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Le Corsaire

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I went to the Corsaire this afternoon. I hated the new costumes -- all the bikini-tops made the whole thing look Vegas-like. I enjoyed the super-duper-power-house-jumping cast of Osipova/Vasiliev/Simkin/Cornejo/Boylston/Salstein. This ballet (especially the ABT production) is so silly that it was fun seeing the different dancers just sort of do their own thing. Cornejo was absolutely dynamite as Lankedem. He was the shortest dancer in the cast but had the most imposing presence. I enjoyed Osipova/Vasiliev more in Corsaire than Don Q, where I found their routine sort of stale and hard-boiled. Here they seemed to be having a lot of fun and their technique is as always awe-inspiring. Boylston was lovely and Simkin isn't my idea of the slave but he certainly was super exciting.

After the show since I had time as I was headed to the NYCB in the evening I went to the stage door. It was a fun experience.

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Did anyone go to the evening performance of Le Corsaire? If so, please post. I would love to know how Marcelo was as Ali and how Matvienko was as Conrad. I saw Gillian on Wednesday afternoon and as always she was superb. The revelation of Wednesday's matinee, as I think I already mentioned, was Steven MacRae's Lankedem. Does anyone else agree or disagree? Wednesday's matinee was very good, but the Saturday matinee was just so much fun. And it was so exciting! Everyone was in top form. (As I already said, I will post in more detail in a few days.) I just want to mention briefly how great Craig Salstein was as Birbanto. His dancing was superb and his comic timing was just amazing. In the section immediately following the pas de deux a trois (According to Alastair Macauley that is the correct name for the dance) Birbanto is holding two pistols and he usually fires twice. Salstein fired once, then looked straight at the audience and didn't fire. He fired the second gun a minute or so later. He clearly made the audience part of the joke, which was fun. It was all so masterfully done. Salstein should give lessons in comic timing for ballet dancers.

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I saw Saturday night's performance! Everyone looked great: Marcelo, Gillian, Misty. Matvienko seemed to be a little out of control with off-balance jumps and flexed feet, although he landed everything cleanly. I was SO impressed with Steven McRae! I had youtube-d him before the performance, and thought he was great--very classically Royal Ballet, very clean lines, charm and technique to spare. Anthony Dowell-esque. So, I was totally unprepared for the firepower that he unleashed as Lankendem. Wow! Huge jumps, huge air, great turns, and very, very solid partnering. He's not the biggest guy, and I didn't expect him to be as strong as he was. He did a one-armed overhead carry of Misty like it was nothing. I'd love to see him again.

(Also, longtime lurker finally decides to post!)

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The Matvienko who showed up at the Met on Saturday evening was not the same Matvienko who gave such a brilliant performance in Don Q only 4 weeks ago. Last night he was sloppy and undisciplined. His partnering was good. I was very disappointed with Matvienko's performance. I know he has some personal issues which caused his cancellation but I don't think that can explain away the situation. Murphy was absolutely brilliant. People always rave about Osipova, with good cause, but Gillian is just as strong a virtuoso as Osipova. Murphy is at the height of her powers. I hate to speak negatively of Gomes, because he is exceptional in so many ways. He had the right look for Ali, but his bag of virtuoso tricks is a bit empty for this showy role. He's much better as Conrad. McRae was a delight - high jumps, good partnering, good stage presence and acting skills. Misty did well in the first act, but she was not in control during the series of pirouettes along the diagonal of the stage during the garden scene of the last act. Overall, Sat night was disapponting except for the thrilling Ms. Murphy.

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I hate to speak negatively of Gomes, because he is exceptional in so many ways. He had the right look for Ali, but his bag of virtuoso tricks is a bit empty for this showy role. He's much better as Conrad.

I saw both Vasiliev and Simkin last week as Ali, and was stunned at their bag of tricks. But they are both in their early 20s and Gomes is in his early 30s. I wonder if we're seeing the athleticism bar move to ever more demanding "tricks" in that particular role as younger dancers come along.

I heard Peter Martins say at a panel discussion last February, after they showed some clips of Baryshnikov, that we need to remember that he was the only dancer doing many of those steps in the seventies, but now his male dancers at NYCB see them as starting points for their own virtuosity. (We can see the same thing in gymnastics today compared with the daring "tricks" from just a few decades ago that are now considered routine.)

Still, don't we wish that Vasiliev and Simkin would take some cues from Gomes on style, form, elegance, and, most especially, partnering?

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I agree Simkin has miles to go to match Gomes and also Hallberg (the epitome of elegance) but I was pleasantly surprised by his Ali. I thought his virtuosity was displayed with admirable form especially as compared, to my eye at least, the clunkiness of Vasiliev. I also was pleased to see that his partnering seems to have improved.

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Here are my thoughts on ABT's 'Le Corsaire.

I attended two performances of ABT’s ‘Le Corsaire’ – the Wednesday matinee on June 5th and the Saturday matinee on June 8th. I enjoyed both performances immensely. The story is very silly, but if the dancing is good the ballet is tremendous fun.

At the Wednesday matinee, Marcelo Gomes is a high flying, swashbuckling pirate chief. On Saturday afternoon Ivan Vasiliev flies even higher and hangs suspended in the air while he is doing so. Gomes is known for the wonderful way he portrays each character he dances, but I am impressed with how comfortably Vasiliev fits into the skin of the pirate king.

Both Gillian Murphy at the June 5th matinee and Natalia Osipova on June 8th are superb Medoras. Osipova stands out for her incredibly high leaps with the plushest of landings. Her turns are performed at an absolutely dizzying pace. Murphy tosses off quadruple fouettes (along with very fast singles) as she puts her hands in a circle over her head. Her musicality and phrasing are beyond compare.

On Wednesday afternoon James Whiteside is Conrad’s slave, Ali. His dancing is fine, but it’s not up to the level of Angel Corella’s, Ivan Vasiliev’s or Daniil Simkin’s Alis. In the famous slave pas de trois, Whiteside’s dancing does not thrill me at all. At the Saturday matinee Daniil Simkin’s Ali is tremendously exciting. He steals the show with 4 revoltades in a row. Revoltades are turns where one leg flips over the other in midair. The extremely slight Simkin has no problems partnering Osipova in the slave pas de trois.

Both Steven McRae at the Wednesday matinee and Herman Cornejo on Saturday afternoon were wonderful Lankendems. Both are very strong in both their dancing and acting. I always expect great things from Cornjeo and he always delivers. His multiple air turns performed in a diagonal are especially impressive. I have never seen McRae before, so I did not know what to expect. On June 5th McRae gives the audience an incredible performance. He stands out for his great leaps and phenomenal turns. He even throws in some 540 degree turns during his second solo of the pas d’esclave in Act I. McRae is also a very strong partner – holding Misty Copeland’s Gulnare over his head with one hand.

Mikhail Ilyin is very good as Birbanto, the bad pirate, at the June 5th matinee. On Saturday afternoon, however, Craig Salstein brings his portrayal of the evil pirate to a whole new level. It’s not just Salstein dancing, which is superb, it’s his pitch perfect comic timing which makes the character of Birbanto so multi-layered. Right after the famous slave pas de trois, Birbanto begins a dance by firing off two pistols. Salstein fires the first gun, then looks at the audience, then looks back at the pistol and doesn’t fire it. Instead he fires it about one minute later. This comic bit is done perfectly. I love the way he lets the audience in on the joke. That makes this bit of business even funnier.

I am a bit disappointed with Misty Copeland’s Gulnare at the Wednesday matinee. She simplifies her solo during the pas d’esclave in Act I, totally omitting the fouettes performed on a diagonal. At Saturday’s matinee, Isabella Boylston is a wonderful Gulnare. Her traveling fouettes are crisp and precise. She has great soaring leaps and is beautifully lyrical in the Act III Jardin Anime. I hope Boylston will be made a principal dancer at ABT before too long.

‘Le Corsaire’ is such a fun ballet. I hope ABT continues to perform it for a long time to come.

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