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2014 Opening Night Gala May 12th


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Lots of beautiful women in ball gowns working the foyer. A few people felt that the gala wasn't as gala as it had been in the past.

Opening Night Gala Program

Don Quixote (Act I Entrance): Paloma Herrera - Paloma looked to be in good if not scintillating form. Good high jetés and she has always been a good turner. If you can forget about Osipova, Gillian on a hot night or Nina Ananiashvili in the 1990's this was very good.

There were then speeches by Rachel Moore, Kevin McKenzie and then a very elegant Sigourney Weaver described ABT's outreach programs and introduced four students of the JKO school as a prelude to their performance. (Nowhere in sight: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg or David Koch...)

Pièce d'Occasion: JKO School

This was a ballet for the students by Raymond Lukens - it was a fluent exercise in bouyant neoclassicism similar to "Etudes" or "Suite en Blanc". Mostly corps formations with a few tiny solos - two or three boys looked very promising and there was a very lovely girl whirling about among them. I have to say that for the first time I saw that the JKO school was producing dancers with potential. Some looked like they might eventually staunch the massively depleted ABT roster in the near future.

Cinderella (Act II Pas de Deux): Hee Seo, Marcelo Gomes

This was the ballroom pas de deux where Cinderella and her Prince dance alone. Backdrop of starlit sky. Marcelo was his magnificent self in white. Hee Seo had a nice soft attack over solid technique (the role doesn't seem to be beyond her comfort level) that looked very English school. Kind of that Antoinette Sibley mixture of delicacy with steel underneath. This pas de deux works better as a quiet romantic interlude between all the frenetic ballroom action before and after - by itself it looks a little muted and low key.

Manon (Act II Solo & Adagio): Polina Semionova with Roberto Bolle (Corey Stearns had been listed to do the partnering work here as Des Grieux but was still injured)

Semionova looked sensual, feckless and quite alluring here. I wasn't sure that she had the acting ability or fragility for this part but she totally convinced me. This is the big scene in the gambling den/brothel where Manon is passed around by all the men in the room including awkwardly, her former lover Des Grieux. Bolle and Semionova (not scheduled to dance together) make a glamorous couple. Roman Zhurbin was a menacingly elegant Msr. GM, Manon's current protector.

La Bayadère (Pas d'Action): Isabella Boylston (replacing Gillian Murphy), Ivan Vasiliev

This is the Gamzatti/Solor betrothal dance with the two teams of pas de quatre girls. The program slip listed Gillian Murphy as injured - yet she is still scheduled to dance the bravura role of Kitri this Wednesday. Hmmm.... Boylston was well-matched physically with Vasiliev (not so sure about Gillian and Vasiliev) and danced with radiant authority. She very much took the stage as Gamzatti - radiant smile and the way she tore into her solo, you know she would nail it. Boylston in the coda also nailed the series of Italian fouettes with the regular fouettes as a finish - she did a triple or quadruple to finish. Vasiliev had some rough landings from those backward leaps with the leg beats. But his barrel turns were killer. Acted well too. Both dancers looked to be on the same level.

Intermission

The Dream (Scherzo): James Whiteside, Daniil Simkin

Both men looked great and Simkin was a big audience pleaser with whiplash spins and leaps.

Manon (Act I Bedroom Pas de Deux): Julie Kent, Roberto Bolle

Bolle was the picture of romantic gallantry and Julie was surprisingly youthful and dynamic. It looked like they may have fudged one section (seemed to be walking around when they should have been dancing) but I don't know the choreography well enough to be certain.

Coppélia (Act II Excerpt): Xiomara Reyes with Alexei Agoudine as Dr. Coppelius

This is the bit where Dr. Coppelius has brought "Coppelia" (Swanilda) to life and has her dance for him. Xiomara was adorable and looked in great form.

Nuages: Diana Vishneva, Marcelo Gomes

Jiri Kylian choreography to Debussy music. The danseur basically twists and turns the ballerina like a pretzel or origami throughout - very intense and kinetic. Lots of acrobatic partnering which Gomes is the best at. Marcelo was shirtless in blue tights and she wears a blue shift. They both put it over with great intensity and passion.

Gaîté Parisienne (Peruvian, Pas de Deux & Can-Can): Herman Cornejo, Veronika Part, Jared Matthews, Misty Copeland, Joseph Gorak

The costumes are still eye-poppers ("It's a Lacroix, sweetie"). Cornejo looked to be having a ball and was very funny as the Peruvian. Not dancing the role during the regular run though - Simkin and Salstein. Veronika looked glamorous and high-spirited but is not exactly the kittenish type needed. Rather like a Duchess impersonating a grisette. Her dancing was good but looked a little heavy in attack and speed. Jared Matthews was very gallant as her partner (Freddy Franklin's old role) but seemed to be working hard to get her around. Joseph Gorak exuded high-stepping panache as the Can-Can master of ceremonies. Misty Copeland as the Flower Girl spinned around with joyous elan. Festive capper to the evening.

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Who was the JKO soloist? He was amazing! There were four students with Sigourney that evening.

Ivan was explosive. The men at ABT are amazing. Well put together evening.

Two loud crashes came from the Orchestra, or the front of the house.

Like NYCB last week, the Playbill was a mess, Few dancer's head shots were correct. Shameful. I don't blame ABT or NYCB, obviously was Playbill's fault.

I found the audience was a little low key, Anna Wintour's gala a few weeks earlier stole a lot of the spotlight. NYCB gala was less than a week ago.

The dancing was great. Kudos to all!

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I had cheap seats at the Gala, something I normally never bother with. (I was in town for the NYCB Robbins and Balanchine programs over the weekend + the Degenerate Art exhibit at the Neue Gallerie -- which I highly recommend.)

I don't disagree with any of the reports above. The Playbill has amateurish errors on pp. 34-35 listing the Principal dancers. It looks like they removed Matvienko's picture, but not his name, and everything after that on the list is out of alignment. Seo's name with Syklyarov's picture, etc. I wonder if they can get it fixed for the regular programs this month.

Caroline Kennedy has been listed as honorary co-chair (with Michelle Obama) for previous galas, but her name did not appear this year. I just assumed that was because she is now the US Ambassador to Japan and it seemed inappropriate. Obama is listed alone and I had hoped she might appear. But the absence of special security at the entrance was a tip-off she wouldn't be there. I do remember seeing press reports and pictures of a reception Kennedy gave for ABT when they were in Japan.

I saw Macauley in the orchestra, but didn't spot any other writers (which doesn't mean they weren't there).

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This year was my first gala, and while I miss Osipova (in anything), it was great to see most of the principal dancers perform, since I don't live in NYC anymore. Thank you California for putting the gala show in my head last year when we met in the front row of the Grand Tier at the premiere of Ratmanksy's Shostokovich triptych.

I mentioned the Playbill errors to Grey Johnson, Director of Membership, yesterday at the dress rehearsal. He was adamant the copy was perfect when it left ABT and that it was Playbill's error. He also said he was not sure it would be corrected, which is unacceptable IMO.

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Seattle, like I mentioned the same thing happened at NYCB's PlayBill.

PlayBill is a monopoly and does not give a Moose's patooty.

They print months of these Playbills and just change the pages in the center for each performance.

Like NYCB, ABT should place a poster in the lobby with head shots. The Dancer's union could have issues if this is not corrected.

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Only have a quick second to answer your Q:

Espada - Jared Matthews

Mercedes- Hee Seo

Amour - Sarah Lane

Marcelo and Polina were both absolutely spectacular. What a treat for us to get to see Marcelo in a role he rarely dances with ABT anymore! Polina pulled out all the stops with her balances and turns. Go Saturday night if you can!

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