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ABT To Unveil New Sleeping Beauty For 75th Anniversary


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Thank you so much for the report! And thank you for offering to answer our questions.

The grand pas de deux is vastly different from the text we are used to, and vastly different from even the 1890 Mariinsky recon (I watched this morning for verification).

Was the pas de deux similar to what Doug Fullington presented with dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet at the Guggenheim? (Starting about 1:05:30).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=6xpOVN3cfGc#t=3931

I'm also curious whether the "long" or "short" version of the Bluebird's variation was used.

Yes, very similar to that with the addition of fish dives (which were fantastically snappy) in place of the developpes seen in the video. But still, lower passes, lower arabesques/attitudes, and honestly it seemed to me like the dancers started with a slightly modified fourth position for pirouettes--rather more open than crossed. By the way, I forgot to add the Desire variation is FIENDISH. It's almost entirely very fast, petite allegro. Gomes handled it like a champ, but it looks like a real killer and will definitely expose anyone who has been slacking.

What would I be looking for with the Bluebird variation? The Male solo seemed essentially like every other Bluebird solo I've seen, but I do not claim to be an expert. Or do you mean the pdd?

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What would I be looking for with the Bluebird variation? The Male solo seemed essentially like every other Bluebird solo I've seen, but I do not claim to be an expert. Or do you mean the pdd?

Western versions typically use (nearly) all the music Tchaikovsky composed, meaning that the opening theme is repeated twice and the dancer performs the sequence of jumps in two directions. Russian versions, and apparently it was notated this way, don't repeat the opening theme. I was curious about which option Ratmansky chose.

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I don't think I have it in me to do a big review but here are my overall impressions (and if you have a question, I'm happy to try to answer):

...

- There is a clear turn away from the way today's dancers perform "classical ballets". Low passes (very few done at the actual knee), chainee turns on demi-pointe (making it revelatory when Aurora ends her 3rd act solo with chainees on full pointe), saute arabesques with softly bent knees and low legs (for all--men and women), back foot on demi-pointe when standing in B plus (rather than arched over--even the bows are done like this). Soft soft soft, pose pose pose seems the mantra, which is what makes it jarring when a dancer isn't able to quite do this. Which leads me to my next point...

- How/why this production was made for a company that imports a lot of its "star" dancers is very unclear to me. The grand pas de deux is vastly different from the text we are used to, and vastly different from even the 1890 Mariinsky recon (I watched this morning for verification). A dancer has to completely subsume all the training and style they are used to in order to blend into this production. I don't see how it comes with a few short rehearsals. Does this indicate a shift in casting? Doubtful--isn't Osipova cast in this for one performance at the Met?

Firstly -- many thanks for the detailed descriptions -- they are truly appreciated!

I understand the concern about subsuming style, but (as Volcanohunter points out earlier in this thread) we ask dancers to do this when they perform the work of other choreographers. This is likely the closest we'll get to what Petipa wanted to see -- more contemporary productions have their virtues, but this is more like the actual text. I think it's more than worth the effort it takes to make it work. (sorry for all the 'mores')

- Vishneva acted her butt off through the Rose Adagio which I've never really seen someone manage (since they are usually gripping for dear life); she had a whole storyline of surprise and playfulness at being the center of attention: one moment totally serene, the next unable to help herself from a quick stealing smile to her parents. Both she and V. Part often danced (and Part mimed) with a mischievous, playful twinkle in their eyes and I don't know, yet, whether this is the dictate for the production or just how they decided to play it. Part is the quintessential Lilac Fairy for me (though she had some trouble with a pirouette in her solo), and she has a warmth, grace, and humor that shines through (Desire to her: what do I do to wake this girl up? Lilac: think you stupid boy! [big sly grin])

Oh, excellent news -- these parts really do have the potential for that kind of byplay, but as you note, they can be such a technical challenge that a performer doesnt' get to that level. I envy you the experience of seeing it played out fully!

edited to add: Vishneva's wig in the 3rd act was so, so, so terrible. Put on totally poorly; I hope they figure it out. No one else seemed to have such a bad wig application. Really heinous, especially on the opening night when these things are still in mint condition.

The wigs in Ratmansky's Don Q for the Dutch company have a few duds as well. The first time I saw Pacific Northwest Ballet do it, Cupid seemed like a variation of Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl -- puffy and stiff, but with those awful wings on the sides....

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Stylistically, what you describe sounds similar to what Ratmansky did with Paquita with the Bavarian State Ballet, a company just as mongrelized as ABT. I found it to be very beautiful. It seems to me that if dancers are expected to replicate at least a semlance of Bournonville style, Balanchine style, Ashton style and even McGregor style, they should be able to do proper Petipa style. Ratmansky reminds us that Petipa ≠ Vaganova, and if part-time principals have to put in more rehearsal time with ABT in order to fit in to the production, so much the better.

Yes! ABT presents itself as a repository of many different traditions in ballet -- stylistic specificity is crucial to that kind of mission.

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Volcanohunter: I really don't remember, but I'll watch for it on Friday for you.

And to be clear, I think the style of the production is great; it just seems at odds with the flash-bang-whirl of the Met Season, fly-in guest artist schedule, especially when there does seem to be little rehearsal time and, in the past, a lack of emphasis on blending styles. I hope it is something that isn't lost in the rush or discarded when it becomes too hard to schedule the time for fixing it--that's my only point.

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Just to get us started, here's the biggies for opening night casting:

...

Plus what seemed to be an infinite supply of corps dancers, extras, and dancing children.

That seems to be standard for all productions of SB...

But not for ABT's previous version, which, despite its enormous, ripped-right-out-of-a-Thomas Kinkaid castle seemed oddly underpopulated! There were only two children and eight couples in the garland dance, for instance, and what looked to be about a 2-to-1 ratio of fairies to courtiers in the Prologue.

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I saw the premiere last night, and it went very well. The sets and costumes are beautiful, harmonious, and opulent. There are a lot of wigs.

Choreographically, as ksk04 reported, the chainés were all done on a low demi-pointe, except in Aurora's last act variation. I think the only men who did a pirouette were Simkin as Bluebird and Marcelo in his last act variation. All pirouettes were mid-calf that I recall, except for an accidental blooper. The Prince has only the Act III variation, and it is a deceptively killer variation - there's no walking to a corner to prepare for coupé-jetés. The diagonal in the Bluebird-Princess Florine pas de deux with brisé volée with a relevé to arabesque, chassé and pas de chat had the arabesque on demi-pointe by Princess Florine.

I don't think the men of the company had much dancing except for the fairies' cavaliers in the Prologue, Bluebird, and the Prince. The corps de ballet did beautifully in the Prologue and Vision scene. When the women stand on one leg, which these days is called "B Plus," here, the foot on the non-standing leg is not fully stretched but is softy broken on demi-pointe. Everything is stylistically softer than what has developed in ballet over the last decades, and it was fascinating to take it in. The port de bras is soft, no exaggerated lines, it was more romantic in feel than what we tend to consider classical ballet, at least these days. There were no penché arabesques, no high extensions, no split jetés - it was wonderful to see dancers attempt to dance with quality, grace, charm, gentleness.

In the Vision Scene, Aurora's variation is to the music danced by the Lilac Fairy in the Russian versions or what Nureyev used as the Prince's solo in the Vision Scene in his production. The pirouettes are not for counting, as Vishneva did only single pirouettes for the first two unsupported pirouettes in her Act I solo. The Rose Adagio, which she floated through, ended with an unsupported double pirouette from Aurora.

Visneva, whom I've seen dance Aurora with the Mariinski, was superb. Her Act I Aurora was an effervescent, high-spirited, spontaneous young girl. Her Vision Scene was gorgeous, romantic, beautiful arms, musical, expressive, sublime. Her Act III Aurora was gracious, radiant, beaming, generous. I loved her in the role. Marcelo Gomez was completely at ease and a pillar, and he and Vishneva were a joyous couple. I don't know if I've seen Christine Trenary before, but she was a beautiful and charming Princess Florine.

I did not like the Lilac Fairy's long costume, I'm sorry to say that with the wig, huge feather headdress, lilac tights, shoes, and gloves, the majestic Veronika Part looked like she was dressed for the Golden Horseshoe Saloon at Disneyland, which is not located far from Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. I also did not feel Aurora's Act I costume was effective; her friends' dresses were prettier.

As for the Prologue variations, I particularly liked Stella Abrera's attack and presentation as Violente (Golden Vine in some versions) and Sarah Lane's soulfulness as the Breadcrumb Fairy. Ms. Part projected nervousness in her solo and made it look difficult (not that it's not) and had had difficulty with the last pirouette; the variation for the Lilac Fairy is similar to the Royal Ballet version; she was relaxed and generous after she got through the solo.

They need to do something about the King's royal robe in the Prologue, as is was often lying in an untidy heap in front of him, behind him, beside him . . . . I loved Tatiana Ratmansky as the Queen, she had a delightful coquettish air and affection for her husband. I found myself watching Roman Zhurban as the Indian Prince in Act I, he was truly entertaining! Leann Underwood was quite vulnerable and expressive in movement and her acting as the Countess - she handled the costume so well and moved so effortlessly, it made me want to see her in a true dancing role. Gemma Bond was lovely as Cinderella, and I wished she had danced one of the Prologue fairies. I did not care for Isabella Boylston as the Diamond Fairy, her hands were spikey and stiff and seemed to have an animation that had nothing to do with the choreography. (I am seeing her Aurora on Saturday with Joseph Gorak.)

My hat is most off to the glorious Diana Vishneva. Twice at the beginning of Act III, her little pages either stepped on her long gossamer cape or her dress, so that she could not walk forward. And both times, when she had to position herself and her long costume downstage right while the fairy tale characters came on, and she turned and gave the most beautiful, loving smile to her little pages and then she greeted each fairy tale character with grace and brilliant warmth. What a ballerina she is.

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The Bluebird variation was the short version, though it felt slightly longer than the Russian one, but that may be my imagination. The whole BB pas was completely charming, and the grand pas actually makes sense now in terms of the steps they do: the version we normally see always felt asymmetric to me in terms of the steps she does versus what he does.

I think ksk accurately describes what we saw on stage last night, and I think it's great. I think it's great that they have done all of this in service to the art of ballet. It wasn't about superstars doing tricks, but it was all in service to the dramatic arc of the story. The company danced beautifully and the mime, port de bras, and epaulement all had meaning. They showed that you don't need tricks to get the audience on your side. Yes, some of the dancers looked a bit uncomfortable doing it in the old-school style, but it's important for them to try rather than be stuck at where they are. I hope this, along with Ratmansky's long-term employment, is a sign of the direction ABT's going. This was the best dancing I'd seen them do in a long time.

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It wasn't about superstars doing tricks, but it was all in service to the dramatic arc of the story. The company danced beautifully and the mime, port de bras, and epaulement all had meaning. They showed that you don't need tricks to get the audience on your side. Yes, some of the dancers looked a bit uncomfortable doing it in the old-school style, but it's important for them to try rather than be stuck at where they are.

Totally agree with this. I think this style is also something that will settle into some of the dancers over time, hopefully. Changing instincts about the way you've been even standing onstage, for your entire career, is something small that really requires on-stage practice to get right. For now, they all have to be extra vigilant about hitting it all properly and that will ease with time.

I agree with Josette that Boylston stood out badly for me as the Diamond Fairy; her solo seemed to mark a jarring stylistic variation from almost everything else we saw. I will be interested to hear if she looks better and softens up as Aurora, so I am glad you'll be able to report.

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Just to report that you'll have one more (rarely-posting!) member present for this production: I'll be there on Saturday night in my long-held seat just a few rows from the stage. Many thanks to earlier posters who are thereby prepping me for what I'm to see . . . Sounds as if I'm going to be very pleased indeed! Will be closely observing in order to post any interesting details which might escape the sharp eyes of other posters. Any comments about the pre-performance lecture? Who was the speaker?

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Thank you also to Josette and Andre Yew for your reports.

There were no penché arabesques, no high extensions, no split jetés - it was wonderful to see dancers attempt to dance with quality, grace, charm, gentleness.

I can't help but wonder how willing Svetlana Zakharova will be to play along with this approach once the production reaches La Scala. I love the idea of not seeing the underside of the ballerina's tutu.

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Thanks for the link to the OC Register review -- I thought that Lenihan made a very interesting point at the end.

"What a gift, in this day and age when ballet companies are morphing into more “contemporary” ones, to be mulling over questions about ballet."

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