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ABT 2016 Nutcracker Casting


AB'sMom

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I spoke to a couple of the principals and they said that the couples could choose either way:  the flying leap lift or the dead lift.  They said that the flying leap lift is obviously easier in terms of getting the girl up, but it can also be a little hairy if it doesn't come out just right.  

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Thanks for that clip of Stella. It looks like Hammoudi doesn't have the strength to get her all the way up without stooping down in the knees somewhat for the second push. And it really helps that the conductor hits the big chord just at the right time - suggests this was the version they planned all along.

 

But this version looks so much better than the clumsy thing Copeland (and others) try - when it looks like they're stepping up a ladder first.

 

It makes sense for partners to work out details that work for them. You do see lots of variation in any number of complicated partnering moves. But it would be nice if all got some coaching to find something that both works and looks good, whatever that is.

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There's an equally tricky moment in the Balanchine grand pas where the SPF has to run along a diagonal and jump on top of the cavalier's shoulders. Some Cavaliers opt to stand still and have the SPF run towards them, while others run towards the SPF and she jumps on his shoulders.

 

I've noticed that with both dancers running, it's easier to fine tune bent knees/impromptu adjustments and so the more experienced partners almost always do it that way. But the timing is definitely trickier as well.

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3 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

. I've only seen one go really wrong (a Lane/Gorak one a few years ago), but I can't recall if it was because they attempted the leap or not. 

What happened with Lane/Gorak, as far as you remember? I'm curious. Thank

you.

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22 minutes ago, Olga said:

What happened with Lane/Gorak, as far as you remember? I'm curious. Thank

you.

 
 

I went back and found what I had written in 2013. My memory played tricks on me. It was a lift in the Act I pdd that was aborted, not the torch lift. As far as I can remember, the torch lift just looked super shaky and he didn't get her completely above his head and properly into position. This is what I had written at the time:

 

"During the first pas de deux, one of the big lifts was aborted before Lane got off the ground. Lane and Gorak then had to waltz around the stage for a while to kill time. In the second pas de deux, the lifts looked very uncomfortable, especially the one in which Lane is supported on one leg above her partner's head. Gorak managed to get Lane partway above his shoulders, but she teetered so much that he had to wrap his arms around her entire leg to keep her from falling."

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Abrera/Hammoudi did the flying leap last night (shown in the instagram) and it was so much better. It's definitely a two-step process (jump into a sit, then push up to standing) but it looks infinitely better and more planned than the step up (sometimes with the ballerina grasping the guy's shoulder for stability). It would be one thing, for me, if the step up resulted in an impressive one-handed lift due to increased stability, but it hasn't in any performance I've seen. Thanks for the info that the couples decide, but to me, after they've danced the thing for 4-5 years, more couples should be hitting the lift in a more impressive way--especially since most of the partnerships are the same ones as last year.

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The "dead lift" version appears in other ballets, such as the final duet in Lacotte's Pharaoh's Daughter and in the mirror duet in Cranko's Onegin, although that one moves backward, not forward. I don't think either of them looks especially awkward, although it helps that in both cases the man stands behind his partner as he lifts and that the woman is wearing a longer dress, so her not terribly attractive preparation position--legs turned in, both knees bent, the left knee hiked way up, the torso leaning slightly forward--is less obvious than when her knees are exposed under a pancake tutu. That's why the Copeland-Baca version looks so awful. She just seems stuck in that position for an age. The most remarkable version of the Onegin lift I've seen was during a performance by the National Ballet of Canada at the Met in 1988, when Raymond Smith got Veronica Tennant up into position in a flash and did the rest of the lift one-handed while running backward and smiling from ear to ear. Absolutely thrilling. It was exhilaration embodied. I had begun to wonder whether my memory was playing tricks on me, so I went into the NYT archives, and Anna Kisselgoff's review confirmed that he had done the thing one-handed. (He also did the best pirouettes in Onegin's first-scene solo I've ever seen: two perfect double pirouettes in arabesque followed by a quadruple pirouette en dedans done precisely in rhythm. The interpretation was fantastic, too.)

 

On 17.12.2016 at 5:57 PM, canbelto said:

But look at how the work is cast at the Bolshoi. It's always a very petite, slight ballerina with a much taller, stronger partner.

 

The clip of Dmitry Gudanov with Ekaterina Krysanova may be the exception that proves the rule, because at about 5'10" Gudanov is the smallest of the Bolshoi's male principals, while Krysanova is of medium height and as tall as the Bolshoi's Maries get. This season she will have a taller partner and his will be smaller. I looked through the Bolshoi's more recent broadcasts of the ballet and none of the couples did the jumped preparation, and none of the men, not Denis Rodkin, not Artem Ovcharenko, not Nikolai Tsiskaridze, not Irek Mukhamedov, did the lift one-handed. At Grigorovich's 80th birthday gala Alexander Volchkov did do it one-handed, and on other occasions Tsiskaridze did it one-handed, too. I've even seen film of Gudanov doing it one-handed, but I'm sure none of them would let go unless he were very certain his partner was ideally balanced. But the key is that the Bolshoi's dancers nearly always manage to execute the lift very quickly, so I don't think the "dead stop" version is necessarily problematic.

 

I don't know how the Abrera-Hammoudi lift looked from the front, but shot from the wings, it looks pretty terrible to me. I'm not saying a two-stage jumped preparation would inherently look bad, but it shouldn't look like a rest stop part way through.

 

Over the weekend I saw Anastasia Stashkevich and Ruslan Skvortsov perform what was essentially the Grigorovich adage, minus the corps and the portable candelabra. She didn't jump, but she ran toward him quickly, and he got her up in a single motion so I couldn't say it looked like a dead stop. She is the tiniest of the Bolshoi's principal women, and he is six feet tall and a strong partner, with lots of experience dancing with fairly Amazonian ballerinas. He looked perfectly serene throughout, but she has just returned from a very long injury leave and still looked a little nervous and stiff, so perhaps it's not surprising that he didn't let go his left arm. I was sitting much closer to the stage than I normally would, basically in an orchestra pit seat just a few feet away on the stage right side, so I got a really good look at the lift as it came toward me and could appreciate just how perilous it was. There wasn't any trace of strain on Skvortsov's face, but even through the sleeve of his costume I could see the muscles of his right arm throbbing and twitching. Obviously it's very dangerous, and I guess ABT's dancers aren't yet able to disguise this reality.

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Thanks so much, VolcanoHunter - really interesting and informative.

 

I found the lift from Pharaoh's Daughter. It starts at 1:50

 

And with ABT doing a week's worth of Onegin's, we now know what to watch for in that lift.

BTW - I noticed that La Scala recently added Onegin with Bolle and Nunez September 23 - October 18, 2017. I'm sure that wasn't there a few weeks ago, when I was looking at their Swan Lake schedule.

http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/2016-2017/ballet/balletto7.html

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This is very instructive! In The Pharaoh's Daughter,  the fact that the man already happens to be behind the woman before the lift makes it seem more natural, more integrated into the choreography that comes before it. In Ratmansky's Nutcracker, the adult Clara's running approach only really makes sense when she goes for the leap. Otherwise, she runs toward the man, slows down, pauses, turns around, and then the lift happens. All momentum is killed in what should be a climactic moment.

 

This convinces me that Ratmansky should modify the choreography leading up to lift when the couple opts for the deadlift version. However, Ratmanksy doesn't seem to be big on revising after a premiere (call me out of I'm overlooking something!). The only change I could detect over the years is that the Rat King, when he enters, no longer walks directly on the backs of the other mice, who are bowing down to him. Now he's held higher above them and doesn't come into physical contact with them. I feel like several of the Act-II divertissements could use some improvement, but I realize, at the same time, that time and resources may not allow it. And the company/Ratmansky may be perfectly happy with them.

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As I noticed in the Bolshoi and ABT clips there are differences in the positions for the lift.   The Ratmansky are all with the man facing downstage so her back end and prep are emphasized.  Vasiliev was facing the wings and so is Tsiskaridze so his partner is shown to the best advantage.  Vorontsova faces front not back to get into the lift and the leg is bent front not in second.  Best seen in slow motion from 16:59. 

 

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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

This is very instructive! In The Pharaoh's Daughter,  the fact that the man already happens to be behind the woman before the lift makes it seem more natural, more integrated into the choreography that comes before it. In Ratmansky's Nutcracker, the adult Clara's running approach only really makes sense when she goes for the leap. Otherwise, she runs toward the man, slows down, pauses, turns around, and then the lift happens. All momentum is killed in what should be a climactic moment.

 

This convinces me that Ratmansky should modify the choreography leading up to lift when the couple opts for the deadlift version. However, Ratmanksy doesn't seem to be big on revising after a premiere (call me out of I'm overlooking something!). The only change I could detect over the years is that the Rat King, when he enters, no longer walks directly on the backs of the other mice, who are bowing down to him. Now he's held higher above them and doesn't come into physical contact with them. I feel like several of the Act-II divertissements could use some improvement, but I realize, at the same time, that time and resources may not allow it. And the company/Ratmansky may be perfectly happy with them.

The rats on walking on the back is back! Skylar Brandt (I believe) had posted on her instagram story them rehearsing it & I saw it during the CA run this year. But I do remember it missing from the 2014 NY run.

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Last night the torch lift with Stella Abrera and Alexandre Hammoudi was much better--the best I've seen anyone perform it in ABT's Nutcracker. (Admittedly I've only seen this Nutcracker for two years, but I have seen it eight times in those two years). I didn't see a Stella Abrera show last year, but I'm glad I saw both of her shows this year. Something about her dancing makes my eyes well up. 

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7 hours ago, California said:

I think I found the passage in Onegin -- at 0:55

 

Yes, this is what I had in mind. The footage is all chopped up for copyright reasons, but I'm sure people familiar with the ballet can run the complete choreography through their heads.

 

7 hours ago, California said:

BTW - I noticed that La Scala recently added Onegin with Bolle and Nunez September 23 - October 18, 2017. I'm sure that wasn't there a few weeks ago, when I was looking at their Swan Lake schedule.

http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/2016-2017/ballet/balletto7.html

 

:offtopic: I think this has to do with Mauro Bigonzetti's sudden resignation. Initially the season was supposed to open with his brand new Coppelia, and it was supposed to end with MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. But since the Coppelia never came to pass, R&J, as an existing production in a season with a lot of premieres, was moved to the beginning, and Onegin was put in its place at the tail end.

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Ratmansky himself seems to feel like the torch lift has been better this year, writing (publicly on Facebook):

 
Quote

 

this year's run was really great. happy to see the most challenging moments that we struggled with before (run & jump into the torch lift in the pas de deux, tossing & catching of the flowers, sisters' en dedans/en dehors pirouettes) done with confidence and precision 1f642.png:) big thank you to all the dancers, ballet masters and the crew and the orchestra and the kids who were fantastic. want to hug each of you guys. BRAVO and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

 

 

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Thanks for the Ratmansky posting - and now we know that he calls it a "torch lift" (we weren't sure what to call it a year ago) and includes the jump as part of the move. I sometimes wonder if ABT dancers (and others) look at our discussions to see what we're interested in!

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A quite recent Bolshoi performance that very goes (quickly) through two stages to get her up but without (as best I could tell) actually stopping for a shoulder sit (I believe this is Krysanova and Lantratov just yesterday):

 

 

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For anyone who still hasn't gotten quite enough of these torch lifts, I came across some really lovely ones in this clip of Ashton's Voices of Spring. There are two -- one right at the beginning of the ballet and another immediately at the end. They are the dead lift version, but they look very buoyant. It of course helps that Eagling is already behind Park when they to do the lift, unlike in the Ratmansky Nutcracker

 

 

 

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Yes, nicely done. Thanks for posting. With a straight-up lift and no switch in direction by the woman, it seems not so horrendously difficult as the other versions.

 

We saw these recently in the live-stream from Munich. I don't know that many of us are familiar with this piece. This performance looks to be the gold standard.

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