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2014 Nutcracker BAM Season


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David Koch is a big supporter of Ratmansky, and I think that must explain a lot about how he ended up at ABT as artist in residence.

I thought for sure ABT would bring in Ratmansky's Flames of Paris, but that has not happened.

There is no evidence that David Koch has influenced programing or the hiring of personnel at ABT. If you have any, or even the whiff of such, I think you should provide it.

I would imagine that the fact Ratmansky was interested in the position and is considered one of the best ballet choreographers currently working (certainly among the top 5, in most people's top 2) was why ABT hired him.

It is certainly a good enough reason.

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I thought for sure ABT would bring in Ratmansky's Flames of Paris, but that has not happened.

Flames of Paris seems to me as peculiar a choice for ABT (even in the Ratmansky version) as Bright Stream. Those ballets have a reason for being in Russian companies; much less so in an American one. The full-length Ratmansky that I thought might be imported by ABT was Lost Illusions.

I don't think ABT would do Flames of Paris well. It would probably repeat the fate of The Bright Stream, which was declared a hit in its first season and played to half-empty houses the second time around. Lost Illusions would seem to be a better fit, but it is, I think, hampered by its amorphous music and dramaturgically: the hero and heroine don't intersect in the last act.

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I thought for sure ABT would bring in Ratmansky's Flames of Paris, but that has not happened.

Flames of Paris seems to me as peculiar a choice for ABT (even in the Ratmansky version) as Bright Stream. Those ballets have a reason for being in Russian companies; much less so in an American one. The full-length Ratmansky that I thought might be imported by ABT was Lost Illusions.

I don't think ABT would do Flames of Paris well. It would probably repeat the fate of The Bright Stream, which was declared a hit in its first season and played to half-empty houses the second time around. Lost Illusions would seem to be a better fit, but it is, I think, hampered by its amorphous music and dramaturgically: the hero and heroine don't intersect in the last act.

I think, Ratmansky's Paquita ,which is being premiered in Munich next month, would be a better fit for ABT than Flames of Paris. American dancers can't do well all those character dances.

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I have a lot of ballet friends in NYC who stopped going to ABT because of all of the questionable choices that have been going on these last few years with the company. Ratmansky can make the best ballet the world has ever seen and they would be hard pressed to shed their dollars to see it. If ABT doesn't fix it's issues, the company is going to have a lot more to worry about in the coming years than a poorly sold Nutcracker house.

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David Koch is a big supporter of Ratmansky, and I think that must explain a lot about how he ended up at ABT as artist in residence.

I thought for sure ABT would bring in Ratmansky's Flames of Paris, but that has not happened.

There is no evidence that David Koch has influenced programing or the hiring of personnel at ABT. If you have any, or even the whiff of such, I think you should provide it.

I would imagine that the fact Ratmansky was interested in the position and is considered one of the best ballet choreographers currently working (certainly among the top 5, in most people's top 2) was why ABT hired him.

It is certainly a good enough reason.

I didn't say that Koch has influenced programming or hiring in general. I said he is a supporter of Ratmansky in particular, and that the Koch money has a lot to do with Ratmansky's position at ABT. At the curtain speech for the premiere of this Nutcracker at BAM, McKenzie and Koch were on stage making a speech. McKenzie mentioned that Koch was willing to fund a new Nutcracker for ABT, but that Koch specified that the person who would have to choreograph it should be Ratmansky. Why do you take offense at acknowledging that Koch supports Ratmansky? Who is funding the new Sleeping Beauty. Is Koch the lead sponsor for that too?

Added: Answered my own question. The ABT press release confirms that Koch is the lead sponsor of the new Ratmansky SB.

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David Koch is a big supporter of Ratmansky, and I think that must explain a lot about how he ended up at ABT as artist in residence.

I thought for sure ABT would bring in Ratmansky's Flames of Paris, but that has not happened.

There is no evidence that David Koch has influenced programing or the hiring of personnel at ABT. If you have any, or even the whiff of such, I think you should provide it.

I would imagine that the fact Ratmansky was interested in the position and is considered one of the best ballet choreographers currently working (certainly among the top 5, in most people's top 2) was why ABT hired him.

It is certainly a good enough reason.

I didn't say that Koch has influenced programming or hiring in general. I said he is a supporter of Ratmansky in particular, and that the Koch money has a lot to do with Ratmansky's position at ABT. At the curtain speech for the premiere of this Nutcracker at BAM, McKenzie and Koch were on stage making a speech. McKenzie mentioned that Koch was willing to fund a new Nutcracker for ABT, but that Koch specified that the person who would have to choreograph it should be Ratmansky. Why do you take offense at acknowledging that Koch supports Ratmansky? Who is funding the new Sleeping Beauty. Is Koch the lead sponsor for that too?

Added: Answered my own question. The ABT press release confirms that Koch is the lead sponsor of the new Ratmansky SB.

I am not sure what you are trying to insinuate with this...

Ratmansky is the resident choreographer. The last Sleeping Beauty was panned. Why would Ratmansky not be the one to choreograph a new version?

Having a resident choreographer means they choreograph for the company, it isn't a conspiracy...

I'm not offended by Koch supporting Ratmansky (well I'm offended by Koch generally, but). I don't understand why you are making it out that Ratmansky's position exists due to Koch. You imply some sort of conspiratory arrangement.

It is unsubstantiated, and statements like: "David Koch is a big supporter of Ratmansky, and I think that must explain a lot about how he ended up at ABT as artist in residence" seem the sort of unsupported claim this board claims to discourage without evidence.

When a choreographer is widely understood to be one of the best 2 choreographers currently working in ballet (whether you like him or not), this assertion is at the least, laughable.

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Is it so far fetched to conclude that Ratmansky's position at ABT is funded, in large part, by David Koch, who has publicly stated that he admires Ratmansky's work. Not sure what the controversy here is. I never claimed or implied there was a "conspiracy".

Agree that Ratmansky is one of the foremost choreographers at present.

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A question about the Ratmansky Nut -- is the Sugar Plum variation that Misty Copeland is performing in the Wall Street Journal Cafe link here a reasonable version of his choreography? (despite the fact that the poor woman is dancing in a space just a bit larger than a postage stamp -- it makes the Guggenheim stage look spacious!)

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A question about the Ratmansky Nut -- is the Sugar Plum variation that Misty Copeland is performing in the Wall Street Journal Cafe link here a reasonable version of his choreography? (despite the fact that the poor woman is dancing in a space just a bit larger than a postage stamp -- it makes the Guggenheim stage look spacious!)

Yes, this is Ratmansky's solo, complete with the cute little peak at the audience from behind the curtain-wing just before the coda.

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I could do without the peeking (Pacific Northwest Ballet had Leta Biasucci do something similar at Aurora's first entrance in Sleeping Beauty) but I was fascinated with the rhythmic choices in the solo. The original choreography is very wedded to the structure of the music (you can really sing the names of the steps) -- it's the kind of musical response that Mark Morris gets slapped for all the time. Ratmansky has made some unusual choices here, but I think it looks very musical (which is something of a miracle considering that tiny, tiny stage!)

There are so many different versions of Nutcracker -- I'm so interested in all the choices that choreographers make with that score.

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I'm having trouble remembering, but I don't recall the choreography at the 1 min 25 sec and 1 min 35/36 second intervals, where Misty slides one leg back along the floor behind her while bending the other leg at the knee .and leaning forward. Anyone else have a recollection regarding that detail

I'm seeing two of the ABT casts (Stella and Gillian) so I will try to pay attention to compare the variation shown in Misty's WSJ clip.

To my knowledge, the WSJ cafe clip is the only available clip of that variation of the Ratmansky Nut. Looked on youtube and couldn't find any performance video of that variation.

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I'm seeing two of the ABT casts (Stella and Gillian) so I will try to pay attention to compare the variation shown in Misty's WSJ clip.

To my knowledge, the WSJ cafe clip is the only available clip of that variation of the Ratmansky Nut. Looked on youtube and couldn't find any performance video of that variation.

Please do report back -- I'm very curious to know more!

Interesting that there's no video at all online.

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I'm having trouble remembering, but I don't recall the choreography at the 1 min 25 sec and 1 min 35/36 second intervals, where Misty slides one leg back along the floor behind her while bending the other leg at the knee .and leaning forward. Anyone else have a recollection regarding that detail

I'm seeing two of the ABT casts (Stella and Gillian) so I will try to pay attention to compare the variation shown in Misty's WSJ clip.

To my knowledge, the WSJ cafe clip is the only available clip of that variation of the Ratmansky Nut. Looked on youtube and couldn't find any performance video of that variation.

Yup that's the choreography (the leg slide). I remember it because I always find that part a little awkward, tho Veronika Part did it quite nicely in prior years.

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So I've decided I'm going to make the trek out to Brooklyn, because I can't miss seeing Stella dance. I've never been to BAM, how are the seats in the back of mezzanine?

Sorry, Kaysta, that I can't help you on the seating, but I'm writing to say that I, too, can't miss seeing Stella dance. I'm going to both of her performances. We must never give up hope for her promotion!

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Has anyone posted or read any reviews of the Saturday matinee with Sarah Lane & Joseph Gorak? I've looked all over the place (rather compulsively I might add). I've even checked twitter regularly. It's crickets out there! Surely someone will write a review? I am very new to ballet going, and reviews often help me understand portions that I miss. (At this stage, I am probably missing a lot!)

Here are some impressions I had on this, my 3rd viewing of Ratmansky's Nutcracker:

  • The humor in the mice, especially the "little" mouse, is truly enchanting. Everyone was chuckling throughout the kitchen scene. Then, near the end, when the mouse appears again underneath Mother Ginger's skirt, the children around me shouted with glee. It is fun to see children respond so freely- who says ballet isn't accessible? In my section were children and young adults and middle aged adults and two beautifully dressed older women. I heard laughter throughout.
  • The bees in the land of the sugar plum fairy don't really land with the same humor. In fact, I don't enjoy that part of the ballet at all. When they dance with all of the beautifully dressed flowers, it just seems like a bad joke that doesn't quite land. (Speaking of the dance with the flowers- did I actually see the very last dancer tossed in the air only to land on her backside? I don't know what happened there, but the chaos and confusion definitely took me out of the moment.)
  • The dance of the snowflakes. This dance is why I've come back each year. Depicting snow that starts out lovely and sparkly and fun, but builds in intensity to a dangerous, life-threatening storm- of course! It's even there in the music. What is a delight. I wish a recording existed so that I could see it again.
  • During the dance of the nutcracker's sisters, Isadora Loyola was a standout to me. She danced with vibrance and joy.
  • The moment when Clara and the Nutcracker are mirrored by their older selves is lovely.
  • The costumes are mostly fabulous. The Harlequin/Columbine is one of my favorites. The little mouse is perfect. The colors of the clothing in the party. And the shiny silver lining of Drosselmeyer's cloak- so many little details make up this production.

Here are some questions I had. Could someone with greater knowledge and experience provide some insight?

  • While Sarah Lane made a beautiful Clara, it seemed to me that she and Joseph danced with tentativeness during the 2nd Act PDD. I kept waiting for that moment when the prince would catch her or lift her or embrace her with abandon- the visualization of the heights of romance. It just never quite got there (for me). The orchestra would build, the tension would grow, and then the choreography was executed but didn't quite give me chillbumps or make me catch my breath. (The Part & Gomes performance in 2011 stands out). Did anyone else feel that way or was I missing something? Also, Sarah Lane appeared to end one of the dances completely off balance. I don't know who made a mistake- or if it was a mistake at all- but it made for uncomfortable viewing.
  • The Arabian dance was baffling. With the likes of Hammoundi in the role, I expected something interesting at least. Honestly, it looked like a mess. Again, maybe I'm missing something here so I'd love for someone else to weigh in.
  • The staging in the 2nd Act (or scenery- not sure what you would call it) is awful. They must have been going for a restrained, elegant feel instead of the over-the-top sugary sweetness that can happen when you think "Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy." It's just boring instead. There's no real sense of "place" in it. (Maybe they blew the whole budget on the detailed costuming?)

Overall, I'm glad I went. There were some moments of great delight and beauty and real emotion. I would go back next year for the snowflakes dance alone, if I could. And in the hopes that that glorious moments in the PDD would reach the same heights as that Tchaikovsky score. (I'm partial to the Tchaikovsky. It's what really brought me into ballet in the first place!)

I'd love to hear any impressions from others. I was so excited to see Lane and Gorak. What did you see in the program that I missed?

Rhesa

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So I've decided I'm going to make the trek out to Brooklyn, because I can't miss seeing Stella dance. I've never been to BAM, how are the seats in the back of mezzanine?

Sorry, Kaysta, that I can't help you on the seating, but I'm writing to say that I, too, can't miss seeing Stella dance. I'm going to both of her performances. We must never give up hope for her promotion!

I still have hope with all the retirements coming! I haven't seen the Ratmansky version (only the Balanchine and Christensen versions), so Im looking forward to next week.

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So I've decided I'm going to make the trek out to Brooklyn, because I can't miss seeing Stella dance. I've never been to BAM, how are the seats in the back of mezzanine?

Sorry, Kaysta, that I can't help you on the seating, but I'm writing to say that I, too, can't miss seeing Stella dance. I'm going to both of her performances. We must never give up hope for her promotion!

I still have hope with all the retirements coming! I haven't seen the Ratmansky version (only the Balanchine and Christensen versions), so Im looking forward to next week.

Kaysta, you won't be sorry. I was at Stella Abrera's debut today and she was fabulous. Sublime. Luminous. Transcendent. She danced the role as if she were born to dance it. Her technique was practically flawless, her stage presence was captivating, her acting pitch perfect. I must say, however, that I've seen this ballet so many times that it was something of a trial for me to sit through much of it waiting for the magical moments when Stella appeared. But my point is not to critique the choreography, which is charming the first few times but then gets old, IMHO, but rather to say that Stella was wonderful, and Hammoudi, who doesn't have a long track record what with his injuries and all, did a more than creditable job partnering her. The partnering in this ballet is fiendishly difficult, but there was both trust and chemistry between them on stage. I'll be back next Saturday, as I wouldn't miss the opportunity of seeing them again.

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I have to agree with Angelica. I was at today's matinee, and I thought Stella was magical. Such fluidity of movement and precision of technique. Hammoudi did very well. In fact, I think it was the best I've seen from him. He looked focused and fearful when it was time for the big lift in Act II, but he did it without any problems. The auditorium was packed.

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I haven’t posted on this site for a long time, but I did want to respond to Rstorms since I also attended the 12/13 matinee featuring Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak. Lane is one of my favorite dancers and it’s been great watching her artistic growth over the years. On Saturday it was evident just how superb a dancer she’s become. She moved with supreme confidence on stage and gave a buoyant, richly emotional performance. Her porte de bras, beautiful before, is now gorgeous, complex and, I believe, unmatched by any other ABT dancer. Lane's performances are always aesthetically and emotionally satisfying; I always feel elated after seeing her dance.

I think the problems which Rstorms noted were, sadly, all related to partnering. Lane & Gorak had partnering problems with the difficult lifts in last year’s Nutcracker and it was obvious they’d worked hard to get it right this time. They were almost there, but not quite. Gorak’s arm was visibly wobbling at one point as he struggled to keep Lane steady. I’m not sure if you saw his face after those lifts, but I did. I was seated two rows from the stage and it was evident he was not pleased. He looked rather grim and frankly, he appeared exhausted; the front and back of his neck were covered in sweat. Gorak has some major lifting work ahead of him this spring, and if this performance is any indication of his current ability, he’s got plenty of work ahead of him.

Lane is usually spot-on technically and has no problems with balance, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Anyone who saw her two performances in the Sleeping Beauty will recall how her Rose Adagio was utter perfection, both times. The problems in her performances are often due to poor partnering, and this is a problem endemic to ABT as a whole, not confined only to the Nutcracker and its difficult lifts.

I’m not sure what you mean by the baffling Arabian dance, but are you aware that Hammoudi was playing a eunuch being chased by sexually frustrated harem girls? I’ve always found that dance amusing. By the way, that was some of the best dancing I’ve seen from Hammoudi. He may have the potential for some wonderful future performances which we’ve not yet been permitted to see. Overall, it was a wonderful afternoon at the ballet, and despite the partnering issues, Lane, Gorak and the entire cast gave all of us in attendance a terrific treat. (By the way, the performance appeared to be sold out.)

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Thank you for your reply, Laurel! Your insight is very helpful.

Yes, the balance issue that I mentioned was during partnering. I apologize if I didn't make that clear.

And thank you for clarifying the Arabian dance. I did not realize that he was a eunuch! Context is everything.

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I’m not sure what you mean by the baffling Arabian dance, but are you aware that Hammoudi was playing a eunuch being chased by sexually frustrated harem girls?

Is the Arabian dancer identified as a eunuch in the program? I never interpreted it that way -- I always just thought of him as a man harried by too many wives.

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