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ABT Fall 2015 season


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The definition of "ballet" has been a slippery fish for many years -- the original courtly entertainments that were staged for the French kings (and that included sections of dressage as well as tableau vivant and choral singing) were called ballets. Kurt Jooss, who is one of what we now consider the founders of modern dance, called his company the Ballet Jooss. There are multiple examples that contradict the "ballet = pointe shoes" equation, but since ABT just celebrated a major anniversary, (and this is in an ABT thread!) we could just look at their history.

Since their inception, they included a wild variety of dance that did not align with a narrow interpretation of "ballet," and yet there were no puzzled looks when they called their company Ballet Theater (well, except from people who didn't cotton to concert dance at all). If you get the chance, go back and re-read Agnes deMille's "Dance to the Piper," which covers the early years of the company -- their default training technique was indeed classically-based, but the early works did not depend on the reinforced shoe and the tutu for their identity.

During the life of the company, many of the seminal works that they have produced (and in some cases, created) live outside the dimensions of the 19th c Petipa-and-his-friends repertory. And while some of those works may be grounded in dance traditions other than classical/neo-classical ballet, most of them have the same foundation as Corsaire or Swan Lake.

I do think that there is a conversation to be had about current programming, and the creation of hybrid or fusion works. There are always artists who look beyond whatever rules or parameters they were brought up with, and it's foolhardy to think they will just play quietly over on the side. Do I think that "Company B" is a ballet? Not in a fundamental way, but it was made for ballet dancers -- I've seen it with the Taylor Company and with ballet dancers and there are some significant differences in performance. But I'm interested in seeing it in both contexts -- I don't want to banish it from either rep.

Personal preferences are great -- we all love and loathe different things for reasons that are ours alone. If I ran a ballet company, I'll bet that my repertory would be very different than some other groups run by other denizens on this board. (and that is worth a thread of its own!)

Perhaps we're at the point where "ballet" as a mass term needs more modifiers. When you think about it, we've gotten by with relatively few categories for a long time. Classical, neo-classical, modern, contemporary -- this is a pretty small list when you think about the plethora of labels in classical music, or the visual arts!

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There are also plenty of flamenco troupes which use the word "ballet" in their company names or to refer to particular dance works. I don't think anyone would call flamenco dancing a form of ballet. To me it's the opposite of ballet.

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ps -- just read this in an interview with William Forsythe (from the links page -- many thanks, always!)

"Mr. [Robert] Joffrey was very good to me, he treated me like a son and was very encouraging. And after he died, his successors allowed me to do really interesting work for the company, which I thought was in the line of the company’s mission, which was to create unusual works using ballet."

To create unusual works using ballet.

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For me, ballet has two distinguishing characteristics: (1) turnout, and (2) placement, with the chest forward and that gorgeous curve of the back. I realize that Balanchine often would have his dancers turn in for a specific step, but Balanchine's ballets use mostly turnout. Petipa, of course, is danced with the most turnout possible. What turnout allows is greater stability of the body, high extensions, and that beautiful curve of the leg that begins at the hips and thigh, extends downward along the calf muscle, ending in the arched and pointed (whether winged or not) foot.

In my classification scheme, dance that doesn't use turnout isn't ballet. East Asian dancing is often done turned out, but the knees are usually bent in the turnout out position, so maybe we should say three distinguishing characteristics, (3) being the straight leg unless called for by the step, e.g., pas de chat, or otherwise choreographed.

A pure classical line includes placement, turnout, and straight knees (unless....you know), and this classical line can be used in character dance, on and off pointe, and even in certain so-called "modern" dance. But you can always tell a dancer who is classically trained, and that has nothing to do with whether the dancer is on pointe or not, it has to do with #1, 2, and 3, above. In fact, I've heard it said that a trained eye can pick out a classically trained dancer from the first plie.

What pointe work does is extend the classical line, which is why it is so much more satisfying to those who would argue that ballet = pointe. I happen to love the classical line and so I prefer ballets that are danced on pointe. However, ballets such as Fancy Free and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, as well as the character dances in many full-length ballets can be appreciated if you are seeing them performed by dancers who have that classical line sculpted into their bodies

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There are also plenty of flamenco troupes which use the word "ballet" in their company names or to refer to particular dance works. I don't think anyone would call flamenco dancing a form of ballet. To me it's the opposite of ballet.

And yet they share many elements -- after mentioning deMille earlier she's been on my mind today, and there's a section in Dance to the Piper where she discusses Carmelita Marracci -- her fierce attack on the floor was the same, whether she was on pointe or in flamenco shoes.

Somewhere else Valda Setterfield talks about Rambert's classes, and her reaction to a performance of Spanish dance -- she brought that experience back to her classroom and asked her students to change the use of their backs, and to "crack a nut" between their shoulder blades.

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A lot of what passes for and is described as Flamenco is actually Spanish classical dance, which has a lot of similarities to ballet. Antonio Gades' obituary is an example of how a dancer crossed boundaries with various types of training and performing:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2004/jul/22/guardianobituaries.artsobituaries

So, while I was exploring the many resonances between Kathak, Flamenco, and Classical Ballet I came across this, which immediately made me think of this. Surely a coincidence ...

But, that being said, the way this Kathak dancer uses her arms really does make me think of Ballet (and certain flavors of Flamenco, too.)

ETA: OOPS! Wrong cue in the first Kathak video - now corrected ...

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Unfortunately, a very blaah evening. The Morris choreography is professional but doesn't have any excitement . Except for Veronika Part, Monotones was not particularly well danced. The Tharp ballet was also lackluster though individual dancers executed well. Disappointing.

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I have to say that I pretty much agree with Olga.


I liked the music for the Morris piece, but that was it. I found the costumes unflattering & uninspiring. The choreography was workman like, but dull. And slow.

I love Monotones 2. I thought ABT did a pretty good job with it but there a few moments where the partnering looked a bit shaky and the movements were not 100% in sync . Nothing disasterous but not the completely smooth, effortless adagio this piece needs. Veronika did look gorgeous in it. Monotones 1 went off well, but its a lesser piece. Hopefully they will both improve with more performances.

I enjoyed the Tharp. It brought a welcome dynamic after the sluggishness of the earlier part of the evening. I know both Monotones pieces are adagios - and I love that - but it turns out that starting the program with the Morris was not a great idea. In fact it probably should have been on a different program.

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Unfortunately, a very blaah evening. The Morris choreography is professional but doesn't have any excitement . Except for Veronika Part, Monotones was not particularly well danced. The Tharp ballet was also lackluster though individual dancers executed well. Disappointing.

This is unfortunate to hear but as I recall the spring gala had its issues as well, seems like galas have been issues of late for ABT. Wonder how the program or casting was decided? Board? Insteresting to hear about the new Morris piece, I, for one, am not much of a fashion afficionado, but from just seeing recent posts of the costumes by Issac Mizrahi ,I get the impression of a return for the Greecian look? Not too flattering for the dancers since I would expect to see costumes that would compliment their amazing physique in mordern pieces?

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I guess no one’s been attending ABT’s fall programs this week, because they’d have reported by now on the fantastic Thursday evening performance given by the entire company. Opening with the Brahms-Haydn Variations gave the audience a real lift, with the company more buoyant and energetic than I’ve seen in a long time. With 15 couples flying in, out and across the stage, it was hard to follow any one duo for any length of time, but Murphy and Whiteside, Cornejo and Kochetkova and Lane and Simkin were all excellent (and Simkin did not drop Lane!). The company was well-rehearsed, and it showed. I had great trepidation prior to seeing The Monotones; the very title does not instill eagerness in a viewer. However, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful and hypnotic ballets I’ve ever experienced (both parts). All six dancers were excellent; no one was out of tune or step with another. The movement of each trio across the stage, and their bending, twisting and turning relationships in and among themselves made me wish it would never end. I can’t wait to see this ballet again.

The last number of the evening was The Green Table, which I’d seen before. However, I was not expecting the deeply dramatic and emotional performance given by the entire ensemble, led by Marcelo Gomes, Herman Cornejo and Sarah Lane. Whether it was the current state of our nation’s foreign affairs, or the presence of Marcelo Gomes as Death, or both, this was simply one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from this company. I can’t imagine anyone better than Gomes as Death, cold, brutal, and deeply frightening, the embodiment of every monster from the human id. As the reptilian profiteer, Herman Cornejo imbued his character with more than just cynicism and opportunism; jauntily skipping among corpses, he made you loath him. Sarah Lane was outstanding as the young girl. Desperate, despairing, then finally overwhelmed and destroyed, Lane’s strong and deeply felt performance indicates that she is capable of handling far darker and more complex characters than the de rigueur ingénues and princesses we associate with her.

After such a great Thursday evening, Friday night seemed anticlimactic. I was there to see only Cornejo and Lane in Le Spectre de la Rose, and they did not disappoint me. If you’ve seen Cornejo in this ballet you’ll know what perfection he brings to the role, his great leaping and slicing through space like a knife, his upper body more lush and fluid than some of the women in the company. As the girl, Lane was less dreamy child than eager young woman thrilled by her first ball and the sharp, brief sexual spark which the Rose promises. There was great chemistry between these two performers, which I hope to see again in their upcoming Sleeping Beauty. Lane has been having a very good week, and I hope this bodes well for her future.

If you’re able to catch one of the remaining performances of The Green Table with Gomes, Cornejo and Lane, I would encourage you to do so, because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The second cast, led by Roman Zhurbin as Death, is fine, but not up to the same level of performance or experience as the first.

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I guess no one’s been attending ABT’s fall programs this week, because they’d have reported by now on the fantastic Thursday evening performance given by the entire company. Opening with the Brahms-Haydn Variations gave the audience a real lift, with the company more buoyant and energetic than I’ve seen in a long time. With 15 couples flying in, out and across the stage, it was hard to follow any one duo for any length of time, but Murphy and Whiteside, Cornejo and Kochetkova and Lane and Simkin were all excellent (and Simkin did not drop Lane!). The company was well-rehearsed, and it showed. I had great trepidation prior to seeing The Monotones; the very title does not instill eagerness in a viewer. However, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful and hypnotic ballets I’ve ever experienced (both parts). All six dancers were excellent; no one was out of tune or step with another. The movement of each trio across the stage, and their bending, twisting and turning relationships in and among themselves made me wish it would never end. I can’t wait to see this ballet again.

The last number of the evening was The Green Table, which I’d seen before. However, I was not expecting the deeply dramatic and emotional performance given by the entire ensemble, led by Marcelo Gomes, Herman Cornejo and Sarah Lane. Whether it was the current state of our nation’s foreign affairs, or the presence of Marcelo Gomes as Death, or both, this was simply one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from this company. I can’t imagine anyone better than Gomes as Death, cold, brutal, and deeply frightening, the embodiment of every monster from the human id. As the reptilian profiteer, Herman Cornejo imbued his character with more than just cynicism and opportunism; jauntily skipping among corpses, he made you loath him. Sarah Lane was outstanding as the young girl. Desperate, despairing, then finally overwhelmed and destroyed, Lane’s strong and deeply felt performance indicates that she is capable of handling far darker and more complex characters than the de rigueur ingénues and princesses we associate with her.

After such a great Thursday evening, Friday night seemed anticlimactic. I was there to see only Cornejo and Lane in Le Spectre de la Rose, and they did not disappoint me. If you’ve seen Cornejo in this ballet you’ll know what perfection he brings to the role, his great leaping and slicing through space like a knife, his upper body more lush and fluid than some of the women in the company. As the girl, Lane was less dreamy child than eager young woman thrilled by her first ball and the sharp, brief sexual spark which the Rose promises. There was great chemistry between these two performers, which I hope to see again in their upcoming Sleeping Beauty. Lane has been having a very good week, and I hope this bodes well for her future.

If you’re able to catch one of the remaining performances of The Green Table with Gomes, Cornejo and Lane, I would encourage you to do so, because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The second cast, led by Roman Zhurbin as Death, is fine, but not up to the same level of performance or experience as the first.

I also saw both the Thursday and Friday performances. While the dancers were splendid in the Tharp, this seems at times to be a ballet with a lot going on and a ballet with nothing going on. It could be personal, but for an ensemble work I prefer Tharp's Bach Partita, but that has been recently done so perhaps it's why the Brahms got the nod. The costumes don't always flatter the men. Monotones was splendid. So glad it's being done finally. Stella and Isabella both had an early bobble in arabesque, but recovered in fine fashion. Veronika was gorgeous in II. All the men very fine. Green Table holds up amazingly well, especially in today's world. Gomes was terrifying! Lane and Cornejo both in top form. Green Table on Friday had Zhurbin as Death and I found him equally fine in the role. The surprise here was Skylar Brandt as the young woman. Moving beyond words. ABT does this ballet so well. I'm never sure if I'm going to want to see it again and then I do see it and am forever grateful. The Mark Morris on Friday was great fun. Everyone looks so at ease in this clever and energetic work. Wonderful costumes/music, etc. Morris at his congenial best. Spectre just looked dated to me, despite both Cornejo and Lane doing what is asked of them. On the other hand, the Valse Fantasie (Balanchine 1969) looked as fresh as a daisy. While danced perhaps at a tad slower tempo than seen recently at last year's SAB Workshop, it still never fails to astonish. Hee Seo looked ravishing. Whiteside pure ease. This is Balanchine in his choreographic groove. Please let's see this again!! (I would love to see both Trenary and Brandt dance this one!) All in all though, both nights were quite joyous.

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Spectre just looked dated to me, despite both Cornejo and Lane doing what is asked of them. On the other hand, the Valse Fantasie (Balanchine 1969) looked as fresh as a daisy. While danced perhaps at a tad slower tempo than seen recently at last year's SAB Workshop, it still never fails to astonish. Hee Seo looked ravishing. Whiteside pure ease. This is Balanchine in his choreographic groove.

Caught last evening's show with my grand daughter and just want to add that, even at my age, I think I can do without Company B again. I believe the show was sold out, many Misty fans. Brandt did replace Bond in Company B and delivered even at such last minute, I wonder what happened, nonetheless, paying the ticket prices I did, I would much prefer live orchestra than radio recordings, and I think that is more dated feeling than Spectre as mimsyb mentioned. Cornejo and Lane delivered beautifully as always and look forward to their future partnering in SB. Valse was indeed refreshing and crisp, well done to the cast that included DeGrofft, Hamrick, Post and Waski. Waski, I believe younger corps of the four, surprised us with a strong soloist performance right after intermission in Brahms-Haydn Variations, both soloist couples did wonderfully to deiliver an excellent half of Saturday evening. Hope they bring Valse back again soon!

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Caught last evening's show with my grand daughter and just want to add that, even at my age, I think I can do without Company B again. I believe the show was sold out, many Misty fans. Brandt did replace Bond in Company B and delivered even at such last minute, I wonder what happened, nonetheless, paying the ticket prices I did, I would much prefer live orchestra than radio recordings, and I think that is more dated feeling than Spectre as mimsyb mentioned. Cornejo and Lane delivered beautifully as always and look forward to their future partnering in SB. Valse was indeed refreshing and crisp, well done to the cast that included DeGrofft, Hamrick, Post and Waski. Waski, I believe younger corps of the four, surprised us with a strong soloist performance right after intermission in Brahms-Haydn Variations, both soloist couples did wonderfully to deiliver an excellent half of Saturday evening. Hope they bring Valse back again soon!

"Company B" has always been danced to recordings. Never an orchestra. That's part of it's appeal. I'm told Taylor found the records in a "throw out bin" and liked them so much he decided to use them for a ballet. To see Taylor's company perform it is to see a very different work, I think. Even though it was originally done for a ballet company, Taylor dancers bring an all together different energy to the piece. ABT does quite well with it, mind you. I guess we all have our favorites.

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"Company B" has always been danced to recordings. Never an orchestra. That's part of it's appeal. I'm told Taylor found the records in a "throw out bin" and liked them so much he decided to use them for a ballet. To see Taylor's company perform it is to see a very different work, I think. Even though it was originally done for a ballet company, Taylor dancers bring an all together different energy to the piece. ABT does quite well with it, mind you. I guess we all have our favorites.

I am fully aware of this mimsyb :) and my apologies as it is by no means to insult Mr. Taylor's work, and you are indeed correct that it is a matter of preference in this case, I was merely stating that I would much prefer live orchestra performances. My grand daughter thought it was fun and entertaining so that was nice for her to see another side of ballet without pointe shoes. I guess I am a Mr. B and Twyla fan myself :wub:

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I am fully aware of this mimsyb :) and my apologies as it is by no means to insult Mr. Taylor's work, and you are indeed correct that it is a matter of preference in this case, I was merely stating that I would much prefer live orchestra performances. My grand daughter thought it was fun and entertaining so that was nice for her to see another side of ballet without pointe shoes. I guess I am a Mr. B and Twyla fan myself :wub:

Yes, me too for both Mr. B and for Twyla. My heart just beats differently for much of Taylor and with his current usage of the orchestra for many of his works now when he performs in NYC, some of his works take on new and exciting life. We are so very lucky to be in NYC and have the pleasure of seeing so much wonderful dance.

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I saw Thursday evening and the Saturday matinee. I'll echo laurel on Thursday's performance...leading with Brahms/Haydn gave the evening an impetus that lasted the rest of the performance.

Murphy was lovely in the Tharp on Thursday: she made her partner look better (yes, it works both ways), commanded the stage, and was musical in a way that elevated everything. Boylston increasingly looks good in the same ways: during the Thursday and Saturday matinee shows, it was interesting to see how much more comfortable the same man could look dancing with her as opposed to other ballerinas. I think she occasionally imposed a grand manner on her interpretation at the expense of piece's style, but to my mind, that's preferable to fading into the background. It was good to see Devon Teuscher developing more of a presence on Saturday, too. She beamed rather than sparkled in Valse Fantaisie...but she articulated her arms beautifully and the show worked.

Re: the ballets themselves, I agree that the Monotones I cast looked particularly great on Thursday: it fitted Abrera's line and manner like a glove. (Not surprising, given her training...but I hadn't reallized until I read the program notes that Georgina Parkinson was one of the piece's originators.)

It did take the Monotones II cast a few minutes to warm up to the stage, but by the end they produced the right kind of magic. I hadn't reallized how much this piece relied on the juxtaposition of humanness and inhumanness. When I first saw Monotones II via Morphoses with Wendy Whelan (from whom otherworldly emotionlessness and linearity are expected), I was disappointed; having Part (usually beautifully human and lush) going through the same abstract movement gave it a frisson.

I agree with the folks who say that The Green Table and Company B aren't choreographic masterworks, but I do enjoy them as solid dance dramas that show off the whole company. It's cool to occasionally see Craig Salstein and Arron Scott do something relatively lightweight like Company B where they can really show off their musicality and timing (rather than their 20 tours). Blaine Hoven and Luciana Paris made the Standard Bearer and Old Mother in The Green Table something special. And I liked Sarah Lane better as the Young Girl than I have in any other role: I sometimes feel her stagecraft becomes a prisoner to technical perfection in classical roles...here, she was believable and sympathetic.

*** Enter fanboy mode ***

And on the evidence of what I've seen this season, I don't think Cassandra Trenary could become a major ballerina: I think she already IS.

I just can't get over how free her port de bras and head are for her age...and how well she's using them dramatically. It usually takes dancers of her level--not to mention plenty of principals--years not to be tense slaves to their technique, but Trenary's shoulders look almost as loose as Vishneva's. She interacted more reallistically with the other dancers in Brahms-Haydn and After You than anybody on stage, and her musicality was more noticeable in secondary roles than that of most of the leads.

I've always viewed the Young Girl in Le Spectre de la Rose as thankless at best, ridiculously trapped in dusty crinoline at worst. But at the Saturday matinee, Trenary blew away the cobwebs while retaining the perfume. She not only looked equally important to the action, she looked natural...like a debutante returned yesterday from one of the cotillions you could still find occurring somewhere in the South.

I can't wait to see her in larger roles.

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It was good to see Devon Teuscher developing more of a presence on Saturday, too. She beamed rather than sparkled in Valse Fantaisie...but she articulated her arms beautifully and the show worked. .... And I liked Sarah Lane better as the Young Girl than I have in any other role: I sometimes feel her stagecraft becomes a prisoner to technical perfection in classical roles...here, she was believable and sympathetic.

I guess we do have our favorites as mimsyb said, favorite ballets, favorite choreograpy and favorite dancers, and for this I have to add that Lane did a splendid job as the Young Girl in Le Spectre de la Rose, her fluidity in her dancing has always been a favorite and hope to see more of her in the season or spring, and let me not forget to mention the Rose danced ever so wonderfully by Cornejo. I am just sad to not be able to see her for The Nutcracker with my grand daughter here. As for Teuscher, another favorite as wish I was able to catch her last week but was pleased to see Valse lead by Seo and Whiteside, IMO I thought the four corps members did sparkle as well and attacked every step with exuberance and precision. I do hope they bring this back again.

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I attended Thursday and Friday evening. The highlight for me was Herman Cornejo's breathtaking Spectre of the Rose. He is ABT's greatest dancer at the moment. I enjoyed seeing Monotones, and I thought Thursday's cast was mostly excellent. Tom Forster, however, needs to land his jumps with less of a thud. (Cory landed his jumps in complete silence.) I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the Seo Whiteside Valse Fantasie as some other posters. I thought their performance was lethargic. Moreover, in a solo passage Hee Seo blurred the fast, complex footwork to keep up with the music. Seo is not a Balanchine dancer. Speed is not her friend.

The Brahms Haydn Variations , while not my favorite Tharp, was well danced and is a well constructed ballet. Particular mention to Gillian Murphy. I enjoyed the new Morris. Not a masterpiece, but perfectly lovely.

I think Gomes is too warm a stage personality for the Green Table. I recall that David Hallberg was much more frightening the last time this ballet was revived.

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