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ABT 4/12-quick notes

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It's late so just a few tidbits on tonight's (well, now last night's peformance).

Unfortunately, I don't think things have gotten much better since the opening. "Theme and Variations" is not one of my favorite ballets, and it was not very well done tonight. Ethan Stiefel was off-his piruoettes traveled considerabley and my friend thought he was off from the music a lot. The female corps was sloppy to start out, but got it together. However, the male corps finished off very out of synch.

The Paul Taylor piece was my favorite of the night. Marcelo Gomes stood out in his cigar-chomping role. I found Sascha Radetsky's costume a bit distracting with the bare legs, but oh well.

The dancing in Sleeping Beauty Act III was fine, but I definately prefer the NYCB (Martins ??) version and costumes. The cherub supported sheet/curtain was distracting and out of place, IMHO.

Guisepee Piccone was fine as the Prince-all but one of his piruoettes were spot on, though he seemed to have a bit of trouble with the series of fish dives--they were a bit slow and Paloma's position was not very pretty.

Paloma was OK, with a few wobbles. Not much feeling in the dancing , IMHO, though.

I believe Sascha Radetsky was making his debut as the Bluebird, and with the exception of one slight stumble on his exit, he did an excellent job. I've seen higher flying bluebirds, but he caught the essence of the "flying" arm movements and lyrical jumps (what are those "jumps" called, BTW??). Gillian Murphy was excellent as the female blubird.

All in all a nice evening, but not a great one.

I'm very interested in what other people thought...


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In one of those funny "small-world" coincidences, whom did I end up sitting next to last night but our own Jeannie? Anyway, I think Jeannie and I saw the same performance last night, which wasn't quite the one that sneds saw! So, you people who weren't there aren't quite going to know what to think.

Anyway, I thought Theme & Variations was wonderful last night. Ashley Tuttle came across as a real Ballerina, not so much stealing the show as commanding it. She had a wonderful combination of attack and musicality. Sneds is right that Stiefel was off a little bit on his turns, but it was nice to see Tuttle given a chance to dance with someone taller than she is for once. The corps looked very good -- enthusiastic and clean. Among the group of four soloists, Michele Wiles again stood out, not because she was trying to, but because her dancing was just clearly cleaner and more precise than the others'. The height difference wasn't really noticeable from where we were. One sort of minor (but distracting) point -- aren't there some kind of sweat guards that dancers can wear to protect their costumes? Poor Ethan Stiefel came out with underarm stains plainly visible from the second tier seats, and the situation didn't improve over the course of the performance.

I rather liked Black Tuesday, with the caveats that (a) the lighting needs to be improved, (B) the work should be performed on a smaller stage, and © Joaquin de Luz should not be cast as the figure who's supposed to bring everything together. He was simply too small, dark, and light to have any impact at all. I was very glad when the other dancers came back on stage so that I had something else to look at. Jeannie thought some parts dragged. I agreed that a few segments did get a little dull, but the dullness didn't last long enough to have a major impact on the overall effectiveness of the work (with the exception of the last solo, which I think was due more to casting than choreography). Someone named Jamar Goodman was exceptional in Underneath the Arches. This is a very slinky, snaky section and Goodman really stood out. Other notable performances included Erica Cornejo's in The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (replacing Gillian Murphy, who was dancing in Sleeping Beauty), Jennifer Alexander as the shooting girl in I Went Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf Was Dead, and Marcelo Gomes' charismatic bad-boy pimp.

My enjoyment of the evening came to a screeching halt with Act III of Sleeping Beauty, which was, in my view, simply dreadful. With the notable exception of Sascha Radetsky as the Blue Bird, the dancers seemed to have forgotten that they were supposed to have come OUT of their hundred-year sleep for Act III. NOBODY (except Radetsky) was up to par in this performance. It didn't occur to Sean Stewart (Gold) that it might be nice to point his feet. The Silver Jewel on the left felt no obligation to coordinate her arm movements with those of the other two Silver Jewels. The fairy-tale characters forgot that they were supposed to be using their steps to portray characters and stories. Gillian Murphy was off in her own world as Princess Florine, barely acknowledging Radetsky's existence. Even Rosalie O'Connor was a disappointment as Red Riding Hood. She wasn't bourreeing backwards in terror; she was just bourreeing backwards (and not even very quickly at that).

And then there were Paloma Herrera and Giuseppe Picone. Picone was nice-looking but utterly unremarkable, and it was just painful to watch Paloma. She had no spirit at all; she looked like she'd rather have been anywhere than on that stage. Her port de bras (my usual pet peeve) was actually fine last night, and her fingers were much less splayed than usual. The problem, of all things, was her feet. They didn't have the usual stunning arch; they looked more like the ice-cream-cone feet you see in older ballet films. She couldn't seem to do anything at all with them, and didn't seem like she really felt like trying. The orchestra played beautifully; too bad they weren't matched by the action on stage.

Fortunately, I only paid $23.50 for my seat in the hinterlands (which really isn't a terrible place to be since the Opera House isn't THAT large). I felt that I definitely got my money's worth just with Ashley Tuttle's performance in Theme & Variations. Black Tuesday was a nice plus. If I'd paid any more, though, I'd be wanting a refund for sitting through Sleeping Beauty. Oh, well. At least they didn't bring the whole ballet.

[P.S. I just noticed in the casting replacement slip from my program that it was actually Sean Stewart whom I praised so highly in Black Tuesday; he replaced Jamar Goodman. OOOPS. Well, be that as it may, he was still a mess in Sleeping Beauty.]

[ 04-13-2001: Message edited by: The Bard's Ballerina ]

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Hmmm...I guess my view of "Theme and Variations" is colored by my increasing dislike of the ballet. Just not one of my favorites, so I probably wasn't paying as much attention. The male corps was definately way off at the end though-the tours were sequential instead of simultaneous.

Was it my imagination or did Ethan and Ashley have a near miss on the final lift....

My friend and also noticed the sweat stains because we both had seen Ethan in the same role at City Center, and the problem was even worse there. I wonder if it would help to have him put the tunic on at the very last minute.

I'm glad to hear that someone else though "Sleeping Beauty Act III" was still sleeping. LOL, with those costumes and that set, I can't really blame the dancers for being under inspired. Let be more specific about Piccone-I was impressed by his spot on turns, but the rest was nothing special. LOL, I must thank Paloma for prividing an excellent illustratio of her faults that I was tyring to explain to my friend.

So, I would agree with most of ther previous review. Just count me as "Theme and Variationed" out!


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I didn't go last night, so I was very glad to read these.

The Jewels variation in Beauty has been a mess each night. They look as though they've all learned the roles from different videos in different rooms. Sneds, I agree with you on the decor. They're not only cherubs; they're anorexic cherubs holding up that parachute silk, in a sour apricot mausoleum.

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Alexandra, I like your "sour apricot" description for that color. I was trying to figure out what color the courtiers' costumes were. Sort of coppery, but I've now decided on "metallic sour apricot" as the best way to describe them.

Sneds, I'm sure you're right about the last Tuttle-Stiefel lift. And the Sleeping Beauty fish dives were really strange-looking, especially where Picone would swing Paloma back up to her feet (she looked sort of like a salmon flapping out of water). Frankly, I try not to pay too much attention to lifts anymore since nobody seems to be able to do them well and I'm hoping that I'll miss the inevitable one where the ballerina's going to end up on her head.

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I believe that Dawn (a.k.a. 'Bard's Ballerina') captured most of my own feelings about last night, as we were sitting beside one another.

Quick notes, mainly comparisons with the other two nights, as I attended all three performances of this mixed bill (+ dress rehearsal).

THEME & VARIATIONS - undoubtedly the best of the three performances of T&V this week. The corps de ballet must have been drilled all-day Thursday because they were noticeably more in unison tonight than on previous viewings. Ashley Tuttle was simply beautiful - clean, spot-on dancing coupled with a scintillating charisma that projected to 2nd tier, where I sat. She totally "attacked" her first quick-paced solo with the pas des chats. Brava! Ethan Stiefel displayed a true cavalier demeanor despite minor problems with his partnering of Ms Tuttle in the pdd. Again, Michele Wiles' aplomb and secure technique made her stand out among the four demi-solo girls. Funny story: I was expecting to see Sasha Radetsky, her usual partner during the previous nights (and listed in tonight's programme), come on with her for the finale. I instantly noticed that the usually poker-faced and shortish "Sasha" was (a) grinning from ear to ear and (B) taller by about 3-4 inches....then I realized...No! It wasn't Sasha at all but, rather, Ethan Brown with Michele tonight. Let's just say that, by watching Michele, I 'discovered' the joy of Brown's megawatt personality. Here is one young man who seems to relish every second on the stage!

BLACK TUESDAY - Yeah, yeah...I sat on a rubbish can and stayed this time! As it turned out, Sasha Radetsky was pulled from T&V because he was dancing in Black Tuesday...so, of course, I could not miss him. ;)

Tonight did not change my mind much about this work, except that the first duet for two males ('Underneath the Arches') seemed brighter & bouncier -- less tentative & muddied -- this time, with Sasha Radetsky and Sean Stewart. Another positive addition to the cast was the ravishingly beautiful Brazilian, Renata Pavam (twin of Diana Vishneva, in looks AND technique), as one of the three 'gigolettes' in the 'Honey, Are You Making Any Money?' number. Watch out, everybody -- this 1998 Jackson IBC medalist is rarin' to take the dance world by storm! On the other hand, the 'Big Bad Wolf' number was a bit less effective with Jennifer Alexander, replacing the first-cast's Marian Butler. If the final big solo was dull and too-long with Ethan Stiefel (first cast), then it was interminable tonight with Joaquin De Luz. With Stiefel, you could at least see some visual contrast (light blonde hair) against the dark set and costume. Ah well...

The evening went downhill from there....

SLEEPING BEAUTY, Act III - A moribund performance. First, a sliver of 'good news': Sasha Radetsky's Bluebird soared cleanly - classy, not flashy. However, he -- like seemingly all other Bluebirds this week -- was paired with a big (taller) lady and, once again, one could see the struggle with the 'traveling Presage-lift' during the adagio, although the Swan-Lift at the end of this number was OK. His Florine was Gillian Murphy, who couldn't help adding a couple of double-turn pirouettes in the middle -- not the end -- of the final diagonal of her solo. Petipa would be surprised but, I suppose, this was Ms Murphy's only opportunity to show-off her highly-praised turning skills!

As for Paloma Herrera and Giuseppe Picone as Aurora and Desire...well, the least said the better. The handsome Picone has possibilities which were not fully displayed here. As for Ms Herrera - I am quite saddened to see her deterioration since I first became her fervent fan, five years ago. She is, quite simply, a different dancer. Different body...with the exception of those always-glorious feet and one very nice balance during the adagio.

Wednesday night's BEAUTY was easily the best of the three, thanks to the regal bearing & Vaganova technique of the Aurora/Desire pairing of Irina Dvorovenko & Maxim Belotserkovsky.

On to ABT's GISELLE this weekend.

- Jeannie

p.s. - To our Christian members: Happy Easter...and Happy Weekend to all!

[ 04-13-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Just a comment about Ms. Herrera --

I have been disappointed in her dancing too. It just seems as if ever since she suddenly joined the principal rank at age 19, her quality of dancing has been deteriorating. Her body has been changing to a point that she is losing her tonality in her legs, her arms look wobbly and has no sense of control. Both in her performances at the World Ballet Festival and City Center (NY season), she didn't appear like a "principal" dancer to me at all . Perhaps it is not always a good idea to promote people when they are too young.... What is happening to her ? :)

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Terry - While there is nothing wrong with us (her long-time admirers) wondering and caring, it's probably best not to speculate. Dancers are - gasp! - Human Beings. Like all Human Beings, they can have their ups and downs. Paloma Herrera is an immensely talented and intelligent artist who, in time, will surely be back to her usual sparkling self. One only has to see the career of her near-contemporary at SAB, Jenifer Ringer, to see that a great talent cannot be dormant for long.

[ 04-13-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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I agree that these are troubled waters, and I that we shouldn't speculate about any private matters, or injuries (and I don't mean to imply that there are any in this case). The comments that follow are meant generally, as something to think of when a dancer you've admired suddenly turns into a different person -- or seems to.

There is a downside of training dancers more for competition than for a career. I don't mean to raise that as an issue again -- there are people who are for, and people who are against, and both have points. Winning a medal didn't hurt Baryshnikov -- but he wasn't trained specifically to win medals. But. It's possible to take a dancer, find one or two solos that suit him or her, and drill them until they can give a technically solid performance. Some say that you can do this with any professional level dancer if you lock them in a room and keep them turning long enough :) If this is done at the expense of general training, it may be difficult for the dancer to fit into repertory later. If the dancer is limited in range -- whether because of technical or artistic limitations -- it means that if you put them in roles outside that range, they falter and one wonders, how could that person be a gold medalist?

There can also be coaching problems. Some coaches and dancers simply work better together because they're a good fit, some coaches are good at one thing, some at another, etc. If the coach can't figure out how to reach a dancer -- what exactly it is that a dancer needs -- the coaching won't help much.

A final thing to consider is that sometimes dancers can become so self-conscious and try to work on so many things at once that everything falls apart. I don't know if that is the problem here, but I'd like to see Herrera have a season where she does roles in which she has enough confidence to relax. One of the most enjoyable things I saw her do was the Tharp "Americans We" a few seasons ago. That's the first thing since Don Q that I've seen her do where she looked happy and relaxed.

(I don't mean to suggest that this list is exhaustive and others may be able to add to it, but these are things I've either noticed or have had pointed out to me.)

I think, as Jeannie said, things also can just sort themselves out. Erik Bruhn said that he went through a period after working with Volkova where he was conscious -- too conscious -- of technique and lost his natural facility for a time.

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This is only speculation, and observation over the years in terms of watching very young, exceptionally talented dancers doing too much too soon. IMO, they are over-used and abused instead of nutured and developed. Sometimes they survive, often they don't. It is natural for directors to want to showcase such talent, but it also can come to the point of exploitation, which is a huge disservice to the dancer in the long run. This is one of my problems with the competitions, which set the young dancer up for stardom, and all that flash and dash, technical whiz-bang thing just doesn't work so well as they try to fit into a company. One of the reasons is that they have always been "stars", and sometimes have not developed the ability to work in a corps de ballet, or even to work in many different styles. Or, if they are given the principal work right away, so much is expected from them that they fold under the pressure. Principal dancers need to have some degree of maturity and steady experience in a company, a chance to grow up, and to be a dancer before they are suddenly a "star".

On the opposite extreme, many very talented dancers languish in the corps for years and never get the opportunity to be developed into soloists and principal dancers. While not all really good dancers in the corps of a major company have the potential to go beyond that, many do. In very large companies this can be very difficult, as they are just not noticed, or people keep getting brought in as soloists and principals

while the company dancers remain in place.

I don't know what has happened to Paloma, but I have always been one to defend her and just kept saying 'give her a chance to develop, she just needs coaching and time to develop some aspects of her technique that are not quite there yet. She is enormously talented.' But, last night was sad to see. I was in the 4th row, and could see very clearly that she was NOT happy to be up there. While the ballet as a whole was, as others have said, still sleeping last night, she did nothing to help that at all, technically or artistically. Right at this point in time she has not lived up to her potential at all, but, she is still young, and this can change. The talent doesn't go away, but obviously some things are in the way of it's development in this case.

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How right, Alexandra & Victoria.

Victoria - I felt "it" from up in the 2nd tier. I remember turning to 'Bard's B' as Herrera was dancing Aurora's solo & commenting: "She must be deeply unhappy." Something in the spirit. I felt like giving her a big hug. :)

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And now for the unexpected ballet or section of a ballet lagniappe for this thread; Kate/sneds' "Unanswered Question". The big "flying" leaps in the male variation in the Bluebird pas de deux are called "temps de poisson". When the dancer elects to do them with slightly bent knees, they become "temps de l'ange".

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A few things...

Alexandra-nice review on Ballet Alert-one minor quibble-you have it listed as 4/11-opening night-actually opening night was on the 4/10.

The Bard's B-your salmon analogy is perfect-it had me howling. Those fish dives looked strange, but I couldn't put it into proper words. You hit it on the head. Now I'll think of flapping fish every time I see Paloma dance!

And Sascha had an "h" is his name, BTW. Not sure where his name comes from, since Sasha (no h) is the Russian nickname for Alexander.


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Thanks for all your comments, Alexandra, Victoria, and others. It's always so helpful to read what others have to say. It's interesting about what you've said about competitions, Alexandra, because this is exactly what is happening in Japanese ballet. In Japan at the moment, there are more than 10 national ballet competitions that take place every year, and students and teachers compete in them as if winning a medal can change their whole life. Because they've been trained to compete in competitions during their youths, when they should be developing their musicality, acting skills, miming, and other important qualities that are so much more necessary than simply technique, the dancers don't know how to "grow" after they've entered Prix de Lausanne (which is what most Japanese national competition winners do) and have joined foreign companies. Dancers find disparity between what the western coaches, companies, audience, etc.look for and what the Japanese teachers and competition judges have always put their emphasis on. I've gotten a little off topic here, and I'm not saying that this is what Herrera has experienced (obviously , because she's been trained in Argentina, which has a completely different style of training than Japan) but I do think that competitions are becoming a source of problems for educating young dancers.

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Thanks for some very interesting discussion about young dancers promoted to "star" status. While I agree 100% with the view that competitions are not what should define a dancer's potential or actual artistic talent, I think a lot of the statements about how dancers reacte to competition are broad generalizations and cannot be considered applicable to most if even a relative minority of competitors.

With respect to winning them,

...compete in them as if winning a medal can change their whole life..  

there certainly is ample evidence that this indeed is the case and certainly what many competitors want to result from their participation in the competition. It doesn't seem fair to me to blame competitions for what companies and company directors expect of a dancer they hire based on competitions. I think Victoria's point,

if they are given the principal work right away, so much is expected from them that they fold under the pressure. Principal dancers need to have some degree of maturity and steady experience in a company, a chance to grow up, and to be a dancer before they are suddenly a "star"  

expresses this exactly. Young dancers need to be nurtured no matter how they arrive on the company's doorstep.

[ 04-14-2001: Message edited by: Paul W ]

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It happens with people who don't enter competitions, too- the extremely talented young dancer joins a big company, then suddenly doesn't know how to function. It is a big transition- not only are these young dancers starting their first jobs, but many are moving away from home for the first time- I've seen a couple of very talented dancers got through tremendous difficulties because of this. One needs to be very self motivated when joining a company, and many young dancers are so used to constant attention and nurturing from their own teachers they may have been with for years that they don't know what to do when they arrive at a company and don't get any attention at all.

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Andrei, Mel and CD: what is a "Brise Volee" and does it relate to or ressemble the "Temps de Poisson?" Those jumps in the Bluebird variation have a beautiful angle in the line at the waist, do they not? Alexandra, don't you have a lovely picture of Kronstam showing just such a line in a variation from Ashton's Romeo?

Regarding Paloma -- As a good friend said, "She's not fifteen years old any more."

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Michael -

Re: the Kronstam picture, do you mean the one from the from the Ashton Act III variation of Sleeping Beauty? If so, then I'm pretty certain that the step he's portrayed in wasn't a brisé volé; the angle of it is wrong (the hips would be facing to a corner rather than directly to us.) I think he is probably doing a sisonne similar to those in the male variation of Theme and Variations. It is a very beautiful picture!

[ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: Leigh Witchel ]

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Not that any of this will make sense to people who haven't seen the picture (it's in "Dancers You Should Know," a book published about 10 years ago) but I think it's a cabriole -- at least, that's what he said it was.

I'd always heard the Bluebird step called "pas de poisson" and thought it was part of the menagerie: pas de chat, pas de cheval, etc. No relation to "fish dives!" But the body is curved in the air, perhaps resembling a leaping fish, if you have a good imagination. I was thinking of this watching Giselle last night -- the step that I've always heard called a soubresaut is certainly similar, although the sequence of jumps is much quicker and the arms are in a different position. One of the many things that mystifies me about ballet terminology is that there are some steps that have different names even though there's only a tiny variation from one to the next, and others (like an arabesque) have the same name whether the leg is at 25, 45, 55, or 180 degrees.

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Brise vole - flying jump, in translation, include both brise ferme (in Albert's coda in "Giselle") and brise dessus-dessous ( coda of Blue Bird in S.B.).

Arabesque is the position of the leg - pointed to the back with straighten knee. The foot can be even on the floor. Different arms give different names to the same arabesque position.

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