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Spring 2015: Swan Lake


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As for why they were there, perhaps one, both, or the company will speak on record.

Wilkinson has been unreserved in her support for Copeland, and it would be no surprise if she was asked by someone or decided on her own.

Perhaps Anderson or Wilkinson or ABT will say something, but I imagine we can all agree that their presence speaks for itself, and speaks eloquently and heartwarmingly. If they put out an official statement of support and congratulations, so much the better.

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I don't have much to add to nanushka's very thorough review, but I agree that last night's Swan Lake surely ranks among Part's most wonderful portrayals of Odette/Odile. I don't ever think I've seen such a range of emotions expressed in her face and arms -- and so subtly. There was no overacting (to compensate for others' deficiencies) and no relying on the same old stock gestures as some ballerinas might. She seemed to strike just the right balance between being a creature and being a human -- gorgeously indicating her animal side with micro-twitches of the head and her incredibly fluid arms, and clearly showing her more human emotions through her eyes, mouth and well-articulated mime. An area in which she has grown, I believe, is in her ability to create "swan arms." Yes, her arms have always been one of her biggest assets, but last night, she was able to flap and undulate them in way that was much more swan-like than ever before, at least to my eyes. I only wish she would have stayed on stage longer during her big exit at the end of Act II. I would have liked to have seen those arms for just a few more seconds.

Bravo to Cory! He is a ROCK SOLID partner for Part. He was supportive in every way possible -- from the lifts to the supported pirouettes to the way he seemed to embrace her much more warmly than in past seasons. Last night, he was clearly much more engaged with his character and was making a greater effort to emote. His stage makeup still seems almost non-existent, but that's just a small quibble. I, too, was impressed with Cory and Veronika in the last act. The reconciliation pas de deux was pretty wonderful, and the gesture in which Veronika indicates that her heart is broken was beautiful. I also agree with nanushka that Cory's final leap was just about perfect -- it read as desperation and heartbreak, not just a bravura move that might make the audience cheer.

Odile has become such a highlight of a Veronika's Swan Lake. She is 100 percent seductress, enjoying every minute of it. I love how she seems filled with evil glee from the time she finished the fouettes to when she seals the deal with Siegfried. Surprisingly, Odile's variation now seems to suit her abilities better than the Odette's, and all the turns were very secure. Her series of 32 single fouettes traveled a bit downstage but didn't veer to the side at all; and she didn't seem to lose steam as she used to in her early years with the company.

I was totally overwhelmed by Marcelo's Rothbart. He was pure evil and I couldn't stop watching his eyes and facial expressions. I felt his Rothbart was somewhat more serious -- less tongue-in-cheek, less campy -- than it has been in the past. Shevchenko did a fantastic job as the princess who walks across the stage en pointe and into Rothbart's arms. Renata Pavam used to do that part so well, and Shevchenko has the same ability to do those quick little tip-toe steps.

What a night! I only wish this cast were repeated again this week. I'd go again in a heartbeat because I feel as if all three leads -- especially Gomes and Part -- created such detailed portrayals of their characters.

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Going back to Copeland's matinee, can someone who was there say if there was an announcement of any kind regarding Anderson and Wilkinson coming out at the bows? Or was there anything in the program (am guessing no)? I remember Anderson quite well from her dancing days, but if I was there I might not have recognized her and I'm sure I wouldn't have known that was Wilkinson. It would have been really nice for them to have been identified for the audience.

There was no announcement. You wouldn't have heard anything over the applause anyway. Wilkinson and Anderson brought Misty flowers before she received the conductor. Anderson gave her a big hug and lifted her in the air. There seemed to be genuine, deep affection between them. I wonder if anyone has posted video of Raven Wilkinson's pantomime. I didn't gather what she was saying -- it all happened so fast.

A few more comments on Wednesday . . .

I was excited but nervous for Misty’s debut. First, let me say I have watched this company closely over the years, so I have seen Misty dance a lot. I think she excels in the Tharp choreography, and I’ve also admired her theatrical spunk in comedic roles, such as Coppelia (with Herman last season) and as the Milkmaid in Bright Stream. Although I like her dancing, I have found her a bit clunky (for lack of a better term) at times. I missed her Firebird due to injury. I was nervous, in particular how she would take on the adagio sections and balances in act II.

But Misty pleasantly surprised me with her Odette. I really felt as though she transformed and inhabited the character. She has learned to control and articulate her long, highly arched feet, both on pointe and in the air. Her developes seem more lush. Her promenades were perfectly secure. And she had a really lingering arabesque, which she didn’t even milk for applause, but stayed entirely musical and in character.

Perhaps Whiteside and Copeland could have had more of a connection (I was in the dress circle, and even with opera glasses, I don’t see every nuance of facial expressions). But their partnership was secure and they expressed great connection and yearning though their bodies. Their supported pirouettes were delightful (I’ve seen Misty look wobbly with other partners, such as Cornejo). And I can not say enough about Whiteside. I would love to see him perform Swan Lake with Part. I prefer him to Bolle any day. His grand jetes pause in the air. His chaine turns are so fast and pretty. And he is exceedingly handsome. Looking forward to his Cinderella with Nunez.

Misty’s Odile was less impressive, mostly because the characterization wasn’t as strong. I feel she lacked either the vampiness or flirtatiousness this role requires. She instead took on a steely, cold approach. As for these fouettes, I am a bit perplexed by her strategy. She started with a double, and was throwing in doubles ever other turn for a while, until she started to tire (or dizzy) and went to the pirouettes. It would make more sense to me to attempt 30 or so respectable singles, like Veronika Part. But as others have said, I have seen other ballerinas, including Kent struggle here.

As I watched yesterday, I was remembering Misty in the pas de quatre (cyngettes) variation and as the Hungarian Princess. It’s a special treat to see a debut from someone who has worked their way through the roles and matured as an artist before your very eyes. (I felt the same way watching Stella dance Giselle this season.) I was moved.

Yes the crowd cheered like crazy for Misty, but nothing crazier than you would have heard if you were at say Osipova’s ABT Don Quixote debut or a Vishneva Giselle. The Russians (and russeomanes) get just as loud as the Copeland fans. The only difference I perceive is a higher pitch to the “woooooooo”s of Misty’s fans-- more women and girls--and fewer gruff, low-pitched “bravas.” Also, the Copeland crowd gave more love to the soloists. For example, they also cheered like crazy for the cygnettes and the Neopolitan Dancers. (Who performed that tricky duet well, and for once, quite well matched in size and technique). The crowd did chuckle a little during the segment where Von Rothbart enchants the princesses, but I think that was more in part due to Hammoudi’s very caddish characterization than Misty Copeland’s uncouth fan base. The way the princesses swooning goes with the music; it is a bit funny. I’d also like to point out that people were laughing inappropriately during Othello, with no Misty Copeland onstage. (Please stop blaming her for everything. It is preposterous.)

The corps was an absolute mess in the first act. Couples nearly collided, and at one point a dancer was so behind the music she appeared to be marking steps. If anything was lacking in professional execution Wednesday afternoon, that was it, for me.

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Yes the crowd cheered like crazy for Misty, but nothing crazier than you would have heard if you were at say Osipova’s ABT Don Quixote debut or a Vishneva Giselle. The Russians (and russeomanes) get just as loud as the Copeland fans. The only difference I perceive is a higher pitch to the “woooooooo”s of Misty’s fans-- more women and girls--and fewer gruff, low-pitched “bravas.”

LOL. Now that's the kind of detail we just can't get from the current NY Times critic!

Thanks (seriously) for your nice and long review, DeCoster, and for that fascinating detail, which gave me a laugh.

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Backing up, though. I could tell from the moment that Cory came on stage that this was going to be a different show from last year's. Two years ago I was finally mostly satisfied with his performance opposite Veronika, but then last year was a big let-down. He seemed to me to be a complete blank. But last night was much different. He entered spirited and engaged with the entire corps.

I might be mistaken but last year, Corey was just coming back after a severe injury.

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Somebody with the screen name "Vic Toriya" posted these curtain calls on YouTube. The wrapping aurora noted occurs about 3:33.

Who was the corp dancer Rothbart was trying to seduce? she seems amused to his attentions.happy.png

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I might be mistaken but last year, Corey was just coming back after a severe injury.

Yes, that's correct. Cory hadn't danced much at all the whole Met season; SL was the same week last year as this year. His first performance in SL last year was with Veronika, and he performed again later that week. People reported that his second performance (which I did not see) was much more dramatically engaged than his first.

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I thought Paulina was one of the shorter corp member.

I could well be wrong. She looked to be about the same height as Melanie Hamrick last night, whom I've always thought of as taller than average (though definitely smaller than Veronika).

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ABC reports that Lauren Anderson and Raven Wilkinson both congratulated Copeland onstage afterward. (And Damien Woetzel felt it was an "honor" to be there. I guess he felt it was an honor that they sold him a ticket. I wish people would quit misusing that word).

Mearns was still indeed the corps when she debuted in Swan Lake.

Maybe he actually enjoyed the performance? (A shock, I know!)

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There's a Macaulay review in the NYT of Copeland's performance. Sorry I don't know how to link it. I wasn't at the performance but the review mentions the positives, acknowledges that much of what was seen is potential and mentions some flaws. Overall it was a positive review.

It is Macaulay at his most positive which I like. I wish that version of Macaulay reviewed everyone. It is certainly not the Macaulay who wrote that some NYCB principal dancers were half ballerinas, or the one who criticizes make-up & hair color or the one who mentioned that a dancer ate too many sugar plums, or the one who brushed off a lovely debut of an Aurora n her early 20's because in his opinion she smiled too much.

Keep it up Macaulay, but please be even handed.

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There's a Macaulay review in the NYT of Copeland's performance. Sorry I don't know how to link it. I wasn't at the performance but the review mentions the positives, acknowledges that much of what was seen is potential and mentions some flaws. Overall it was a positive review.

It is Macaulay at his most positive which I like. I wish that version of Macaulay reviewed everyone. It is certainly not the Macaulay who wrote that some NYCB principal dancers were half ballerinas, or the one who criticizes make-up & hair color or the one who mentioned that a dancer ate too many sugar plums, or the one who brushed off a lovely debut of an Aurora n her early 20's because in his opinion she smiled too much.

Keep it up Macaulay, but please be even handed.

It's a decidedly guarded review. For once, Macaulay is afraid to offend. He takes obvious flaws and spins them as something positive. Copeland's inability to complete the required fouettes, and substituting quick single turns instead? "A smart alternative." What?! Can you imagine how he would tear through a dancer from NYCB, or any other ABT dancer, who chose not to display technical skill while making their major NY debut?

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/arts/misty-copeland-debuts-as-odette-odile-in-swan-lake.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

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I’ve seen about as many of Gillian Murphy’s Swan Lakes as I’ve seen Veronika Part’s (approx. eight). Tonight she performed the best of these that I’ve seen her do in quite awhile. This was her most mature.

Her Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Festival about ten years ago was one of the finest performances that I’ve seen there in eleven years. She was just beginning to develop an almost enigmatic pre-Raphaelite attraction in her facial expression that was naturally derived. It was part of her somewhere and it defined her and made her absolutely special.

http://www.preraph.org/images/firstread01.jpg

Her dance prowess reinforced this perfectly. She was a childlike innocence that harnessed and superseded her Wagnerian powers. Her presence and her expressiveness, for me, represented the finest artistic statement of female humanity. I actually called her an ambassador for womankind.

Rather than elaborate now I would like to keep Veronika Part’s performance from last night dominant in my thoughts because it was much too fine to let pass by so quickly.

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Going back to Copeland's matinee, can someone who was there say if there was an announcement of any kind regarding Anderson and Wilkinson coming out at the bows? Or was there anything in the program (am guessing no)? I remember Anderson quite well from her dancing days, but if I was there I might not have recognized her and I'm sure I wouldn't have known that was Wilkinson. It would have been really nice for them to have been identified for the audience.

nysusan was there. I believe she talked about the performance but it's a few pages upthread. She was not impressed.

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nysusan was there. I believe she talked about the performance but it's a few pages upthread. She was not impressed.

That is not what was being asked.

In fact several people discussed the performance, including those who were impressed. But again, that is not what was asked.

The question about Anderson and Wilkinson has been answered I believe, but in case not, to my hearing there was no announcement.

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It's a decidedly guarded review. For once, Macaulay is afraid to offend. He takes obvious flaws and spins them as something positive. Copeland's inability to complete the required fouettes, and substituting quick single turns instead? "A smart alternative." What?! Can you imagine how he would tear through a dancer from NYCB, or any other ABT dancer, who chose not to display technical skill while making their major NY debut?

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/arts/misty-copeland-debuts-as-odette-odile-in-swan-lake.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth®ion=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

As others have observed, Macaulay regards Mearns as the best O/O dancing the role today, and she did not complete all of the fouettes during her debut.

I think that the harshest Misty critics will always think that she is punching above her weight class in the classics, regardless of the actual product on the stage. Other cooler heads will be able to assess the positives and negatives of her performances. For the record, Wendy Perron enjoyed her Odette.

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Discuss critics in the Writings on Ballet forum, unless to cite something factual in their reviews that is pertinent to the discussion/answers a question raised.. The company forums are for your opinions.

It's very clear that Copeland is a lightening rod.

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Well maybe he was honored to have been a part of the occasion. Have you ever thought of that?

Yes, I've thought specifically of that. Unless he was invited and comped tickets, he was no more honored than any other ticket buyer. I hear "honored" used his way a lot nowadays, as when people call up Diane Rehm and say they're "honored" to talk to her. I'd be thrilled to talk to Diane Rehm too, but the call screener would be the one doing the "honor"-ing. I guess he or she would be honoring me for having an interesting question?

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"To honor," as a verb, means to hold in respect or esteem, to confer distinction upon. (I'm referring to American Heritage, 5th ed.) "Honor," as a noun, can (among numerous other things) mean "great privilege" -- as in, "I have the honor of welcoming you here."

I believe that kfw is quibbling over the nowadays quite conventional and idiomatic (but, to language purists, somehow distasteful) transformation of the noun's meaning into use as a passive verb or predicate adjective -- i.e. saying "I'm honored" when one means one feels privileged. (Forgive me, kfw, if I'm wrong, and if in fact you are making a quite different point.)

In other words, Damian Woetzel was not being held in respect or esteem, and was not having a distinction conferred upon him, therefore he was not "honored." But he did feel it was a great privilege, I assume, and I assume that's what he meant. And now that I look back upthread, I see that kfw originally used the noun form in citing Woetzel, not the adj/verb form: "And Damien Woetzel felt it was an "honor" to be there."

So I'm not really sure what the problem is. Did it, to him, feel like a great privilege to be there? If so, I think his use of language is perfectly correct.

Edited to add:

Literally, of course, it was not a privilege ("A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit") for Woetzel to be present at the event. That, too, could be the object of kfw's criticism. But again, when one says, "It's an honor to be here for this special event," one is generally understood to be saying, "It feels like a great privilege to be here -- I feel lucky to have been present for this occasion." So again, I don't see a problem. Our language is perpetually being used in ways that are not strictly literal.

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I thought Misty's first lakeside scene was a mixed bag. There were aspects that I liked - I liked her musicality and thought her upper body was lovely, she used her arms, her back and her head and even her hands to great effect and gave us a very eloquent, passionate Odette.

The main problem for me was that I disliked the line of her legs intensely. This has never bothered me about her dancing before, but the white swan attitudes & arabesques are so iconic and it just never looked to me that either of her legs were straight. Her standing leg never looked straight, and her working leg never looked like it opened out into a full arabesque (as opposed to an attitude or bent knee arabesque). I don't know if it was because of her hyperextended knees, or bulky calves or the combination of the 2 but I thought it really diminished the beauty of those iconic white swan images.

So at this point I was giving her a B, maybe even a B+, I liked her but didn't love her in the role. Then, on to the 2nd act. As noted by others her Odile characterization was pretty one note - just a glaring angry look. I didn't find that too surprising or disappointing, I didn't expect her to have a fully realized characterization of either role at her 3rd ever performance of it. Characterization aside, her technique at the start of the Black Swan was fine and she took one beautiful, long balance. Then came the fouettes and that's where it all started to unravel.

I had heard that her fouettes were terrible, that they traveled badly to the side so when she was about 5-6 in I was pleasantly surprised. They were not the most controlled fouettes and they did travel forward & to the side but not too much and I felt they were completely within acceptable bounds. Then after 10 or 12 ( I really don't think she did 16 - maybe 16 revolutions because she did some doubles but certainly not 16 fouettes) she fell out of one and started doing those single pirouettes, which continued to veer torward and to the side.

Let me say that I do not and cannot believe that this was an "artistic choice" - this was a mess.

And I really think that excusing her by pointing to Plisteskaya and several NYCB ballerinas is off the mark. That's like comparing apples to watermelons - it is not remotely the same thing.

In Plisetskaya's case, as has been pointed out upthread - we had a major, major star ballerina who had proven her ability to knock off those fouettes many times in Don Q
and who made it known that she didn't like them in SL and wasn't going to do them. When you are one of the greatest dancer of your (or any) age you can make those kind
of artistic choices.

In the case of NYCB, they make it very clear that they do the 19th century classics "their way", which includes changing steps & tempos. According to their own website
"Peter Martins’ staging of Swan Lake infuses the preeminent story ballet with New York City Ballet’s signature musicality, speed, and sharpness of attack"

Theirs is not a version that follows Petipa/Ivanov faithfully, while it preserves most of the iconic moments there is as much Balanchine and Martins in it as Petipa/Ivanov. And Martins has gone on record publicly saying that he doesn't carewhether or not his O/Os do the fouettes.

It is one thing to skip half of the fouettes when your artistic director gives you leave to make that choice. It is a completely different story when you are dancing in a production where you are expected to do them.

Does anyone think that McKenzie has ever said to any of his ballerinas - "its ok if you can't do all the fouettes, just throw in something else"? If he had, do you think we'd see Julie Kent doing them every year, or Part or even Hee Seo? I have been going to ABT since the mid sixties. Now I did take a pretty long break from them in the 80s so I can't swear that no ABT O/O has eversimply bailed out of the fouettees but I've never seen one do it. And I've seen every dancer who has danced the role with ABT for the last 10 years. Some have struggled with them, and few actually did 32 fouettes but they gave it their best shot and got in 27 or 28. The problem was usually that they couldn't do them fast enough to get 32 in, but they did them - generally in tempo and finishing with the music. What Misty did was unprecedented at ABT, and I am just not ok with it. If she doesn't have to do the fouettes, why should any ABT ballerina have to do them?

I am officially off the Misty bandwagon. I was so disappointed that I dashed out the minute the curtain came down. I didn't see the bows so I don't know if there was any announcement of Anderson or Wilkinson, there was nothing in the program. One of my friends who watched the bows said Makarova came out and gave her a big hug. I'm guessing he mistook Anderson for Makarova!

And speaking of ABT dancers not being able to perform the steps, I could swear that the pdt variation Devon Teuscher performed usually ends with an entrechat six. What I saw her do was jump, hit her feet together once and come down.Just another in a long line of disappointments at ABT this season.

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