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ABT 2016 Spring Gala/ Ratmansky Triple Bills


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I thought the Trilogy was completely original In terms of both the choreography and the dramatic content. I've seen the pieces performed individually, but the overall impact and brilliance of the work is much stronger when all three works are shown on the same program. I suspect that, given the large number of empty seats, the Trilogy will not be revived again for some time. I saw both casts, but I felt that it didn't really matter which cast you saw. The brilliance of the work was not dependent on any particular dancer.

Couldn't agree with you more abatt and personally I would not mind if Firebird never return, as for the audience I think many of us older folks had a hard time seeing due to the poor lighting, especially in the matinee set. My eye sight may not be as good as the younger audiences, and I even heard a snore in a nearby section which was rude IMO but I can understand why.

The evening Trilogy was much better since the lighting was brighter and it may be I had better seats. However, I still feel the costumes too should be revisited if they do intend to bring Firebird back, same issue too in Plato's Symposium, I just felt they are distracting and I was concerned a few times that the dancers would get caught in the amount of fabric they had to carry with them!

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I think the outlandish costumes in the Firebird were completely deliberate and part of Ratmanksy's overall conception or "reworking" of the ballet. He decided that he was going to turn this classic Russian fable into an opportunity for comedy. Instead of having the maidens do a traditionally beautiful dance, he decided he was going to have them dress in very strange, distracting costumes and wigs, and that they would run around the stage waving their arms around and acting goofy for some comedic relief. I'm not sure how anyone could judge the quality of dancing of either Trenary or Abrera, because there was very little actual classical choreography for them to execute. I think Ratmansky does much better when he creates a work entirely from scratch. When he attempts to distinguish himself from well known works like Firebird and Nutcracker, things seem to go badly off the rails. No disrespect to people who enjoyed the Firebird.

I also think that neither Symposium nor Seven Sonatas belongs on a stage the size of the Met Opera. However, those programs sold much better than the trilogy because people were interested in seeing Firebird.

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I think the outlandish costumes in the Firebird were completely deliberate and part of Ratmanksy's overall conception or "reworking" of the ballet. He decided that he was going to turn this classic Russian fable into an opportunity for comedy. Instead of having the maidens do a traditionally beautiful dance, he decided he was going to have them dress in very strange, distracting costumes and wigs, and that they would run around the stage waving their arms around and acting goofy for some comedic relief. I'm not sure how anyone could judge the quality of dancing of either Trenary or Abrera, because there was very little actual classical choreography for them to execute. I think Ratmansky does much better when he creates a work entirely from scratch. When he attempts to distinguish himself from well known works like Firebird and Nutcracker, things seem to go badly off the rails. No disrespect to people who enjoyed the Firebird.

I also think that neither Symposium nor Seven Sonatas belongs on a stage the size of the Met Opera. However, those programs sold much better than the trilogy because people were interested in seeing Firebird.

You hit the nail on the head abatt for Firebird! My sentiments entirely and I don't think it gave justice to the dancers. I believe the singling out of any dancer in this performance is due to the fact that they danced away from the "crowd" at times. I also wonder the timeliness of the return of Firebird when the Misty Barbie doll came out?!

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I tend to doubt that the program was based on the release of the Misty Barbie doll. The fact is that Copeland's performances sell very well regardless of whether any product or merchandise regarding Misty is also being released at the same time. The Misty Firebird tickets were selling very well way before they started sales of the doll. I think that Matel may have waited to start selling the doll until the beginning of the ABT season to capitlize on additional sales and publicity regardng the ABT season and Copeland's roles for the season. I assume that was what you are suggesting Stuben, and it makes sense. This is especially so because the designers of the doll are using a similar costume to the Firebird costumes. (Wonder if there is an intellectual property violation going on re the costume design.)I doubt either Matel or Copeland realized that the Washington Post would stir up controversy by asserting that the skin color of the doll was too white. The controversy didn't seem to hurt sales of the doll, however.

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I think the outlandish costumes in the Firebird were completely deliberate and part of Ratmanksy's overall conception or "reworking" of the ballet. He decided that he was going to turn this classic Russian fable into an opportunity for comedy. Instead of having the maidens do a traditionally beautiful dance, he decided he was going to have them dress in very strange, distracting costumes and wigs, and that they would run around the stage waving their arms around and acting goofy for some comedic relief. I'm not sure how anyone could judge the quality of dancing of either Trenary or Abrera, because there was very little actual classical choreography for them to execute. I think Ratmansky does much better when he creates a work entirely from scratch. When he attempts to distinguish himself from well known works like Firebird and Nutcracker, things seem to go badly off the rails. No disrespect to people who enjoyed the Firebird.

I also think that neither Symposium nor Seven Sonatas belongs on a stage the size of the Met Opera. However, those programs sold much better than the trilogy because people were interested in seeing Firebird.

I understand what you are saying about Firebird, and I think that if I had seen Balanchine's or Fokine's version first, maybe I would feel the same way about Ratmansky's version. But because I haven't seen those and I had no preconceptions about what the ballet "should" look like, I found I greatly enjoyed Ratmansky's quirky magical take on it. I found it extremely entertaining as a whole, including the crazy costumes, but I do understand how those who prefer a more classical take on it would not enjoy it.

And maybe Stuben heard folks sleeping on Saturday, but I wouldn't say that most folks found it boring, as it received a rambunctious standing ovation at the end (and it was not a Misty performance).

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I'm not sure how anyone could judge the quality of dancing of either Trenary or Abrera, because there was very little actual classical choreography for them to execute.

For how I can single a dancer out when there is very litte "classical" choreography, it's quite simple. To me (as a non-dancer with only scant knowledge of technique), I look to see if the dancer becomes thier character. If I forget that I'm watching Cassie Trenary or Roman Zhurbin the person, but instead find them believable as a crazy brainwashed maiden or an evil diabolical sorcerer, then they stand out to me. Trenary attacked the role and became her character. It is noticeable on stage. It doesn't even have to be a story ballet, as Sara Mearns consistently dances the same way at NYCB, where I believe her in whatever role she is dancing. I realize this is subjective, and I'm probably not explaining myself very well.

The exact opposite is someone like Hee Seo or Christine Shevchenko, who when they dance, I feel like I am watching Hee Seo and Christine Shevchenko dance "real nice". I just don't feel anything watching them. Again, completely subjective I realize.

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I tend to doubt that the program was based on the release of the Misty Barbie doll. The fact is that Copeland's performances sell very well regardless of whether any product or merchandise regarding Misty is also being released at the same time. The Misty Firebird tickets were selling very well way before they started sales of the doll. I think that Matel may have waited to start selling the doll until the beginning of the ABT season to capitlize on additional sales and publicity regardng the ABT season and Copeland's roles for the season. I assume that was what you are suggesting Stuben, and it makes sense. This is especially so because the designers of the doll are using a similar costume to the Firebird costumes. (Wonder if there is an intellectual property violation going on re the costume design.)I doubt either Matel or Copeland realized that the Washington Post would stir up controversy by asserting that the skin color of the doll was too white. The controversy didn't seem to hurt sales of the doll, however.

Interesting observation abatt! And, I was indeed suggesting that about the publicity this season! I also didn't catch the Washington Post article but I actually thought likewise about the doll but thought it was just my computer screen, since I haven't seen the actual doll.

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I would be surprised if Mattel hadn't acquired the rights to reproduce the Firebird costume.

I have seen Balanchine's and Fokine's versions of Firebird (two Balanchine versions actually) plus Glen Tetley's version. The Ratmansky version still works for me! But if we all reacted the same way to everything, then we wouldn't need discussion boards...or art come to think of it.

I agree that Seven Sonatas is not well served by the Met, though I still enjoyed seeing it.

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Just a quick additional note to say Monday's performance of Piano Concerto no. 1 happily reminded me why I love the ballet: Shevchenko again, but with Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, and Gabe Stone Shayer. All danced with the urgency and chemistry that seemed to me missing on Saturday. Even the orchestra sounded more energetic, though that may have been an aural illusion. Cast changes in the first two ballets of the Trilogy made subtle differences to their impact as well and the Chamber Symphony also seemed to be more warmly received than on Saturday -- though the house was, if anything, even less well sold. Glad I was able to see this performance.

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Just a quick additional note to say Monday's performance of Piano Concerto no. 1 happily reminded me why I love the ballet: Shevchenko again, but with Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, and Gabe Stone Shayer. All danced with the urgency and chemistry that seemed to me missing on Saturday. Even the orchestra sounded more energetic, though that may have been an aural illusion. Cast changes in the first two ballets of the Trilogy made subtle differences to their impact as well and the Chamber Symphony also seemed to be more warmly received than on Saturday -- though the house was, if anything, even less well sold. Glad I was able to see this performance.

Thanks for the update, Drew: I was away from NYC for this run of the trilogy, so it was great to hear your reports on both casts.

(And I'm glad Shevchenko finished strong in Piano Concerto No.1: it can't have been easy to perform on consecutive nights...with a new partner in Stearns, no less.)

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I'm slow to post after a few days in NYC... I saw the entire Trilogy twice this trip and saw it several times in 2013. I still love Symphony #9 best, especially with Gomes (and that unbelievable one-armed lift toward the end - which Bolle always does with two hands). Charming, clever, surprising, interesting...my favorite.

But my frustration with all of them is that I suspect there are just so many layers of meaning understood by Ratmansky (and perhaps other Russian expats) that we Westerners don't grasp. I wish we had a "tour guide" (a "dance docent") of the caliber of Arlene Croce, with the extensive length she had in the New Yorker, to help us see more of what's there. Ratmansky has spoken of Shostakovich's angst in Stalinist Soviet Union in the 30s and we know a bit about his situation. We can imagine what it must have been like to grow up under Communism and then experience its fall as a young adult and all the insights and adjustments that would involve. We can speculate on the symbolism of that scenery with its disjointed hammers, sickles, airplanes and what not. But I would love to have somebody tell us more about what we are seeing. I didn't always agree with Croce (for sure), but I learned so much. It would help me (and I'm guessing others) to have a more detailed perspective to respond to and perhaps disagree with. One can appreciate these works as "pure dance" (sort of), but there is obviously so much more packed into them that I'd like to understand.

I had a similar frustration with the Plato Symposium, which I was only able to see once (alas!). It was ironic that Firebird got extensive program notes and character names, even though we mostly know that story. Anybody who has studied Plato's writing knows there are names, characters, development in the Symposium, as there are in all his dialogues. So it was exasperating that the program notes consisted of a brief, vague, general statement that it's about different love relationships. Again, I'd like a tour guide (Ratmansky or a latter-day Croce) to help us unpack all that's there. And perhaps this is a situation where knowing a lot (studying the actual Symposium) can be a hindrance, rather than a help. I can appreciate this one as "pure dance" (sort of), too, but there's much more there that I wish I understood.

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To an extent, I agree with the idea that more information about the meaning of the trilogy and its historical context would make watching the ballet more rewarding. However, I also believe that too much explanation and specificity could diminish the universality of the themes raised in the ballet.

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I got so busy and didn't post on the Ratmansky programs (or La Fille for that matter), but I thought I ought to, as I enjoyed them so much, and I wanted to note some great performances.

I thought Firebird was compelling and interesting. The costumes and set somehow fit Stravinsky's modernist music to me better than the classical tutu. (And the very classical Firebird tutu worn by Marinsky and other companies actually bears little resemblance to the costume for the original Fokine production anyway.) Similarly I like Ratmansky's very animalistic, earthy characterization of the firebird. She is not human at all, but a unknoweable, instinctual creature. Fokine's Firebird, at least how she is danced today, reads a bit like White Swan on speed to me. The arm and body movements and even certain choreographic passages seem right out of Petipa, thus Fokine's Firebird seems more human, less unique. Now I do agree that the Firebird choreography is less classical than most Ratmansky--and there are a lot of turned in pirouettes and jazz-type lunges, but there are still classical steps. I haven't confirmed this, but I don't think there's a Ratmanksy ballet without a pas de chat. He brought petit allegro back in big way, and it's there in Firebird too.

Stella was a compelling wacky maiden, conveying the absurdity with the right level of drama. She is definitely radiating confidence this season. (​ I wouldn't describe Ratmansky's tone as much as humorous, but absurd, and I think that absurdity is very much in Stravinsky's score.) But I enjoyed her even more in Seven Sonatas with Calvin Royal. I noticed how well paired they were in the Mark Morris thing in the Fall, and I was so happy to see them together again. Their long arms, moving gracefully in unison, are pure poetry to me. Royal is just looking phenomenal this season -- so strong and fluid. I think he had some special training in Europe, and it appears to have paid off handsomely.

I'm reserving judgment on the Plato thing for now. For my husband and I the jazz-tinged Berstein music with the Grecian costumes felt incongruous. (We overheard a woman behind us comment on the Japanese-inspired costumes. I guess it was hard to read the Greek from the dress circle.) Ratmansky does interesting things with groups, and a few of those formations and supported lifts are what stuck with me. I have to see it again.

The Shostakovich Trio was wonderful to see again too. Unlike others here, I wasn't crazy about Teuscher in Symphony #9. As I have seen both Part and Seminova in the role, I just thought Teuscher lacked the extensions and gorgeous lines, particularly in the early sections. I thought her characterization was lacking too, or at least different. The raised shoulders and frantic movements that read as anxiety and terror when Seminova danced it, just looked fearful and frightened in Teusher's rendition. I did think she redeemed herself in the later allegro section. (She has a very nice pas de chat;) My favorite part of Symphony #9 is the corps anyway. So many interesting, awesome phrases of choreography, that I am ill-equipped to describe. Royal looked great again, partnering Catherine Hurlin, who I’m sure was there, although she was not in the program. (I noticed several other subsitutions in the corps throughout the evening as well.) They are well-matched physically too, and I couldn’t help but envision a Royal/ Hurlin Giselle down the road.

Chamber Symphony was the surprise of the evening for me. I remembered the psycho-drama aspects (some nods to Tudor, in the way specific hand gestures repeat, like phrases), but I did not remember the gorgeous tableaus and cannons throughout, and I did not remember how the choreography enhanced and revealed the music so imaginatively. There is this one moment where a group of men lifted Boylston through the air in a sweeping arc, that just made me gasp with awe at the beauty of the moment. This seemed to me the perfect role for Whiteside (like he would actually wear that costume in real life or something), though it’s hard to not miss David Hallberg. And I enjoyed Seo, Boylston, and Lane much more than the original cast. (I hate to admit this, but Kent was hard for me to watch in the last year or two. Her dancing just looked brittle and truncated, particularly alongside someone who dances big and lush, like Boylston. I had the same problem watching them together in Bright Stream.) I’m not sure, but I think Boylston switched and danced Paloma Herrera’s part this season. Does anyone know? She wore the strapless dress this time. Sarah Lane wore the halter style dress, that Boylston wore in the premiere. I’ll admit the costumes are pretty atrocious for this one. Is crushed velvet ever a good choice?

I thought Piano Concerto was well danced too. I might be committing some kind of Balanchine sacrilege, but in this viewing I sensed little nods to Rubies in this ballet: the hip thrusts, in particular. I admire Shevenko’s dancing. She has a strong port de bras and sharp legs and feet. Her strong articulate feet, in clearly soft, quiet pointe shoes, actually reminds me of Osipova. Cory Stearns knocked the socks out of this piece. He caught some serious air in his jumps, and danced with more abandon than I have ever seen. I sometimes think, begrudgingly, that he would shine brighter at a company like NYCB with more neoclassical ballets in the rep. But the corps parts are what I enjoy most in this one as well. Those dual-colored unitards create a cool effect when the dancers change direction or orientation in unison. Paulina Waski stood out for me (some people just look right in a unitard), and she was given a little featured corps role. Keep your eyes on that one.

All in all, I’m glad ABT did Ratmanksy week this year, and I wish I could have attended more evenings. The best part of seeing his ballets is the performances he gets out of the dancers. Their effort and commitment is palatable. I felt the same way seeing Pictures at an Exhibition across the plaza last month. I'm sitting Corsaire out this season. Looking forward to Golden Cockerel and more Ratmansky!

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I don't know if it's the best part, but the great performance Ratmansky got out of the dancers for both Serenade and Trilogy is definitely one of the best parts and I thought it quite amazing. The energy level and enthusiasm on stage in both of those ballets was on a different plane from the two Ashton's I saw. Looking forward to Cockerel.

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Stella was a compelling wacky maiden, conveying the absurdity with the right level of drama. She is definitely radiating confidence this season. (​ I wouldn't describe Ratmansky's tone as much as humorous, but absurd, and I think that absurdity is very much in Stravinsky's score.) But I enjoyed her even more in Seven Sonatas with Calvin Royal.....

I thought Piano Concerto was well danced too. ..... But the corps parts are what I enjoy most in this one as well. Those dual-colored unitards create a cool effect when the dancers change direction or orientation in unison. Paulina Waski stood out for me (some people just look right in a unitard), and she was given a little featured corps role. Keep your eyes on that one...

Not surprised about Stella at all and long overdue for her IMO! I feel likewise of Ms. Waski whom I last saw as Candide Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and will look forward to that again this year, it is too bad they don't list those roles ahead for us to capture these dancers, so will take a chance and hope for the best!?!

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