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Opening night was fully as enchanting as I expected it to be. No cast changes for "Midsummer", and it was a wonderful and cohesive ensemble.

No surprises here: the standouts for me were Jennie Simogyi (Hippolyta), Albert Evans (Puck) and Peter Boal (Oberon).

Jennie is an amazing dancer. To be completely picky, her fouettes traveled a bit more than I would like to see, but her legs are steel and her grand jetes are huge!And she is able to make the transition to lyricism in the second act.

Albert Evans--well what can you say? He is a devil in this part. And Peter Boal has the cleanest and purest technique. He soared across the stage. He is an absolute joy to watch.

Tonight is a repertory program. See you later or tomorrow morning!

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Good morning. Impressions from last night's performance of NYCB at SPAC:

It was a repertory evening. I thought the programming was ingenious, in that it was comprised of a lovely, elegant opener, a complex middle piece, and a rousing finale. Parenthetically, the way the program currently stands, Saturday evening begins with 4T's. I don't know about that....

Divert #15: After all the talk here I was eager to have a look at Carla Korbes and was I ever NOT disappointed! In the turning sequence where she is paired with Yvonne Borree, well, let's just say that if one didn;t know who the principal was, one would likely guess Carla. I am sorry, I hate to be mean, but I enjoyed Yvonne as a soloist, and feel that she has become lazy and unmotivated as a principal. And I BEG that Carla not be overused this season so that she can stay uninjured. We have seen this happen so many, many times.

Divert is so sparkling and elegant. It is perfect to raise the curtain and last night was a lovely interpretation of the Mozart music. I felt it got off to a bit of a sluggish start, but quickly picked up and built to a magnificent andante and finale. I noticed some unusual tempi, though--some variations seemed v-e-r-y slow, and others were a bit fast. It was Hugo on the podium.

Four T's. I adore this music, keep the CD in my car player, and was eager to see the ballet after several years absence. Again I was not disappointed. For me, the standout was Peter Boal, who gets better each year! At the end of his variation I was almost in tears, he conveys a broken heart to me. And Albert Evans, who I have seen in this role so many times, never stops amazing me. It is as if there are no bones in his body, only stretchy sinew. I would also like to single out Jennifer Tinsley in the third theme. I thought she was magnificent. Could we PLEASE see Jennie Somogyi in Choleric?

And the Four Seasons: it is just so much fun, how can you not love it? In Winter, I thought Janie Taylor gave a controlled performance, I know that she can be a bit wild. To pun, though, it left me a bit cold. And Rachel Rutherford in Summer, was on fire. Please, a promotion for Rachel. This is overdue and very deserved. She is one of the most giving dancers: everything she has is offered to the audience.

Spring: I can not do justice in words to Jenifer Ringer. She is my current favorite. The joy that she expresses in her dancing cannot be measured. To think we almost lost her to ballet!

and Fall: When I saw Seasons in NY in May, Damian was completely out of control. He was sliding all over the stage (in fairness, I think it was very slippery that night, there was a lot of slipping going on), traveling in his spins, wild. Last night he was wonderful. He did come down hard on his knee and I hope he was not injured. He was very steady and did all his usual tricks. Ben Millepied was a perfect foil for him, and in my husband's words "they stole the show".

Today a double bill of Misdummer. I'll be back tomorrow to compare casts.

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Well, I know that Boal and Evans are wonderful, but isn't there a Titania up at SPAC? Did she decide to slumber through the ballet? Will someone please tell us who danced?? (...who is cast and who dances not being real reliable lately.)

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Oh yes, Alexandra, I know that this may be a solo act at least until a few of you make your way up here. It is well worth the trip. (OK, enough of a Saratoga commercial..). I have passed this website on to a few local ballet fanatics/internet savvy types, so there may be a discussion going yet. Meanwhile I am happy to just share my thoughts.

So Juliet- oh yes we will have four Titanias, one for each of our Midsummers. We had Darci Tuesday night, Carla this afternoon, Maria tonight and Wendy tomorrow night.

Darci was radiant. I was thinking about how Titania is so much an adagio role--she was perfect in those s-l-o-w, stretching passages. Her back is beautiful. I loved watching her.

Carla is a very young and impetuous Titania. I thought she was gorgeous, too. I have to add here that because matinees at SPAC are very hectic, due to my job I wasn;t able to watch every minute. I did make sure to see my favorite sections though.

The Act II divertissment, surely among the most lovely choreography and music in the world was danced beautifully both times, today by Miranda and Philip and Tuesday by Wendy and Jock.

Back tomorrow with more stuff--I'm now running late, as usual. Thanks for reading!

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Good morning. It is now Saturday and NYCB has finished the run of Midsummer here at SPAC. Cheers from me--as much as I love the music, the woodland setting, and sections of choreography, I have had enough of the lovers' quarrels, and donkey dancing for now. Bring on the repertory programs!!

As I expected, I am busy enough with my two jobs so that it is difficult to post after every performance. I will keep trying though.

Met the first Ballet Alerter last evening, and as it turns out, I know his parents. The rest of you, don't be shy! If you're here, introduce yourselves.

So after four Midsummers:

Hippolyta: Monique is incomparable. I enjoyed Jennie both times, found Jenny Blascovich was just not "enough" (big enough, attacking enough, fierce enough), but Monique was stunning. She is not my favorite dancer, but in this part no one can touch her right now.

Titania: Darci was radiant and regal, Carla was youthful and delightful, and Maria (twice: a sub for Wendy last night, hope everything is OK) was, in my opinion, perfect. She was all of the above and more. Every time I see her, I think of what Balanchine would have thought of this wonder.

Oberon: Peter Boal continues to knock me out with his perfection of technique but here he is a master of characterization as well. Last night Damian was well-controlled and really fun to watch. I don't always enjoy his tendency to wildness and showing off.

The divertissment: Wendy and Jock were from another world in the first performance,a nd they took us there with them. After that, no other performance quite took me to that level, although I found Miranda and Philip very lovely and Darci was beautiful--although as her partner, Nilas, left much to be desired, as usual. He just looks so miserable up there. And, again I don't like to be mean but Margaret (not a favorite of mine) and Nikolaj (yes a favorite of mine)were flat and, frankly, boring. The music is sublime and the choreography is so lovely that it is painful when this pas is not given full justice.

Puck: I liked all of 'em and saw positives from everyone, but just let me say: ALBERT.

My favorite part, even more than the Act II divertissment, is the pas between Titania and her cavalier. special words for Charles Askegard who was perfect. And special words for James Fayette as Bottom, too.

Now I am late again. Off to the matinee. I'll be back.

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OK, between perfs now. The word is that Wendy is injured--"slightly" is what we heard, so Polyphonia was out and 4Ts was in. No complaints from me about adding 4Ts, but I didn't have a chance to see the Wheeldon piece in NY so that was a great let-down. I did see a corps member who told me that Wendy was going to try to do it tonight. I badly want to see Polyphonia (it is the last scheduled performance here) but I am afraid for her.

So--Divert with the same cast as Wednesday except Abi Stafford for Jennie S. It was fine. I love the music and the choreography fits it nicely, but the only part that I truly love is the Andante. Divert is another ballet, I think, like La Source, that is much much harder to pull off than it looks. I will say that stylistically it was done very well.

4Ts with Alexander Ritter for Peter Boal and Jennie for Miranda. Every time I see this ballet I love it more, and every time I hear the music I long to see it. If you don't have a recording, I highly recommend the NYCB Orchestra recording made years ago with Robert Irving conducting. I bought it at the Tower in Lincoln Center as a CD reissue.

Anyway Peter Boal is much superior to Alexander, but Alexander was fine. As much as I like Jennie (and I do, very much) I didn't think was a good performance for her. The three themes at the beginning were outstanding, as they were Wednesday nights. No complaints about any of them, only kudos.

Brandenburg: I know this music very well and thought the orchestra sounded just wonderful. I had seen it in NY in January and thought the orchestra sounded ragged and unrehearsed--even unprofessional in spots. I also thought the dancing was much better than in NY, and especially liked the ensemble in Concerto #1 (the third section). All currently corps members, although some are on the way up I think, and rightly so, they pulled this section off wonderfully, and each couple shone in their solo moments.

Heading back to SPAC now. Later!

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SPAC's setting and the ability to be closer and more comfortable watching ballet makes this summer staple always a treat!! NYCB has seemed much more enjoyable and enticing to me at SPAC than in NYC, but you have to understand that I'm still evolving in my Balanchine appreciation quest.

rkoretzky has already indicated beautifully many of the details of the Friday evening and Saturday matinee performances. Just to re-enforce her perspective, Evans is pure JOY to watch!! His movement is what I think of in picturing perfection of human movement. Such a contrast in his emotional involvement and his own obvious enjoyment in his movement and his expression of feeling compared to Nilas. "Dream" was a pleasure to watch, the Mendelssohn perfect for a dream-like summer's evening in Saratoga, and the dancers adding on the spectacular layer of beauty for the eye. Evans's Puck was definitely out of this world, Damian was ok as Oberon (in my opinion), but there is always some detachment (?, can't find the right word) I sense in his perfomances, though I like his "pyrotechnical" dancing generally. I also agree that Meunier danced Hippolyta to perfection. I have never been a big fan of Wendy Whelan, and I am a big fan of Kowroski so was not too disappointed in the Titania role on Friday. For the first time seeing "Dream" it's a bit of work to keep couples and dancers straight in the opening parts of the first Act, particularly not knowing NYCB dancers by sight that well. But I guess that's what Shakespeare had in mind.

Unfortunate I didn't get to see Whelan however, since I think I need to watch her dancing from a different mind-set than I have in the past, and I was gearing up to be more attentive to her.

Corps was lovely in everything over the weekend.

Re: "Polyphonia", it's too bad again that this was not done at Sat. matinee, I was interested in broadening my experience of choreographers. But 4T's was not at all difficult to accept in substitution. This really must have been greeted with amazement in 1946!! Particularly liked Evans again in Phlegmatic !!, Somogyi and Askegard worked very well for me, and I always like Meunier's dancing (Choleric). 4T's, for what it represented at the time it was made and for how it still resonates, will surely be in repertory forever.

"Brandenburg" makes me a Robbins admirer (not real familiar with his work)!! In particular, I am first drawn in to real appreciation of this ballet by the Bach music, especially the tempo, the allegro sections are really enjoyable and the flow of dancers was spectacular. Hubbe and Weese in the Concerto 2 Andante were my favorite duo in this. Agree again too that the third part "Menuetto - Polacca" was very beautifully danced by the ensemble group, all of whom are lovely young dancers. This one held my undivided attention throughout.

Saratoga in summer is a GREAT place to see GREAT ballet!!

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I thought Tuesday nights performance was topnotch. I'll leave the technical expertise to rkoretsky, but my eyes kept coming back to Peter Boal (in brown) and Yvonne Borree (in pink) at Dances of a Gathering. But that is putting down no one else.

Cortege Hongrois is a rousing and attractive closer. All four of the principals looked good - strong, graceful Albert Evans, Kathleen Tracey, Charles Askegard and Monique Meunier. The same cast will be back Thursday and I'll be happy to see it again

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Wednesday night we had Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Soiree and The Four Seasons. I'm gong to skip Stravinsky for it does not agree with me. ("You can't like ballet and not like Stravinsky. You have no taste at all") Sorry but that's the way it is. The charming lady next to me thought it was great and Borree, Whelan, Martins and Soto were exactly right. But I awoke with a snap at Soiree, the new Tanner piece with music by Nino Rota. It's fresh, exciting and fun. The women particularly shone: Janie Taylor, Carla Korbes and Ashley Bouder. To say Korbes was the pick of the lot would be unfair tothe others, but she is so crisp and vivacious you can't help but notice. The men, Jared Angle, Seth Orze and Andrew Vedette were able. Janie Taylor came back again as Winter in The Four Seasons, dancing with Jeroen Hofmans and Alexander Ritter. Spring brought Pascale van Kipnis and Philip Neal. Rachel Rutherford and James Fayette danced Summer, and Miranda Weese, Benjamin Millepied and Antonio Carmena in Fall -- the men amusing us in their Woetzel-like pyrotechnics.

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Thanks so much for coming over to chat--please do so again today or tomorrow, and I do hope you've enjoyed your visit to Saratoga.

Thanks even more for the compliment re: technical expertise. I don't consider myself to be an expert in any fashion--just a long-time watcher. I enjoy reading your comments as well.

Now--as to Tuesday night. From my perspective as a SPAC house supervisor, it was a BAD night. There was a medical emergency, which is always upsetting (and sirens are LOUD)during Ash, and I had problems with a group of rowdy kids (ballet students, no less) during Dances. By Cortege, I was pretty exhausted. But I'll give a few impressions.

Dances at a Gathering is, if not my favorite ballet, certainly on my short list--top 3 anyway. Sadly, the fact that I was sitting with this group of kids really detracted from my pleasure. During Cortege, I don't know that it would have mattered so much, but Dances is so quiet and introspective that, for me, once I lost my concentration I wasn't able to fully regain it. I was able to see sections of it yesterday afternoon at an open rehearsal for SPAC members (a great perk if there ever was one)and I hope to be able to give it more attention this afternoon and tomorrow night. I will say though, about Tuesday evening, and I have said this before, Peter Boal is the consummate danseur. The opening sequence took my breath away. Any time that the stage is graced by Helene is a time to celebrate. Maria is darling in green--I think she is perfectly suited to the part, but I so wish that there was more to it than the two little solos. More Maria, please! Bobsey, I know you enjoyed Yvonne in pink--I am sorry, I can still see Patty McBride there and the comparison is very sad.

Cortege Hongrois--Monique was a fantastic haughty princess in the tutu role, but I would prefer to see her in the character part. I think it is more suited to her. In my opinion, the dancer who may have grown the most over the past year, is Charles Askegard. Last summer, I had a sense of unease watching him--he always seemed a little goofy--not a very technical word but it is the best I can come up with. Now I would describe him as "noble". Bravo! Albert Evans was wonderful as usual, and Kathleen Tracey (not a favorite of mine) showed more fire than I would have expected.

So, because I came home Tuesday night feeling somewhat out-of-sorts, I was worried that I wouldn't enjoy the rest of the ballet season. A very stupid and neurotic worry, I might add, chalk it up to being tired.

Because Wednesday night made up for Tuesday. It was a "night off" for me, meaning that I wasn't working at SPAC. So where was I? WATCHING at SPAC, of course! We only have three weeks! My daughter and I had excellent seats.

The evening did not get off to an auspicious start, beginning with a lackluster performance of Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Because my daughter is a violist and I am a viola-mom (my handle on another bulletin board, fyi), we contented ourselves with listening to and watching Guillermo Figueroa play the concerto--a masterpiece of composition and played beautifully.

Yvonne, again. I do wish the powers that be would realize that Yvonne's resemblance to Kay Mazzo is all on the surface. Yes, when she comes forward in the opening sequence, you can almost imagine for a moment, that lovely Kay is back with us. Those of us who saw her in that role know of what I speak. But once Yvonne begins to dance, you realize that she is all wrong for the part--she has no sharpness and attack in the parts that require that edge, and she has no softness and sweetness in the gorgeous Aria II. She just looks floppy.

At intermission, we met up with some friends and decided to play the "let's recast" game. So tonight we will compare notes on our ideal casting for Violin Concerto, and I'll fill you all in tomorrow.

After the so-so Stravinsky, the evening took a marked turn for the better. I just loved Soiree, although it looked considerably under-rehearsed, especially in the last section and especially by the men, none of whom impressed me. Janie Taylor, not my favorite, dazzled in her part and Carla Korbes was exquisite. It was not a good evening for Ashley Bouder; she started out beautifully but there was a minor disaster with the strap of her costume, and then perhaps an injury? she didn't come out for the last section or the curtain call. I was anxious to have a close look at her since she exploded on the NY season, and didn't really have the opportunity. I certainly hope she is not injured.

My favorite aspect of Soiree was those delicious tutus for the girls. Brava Carole Divet! They looked like rainbow sherbet. The choreography is reminiscent of Robbins--youthful, exuberant.

The evening closed with the best Four Seasons of our season. The first three sections had identical casting to previous performances, with Rachel subbing for Helene in summer. Fall was incredible. I love Miranda (I love Wendy, but in this part I love Miranda more). Benjamin M. seems to be in a one-ups-man-ship contest with Damian. Last night Benjamin was the clear winner. He did not include the "Baryshnikov" hops, but he did an ADDITIONAL sequence of double turns that I have never never seen before. Perfectly. Antonio Carmena repeated the great performance in New York that I saw in May.

All in all, a wonderfully satisfying evening. Back later--two shows today!

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I second Diana L. It's been great to read how the company has been doing while out of Manhattan from all of you, including Manhattnik over there in the other section of the forum. I'm as green as Giannina having missed Monique Meunier in Cortege. I hope she will be healthy enough next winter to do the part down here.

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I've been meaning to do a "wrap-up" of my Saratoga visit. I might even get around to it.

It was interesting rummaging through programs my folks had saved of NYCB's first season at SPAC. Hippolyta that season was Gloria Govrin. I wonder if Meunier gets tired of being compared to her?

Anyway, the two performances of Cortege I saw were heavenly. Yes, it's a bit of a large and messy ballet in some ways, but the music is divine, and the Karinska costumes (white and green like the Hungarian flag) are delights. Notice the coins sewn into the bodices and headpieces of the "classical" ballerinas?

For a corps with a reputation of being sloppy, NYCB's corps was not only remarkably together here, but did a fine job with the folk-dancing steps. Clearly they've benefited from some serious coaching. It's hard to single out individual corps dancers, but I found myself appreciating Darius Crenshaw (a fine and underrated dancer) more than ever before.

Leading the folk-dancing contingent in the czardas, Kathleen Tracey and Albert Evans were wonderful, high-kicking, high-flying and looking as if they were having the times of their lives. Tracey continues to look rejuvenated and energized here -- just give her boots, bells and ribbons and get out of the way! Evans, as always, threw himself into his part with joy and passion, especially in those killer drops to the knee.

I'm not sure I'd rather see Monique Meunier in the character part here. We already know she's dynamite in this sort of thing (she rather owns the last movement of Brahms-Schoenberg these days). What I loved here was just how grandly she made this grandest of all ballerina roles. I don't think any other City Ballet ballerina uses her upper body as well as Meunier, as shown in her regal carriage, especially the dramatic "I-am-a-princess" poses, and revolving, circular bourrees with arms outstretched before her. It's interesting how Balanchine first shows us a wealth of character steps in the czardas, then uses them as the building blocks for Meunier's brilliant classical solo. The leg-kicks, heel-clicks, grand posturing and pacing, it's all there. It's part exposition, part playfulness, part boasting, as if he's saying "Look what I can make of this!"

Again, Charles Askegard partnered Meunier magnificently, and was equally sensational in his own solos, especially a combination where he must repeatedly complete a big cabriole to the front by landing in a deep plie with his working leg remaining raised far above horizontal, and holding the pose for a beat, in perfect time to the music (it's that czardas leg-kick, transformed yet again). I also loved the way, in one of the fast bits near the end (this ballet has about a half-dozen codas, it seems) he finished a brilliant serious of pirouettes a la seconde by immediately rocketing offstage with a big, booming glissade-assemble combination. No time to pose prettily, as the corps guys were thundering down on him, and it was either lead or get trampled (you gotta love the way Balanchine tossed masses of dancers around the stage).

More later, if I can.

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Oh, I'm so glad M.M. has had such a triumph in Cortege Hongrois. I'd love to see her do more of the "grand" roles, such as Diamonds, Symphony in C (1st or 2nd mvt), or Tchiak pas de deux. Then again, I'd like to just plain see her get cast, period.

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I have enjoyed rkoretsky's (very pleasant and knowledgeable person, try and meet her when you come to SPAC) and Manhattnik's (his a work of art) posts here.

But I'm thinking that, as they say, Yvonne Borree is not Kay Mazzo, and that's therefore pretty bad. (Yeah, and Mark McGwire is not Ty Cobb). And in another post I learn that she is "attempting to exorcise her own personal demons night after night." What does this mean? Are we supposed to be on to something evidently hidden from management that casts her so often? I like her and don't think she's "floppy." I've just signed for another subscription to NYCB and hope to see her again.

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Hi there Bobsey:

Different strokes for different folks, as they say. I loved Yvonne Borree when she was in the corps and a soloist, and I cheered when she was promoted. But, in my opinion, she hasn't gone anywhere since her promotion. In fact, I think she has regressed as a dancer.

I've watched her in rehearsals-roles that she has performed over and over again, and she always makes mistakes, over and over again. I also can't warm up to a dancer who shows so little emotion--OK in the leotard ballets, but Dances at a Gathering? Romeo and Juliet pdd? PLEASE!. I wish I liked her better as a dancer, because I have met her and she is a lovely person.

But even if we don't agree on Yvonne as a dancer, I think we do agree that the vast variety currently present at NYCB offers something for all of us.

Yup, I'd like to see someone else in Violin Concerto--I truly would. Those of you who are in the city--who else has done it lately? Miranda, perhaps?

Bobsey, I enjoyed meeting you too. Hope to see you again, in NY or in Saratoga.

Another note: I said what I did about Kay Mazzo because I think it is precisely because of the physical resemblance that Yvonne continues to be cast in this part. I don't think she is suited to it. It was not my intention to disparage one dancer because she is not someone else. In fact, one of my earlier points is that Peter Martins is not George Balanchine, never will be, and we had all better accept it.

And a question for you: what subscription(s) did you choose? As for me, I am renewing my membership in the Fourth Ring Society.

[ 07-26-2001: Message edited by: rkoretzky ]

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Me, again. I have just a few minutes before going over to SPAC--another Thursday, another double bill, and our three weeks are coming to an end, alas. But I did want to say a few words about Morgen, since we got our first look at it last night.

I've purposely not gone back and reread reviews, but I seem to remember that they were mixed-all over the place, in fact. That was the reaction here in Saratoga too. It ranged from: "I hated it" to "I loved it".

As for me, I loved it. Surprised that I did, too. First of all, I do NOT like Strauss at all, and yet I found the songs to be beautiful and beautifully sung, too. Second, I am no fan of Martins' choreography. Ash was on the same program, for the 3rd time this season. Finally last night it came to me: this ballet is UGLY. Ugly costumes, ugly music, ugly movement. I had never put that term to it before, but oh my yes, it fits.

After all that ugliness and a lackluster Romeo and Juliet pdd (anything would be lackluster after Jenifer and Nickolaj the previous night), the beauty of Morgen hit me like a rocket. I have to say that I was knocked out by Janie Taylor. She has always seemed to me to be a very competent allegro dancer with clean technique. Oh she was stunning in this. It was a whole new side of her for me, one that I had never seen.

Jenifer Ringer is my favorite dancer and she was her usual exquisite self here, and Darci, well I think she is beautiful in this type of part. Jared Angle, I don't always like him, he sometimes seems stiff and awkward to me, well I certainly liked him a lot last night. I even found it agreeable to watch Nilas.

I can't wait to see this piece again. And I'll be sure to tell you all about the preview of Martins' Verdi. OK? I'm leaving now, so I won't be late.

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Two swans. Thursday afternoon gave us a performance with Maria and Charles, Thursday evening Monique (subbing for an injured Wendy) and Nilas.

A completely unexpected reaction from me. I have adored Maria forever, and was not prepared to dislike this, or any performance from her. OK--overly high expectations, I admit it, but I had not been disappointed before. She never convinced me as Odette. Other than a slip at the very beginning, her dancing was fine, correct. Her expression remained the same throughout. Askegard, however, was a revelation. I have written here already of the transformation that I have seen in him this season. At the end of the ballet, when I was in tears, it was Siegfried who had moved me there, not Odette. His final anguish was heart-rending.

Monique. I had an interesting, albeit brief, conversation with Manhattanik and Juliet last week. I think I indicated that she is not my favorite, although I like her quite a lot in those certain stock roles where she seems to be placed always--I did not think of her as a swan. I'm eating crow now.

Whether the afternoon's disappointment primed me to be especially moved by Odette, or whether Monique was truly magical in this role--it happened. She TOTALLY convinced me that she was bewitched. Her final backwards bouree/fluttering arms sequence might have been the most beautiful moment of the entire season. The fragile vulnerabilty wasn't there. It just can't be--Monique isn't fragile looking. What was there was doom, heartbreak, inevitability.

Then there was Nilas. The man just cannot get off the ground. I feel sad every time I see him on the stage. Is he just expressionless or would he really rather be at the dentist's office?

I would have given anything to see Monique and Charles together.

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Of all the swans in Martins' "full-length" Swan Lake, I liked Meunier the best. I'm sure I would've also loved Whelan's, if Andrea Quinn hadn't rushed her through all of Odette's best moments. Whelan was gorgeous in the one-act Swan Lake this spring in NYC.

There's certainly precedent for big gals dancing Odette/Odile -- my all-time favorite is Martine van Hamel, who was certainly not a little slip of a thing. While Van Hamel and Meunier are very, very different dancers, they both gave Odette a power and authority, despite her sadness, which makes her quite different from other classical ballet heroines (except, come to think of it, Raymonda, another role in which they've both excelled, in various incarnations).

Another Saratoga highlight I'd be remiss in not mentioning was Benjamin Millepied's debut (I think) in the lead in Ballo de la Regina at Saturday night's gala, with Abi Stafford. While I'd always admired Millepied's exuberence and elan, I'd also always found his style to be overpowering, unsubtle and often lacking in polish. What can one say about a French dancer who does not get the point of La Source?

However, he did finish the Spring season with a gorgeous, pull-out-all-the-stops performance of Oberon at the State Theater (his Sherzo was nothing short of spectacular). I wasn't as impressed with his debut in Fall in The Four Season (flashy and unpolished, I sniffed), but he was like a man transformed in Ballo. Not only was his dancing on an appropriately grand scale, but it was clean and sculpted, and he resisted the easy temptation to simply blast his way through the tricky bits (there are a lot of tricky bits). I don't think I've ever seen the male role here danced better.

Would that I could say the same about Stafford's two performances in Saratoga. The first time she seemed to be having an off night all-around, but in the gala with Millepied she also seemed ill-at-ease, unexpectedly fudging some of the trickier technical bits, like the fast pirouettes into arabesque, or, more distressingly, those three big, signature "Balanchine" saute de chats (sometimes dubbed, I think, "pas de Verdy").

As far as Yvonne Borree, I found her performances in Saratoga, particularly in the first solo of Divertimento No. 15, to be beyond distressing. She's clearly well capable of dancing anything, technically. But her dancing gets sketchier and sketchier as a solo progresses, her shoulders and arms grow tighter and more wild (it was painful to see in Divert) and her face seems to barely mask some sort of terror or dread, which turns to panting relief when she's finally survived. (No more relief than I feel in the audience.) I don't know what the answer is here, but surely putting her out there night after night is only reinforcing whatever the problem is -- it seems to be getting worse.

I am beginning to think I'll just maintain a discrete silence about Borree in the future.

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Bobsey, these have been pretty tame rebukes, as BAllet Alert threads go :) It's always hard when people disagree about dancers or a ballet, or whatever, but it's good to read what other people think -- please feel free to say why you like Borree.

I wanted to thank everyone who participated in this thread, especially rkoretzky for the wonderful daily reviews.

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Sunday morning--the day that I dreaded has arrived. NYCB is gone.

The 21 performances at SPAC pass in a whirlwind--would that three winter weeks go by so quickly, alas they don't. I'll try to wrap up the weekend, and offer a few humble thoughts.

The Verdi preview: have there been any reviews in the NY papers? I didn't see any, but I haven't had a lot of free time to look either. If there haven't, why ever not?

I enjoyed Viva Verdi quite a lot. The music is eminently familiar--greatest hits of La Traviata, without any voices. There were two substitutions--Janie Taylor and someone else (I am so sorry, I should have written this immediately because I have forgotten the other, but I think maybe Abi Stafford) for Ashley Bouder and Glenn Keenan. The piece broke no choreographic ground, but it was very charming and pleasant to watch. Of course any time Darci is on the stage is a time to celebrate. I'd like to see it again because I often find much more to see the second time around.

I didn't care for the Quartet for Strings. It didn't offend me at all, as much of Peter's choreography has in the past, but I didn't find it especially interesting either. It was Margaret Tracey's last appearance on the SPAC stage. There were five dancers in a piece called "quartet". Maybe I am oversimplifying, but I would have liked a quartet of dancers. It seemed that there were two couples and Jennie was the "odd one out"-- duh, maybe THAT was Peter's point. Anyway Jennie was great as usual. The rest of 'em--the costumes were all alike (teal green things) and I don't really remember. It was all OK, but not memorable.

Yesterday we were treated to two performances of the concert, with a different cast than earlier in the week. I've seen it so often that I now laugh hysterically before the jokes (leading those around me to wonder about the crazy woman). The Concert did not disappoint. For all the expression that I thought was lacking in Maria's Odette--she obviously put all her acting ability into The Concert, to the delight of the audience. Melissa Walter is a local girl here and we all love her and wish we would see her in more roles, and she is fantastic as the wife--but so was Dena Abergel. Stuart Capps, in a debut, was just fine and I think will grow in the part as he continues. Pascale substituted for Jenny Blascovich as the girl in glasses. I was laughing so hard at her in the Mistake Waltz that I was in tears. I love to see the humorous side of these dancers.

The third Swan Lake brought Miranda and Damian. (in a debut for Damian, is that correct? I thought surely he must have done it before?). Miranda must have the cleanest and most precise technique in the company. Has she been cast in Ballo or Square Dance?

But her Odette did not move me too much, as Maria's did not either, after having seen Monique amaze me on Thursday. I would have to put Monique's Odette as the highlight of my season--a revelation, if you'll forgive the cliche. I did notice with both Maria and Miranda that the final sequence--the famous backwards bourrees with the fluttering arms, was the best moment of their respective perfomances, and I'm wondering if perhaps that beautiful final moment is given a preponderance of attention in rehearsal. In any case, it works every time.

Damian was a restrained (for him) Siegfried, but Charles Askegard was da man in that role for me, and Nilas was not.

We got to see Morgen again last night too. I really do love it. I especially enjoyed Janie Taylor here--is the girl fearless or what? Who else would do this kind of leaping? Takes my breath away. Am I correct in thinking that Morgen was a Valentine's Day gift to Darci? If so, most appropriate.

A few thoughts on our season here, and what seems to be happening at NYCB:

Sometimes there is double casting, and sometimes there isn't. Why ever not? We in Saratoga were very anxious to see Polyphonia, and so we did. But because no one but Wendy knew her part, she worked through an injury to show us the ballet at the end of the first week, and by the third week she was out. I wanted to see Polyphonia as much as anyone, but in retrospect I would have waited until another season--gladly-- if I had been given the choice, knowing that Wendy, dependable Wendy who had never missed a Saratoga performance to my knowledge before, would have excacerbated her injury. By contrast, there were understudies for the Viva Verdi, and it went on with two of 'em. Which brings me to....

Pushing these kids. It seems obvious to me as an outsider. If Peter picks his current favorite of the moment--the newest corps girl to catch his eye, and casts her in EVERYTHING, sooner or later she will become injured and disappear for a while. Maybe a long while, as in the case of Alexandra. I can't stand to see it happen, and it does, over and over. I was looking forward to seeing the latest wunderkid--Ashley Bouder. But after her sprained ankle in the first Soiree, she was gone for the rest of the season. She is still a child--this should not be allowed.

Saratoga programming. This third week featured Episodes three times, and Tchaik Suite three times--in a row, no less. People here are, in the vast majority, not going to attend the same program three times in a row. I will, and so will some of the other lunatics here, but there were lots of empty seats by the 3rd Tchaik....And I was doubtful about ending the season with The Concert. Even though I adore it and it is hilarious (and a great antidote for my depression as I realize it is OVER), Saratoga audiences look forward to a huge splashy production number as our swan song. This year it could have been Cortege Hongrois, since it was in our programming. I am quite fond of Symphony in C, myself. Ah, maybe next year. I see it is in the rep for Winter Season.

This board has been a wonderful addition to my life. I thank you all (those of you who are still reading) for listening to me, and I hope to meet some more of you. At the moment, I'm planning to see ABT on October 27, and I am studying the NYCB brochure. And waiting for Wednesday when the Philadelphia Orchestra opens here.

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