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Best and worst of 2015.

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1. Atlanta Ballet in Maillot Romeo and Juliet -- final performance. The whole company rose to the occasion, but especially the two leads, Alessa Rogers and Christian Clark.

2. Cojocaru and Cornejo in Bayadere w. ABT. (Honorable mention to Sarafanov's beautiful Solor the next night.)

3. Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty

4. Dancers of New York City Ballet. All of them.

Oh...I'll single out one performance: Sterling Hyltin pitch perfect as Hermia in Midsummer Night's Dream. But I could single out a lot more.

5. Macmillan's Song of the Earth--Having wanted to see this ballet for decades, I finally got to do so. With a few minor caveats, I was not disappointed.

Finally: whether new rep or new dancers...I saw a lot this year that gave me interest in the future--including 5 ballets by 5 different choreographers that premiered this year at NYCB plus a recently premiered work from the Royal, all works I found intriguing in one way or another. The weakest of them showed off some marvelous dancing. (I could wish the 'ballet choreographer' demographic were more diverse.) And, among young featured dancers that I got a "first look" at this year and that I would be happy to see again, in alphabetical order: Alexa Maxwell (NYCB), Yasmine Naghdi (Royal Ballet), Cassandra Trenary (ABT).

I had a few disappointments, but I'll forgo the worst(s).

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Best new ballet: Peck's HEATSCAPE in Miami

Honorable mention, new ballet: Millepied's CLEAR, LOUD, BRIGHT, FORWARD for POB

Best full-eve revival: ABT SLEEPING BEAUTY (with one decorative exception, below)

Best single-act revival: Ashton's JAZZ CALENDAR in Sarasota

Worst: no hesitation here: Acosta's CARMEN at RB

"Dishonorable Mention" for new staging of old ballet: the wacko and dark SWAN LAKE at RDB, despite Alban Lendorf's excellent Siegfried...when we could see him (dark costume against dark backdrops)

Worst piece of scenery: the yellow La-Z-Boy thrones, ABT SLEEPING BEAUTY

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Best - Mariinsky's Swan Lake at BAM in January 2015. Seeing Lopatkina, Kondaurova and Tereshkina as O/O was a highlight of my year.

Also high praise to the Abrera Shkylarov Giselle at ABT.

Worst - the new Kim Brandstrup ballet at NYCB (Jeux). Pretentious hooey.

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Uliana Lopatkina's O/O at BAM. Sublime. For the ages. Beautiful.

Sterling Hyltin as the Sylph in La Sylphide -- the only Sylph I saw from NYCB that really seemed to understand the style

Evgenia Obraztsova's Juliet

The Hyltin/Veyette/Peck Nutcracker performance I saw -- maybe the best combination ever

Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty, with extra cheers for Stella Abrera's Lilac Fairy, Diana's Aurora, and Cornejo's Desire

Nutcracker Rouge - by far the best Nutcracker alternative I saw in my Nutcracker adventures. Company XIV is incredible.

Adrian D-W's Apollo at NYCB - we have a new great Apollo

Daniel Ulbritcht and Anthony Huxley's King Oberon - again, we have new great Oberons


An American in Paris - empty choreography, pretentious script, leads who really can't sing ... biggest disappointment of the year.

Mariinsky's Les Sylphides/Chopiniana -- this used to be a company specialty but when I saw them do it it was leaden, heavy, and charmless

Millepied's Without - bland copycat of Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Blech.

Sara Mearns in Flower Festivals from Genzano. No. Just no.

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The moments that stick out to me are:


- Stella Abrera in Giselle (highlight of the year for me) and Stella's subsequent well deserved promotion

- Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty (especially Gillian as Aurora and Stella as Lilac Fairy)

- Cote/Lobsanova cast in Ratmansky's R&J in Toronto

- Marianela Nunez as Lise in La Fille


Hee Seo being recast into half of my ABT performances (even though I swear I like Seo in certain things)

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Best of 2015: *(Made the 'Best' and 'Worst' lists)

  • ABT's 75th Diamond Anniversary season.
  • The promotions of Stella Abrera and Misty Copeland to Principal Dancer at ABT.
  • *Alexei Ratmansky's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty" at ABT and La Scala.
  • *Kevin MacKenzie
  • NYCB's Sterling Hyltin & Tiler Peck going from strength to strength, and to the NYCB for delivering another year of excellent performances.
  • Sergei Filin
  • "Best Ballet Promo Trailer of the Year" Award: It's a tie: Australian Ballet for their new production of David Macallister's "The Sleeping Beauty," and to Houston Ballet for their new production of "Romeo & Juliet."
  • The final performances of Sir Anthony Dowell's late 19th century, Czarist St. Petersburg themed production of "Swan Lake" at Covent Garden.
  • Twyla Tharp's Golden Anniversary as dancer/choreographer.
  • World Ballet Day 2015: Best Company Class - Tied for 1st place - Australian Ballet taught by Stephen Heathcoate & the Royal Ballet taught by Julia Barrett. Best Informercial Award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet's entire segment, Best Interview Award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet for their Press Secretary's chat with Maya Plisetskaya's brother, Azari Plisetsky regarding memories of his sister. Best Studio Rehearsal Award goes to the Australian Ballet for "Suite En Blanc," and the complete Act 3 of David Macallister's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty." Best Solo Rehearsal That Should Have Been A Pas De Deux Rehearsal Award goes to Ekaterina Shipulina for being a trouper and essentially partnering herself during the "Russian Seasons" pdd rehearsal during the Bolshoi segment. (Slightly off%20topic.gif), Stephen McRae tap dancing to a Hungarian violin accompaniment in studio at Covent Garden, (Back to topic), and Matthew Ball & Yasmine Naghdi's rehearsal with Wayne MacGregor of "Raven Girl."
  • Robert Gottlieb
  • Lewis Segal
  • "Ballet Pianist of the Year" Award goes to the Royal Ballet's Grant Green for his impromptu and masterful musicianship of the highest caliber.
  • The 50th Golden Anniversary of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo & Juliet" marathon at the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden.
  • Frederick Iseman and Yale School of Music for arranging for Uliana Lopatkina to come speak and dance gratis online for the world October 13 - 15, 2015.
  • Uliana Lopatkina, on and offstage, anytime, anywhere. Specifically: Her appearances as Odette/Odile at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, leading the Mariinsky Ballet in "Paquita," and her impeccable "Dying Swan" at Kennedy Center, and finally, her appearance at Yale School of Music, culminating with an encore of "Dying Swan," and her Q & A sessions.
  • Sara Lamb and Stephen McRae's performances of Titania and Oberon in Ashton's "The Dream" during the Royal Ballet's U.S. tour.
  • David Hallberg for his Legacy Gala.
  • All of the tributes, galas, obits, concerts and odes celebrating the life, art and legacy of Maya Plisetskaya and the Bolshoi Theatre's "Ave Maya" Memorial Galas held on November 20 & 21, 2015.
  • The U.S. and Canadian tour of St. Peterburg's Eifman Ballet, and the presentation of Boris Eifman's work "Up and Down."
  • The return of the Royal Ballet to the U.S. in a decade.
  • Julio Bocca was appointed Artistic Director of Uruguay's National Ballet.
  • Altynai Asylmuratova was appointed Artistic Director of the Astana Ballet in her native Kazhakstan, and Eleonora Abbagnato became Artistic Director of Rome Opera Ballet.
  • Simone Mesmer's departure from San Francisco Ballet and relocation to Miami City Ballet as Principal Dancer.
  • The emergence of Kristina Shapran as 1st soloist and the promotion of Oxana Skorik to Principal Dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet.
  • The "Best Selfie-Gala" Award goes to weekend warrior co-Artistic Directors Roberto Bolle and Herman Cornejo for their marvelous performances with their renegade troupe BALLETNOW.
  • The "Debut of the Year/No Pressure" Award goes to La Scala Academy Class of 2014 graduate, and former Vienna State Opera Ballet member, Jacopo Tissi for stepping in at the last tenth of a second of the 11th hour at La Scala to replace Dave Hallberg's replacement, (Sergei Polunin), as Ratmansky's Prince Desire vs. Svetlana Zakharova's Aurora in Ratmansky's "The Sleeping Beauty."
  • Mariinsky Ballet 1st Soloist Xander Parish's first Benois de la Danse nomination for his Arminta in Ashton's "Sylvia and for going from strength to strength all year.
  • The Bolshoi Ballet's Golden Mask sweep in the Ballet category with Jean Christophe-Maillot's "The Taming of the Shrew," with Ekaterina Krysanova's Golden Mask for Best Actress in Ballet, Vladislav Lantratov's Golden Mask for Best Actor in Ballet, and Best Ballet Production.
  • The Royal Ballet's Stephen McRae's Bolshoi Theatre appearance as Albrecht in "Giselle," culminating in an epic series of entrechat six during the penultimate segment of the Act 2 grand pas de deux.
  • *The BBC's documentary film "Bolshoi Babylon."
  • Christopher Wheeldon's 2015 Tony Award coup d'état for "An American in Paris."
  • The "Russian Movement Culture of the 1920s & 1930s International Symposium" lectures held at New York's Columbia University, Feb. 12 - Feb 14, 2015.
  • The debut of Bolshoi principal Evgenia Obraztsova at the Met in her own right - and as a guest artist with ABT: Her Juliet vs. Herman Cornejo's Romeo in MacMillan's ballet on June 18.
  • Alessandra Ferri coming out of retirement for Chris Wheeldon's "Woolf Works" at the Royal Ballet.
  • The Mariinsky Ballet bringing the full-length "Raymonda" to the U.S.
  • The best ballet conductor in the Mariinsky Theatre since the late, great Victor Fedotov: Gavriel Heine
  • off%20topic.gif - Best Actor in a Play: 1) Benedict Cumberbatch's "Hamlet" at London's Barbicon. He's an excellent actor, but he was in front of the wrong ensemble, and in the wrong production. 2) The 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal and 1st Prize Winner - Piano, Dmitri Masleyev for his sweep of the rounds and final competition, as well as his Mariinsky Concert Hall debut recital on September 25. This young man is Vladimir Horowitz reborn.

The Worst of 2015

  • *Kevin MacKenzie
  • *Alexei Ratmansky's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty" at ABT and La Scala.
  • The "Madame Celine Villeneuve-Desgoff und Taxis Wig" Award goes to Richard Hudson for the Queen's coiffure in the same production.
  • The "I'll Pack My Own Wig, Ogromnoe Spasibo" Award - from Svetlana Zakharova to Richard Hudson for opting to wear her Bolshoi issue, baroque, powdered Act 3 Aurora wig at La Scala, rather than his creation in the same production.
  • ABT's Music Director, Ornsby Wilkins, and staff conductors Charles Barker and David La Marche.
  • Alastair Macaulay & the New York Times
  • Vladimir Urin, General Director of the Bolshoi Theatre
  • Cue the final "Jeopardy" game-show music: Urin's selection of Makhar Vaziev - and Vaziev's agreement to be the new figure-head/neutered director of the Bolshoi Ballet effective March 2016.
  • Laura Bleiberg
  • Hannah Weibiye
  • The St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre's late summer performances of "Swan Lake" and "Bayadere" at the London Coliseum.
  • The "Farewell Doesn't Really Mean 'Farewell' " Award goes to Julie Kent.
  • "There's Not Enough 'There' There For the Both of Us" Award goes to A.D.s Helgi Tomasson and Kevin MacKenzie for bifurcating Maria Kochetkova between San Francisco Ballet and ABT as a Principal.
  • Maria Kochetkova
  • Carlos Acosta's production of "Don Quixote" for the Royal Ballet presented during the U.S. tour.
  • La Scala's new production of "Cinderella," choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti.
  • Joy Womack
  • Natalia Osipova
  • Sergei Polunin
  • Mathilda Froustey
  • Sara Mearns
  • The "Worst 'Black Swan' Imitation Reality TV Show' Award goes to Starz' cable series "Flesh and Bone."
  • World Ballet Day's "worsts" included: Helgi Tomasson's "Giselle" Act 2 studio rehearsal at SFB, National Ballet of Canada's "re-think" and dress rehearsal of "Le Spectre de la Rose;" ABT's segment; "The 10 Minute Wolf-Whistle Award" goes to the Royal Ballet segment's host commentator, and the A.D.s of the Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Northern Ballet Theatre (Manchester) for choosing to focus and comment solely on the A.D. of English National Ballet's physical appearance, shoes and attire, and not what she was trying to tell the global online audience about her company's current programme, schedule and future plans.
  • "Best Geo-block of the Year" Award goes to Buenos Aires' Teatro Colon, for their blank livestreaming of Ashton's "Sylvia" on August 28.
  • The San Francisco Ballet's Spring marathon of Helgi Tomasson's "Romeo & Juliet."
  • *BBC's documentary "Bolshoi Babylon:" Specifically, the 'Mr. Abramov - Clacquer Extraodinaire' & Maria Allash segments, and Urin's pathetic smack downs of Filin during the Theatre Board meeting and later, in front of the company.
  • The promotions of Timur Askerov to Principal Dancer and Sofia Skoblikova to 2nd Soloist at the Mariinsky Ballet.
  • The retirements of: Sylvie Guillem, Auriele Dupont, Paloma Herrera & Xiomara Reyes
  • The passing of: Maya Plisetskaya, Willfried Poillet, Shelley King, Colette Marchand, Mary Clarke, Johann Renvall, Albert Evans, Katherine Walker, Maggie Black, Dudley Williams, Jonathan Ollivier, Daniel Levins, David Drew, Yolanda Sonnabend, and Bryony Brind.
  • The "Drive-By Memorial Award" goes to the Bolshoi Theatre's Board of Trustees and management for the Hobbit-sized tripod, microscopic paragraph, little portrait, off the beaten path, around the corner, by the stage door Plisetskaya display. This Lilliputian tribute stood outside for a few days after the initial news of her death. It if had been inside the foyer of the Theatre, one could have tripped over it.
  • The "I'm More Orthodox Than Thou" Award goes to General Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre, Vladimir Kehkman, for unseating former Novosibirsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet General Director, Boris Mezdrich, by ranting in the Russian media about alleged blasphemy (committed by Mezdrich), re the new production of the opera "Tannhauser." The result is that Kehkman is now General Director of both the Mikhailovsky and Novosibirsk Theatres.
  • The "Fifty Shades of Vanya" Award goes to Ivan Vasiliev and his wife, Bolshoi Leading Soloist, Maria Vinogradova for their photo spread in Tatler Russia's February 2015 edition.
  • The "Apple Watch Dance Program Series Award," (1st edition), goes to Diana Vishneva for "Twenty," and everything that came with it, specifically: The Russian media's over sated and saturated coverage, the House of Tatyana Parfionova Photo Exhibits (that's plural), the Nike Russia 'Nike Women' ads, the group-raising campaign for the pending documentary "Pivotal Pointe," and her performance of "Giselle" at the Mariinsky Theatre on April 28.
  • The "Alexander Dugin & Igor Girkin Performing Arts Empire" Award goes to Maestro Valery Gergiev, for annexing Vladivostok and that city's Primorsky Theatre of Opera and Ballet making it his fourth Mariinsky franchise.
  • The "We Blinked And Missed Your Season" Award - from the Russian Theatre Union's Golden Mask Jury Panel to Maestro Gergiev & Yuri Fateyev, for the Mariinsky Theatre's now disturbingly annual, and increasingly conspicuous absence of competitive offerings in the Ballet/Contemporary Dance & Opera categories. This has become something of a trend in recent years compared with numerous nominations and winners from other major (and lesser) Russian theatres.
  • The "Thanks For Your Participation - Now Get Out" Award from the creator, producers and managers of St. Petersburg's 2015 Dance Open to their winners for failing to have statuettes for them to take home last year.
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San Francsico Ballet


-Shostakovich Trilogy, particularly Davit Karapetyan in Chamber Symphony. I’ve seen the Trilogy six times in two seasons and can’t wait to see it again.

-Dances at a Gathering, especially Sofiane Sylve in Green.

-Two role debuts stood out: Dores Andre’s fascinating Juliet, and Frances Chung’s exquisite Giselle.

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Daniel Ulbricht as Oberon

NYCB for outstanding performances by many, many dancers (Unity Phelan is a name to remember). So much rep, so many dancers, so much greatness.

Hubbard St. Dance at the Joyce


Kevin MacKenzie's over usage of Hee Seo

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Best of 2015:

-- Best outreach effort: The educational demonstrations around PNB's Forsythe bill

-- Most satisfying evening: New York Theater Ballet's Fall "Legends & Visionaries" slate of Tanowitz, Cunningham, Fonte, and de Mille. The old choreography was honorably performed; the new choreography was thought-provoking. Special mention for the wonderful Amanda Treiber, who led the first three works and was artistically incisive and technically at ease in all three. (Back-to-back Tanowitz and Cunningham!)

-- Best moment of sheer beauty (tie): Ashley Bouder in "Harlequinade" (Act II) and Linda Celeste Sims in Ronald K. Brown's "Open Door" (a love letter of a dance to her artistry)

-- Best revival: Garth Fagan's "Oatka Trail" at Lincoln Center Out of Doors and the Joyce Theater

-- Best discovery: Cassandra Trenary

-- Best classic: Gillian Murphy. Dancers wax and wane at ABT, but Murphy's artistry is a constant beacon...as engaged dancing "Fancy Free" with Sterling Baca as she is dancing a full-length with Marcelo Gomes.

-- Best feel-good moment: The ABT landslide. The promotions of Abrera, Copeland, Trenary, and Brandt were wonderful...but the elevation of ultimate team players Arron Scott and Luciana Paris tipped it into misty-eyed territory.

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The best:

Patricia Delgado in Symphony in "Symphony in Three Movements" when Miami City Ballet visited Vancouver: Goddess!!!!! There may have been a guy with her, but I did not care.

MCB in Vancouver was amazing!

Carrie Imler's Kitri, there aren't enough "OMG"'s to describe it. Ratmansky's Don Q looked like it was made for her. I also loved Dec and Cruz together as Kitri/Basilio and Mercedes/Espada: such affection and simpatico is rare. Kudos to Jerome Tisserand who managed to stay on the right side of the fine line between self-important machismo and caricature as Espada.

The Ratmansky "Don Quixote": so much energy, character, and attention. The whole company was thriving.

The Forsythe program. From the time it was announced last year until after it was over, it was the program all of the dancers were kvelling about. The commitment showed, and it rode the wave of Don Q and extended through "Carmina Burana."

Carla Korbes' last performance of "Swan Lake" with PNB: not only was it exquisite stylistically, musically, and emotionally, it was one of the most technically assured performance of any Odette/Odile I have ever seen. From the sixth row, not the slightest check or bobble anywhere. My jaw took a forklift to raise from its drop.

The swan corps and the women who did the six friends in Act I and six potential brides in Act III. There were about ten, mostly senior corps women who switched in and out, and they were masterful.

After several false starts, Maria Chapman was back for "Concerto DSCH." I realized how I had missed her combination of strength, attack, and duskiness.

Second only to the Forsythe, the PNB dancers seem to eat "Emergence" and Crystal Pite up.

Josh Grant getting promoted.

A short piece by Price Suddarth for the Seattle International Dance Festival that captured the unique movement voices of his dancers Elle Macy, Leta Biasucci, and Jahna Frantziskonis.

The double-edged swords:

Carla Korbes retiring from company life, going out at her peak. Maria Chapman retiring for family life after the "Emergence" program, going out at her peak. Jahna Frantziskonis' defection to San Francisco Ballet on a steep, upward trajectory -- love her well, San Francisco!

The worst:

The injuries.

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Ratmansky's reconstructed Sleeping Beauty

NYCB the company as a whole in general, particularly Tiler Peck.

Fogot to add as one of my best of - the Alina Cojocaru and Friends gala at the Rose Theater in December.

Probably the worst marketing.

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Let's not forget what made us clap with excitement or yawn with boredom!

Best: Ratmansky's "Sleeping Beauty"

Worst: MCB's "Carmen"

Let's add some other memorable moments.


The two retirement performances of Giselle, specially the magical night with Reyes/Cornejo.

Bolle's Albrecht.


Poor Osipova's huge fall during her Giselle... :(

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I'm sorry this is long, but it was a pleasure to think back over the year. Not all ballet for me (and no "worst" moments)


Ten Tiny Dances: Some people are at their best when you limit their options for this set of works, chorgraphers create work for a 10X10 platform. Great detail and tenderness in human relationships, where you have to get close.

Miami City Ballet (in Vancouver BC): A Balanchine triple bill with a company that really knows how to move out.


Mark Morris Dance Group: Mixed rep, most of it new to my town. Words is lyric and witty a tricky combination.

Dance Cartel: Ensemble from Philadelphia, using the conventions of a dance party and hip hop vocabulary to engage us the audience are the wallflowers who just wont dance.

William Forsythe residency and program at Pacific Northwest Ballet: This was the event of the season everyone in town was excited. The works were glorious (Virtiginous Thrill, New Suite, In the Middle), but watching him coach was the big revelation.

More Mark Morris: The PBS broadcast of LAllegro was a great look at an iconic work.


San Fransicso Ballet (in SF road trip!): Ratmanskys Shostakovich triple bill got such mixed responses from everyone, here on BA and in the critical press, I just had to see for myself. I need a couple more chances with it to really see what hes doing, but it was a fascinating look at a different way of dancing ballet.

Cornish Dance Theater: Performing ensemble at arts college in excerpts from Crystal Pites Dark Matters they did a great job with some incredible material.

Swan Lake: Pacific Northwest Ballets production gave a number of women a chance at the big part, but it was Carla Korbes final performances in it that really made us all weep.


The House of Verlaine: Local burlesque dancer with classical training staged an evening of ballet as it might have looked at the Opera in the 19th c. Very lovely, very knowing.

Ric Burns American Masters program on American Ballet Theater: Not a great film, in my estimation, but he had access to some wonderful footage, and we got to see a chunk of it.


Dancing Past 50: This is a book project by Emmaly Wiederholt, but as part of her interview process, there was an informal performance by some of the artists from the book. Christian Swenson, whose work pretty much defies description, did a fabulous solo to Laura Neros And When I Die Im grateful I was in the room.

Prodigal Son: PNBs does a great job with this work -- we got to see inside in a coaching session run by Peter Boal, and in performance James Moore came back to the stage after a long rehab from injury. He looked like this role was all he thought about for months.


Crystal Pites Emergence: This came back to the PNB repertory, and everyone was just as thrilled as they were when it first premiered here. Extra scary and mysterious.


Paul Taylor documentary Creative Domain: A chance to watch a pro in action.

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Best: Tiler Peck in Theme, Twyla Tour, City Ballet at the Kennedy Center (Serenade, Agon, and Symphony in C all in one program!), MCB's Ashley Knox as Dew Drop, and pretty much everything else I've seen. I'm very easily pleased!

Worst: Audience behavior at MCB. A man seated in the front row brought a crying child back into the theater in the middle of Waltz of the Flowers and left again with the child a minute later (I understand leaving with a child during a performance, but coming back in at any point in time during which dancers are dancing on stage...)

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