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Spring 2015: Swan Lake


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It's very likely that Misty completed the 32 fouettes in rehearsal, but strange, unexpected things happen in performances (especially a high-profile debut). The fact that she made the choice to do a pique circle and not totally bail shows quick thinking and professionalism.

Or it shows good (or, at least, prior) planning (if she knew it was possible she didn't get through them and wanted a back-up plan ready). Either explanation seems equally possible to me. Either way, it's good that she handled it in a way that many (if not most) observers seem to think worked out okay.

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I personally don't care if she did 32 fouettes or not. I just wish her alternative plan were actually pirouettes from FIFTH! Not messy thirds! And they should not have traveled. MAybe if one is not fully secure in the ultimate, one needs to practice Plan B also. I just felt it all was an after thought with the hope she could make it through. I remember Julie Kent's "SL" (a few years ago) when she did just 16 turns and finished with the most dazzling piques en menage I've ever seen! There was a fire in her belly that belied the fact she didn't do 32, but she made the alternative work to her advantage. It was Odile doing the piques, not a dancer who couldn't manage the last 16. Everyone cheered!

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Maria Kochetkova — Swan Lake

Possibly the Highlight of the Swan Lakes that I’ve seen here this year was her Act II White Swan Duet. Certainly one of the finest performances of this duet that I’ve seen anywhere.

I can find some words to describe it, such as enchantment and dramatic composition, but it would have to be seen to have any real significance. Her Russian trained fineness was highly evident as was her own added dramatic perfection. The result was an Artistic Masterpiece with the look and feel of artistic greatness.

One thing that became evident tonight is how different drama can be. The beauty of drama as performed on a ballet stage is one of motion and composition that makes it visually magnificent as well as soul touching.

There was much else of fine quality tonight by her and by others, but for me her performance of the duet eclipsed everything.

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Tonight's Swan Lake was a mixed bag.

I'll begin at (or just after) the beginning. The evening really began in earnest with bar 5 of the prelude, when the principal clarinetist (listed in the program as Jon Manasse) took over from the serviceable but undistinguished principal oboist. Infusing the second four bars of the piece with truly insightful phrasing and truly embodying the music, here was a genuine musician -- rare in this pit during the two months following the Met Orchestra's departure. Throughout the evening, Manasse's occasional solo phrases brought life and freshness to every piece in which he was featured, however briefly. Seriously: listen for him next time. I noticed this on Wednesday as well. He really stands out.

Okay, on to the dancing.

The first thing I did on opening my program was to look at the PDT casting, hoping to high heaven that it'd be Lane-Brandt-Gorak. And it was! And they were phenomenal. I haven't seen a better PDT in a long time -- perhaps ever, in my 8 years seeing this production. I never saw Cornejo-Reyes-Cornejo dance this live. Certainly there have been standout performances in the past -- e.g. Ricetto, on some evenings -- but as an ensemble, this one was a true highlight.

I've praised Joey Gorak's dancing on numerous past occasions, so let me just add one new observation: his double tours. Wow. He is a perfect spinning needle in those. Perfectly upright, vertically elongated, yet totally compact, and super-fast. Exceptional.

And one observation about Sarah Lane: when completing each pirouette, she has a way of keeping her leg tucked up extra-long, giving a sense of fully completed movement, seen through to the very last possible moment.

Skylar Brandt did the entrechats exactly as choreographed (i.e. what Luciana Paris on Wednesday night did not do), and looked great.

I've always felt bad for poor Benno in this production, as he gets wheedled into dancing again right after the PDT's conclusion, and tonight it really took a toll. Gorak almost let the corps girl (does anyone know who she was? I was a bit too far away to tell) fall right out of his hands (or, hand, rather, as it was one of those slightly tricky spins where he takes her hand above her head) onto the floor. Audible intakes of breath from me and many others at that moment, but they saved it. One unfortunate effect, though, was that this made the other corps girl "falling" during the Danse des coupes a few minutes later seem even more unfunny than usual.

I'll get to the principals in a bit, so moving on to Act II. The cygnettes did it! Bravi to Cassandra Ternary, Luciana Paris, Courtlyn Hanson, and Gemma Bond. They got through those dastardly four measures (the return of the music's A section with the hops to stage right -- forgive my lack of proper vocabulary) in time with the music! (Admittedly, the conductor was gracious and slowed it down a bit for those bars -- but still, I'd prefer that to steps so obviously behind the beat, as so often happens with this company's cygnettes.)

We got another very well paired duo as the two big swans tonight: Devon Teuscher and Stella Abrera. Still, I missed Melanie Hamrick's grace and luxuriousness (from Wednesday night) in their solo. (I know, I know -- Stella has those qualities too! But tonight I just wasn't seeing it quite as much as usual.)

Act III. Same Neapolitan duo as Wednesday night, Gabe Stone Shayer and Jonathan Klein. Someone apparently talked to Jonathan after that performance and told him to get his act together and get on the beat, so there was no longer as much lag time between Gabe and him. But really, most of that number I spent looking at Gabe's feet. Have you seen that French and Saunders ballerina sketch (recently mentioned on another discussion thread, by the way) where Saunders recites, "Good toes, naughty toes, good toes, naughty toes"? (See here.) Well, Gabe has ​very naughty toes. Perhaps I was particularly attuned to this after watching Joey Gorak (who has very good toes) dance. But really. Point those toes! Lift that arch!

Among the four princesses in the waltz with Siegfried, Cassandra Ternary really stood out. She has such presence onstage, giving each gesture and step a small bit of meaning or intention that makes it really sing out.

Gemma Bond was the Italian princess, the one who rises on pointe and is drawn to Rothbart after he's seduced the other three. Well, tonight, when drawn in, she was taking steps reminiscent of a toddler learning to walk. Slow and uneven. What a difference from Renata Pavam, who used to rise up and just be sucked in with speed and delicacy in her quick steps.

James Whiteside definitely has a lot of potential as Purple VR. Technically, he's got it. And he is such a showman. This is one place where his...shall I say, "non-classical" side career really serves him well. He is a real showman. In that respect, too, the best I've seen besides Marcelo (and, once, dim yet pulsing in my memory, David Hallberg). But I do wish he'd use the space around his body more generously. When reaching out his arms to draw in the girls, I want to see him draw them in with the full extension of his arms. That wasn't happening tonight. (His gesture of dismissal, sending them offstage before the start of the Black Swan PDD, was magnificently commanding, though!)

Part of the problem was tempo. Here, as elsewhere throughout the evening, David LaMarche was conducting very much on the fast side. At times, I was very happy with this. When Gorak came in during the PDT coda, the music hardly slowed down at all; usually, it's a jarring shift there. The same thing often happens when Odette comes in during the Act II PDD coda; but here too, tonight, the shift was less jarring than usual. I really liked this. (And both Gorak and Kochetkova were equally up to the challenge.) But at other times, it seemed as if quick tempi were being used to allow dancers to speed through their dances in an "impressive" but not truly fulfilling manner.

This was most a problem during the Act II adagio. Which, really, was more like an andante. So this bring us to Kochetkova and Cornejo. This was only my second time seeing Kochetkova live. (First was this season's Sat. eve. Bayadere, with Sarafanov.) It's nice to see a dancer whose technique you don't have to really worry about at all. Her style, though, I think leaves something (I won't say "much") to be desired. There are definitely some good attempts at characterization happening there. But I don't see her really luxuriating in any of her movements as I'd like to. (Ok, yes, I'm coming off of Veronika's performance. But still.) Everything is a bit too clipped. She doesn't seem to have the music deep within her. And this problem was exacerbated by the fact that the music was really too fast. The same was true in Act III, both in the first movement and in her variation. And at times she didn't even take the time that the music allowed her. At the end of the Black Swan PDD's first movement, for instance, she got into her final position nearly a full beat before the music's conclusion. Throughout the evening, too, I felt her leg in arabesque or any sort of extension was droopy. It seemed weighted down. This was most apparent in Odile's hops backward into arabesque during the coda, where it almost seemed she'd trip over that back leg, so close it was to the floor. (I also had in mind the pair of photos that abatt helpfully posted upthread, comparing Misty and Gillian in the iconic pose. At this moment, Kochetkova's leg was drooping at around 40 degrees.)

As for Cornejo. Fine, but not his best. After Wednesday, I missed Cory's cleanness and expansiveness and careful control of line. The characteristic Cornejo bravura is still there in part, though diminished. But there was also some occasional sloppiness (e.g. tours tilting to the side) -- again, perhaps exacerbated in comparison with Gorak, who was near perfection. And really, not much more clear characterization than from Cory.

Perhaps some of my experience was affected by the fact that, after sitting very close on Wednesday night, tonight I was up in Dress Circle -- the first time I've seen SL not from Orchestra. Well, let me say that for this particular production it is not a great perspective. Two problems: (1) the swan corps is so depleted (really? only 18 swans come out at the start?) that it really looks like Swan Pond, not Swan Lake; and (2) the floor "design" really just looks like algae growing on the surface of standing water, simply adding to the Swan Pond effect.

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The next talented African-American ballerinas who rise through the ranks at ABT will owe Copeland a debt for weathering this firestorm.

Absolutely. And re Fouettegate (downthread): I'm sure that if Kent remains with ABT as a ballet mistress, then she will likely shape Copeland's subsequent interpretations of the role.

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The extremes of opinion generated by Copeland's career speak clearly enough to insularity in the ballet world. Not all forms of insularity are bad, but some are. The next talented African-American ballerinas who rise through the ranks at ABT will owe Copeland a debt for weathering this firestorm.

I suspect the next black ballerina who rises through the ranks at ABT will probably have to do it in a very different way. Misty's rise has been so closely tied to her very unique narrative and the way she has portrayed herself publicly. The press won't be so interested the second time around. So, I actually think the next up-and-coming black ballerina will be expected to prove herself more on pure dance terms.

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Two problems: (1) the swan corps is so depleted (really? only 18 swans come out at the start?) that it really looks like Swan Pond, not Swan Lake; and (2) the floor "design" really just looks like algae growing on the surface of standing water, simply adding to the Swan Pond effect.

I nominate this comment for the B.A. year-end commentary awards.

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It's very likely that Misty completed the 32 fouettes in rehearsal, but strange, unexpected things happen in performances (especially a high-profile debut). The fact that she made the choice to do a pique circle and not totally bail shows quick thinking and professionalism.

And even though City Ballet's SL is not in the Petipa style, Mearns has made the excellent point that the fouettes - while important - are only a portion of the evening. It seems as though Misty's characterization of Odette was strong, which, frankly is the most important part of the ballet. The technical issues can be worked out in the studio.

I really don't care about the whole Copeland discussions that rumbles through this forum--she brings audiences in, I think she's a perfectly fine dancer, I will never go out of my way to see her (cf. other soloists Abrera or Lane), and ABT has way bigger issues to worry about than a popular dancer who may not be up to technical snuff to critical gaze. But the 32 turns--as goofy as they may be to the narrative--are an intrinsic part of the audience expectations of Swan Lake, like it or not. To say that a 33 year old soloist just needs some more studio time to work out this issue rings a bit hollow. This is not a like teenage Sara Mearns who had to bail. This was not a conscious decision to remove an awesome looking but narratively out of place series of moves. Instead, this was a soon to be principal (who is dangerously close to being mid 30s) who couldn't do the steps, and this was not the first time. Is that good enough for a company with ABT's delusional sense of grandeur?

.

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The fouettes are certainly important - I think I made that clear in the comment that you quoted. My point is that I would rather see a dancer with an expressive upper body who understands Odette's character arc than one who can rattle off 32 clean fouettes.

As for Misty, her development curve as a dancer has lagged behind that of her peers (which is also why her story is so unique). At the age when her peers were deciding what summer intensive to attend, she took her first ballet classes. Her rep has mostly been contemporary ballets, with the exception of the last couple of seasons. Even though she is senior in ballet years, she is just really beginning to tackle the classics in earnest. That being said, it seems as though her issues with the fouettes were mental/stamina-based (it's not like she was incapable of completing a single fouette). Nothing that can't be fixed with practice.

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I really don't care about the whole Copeland discussions that rumbles through this forum--she brings audiences in, I think she's a perfectly fine dancer, I will never go out of my way to see her (cf. other soloists Abrera or Lane), and ABT has way bigger issues to worry about than a popular dancer who may not be up to technical snuff to critical gaze. But the 32 turns--as goofy as they may be to the narrative--are an intrinsic part of the audience expectations of Swan Lake, like it or not. To say that a 33 year old soloist just needs some more studio time to work out this issue rings a bit hollow. This is not a like teenage Sara Mearns who had to bail. This was not a conscious decision to remove an awesome looking but narratively out of place series of moves. Instead, this was a soon to be principal (who is dangerously close to being mid 30s) who couldn't do the steps, and this was not the first time. Is that good enough for a company with ABT's delusional sense of grandeur?

Exactly.

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Any reports on the Murphy-Hammoudi-Baca Swan Lake?

Okay, I'll weigh in on this. Attending Thursday night was a "command performance," for me, so to speak, because it fell on the birthday of my granddaughter, who had traveled many miles to see it as a birthday present. I would not have chosen it otherwise. I had just seen Veronika and Cory the night before and had been thoroughly enthralled by Veronika's performance, surely one of her best, most detailed, and refined.

Murphy definitely had her fans in attendance Thursday night, as the applause for her throughout was frequent and loud. For me, I felt her Odette was serviceable, but she has nowhere near the fluency or expansiveness of Veronika, and her acting seemed more cerebral than intuitive. Her swan arms had bony points in them, i.e., they never rippled seamlessly. Where she was in her element was, to no one's surprise, the Black Swan pas de deux, where her 32 fouettes included seemingly effortless multiple triples and very slight downstage movement at the end. I was disappointed that Murphy's Odette didn't have the softness she displayed in the film of Giselle with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, as I had been hoping she could have carried some of that vulnerability to Odette. Perhaps her Odette has been carved in stone for many years, but I still think she has the potential to build on the beauty she achieved in Giselle. Coaching, coaching, coaching.

The surprise for me that night, however, was Alexandre Hammoudi. He was definitely trying like the devil to do his very best, but his technique wasn't quite up to the task, nor was his stamina. You could see him take those runs for all they were worth in order to achieve height in his jumps. There were several bobbles along the way, and I felt he wasn't quite up to the role (and now that I've seen Matthew Golding with the Royal Ballet, I can't help wishing that Golding had stayed with ABT) and was chosen for it by default. Nevertheless, his emotional development in the role was totally credible. After he realizes his huge mistake in Act III, his remorse, his sorrow, were expressed so deeply that he brought tears to my eyes. That had not happened for me in many years in SL and it gave a new dimension to the performance. There was something very satisfying in seeing how much dedication Hammoudi showed overall, especially in his acting, but also in his efforts to dance his very best, and I applaud him for that.

I had noticed Sterling Baca three years ago in a corps studio rehearsal and had singled him out as someone with potential, so imagine my delight in seeing him cast as Purple Rothbart Thursday night. I thought he did very well for a debut. Now mind you, this was the evening after Marcelo's performance in that role, so Baca was following in the footsteps of a master. I was most afraid that he would overplay the role, but I was pleased to see that he did a very creditable job and I would be happy to see him again. He has a beautiful line and his acting was fine.

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With all the talk of Misty, I think people have discounted the possibility that Hammoudi is another person on the short list for imminent promotion, and he too has many technical deficiencies. Like Misty, he has been a soloist for a period of time, but I'm not sure of his age. I have little hope that his technique will improve over the years. I think that ship may have sailed for him.

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With all the talk of Misty, I think people have discounted the possibility that Hammoudi is another person on the short list for imminent promotion, and he too has many technical deficiencies. Like Misty, he has been a soloist for a period of time, but I'm not sure of his age. I have little hope that his technique will improve over the years. I think that ship may have sailed for him.

In my opinion, Gorak is far more deserving of promotion than Hammoudi, even just one year after his promotion to soloist. But yes, I suspect that Hammoudi may well be next in line.

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In my opinion, Gorak is far more deserving of promotion than Hammoudi, even just one year after his promotion to soloist. But yes, I suspect that Hammoudi may well be next in line.

Indeed, Gorak's artistry is underutilized at ABT. I sometimes fantasize about Gorak defecting to the New York City Ballet to dance "Agon," "Apollo," and other Balanchine gems.

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Indeed, Gorak's artistry is underutilized at ABT. I sometimes fantasize about Gorak defecting to the New York City Ballet to dance "Agon," "Apollo," and other Balanchine gems.

He's done a bunch of principal roles this season and was promoted to soloist just last year. I hardly think he is being underutilized.

I also think it is a sure thing that he make principal, we just may have to wait another year.

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He's done a bunch of principal roles this season and was promoted to soloist just last year. I hardly think he is being underutilized.

I also think it is a sure thing that he make principal, we just may have to wait another year.

Yes, I agree. I don't think he's being underutilized. He's one dancer in the company whose abilities and opportunities are, in my opinion, in very good proportion. (One among too few.)

If someone's "next in line," though, I'd just prefer it were Gorak rather than Hammoudi. Four years ago or so, I thought Hammoudi showed very good promise. Then he just never seemed to grow as a dancer or performer.

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Yes, I agree. I don't think he's being underutilized. He's one dancer in the company whose abilities and opportunities are, in my opinion, in very good proportion. (One among too few.)

If someone's "next in line," though, I'd just prefer it were Gorak rather than Hammoudi. Four years ago or so, I thought Hammoudi showed very good promise. Then he just never seemed to grow as a dancer or performer.

Oh I agree on that. I'm really not convinced Hammoudi is principal material. I think he has shown progression this season but still, not enough. To my eyes Gorak is the next potential star (though he still needs to work on his partnering!)

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He's done a bunch of principal roles this season and was promoted to soloist just last year. I hardly think he is being underutilized.

I also think it is a sure thing that he make principal, we just may have to wait another year.

I too don't think he is under utilized, given that he just was made a soloist last year. While his technique is seemingly flawless and beautiful to watch, I think he is still a bit underwhelming when it comes to characterizations. He could use with some serious coaching in the acting department. The thought of his departure to NYCB is an intriguing one. It won't happen, but his style and technique would seem to fit better into the world of City Ballet. He would most certainly get more dance opportunities than he has currently at ABT. Also, I just want to say; why are we calling him "Joey" when he's clearly listed in the program as Joseph. The diminutive seems sort of infantile for a grown man. MO.

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I too don't think he is under utilized, given that he just was made a soloist last year. While his technique is seemingly flawless and beautiful to watch, I think he is still a bit underwhelming when it comes to characterizations. He could use with some serious coaching in the acting department. The thought of his departure to NYCB is an intriguing one. It won't happen, but his style and technique would seem to fit better into the world of City Ballet. He would most certainly get more dance opportunities than he has currently at ABT. Also, I just want to say; why are we calling him "Joey" when he's clearly listed in the program as Joseph. The diminutive seems sort of infantile for a grown man. MO.

I think it's a case like calling Isabella Boylston, "Bella." Joseph Gorak goes by Joey among his peers, and I believe he is introduced as Joey when you meet him in person. That has infiltrated into the boards.

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I too don't think he is under utilized, given that he just was made a soloist last year. While his technique is seemingly flawless and beautiful to watch, I think he is still a bit underwhelming when it comes to characterizations. He could use with some serious coaching in the acting department. The thought of his departure to NYCB is an intriguing one. It won't happen, but his style and technique would seem to fit better into the world of City Ballet. He would most certainly get more dance opportunities than he has currently at ABT. Also, I just want to say; why are we calling him "Joey" when he's clearly listed in the program as Joseph. The diminutive seems sort of infantile for a grown man. MO.

I agree he can also strengthen his characterizations, but that will come (most likely).

I do not think his style is more NYCB. He is very classical, with pure lines. I don't see him as a Balanchine dancer at all though with his technique I'm sure he could thrive there.

He is being called Joey because that is what everyone calls him (see articles and interviews)--other dancers, ballet masters, and the AD. I assume it is what he goes by.

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I agree he can also strengthen his characterizations, but that will come (most likely).

I do not think his style is more NYCB. He is very classical, with pure lines. I don't see him as a Balanchine dancer at all though with his technique I'm sure he could thrive there.

He is being called Joey because that is what everyone calls him (see articles and interviews)--other dancers, ballet masters, and the AD. I assume it is what he goes by.

Yes, see this Pointe Magazine article on Gorak. Both Clinton Luckett and Kevin M. refer to him as "Joey"

http://pointemagazine.com/issues/octobernovember-2013/prince-waiting

edited to add the link!

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I think it's a case like calling Isabella Boylston, "Bella." Joseph Gorak goes by Joey among his peers, and I believe he is introduced as Joey when you meet him in person. That has infiltrated into the boards.

OK, fair enough. I am neither his peer, nor have I ever met him. I only know how he's listed in the program. When I was an active performer I had nick names also, but was always listed in the program with my given name. It's merely a recognition of respect.

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There are centuries-old traditions among the devotees of many performing arts of referring to certain artists (especially, but not exclusively, when they are beloved by those devotees) with names that would normally indicate a greater degree of intimacy than in fact exists between those devotees and artists. I don't think this is a sign of disrespect, infantilization, or any other particularly bad thing. I think (if I may be permitted to psychologize) that it's rather a quite natural result of the intense sense of intimacy that those artists evoke in us through their performances. It's part of the indefinable, strange magic of the performing arts. We feel connected to them, even to those whose performances we don't particularly love.

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