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Week of 1/19

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Well, I guess I get to start the comments about the new ballet. First off, though, what a pleasure it was to watch Agon last night after all the story ballets. I felt like I was at NYCB again!! And a very good Agon it was. Wendy is always terrific in this role, and knowing that this would be one of Albert's last Agons made is especially nice.

On to the new ballet. I'm not sure I understood what was happening. I do know that I want to read the Chekhov's story now though. I will say that I liked the sets, costumes and the little dog (who I learned is actually Sterling's). The dancing itself was excellent. One thing I did like very much was that the ballet vocabulary was used. There was very little of the "pretzel" stuff so fashionable these days. I'm not good at descriptions but I will see it again; it's not at all boring, and there is even some very creative partnering. A definite plus for NYCB.

There were two high points for me in Cortege Hongrois: the dancing of Jonathan Stafford and Sean Suaozzi. Jonathan, in particular, is well on his way to being a danseur noble in the best tradition. He was simply wonderful. Sean was incredibly energetic and convincing in the character dancing. Both the demis -- Ana Sophia Scheller and Gwyenth Muller -- turned in good variations. Maria is always a delight to watch, but I strongly feel that she is very miscast here. This was a great McBride role, and Maria makes it something very different. The audience is short-changed.

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Hi Bobbi. I'm glad you enjoyed the new ballet. I actually had the opposite reaction. For the most part I didn't like it. I thought the choreography was generally uninteresting and tedious. The love making scenes were loaded with stock cliches I have seen a million times before. There was some interesting lifts in the pdd with Hyltin and Veyette, but overall I was not impressed with this ballet. Also, I didn't see any emotional connection between Veyette and Hyltin. The audience reaction was tepid, especially for a premiere night. I even heard a boo- a relative rarity at the ballet. On a more positive note, Wendy was outstanding in Agon. I was tired so I skipped Cortege and headed home.

I was also at Tuesday's performance. Bouder was fantastic as Firebird. I've seen her do this role many times over the years, but her performance has now become more nuanced. Fancy Free was fine, but it certainly did not come close to the outstanding performances of the past that I have seen at NYCB (with Woetzel and Tom Gold) and at ABT. De Luz has improved in the Prodigal role since his last attempt at the role some 2 years ago. However, in my opinion he needs more coaching in the scenes that occur after he has been stripped of all his belongings and crawls home. He is outstanding in the sections where he is the angry young man, though. Maria K. was, as usual, wonderful as the Siren.

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I agree with abatt about Agon. What a pleasure. Sitting further back in the orchestra than usual I was really taken with the structure of the ballet. This pas de deux really does suit Whelan very well. The sharpness of her line and attack made the choreography particularly clear.

For my taste Teresa Reichlen's dancing in the second Pas de Trois was a little too "soft".

But a very good Agon overall.

As for "The Lady with the Little Dog", perhaps it was unfortunate that it was performed after a masterpiece. It seemed very long and made no sense to me. The choreography for the principals was dull and cliched although there were a few nice dances for the corps of boys. (There was also a beautiful double tour by one of the boys landed in a perfect fifth position.)

The pricipals strip their costumes to leotard and tights put the costumes back on, take them off, and put them back on again. Only once did it make sense - before the erotic pas de deux.

Several times in the work the boys roll out a long carpet like strip. Once it might have been interesting but to repeat and repeat and repeat it just seemed too much. And all I could think was "They have spent half of their young lives in a ballet studio to lay carpet?"

The scenic decor was nice particularly the moving "windows" which suggested to me a train journey.

I am of two minds about reading the story it is based on. Reading can add more depth of knowledge and appreciation to what we are seeing but should we have to read the story to make some sense of a ballet? In this case the latter is what I would be doing and I feel a ballet should stand on its own.

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Bobbi, I wondered what you didn't like about Kowrowski in Cortege? I haven't seen her do the role,

so I have no opinion. however, you know that it was a piece d'occasion--for Melissa Hayden's farewell,

nearly thirty years ago--and that Balanchine changed the role a lot for McBride after Hayden's

departure (Hayden danced it only a few times before her retirement). I saw Nichols and Ashley in

the role--both dazzling--and would think that, judging by its origins (Tallchief in Pas de Dix, and

Danilova in Raymonda), it isn't well served by anything but a virtuoso ballerina. Much as I enjoy

Kowrowski in many things, she is not that...Also, the soloist roles are not demis; their variations

are both extremely difficult and they were made on Colleen Neary and Ashley. :wink:

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I find Maria to be a gorgeous dancer, with beautiful turn-out and a languid and leisurely way about her. It's not that I don't think she's beautiful; it's just -- IMHO -- she's changes the intent of the choreography. There was a story about Balachine's giving McBride an image of a gypsy woman begging for money when McBride did her turns and gestured with her hands. The way McBride did it, it was a series of very quick gestures -- speedy -- commanding -- regal. I don't get that sense from Maria at all. Watching Maria -- for me -- is like watching the ballet in slo-mo. It's beautiful alright, but my image of McBride is so strong, that I had wished this revival had gone to Ashley with her superb technique. That would have made me very happy. By the way, I too was at the premiere of this ballet with Hadyen -- and saw Balanchine being the "flower boy."

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Wonderful performances this afternoon of both "Agon" and "Cortege Hongrois." Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans were stunning (as always)in "Agon." I thought that Maria Kowroski was lovely and impressive in "Cortege Hongrois." Jon Stafford was a Maria's fine partner, and he also

performed his solo with distinction. I especially loved Sean Suozzi and Rebecca Krohn in the "Czardas" part of the ballet.

"The Lady with The Little Dog" is pure drek. And that's being kind. I felt sorry for all of the dancers, especially Andrew Veyette and Sterling Hyltin. They deserve better. Even Sterling's dog (so cute!) looked embarrassed to be in such an awful ballet (okay, I exaggerate).

Does Miroshnichenko really think that the excellent NYCB corps men should be laying carpet and doing Jane Fonda's 80's aerobics on the stage?

What was that about? This ballet certainly does not honor (or even resemble) Chekhov's gem of a short story. If it stays in the rep -- which I doubt -- I'll make a point to avoid it.

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I loved today's matinee, with the exception of the "Dog" in the middle. Pardon the pun but Ms. Hyltin's dog was the most enjoyable part of the ballet. I was really looking forward to this new work - Shchedrin is a new composer for me and I've never seen anything by Miroshnichenko. I found the music overly melodramatic and the choreography dull and pointless. This is not one of those ballets that is actively offensive, just boring and a waste of talent.

Loved Agon. Wendy and Albert were wonderful and I especially liked Sean Suozzi in this, he really showed a very strong attack and consistent syncopation. I remember seeing Cortege a few seasons ago and not liking it. I don't know why, I loved it this time around. I don't think I'd really consider this to be a Balanchine masterpiece, but it's a very enjoyable piece, especially if you love Raymonda (as I do!). I loved the Czardas, thought Krohn, Suozzi et al did a very good job with it. It was also fascinating to see how Balanchine kept the outlines of Petipa's 3rd act classical variations and reinterpreted the rest. I didn't see this in the 70's so I don't have either Hayden or McBride as a benchmark but I've seen many Raymondas and found Kowroski's regal interpretation very satisfying. Not that I wouldn't love to see Bouder in it one day :D

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I was just browsing through Repertory in Review. On page 307 Nancy Reynolds quotes several critics on the original production of Cortege Hongrois, including Deborah Jowitt:

"...In the beginning Hayden is very grand, melodramatic almost; d'Amboise supports her in slow twisting balances that yearn towards something in the wings. Her solo is fraught with mysterious melancholy. Later she becomes gayer. She looks splendid, regal, a little out of place; its as if some Bolshoi ballerina had wandered in by mistake and started to do the real Raymonda."

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Sadly, I have to agree with the characterization of the new ballet as "drek.". What a waste of gorgeous dancers, a great company, a huge stage and all its fixin's -- etc. I was just SO EMBARRASED by the whole thing. And let's not forget "bored.".

However, I can also happily agree with all the praise for the Balanchine works, and the performers. Sean Suozzi really got to shine in two very different ballets, showing his energy, line, and everything else I've loved about him since day one. (He has been overlooked for promotion to principal IMHO for far too long.)

One thing I did like about the new ballet was Sterling Hyltin's costume. Gorgeous! And it came off so fast!!

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