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Le Corsaire: Pennslvania Ballet

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I'm in Philadelphia for the first weekend (5 performances) of their new Le Corsaire. For those of you on the east coast, this is definitely worth the trip for the remaining four next weekend.


My favorite Medora was Mayara Pineiro, one of the dancers Angel Corella brought in. She was also my favorite in the new Don Quixote last year. So much sparkle, fabulous technique, really exciting to see. She was just as terrific as Gulnare opening night on Thursday. For this ballet, she was partnered by Aleksey Babayev, still a corps member, who turned out to be my favorite of the male dancers. He also did a sizzling Ali Sunday afternoon. Other stand-outs: Jermel Johnson, a long-time company member, who did Lankendem opening night and nothing else (although most seemed to be doing two or even three roles). Arian Molina Soca as Conrad opening night, Lankendem on Friday, and Ali Saturday matinee. Sterling Baca as Ali on opening night, Conrad on Friday, and Lankendem on Saturday night. 


Mixed performances: Peter Weil on Friday night as Ali had a visible problem lifting Medora overhead near the beginning of the pas de trois in Act II. He seemed to hesitate half way up, then did a deep knee bend and hoisted her the rest of the way. As if to make amends, he was on fire in his variations that followed and was an audience favorite. On Saturday night, Albert Gordon as Ali didn't even try that lift - Aaron Anker as Conrad did it both at the beginning and end of the pas de trois, clearly planned ahead of time. 


A really nice audience outreach feature: one hour before every performance, they have something called "preludes" open to all ticket holders with a different guest speaker at each and hosted by the marketing manager. Saturday matinee was a special treat, with Corella himself answering questions. He explained that when the rented costumes arrived, he didn't like the costume for Ali so he brought in his personal Ali costume that he had used during his dancing career! All the dancers in that role are wearing it. So if they look familiar, that's why. He also said he wanted the three Odalisques in the third act, so there was more dancing in that act (other than the Jardin Animee). We learned that although Ali is routinely called a "slave," that word has disappeared from the program; Ali is now a "servant." The marketing department took responsibility for that change. At the session with Samantha Dunster (assistant artistic director), we learned that many of the non-dancing extras are parents of students at the Academy, as Corella thought they needed different ages in the crowd. Pasha at all performances is Jon Martin, a teacher at the Academy.


The production moves very briskly, with a minimum of mime: 2 hours and 10 minutes, including two intermissions. The sets and costumes were rented, reportedly created originally for the now-defunct International Ballet in Indianapolis. The impressive sets drew audience applause when the curtain went up. The costumes were fine, except for a peculiar tutu on the Odalisques, Gulnare in Act I, and Jardin. The skirt would have reached down to the knee except for a stiff hoop about half way down on the underside. That resulted in some unfortunate developments in partnering when the skirt flipped up toward Gulnare's face. They looked like lampshades with odd fringes to me. 


Casting for all performances is in the printed program for the run. If I could only go to one more performance, it would be next Saturday evening with Pineiro and Babayev as Medora and Conrad, and Soca as Ali. Sterling Baca fans can see him next Friday as Ali, Saturday matinee as Conrad, and Sunday matinee as Lankendem.


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Thanks for your reviews, California.  I also caught a few performances and completely agree with you about Pineiro.  She was a fantastic Medora.  I think she has grown so much over the last two years and has has really become the star of the company.


Corella has brought in some very strong male dancers-  I was very impressed with Soca, Baca and Babayev.  And though at PAB before Corella, Jermel and Craig Wasserman also turned in very strong performances.


Overall a very successful first run.  Wish that it was selling a bit better though.

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I also saw today's performance. I thought it was great, definitely a feast for the eyes with such great sets and costumes. Aleksey Babayev was a standout as Ali and I thought Yuka Iseda was flawless, both corps members. I was a little surprised to see only two women in the finale. I know the female corps dancers didn't dance much but I expected to see the odalisque on stage during the bows.(What do I know, I'm no ballet expert) I am looking forward to returning next Saturday evening to see Babayev again, this time as Conrad and Mayara as Medora who I so enjoyed last year in Don Q.

Edited by balletomane
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Saturday, March 11th matinee -- Wow!  I'm so glad to have been there.


Arian Molina Soca is a star(!), elegant, sensual, with killer technique.  Arian wore what I believed were Angel’s former slave pants.... so that was, for me, absolutely perfect! 


Mayara Pineiro as Medora was also a star(!), absolutely gorgeous!  Mayara is a turning top with fantastic jumps, firecracker technique along with beautiful lines, with lovely, always very feminine acting.  I couldn't believe my eyes when she began her fouettes series with a quadruple or five turns…. adding triples along the 32 way without ever looking stressed/nervous.  Her stag leaps flew so lightly and high with only the music reminding her to land. 


As for the production, sets and costumes were very impressive if a bit over the top, loud, for my taste.  But that’s Angel, so over the top always with tons of high energy.  There is a lot of that energy now from all of his dancers.  Nobody holds back. 


There's much Balanchine coming up in 2017-2018.  I cannot wait to go back.... and this time for more than one day for sure to see Sterling Baca, Aleksey Babayev, Etienne Diaz, Jack Thomas, Peter Weil, Dayesi Torriente, and others, but especially to see Mayara and Arian once again.





Edited by sz
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A few more thoughts, triggered by comments from others:

Duster spent a lot of time with Cuban company and noted their emphasis on perfect unison in the corps - something she wants to work on.


Corella said he would like to do their own sets and costumes someday. These were rented from elsewhere.


It was strange that so few took final bows - leads plus 6 corps men. No women from jardin. And the two little boys who joined jardin (same boys at every performance ) deserved their own bows.


Sz: those were definitely Corella's own Ali pants, as per the Preludes program Saturday.


Edited by California
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I agree, while beautiful, the sets and costumes were a bit over the top.  I'm happy to hear they were rented, because all I could think of was how expensive this production must have been, and I'm not sure how the finances are at PAB (or at any arts institution these days).  


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One other dancer I'm looking forward to seeing next weekend is Oksana Maslova as Medora.  I loved her Cinderella.  I believe she was also partnered with Baca and if I remember correctly, the two of them had fantastic chemistry.  While her technique isn't as strong as Pineiro and DiPiazza, she has those beautiful Russian/Ukranian arms and back.  Next year, I believe her white swan will be a revelation.

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 Just saw the matinee with Baca as Conrad, Maslova as Medora, Weil as Ali, Soca as Lankedem.


The most memorable performance of the day was Weil's Ali.  He was fantastic, and had no problems with the overhead lift today.  Surprisingly, he was my favorite Ali of the three I saw (Soca and Baca were the other two).  I look forward to seeing more of him.


Baca and Maslova both started off a bit shaky to me today, but I forgave them during their stunning pas de deux.  It was perfection. 


Edited by Kaysta
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