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ABT 2017 Swan Lake


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15 minutes ago, abatt said:

That's true, but my expectations for an ABT SL are quite different from my expectations for a NYCB SL.  Full length productions are the bread and butter of ABT, and I hold them to a higher standard in full length productions.  Similarly, I hold NYCB to a higher standard than ABT in Balanchine rep.

 

True. If ABT does not have a roster of dancers who are capable of reliably performing all of the standard steps in Swan Lake of all ballets (arguably their signature piece, performed every single year), then something is not right with the world.

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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

That's true, but Seo has nothing to lose. She's been flubbing choreography for years, before and after becoming a principal, and it's had no negative impact on her career. She still gets cast frequently.

 

I'm sure Lane felt like a lot was riding on last night, and she was also sick. I thought she held it together pretty well, all things considered. I wouldn't go so far as to say she broke character.

Lane definitely had a lot riding on last night.  I agree with you that Lane isn't the first person at ABT to commit a major flub, and she won't be the last.  However,  McKenzie does not seem to apply the same standards equally across the board to all ballerinas in judging who should be promoted or given new roles.  If Hee and Misty can be principals, Sarah should be a principal too.  SL was not Sarah's strongest role, but her performances in Giselle and other roles make her just as worthy (more worthy( of promotion as Seo and Copeland.

Edited by abatt
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45 minutes ago, fondoffouettes said:

That's true, but Seo has nothing to lose. She's been flubbing choreography for years, before and after becoming a principal, and it's had no negative impact on her career. She still gets cast frequently.

 

I'm sure Lane felt like a lot was riding on last night, and she was also sick. I thought she held it together pretty well, all things considered. I wouldn't go so far as to say she broke character.

 

I completely agree with this.

 

Also, I rarely see Lane miss a step or a piece or choreography so poorly, so I think she was also shocked herself at what happened. Yes, a dancer must not show disappointment when things go wrong, and she needs to learn how to keep a poker face. But, as I've already said, given the circumstances of last night I'm cutting her slack. And, I'd do that for anyone else in that situation, not just Lane. As much as I want to see nearly perfect performances every night since it's ABT and it's at the Met, these people are still human. It's the recurring problems at nearly every performance by some dancers that I'm not ok with I won't accept!

Edited by ABT Fan
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1 minute ago, nanushka said:

 

True. If ABT does not have a roster of dancers who are capable of reliably performing all of the standard steps in Swan Lake of all ballets (arguably their signature piece, performed every single year), then something is not right with the world.

 

The thing is, they do. I'm confident this year's fouette fiasco is an aberration due to the injury situation, which is unusual but happens periodically in every company (look at the comments for the end of the season at NYCB).

 

Boylston can and does do them reliably. She was dealing with an ankle injury.

Murphy can do them spectacularly, but was injured and couldn't perform

Kotchekova also couldn't perform and is also a reliable performer of the fouettes.

Part: for all the comments (which I agree with) about this not being her strength, she does perform the fouettes reliably. (Please don't let me have jinxed you Veronika!!)

 

Teuscher, the debutant, made a success of them

Lane, the other debutant, did not, but I'm willing to chalk that up to illness and lack of prep time leading to a more nerve-y than normal debut. Surely circumstances warrant some ** on her "failure"

 

That leaves Seo and Copeland as the "incapable of reliably performing all the standard steps"

We've pretty much discussed their problems to death--but it is two dancers and they both have their strengths as well, be it financially and in allowing the company to build from within, or artistically (albeit fiercely debated)--as evidenced by an impassioned review of Seo's Odette.

 

I'm not saying that the fouette situation this season hasn't been disappointing, clearly more so for some here than others, but I don't think it is quite the tragedy it is being made out to be, and the "steps" in question are one step--the fouettes.

 

The only dancer I saw who could not dance the choreography properly was Hammoudi, the difference between what he did and what Simkin did was like seeing two entirely different ballets.

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21 minutes ago, aurora said:

The thing is, they do.

 

Fair enough, aurora. I'll try to stop lighting my hair on fire!

 

It's just frustrating when the most technically deficient dancers end up getting the most performances –– 4 out of 8 9 this year (and only 1 of those was unscheduled).

Edited by nanushka
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4 minutes ago, nanushka said:

It's just frustrating when the most technically deficient dancers end up getting the most performances –– 4 out of 8 9 this year (and only 1 of those was unscheduled).

 

I share your frustration, to the "nth" degree! And, I think many others do too.

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28 minutes ago, aurora said:

The only dancer I saw who could not dance the choreography properly was Hammoudi, the difference between what he did and what Simkin did was like seeing two entirely different ballets.

 

 

I couldn't agree more. I'd like to think Hammoudi was having an off day, but he's looked sloppy and unprepared so many times now. The thing is -- I don't want to see him in the soloist rep, either! He looked so underwhelming the one time I saw him as (purple) Rothbart. Maybe he can do character roles and some select soloist roles (Hilarion? Orion in Sylvia?), as well. And they can keep him on the back burner as an emergency partner when needed. Hammoudi can't coast on his good looks and tall frame any longer.

Edited by fondoffouettes
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Unfortunately, judgment of quality is based on  what you actually do on the stage at the  performance.  The fact that a dancer can perform every step to perfection in the studio is not relevant.  Other factors regarding your health, well being and the like are not relevant as excuses.  This is where social media provides "too much information", insofar as performers trying to explain or justify themselves to the general public.  Performances and sports are analogous, in that it doesn't matter what you do in the practice sessions; you must bring it to the game on game day.  Just as an opera singer will be judged by whether he cracked on the high note on stage, a ballet dancer will be judged by whether he executed the steps at the performance.

Edited by abatt
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The best thing I ever saw Alexandre Hammoudi do was the title role in Lar Lubovich's "Othello" ballet a few seasons ago.  It was basically modern dance with some classical technique thrown in and that really seems to be his groove.  Hammoudi was sexy, commanding and really in control of the dancing.  

 

There was an interview posted with Hammoudi in Time Out (Gia Kourlas) a few years ago.  He was trained not at the Paris Opera Ballet school but privately with a former POB dancer Max Bozzoni.  It was felt that the POB school would "break his spirit".   I think the single-minded focus on technique and the discipline to push against your limitations is just not there with him.  It would have been drilled into Hammoudi at the POB school.

 

http://frenchculture.org/visual-and-performing-arts/interviews/interview-dancer-alexandre-hammoudi

Edited by FauxPas
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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

There's a delicacy to them, though, that I'm not sure fits with Odile or the Black Swan coda music; it's much more in the style of that moment in the Tchai Pas music. (Typical Balanchine, to perfectly illuminate the musical effect with his steps.)

Plus the music Balanchine used in "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" is the original music for the Odile/Siegfried Act III Pas de Deux, and it was rediscovered in an archive in the 1950's.  (There were no black swans in the original.)  Balanchine's choreography cleary shows the difference in character.

 

According to Wikipedia, Sobeshchanskaya hated it and requested a new pas de deux, and Minkus wrote the music.  Tchaikovsky was angered, but he wasn't allowed to write any new original music:  it had to fit Petipa's choreography to Minkus.  She then requested more music for the variation, which wasn't in Tchaikovsky New PDD music v1. I don't see a citation, though.

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Having absorbed the reports of Sarah's O/O, as well as having recently witnessed her Giselle & Princess Praline, I still hold hope that she will be promoted at the end of the Met season. Do others feel like me...or will ABT use the excuse of last night's tech glitches - esp. the fouettés - to hold her back? Hope not.

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8 minutes ago, Natalia said:

Having absorbed the reports of Sarah's O/O, as well as having recently witnessed her Giselle & Princess Praline, I still hold hope that she will be promoted at the end of the Met season. Do others feel like me...or will ABT use the excuse of last night's tech glitches - esp. the fouettés - to hold her back? Hope not.

I do feel like you.  She deserves the promotion based on her overall body of work.  However, I feel like last night she gave McKenzie the excuse he needed to deny her the promotion. As noted above, double standards seem to abound at ABT:  one set of standards for some; an entirely different set of standards for others.

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1 hour ago, abatt said:

Unfortunately, judgment of quality is based on  what you actually do on the stage at the  performance.  The fact that a dancer can perform every step to perfection in the studio is not relevant.  Other factors regarding your health, well being and mood are not relevant as excuses.  This is where social media provides "too much information", insofar as performers trying to explain or justify themselves to the general public.  Performances and sports are analogous, in that it doesn't matter what you do in the practice sessions; you must bring it to the game on game day.  Just as an opera singer will be judged by whether he cracked on the high note on stage, a ballet dancer will be judged by whether he executed the steps at the performance.

Just to clarify -- I'm 100% in agreement that performers should be judged on what they perform onstage. But I think it's impossible to be completely uninfluenced by information that comes from their offstage lives. Obviously, knowing that Boylston was injured makes me completely reconsider her choice to replace the fouettes with a different sequence. It doesn't mean I wouldn't still be disappointed; but, it certainly makes me empathetic to her situation. Frankly, if she had been an opera singer, there would have been a slip or announcement begging the audience for their indulgence (as often happens when a singer performs while sick). Ballet dancers don't get that luxury; they just have to perform like everything is a-okay all the time. So, I'm glad for little snippets of information from social media because otherwise I'd have no idea why a dancer may be performing sub-par or substituting steps. It allows me to judge them more fairly. I don't think it's a matter of "making excuses." It's a matter of me being able to judge a dancer with all available information.

 

Also, I just want to point out that neither Lane nor Boylston have been whiny or making excuses in their Instagram posts. The image of Sarah's many cold medications was just a three-second clip in a video story that contained a bunch of other (happy, positive) Swan Lake-related imagery. 

 

However, I think there are certainly dancers that can overdo it a bit. As much as I LOVE Sara Mearns, she has a habit of posting lots of cryptic messages about feeling unsupported or having horrible days. It does make me feel bad for her, but it can be a bit much at times.

Edited by fondoffouettes
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12 minutes ago, Helene said:

According to Wikipedia, Sobeshchanskaya hated it and requested a new pas de deux, and Minkus wrote the music.  Tchaikovsky was angered, but he wasn't allowed to write any new original music:  it had to fit Petipa's choreography to Minkus.  She then requested more music for the variation, which wasn't in Tchaikovsky New PDD music v1. I don't see a citation, though.

 

From Wiley's Tchaikovsky's Ballets (p. 58):

 

On 26 April 1877 Anna Sobeschchanskaya made her debut as Odette. By that fourth performance new music and choreography had been added to Swan Lake. From the conductor Stepan Ryabov we learn how Sobeschanskaya, distrustful of Reisinger [the choreographer of the 1877 version] and dissatisfied with Tchaikovsky's music, went to Petipa in St. Petersburg and asked the ballet master to create a pas de deux for her. Petipa complied, as he had before when she had complained about Reisinger's dances in Ariadne; for Swan Lake he composed variations to music by Ludwig Minkus.

 

Wiley goes on to quote from P. Pchel'nikov, "Recollections about P. I. Tchaikovsky":

 

Having returned to Moscow, the ballerina informed the Kapellmeister that she had acquired a pas de deux, which she wished to interpolate into the third act of Swan Lake. When news of this found its way to Tchaikovsky, he began to protest energetically, pointing out the embarrassment that he would suffer from the interpolation of someone else's music in his ballet.

 

'Whether my ballet is good or bad,' he said, 'I alone would like to take responsibility for its music.'

 

After long discussion, Tchaikovsky, promised to write a new pas de deux for the benefit artiste.

 

But then a serious complication arose. The artiste did not want to change the dance composed for her by Petipa, nor did she want to go to Petersburg again.

 

The possibility of calming the storm presented itself only in composing new music for the existing dance.

 

Peter Ilyich took upon himself to resolve the argument in this way. Having requested that Minkus's music be given to him, he promised to write new music which would agree, bar for bar, note for note, with Minkus's music.

 

In a word, he promised to produce a pas de deux, to the music of which it would be possible to perform the dance composed by Petipa, not only without any changes, but even without rehearsals.

 

The music was written very quickly, and in addition pleased the benefit artiste so much that she requested that Tchaikovsky write for her an additional variation, which he did. In the benefit performance both of these numbers enjoyed a noisy success with the public.

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4 hours ago, abatt said:

I actually feel the opposite.  Sarah may have done more and better quality fouettes than Hee, but Hee never looked defeated or dejected after the fouette section.  She remained entirely in character.  In contrast, Sarah was visibly upset and distraught, which took the audience entirely out of the character and story.  I thought Sarah's reaction compounded the problem.

 

Yes but oh did that make the final scene so much more compelling. Like she jumped off the cliff because she couldn't complete the fouettees. 

 

Kidding aside I loved last night's performance. SUPERB Act 2. Daniil was surprisingly noble as Siegfried. And Lendorf's charisma was very potent. Gorack as Benno was also a joy to watch. 

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A few more random observations following last night's performance:

  • One of my favorite sequences in the ballet is in the middle of Odette's variation, the diagonal series of sissonnes followed by arabesques. Last night, though, it looked like Sarah did not do the bend forward with crossed arms that typically comes before the developpé to arabesque. This is an essential part of the sequence, in my mind, contributing to the "blooming" quality of the développé, and I really missed it. I don't think I've ever seen it done this way before, and I wonder why she made that choice.
  • Alban Lendorf really won me over last night as Rothbart. (I've generally been less than excited by his having been brought in to ABT.) He gave a commanding, stylish performance. Particularly noteworthy was his expressive use of hands in the second, faster half of the solo. (Is this a result of his Danish training, perhaps?) At the end of his solo he leapt up onto the throne and rested his head back with delicious satisfaction. He then stood back up and came back to center stage but didn't even bow (cocky SOB! perfect for the character), just looked out at the audience and then turned back to wave off the princesses. Oh, and his interaction with the Queen (Nancy Raffa) at the beginning of the solo was the best I've seen besides Marcelo.
  • Sarah's beautiful, long-held arabesques have been noted, but I also noticed again last night how gorgeous Daniil's arabesques often are. They seem to poetically evoke the shape of his bow. (Perhaps just my personal association?)
  • Another favorite moment is when the Italian princess rises onto point and is drawn to Rothbart in an upstage diagonal of very fast fluttering steps. Both Stephanie Williams on Wednesday afternoon and Katherine Williams last night (not certain those names are right –– I'm referring to Wednesday's program and last night's slip) failed to do this effectively. Their steps were sluggish, and there was no sense that they were being pulled by his sexual magnetism.
  • Can someone please explain to me what is going on all those times when Siegfried walks up to Wolfgang the tutor during Act I? What is Wolfgang's deal? Why is he so unsympathetic? Why does he keep gesturing upstage left? Why does he spend the whole party standing at the side, looking off into the wings and generally coming across like a wet blanket?

 

 

 

Edited by nanushka
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I am glad I wasn't there for last night's performance. I don't know too much Lane to the point of cheering her just for being her. For me it would had represented yet another low point in this season's disastrous line up of Odiles. 

I really miss an exciting/capable Odile in her pas. Singles are beautiful...they always were...

 

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9 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Singles are beautiful...they always were...

 

Absolutely --MRR also spoke to this in detail above. In Swan Lake in particular I usually prefer them dramatically as well as musically. (And 'throwing in' doubles and triples with no fixed pattern just makes Odile - and the ballerina - seem as if she is not in true steely control.)

Edited by Drew
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47 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

 I don't know too much Lane to the point of cheering her just for being her.

 

 

I don't think this is necessarily a fair assessment. The reactions last night were pretty much in accordance with what happened onstage. The biggest applause, I believe, came after the adagio of the Act II pdd and Simkin's varation in the Act III pdd. Lane didn't garner an outsized reaction to either of her variations, nor for the fouettes that ended unfortunately. The evening didn't have the feeling of a love-fest, though certainly anticipation was high among people who have followed Lane's career. 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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I want to focus on Simkin.  His solo variations were astounding.  He was like a rocket in his double tours. I think he is now at the peak of his powers.  He is much more refined than he used to be.  He needs work on partnering and characterization, though.

 

Utmost praise for Lendorf.  He started out the season in Don Q a bit lackluster, but since then he has proven time and again that he is a brilliant dancer.  What a smart and welcome addition to the ABT roster.

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Thank you, thank you to all of you who witnessed and compared all the performances of SL. I read and absorbed them all. At times I felt like a bouncing ball hopping from one point of view to the next as the posts kept coming, furiously last night, even at intermission! My knowledge of ballet vocabulary is limited to my ballet lessons as a girl and young teen, so I would love to see each of the important steps you comment on--maybe a quick video. Of course I am familiar with the fouettés and have counted them myself in other SLs, most memorably Michele Wiles and Gillian. I know Gillian was missed this week--O/O is one of her greatest roles. But I am heartened that ABT has a cadre of up and coming leading ladies--this is exciting. I have a ticket for Tchaikovsky Spectacular and hope to see many of them dance that evening.

 

 I would just like to comment that for me, what I want to see in a full-length romantic ballet is a performance that transports and enthralls me, takes me out of the everyday world to a magical place. I don't really care how many fouettes the ballerina does, but I do care about her artistry, fluidity, and immersion in the role and her chemistry with her partner. I want to feel that they too are transported by the roles they are playing and that the line between technical perfection and artistry disappears. For those qualities I am willing to take a long, stop and go train ride from the boonies of Connecticut, as I know many of you have done from DC, Florida, and parts beyond. We go because we want to be transported into the portal of art, a sublime experience. For this we thank not only the dancers, who want to take us to this magical place, but all those behind the stage--the teachers and directors, orchestra, crew, costume and set designers--who help to create the magic of art. Where would we be without it? 

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1 minute ago, aurora said:

 

*GASP*

 

Four rehearsals?!

 

I now have even more respect for what Lane accomplished last night.

 

Thanks for posting that! And, yes, that's an awesome photo.

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