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ABT at the Met 2011 - rep program

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I saw the 4 ballet program tonight. If anyone else has, I'd appreciate your thoughts. I'm still trying to sort it out. I thought the Times review written by AM was much too positive.

[Admin note: Posts discussing the details of Macaulay's review, rather than a general comment, have been moved here:

The company forums are for members' reviews.]

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I saw yesterday's matinee---and it is so much easier to say "I liked it" rather than why you didn't....Of the three new works the only one I would really like to see over again is the Ratmansky Dumbarton. It is more than likely his 'homage' to Balanchine that caught me. It was a pleasure to see a Ratmansky original rather than a re-hashed one. (special praise to Meaghan Hinkis in her first solo role) Troika (Millepied) is one of those ballets with three men in t-shirts and slacks, no scenery and a lone instrumentalist on stage---in this case beautifully rendered Bach cello suites (by Jonathan Spitz) It is best to heed Balanchine's admonition---'if you don't like what's on stage, close your eyes and have a wonderful concert'. Wheeldon's Thirteen Dimensions had much interest. Four couples were spot-lighted one at a time in imaginative pdd's---most notably Isabella Boylston and Marcello Gomes (very much in the style of a passionate Manon PDD) And, finally the Master----even so-called second-rate Tudor far exceeds all others. Sarah Lane was a marvelous Celestial, great stage presence---and yes, you convinced me, you can act as well as Portman.

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I saw the mixed program on Wednesday evening. There were lots of empty seats. My thoughts:

"Dumbarton" choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to Stravinsky music - Dumbarton Oaks. I wasn't crazy about this ballet though I admire Ratmansky's talent. I am of the opinion (you don't have to share it) that Ratmansky hasn't really shone in any of his original pieces for ABT. "The Bright Stream" which was a hit in D.C. (and is coming soon to NY) was created for the Bolshoi. "Seven Sonatas" was pleasant but derivative to me - no new ground broken. "On the Dnieper" was an interesting exercise in dance theater of the old Soviet type transferred to the 21st century. Good individual solos and pas de deux but as a whole didn't add up. "The Nutcracker" was a real curate's egg with the ridiculous and sublime mixed together - needed another edit.

Anyway, the stage is dark and everyone is wearing sort of drab gray and beige outfits that suggest Russian summer outfits from the early sixties. Part of the problem is the shifting, uneasy music which doesn't seem to settle into concrete musical forms. Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" music (unlike his "Firebird" score or the works for Balanchine) isn't an easy fit for dancing. There are five couples onstage - the ballerinas included Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston, Veronika Part, Michele Wiles and Yuriko Kajiya. Wiles had a good pas de deux that was kind of edgy. Veronika didn't have much of anything to do but looked lovely doing it - your eye kept going to her. It seemed that Eric Tamm and Misty Copeland were the odd couple out - Misty seemed to go through some ritual death and then was accepted back into the group - maybe a commentary on racial issues and interracial dating??? The style was more original than "Seven Sonatas" but still I didn't know what to make of it.

"Troika" - choreography Benjamin Millepied music cello sonatas by Bach. Basically three really talented guys - Alexandre Hammoudi, Daniil Simkin and Sascha Radetsky wearing what looks like basketball tank top uniforms noodling around the stage. Because these guys are very good dancers and charismatic it was fun for about five minutes seeing them toss Daniil around and compete in jetés etc. Then it got real boring. Kind of a brainless "Look Ma, I'm dancin'!" piece worthy of a dance school piece choreographed by students.

"Shadowplay" choreography by Tudor music by Charles Koechlin. Okay this is a head-scratcher. For historical background sake I will crib from the program notes: First choreographed for the Royal Ballet in 1967 with Antony Dowell as the Boy with Matted Hair, Merle Park as Celestial and Derek Rencher as Terrestrial. Came to ABT in 1975 with Baryshnikov as the Boy, Gelsey Kirkland as Celestial and Jonas Kage as Terrestrial. I think this has to do with Tudor's embrace of Zen Buddhism. Set in what looks like the Indian jungle. The Boy with Matted Hair (Craig Salstein) is alone, a hero in search of himself finding his place in the world. He is set upon by the corps and two spirits male and female. The male spirit is looking for a soul mate - someone to complete himself or to dominate. The Boy thinks he can model himself after the male Terrestrial spirit (Corey Stearns bare chested) - he mimics his poses. But then Terrestrial/Corey seems to make a sexual play for Boy with Matted Hair/Craig by going for his crotch. Craig freaks out and decides "that is not for me!". Then comes the Celestial (Xiomara Reyes) with her attendants. Like everyone else in this ballet she seems somewhat threatening but remote and forbidding, not aggressive. They have a pas de deux with an interesting ending where she flies over his shoulder lifted by her attendants. Then both female and male spirits try to take Boy/Craig over. He somehow repulses them and becomes his own man, king of the jungle. That is my take but I am probably wrong. It is...well...interesting. A lot of the choreography is as accomplished as Tudor was.

"Thirteen Diversions" choreography by Wheeldon, music by Benjamin Britten. The one winner here - music that cries out for dancing and Wheeldon at his best. Gorgeous costumes (Mozartiana style) and stunning lighting design (Robert Wilson light beams on a cyclorama with shifting colors and shapes). Four main couples - Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes, Simone Messmer and Alexandre Hammoudi and Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews (replacing Radetsky). Stunning original steps and combinations reflecting the music, fluent command of ballet vocabulary and memorable images. Keeps your interest throughout and stays with you. This one is a keeper and should be kept in the repertory - Wheeldon needs to come back to ABT often. He is back in form with this one.

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I saw the mixed program on Wednesday evening. There were lots of empty seats. My thoughts:

"Dumbarton" choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to Stravinsky music - Dumbarton Oaks. I wasn't crazy about this ballet though I admire Ratmansky's talent. I am of the opinion (you don't have to share it) that Ratmansky hasn't really shone in any of his original pieces for ABT.

I agree with you about this FauxPas and thank you for your descriptions of the performance. I have a few of my impressions to add.

I found both the Ratmansky & Millepied pieces disappointing. For me, Ratmansky had too many steps, too much vocabulary piled on too little structure. My husband saw it as multiple themes and not much development. The one good thing for me was that the piece gave me my first appreciation of V. Part. I had only seen her in a few things before and was always disturbed by what I perceived as flashes of uncertainty. She was relaxed in this piece and her beauty and qualities shined through, my eye kept going to her.

Millepied's piece seemed very shallow to me. 3 guys come on pleasantly enough. The smallest gets lifted and moved repeatedly, all three do some nice turns and jumps - that's it. It was as if Millepied chose some movements from Bach cello suites and just filled them with steps until he was done. He could have chosen to add or remove a movement, it wouldn't have mattered. The cello playing was excellent.

Shadowplay is not the best of Tudor, but is of course a very well put together piece. I enjoyed the journey! Salstein and Reyes were good - her legs looked gorgeous!

Of the new pieces I enjoyed Wheeldon's the most. The pas de deux are beautiful and inventive, he moved groups around well, and in a way that directs your eye. I really liked his use of the corps in relationship to the soloists. The corps sometimes led, sometimes mirrored, sometimes enhanced what the soloists were doing. I also like the lighting effects. This is the only one of the 3 new ones I'd like to see again.

On to Giselle with Cojocaru/Hallberg/Murphy!

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I saw the program on Tues evening from the balcony and on Wed evening from the orchestra. (I exchanged my tickets for the second cast tonight, as I could not fathom seeing this program again). I'll start with the positive. I immensely enjoyed the new Wheeldon ballet and I would see it again in a heartbeat. The choreography was inventive and musical. The performances were excellent, particularly the Murphy-Hallberg pdd. I hope they bring this back very soon. A winner in every way.

Other than the Wheeldon ballet, I felt that the program was a dud. I can't understand how Millepied has become a sought after choreographer. Though the dancers he utilized were stellar,the choreography is not sophisticated or musical. I agree with the post above that it looked like a student workshop ballet. IN fact, I bet a lot of workshop ballets are better than this.

Hard to believe that Shadowplay is a Tudor ballet. I love the Leaves Are Fading and Lilac Garden. I was bored silly with the choreography in Shadowplay.

The Ratmansky ballet looked a lot better close up in the orchestra than from the balcony. An intimate setting would help this ballet. On the Met stage, it was swallowed up and looked insignificant. However, even in a more intimate setting I think the choreography is a bit bland. Ratmansky's best rep ballets have been at NYCB (Concerto DSCH, Namouna), not ABT.

Onwards to Giselle!

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Just one thing to add about the Millepied piece. I was talking to a musician friend of mine who saw it and his comment was "it could have been done to the Andrew Sisters." I found this so true. I don't expect every ballet to be great, but a connection to the specifics of tbe music is essential.

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