get why Osipova flutters her wrists rather than trembling her fingers as immortality leaves her... is it from the Bolshoi coaching? Is it so that it reads in that huge theater? And the Now Suddenly I'm Blind! scene seemed to lack sense... Surely the ladies of the romantic era were very familiar with the symptoms of fainting... how ones vision starts to swirl with shadows... one didn't get the sense her vision was signaling loss of consciousness to the Sylph but that suddenly Osipova was clumsy with blindness... lose wings=instant blindness... it wasn't a lightheaded dizzy blindness it was a "someone turned the lights off now where am I" blindness. Other picky-picky things about our new legend?

Well, as they say, God (or the Devil) is in the details. In the death scene of that same performance, I missed Sylph pleading, "But I thought you loved me!" She mimed something vaguely, pointing somewhere above (but far to the side of) her shoulder, then taking the hand to her heart, but it carried no meaning. I know what it's supposed to be, but I couldn't make sense out of it. She needs to define these moments in her own mind (or her coach's) and communicate them.

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